Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-offensive-tackles
Body:

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

Today, we rank college football's best offensive tackles prospects:

1. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (6-6, 310, Jr.)
The big blocker from Arlington, Texas, has seen his level of competition increase significantly with the shift to the SEC. He has faced LSU and Florida and he gave his team a chance to win both times. He has perfect size, power and fundamentals to play the prototypical left tackle position. He leads the way on an offense that is one of, if not the, best in the SEC with a record-setting quarterback.

2. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (6-5, 305, Jr.)
No player may ever enter the NFL with a better pedigree than Matthews. His father is Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. His older brother, Kevin, started for two seasons along the Aggies' offensive line. The Missouri City, Texas, native has tremendous knowledge of the game and a refined overall technique — as expected from a prospect who comes from the Matthews family tree. It means he is developed and should contribute immediately, but it could also mean his upside is more limited than his teammate.

3. D.J. Fluker, Alabama (6-6, 335, Jr.)
Coming out of high school in Foley, Ala., Fluker was considered one of the biggest prospects in Alabama history. He was a surefire can’t-miss superstar. It took him some time to adapt to the SEC, but he has blossomed into one of the better tackles in the nation. He has a huge, powerful frame, has the best coaching in the country, has a national championship ring and has faced the nation’s best defensive lineman in the SEC.

4. Taylor Lewan, Michigan (6-8, 310, Jr.)
Center David Molk led this offensive line in 2011 and Lewan took over that role this season. He has faced defensive lines like Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. He has one of the longer frames in this class and plays an aggressive brand of football (as was evident by his numerous penalties early in his career). He is a bit unrefined and may not be ready to start right away but has loads of upside.

5. Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin (6-6, 320, Sr.)
The Bagders have been churning out excellent lineman for the better part of two decades and this offense has been amongst the nation’s best over the last few seasons. He has a solid frame and is an excellent athlete for his size but questions remain about his overall upside. Players like Whitney Mercilus and William Gholston have been able to play effectively against him. He might be more of a right tackle as his overall toughness and consistency needs to improve.

6. Dallas Thomas, Tennessee (6-5, 310, Sr.)
He isn’t the biggest prospect so he may not stick at tackle, but he is one of the more versatile. This offense has shown marked improvement over the last few seasons with Thomas’ leadership. He played relatively well against elite level competition in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama and South Carolina on the slate this fall. Where scouts evaluate his long-term future will largely determine if he lands in the first round or not.

7. Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (6-8, 305, Sr.)
The scouting report should be fairly easy to pinpoint for the big guy from Rochester, Mich. He has great size, has been a steady force on the edge for the Chippewas and large questions remain about his level of competition. There has been some talent to come from CMU along the line of late but dominating the MAC doesn’t mean you can block in the NFL. He has all the tools needed and simply needs to prove he can handle the jump in talent.

8. Brennan Williams, North Carolina (6-7, 315, Sr.)
The steady road grader has watched his stock steadily climb over the last two seasons after finally earning a starting spot as a junior. He has proven to be a tremendous commodity in the running game and will need to prove himself against elite pass rushers at events like the Senior Bowl. He is one of the bigger players at his position, but scouts need to figure out if the Tar Heels' O-Line is greater than the sum of its parts. Both Hurst and Williams team with elite guard Jonathan Cooper to form one of the better units in the ACC.

9. James Hurst, North Carolina (6-7, 290, Jr.)
One of the top recruits in the nation from Plainfield, Ind., Hurst started 12 games as a  true freshman back in 2010. He has improved each season and has a chance to sneak up draft boards with an excellent 2012 campaign. While the ACC gets knocked for its overall talent, programs like Virginia Tech, Miami and Florida State have excellent defensive lineman that offer scouts a quality barometer for Hurst'a ability and potential. He has a huge frame and is an above average athlete for his size. He may be a bit of a project but has plenty of upside.

10. Oday Aboushi, Virginia (6-6, 310, Sr.)
The Cavs have a sneaky good tradition of offensive lineman and Aboushi is the next name. He won’t be considered elite until he proves he can consistently be a dominant force. At times, he is the prototypical blocker with great size, solid quickness and a killer instinct. Other times, his play is rough around the edges and he will get beat. Added strength would go a long way towards improving his draft stock.

11. John Wetzel, Boston College (6-8, 305, Sr.)
Wetzel is next in a long line of excellent Eagles' offensive line prospects.

12. Alex Hurst, LSU (6-6, 340, Sr.)
Has dropped due to poor 2012 campaign but still has lots of talent.

13. Cyril Richardson, Baylor (6-5, 335, Jr.)
Massive prospect might have to slide inside (which would improve his stock).

14. Brian Winters, Kent State (6-6, 295, Sr.)
A bit undersized and competition is a question, but loads of upside.

15. David Yankey, Stanford (6-5, 300, Jr.)
Hails from a program known for physical, pro-style schemes.

16. Xavier Nixon, Florida (6-6, 295, Sr.)
Nation’s No. 1 OL prospect as a recruit needs to add size and consistency.

17. Chris Faulk, LSU (6-6, 320, Jr.)
Would likely be better off rehabbing this fall and returning to LSU.

18. Justin Pugh, Syracuse (6-6, 295, Sr.)
Not an overly talented prospect but a long-time starter and dependable.

19. Elvis Fisher, Missouri (6-5, 300, Sr.)
Has dealt with numerous injuries that will limit his upside.

20. Tanner Hawkinsson, Kansas (6-6, 295, Sr.)
Has a tough job in Lawrence, but has size and overall talent to contribute.

Other names to watch:

Zach Martin, Notre Dame (6-4, 305, Sr.)
Seantrel Henderson, Miami (6-8, 340, Jr.)
Jeff Braun, West Virginia (6-5, 320, Sr.)
Emmett Cleary, Boston College (6-7, 313, Sr.)
LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech (6-6, 330, Sr.)
Oscar Johnson, Louisiana Tech (6-6, 330, Sr.)
Luke Marquardt, Azusa Pacific (6-9, 320, Sr.)
Roger Gaines, Tennessee Tech (6-7, 320, Sr.)
David Quessenberry, San Jose State (6-6, 295, Sr.)
Lane Johnson, Oklahoma (6-7, 305, Sr.)

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Offensive Tackles</p>
Post date: Friday, October 26, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-9-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Two unbeatens still remain out West and one will face a major road test this weekend. But a former Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate will return to help the Beavers attempt to stay unblemished against Washington. The Ducks-Buffaloes showdown, however, shouldn't be nearly as competitive. 

Down in the South Division, both Los Angeles teams head into the desert where weird things tend to happen late in the season. Both USC and UCLA have major road tests this weekend. There is much to be determined before next weekend's Oregon-USC showdown.

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 9:

1. The return of Sean Mannion in Seattle
It is amazing what an undefeated record can do for a busted up meniscus. Oregon State’s starting quarterback underwent knee surgery to repair his left meniscus less than three weeks ago and is now slated to start on the road against Washington. He was supposed to be miss nearly a month but will miss only two games. Cody Vaz was more than capable in his stead (506 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT), but Mannion was on track for Pac-12 Player of the Year honors before getting banged-up. And he will be needed this weekend in Seattle. The Huskies are allowing only 160.8 yards passing per game and three total touchdown passes at home in four games — which included games against San Diego State, Stanford and Matt Barkley.

2. Will the Washington offense ever wake up?
Steve Sarkisian’s offense averaged 409.8 yards and 33.4 points per game in 2011. Quarterback Keith Price was one of the best in the nation by accounting for 36 total touchdowns. One year later, this offense is 103rd in the nation in both scoring (20.7 ppg) and total offense (326.4 ypg). Certainly, U of W is one game away from wrapping up arguably the toughest five-game stretch in the nation (Stanford, at Oregon, USC, at Arizona, Oregon St). But other than 52 points against Portland State, the Huskies have scored 11 offensive touchdowns in six games against FBS opponents. Washington scored 55 offensive touchdowns last season. Good luck against the Pac-12’s No. 1 scoring defense.

3. What will Monte Kiffin do to stop Matt Scott?
USC allowed 23.6 points per game, including 41 to Arizona, and 374.8 yards per game on defense last year, ranking them 45th and 54th nationally respectively. To date, Kiffin’s defense is allowing only 16.7 points per game and 334.3 yards per game behind improved defensive line play (thanks to Morgan Breslin) and a young linebacking corps that continues to develop. And his defense may be peaking at just the right time as Arizona and Oregon are USC’s next two opponents. The Trojans have allowed two total touchdowns and have intercepted five passes in the last two games. Against Matt Scott, the league’s top offensive force at over 400 yards of offense per game, Kiffin’s bunch will have to play disciplined football to win. USC better not be looking ahead to Oregon because strange things happen in the desert this time of year.

4. Arizona must limit USC's big plays in the passing game
Matt Barkley threw for a career-high 468 yards and four touchdowns in the 48-41 win over Arizona last fall. Last week, the senior signal caller chucked six touchdowns and 298 yards with one incompletion. Arizona’s ability to limit Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and Barkley in the passing game will largely determine if the Wildcats can hang around in this one. Its close losses this season (Stanford, Oregon St) have come because the secondary and pass rush couldn’t contain opposing quarterbacks. My unwanted advice? Let Silas Redd and the backfield do whatever they want but make sure you have coverage over the top on Woods and Lee.

5. How does the league's No. 1-rated defense bounce back?
Arizona State is still the league’s No. 1-rated total defense, despite allowing 406 yards rushing and 43 points to Oregon last week. So how does Will Sutton (who apparently is Superman after a knee injury last Thursday) and Brandon Magee bounce back in what could be the biggest game of the year? (Especially considering UCLA should be well rested after the bye week and won this game last fall.) They bring to Tempe one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the nation as one of only two teams in the Pac-12 to average more than 200 yards rushing and passing. Stopping the UCLA backfield, which functions similarly to that of Oregon’s, will be another tall order for Todd Graham’s bunch.

6. A must-win situation for Jeff Tedford
Utah has lost four straight games and has struggled to score points of late. Jeff Tedford has his back up against the wall in Berkeley and likely has to win three of his last four to keep his job and get to bowl eligibility. The Golden Bears thrashed the Utes last fall 34-10 and the offensive talent is far too rich on this roster for them to lose this weekend — far too rich to total three yards rushing and 217 total yards like it did last weekend in the loss to Stanford. If Cal returns home at 3-6, Tedford is staring at a potential nine-loss season. Returning home at 4-5 give his team a shot at the postseason.

7. Will Colorado cover the spread in Eugene?
Colorado was a 41-point underdog last week against USC on the road and it didn’t cover the spread in a 50-6 loss. As the Buffaloes continue to take their medicine, Colorado enters this weekend as a 46-point underdog to Oregon. How many points are enough to start placing bets on Jon Embree’s squad? The bottom line in Boulder, if fans cannot even expect their team to cover six- and seven-touchdown spreads, is don’t they have a right to scream for a change?

8. Travis Long vs. Stepfan Taylor
There may not be much to watch in the Washington State-Stanford showdown in Palo Alto. The Cardinal front seven will terrorize the Cougars' offensive line and this game could get ugly quickly as Wazzu will find the sledding extremely tough. However, there could be one great individual match-up to watch: Cougars linebacker-defensive end Travis Long and Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor. Long has been a lone bright spot for Wazzu, ranking third in the league in sacks, while Taylor is coming off of his third straight game with at least 28 carries. Keep an eye how many times No. 89 in gray and No. 33 in red get together.

Week 9 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 9 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
UCLA (+6.5) at Arizona St Arizona St, 31-30 UCLA, 27-24 UCLA, 34-31 UCLA, 21-14
Colorado (+46) at Oregon Oregon, 50-10 Oregon, 58-6 Oregon, 62-7 Oregon, 72-7
USC (-6.5) at Arizona USC, 42-35 USC, 28-24 USC, 34-27 Arizona, 35-28
Washington St (+25) at Stanford Stanford, 35-17 Stanford, 44-10 Stanford, 40-14 Stanford, 42-17
Cal (+1) at Utah Cal, 24-21 Cal, 28-17 Cal, 24-20 Utah, 17-13
Oregon St (-4.5) at Washington Oregon St, 27-17 Oregon St, 37-21 Oregon St, 27-24 Oregon St, 28-21
Last Week: 5-0 5-0 4-1 5-0
Yearly Totals: 45-15 46-14 44-16 41-19

Bye: None

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 9 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 9 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 9 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 9 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 9 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 9 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Week 9 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-9-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The Big Ten championship could be on the line when Michigan visits Nebraska this weekend. Wisconsin has the Leaders Division all but locked up, but will likely be an underdog to their Legends Division counterpart. Therefore, the winner of this weekend's game in Lincoln will be the favorite to end the year in Pasadena. 

Big Blue and Big Red headline what appears to be a sneaky good weekend of action as Madison, Happy Valley, Evanston and Minneapolis all host games that should be close. No Big Ten game this weekend features a point spread bigger than six points.

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 9:

1. Legends Division Championship Game
The Wolverines enter this weekend's showdown with the Cornhuskers unbeaten in league play after three straight wins, including a final-minute home victory over Michigan State. Brady Hoke's only two losses are to the No. 1 and No. 5 teams in the BCS. Nebraska is 2-1 in the league with quality wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin and one embarrassing fourth quarter against Ohio State. However, the Huskers are already a game behind with that loss — with road trips to Iowa and Michigan State still left to go — so this game has become the Legends Division Championship Game. Should the Maize and Blue get past the Cornhuskers, only a road trip to Columbus at season's end could derail Michigan's train to Pasadena. Should Big Red topple Big Blue, all bets are off and the Huskers then control their own destiny.

2. Taylor Martinez vs. Denard Robinson
It is cliché for a reason. Quarterback play can win or lose games and the position will easily be the focal point of both defenses in Lincoln on Saturday. Taylor Martinez is leading the league in passing efficiency and Hoke has praised his growth and development this fall. He is coming off of his best performance of the year on the road in the win against Northwestern (407 total yards, 4 TD) last weekend, but played horribly against Michigan last fall in the 45-17 loss (171 total yards, 1 TD). Denard Robinson is now the Big Ten’s leading rusher and tops the total offense charts as well. Both defenses will look to keep both scramblers in the pocket, so the winner will be the quarterback who can stand in the pocket and deliver third-down conversions down the field.

3. The Ineligible Bowl in Happy Valley
Penn State and Ohio State are two of the remaining three unbeaten teams in Big Ten play and neither will be playing in a bowl game. So while there is no Big Ten title game or bowl implications associated with what should be one of the best games of the weekend nationally, there could be a variety of other items hanging in the balance. Big Ten Coach of the Year has two clear-cut candidates and they will be standing opposite of each other in Happy Valley. Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is also a two-horse race and both will be (hopefully) playing quarterback in this game. And Mike Mauti could slam the door on Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors with a big performance against the Buckeyes. The atmosphere in Beaver Stadium should be electric and should feel like a Big Ten title bout. Even if the only thing on the line is bragging rights.

4. Should Braxton Miller play this weekend?
The Heisman Trophy candidate for Ohio State has to play if the Buckeyes want to stay unbeaten in Happy Valley this weekend. He has practiced, but Urban Meyer has admitted his star quarterback isn’t close to 100 percent. This leaves Meyer an extremely difficult decision to make concerning the long-term future of his program. With head and neck injuries, it is impossible to be too careful, so running Miller out there against one of the Big Ten’s most physical defenses has to raise concerns about his long-term health. Miller could easily find himself in New York as just a sophomore if he continues at this pace for four more games. But Meyer and the Buckeyes’ primary concern should be a potential national championship run in 2013. Give Miller a chance at history and an unbeaten season with no real reward at season’s end? Or protect your investment and live to fight another day? This is why Meyer makes $5 million per year.

5. Sparty-Bucky Part III lacks national appeal
Michigan State and Wisconsin has developed into one of the Big Ten’s best rivalries — in both football and basketball. These two played two epic games last fall, one of which ended on a successful Hail Mary and the other was a championship bout that sent one team to Pasadena and the other to the Outback Bowl. However, with six combined losses between them, this year's game lacks the cachet of last fall's meeting. Wisconsin feels like the better team once again this year as Sparty is struggling to find balance on offense. Montee Ball has been on a tear of late, scoring 10 times and rushing for 155.5 yards per game in Big Ten play. The Badgers are starting to catch their stride and are at home where they never lose. Mark Dantonio could go from back-to-back 11-win seasons to 2-6 in the league.

6. Will this be a special season in Evanston or not?
Northwestern is 6-2 overall but 0-2 in marquee statement games. This season still has a chance to be special in Evanston, and two more wins the rest of the way gives Pat Fitzgerald a chance at nine wins — something that has only happened once at Northwestern since 1996 (2006). However, with back-to-back road trips to the state of Michigan looming, wins over Illinois in the season finale and Iowa this weekend become must wins. Iowa, without Mark Weisman, was pushed around and abused on both sides of the ball by Penn State last weekend but the big fella is going to try to play this Saturday. This is a huge swing game for both sides and the running game will be the deciding factor.

7. The battle for last place
Indiana and Illinois are a combined 4-10 overall this year, a combined 0-6 in Big Ten play and have lost a combined nine straight games. This is the best, and possibly only, chance for either team to get a conference win in 2012. The Hoosiers own the league’s top passing offense and could triple its win total from last fall with a victory this weekend. Meanwhile, a loss for the Illini would be their tenth straight in Big Ten play. Tune in if you dare.

8. Youngsters can kick start Gophers' future this weekend
A freshman quarterback, underclassman skill players and young offensive lineman. Certainly, this Gophers offense is extremely young, but it has lots of upside and, it appears, has entered the Philip Nelson era. The gunslinger from Mankato, Minn., set prep records, won Mr. Football honors in 2011and did enough in practice to earn the start against Wisconsin. He had his good moments (67 yards rushing, two scoring strikes) and his bad moments (13 total points, two interceptions), but most importantly, seem to have the poise and leadership the position requires to be successful. Yet, Minnesota can take a major step towards a bowl game with a starting 22 littered with freshmen and sophomores if it can defeat Purdue this weekend. The training wheels have been officially removed in the Twin Cities and a reeling Boilermakers team is ripe for the picking.

Week 9 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 9 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Iowa (+6) at Northwestern N'Western, 27-24 N'Western, 24-17 N'Western, 27-20 N'Western, 28-10
Indiana (+2) at Illinois Illinois, 30-27 Indiana, 31-20 Indiana, 31-27 Indiana, 45-38
Purdue (-3) at Minnesota Minnesota, 27-24 Minnesota, 24-20 Minnesota, 27-24 Minnesota, 21-14
Michigan St (+6) at Wisconsin Wisconsin, 24-14 Wisconsin, 24-14 Wisconsin, 24-20 Wisconsin, 38-14
Ohio St (pk) at Penn St Ohio St, 27-21 Penn St, 33-28 Ohio St, 27-24 Penn St, 31-28
Michigan (+2.5) at Nebraska Michigan, 31-27 Michigan, 34-28 Michigan, 31-27 Michigan, 27-24
Last Week: 5-1 5-1 5-1 3-2
Yearly Totals: 56-12 52-16 57-11 52-16

Bye Week: None

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 9 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 9 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 9 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 9 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 9 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 9 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Week 9 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-heisman-trophy-contenders-post-week-8
Body:

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

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

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

1. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (12 first place votes)
Season Stats:
 98-139, 1,397 yards, 10 TD, 2 INT, 110 att., 551 yards, 14 TD
There is CK7 and then there is everybody else. Klein vaulted to the top of most Heisman ballots with another otherworldly performance on the road against a Big 12 favorite. He posted his first 300-yard passing effort (323 yards) and totaled seven touchdowns (3 pass, 4 rush). He is leading the Big 12 and is second nationally in passing efficiency (175.79) while ranking No. 2 in rushing in the league (94.0 ypg). He also leads the Big 12 in scoring (12.0 ppg). Next Game: Texas Tech

  Last Name Pos. Team Tot. Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. (3) Collin Klein QB Kansas St 129/130 12 1 - - - 13/13
2. (2) Braxton Miller QB Ohio St 91/130 - 3 5 2 2 13/13
3. (4) Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame 90/130 1 2 1 3 3 13/13
4. (1) Geno Smith QB W. Virginia 87/130 - 2 3 1 2 13/13
5. (8) Kenjon Barner RB Oregon 75/130 - 2 2 3 - 13/13
6. (9) A.J. McCarron QB Alabama 64/130 - 3 - 1 1 12/13
7. (6) Matt Barkley QB USC 57/130 - - 2 1 2 12/13
8. (24) Seth Doege QB Texas Tech 24/130 - - - - 2 5/13
9. (10) Barrett Jones OL Alabama 20/130 - - - 2 - 4/13
10. (5) Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 20/130 - - - - - 9/13
11. (19) Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 8/130 - - - - - 3/13
12t. (17) Giovani Bernard RB North Carolina 7/130 - - - - - 2/13
12t. (13) DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson 7/130 - - - - - 3/13
14. (7) De'Anthony Thomas AP Oregon 6/130 - - - - 1 1/13
15. (21) Jadeveon Clowney DE S. Carolina 5/130 - - - - - 1/13
16. (15) Denard Robinson QB Michigan 4/130 - - - - - 1/13
17t. (ur) Stepfan Taylor RB Stanford 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
17t. (26) Aaron Murray QB Georgia 3/130 - - - - - 2/13
17t. (14) E.J. Manuel QB Florida St 3/130 - - - - - 2/13
17t. (ur) Damontre Moore DE Texas A&M 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
21. (22) Nick Florence QB Baylor 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
22t. (ur) Jordan Lynch QB N. Illinois 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
22t. (ur) Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
22t. (ur) Taylor Martinez QB Nebraska 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
22t. (ur) Kevin Minter LB LSU 1/130 - - - - - 1/13

2. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Season Stats: 
105-179, 1,384 yards, 11 TD, 5 INT, 141 att., 959 yards, 10 TD
Miller had 160 total yards of offense midway through the third quarter when he broke off a long run down the right sideline. He was thrown to the ground violently and at an awkward angle, sending him to the hospital for the remainder of the game. The Buckeyes were able to win the game and stay unbeaten and Miller cleared all initial medical tests. Everyone is saying the right things in Columbus, but Miller's long-term future has to be considered when Urban Meyer decides who will start in Happy Valley. He is a tough customer but with nothing to really play for this fall, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Miller either on the sidelines or not running as much. Either way, his Heisman candidacy takes a big hit. Next Game: at Penn State

3. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame (1 first place vote)
Season Stats: 69 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 4 INT, FR, 3 PBU
BYU scored two offensive touchdowns, the first allowed by Notre Dame since Week 2 against Purdue. But it was Te'o's 10 total tackles and key interception that kept the Irish unbeaten. Helped by a stellar defensive front, ND still has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season.  Next Game: at Oklahoma

4. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Season Stats: 
216-291, 2,414 yards, 26 TD, 2 INT, 35 att., 56 yards, TD
His interception streak ended this weekend with two picks against Kansas State in the Mountaineers' second-straight blowout Big 12 loss. The 143 yards passing were his lowest total since Nov. 20, 2010 and he will have to be play special football from here on out to make it to New York. Any help from his defense would be nice as well. Next game: TCU

5. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Season Stats: 116 att., 727 yards, 9 TD, 11 rec., 111 yards, TD
The senior tailback has flipped a switch over the last month, rushing for 153.3 yards per game over his last three and scoring seven total touchdowns. He posted 143 yards and three scores in the convincing, statement road win on Thursday night over Arizona State. Look for the Ducks running back to pad his stats once again this weekend against the Buffs.
Next Game: Colorado

6. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Season Stats: 106-154, 1,476 yards, 16 TD, 0 INT, 26 att., minus-45 yards
Next Game: Mississippi State

7. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Stats: 140-213, 1,773 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT, 17 att., minus-60 yards
Next game: at Arizona

8. Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech
Season Stats: 
189-267, 2,209 yards, 28 TD, 7 INT, 20 att., minus-19 yards
Next Game: at Kansas State

9. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Season Stats: 217.2 rush yards per game, 423.0 total yards per game, 40.5 points per game
Next Game: at Tennessee

10. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Season Stats: 157-246, 1,956 yards, 14 TD, 6 INT, 108 att., 703 yards, 10 TD
Next Week: at Auburn

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 8 Recap

ACC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Heisman Trophy Contenders: Post-Week 8</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-wide-receivers
Body:

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

Today, we rank college football's best wide receivers prospects:

1. Keenan Allen, Cal (6-3, 210, Jr.)
The Greensboro, N.C., native is a freak athlete. He has elite size, elite speed, elite jumping ability and elite after-the-catch skills. He is good on the outside stretching the field vertically. He is good over the middle in traffic. And he can be used in the return game as well as in the running game. He is a complete player who has produced big numbers at Cal despite the wildly inconsistent and sub-par quarterback play. He is a superior athlete in a conference loaded with big-time playmakers at wide receiver. Comparison: Andre Johnson

2. Justin Hunter, Tennessee (6-4, 200, Jr.)
The bio on Hunter is well known. He was a big-time recruit out of the talent-rich Virginia Beach area. He posted a big freshman year and was dominating opponents until a torn ACL in Week 3 against Florida ruined his sophomore year. He has an NFL-ready frame (think A.J. Green) that is long and rangy. He has tremendous straight line speed but scouts will wonder if his explosiveness in the short spaces has returned after the injury. Look for Hunter to post a big second half to the season and supplant himself as a lock first-round pick in 2013. Comparison: A.J. Green

3. Robert Woods, USC (6-1, 190, Jr.)
Woods was the Athlon Sports High School Senior of the Year at Junipero Serra High School in SoCal. All he did in his first two seasons was set the single-season Pac-12 record for receptions with 111 in 2011. Since then, he has passed Dwayne Jarrett as the all-time leader in catches at USC and set a school record with four TD catches against Colorado this fall. He is an electric athlete with elite speed who can be used in all phases of the passing game and could be a major contributor on special teams as well (1,364 kick return yards in 2010-2011). He has tremendous hands, fluid route-running skills and is dynamic with the ball in his hands after the catch. The only knock on Woods is his lack of elite size. Comparison: Greg Jennings

4. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (6-3, 205, Jr.)
The fast riser has proven in short order at Tennessee that he is a freakish athlete with loads of big play potential. He has been used in the rushing game with great effectiveness and has been a special teams dynamo as well. He has prototypical size and speed for the next level and will wow scouts with his raw athleticism. However, he had to go the junior college route for a reason and still has a long ways to go to refine his overall skills as a wide receiver. He has one major season of college football under his belt, but his athletic ability is painfully obvious on Saturdays. He is a project but will pay dividends quick enough. Comparison: Demaryius Thomas

5. Tavon Austin, West Virginia (5-9, 180, Sr.)
Speedy, fluid, explosive, versatile, agile. These are the things a team will get in the massively productive WVU wideout. He is very undersized but makes up for it with toughness and the ability to contribute to all aspects of an offense. He can run the ball, is right at home in the slot, will return kicks and punts and does it as one of the better leaders in the huddle. He will get knocked for his size come draft day, but in the modern NFL era where speed in space kills, Austin is the best in this class. Comparison: Percy Harvin

6. Terrance Williams, Baylor (6-2, 205, Sr.)
This Waco product has had the benefit of playing with elite quarterbacks and fellow wide receivers, but has been productive on his own as well. He has a great frame with excellent size and strength. He has the awesome straight line speed that makes him a tremendous deep threat. When it comes to short space agility or burst, however, he will not be as rated as highly as some of the more dynamic players in this class. He is a well-rounded, quality football player who will be a factor on Sundays. Comparison: Hakeem Nicks

7. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson (6-1, 200, Jr.)
Teammate Sammy Watkins is the better overall player but Hopkins has been remarkable while Watkins has been out the last two seasons. He has broken multiple Clemson and ACC receiving records in 2012 and has the overall size and talent to be a big-time producer on Sundays. He may not be elite at any one thing, but he does everything an NFL wideout needs to do well. Comparison: Torrey Smith

8. Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech (6-1, 195, Sr.)
Potential first-round pick Johnathan Banks from Mississippi State had to cover Patton in 2011 and has stated he was the best receiver he ever faced. The former junior college transfer has had two massive seasons for the Bulldogs. He has adequate size, tremendous heart and excellent speed and agility. Certainly, his level of competition isn’t ideal in the WAC, but Patton has proven he belongs on the next level with huge games — try 21 receptions for 233 yards and four touchdowns against Texas A&M in October. Comparison: Mike Wallace

9. Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas (6-2, 210, Sr.)
The Hogs wideout has prototypical NFL size and strength. He was overshadowed by a trio of NFL wideouts who got drafted in the 2012 draft but a 303-yard performance against Rutgers this fall proved he is deserving of his lofty draft stock. He has all the tools needed to be a solid No. 2 wideout on the next level. Comparison: Miles Austin

10. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt (6-3, 200, Jr.)
Matthews will fly under the radar because of the program he plays at and because his quarterback has struggled at times. Yet, Vandy is building quite the reputation for producing dependable athletes and Matthews is the next in line. He has a long frame and will need to add strength and speed to get down the field. He isn’t a freakish athlete but has been facing the best defenses in the nation and has posted big numbers. Comparison: Malcolm Floyd

11. Marquess Wilson, Washington State (6-3, 190, Jr.)
Great size and huge production. Needs to prove he can stay focused and committed.

12. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (5-11, 195, Jr.)
Extremely productive, slightly bigger version of Austin. Not elite size or speed.

13. Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech (6-3, 210, Jr.)
Tremendous physical tools that scream first round. Total head case that screams Charles Rogers.

14. Aaron Dobson, Marshall (6-2, 205, Sr.)
Brings excellent size and red zone ability. Overall production, level of competition aren’t elite.

15. Aaron Mellette, Elon (6-4, 215, Sr.)
Tremendous size and speed with elite levels of production (39 TDs to date).

16. Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (6-0, 190, Jr.)
Loads of ability but never seems to deliver on potential. NFL legacy should be solid on Sundays.

17. Denard Robinson, Michigan (5-11, 195, Sr.)
Dynamic converted QB with elite speed, agility and versatility.

18. Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech (6-4, 230, Sr.)
Freakish size and speed combination, but never really delivered on potential in Blacksburg.

19. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (6-0, 205, Sr.)
Not overly talented, but gritty, tough, productive and dependable.

20. Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State (5-10, 200, Sr.)
Harvin-type speedster who is best around the line of scrimmage and on special teams.

Other names to watch:

Josh Boyce, TCU (5-11, 205, Jr.)
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (6-0, 185, Sr.)
Rodney Smith, Florida State (6-5, 215, Sr.)
Dan Buckner, Arizona (6-4, 215, Sr.)
Chris Harper, Kansas State (6-1, 230, Sr.)
Emory Blake, Auburn (6-1, 195, Sr.)
DeVonte Christopher, Utah (6-1, 200, Sr.)
Marquise Goodwin, Texas (5-10, 180, Sr.)
Tavarres King, Georgia (6-1, 200, Sr.)
Conner Vernon, Duke (6-2, 195, Sr.) 

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/eight-amazing-stats-nfl-sunday-week-7
Body:

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

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 7 of NFL play:

6-1: Houston Texans AFC-best record
With the franchise's first-ever win over Baltimore (1-6 all-time), the Texans alone have the best record in the AFC. Why is it so important to have the best record in the AFC this weekend? Well, the team with the best record in the AFC after Week 7 has made it to the Super Bowl in five of the last six seasons. New England (2011, 2007), Pittsburgh (2010) and Indianapolis (2009, 2006) all claimed the top mark in the AFC after seven weeks and each time made it to the Super Bowl. The 2008 Tennessee Titans, who started the season 6-0, are the only team in the last six seasons to have the AFC's best record after seven weeks and not make it to the final contest. That's the good news for the Texans. The bad news for the Texans? The last four have lost the big game. So Houston is going to the Super Bowl but it will come up short. If I could promise this situation to you fans in Houston, would you take it?

0:19: Seconds the Redskins led in the second half against the Giants
Robert Griffin III put together a truly remarkable drive to give the Redskins the lead with 1:32 left against the Giants. He converted on a fourth down deep in his own territory with PlaySstation-like moves that made Jason Pierre-Paul look foolish. Then he ripped-off a 24-yard run and tossed a 30-yard lob wedge to Santana Moss. It was a beautiful 7-play, 77-yard compilation that appeared to have flipped the entire NFC East on its head, putting Washington in first place. But Eli Manning needed only two plays and 14 seconds to go 77 of his own yards to retake the lead and put a stranglehold on the division. The 77-yard scoring strike was the longest game-winning touchdown pass in the final two minutes of a game in Giants history. The building was electric as Victor Cruz caught his seventh touchdown of the season and the Giants moved to 5-2.

3: Total TDs scored by the Cardinals since starting 4-0
Arizona wasn't scorching the earth on offense during its four-game winning streak to start the year. But it scored at least 20 points in each game and was one of only three unbeatens left in the league. Since Week 4, the Cards have lost three straight to three teams that combined to go 11-37 last season by scoring three total touchdowns — two of which came in the loss to Minnesota this weekend. This team has scored 33 total points in the three losses as quarterback play, be it Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, has been a major question mark. What is worse for Arizona? Its next three opponents are San Francisco, Green Bay and Atlanta. A 4-6 record would be an absolute failure for a team that started with four straight wins. By comparison, the guy they will face in two weeks, Aaron Rodgers, has accounted for 12 touchdowns all by himself over that same span. Speaking of Mr. Discount Double Check...

76: Games it took Aaron Rodgers to reach 150 passing TDs
With three more scoring strikes this weekend in an impressive win over St. Louis, Rodgers' career passing touchdown total now sits at 151. It took him only 76 games to reach the plateau — the second-fewest games ever needed to reach 150 touchdowns. Dan Marino is the only quarterback to reach this milestone quicker than Rodgers (62 games). However, Rodgers only threw one touchdown pass in seven games played in his three seasons as the backup for Brett Favre, so he technically has 150 touchdowns in his first 69 games as the starter. That is an average of 2.2 touchdown passes per game and makes Marino's record look all the more impressive.

71%: Percent the Cowboys ran the ball on its final two drives
Dallas ran the ball 31 times and threw 34 passes in the tough road win over Carolina on Sunday. On the final two drives of the game that both ended in field goals, however, Dallas ran the ball 10 times in 14 plays (71.2 percent), including the final six plays. Not only did the two methodical drives win the game by ending in points each time, but it also meant Dallas held the ball for 5:22 of the final 7:32. Yes, the rushing statistics against Baltimore might have been a bit inflated due to major injuries. And yes, this team will have to improve on the 2.7 yards per carry it posted against the Panthers. But fans in Big D have to be comforted by the renewed commitment to the running game — DeMarco Murray or not.

52-51-1: The all-time series mark between the Jets and Patriots
The 29-26 overtime win for New England over New York on Sunday gave the Pats the all-time series lead in the long-standing AFC East rivalry. Not only did the win untie the all-time mark but it also broke the current tie atop the AFC standings. The Jets fell to 3-4, tied with Buffalo for last in the division, while the Patriots are now in sole possession of first place. Additionally, Bill Belichick now boasts a 5-3 overall record against Rex Ryan.

83: Chris Johnson's NFL record fourth TD run of at least 80 yards
CJ2K has looked reinvigorated of late and his 195 yards rushing on Sunday helped the Titans pull off an improbable road win. It was his third-highest single-game rushing total and it pushed the Titans to 7-1 in games in which he tops the 150 yards mark. He scored two touchdowns in Buffalo, one from 16 yards away and the other from 83 yards out. It was his NFL record fourth touchdown run of at least 80 yards, passing Barry Sanders, OJ Simpson, Ahman Green and Hugh McElhenny (all tied with 3) for first place. It was his 29th career 100-yard rushing effort, and after 45 combined yards through his first three games, Johnson has averaged 112.8 yards per game in his last four. And the Titans have won two in a row.

1988: Last time a Colts QB scored two rushing TDs in one game
My unabashed, unadulterated love affair with Andrew Luck is no secret. He has all sorts of rookie passing records, starting his career in extraordinary fashion. He has led his team, without its head coach for the last three weeks, to a 3-3 mark — or one more win than they had last fall. He is the first QB in NFL history to throw for at least 1,500 yards (1,674) and post three wins in his first six games. He is also leading the AFC in rushing yards by a quarterback and he got into the end zone on the ground twice against Cleveland. He has 115 yards and three scores on the ground. The win over Cleveland also featured the first meeting of the five rookie quarterbacks to date as Brandon Weeden threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Robert Griffin III has been electrifying and efficient for the Redskins, but I will take Luck to have the better career.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Eight Amazing Stats from NFL Sunday: Week 6</p>
Post date: Monday, October 22, 2012 - 05:29
Path: /college-football/pac-12-post-week-8-power-rankings
Body:

This fall is becoming one of the most entertaining seasons of football in the Pac-12 in years. Three top ten teams, two unbeatens, a dozen Player of the Year candidates, one National Coach of the Year front-runner and arguably the biggest game left in college football about to kickoff in two weeks. This league is stacked with great coaches, great quarterbacks and great athletes. And most importantly, a lot of really good football teams.

Post-Week 8 Offensive Player of the Year Standings


1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC - The longtime star for USC threw six touchdown passes for the second time this year and for the fourth time in his last 11 games. He is second in the league in passing efficiency and fourth in total offense while leading with 22 touchdown passes.

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon - It has been a slow build for Mariota, but the numbers are there for the leader of the best team in the league. He is No. 3 in passing efficiency, is rushing for 50 yards per game, is fifth in total offense and just rushed for 135 yards while scoring twice in the huge road win over Arizona State. 

3. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona 
- With so many worthy running backs and wide receivers canceling each other out, the league's most productive player deserves some love after a huge home win. Scott is leading the league in total offense at 374.3 yards per game — nearly 70 yards more than No. 2 Brett Hundley.
 

Post-Week 8 Defensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State - The do-everything star for the Beavers totaled seven tackles in the easy win over Utah. Oregon State stayed unbeaten by holding Utah to seven points and 307 yards of offense. 

2. Scott Crichton, DL, Oregon State - The exploits of the Beavers' defense have been well documented and Crichton is leading the Pac-12 in sacks and tackles for loss for the league's No. 1 scoring defense.

3. TJ McDonald, S, USC - Names like Sutton, Breslin, Long, Barr or Clay could be here, but the defensive captain and leading tackler for USC gets the nod. He is fifth in the league in tackles, has three tackles for loss, one interception and a blocked kick as the leader of the best team in the South.


Post-Week 8 Coach of the Year Standings

1a. Chip Kelly, Oregon - The Ducks passes their first major road test — their first of four in the second half — and are clearly the league's top team thus far. Kelly's resume will only get better nationally if the Ducks continue to win. This team will play in the national title game if it wins its last six games. 

1b. Mike Riley, Oregon State - It is the age-old Coach of the Year debate: Do you give the award to the guy who wins it all and accomplishes exactly what we expected of him (Kelly) or the guy who vastly overachieves but doesn't claim the championship? 

3. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona  - How about some love for a team that is likely much better than its 4-3 record indicates. The Cats just crushed Washington, lead the league in passing and total offense and its three losses are to teams with a combined record of 19-2 (Oregon, Oregon St, Stanford). 

Post-Week 8 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (7-0, 4-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 8 result: Beat Arizona State 43-21
The Ducks turned what was supposed to be a showcase game in primetime on Thursday night into a definitive statement about the location of the Arizona State Sun Devils program. They are not ready to compete for the conference crown. The Ducks won their 25th Pac-12 game in their last 26 tries after blitzing the overmatched opponent in the desert. After falling behind 7-0 on an early turnover, Oregon scored six straight touchdowns before ASU could even get into halftime to make adjustments. The Ducks shouldn't be challenged by lowly Colorado next weekend as the Ducks will head to Los Angeles unbeaten at 8-0. 
This week: Colorado (1-6)

2. USC (6-1, 4-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 8 result: Beat Colorado 50-6
There aren't many 41-point underdogs in BCS intraconference tilts these days but the USC Trojans justified their lofty point spread by crushing the Buffaloes by 44 points. Matt Barkley was outstanding, throwing only one incompletion (19-of-20), along with 298 yards and six touchdowns in the easy win. Wide receiver Robert Woods continues to rewrite the records books as he caught eight passes for 123 yards and a USC record four touchdown passes. He also passed Dwayne Jarrett as the Trojan's all-time leader in receptions (220). He now has 30 touchdown receptions in two-and-a-half seasons of football. A sneaky trip out to the desert takes place this weekend and if the Men of Troy aren't careful, they will get caught looking ahead to Oregon in two weeks.
This week: at Arizona (4-3)

3. Oregon State (6-0, 5-0)
Previous rank: 4
Week 8 result: Beat Utah 21-7
Another weekend and another workmanlike team effort keeps the Beavers undefeated. One of the nation's best stories continues to roll along without starting quarterback Sean Mannion. Cody Vaz was superb in the win over BYU two weeks ago while MIke Riley leaned on his offensive line and ground game this weekend. Storm Woods rushed for three touchdowns and Vaz wasn't sacked against the solid Utah defensive line as the Beavers jumped out to a 14-0 early lead. The defense did the rest, forcing four turnovers and allowing only 307 yards of total offense. Now, things get interesting for the Beavers as Riley will face Washington (road), Arizona State (home) and Stanford (road) in the next three weeks — all potentially without Mannion.
This week: at Washington (3-4)

4. Stanford (5-2, 3-1)
Previous rank: 3
Week 8 result: Beat Cal 21-3
So it appears the Cardinal can win a road game after all, provided it's just across town. The Big Game lacked much suspense as the Cardinal took a commanding 21-3 lead with eight minutes still left in the second quarter. Neither team scored a point the rest of the way as Stanford suffocated the Golden Bears. Cal had only five second-half possessions. Three ended in punts, one was a turnover on downs and the final drive of the game ended on an interception. Stepfan Taylor was the star of the show, rushing for 189 yards and a touchdown in Stanford's first road win of the season. With Wazzu and Colorado up next, David Shaw's bunch should be 5-1 in the league before having to face both Oregon schools.
This week: Washington State (2-4)

5. UCLA (5-2, 2-2)
Previous rank: 6
Week 8 result: Off
Hopefully this team got plenty of rest in the off week. UCLA will play both Arizona schools in the next two weeks with major bowl implications on the line before finishing the year with USC and Stanford. It will be a challenging last month of the season for the Bruins.
This week: at Arizona State (5-2) 

6. Arizona (4-3, 1-3)
Previous rank: 7
Week 8 result: Beat Washington 52-17
The Wildcats have lost three games this season to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford. One could argue that Rich Rodriguez' team should have won two of those games. It means that Arizona is probably the best 4-3 team in the nation... and that they have a tough time winning close games. This weekend against Washington, Matt Scott and company had no such trouble. The offense rolled-up 533 total yards behind Ka'Deem Carey's 172 yards and Scott's five touchdowns. The biggest difference this weekend, however, was the defense. After allowing nearly 33 points per game, the Cats sacked Keith Price four times, forced three turnovers and allowed only 17 points. RichRod will have his guys thinking upset in the desert this weekend against Southern Cal.
This week: USC (6-1)

7. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1)
Previous rank: 5
Week 8 result: Lost to Oregon 43-21
There was a good chance Arizona State was going to have an eye-opening experience on Thursday night one way or the other. After taking a quick lead, Todd Graham found out real quick why Chip Kelly has won three straight Pac-12 titles. The offense turned the ball over four times. The defense allowed 454 yards of offense and 43 first-half points. And the Sun Devils were sent back down to Earth in embarrassing fashion on national television. Graham and his squad have a huge pecking order game this weekend against the Bruins.
This week: UCLA (5-2)

8. Washington (3-4, 1-3)
Previous rank: 8
Week 8 result: 
Lost Arizona 52-17

That Thursday night upset win over Stanford in which the students rushed the field in Seattle is a distant memory today. Washington is not quite done with one of the toughest months in the nation having lost to Oregon, USC and Arizona in consecutive weeks. The offensive line still has major holes and will struggle mightily against the stout Oregon State defense this weekend, but at least the schedule gets easier over the final month. The Huskies could win their final four games: at Cal, Utah, at Colorado and at Washington State. Somehow pull the upset this weekend and things will finally be looking up for U-Dub.
This week: Oregon State (6-0)

9. California (3-5, 2-3)
Previous rank: 9
Week 8 result: Lost to Stanford 21-3
After two huge wins, Jeff Tedford suffered a brutal home defeat in The Big Game. His tenure as the head coach at Cal is a weekly roller coaster of emotions for fans in Berkeley. He is arguably the most successful headman in program history but clearly this program has gotten stale under the former Fresno State quarterback. His team wasn't even competitive against its rival, turning the ball over three times, didn't reach the end zone and rushed for an abysmal three yards on 28 carries. This will be one of the more interesting teams to follow from here on out.
This week: at  Utah (2-5)

10. Utah (2-5, 0-4)
Previous rank: 
9
Week 8 result: Lost Oregon State 21-7
The Beavers scored to make it 14-0 just one minute into the second quarter and that was all she wrote in Corvallis. The unbeaten Beavers totally controlled the game against the overmatched Utes. Kyle Whittingham's team couldn't pressure backup quarterback Cody Vaz (no sacks) and lost the turnover battle 0-4. They were 3-of-16 on third downs and mustered only 3.0 yards per carry on 45 attempts. Utah has to be one of the most disappointing teams in the nation to this point.

This week: Cal (3-5)

11. Colorado (1-6, 1-3)
Previous rank: 11
Week 8 result: Lost to USC 50-6
Certainly, no one believed that the Buffs would challenge the mighty Trojans on the road. But if the fans cannot even expect their team to cover a 41-point spread, they might have a right to cry for Jon Embree's job. The Buffaloes are dead last in the Pac-12 in nine of the 17 measured team stats by the NCAA: scoring offense, passing efficiency, total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks allowed, turnover margin and punt returns. Something needs to be done in Boulder.
This week: at Oregon (7-0)

12. Washington State (2-4, 0-3)
Previous rank: 12
Week 8 result: Off
The Cougars will play three of their next four on the road coming out of the bye week.

This week: at Stanford  (5-2)

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 8 Recap

ACC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 8 Power
Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings

Pac-12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, October 22, 2012 - 05:20
Path: /college-football/big-ten-post-week-8-power-rankings
Body:

Penn State continues to be a national story with another easy road conference win. Montee Ball's record-setting pace is creeping in on two huge all-time milestones as Wisconsin continues to improve. Michigan exercised some demons with a final-minute drive to beat the Spartans. Nebraska won a must-win division game on the road. There was a lot to like about Week 8 in the Big Ten, however, a Heisman Trophy front-runner and odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten Player of the Year had to be taken to the hospital on Saturday. Everyone in the league is even more focused on Braxton Miller now.

Post-Week 8 Offensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - Miller is still on top... for now. He struggled against Purdue but still compiled 160 total yards of offense and a touchdown before getting hurt in the third quarter. He was taken to the hospital and cleared all concussion, head, neck and shoulder tests. If he doesn't miss any time, he is still the frontrunner for Player of the Year.  

2. Matt McGloin, QB, Penn State - This award will likely be decided next weekend in Happy Valley when (and if) Miller can play against the Nittany Lions. McGloin closed the gap dramatically with 289 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the easy road win over Iowa this weekend.

3. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin - It is a two-horse race for Big Ten POY but names like Ball, Venric Mark and Taylor Martinez deserve some mention. Ball has 10 rushing touchdowns in four Big Ten games and is averaging 124.4 yards rushing per game in those four.


Post-Week 8 Defensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Mike Mauti, LB, Penn State - Mauti might have clinched the award this weekend with eight tackles, an interception, a sack and a tackle for loss in the dominating road win over Iowa. Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska still loom. 

2. Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin - After 12 total tackles against rival Minnesota, the leader of the Badgers defense is now No. 2 in the Big Ten in tackles. His defense has allowed no more than 14 points during the three-game winning streak.

3. John Simon, DL, Ohio State - Simon had nine total tackles in the come-from-behind win over Purdue. He is the leader of the only unbeaten team in the league and helped hold the Boilermakers scoreless for the final 35 minutes of play and overtime.


Post-Week 8 Coach of the Year Standings

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

2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - His team continues to survive and advance. If Miller is out for any extended period of time, the odds of going unbeaten shrivel up and die. However, there is only one 8-0 team in the entire nation. 

3. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - His team is just a few points from being unbeaten after a second tough loss in the league to a superior team. He was one point away from turning the entire Legends Division on its head this weekend against Nebraska. 


Post-Week 8 Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (8-0, 4-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 8 result: Beat Purdue 29-22 (OT)

This was a valiant win by the Buckeyes to stay unbeaten and become the only 8-0 team in the nation. Yet, the only storyline that matters is the health of Braxton Miller. An undefeated season, a win over archrival Michigan and his Heisman candidacy are what Ohio State fans are focused on this fall without the chance for a Big Ten title or bowl game. So after Miller was released from the hospital and cleared all major medical hurdles, all eyes will be focused on what Urban Meyer has to say this week in his press conference about his star quarterback's availability. The Bucknuts travel to Happy Valley this weekend with Offensive and Head Coach of the Year honors potentially hanging in the balance. 
This week: at Penn State (5-2)

2. Michigan (5-2, 3-0)
Previous rank: 2
Week 8 result: Beat Michigan State 12-10
The Wolverines cleared their first big hurdle in the Legends Division round robin with their first win over in-state rival Michigan State in five years. Denard Robinson drove his team 41 yards on eight plays in 1:55 to set-up the game-winning field goal with five seconds left on the clock. It wasn't pretty — Robinson didn't account for a touchdown for only the fourth time in the last three seasons — but the Maize and Blue are now in clear control of the division. The biggest test left on the schedule en route to Indianapolis will come next week in Lincoln, Neb. A win next weekend and this team should be 7-0 in the Big Ten heading into Columbus on the final weekend.
This week: at Nebraska (5-2)

3. Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1)
Previous rank: 5
Week 8 result: Beat Minnesota 38-13
This Badgers team is quietly improving each and every weekend. The defense was more than adequate for the third week in a row while Montee Ball and the offensive line is beginning to look more and more like 2011. Ball scored twice and rushed for 166 yards while James White added multiple big plays en route to 175 yards and three scores of his own. Ball is now five total touchdowns from passing Travis Prentice's all-time record of 78 and eight rushing scores away from Prentice's all-time rushing touchdown mark of 73. This team has all but wrapped up a trip to the Big Ten title game and should only continue to improve.
This week: Michigan State (4-4)

4. Penn State (5-2, 3-0)
Previous rank: 4
Week 8 result: Beat Iowa 38-14
This Nittany Lions team continues to impress after another dominant showing on the road against a team that had yet to lose in Big Ten play. Penn State is one of the great stories in college football this fall as this team is averaging over 400 yards on offense while allowing just 15.7 points per game on defense. Bill O'Brien's team is leading the league in turnover margin and could sweep the big three awards (Coach, Offensive, Defensive Player of the Year) should Braxton Miller miss significant time for Ohio State. The Ineligible Bowl should be fun to watch this weekend. 

This week: Ohio State (8-0)

5. Nebraska (5-2, 2-1)
Previous rank: 3
Week 8 result: Beat Northwestern 29-28
The road win in Evanston was a statement performance for Nebraska. The winner was going to be the top challenger to Michigan in the division and the loser was going to have two conference losses already. It took 407 yards of total offense and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from star quarterback Taylor Martinez to do it, but Nebraska returns home poised to battle Michigan for the Legends Division championship. The Huskers quarterback now leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency and is third in total offense.
This week: Michigan (5-2)

6. Northwestern (6-2, 2-2)
Previous rank: 6
Week 8 result: Lost Nebraska 29-28
Pat Fitzgerald has to wondering what-if right now. The Wildcats once again gave up a late lead to a superior football team and it cost them their second league loss of the year. Coach Fitz has one of his most talented offenses ever assembled in Chicago, and a potential eight-win season would be nothing to sneeze at, but the outside Big Ten title chance slipped through his grasp during the fourth-quarter this weekend. With Iowa, both Michigan schools and Illinois left, an 8-4 season looks like the best-case scenario.
This week: Iowa (4-3)

7. Michigan State (4-4, 1-3)
Previous rank: 8
Week 8 result: Lost to Michigan 12-10
The Spartans lost for the third time in four weeks and have for intents and purposes been eliminated from Big Ten title contention. The defense once again played well, holding Denard Robinson in check all game long. Yet, one short last minute drive and very little offensive balance allowed Michigan to escape with a win over Sparty for the first time in five years. Andrew Maxwell threw for just 192 yards on 34 attempts and Le'Veon Bell was shut down (68 yards on 26 carries). Until this offense can develop an efficient passing attack, teams will continue to stack the box. And beat Michigan State.
This week: at Wisconsin (6-2)

8. Purdue (3-4, 0-3)
Previous rank: 9
Week 8 result: Lost to Ohio State 29-22 (OT)
Danny Hope likes to face the Buckeyes. After getting destroyed by Michigan and Wisconsin at home in back-to-back weeks, the Boilermakers nearly upset Ohio State in the Horseshoe this Saturday. They held Braxton Miller in check before knocking him out of the game with a vicious tackle on a long run in the third quarter. Yet, the offense failed to score a point in the last 36 minutes of play and overtime. And the defense couldn't keep backup Kenny Guiton from leading the Buckeyes to victory. It's been a tough start to Big Ten play for Hope's bunch.
This week: at Minnesota (4-3)

9. Iowa (4-3, 2-1)
Previous rank: 7
Week 8 result: Lost to Penn State 38-14
Without walk-on fullback turned star tailback Mark Weisman, the Hawkeyes' offense looked downright atrocious. Yes, Penn State's salty defense deserves plenty of credit but Iowa wasn't even competitive. They fell behind 38-0, totaled 209 yards of offense (20 of which was rushing) and turned the ball over three times. James Vandenberg has made fans completely forget about his efficient and productive 2011 breakout season. That said, there are winnable games left on the schedule and a 4-4 season in the league isn't out of the question.
This week: at Northwestern (6-2)

10. Minnesota (4-3, 0-3)
Previous rank: 10
Week 8 result: Lost to Wisconsin 38-13
The longest running rivalry in college football has been decidedly one-sided of late. Wisconsin rushed past the Gophers for the ninth straight time in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe. After another health scare this week, Jerry Kill was on the sidelines for his team's third straight loss since beginning the season 4-0. Despite the struggles and rough final month of the season that features one or two winnable games, there is some good news for Minnesota. Record-setting prep quarterback Phillip Nelson appears to be the long-term future at quarterback and the extremely youthful roster has a lot of upside. 
This week: Purdue (3-4)

11. Illinois (2-5, 0-3)
Previous rank: 11
Week 8 result: Off
Fans in Illinois are hoping that the off week will help erase the memory of a hideous first half of the 2012 season. This weekend will determine who finishes last in the Leaders Division this fall. 

This week: Indiana (2-5)

12. Indiana (2-5, 0-3)
Previous rank: 12
Week 8 result: Lost to Navy 31-30
The Big Ten's brutal non-conference season came to a fitting end this weekend when the Hoosiers lost by a single point to a struggling Navy team. Indiana allowed 10 straight fourth-quarter points despite outgaining the Midshipmen to lose in painful fashion. Indiana will be hard-pressed to win another game this season, however, their best chance at a conference win will come this weekend against the teetering Ilini.
This week: at Illinois (2-5)


by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 8 Recap

ACC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Post-Week 8 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, October 22, 2012 - 05:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-8
Body:

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

2012 Record Against The Spread: 32-23
Last Week: 6-2

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Western Michigan (+3.5) at Kent State
Darrell Hazell has done an excellent job in one and a half seasons with the Flashes. The only loss of the year came on the road against an SEC opponent and, against the spread, his team is equally strong at 5-1. The Flashes have won their last two games by a combined 72-31 behind 604 yards rushing. Western Michigan will be without starter Alex Carder at quarterback and has lost two out of the three games. Look for the Golden Flashes to continue down its winning path, both in the standings and against the number. Prediction: Kent State -3.5

Indiana (+3) at Navy
The Midshipmen are always strong at running the football, but its 233.3 per game average is well-below what Navy has grown accustomed too over the last decade. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, boast the Big Ten's top passing attack under the guidance of second-year coach Kevin Wilson. A win over Navy would triple Indiana's win total from a year ago and give the fans in Bloomington a lot to be excited about it. Navy has no chance of stopping a team that scores over 35 points per game and just dropped 49 on Ohio State. Prediction: Indiana +3

San Diego State (+6.5) at Nevada
The Wolfpack gets star quarterback Cody Fajardo back after missing last weekend's contest. He leads the Mountain West in total offense and the Aztecs defense, which ranks 67th nationally in scoring (95th in pass efficiency defense) and has allowed 72 points in its only two road games, will have a tough time stopping the Nevada rushing attack. The nation's leading rusher, Stefphon Jefferson at 162.9 yards per game, is happy to have his backfield mate back in action. Take the Pack to win its sixth straight fairly comfortably. Prediction: Nevada -6.5

Penn State (+3.5) at Iowa
A battle of two Big Ten unbeatens should be defensively minded in Iowa City. Walk-on turned superstar bowling ball tailback Mark Weisman has an injured ankle and is doubtful for the Hawkeyes, leaving the depleted backfield in the questionable hands of James Vandenberg. On the other side, Matt McGloin has played superbly in a new offensive scheme that is as balanced as any in the nation the last month. The Nittany Lions are 5-1 against the spread this season and are a few plays from being unbeaten. They are simply the better team. Prediction: Penn State +3.5

USF (+6.5) at Louisville
The South Florida Bulls are one of the least trustworthy teams in the nation these days. And better may point to three straight close wins for the Cards by a combined 21 points over inferior teams. However, all three were on the road. The three best offensive yardage totals of the season have come at home for Charlie Strong's bunch and USF has done little to prove it belongs on the same field as the 6-0 Big East frontrunners. The Bulls have lost four straight by an average of 11.6 points per game and lost this bout by 10 at home last fall. Prediction: Louisville

Other games to investigate:

Stanford (-2) at Cal
The Cardinal are a superior team that crushed the Bears the last time they visited Berkeley. But it's a rivalry game.

Texas Tech (-1.5) at TCU
Tech hasn't won back-to-back Big 12 games since Nov. 2009. The Toads defense is slightly different than West Virginia.

Kansas State (+3) at West Virginia
I wouldn't bet against Bill Snyder and Collin Klein.

Northern Illinois (-16.5) at Akron
The Huskies are the far superior team behind do-everything dynamo Jordan Lynch.

Colorado (+41) at USC
Isn't this entirely too many points? Even for the Buffaloes?

Iowa State (+14) at Oklahoma State
The Cyclones play these types of games close behind solid defense.

Minnesota (+17) at Wisconsin
Badgers have won eight straight in this series and the Gophers haven't won in Madison since 1994.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

Undefeated ATS: Arizona State (5-0-1), Utah St (7-0), Western Kentucky (6-0)

Winless ATS: Virginia (0-6-1)

One Loss Against the Spread One Win Against the Spread
Fresno State (6-1) Auburn (1-5)
Kansas State (4-1-1) Boston College (1-5)
Kent State (5-1) Central Michigan (1-5)
UL Monroe (5-1) Colorado (1-5)
Ole Miss (6-1) Colorado St (1-6)
Northwestern (6-1) Idaho (1-6)
Oregon State (4-1) Kentucky (1-6)
Penn State (5-1) Miami-OH (1-6)
San Jose State (5-1) Michigan State (1-6)
South Carolina (6-1) USC (1-5)
Texas Tech (5-1) Syracuse (1-5)
TX-San Antonio (3-1)  

Other Noteables: Ball State (5-2), Duke (5-2), LSU (2-5), New Mexico (5-2), Northern Illinois (5-2), Toledo (5-2), UNLV (5-2)

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Pac-12 Week 8 Previews and Predictions

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 8</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-defensive-tackles
Body:

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

Today, we rank college football's best defensive tackles prospects:

1. Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State (6-3, 320, Jr.)
The big Buckeye lineman has just a touch more upside than Star Lotulelei but has a similar skillset. He has a massive frame that is excellent at clogging space in order to stop the run. But he is a three-down tackle who can get penetration and disrupt the passer from the interior. In what should be a very deep and talented defensive tackle class, Hankins could be the best. There are potentially five first round defensive tackles in the 2013 class.

2. Star Lotulelei, Utah (6-3, 320, Sr.)
The big fella from Utah was voted as the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12 by his peers last season. If the offensive lineman who try to block him each Saturday say he is the best defensive lineman in the league, I believe them. He, too, is a three-down tackle who can be used against the pass and run equally — which is a rare commodity highly coveted by the NFL. He has great size, has been extremely productive and will likely be a top ten pick. He may be viewed as safer than Hankins but likely has slightly less upside.

3. Kawann Short, Purdue (6-3, 315, Sr.)
Purdue's heart and soul on defense has tons of ability. He is roughly the same size as all the best tackle prospects in this class with the rare of exception of John Jenkins (who is massive and bigger than everyone else). He has proven his abilities to play in opposing backfields with four years of consistent play in the middle of a defense that rarely gave him the help he deserved. He is a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year candidate this fall. 

4. John Jenkins, Georgia (6-3, 358, Sr.)
Few players will go to the combine bigger than Jenkins. While he will need to prove his stamina, flexibility and commitment to physical conditioning, he doesn't have to prove much in the form of on-field production. He has experience in a professional 3-4 defense that has been one of the best in the vaunted SEC. He has the skills and size to develop into the best player at his position in this class, but has to refine his fitness, size and consistency.

5. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (6-3, 320, Sr.)
The big Tar Heel has been a fast riser throughout the fall. He has the needed size and power to play at the next level but needed to prove himself one more season. He was surrounded by elite talent and was a junior college transfer, yet has continued to improve and has held his own without names like Coples, Martin, Powell there to help him this fall. He is more upside than most in the top ten at this point.

6. Jesse Williams, Alabama (6-3, 320, Sr.)
There may not be anything flashy or freakish about this young Australian, but he absolutely gets the job done with tremendous strength and technique. He has been coached by the best, been extremely productive against the best and should be viewed as one of the best. He won't wow scouts with any one talent, but should be a major contributor on the next level for years to come.

7. Sharrif Floyd, Florida (6-3, 303, Jr.)
The Gators active lineman is much lighter than his elite level counterparts and is generously listed at 6-foot-3. But he is extremely active, disruptive and will make plenty of plays on the next level. This nose tackle was an elite recruit back in 2010 and made an immediate impact as a freshman in Gainesville. Look for him to continue to improve and could easily raise his stock into the first round with a great end to his Gators career. 

8. Bennie Logan, LSU (6-3, 290, Jr.)
Only one player on the Tigers roster gets to wear No. 18 each season as the unquestioned leader of the program and Logan got that distinguished honor in 2012. Like Floyd, he won't tip the scales with his smaller frame, but he is as tough a leader as there is at the position. He is a dependable performer that will give scouts exactly what they expect. Logan has limited upside but extremely low downside. 

9. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (6-3, 295, Jr.)
Despite his wordy taunts, Richardson is one of the most talented tackles in the nation. Every SEC coach to have scouted the Tigers point to the defensive line as the area to focus on, and most of that is due to the play this big guy. He has had some injury issues in the past (shoulder) and will need to prove himself at the combine, but the upside is obvious for the one of the highest-rated recruits to ever sign with Mizzou.

10. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota (6-6, 300, Jr.)
This massive prospect has been a late mover on draft boards. He has a huge frame with plenty of room to add bulk and power. He also hasn't played a ton of football so his better days are well of ahead of him. He has quickly proven to be a productive member of an improving defense. He has extremely intriguing upside and could be a value pick in the early middle rounds.

Other names to watch:

11. Akeem Spence, Illinois (6-1, 305, Jr.)
12. Josh Boyd, Mississippi State (6-3, 300, Sr.)
13. Everett Dawkins, Florida State (6-2, 304, Sr.)
14. Abry Jones, Georgia (6-3, 308, Sr.)
15. Dominique Easley, Florida (6-2, 280, Jr.)
16. Joe Vellano, Maryland (6-2, 285, Sr.)
17. Jordan Hill, Penn State (6-1, 294, Sr.)
18. Cory Grissom, USF (6-2, 316, Sr.)
19. Anthony Rashad White, Michigan State (6-2, 330, Sr.)
20. Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska (6-6, 290, Sr.)

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Tackles</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-8-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The desert will be a busy place this weekend out West as both Arizona and Arizona State host huge showdowns. The Wildcats welcome Washington to Tucson in what should be a tremendous Xs and Os contest, while fans all over the nation will finally learn if Todd Graham's Sun Devils are a legit contender in the Pac-12 on national TV against Oregon on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, USC should roll, Oregon State has to hold serve and The Big Game takes over the Bay Area.

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 8:

1. Will Arizona State get exposed or make a statement on national televsion?
The schedule for both the unbeaten Oregon Ducks and surprise Arizona State Sun Devils gets nasty in the second half. Oregon plays four tough road games, starting with a nationally televised visit to Tempe on Thursday night. The Sun Devils, led by Taylor Kelly, the league's top rated passer, is looking to make a major statement to the nation. Yet, ASU's record is inflated after facing backup quarterbacks (Mizzou, Illinois, Utah) and three of the four easiest conference opponents in the league. This game should feature a boatload of elite skill players on both sides, but it will come down to Todd Graham's No. 1-rated Pac-12 defense staying strong for all four quarters. Otherwise, the Ducks will roll right through town en route to another dominating league win. 

2. Justin Wilcox vs. Rich Rodriguez
The most intriguing game this weekend out West will likely take place in Tucson when Washington visits Arizona. Rich Rodriguez has his offense, led by Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey, clicking on all cylinders. It leads the league in total offense at over 550 yards per game and in passing offense at nearly 370 yards per game. Meanwhile, Justin Wilcox has completely reinvented the Huskies defense. Washington is 12th in the nation in passing defense and just held Matt Barkley to 167 yards and 24 total points. Look for these two Xs and Os gurus to get creative in the desert Saturday night.

3. Keith Price vs. Jake Fischer
On the other side of things, Washington quarterback Keith Price has been a shell of his former self. He was lighting up defenses and throwing touchdowns in droves last fall and simply hasn't gotten going this fall. Certainly, his offensive line has been crushed by injuries and that has led to many of the issues in Seattle on offense. But Arizona hasn't been much better on defense. Jake Fischer's squad is 11th in the Pac-12 in total defense and scoring defense, but has allowed 49, 38 and 54 points during its 0-3 conference start. In the battle of ineptitude, someone has to make a play, right?

4. Matt Barkley's Heisman train gets back on track in a big way
Barkley has a chance to quiet many of his Heisman detractors with a huge game this weekend against lowly Colorado. His numbers haven't been great — 187 yards against Syracuse, 192 against Cal and 167 against Washington — but he still leads the league in touchdown passes and has his team poised to face Oregon for the Pac-12 title. Defenses have been backloading their secondaries to contain the talented big-play wide receivers, so Barkley has turned to the ground game and Silas Redd (who has been excellent). Look for all aspects of the offense to roll this weekend and for Barkley to return to many Heisman ballots.

5. The Big Game features two bruised football teams
Jeff Tedford and Cal were reeling a couple of weeks ago but has since won two straight league games to reach 3-4. This team is in must-win mode every week from here on out and needs a quality showing against crosstown rival Stanford. Cal has allowed 79 points in two straight losses to the Cardinal. Meanwhile, Stanford likely spent a lot of time in the training room after that physical battle in South Bend. Stanford is the better team, but has to regroup after the tough, nail-biting loss to the Irish. There is plenty on the line in this edition of The Big Game.

6. Can Oregon State continue to win without Sean Mannion?
One of the most impressive showings nationally last week was the Beavers' road win over BYU. Backup quarterback Cody Vaz picked-up where Sean Mannion left off, throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns while leading Oregon State to 42 points and an unbeaten 5-0 record. While a win over the Cougars is nice, it doesn't help Mike Riley's bunch in the Pac-12 standings. This weekend will be the first league game without Mannion and Riley needs another quality showing from Vaz to stay in the Pac-12 North race. Against Utah, that shouldn't be an issue.

Week 8 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 8 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Oregon (-8) at Arizona St Oregon, 41-24 Oregon, 42-28 Oregon, 45-30 Oregon, 42-27
Stanford (-2) at Cal Stanford, 27-20 Stanford, 24-21 Stanford, 27-24 Stanford, 35-31
Colorado (-40.5) at USC USC, 42-14 USC, 47-13 USC, 48-10 USC, 56-7
Washington (+7.5) at Arizona Arizona, 30-27 Arizona, 27-21 Washington, 34-31 Arizona, 35-21
Utah (+10.5) at Oregon St Oregon St, 27-13 Oregon St, 30-13 Oregon St, 34-20 Oregon St, 27-10
Last Week: 6-0 6-0 5-1 3-3
Yearly Totals: 40-15 41-14 40-15 36-19

Bye: Washington State, UCLA

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:07
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-8-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The round robin in the Legends Division got started with Iowa's win over Michigan State last weekend. Otherwise, none of the top five teams in that division have faced each other yet. That will all change this weekend as two huge puzzle pieces will fall into place in Evanston and Ann Arbor. Otherwise, a barometer game in Iowa City and a battle for a six-foot long wood chopper highlight the Week 8 slate in Big Ten country.

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 8:

1. Has The Wolverine State battle lost its luster?
Michigan State has owned this in-state battle of late. Try four straight wins for the Spartans, the last two coming in dominating fashion. After two debilitating losses at home to Ohio State and then Iowa, the Spartans are on the Big Ten title ropes. Meanwhile, the Wolverines have bounced back from losses to two top-five teams early in the year to crush its first two Big Ten opponents, Purdue and Illinois, by a total of 89-13. The ground game is back. The defense has played its best. Brady Hoke has his team poised to not only remove the Spartan monkey from their Maize and Blue backs, but place their name atop the Legends Division standings. And it all starts with one guy...

2. Denard Robinson is back — and will end his losing streak to Spartans
The explosive quarterback has yet to defeat the cross-state rivals from East Lansing but is poised to have his best shot. Shoelace has completed 15-of-27 passes for 264 yards, three touchdowns, and most importantly, no interceptions. He has been up to his old tricks on the ground, rushing for 363 yards and two touchdowns in the Wolverines' 2-0 start in the Big Ten. Against Michigan State, Robinson has been less than electric, however, completing only 9-of-24 passes a year ago and throwing four interceptions in his last two meetings with Sparty. Additionally, he rushed for just 119 yards in three games against MSU and has been contained by Mark Dantonio's powerful front line. Look for Robinson and Michigan to make a big statement this weekend at home against one of its top rivals. 

3. Cornhuskers looking for revenge in Evanston
Northwestern do-everything athlete Kain Colter burst onto the national scene last season in Lincoln when the Wildcats defeated the Cornhuskers 28-25. Colter was unstoppable, throwing for 115 yards and one score to go with 57 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground. Both programs are poised to compete for the Big Ten Legends Division crown and their respective title pushes start with this game. After a crushing final two quarters in Columbus, Bo Pelini had a week off to prepare his maligned defense for the versatile Northwestern offense. The importance of this game cannot be overstated for both teams and Nebraska will bring an intense memory of Colter into this game up in Chicago. Nebraska feels like the top challenger to Michigan in the Legends Division race, but a loss to Northwestern would flip the entire championship race on its head.

4. Will Northwestern's rushing attack take advantage of Black Shirts defense?
So where will the game be won? Nebraska's porous rushing defense that is ranked No. 10 in the Big Ten will have to stop one of the nation's top rushing attacks. Venric Mark is leading the Big Ten in all-purpose yards and Colter brings tremendous athleticism to the quarterback position. Mark has topped the 100-yard mark in four of his last six games and has been equally dynamic on special teams — and it has earned him some Heisman Trophy recognition. Meanwhile, the Black Shirts are coming off of a defensive performance in which they allowed 371 yards and six touchdowns on the ground to Ohio State. This is a huge test for both defenses — Nebraska is tops in the league in rushing, total and scoring offense — and the outcome will undoubtedly hinge on the Wildcats' ability to run the football.

5. Can Iowa's D maintain momentum against potential POY candidate Matt McGloin?
This is a sneaky good game between two teams that are unbeaten in Big Ten play. Iowa is trying to keep pace with their Legends Division brethren after two excellent defensive performances. The Hawkeyes have allowed 29 total points, less than 330 yards of total offense and picked off four passes in the last two games. And it has Kirk Ferentz back in the good graces of the fans and Iowa in the heart of the Big Ten race. Stopping potential Offensive Player of the Year Matt McGloin, however, will be a different beast than Max Shortell and Andrew Maxwell. McGloin has been exceptional and Bill O'Brien has this offense rolling along at levels unseen in Happy Valley since Michael Robinson was under center. The Nits signal caller has accounted for six touchdowns and no turnovers in two Big Ten wins, and should he play well, Penn State will win its fifth straight game.

6. Paul Bunyan's Axe up for grabs
The most-played rivalry in all of college football is the Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe between the Badgers and the Golden Gophers. Minnesota leads the all-time series 59-54-8 as these two prepare to meet for the 122nd time. The Badgers, however, have dominated their rivals from the Twin Cities with eight straight wins in the series, many of which have not even been competitive. The Gophers haven't had much luck in Madison either with their last win in Camp Randall Stadium coming way back in 1994. Wisconsin has gotten Montee Ball rolling of late — eight touchdowns in the last three games — and should have little trouble scoring on the Gophers. Look for Bret Bielema to continue to improve his team with another key win over its long-time rival.

7. Braxton Miller must to hold serve at home
Two weeks ago, Herbie was touting the Boilermakers as the team to beat in the Leaders Division on College Gameday. After two crushing and embarrassing losses to Michigan and Wisconsin, Purdue has become an afterthought in the race for the Big Ten title. With a trip to Ohio State this weekend, Danny Hope's team is in danger of becoming completely irrelevant. And that is precisely what Braxton Miller wants to do. The Buckeyes have a chance to become the only 8-0 team in the nation this weekend as Miller's Heisman candidacy continues to close on Geno Smith. Ohio State will lean on its running game and star quarterback to keep Purdue at arm's reach, stay unbeaten, exact some revenge and keep Miller on pace to land in New York at season's end.

8. Big Ten's final non-conference game provides opportunity
Indiana will play the league's final non-conference game on the road against Navy this weekend. The struggles of the Big Ten out of conference have been well documented and the Hoosiers have an opportunity to not only triple their win total from 2011 but end the league's difficult non-conference slate on a high note. The defense will have a tough time stopping Navy's triple-option attack but the Midshipmen won't be able to stop the league's No. 1 passing attack (313.0 ypg).

Week 8 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 8 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Purdue (+18) at Ohio St Ohio St, 42-28 Ohio St, 41-20 Ohio St, 38-17 Ohio St, 48-28
Minnesota (+18) at Wisconsin Wisconsin, 30-14 Wisconsin, 31-10 Wisconsin, 38-20 Wisconsin, 21-14
Nebraska (-6) at Northwestern Nebraska, 34-30 Nebraska, 27-21 Nebraska, 31-27 N'Western, 35-28
Michigan St (+10) at Michigan Michigan, 38-14 Michigan, 30-14 Michigan, 27-20 Michigan, 42-14
Indiana (+2.5) at Navy Indiana, 31-21 Indiana, 34-24 Indiana, 36-30 Indiana, 35-10
Penn St (+3) at Iowa Penn St, 20-17 Penn St, 21-20 Penn St, 24-20 Penn St, 24-14
Last Week: 4-1 3-2 4-1 3-2
Yearly Totals: 51-11 47-15 52-10 48-14

Bye Week: Illinois

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Week 8 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:06
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Big East
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-games-watch-second-half
Body:

The first half of the college football season is over. Athlon Sports awarded midseason honors to those players and teams who surprised, disappointed and achieved the remarkable. But the heart of the college football season still lies ahead. Here are 25 games you won't want to miss in the second half.

1. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 3)
The top game in the preseason hasn’t lost any luster as these two SEC West powers continue their collision course. Alabama has been the No. 1 team in the nation since Week 1 and has a pair of Heisman candidates on offense to go with the nation's No. 1-rated defense. LSU has slipped up only once — at No. 2 Florida two weeks ago — but got back on track with a dominating defensive showing against South Carolina. It will be the third time these two will get together in the past 367 days. Buckle your chinstrap and get the ice packs ready for this SEC war.

2. Oregon at USC (Nov. 3)
The other Game of the Century this season is right on schedule as well. Much like LSU, USC has slipped up once already on the road against a quality opponent, but gets the No. 3-ranked Ducks at home. Unlike the SEC bout, however, these two will likely meet again in the Pac-12 title game as they are clearly the best two teams in the Pac-12. The offensive firepower on both sides is remarkable and this final score should be much like the 38-35 nail-bitter that took place in Eugene a year ago.

3. South Carolina at Florida (Oct. 20)
The Gamecocks offense looked rather average against LSU in Week 7 and will get just as tough a test in Week 8. Except this time, the SEC East championship could be on the line. Quarterback Jeff Driskel didn’t play in the five-point South Carolina win last season that featured a combined total of 203 passing yards. For Carolina, Marcus Lattimore didn’t suit up either. Both will be the focal points of their respective offenses in this SEC showdown.

4. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 24)
Could a trip to the national championship game be on the line when these two historic rivals meet up in Los Angeles? It’s not that far-fetched if the Trojans can win the aforementioned showdown with Oregon. Southern Cal has won nine out of ten in this storied rivalry but that lone win for Notre Dame came under Brian Kelly the last time the Irish visited the Coliseum. Rich history, elite offense versus elite defense and a potential trip to the BCS title game on the line? Yes, please.

5. Notre Dame at Oklahoma (Oct. 27)
Believe it not, but these two college football powers have met a total of nine times, and only one of those games (1999) has taken place since since 1968. Notre Dame has won eight of the nine meetings, and the Fighting Irish are a perfect 4-0 in Norman, Okla. The Irish have their eyes on a national title for the first time in 25 years, but will have to clear two major hurdles to have any hopes of getting there. The first of which is this visit to play Bob Stoops on his own turf. Consider this: the OU head coach lost his first-ever home game to a ranked opponent back in Week 4.

6. Florida vs. Georgia (Oct. 27)
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was a back and forth affair that ended with a Richard Samuel game-winning touchdown run with just over two minutes left last year. Mark Richt used fourth down gambles and a rushing defense that held Florida to minus-19 yards on the ground to earn only his third win over the Gators. Florida is 18-4 since 1990 in this game and should the Gators defeat South Carolina, it too could be a de facto SEC East championship game.

7. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)
The top rivalry in college football is back to being nationally relevant. Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer will make this battle one of the nation’s best every year. Ohio State could be 11-0 entering this game and Michigan could need a win to clinch the Legends Division. Denard Robinson got the Wolverines off the schneid last season with Michigan’s first win over that team from Ohio since 2003. Braxton Miller got baptized into this ongoing war last fall and he nearly pulled off the road upset. Fans can again expect greatness from two of the most electric quarterbacks in the nation.

8. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 24)
Florida-Tennessee had a 1990s feel to it back in Week 3 and this rivalry could feel the same way at season’s end. These two Sunshine powers could have a combined record of 21-1 when they get together, and a bid to the national title game could be on the line too. As far as the series itself, the Noles have dominated the last two meetings, winning by a combined score of 52-14, which put an end to the Gators' six-game winning streak from 2004-09. Will Muschamp hasn’t forgotten what took place the last time these two got together.

9. Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 24)
This could be the best edition of The Civil War in the 118-year history of the Beaver State rivalry. Both teams have major tests before the final week of the regular season, but the Ducks might need a win on the road over Mike Riley’s much-improved defense to stay in the national title hunt. The Ducks have won four straight with relative ease in the series, but the Beavers are 5-2 in the last seven in Corvallis. Should the Beavers keep winning, however, more than just bragging rights could be hanging in the balance — like a Pac-12 North Division championship.

10. Kansas State at West Virginia (Oct. 20)
The luster has been dimmed slightly after the Mountaineers lost in Lubbock in Week 7. But make no mistake, the winner of the Big 12 championship will likely emerge from this contest with a victory. These two have only met twice, splitting a home-and-home series back in 1930 and 1931 — both of which took place in Morgantown. The Big 12 Coach of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year award are likely to be decided in this game as two of the top three current Heisman Trophy finalists will be on the field together.

11. Oklahoma at West Virginia (No. 17)
Sooners' first-ever trip to Morgantown could be a de facto Big 12 title game. 

12. Louisville at Rutgers (Nov. 29)
Both could enter final week of the season unbeaten with a BCS bowl hanging in the balance.

13. LSU at Texas A&M (Oct. 20)
Johnny Football will face nasty Bayou Bengal defensive front after record-setting first half.

14. Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 27)
Classic showdown could determine who heads to Pasadena this New Year's.

15. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 27)
The Ineligible Bowl could feature the best two teams in the league.

16. Florida State at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8)
Likely the biggest game left in the ACC features nearly 13 feet and 500 pounds of quarterback.

17. West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10)
Dana Holgorsen returns to his former employer with a big offense leading the way.

18. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 24)
Bitter rivalry has seen Gamecocks take control with three straight blowouts.

19. Florida State at Miami (Oct. 20)
This could be the best edition of this rivalry in three years.

20. Boise State at Nevada (Dec. 1)
Will likely determine the Mountain West Conference championship.

21. Ohio State at Wisconsin (Nov. 17)
A win gives Badgers' division crown much more weight. OSU is shooting for 12-0.

22. Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 1)
Does the winner of this game win the Coastal Division and play in the ACC title game?

23. Texas at Kansas State (Dec. 1)
The 'Cats have owned the 'Horns of late and Mack Brown could be fighting for his job.

24. Rutgers at Cincinnati (Nov. 17)
Rutgers' toughest road test in the Big East title round robin (with Louisville).

25. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 24)
Bedlam Series has revenge factor as game heads back to Norman.

Best of the Rest:

Oregon at Arizona State (Oct. 18)
Virginia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 20)
Cincinnati at Louisville (Oct. 26)
Mississippi State at Alabama (Oct. 27)
Arizona State at USC (Nov. 10)
Texas A&M at Alabama (Nov. 10)
Mississippi State at LSU (Nov. 10)
Oregon State at Stanford (Nov. 10)
Utah State at Louisiana Tech (Nov. 17)
Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 17)
NC State at Clemson (Nov. 17)
Ohio at Kent State (Nov. 23)

Rivalries with Extra Juice this Year:

Stanford at Cal (Oct. 20)
Alabama at Tennessee (Oct. 20)
NC State at North Carolina (Oct. 27)
USC at UCLA (Nov. 17)
Iowa at Michigan (Nov. 17)
Tennessee at Vanderbilt (Nov. 17)
Arizona State at Arizona (Nov. 23)
Mississippi State at Ole Miss (Nov. 24)
Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 24) 

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Athlon Sports College Football Midseason Awards
Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review

Big East 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review

Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review

Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review

SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 25 Games to Watch of the Second Half</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-heisman-trophy-contenders-post-week-7
Body:

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

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

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

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (7 first-place votes)
Season Stats: 
195-259, 2,271 yards, 25 TD, 0 INT, 28 att., 71 yards, TD
His strangle hold on the Heisman Trophy took a major hit this weekend in the blowout loss to Texas Tech. Did he need to go unbeaten to win the award? No. But he opened the Heisman door for other names to close the gap after 275 yards and one touchdown against the Red Raiders. He still has yet to throw an interception and is leading the nation in passing efficiency (180.8) Next game: Kansas State

  Last Name Pos. Team Tot. Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. (1) Geno Smith QB W. Virginia 120/130 7 4 1 - 1 13/13
2. (2) Braxton Miller QB Ohio St 115/130 5 3 4 - 1 13/13
3. (3) Collin Klein QB Kansas St 103/130 - 5 5 2 - 13/13
4. (4) Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame 83/130 1 1 1 4 3 12/13
5. (16) Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 60/130 - - - 1 5 13/13
6. (7) Matt Barkley QB USC 35/130 - - - 1 1 7/13
7. (6) De'Anthony Thomas AP Oregon 34/130 - - 1 3 - 6/13
8. (9) Kenjon Barner RB Oregon 26/130 - - - - 1 7/13
9. (8) A.J. McCarron QB Alabama 24/130 - - - - 1 6/13
10. (18) Barrett Jones OL Alabama 23/130 - - 1 1 - 4/13
11. (5) Marcus Lattimore RB S. Carolina 17/130 - - - - - 5/13
12. (10) Mike Gillislee RB Florida 15/130 - - - - - 5/13
13. (17) DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson 13/130 - - - 1 - 3/13
14. (11) E.J. Manuel QB Florida St 10/130 - - - - - 4/13
15. (23) Denard Robinson QB Michigan 8/130 - - - - - 2/13
16. (12) Stedman Bailey WR W. Virginia 6/130 - - - - - 2/13
17. (ur) Giovanni Bernard RB N. Carolina 3/130 - - - - - 2/13
18. (13) Marqise Lee WR USC 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
19. (ur) Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 3/130 - - - - - 2/13
20. (24) Venric Mark RB N'Western 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
21. (16) Jadeveon Clowney DE S. Carolina 2/130 - - - - - 2/13
22. (ur) Nick Florence QB Baylor 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
23. (14) Tavon Austin WR W. Virginia 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
24. (ur) Seth Doege QB Texas Tech 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
25. (ur) Johnathan Franklin RB UCLA 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
26. (21) Aaron Murray QB Georgia 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
27. (22) Jarvis Jones LB Georgia 1/130 - - - - - 1/13

2. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (5 first place votes)
Season Stats: 
96-159, 1,271 yards, 11 TD, 4 INT, 129 att., 912 yards, 9 TD
Miller continues to will his team to victory on a weekly basis. The sophomore rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown to go with 212 yards passing and two more scores in the air. He has accounted for 20 total touchdowns, is third in the Big Ten in rushing, second in total offense, third in passing efficiency and is the leader of one of two 7-0 teams in the nation (Ohio). Next Game: Purdue

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Season Stats:
 79-118, 1,074 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 98 att., 510 yards, 10 TD
Klein led his team to another clutch hard-fought road conference win by rushing for 105 yards and three touchdowns in the 27-21 victory over Iowa State. He is fourth in the Big Ten in rushing and has 37 rushing touchdowns in the last season and a half. He is the epitome of toughness, heart and leadership. Next Game: at West Virginia

4. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Season Stats: 59 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 3 INT, FR, 3 PBU
The Fighting Irish defense has not allowed a touchdown since Week 2 against Purdue and is No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (8.7 ppg). Te'o posted 11 total tackles in the physical showdown win over Stanford and was an integral part of the four-down goal-line stand to win the game. He leads the Irish in tackles at 9.83 per game. Next Game: BYU

5. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Season Stats: 128-190, 1,680 yards, 14 TD, 3 INT, 91 att., 676 yards, 10 TD
Johnny Football set an SEC single-game total offense record against Louisiana Tech with 577 total yards (395 passing, 181 rushing) and six total touchdowns in the wild win. He is now leading the SEC in rushing (112.7 ypg) and total offense (392.7 ypg) and has accounted for 24 touchdowns. He is the most exciting player in the league, but he has another big test coming this weekend against the Bayou Bengals. Next Week: LSU

6. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Stats: 121-193, 1,475 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT, 15 att., minus-65 yards
Next game: Colorado

7. De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon
Season Stats: 41 att., 377 yds, 6 TD, 20 rec., 205 yds, 3 TD, 10 PR, 150 PR yds, 6 KR, 88 yds
Next Game: at Arizona State

8. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Season Stats: 116 att., 727 yards, 9 TD, 11 rec., 111 yards, TD
Next Game: at Arizona State

9. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Season Stats: 89-132, 1,170 yards, 12 TD, 0 INT, 23 att., minus- yards
Next Game: at Tennessee

10. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Season Stats: 217.2 rush yards per game, 423.0 total yards per game, 40.5 points per game
Next Game: at Tennessee

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap
ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 
2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Heisman Trophy Contenders: Post-Week 7</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 05:58
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-safeties
Body:

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

Today, we rank college football's best safeties prospects:

1. Eric Reid, LSU (6-2, 208, Jr.)
Reid posted a huge sophomore year that included an unbeaten regular season as key member on a defense ranked second to only Alabama. Among his statisical contributions were 76 tackles and two interceptions, including the game-changer against the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Reid should finish his junior season as the top safety on NFL Draft boards. He has a rare blend of size and speed, physicality and finesse, leadership and toughness. He can play a deep-high point coverage scheme and can be used off the blitz to create havoc in the opposing backfield. He may not be as complete a safety as Mark Barron, but he’s close. There are no weaknesses in his game.

2. TJ McDonald, USC (6-3, 205, Sr.)
The NFL pedigree for the USC Trojans' defensive captain is well documented. His father, Tim, was an All-American at USC before playing 13 seasons in the NFL, six of which resulted in Pro Bowl invitations. The younger McDonald is a heady player who uses tremendous intangibles and physical play to make his presence felt on defense. After three great years in SoCal, he is leading the team in tackles and is poised for his best statistical season in 2012. He has a big frame and plays an NFL brand of football.

3. Matt Elam, Florida (5-10, 206, Jr.)*
There aren’t many players who perform on the field with more intensity and physicality than Elam. He is a huge hitter who could easily be the most talented player at his position nationally if his hot temper didn’t set his team back from time to time. He is fast, strong and a fiery leader for a Gators defense that ranks among the best in the land.

4. Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma (5-10, 198, Jr.)
There aren’t many players who are as versatile and athletic at the back end than Jefferson. He has previously played a hybrid safety-linebacker role, has lined up in the slot in man-to-man coverage, and is now leading his team in tackles playing a more traditional safety position this season. He also plays in a league that claims arguably the most complex and successful passing attacks, so his knowledge of coverage schemes should be advanced. He isn’t one of the bigger safety prospects, but he could be the most athletic and versatile of the bunch.

5. Shawn Williams, Georgia (6-1, 217, Sr.)*
His teammate got most of the headlines last fall — and this summer — but Williams is the most consistent performer in the Georgia Bulldogs' secondary. He has a big frame and has played against the most physical offensive lines in the game over the last few seasons in the SEC. He plays a physical brand of football after learning under former NFL coordinator Todd Grantham. He has shown the ability to excel against both the pass and the run.

6. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas (6-1, 218, Sr.)*
The Longhorns' defense has struggled mightily in 2012 and it will likely hurt Vaccaro’s draft stock as the leader of that unit. He is excellent in the box against the run using his physical style to make big plays. Against some of the pass-happy Big 12 offenses, however, his skills in open space have been exposed somewhat. He is still a tremendous prospect, but may be limited against the high-flying NFL attacks that populate the next level.

7. Robert Lester, Alabama (6-2, 210, Sr.)*
The Bama defense, ranked No. 1 again this fall in scoring and total defense, hasn’t needed big plays from its back end this fall. But Lester has been the clear leader of the totally reworked Crimson Tide secondary. He has great size, has posted big numbers in the past (8 INT in 2010), has been coached by DB guru Nick Saban, and has two national championship rings. He isn’t Mark Barron, but he should be a solid NFL player.

8. Hakeem Smith, Louisville (6-1, 185, Jr.)
There is a lot to like about the junior from Louisville. He has been coached at an elite level by defensive specialist Charlie Strong on a team that could win the Big East championship with an unblemished record. He has speed, versatility and a frame that can handle more weight. Smith is a guy who could fly up draft boards once the meat market begins in February.

9. Bacarri Rambo, Georgia (6-0, 210, Sr.)
Rambo’s track record is loaded with highlight-reel hits, 13 career interceptions entering his final season, an SEC East title and multiple off-the-field incidents. Some of his issues are blown out of proportion but a track record of poor decisions will negatively affect his draft stock. He isn’t as fluid and versatile in open space, but he has an NFL frame and delivers NFL hits.

10. Brian Blechen, Utah (6-2, 218, Jr.)
Blechen has been a leader for the Utes for four years. As a freshman All-American and four-year starter, Blechen has experience in essentially every situation — battling for a Pac-12 South Division title, playing on a 10-win team and overcoming the shortcomings of a struggling offense. He may not have the elite physical tools of another versatile Utah safety (Eric Weddle), but he has great size and the ability to be dropped into the box. He is an intriguing middle-round prospect.  

Other Names to Watch:

11. Duke Williams, Nevada (6-1, 200, Sr.)
12. Bradley McDougald, Kansas (6-1, 210, Sr.)
13. Jamoris Slaughter, Notre Dame (6-0, 200, Sr.)*
14. CJ Barnett, Ohio State (6-0, 202, Jr.)
15. Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse (5-10, 210, Sr.)
16. Jarred Holley, Pitt (5-10, 190, Sr.)
17. John Boyett, Oregon (5-10, 205, Sr.)
18. DJ Swearinger, South Carolina (6-0, 210, Sr.)
19. Daimion Stafford, Nebraska (6-1, 205, Sr.)
20. Zeke Motta, Notre Dame (6-2, 215, Sr.)*
21. Jawanza Starling, USC (6-1, 200, Sr.)*
22. Rashad Hall, Clemson (6-1, 210, Sr.)
23. Micah Hyde, Iowa (6-1, 190, Sr.)
24. Jordan Kovacs, Michigan (6-0, 202, Sr.)* 
25. Drew Frey, Cincinnati (6-3, 212, Sr.)*

* - strong safety

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Safeties</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/bcs-standings-2012-statistical-breakdown-championships
Body:

With the first release of the 2012 BCS Standings, Athlon Sports wants to make sure fans are aware of some stats, trends and rankings when sifting through the debut of the rankings that will eventually determine who will play for the national championship.

No. 1 has a 50% chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game
The No. 1 team in the initial BCS release has gone on to play in the national championship game seven of the 14 total releases. LSU was No. 1 in the first poll last season, but the Bayou Bengals were the first team since Ohio State in 2007 to debut at No. 1 and still play in the title game. But there is bad news coming for the Alabama Crimson Tide...

However, No. 1 doesn’t win the national title
Yes, seven of the 14 BCS title games featured a team ranked No. 1 in the debut release of the standings. But the last four — and five of seven — No. 1s have lost in the national championship game. LSU (2011), Ohio State (2007, '06) and USC (2005) all debuted in the BCS at No. 1, made it to the title game and lost. Florida State in 1999 and USC in 2004 are the only teams to win the national title after debuting at No. 1. Oklahoma in 2003 also began the BCS at No. 1 only to lose in the championship game to LSU.

You better be ranked in the top six
Of the 28 teams that have played in BCS title game, only two of those got there after being ranked outside of the top six in the initial release. In 2003, LSU debuted at No. 12 in the initial BCS standings and is by far the lowest ranked eventual national champion. Florida in 2008 was ranked No. 10 in the first poll and is the only other team to get to the title game after being ranked outside of the top six in the first BCS standings. Here is a breakdown of how the top 12 have fared in the title game:

Ranking in Initial Release Played in Title Game Won Championship
1st 7 2-5
2nd 7 4-3
3rd 4 1-3
4th 4 3-1
5th 1 0-1
6th 3 2-1
7th, 8th, 9th 0 0-0
10th 1 1-0
11th 0 0-0
12th 1 1-0

Projected Championship Game Match-up: Alabama (1) vs. Florida (2)
The odds of this happening are slim. Only twice in 14 years have the top two teams in the first BCS release go on to play in the championship game. In 2005, USC (1) and Texas (2) were clearly the best two teams in the nation and they eventually met in what many consider the greatest college football game ever played. Last year, LSU (1) and Alabama (2) become only the second such meeting. Both times No. 2 went on to win the title.

How should the Florida Gators feel?
Based on the 14-year history of the BCS, the Florida Gators should feel the best about their current title hopes. The No. 2 team in the first release has made it to the championship game about the same number of times as the No. 1 team (7). But while No. 1 is 2-5 in title game performances, No. 2 has won more titles than any other slot in the first release (4-3). This means the Gators have the best statistical chance of winning the national championship. 

Sneaky Pick: Kansas State Wildcats
While No. 1 and No. 2 make it to the title game the most, the No. 4 team in the first BCS standings has the best record in the national championship game. Fourth place is 3-1 in national title games as Miami (2001), LSU (2007) and Auburn (2010) went from fourth to national champ.

Some comfort for LSU
Being in the top six is huge as I previously pointed out, so LSU has to feel good about landing there. Additionally, the sixth place team in the first BCS standings is 2-1 in national title games. Ohio State (2002) and Florida (2006) both went from No. 6 to champions. So don’t count the Tigers out just yet.

Bad News for South Carolina, Oregon State and Oklahoma
No team ranked No. 7, 8 or 9 in the debut of the BCS standings has ever gone on to play in the national championship game. The No. 11 team has never made it either. This is also bad news for the Georgia Bulldogs. Alas, it also means we won't get the highly anticipated Beavers-Gamecocks match-up fans have been clamoring about for years.

New faces or traditional powers?
No team has ever played for the national title coming from outside of the top 12. But fans could expect to see a totally new look to the championship game this fall. Of the top 12, six have never made an appearance in the BCS championship game. However, of the other six teams, five have won the BCS national championship. Only Oregon has played in the title game and not claimed at least one crystal football.

How many Top 10 teams stay in contention?
On average, 6.4 teams per season ranked in the top 10 of the first release will stay in the top 10 for the final release. This means that 3-4 teams ranked in the top 10 right now will fade from relevance. Who are the most likely candidates? Oregon State? South Carolina? Oklahoma?

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> BCS Standings 2012: A Statistical Breakdown of Championships</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 11:22
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/eight-amazing-stats-nfl-sunday-week-6
Body:

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

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 6 of NFL play:

12-for-12: Redskins have scored in all 12 goal-to-go situations
After going a perfect 3-for-3 in the come-from-behind win over Minnesota, the Redskins are now a perfect 12-for-12 in goal-to-go situation in 2012. More importantly, Robert Griffin III has led his team to 11 touchdowns in those 12 first-and-goals and just one field goal. This indicates that the offensive line is finishing drives and RG3 is protecting the football deep in the opponent's red zone. The talented first-year QB finished with 138 yards rushing, including an electric game-clinching 76-yard touchdown run. The 138 yards are the most since Michael Vick rushed for 166 in 2006 and the TD run was the longest by an NFL quarterback since Kordell Stewart broke off an 80-yard scoring run back in 1996.

5-of-7: NFC teams with a winning record who lost on Sunday
Since the 4-1 Chicago Bears were on a bye this weekend, there were only seven NFC teams with winning records playing on Week 6. Five of those seven lost. Four of the five came against teams with a losing record and three of those five came at home. The NFC is clearly the dominant conference, claiming all three divisions with a winning record: NFC West (15-9), NFC North (12-9) and NFC East (12-11). Wins from teams like Detroit and Washington this weekend only further indicate just how deep and complicated the NFC is in 2012. Add to it a Green Bay win over Houston in impressive fashion and the NFC claims the last unbeaten in 6-0 Atlanta.

16-0: Packers record when Jordy Nelson has at least 75 receiving yards
The Green Bay Packers are unbeaten when star wideout Jordy Nelson catches at least 75 receiving yards, including a 2-0 postseason mark. Aaron Rodgers was downright ruthless Sunday night and No. 87 abused the Texans secondary to the tune of nine receptions, 122 yards and three touchdowns. The Pack also moves to 15-3 in the regular season when the Kansas State wide receiver catches at least one touchdown (29-20 when he does not). This was a statement win for the reeling Packers and Rodgers' aerial assault in Houston has Green Bay right back into the heart of the NFC race. And for good measure, after two touchdown receptions Sunday night against the Texans, James Jones now leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns with seven.

10:30: Time left in the fourth quarter and the Eagles leading 16-6
The Lions scored a touchdown with 10:30 left in the game trailing 16-6. The Matt Stafford one-yard touchdown run was the first of four different scoring drives, including the last three of the game, resulting in 20 points to cap the game for the Lions — a 26-23 road overtime win. This game was virtually dead even other than one major statistic. Detroit ran 73 plays and got 25 first downs while Philly ran 78 plays for 24 first downs. Stafford threw 45 passes while Michael Vick attempted 46. The Lions ran the ball 28 times while the Eagles ran it 29 times. Both teams had 14 total possessions and 15 passing first downs. And after 60 minutes, both teams had 23 points. But the only stat that matters? The big reason the Lions went on a 20-7 run while the City of not-so-Brotherly Love watched its team collapse? Michael Vick's 13th turnover (8 INT, 5 FL). After three more giveaways, he is on pace for 37 turnovers this year.

10-0: Giants record when Ahmad Bradshaw rushes for 100 yards
Ahmad Bradshaw carried the ball 27 times for 116 yards and a touchdown in the dominating road win over the 49ers. It took Bradshaw until his 43rd career game before he got at least 20 carries, but the Giants are now 7-1 when the former Marshall running back gets 20+ rushing attempts — 10-0 when he tops the century mark. His 27 carries were his second-most carries in a game, trailing only the 30 he got last week against Cleveland. The 49ers offense, on the other hand, were held to roughly half (314 yards) of its franchise record output set last week against the Bills (621 yards). Alex Smith has now been sacked nine times in the last two meetings with the Giants — including last year's NFC Championship game.

108 and 13: A.J. Green's NFL record catches and TDs in first 21 career games
No wide receiver has had a better start to a career than Cincinnati's second-year superstar. He has 108 receptions, 1,685 yards and 13 touchdown catches — two of which are the best in the history of the sport for anyone in their first 21 games. Green is leading the NFL in receiving yards (628), is second in receiving touchdowns (6) and is third behind only Percy Harvin (49) and Wes Welker (48) in receptions. His current rate of production would put him on pace for 115 receptions, 1,675 yards and 16 touchdowns, all three of which would have ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year. He has quickly become one of the most uncoverable players in the league and has obviously developed an excellent rapport with fellow youngster Andy Dalton.

67.8: Yards rushing per game for Dallas prior to Week 6
If the Cowboys are going to make a push for a playoff spot, improving their 30th ranked rushing attack at 67.8 yards per game was a must. Despite coming up just short on the road on Sunday to fall to 2-3, Jason Garrett can take comfort in how his ground game performed. The Boys rushed 42 times for 227 yards — a franchise record for rushing yards allowed by a Baltimore Ravens defense — at a hearty 5.4 yards per carry clip. The injury-prone DeMarco Murray rushed for 93 yards before leaving with a foot injury in the second half, but Felix Jones picked up the slack with 92 yards and a touchdown of his own. With many of the NFC contenders losing in Week 6, Dallas is clearly right in the thick of the playoff hunt. And if Garrett's bunch can run the rock like it did against Baltimore, they will be in the mix until all season long. It also makes Tony Romo's job dramatically easier.

252: Jets total rushing yards
The Jets' 252 yards rushing on Sunday was the most productive game for the New York franchise since Week 17 of 2010. It was more than the three previous games combined (207 yards) and was 169 yards more than the season average of 83.0 yards per game. Shonn Greene was a monster in the easy win over the Colts, rushing for a career-high 161 yards, or 38 more than his previous four games combined, and three touchdowns. It was his fifth career 100-yard effort. As a side note, Tim Tebow had seven yards on four carries.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> 8 Amazing Stats from NFL Sunday: Week 6</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:55
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2012-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review
Body:

At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Big Ten.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year: Bill O'Brien, Penn State
Urban Meyer would likely win Coach of the Year should Ohio State finish the season undefeated, especially considering the Bucks lost seven games last fall, and his resume would include a win over Bill O'Brien, Michigan and defending league champ Wisconsin. For now, however, O'Brien has done more with less and has done so in the face of the worst football scandal in NCAA history. Matt McGloin looks like a real quarterback and the Nittany Lion offense looks more creative and innovative than it has since Kerry Collins was under center. Coach O'Brien, whose team leads the Big Ten in turnover margin (+1.17/game), has done a remarkable job in Happy Valley.

Freshman of the Year: Joel Stave, QB, Wisconsin
Danny O'Brien was supposed to be a savior for a Badgers offense that watched architect Paul Chryst, leader Russell Wilson and three-fifths of its all-world offensive line move on from Madison. That didn't work. But Stave has been a godsend in place of O'Brien. The redshirt walk-on has energized the Wisconsin passing attack, throwing for 214 yards per game, completing 55.8% of his passes with five touchdowns earning a 3-1 starting record. He has shown the ability to push the ball down the field with his big frame and arm, something O'Brien simply couldn't do.

Newcomer of the Year: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa
Kirk Ferentz sat back and watched his running back position get thinner and thinner by the week in summer and fall camp. Then his team struggled out of the gate against Northern Illinois and Iowa State. So what is an old school, black and blue type of head coach to do to fix his offense? How about hand the ball to a 230-pound walk-on fullback and tell him to punish defenses. And Weisman has done just that, carrying 98 times for 623 yards and seven rushing touchdowns in four games — including a 2-0 start in league play. If you love the game of football and you don't enjoy watching Weisman pound the rock, there is something wrong with you.

Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
While there is literally a dozen quality candidates for Pac-12 Player of the Year, Big Ten POY is one man's to lose. Ohio State clearly has warts on defense, so no player has been more valuable, more productive and more electric than the Buckeyes sophomore signal caller. Miller has accounted for 20 touchdowns, is No. 3 in the league in rushing (162.7 ypg), No. 2 in total offense (311.9 ypg), No. 3 in passing efficiency (145.32) and is the unquestioned leader of the only unbeaten team in the league — one of only two 7-0 teams in the nation (Ohio). This is Miller's honor to lose.

Defensive Player of the Year: Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State
Penn State's senior linebacker deserves much of the credit for holding together an entire program in the face of tremendous adversity. Through six games, Mauti has 57 total tackles, a pair of interceptions, two forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks and is leading a defense allowing a Big Ten second-best 16.0 points per game. His heart and toughness is a huge reason the Nittany Lions could challenge for the best record in the league.

Midseason Disappointment (Team): Michigan State
This award could go to a number of teams as this league struggled so mightily outside of conference play. Illinois, one could argue, has been much more of a disappointment, however, the Illini weren't considered a title contender in 2012. A 1-2 start to Big Ten action isn't what fans where expecting in East Lansing. Quarterback play — and the pass-catchers too for that matter — have been atrocious as the offense continues to be completely one-dimensional. It ranks 11th in the league in scoring offense, 10th in rushing and 11th in passing efficiency. The defense is solid, despite claiming the league's worst pass rush, and there are big wins left to had should Mark Dantonio's bunch turn it around. But for now, this team lacks the killer instinct that made it Legends Division champions a year ago. 

Midseason Disappointment (Player): Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin
O'Brien had some huge shoes to fill when Russell Wilson departed for the NFL. And as a fellow ACC transfer who posted a productive season as a freshman at Maryland two seasons ago, expectations were sky high in Madison. Unfortunately, O'Brien looked completely lost in Matt Canada's new offense system and was pulled in the Utah State game. Wisconsin was dead last in the Big Ten in scoring (16.3 ppg) and total offense (276.0) after three starts by the former Terrapin. Luckily, backup Joel Stave has stepped in and saved the Badgers season. Big Red has averaged 33.3 points per game since Stave entered the picture.

Midseason Surprise (Team): Penn State
This team has dealt with a coaching change of the most tumultuous variety. It dealt with a mass exodus of current players transferring away — most of whom were starters on offense. And it began the year 0-2 after two heart-breaking losses. But after four straight wins, and marked improvement from the offense, Penn State has a chance to make a big statement in the first year under Bill O'Brien. 

Midseason Surprise (Player): Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
The junior from Tomball, Texas has emerged as one of the most productive players in the league. Mark has rushed for 797 yards on 134 attempts and has scored 11 total touchdowns in three different ways (eight rush, one receiving, two return). He has become Northwestern's all-time kick return leaders in yards and attempts, while also scoring twice on punt returns. His versatility and dependability has opened up the offense and has given Pat Fitzgerald a traditional rushing threat he has been craving for years. He leads the league in all-purpose yards with 184.6 yards per game.

What Athlon Sports got right: Wisconsin's convincing win over Purdue indicates they are clearly the best bowl eligible team in the Leaders Division. Ohio State was ranked No. 6 in the Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 and was picked No. 1 in the league. Nothing has happened this season to indicate that the Buckeyes aren't the best team in the league. It also appears Michigan and Nebraska will play for the Legends Division crown on October 27 as expected. Should the Wolverines win that game, a Michigan win over Wisconsin in the title game would likely come true as believed in the preseason.

What Athlon Sports got wrong: Actually, most teams at this stage are slotted to finish exactly where Athlon Sports projected with a small tweak. Penn State has outperformed all preseason expectation and are only a few plays from being 6-0. Michigan State, on the other hand, could easily finish worst than third (where they were projected). Iowa has struggled mightily, as predicted, but is somehow 2-0 in the league. Iowa and Northwestern could still finish where Athlon predicted, but are much closer to the top of the division than anticipated. 

Second-Half Predictions

Here's how we think the final standings will look before the Big Ten Championship.

Legends Division

1. Michigan
2. Nebraska
3. Michigan State
4. Northwestern
5. Iowa
6. Minnesota

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State
2. Penn State
3. Wisconsin
4. Purdue 
5. Illinois
6. Indiana

Big Ten Championship: Michigan over Wisconsin

Three Things to Watch

How does the Legends round robin play out?
Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska all still have yet to face each other while Iowa and Northwestern have also crept into the picture. All five still have yet to face each other with the only exception of Iowa's road win over Michigan State this weekend. Michigan gets the Spartans, Wildcats and Hawkeyes at home, while having to visit Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' schedule is flipped as it has to face Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern all on the road while also getting Penn State at home. Michigan State gets Nebraska and Northwestern at home with two nasty road trips to Michigan and Wisconsin looming. Hold on for dear life in this division because the next two months of action should be extremely entertaining. 

Ohio State's unbeaten record and Braxton Miller's Heisman campaign
There are two teams in the nation with 7-0 records and both reside in the state of Ohio. The Bobcats and Buckeyes have, by definition, the best records in the nation. Additionally, Ohio State's quarterback would be sitting in New York if the Heisman voting was taken today. The defense, which is ranked 10th in the Big Ten at 400 yards allowed per game, is a major question mark. But if Urban Meyer can finish the year unbeaten and Miller can stay healthy, there is little doubt that this team would be the heavy favorite to win the 2013 National Championship. 

The Penn State Nittany Lions
The Jerry Sandusky scandal transcended not only Big Ten football but all of college football, bringing Penn State University into living rooms of non-football fans everywhere. And after many players left the program, a coaching change and two tough losses to start the year, the story in the Big Ten in 2012 could be the performance of the Nittany Lions. Crippling NCAA punishments may be easier to overcome than originally believed if Bill O'Brien is as good as his first half coaching job indicates. With games left against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa, the Nits will most definitely play a huge role in the Big Ten championship — whether they are eligible to win the crown or not.

Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)
It's arguably the best rivalry game in college football, and this season, it could feature an undefeated top-10 Ohio State team and a Big Ten favorite Michigan squad. Consider this Brady Hoke-Urban Meyer Chapter 1 in what could be a long storybook feud between two "new" coaching regimes.

2. Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 27)
The Legends Division race is completely wide open but these two programs look like the odds-on favorites to win the division. The Cornhuskers will be looking for revenge after a 45-17 beatdown in Ann Arbor last fall.

3. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 27)
The Ineligible Bowl could feature the best two teams in the league. It also could feature the top two Offensive Players of the Year in quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Matt McGloin. Look for a huge crowd in Beaver Stadium should the Buckeyes show up undefeated.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0)
Still some weaknesses, but this team refuses to lose behind leadership of Braxton Miller. 

2. Michigan (4-2, 2-0)
Denard Robinson is back on track and the schedule sets up nicely for UM after two top-10 losses.

3. Nebraska (4-2, 1-1)
Nothing wrong with the offense in Lincoln, but something needs to be done to the Blackshirts' defense.

4. Penn State (4-2, 2-0)
Matt McGloin has been spectacular, and the defense has been great. Nits could spoil more than one season in the second half.

5. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1)
Two straight impressive division wins puts Badgers in driver's seat for a trip to Indianapolis.

6. Northwestern (6-1, 2-1)
Pat Fitzgerald got back to the ground game and it led to big road division win over Minnesota.

7. Iowa (4-2, 2-0)
Key road win at Michigan State puts the Hawkeyes squarely in the Legends Division race.

8. Michigan State (4-3, 1-2)
Devastating loss at home in double overtime to Iowa puts Sparty behind the eight ball in the division.

9. Purdue (3-3, 0-2)
Terrible start to conference play and has four of the next five on the road. Things could get ugly for the Boilers.

10. Minnesota (4-2, 0-2)
Great to hear Jerry Kill has been safely released from care after suffering a seizure. Return of MarQueis Gray is also a positive. 

11. Illinois (2-5, 0-3)
The wheels have official come off the Illini train after third straight blowout Big Ten loss.

12. Indiana (2-4, 0-3)
Same old story for the Hoosiers: Pretty solid offense can score. Defense of any kind? Not so much.

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Big Ten.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:10
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-tight-ends
Body:

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

Today, we rank college football's best tight end prospects:

1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (6-6, 250, Jr.)
The big Fighting Irish tight end is easily the top prospect at his position for this upcoming draft. But poor quarterback play has limited his statistical production in 2012. He entered his final season as more of a pass-catcher but has gotten stronger at the point of attack as ND looked to pound the football more this fall. He projects as an excellent receiver on the next level and, should he continue to develop as an in-line blocker, he could creep into the first round next spring.

2. Joseph Fauria, UCLA (6-7, 255, Sr.)
From a pure athletic stand point, few players in the nation will match the size and speed combination Fauria brings to the table. He has more upside as a receiver than a blocker but is adequate at both. He needs to polish his overall game and prove his dedication and commitment to being a great player. Developing a killer instinct might be his only weakness.

3. Jordan Reed, Florida (6-3, 245, Jr.)
He will likely function more as an H-Back due to his overall lack of speed, but there are no weaknesses to his overall game. He is strong, physical and solid in a blocking role. He has speed and quickness on the outside in the passing game. And he showed loads of versatility as a runner and quarterback prior to the pro-style switch in 2012. He has dealt with three different coordinators in three seasons in Gainesville, so he is only scratching the surface of his overall potential.

4. Michael Williams, Alabama (6-6, 269, Sr.)
The pros for Williams: A huge frame. A nasty, powerful run-blocker. He played in a pro-style system coached by football czar Nick Saban. His pass-catching skills are limited, particularly down the field, but there is plenty of room in the NFL for a guy with his in-line blocking talents.

5. Zach Ertz, Stanford (6-6, 252, Jr.)
Ertz is a slightly less talented version of Coby Fleener. He isn’t quite as fast, isn’t quite as a powerful and hasn’t been quite as productive. Otherwise, he is a very similar player with similar skills. He has played in a pro-style attack that focuses on NFL skills at the tight end position. Few programs have prepared this position for the next level like Stanford.

6. Dion Sims, Michigan State (6-5, 285, Jr.)
Sims entered his final season with no help at quarterback or wide receiver and will likely finish as the top Sparty pass-catcher. He is a powerful blocker with a big frame and solid athleticism. He won’t wow scouts with his overall speed or quickness, but he has enough talent to stay on an NFL field due to his physicality and overall size. He should be a solid first and second down option with red zone potential.

7. Levine Toilolo, Stanford (6-8, 265, Jr.)
No player at this position will bring a bigger, better frame to the next level than Toilolo. His is massive. He can be used equally as a pass-catcher and in-line blocker, but needs to refine his talents at both. He is a more of a long-term project than some of his peers, but few can match his raw upside. When it comes to working vertically down the seam or in the red zone, few have the potential to be as dangerous as the 6-8 monster from out west.

8. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (6-5, 255, Sr.)
Without being elite at any one thing, Lutz is the complete package at tight end. He has suffered through horrendous quarterback play, multiple offensive systems and complete coaching turmoil. Yet, back in 2010 with Cam Newton as his quarterback, he produced in key situations and was a big part of the championship run as only a sophomore. He has middle-round steal written all over him — once he can get out of Auburn.

9. CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa (6-6, 265, Jr.)
This big fella’s production will never match his overall upside. Iowa will never be a pass-centric offense so his production in the passing game will never give an accurate picture of his talents. He has a huge frame and the ability to contribute equally in both the running and passing games. This is a player who should be a much better pro player than college.

10. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State (6-5, 245, Sr.)
This Buckeye is a slightly smaller version of Fauria. Electric athletic ability with the ability to stretch the field vertically with ease. Yet, an overall lack of production and in-line blocking potential stand out on the resume as well. His offensive scheme limited his usage and overall numbers at times, so he could blossom on the next level if he lands in the right system.

Other Names to Watch:

Chris Gragg, Arkansas (6-3, 236, Sr.)
DC Jefferson, Rutgers (6-6, 250, Sr.)
Ryan Griffin, UConn (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Ben Cotton, Nebraska (6-6, 255, Sr.)
Mychal Rivera, Tennessee (6-3, 245, Sr.)
Matt Furstenburg, Maryland (6-4, 245, Sr.)
Ryan Otten, San Jose State (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Kyler Reed, Nebraska (6-3, 230, Sr.)
Nick Kasa, Colorado (6-6, 260, Sr.)
Chris Pantale, Boston College (6-6, 255, Sr.) 

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2012-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review
Body:

At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Pac-12.

First-Half Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second-Half Predictions

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

North Division

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

South Division

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

Pac-12 Championship: Oregon over USC

Three Things to Watch

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

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

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

Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

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

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

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

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 
2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-7
Body:

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

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

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

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

Winless ATS: Virginia (0-5-1)

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

Related College Football Content

College Football's Week 7 Upset Predictions
Weekend On Tap: Picking the 10 Best Games of Week 7
ACC Week 7 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 7 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat Post-Week 6 Rankings

Post-Week 6 Bowl Projections

Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 7</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-7-preview-and-predictions
Body:

A huge injury to a player of the year candidate. A marquee top 25 showdown in a historic college town. A Thursday night primetime affair. And the former No. 1 team in the nation going on the road. The weekend of action out West has a little something for everybody, there is no doubt, so let's hope it lives up to the hype. On to Week 7...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 7 Pac-12 Predictions:

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

Bye: Arizona, Oregon

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

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

Big Ten Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 7 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 7 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 7 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 7 Big Ten Predictions:

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

Bye Week: Nebraska, Penn State

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

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

Big 12 Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 7 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 7 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 7 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 6 Recap

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

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

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

Today, we rank college football best running back prospects:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third-Down Speedsters 

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

Other Names to Watch:

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

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Running Backs</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 05:50

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