Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-9
Body:

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 9 Rankings

NFL Bye Weeks: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota

Start These Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

Bench These Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

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

Start These Running Backs

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

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

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

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

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

Bench These Running Backs

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

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

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

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

Start These Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bench These Wide Receivers

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

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

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

Start These Tight Ends

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

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

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

Bench These Tight Ends

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

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

Start These Defenses/Special Teams

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

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

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

Bench These Defenses/Special Teams

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

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

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

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

- by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________________

School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Voting:

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

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

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

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 9 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 9 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

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

Week 9's Top Picks:

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

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

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


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

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

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


If you are feeling lucky

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

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

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


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


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


2011 Trends:

7-0 Against the Spread: Stanford

7-1 Against the Spread:  Alabama, Clemson

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

6-2 Against the Spread: LSU, Temple

2-6 Against the Spread: Virginia Tech

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

1-7 Against the Spread: Central Michigan

Other Week 9 Content:

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

Mitch Light's Top Ten Picks of the Week

Athlon Sports Picks Every Game of Week 9

 

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

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 8 Rankings

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

Start These Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

Bench These Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

Start These Running Backs

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

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

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

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

Bench These Running Backs

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

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

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

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

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

Start These Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

Bench These Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

Start These Tight Ends

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

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

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

Bench These Tight Ends

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

Start These Defenses/Special Teams

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

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

Bench These Defenses/Special Teams

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

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

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

And then there were two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Voting:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 8

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

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

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 8 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 8 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

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

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

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

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

Additionally:

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

Finally:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additionally:

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

Finally and most impressively:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 3

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Sooners by 3

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 4

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Badgers by 4

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 10

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7

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

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

Athlon's Prediction: Clemson by 3

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: LSU by 9

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Huskers by 4

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Buckeyes by 3

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Aggies by 7

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

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

Athlon's Prediction: Virginia Tech by 4

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Sooners by 10

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

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

Athlon's Prediction: West Virginia by 10

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Dawgs by 10

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Badgers by 7

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Irish by 3

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7

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

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

Athlon's Prediction: Sooners by 10

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

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

Athlon's Prediction: Oklahoma State by 14

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: West Virginia by 10

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Nebraska by 4

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Huskers by 7

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Hogs by 7

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Gators by 1

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 1

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Stanford by 13

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

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

Athlon's Prediction: Clemson by 7

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 6

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Seminoles by 7

Athlon Sports Mid-Season Awards and Evaluations:

Athlon Sports First Half National Awards

Big 12 Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

SEC Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

Big East Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

ACC Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

Big Ten Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

Pac-12 Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

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

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 7 Rankings

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

Start These Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

Bench These Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

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

Start These Running Backs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bench These Running Backs

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

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

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

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

Start These Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

Bench These Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start This Tight End

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

Bench This Tight End

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

Start Defense/Special Teams

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

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

Bench Defense/Special Teams

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Week 7 NFL Fantasy Start and Sit.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 21, 2011 - 08:05
Path: /columns/national-notebook/betting-against-spread-week-8-picks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

The road favorites did me well last week as I went 9-3 for a second straight weekend. I missed two of my top three, however, as South Florida laid a complete egg in Storrs and Georgia Tech was upset at Virginia. But Stanford, Oklahoma State and Washington have been failsafes on the college football gambling gridiron.

Which brings us to Week 8, where to of the best teams against the spread - Stanford (6-0) and Washington (5-1) - will do battle. Something has to give this weekend in Palo Alto (Hint: The line seems way to big). But I am going back to the deep and plentiful Oklahoma State well once again this weekend as the Pokes head to Missouri.

But first, we pick on Colonel Reb once again...

Season Record ATS: 46-23-2 (9-3 last week)

Week 8's Top Picks:

1. Arkansas (-15) at Ole Miss
The Rebels have been downright atrocious on defense allowing no less than 24 points since Week 1 of the season. The Rebels are 106th in total defense and 80th in scoring defense while ranking 117th in total offense and scoring only 20 points per game on the other side of the ball. The Hogs won 38-24 last season and are scoring an SEC second-best 39.2 points per game. Look for Tyler Wilson to have a field day against a defense that just allowed 52 points to Alabama. My Pick: Arkansas -15

2. Illinois (-3.5) at Purdue
Prior to last week’s defeat in the Horeshoe, the Illini had rolled along with a top ten defense and top ten rushing attack. So they should be hungry to get back on track after their poor showing last week. Ron Zook’s team torched the Boilers last season 44-10 as Nathan Scheelhaase began his coming out party (118 yards rushing and four passing touchdowns). Purdue has been acceptable on defense but won’t be able to score enough points against a defense that leads the Big Ten in sacks and tackles for a loss and is second against the run. My Pick: Illinois -3.5

3. Oklahoma State (-6.5) at Missouri
I just can’t help myself. I am going back to the Oklahoma State well again after an undefeated Cowboys' team started the season 5-1 against the spread. One factor to consider is that Gary Pinkel has never faced quarterback Brandon Weeden – which should give the slight advantage to the elderly passer. Both teams will be able to run the ball, but Pinkel will have to rely too heavily on a first-year starter at quarterback to gain those yards on the ground while Weeden attacks the Tigers defensive weakness – the pass defense. My pick: Oklahoma State -6.5

4. Kansas State (-10.5) at Kansas
The gritty, tough-nosed Wildcats will be facing the single-worst defense in the nation this weekend. Kansas is allowing 565 yards per game (120th) and 49 points per game (also 120th), so Collin Klein should have no trouble moving his team up and down the field. Meanwhile, Bill Snyder’s defense is still one of the top units in the Big 12 (second in scoring and fourth in total yards), so do not expect the Jayhawks to keep this one close. My Pick: Kansas State -10.5

5. Wake Forest (-3) at Duke
The Deacons got a rude awakening last weekend at the hands of the Hokies (38-17) but will be facing a slightly less talented opponent this week. Florida State rolled up 41 points and 481 yards of offense last week against the Devils and we all know what happened two weeks ago between Wake and FSU. While this game is usually close, Tanner Price should have no problem scoring enough points to beat their rivals by more than three. My Pick: Wake Forest -3

6. Washington (+20) at Stanford
The Cardinal are still the only team in the nation unbeaten against the spread (6-0) but that streak could be coming to an end this weekend. Vegas has watched the NCAA’s top ten crush its points spreads and this one simply appears to be compensating for that fact. Keith Price and the Huskies are playing as good football as any team in the nation and will certainly test the Cardinal secondary. Since Price has yet to throw less than three touchdowns in any game this season, Stanford will have to top the 40-point mark (at least) to cover this time around against a team that has also been great ATS (5-1). My Pick: Washington +20

7. Tulsa (-10) at Rice
After a nasty early season schedule, Tulsa and quarterback GJ Kinne are starting to hit their stride. Kinne has topped 300 yards and thrown three touchdowns in two straight easy wins over North Texas and UAB. Rice is coming off road loss at Marshall and is ranked 115th in total defense nationally. Kinne rolled up 416 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in last season's 64-27 win over Rice. It will be closer in 2011, but not that much closer. My Pick: Tulsa -10

If you are feeling lucky

8. USC (+8.5) at Notre Dame
This is a good Irish team that has clearly shaken off the grime of those first two losses. But USC is also playing its best football as well. In a rivalry game that means as much as it does to both sides, large margins of victory are rare. Matt Barkley has accounted for seven touchdowns in the last two games and might be playing the best football of his life. An outright win might be a bit too much to ask for, but this looks like way too many points to me. My Pick: USC +8.5

9. Rutgers (+2) at Louisville
The Scarlet Knights have not been winning pretty but they do all the things a well-coached team should. They take care of the football (leading the nation in TO Margin), the get after the quarterback (4.0 sacks per game, No. 2 nationally), they play good defense (No. 1 in the Big East in scoring defense). The Ville has not protected the quarterback (117th in QB sacks allowed), has not protected the ball (96th in TO Margin) and has not scored many points (16.3 ppg, 111th nationally). This is a game Greg Schiano has to have to be a contender in 2011, so I like the Knights to win outright. My Pick: Rutgers +2

10. Oregon State (+3) at Washington State
I cannot remember the last time I felt great about the Cougars covering a Pac-12 game? But Oregon State has clearly been the worst team in the league this fall and just allowed 38 points to Riley Nelson and BYU. Quarterback Jeff Tuel wasn't eased back into action whatsoever last weekend as he faced the Stanford buzzsaw. The Beavers 112th ranked pass efficiency defense should not slow what is the best Wazzu team nearly half a decade. My Pick: Wazzu -3

2011 Trends:

6-0 Against the Spread: Stanford

6-1 Against the Spread: Alabama, Clemson, Temple,

5-1 Against the Spread: Arkansas St, Kansas St, Oklahoma St, Rutgers, UTEP, Washington, Wisconsin

5-2 Against the Spread: LSU, Michigan, San Jose St, Western Michigan

1-5 Against the Spread: Boston College, Colorado St, Nebraska, NC St (1-4-1), Troy,

1-6 Against the Spread: Central Michigan, Kent St, Penn St,

Other Week 8 Content:

Mitch Light's Top Ten Games of Week 8
Steven Lassan's Top Storylines to Watch from Week 8
Athlon Sports Predicts Every Game from Week 8

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2011 - 23:00
Path: /columns/national-notebook/secs-best-games-second-half
Body:

by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

The the midway point of the 2011 college football in the rearview mirror, so Athlon Sports takes a look at the top must-see games left on the SEC slate.

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 3

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 17

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: LSU by 9

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Dawgs by 10

5. South Carolina vs. Arkansas (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 12-7

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Hogs by 7

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Gators by 1

7. Florida vs. South Carolina (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Florida leads 23-5-3
SEC East supremacy could be at stake should things fall right for Carolina. Florida’s stellar defensive line talent which has dealt with injuries and a brutal schedule will not have to deal with Stephen Garcia or Marcus Lattimore this time around. If the quarterback situation at Florida can be sorted out before Week 11, the Gators should be able to give South Carolina a run for their money. If they still cannot get consistent play from under center, then Carolina could be booking a trip to Atlanta with a win in this one.

Athlon’s Prediction: Cocks by 7

8. Clemson vs. South Carolina (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Clemson leads 65-39-4

The battle for bragging rights in the Palmetto State should be an attractive matchup this year. The Gamecocks, despite major injuries and dismissals, still have eyes on an SEC East title, while Clemson is not only the talk of the ACC but is possibly the biggest surprise in the nation. Clemson has lost the last two in this series, including a 29-7 defeat last year. However, the Tigers have won six of the last overall nine matchups and tensions could be running even higher should the Tigers walk into Columbia with an unblemished record. 

Athlon’s Prediction: Clemson by 7

9. South Carolina vs. Tennessee (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Tennessee leads 22-5-2

Marcus Lattimore carried 29 times for 184 yards in the 14-point home win over the Vols last season, but No. 21 will not be around to visit Neyland Stadium for the first time in his career. The Cocks essentially ended Matt Simms career as the Vols starter a season ago and Tyler Bray looked good in the second half. However, Bray's hand injury will likely force Simms back into action in this one. He will need some help from crowd and a non-exsistent running game if he expects to lead Big Orange to victory.

Athlon’s Prediction: Cocks by 10

10. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Georgia leads 61-39-5

Todd Grantham has done as good a job of rebuilding a defensive front seven as anyone in the nation this season. But the Tech triple-option attack is a test of a different color. The Jackets are rolling up huge numbers on the ground, so Aaron Murray and Isaiah Crowell will need to control the clock in a game that could feature two teams who have already clinched berths in their respective conference championship games. There may not be anything but Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate on the line, but that should be good enough for the fans in this bitter rivarly.

Athlon's Prediction: Georgia by 1

Teaser:
<p> LSU at Alabama tops the list of must-see second half games in the SEC.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2011 - 11:30
Path: /columns/national-notebook/pac-12s-best-games-second-half-0
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 4

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7

3. USC vs. Notre Dame (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 43-33-5

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Irish by 3

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7

5. Stanford vs. USC (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: USC leads 58-27-3

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 1

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Stanford by 13

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 6

Other Key Games To Watch:

Cal vs. Stanford (Nov. 19)
UCLA vs. USC (Nov. 26)
Washington vs. Washington State (Nov. 26)

Teaser:
<p> What are the top must-see match-ups of the second half of the Pac-12 season?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 23:05
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/college-footballs-first-half-awards
Body:

As is the case at every halfway point of the college football season, many preseason predictions have come true exactly as anticipated – Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Oregon, Stanford – while others have fallen painfully into bust category – Florida State, Ohio State.

One prognostication that is still very much in hand is the Heisman Trophy voting at halfway. Stanford’s Andrew Luck has been atop the Athlon Sports Heisman balloting each and every week of the season.

Here are some of the other major college football awards Athlon Sports would hand out if the season ended at the halfway point:

Editor’s Note: In an effort to include all the NCAA greats, no player can win more than one award.

Davey O’Brien Award

Winner: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
In order to spread the wealth amongst the deepest Heisman Trophy class in recent memory, the Award for best quarterback in the nation goes to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III (since Luck gets the Heisman – and pretty much every other award for that matter). RG3 is leading the nation in touchdown passes with 22 and is second in the land with a 205.71 passer efficiency rating.

Runners-Up: Andrew Luck, Landry Jones, Brandon Weeden

Johnny Unitas Award

Winner: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
In order to keep spreading the wealth, the top senior quarterback goes to NC State-turned-Badger Russell Wilson. The nation’s top passer with a 210.93 passer rating, Wilson has lead the Badgers to six victories in as many starts. His lowest margin of victory was a 31-point win over Nebraska. He is completing 74.2% of his passes.

Runners-Up: Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore, Brandon Weeden

Maxwell Award

Winner: Trent Richardson, Alabama
The Crimson Tider gets the nod for nation’s best collegiate football player. He is leading the SEC in rushing and has been at his finest against the best competition. He has six straight 100-yard efforts and has scored at least two touchdowns in five of seven games this fall. He is the most important cog in the nation’s best team’s offense and is likely the top challenger to Luck for the Heisman.

Runners-Up: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson

Doak Walker Award

Winner: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
With Richardson getting the nod for the Maxwell, Ball slides in as the winner of the nation’s best running back. The Badgers’ top back is leading the nation in scoring at 17.0 points per game and is No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing at 108.8 yards per game. Ball has done everything for the top scoring offense in the nation. He has scored at least twice in every game, is averaging 23.7 yards per catch and has thrown a touchdown to fellow Heisman candidate Russell Wilson.

Runners-Up: Trent Richardson, Bernard Pierce, LaMichael James, Chris Polk

Fred Biletnikoff Award

Winner: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
2011 features nearly half-a-dozen legitimate candidates for nation’s top wide receiver. But it is hard to not give it to the NCAA’s all-time leading receiver. Broyles, after a 13-catch performance this weekend, has more receptions (326) than any other player to ever play the game. His 10.0 recpetions per game is No. 2 nationally as is his 135.8 yards per game and he is the top offensive player for a team that is poised for a BCS National Championship game berth.

Runners-Up: Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd

John Mackey Award

Winner: Dwayne Allen, Clemson
There are a lot of quality candidates for nation’s top tight end, but few have been as clutch at Allen. As Tajh Boyd’s go-to redzone and third-down target (on an offense with Sammy Watkins nonetheless), Allen is No. 2 nationally amongst tight ends with 27 receptions and is third with 381 yards. He also has four big touchdown catches as well for the ACC front-runner.

Runners-Up: Jacob Pederson (Wisc.), Tyler Eifert (ND)

Outland Trophy

Winner: Matt Kalil, USC
Athlon is giving the Outland to the nation’s top offensive lineman and Kalil has been hard to beat. The protector of Matt Barkley is the nation’s No. 1 tackle prospect and leader of an offensive line that has allowed four sacks all season. Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and Alabama’s Barrett Jones are equally worthy as Stanford leads the nation in sacks allowed (2.0) and Jones has been invaluable playing multiple positions along the nation’s best line.

Runners-Up: Barrett Jones, Jonathan Martin, Levy Adcock

Lombardi Trophy

Winner: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
Athlon will award the Lombardi to the nation’s top defensive lineman and it has been hard to beat Alexander. He is fifth in the nation in sacks (1.08 per game) and leads the Big 12 in tackles for a loss (1.58 per game). He has been the best player on a team that is headed for a national title appearance and was at his best on the road against Florida State (3 tackles, 0.5 sack, TFL).

Runners-Up: Whitney Mercilus, Vinny Curry, Melvin Ingram, Andre Branch, Jerrel Worthy

Butkus Award

Winner: Luke Kuechly, Boston College
He came into the year as the top linebacker in the nation and not much has changed at the halfway point. Kuechly is leading the nation in tackles (again) at 16.5 tackles per game. He also has 7.5 tackles for a loss and is the lone bright spot for the 2011 Eagles team.

Runners-Up: Courtney Upshaw, Manti Te’o

Thorpe Award

Winner: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
If you give the award to the nation’s top defensive back and its not the Honey Badger, you are simply being cute. Two interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, 15 punt returns and two fumble return touchdowns say as much. Not to say anything about manning-up against the oppositions top receiver each week.

Runners-Up: None

Freshman of the Year

Winner: Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The dynamic do-everything all-purpose stud is 10th in the nation in all-purpose yards and is No. 2 in the ACC in receiving yards at 104 ypg. Watkins has 20 carries, 46 receptions, 11 kick returns and two punt returns for a total of 1,205 all-purpose yards per game. He is a natural leader and a great blocker to go with his electric open-field talents. He is a huge reason why Tajh Boyd is climbing the Heisman ballots and why Clemson is unbeaten.

Runners-Up: Dion Bailey, Isaiah Crowell, Malcolm Brown, Jadeveon Clowney, Jeremy Grove

Coach of the Year

Winner: Bill Snyder, Kansas State
No one has done more with less than the ageless wonder from Manhattan, Kansas. Following wins at Miami, over Baylor and Missouri at home and at Texas Tech, the Wildcats are still one of the nation’s 10 unbeaten teams. A trip to rival Kansas this weekend shouldn’t test KSU too much, but four straight games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas will prove just how good the Cats can be in 2011.

Runners-Up: Dabo Swinney, Jim Grobe, Mike Gundy, Steve Sarkisian, Bret Bielema

Teaser:
<p> Who are the nation's best players at the halfway point of the 2011 season?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 13:15
Path: /columns/national-notebook/big-easts-best-games-second-half
Body:

by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

The the midway point of the 2011 college football in the rearview mirror, so Athlon Sports takes a look at the top must-see games left on the Big East slate.
 

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

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

Athlon's Prediction: West Virginia by 10

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: West Virginia by 5

3. West Virginia at South Florida (Week 14)
Dec. 1, All-Time Series: Tied at 3-3

The Big East likes to schedule matchups on the final weekend that could have an impact on the conference title. If South Florida can rebound from an 0-2 Big East start (as expected) then mission accomplished. Last season’s matchup was a 20-6 West Virginia win, while South Florida has won the last two games in Tampa. Considering the chilly temperatures in Morgantown in early December, a trip to Florida isn’t a bad way to end the regular season.

Athlon’s Prediction: West Virginia by 2

 

4. West Virginia vs. Cincinnati (Nov. 12)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: WVU leads 15-3-1

The Mountaineers have owned this series but have seen thier grasp on the Bearcats lossen dramatically of late. The Bearcats have won two of the last three in close fashion - both by three points. West Virginia spanked Cincy last season 37-10 in Morgantown last season and the Bearcats defense will have to play its usual attacking, risky style to beat Geno Smith and Dana Holgorsen.

Athlon's Prediction: West Virginia by 10

5. Cincinnati vs. Rutgers (Week 12)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: Cincy leads 8-7-1

The Scarlet Knights have lost five straight to the Bearcats. But Rutgers won the two games prior (2005, 1994) and both were in New Brunswick and both were lopsided affairs. Greg Schiano will have to figure out a way to slow the Cincy attack, as even in a down year for the Bearcats, they managed to drop 69 points on Rutgers. Cincy scored 47 on the Knights in 2009 as well, so slowing Zach Collaros and the Big East's highest scoring team (41.7 ppg) will be key to Rutgers' Big East title hopes.

Athlon's Prediction: Rutgers by 1

6. South Florida vs. Rutgers (Week 11)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Rutgers leads 4-2

The only six meetings between these two teams have taken place over the last six seasons. Rutgers has won the last two at home, including a 31-0 beatdown in 2009. USF's trip to Piscataway will be its third road game in four (with trip to Syracuse the following week as well) so winning on the road against Rutgers is paramount to any and all Big East title hopes for Skip Holtz' bunch. The Bulls are coming off back-to-back losses and will host Cincy this weekend. If South Florida losses a third time in a row, beating the Knights would appear to be unlikely.

Athlon's Prediction: Rutgers by 4

7. Miami at South Florida (Week 12)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: Miami leads 2-1

South Florida is hungry to stake its claim among the hierarchy of programs in the state of Florida – especially considering how poorly the state has performed this season. So this is a huge game in the battle for recruits for both schools. The Bulls shocked the Hurricanes last year, winning 23-20 in overtime. The loss to South Florida was the final straw in the Randy Shannon era at Miami. New coach Al Golden is the right man for the job, but the Hurricanes have had their hands full of costly injuries and off-the-field distractions. However, the Canes appear to be improving after the 1-2 start. There are no conference crowns on the line in this one, but state bragging rights might be just as important and Golden doesn’t want to lose two in a row to their in-state rival.

Athlon’s Prediction: South Florida by 3

8. Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Pittsburgh leads 8-2

These two teams hooked up for a memorable 45-44 game in 2009, which gave Cincinnati the Big East title. Pittsburgh earned revenge for that defeat last year, winning 28-10 in Cincinnati. Both teams want to push the tempo on offense, so there could be plenty of points scored in this one. After last year’s disappointing season, Cincinnati looks like more of the contender than Pitt, so this early November duel will be key for the Bearcats continued BCS hopes.

Athlon’s Prediction: Pittsburgh by 7

9. Cincinnati vs. South Florida (Oct. 22)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Cincy leads 5-3

The Bearcats had won four straight in this series, including two straight in Tampa, until South Florida came up to Cincy last season and outlasted them 38-30. The Bulls are coming off two straight losses to Pitt and UConn and needs to rebound immediately this weekend if it expects to stay in the Big East hunt.

Athlon's Prediction: South Florida by 1

Other Key Games to Watch:

Syracuse vs. Pitt (Dec. 3)
West Virginia vs. Syracuse (Oct. 22)
Cincinnati vs. Syracuse (Nov. 26)
Rutgers vs. UConn (Nov. 26)
UConn at Cincinnati (Dec. 3)
South Florida vs. Syracuse (Nov. 11)

Teaser:
<p> What are the most important, must-see Big East match-ups of the second half?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 08:20
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-8
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

Alabama’s Trent Richardson continues his upward movement and is now tied with Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson at No. 2 in the Athlon Heisman voting. Richardson and Wilson both posted highlight reel performances this weekend in major blowouts: T-Rich breaking ankles and Wilson catching a touchdown. Both teams are undefeated and are crushing opponents on a weekly basis. Richardson, however, has the inside track on the National Championship game and is probably the only player who can challenge Stanford’s Andrew Luck for the stiff-armed trophy.

Luck, thanks to one Athlon Sports Managing Editor moving the Cardinal quarterback from fifth to second on his ballot, now has more Heisman “points” than ever before. He has eight first place votes and one second place vote, giving him 89 of the possible 90 total points.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (89/90 total points, 8/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 129/181, 1,719 yards, 18 TD, 3 INT, 13 att., 60 yards, TD

Stanford is the only team that has covered the spread in every game it has played this season. That is, of course, due to the fact that Luck has been obliterating opposing defenses. Against Washginton State on the road, Luck completed 23-of-36 passes for 336 yards (his third 300-yard effort in four games) and four touchdown passes in the 44-14. Stanford now faces the top challenge of their season thus far when they welcome the Keith Price-led Huskies to The Farm. Next Game: Washington

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 89 8 1 - - - 9
2. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 73 - 2 6 1 - 9
3. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 73 1 3 1 4 - 9
4. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 64 - 2 2 1 3 9
5. Kellen Moore QB Boise State 51 - 1 - 1 1 9
6. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 41 - - - 1 2 8
7. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 32 - - - - 3 8
8. Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 14 - - - 1 - 4
9. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma 10 - - - - - 3
10. Tyann Mathieu DB LSU 9 - - - - - 4
11. LaMichael James RB Oregon 8 - - - - - 4
12. Sammy Watkins WR Clemson 6 - - - - - 2
13. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 5 - - - - - 2
14. Case Keenum QB Houston 5 - - - - - 2
15. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 4 - - - - - 2
16. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 3 - - - - - 1
17. Darron Thomas QB Oregon 2 - - - - - 2
18. Bernard Pierce RB Temple 2 - - - - - 1
19. Ray Graham RB Pitt 2 - - - - - 1
20. Marcus Lattimore RB South Carolina 1 - - - - - 1
21. Matt Kalil OL USC 1 - - - - - 1

2t. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (73)
Season Stats: 95/128, 1,557 yards, 14 TD, INT, 22 att., 182 yards, 2 TD, 1 rec., 25 yards, TD

Wilson didn't need to do much to top Indiana 59-7. He threw only 17 passes and ran the ball only twice. Yet, Wilson still managed to produce 232 yards of total offense/all-purpose yards. He threw for 166, rushed for 42 and caught a 25 yard TD lob from Montee Ball. He is now leading the nation in QB efficiency at 210.93 and will face his biggest test and most hostile environment of the season when he leads his unbeaten Badgers into East Lansing this weekend. Next Game: at Michigan State

2t. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (73)
Season Stats: 132 att., 912 yards, 15 TD, 15 rec., 179 yards, TD

T-Rich was on full display this weekend - as he should have been against the worst defense in the SEC - when Alabama breezed past Ole Miss 52-7. He averaged over 10 yards per carry by rushing 17 times for 183 yards and scoring four times (including a 76-yard statement TD run). Richardson leads the SEC in rushing (130.3) and is fourth nationally. He has moved up the rankings each week and is now in a dead heat with Wilson and many consider him the the player best suited to topple Andrew Luck - playing on the best team in the nation and all. The real test will come against LSU. Next Game: Tennessee

4. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (64)
Season Stats: 142/182, 1,950 yards, 22 TD, 2 INT, 72 att., 295 yards, 2 TD

Griffin was masterful again - but lost again. RG3 completed 28-of-40 passes for a school-record 430 yards and three touchdowns in the 55-28 loss to Texas A&M. No one has thrown more touchdown passes than Griffin's 22, he is the nation's No. 2 most efficient passer (205.71) and is still more valuable to his team than anyone else in the nation. However, if he expects to be in New York come Decemeber, he will need to lead his team to an upset victory or two. Next Game: bye week

5. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (51 pts)
Season Stats: 151/199, 1,729 yards, 21 TD, 4 INT, 7 att., (-11) yards

Moore threw just four incompletions (26-of-30) for 338 yards and four touchdowns in the 63-13 romp over Colorado State. Moore is now 44-2 as a starter and is one win away from Colt McCoy's NCAA record. Unfortunately, Moore needs to be extra special (especially against TCU) in order to reinsert himself into the Heisman race as he has dropped in our voting after rolling up a combined score of 120-20 in the last two. The Broncos schedule might be Moore's undoing so he needs to dominate the Falcons this weekend. Next Game: Air Force

6. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (41)
Season Stats: 171/253, 2,177 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT, 12 att., 11 yards, 2 TD

Jones posted his fourth consecutive 360+ yard effort when he completed 29-of-48 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns in the 47-17 win over Kansas (they didn't cover the spread by the way). In the four games since the win over Florida State in which he was held largely in check, Jones has thrown for 400.1 yards per game and 14 of his 16 touchdowns. He is back on track and has the Sooners pointed directly for New Orleans by way of Stillwater. Next Game: Texas Tech

7. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (32)
Season Stats: 189/260, 2,098 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT, 12 att., (-68) yards

Weeden wasn't magical in Austin like he was in College Station, but his team walked away with a huge conference win over the Longhorns, 38-26. Despite only throwing for 218 yards and a single touchdown, Weeden consistently got his offense into the right play - as is evident by the 20.0 yards per carry for Jeremy Smith (seven attmepts for 140 yards and two scores). The elder statesmen will face the Big 12's No. 2 defense in Mizzou this weekend - a team that he has never taken a snap against. Next Game: at Missouri

8. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (14)
Season Stats: 145/232, 2,012 yards, 19 TD, 3 INT, 70 att., 157 yards, 3 TD

There has been no faster riser than Mr. Boyd. After three straight wins over Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech, Boyd has taken care of business against Boston College and at Maryland. He threw for 270 yards and four touchdowns (and ran 11 times as well) in the huge second-half comeback against the Terps to keep his team unbeaten. Boyd leads the ACC in total offense at 309.9 yards per game and will continue to move the Heisman rankings if the Tigers can continue to win. Next Game: North Carolina

9. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma (10)
Season Stats: 60 rec., 815 yards, 9 TD, 13 PR, 128 yards

The talkative receiver was the toast of Norman this week as one of college football's biggest records fell to Mr. Broyles. No receiver in the history of the game has ever caught more passes than Ryan Broyles' 326 receptions - breaking Purdue's Taylor Stubblefield previous mark of 316 (2001-04). The Sooner wideout caught 13 passes for 217 yards and two scores in the lop-sided win over Kansas and has now taken his rightful spot in the pantheon of NCAA football greats. In fact, he may put the record out of reach with seven more games left in his career. Next Game: Texas Tech

10. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU (9)
Season Stats: 42 total tackles, 5.0 TFL, 1.5 sack, 2 INT, 3 FR, 4 FF, 15 PR, 119 yards, 2 TD

There hasn't been a bigger play-maker on the defensive side of the ball this season than the smallish cornerback from Baton Rouge. The relentless Honey Badger, whose stat line speaks for itself, wasn't needed much in the 38-7 pounding of Tennessee on Rocky Top (one tackle, two punt returns). It's what's not in the boxscore that counted this weekend. The Vols' Da'Rick Rogers, who Mathieu mirrored the entire game, had been averaging 6.4 receptions and 102.6 yards per game. Mathieu held Rogers to three receptions for 63 yards and no touchdowns. Next Game: Auburn

Previous Voting:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Heisman Voting: Week 8</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 08:00
Path: /columns/national-notebook/jeff-tedford-should-be-cal-golden-bears-coach
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumber.com

In the “what have you done for me lately” world of college football, Cal fans are beginning to ask that very question when it comes to Head Coach Jeff Tedford.

With three unimpressive losses in a row, the Cal faithful are starting to shift in their seats so to speak. Coming off a 2010 campaign that saw Cal go 5-7, the margin for error in Berkeley seems to be getting smaller and smaller. Is this just a case of unrealistic expectations or have things started turning sour at Cal? We thought we would tackle this assignment (no pun intended) head on and see what we could find out.

A quick look at our active Head Coach Rankings and you will notice that Jeff Tedford ranks as our 15th best head coach when looking at the data from 2001-2011 for active head coaches. However, when you start to customize the data for more recent years, you will find the following (rankings below are for active and inactive coaches for the years listed):

Coach Years CBTN Coach Rank CBTN Coach Rating CBTN Stars
Jeff Tedford 2002-2005 16 62.71
Jeff Tedford 2006-2008 16 63.85
Jeff Tedford 2009-Present 58 46.18

After dropping the final three games of the 2010 season to fall to 5-7, Cal got off to a quick start beating three inferior opponents to start the 2011 season. Since then, Cal has lost three in a row being outscored 104-47 against Washington, Oregon, and Southern Cal.  After winning an impressive 66% of his games from 2002-2008, Tedford has eked out a lesser 51% winning percentage from 2009-Present. Overall winning percentages can often be a bit deceiving. Sometimes teams switch conferences, schedule weaker non-conference opponents, and sometimes, the conference around them simply improves. That being said, let's consider the following:

Coach Years Conf. WP% WP% Against Over .500 Teams WP% Against Top 25
Jeff Tedford 2002-2006 65.85% (27-14) 50.00% (16-16) 44.44% (8-10)
Jeff Tedford 2007-Present 43.59% (17-22) 39.29% (11-17) 33.33% (5-10)

Let's dig into some further details to see if we can find a specific reason for Tedford's downward numerical trend:

Coach Years Avg. Scor. Off. Avg. Scor. Def. % of Games Scored 30+ Pts % of Games Allowed 30+ Pts Avg. Recruiting Class
Jeff Tedford 2002-2006 34.15 ppg 21.47 ppg 59.38% 21.88% 29.40 (out of 120)
Jeff Tedofrd 2007-Present 29.43 ppg 24.61 ppg 43.86% 36.84% 23.80 (out of 120)

So, from 2007-Present, Tedford's team is scoring 13.82% fewer points and allowing 14.63% more points compared to Tedford's first five years at Cal. Additionally, the percent of games he has scored 30+ points has significantly dropped from nearly 60% to just under 44%. Additionally, the number of times he has given up 30+ points has significantly increased. So, these numbers certainly explain the drop in Tedford's winning percentage over the last few years.

However, the numbers still beg the question of why?

When we see downward trends like we are seeing with Tedford, we immediately think of Coordinator Dependency Syndrome or Guy Behind the Guy. However, looking at the wide variety of coordinators that have worked for Tedford over the last decade, it's hard to conclude that the hiring or departure of any one particular coordinator has led to Tedford's downward slide. Looking at the recruiting data above, it's also hard to conclude that Cal has a talent problem or is no longer attracting quality players. From the numbers, Cal has actually recruited better the last five years compared to Tedford's first five years.

So, where else can we look for answers?

After doing some careful digging, we believe we may have found a reasonable explanation. From 2002-2006, the average scoring offense in the Pac-10 among coaches with at least two years at the helm was 25.52 points per game. During that time period, only Pete Carroll's USC offense averaged more points per game than (38.91 ppg) than Jeff Tedford's Cal offense (34.15 ppg). From 2007-Present, the average scoring offense in the Pac-10 among coaches with at least two years experience improved by 15.48% to 29.47 points per game. Also during this period, Oregon, USC, Stanford, and Arizona all averaged more points per game than did the Cal Bears. So, it appears that offensively the Pac-10 became a much more potent conference, with a larger number of teams running the type of explosive offense that Jeff Tedford was running in the early part of the decade.

It easy to look at the offensive landscape of today's collegiate game and forget that in the early part of the 2000's, Jeff Tedford's explosive Cal offense was the exception and not the rule.  In many ways, Tedford appears to have gotten worse because the rest of the conference, especially on the offensive side of the ball, has gotten better.

This all being said, what can we conclude about Jeff Tedford?

Just like the case of UGA fans getting restless with Mark Richt,  there are a few pieces of data Cal fans should keep in mind before putting “For Sale” signs on Tedford’s front lawn. In the five years prior to Tedford being named head coach, Cal amassed a 16-49 record for a miserable 24.62% winning percentage. Fast forward to the present and Cal has won 62.50% of their games under Tedford’s leadership. This is a remarkable difference to say the least. This turnaround puts Tedford as the third best hire (among coaches with 3+ years experience) in the last decade according to our “Good Hire/Bad Hire” ranking that compares a current coach’s winning percentage to the winning percentage five years prior to his hiring.

Cal fans also need to look at their history books and realize that during the 41-year period from 1970-2010 Cal had only nine seasons with eight or more wins. Jeff Tedford, who was the head coach for 21.95% of those 41 years, is responsible for 66.67% (6) of the eight or more win seasons. Also, Cal has been to 12 bowl games during the 41-year period referenced above, and Tedford has been the head coach for 58.33% (7) of these bowl games, compiling a 5-2 record. Last but not least, Cal fans may need a friendly reminder that Coach Tedford is 7-2 against arch rival Stanford, and we all know that consistently losing to a rival is a fireable offense in today's college football landscape.

Just like Mark Richt at UGA, Jeff Tedford has almost been his own worst enemy. His success at Cal has set the expectations at a level that may be difficult to sustain. With such a paltry history from 1970 to before Tedford was hired, it's hard to believe the short memory that Cal fans have when it comes to remembering how bad times were pre-Tedford. In essence, Jeff Tedford took an irrelevant program in 2002 and has turned the Cal job into the 25th ranked job on according to our list of Best Coaching Jobs, which takes into account things like salary, conference championships, attendance, revenue, NFL draft picks, recruiting, etc.  

Tedford took over a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1993, and he just experienced his first losing season last year. What one might conclude from the numbers above is that while Jeff Tedford is seemingly trending in the wrong direction and needs to once again find a way to be on the cutting edge offensively, it might be a tad too early to start the Chris Petersen to Cal rumors. That being said, while there is no shame in losing to top Pac-12 teams like Oregon and Washington, Tedford needs to right the ship and finish out the season strong and win the games he should win.

Finally, to all the “what have you done for me lately” Cal fans out there, we would like you to open up your history books and offer the cautionary “be careful what you wish for” warning.

Teaser:
<p> Should Cal head coach Jeff Tedford deserve to be on the coaching hot seat?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /columns/national-notebook/big-12s-best-games-second-half
Body:

by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

The the midway point of the 2011 college football in the rearview mirror, so Athlon Sports takes a look at the top must-see games left on the Big 12 slate.

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Sooners by 3

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Aggies by 7

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

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

Athlon’s Prediction: Sooners by 10

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

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

Athlon's Prediction: Sooners by 10

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

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

Athlon's Prediction: Oklahoma State by 14

6. Baylor vs. Oklahoma State (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Oklahoma State leads 17-12

This one belongs on the list for pure enjoyment factor alone. Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden will put on a light show that rivals late night at Bonnaroo. The Pokes have won 14 of the last 15 and the last time Baylor won in Stillwater, our troops were still five years from landing at Normandy (13-0, 1939). The Bears defense will have to play the game of its life as they have allowed 52.8 points per game in their last six trips to Okie State. The Pokes defense isn't much better, so expect big numbers from both offenses in this one.

Athlon's Prediction: Oklahoma State by 10

7. Texas A&M vs. Kansas State (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: TAMU leads 8-6

The Wildcats have won two straight in this series and have done so in convincing fashion, 62-14 in 2009 and 44-30 in 2008. The Aggies righted the ship with back-to-back wins over explosive offenses in Texas Tech and Baylor and have kept their Big 12 title hopes alive. Obviously, there are other key games left for both teams before they meet, but this mid-November trip to Manhattan should be plenty entertaining - if Kansas State has anything left in tank after facing the Sooners and Pokes the two weeks prior to hosting the Aggies.

Athlon's Prediction: Kansas State by 1

8. Oklahoma State vs. Missouri (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Okie State leads 28-22

These two Big 12 programs have played only twice since 2005, both of which went the way of the Pokes. Oklahoma State is eyeing a conference title while the Tigers are scratching to get into a bowl game after playing a brutal schedule in the first half. This game will feature two of the more exciting quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden and James Franklin. The Pokes have a clear experience edge on offense while Mizzou is once again strong on defense (No. 2 in the Big 12). Can Missouri slow the high-powered Cowboy attack? Can new quarterback Franklin move the ball enough to keep pace with OSU? A road trip to Columbia is never an easy task and the Pokes will need to be on serious upset alert this weekend.

Athlon’s Prediction: Cowboys by 10

9. Oklahoma at Baylor (Week 12)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 20-0

Baylor has never beaten the Sooners...ever. In fact, only three times has Baylor even kept the game within double-digits: Lost by four in 1996, one in 1997, and the last close contest was decided by seven in 2005. Robert Griffin III will have to be at his best and the defense will have to get key stops against Landry Jones and company if they expect to get the win. The home crowd will help, but turnovers and mistakes will have to bounce the way of the Bears in order to topple Boomer Sooner for the first time in school history.

Athlon's Prediction: Oklahoma by 14

10. Texas at Baylor (Week 14)
Dec. 3, All-Time Series: Texas leads 73-23-4

Last year's 30-22 win by Baylor was the first win for the Bears in this series since 1997. Baylor had lost 12 straight before the big upset in Austin last season. The game shifts to Waco this fall, and judging by the way the Longhorns played defense against Landry Jones (367 yards, 3 TD, 55 pts) and Brandon Weeden (218 yards, TD, 38 pts), Robert Griffin III could have a field day against the Burnt Orange. Bowl eligibility could also be on the line in what will be the final game of the regular season for both.

Athlon's Prediction: Baylor by 1

Teaser:
<p> What are the most important, must-see Big 12 match-ups of the second half?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 13:26
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 7 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Wisconsin (6-0, 2-0) –  Paul Chryst certainly gave the coaching staffs in East Lansing, Columbus and Champagne to think about - if they were not already losing sleep trying to gameplan for the Badgers attack. Montee Ball took the pitch off the right end before stopping and tossing a lazy floater back to quarterback Russell Wilson who strolled wide open down the left sideline for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Wilson, who was only needed for 166 yards through the air, added two rushes for 42 yards as well. The triple-threat quarterback now leads the nation in QB efficiency at 210.93 (the NCAA record is 186.0). Ball, like the enitre UW offense (50.2 ppg), now leads the nation in scoring with 17.0 points per game. The 59-7 win marked the fifth time the Badgers scored at least 48 points in a game this season. With a trip to the No. 2 defense in the nation coming up this weekend, Big Red's offense will need all of its tricks to beat Michigan State and avenge its only regular season loss of the 2010 season.

2. Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) – Taylor Martinez and the embattled Huskers have had two weeks to meditate about its heartburn inducing win over Ohio State. A trip to Minneapolis should provide an excellent chance to both sides of the ball to refine its play and build a sense of efficiency, because the schedule gets rough starting with an October 29 visit from Michigan State. Northwestern, then two trips to Ann Arbor and Happy Valley and Iowa at home wrap-up the first Big Ten slate for Nebraska. Two of the Big Ten's top-five rushers (No. 3 Rex Burkhead and No. 5 Martinez) have had a chance to rest their legs for the next two months of battle.

3. Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) – The nation's No. 1 defense showed why it might deserve that moniker with a 28-14 win over archrival Michigan. Superstar Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson was an ugly 9-of-24 passing and only posted 165 yards of total offense. Jerel Worthy and Vernon Gholston harassed the dynamic signal caller all game long, holding Shoelace to only 42 yards rushing on 18 carries. The defense also forced one huge D-Rob turnover when Isaiah Lewis snagged an ill-advised toss by Robinson with under five minutes left in the game and returned it for the game's final touchdown. Sparty now has the first big Legends' Division win under its belt and is the top challenger to Nebraska. However, Michigan State has to deal with the Big Ten's top team, Wisconsin, this weekend in East Lansing. College Gameday will be visiting the Spartans as well.

4. Illinois (6-1, 2-1) – The Fighting Illini experienced their first loss of the season when Ohio State came into Champagne and controlled the line of scrimmage. En route to a 17-7 win over Illinois, Ohio State needed only one completion from quarterback Braxton Miller to pull off the upset. Ron Zook's team had been allowing only 79.7 yards rushing per game, good for ninth nationally, before the Buckeyes rolled-up 211 yards on 51 carries. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase struggled for most of the game, throwing two interceptions and averaging only 3.1 yards per carry on 16 attempts rushing. The Illini offense was completly nuetralized and couldn't get onto the scoreboard until 6:22 left in the fourth quarter. Road trips to Purdue and Penn State now await an Illini team that still has eyes on Indianapolis.

5. Michigan (6-1, 2-1) – Denard Robinson was in and out of the line-up all game long and it might have cost the Wolverines a win over archrival Michigan State. Instead, Devin Gardner, an injured hand and helmet issues kept Shoelace on the bench for key plays in the 28-14 loss to Michigan State. And frankly, Robinson was not all that effective when on the field to begin with, throwing for a season worst 37.5% (9/24) and rushing for a season worst 42 yards on a season-low 2.3 yards per carry. The wind played a major role, forcing both teams to the ground where Sparty had a clear advantage (MSU outrushed UM 213-82). Consistently winning battles in the trenches will be the reason Michigan will either compete for a Legends Division title or finish 2-4 in their last six games.

6. Ohio State (4-3, 1-2) – Slowly but surely, the Ohio State offense is starting to look the way it should. Boom Herron ran the ball, Mike Adams blocked and the Buckeyes won a key road game over division foe Illinois, 17-7. In his first action of the season, Herron ran 23 times for 114 yards and a key touchdown. Having Herron back in the line-up will only help the development of freshman quarterback Braxton Miller - who was asked to throw the ball only four times in the win. He was a key part of the rushing attack which totalled 211 yards on 51 carries (12 of which went to Miller). The defense held Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to 218 yards of total offense on 50 touches and now ranks 13th nationally in scoring and 18th nationally in total defense. The Bucks get to rest this weekend as they prepare for Wisconsin to come to town in two weekends.

7. Penn State (6-1, 3-0) – It may not have been the prettiest win, but Penn State took care of business by beating Purdue 23-18. With eight minutes to go in the game, Akeem Shavers brought Purdue to within two, 20-18. But Silas Redd and the ground game came to the rescue by controlling the clock and picking up first downs. Redd carried 28 times for 131 yards and a second-half touchdown that gave the Nittany Lions the lead for good. At 3-0 in league play, Penn State still controls its own destiny. However, the McGloin-Bolden combo at quarterback will have to be better than 10-of-23 for 185, no touchdowns and a interception if it expects to win upcoming games against Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Nebraska. A road trip to Northwestern this weekend should push that unblemished conference mark to 4-0.

8. Iowa (4-2, 1-1) – Iowa kept its Big Ten championship hopes alive this weekend by outlasting Northwestern 41-31, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Wildcats. James Vandenberg and Marcus Coker both scored twice as the Hawkeyes burst out to a 17-0 lead, but consistently allowed Northwestern to convert on third down (an alarming 16-of-22 times to be exact) to get back into the game. Iowa will face Indiana and Minnesota in its next two, before hosting Michigan and Michigan State. The Hawkeyes are still very much in the Big Ten title race and might be the sleeper of the group.

9. Northwestern (2-4, 0-3) – The Wildcats threw for 342 yards, rushed for 153 more on the ground, controlled the clock with 38:21 minutes of possession and converted an astounding 16-of-22 third downs. But they just could not stop the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter. Northwestern allowed 24 final-quarter points in the 41-31 road loss to Iowa. Jeremy Ebert continued his excellent play with 13 receptions for 107 yards and another touchdown. The Wildcats have now lost four straight games and face Penn State this weekend.

10. Purdue (3-3, 1-1) – The Boilermakers played good enough football on offense (344 yards) and defense to pull the upset but were done in by spotty special teams play. The kicking game stuggled in the elements by missing an extra point and field goal leading to an odd 20-18 late game score (due to a missed 2-pt attempt). Penn State forced three interceptions and rode the back of tailback Silas Redd to the gritty 23-18 win over the Boilermakers. Purdue gets no rest with Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa as the next five games.

11. Indiana (1-6, 0-3) – The Hooisers lost 83-20 last season to Wisconsin. The 59-7 showing this weekend wasn't much better. Indiana threw for 64 total yards, turned the ball over three times and lost star wide recevier Demarlo Belcher to an injury. Wisconsin ran the ball 42 times for 332 yards at nearly eight yards per carry with four touchdowns. Indiana plays at Iowa this weekend.

12. Minnesota (1-5, 0-2) – The good news? Minnesota didn't loss in Week 7. The bad news? The Gophers play Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin in their next four. Let's hope the bye week helped.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big Ten stack up after the seventh week of action?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 07:58

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