Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-8
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-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
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-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
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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
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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
Path: /columns/national-notebook/accs-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 ACC slate.

1. 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

2. 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

3. 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

4. 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

5. Georgia Tech vs. Miami, Fla. (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Georgia Tech leads 10-6

Miami won four straight from 2005-2008 but have been controlled by Paul Johnson's triple-option threat twice in a row by an average score of 34-14. In fact, the 2009 win at Miami marked only the second time in history that Tech had won on the road in this rivarly (1967). The Canes have proven they are getting better with a quality showing against Virginia Tech and the convincing win over North Carolina. Whichever team can contain the ground game will be the victor in this key Coastal Division showdown.

Athlon's Prediction: Georgia Tech by 1

6. Virginia Tech vs. Virginia (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: 50-37-5

This Commonwealth rivalry has not meant much to the standings of late, but 2011 could finally offer fans some serious ACC implications when the Hokies and Wahoos tangle on Rivarly Saturday. Tech has won seven straight and 11 of 15 in this in-state battle, but Mike London has reenvigorated the overall energy of the Cavs' program. Virginia has plenty of work left to do in order to make this game matter nationally - try NC State, Miami, Maryland, Duke and Florida State. However, as the upset win over Georgia Tech this weekend has shown, Virginia (4-2, 1-1) is quickly becoming a factor again in the ACC.

Athlon's Prediction: Virginia Tech by 10

7. 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

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

Other games to watch:

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

North Carolina vs. Clemson (Oct. 22)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Clemson leads 34-19-1

Wake Forest vs. North Carolina (Oct. 29)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: North Carolina leads 67-34-2

North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech (Nov. 17)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Virginia Tech leads 17-10-6

Virginia vs. Miami, Fla. (Oct. 27)
Oct. 27, All-Time Series: Miami leads 5-3

Virginia vs. Florida State (Nov. 19)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: Florida State leads 14-2

Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest (Nov. 5)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: 0-0

Teaser:
<p> What are the most important, must-see ACC match-ups of the second half?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 07:51
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12-0
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 7 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Oregon (5-1, 3-0) – The Ducks didn’t have their Heisman trophy-contending tailback LaMichael James and lost their heart and soul when quarterback Darron Thomas left the game in the middle of the third quarter with what appeared to be a minor left knee injury. It didn’t matter as the Ducks rolled up 327 yards rushing and 41 points in the 41-27 win over Arizona State. In what could be a preview of the inaugural Pac-12 title game, fill-ins Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas combined for 279 yards from scrimmage and three scores in a game that Oregon basically controlled from start to finish. All signs point to Darron Thomas being able to play this weekend against Colorado – how much depends on how quickly the game gets out of hand.

2. Stanford (6-0, 4-0) – There is only one team in the nation that has covered the point spread in every game it has played thus far. Yup, Stanford’s average margin of victory actually dipped to 34.6 after the 44-14 win over Washington State to keep the nation’s longest winning streak alive at 14. Andrew Luck continued his Heisman campaign with a 336-yard, 4-TD performance. He is now the most efficient quarterback in the Pac-12 and is third nationally (180.55). Argubaly the toughest test of the season thus far for Stanford will come in the form of a visit from the redhot Washington Huskies in Palo Alto this weekend.

3. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) – The Sun Devils did get out to a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. However, the Oregon Ducks outscored ASU 34-13 the rest of the way. The two-headed offensive attack of Brock Osweiler and Cameron Marshall was productive, but two costly interceptions by the Devils quarterback helped the Ducks pull away. Arizona State still has the South all but wrapped up, so this game serves mostly as a learning experience for a team that should be representing the South in the Pac-12 title game.

4. Washington (5-1, 3-0) – Husky quarterback Keith Price is quickly – and probably way too quietly – turning into one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season. After a 21-of-28 passing performance for 257 yards and four touchdowns in the 52-24 win over Colorado, Price now has at least three TD tosses in every game of the season, and his 21 passing touchdowns trail only Robert Griffin’s 22 for the national lead. He might be the most underrated quarterback in the nation at this point in the season. After a 3-0 start in Pac-12 play, Steve Sarkisian will has his hands full trying to stop the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto this weekend. Should they pull-off the upset (the 20-point spread is entirely too much), Washington would vault to No. 2 on this list and becomes the top challenger to Oregon with the Ducks coming to town November 5.

5. USC (5-1, 3-1) – The numbers weren’t all that impressive for the Southern Cal offense – 195 yards passing, 118 yards rushing – but the defense played its best game of the season. Lane Kiffin used the bye week to fix some obvious problems on that side of the ball, and it showed. The Trojans forced five Cal turnovers in the 30-9 romp on Thursday night. USC now faces a hot Notre Dame team that also had an extra week to prepare. Fans will learn if the Trojan defense has actually made strides or if it's just playing Zach Maynard that made them look so good.

6. Utah (3-3, 0-3) – Utah pulled out a hard-fought black-and-blue victory over a solid BCS conference team on the road. Unfortunately, the 26-14 win over Pitt doesn’t help the Utes' Pac-12 record. The defense was outstanding against the (supposed to be) high-flying Todd Graham offense, holding the Panthers to 120 total yards of offense. The schedule lightens up from here on out for Kyle Whittingham — Cal, Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado are the remaining six games.

7. California (3-3, 0-3) – Keenan Allen once again displayed his remarkable talents by catching 13 more passes for 160 yards. However, Allen (who unfortunately can't play the other 21 positions on the field) has been the lone bright spot in three straight losses, the last two in blowouts, including the 30-9 loss to USC on Thursday night. Cal fans need to see some growth from Jeff Tedford’s group, and with Utah, UCLA, Washington State and Oregon State up next, he has a chance to cool down his warming seat.

8. UCLA (3-3, 2-1) – Above .500 in conference play this late in the season for the first time in half a decade, the Bruins will use the bye week to prepare for a winnable road game at Arizona. The Bruins lost 29-21 to the Wildcats last season but did not have to face the injured Nick Foles - whose Pac-12 leading 361.2 yards per game of total offense will be on the field this time around. This is a game, coming against a team without its head coach, that UCLA has to win if it expects to land a quality bowl game.

9. Washington State (3-3, 1-2) – The Cougars welcomed back starting quarterback Jeff Tuel to the field and then proceeded to produce their worst offensive output of the year in the 44-14 loss to Stanford. Washington State posted a season-low 48 yards rushing and a season-low 209 yards passing. Tuel was 17-of-30 for 145 yards and no touchdowns in his return to action. To be fair, however, they were facing the biggest buzzsaw in college football when they welcomed the Stanford Cardinal to town. The Cougars have to win over Oregon State if they expect to achieve bowl eligibility this season.

10. Arizona (1-5, 0-4) – The Wildcats had one of the more eventful bye weeks in all of college football. Not only did they have to contemplate the painful 37-27 loss to lowly Oregon State, but they also have a new head coach roaming the sidelines. Defensive coordinator Tim Kish will manage his first game this weekend against UCLA - a team the Wildcats beat 29-21 last fall.

11. Colorado (1-6, 0-3) –
The 52-24 loss to Washington is more of a testament to how improved the Huskies are than to how much work Jon Embree has left to do in Boulder. The Buffs managed only 269 yards of offense, but the 113th-ranked scoring defense could not stop the Keith Price-led offensive attack.

12. Oregon State (1-5, 1-2) – The Beavers couldn’t stop the BYU rushing attack on Saturday as the Cougars rolled up 282 yards on the ground in the 38-28 win over OSU. After a 14-14 halftime score, BYU – behind new quarterback Riley Nelson’s three touchdown passes – outscored the Beavers 24-14 in the second half to earn the win in Corvallis. Freshman tailback Malcolm Agnew did return to the lineup with 49 yards on 10 carries. It was his first action since a 233-yard college debut in Week One.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after Week 7 of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 17, 2011 - 14:03
Path: /columns/national-notebook/big-tens-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 Ten slate.

1. 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 Very Early Prediction: Badgers by 4

2. 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 Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 4

3. 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 Very Early Prediction: Buckeyes by 3

4. 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 Very Early Prediction: Badgers by 7

5. 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.

6. 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 Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 7

7. Wisconsin vs. Illinois (Week 12)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: Illinois leads 37-34-7

The luster has certainly been dampened with the Illini’s home loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday. The Badgers lost the last time they visited Champaign 31-26 back in 2007, but had won five out of the previous six as the road team. This has been a relatively high-scoring affair over the last decade and should be so once again in 2011 as both teams are averaging over 200 yards rushing and passing this fall. Nathan Scheelhaase and the Illinois offensive line will have to run the football – and the league’s No. 2 rushing defense will have to slow Montee Ball and company – if the Fighting Illini expects to contend for the Leaders’ Division title.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Badgers by 10

8. Michigan State vs. Iowa (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Iowa leads 22-18-2


The Hawkeyes have won seven straight games at home against Sparty and there could be a lot more on the line this season than usual. A trip to the Big Ten title game is still very much on the mind’s of both teams as both still have yet to face Nebraska. Kirk Cousins knows exactly what happened in Iowa City last season as the 37-6 shocker was the only blemish on Michigan State’s regular season schedule.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Hawkeyes by 1

9. Penn State vs. Wisconsin (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 8-6


The Nittany Lions have won three out of four over the Badgers and embarrassed the Big Red when they last visited Camp Randall, 48-7. That was 2008. Penn State has struggled to score all season long but has showed marked improvement on defense. Certainly, the Lions will be much-improved by Thanksgiving, but a road upset seems unlikely in what appears to be a lopsided offensive match-up.

10. llinois vs. Penn State (Oct. 29)
10b. Michigan vs. Iowa (Nov. 5)
10c. Penn State vs. Ohio State (Nov. 19)

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports breaks down the best must-see games left on the Big Ten schedule.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 17, 2011 - 04:00
Path: /college-football/rushel-shell-commits-pitt-panthers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Aliquippa (PA) Hopewell running back Rushel Shell has committed to the University of Pittsburgh. Shell is head coach Todd Graham’s 18th verbal commitment for the class of 2012.

Shell, a 5-foot-11, 215 tailback, is the No. 3 rated runner in the Athlon Consensus 100 and is the No. 17 overall prospect in America. However, Shell is much bigger and more powerful than Keith Marshall (AC100 No. 9) and Jonathan Gray (AC100 No. 6) and may be a more complete player who is better suited for a three-down work load.

The Hopewell High prospect – which is located roughly 30 minutes from the Pittsburgh campus – is arguably the most prolific runner in Pennsylvania prep history. Shell entered his senior season with 29 consecutive 100-yard games and early in the season he became the WPIAL’s all-time leading rusher (he currently sits at 7,827 yards). He has a chance to pass Steelton-Highspire Jeremiah Young’s 9,027 yards as the Keystone State’s all-time leading high school rusher. Shell currently has rushed for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011.

Shell is following the lead of fellow Western Pennsylvania legend Tony Dorsett. The Hall of Fame running back played at Hopewell High and in 1973 choose to play his college ball for the Pitt Panthers. Shell runs the football every Friday night in a stadium featuring Dorsett’s name high atop the marquee.

Shell cited the high-octane offense coach Graham employs and that watching Ray Graham definitely influenced his decision. Being able to play close to home with friends and family was also a key for Shell.

The talented tailback says he picked Pitt over Alabama (despite never actually taking an official visit to Tuscaloosa) and that Ohio State would have been his favorite had Jim Tressel not resigned amidst NCAA allegations.

View an in-depth scouting report and video of Rushel Shell here
 

Teaser:
<p> The Nation's No. 3 running back Shell has committed to the Pitt Panthers.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 15:00
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-or-sit-week-6
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Complete Week 6 NFL Fantasy Rankings


Week 6 NFL Byes: Arizona, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, Tennessee

Start These Quarterbacks:

Tony Romo, Dallas (at New England)
Despite holding the Jets to only 166 yards passing last week, the Patriots still rank last in the NFL against the pass at 326.6 yards allowed per game. Mark Sanchez did throw two touchdown passes, however, so Romo should be poised for big numbers this weekend. Especially with a bye week to prepare and a healthy Miles Austin returning to the line-up. Romo is sixth in the NFL in attempts per game (38) and should get plenty of chances through the air against the Patriots.

Eli Manning, NY Giants (at Buffalo)
Only Kansas City and Washington have allowed more passing touchdowns than the Buffalo Bills. And at 283.4 yards allowed per game, the Bills rank 26th against the pass thus far in 2011. Manning has 721 yards and five touchdowns in his last two contests and has clearly established a rapport with fantasy newcomer Victor Cruz. Fantasy owners can expect big yardage and point totals, but also should anticipate a turnover or two (Buffalo leads the NFL with 12 interceptions).

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (NY Giants)
Speaking of the Bills, Fitzpatrick should also be in the line-up this weekend. The Giants have only allowed five passing scores all season, but two of those came last week at the hands of Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson – who also combined for 315 yards through the air. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have yet to practice, so the pass rush doesn’t appear to be ready to help the MASH unit that is the Giants' secondary. New York has allowed 63 points in its last two games against Seattle and Arizona, so there is no reason to expect that the Giants will be able to slow down the Bills' balanced attack.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Indianapolis)
The Colts' defense has been targeted by fantasy owners all season and Week 6 should be no different. Indianapolis, who is allowing 254.2 passing yards per contest, is coming off of a game in which it made Matt Cassel look like a Super Bowl champion. The Chiefs' signal-caller completed 21-of-29 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns. Behind the NFL’s No. 1 defense, Dalton has led his team to two straight wins in which he accounted for at least two touchdowns. The Bengals' passer is averaging just over 240 yards per game since Week 1 and will face a defense that is allowing a league worst 68.3 percent completion rate. This redhead is a quality bye week spot starter.

Mark Sanchez, NY Jets (Miami)
At the Week 6 mark of the season, Sanchez is averaging more fantasy points per game than Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman and Kevin Kolb. He has been feast or famine in yardage leagues, topping 300 twice and failing to reach 200 in the other three games. But he has accounted for at least two touchdowns in four of five contests this fall and is coming off his most efficient (105.6 passer rating vs. the Patriots) performance of the year. Only the Patriots are allowing more passing yards than the Dolphins’ 307 per game and the they are not creating turnovers; the Fish have given up nine touchdowns versus only two interceptions.

Sit These Quarterbacks:

Matt Schaub, Houston (at Baltimore)
The Texans' passer has averaged fewer fantasy points per game than Matt Hasselbeck to this point of the season. Of course, not having any receivers to throw to will do that anyone’s fantasy stats – and Derrick Mason is not the answer. The Ravens have allowed three passing touchdowns all season (with six INTs), 212 yards per game and boast the NFL’s second best completion percentage against (52.7 percent). There is little upside for Schaub this week.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore (Houston)
The Texans are third in the NFL in opponents' completion percentage as they are allowing quarterbacks to complete a paltry 52.9 percent of their passes. The Texans are also third in the NFL with 15.0 sacks and sixth in yards allowed per game at 208.2. What's more, Flacco is coming off of his worst performance of the season in which he completed a meager 32.3 percent of his passes for 163 yards, no scores and had two turnovers against a struggling Jets defense. There might be better options out there.

Jay Cutler, Chicago (Minnesota)
Despite being able to run the football with some effectiveness against Detroit, the Bears' offensive line could not protect Cutler from constant harassment on Monday night. Minnesota isn’t all that scary against the pass (especially if Antoine Winfield doesn’t play) but the Vikings are second in the NFL with 16.0 sacks and have allowed only six passing touchdowns. Expect Jared Allen and Brian Robison to be in Cutler’s face all game long. Additionally, Mike Martz appears to have dedicated himself to Matt Forte – 47 att., 321 yards, TD over his last two games – so the opportunities for Cutler may be limited as the Bears look to control the clock.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit (San Francisco)
The Niners are second in the NFL in scoring defense by allowing a nasty 15.6 points per game. They are fourth in the NFL in rushing defense at a measly 76.4 yards per game. And they are coming off of a game in which they held Josh Freeman to 17-of-33 passing, 187 yards, two interceptions, no touchdowns and sacked him three times. This is an extremely tough bench as Stafford has been match-up proof all season, but he will get zero help from the ground game this weekend – the Niners are the only team yet to allow a rushing touchdown – so maybe lower your expectations this week.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Jacksonville)
This is another tough call for fantasy owners. Here are the facts so that you can make the most educated decision possible. Big Ben scored 37.12 (Athlon scoring system) of his 93.34 total fantasy points last week against Tennessee. He will play his second game in a row with protective footwear as he continues to recover from a sprained foot. He has already turned the ball over 10 times this season. Jacksonville is allowing a relatively stingy 215.4 yards passing per game, but has not gotten to the quarterback (8.0 sacks). Rashard Mendenhall will likely play, but he still won’t be 100 percent and he has a struggling offensive line. Big Ben has averaged 203.3 yards passing in four career games against the Jags. Have fun. (I am going Romo and Cam Newton over Big Ben in my two leagues.)

Start These Running Backs:

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (Indianapolis)
There should be a developing theme circling Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati this weekend: Play your Bengals. Benson is facing the NFL's second-worst rush defense at 145.2 yards allowed per game. Additionally, only the Jets (8) and Cardinals (8) have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Colts (6). The Bengals are giving him the ball – 21 touches per game through the first five – and there is no reason to think he won’t get to the century mark and reach paydirt.

Ahmad Bradshaw, NY Giants (Buffalo)
Brandon Jacobs still had yet to practice as of Thursday as he is dealing with a sprained MCL. Last week, Bradshaw received his heaviest workload of the season when he carried 17 times against Seattle. Expect more of the same against the NFL’s 29th-rated rushing defense, the Bills, who are allowing 138.4 yards per game on the ground. There should be a lot of fireworks on both sides of this one – take the over.

Shonn Greene, NY Jets (Miami)
Rex Ryan stated vehemently that he wanted to get back to “Jets” football by establishing a physical running attack against New England. Ryan and the Jets didn’t win the game, but Greene clearly was utilized in a more productive manner. He averaged 12.7 carries per game through the first four weeks (including two games with only 10 carries), but posted 21 rushing attempts last week for a season-high 83 yards and a touchdown. He also added a pair of receptions as well. Look for more of the same game plan against the lowly Dolphins.

James Starks (Ryan Grant), Green Bay (St. Louis)
The St. Louis Rams are the worst rushing defense in the NFL – and it's not really even close. At 179.8 yards allowed per game, the Rams serve up 34 more yards per game than the next worst team (145.2). Despite an antacid-inducing time share between the two, both Starks and Grant have a chance to produce on Sunday. Starks has averaged 15.3 touches per game over his last three and Grant finally looked healthy again last week. Starks should get the “60” in the 60-40 time split, but both should reach the endzone.

Deeper Running Back Plays:

Montario Hardesty, Cleveland (at Oakland)
Peyton Hillis will be back, but trade rumors and contact talks could give Hardesty more looks.

Ryan Torian, Washington (Philadelphia)
If your crystal ball says Shannahan will go with Torain, he is a great play.

Delone Carter, Indianapolis (at Cincinnati)
Any No. 1 starter should be considered, but the Bengals are the NFL’s No. 1 defense.

Running Backs: Lowered Expectations:

Jahvid Best, Detroit (San Francisco)
The Lions have been smart with Best by handing him the ball only 11.6 times over his last three games. He is brittle and consistently hampered by injuries, so keeping him healthy against arguably the nastiest linebacking corps in the NFL will be key. The 49ers are second in the NFL in scoring defense (15.6 ppg), fourth in the NFL in rushing defense (76.4 ypg) and is the only team yet to allow a rushing touchdown. Best should get a few receptions, but will be severely limited in the ground game this weekend.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Jacksonville)
The Steelers' running back looks like he will be back toting the rock. However, just how healthy he is remains to be seen. In that vein, it would be a surprise if Mendenhall got more than 10-12 touches this Sunday as Mike Tomlin easies his star tailback back into action. Look for Isaac Redman to get equal (if not more) touches than his No. 1 counterpart. Oh yeah, the Jags just held Cedric Benson to 53 yards on 24 carries (2.2 ypc) and no touchdowns.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England (Dallas)
The Lawfirm is coming off of the best game of his career after rushing for a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Jets. Now, he faces the best rushing defense in the NFL as Dallas is allowing only 61.8 yards per game and is battling a minor toe injury to boot. With Stevan Ridley nipping at his heels (23 attempts over his last three games), Green-Ellis could be in for a long day. Additionally, the Pats should be able to throw the ball plenty and that is just not a big part of his game (three receptions on the season).

Steven Jackson, St. Louis (at Green Bay)
Jackson is likely to get a handful of catches this weekend as the game should get out of hand, so in a full PPR league, he still has some value. And he is healthy after resting for the better part of a month. However, the Packers have been nasty against the run – they are third in the NFL at 75.8 yards allowed per game. Starting tailbacks have averaged 42.8 yards per game and have scored once (Michael Turner) against the Packers. It should be noted that Matt Forte, who rushed nine times for two yards against Green Bay, did catch seven passes for 80 yards.

DeAngelo Williams (Jonathan Stewart), Carolina (at Atlanta)
The former Memphis star is beginning to produce like fantasy owners expected. He had a season-high 115 yards last week and finally reached paydirt. He has averaged over 10 yards per carry over the last two games. However, with Jonathan Stewart still very much in the mix and the Falcons' penchant for stopping the run (8th in the NFL, 89.2 ypg, 3.5 ypc allowed), Williams' upside seems to be rather limited. In eight career games against Atlanta, Williams has averaged 60.3 yards and has scored only twice.

Start These Wide Receivers:

A.J. Green, Cincinnati (Indianapolis)
The rookie from Georgia hasn’t taken long to make a big fantasy impact in the NFL. He has caught at least four passes in four straight games, has topped 90 yards in three of his last four and has scored a touchdown in three of his five career games. He is a big play waiting to happen and Andy Dalton is looking his way on a regular basis. Look for Green to exploit one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, Dallas (at New England)
For the first time since before Week 1, both Bryant and Austin were able to fully participate in practice during the bye week. Now they return with full force against the worst pass defense in the NFL (326.6 yards allowed per game). Romo also looks healthy so the Cowboys' offense will be at full strength for the first time all year.

Marques Colston, New Orleans (at Tampa Bay)
The big receiver was eased into the line-up two weeks ago and the leash was taken off last week as he delivered a five-catch, 69-yard performance against Carolina. He should be back into your line-up against a defense that has allowed nine touchdown passes against only two interceptions on the season. Alex Smith, who had his second most efficient game of his career (127.2 QB rating), threw for 170 yards and three scores against the Bucs last week. Expect much more from Drew Brees.

Victor Cruz, NY Giants (Buffalo)
The young speedster has quickly earned Eli Manning’s trust as he was targeted an NFL third-best 11 times last week. He has 17 catches for 369 yards and three scores over his last three games. Buffalo has a tendency to make big plays on defense (leading the NFL in INTs) but also is giving up plenty of long completions. They rank 26th in the NFL at stopping the pass (283.4 ypg) and only the Chiefs and Eagles have allowed more than the Bills’ 10 passing touchdowns. Play all of your Giants receivers.

Deion Branch, New England (Dallas)
After one catch in two games, Branch finally returned to normalcy with a tasty seven-reception, 74-yard, TD performance last week against the Jets. Branch now has at least seven catches in three of five games this fall. New England will struggle running the football against the NFL's toughest rush defense, so all Patriots receivers should be a solid play this weekend. Especially considering Dallas will be able to score as well.

Deeper Wide Receiver Plays:

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland (Cleveland)
His 12 targets last week were No. 2 in the NFL and his line over the last two is 11 rec., 214 yards, TD.

Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Green Bay (St. Louis)
Jones had his best game of the season last weekend and Nelson is still a dependable flex option against a decimated secondary.

Danario Alexander, St. Louis (Green Bay)
The Packers are bad against the pass (299.8 ypg allowed) and St. Louis will be trailing for most of this one.

Bench These Wide Receivers:

Brandon Marshall, Miami (NY Jets)
There are a variety of reasons not to use Marshall this weekend. First and foremost, Matt Moore will be the one throwing him the ball. He has averaged 122 yards passing per game for his career with a 73.5 career QB rating. Second, Darrelle Revis will be the man charged with guarding Marshall. The Jets also have been the third stingiest against fantasy receivers on the season.

Percy Harvin, Minnesota (at Chicago)
The dynamic triple-threat has yet to score a touchdown in 2011 and has caught three or fewer passes in three of five games. He is coming off of his worst performance of the year after catching one pass in the 34-10 win over Arizona. Donovan McNabb is clearly having issues finding him in the offense and the Bears should be harassing him all game long.

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (at Cincinnati)
It is painfully obvious for Wayne owners that quarterback Curtis Painter is more comfortable throwing to Pierre Garcon. In Painter’s two starts, Wayne has a modest eight catches for 136 yards and no touchdowns. Garcon, on the other hand, has 271 yards and four touchdowns over that same span. Without Joseph Addai against the NFL’s No. 1 defense, most of the Colts' options could struggle.

Santana Moss, Washington (Philadelphia)
The Eagles have allowed a lot of touchdown passes this fall (11) but are still loaded with lockdown cover talent. Nnamdi Asomugha figures to be in Moss' hip pocket the entire game so don’t expect him to get too many looks this Sunday.

Start These Tight Ends:

Aaron Hernandez, New England (Dallas)
Returned last week with 5-56 line and all of your Patriots pass-catchers should be in the line-up.

Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati (Indianapolis)
Every Bengal has a chance to score – especially one who has reached the endzone in two straight games.

Fred Davis, Washington (Philadelphia)
Corners will be concerned with Moss and Eagles are 31st in the NFL with 11 passing TDs allowed

Bench These Tight Ends:

Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit (San Francisco)
Niners are playing excellent defense led by nasty linebackers – who will be all over Pettigrew.

Owen Daniels, Houston (at Baltimore)
Without Andre the Giant to distract defenders, the Ravens will be totally focused on OD. Baltimore is No. 2 against fantasy tight ends.

Start These Defenses/Special Teams:

Cincinnati Bengals
The QB, RB, WR, and TE should be in your line-up, why wouldn’t the NFL’s best defense?

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Both defenses get after the quarterback and both O-Lines have struggled to protect the quarterback. Both could be big this weekend.

Bench These Defenses/Special Teams:

Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots
Solid rush defenses mixed with pathetic pass defenses and two elite quarterbacks? No thanks.

New York Giants
This should be a high-scoring game and the Giants are without Tuck, Osi.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 6</p>
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 08:00
Path: /columns/national-notebook/betting-against-spread-week-7-picks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Week 7 officially marks the half-way mark of the 2011 college football season. For those counting at home, only Rutgers and Stanford remain unbeaten against the spread (5-0). I will be going back to the Cardinal well, but I am staying far away from the Scarlet Knights' bout with option kings Navy. The BCS schools of Oklahoma (8-2), Washington (8-2) and Georgia (8-2-2) have been very kind to point-spread aficionados everywhere and I will be revisiting those states once again in Week 7.

In a strange turn of events, I am taking 11 road favorites to cover this weekend — and one home favorite. Two teams to keep an eye on are Wisconsin at home against Indiana and Oklahoma at Kansas. Both are favored by more than 35 points, and normally anything over 28 instantly scares me away, however, both could top 60 points and cover easily (if that makes any sense). Take the overs as well.

Onto Week 7's picks...

Season Record ATS: 37-20-2 (9-3 last week)

Week 7's Top Picks:

1. Oklahoma State (-7.5) at Texas
Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden was sitting on the bench before halftime in last week's 70-28 win over Kansas. Weeden operates the nation's No. 1 scoring offense (51.4 ppg) and No. 2 total offense (577.4 ypg) and carries his unbeaten Pokes into Austin for the second consecutive season. The 33-16 win over the Horns last season marked the first time in school history Oklahoma State had won in Austin so Weeden and company know what it takes to win on the 40 Acres. The Longhorns allowed 367 yards and three scores to Landry Jones of Oklahoma last weekend in the awful 55-17 showing in the Red River Shootout. Take the Pokes to win big and push their ATS record to 5-1 this season. My Pick: Oklahoma State -7.5

2. Georgia Tech (-7) at Virginia
Tech's offense is a well-oiled option machine - and is 4-1-1 against the spread on the year. The only team of comparable talent UVa has faced was North Carolina. The Cavaliers allowed 222 yards rushing in the 28-17 road loss. The Yellow Jackets' offense is rolling up 360.5 yards per game on the ground and is No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency. Paul Johnson has a legit ACC title contender, so winning on the road within the division is imperative. His team will be ready for a Virginia team who needed overtime to beat Idaho 21-20 its last time on the field. My Pick: Georgia Tech -7

3. South Florida (-7.5) at UConn
The Bulls had been rolling along (4-0) until getting buzz-sawed by Ray Graham and the Pitt Panthers two weeks ago. Skip Holtz's guys have had two weeks to prepare for arguably the worst offense in the Big East. The Huskies have lost four of their last five games and has allowed 81 points in its last two games. The 101st-ranked total offense — and the complete lack of quarterback play — will cost UConn any chance of pulling the upset. South Florida's balanced offensive attack (223.2 rushing, 280.4 passing per game) will be too much for the Huskies to keep pace with. My Pick: USF -7.5

4. Stanford (-21) at Washington State
I just can't stay away from Andrew Luck. The Cardinal are one of two teams left in football that is unbeaten against the spread (5-0). Stanford has been absolutely crushing opponents by an average margin of victory of 35.6 points per game. The Cougars played them tough last season (38-28), so Luck will certainly have his team on high alert. Additionally, the return of starting Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel might actually disrupt the Cougars offense - which has been relatively consistent under Marshall Lobbestael. Wazzu has allowed 32.3 points per game over its last three, including losses to San Diego State and UCLA. Don't fail me now Cardinal! My Pick: Stanford -21

5. Clemson (-7.5) at Maryland
There may not be a hotter team in the nation than the Clemson Tigers. They have covered four straight (including three upsets) and are 5-1 against the spread this season. The balanced Tigers offense posted 500 yards last week in the 36-14 win over Boston College while the Terps played valiantly agianst Georgia Tech in a 21-16 loss (scoring 13 fourth-quarter points). With major issues at quarterback — starter Danny O'Brien was pulled for C.J. Brown who proceeded to complete four of his 17 pass attempts — Clemson should have no problem stacking the box to slow the Terps' ground game. Clemson rolled 31-7 last season over Maryland and has won two out of three in College Park. My Pick: Clemson -7.5

6. East Carolina (-14) at Memphis
I took Houston to crush ECU last week and it paid off with 56-3 uber-cover. The Pirates have played a brutal schedule (losses to South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Houston and North Carolina), so facing the worst team in the FBS ranks should come as a welcome sight. Memphis got housed 28-6 by Rice last week and is allowing 36.7 points per game to go with 495 yards per game. Dom Davis will get back on track against the lowly Tigers. My Pick: ECU -14

7. Alabama (-25.5) at Ole Miss
The Crimson Tide is 5-1 against the spread this season and has crushed everyone it has faced. The nation's top scoring defense is allowing only seven points per game while the offense is leading the SEC in rushing at 217 yards per contest. Ole Miss is allowing 193 yards per game on the ground (95th nationally). If that wasn't enough, Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron added a new element to the offense last week by completing 23-of-30 passes for 237 yards and four touchdowns in the 34-0 win over Vanderbilt. If Alabama adds an explosive passing attack to go with this nasty defense and power rushing attack, no one will beat the Tide in 2011. Bama has outscored Ole Miss 45-13 over the last two meetings. My Pick: Alabama -25.5

8. Toledo (-7.5) at Bowling Green
The Rockets played tough against Boise State, should have beaten Syracuse, easily handled a very good Temple team 36-13 and destroyed Eastern Michigan 54-16 last weekend. Bowling Green has been outscored 100-31 in two blowout losses to Western Michigan and West Virginia and lost to Toledo last fall 33-14. Depite being a rivalry game, the tale of the tape shows two teams headed in opposite directions. My Pick: Toledo -7.5

If you are feeling lucky:

9. Miami, Ohio (-3.5) at Kent State
Kent has been outscored 57-20 over the last two by Northern Illinois and Ohio and ranks as arguably the worst offense in the nation. The Redhawks got into the win column last week by beating Army 35-28 and have been able to throw it well all season. Vegas is way off on this one. My Pick: Miami, Ohio -3.5

10. Florida State (-13.5) at Duke
The Noles are angry after losing three straight brutal games. Duke just doesn't have the talent to keep up. EJ Manuel is back and will torch the 87th-rated pass efficiency defense and Mark Stoops' defense will control the line of scrimmage against the 112th-ranked rushing attack. My Pick: Florida State

11. Colorado (+15) at Washington
The Huskies, behind stellar quarterback play, are 4-1 against the spread and on the field. They are poised to challenge Stanford and Oregon in the Pac-12 North if they can stay the course. After a bye week to rest, and facing a defense allowing 33.3 points per game and 250 yards through the air, Washington should roll. My Pick: Washington -15

12. Michigan (+2) at Michigan State
Sparty has won three straight games in this rivalry and the loser here is probably out of the race for the top spot in the Big Ten's Legends division. Michigan State boasts the nation's No. 1 defense and Denard Robinson has played wildly inconsistent football despite the 6-0 record. My Pick: Michigan State -2

2011 Trends:

5-0 Against the Spread: Rutgers, Stanford

5-1 Against the Spread: Alabama, Arkansas St., Clemson, Marshall, Michigan, Western Michigan

4-1 Against the Spread: Baylor, Cincinnati, Georgia (4-1-1), Georgia Tech (4-1-1), Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Temple, Texas Tech, UTEP, Utah St., Wake Forest, Washington, Washington St., Wisconsin

1-4 Against the Spread: Air Force, Colorado St., Florida St., NC St. (1-4-1), Texas A&M, Troy, Utah, Virginia, 

1-5 Against the Spread: Boston College, Central Michigan, UConn, Kent St., Mississippi St., Nebraska, Penn St, UCLA, Virginia Tech, 

Other Week 7 Content:

Mitch Light's Top Ten Games of Week 7
Steven Lassan's Top Storylines To Watch from Week 7
Athlon Sports Picks Every Week 7 College Football Game

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Falcons, Julio Jones, News
Path: /news/julio-jones-hamstring-out-pick-harry-douglas
Body:

Atlanta Falcons star rookie wide receiver Julio Jones will not play this weekend against the Carolina Panthers after suffering a hamstring injury Sunday night.

Jones, who was back on the practice field rehabbing the injury, left Sunday’s game with Green Bay after pulling-up lame in the fourth quarter of the 25-14 loss to the Packers.

Seeing Jones on the practice field was an encouraging sign for Falcons head coach Mike Smith – who hopes to get Jones back into the starting line-up for the trip to Detroit in Week Seven.

Jones has been worth every penny – and pick – the Falcons spent to land the freakishly talented Alabama Crimson Tider. Jones, the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, debuted by catching five passes for 71 yards. Recently, Jones put together back-to-back 100-yard games against Tampa Bay (6 rec., 115 yards) and Seattle (11 rec., 127 yard) before the hamstring injury against Green Bay last weekend.

Jones has 25 receptions for 358 yards and has yet to score a touchdown in his very young NFL career.

The injury does not seem serious, so fantasy owners need not worry too much about Jones’ long-term health. However, it does open the door for three-year wide receiver Harry Douglas to take on a much bigger role this weekend against the Panthers.

The much smaller Douglas will replace Jones in the starting line-up this weekend and will have a good shot at solid fantasy production. Carolina ranks 26th in the NFL in scoring defense after allowing 26.4 points per game over the first five weeks of the season. With Roddy White likely receiving most of the defense’s attention, Douglas, who has 11 receptions for 80 yards this year, should post his best game of the season this weekend.

Teaser:
<p> Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones will not play this weekend. Fantasy owners need to add Harry Douglas.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 18:16
Path: /fantasy/derrick-mason-traded-jets-texans
Body:

The New York Jets have traded wide receiver Derrick Mason to the Houston Texans for an undisclosed, but allegedly very low, NFL draft pick.

The 37-year old Mason had spent eight seasons with the Tennessee Titans (1997-2004) and six seasons with the Baltimore Ravens (2005-2010) before lasting just five games with former coach Rex Ryan and the Jets.

Mason's role in the offense had been greatly diminished due to the emergence of TCU rookie speedster Jeremy Kerley. Mason has caught eight passes for 113 yards in five games and now looks to help fill the void left by the injured Andre Johnson.

Johnson underwent surgery to repair his hamstring last week and is expected to miss at least two more games. Jacoby Jones (8 rec., 100 yards) and Kevin Walter (9 rec., 130 yards) are now Matt Schaub's top wide receivers and are sixth and seventh on the team in receiving.

Clearly, Mason will be a welcomed veteran presence for Schaub. He has 937 receptions and 12,006 receiving yards to go with 66 touchdown receptions for his career.

For the short term, Johnson fantasy owners might want to snag Mason off the waiver wire just in case he becomes the focal point of the Texans passing attack (after Owen Daniels and Arian Foster that is).

Meanwhile, Kerley's speed offers a unique skillset to the Jets passing attack. He can do a lot of things (3 rec., 1 rush att., 1 KR, 11 PR, TD so far in 2011) and can be used in a variety of interesting and dynamic ways. With Plaxico Burress as total fantasy crap shoot from week to week, Kerley definitely deserves a watchlist - and maybe a waiver wire add should his role in the offense expand in the near future. Keep a close eye on the rookie receiver.

Teaser:
<p> Derrick Mason Traded from Jets to Texans</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 10:10
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-7
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.

Wisconsin's Russell Wilson is still the top challenger to Andrew Luck's supremacy and Robert Griffin III is nipping at both of their heels. However, the hard charger after Week Six continues to be Alabama tailback Trent Richardson, who jumps another spot from No. 5 to No. 4. He has clearly seperated himself as the top Heisman candidate at tailback as Marcus Lattimore had a third straight underwhelming performance. (It's a tough crowd here at Athlon.) Oregon tailback LaMichael James returned to the Top Ten, but how long will he stick around after dislocating his elbow on Thursday night?

Oklahoma's Landry Jones also jumped one spot after another massive statistical performance — this time against arch-rival Texas in the Red River Riv-Shoot-alry-out.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (86/90 total points, 8/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 106/145, 1,383 yards, 14 TD, 2 INT, 12 att., 60 yards, TD

This is starting to get boring. Stanford topped 40 points for the eighth time in 11 games in its 48-7 rout of Colorado, and Luck was masterful...again. He completed 26-of-33 passes for 370 yards, three touchdowns and (gasp) one interception. Stanford has now won 13 straight games and is beating opponents by an average of 35.6 points per game in 2011. Don't expect that trend to slow anytime soon with the Evergreen State sweep coming up next. Next Game: at Washington State

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 86 8 - - - 1 9
2. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 71 - 1 7 - 1 9
3. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 65 - 3 - 3 2 9
4. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 62 - 3 - 2 1 9
5. Kellen Moore QB Boise State 57 - 2 1 2 1 9
6. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 40 - - 1 1 1 9
7. Marcus Lattimore RB South Carolina 31 - - - 1 - 8
8. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 27 1 - - - - 7
9. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 26 - - - - 2 6
10. LaMichael James RB Oregon 12 - - - - - 4
11. Tyrann Mathieu CB LSU 7 - - - - - 4
12. Darron Thomas QB Oregon 4 - - - - - 2
13. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 4 - - - - - 2
14. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma 1 - - - - - 1
15. Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 1 - - - - - 1
16. Ray Graham RB Pittsburgh 1 - - - - - 1

2. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (71)
Season Stats: 83/111, 1,391 yards, 13 TD, INT, 22 att., 140 yards, 2 TD

The Badgers were on bye last week and might as well be again this week. Wisconsin welcomes the Indiana Hoosiers to Camp Randall — a team they beat 83-20 a year ago. Indiana is 97th in total defense and Wisconsin is the Big Ten's top offense. This will get ugly quickly, and Wilson might not be needed for much. Next Game: Indiana

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (65)
Season Stats: 114/142, 1,520 yards, 19 TD, 1 INT, 60 att., 280 yards, 2 TD

Fans in Waco got to see the true dual-threat dynamic RG3 can bring to an offense this weekend. Griffin III didn't throw for 300 yards and he didn't throw for five touchdowns (both of which he had done in three of four games thus far). Instead, to beat Iowa State 49-26, he turned to his legs as he rushed 24 times for 107 yards and a score to go with his "pedestrian" 212-1-0 passing line. It was his first 100-yard rushing game since October 16 of last fall. Bob's Heisman campaign now begins in earnest as he visits College Station and Stillwater over the next two weeks. Next Game: at Texas A&M

4. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (62)
Season Stats: 115 att., 729 yards, 11 TD, 13 rec., 149 yards, TD

Richardson posted his fifth consecutive 100-yard effort in a dominating 34-0 home win over Vanderbilt. The Alabama tailback rushed 19 times for 107 yards and his 11th touchdown of the season. He is second in the SEC in rushing (ninth nationally) at 121.5 yards per game and is leading what is the SEC's top rushing attack (217 ypg). The nation's No. 95 ranked rush defense should have plenty of fun stopping T-Rich this weekend. Next Game: at Ole Miss

5. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (57 pts)
Season Stats: 125/169, 1,391 yards, 17 TD, 4 INT, 5 att., (-6) yards

Moore now sits at 43-2 as a starter after a thorough 57-7 thumping of WAC rival Fresno State this weekend — he's two wins shy of Colt McCoy's all-time NCAA record. The Broncos quarterback completed 23-of-31 passes for 254 yards and three scores in BSU's fifth win of the season. Moore has quietly taken care of business every week of the season. Unfortunately, there is only one marquee match-up left on the schedule (TCU, 11/12), so "The out of sight, out of mind factor" might be in full effect for the rest of the year. Next Game: at Colorado State

6. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (40)
Season Stats: 142/205, 1,814 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT, 10 att., 2 yards, 2 TD

Jones topped the 350-yard mark for the third consecutive game en route to serving Mack Brown with one of the worst losses in his tenure as Texas head coach. The Sooners' quarterback completed 31 of his 50 pass attempts for 367 yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions in the 55-17 destruction of Bevo. Over his last three, Jones has averaged 413 yards and has thrown 11 touchdowns. Up next for Jones is the worst defense in the nation. Kansas is allowing 556 yards of offense and 49.4 points per game — both ranking 120th nationally. Next Game: at Kansas

7. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (31)
Season Stats: 146 att., 779 yards, 9 TD, 16 rec., 153 yards, TD

Lattimore got back into the 100-yard column with a 102-yard effort in South Carolina's 54-3 romp over Kentucky. He now leads the SEC in rushing at 129.8 yards per game, but statistically speaking, it was Lattimore's third straight underwhelming performance. This weekend marked the first time he failed to reach the endzone. With Stephen Garcia on the bench — and now off the roster for good — Steve Spurrier clearly wanted to get new starter Connor Shaw some work. Shaw threw the ball 39 times for 311 yards and four scores — eating into Lattimore's Heisman campaign. Next Game: at Mississippi State

8. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (27)
Season Stats: 67/117, 1,130 yards, 10 TD, 9 INT, 102 att., 720 yards, 8 TD

Robinson played flawless football two weeks ago and then proceeded to revert back to the sloppy passer that has plagued his career thus far by throwing three bad interceptions in the first half. But he, as Shoelace tends to do, rallied the troops to overcome a 24-14 halftime deficit to beat Northwestern 42-24. Robinson led three straight scoring drives to begin the second half and finished by scoring the game's final 28 points. His final line included 17-of-26 passing, 337 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, 25 carries, 117 yards rushing and two more touchdowns. Robinson's 720 yards rushing lead the Big Ten. Next Game: at Michigan State

9. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (26)
Season Stats: 166/219, 1,880 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT, 11 att., (-67) yards

It must be hard to be a Cowboys fan right now. If Weeden doesn't lead the team to 70 points or throw for five touchdowns, you might just get disappointed. After averaging 47.7 attempts per game, Weeden needed only 28 tosses to score five times and rack up 288 yards in the 70-28 win over Kansas. He completed 87% of his passes (24/28) and now has eight touchdowns in two games against the Jayhawks. At 51.4 points and 577.4 yards per game, Oklahoma State leads the nation in scoring and is No. 2 in total offense. Things start to get interesting for the Pokes this weekend, however. Next Game: at Texas

10. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (12)
Season Stats: 95 att., 852 yards, 8 TD, 11 rec., 159 yards, TD

James returns to the Athlon Sports Heisman Top Ten after three consecutive 200-yard games. This one against Cal — featuring 30 attempts for 239 yards and a TD — came at a huge price, however. James landed awkwardly on his right elbow late in the second half and suffered a severe dislocation. James expects to return soon, but will likely miss at least this week's game against Arizona State. James is leading the nation in yards per game at a 170.4 clip. Next Game: Arizona State

Previous Voting:

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 7</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/arizona-wildcats-coaching-search
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

With Mike Stoops out at Arizona, we turn to who we, by the numbers, believe can be successful head coaches for the Wildcats. Arizona is a bit deceiving in that it's not as good of a job as you would think.

According to our proprietary CBTN Best Head Coaching Job Ranking, Arizona is the 51st best job in the nation and the 10th best job in the Pac-12 conference. The question we have to ask is if Arizona has had unsuccessful coaches because it's a bad job or it's a bad job because it's had unsuccessful coaches?

From out standpoint, Arizona has simply not found the right captain for its ship. The school is a large, state school with lots of available resources and is located in a region of the country that produces plenty of quality talent (Mike Stoops did have two top 20 recruiting classes in his time Arizona). So, who is the right coach for the Wildcats? Here is our list:

Chris Petersen

The question with Petersen is not where to look for good numbers, but where to look for bad numbers. As hard as we have tried, we have not yet found a statistical flaw for Petersen. The real question is whether or not he would consider this job enough of an upgrade to leave what appears to be a really good situation for Petersen in Boise.

Mike Leach

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know he has some baggage. Read his book and you will understand that Leach's "baggage" is not baggage at all. This guy is a great coach and a good man and should be on the list of any program looking to get better on the field. From 1970-1999, the 30-year period before Leach took the reigns at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders won eight or more games only six times. During Leach's ten years at the helm of Texas Tech, he accomplished this feat eight different times. From 2001-2009, among active and inactive head coaches with two years minimum experience, Mike Leach was our 23rd rated head coach. Keep in mind that during this same period, Leach had an average recruiting ranking of 31. From 2004-2010, among active and inactive coaches with two years minimum experience, Mike Stoops was our 61st rated head coach. During this time, Stoops has an average recruiting ranking of 38.86.

Rich Rodriquez

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

Ken Niumatalolo

A quick note for Arizona fans: If you think you're too good to run the option, please review your history and realize that you're not. Ken N is one of the biggest overachievers in our system and the guy flat knows how to coach. He is from Hawaii and played at Hawaii, and we think a move West may just be appealing to Coach Ken. He has a great mentor in Paul Johnson and has all those other soft factors that ADs love so much, like the ability to win the press conference. Any coach that can win over 64% of his games at the Naval Academy, deserves a hard look.

Gus Malzahn

From the information we have, the likelihood of Gus Malzahn heading West is extremely low, but we simply like this guy's numbers too much (see here for The Malzahn Effect) not to put him on the list.

Paul Petrino

If you are wondering why Illinois is 6-0 for the first time since Eisenhower was President, look no further than the guy calling the plays. From 2005-2009, the Illinois offense averaged 23.45 points per game. From 2010-Present, the Paul Petrino-led Illini offense is averaging 33.60 points per game, a 43.28% increase in scoring offense. Additionally, offensive coordinator Mike Locksley (2005-2008) averaged 0.33 points per play and 5.61 yards per play and Mike Shultz (2009) averaged 0.35 points per play and 5.70 yards per play. In his year and half directing Illinois' offense, Paul Petrino is averaging 0.48 points per play and 6.00 yards per play. Arizona fans may cringe at the thought of hiring the wrong brother again, but sometimes you just have to jump back on the saddle.

Paul Chryst

Chryst is the current offensive coordinator at Wisconsin and is currently our 12th best rated offensive coordinator among active OC's with a minimum of two years experience. Chryst has done two stints as OC at Oregon State and since taking the reigns of the Badger's offense in 2006, Wisconsin has averaged almost 35 points per game and has won 10 or more games three different times and appears to be heading for a fourth 10-win season this year. You have to be careful to not make the assumption that just because someone works for a great head coach that they in turn will be a great head coach. That being said, we believe Bret Bielema is one of the best coaches in college football (see statistical love fest article here) and it's always better to have good mentors than bad ones.

Manny Diaz

We recently did a write-up on Manny Diaz and those with short-sighted vision are probably going to think we are crazy to recommend a coach whose defense was just embarrassed by Oklahoma this past weekend. However, we like to throw away the emotion of a single game or even a single season in many cases and look at the overall picture. The simple fact of the matter is that when Manny Diaz shows up on campus, his team gets statistically better. Diaz would be seen by many as a huge risk given his age (37), but don't forget that Bob Stoops was only 39 years old when Oklahoma named him their head coach. Additionally, we frequently see hires by ADs who have previously worked with a coach. Diaz and AD Greg Byrne were both at Mississippi St. together in 2010. So, there you have our names. There are no guarantees in life and there are certainly no guarantees in the world of college football coaches. However, there is good thinking and bad thinking. When all is said and done, the thought process behind hiring Mike Stoops was solid. He was one of the top defensive minds in the country and came from a great coaching pedigree. He ultimately failed to do the job he was hired to do, but that doesn't mean the thought process failed. When it comes to hiring the next head coach, we would urge AD Greg Byrne to focus on the process. Study the numbers, study the man, and find the right coach that can make Arizona football relevant again.


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Other names to consider and why there aren't on our A List:

• Kevin Sumlin: Since taking the reigns at Houston in 2008, Kevin Sumlin has won 64.44% of his games and has had a top 15 nationally ranked scoring offense in each of his seasons coaching the Cougars. Houston's overall winning percentage in the five years prior to Sumlin's arrival was 53.97%. However, Sumlin did take over a program that Art Briles had resurrected from the depths of Conference USA. In the two years before Sumlin took over, Briles' Cougars won 66.67% of their games. Additionally, in Sumlin's first two years as Houston's head coach, Dana Holgorsen was running the offense and calling the plays. In 50% of the games Holgorsen has either been the offensive coordinator or head coach, his team has scored 40 or more points. In Sumlin's one year without either Case Keenum at QB or Dana Holgorsen as OC, the Cougars went 5-7. With Keenum back at the helm of the offense, Houston is off to a 6-0 start, bu there is still half the season left to play. Additionally, Sumlin has coached 65.85% of his games at Houston with superior talent. Coach Sumlin has won 70.37% of games when he has superior talent. However, with equivalent or inferior talent, he has won 42.86% (6-8) of the time. For some perspective, of the 84 games Mike Stoops has coached at Arizona, he has had superior talent 20.24% of the time, inferior talent 39.29% of the time, and equivalent talent 39.29% of the time. So, there are some things we like about Sumlin, but overall, there are too many question marks to warrant putting him on our A list.

Skip Holtz: Skip Holtz is currently a three star coach in our system and three stars is probably the best way to describe coach Holtz. He is good but not great. He is solid and will probably never have a 3 or 4 win season, but he will also probably never have a really great season. Consider that since 2001 as an offensive coordinator (2001-2004) and a head coach (2005-2010), Skip Holtz has lost five or more games in every season but one (South Carolina went 9-3 in 2001 when Holtz was the offensive coordinator). He is off to a solid 4-1 start this year at USF but has the majority of his tough games left to play. If we were betting on it, we would go ahead and chalk up five losses for Coach Holtz.

Jim McElwain: In his four full seasons as an offensive coordinator (2007-2010), Jim McElwain has never lost more than four games. In fact, as an offensive coordinator he has been on the winning side of the scoreboard 85.00% of the time. Coach McElwain has West Coast ties (OC at Fresno St. in 2007 and OC at Montana St. from 1995-1999) and is currently part of our number one rated staff in college football. The thing you have to worry the most about with Coach McElwain is what we call the "Belichick Effect". For a while there, if you wanted to become an NFL head coach all you needed to do was work for Bill Belichick. First it was Romeo Crennel, then it was Charlie Weis and Eric Mangini, and finally Josh McDaniels. The last time we checked, not one of these coaches was still a head coach as of the writing of this article. Nick Saban is one of the best minds in college football, and you have to be careful not to assume that because someone works for a great coach they are in turn a great coach. Also, don't forget that since Saban took over at Alabama, the Tide have entered 100% of its games with equal or superior talent. Arizona is not Alabama, and under Stoops the Wildcats entered less than 60% of its game with equal or superior talent. Every job is unique and you have to make sure that you match up the right coach given the job at hand.

Teaser:
<p> Mike Stoops is out. But who will Arizona target for its head coach vacancy?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 04:04
Path: /college-football/stephen-garcia-dismissed-south-carolina-gamecocks
Body:

Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks have dismissed quarterback Stephen Garcia from the team, sources indicated on Tuesday.

One week after being removed from the starting line-up, Garcia fowl-ed up for the last time as a Gamecock college football player. He has a litany of poor decisions and off the field transgressions on his resume, and this final incident (allegedly, a failed alcohol test) was the straw that broke The Big Spur’s back.

South Carolina Athletic Director Eric Hyman released an official statement:

"Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina is a privilege, not a right, and we remind all of our student-athletes that there are consequences for their actions. For Stephen to return to and remain with the football squad this fall, we agreed on several established guidelines. Unfortunately, he has not been able to abide by those guidelines and has therefore forfeited his position on the roster. We wish him the best of luck as he moves forward in life.”

Garcia is the SEC’s career active leader in total offense (8,374), touchdowns responsible for (62), completions (589), passing yards (7,597) and passing touchdowns (47). Well, I should say, was the SEC’s career active leader. The stubborn and immature signal caller could have easily finished in the SEC’s top 10 all-time in total offense (9,577) and might have even slipped into the top 10 of passing yards (9,287). He posted a 20-14 record as a starter and is statistically the third-best player to ever play quarterback at South Carolina.

Garcia’s story is a sad tale of short-sighted and juvenile pig-headedness. He was blessed with tremendous physical talents and abilities that few human beings will ever possess. He was given the reins to an SEC championship-caliber offense. And he was a starting quarterback in the SEC Championship Game.

And he chose to throw it all away. Stephen Garcia has no one to blame but himself.

Connor Shaw is now the captain of the Gamecock ship that still has its sights set on Atlanta. And South Carolina did roll up 54 points against Kentucky in Shaw's first trip back to the starting line-up last Saturday. However, the Gamecocks' SEC title hopes might have vanished with Garcia's departure.

It normally would be outrageous to see a school dismiss a player who ranks at or near the top of most career statistical categories for his position, but unfortunately for Garcia and Spurrier, the only shocking element to this pathetic story is that it didn’t happen two years earlier.

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Teaser:
<p> Steve Spurrier and the Cocks have finally cut ties with the troubled Stephen Garcia.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 14:43
Path: /college-football/mike-sherman-not-getting-it-done-texas-am
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

College football is very much a game of the Haves vs. the Have Nots. Here is a list of the last 10 AP National Champions:

2001: Miami
2002: Ohio St.
2003: USC
2004: USC
2005: Texas
2006: Florida
2007: LSU
2008: Florida
2009: Alabama
2010: Auburn

What do the above schools have in common? They are all loaded with NFL-caliber talent and, with the exception of Miami, have large undergraduate enrollments and 80,000+ seat stadiums they fill up each and every week. We are not trying to squash the hopes of the smaller schools out there or state that they cannot have successful years or programs, Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson have proved as much. We are simply trying to point out the existing reality of college football. It's very much an arms race and those with the bigger and better guns typically win the most battles and wars.

With this in mind, let's turn to Mike Sherman and Texas A&M.

Texas A&M is definitely among the Haves of college football. The school has over 36,000 undergraduates, fills its 80,000+ seat stadium virtually every Saturday with rabid and loyal fans, and routinely recruits NFL-caliber talent from one of the nation's largest pools of talented high school football players (Texas A&M's average recruiting ranking since 2002 is 17.70).

Now with this in mind, let's look at some of Coach Sherman's numbers: The first number we want to consider with Coach Sherman is the number one. One is the number of "NFL Guys" who have achieved a real level of success in college. For details, click here. Now, for the rest of Sherman's statistical story:

Years Overall WP% Conf. WP% Non-Conf. WP% Avg. Recruiting Rank
2008-Present 51.16% (22-21) 46.15% (12-14) 58.82% (10-7) 20.50 (out of 120 teams)

Let's dig into the winning percentage numbers a little deeper:

Years WP% Against Top 25 (time of game ranking) WP% Against Over .500 Teams WP% in Close Games (4 pts. or less)
2008-Present 21.43% (3-11) 38.46% (10-16) 28.57% (2-5)

A few offensive and defensive stats for you as well:

Avg. Scor. Off. Rank - Natl Avg. Scor. Off. Rank - Conf. Avg. Scor. Def. Rank - Natl Avg. Scor. Def. Rank Conf.
33.75 (out of 120) 6 (out of 12) 79.25 (out of 120) 8.25 (out of 12)

A few more defensive stats to consider:

Total Games # of Times Giving up 30+ Pts. # of Times Giving up 40+ Pts.
43 24 (55.81%) 14  (32.56%)

Let's also consider what we call our Good Hire/Bad Hire analysis. Essentially, we look at the state of the program in the five years prior to a coach's arrival and compare it to the state of the program under the current coach.

Overall WP% WP% in Five Previous Years Differential
51.16% 52.46% -1.30%
Conf. WP% Conf. WP% in Five Previous Years Differential
46.15% 47.50% -1.35%

Finally, let's look at how Coach Sherman has performed against opponents of varying talent levels. The way we do this at CBTN is to average out a 4 year period of recruiting rankings and assign it to that year. This gives us a good idea of the average talent of that particular team (though not an exact science, we believe it’s better to be somewhat right than precisely wrong). From there, we then evaluate each team according to their talent level and determine whether or not the games were against superior talent, equivalent talent (having an average within 10 ranking spots), or inferior talent. Let’s see how Coach Sherman performed:

WP% w/Superior Talent WP% w/Inferior Talent WP% w/Equivalent Talent
62.07% (18-11) 20.00% (1-4) 25.00% (2-6)

See how all other coaches perform relative to talent here. To be fair, Mike Sherman's teams do appear to be getting a bit better with last years 9-4 season and the seeming promise of this year's team, which started the season in the Top 10, before blowing two big leads in losses to Oklahoma State and Arkansas.

However, when you closely examine the numbers above, it's hard to believe that you aren't looking at the numbers of a coach of one of the Have Nots in college football. With what seems like every advantage possible, Mike Sherman and Texas A&M simply aren't getting it done. What makes matters even worse for the Aggies is the announcement of their move from the Big 12 to the SEC. While this may be great for their pockets, we are bit skeptical that this will be great for Coach Sherman's numbers.

In the Big 12, only Oklahoma and Texas have talent advantages over Texas A&M. In fact, Coach Sherman has coached 67% of his games with a talent advantage and 86% of his games with superior or equivalent talent. When you consider that 67% (8) of SEC teams had top 25 recruiting classes last year compared to 33% (4) of Big 12 teams and also keep in mind that Coach Sherman has won 30% of his games with equivalent or inferior talent, it's easy to see how Coach Sherman's numbers might look even more like those of a Have Not.

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

Teaser:
<p> Mike Sherman has not gotten the job done during his time in College Station.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 11:36
Path: /fantasy/fred-jackson-lesean-mccoy-matt-forte-fantasys-top-rbs
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

That is right, after five weeks of NFL action, Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson is fantasy football's No. 1 running back.

One of my favorite aspects of fantasy is charting the season of progress. So after five weeks of play (and a 3-2 record in all three leagues), I took a look at the fantasy rankings of Athlon Sports Keeper NFL Fantasy League to see just who the best running backs have been thus far in 2011. And here is what I found:

1. Fred Jackson, Buffalo: 110.7 Total Fantasy Points
Stats: 90 att., 480 yards (5.3), 5 TD, 19 rec., 232 yards, 0 Fum

The Bills workhorse back deserves much of the credit for where the Bills are in the standings right now. He has three 100-yard efforts (his lowest total is 66 yards against the NFL's No. 1 defense two weeks ago) and has scored a touchdown in four straight games. He also has caught at least five passes in three straight games. Expect his workload to stay right where it is, and finishing in the top ten at the end of the season is a near lock. This is not a sell high candidate — ride this wave all season. However, expectations could be lowered with the Giants, Redskins and Jets as his next three.

2. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia: 106.8 TFP
Stats: 77 att., 443 yards (5.8), 5 TD, 19 rec., 110 yards, 2 TD, 0 Fum

Shady McCoy has scored a touchdown in every game and will always find a way to get into the offense — even when he can't run the ball (see nine rushes for 18 yards against the Niners with six catches and a TD through the air.) With Michael Vick battling inconsistency and nagging injuries, you can bet Andy Reid will keep feeding the ball to the playmaker. However, if the Eagles continue to tumble, you might want to try to get full market value for McCoy.

3. Matt Forte, Chicago: 105.5 TFP
Stats: 82 att., 440 yards (5.4), 30 rec., 345 yards, TD, 0 Fum

That is not a misprint, Forte has 30 receptions for 345 yards in the passing game. Only Darren Sproles has caught more passes at the RB position, and no one is close to Forte's yardage total (Sproles, 264). Forte is doing his best Marshall Faulk impression and is not just the focal point of the offense, but maybe the only point of the offense. Especially if Mike Martz is going to give him 23.5 carries per game, like he has over the last two games.

4. Darren McFadden, Oakland: 99.3 TFP
Stats: 91 att., 519 yards (5.7), 3 TD, 17 rec., 149 yards, TD, 1 Fum

The NFL's leading rusher has the talent to be an elite player in this league for a long period of time. However, Run-DMC dealt with injuries throughout his college career at Arkansas and has never played more than 13 games in a season. If you can max-out McFadden's value in a trade, this might be the time to capitalize.

5. Ryan Mathews, San Diego: 96.4 TFP
Stats: 85 att., 413 yards (4.9), 20 rec., 261 yards, 1 Fum

Fantasy owners held their collective breath on Sunday when Mathews left the game against the Broncos with a calf injury. Reports are that it is not serious and that Mathews won't miss any time (whew!). However, like McFadden, Mathews was hurt frequently at Fresno State and during his rookie season last fall. Keep an eye on his carries and don't hesitate to pull the trigger if you can get value for him.

Best of the Rest:

6. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota: 96.2 TFP
7. Darren Sproles, New Orleans: 87.35 TFP
8. Ray Rice, Baltimore: 85.9 TFP
9. Jahvid Best, Detroit: 85.2 TFP
10. Beanie Wells, Arizona: 78.3 TFP

Week 6 NFL Fantasy Waiver Wire

Teaser:
<p> Fred Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte: Fantasy's Top RBs</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 10:16
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten-3
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 6 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Wisconsin (5-0, 1-0) –  The Badgers were on bye in Week Six and might as well be on bye again this weekend. The Badgers, whose smallest margin of victory this year was a 31-point win over Nebraska, will host Indiana at Camp Randall this weekend. The No. 1 offensive attack in the Big Ten will face the league's worst rush defense and the conference's 11th-ranked scoring defense. Wisconsin has beaten the Hoosiers in six straight and 12 of the last 14, including an 83-point drubbing last season. In fact, UW has scored at least 50 points against IU in three of the last five meetings. The Badgers are the No. 4 team in the nation according to the Athlon Sports College Football 120.

2. Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) – Taylor Martinez giveth and Taylor Martinez taketh away. The much-maligned Huskers quarterback has had a rough week answering questions about his play in Madison. And after falling behind 27-6 early in the third quarter on Saturday to the Ohio State Buckeyes, the boos were raining down upon his shoulders once again. But less than 30 minutes later, Big Red Nation showered Martinez with wild adulation after he led the biggest comeback (21 points) in Nebraska history. Martinez scored on an 18-yard dash, threw a 36-yard touchdown pass and tossed another 30-yard touchdown to Rex Burkhead (two of those coming off OSU turnovers) en route to 28 unanswered points in the second half. Nebraska won 34-27 and Martinez finished with 102 yards rushing, 191 yards passing (16-of-22) and three total touchdowns. The Huskers get a break before visiting Minnesota on October 22.

3. Illinois (6-0, 2-0) – After three straight three-point wins, Illinois scored 27 of the game's final 34 points to pull away from Indiana 41-20. The Nathan Scheelhaase to AJ Jenkins connection was once again unstoppable as the duo hooked up six times for 182 yards and two very long (77 and 67 yards) touchdowns. Scheelhaase finished with 210 yards and three touchdowns passing while adding 88 yards on 18 carries and another score on the ground. Ron Zook's squad rolled up 308 yards rushing in the first road game of the season and is poised to challenge Wisconsin in the Leaders Division — especially with Ohio State coming to town next weekend, where the Illini will have a chance at their first 7-0 start since 1951. The last time the Illini beat Ohio State in Champaign was a 7-0 win in 1991.

4. Michigan (6-0, 2-0) – After one week of flawless Denard Robinson, Michigan fans saw their star quarterback revert to shaky passer. Robinson threw three ugly first half interceptions to put the Wolverines in a 24-14 halftime hole. But Shoelace showed Maize and Blue nation why he is squarely in the Heisman Trophy hunt as he led Michigan on three consecutive scoring drives to start the second half. The quarterback, who left the game briefly with a minor injury, finished with 450 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. The Wolverines were a fantastic 14-of-17 on third down conversions. Michigan now faces its toughest test of the season with a road trip to East Lansing to battle the Spartans.

5. Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) – The Spartans got to sit at home and rest this weekend after their brutal 10-7 win in the Horseshoe two weeks ago. It could be a huge advantage with the in-state undefeated arch-rival from Ann Arbor set to visit East Lansing this weekend. The Spartans boast the nation's No. 1 overall defense (173.4 ypg allowed) and will have their hands full with Denard Robinson. From 2002 to 2007, Michigan owned this game (6-0), but the tables have turned over the last three seasons with the Spartans owning a current three-game winning streak. Sparty has averaged nearly 32 points per game in its three straight wins over Michigan.

6. Penn State (5-1, 2-0) – The Nittany Lions needed a big confidence booster, and this weekend, got a massive shot in the arm by beating Iowa 13-3. The Hawkeye offense had been rolling (No. 1 in the Big Ten in passing) and was rested after a bye week, but could not move the football against a staunch PSU defense. Iowa mustered only 253 yards of offense, while Penn State turned back the clock (and controlled it) by pounding the football on the ground to the tune of 231 yards. Tailback Silas Redd led the way with 28 carries for 142 yards. Penn State's offense has been anemic all season, but at 2-0 is still very much alive in the Leaders Division race. With Purdue this weekend and Northwestern following that, PSU could be 7-1 before it gets Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

7. Ohio State (3-3, 0-2) – Just when you thought it couldn't get any more painful for Buckeyes fans, Taylor Martinez happened. The Nebraska quarterback led the biggest comeback in Husker history to beat Ohio State 34-27. Ohio State was up 27-6 when freshman quarterback Braxton Miller was stripped of the football, and shortly thereafter, suffered an ankle injury. Miller had rolled up 95 yards through the air and 91 yards on the ground before leaving the game, and the Buckeyes couldn't recover with Joe Bauserman at the helm. Reports indicate that Miller might be able to return this weekend against Illinois in Champaign with heavy Leaders Division implications on the line.

8. Iowa (3-2, 0-1) – Quarterback James Vandenberg had been leading the Big Ten's top passing offense until he walked into Beaver Stadium. The Hawkeye passer completed only 17-of-34 passes for 169 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Vandenberg had one total interception prior to the 13-3 loss at the hands of the Nittany Lions. The offensive line didn't help much either by allowing five sacks and paving the way for 84 total yards rushing on 30 carries (2.8 ypc). Iowa will welcome Northwestern to Iowa City this weekend.

9. Northwestern (2-3, 0-2) – Stop me if you have heard this before, Wildcats' fans. Dan Persa plays excellently efficient football in leading his team to a big first-half lead only to watch the defense cough up a chance at an upset win. After blowing a 28-10 lead over Illinois two weeks ago, Northwestern blew a 24-14 lead over Michigan to lose 42-24 this weekend. Persa, in only his second start of the season, completeed 32-of-44 passes for 331 yards (11 to Jeremy Ebert), but couldn't make things happen with his legs and couldn't get his team into the end zone in the second half. The heartbroken Wildcats visit Iowa this weekend in what could have major bowl eligibility implications.

10. Purdue (3-2, 1-0) – For this week, Boilermaker fans have plenty to blow their horns about. Purdue used ten different players to run for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries in the 45-17 win over Minnesota. Caleb TerBush got the majority of the snaps, passing for 140 yards on 21 attempts, while Robert Marve also saw time with six of his own attempts. Each quarterback threw a touchdown. Purdue now plays at Penn State at the start of a terribly brutal stretch of schedule. The Boilers' next six: at Penn State, Illinois, at Michigan, at Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. Yuck.

11. Indiana (1-5, 0-2) – The Gunner Kiel era cannot begin soon enough for Indiana. Edward Wright-Baker missed his second straight game with an ankle issue. Dusty Kiel started but hurt his own ankle in the second half. So true freshman Tre Roberson took over and completed 11-of-17 passes for 148 yards and one interception in the 41-20 loss to Illinois. One has to think that Kevin Wilson — whose team scored one offensive touchdown late in the fourth — is already designing plays for Gunner. The Hoosiers travel to Wisconsin this weekend to play a team that scored 83 points on them last fall.

12. Minnesota (1-5, 0-2) – The Gophers turned the ball over three times, converted only 4-of-12 third downs, posted 11 total first downs and 213 yards of total offense in the 45-17 loss to Purdue. The Boilermakers raced to a 31-0 lead and never looked back, giving Minnesota its 14th loss in 17 games (how they beat Illinois and Iowa to end 2010 still astounds me).

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big Ten stack up after the sixth week of action?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 07:50
Path: /news/aaron-rodgers-trouble-chad-clifton-out-indefinitely
Body:

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has to be getting nervous despite a fantastic 5-0 start to the 2011 season. Rodgers, who is the NFL’s all-time most efficient quarterback, will now be without both of his starting offensive tackles for the near future after losing stalwart Chad Clifton Sunday night in Atlanta.

Clifton, a 12-year veteran from Tennessee, was bull-rushed by defensive end Ray Edwards in the second quarter of the 25-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Clifton laid on the turf clutching the back of his leg and was eventually carted off the field. He did not return to the game and Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday that Clifton has a “significant” hamstring injury and will be out indefinitely. McCarthy went on to say that it will take a couple of weeks to figure out just how severe the injury might be.

The Packers were already without 2010 first-round draft pick in right tackle Bryan Bulaga with a knee injury. Bulaga missed his second straight game Sunday night as he did not dress for the Falcons’ contest. There is a chance that Bulaga could return this weekend against St. Louis. His return would be a huge boost for an offensive line that could be in serious trouble - especially considering how potent the Detroit Lions defensive line has looked.

Fellow second year player, Marshall Newhouse (TCU, 6-4, 319) had already been filling in for Bulaga when Clifton went down with the hamstring injury. Newhouse shifted to left tackle and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod stepped into the starting line-up for the first time at right tackle.

The impact of losing Clifton was felt immediately. Atlanta registered four sacks, eight quarterback hits and were constantly forcing Rodgers out of his championship rhythm. The offensive line could not slow the Falcons pass rush, which frequently forced Rodgers out of the pocket and into rushed throws.

That said, the Green Bay Packers are still the reining Super Bowl champions and have won 11 straight games after the 14-0 come-from-behind victory. And much of the credit needs to fall to Rodgers for making due with Falcon defenders breathing down his neck on a regular basis. It only proves that Rodgers is arguably the best player in the game today and is possibly the most valuable commodity any team owns.

Now, without potential Hall of Fame candidate Chad Clifton protecting his blindside, Rodgers’ offensive line is questionable at best and Packers' fans must be nervous about protecting their MVP.

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Teaser:
<p> Aaron Rodgers In Trouble, Chad Clifton Out Indefinitely</p>
Post date: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 18:32
Path: /news/joseph-addai-hurt-fantasy-owners-pick-delone-carter
Body:

Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai knew right away something was wrong with his hamstring just six carries into the 28-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

In the first quarter, Addai took the hand-off over the left side of the line and immediately felt something wrong with his hamstring. The Colts' running back left the game and never returned, but is confident that the injury is not serious.

Addai, the Colts and fantasy owners everywhere will know more after Monday’s MRI results.

For fantasy owners out there, the news is especially painful since Addai and the Colts running game was going to be featured for the rest of the season with the inexperience at quarterback. Therefore, if you happen to own Addai – who had an 86-yard, TD performance just two weeks ago – Delone Carter and/or Donald Brown need to be added to your roster.

Carter, the first year back out of Syracuse, got 12 carries and scored a touchdown in Addai’s absecnce. Brown, a former first round pick, saw fewer carries (8) and didn’t score but was more effective. Brown averaged 4.8 yards per carry while Carter posted an anemic 1.8 clip. Carter had two catches and Brown failed to register a reception.

Brown, on the surface, appears like a more dependable option. He was a first-round pick and has a huge edge in experience. Yet, Brown also has been injury prone and inconsistent.

The right pick-up is likely to be Delone Carter. He has 41 carries on the season for 125 yards and a score while Brown’s eight carries were his first of the season. And on the surface the next two match-ups seem like solid starts for Carter. The Colts head to Cincinnati this weekend and then visit New Orleans the next weekend.

Temper your expectations, however. The Bengals rank fifth in the NFL in scoring by allowing only 18.8 points per game. You might also be surprised to know that the 279.6 yards per game allowed by Cincinnati is the best mark in the NFL. They are seventh in the NFL in rushing defense (88.6). The Saints are actually the much better match-up – if the Colts can keep the score close enough to keep running the ball. New Orleans is allowing 5.2 yards per carry and a middle-of-the-pack 107.6 yards per game. Keep this mind next weekend when setting your line-up.

With Addai claiming the injury isn’t serious and looking to return shortly, grab Carter if you are desperate, but understand that the Bengals and Saints don’t offer as easy a match-up as you may think.

- by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Teaser:
<p> Joseph Addai Hurt, Fantasy Owners Pick-up Delone Carter</p>
Post date: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 17:56
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 6 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Oregon (4-1, 2-0) – Oregon's closest win in 2010 was a tightly played win over Cal in Berkeley. On Thursday night, the Ducks exacted some "revenge" by steam-rolling the Bears in the second half 43-15. But it came at a high price. Tailback LaMichael James ran for this third straight 200-yard game (the NCAA's fifth player to do it), but early in the fourth quarter James dislocated his right elbow and was carted off in an air-cast. Elbow Watch 2011 is now in full effect in Eugene as a timetable for his return has yet to be set. Look for stellar freshman De'Anthony Thomas and very capable back-up Kenjon Barner to fill the immediate void. Thomas has 477 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in five games while Barner has 190 yards and four touchdowns in three games in 2011. A potential Pac-12 championship game preview takes place this weekend in Autzen Stadium as Arizona State comes to town.

2. Stanford (5-0, 3-0) – Cardinal fans must be completely disappointed: Andrew Luck threw, gasp, an interception this weekend in the 48-7 win over Colorado. The nation's best player completed 26-of-33 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns in the rout. Stanford is now averaging 46.2 points per game (seventh nationally) and has won its five games by an average margin of victory of 35.6 points. Luck's Heisman Trophy Tour heads to Pullman, Washington this weekend when Stanford visits Washington State. The Cougars were a gamey bunch last fall in the 38-28 loss in Palo Alto.

3. Arizona State (5-1, 3-0) – Brock Osweiler had his third career 300-yard passing effort in a turnover-aided 35-14 win over divisional foe Utah. Three turnovers on three consecutive possessions late in the third quarter helped blow open a close game to give the Sun Devils a 3-0 conference record and a commanding lead in the Pac-12 South. Osweiler finished with 325 yards and three touchdowns on a night where Cameron Marshall was held in check (21 att., 47 yards, TD). After forcing five more turnovers, ASU leads the Pac-12 in turnover margin at +1.33 per game. The Devils have the unenviable task of visiting the Oregon Ducks in Eugene this weekend in what could be a preview of the Pac-12 title game.


4. Washington (4-1, 2-0) – The Huskies got some well-deserved rest this weekend during the bye week. Washington now faces Colorado for the first time since 2000. The all-time series is tied up 5-5-1, and the Huskies are 2-3-1 all-time in Seattle against the Buffs. Washington must take care of business in a game it will be heavily favored to win as the schedule features Oregon, Stanford and USC as three of the next four games after this weekend.

5. USC (4-1, 2-1) – The Week Six bye week came a good time for USC as a Thursday night trip to Cal faces the Men of Troy this week. A trip to a surging Notre Dame squad and Stanford at home follow the primetime contest with the Bears. Matt Barkley threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns on 25-of-37 passing in last year's win over Cal. In fact, over the last two games, Barkley and USC have outscored Cal 78-17. Southern California has won seven straight games over Cal.

6. California (3-2, 0-2) – The Bears played valiant football in the first half — taking a 15-14 lead over Oregon into halftime on Thursday night. But that was as far as the Bears could go, allowing 29 second half points to the potent Ducks offense. Oregon rushed for 365 yards on 51 carries against what was ninth-ranked rushing defense in the nation (78.25). Now, Cal ranks 51st nationally at 135.6 yards per game. Cal faces another tough test against USC at home this weekend. USC has won seven straight over the Bears.

7. UCLA (3-3, 2-1) – The UCLA Bruins experienced the biggest move in the power rankings this week as they jump from 10th to seventh after a back-and-forth 28-25 win over Washington State. In a game that featured blocked extra-points, multiple two-point conversions, a broken leg and nearly dead-even offensive production (389 yards to 371 yards), Bruins back-up quarterback Kevin Prince — who was booed when he took the field — was the hero. Prince tossed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Evans with 3:26 left in the game to cap an eight-point fourth-quarter comeback after starting quarterback Rchard Brehaut broke his leg in the second quarter. UCLA gets some much-needed time off before facing Arizona on the road in two weeks in a primetime Thursday night affair.

8. Utah (2-3, 0-3) – Jon Hays made his first career start this weekend and it showed. He completed just 18 of his 33 attempts for 199 yards and threw three key interceptions in the 35-14 loss to Arizona State. For the second straight game, Utah turned the ball over five times, and it has led to a nasty baptism into Pac-12 play. The Utes are now 0-3 in their first three Pac-12 conference games in school history. The good news is Utah gets a break from Pac-12 play this weekend with a trip to Pittsburgh in an interesting mid-season BCS conference match-up with the Panthers, who have been one of the most schizophrenic teams in the nation.

9. Washington State (3-2, 1-1) – The Cougars were less than four minutes away from winning their fourth game of the season and starting 2-1 in Pac-12 play. However, UCLA back-up quarterback Kevin Prince tossed a go-ahead touchdowns with 3:26 left and Washington State went home from Westwood a loser. This weekend has been targeted as the return of starting quarterback Jeff Tuel after his Week One broken collarbone. Paul Wulff might have a tough decision to make as current signal-caller Marshall Lobbestael has averaged 335 yards per game in four starts with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. It may not matter who starts at quarterback, however, as Stanford comes to town this Saturday.

10. Arizona (1-5, 0-4) – The temperature underneath Mike Stoops' rear end just got kicked up a notch. Losing to teams ranked in the top ten nationally is one thing, but losing to the winless Oregon State Beavers 37-27 is another. And it really wasn't even close as Oregon State took a 27-6 lead into halftime. Nick Foles continued his strong play — 378 yards passing — but the lack of a running game (53 yards on 19 att.) and the 115th-ranked total defense cost the Wildcats a chance at their first Pac-12 win. Stoops and company get to lick their wounds during the bye before facing UCLA on Thursday, October 20.

11. Colorado (1-5, 0-2) –
Colorado was no match for Stanford, losing 48-7. Unfortunately, the Buffs are in the heart of one of the nastiest stretches any team in the nation will ever have to face. The loss to the Cardinal kicked off a five-game slate that features a trip to Washington this weekend followed by Oregon at home, at Arizona State and USC at home. In case, you didn't notice, those are the top five teams on this list.

12. Oregon State (1-4, 1-2) – The Beavers finally got into the win column with a home victory over a reeling Arizona team 37-27. Oregon State halted the Wildcats running game (53 yards) and produced a balanced attack of its own with 280 yards passing and 128 yards on the ground. Sean Mannion was efficient in completing 32-of-41 passes for 267 yards and two scores. The Beavers get to host BYU this weekend.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after the sixth week of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 10:30
Path: /columns/national-notebook/betting-against-spread-week-6-picks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Is going 8-3-1 against the spread a good thing? Because that is what happened last week, and I sure hope you got in on the action. I hit on my top four picks (Tech tied) as well as winning underdogs Northwestern, Arkansas, Washington and Michigan State. I have gone to the well multiple times with LSU, Alabama, Stanford and Georgia Tech this season, and Bama came through for me again last weekend.

As I dove into the Week 6 slate of college football action, I began to get a queasy feeling deep in my gut. There is not a lot to like this weekend.

Season Record ATS: 28-17-2 (8-3-1 last week)

Week 6's Top Picks:

UConn (+19.5) at West Virginia
The Huskies currently sit at 2-3 with losses to not-exactly-worldbeaters Iowa State, Vanderbilt and Western Michigan. UConn ranks 86th in the nation in scoring, and it appears hard to believe that it can score with WVU's 13th rated scoring attack. In fact, the Mountaineers have never lost to UConn in three meetings in Morgantown — scoring over 46 points per game in those wins. Geno Smith should have a field day after watching UConn give up 38 points and 479 yards to Western Michigan's Alex Carder last week. My Pick: West Virginia -19.5

Arizona State (-3.5) at Utah
The Utes, coming off an upset home loss to Washington in which they rushed for 17 yards on 23 carries, will be without starting quarterback Jordan Wynn. Instead, they turn to junior college transfer Jon Hays. The newcomer threw for 156 yards with one touchdown and one interception each in the second half. Arizona State has scored 78 points in its 2-0 Pac-12 start behind the powerful running of Cameron Marshall. The Sun Devils also held the Oregon State rushing game to 47 yards last week and will once again force the QB to beat them. The Utes' 91st-ranked pass defense will struggle against Arizona State, and Utah will start its Pac-12 existence 0-3. My Pick: Arizona State -3.5

Iowa (+4) at Penn State
The Hawkeyes have dominated this contest for the better part of a decade. They have won eight out of nine overall and five of the last six meetings in Beaver Stadium. Iowa, behind a very balanced offensive attack, have scored no less than 31 points in a game this season while Penn State has totalled 41 points against Temple, Indiana and Alabama (discounting the 34-point effort against Eastern Michigan). Iowa should win this game outright, so the four points are simply a nice little cushion. It doesn't hurt that Penn State is the only team in the nation 0-5 against the spread this fall. My Pick: Iowa +4

Louisville (-13.5) at North Carolina
The Cardinals are reeling after one of the worst BCS showings of the season. Louisville rushed for 60 yards on 29 carries in the 17-13 loss to Marshall last weekend. They are averaging just over 18 points per game to rank 105th in the nation in scoring. The Tar Heels are reaping the benefits of some of the most balanced offensive football in the nation (226 rushing, 230 passing last week). North Carolina has scored at least 28 points in three straight games and will ride tailback Giovani Bernard and quarterback Bryn Renner against a Louisville team that will be simply overmatched. North Carolina -13.5

Texas A&M (-9.5) at Texas Tech
The Red Raiders have won seven of the last eight meetings in Lubbock and are sporting one of the nation's most potent offenses. Tech is fourth in the nation in scoring at 47.25 points per game and seventh nationally at 525 yards per game. Texas A&M on the other hand is staggering around the ring after two second-half uppercuts to the jaw by Oklahoma State and Arkansas. The Aggies have allowed an alarming 948 yards passing in the last two, so look for Seth Doege and his plethora of talented skill players to keep this one close. No one wants to lose the last conference game ever played with the Aggies. Texas Tech +9.5

Boston College (-20.5) at Clemson
The Tigers have won three straight games over Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech. The Eagles have yet to beat an FBS opponent in 2011. With losses to Duke, UCF, Wake Forest and Northwestern, Boston College should pose no threat to the Tigers. They rank 99th in total offense and 98th in scoring offense, while Clemson is clicking on all cylinders. Tajh Boyd is playing brilliant football with 13 total touchdowns and only one interception over his last four games. BC lost 25-7 on its last trip to Death Valley, and this weekend should be even worse. My Pick: Clemson -20.5

If you are still feeling lucky:

Illinois (-14) at Indiana
Illini are getting to the quarterback, and Hoosiers are not protecting him. Illini big.

East Carolina (-11) at Houston
The Pirates are 100th in scoring defense this fall and should not slow Houston. Take the Cougars and the over.

Auburn (+10) at Arkansas
There is just no point in ever betting against Auburn — ever again. High-scoring, close game.

Michigan (-7) at Northwestern
The Wolverines have allowed a total of 10 points in three games. This team is starting to look shockingly like a Michigan football team.

Georgia (-1.5) at Tennessee
The Vols will not be able to run the ball — at all. The Dawgs are just the better team.

Florida (+13) at LSU
Jeff Driskel making his first career start in Death Valley? No thanks. Geaux Tigers.

2011 Trends:

4-0 Against the Spread: Georgia Tech (4-0-1), Rutgers, Stanford

4-1 Against the Spread: Alabama, Arkansas St, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida, Marshall, Michigan, Temple, UTEP, Washington, Western Michigan, Wisconsin

3-1 Against the Spread: Baylor, Georgia (3-1-1), Kansas State, Missouri, Navy, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington State

0-5 Against the Spread: Penn State

0-4 Against the Spread: NC State (0-4-1), Oregon State

1-4 Against the Spread: Arizona State, Boston College, Central Michigan, Colorado State, UConn, Kent State, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, UCLA, Tulane, Virginia, Virginia Tech

1-3 Against the Spread: Air Force, Florida State, Louisville, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Miami (Ohio), Oregon State, Purdue, Rice, South Carolina (1-3-1), Texas A&M, TCU (1-3-1), Troy

Other Week 6 Content:

Mitch Light's Top Ten Match-ups of Week 6

Steven Lassan's Oklahoma-Texas In-depth Preview

Athlon Picks Every Game of the Week 6 Slate

Athlon's Editors Debate the Red River Rivalry
Week 5 Biggest Storylines and Upsets To Watch

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 16:00
Path: /columns/nfl-perspective/nfl-coaches-hot-seat
Body:

- by Ralph Vacchiano

The usual suspects are all lurking out there for anyone tempted to make a switch. Bill Cowher is always rumored to be on the verge of returning to coaching, even though he seems comfortable in the CBS studio. So is Jon Gruden, despite looking cozy in the ESPN Monday Night Football booth.

Maybe they aren’t realistic options until 2012. Still, they are incredibly tempting targets even this early in the season for teams already looking towards the future. And for some teams, they have to already be thinking about next season and the possibility of a coaching change.

In fact there are a few coaches whose seat is so hot right now, they’ll be lucky to make it all the way to Week 17 …

1.  Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are not only 0-4, but they’ve now lost QB Chad Henne (shoulder) for the season and Sparano hasn’t had any luck figuring out how to get production out of their big offseason acquisition – RB Reggie Bush. Speaking of luck, they sure do look like the early favorites in the race for QB Andrew Luck and the first pick of the 2012 draft. Considering ownership nearly replaced Sparano last year, his tenure might be reduced to a matter of days.

How hot is his seat: Red. Fire-engine red. Red-hot chili peppers red.

Names to watch in the future: It’s a good bet they’ll want to make a big splash and if they get Luck they might have their pick of top college coaches to lure South … that’s if they can’t land one of the two biggest fishes in the sea, of course. Could be a very interesting spot for Cowher or Gruden. There will be a lot of money here.

2. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams

Things looked so promising when his team went 7-9 last year and nearly won the weak NFC West. But now, even though the division still stinks, his Rams are all-but out of it at 0-4. He has been unable to get much out of his offense, despite the presence of promising young quarterback Sam Bradford. Much more damning is the fact is that he was billed as a defensive genius, yet the Rams’ defense is one of the worst in the league. Because of injuries and a frugal organization, he could be spared (he makes about $3 million per season). Then again, this is the third year of his four-year contract, so it wouldn’t cost a lot to make a change.

How hot is his seat: Redder than the face of his former boss, Tom Coughlin, when the temperature was minus-22 in the 2007 NFC championship game.

Names to watch in the future: Don’t expect the Rams to be players for a big name. They’ll go the unproven assistant route. Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer might be a name to watch. He could be good to work with Bradford. Same goes for Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. And, for that matter, the same goes for former Giants coach (and current UFL coach) Jim Fassel, who is hardly “unproven” but wouldn’t cost a ton either.

3. Jack DelRio, Jacksonville Jaguars

If the Jaguars weren’t so cheap, they probably would’ve pulled this trigger years ago. The move to get rid of QB David Garrard on the eve of the season probably sealed DelRio’s fate. Plus, they might need an offensive mind to work with their quarterback of the future, Blaine Gabbert

How hot is his seat: No hotter than usual, but it still has to hurt.

Names to watch in the future: Forget the big names, and think small salaries. Schottenheimer makes some sense, though they’re more likely to find a completely unknown name to pull out of thin air.

4. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs

They have been such an enormous disappointment coming off a 10-6 season. There is talent here, though, and a decent chance they’ll rebound to at least mediocrity. Already, though, in usually quiet Kansas City there’s been some murmuring about replacing Haley and maybe even GM Scott Pioli. The latter isn’t going to happen, and it’s a good bet that Pioli won’t pull the trigger on Haley either … unless this thing really gets a lot worse.

How hot is his seat: Uncomfortable, but not scalding … yet.

Names to watch in the future: You would think that if Pioli did ever pull the trigger he might want someone off the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Like Eric Mangini, maybe? It wouldn’t make sense, but for a not-so-successful coach he’s already had more lives than anyone thought he would. Better choices would be former Ravens coach Brian Billick or Fassel to take advantage of an offense loaded with talent.

5. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

The natives were growing restless with Reid already, though he’s been one of the finest coaches in the NFL for more than a decade. There comes a point where everyone runs his course, though, and Reid might be reaching that point. The Dream Team has been a colossal disappointment so far, and if they go down in flames they both may decide to part ways. It’s a classic, be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenario for Eagles fans, but it might be closer to happening than it ever has been in the past.

How hot is his seat: Warm. But he can take the heat.

Names to watch in the future: If any job is going to coax Cowher or Gruden to come out of the TV studio, this is it. It’s a team loaded with talent and ready to win.

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL head coaches won't make it to Week 17 of the 2011 season?</p>
Post date: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 11:17
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Start or Sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/fantasy-football-week-5-start-sit-running-backs
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Complete Week 5 NFL Fantasy Rankings


Week 5 Start & Sit: Quarterbacks
Week 5 Start & Sit: Running Backs
Week 5 Start & Sit: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Week 5 NFL Byes: Dallas, Cleveland, Washington, Baltimore, St. Louis, Miami

Start These Running Backs:

Joseph Addai, Indianapolis (Kansas City)
Don’t be fooled by the 41 yards on 11 carries last week from Addai. The Bucs forced Curtis Painter to beat them (and he nearly did). If the Colts expect to win any games this season (which they may not want to do, actually), then the ground game will have to feature prominently. And the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t stopped many rushing attacks as they rank 26th in the NFL against the run allowing 130 yards per game. They are also giving up an NFL-worst 31.5 points per game. Play Addai and feel good about it.

Willis McGahee, Denver (San Diego)
The former Bill and Raven promised big production during the summer months. Then he asked for the football more. It appears that not only was he right but that John Fox is going to give him what he wants. Certainly, a banged-up Knowshon Moreno has helped open the door, but McGahee has charged through it with renewed vigor. All but four of his 69 carries this season have come in the last three weeks, and while San Diego isn’t a great match-up, the Chargers did give up 28 points and nearly 150 yards rushing in Denver last season.

Arian Foster, Houston (Oakland)
This one may seem too obvious, but Foster looks like he is officially back. And Oakland looks ripe for the fantasy running back’s picking. The Raiders were gashed on the edge last weekend by Stevan Ridley and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the tune of 183 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. With Andre Johnson out for this one, expect Foster to get a boatload of touches.

Deep Week 5 RB Plays:

Issac Redman, Pittsburgh (Tennessee)
Even if Mendenhall plays, it is likely to be the fresher, healthier Redman who figures to get the bulk of the carries.

LaDainian Tomlinson, NY Jets (at New England)
Rex Ryan has vowed to return to the ground, and it won’t just be Shonn Greene who gets touches.

Stevan Ridley, New England (NY Jets)
With Danny Woodhead not practicing and Bill Belichick’s desire to rotate backs, look for Ridley to get 10-14 touches.

Thomas Jones, Kansas City (at Indianapolis)
The Colts have been unable to slow anyone's ground game and Jones could benefit.

Sit These Running Backs:

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (at San Francisco)
Blount has looked the part of weekly fantasy starter this fall. But against the Colts a mediocre fantasy week was salvaged by a late long touchdown run. And that was against one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. This week, the Bucs travel across four time zones to take on the NFL’s No. 4 rushing defense in the Niners. They are allowing 74 yards per game on the ground and have yet to surrender a single rushing touchdown to anyone. You may have better options.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Tennessee)
After battling a bad hamstring issue all week, the Steeleres running back does not look like he should be anywhere near your line-up this week. The Titans have been stingy on defense — they rank as the No. 8 rush defense in the league at 87.8 yards per game. The Steelers offensive line has looked terrible thus far as Mendenhall is averaging just over 40 yards per game this season when healthy. Look for Redman to get plenty of work.

Ryan Grant and James Starks, Green Bay (at Atlanta)
This looks like the definition of a timeshare now that Grant has returned to the playing field. The Packers have no loyalty to any one particular running back. This game also has passing game written all over it as Green Bay is No. 2 (71 ypg) in the NFL in rushing defense and Atlanta is No. 10 (97.3 ypg).

Mike Tolbert, San Diego (at Denver)
In full PPR leagues, Tolbert still offers some value as he caught eight passes over the last two weeks. But his role continues to shrink with the emergence and improved play of Ryan Mathews. Tolbert has 10 carries in the last two games while Mathews has had 37 over that same span. If he does not reach paydirt — which he has done one time since week one — he offers little value to the traditionally scored fantasy league.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 5 Start or Sit: Running Backs</p>
Post date: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 11:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/manny-diaz-has-eyes-texas-excited
Body:

Before the season started, Bruce Feldman wrote a great piece about Texas' new Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz. Apparently, Manny Diaz is a coach that very much believes in digging into the numbers and trying to look at coaching defense from as many angles as possible.

Diaz, who didn't play college football, was apparently very taken with Michael Lewis' book Moneyball. Since reading the book, Diaz has tried to utilize any and all available statistics to evaluate his defenses and his approach to measuring his defenses.

If you are not familiar with the book, now a major motion picture as well, Moneyball details how Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane was able to use statistical analysis to turn a low-budget, mid-market team that had become a cellar dweller into a perennial playoff contender. Since the book appeared in print in 2003, virtually every major league baseball franchise has started to use statistical analysis to help run their organization. Feldman goes into detail in his article about the different and unique statistics Diaz uses to help evaluate the success of his defenses. In the spirit of Moneyball and Coach Diaz' inner stat nerd, let's see how his CBTN stats look:

Coach School Yrs. Coached at School CBTN Rating CBTN Stars WP% WP% in Previous Five Years Avg. Recruiting Rank
Manny Diaz MTSU 4 46.22 47.37% 42.37% 96.80
Manny Diaz Miss. St. 1 74.17 69.23% 38.33% N/A - Too Few Years

For some perspective on the job Diaz has done, let's look at some numbers of his predecessors at MTSU:

Coach School Yrs. Coached at School CBTN Rating CBTN Stars WP% Avg. Scoring Defense
Steve Davis MTSU 3 25.97 45.71% 28.31
Bradley Dale Paveto MTSU 1 27.75 45.45% 24.45
Mark Criner MTSU 1 60.92 36.36% 18.73

So, the average CBTN Rating for MTSU's Defensive Coordinator's over the previous five years to Diaz' arrival was 33.32. This compares to Diaz' CBTN Rating of 46.22 rating in his four years as DC at MTSU. In other words, Diaz had a nearly 39% positive impact on MTSU's defense. Now that week 5 is in the books for this year, let's look at how Diaz is doing at Texas thus far compared to last year:

Coach School Year WP% Avg. Scoring Defense Scoring Defense National Rank Total Defense
Will Muschamp Texas 2010 41.66% 23.67 49 300.17
Manny Diaz Texas 2011 100.00% 14.75 12 289.00

So far so good in 2011. Texas may have indeed found a gem when they hired Diaz to replace Will Muschamp. However, looking at the schedule, some major defensive challenges await in the form of Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma St., and Baylor. We'll wait and see if this next stretch of games moves his numbers closer to Muschamp's mediocre 2010 numbers (by Texas standards), or if he can stay the current course. To see more our proprietary Defensive Coordinator Rankings for active and inactive Defensive Coordinators, please visit our CBTN Ranking's Page.

Teaser:
<p> Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has reenergized the Texas Longhorn defense.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 11:01

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