Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/fantasy-football-running-backs-workload-watch
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Athlon Sports takes a look at which running backs have touched the ball the most per game over the last three years and over the last two years. This gives you an idea of both which backs have been given the most opportunities, while at the same time lets you know which backs might be wearing down.

It's interesting to note that Arian Foster, having played just one full season, already ranks eighth in touches per game in both charts.

Touches Per Game, Three-Year vs. Two-Year

Rank Three-Year Stats TPG TCH GP
1 Steven Jackson 24.3 1044 43
2 Adrian Peterson 22.6 1060 47
3 Chris Johnson 22.6 1062 47
4 Cedric Benson 22.0 901 41
5 Michael Turner 21.2 911 43
6 Frank Gore 20.8 813 39
7 Maurice Jones-Drew 20.8 957 46
8 Arian Foster 20.7 455 22
9 Matt Forté 20.5 982 48
10 Ryan Grant 19.5 645 33
11 Thomas Jones 19.3 926 48
12 LaDainian Tomlinson 19.1 858 45
Rank Two-Year Stats TPG TCH GP
1 Steven Jackson 24.2 751 31
2 Chris Johnson 24.0 768 32
3 Maurice Jones-Drew 23.3 698 30
4 Cedric Benson 23.0 667 29
5 Ray Rice 21.9 702 32
6 Adrian Peterson 21.8 676 31
7 Frank Gore 21.2 530 25
8 Arian Foster 20.7 455 22
9 Michael Turner 19.6 529 27
10 Rashard Mendenhall 19.2 614 32
11 Matt Forté 18.8 603 32
12 Thomas Jones 18.8 600 32

— Braden Gall @AthlonBraden on Twitter

THIS WEEK'S POSITIONAL STORIES: QBRBWRTEKDST

More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs

2
011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
2
011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Friday, September 2, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /columns/national-notebook/college-football-recruiting-notebook-sept-2
Body:

Each week, Athlon recruiting editor Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden) takes a big-picture glance at the world of recruiting - the lifeblood of college football. Official visits, verbal commitments, rankings updates and high school results will be incorporated into Athlon Sports' national recruiting notebook.

It was a relatively quiet week on the recruiting trail. Not surprising considering high school football began in earnest last weekend and the college game kicks-off this weekend.

Notre Dame Lands Big Fish

The biggest news of the week came when Athlon Consensus 100 defensive tackle Jarron Jones made his verbal pledge to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound defensive lineman hails from Aquinas Institute in Rochester, New York. He is the No. 22 overall player in the nation and the No. 3-rated defensive tackle in the AC100. He instantly becomes the highest-rated prospect in this class.

The big nose guard had previously been verballed to Penn State but decommitted and chose Notre Dame over Virginia Tech, North Carolina and the Nittany Lions. He is a massive interior player who could wind up on either side of the ball. He has excellent power and strength at the point of attack and has incredible length in his upper body. Jones actually has room to get bigger and could be scary playing around 315 pounds.

Brian Kelly established himself as an elite recruiter last fall when he landed the best defensive class in the nation. It appears he is pillaging the nation for front seven defenders again in 2012. Jones becomes the 14th Irish commitment and makes this a top-15 class nationally — including fellow AC100 D-Lineman Sheldon Day.

Jones is the fifth AC100 verbal pledge for Notre Dame. Defensive back Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif.) is ranked No. 51, defensive back Ronald Darby (Oxon Hill, Md.) is No. 54, wideout Deontay Greenberry (Fresno, Calif.) is No. 85 and Day (Indianapolis, Ind.) is No. 92.

Only Florida State’s six AC100 commitments best Kelly’s five.

Quarterback Flip-Flop

Talent evaluation is an on-going process with a never-ending schedule of tournaments, showcases, camps, and most importantly, actual football games. Rivals and 24/7 Sports are two of the six services used to compile the AC100, and both reworked their rankings of late. Both had big things to say about the nation’s No. 1 quarterback.

Columbus (Ind.) East’s Gunner Kiel (pictured) was the nation’s No. 1 quarterback recruit since the debut of the 2012 AC100. However, after the recent “re-vals,” Hueytown’s (Ala.) Jameis Winston is now America’s top signal-caller. Winston, also a talented Major League Baseball prospect, now sits as the No. 12-ranked prospect regardless of position — two spots ahead of Kiel, who rests at No. 14 for the time being.

Winston pushed Hueytown High to a come-from-behind victory over 4A defending state champs Thomasville by rushing 117 yards and four touchdowns. However, he completed just 10 of his 21 passes for 138 yards and three interceptions. While he was a bit rusty through the air, Winston’s two late scoring drives prove he is a force to reckoned with.

Kiel, on the other hand, struggled mightily in his season-opener against Greenwood (IN) High School. He completed just four of his 17 attempts for an unimaginable 44 yards. He did rush for 70 yards on 10 carries and his team won 28-7, but one has to wonder why the nation’s No. 2 quarterback managed only five yards passing the second half.

It is only one game, but it proves that Kiel clearly has work left to do in order to be ready to play for the Hoosiers next season. Scouts are certainly ready to see Kiel back out on the field this weekend.

The 6-foot-4, 212-pound Kiel is headed to Indiana while the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Winston is committed to Florida State.

This Week’s Other Commitments:

Alabama: Darius Philon, DT, Prichard (AL) Vigor, 6-2, 265
Boise State: Chanceller James, S, Spring Valley (CA) Steele Canyon, 6-3, 190
Arkansas: Robert Gregory, QB, Chicago (IL) Simeon, 6-2, 185
Oregon State: Joel Skotte, MLB, Bend (OR) Mountain View, 6-2, 225
Louisville: Patrick Jean, OLB, Port St. Lucie (FL) Treasure Coast, 6-3, 200
 

Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame lands AC100 tackle and nation's new No. 1 QB highlight this week's recruiting notebook.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 20:28
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/college-fantasy-start-or-sit-week-1
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Week One is here!

It is always the most volatile weekend of action during the college football season. Smart fantasy owners snagged Jacquizz Rodgers in 2008, Ricky Dobbs in 2009 and Justin Blackmon in 2010 after the first week of action. I shouldn't have to explain to anyone what those three meant to fantasy GMs.

Week One means many things. It means third-string running backs are viable options in absurd FBS-on-FCS dismantlings. It means elite-level quarterbacks may not have to throw very much. It means wild uncertainty about facing totally revamped defensive units and new coaching schemes.

Most importantly, it means opportunity.

Start These Quarterbacks:

In the first week of action, look for new quarterbacks, or maybe those in new schemes, to get more work than the established stars. Names like EJ Manuel, Kriss Proctor and Tajh Boyd need to get reps against live competition. Developing youngsters like Tyler Bray should be allowed to throw, while a guy like Tino Sunseri enters his first season with no-huddle guru Todd Graham calling plays. It is important for new coaches and quarterbacks to get into rhythm quickly, and fantasy GMs can capitalize.

Tajh Boyd, Clemson (Troy)
Rumor has it that Dabo Swinney would like to run Boyd upwards of 150 times this season. If that is the case, Boyd will have plenty of fantasy value. Against Troy in his first real game as THE guy under center, expect the coaches to give him free rein to score points.

Kriss Proctor, Navy (Delaware)
I am not going to lie — Dobbs' 2009 campaign saved my fantasy rear-end. And while his 935-yard, 14-TD season a year ago wasn't as mythical, it was still extremely useful. The Navy QB spot won't ever put up big numbers through the air, so depending on your scoring system, Proctor may not have the same value. But in 4-pt passing touchdown leagues, this senior signal caller has loads of upside - especially against the Blue Hens.

EJ Manuel, Florida State (UL Monroe)
Getting reps is the name of the game for Jimbo Fisher and his new star quarterback. The Sun Belt competition offers a perfect opportunity to hone his skills against live competition two weeks before the Sooners come to town. Fisher would be smart to let Manuel throw it around this weekend.

Chris Relf, Mississippi State (@ Memphis)
Josh Harris. Alex Smith. Tim Tebow. And Chris Relf? The first three names were Dan Mullen-coached fantasy goliaths. Relf may never reach Greek God status, but this Bulldogs team returns a deep and talented skill corps and Relf took major strides late in 2010. He is the leader and will put up big numbers in a city where Mullen has to look good in order to recruit.

Jeff Tuel, Washington State (Idaho State)
The Cougars showed slight improvement in 2010, and Tuel finished his season with a huge bang: 298 yards, 3 TD, 25 rush yards, TD. Against an FCS school, Paul Wulff cannot afford to mess around. Expect big numbers from the Cougars offense in the opener.

Tino Sunseri, Pitt (Buffalo)
New head coach Todd Graham brings with him a face-paced, spread attack that posted massive fantasy numbers at Tulsa. While Sunseri might not have the most talent, he does have a talented group of backs and receivers to throw to. New coach, new scheme, poor competition? Yes, please.

Deeper Options:

John Brantley, Florida (FAU)
Tyler Bray, Tennessee (Montana)
James Vandenberg, Iowa (Tennessee Tech)
Alex Gillett, Eastern Michigan (Howard)

Sit These Quarterbacks:

Darron Thomas, Oregon (LSU, Arlington)
Play at your own risk, LSU is loaded for bear on defense and should be plenty motivated.

Kolton Browning, UL Monroe (@ Florida State)
Maybe there is a chance at a garbage touchdown, but not much else.

Corey Robinson, Troy (@ Clemson)
See Kolton Browning above.

Dan Persa, Northwestern (@ Boston College)
Not fully healthy, and BC is always strong on defense.

Dominique Davis, East Carolina (@ South Carolina)
Excellent Gamecocks front seven will make life difficult for ECU offense all night long.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor (TCU)
Bears have been stewing about this one, and RG3 is tough to bench, but TCU dominated this game in 2010.

GJ Kinne, Tulsa (@ Oklahoma)
Should score some late points but without go-to star Damaris Johnson to help, the numbers will be limited.

Start These Running Backs:

Don't shy away from your studs in Week One, but certainly keep an eye on the 'blowout factor.' How long with Rex Burkhead be in the game? He is a virtual lock for at least 100 yards and a score, so he is impossible to bench, but will he get any carries in the second half against Chattanooga at home? Unlikely. In this vein, if you are truly desperate, look to the talented back-up who coaches need to get reps — like Nebraska's true freshman dynamo Aaron Green.

Keola Antolin, Arizona (Northern Arizona)
Against their only non-FBS opponent a year ago, the Cats rushed for 215 yards and five touchdowns as a team. Expect Ka'Deem Carey to see some time, but Antolin should top the century mark and reach paydirt at least once.

Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (Elon)
Warren Norman may not be as healthy as Dores fans may have thought, and Stacy got great reviews from new coach James Franklin this week. Expect a healthy dose of the talented sophomore against the Phoenix.

Michael Shaw, Michigan (Western Michigan)
Reports indicate that the starters will play most of this game even if it gets out of hand. Look for new coach Brady Hoke to exhaust the running game and especially Shaw.

David Sims, Georgia Tech (Western Carolina)
There are a lot of backs in Atlanta, and a lot of backs will get touches against the Catamounts. Sims looks to be the starter at the B-back, which has traditionally been the most productive fantasy position in this backfield.

Desmond Scott, Duke (Richmond)
In his last two games against FCS opponents, Scott has carried the ball 31 times for 177 yards and scored two of his four career rushing touchdowns. He added three receptions in those games as well. Expect good things against the Spiders.

Perry Jones, Virginia (William & Mary)
Despite Jones being the starter last year, Keith Payne got most of the fantasy points. While Kevin Parks will work his way into the rotation, his skillset duplicates that of Jones. Expect good numbers from both.

Shontrelle Johnson, Iowa State (Northern Iowa)
Alexander Robinson rushed for nearly 2,200 yards the last two seasons as the starter, and Johnson has shown the ability to carry the load. He should be a quality start against the in-state FCS rival.

DJ Shoemate, UConn (Fordham)
The offense will struggle all season — but not against Fordham. Keep an eye on the start time/day of this one as the game has been postponed from Thursday. Saturday afternoon is the most likely solution.

James Sims, Kansas (McNeese State)
Sims got 67 of 168 carries, 307 of his 742 yards and six of his nine rushing touchdowns in the final four weeks of the season last fall. Kansas will most assuredly not allow another FCS opponent to sneak up on them (cough North Dakota cough State cough).

Chris Rainey, Florida (FAU)
The Gators certainly do not have a traditional power back that Charlie Weis likely craves, but against FAU he won't need one. Rainey should get the 12-18 touches needed to produce a viable fantasy score this week.

Garbage Time Specials:

Eddie Lacy, Alabama (Kent State)
Aaron Green, Nebraska (Chattanooga)
Jason White, Iowa (Tennessee Tech)
LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State (@ Memphis)
Onterio McCalebb, Auburn (Utah State)

Injury/Suspension Fill-ins:

Andre Williams, Boston College (Northwestern)
Jesse Callier, Washington (Eastern Washington)
Jordan Hall, Ohio State (Akron)

Sit These Running Backs:

LaMichael James, Oregon (LSU, Arlington)
Virtual match-up-proof player, but LSU front seven will be tough to push around. Bench at your own risk.

Robert Turbin, Utah State (@ Auburn)
Coming back from injury and traveling across the country to play at defending national champs? No, thanks.

Zach Line, SMU (@ Texas A&M)
Stangs will have to throw a lot to keep up with Aggies' offensive firepower.

Bryce Beall and Charles Sims, Houston (UCLA)
Rick Neuheisel has plenty of talent, and his team is familiar with Cougars after 31-13 win last season.

Doug Martin vs. Isaiah Crowell (Boise State vs. Georgia, Atlanta)
I like Martin better than Crowell, but yards could be tough to come by in this one. A field goal wins it.

Robbie Rouse, Fresno State (@ Cal)
Jeff Tedford needs to make a statement early and this is not one of Pat Hill's best teams.

Sleeper Wide Receivers:

The wide receiver position is easily the most difficult to project each season. Sure, Ryan Broyles is a good draft pick and will produce. But the waiver wire is pure gold more so at WR than any other position. See my fantasy line-up in the championship game last year: SMU's Cole Beasley, Northwestern's Jeremy Ebert and Blackmon. All were waiver wire adds. So the advice for the receiver position is play your studs no matter who they are facing and keep a keen eye on the Saturday boxscore. There will be plenty of gems out there each week. Here are my top BCS sleepers for week one:

BJ Cunningham, Michigan State (Youngstown State)
Mike Shanahan and Devin Street, Pitt (Buffalo)
Mike Davis, Texas (Rice)
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (Marshall)
A.J. Jenkins, Illinois (Arkansas State)
Quinton Dunbar, Florida (FAU)
Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee (Montana)
Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State (@ Memphis)
Nick Toon, Wisconsin (UNLV)

Top 12 Spot Start DEF/ST:

1. Texas (Rice)
2. Iowa (Tennessee Tech)
3. Arkansas (Missouri State)
4. Penn State (Indiana State)
5. UConn (Fordham)
6. North Carolina (James Madison)
7. Arizona State (UC-Davis)
8. Notre Dame (USF)
9. UCF (Charleston Southern)
10. NC State (Liberty)
11. Oklahoma (Tulsa)
12. West Virginia (Marshall)

Teaser:
<p> Athlon prepares the college fantasy player with in-depth match-up analysis for Week 1.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 17:30
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-week-1-picks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)

We certainly do not condone gambling here at Athlon Sports, but much can be gleaned from a quick look at the points spreads. Week One of the college football season contains the most uncertainty of any week of year. Teams from coast to coast will wildly under- and over-achieve based upon preseason expectations, and there is much to be won because of it.

And since my number one lock of the week was Maryland getting 6.5 points at home against Miami on Labor Day night, I will start with No. 2. The Terps are now a slight favorite — I sure hope you got in on that one early in the week.

Week 1's Top Picks:

Season Record ATS: 0-0

2. Marshall at West Virginia (-21)
Sept. 4, 3:30 PM

The new regime in Morgantown has been foaming at the mouth to get onto the field. Offensive wizard Dana Holgorsen will look to hang a huge number on his in-state rival in his first-ever game as a head coach. The Thundering Herd nearly pulled the upset last season in Huntington but will have no such luck this time around. Geno Smith and company will run up the score on a team picked fifth in C-USA’s Eastern division.
My Pick: West Virginia -21

3.  LSU vs. Oregon (-3)
Sept. 3, 8 PM, Arlington

I just don’t see the Ducks winning this game. The last two losses Oregon has suffered came at the hands of two dominant lines of scrimmage (Ohio State, Auburn), and that is the one area where LSU has a distinct advantage. The Cliff Harris suspension hurts his team worse than the Jordan Jefferson issue hurts the Bayou Bengals. Jarrett Lee has experience and made huge throws in key spots last fall for the Tigers. Look for LSU to control the ball and out-physical the finesse, feathery Pac-12 power.
My Pick: LSU +3

4. Northwestern at Boston College (-3)
Sept. 3, 12 PM
These are two very well-coached football teams, but one has superior talent and physicality. The Eagles are at home and will be facing a banged-up Dan Persa, as the Northwestern quarterback is not fully recovered from his torn Achilles’ tendon injury. If he plays, his mobility will be greatly affected, as he is not the same player without his ability to improvise. The Wildcats had the worst defense in the Big Ten last year, and BC will take advantage of a rebuilt linebacking corps on the ground.
My Pick: Boston College -3

5. Georgia vs. Boise State (-3.5)
Sept. 3, 8 PM, Atlanta

The last time Boise State visited the Peach State, Jared Zabransky threw five interceptions, and BSU got pummeled by the Dawgs. This is a different Broncos team — and a different UGA team. Both lines of scrimmage on both teams on both sides of the ball will be stout, and yards will be tough to come by. Expect a very similar showing to that of last year’s Boise State-Virginia Tech showdown where a field goal could win the back-and-forth affair.
My Pick: Georgia +3.5

6. TCU at Baylor (+6)
Sept. 2, 8 PM
The animosity in Waco towards those purple Frogs has reached a boiling point. TCU rolled up a 35-point win in Ft. Worth a year ago, holding the dynamic Robert Griffin to his lowest yardage output of the season. Art Briles has elevated the level of talent across the board at Baylor, and TCU returns only six total starters. Without Andy Dalton under center, TCU is ripe for an upset. Don’t be surprised if Baylor wins this one outright.
My Pick: Baylor +6

7. Western Michigan at Michigan (-13.5)
Sept. 3, 3:30 PM
I am not sure Brady Hoke has made a single bad decision since taking over as the head coach at Michigan. He has reenergized the alumni, has a stellar group of offensive players returning and invigorated Maize and Blue recruiting. Now, he needs a convincing showing in his first trip to the Big House's sideline. Reports indicate that the starters could play deep into the game regardless of the score. Hoke wants to make a statement in this game and he will — by a wide margin.
My Pick: Michigan -13.5

8. Utah State vs. Auburn (-21)
Sept. 3, 12 PM
Record-setting Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel is currently trying to win a roster spot in Green Bay, and Auburn is the defending national champion. Yes, the Tigers lost basically their entire starting 22 – technically, they return five starters – but Gene Chizik has loads of young talent. His team will make mistakes this season, but they are extremely gifted. Look for Michael Dyer (maybe) and Onterio McCalebb to roll up a big number against what was the 100th-ranked overall and 101st ranked scoring defense.
My Pick: Auburn -21

9. UCLA at Houston (-3)
Sept. 3, 3:30 PM

There is one thing that Rick Neuheisel has done incredibly well during his brief and embattled tenure as his alma mater’s head coach and that is recruit. The Bruins have superior talent to that of Houston and were beating the Cougars last season long before Case Keenum got hurt. (The game ended 31-13 in favor of UCLA.) Interestingly enough, UCLA has won seven of its last eight trips into the state of Texas dating back to 1988.
My Pick: UCLA +3

Tier-Two Picks if you're feeling lucky:

10. San Jose State at Stanford (-29)
Sept. 3, 5 PM
My Pick: Stanford -29

11. Miami, Ohio at Missouri (-18.5)
Sept. 3, 12 PM
My Pick: Mizzou -18.5

Athlon's Week One Previews:

ACC Predictions: Week 1

Big East Predictions: Week 1

Big Ten Predictions: Week 1

Big 12 Predictions: Week 1

Pac-12 Predictions: Week 1

SEC Predictions: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 11:16
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/fantasy-football-tight-ends-deeper-ever
Body:

This year’s crop of tight ends is, without a doubt, the deepest in fantasy football history.

The undisputed heavyweight champion continues to be Antonio Gates, who has scored eight or more TDs in each of the last seven seasons and topped 900 yards five times — which doesn’t include the 782 yards he amassed in 10 games last season (his first year with fewer than 15 games played). On draft day, value Gates as a top-10 WR option who happens to qualify at TE.

Physical freaks such as Vernon Davis, Brandon Pettigrew and Jermichael Finley have shown signs of Gates-like (or Gates Lite) potential. Over the past two seasons, Davis has been Gates’ equal statistically — with 1,879 yards and 20 TDs to Gates’ 1,939 yards and 18 TDs — despite being drafted several rounds lower on average. But the workout warrior’s first three seasons combined (1,132 yards and nine TDs from 2006-08) produced numbers Gates can match in one All-Pro year.

On the surface, old reliables like Dallas Clark, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez seem safer than the young guns. But keep in mind that last year Clark played just six games (wrist), and Gonzo had his worst season since 1998. Witten, however, posted his fourth straight 950-plus-yard year with a career high nine TDs.

After those first seven are off the board, you can afford to wait a few rounds before debating on taking one-half of the Patriots’ second-year two-headed monster — Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski (a.k.a. Aarob Hernankowski) — or one of the power forward-framed upsiders — 6'6", 260-pounder Jimmy Graham (a Drew Brees favorite) and 6'6", 275-pounder Marcedes Lewis (10 TDs in ’10, 7 combined from ’06-09).

If a proven track record is more your style, keep waiting. There’s always Zach Miller and Chris Cooley, who both have quarterback concerns; or Owen Daniels and Kellen Winslow, who each have had injury issues. Further emphasizing the seemingly bottomless pool of this year’s tight end talent, there is a mix of breakout candidates — Dustin Keller, Jermaine Gresham, Tony Moeaki, Jared Cook and Kyle Rudolph — and familiar faces — Heath Miller, Benjamin Watson, Kevin Boss, Greg Olsen and Visanthe Shiancoe.

The tight end class is loaded. Pick a few options from each tier and then see how the draft plays out. Savvy drafters should get excellent value on a tight end with Pro Bowl (and fantasy stud) potential this year. Or, you can always just play it safe, take Antonio Gates in the third round and let everyone else in the room sweat it out.

What to do with Gronkowski and Hernandez
There is no reason both Patriots tight ends can’t be fantasy starters. They are different players. Hernandez is a better athlete with more ability in the open field, while “The Gronk” is a better blocker and plays a more traditional tight end role. So who should you draft first? It probably depends on your scoring system. They will be on the field together much of the year, with Hernandez lined up in the slot more on passing downs. He’s the better space player, so look for him to get more targets and therefore receptions and yards.

But look for Gronkowski to get the red zone and play-action targets, as the more physical player should be on the field more on running downs. Adjust your rankings to your scoring system accordingly.

— Braden Gall @AthlonBraden on Twitter

THIS WEEK'S POSITIONAL STORIES: QBRBWRTEKDST

More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs

2
011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
2
011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-sign-michael-vick-huge-contract
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

The Philadelphia Eagles have their quarterback. On Monday, Michael Vick signed a six-year, $100 million contract ($40 million guaranteed) with the franchise that has given him not just a second chance, but a second life.

But was it the right move for the Eagles?

The story that is Vick contains many tentacles. All signs have pointed to Vick turning a corner in his personal life. He has paid his dues — try 18 months of hard time at Leavenworth prison. He sat third-string on the bench. He has been punished publicly, financially and socially.

Is it possible to remove from Vick the saga of a major dog-fighting ring in which he was the kingpin and primary financier? Can you overlook the fact that the 31-year-old has only played a 16-game season once in his entire career? Or the shootout at the birthday party shortly after his release from prison?

The answer is no – and you shouldn’t.

In the same vein, you also can't remove the playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau in the 2002 NFL Wildcard shocker. Or the only 1,000-yard rushing season by a quarterback in NFL history. Or his magical 2010 return to prominence for the Eagles. Or even that he has vowed to (and apparently has/will) pay back all of his financial debts instead of taking the easy way out and filing for bankruptcy.

America is nation of second chances, and Vick is a man of exceptional ability.

The question for the Eagles is Michael Vick the man. He has returned to a life of luxury with this contract. He has been given, again, copious amounts of money, fame and fortune. And all the stresses and pressures that go along with it.

To make this contract worth it, for both the Eagles and Vick, and to continue the trajectory of his whirlwind story, the polarizing quarterback has to not only protect himself from Justin Tuck, Ndamukong Suh and Clay Matthews, but also from the trappings of a $100 millon lifestyle.

I will be the first to stand up and shake Vick's hand if he can continue down the path of redemption in a morally and socially progressive manner. And on the field? I will marvel at his ability to flick the ball 65 yards to a streaking DeSean Jackson without effort or outrun Troy Polamalu to the boundary for a key first down.

But Vick and Vick alone can make that happen.
 

Teaser:
<p> Vick is now set as the Eagles quarterback for the next six years - for $100 million.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 09:43
Path: /college-football/college-football-impact-injuries-and-suspensions-0
Body:

Updated Monday, August 29, 12:15 PM ET

Montel Harris, RB, Boston College
A surprise knee surgery has pushed the Eagles starting tailback to the bench for at least the first week of action. Andre Williams, who is battling his own ankle issue, is expected to get the bulk of the carries against Northwestern. Harris could return in Week Two when BC heads to UCF.

Chris Polk, RB, Washington
After knee surgery a few weeks ago, Polk is still doubtful for the season opener against Eastern Washington. He is expected to be slowed for the start of the season, regardless of when he debuts, but should be 100% by the time conference play begins.

Jacory Harris and Robert Morris, QB, Miami
The U is still awaiting word from the NCAA on the status of Harris for the opener against Maryland on Labor Day night. Morris was close to winning the job outright before the Nevin Shaprio scandal broke, so it would not be a surprise at all to see Morris win the job even if Harris is deemed eligible.

Jarrett Lee, QB, LSU
With the suspension of Jordan Jefferson, Lee has been named the starter for one of this weekend's biggest games: Oregon vs. LSU in Arlington. Lee is no stranger to the starting line-up as he got plenty of snaps as a freshman and was called upon to make key throws last fall.

Garrett Gilbert, et al, QB, Texas
Expect Mack Brown, Major Applewhite and Bryan Harsin to name a starter as early as Monday. Gilbert will be the heavy favorite to at least start the season under center.

Casey Pachall, QB, TCU
Two weeks ago, the man responsible for replacing the legendary Andy Dalton had an MRI done on his throwing shoulder. Nothing serious was found and Pachall appears to be ready to go for this weekend's trip to Waco. TCU beat the Bears 45-10 last fall.

Jordan Hall and Jamaal Berry, RB, Ohio State
Berry has been dealing with a small hamstring issue and could see his potential starting job go to Hall. Even if Berry is 100% by Saturday for the Akron opener, Hall should see significant time. Look for the speedy Berry and brusing Hall to get the bulk of the carries over the first five weeks while Buckeye fans wait for the return of Boom Herron.

Silas Redd, RB, Penn State
The talented Nittany Lion runner has been dealing with a "minor leg injury" over the last week and back-up Brandon Beachum has been seeing more reps in practice. The injury is not supposed to be serious, but Redd will likely not be needed past halftime against Indiana State.


Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern
No shock here as Pat Fitzgerald has named Persa as his starter for the Boston College game. Persa has been dealing with the recovery from a torn Achilles' tendon. His mobility might not be 100%, but his arm should be fine.

Savon Huggins and De'Antwaun Williams, RB, Rutgers
The highly-touted true freshman, Huggins, has been named a co-starter with Williams for the Scarlet Knights opener against North Carolina Central. Huggins has all the raw talent in the world to be one of the nation's leading freshman rushers and could easily steal the job from Williams permanently.

Michael Shaw, RB, Michigan
All signs point to Brady Hoke using the senior tailback as his starter in his Maize and Blue debut against Western Michigan this weekend. Hoke's more traditional pro-sets on offense (as compared to Rich Rodriguez' spread tendancies) depend on a power rushing game and it still remains to be seen if the 6-0, 195-pounder can handle the work load.

Kevin Prince, QB, UCLA
According to CBSSports.com, Prince looks like he will earn the starting quarterback spot for the UCLA Bruins. It appears he has beaten out Richard Brehaut and will be under center when the Bruins head to Houston for the season opener.

Caleb Terbush, QB, Purdue
The snake-bitten Boilermakers appear to be closer to naming a starting QB after losing Rob Henry to an ACL tear last week. Robert Marve doesn't look to be fully recovered from his own ACL issue and TerBush will likely be under center when Middle Tennessee comes to town this weekend.

Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn
After missing the better part of the last two weeks due to an undisclosed injury, it appears that the super sophomore is ready for the 2011 season. The Tigers take on Utah State at home this weekend.

Demarius Johnson, WR, Tulsa
The talented do-everything play-maker has been suspended indefinitely due to embezzlement charges.

Tarean Austin, QB, New Mexico
Mike Locksley has named Austin as his starting quarterback for the season opener against Colorado State. Back-up B.R. Holbrook could still see some time this fall.

Darius Bright, WR, Hawaii
Potential No. 2 receiver has been suspended indefinitely following a third-degree assault charge stemming from a Waikiki nightclub incident Sunday morning.

Pat Shed, RB, UAB
The Blazers' back is scheduled to miss the opener against Florida and Darrin Reaves looks to be the starter.
 

Teaser:
<p> College football kicks-off this weekend and Athlon has all the latest injury, suspension and depth chart updates from around the nation.</p>
Post date: Monday, August 29, 2011 - 12:13
Path: /college-football/college-football-impact-injuries-and-suspensions
Body:

Updated Monday, August 29, 12:15 PM ET

Montel Harris, RB, Boston College
A surprise knee surgery has pushed the Eagles starting tailback to the bench for at least the first week of action. Andre Williams, who is battling his own ankle issue, is expected to get the bulk of the carries against Northwestern. Harris could return in Week Two when BC heads to UCF.

Chris Polk, RB, Washington
After knee surgery a few weeks ago, Polk is still doubtful for the season opener against Eastern Washington. He is expected to be slowed for the start of the season, regardless of when he debuts, but should be 100% by the time conference play begins.

Jacory Harris and Robert Morris, QB, Miami
The U is still awaiting word from the NCAA on the status of Harris for the opener against Maryland on Labor Day night. Morris was close to winning the job outright before the Nevin Shaprio scandal broke, so it would not be a surprise at all to see Morris win the job even if Harris is deemed eligible.

Jarrett Lee, QB, LSU
With the suspension of Jordan Jefferson, Lee has been named the starter for one of this weekend's biggest games: Oregon vs. LSU in Arlington. Lee is no stranger to the starting line-up as he got plenty of snaps as a freshman and was called upon to make key throws last fall.

Garrett Gilbert, et al, QB, Texas
Expect Mack Brown, Major Applewhite and Bryan Harsin to name a starter as early as Monday. Gilbert will be the heavy favorite to at least start the season under center.

Casey Pachall, QB, TCU
Two weeks ago, the man responsible for replacing the legendary Andy Dalton had an MRI done on his throwing shoulder. Nothing serious was found and Pachall appears to be ready to go for this weekend's trip to Waco. TCU beat the Bears 45-10 last fall.

Jordan Hall and Jamaal Berry, RB, Ohio State
Berry has been dealing with a small hamstring issue and could see his potential starting job go to Hall. Even if Berry is 100% by Saturday for the Akron opener, Hall should see significant time. Look for the speedy Berry and brusing Hall to get the bulk of the carries over the first five weeks while Buckeye fans wait for the return of Boom Herron.

Silas Redd, RB, Penn State
The talented Nittany Lion runner has been dealing with a "minor leg injury" over the last week and back-up Brandon Beachum has been seeing more reps in practice. The injury is not supposed to be serious, but Redd will likely not be needed past halftime against Indiana State.


Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern
No shock here as Pat Fitzgerald has named Persa as his starter for the Boston College game. Persa has been dealing with the recovery from a torn Achilles' tendon. His mobility might not be 100%, but his arm should be fine.

Savon Huggins and De'Antwaun Williams, RB, Rutgers
The highly-touted true freshman, Huggins, has been named a co-starter with Williams for the Scarlet Knights opener against North Carolina Central. Huggins has all the raw talent in the world to be one of the nation's leading freshman rushers and could easily steal the job from Williams permanently.

Michael Shaw, RB, Michigan
All signs point to Brady Hoke using the senior tailback as his starter in his Maize and Blue debut against Western Michigan this weekend. Hoke's more traditional pro-sets on offense (as compared to Rich Rodriguez' spread tendancies) depend on a power rushing game and it still remains to be seen if the 6-0, 195-pounder can handle the work load.

Kevin Prince, QB, UCLA
According to CBSSports.com, Prince looks like he will earn the starting quarterback spot for the UCLA Bruins. It appears he has beaten out Richard Brehaut and will be under center when the Bruins head to Houston for the season opener.

Caleb Terbush, QB, Purdue
The snake-bitten Boilermakers appear to be closer to naming a starting QB after losing Rob Henry to an ACL tear last week. Robert Marve doesn't look to be fully recovered from his own ACL issue and TerBush will likely be under center when Middle Tennessee comes to town this weekend.

Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn
After missing the better part of the last two weeks due to an undisclosed injury, it appears that the super sophomore is ready for the 2011 season. The Tigers take on Utah State at home this weekend.

Demarius Johnson, WR, Tulsa
The talented do-everything play-maker has been suspended indefinitely due to embezzlement charges.

Tarean Austin, QB, New Mexico
Mike Locksley has named Austin as his starting quarterback for the season opener against Colorado State. Back-up B.R. Holbrook could still see some time this fall.

Darius Bright, WR, Hawaii
Potential No. 2 receiver has been suspended indefinitely following a third-degree assault charge stemming from a Waikiki nightclub incident Sunday morning.

Pat Shed, RB, UAB
The Blazers' back is scheduled to miss the opener against Florida and Darrin Reaves looks to be the starter.
 

Teaser:
<p> College football kicks-off this weekend and Athlon has all the latest injury, suspension and depth chart updates from around the nation.</p>
Post date: Monday, August 29, 2011 - 12:12
Path: /college-football/big-ten-coaches-candid-quotes-conference-rivals
Body:

Each year we ask college football coaches to tell us what they really think about the other teams in their conference. But we don't want the cliche'd press conference platitudes, so we ask them to give us their quotes off-the-record and anonymously. Here are this year's quotes in alphabetical order for each team in the Big Ten.

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Illinois

“They finished 7–6 with a nice performance against Baylor in the Texas Bowl. But what could have been for Zooker? He lost three close games (67–65 to Michigan in triple overtime, Minnesota 38–34 and Fresno State 25–23) or could have had a double-digit win season. But that was last year; this year they must replace running back Mikel Leshoure, who left early for the pros after a great season last year."

"I really like (quarterback) Nathan Scheelhaase. I think he’s going to be a good one."

"Defensively they should be better in their second year under (coordinator) Vic Koenning."

"They certainly have to like their schedule. They open the season with five consecutive home games and play eight home games in 2011. They only have four road trips and the toughest one is at Penn State."

"They’re going to go as Nathan (Scheelhaase) goes. When he played well last year, I thought they played well. They didn’t ask him to do a lot. Paul (Petrino) did a great job of tailoring the offense to his skill set. I saw him do more in the bowl game than he did all year. He's an outstanding player.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Indiana

“I know Kevin (Wilson) is going to change their attitude. I’m not saying there was anything bad with Billy (Lynch), but this team is going to take on the personality of Kevin Wilson. Kevin’s demanding, and he’s got a lot of passion, and he’s a great offensive mind. You’ll see that program take on that personality."

"Kevin will find out very quickly he’s not at Oklahoma anymore. He will have his work cut out for him, but he made some great hires in (co-offensive coordinators) Rod Smith and Kevin Johns along with (co-defensive coordinators) Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler."

"I don’t know enough about their depth defensively. They graduated quite a few guys. They were young in the secondary and had to move guys around a year ago. So it’s going to be a work in progress. But they’ve got some flexibility there. They got some junior college guys, so that gives them a chance to get good in a hurry."

"4–0 is very possible. If so, they should get at least two wins the rest of the way and start Wilson’s rebuilding plan in the right direction.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Iowa

“What a wild offseason for the Hawkeyes. They were expected to compete for the Big Ten title last year, but way underperformed. Now they must replace a massive senior class plus they also lost safety Tyler Sash (who left early for the NFL) and dismissed running back Adam Robinson for off-the-field issues."

"James Vandenberg takes over (at quarterback), and he will be one of several new faces."

"Running back seems to be okay with Marcus Coker, who just blew up in the Insight Bowl."

"The unknown is how will the Hawkeyes respond to the January weightlifting episode that sent 13 players to the hospital? Will they rally together or will there be dissenters? That could be a very real problem. The good news is the schedule is fairly tame and Iowa very easily could enter November at 7–1."

"Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re going to be worse. They’ve got guys champing at the bit for an opportunity. Are they going to go through some growing pains early? Yeah. Because they don’t have that experience. But how do those young guys progress in season?”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Michigan

“Michigan doesn’t have Rich Rod to kick around anymore. Brady Hoke takes over, and the first thing I want to see is what he does with Denard Robinson. That kid was unstoppable last year in the spread; it’s just that Michigan’s defense couldn’t stop anyone either. Hoke says he wants to run a two-back power rushing game, but that goes against the recruiting philosophy of Rodriguez, who preferred speed to size. It may take a couple of years for Hoke to get his type of players in Ann Arbor. Still Rodriguez certainly didn’t leave the cupboard bare."

"It’s a wholesale change. It’s going to be totally different than what you watched on tape (from 2010). You’re going to have a fullback in the game, an I-formation. They’re still going to be one-back at times, but they’re going to be what Brady did at Ball State and even more so what they did at San Diego State offensively."

"Besides how Hoke uses Robinson, I can’t wait to see what happens when San Diego State visits Michigan. That should be an emotional game for the Aztecs going against the old coach.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Michigan State

“Mark (Dantonio) has done a great job accumulating talent. They’ll get through the growing pains of a new (offensive) coordinator, but they’re not going to change. Mark is so consistent. They’re a team to be reckoned with in this league."

"They lose two great linebackers (Greg Jones and Eric Gordon), but they’ve recruited well, so it’s going to be interesting. How long is it going to be till they get up to speed?"

"The Spartans were terrific for 11 games last year. And then they stunk to high heaven in the other two games, getting absolutely lit up by Iowa (37–6) and Alabama (49–7 in the Capital One Bowl). The bowl game was painful to watch. That blowout should provide plenty of motivation for the returning players, and the Spartans have a good group coming back."

"I really like (quarterback) Kirk Cousins. He’s such a gritty, gutty guy and a tremendous leader."

"They may actually end up being a better team this year than last year, but it won’t show on the win-loss record because of road games against Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Minnesota

“This program’s going to take on Jerry Kill’s personality. To me, it was one of the best hires in college football. I’d much rather see him at Northern Illinois than Minnesota. He’s phenomenal. He’s got a great staff. They’ve all been together. They know what they want. Very similar to Iowa. They’re going to be very consistent. It’s not going to be about pomp and circumstance. It’s going to be about playing football and being the best man you can be."

"I think Jerry’s the right guy for that job, but it’s going to take some time. I hope the Minnesota fans can be patient. Certainly there shouldn’t be a lot of expectations in his first season at Minnesota, so anything over last year’s three-win season would be gravy."

"MarQueis Gray has spent some time at wide receiver, but I think he’s most effective at quarterback. It looks like he’ll get a shot to play quarterback."

"That’s a tough job. The new stadium has helped, but it’s still a tough sell to get kids at Minnesota.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Nebraska

“I wonder where they are going to recruit from now (in the Big Ten). They will not be as welcome in the state of Texas. I don’t know how welcome they will be in California. It’s a different deal. Are they going to recruit Chicago? I don’t know."

"From a style of play, they will be fine. Their defense is so good. Their defense is not very complicated, but they run to the ball and they play hard."

"Taylor Martinez is fast. I don’t think he throws the ball very well. He is a glorified Wildcat quarterback, but he can run. He’s was one of the fastest guys in the league last year, so he will be one of the fastest guys in the Big Ten."

"Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler and (Ndamukong) Suh before them — those guys are incredible. That is why their defense is so good. Crick and Steinkuhler were among the top six defensive tackles in the league and to have two on the same team, that’s pretty good."

"Bo (Pelini) is pretty intense, but you can’t really tell from the other sideline. You see him go crazy on TV, but you can’t really tell.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Northwestern

“Eight starters return from last year’s potent offense led by quarterback Dan Persa. You hate to see such a great player like Persa suffer an injury like that last year (ruptured Achilles tendon), but I’m glad to see he’s back this season."

"Pat Fitzgerald may not have the greatest talent in the league, but those kids play so hard and never quit."

"With almost everyone returning offensively and the nucleus back on defense, they just might make a run at the Big Ten title. Don’t laugh, I really think that might happen if everything breaks the right way for them. This is a senior-oriented team, and they have a great deal of experience. The league schedule sets up nicely with the hardest road trips at Iowa and at Nebraska, while they don’t play Ohio State or Wisconsin."

"Persa is really, really good. They need to find a way to run the ball better. Their tailbacks have been average at best in the past few years."

"They struggled down the stretch with Persa out. The defense was just bad. Got lit up by Illinois, Wisconsin and Texas Tech.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Ohio State

“It’s tough. You wouldn’t wish their situation on your worst enemy. The defense is probably going to have to carry them early when the suspended guys are out."

"Who knows what to expect from the Buckeyes."

"The biggest thing I think is how the team reacts when the suspensions are completed. Are they still in the Big Ten race? Do the suspended players start right away? What about the guys playing in front of them? I think this could be a touchy issue with the team, and we’ll have to see how it plays out. They have to replace seven starters on defense. With all the off-the-field distractions and ongoing NCAA stuff, I just can’t see Ohio State winning a share of a seventh consecutive Big Ten title.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Penn State

“They’re very talented. Their quarterback situation is the big unknown. Are they going to settle on a guy? (Offensive coordinator) Galen Hall has always done a good job of tailoring his plays to their skill set."

"The loss of that defensive end (Pete Massaro) hurts. He’s a good player, really good player. And then they graduate the big guy inside (Ollie Ogbu), too, so they’ve got some losses there to deal with on defense."

"For now it appears Rob Bolden is back at quarterback. How long that lasts is unknown. After the Outback Bowl loss to Florida, the father said his son was leaving Penn State even though he was the first true freshman to start a season opener for Joe Paterno. If he returns and doesn’t mope and pout, it will be all good with the Nittany Lions. You just hope the kid doesn’t become a cancer on the team."

"Running back Evan Royster is gone after setting the school record as their all-time leading rusher, but I personally think they should be fine without him. I really don’t think he played up to his potential last year.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Purdue

“Danny Hope has recruited great speed, and they’re very athletic. When you graduate a guy like (defensive end) Ryan Kerrigan, who’s going to step into that role? That guy was a difference-maker."

"Injuries really crippled them last year."

"The Boilermakers could surprise some people in the Big Ten. They’ve got 15 starters back (six starters on offense, nine on defense). And that doesn’t include quarterback Robert Marve and running back Ralph Bolden. Both players missed last season with knee injuries. Marve’s return will make for an interesting battle at quarterback. Bolden’s return helps soften the loss of the top two running backs (Dan Dierking and Keith Carlos) from last season."

"Purdue started 4–2 last year, but then closed on a brutal six-game losing streak. This is Danny Hope’s third season, and he’s still trying for his first winning season. I think this is his best shot. The non-conference schedule is manageable (Middle Tennessee, Rice, Southeast Missouri State), and they benefit from playing seven home games. They’re not comparable to the elite in the Big Ten, but making a bowl game is certainly not that big of a stretch.”

What Big Ten Coaches are saying about: Wisconsin

“Bret Bielema found out that karma’s a funny thing. He went for a two-point conversion late in a blowout win against Minnesota and then the Badgers lost to TCU in the Rose Bowl on a failed two-point conversion. Believe me, I wasn’t the only one that noticed the irony in that."

"There’s no doubt they’ve got a great running back situation up there. That’s one thing they do well. They’re going to be young on the offensive line, too, so it’s going to be interesting. And they graduated quite a few guys."

"(Quarterback) Scott Tolzien was phenomenal a year ago. They won 11 games because he was so dang consistent. I didn’t see him make many mistakes."

"(Offensive coordinator) Paul Chryst does a great job. They’re very similar to Iowa in where they’re going to have great play-action pass off of their primary runs."

"Running back John Clay left early for the NFL, but the Badgers have a stable of backs ready to go, most notably James White and Montee Ball, who saw significant action last season.”

Other Candid Coaches' Quotes:

Coaches' Candid Quotes: ACC
Coaches' Candid Quotes: SEC
Coaches Candid Quotes: PAC-12
Coaches' Candid Quotes: Big 12
Coaches' Candid Quotes: Big East

Teaser:
<p> What are the Big Ten coaches saying about the opposition?</p>
Post date: Monday, August 29, 2011 - 07:46
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/miami-hurricanes-declared-ineligible
Body:

The University of Miami has declared a number of its football players involved in the recent Nevin Shaprio allegations that have rocked college football indefinitely ineligible.

The decision does not mean any Hurricanes players will miss any time on the field — despite appearing like that is a foregone conclusion. Fans of The U will be holding their collective breath as the move by Miami is merely a preemptive precaution while awaiting NCAA rulings. The players are still eligible to practice, but school officials apparently believe the dozen or so players have, in fact, committed NCAA violations.

Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Vaughn Telemaque, Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Aldarious Johnson, Dyron Dye, Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo and JoJo Nicholas were all named in the Yahoo! report last week.

The evidence is overwhelming and extremely damaging, so it is hard to believe the NCAA won't rule them ineligible for some extended period of time.

The Miami offense shouldn't take that big of a hit as Johnson and Harris have not lived up to their recruiting hype (Harris might not have started anyway with Stephen Morris pushing for time.) But the Canes defense will take a huge hit as arguably the best four players on that side of the ball have been implicated.

Al Golden is a quality coach who will get the most out of his players, but challenging the Virginia Tech Hokies for the division title is now a pipe dream.

Teaser:
<p> The Miami Hurricanes have declared a number of their football players ineligible.</p>
Post date: Friday, August 26, 2011 - 11:28
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/will-ohio-state-play-inaugural-big-ten-title-game
Body:

Debate: Will the Ohio State Buckeyes play in the Inaugural Big Ten Title Game?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): No, I do not think Ohio State will play in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. With all of the attrition and suspensions the Buckeyes suffered this offseason, Wisconsin has to be the favorite in the Leaders Division. The departures of coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor will have a big effect on the Buckeyes this year, and the five-game suspensions of their top running back (Daniel Herron), best receiver (DeVier Posey) and best blocker (Mike Adams) will be felt during tough games against Michigan State (the fifth game) and at Nebraska (the first game back for the suspended players).

Wisconsin did lose All-Americans Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt on the offensive line, but one area where the Badgers continually excel is line play. The addition of NC State transfer Russell Wilson at quarterback gives UW a quality pass/run threat that the offense has not had in recent years. We know the focus for the Badgers’ attack will be their power running game, but Wilson brings an ability to make big plays on his own after throwing for 76 touchdowns in three seasons in Raleigh. He never had a running back at NC State who topped 773 yards in a season, while the Badgers have the potent duo of James White (1,052 yards and 14 TDs) and Montee Ball (996 yards and 18 TDs) returning. The Wisconsin defense did lose an outstanding pass rusher in J.J. Watt, but there are seven returning starters from a unit that ranked 20th in the nation in total defense.

With a new quarterback and the absence of the suspended players on offense, Ohio State will have to rely on its defense to carry the load early in the schedule. That unit was excellent in 2010, forcing a Big Ten-leading 30 turnovers and ranking fourth in the nation in total defense. However, the defense suffered massive losses in NFL draft picks Cameron Heyward (most tackles for loss), Ross Homan, Brian Rolle (leading tackler), Chimdi Chekwa (most interceptions) and Jermale Hines, as well as key secondary members Devon Torrence and Aaron Gant and tackle Dexter Larimore. Even though the Buckeyes have a ton of talent waiting to step up, that type of attrition will make it difficult to win the league.

Both teams have a brutal October slate that culminates with Wisconsin playing in Columbus, but I believe the Badgers will be better equipped to deal with that month than the Buckeyes. It should be a great race all season, and I’ll take the Badgers to represent the Leaders in Indianapolis.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden): There are a lot of reasons to pick against the Ohio State Buckeyes this season, but the last time I checked, they still got some good college football players running around in Columbus. Even without some key names for the first five games of the season, THE OSU still has arguably the best roster in the conference. I will go against the grain and pick Ohio State to represent the Leaders Division in the first-ever Big Ten title game.

The non-conference schedule features one game that will be difficult: The NCAA Sanctions Bowl in Coral Gables. With rumors that Miami could have more than twice as many of its own stars suspended — especially from the defense — this game looks dramatically different than just two weeks ago. Ohio State should enter conference play umblemished when the Spartans come to town for the first key game of the season.

Michigan State didn't have a chance to play Ohio State last year and will certainly be salivating to get a piece of the Bucks in 2011 — especially with the Herrons and Adams of the world sitting on the sideline. But Ohio State has won seven in row, 12 of the last 14 and is 20-4 against Michigan State since 1974. The last time Sparty went into The Horseshoe and won was back in 1998 — a game Buckeyes fans remember very well. Those players who started the season inexperienced and wet-behind-the-ears will no longer be green when Michigan State comes to town in Week Five. Give me the Bucks.

The following week Ohio State will make its first-ever appearance in Lincoln, Nebraska. A win in treacherous Memorial Stadium while trying to mesh their stars back into the lineup will be a tall order. So assuming the Bucks start 1-1 in Big Ten play, tricky trips to Illinois and Michigan, and a visit from Penn State November 19, appear to be the only other losses on the schedule. And those seem to be longshots.

This leaves a home game with the Wisconsin Badgers as the de facto Leaders Division title game on October 29.

Even if UW beats Nebraska at home in the first week of Big Ten play, Bucky will find it hard to leave East Lansing with a win for the first time since 2002. Kirk Cousins played clutch football last fall, giving Wisconsin its only regular season loss in Spartan Stadium and I don't see why that won't happen again.

So the trip to Columbus will likely define both Wisconsin's and Ohio State's season. The Buckeyes have won the last two in Columbus against UW, and have done so in convincing fashion (at least on the scoreboard). 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 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. Sconie has mustered only 130 yards on 81 carries in the two losses.

I could see both Ohio State and Wisconsin finishing with two, maybe even three, losses in league play, but the Scarlet and Gray should have the all-important tie-breaker "W" over Big Red.

Other Editor's Debates:

Debate: Should the NCAA give Miami the Death Penalty?

Debate: Should the SEC expand?

Debate: Who wins the ACC: Florida State or the Field?

Debate: Who is more entertaining: Les Miles or Steve Spurrier?

Debate: Will the SEC win its sixth straight BCS National Title?

Debate: Does a Mid-Major team deserve a chance at the National Title?

Debate: What is the best party in College Football?

Teaser:
<p> Despite the losses in Columbus, can the Buckeyes make it to Indianapolis in December?</p>
Post date: Friday, August 26, 2011 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Heisman Watch
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/2011-athlon-sports-weekly-heisman-voting
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 ten Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every Wednesday of the regular season.

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

With less than 10 days left until the kickoff of the season, is there any doubt who the best, most important player in college football is heading into 2011?

He has an architecture degree from one of the most prominent academic schools in the nation. He finished second in the Heisman voting a year ago. He led his team to its first ever BCS Bowl win with an absolutle dismantling of the ACC champion Virginia Tech Hokies in the Orange Bowl. He has his team poised for a Pac-12 and BCS national title run in 2011.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you Athlon's top vote-getter in the preliminary Heisman vote:

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (88 of 90 possible pts, 7 of 9 first place votes)
They lost their head coach, but the Cardinal are welcoming back the nation’s finest quarterback. Luck, who spurned the NFL Draft, threw for 3,338 yards and 32 touchdowns (and only eight INTs) as a sophomore to lead Stanford to its first 12-win season in school history.

Preseason Voting:

  Name POS Team Tot Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Left Off
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 88/90 7 2 - - - 0
2. LaMichael James RB Oregon 77 1 4 3 1 - 0
3. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 62 1 - 2 2 2 0
4. Kellen Moore QB Boise State 60 - - 3 2 3 0
5. Marcus Lattimore RB South Carolina 58 - 2 - 3 1 0
6. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 48 - 1 1 1 2 0
7. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 26 - - - - - 2
8. Robert Griffin QB Baylor 22 - - - - 1 2
9. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 17 - - - - - 4
10. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 13 - - - - - 4
11. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma 13 - - - - - 4
12. Matt Barkley QB USC 5 - - - - - 9
13. Case Keenum QB Houston 2 - - - - - 8
14. Jared Crick DT Nebraska 1 - - - - - 9
15. Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame 1 - - - - - 9
16. Geno Smith QB West Virginia 1 - - - - - 9
17. David Wilson RB Virginia Tech 1 - - - - - 9

The Contenders:

2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (77/90 pts)

Speedster led the nation in rushing last season with 1,731 yards for the national runners-up. With seven starters back on offense, including three on the offensive line, the Ducks should continue to put up gaudy numbers.

3. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (62/90 pts)
Jones has been wildly productive in his two years as the starter in Norman. In 2010, he broke school records for pass attempts (617) and completions (405) en route to a 4,718-yard, 38-touchdown season. With a host of weapons at his disposal, expect more of the same from the fourth-year junior.

4. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (60/90)
Moore, 38–2 as a starter, needs eight wins to pass Colt McCoy as the all-time winningest quarterback in the FBS ranks. He must forge ahead without his top two receivers from last season, as well as offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, now at Texas.

5. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (58/90)
Lattimore was sensational as a true freshman, rushing for 1,197 yards and 17 scores for the SEC East champs, and promises to be even better as a sophomore after a year in the weight room. With issues at quarterback — will Stephen Garcia ever behave? — the Gamecocks could lean on their running game even more this fall.

6. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (48/60)
He’s been arguably the best backup in the nation the past two seasons. Now, with former Heisman winner Mark Ingram off to the NFL, Richardson is the top option at Bama. Last year, he rushed for 700 yards on only 112 carries for a sparkling 6.3-yard average.

7. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (26/90)
Blackmon teamed with Brandon Weeden to form one of the nation’s most explosive pass-catch duos. After catching 20 passes as a redshirt freshman in 2009, Blackmon blew up last fall, ranking second in the nation in receptions (111) and third in yards (1,782) while leading the country (by a wide margin) with 20 TD catches.

8. Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor (22/90)
He’s the most dangerous dual-threat quarterback in the country — he threw for 3,501 yards and rushed for 635 in 2010 — but Griffin will have a tough time impressing Heisman voters unless the Bears can somehow challenge for the Big 12 crown.

9. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (17/90)
The former minor league pitcher threw for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns while leading the Big 12 in passing efficiency in his first year as the Cowboys starter. Having his favorite target, Justin Blackmon, back is a plus, but losing highly regarded coordinator Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia is a blow.

10t. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (13/90)
10t. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma (13/90)

Teaser:
<p> Each week the Athlon editors will vote on the most prestigious award in all of sports.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 07:41
Path: /columns/national-notebook/college-footballs-top-25-games-2011
Body:

The start of the 2011 college football season is two weeks away. With kickoff right around the corner, Athlon takes a look at the top 25 must-see games in the nation for 2011.

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

This one pretty much has it all: Coaching and fanbase storylines, divisional and conference title implications, a Heisman Trophy candidate and a potential BCS National Championship berth. Despite Alabama dominating for most of this rivalry and winning two of the last three, LSU has had Bama’s number for the better part of a decade – winning six of the last eight meetings. Both defenses should be downright nasty against the run which, of course, will be the strength of both offenses. Whichever quarterback can convert key third and longs in the fourth quarter will likely set his team up for a national title run. These are two of the best rosters in the nation, but the edge goes to the better coach and home-field advantage.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Bama by 3

1b. Oklahoma vs. Florida State (Week 3)
Sept. 17, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 5-1

There’s a lot at stake in this Week 3 matchup. Oklahoma and Florida State are national title contenders, and a marquee non-conference win would go a long way towards an undefeated season. The Sooners easily handled the Seminoles last year, winning 47-17 in Norman. Florida State will be hungry to avenge last season’s embarrassment and a victory over Oklahoma would be a statement win in Jimbo Fisher’s second season in Tallahassee. The Sooners suffered a blow when linebacker Travis Lewis was lost for at least the first month of the season due to a foot injury suffered in fall camp. Although Lewis is out, Oklahoma’s linebacking corps remains one of the best in the Big 12, especially with the rapid development of sophomores Tom Wort and Corey Nelson. Much of Florida State’s national title hopes will hinge on quarterback EJ Manuel, who enters his first year as the starter. The junior has six starts over the last two years and there’s no question he has the talent, but has yet to prove himself over a full season.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Seminoles by 3

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

The Pac-12 conference title will likely be on the line when Oregon flies south to Palo Alto during November. Stanford has owned the all-time series, but over the last decade the Ducks have dominated the meetings. Oregon dropped 52 points on the Cardinal last fall and has won eight of the last nine meetings. The Ducks have struggled against power teams (Ohio State, Auburn) over the last two years and the Cardinal will have as close to a power rushing attack as there is in the league. Will the Ducks’ front seven jell in time to slow the Andrew Luck-led attack by Week 11? And can the Cardinal keep the Ducks from scoring 52 points again?

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Cardinal by 4

4. Nebraska vs. Wisconsin (Week 5)
Oct. 1, All-Time Series: Nebraska leads 3-2

This game will usher in a new era of football for Nebraska as it travels to Madison to play in its first ever Big Ten conference game. The corn-fed Big Red will have to face the dairy-fed Big Red in what could be a preview of the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. These look like the two most complete teams on paper as the play of Taylor Martinez against the JJ Watt-less Badger pass defense will be the deciding factor. These two Midwest powers have not been on the same field since 1974, when the Huskers topped the Badgers 21-20 in MadTown – which will be absolutely rocking for the visit from Bo Pelini and Company.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 6

5. Oregon vs. LSU (Week 1, Arlington)
Sept. 3, All-Time Series: LSU leads 2-1

A berth in the BCS national championship game could be on the line in the palace in Arlington on the first Saturday of the season. These two have not met since 1977 and this game marks the first time they will meet outside of Baton Rouge. One of the nation’s best offenses will square off against what should be one of the nation’s top defenses. The deciding factor should be whether the Ducks’ reworked front seven can slow the power rushing attack of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford – or if Jordan Jefferson can complete key third-and-longs in the fourth quarter against one of the nation’s top secondaries. The LSU line of scrimmage will be too much for Oregon – who has struggled against big, powerful front lines in its last two losses (Auburn, Ohio State). Should the game be close, and each team runs the table following the meeting, a rematch in the BCS title game isn’t out of the question.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Tigers by 10

6. 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 could be at stake as well. Oklahoma State fancies itself as 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. With the stellar offenses returning for both in 2011, fans can expect fireworks once again from the Bedlam Series.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Sooners by 3

7. Ohio State vs. Nebraska (Week 6)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Buckeyes lead 2-0

In what will be another first for Nebraska fans, Larry the Cable Guy and the rest of Husker nation will welcome the Buckeyes to Lincoln for the first time. It will also mark the return of the Tat-5 (or four) when Mike Adams, Boom Herron and DeVier Posey rejoin their teammates on the field. This too could be a preview of the Big Ten title game as the Buckeyes, despite the suspensions, are very much a contender in the Leaders Division. Quarterback play will be huge in this game as both teams should struggle to run the football against two solid front lines. Can ageless wonder Joe Bauserman or youngster Braxton Miller keep their composure in one of the most difficult places to play in the nation?

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 3

8. South Carolina vs. Georgia (Week 2)
Sept. 10, All-Time Series: UGA leads 46-15-2

A trip to Atlanta is on the line in only the second weekend of action when these two SEC East contenders do battle Between the Hedges. The Dawgs have won six of the last eight over Carolina in Athens, but if Georgia expects to reverse last year’s loss to the Cocks, Todd Grantham’s defensive front will have to contain star tailback Marcus Lattimore. In only his second collegiate game a season ago, Lattimore carried the ball 37 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the tightly-played win This games always seems to be a low-scoring, blocked field goal type of game (other than ’09). Expect the same in 2011.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Dawgs by 1

9. 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, the 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.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Buckeyes by 4

10. 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 one of, if not the, top contender 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 Very Early Prediction: Sooners by 10

11. Arkansas vs. Alabama (Week 4)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: Bama leads 11-8

Since these two became divisional rivals the series has been nearly dead even with Bama owning a slight edge 9-8. But the Tide has won five of the last six meetings (technically, there were two wins vacated) and three straight at home against the Hogs. Arkansas will do battle all season without star running back Knile Davis, so Tyler Wilson’s performance will be even more critical. Bobby Petrino knows how to draw up ball plays and the Hogs have loads of firepower still left on offense. The key will be the new-look offensive line and how they fare against the Courtney Upshaws and Dont’a Hightowers of the world. A very stingy Arkansas front seven should make it difficult on whoever is under center for Bama. Home field advantage will be massive in this contest.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Bama by 7

11. 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 look to have Michigan pointed in the right direction and could be in a position to surprise in 2011. However, the Buckeyes should be too strong at the end of the season for Michigan to sneak-up on them. Michigan will beat OSU in the near future, it just isn’t likely to be in 2011.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Buckeyes by 7

13. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Week 6, Dallas)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Texas leads 59-41-5

The Red River Shootout doesn’t appear to have the same sex appeal as it has had over the last decade. This game has consistently been the best game in the league every season. However, after a 5-7 season from the Longhorns – and huge question marks looming along the offensive line and under center – this game losses some of its edge. But only some – this is still Texas-Oklahoma after all. Expect the Cotton Bowl to be rocking when these two bitter rivals square-off for the 105th time. Texas’ defense was the strength (if there was one) of this team last year, but DeMarco Murray rushed for 115 yards and two scores while Landry Jones tossed a pair of scores and protected the football in the 28-20 OU win. These two have split 2-2 over the last four years and the winner of the rivalry has gone on to win the Big 12 title each of the last three years. Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Sooners by 13

14. TCU vs. Boise State (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Boise State leads 2-1

When the Horned Frogs head to the great northwest to do battle on the blue turf, it will mark the first time these two growing powers will face off in the regular season. All three meetings have taken place in bowl games with bragging rights on the line, however, Mountain West Conference supremacy will be on the line this time. The offensive and defensive lines from Boise have NFL talent and will certainly test the reworked TCU team that returns only six starters. Kellen Moore also owns a massive edge over Andy Dalton's replacement. Home field advantage will give one of the top two mid-major programs a chance at yet another BCS bowl.

Athlon's Very Early Prediction: Broncos by 7

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

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

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Ducks by 7

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

The Iron Bowl is one of the single greatest football games of the season each and every year. And while the 2011 edition might lack the national appeal of last season’s unbelievable come-from-behind Tigers victory, there will be no loved lost come November 26. Auburn will be a shell of its former self with a completely replaced offensive line and defensive unit. Oh, and Cam Newton isn’t around either. While there is loads of young potential running around the Plains – that will most assuredly be game tested by Week 13 – Alabama has too much veteran talent to miss an opportunity at payback. Especially when a BCS national championship could be at stake.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Bama by 17

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

Arkansas has taken three of the last four from LSU, including a thrilling 50-48 win in Baton Rouge over the eventual National Champions in 2007. It is the Hogs only win in its last eight trips to the Bayou. An outstanding Arkansas front seven will be put to the test as the Tigers will look to pound the rock early and often. The battle for control of the line of scrimmage will either make Jordan Jefferson’s job much easier or much more difficult. Should Arkansas win that match-up, Tyler Wilson and the excellent talent around him will have to make plays down the field. The Hogs should have the holes on the offensive line plugged by then, but picking up yards on the ground against LSU sans Knile Davis will be a difficult task.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: LSU by 3

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

This game has a chance to dramatically impact the overall national title landscape in the penultimate week of the regular season. This could be the only contest in which Notre Dame is not favored, and both teams could enter this arena unblemished. Even if both have dropped a game or two elsewhere, an at-large BCS bowl bid will likely be on the line. The Irish front seven showed massive improvement in the final month of 2010 and will be tested by one of the most physical running games in the nation. On the flip side, it could be an absolute treat to watch Dayne Crist (or whoever is running the Brian Kelly attack) square off with Andrew Luck, the best player in the nation.Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Cardinal by 6

19. 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 nearly unblemished 2010, Sparty fancies itself as the primary contender in the Big Ten Legends Division and has no desire to let the new kid win it all. The sledding will be tough for Michigan State despite the outstanding skill talent it possesses on offense. There are 39 starts gone from the offensive line and the new faces will be put to the test against Jared Crick and the All-American Husker front seven. 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.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 4

20. Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M (Week 4)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: TAMU leads 17-9

The right to challenge the Oklahoma Sooners for conference supremacy should be on the line when these two explosive offenses take the field in late September. The Pokes have won three straight in this series, including an edge-of-the-seat three-point win as time expired last fall. However, this game is in College Station and Jerrod Johnson – and his four interceptions – won’t be under center. Despite passing for 409 yards and five touchdowns against OSU last fall, Johnson lost his starting job shortly thereafter, giving way to Ryan Tannehill. This game could have been dramatically different had it been played after the switch at quarterback.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Aggies by 3

21. Boise State vs. Georgia (Week 1, Atlanta)
Sept. 3, All-Time Series: UGA leads 1-0

There will be plenty on the table on kickoff weekend when Boise State travels to Atlanta to take on the Dawgs. A potential undefeated season for the Broncos will be at stake while Georgia has to get the bad taste of 2010 out of its mouth before taking on rival South Carolina the following weekend. Two of the nation’s best gunslingers should be on full display with Kellen Moore and Aaron Murray going head-to-head. Georgia will have to show marked improvement in its front seven if it expects to slow down what is an NFL offensive line from Idaho. History is on the Dawgs side as the only other time Boise ventured into Georgia, Jared Zabransky threw five interceptions and UGA won 48-13. That was in Athens and didn’t feature Chris Petersen, however. Expect a much stronger showing from these blue stallions as Peterson has been deadly when given seven months to prepare.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Broncos by 3

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

This will be the third in a brutal late season road swing for the Gamecocks. After visiting Mississippi State and Tennessee the previous two games, Steve Spurrier will have to have his team prepped for another nasty environment in Fayetteville. Especially after getting torched by Ryan Mallett and company in Columbia a season ago. Stephon Gilmore and the USC secondary will have to play better against Tyler Wilson than it did against Mallett – who completed 21 of 30 passes for 303 yards and a score in the 40-21 drubbing. Quarterback Stephen Garcia (14 of 29, 161 yards, TD, 2 INT) and running back Marcus Lattimore (11 carries, 30 yards) will have to be at their best if they expect to win on the road for the third straight game.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Hogs by 7

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

In one of the more exciting football games of the season, the Gators topped the Dawgs 34-31 in overtime last fall. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party should be just as intense in 2011. Murray set a career high with his first 300-yard passing game (313) and tied his career best with three touchdown tosses. He also set a career mark with three interceptions (he had eight total in 2010). Georgia will have to play better in the first three quarters of this one if it expects to get to Atlanta in December. Murray led UGA to three fourth quarter touchdowns to pull even before Florida kicked the game winner in overtime. The fireworks should be on display once again in Jacksonville.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Dawgs by 4


24. 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 provide a berth into the Big Ten title game. The whole ear of corn, so to speak, could be on the line in the season finale in Lincoln. The Hawkeye offense, despite losing leader Ricky Stanzi, shouldn’t miss a beat under James Vandenberg. And even though Kirk Ferentz must replace most of his starting defense, one would assume that by Week 13, this group will once again be a hard-hitting, stingy unit. Home-field advantage is the deciding factor in this one.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 3



25. Alabama vs. Florida (Week 5)
Oct. 1, All-Time Series: Bama leads 21-14

Seven of the last 12 meetings between these two national powers have come in the Atlanta with the SEC crown hanging in the balance. While this bout in the Swamp may not have SEC title implication, it certainly could have BCS bowl repercussions. Florida will feature a totally reworked coaching staff and offensive game plan. The Gators will need it after the 31-6 undressing at the hands of the Tide last fall in Tuscaloosa. This Florida team should be improved and hosting the game certainly helps. But if Will Muschamp expects to pull the upset, his uber-talented yet very young defensive front line will have to control the line of scrimmage.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Bama by 7


26. Pitt vs. West Virginia (Week 13)
Nov. 25, All-Time Series: Pitt leads 61-39-3

27. USC vs. Arizona State (Week 13)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: USC leads 17-9

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

29. Florida vs. South Carolina (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Florida leads 23-5-3

30. Florida vs. LSU (Week 6)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Florida leads 30-24-3

31. Michigan State vs. Ohio State (Week 5)
Oct. 1, All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 27-12

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

33. Notre Dame vs. Michigan (Week 2)
Sept. 10, All-Time Series: Michigan leads 22-15-1

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

35. Nebraska vs. Penn State (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: PSU leads 7-6

36. Miami, Fla. vs. Virginia Tech (Week 6)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Miami leads 17-11

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

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

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

40. Oregon State vs. Oregon (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Oregon leads 58-46-10

41. Missouri vs. Oklahoma (Week 4)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 65-25-5

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

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

44. Missouri vs. Texas A&M (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: TAMU leads 7-4

45. BYU vs. TCU (Week 9, Arlington)
Oct. 28, All-Time Series: Tied 5-5

46. Florida State vs. Clemson (Week 4)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: Florida State leads 17-7

47. LSU vs. West Virginia (Week 4)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: LSU leads 1-0

48. Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Week 5, Arlington)
Oct. 1, All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 40-24-3

49. Utah vs. BYU (Week 3)
Sept. 17, All-Time Series: Utah leads 51-31-4

50. Arizona State vs. Utah (Week 6)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Arizona State leads 16-6

Top Games of 2011 By Conference:

Top 15 SEC Games of 2011
Top 10 ACC Games of 2011
Top 10 Big Ten Games of 2011
Top 10 Big East Games of 2011
Top 10 Pac-12 Games of 2011
Top 10 Big 12 Games of 2011
 

Teaser:
<p> What are the most important, must-see match-ups of the 2011 season?</p>
Post date: Monday, August 22, 2011 - 09:33
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/fantasy-football-top-12-injury-concerns
Body:

Athlon Sports looks at the top 12 injury concerns overall and by position for the 2011 fantasy football season. These are 48 guys that may concern you in your draft preparation, and that you may be able to get as a steal due to their injury history or may go much sooner than they should because of that history.

Overall
1. Matthew Stafford, DET, QB 
Burly, strong-armed passer has played in only 13 of his possible 32 career games.

2. Frank Gore, SF, RB 
Has not played 16 games in a season since his second year in 2006.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC, RB 
Battled through injuries last season and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in January.

4. Michael Vick, PHI, QB 
Dynamic dual-threat who takes a beating has played in 16 games only once in his career.

5. Austin Collie, IND, WR 
A thumb injury, multiple concussions, and his role in the slot make him a risky pick.

6. Owen Daniels, HOU, TE 
Has missed 13 games over the last two seasons with serious injuries.

7. Antonio Gates, SD, TE 
Chronic foot issues have bothered him for years; finally cost him six games last fall.

8. Joseph Addai, IND, RB 
Has missed 13 games over the last three seasons for a team that doesn’t look to run often.

9. DeAngelo Williams, CAR, RB
A serious foot injury cost him most of 2010. He missed three games in 2009 as well.

10. Ryan Grant, GB, RB 
Upright runner saw his 2010 end after eight carries with a season-ending ankle injury.

11. Steve Smith, PHI, WR
May start the season on the PUP list while recovering from microfracture knee surgery.

12. Sidney Rice, MIN, WR 
Hip injury forced Rice to miss all but six games last season following breakout 2009.

Quarterbacks
1. Matthew Stafford, DET

Burly, strong-armed passer has played in only 13 of his possible 32 career games — missing all but three contests last season.

2. Michael Vick, PHI
Dynamic dual-threat who takes a beating. Vick has played in all 16 games only once in his career (2006).

3. Peyton Manning, IND
Has had neck sugery in each of the past two offseasons. Colts might not be concerned — but fantasy owners should be.

4. Matt Hasselbeck, TEN
Has missed 12 games over the last three years, and he turns 36 in September.

5. Alex Smith, SF
Has averaged fewer than 10 games per season over the last three years.

6. David Garrard, JAC
His 216 carries over the last three years will begin to take a toll at some point — it cost him two games in 2010.

7. Tarvaris Jackson, SEA
Injuries interfered with his opportunities last fall, and the five projected starters on the O-line have never played together.

8. Tony Romo, DAL
Porous O-line could keep Romo running for his life after missing most of 2010 to a broken collarbone.

9. Jay Cutler, CHI
Takes chances, and his mental toughness was questioned in the playoffs a year ago.

10. Chad Henne, MIA
Has never started a full season in the NFL, due to injuries and ineffectiveness.

11. Christian Ponder, MIN
Suffered shoulder and elbow injuries in college; might not get much protection from his O-line this fall — if he plays at all.

12. Matt Schaub, HOU
Injury issues could be a thing of the past, but he missed 10 games in 2007-08.

Running Backs
1. Frank Gore, SF

Suffered hip injury in Week 12 last season; had two knee injuries during his college days at Miami.

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC
Battled through injuries last season and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in January.

3. Joseph Addai, IND
Has missed 13 games over the last three seasons for a team that doesn’t look to run often.

4. DeAngelo Williams, CAR
A serious foot injury cost him most of 2010. He missed three games in 2009 as well.

5. Ryan Grant, GB
Upright runner saw his 2010 end after eight carries due to a season-ending ankle injury.

6. Pierre Thomas, NO
Ankle injury cost him 10 games last fall. Arrival of Mark Ingram crowds the backfield.

7. Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG
Nagging ankle injury required offseason surgery for the smallish second-year starter.

8. Ronnie Brown, PHI
Alternates healthy and injured years: seven games (2007), 16 games (’08), nine games (’09) and 16 games (’10).

9. Montario Hardesty, CLE
Recovering from a torn ACL that caused him to miss the entire 2010 season.

10. Beanie Wells, ARI
Battled injuries at Ohio State, and that trend continued last fall with a knee issue.

Wide Receivers
1. Austin Collie, IND

A thumb injury, multiple concussions — in both November and December 2010 — as well as his role in the slot make him a risky pick.

2. Steve Smith, PHI
May start the season on the PUP list while recovering from microfracture knee surgery.

3. Sidney Rice, SEA
Hip injury forced Rice to miss all but six games last year following a breakout 2009 season.

4. Danario Alexander/Donnie Avery/ Mark Clayton, STL
Each of these Rams has dealt with major injuries over the past few seasons.

5. Arrelious Benn, TB
All signs point to him being healthy for the start of the season after rehabbing a torn ACL.

6. Marques Colston, NO
Appears to be struggling to get healthy after undergoing offseason knee surgery. He missed five games in 2008 as well.

7. Dez Bryant, DAL
Season ended with a fractured ankle last fall, but he appears ready to go in 2011. Bryant is also a concern off the field.

8. Percy Harvin, MIN
Migraine headaches have cost Harvin a handful of games the last few seasons; he also has a history of hamstring and ankle issues.

9. Michael Crabtree, SF
Injuries continue to plague the former first-round pick, who is battling an injury this training camp as well.

10. Wes Welker, NE
Healed from ACL injury in 2009, but he gets hit a lot near the line of scrimmage.

11. DeSean Jackson, PHI
Brittle, smallish player has missed time in each of the last two seasons.

12. Jerricho Cotchery, PIT
Offseason back surgery and declining numbers add doubt to his value in 2011.

Tight Ends
1. Owen Daniels, HOU

Has missed 13 games over the last two seasons with serious injuries.

2. Antonio Gates, SD
Chronic foot problems have bothered Gates for years and cost him six games last fall.

3. Dallas Clark, IND
A season-ending wrist injury slowed one of the most physical tight ends in the league.

4. Jermichael Finley, GB
A season-ending knee injury in Week 5 cut short what was looking like a breakout season.

5. Todd Heap, ARI
Missed three games in 2010, and he turned 31 in March.

6. Heath Miller, PIT
Has missed two games in two of the last three seasons.

7. Kyle Rudolph, MIN
Rookie missed significant time over his final two seasons at Notre Dame due to hamstring and shoulder issues.

8. Jeremy Shockey, CAR
The 10th-year vet has missed 10 games over the last three seasons.

9. Jermaine Gresham, CIN
Suffered ACL injuries in high school (2005) and at Oklahoma (2009).

10. Chris Cooley, WAS
Workhorse bounced back last season after missing nine games in 2009, but is battling injuries in camp already.

11. Tony Moeaki, KC
Missed time in each of his final two seasons at Iowa and one game last season in Kansas City. Was on PUP list at outset of camp.

12. Tony Gonzalez, ATL
Has played at least 15 games in all 14 NFL seasons, but Gonzalez turned 35 in February.

More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs

2
011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
2
011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports looks at the top 12 injury concerns overall and by position for the 2011 fantasy football season. These are 48 guys that may concern you in your draft preparation, and that you may be able to get as a steal due to their injury history or may go much sooner than they should because of that history.</p>
Post date: Sunday, August 21, 2011 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /columns/national-notebook/secs-2011-top-15-games-watch
Body:

The start of the 2011 college football season is two weeks away. With kickoff right around the corner, Athlon takes a look at the top 10 must-see games in the SEC for 2011.

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

This one pretty much has it all: Coaching and fanbase storylines, divisional and conference title implications, Heisman Trophy candidates and a potential BCS National Championship berth. Despite dominating for most of this rivalry and winning two of the last three, LSU has had Bama’s number for the better part of a decade – winning six of the last eight meetings. Both defenses should be downright nasty against the run which, of course, will be the strength of both offenses. Whichever quarterback can convert key third and longs in the fourth quarter will likely set his team up for a national title run. These are two of the best rosters in the nation, but the edge goes to the better coach and home-field advantage.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Bama by 3

2. South Carolina vs. Georgia (Week 2)
Sept. 10, All-Time Series: UGA leads 46-15-2

A trip to Atlanta is on the line in only the second weekend of action when these two SEC East contenders do battle Between the Hedges. The Dawgs have won six of the last eight over Carolina in Athens, but if Georgia expects to reverse last year’s loss to the Cocks, Todd Grantham’s defensive front will have to contain star tailback Marcus Lattimore. In only his second collegiate game a season ago, Lattimore carried the ball 37 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the tightly-played win This games always seems to be a low-scoring, blocked field goal type of game (other than ’09). Expect the same in 2011.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Dawgs by 1

3. LSU vs. Oregon (Week 1, Arlington)
Sept. 3, All-Time Series: LSU leads 2-1

These two have not met since 1977 and this game marks the first time they will meet outside of Baton Rouge. A berth in the BCS national championship game could be on the line in the palace in Arlington on the first Saturday of the season. One of the nation’s best offenses will square off against what should be one of the nation’s top defenses. The deciding factor should be whether the Ducks’ reworked front seven can slow the power rushing attack of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford – or if Jordan Jefferson can complete key third-and-longs in the fourth quarter against one of the nation’s top secondaries. Should the game be close, and each team runs the table following the meeting, a rematch in the BCS title game isn’t out of the question. The LSU line of scrimmage will be too much for Oregon – who has struggled against big, powerful front lines in its last two losses (Auburn, Ohio State).

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: LSU by 10

4. Arkansas vs. Alabama (Week 4)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: Bama leads 11-8

Since these two became divisional rivals the series has been nearly dead even with Bama owning a slight edge 9-8. But the Tide has won five of the last six meetings (technically, there were two wins vacated) and three straight at home against the Hogs. Arkansas will do battle all season without star running back Knile Davis, so Tyler Wilson’s performance will be even more critical. Bobby Petrino knows how to draw up ball plays and the Hogs have loads of firepower still left on offense. The key will be the new-look offensive line and how they fare against the Courtney Upshaws and Dont’a Hightowers of the world. A very stingy Arkansas front seven should make it difficult on whoever is under center for Bama. Home field advantage will be massive in this contest.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Bama by 7

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

The Iron Bowl is one of the single greatest football games of the season each and every year. And while the 2011 edition might lack the national appeal of last season’s unbelievable come-from-behind Tigers victory, there will be no loved lost come November 26. Auburn will be a shell of its former self with a completely replaced offensive line and defensive unit. Oh, and Cam Newton isn’t around either. While there is loads of young potential running around the Plains – that will most assuredly be game tested by Week 13 – Alabama has too much veteran talent to miss an opportunity at payback. Especially when a BCS national championship could be at stake.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Bama by 17

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

Arkansas has taken three of the last four from LSU, including a thrilling 50-48 win in Baton Rouge over the eventual National Champions in 2007. It is the Hogs only win in its last eight trips to the Bayou. An outstanding Arkansas front seven will be put to the test as the Tigers will look to pound the rock early and often. The battle for control of the line of scrimmage will either make Jordan Jefferson’s job much easier or much more difficult. Should Arkansas win that match-up, Tyler Wilson and the excellent talent around him will have to make plays down the field. The Hogs should have the holes on the offensive line plugged by then, but picking up yards on the ground against LSU sans Knile Davis will be a difficult task.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: LSU by 3

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

This will be the third in a brutal late season road swing for the Gamecocks. After visiting Mississippi State and Tennessee the previous two games, Steve Spurrier will have to have his team prepped for another nasty environment in Fayetteville. Especially after getting torched by Ryan Mallett and company in Columbia a season ago. Stephon Gilmore and the USC secondary will have to play better against Tyler Wilson than it did against Mallett – who completed 21 of 30 passes for 303 yards and a score in the 40-21 drubbing. Quarterback Stephen Garcia (14 of 29, 161 yards, TD, 2 INT) and running back Marcus Lattimore (11 carries, 30 yards) will have to be at their best if they expect to win on the road for the third straight game.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Hogs by 7

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

In one of the more exciting football games of the season, the Gators topped the Dawgs 34-31 in overtime last fall. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party should be just as intense in 2011. Murray set a career high with his first 300-yard passing game (313) and tied his career best with three touchdown tosses. He also set a career mark with three interceptions (he had eight total in 2010). Georgia will have to play better in the first three quarters of this one if it expects to get to Atlanta in December. Murray led UGA to three fourth quarter touchdowns to pull even before Florida kicked the game winner in overtime. The fireworks should be on display once again in Jacksonville.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Dawgs by 4

9. Alabama vs. Florida (Week 5)
Oct. 1, All-Time Series: Bama leads 21-14

Seven of the last 12 meetings between these two national powers have come in the Atlanta with the SEC crown hanging in the balance. While this bout in the Swamp may not have SEC title implication, it certainly could have BCS bowl repercussions. Florida will feature a totally reworked coaching staff and offensive game plan. The Gators will need it after the 31-6 undressing at the hands of the Tide last fall in Tuscaloosa. This Florida team should be improved and hosting the game certainly helps. But if Will Muschamp expects to pull the upset, his uber-talented yet very young defensive front line will have to control the line of scrimmage.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Bama by 7

10. Boise State vs. Georgia (Week 1, Atlanta)
Sept. 3, All-Time Series: UGA leads 1-0

There will be plenty on the table on kickoff weekend when Boise State travels to Atlanta to take on the Dawgs. A potential undefeated season for the Broncos will be at stake while Georgia has to get the bad taste of 2010 out of its mouth before taking on rival South Carolina the following weekend. Two of the nation’s best gunslingers should be on full display with Kellen Moore and Aaron Murray going head-to-head. Georgia will have to show marked improvement in its front seven if it expects to slow down what is an NFL offensive line from Idaho. History is on the Dawgs side as the only other time Boise ventured into Georgia, Jared Zabransky threw five interceptions and UGA won 48-13. That was in Athens and didn’t feature Chris Petersen, however. Expect a much stronger showing from these blue stallions as Peterson has been deadly when given seven months to prepare.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Broncos by 3

11. Florida vs. South Carolina (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Florida leads 23-5-3

SEC East supremacy could be at stake should things fall right for both teams. Florida’s stellar defensive line talent needs to develop quickly this season because the Gators cannot beat South Carolina if Marcus Lattimore totes the rock 40 more times for 212 more yards and three more scores.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Cocks by 7

12. Florida vs. LSU (Week 6)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Florida leads 30-24-3

The Gators will need to show marked improvement on the offensive side of the ball if it expects to walk into Death Valley and get a win. Charlie Weis will have his hands full with the Tigers defense.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Tigers by 10

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

The state of Florida has quickly been flipped on its panhandle and is now controlled by Jimbo Fisher. With the issues at Miami, Will Muschamp has to make a stand against its rival before Nole nation takes over the Sunshine State. Knocking FSU out of the BCS title game and avenging last year’s 31-7 pounding would go along way to stemming the Garnett and Gold tide.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Noles by 3

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

Another weekend and another victory on the back of Marcus Lattimore. The stellar freshman carried 29 times for 184 yards in the 14-point home win over the Vols. The Cocks essentially ended Matt Simms career as the Vols starter a season ago and Tyler Bray looked good in the second half. He will need some help from Neyland Stadium if he expects to get the win this fall.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Cocks by 10

15. Georgia vs. Tennessee (Week 6)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Tennessee leads 21-17-2

Despite the Dawgs having one of their worst seasons in recent memory, Mark Richt still managed a thorough 41-14 disrobing of the Vols in 2010. Both teams should be better in 2011, but are the Vols going to be 27 point better?

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Dawgs by 10

Other Top Games to Watch:

South Carolina vs. Mississippi State (Oct. 15)
Mississippi State vs. Georgia (Oct. 1)
Tennessee vs. Florida (Sept. 17)
Alabama vs. Mississippi State (Nov. 12)
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Oct. 1, Arlington)
Mississippi State vs. Arkansas (Nov. 19, Little Rock)
LSU vs. Mississippi State (Sept. 15)
LSU vs. West Virginia (Sept. 24)
Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss (Nov. 26)
LSU vs. Tennessee (Oct. 15)
Tennessee vs. Alabama (Oct. 22)
Tennessee vs. Arkansas (Nov. 12)
Auburn vs. Arkansas (Oct. 8)
Florida vs. Auburn (Oct. 15)
Auburn vs. LSU (Oct. 22)
Auburn vs. Georgia (Nov. 12)
Auburn vs. South Carolina (Oct. 1)
Mississippi State vs. Auburn (Sept. 10)
Alabama vs. Penn State (Sept.10)
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (Nov. 26)
Auburn vs. Clemson (Sept. 17)
Clemson vs. South Carolina (Nov. 26)
Cincinnati vs. Tennessee (Sept. 10)
Louisville vs. Kentucky (Sept. 17)
Tennessee vs. Kentucky (Nov. 26)

 

Teaser:
<p> What are the must-see match-ups in SEC country in 2011?</p>
Post date: Friday, August 19, 2011 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Nevin Shapiro
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/should-ncaa-give-miami-death-penalty
Body:

Debate: Should the NCAA give the Miami Hurricanes the death penalty?

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden): As much as I fundamentally disagree with the "Death Penalty" as punishment, it is extremely hard for me to see any other option here. The issues at Miami run much deeper than just one rogue booster. And it's not just about the last ten years in which Nevin Shapiro gained notorious status for his philandering.

First, this is about track record. It’s about a long-standing modus operandi of atrocious behavior. It isn’t just about Luther Campbell or Little Luke Shapiro. This is about more than three decades of the worst activity imaginable.

I, like many children of the 80s, enjoyed the flamboyant, brash style and talent of “The U.” At the time, I clearly didn’t understand the inner workings of what was happening in Coral Gables. But as an adult, it is hard to wrap my head around the continued, blatant disregard for rules and regulations.

The list of issues is long and ugly. On-the-field brawls steeped in gang violence. Multiple murders. Rampant cheating. OK Coral-style shootouts at players’ homes. Press box fist fights. Drug wars. Am I missing anything?

The continued glorification of violence is gut-wrenching.

I haven’t even mentioned the white-collar criminals. The behavior of Donna Shalala, Paul Dee, Kirby Hocutt and the rest of the power brokers at Miami is completely unacceptable. It is painfully obvious how much these supposed proponents of education knew about Shapiro – and God knows what else. They reached into their collective pockets and pulled out a giant middle finger and stuck right in the face of anyone who dared look in their direction. Then laughed all the way to the bank.

It took SMU nearly three decades to recover from the death penalty. Cutting football for a year won’t have nearly the same affect on a program of Miami’s power and clout. They can rebound in five years and be competitive again with the right coach and the rich South Florida recruiting waters. The Canes would be back competing for national titles in less than a decade.

But no one at any school – not the coaches, boosters, fans, players, agents or hangers-on – will ever learn their lesson if someone doesn’t pay dearly once and for all.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):

I do not believe the NCAA should give the Miami football program the “death penalty”, even though there is a strong case that it deserves that type of sentence. Strong sanctions – especially heavy scholarship reductions – will probably cripple ‘The U’ for many years anyway, but a season should not be cancelled or taken off television. I believe a “death penalty” scenario would mostly hurt those who were not responsible for the Hurricanes’ mess. Most of the people who deserve punishment – Nevin Shapiro (jail), former athletic directors Paul Dee (retired) and Kirby Hocutt (Texas Tech), as well as the former football and basketball coaches and a majority of the players – are no longer associated with Miami. Plus, the rest of the ACC would suffer immensely from the Hurricanes either being shut down or banned from television.

Current athletic director Shawn Eichorst, football coach Al Golden and basketball coach Jim Larranaga are all new to Coral Gables and have sterling reputations. They will have to deal with a ton of sanctions that will probably leave Miami with little chance of success in the foreseeable future. I understand the view that some program has suffer greatly to serve as a deterrent for others, but immense scholarship reductions and recruiting limitations will accomplish that as much as a television ban. It’s a shame that the guilty parties will most likely not be the ones to suffer the appropriate punishment, but that’s the unfortunate reality in an NCAA world.

Miami deserves to suffer greatly for its past indiscretions, but that can still happen outside of a “death penalty” scenario. The aforementioned new leadership will steer the program in the right direction, even though that will mean a lack of athletic success in the short term.
 

Teaser:
<p> After three decades of turmoil, does Miami deserve to keep its football program?</p>
Post date: Friday, August 19, 2011 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-qb-battles-alabama
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims won’t be asked to do too much this season — only win a National Championship for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

No pressure fellas.

While it is true that Nick Saban will not ask too much of his first-year starter in an offense loaded with NFL linemen and tailbacks, the pressure of leading the nation’s No. 1 team onto the field is no less great. McCarron and Sims will be asked to lead Athlon’s preseason pick to win the BCS title, so all eyes in college football will be focused on the practice fields of Tuscaloosa for the next two weeks.

The two highly touted prospects took even snaps with the first-team offense in the spring and battled to an even draw. It doesn’t appear there has been much separation thus far in fall camp either. Fans, media and the Kent State head coach will probably not know which player to prepare for until the Tide offense trots out onto the field on September 3.

Meet the Candidates:

A.J. McCarron, 6-4, 205, SO
2010: 30-48, 389 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT

Phillip Sims, 6-2, 217, FR
2010: 11-20, 138 yards in spring ball

Blake Sims, 6-0, 212, FR

Both McCarron and Phillip Sims were Athlon Consensus 100 recruits, so both have the physical tools needed to succeed in the SEC. The big difference is obviously the experience level. McCarron has played very well in mop-up duty against the likes of San Jose State, Duke, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Michigan State and Georgia State.

Yes, those were all extremely lopsided affairs in which there was no pressure on McCarron’s shoulders. However, simply facing a couple of SEC defenses and Sparty can only help his development process. It also might give him the slight edge for that first offensive series against the Golden Flashes in two weeks. He was extremely efficient in his spot duty last fall and looks like the safer of the two players at this point.

Sims, on the other hand, has yet to take a collegiate snap but has all the makings of an elite signal caller. The record setting passer from Virginia — Sims was 48-4 with 10,725 yards and 119 touchdowns in his prep career — might have more raw talent than McCarron, and more importantly, might have more support from his teammates. Commanding a huddle of future NFL stars and collegiate All-Americans is no easy task, so any confidence his peers can provide can only help the transition into the starting lineup.

Athlon’s Prediction: A.J. McCarron

Both are saying all the right things about the “friendly” competition. The money seems like it should land on McCarron to at least start the season on the field. It is more than likely that both see significant time in what should be a one-sided affair in Week One. However, a trip to Happy Valley looms large in Week Two, and should McCarron struggle against what should be a dramatically improved Nittany Lion defense, Sims could take over for good. Don’t be shocked if Saban employs a two-quarterback system either.

But can the Tide win a national title with two quarterbacks?

Other Quarterback Battles:

QB Battles: Miami, Fla.

QB Battles: Notre Dame

QB Battles: Texas

Teaser:
<p> Can Phillip Sims snatch the Bama starting job away from AJ McCarron?</p>
Post date: Friday, August 19, 2011 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten
Path: /columns/national-notebook/big-tens-2011-top-10-games-watch
Body:

The start of the 2011 college football season is two weeks away. With kickoff right around the corner, Athlon takes a look at the top 10 must-see games in the Big Ten for 2011.

1. Nebraska vs. Wisconsin (Week 5)
Oct. 1, All-Time Series: Nebraska leads 3-2

This game will usher in a new era of football for Nebraska as it travels to Madison to play in its first ever Big Ten conference game. The corn-fed Big Red will have to face the dairy-fed Big Red in what could be a preview of the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. These look like the two most complete teams on paper as the play of Taylor Martinez against the JJ Watt-less Badger pass defense will be the deciding factor. These two Midwest powers have not been on the same field since 1974, when the Huskers topped the Badgers 21-20 in MadTown – which will be absolutely rocking for the visit from Bo Pelini and Company.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 6

2. Ohio State vs. Nebraska (Week 6)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Buckeyes lead 2-0

In what will be another first for Nebraska fans, Larry the Cable Guy and the rest of Husker nation will welcome the Buckeyes to Lincoln for the first time. It will also mark the return of the Tat-5 (or four) when Mike Adams, Boom Herron and DeVier Posey rejoin their teammates on the field. This too could be a preview of the Big Ten title game as the Buckeyes, despite the suspensions, are very much a contender in the Leaders Division. Quarterback play will be huge in this game as both teams should struggle to run the football against two solid front lines. Can ageless wonder Joe Bauserman or youngster Braxton Miller keep their composure in one of the most difficult places to play in the nation?

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 3

3. 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, the 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.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Buckeyes by 4

4. 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 look to have Michigan pointed in the right direction and could be in a position to surprise in 2011. However, the Buckeyes should be too strong at the end of the season for Michigan to sneak-up on them. Michigan will beat OSU in the near future, it just isn’t likely to be in 2011.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Buckeyes by 7

5. Michigan State vs. Nebraska (Oct. 29)
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 nearly unblemished 2010, Sparty fancies itself as the primary contender in the Big Ten Legends Division and has no desire to let the new kid win it all. The sledding will be tough for Michigan State despite the outstanding skill talent it possesses on offense. There are 39 starts gone from the offensive line and the new faces will be put to the test against Jared Crick and the All-American Husker front seven. 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.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 4

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 provide a berth into the Big Ten title game. The whole ear of corn, so to speak, could be on the line in the season finale in Lincoln. The Hawkeye offense, despite losing leader Ricky Stanzi, shouldn’t miss a beat under James Vandenberg. And even though Kirk Ferentz must replace most of his starting defense, one would assume that by Week 13, this group will once again be a hard-hitting, stingy unit. Home-field advantage is the deciding factor in this one.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers by 3

7. Michigan State vs. Ohio State (Week 5)
Oct. 1, All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 27-12

These two both earned a share of the Big Ten title a year ago but never got a chance to settle it on the field. That won’t be the case in 2011 as these two title contenders take the field in Columbus. However, seeing as how it’s the fifth game of the Buckeyes’ season, Sparty won’t have to face Boom Herron, DeVier Posey or Mike Adams among others. Will the wet-behind-the-ears replacements gain enough experience in the first four games of the season to get a huge win? The Bucks know they must hold serve at home in order to land the first Leaders’ Division title – and it starts with Michigan State. Ohio State has won seven in row, 12 of 14 and is 20-4 against MSU since 1974.

Athlon's Very Early Predictions: Buckeyes by 7

8. Wisconsin vs. Michigan State (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: MSU 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 should bring another stellar rushing attack to East Lansing but Jerell Worthy and company will be prepared along the Spartan front. The key could be the reworked Spartan offensive line facing a defensive line that must replace JJ Watt. Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson will likely hold the key to success.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Badgers by 1

9. Notre Dame vs. Michigan (Week 2)
Sept. 10, All-Time Series: Michigan leads 22-15-1

These two have been playing virtually every season for over 30 years and each has had its time in the sun. However, Michigan has won four of the last five including the last two tightly-fought four-point victories. Shoelace Robinson announced his authority on national television with 258 yards rushing and two touchdowns - including an electric 87-yard scoring scamper. He added 244 yards passing with another touchdown as his fantasy stardom was off and running. But Notre Dame developed on the defense as the season went along and looks to have potentially its best defense in two decades. Michigan will have to show improvement on its own atrocious defense before it can claim another victory over the Irish’s Mad Scientist head coach.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Irish by 7

10a. Nebraska vs. Penn State (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: PSU leads 7-6

10b. Nebraska vs. Michigan (Nov. 19)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: Michigan leads 3-2-1

Nebraska has 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 2002 the last time Big Red headed to Penn State and 1962 the last time it played at the Big House. On paper, Penn State doesn’t look to have the offensive power to hang with Nebraska while the Wolverines don’t have anyone to slow Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead. However, by the end of the season both PSU and UM should be much improved from 2010 and will be hosting a title contender. Anything can happen.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers over PSU by 7
Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Huskers over Michigan by 14

Other Top Games to Watch:

Michigan State vs. Iowa (Nov. 12)
Penn State vs. Ohio State (Nov. 19)
Penn State vs. Wisconsin (Nov. 26)
Michigan vs. Michigan State (Oct. 15)
Michigan State vs. Notre Dame (Sept. 17)
Iowa vs. Penn State (Oct. 8)
Michigan vs. Iowa (Nov. 5)
Ohio State vs. Miami (Sept. 17)
Alabama vs. Penn State (Sept. 10)
Ohio State vs. Illinois (Oct. 15)
Northwestern vs. Nebraska (Nov. 5)
Arizona State vs. Illinois (Sept. 17)
Illinois vs. Penn State (Oct. 29)
Wisconsin vs. Illinois (Nov. 19)
Pitt vs. Iowa (Sept. 17)
Penn State vs. Northwestern (Oct. 22)
Oregon State vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 10)
Northwestern vs. Boston College (Sept. 3)

Other Big Ten Content:

Athlon Sports' Big Ten 2011 Unit Rankings

Ranking the Big Ten's Top 40 Players for 2011
Athlon's 2011 Big Ten Predictions
Athlon's 2011 All-Big Ten Team

Top 25 Players of BCS Era

Best Quarterback in the Big Ten?

Will Michigan Surprise in the Big Ten title race?

Illinois: A Sleeper Team?

Teaser:
<p> What are the top ten must-see match-ups in the Big Ten this fall?</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 01:07
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /columns/national-notebook/football-recruiting-florida-state-dominates
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)

There is a new college football czar of Florida. And his name is Jimbo.

In a matter of months – not years – Florida State's second-year head coach Jimbo Fisher, with a little help from Nevin Shapiro, has totally flipped the state of Florida on its panhandle.

In the 90s, the Seminoles posted nine straight ACC championships and three straight trips to the BCS National Championship game – including the 1999 crystal ball. But Florida State football just hasn’t been the same since being shut out by the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2000 BCS title game.

The Seminoles have won three ACC titles since that game, but none since 2005. Even in those championship seasons, the writing appeared to be engraved on the wall. Florida State combined for 13 losses in those three years (2002, 2003, 2005) after losing a total of 11 games from 1992 to 2000.

Pouring salt in the wound have been the four total BCS national title appearances – including three victories – by the Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators since the 13-2 Orange Bowl loss at the hands of the Sooners.

Yet, health concerns, perhaps some burnt-out nerve endings and the loss of consigliere Dan Mullen have rendered Urban Meyer a distant memory at Florida. Larry Coker and Randy Shannon ultimately couldn’t hack it under the bright lights of South Beach. And in light of the recent allegations concerning Shaprio and the rampant cheating taking place at Miami, it is safe to say "The U" won't be competing for national championships anytime soon. It could takes years for the Canes to bounce back from the booster's involvement and subsequent NCAA penalties, so it won't just be Fisher who exploits the issues rippling from Coral Gables into the surrounding, talent-rich high schools of South Florida.

At Florida, Will Muschamp appears to be a quality football coach who inherits a deep and talented roster full of elite prep stars. He has a quality start to his first full recruiting classes in 2012 and there is no reason to believe he won't be successful. However, Florida is coming off a five-loss season in which the Noles spiked the Gators, in true Chief Osceola fashion, 31-7 into the 50-yard line at Doak Campbell.

With Miami now out of the picture for at least the near future and the Gators starting from scratch, it's Fisher's state to control. And maybe no first-year coach has ever refueled the recruiting fire like Fisher did in Tallahassee. Which is great news considering Bobby Bowden finished his coaching career with a decided whimper on the recruiting trail. Florida State ranked no better than 10th (2009), finished as low as 33rd (2007) and averaged a 15.6 national recruiting ranking during Bowden’s final five seasons.

With the instant energy and success Fisher has brought to Florida State recruiting, Bowden is quickly become his own distant memory – much to the chagrin of Canes and Gators everywhere.

Certainly being a member of the coaching staff with the “in-waiting” suffix attached to his title helped Fisher cultivate relationships with his prep brethren prior to officially taking over as head coach. But in a matter of 18-24 months, the Seminoles have clearly reasserted themselves as the Sunshine State recruiting power.

Fisher’s first full recruiting class (2011) was the best collection of talent in the nation. Seven of his 28 signees were Athlon Consensus 100 prospects, including early contributors James Wilder, Karlos Williams, Tim Jernigan and Nick O’Leary. With the release of the 2012 AC100, and high school games set to kick off this week, Fisher and the Noles could find themselves atop the recruiting rankings again.

Florida State currently leads the nation with six AC100 commitments, including what is shaping up as the best defensive line class in the nation. Much like Florida in 2010 and Notre Dame in 2011, the Noles look to be rebuilding the defensive line in alarming fashion. Mario Edwards is the No. 2 overall recruit in the nation and is the No. 1 defensive end. Dante Fowler Jr (pictured) is the No. 26 overall recruit and is the No. 4 end. Chris Casher is the No. 6 defensive end in the nation and the No. 38 overall recruit in America. The No. 98-rated prospect in the nation is Prattville, Ala., defensive tackle Justin Shanks. He is committed to FSU.

Fisher has also pulled the country’s No. 2 quarterback, Jameis Winston (No. 14 overall), from the heart of the Yellowhammer State and America's No. 6 running back in the nation with Mario Pender from Cape Coral, Fla.

Florida State has 16 total commitments, and the group is considered a top-five collection currently. However, Fisher is only just getting started. Five of the top seven, 12 of the top 21 and 18 of the top 37 players still left uncommitted have Florida State listed as a finalist. It may only be a matter of time before they are atop the rankings again in 2012.

As the preseason favorite to win the ACC, a top-five national ranking, the No. 1 incoming freshman class, a completely reworked coaching staff in Gainesville and death penalty rumors swirling at Miami, it is painfully obvious that Fisher is the new Don of Sunshine State football.

Other ACC Content

Breaking Down Miami's QB Battle
Ranking the Best Units in the ACC

Athlon's 2011 ACC Predictions

Athlon's 2011 All-ACC Team

Ranking the ACC's Top 25 Players for 2011

Predicting the ACC's Breakout Players for 2011

Teaser:
<p> Jimbo Fisher has quickly refueled the Seminoles recruiting machine.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /columns/national-notebook/pac-12s-2011-top-10-games-watch
Body:

The start of the 2011 college football season is two weeks away. With kickoff right around the corner, Athlon takes a look at the top 10 must-see games in the Pac-12 for 2011.

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

The Pac-12 conference title will likely be on the line when Oregon flies south to Palo Alto during November. Stanford has owned the all-time series, but over the last decade the Ducks have dominated the meetings. Oregon dropped 52 points on the Cardinal last fall and has won eight of the last nine meetings. The Ducks have struggled against power teams (Ohio State, Auburn) over the last two years and the Cardinal will have as close to a power rushing attack as there is in the league. Will the Ducks’ front seven jell in time to slow the Andrew Luck-led attack by Week 11? And can the Cardinal keep the Ducks from scoring 52 points again?

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Cardinal by 4

2. Oregon vs. LSU (Week 1, Arlington)
Sept. 3, All-Time Series: LSU leads 2-1

A berth in the BCS national championship game could be on the line in the palace in Arlington on the first Saturday of the season. One of the nation’s best offenses will square off against what should be one of the nation’s top defenses. The deciding factor should be whether the Ducks’ reworked front seven can slow the power rushing attack of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford – or if Jordan Jefferson can complete key third-and-longs in the fourth quarter against one of the nation’s top secondaries. Should the game be close, and each team runs the table following the meeting, a rematch in the BCS title game isn’t out of the question.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Tigers by 10

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

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

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Ducks by 7

4. USC vs. Arizona State (Week 4)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: USC leads 17-9

This game should have been a de facto Pac-12 South championship game. However, the luster was slightly removed when the NCAA ruled that USC could not play in the title game. Arizona State has been dealing with a preseason injury plague as well. That said, these should still be the best two teams in the South, and an early season trip to the desert is never an easy thing. With a win, ASU could establish itself as the team to beat in the division and will set itself up for the inaugural Pac-12 conference championship game.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Trojans by 1

5. Notre Dame vs. Stanford (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 17-8
This game has a chance to dramatically impact the overall national title landscape in the penultimate week of the regular season. This could be the only contest in which Notre Dame is not favored, and both teams could enter this arena unblemished. Even if both have dropped a game or two elsewhere, an at-large BCS bowl bid will likely be on the line. The Irish front seven showed massive improvement in the final month of 2010 and will be tested by one of the most physical running games in the nation. On the flip side, it could be an absolute treat to watch Dayne Crist (or whoever is running the Brian Kelly attack) square off with Andrew Luck, the best player in the nation.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Cardinal by 6

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

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

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Irish by 3

7. Oregon State vs. Oregon (Week 13) 
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Oregon leads 58-46-10

There are some great rivalry games in the Pac-12, but recently few have matched the intensity and import of the Civil War. It’s not just in-state bragging rights that are on the line when these two square off, but the conference title has hung in the balance as well. This could be the case again as Oregon enters the season as the favorite to win the league for the third straight season. The Beavers would love nothing more than to knock the Ducks out of the Pac-12 — or BCS — championship game. From 1998 to 2006, these two alternated wins, but the Ducks have won three straight in the series, scoring 139 points in the process. Oregon State will have to slow down the Oregon attack if it expects to break the Civil War winning streak. The SEC-type atmosphere will be electric when the Beavers enter Autzen Stadium in the final week of play.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Ducks by 13

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

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

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Cardinal by 1

9. Arizona State vs. Utah (Week 6)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Arizona State leads 16-6

While Utah and Arizona State are not two of the elite teams in the Pac-12 on paper, these two teams could be playing for a spot in the Pac-12 title game on October 8. Quarterback play could be the key for both programs as the Sun Devils’ Brock Osweiler and the Utes' Jordan Wynn both need to take the next step in the development process. Whichever player can progress the most, and stay healthy, by the time October rolls around could lead his team into Championship Saturday. Arizona State has won seven straight games in this series (the last six coming in Tempe), but the two southwest programs have not faced each other since 1993.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Utes by 3

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

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

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Ducks by 14

Other Top Games To Watch:

Arizona State vs. Oregon (Oct. 15)
Utah vs. USC (Sept. 10)
Washington vs. Stanford (Oct. 22)
Washington vs. Oregon State (Nov. 19)
Stanford vs. Arizona (Sept. 17)
Oregon vs. Arizona (Sept. 24)
Utah vs. BYU (Sept. 17)
Stanford vs. Oregon State (Nov. 5)
Arizona vs. USC (Oct. 1)
Arizona vs. Arizona State (Nov. 19)
Arizona vs. Washington (Oct. 29)
Missouri vs. Arizona State (Sept. 9)
Cal vs. Stanford (Nov. 19)
Washington vs. Nebraska (Sept. 17)
Oregon State vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 10)
Oregon State vs. BYU (Oct. 15)
Texas vs. UCLA (Sept. 17)
UCLA vs. Oregon State (Sept. 24)
Utah vs. Pitt (Oct. 15)
Arizona State vs. Illinois (Sept. 17)
UCLA vs. USC (Nov. 26)
Washington vs. Washington State (Nov. 26)
Colorado vs. Utah (Nov. 26)

Other Pac-12 Content:

Athlon's Pac-12 Unit Rankings

Predicting the Pac-12's Breakout Players for 2011
Athlon's 2011 Pac-12 Predictions

Athlon's 2011 All-Pac-12 Team

Is Washington the Surprise Pac-12 Team?

Teaser:
<p> What are the best games in the 2011 edition of the Pac-12?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - 10:19
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /columns/national-notebook/big-12s-2011-top-10-games-watch
Body:

The start of the 2011 college football season is two weeks away. With kickoff right around the corner, Athlon takes a look at the top 10 must-see games in the Big 12 for 2011.

1. Oklahoma vs. Florida State (Week 3)
Sept. 17, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 5-1

There’s a lot at stake in this Week 3 matchup. Oklahoma and Florida State are national title contenders, and a marquee non-conference win would go a long way towards an undefeated season. The Sooners easily handled the Seminoles last year, winning 47-17 in Norman. Florida State will be hungry to avenge last season’s embarrassment and a victory over Oklahoma would be a statement win in Jimbo Fisher’s second season in Tallahassee. The Sooners suffered a blow when linebacker Travis Lewis was lost for at least the first month of the season due to a foot injury suffered in fall camp. Although Lewis is out, Oklahoma’s linebacking corps remains one of the best in the Big 12, especially with the rapid development of sophomores Tom Wort and Corey Nelson. Much of Florida State’s national title hopes will hinge on quarterback EJ Manuel, who enters his first year as the starter. The junior has six starts over the last two years and there’s no question he has the talent, but has yet to prove himself over a full season.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Seminoles by 3

2. Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State (Week 14)
Dec. 3, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 81-17-7

Dan Beebe and the Big 12 had to highlight one game on Championship Saturday after losing its title game and The Bedlam Series was an easy choice. Not only will in-state bragging rights be on the line for the 105th time, but the Big 12 title could be at stake as well. Oklahoma State fancies itself as 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. With the stellar offenses returning for both in 2011, fans can expect fireworks once again from the Bedlam Series.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Sooners by 3

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 one of, if not the, top contender 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 Very Early Prediction: Sooners by 10

4. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Week 6, Dallas)
Oct. 8, All-Time Series: Texas leads 59-41-5

The Red River Shootout doesn’t appear to have the same sex appeal as it has had over the last decade. This game has consistently been the best game in the league every season. However, after a 5-7 season from the Longhorns – and huge question marks looming along the offensive line and under center – this game losses some of its edge. But only some – this is still Texas-Oklahoma after all. Expect the Cotton Bowl to be rocking when these two bitter rivals square-off for the 105th time. Texas’ defense was the strength (if there was one) of this team last year, but DeMarco Murray rushed for 115 yards and two scores while Landry Jones tossed a pair of scores and protected the football in the 28-20 OU win. These two have split 2-2 over the last four years and the winner of the rivalry has gone on to win the Big 12 title each of the last three years.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Sooners by 13

5. Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M (Week 4)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: TAMU leads 17-9

The right to challenge the Oklahoma Sooners for conference supremacy should be on the line when these two explosive offenses take the field in late September. The Pokes have won three straight in this series, including an edge-of-the-seat three-point win as time expired last fall. However, this game is in College Station and Jerrod Johnson – and his four interceptions – won’t be under center. Despite passing for 409 yards and five touchdowns against OSU last fall, Johnson lost his starting job shortly thereafter, giving way to Ryan Tannehill. This game could have been dramatically different had it been played after the switch at quarterback.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Aggies by 3

6. Missouri vs. Oklahoma (Week 4)
Sept. 24, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 65-25-5

Gary Pinkel and the Tigers look at themselves as Big 12 title contenders almost every season now. And rightly so. However, the Sooners have spoiled a pair of great Mizzou seasons with disrobings in the Big 12 title game by a combined 100-38. The Tigers finally broke through in 2010, however, with a big 36-27 home win. The victory marked the first win over Oklahoma since 1998 (seven games). With stellar offensive and defensive line play for the Tigers, Bob Stoops certainly won’t take Missouri lightly after being upset a year ago. Much of the Tigers’ season will hinge on James Franklin play and a Week Four trip to Norman looms ominously on the schedule.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Sooners by 10

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

These two Big 12 contenders have played only twice since 2005, both of which went the way of the Pokes. Each team is eyeing a conference title and each team will have to go through the other - literally - if they want to push Oklahoma for the title. This game will feature two of the best offensive lines in the league as both collections of blockers return largely intact, but the real battle will come on defense. Mizzou boasted the best defense in the Big 12 a year ago, while the Pokes claimed the top rated offense. While Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and company give Okie State a clear edge on offense, the Tigers should have the advantage on the defensive side of the ball. Can Missouri slow the high-powered Cowboy attack? Can new quarterback James Franklin move the ball enough to keep pace with OSU? This will be one of the top swing games in the league this fall and should carry major consequences in the Big 12 title race.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Cowboys by 1

8. Missouri vs. Texas A&M (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: TAMU leads 7-4

On the surface it looks like Jerrod Johnson played an excellent football game against the Tigers last fall. He threw for 322 yards, one score and no interceptions. There was one big problem, however: The Aggies lost 30-9. Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael combined for 55 yards on 15 carries. As a team, TAMU rushed for 57 yards on 33 carries against what turned out to be the best defense in the league. Out is Johnson. Out is Blaine Gabbert. Out is Aldon Smith. Out is Von Miller. The new Mizzou faces won’t be scared by the trip to College Station, however. The Tigers have won two of its last three games in College Station (including last year) and has won four of the last five. Expect the Aggies to pound the football for what should be better than the 1.7 yards per carry.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Aggies by 7

9. Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (Week 5, Arlington)
Oct. 1, All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 40-24-3

An old Southwest Conference throwback marks the second year in a row these two former rivals match-up in Texas Stadium. Ryan Mallett and Von Miller won’t be there this go around, but there should be no lack of star power and fireworks in Jerry’s World. Last fall, Jerrod Johnson completed only 15 of his 40 passes while Mallett threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns on 71% passing in the 24-17 Hogs win. These two combined for six total points in the second half and was the beginning of the end of Johnson’s tenure as the starter. Expect two new signal callers, Ryan Tannehill and Tyler Wilson, to utilize two stellar skill groups on the fast turf in Arlington. The Hogs may have the advantage up front but will be missing star tailback Knile Davis.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Razorbacks by 4

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

These two bitter rivals have only upped the ante in recent weeks with Texas A&M’s likely 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 with Big Brother. Aggie fans feel confident they are a Big 12 title contender while Texas fans are not sure exactly what to expect from their squad. If Texas returns to prominence this game could carry heavy Big 12 implications. Otherwise, this will be a Turkey Day hangover game filled with nothing but Aggie one-liners and Burnt Orange hatred.

Athlon’s Very Early Prediction: Aggies by 7

Other Top Games to Watch:

Oklahoma State vs. Texas (Oct. 15)
Texas vs. Missouri (Nov. 12)
Missouri vs. Arizona State (Sept. 9)
TCU vs. Baylor (Sept. 3)
Texas A&M vs. Texas Tech (Nov. 8)
Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech (Nov. 12)
Arizona vs. Oklahoma State (Sept. 10)
Texas vs. Baylor (Dec. 3)
Texas Tech vs. Texas (Nov. 5)
Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma (Oct. 22)
Texas Tech vs. Missouri (Nov. 19)
Texas vs. UCLA (Sept. 17)
Kansas State vs. Miami, Fla. (Sept. 24)
Kansas vs. Missouri (Nov. 26)
Kansas State vs. Kansas (Oct. 22)

Other Big 12 Content

Big 12's Breakout Players for 2011
Ranking the Big 12's Top 35 Players for 2011
2011 Big 12 Unit Rankings

Athlon's 2011 Big 12 Predictions
Athlon's 2011 All-Big 12 Team
Will Oklahoma and Texas A&M Leave the Big 12?
Oklahoma State's Dynamic Duo
Is Missouri the Big 12's Surprise Team?
Over/Under on Texas Wins in 2011

Teaser:
<p> What are the Top 10 games to watch in the Big 12 in 2011?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - 08:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, SEC Expansion, SEC, News
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/debate-should-sec-expand
Body:

Debate: Should the SEC expand?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): I do not think the SEC should expand, and that’s mainly because I do not think it’s good for college football for any power conference to go past the 12-team threshold. It seems inevitable that the collegiate world is headed to the land of ‘Superconferences’, with last year’s Pac-12/Big Ten/Big 12/MWC realignment just the tip of the iceberg. I think the popularity of college football lies in its regional rivalries and ultra-passionate fans. The arms race towards 16-team leagues with national footprints is a path to becoming “NFL Junior” in my opinion, and I think that would damage college football in the long term. Do you really want to see league games between Rutgers-TCU and Washington State-Oklahoma State? How are you going to structure a sensible football schedule with 16 teams in a conference?

As far as the recent ‘Texas A&M to the SEC’ rumors, I just don’t see why Mike Slive needs to be in a hurry to secure the Aggies. What’s the urgency to move to an unbalanced 13 teams, with an obvious 14th school soon thereafter? The SEC is about as strong as a conference could be right now, with five straight national titles in football and loaded television deals. If another power league ups its membership to 14 or 16 teams in the future, then Slive could determine a possible expansion at that time. After all, where do you think Texas A&M is going to go? The SEC will always be a better fit for the Aggies than any Pac-16 scenario, and I don’t see the Big Ten inviting them. If the Big 12 falls apart because of the uber-greedy Longhorns or a lack of 12 teams, then A&M will be available at that time. We all understand the benefit for the SEC to capture Texas television markets, but it’s not like Slive can immediately renegotiate the recently signed TV contracts if the Aggies joined next year.

The SEC is a leader. The conference model that former commissioner Roy Kramer and staff set up in 1992 seems to be what every league has followed in subsequent years. Here’s hoping that college football’s toughest league does not cross the 12-team line on the gridiron, and then force other power leagues to try and keep up. ‘Superconferences’ probably sound great to ESPN and bean counters in conference offices, but a college football landscape where you don’t play half your league makes no sense. I hope my favorite game keeps its unique regional rivalries and doesn’t lose its special identity in the pursuit of a few million dollars more.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden): College football is an arms race. It is a brick and mortar business. Teams build seven-figure athletic facilities, locker rooms, luxury suites, dorms, cafaterias and hire the best personal trainers, chefs and tutors to make sure athletes are well cared for at all times.

This theory extends upwards towards the conferences and the conference commissioners. Jim Delany, Larry Scott and Mike Slive had made massive powerplays in the form of TV networks, tv contracts and conference expansion.

So in light of Big East expansion rumors, and its own extremely lucrative television contract, Slive needs to be proactive. Delany pressed the issue and lured one of the single most powerful football programs in the nation into the fold when he landed Nebraska. Scott "acquired" two solid programs in Utah and Colorado and then upped the ante with the most creative and profitable television contract in the game today.

Slive and the SEC have no choice.

Is the SEC the top dog? Yes. Does it own the on-the-field bragging rights? Yes. Is it the most "dedicated to winning" conference in the nation? Yes. But heavy is the head that wears the crown.

The massive bull's-eye permanently located on the chest of the SEC shouldn't worry fans, coaches and players too much. But it certainly should have Presidents, boosters, Mike Slive and, most importantly, the beancounters conscious of future earnings potential, growth opportunities and creative revenue streams.

Would the SEC even have a chance to land superpowers like Texas, Oklahoma, Florida State or Miami? Does Missouri offer enough eyes and ears with the Kansas City and St. Louis markets? Would Virginia Tech or Maryland offer up the Richmond-DC-Baltimore-Tidewater markets? Does Texas A&M give Slive the DFW metroplex and Houston he so desperately craves?

The SEC needs to land a prestigious program(s) with a powerful athletic department dedicated to success on the field. But make no mistake, it is always about money. So if the top conference in college football can go first-to-third on a single to right and force the other leagues to make the play, and do so in a timely, efficient and profitable manner, Slive has to pull the trigger and force the hand of Delany and Scott.

If 16-team super-conferences are inevitable, the SEC might as well be the first to step off the ledge.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon editors Patrick Snow and Braden Gall debate SEC expansion.</p>
Post date: Friday, August 12, 2011 - 11:06
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-qb-battles-miami-fla
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

The Miami Hurricanes are one of college football's most intriguing teams of 2011.

On the field, the Canes are college football royalty. When they win, they win big. The 2011 edition has loads of talent, a preseason Top 25 ranking and is the primary challenger to Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division.

But when it goes bad on South Beach, it can get ugly. Three decades of off-the-field drama that makes The Wire look like kindergarten. Package that with poor administrative support and a stadium that is located more than 20 miles from campus and any fan base would be a bit restless – even if it is notoriously difficult to please.

Larry Coker won big, but clearly wasn’t cut from the same Hurricane cloth as Jimmy or Butch. Randy Shannon is a great human being and cleaned up the program, but couldn’t win enough games.

Enter Al Golden.

With practice starting up recently, the Golden Era has begun in south Florida in earnest. But what is the former Temple head coach faced with in his first campaign with Miami?

He has enough talent to challenge for a division title, but has a glaring problem under center. So Golden’s biggest decision of 2011 will likely come before he ever steps onto the sidelines of Joe Robbie-Dolphins-Pro Player-Land Shark-Sun Life Stadium.

Meet the Candidates:

Jacory Harris, 6-4, 195, SR
2010: 1,793 yards, 14 TD, 15 INT, 27 rush yards, 2 TD

Stephen Morris, 6-2, 210, SO
2010: 1,240 yards, 7 TD, 9 INT, 74 rush yards, TD

Spencer Whipple, 6-2, 205, SR
2010: 54 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT

How many quarterbacks enter their senior year after starting for the better part of three seasons, having thrown for 6,340 yards and accounted for 55 touchdowns, and end up sitting on the bench?

That is exactly what could happen to Harris this fall if he cannot improve his efficiency. Over the last two seasons, the local product has thrown 32 interceptions in 23 games. In only six games over that span did the slender senior slinger not lob a pass to an opposing jersey. Throwing off his back foot and into double coverage has become an M.O. for Harris - who has not shown the ability to develop as a passer.

So the much younger, more athletic, stronger-armed Stephen Morris is the obvious choice, right?

Not so fast. Morris also had an issue with interceptions and efficiency. The freshman failed to complete 50% of his passes in three of his six games. The Canes were 2-2 in his four starts, and like Harris, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns.

That said, the biggest difference – and major advantage – for Morris is his youth. These types of turnovers and efficiency issues are to be expected from a freshman quarterback. He is a dramatically more malleable commodity than Harris. Morris has loads of room to grow and develop as a passer and leader, where it will extremely difficult for Golden to correct 870 pass attempts worth of poor practices in Harris’ case. Morris did help Miami beat Maryland and Georgia Tech and played what was his easily his best game in the Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame: 22-for-33, 282 yards, 2 TD, INT, 5 carrries for 22 yards gained.

The good news for both players is the running game. With the best collection of blockers and backs The U has seen since the early 2000s returning, the ground attack should be a major strength of the offense and should significantly aid whoever is taking snaps. In fact, fans can probably expect to see plenty of Lamar Miller in the wildcat formation as well.

Harris seems like the obvious choice due to experience and leadership. At least, to start the season. However, it has leaked this week from Miami Herald reporter Susan Miller-Degnan’s twitter account that Morris may have a slight edge:

“I was told by person I don't want to incriminate that #UM #Canes #QB S Morris was ahead of Jacory. Golden: not saying.”

This position battle looks like it might last the entire season – or at least until Morris is ready to take over full-time.

Athlon Sports Prediction: Jacory Harris

After polling the Athlon editorial staff, our odds-makers still feel that Harris will start the season on the field. However, I would be surprised if Morris is not the starter by the second half of the Ohio State game. Harris' line against the Buckeyes last fall: 22-for-39, 232 yards, TD, 4 INT.

QB Battles: Notre Dame
QB Battles: Texas

Teaser:
<p> Can veteran gunslinger Jacory Harris hold off surging sophomore Stephen Morris?</p>
Post date: Friday, August 12, 2011 - 09:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-qb-battles-texas
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

How many college football teams have fallen from an undefeated regular season and BCS national championship berth to 5-7 with inexplicable losses to UCLA, Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor in one year?

Let’s simplify the question: How many teams that played in the BCS national championship game failed to win at least seven games the following year?

The answer is still only one: The 2010 Texas Longhorns. In fact, the only other team that failed to reach at least eight wins following a BCS title game berth was the 2002 7-7 Nebraska Cornhuskers.

So what is to be blamed for the Longhorns' complete self-destruction a year ago? The offensive line couldn’t block, the receivers weren’t open (or were dropping passes when they were), the running backs weren’t getting the tough yards, the coaches didn’t do their jobs, and finally, Garrett Gilbert failed to live up to the hype.

For the first time since the pre-Vince Young days, Mack Brown has a dark veil of uncertainty at the quarterback position.

Meet the candidates

#7: Garrett Gilbert, 6-4, 218, JR
2010: 2,744 yards, 10 TD, 17 INT, 380 rush yards, 5 TD

#5: Connor Wood, 6-4, 220, FR

#6: Case McCoy, 6-2, 200, SO

David Ash, 6-3, 215, FR

Gilbert was a victim of circumstance. He played well in the second half of the BCS title game against Alabama, but it was clear that the Tide came out of the locker room assuming the game was over. As soon as Texas got close, Bama flipped a switch, created four quick turnovers and cemented its legacy as a champion.

But the hype from that second half lived on throughout the offseason. And it probably wasn’t fair to Gilbert considering that he was following the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. Yes, he threw a downright ugly 17 interceptions against only 10 touchdowns. But he got no help from the line, receivers, backs and most importantly the coaches.

His 2,744 yards were actually better than Colt McCoy’s 2,570 yards in his first season as the starter. His 380 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns bested McCoy’s 180 yards and two scores. The big difference was McCoy’s 29:7 TD:INT ratio – something that Brown is emphasizing in fall camp.

“You’ve gotta have great leadership at that position; you’ve gotta protect the ball, and you’ve gotta put the ball in the endzone,” said Brown.

The Texas head coach has made it very clear since the onset of summer that his starting QB job is up for grabs. And it is clear what he is looking for from his signal caller. Lead, don't turn the ball over and score points.

Easier said than done.

Is there talent behind Gilbert on the depth chart? Absolutely. But Case McCoy, Connor Wood and David Ash have a combined one collegiate pass attempt among them. McCoy was impressive in the spring and has the family moxie Burnt Orange fans are used to seeing from the McCoy name. But he might be the least physically gifted player on the roster at his position. Wood has the talent and has been in the program for a year, while Ash has yet to experience anything that resembles a collegiate atmosphere.

All signs point to Gilbert earning the job once again this season, and there are several reasons to be optimistic about his potential this fall. First, Brown made big switches to the coaching staff, bringing in Boise State’s Bryan Harsin to spruce up the passing attack. Second, the nation’s No. 1 running back, Malcolm Brown, arrives on campus as the savior of the ground game. Third, the offensive line has to be better than it was a year ago. It might not be possible for that much talent to struggle that badly again. Finally, the wide receiver corps is deep and extremely athletic. Mike Davis and Darius White are poised for breakout seasons, and newcomer Jaxon Shipley will be dynamic in the slot. Not to mention veteran Marquise Goodwin.

The coaches are charting every pass in practice and are putting every player in critical competitive situations in order to simulate game action. Brown has said he should make the call in relatively short order, so fans can expect an announcement at any time.

The quarterback position, even when a starter has been announced, still casts a shadow of doubt over the offense. But the last time there was an open quarterback competition on the Forty Acres, a guy named McCoy grabbed Bevo by the horns and never looked back.

Maybe an open competition is just what Senator Brown needed.

Athlon Sports Prediction: Garrett Gilbert

Teaser:
<p> Can Garrett Gilbert hold onto his starting job for the Longhorns?</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 13:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/recruiting-rankings-ac100-numbers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

College football is a fluid situation.

The totally dynamic nature of the NCAA game from one year to the next is a huge reason why it’s is the greatest sport on the planet. Graduation, transfers, knuckleheads, junior college and incoming freshmen make each individual season a completely unique, never-to-be-duplicated experience.

Recruiting classes are no different.

Talent pools change from state to state, position to position and year to year. The class of 2011 in Louisiana, for example, might have been the best class of players to ever come out of the Pelican State. LSU capitalized by landing most of the elite in-state prep stars. The wide receiver class of 2008 – which included Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Jonathan Baldwin and Michael Floyd to name a few – might have been the greatest collection of pass catchers ever. And the 2006 quarterback class was simply unbelievable – Tebow, Bradford, Stafford, Freeman anyone?

So there is no shortage of intriguing storylines in the 2012 edition of the Athlon Consensus 100.

Where Are They From?

Texas, Florida and California top the state rankings each season, and this recruiting editor cannot see that changing anytime soon. Florida leads the 2012 AC100 with 17 top-100 prospects. The Golden and Lone Star states each delivered 13 stellar players to the AC100.

However, the most interesting geography battle each season lies at fourth place. Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have all laid claim to “fourth” place at one time or another. After a stellar 2011 haul – most of which signed with the Georgia Bulldogs – the Peach State once again proves to be a fertile recruiting ground with seven AC100 prospects. Alabama, Ohio and North Carolina tied for fifth with five recruits each.

The strength of the Northeast this year is also worthy of note. Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and D.C. combined for 11 AC100 prospects in this cycle – eight of which landed in the top 32. Meaning that one quarter of the “five star” recruits in this class hail from the Northeast. It’s no wonder teams like Georgia and Alabama have built pipelines to the massive population bases of the east coast.

Illinois (3) and Missouri (3) both have strong classes at the top of the rankings this year. Mississippi, New Jersey and Maryland are the only other states with at least three AC100 recruits.

Virginia, Louisiana, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington, Arizona, New York and Pennsylvania each placed two recruits into the list. It appears to be a down year at the top of the rankings for states like South Carolina and Michigan, as each landed a solitary prospect into this cycle’s ranking.

What Positions Do They Play?

Quarterback, left tackle, defensive line and middle linebacker are the four most important positions on the field – in that order. NFL drafts and subsequent contracts illustrate as much. So, it’s nice to see the line of scrimmage dominate the position ranks in 2012. The offensive line claims 17 AC100 prospects, while there are 16 defensive ends and 11 defensive tackles. In fact, 11 of the top 20 players (and five of the top six) in this class will play in the trenches – where championships are won and lost.

The wash-out rate for offensive lineman – meaning players who are considered “misses” or “busts” after the dust settles – is the highest for any position. Considering how much easier it is to evaluate running backs, safeties, receivers and linebackers, it is easy to see why the recruiting experts tend to shy away from the hog mollies.

There are also seven quarterbacks – up a couple from years past. Kudos to the six recruiting services used to compile the AC100 because 51% of the top 100 will play along the line of scrimmage or under center.

Wide receivers and defensive backs each placed 12 prospects into the list. Running back (10), linebacker (7), athlete (6) and tight end (2) round out the position rankings.

Where Are They Headed?

Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns have taken Joe Paterno’s early commitment philosophy to a new level. Burnt Orange nation leads the country with six current AC100 commitments, including the nation’s No. 1 running back for the second straight season (Jonathan Gray, No. 7 overall, pictured), the nation’s No. 4 quarterback (Connor Brewer, No. 57), the country’s No. 4 defensive tackle (Malcom Brown, No. 26) and America’s No. 3 wide receiver (Cayleb Jones, No. 37).

Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles are second in the nation with five AC100 verbal pledges. The new recruiting czar of the Sunshine State has the Noles humming along the recruiting trail after landing the nation’s No. 1 class in 2011. If things continue, it appears Fisher could claim the top spot again. Three of the top 24 players in the nation are currently set to play in Tallahassee, and five the top seven players left uncommitted have the Seminoles listed as a top choice. Additionally, 12 of the top 21 and 18 of the top 38 left on the board have FSU listed as a favorite.

Auburn checks in at third place with four current AC100 commitments, while Alabama, a rejuvenated Michigan and Notre Dame claim three each. Usual suspects USC, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, Miami, Texas A&M and Clemson have two verbals apiece.

Wisconsin
, Texas Tech, Virginia, TCU, Missouri, Cal and, most notably, Indiana all claim a rare AC100 commit as well. For the Badgers and Hoosiers, this class would mark the first AC100 signee in the brief five-year history of the list.

Other recruiting content:

View the Complete 2012 AC100

Who is the nation's top quarterback recruit?

Who is the nation's No. 1 prospect?

Teaser:
<p> Where are the nation's top recruits? What positions do they play? And where are they headed?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 12:50

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