Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: Philadelphia Eagles, Ronnie Brown, News
Path: /news/ronnie-brown-makes-dumbest-play-nfl-history
Body:

Teaser:
<p> Brown turned a touchdowns into a turnover by trying to throw a pass at the goalline.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 3, 2011 - 16:13
All taxonomy terms: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/packers-aaron-rodgers-best-player-nfl
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Is there any doubt who the best player in the NFL is today? There shouldn’t be after another Playstation performance on Sunday afternoon from Aaron Rodgers.

The Green Bay quarterback became the first player in NFL history to throw for 400 yards, four touchdowns and run for two touchdowns in a single game. Oh, and the Packers won 49-23 over Denver.

Rodgers has thrown for 1,325 yards, 12 touchdowns, two interceptions and sports a league-best 124.6 QB Rating. He is leading the NFL in completion percentage at 73.0 percent, yards per attempt at 10.5 and TD percent at 8.5. He also has run the ball 19 times for 53 yards and another two scores on the ground.

Most importantly, the Packers are 4-0 in 2011 and have won 10 straight games including four postseason wins after which Rodgers returned the Lombardi Trophy to Titletown and garnered Super Bowl MVP honors.

Aaron Rodgers has a 29-11 record as the starter (including playoffs) over the last three seasons (counting 2011) and is the most efficient quarterback in the history of the NFL. Steve Young set the NFL record for career QB Rating with a 96.8 career mark from 1985-1999. Rodgers is shattering Young's record with a current mark of 100.5. And his postseason QB rating in five games (all on the road) is even better at 112.6.

Here are his career numbers through three full seasons and a quarter of his fourth:

35-20 regular season record, 100.5 QB Rating
1,141 completions, 1,752 attempts, 65.1% completion
14,048 yards, 99 TD, 34 INT
208 attempts, 979 rushing yards, 15 TD

Those are impressive numbers that make him the best player in the game today. But just in case you needed some more convincing, here are his career postseason numbers — all of which have come away from Lambeau Field.

4-1 postseason record, 112.6 QB Rating
118 completions, 174 attempts, 67.8% completion
1,517 yards, 13 TD, 3 INT
17 attempts, 67 rushing yards, 3 TD

No matter how you look at it, Aaron Rodgers is the best football player on the planet.

Teaser:
<p> The Packers dominated the Broncos with another insane performance from No. 12.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 3, 2011 - 13:54
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-nfls-team-destiny
Body:

-by Rob Doster

Last week in this space, I bragged about how the Buffalo Bills had posted consecutive comebacks of 18 points or more. Well, the Detroit Lions make the Bills look like frontrunners. After yesterday’s stunning comeback from a 27–3 deficit against the Cowboys, coupled with their erasure of a 20–0 deficit against Minnesota the week before, the Lions are now the first team in history to win consecutive games in which they trailed by 20 points or more both times. Both games were on the road, where the Lions are 3–0 this season and have now won their last five dating back to December 2010. They also own the NFL's longest regular season winning streak at eight games.

Team of destiny, anyone?

At the season’s quarter pole, the Lions are the story. And now that the Comeback Kids have proved to themselves that they’re never out of a game, there’s no ceiling to what they can accomplish.

Of course, the Lions have had some help to get to 4–0, a record matched only by their division rival Packers. First of all, Rob Ryan proved that he shares the family gene for foot-in-mouth disease, calling out Lions receiver Calvin Johnson prior to the game in saying that, “We work against better receivers in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant (in practice). Duly aroused, Johnson had two fourth-quarter touchdown catches to complete Detroit’s comeback, giving Lions coach Jim Schwartz the opening for this classic dig:

“I’m glad the third-best wide receiver on the Cowboys is on our team.”

Then there’s poor Tony Romo, whose bipolar season has inspired enough mood swings to make Cowboy Nation wonder if it’s collectively entered menopause. Brilliant in helping the ’Boys build that 27–3 lead, Romo inexplicably melted down in the second half, throwing third-quarter pick-sixes to Bobby Carpenter and Chris Houston in an eight-play span to reduce Dallas’ lead to 27–17 and give the Lions their opening.

Matthew Stafford — finally healthy — and Johnson were happy to take advantage. On the winning touchdown pass, Johnson faced single coverage from Terence Newman, and Johnson against anybody in single coverage is a mismatch. Of course, triple coverage didn’t work either — Johnson’s first touchdown had come amid three Cowboys defenders.

Stafford sounded a little sheepish after the second straight historic comeback. “Any time you come back from 20-something, you’re doing some kind of stealing,” he said.
No need to apologize, Detroit. Karmic justice owes you and your decaying shell of a once-proud city a lot of good fortune.

“The way the guys have banded together, it’s something I haven’t seen," receiver Nate Burleson said. "We’re learning how to win.” And teaching the league a lesson in perseverance in the process.

Elsewhere…

• Cam Newton has now thrown for 1,386 yards in four games for the Panthers. That projects to 5,544 yards for a full season, which would shatter Dan Marino’s NFL record. The kid’s a phenom, and as long as his Panthers remain unable to keep opponents out of the end zone, Newton will keep throwing. We could be watching the greatest rookie season by a quarterback in NFL history.

• Speaking of the Panthers’ D, or lack thereof, Carolina neutralized Jay Cutler, but it didn’t matter. Chicago’s Matt Forte proved himself to be the linchpin of the Bears offense, rushing for 205 yards and a touchdown in Chicago’s 34–29 win.

• Aaron Rodgers is posting video game numbers for the 4–0 Packers. After Sunday’s 49–23 win over the Broncos, Rodgers now has 1,325 passing yards and has accounted for 14 touchdowns in four games, with a passer rating of 124.6. He’s the best player in football right now.

• Hot seat watch: Leslie Frazier, call your agent. Frazier’s Vikings are 0–4 for the first time since 2002, squandering a lead for the fourth time in four games in losing to the Chiefs. “We’ve got to re-evaluate everything,” Frazier said, obviously cognizant that he’s currently being re-evaluated. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ Todd Haley bought himself a little time. Just a little.

• Dream Team Watch: The Eagles are 1–3 and starting to panic. They squandered a 20-point lead at home to lose to the 49ers 24–23 as rookie kicker missed two fourth-quarter chip shots, either of which would have clinched a victory. “If we don’t win, we’re just a bunch of talented people who haven’t done anything, and there’s a lot of teams like that,” said Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins in a moment of clarity brought on by a third disheartening loss in a row.

New England's Wes Welker is posting insane numbers. He’s averaging 10 catches per game through four games, with 616 yards and five touchdowns. He caught more than half of Tom Brady’s 16 completions in yesterday’s 31–19 win over Oakland.

• Many happy returns in Baltimore’s 34–17 win over the Jets. In a game with only one offensive touchdown, the teams combined for five return touchdowns, three of them courtesy of the Ravens defense, which notched two fumble return TDs and a pick six. The Jets countered with a kickoff return and a pick-six of their own, but those were rare bright spots on a night of ineptitude. Maybe Joe Namath has a point. The Jets looked unprepared.

Teaser:
<p> The come-from-behind victory over Dallas has Lions fans excited about 2011.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 3, 2011 - 12:02
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12-2
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 5 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Oregon (3-1) – The Ducks got a rest during the upset-riddled Week 5 play of action. Oregon now prepares for the heart of its conference schedule with the Cal Golden Bears coming to Eugene for a Thursday night primetime tilt. This contest last season was Oregon's toughest regular season test as Cal held Oregon to 15 points (32 points below their average), 324 yards (207 yards below average) and only 2.9 yards per carry on 55 attempts. Don't expect a repeat performance from the Bears as Oregon has won eight of the last nine meetings between the two in Autzen Stadium.

2. Stanford (4-0) – The Cardinal continue to cruise through the choppy college football waters by winning their 12th consecuative game 45-19 over UCLA. Andrew Luck, the best player in the nation, put his full athletic ability on display by completing 23-of-27 passes for 227 yards and three scores, and he added a spectacular one-handed, tight-rope 13-yard reception down the sideline. The Cardinal rushed for 202 yards and three scores as well. Stanford hosts Colorado on Saturday.

3. Arizona State (4-1) – A game Oregon State team, aided by turnovers, burst out to a 13-0 lead over ASU before Brock Osweiler and the defense led a 21-point comeback in the second quarter. Cameron Marshall took over in the fourth quarter, running around, over and through Beaver defenders to seal the 35-20 Sun Devils victory. It was a sloppy affair that featured 18 penalties, nine turnovers and a 35-7 run by ASU over the final three quarters. The Devils head to Utah this weekend.

4. Washington (4-1) – The growth and development of the Washington Huskies under Steve Sarkisian was on full display this Saturday in a convincing 31-14 road win over the 10-point favorites from Utah. Keith Price completed 22-of-30 passes for 226 yards and his 15th, 16th and 17th touchdown passes of the season, while tailback Chris Polk rushed 29 times for 189 yards — topping the 3,000 yard mark for his career. After Utah lost starting quarterback Jordan Wynn to a shoulder injury by halftime, Polk dominated the second half by rushing 17 times for 155 yards in the latter half of the game. The Huskies allowed the Utes 17 total yards rushing on 23 carries. Washington, who has won five straight Pac-12 games, is on bye this weekend and will host the Buffs of Colorado next weekend in an effort to push themselves into the Pac-12 North race.

5. USC (4-1) – The Golden Boy quarterback set a school record, and the nation's most electric receiver dominated again as the Trojans outlasted Arizona 48-41. Matt Barkley threw for a USC-record 468 yards and four touchdowns while Robert Woods (who set his own school record with 17 receptions earlier this year) caught 14 passes for 255 yards (5 yards short of another school record) and two of those touchdowns. The game featured 1,136 yards of total offense. The Trojans get a chance to relax this weekend before facing Cal in two weeks.

6. California (3-1) – The Bears probably needed two weeks to lick the wounds sustained at the hands of the Huskies two weekends ago. They better be 100 percent as Cal travels to Eugene to take on Oregon, the No. 6 (by Athlon) team in the nation, on Thursday night in primetime. Cal gave the Ducks all they could handle in 2010, and Jeff Tedford can bet Chip Kelly hasn't forgotten.

7. Utah (2-2) – Kyle Whittingham probably did not expect to see Jon Hays throwing 18 passes this weekend, but that is what happened when starter Jordan Wynn injured his shoulder in the first half. Hays threw for 156 yards and a score in the second half but got zero help from the ground game (17 total yards) in the 31-14 home loss to Washington. Utah was a 10-point favorite in its first-ever Pac-12 home conference game but will have to wait another week to notch its first-ever conference win. Wynn's status for this weekend's game against Arizona State is currently unknown.

8. Arizona (1-4) – Yes, the Wildcats have played a brutal schedule (Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, USC) but they have failed to stop much of anything in 2011. Arizona has allowed 178 points in its four-game losing streak after losing to USC 48-41 this weekend. It ranks 115th in total defense, 111th in rush defense, 110th in pass defense and 115th in scoring defense. Nick Foles, who leads the Pac-12 in total offense (357 ypg), should get his team off the mat this weekend as they take on Oregon State in Corvallis on Saturday.

9. Washington State (3-1) – The legend of Marshall Lobbestael continues to grow in Pullman, Wash. The back-up quarterback, who should be filling in for at least one more week for starter Jeff Tuel, threw for his third straight 300-yard effort with 376 yards and three scores in the 31-27 road win over Colorado. The stunning 14-point, fourth-quarter comeback was capped by a 63-yard Lobbestael-to-Marquess Wilson touchdown pass with 1:10 left in the game. The Cougars won a total of five games over the previous three seasons and haven't won three games in a season since 2007. They travel to UCLA this weekend.

10. UCLA (2-3) – The Bruins were a heavy underdog against Stanford this weekend and showed why as Luck and Company dissected UCLA 45-19. The pressure on head coach Rick Neuheisel to win will get unbearable if the Bruins lose at home against Washington State this weekend. UCLA's two wins were struggles against San Jose State and Oregon State — that is simply not getting the job done with the talent that resides in Westwood.

11. Colorado (1-4) –
Colorado played solid football for three quarters, leading 27-17 late in the second half against Washington State. Quarterback Tyler Hansen has played quality football for much of the season, but threw his first interception in 133 pass attempts late in the first half which led to Cougars points. The Cougs scored the final 14 points to stun the Boulder crowd and keep Colorado winless in conference play. Rodney Stewart was a major bright spot, touching the ball 27 times for 166 yards and his first touchdown of 2011. The Buffs head to Stanford this weekend.

12. Oregon State (0-4) – The Beavers played valiant football against a clearly very flat Sun Devils football team. However, second half turnovers and poor tackling led to a 35-7 Arizona State run. The Devils scored the final 14 points behind four Sean Mannion interceptions. Asking Mannion to throw 66 times is probably not the recipe for success Mike Riley is searching for. Freshman dynamo Malcolm Agnew failed to play for a third straight week.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after the fifth week of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 3, 2011 - 11:00
Path: /columns/national-notebook/betting-against-spread-week-5-picks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Week 4 of the college football season taught me to stop trying to analyze the Sun Belt. I nailed my top three locks last week (LSU, Oregon, SMU) while also getting Georgia and Fresno State correct. However, Florida International and Troy failed miserably. East Carolina and USC also let me down for a mediocre yet still in-the-black 5-4 weekend.

I have made a good living off favorites – road favorites to be exact – this season, but Week 5 could be the week of the underdog. I like a number of dogs to cover this weekend, including Nebraska, Washington, Northwestern and Arkansas. A few others – Kansas State (+3.5), Oregon State (+18.5) and Michigan State (+3) – won’t be on this list but are worth looking into.

The Big Ten is front and center in Week 5…

Season Record ATS: 20-14-1 (5-4 last week)

Week 5's Top Picks:

1. Washington (+10) at Utah
The Athlon Staff is very high on the Huskies winning outright this weekend as quarterback Keith Price has been much better than advertised. He scored 38 points on Nebraska in Lincoln and is leading the nation with 14 passing touchdowns. Utah’s defensive front will be key and the atmosphere will be intense for the Utes' first-ever home Pac-12 game. I like Utah to win, but Washington keeps it very close. Washington +10

2. Notre Dame (-11.5) at Purdue
Don’t let the 59-0 score over Southeast Missouri State fool you, Purdue is not a good team. Notre Dame has been excellent against the run (93 ypg) all season and is coming off back-to-back defensive gems against two excellent power running teams in Michigan State and Pitt (see Thursday night). Purdue will have to throw the ball to keep it close, but Caleb TerBush has been inefficient, ranking as the 65th-best passer in the nation. Notre Dame -11.5

3. Georgia Tech (-10) at NC State
The Wolfpack are ranked 8th in the ACC against the run and were out-gained by Cincinnati on the ground last week 240 to (-26). They have lost their only two games against FBS competition this season (Wake Forest, Cincinnati) and are coming off the embarrassing 44-14 drubbing at the hands of the Bearcats. Tech, on the other hand, is riding high after outlasting North Carolina last week and is poised for a deep ACC title run. The Jackets are also 4-0 against the spread and averaging nearly 400 yards rushing per game, while NC State is 0-4 and wishing for Russell Wilson. Georgia Tech -10

4. Alabama (-4) at Florida
The Tide have not won in Gainesville since 1999, but the only loss came at the hands of the 2006 National Champions. Alabama has passed two huge tests already by controlling Penn State easily 27-11 in Happy Valley and completely dominating a quality Arkansas team 38-14 last weekend. This is a young, talented Florida team but I am not sure they have the firepower to score many points against a defense that is allowing 45.75 rushing yards (3rd nationally), 8.0 points per game (2nd) and 138.25 yards passing (3rd). Trent Richardson and one big Florida turnover will be the difference. Alabama -4

5. Memphis (+23) at Middle Tennessee
Okay, I was just kidding about the Sun Belt. But only because it's Memphis – arguably the worst team in the nation. And Las Vegas hasn’t figured it out yet. SMU covered the 20.5 spread last week twice in the 42-0 win in Memphis. Middle Tennessee, on the other hand, is scoring points in droves as quarterback Logan Kilgore threw for 415 yards and 5 TDs last week in a near upset win over rival Troy. At 0-3, MTSU is hungry for a win. MTSU -23

6. Nebraska (+10) at Wisconsin
The Badgers have played as good as any team in the nation, but have yet to face a quality opponent. Nebraska has beaten both Fresno State and Washington and gets Jared Crick and Alfonzo Dennard on the field together for the first time all season. Wilson is playing incredible football and the atmosphere will be electric, but Wisconsin historically has never stopped dual-threat spread quarterbacks like Taylor Martinez. If T-Magic can get out of the pocket and make plays with his legs, the Huskers will win it outright. Nebraska +10

7. Northwestern (+10) at Illinois
The Wildcats are one of the best coached teams in the nation and are getting their leader and superstar back in quarterback Dan Persa. How effective he'll be running the ball remains to be seen, but his presence will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the offense. Illinois is off to a great 4-0 start but allowed 306 yards to Alex Carder of Western Michigan last week in a 23-20 nail-biting win at home. Persa and the well-rested Cats will give Illinois all it can handle after the bye week. Northwestern +10

8. Penn State (-14.5) at Indiana
The Hoosiers are struggling to stop air right now. North Texas rolled up 226 yards rushing and pulled out a 24-21 win over IU in Bloomington last week. UNT is a 23-point underdog this weekend against 1-3 Tulsa. Indiana is is 11th in the Big Ten in rush defense at 189.75 yards per game, and PSU will look to pound the rock with Silas Redd early and often. Penn State is 14-0 all-time against IU and has won by double-digits in six of the last eight games. Penn State -14.5

9. Minnesota (-20) at Michigan
This is a rivalry game, but the Gophers have been arguably the worst BCS conference team in the nation. Home losses to New Mexico State and North Dakota State say as much. Michigan is coming off a solid 28-7 win over a good San Diego State team where Denard Robinson rushed for 200 yards and three scores. Minnesota is ranked 108th against the pass and 75th in scoring defense. Don’t expect them to slow Shoelace much in Ann Arbor. Michigan -20.5

If you are feeling lucky:

Texas A&M (-2.5) vs. Arkansas (Arlington)
Bowling Green (+18.5) at West Virginia
Michigan State (+3) at Ohio State

2011 Trends:

4-0 Teams Against the Spread:

Arkansas State, Florida, Georgia Tech, Temple

3-0 Teams Against the Spread:

Baylor, Navy, Rutgers, Stanford

0-4 Teams Against the Spread:

Central Michigan, Kent State, NC State, Penn State

0-3 Teams Against the Spread:

Air Force, Oregon State

Other Week 5 Content:

Steven Lassan's Upsets, Storylines and Key Match-ups of Week 5

Mitch Light's Weekend on Tap: Week 5's Top Ten Games

In-depth Predictions: Alabama at Florida

Athlon Sports Picks Every Game of Week 5
In-depth Predictions: Nebraska at Wisconsin

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 30, 2011 - 14:00
Path: /columns/athlon-interview/arkansas-legend-frank-broyles-talks-hogs-college-football
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports' Braden Gall had a chance to sit down with legendary Arkansas Razorbacks head coach and athletic director Frank Broyles. The former Hogs head coach touched on the current college football landscape, what the future holds for Arkansas and the SEC, the job Bobby Petrino has done and some of his favorite memories from coaching the planet’s greatest game.

Braden Gall: What does it mean to you to be involved in the Legends Poll?

FB: I am very pleased to be on the Legends Poll. I enjoy it thoroughly because our coaches discuss the teams they watch and report on the ones they are responsible for. To hear the coaches explain and rate the teams they watch is a joy as a former coach. It's wonderful to hear them and the effort they put into understanding the potential of the teams they are representing and scouting for the poll.

BG: Have LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma separated themselves from the rest of the nation?

FB: Not really. I think if you look at the top ten teams, all of them are undefeated. And scheduling is the big factor today. It is one of the biggest changes in college football as coaches' wishes have been accepted by the Athletic Directors so that the conference games don’t start until after the first three or four games. And all of the first four games, except maybe one, are warm-up games. If you look at the Top 25, 19 of them are still undefeated and that is scheduling. So when you look at the teams that they have played, most coaches have gotten their way and they play non-conference games and then 7 or 9 conference games at the end so at this point it has mostly been warm-up games. So what you are voting on are teams that have been playing against teams that they should beat 19 of 20 times. So how do you tell who is first and who is second? You can’t at this stage of the game.

BG: What is the biggest difference scheme-wise, Xs and Os, in college football today from when you were playing and coaching?

FB: The rule change to allow the offensive linemen to use their hands on pass protection has changed college football the most dramatically in the 50-plus years I have been involved with the sport. Because in my first years of coaching, the offensive hands had to stay next to the chest, and if they separated from the chest it was a 15-yard penalty. So teams didn’t throw the drop-back pass because they got penalties and couldn’t get any consistency. So they would use play-action passes. Then the officials changed the rules so that the offensive hands could leave the body and go into the chest of the defensive man. You can’t hold him but you can hit him with your hands, which is a tremendous difference in pass protections. A total difference.

So the passing game has changed dramatically, plus the speed has changed. Back then we would have one Lance Alworth who could run like a deer. Today, Arkansas has six or seven players as fast as Alworth was. And so what do you do? You force teams to cover the width and depth of the field on the snap of the ball. In my day, you didn’t have to cover the width because there wasn’t enough speed for them to put them out there as flankers. Therefore you were playing in a much smaller area. You didn’t have the speed to get it out there in the flats and be a threat to the defense. So the speed has changed the game. Plus the rules people wisely changed the pass protection rules where you could legitimately block for a drop-back pass. So the college game has caught up in scoring with the pros.

BG: Does the spread offense and the dual-threat quarterback level the playing field in college football?

FB: Yes, it starts with the quarterback. If you snap the ball 75 times, he is getting the ball 75 times! So the quarterbacks we see today who can throw the ball and run, with the speed we have at the wide receivers positions now, are forcing the defense to cover the width and depth of the field at the snap of the ball. The four wide receiver sets force you to cover the width and depth at the snap of the ball.

BG: What is the decision-making process like when a team decides to change conferences, like Arkansas did in the 1990s?

FB: We saw that the SWC, because the NFL in Dallas and Houston were taking the fans, was not going to be the SWC for much longer. And we knew that Texas and Texas A&M had the political strength to move to some other conference and we would be left out as an independent. So we applied to the SEC with permission from our board of directors. We told the SEC that if they were to expand and ask us to join that we would accept immediately. We were borders to Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana so we fit into the geography of the conference and that we would come immediately. So when they decided to expand, they gave us a call and we accepted immediately.

BG: What do you think about the overall direction and trajectory of college football and these larger conferences?

FB: I hate to see the rivalries of these great teams leave for the TV money. I think the SEC with the rivalries of Mississippi, Alabama, LSU and Arkansas, etc. should stay intact even though we don’t have the big TV cities. We need to keep the conferences level and the playing field level for the teams in our conferences, and we have been able to do that in the SEC.

BG: Is there anything we can do to fix the violations and sanctions within college football or are we stuck with the off the field issues forever?

FB: There are always going to be some people who will bend the rules, and it's unfortunate. AD's and school officials have to be sure when they hire somebody that the coaches know that if you get put on probation that you lose your job. That would make coaches realize that we are here for a level playing field. All we want is a level playing field for all the schools to have an equal chance to be competitive where we have balance. Which we have today, we have great balance today in college football.

BG: What are some of your favorite college towns and stadiums from your past?

FB: When I started my coaching career as an assistant coach at Baylor and we had to play Texas in Austin and that was the toughest place we ever had to play. Playing the Longhorns in Austin was one of the more difficult places to play. I know in the SEC wherever you go, it’s going to be tough, because of the state pride. It's about the same now as it was back then. And that is what makes college football so exciting. When you go play on the road, you are playing in front of a sellout and you get some of your own fans in there too. We have about 4,000-5,000 fans that travel to see the Razorbacks in road and non-conference games. We hold back about 5,000 seats for visiting fans in Fayetteville – and that is a long way from everything. But that is just the rivalries we have and when you have that involved in the game, it's exciting. It helps recruiting and the fan base grow and prosper.

BG: What do you think of the job that Bobby Petrino has done?

FB: He has done a sensational job. His dad was a college coach, and so he has been involved in coaching since he was five years old. The one thing I always say about Bobby Petrino is he is not looking to experiment. He has his game plan and it’s been tried and tested throughout his career. He goes out, puts it into place and makes it work wherever he goes.

Check out other Athlon Sports Legends Interviews:

Air Force's Fisher DeBerry

Georgia's Vince Dooley

West Virginia's Don Nehlen

Washington's Don James
BYU's LaVell Edwards


Arizona State's Frank Kush
Arkansas' Frank Broyles

Special thanks to Athlon Sports partner The Legends Poll

Teaser:
<p> Athlon sat down with legendary Razorbacks coach and administrator Frank Broyles.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 30, 2011 - 10:30
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/college-fantasy-football-start-or-sit-week-5
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Here is Athlon Sports college football Week Five College Fantasy Football Start or Sit:

Start These Quarterbacks:

Tyler Hansen, Colorado (Washington State)
The Buffs passer has played good football – at least on the fantasy gridiron – all season long. He has at least two touchdowns in all four games and has topped 215 yards in all four contests. He is averaging nearly 40 attempts per game and should have plenty of opportunity against a defense that gave up 273-2 and 42 points to San Diego State the last time they took the field. Expect a shootout in Boulder this weekend.

Collin Klein, Kansas State (Baylor)
The gritty Wildcats quarterback has proven to be a very workable fantasy option in short order. He is averaging over 100 yards rushing per game and has tossed three touchdowns and no picks in his last two. Baylor has the firepower to make this a high-scoring game as the Bears’ defense has allowed Casey Pachall of TCU (251-4) and Taylor McHargue (260-3) to go off in its two FBS games thus far.

Logan Kilgore, Middle Tennessee (Memphis)
In the Week 5 edition of “Let’s Pick on Memphis,” you will find Mr. Kilgore front and center. The Tigers rank 118th against the pass, 119th in total defense, 113th in scoring defense and 110th in pass efficiency defense. Oh yeah, Kilgore is coming off a 415-yard, 5-TD performance against rival Troy. Plug and play this week.

Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State (at Western Kentucky)
Welcome to Sun Belt conference play! Aplin has been solid thus far (averaging 17.1 TFP per game) against stiff competition like Illinois and Virginia Tech. He lit up Memphis in week two and had his most yards of total offense last week in a blowout over Central Arkansas. Western Kentucky got beat 44-16 at home by Indiana State the last time they took the field – allowing 227-3 to Ronnie Fouch. Expect big things from here on out from Aplin.

Jacory Harris, Miami (Bethune-Cookman)
Despite losing to KSU, Harris still managed to post a useful 272-2 line last weekend. He should get some first half chances as this one should get out of hand very quickly. Expect plenty of room for Harris to throw early against the likes of Bethune-Cookman.

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Tajh Boyd, Clemson (at Virginia Tech)
This might be the toughest high-priced fantasy match-up of the weekend. Boyd has been playing excellent football, but his performance last weekend against Florida State came at home. He has yet to face anything like the combination of coach, defense and atmosphere like he will against Bud Foster’s Hokies in Blacksburg, Va. The Hokies held Dom Davis (see below) to 4.08 TFP. Bench at your own risk.

Dom Davis, East Carolina (North Carolina)
The Pirates gunslinger is in a similar situation to Boyd of Clemson. After being totally stymied by the Hokies, Davis bounced back with 361 yards and three scores last week. However, he also threw his fourth, fifth and sixth interceptions of the year. The Tar Heels held Tevin Washington to his worst passing game of the season with only one score and his first INT of the season. Much like Boyd, he probably can’t be benched, but his upside might be limited.

Matt Schilz, Bowling Green (at West Virginia)
The sophomore passer has yet to be slowed this fall but has also played Idaho, Morgan State, Wyoming and Miami (Ohio). This will potentially be the toughest defense he faces all season – and they are angry after the LSU loss last weekend. He could land a couple of late touchdowns due to a lopsided score, but 200-2 seems like a solid estimate against the Big East powerhouse.

Tim Jefferson vs. Kriss Proctor (Air Force vs. Navy)
This was a very low scoring 14-6 win for Air Force last season. Jefferson rushed for two scores, but totaled 145 yards of total offense (83 pass, 62 rush). Fantasy stud Ricky Dobbs was held to 103 yards, 0 total TD, 2 INT and 43 yards rushing. This could once again be a tough-sledding type of game for both teams.

Start These Running Backs:

Davin Meggett, Maryland (Towson)
Randy Edsall has no choice: He has to do whatever it takes to win, and Towson should pose little threat. Expect Meggett and running mate D.J. Adams to get plenty of touches early and often. After 40 carries in the first two weeks, Temple held the Terps tailback to only nine carries last week. That cannot make Edsall happy.

Benny Cunningham, MTSU (Memphis)
Chapter Two of pick on the Tigers this week features the Middle tailback who has carried the ball at least 14 times all three games – culminating in his first 100-yard effort of the season last weekend. He has scored in all three games, and Memphis is no obstacle at all. Get Benny in the line-up.

Terrance Ganaway vs. John Hubert (Baylor at Kansas State)
The Wildcats and Bears should score plenty of points this weekend in Manhattan. Ganaway has scored four times in three games and will once again be the featured back. Hubert ran 18 times for 166 yards and a score in the win over Miami last week. Expect both to get plenty of chances in this one.

Rodney Stewart, Colorado (Washington State)
The Buffs running back is the highest rated fantasy back who has yet to score a rushing touchdown. That is because he has carried the ball 72 times and caught 23 passes for 582 yards from scrimmage. This should be a high-scoring game, and Stewart is a good bet to finally crack the goal-line.

Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, LSU (Kentucky)
Not that these two will be too far from the starting line-up anyway, but this is just a reminder to make sure you get them on the field this weekend. Ford has had between 12 and 14 carries in all four games with six touchdowns. Ware has topped 22 carries in three of four contests and has scored three times. Expect 15-20 touches for both and expect both to reach the end zone. 

Silas Redd, Penn State (at Indiana)
This is a no-brain start. Redd IS the PSU offense and will get plenty of carries this weekend against the Hoosiers. He wasn’t needed against Eastern Michigan and likely disappointed owners with his 48 yards. But this is the Big Ten opener on the road, so expect a bounce back performance from Redd. 

Perry Jones, Virginia (Idaho)
Kevin Parks is supposed to play but has been hampered by an ankle injury all week. Against Idaho, expect Mike London to keep a close eye on K.P., thus giving Jones ample opportunity to tote the rock. The Vandals are ranked 104th in total defense and 102nd in scoring defense.

Tauren Poole, Tennessee (Buffalo)
With a bye week to prepare, the sour taste in the O-Line’s mouth after a poor showing on the ground against Florida and the Bulls coming to Neyland Stadium, Poole is poised for his best game of the season. Look for the Vols to get the ground game working early against Buffalo.

Deep RB Plays:

Troy Pollard, Illinois (Northwestern)
Vernard Roberts, West Virginia (Bowling Green)
Mike James, Miami (Bethune-Cookman)

Bench These Running Backs:

Brandon Oliver, Buffalo (at Tennessee)
There is no doubt he gets the ball – try 100 attempts in four games. But he was held to only 84 yards and no scores last weekend against UConn. The Vols are rested, angry and at home. Oliver’s upside is very limited this weekend.

Mike Ball, Nevada (at Boise State)
The Wolfpack rusher has carried the ball 56 times in two weeks, topping 124 yards in both games. He did, however, fail to score against Texas Tech and Oregon this year, and Boise State boasts a dramatically better D-line than both. On the blue turf, and with revenge on Boise's mind, Ball will be kept in check.

Andre Ellington, Clemson (at Virginia Tech)
The Clemson Tigers are facing their tallest order of 2011 when they walk into Lane Stadium on Saturday. Ellington has been solid but uninspiring in two emotional home wins over Auburn and Florida State. He has a tough time staying healthy, and the Hokies are loaded for bear. I will have him on my bench this weekend.

Jahwan Edwards, Ball State (at Oklahoma)
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Does anyone think that Ball State will walk into Norman, Okla., and pound the football successfully against the Sooners? No thank you.

James White, Wisconsin (Nebraska)
If the Badgers are going to move the football this weekend, it might have to come through the air. With Montee Ball still getting more carries and goal-line chances, there just might not be enough points to go around. Nebraska welcomes back Jared Crick and Alfonzo Dennard to the line-up and will be fully healthy for the first time in 2011.

Lowered Expectations:

Trent Richardson vs. Chris Rainey (Alabama at Florida)
This feels like an 80-90 yards from scrimmage and one score type of game for both. Like T-Rich more.

Anthon Samuel, Jordan Hopgood, Bowling Green (at West Virginia)
Expect West Virginia to be fired up and ready to go after the loss to LSU.

Le’Veon Bell, Edwin Baker, Michigan State (at Ohio State)
Time share against the Buckeyes in Columbus doesn’t sound like fantasy success to me.

Zach Line, SMU (at TCU)
How will the separated shoulder affect him against solid TCU defense?

Waiver Wire Wide Receivers:

Eric Ward, Texas Tech (at Kansas)
Has caught 14 passes for 138 yards and two scores over last two.

Sancho McDonald, MTSU (Memphis)
Has scored in all three games this fall, and the Tigers are pathetic on defense.

Keith Sconiers, Akron (at Eastern Michigan)
Has caught 15 passes for 291 yards and three scores over last two.

Eric Thomas, Troy (UAB)
Has become the Trojans’ top target with a TD in all three games thus far.

Jalen Saunders, Fresno State (Ole Miss)
Big-play threat who is averaging 37 yards per catch over last two (8-296-4).

Top DEF/ST Spot Starts:

1. Miami (Bethune-Cookman)
2. Oklahoma (Ball State)
3. Notre Dame (at Purdue)
4. Stanford (UCLA)
5. Cincinnati (Miami, Ohio)
6. Tennessee (Buffalo)
7. Virginia (Idaho)
8. Ohio (Kent State)
9. Maryland (Towson)
10. UConn (Western Michigan)
11. UL-Lafayette (FAU)
12. Arizona State (Oregon State)
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon prepares the college fantasy player with in-depth match-up analysis for Week 5.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 30, 2011 - 10:30
Path: /columns/nfl-perspective/cam-newton-new-faces-atop-nfl-leaderboards
Body:

-by Ralph Vacchiano

You knew that Tom Brady and Drew Brees would be leading the NFL in passing yardage, even this early in the season. But come on, who would’ve guessed that Cam Newton would be third? Darren McFadden as the NFL’s rushing leader so far is probably not a stretch, but Ben Tate fifth, less than 100 yards behind and ahead of Adrian Peterson?
 
Nate Washington with more catches than Roddy White? Ryan Fitzpatrick in the Top 10 in passer rating? Jason Pierre-Paul tied for second in sacks, just a half-sack behind DeMarcus Ware?
 
There are some new and surprising faces atop the leaderboards three weeks into the NFL season. Here’s a look at the five biggest, most eye-opening surprises among them, so far:
 
QB Cam Newton, Carolina
There were many people who believed the No. 1 overall pick would eventually be a star, despite all his detractors. But the key word was “eventually”. In a lockout year where everyone lost the offseason, rookies figured to be more lost than usual. But not Newton. Even his most ardent supporters couldn’t have seen back-to-back 400-yard passing games at the start of his career and a completion percentage well over 60 percent. Yeah, his numbers came back to Earth in Week 3, but in poor weather conditions he still managed to complete more than half his passes and not throw an interception. He’ll have his ups and downs, no doubt. All rookie quarterbacks do. He certainly has opened up a lot of eyes, though, with his first three games.
 
RB Ben Tate, Houston

When Arian Foster got hurt before the opener, it seemed only natural that Texans coach Gary Kubiak would lean even more heavily on his passing attack. With Matt Schaub at quarterback and Andre Johnson at receiver, he seemed to have more than enough weapons to protect an unheralded rookie running back.  He didn’t see it that way, though, and Tate carried more than 20 times for more than 100 yards in each of the Texans’ first two games. When he followed that up with 82 yards in Week 3 he put himself sixth in the NFL in rushing, ahead of Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, Ray Rice. As soon as Foster returns, Tate’s numbers will drop, no doubt. But he certainly proved that if Foster is out long term, the Texans’ rushing attack will be fine.
 
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills are the surprise of the NFL, coming out of absolute nowhere to go 3-0, and they’re riding the arm of their Harvard-grad quarterback. Fitzpatrick’s nine touchdown passes are tied with Drew Brees and trail only Tom Brady. He’s also completed 64.9 percent of his passes – six points above his career average and seven points higher than last year. Scouts have always loved him as a smart player (perhaps an Ivy League stereotype) and he showed a little potential last year. But no one saw his first two games coming, where he threw seven touchdowns and just one interception. Then he went 27 for 40 for 369 yards against the Patriots and won a duel with Brady? It looks like he has arrived.
 
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, N.Y. Giants
Since he was coming off the bench and it happened for a collapsing team late in the season, it was easy to overlook the four sacks Pierre-Paul had in the Giants’ last six games of 2010 – especially since he had two each in back-to-back games. It looked like he was just flashing the talent that made him the 15th overall pick in the draft. He was still considered a project. Then, filling in for the injured Osi Umenyiora, he followed that up with four more in the first three games this year and he’s been close to at least half-a-dozen others. He’s a pass-rushing beast, sitting just a half-sack behind DeMarcus Ware in the NFL standings, and he’s not so easy to dismiss as a project anymore.
 
WR Nate Washington, Tennessee
In his six previous seasons in the NFL, Washington has been a serviceable receiver, but one with limitations. He’s never topped more than 47 catches and he’s certainly not a player anyone would want as a No. 1 option on their team. Three games into the season, though, he has 21 catches already … on an offense that featured running back Chris Johnson and receiver Kenny Britt. Washington’s production has been both consistent and surprising. Of course now it gets tougher. Britt is out for the season with a knee injury, so Washington really will be Matt Hasselbeck’s No. 1 target. It’ll be very interesting to see if he can come close to his current production without Britt drawing double teams to the other side.

Teaser:
<p> Ralph Vacchiano takes a look at some of the NFL's most intriguing statistical leaders.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 12:06
All taxonomy terms: BYU Cougars, College Football
Path: /columns/athlon-interview/byu-legend-lavell-edwards-talks-college-football
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports' Braden Gall had a chance to sit down with legendary BYU Cougars football coach LaVell Edwards. The famed offensive guru touched on the evolution of college football, the current NCAA landscape, his favorite memories and the future of BYU Cougar football.

Braden Gall: Talk about your involvement in the Legends Poll.

LaVell Edwards: We began the poll about a decade ago, but its been a lot of fun to get on the line and visit each week, talk about the games and get each other’s perspective from their area. We’ve got people on the committee from all parts of the country and all conferences in the country. We have all been there and done it and now we have some time to look at film and actually get a real idea of what others are doing. And then we vote. It’s been a great experience and a lot of fun.

BG: You’ve had the pleasure of coaching a lot excellent quarterbacks, names like McMahon, Detmer, Young, and Sarkisian just to name a few. Talk a little bit about BYU’s current quarterback Jake Heaps.

LE: He really is in the same category, or at least has the potential to be in the same category, as those names you just mentioned. He has great presence, he is very astute and has a very good arm. So I think he’s going to develop, if he stays healthy. I think he is going to have a great career.

BG: Is there one quarterback who you could single out as the most talented? The most pure talent of any of the greats you coached?

LE: I don’t know cause each one of them had their own unique style. Jim McMahon had great vision and great awareness. He and Ty Detmer really had an awareness of everything around them. Steve Young could run better than any of them. From a pure throwing ability? Mark Wilks would be right up in there. You know, they just had a combination of different factors. And as I have thought about it even in my own mind, I start figuring out how I might rank them, and even I can’t deceide. So I give up trying! Although, even if I did know, I wouldn’t say it publicly, but in my own mind I have given up trying because it is just too difficult.

BG: What were some of your favorite places – both from a pure atmosphere standpoint and difficulty standpoint – to take your team on the road?

LE: One of the most fun places we ever played was at Wisconsin. It was when Dave McClain was coaching and they were just starting to get revitalized, but the fans were unbelievable. I have never been to a place where the people had more fun than what the people were doing at Camp Randall that day. Just a great atmosphere.

Another great place we played was Notre Dame. Of course, they have great tradition there, but they had great fans too. The people were very respectful and their band played our fight song. Just the whole atmosphere of South Bend was great.

As far as tough place to play? I would say going to Hawaii. The time difference and then they had the great fan support and they get after you pretty well out there. And trying to keep your mind on football over there is not the easiest thing in the world either.

BG: It’s a new era for BYU athletics. Talk about what it means for the program to be independent in terms of scheduling and all the things that go into now not being affiliated with a conference.

LE: It's something very new and I’ve always been a proponent of being in a conference. There was a lot going on in college football and the timing seemed to play a big role. I don’t think it was a knee jerk reaction, but I do think that they had been thinking about it for a while because of TV and other issues we had with the conference contracts. Then when Utah went to the Pac-12, I think they saw that as a great opening and a time to do it.

It’s all new territory and it's kind of exciting to see what they are going to be doing with it. I think scheduling is always going to be difficult. You are going to get some good teams on the front end of your schedule, but I think once they get into October and November, it’s going to be tough to come up with good quality opponents – to come to Provo especially. We’ve had a tall task in our early schedule this year, and later on we play TCU in the big stadium in Dallas. That is the kind of a one shot affair. It is going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

BG: In light of what has happened with Miami and all of the other sanctions/issues from around the country, and obviously things have changed since you were recruiting, is there anything we can do to fix how the NCAA athletics are operating right now?

LE: What makes it difficult now is social media. I think there has always been issues with people obeying the rules – although, maybe not the extent of what happened down in Miami.

I don’t know, to be honest. The climate and attitude that everyone seems to have is that everything is all about the dollar. How much money can I make? How much is being a part of the BCS worth? Getting so many million dollars for being this or that. I don’t know what the answer might be. I do know that somehow they need to get a handle on it and it’s going to take a lot of work. The bottom line is I don’t know if you can legislate it. Maybe you can cut down on all the rules, eliminate some, and then totally enforce the ones you keep. It still comes down to people’s basic honesty, both players, agents and the third party people in recruiting. But it’s all driven by the dollar.

BG: How much have offenses changed in the last two decades?

LE: Yes, considerably. We were pass happy – that was the term they used to describe us – but we probably threw it about 35 times a game. At the time we got going, people weren’t doing it that much and we got a jump on everybody. And you knew the defenses hadn’t caught up with the kind of stuff we were doing. From then on it has merged into a spread type formation with everybody spread out wide and in the shotgun. Then people like Urban Meyer starting running that read option out of the spread formation which added another element. Now everybody in the country is throwing it and running the spread. When we were doing it, there was nobody in the Big Ten or SEC who was throwing it like us. There might have been a couple of schools around the country trying to get things going, but they would always revert back to what everybody else was doing. So we just stayed with it and it went on from there. It’s certainly a different game today. Things have a tendency to go in cycles and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here. Will it go back around to things in the past or just continue to evolve?

Special thanks to Athlon Sports partner The Legends Poll

Other Legend's Interviews:

Washington's Don James


Georgia's Vince Dooley


Air Force's Fisher DeBerry

Teaser:
<p> The former Cougar head coach joins Athlon to talk BYU and the future of college football.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 11:02
Path: /columns/waiver-wire/nfl-fantasy-week-4-idp-waiver-wire
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Each week Athlon's fantasy staff will dive into the NFL Fantasy world of Individual Defensive Players, or more affectionately known as IDPs. Weekly top performers, advice and waiver wire adds highlight the Athlon IDP Weekly Potpourri.

Week 3’s Top Defensive Backs:

1. Drayton Florence, CB, Buffalo: 14.0 TFP (2 solo, INT, TD, PD)
I can’t say to completely disregard this performance, because Florence did intercept a pass in Week 1, but the Bills coverman has eight total tackles in three games and scored 14 of his 23.5 TFP last weekend. Maybe watch-list him and keep an eye on his tackle totals.

2. Kenny Phillips, S, NY Giants: 14.0 TFP (7 solo, 2 ast, INT, FF, PD)
The Giants' safety has the talent of a former first-rounder, and with the way teams are throwing on the Giants, he could be a nice play from here on out. Phillips posted 77 total stops last season and could build on that this fall – he is on pace for 117 total tackles.

3. Morgan Burnett, S, Green Bay: 13.5 TFP (5 solo, 1 ast, 2 INT, 2 PD)
The Packers are leading the NFL in rushing defense and are 31st in pass defense. With the injuries to the secondary, expect Burnett to be a fantasy star the rest of the way.

2011 DB Fantasy Rankings:

1. Morgan Burnett, S, Green Bay: 40.5 TFP
2. Lardarius Webb, CB, Baltimore: 34.9 TFP
3. Roman Harper, S, New Orleans: 34.0 TFP
4. Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota: 31.5 TFP
5. Tyvon Branch, S, Oakland: 30.0 TFP

DB Waiver Wire Adds:

Kenny Phillips, S, NY Giants (No. 13 ranked DB)
Phillips has the talent and the opportunity to make a lot of plays. Of course, they may not help the Giants win games, but they should help you win fantasy match-ups. The Giants are getting thrown on and Phillips is on pace for more than 85 solo tackles – which would shatter his personal best (77 total tackles is his single season mark).

Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle (No. 11)
The Seahawks safety is racking up tackles three weeks into the season. He is averaging 8.0 total stops per game – on pace for 128 total. Once he starts to add the big play, his stat line could be very serviceable in deeper leagues.

Jason McCourty, CB, Tennessee (No. 7 overall DB)
Opposing teams will be targeting McCourty’s side of the field with Courtland Finnegan shutting down the other half. His next two are against Cleveland, with a mistake-prone offense, and Pittsburgh, who throws the ball all over the place.

Bryan Scott, S, Buffalo (No. 12)
Scott already has an interception and a forced fumble on his ledger to go with his 24 total stops. With the way the Bills have been getting into shootouts, Wilson could easily be a quality addition to any squad. His running mate Bryan Scott might deserve a look as well.

Reggie Nelson, S, Cincinnati (No. 12)
Tied with Wilson, Nelson also boasts elite-level talent as a former first-round pick. In his rookie season, Nelson posted career highs in PD (11) and INTs (5) but hasn’t been productive since. He is on pace to destroy his tackle total from last fall (54) and set a new career high in that category as he is on pace for 122 total stops. His previous high is 70.

Justin King, CB, St. Louis (No. 9)
21 solo stops for a cornerback is an good indicator that quarterbacks are not afraid to throw at King – and that they are completing passes. Cornerbacks are normally not great fantasy players as compared to safeties, but the more you are thrown at, the more chances you have for tackles, INTs and PDs (see DeAngelo Hall). He could be this year’s Terrell Thomas.

DB Injury Update:

Brandon Flowers, CB, Kansas City
One of the most underrated players in the league left week 3 with a high ankle sprain.

Patrick Chung, S, New England
Missed week 3 against Buffalo with a broken thumb but could return.

Champ Bailey, CB, Denver
He missed the last two games but returned to practice on Wednesday.

Michael Huff, S, Oakland
Left the week 3 game against the Jets with a concussion and must be cleared to play.

Week 3’s Top Linebackers:

1. Pat Angerer, Indianapolis: 16.5 TFP (12 solo, 9 ast)
He did it all with tackles – that is impressive. I have been telling readers to snag this high-tackle backer from Indy for weeks. He should not be on your waiver wire any longer.

2. Ray Lewis, Baltimore: 15.5 TFP (10 solo, 1.0 sack, FF)
The grizzled veteran is doing it again. Arguably the best linebacker this fantasy player has ever seen, bounced back in 2010 and is proving it was no fluke.

3. Leroy Hill, Seattle: 15.0 TFP (8 solo, 3 ast, 1.0 sack, FF)
The revitalized Hill is playing alongside some young, talented tackles in David Hawthorne, Aaron Curry and K.J. Wright. It appears that Curry will be the one losing snaps to Wright – making Hill a sneaky option from here on out.

2011 LB Fantasy Rankings:

1. D'Qwell Jackson, Cleveland: 41.0 TFP
2. Sean Lee, Dallas: 39.5 TFP
3. Pat Angerer, Indianapolis: 37.0 TFP
4. Ray Lewis, Baltimore: 35.5 TFP
5. Brian Urlacher, Chicago: 35.0 TFP

LB Waiver Wire Adds:

Pat Angerer, Indianapolis (No. 3 LB)
For the third straight week, he is still sitting on my waiver wire. Why? He has 42 total tackles already!

Mason Foster, Tampa Bay (No. 9)
The rookie has quickly established himself as a quality player and could be on the verge of stardom. He was an All-Pac-10 star at Washington and has picked up right where he left off.

Navorro Bowman, San Francisco (No. 11)
The former Penn State star is reaping the benefits of teams focusing on Patrick Willis. He has 30 total stops in three games – on pace for 160 total tackles. And with the Niners defense likely playing a lot of snaps, Bowman is a great early season addition.

LB Injury Report:

D.J. Williams, Denver
The tackle machine returned to practice on Wednesday and could play on Sunday.

Geno Hayes, Tampa Bay
Left week 3 against Atlanta with a head injury. Check his status later.

Week 3’s Top Defensive Linemen:

1. Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota: 18.0 TFP (5 solo, 1 ast, 3.0 sack, FF)
The low-key, offseason workouts have clearly paid off.

2. Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona: 16.25 TFP (5 solo, 5 ast, 2.5 sack)
The 6-foot-8 monster is now the No. 3 D-lineman and has loads of upside.

3. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NY Giants: 15.0 TFP (7 solo, 2 ast, 2.0 sack)
The uber-talent is the top DL in the league and living up to the first round hype.

2011 DL Fantasy Rankings:

1. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NY Giants: 35.0 TFP
2. Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota: 35.0 TFP
3. Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona: 29.0 TFP
4. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore: 26.0 TFP
5. Ahtyba Rubin, DT, Cleveland: 24.5 TFP

Top DL Waiver Wire Adds:

Ahtyba Rubin, DT, Cleveland (No. 5 DL)
A big nine-tackle performance last weekend jumped Rubin into the top five DL thus far. And after 82 tackles last season and teams looking to run on Cleveland, he is a great pick-up as he enters his prime (this is the start of his fourth NFL season).

Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina (No. 8)
Teams will have to focus on Charles Johnson on the other side of the line, so Hardy should get plenty of one-on-one match-ups. He is being told to get up the field and pressure the quarterback, and his sack totals should be solid. He also has 13 tackles through three games, along with a safety and fumble recovery.

JJ Watt, DE, Houston (No. 10)
This guy never stops working and it shows. He has 13 total tackles, a sack, a blocked kick and a fumble recovery in his first three games as a pro. Mario Williams is listed as questionable for the Steelers game this weekend, and his loss could impact all of the Texans' fantasy values for the short term. Brooks Reed looks to fill in should Super Mario miss any time.

Cullen Jenkins, DT/DE, Philadelphia (No. 11)
The former Packer has registered a sack in all three games thus far. However, his penchant for injuries means you need to snag him and get him in the line-up now before he hurts himself again.

DL Injury Report:

Mario Wiliams, DE/LB, Houston
Is listed as questionable for week 4 against Pittsburgh with a knee injury

Justin Tuck, DE, NY Giants
The strained groin and lingering neck issues have him questionable for Arizona.

Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver
He missed last week’s game against the Titans but returned to practice on Wednesday.

Osi Umenyiora, DE, NY Giants
He practiced for the first time this season on Wednesday and reportedly looked good. Monitor.

Other Week 4 NFL Fantasy Content:

Week 4 NFL Fantasy Waiver Wire
Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Homepage

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports analyzes the top performers, best waiver wire adds and IDP injuries from around the NFL.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-5
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

There is a new challenger in the race for the 2011 stiff-armed trophy, and frankly, it's about time. Robert Griffin III is the nation's most efficient passer and is the most dynamic quarterback playing the game at any level of competition. He is the most exciting and valuable player in the nation. And he is now breathing down Andrew Luck's neck.

The other name creeping steadily up the charts has been Wisconsin quaterback Russell Wilson. The nation's second most efficient passer has been totally absorbed in the Badger program and is now shaping it with his leadership, work ethic and poise. All of which will be heavily tested this weekend - but more on that in a second.

LaMichael James and Brandon Weeden both made big jumps after huge road conference performances and are positioned for much bigger things should the winning continue for both.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (83/90 total points, 7/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 57/85, 786 yards, 8 TD, INT, 8 att., 47 yards, TD

The Cardinal enjoyed the weekend off and get to ease back into play with the UCLA Bruins at home this weekend. Luck wasn't needed much last season against the Bruins, throwing for a season-low 152 yards on only 11-of-24 passing in the 35-0 win in the Rose Bowl. With Colorado, Washington State and Washington as his next three contests, don't expect the best player in America to be removed from the top slot anytime soon. Next: UCLA

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 83 7 - 1 - - 9
2. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 70 1 2 3 1 1 9
3. Kellen Moore QB Boise St 69 - 4 1 2 1 9
4. Marcus Lattimore RB South Carolina 65 - 2 3 3 - 9
5. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 40 - - - - 4 9
6. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 35 1 - - 2 - 7
7. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 34 - - 1 - - 8
8. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 24 - 1 - - - 7
9. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 23 - - - - 2 5
10. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 22 - - - 1 - 6
11. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma 10 - - - - 1 3
12. LaMichael James RB Oregon 8 - - - - - 2
13. Taylor Martinez QB Nebraska 4 - - - - - 1
14. Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 3 - - - - - 2
15. Robert Woods WR USC 2 - - - - - 1
16. Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame 1 - - - - - 1
17. Tyrann Mathieu CB LSU 1 - - - - - 1
18. Melvin Ingram DL South Carolina 1 - - - - - 1

2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (70/90)
Season Stats: 70/82, 962, 13 TD, 0 INT, 24 att., 167 yards, TD

The level of production coming from Waco, Texas is downright insane. By now everyone knows the stats: RG3 has more touchdown passes (13) than incompletions (12). His 236.23 QB rating not only ranks him No. 1 in the nation, but would absolutely shatter the NCAA single-season mark set by Colt Brennan in 2006 (186.0). Against Rice last weekend, Griffin completed 29-of-33 passes for 338 yards and five scores to go with 51 yards rushing and another score on the ground. There are two more "easy" ones before a nasty three-game stretch in late October. Next Game: at Kansas State

3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (69 pts)
Season Stats: 83/105, 995 yards, 12 TD, 2 INT

Moore completed 23-of-29 passes for 279 yards and four more touchdowns in his 41st victory of his career in the 41-21 win over Tulsa. Moore's 192.55 passer rating ranks him third nationally as he continues to plug along in one of the most productive college careers in history. But as Griffin jumped him for second place this week, Moore will have to post huge numbers each week to remain front of mind with voters. Next Game: Nevada

4. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (65 pts)
Season Stats: 107 att., 611 yards, 8 TD, 12 rec., 139 yards, TD

Lattimore had an off week running the football - he only galloped for 77 yards and one touchdown. Yet, he proved his versatility once again as he caught three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in the 21-3 hard-fought victory over the game Vanderbilt Commodores. He is now third in the nation in rushing at 152.75 yards per game. Only LaMichael James (613) has more rushing yards. Next Game: Auburn

5. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (40 pts)
Season Stats: 69/91, 1,136 yards, 11 TD, 1 INT, 16 att., 108 yards, TD

If not for Griffin's unbelievable start to the season, Wilson's No. 2 ranked passer rating of 218.38 would be making its own headlines. Wilson threw for his second 300-yard effort in as many games and has the Badgers leading the Big Ten in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense. This weekend could be a Heisman elimination game as darkhorse Taylor Martinez and Nebraska come to Madison. This will be Wilson's first real test. Next Game: Nebraska

6. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (35 pts)
Season Stats: 88/122, 1,022 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT, 2 rushing TD

Jones' 448 yards were his third-highest single-game total of his career and his fifth career 400-yard effort. It is also his third such yardage total in his last six games. He completed 35-of-48 passes and tossed three touchdowns against two more interceptions. After falling behind 14-3 against Mizzou, Jones led the Sooners to four unanswered touchdowns, pulling away from the Tigers for the Sooners' eighth straight win. Jones has not played elite football, statistically, but still has his team unbeaten and poised for a BCS bid. Next Game: Ball State

7. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (34 pts)
Season Stats: 67 att., 441 yards, 8 TD, 9 rec., 121 yards, TD

Richardson came up big again in another big spot. This time, against SEC West rival Arkansas, T-Rich rushed for 126 yards, caught three passes for 85 more yards and scored a key touchdown. It was his third straight 100-yard effort as he trails only Lattimore for rushing in the SEC. His Heisman hopes, and the Tide's SEC and BCS title hopes, will be on the line this weekend when he faces a dominant front seven in Gainesville. The Gators are fifth nationally against the run and fourth nationally in scoring defense. Next Game: at Florida

8. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (24 pts)
Season Stats: 35/72, 624 yards, 6 TD, 6 INT, 71 att., 552 yards, 5 TD

Robinson continues to be the dynamic dual-threat Maize and Blue fans have come to love. Robinson posted his third career 200-yard rushing effort in a 28-7 win over San Diego State. He is still struggling to pass the football as efficiently as Brady Hoke might want (0 TD, 2 INT, 8-of-17 passing), but he has his team unbeaten and poised for a deep Big Ten run. Other than Griffin, Shoelace is the most electric player in the nation. Next Game: Minnesota

9. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (23 pts)
Season Stats: 142/191, 1,592 yards, 10 TD, 6 INT

No one has had a more important half of football in the nation than Weeden did in the second 30 minutes on Saturday afternoon. Weeden threw for a school-record 438 yards and led the Pokes to 27 second-half points and the massive come-from-behind victory over Texas A&M. His 380.75 yards of total offense per game are good for No. 2 in the nation (Case Keenum). Next Game: Kansas

10. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (22 pts)
Season Stats: 38 rec., 450 yards, 4 TD

Blackmon came up big on Saturday with 11 catches for 121 yards and his 26th career receiving touchdown. The bulk of his work came in the dramatic second-half comeback as the 2010 Biletnikoff winner caught seven passes for 72 yards and the touchdown in the final 30 minutes. Next Game: Kansas

Previous Votings:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> Each week the Athlon editors will vote on the most prestigious award in all of sports.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-next-superpowers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

In the 1980s, it was Florida State, Miami and Colorado. In the 1990s, it was Florida, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and Kansas State. In the 2000s, it was Oregon, TCU, Boise State and Utah.

For a variety of reasons – coaching, support, media exposure, recruiting base – each of these programs blossomed into the full-throated college football monsters that we see every Saturday.

In the 2010 Athlon Sports preseason college football preview magazine, the staff spent countless hours evaluating and ranking recruiting bases, tradition, facilities, booster support, outside pressure to win and standard of living (among other things) for all 120 FBS programs. This June, the staff reconvened and reevaluated those rankings – considering that Colorado, Utah, Nebraska and TCU had swapped conferences.

The Oregon Ducks are ranked 13th nationally. TCU moved from 60th to 32nd simply by joining the Big East. Boise State checks in at 42nd and Utah ranks as the 37th best job in college football.

The question is, however, where would those programs have ranked had Athlon conducted this very same exercise in 1998?

At Oregon, Mike Bellotti had just finished his fourth season as the head coach. Yet, the Oregon Ducks had never experienced a 10-win season in the history of the program. Then Joey Harrington billboards starting popping up in Times Square. Phil Knight, and his unique but very effective fashion sense, started shoveling NIKE money into elite level facilities and apparel. Since then, the Ducks have won 10 games six times, claimed four of their five Pac-10 championships and played in the BCS National Title game this past January.

At Boise State, Dirk Koetter had just completed his first season as the head coach. The Broncos had just finished their third season in I-A play with an overall record of 13-21. Then Koetter produced two 10-win seasons before bolting for Arizona State. There were no BCS bowl wins, no Heisman candidates, no marriage proposals and no wins over Virginia Tech, Georgia, Oregon or Oklahoma yet. They certainly weren’t the Pacific Northwest and nationally recognized powerhouse they are considered today.

The Utah Utes had one 10-win season in school history (1994), but in the ensuing eight years (1995-2002), Utah lost nearly five games per season. Urban Meyer took over and instantly elevated the Utah brand, winning 10 games in his first two seasons including a Fiesta Bowl win over Pitt. Meyer handed the baton to Kyle Whittingham, and Utah has lost a total of six games in its last three seasons – which also includes another BCS bowl win over Alabama. Now, Utah basks in glow of Pac-12 money and strength.

The TCU Horned Frogs had three 10-win seasons prior to Gary Patterson’s tenure and all three took place before World War II. Dennis Franchione took over in 1998 following a 1-10 season and went 25-11 before giving way to Patterson. Since 2000, the Horned Frogs have won at least 10 games seven times, culminating in an unbeaten Rose Bowl Championship season last fall. Now, TCU doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.

The point is, college football is a completely fluid situation, and programs rise and fall like European Empires of centuries past. It is about finding the right coach at the right time in the right situation. So as college football enters another era of conference upheaval, mega-television contracts, 7-on-7 national recruiting showcases, weekly uniform changes and a heightened countrywide awareness, the question becomes: Which programs are best situated to elevate themselves into national prominence over the next decade?

Current Athlon Sports program ranking in parentheses

Oklahoma State Cowboys (24th nationally, 4th Big 12)

Simply losing Texas A&M to the SEC moves the Pokes from the fourth-best Big 12 program to the No. 3 spot in the league. T. Boone Pickens has pockets that redefine the term deep and is a dedicated OSU diehard. The program is situated less than 300 miles from the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, and the administration has found their Frank Beamer in alumnus Mike Gundy – who could maintain continuity for the long haul.

Yes, battling Oklahoma and Texas every season is a brutally tall order. There is a reason that the Pokes have won only one conference championship since 1953 (1976 Big Eight co-champs). The peak of Okie State’s existence might have been three 10-win seasons in a five-year span under Pat Jones in the early '80s – its only three double-digit win seasons until the Cowboys' breakthrough 11-2 campaign a year ago. But Auburn just overcame the exact same situation to win a national championship: Being No. 2 in its own state and facing an LSU/Alabama brick wall. Why couldn’t Oklahoma State do the same?

Gundy has won no fewer than nine games for three straight years, and with his win in College Station last Saturday, he has announced that his Cowboys are the biggest threat to Oklahoma’s Big 12 title hopes in 2011. With elite level support, an outstanding recruiting base and the right man leading the ship into the future, there is no reason Oklahoma State shouldn’t find itself competing for BCS bowls and AP Top 10 rankings on a yearly basis.

South Florida Bulls (36th nationally, 4th Big East)

It took about a decade and a few construction trucks, but South Florida has grinded its way into a position of potential greatness. Jim Leavitt birthed the program from thin air in 1997, and the Bulls needed only four seasons at the FCS level before joining the big boys in the (now) FBS in 2001. By 2003, USF had been welcomed into C-USA, and by 2005 the meteoric rise of football in Tampa landed the Bulls in the Big East. There are few programs that have ever experienced an ascension to relevance like USF.

With the support of AQ money and arguably the most talent-rich area of the country, South Florida has won at least eight games every year since 2006 – including a mid-season No. 2 BCS ranking in 2007 after a 6-0 start with wins over Auburn, North Carolina, UCF and West Virginia. Yet, it still feels like the Bulls are only starting to scratch the surface of their upside. Skip Holtz has stepped in with boatloads of energy and proven in short order that he could be the right man for the job long-term.

The wildcard for USF is its future conference affiliation. If they stay in the Big East, and the league maintains BCS status, the Bulls would be a perennial contender with West Virginia and TCU as league favorites. But should they land in the more lucrative and more stable SEC or ACC, the Bulls could find themselves competing for more than just BCS bowl bids.

Maryland Terrapins (52nd nationally, 9th ACC)

If you are looking for the next edition of the Oregon Ducks, look no further than College Park, Maryland. There is a lot of room for upward growth, and good coaches have proven that winning big is well within reach. The Terps have a giant booster in Kevin Plank who, like Knight at Oregon, is willing to funnel his Under Armour money – and his own intriguing sense of fashion – into the program he dearly loves.

The ACC appears to be set up for long-term stability with the additions of Pitt and Syracuse. Maryland lies in an incredibly rich area of the country for talent and is able to dip into Virginia, DC, Pennsylvania and New Jersey for players on a yearly basis. And the truth of the matter is that upward movement within the league would involve leap-frogging programs like NC State, Virginia and Georgia Tech. Very doable should things fall into place.

Despite the poor showing last weekend against Temple, Randy Edsall proved at UConn that he could work minor miracles with mediocre ingredients. Now, he has a massive athletic department budget, a great recruiting base and support from a powerful, high-profile booster who has created a connection with a certain 15-18 year-old male demographic with edgy advertising campaigns and creative uniforms.

Whether Edsall is the final answer for Maryland remains to be seen, but with the right person steering the program, the future appears to be very bright for the Terps.

UCF Knights (57th nationally, 1st C-USA)

The University of Central Florida first began playing football in 1979 as a D-III program. After elevating itself to D-II play, UCF was a preseason No. 1 team in the nation heading into the 1994 season. By 1996, UCF had completed its rise to (now) FBS status.

Enter George O’Leary. After an 0-11 season in 2004, O’Leary responded with an eight-win campaign and C-USA Eastern Division Championship in 2005. The Knights have since won the 2007 and 2010 Eastern Division titles and ultimately the 2010 C-USA championship by going 11-3 – the most single-season wins in school history. O’Leary is responsible for two of the program’s three 10-win seasons (1990, 2007, 2010). All four bowl appearances in school history have taken place since 2005, and the magical 2010 season finished with the program’s first-ever bowl win – over SEC powerhouse Georgia to boot.

With conferences like the Big East and ACC eyeing expansion, UCF has to be looked at as an attractive option for growth. It sits directly in the heart of the most talent-rich state in the nation and clearly has found a coach who is willing to do what it takes (e.g., let Playboy Playmates into the locker room?) to win big. This is a potential top-40 program nationally should it land the money, support and stability of an AQ league.

Others programs with growth potential:

Houston Cougars – 58th nationally
Have had pockets of success, but should the Cougars land in an AQ league, there is no reason to believe they could not be a top-40 program as well.

Syracuse Orange – 60th
With a rich history and long-standing tradition, and now conference stability in the ACC, the Cuse is a stadium renovation away from potential growth.

SMU Mustangs – 76th
See the Houston Cougars. In fact, the “Pony Excess” merely stunted this program’s growth. There is no reason for SMU not to be highly successful, especially if it lands in an AQ conference.

East Carolina Pirates – 77th
Much like UCF, the Pirates have a history of being competitive, have a solid recruiting base and are an attractive option for AQ conference expansion.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights – 48th
With Pitt and Cuse leaving, Rutgers now has an easier path to yearly BCS bowl bids. There is support and talent to compete consistently. And the ability to attract (potentially) the New York City market has to be appealing to all parties involved.

Baylor Bears – 66th
How much of it is Robert Griffin III and how much is finding the right coach (which they have in Art Briles)? Elite-level recruiting base and the potential for upward movement within the Big 12 as Texas A&M (and maybe others) leave give the Bears some potential. Things would have to fall right for Baylor to become a yearly contender, however.

Some others we like to grow but don't really count because of past success:

Washington Huskies
Coach Sark appears to have the ship righted and headed back to Don James-ian levels of succes.

South Carolina Gamecocks
Historically underachieving program with elite support, talent, and now, the right coach.

Michigan State Spartans
Fan support, great conference, tradition and now the right coach for the job.

UCLA Bruins
With the right man leading the program, there is no reason why the Bruins can't win big again.

Arkansas Razorbacks
What makes them any different than Texas A&M or Auburn in term of future potential?

Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilers, with the right head coach, could easily return to prominence.

View Athlon Sports' Complete College Football Program Rankings here

Teaser:
<p> Who will be the next great program to enter national prominence?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 07:48
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-legend-don-nehlen-talks-college-footbal
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports' Braden Gall had a chance to sit down with legendary West Virginia head coach Don Nehlen. The former head coach of the Mountaineers touched on the current college football landscape, what the future holds for WVU, the job Dana Holgorsen has done and some of his favorite memories from coaching the planet’s greatest game.

Braden Gall: There has been a lot upheaval in the college football landscape lately. What are your thoughts on conference realignment and the direction college football is heading?

Don Nehlen: It’s a little scary. One of the great things about college football, in my opinion, is the rivalries. When I grew up I loved athletics as a kid. I couldn’t wait to see Nebraska play Oklahoma even though I lived in Ohio as a kid. It was Nebraska and Oklahoma. Or to watch USC and UCLA or Ohio State and Michigan. These types of rivalry could go by the wayside.

West Virginia and Pittsburgh have been playing football for a heckuva long time. It goes way, way, way back. And that rivalry is in jeopardy now that Pitt is going into the ACC. Frankly, we’ve got a homeless sign on the front door, you know, we are homeless. And we are waaaay too good to be homeless in my opinion.

If we go to 16-team leagues or a 64-team group and you are one of the 64, it’s all fine and dandy, but if you get left out it’s not so rosy. Now, it looks to me like there will be a two round playoff and national champion with those 64 teams when the season is over - which is pretty darn good, because it would be nice.

One thing I have always thought is that basketball does a sensational job of getting interest in the sport at the end of the year because of the Sweet 16 and the Final Four. Everybody gets excited and everybody watches it. And at the end of football, we have a lot of bowl games, but half of them are so ridiculous that nobody even watches them anyway.

So, I see the good that could come of it, but I worry about what happens to some of the great match-ups of the past. I hope they don’t disappear.

BG: With all of the violations and sanctions taking place around college football, is there anything that can be done to fix the problem or is it something we are going to have to deal with as college football fans forever?

DN: You know I wish I knew the answer to that question. The money has become so big – and I certainly don’t begrudge anybody making a lot of money – but when you are making that kind of money and you have got to win to keep your job, that is a scary situation in my opinion.

These boosters want to win so bad too. Kids leave the locker room and go through the parking lot on the way back to the dorm and these boosters call them up and say hey, do you want to have a beer or a pizza and then it’s hard to tell what else happens from there. And I don’t know how in the world you can control that. I don’t see how in the devil you can hold coaches accountable for something that happens like that because how in the world do they know?

Additionally, most of the athletes that are playing at the top level don’t have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of. So when somebody wants to hand them a $20 or a $50 bill on their way back to the dorms after a game, I wouldn’t be surprised if they take it even though that they know it is wrong.

BG: Is there a major scheme difference, Xs and Os wise, from when you played and what you see now on the field?

DN: When I played, we played the game in a phone booth. Now, they play it out on a football field. You use the whole field now. I grew up with Woody Hayes coaching Ohio State and power football. Full-house backfields, double-teaming, kicking it out and running it off-tackle and then throwing play-action passes off that kind of stuff.

Now, probably 65 percent of the teams are spreading the field all over. Even the teams that are power-running teams are doing it now on third down. I was pretty much a power running team – and I had Marc Bulger and a lot of other good quarterbacks and we threw the ball all over the lot too – but that was my third down offense, not my first down offense. Quarterbacks coming out of high school are running the spread so they are better prepared. There are wide receivers coming out of high school who have caught a lot of balls and so they are better prepared. They are getting recruited to play specific positions, and now you have skill position players and quarterbacks who have all kinds of experience at spreading it out and throwing it on three-step drops.

So it’s a completely different game now. It has forced the defenses to be able to tackle in space. It has forced the defenses to have guys that can run well. It has forced the defenses to use more three-down linemen sets rather than four down linemen because you want to match speed with speed. So the game has changed tremendously.

BG: Does the evolution of the athlete at quarterback, like a Major Harris or Pat White, level the playing field in college football?

DN: I don’t think there is any question that if you run the spread stuff and you have a quarterback who can run the ball and throw it, you’ve got yourself a major, major advantage. Because you can go to a one-back set with the QB in the shotgun and that is, in essence, a two-back offense. But you’ve also spread somebody out somewhere that the defense has to cover with a linebacker. So you’ve got yourself a great situation to run the football with the quarterback. Of course, if the linebacker doesn’t go outside then, of course, you can throw it quickly to the guy they didn’t cover. So when you have a quarterback who can run and throw it, it absolutely drives the defense crazy.

Look at Michigan last year with Denard Robinson on a very, very average football team. Can you imagine if Michigan would have had a great defense with that kid at quarterback? But they couldn’t get the ball back. When I coached at Michigan, I don’t mind telling you, whoever we were playing would get the football for three downs and then punted. Because we played defense. Can you imagine what he would have done had he gotten the ball an extra four or five times a game? When I had Major Harris, he was so far ahead of his time. His thighs were so big and strong – he was about 215-218 pounds and would have been sensational in these modern offenses.

BG: What makes Dana Holgorsen’s offense so difficult to stop?

DN: First, of all, Dana and his staff know what they are doing. They are smart guys. When you think of football, you have 16 zones to protect and only 11 guys to protect them. So if you are a good offensive football coach, you can get match-ups on people that have both run responsibility and pass responsibility. You can make life pretty rough on those types of people. Especially, with the skill guys that WVU has. So I think Dana does a great job of finding match-ups that favor his offense.

Of course, the biggest thing is having a quarterback. And he is fortunate that he stepped into a job that has great quarterback. Geno Smith won’t beat you with his feet because he doesn’t want to. But if he has to, then he can. It’s not what wants to do – he wants to throw it – but he can pick them up and go if he has to. He is very, very accurate. He is very smart. He wants to be good and is willing to do what it takes to be good. He studies his opponents, and the offensive coaches do a great job of teaching him what they want him to do.

Dana’s offensive is very well-conceived. They screen; they do everything with the ball. One of the things I love is that they go down the field with it. They don’t always throw those little passes to the flats, they go down the field with it and I like that.

BG: Talk about your involvement in the Legends Poll and what that has meant to you.

DN: Number One, it’s a lot of fun. Every Monday morning I get a chance to talk with an awful lot of guys that I consider some of my best friends. Donny James and I coached against each other in the MAC. He grew up in Massillon, Ohio, and I grew up in Canton, Ohio. Heavens, I have only seen him three times in the last 20 years, but I get to talk with him every Monday morning and he is clear out there in Washington. John Robinson, Terry Donahue are out there on the West Coast too. Then we start to move east. LaVell Edwards is one of my best friends and I get a chance to hear him talk about the teams in that neck of the woods. So it’s a lot of fun for me because I am able to talk and discuss the landscape of college football and who is who with all those great coaches.

Number two, I think there is no one out there better able to rate the college football teams in the country than the guys who have coached the game for 30 or 40 years.

Number three, if I want to see a team then I have the ability to see any team I want to see on film. If don’t get to see Southern Cal on television for example, I have access to the game film and will look at them on tape. And it gives me some idea of how good they are.

So we have the expertise of guys who have coached and we have the expertise of being able to study teams on film. So if I want to vote for Oklahoma, LSU or Alabama, the best way for me to do it is to look at the film and try to figure out who is better. And I don’t mind telling you that you can flip a coin with those three.

I think the legends poll has real credibility and nobody hardly uses us. It’s ridiculous really. When I think of the Harris Poll and who has been picked to be a part of that – and I know the coaches don’t have time to do it because I was one of those guys – so I think we are the best poll by far.

BG: So who is the best team in the nation?

DN: I think that Alabama is a great football team. I was always taught you win championships with defense and you win games with offense. And I think they have a championship defense. They are extremely well-coached on defense. Their offense is not great but is very solid. What they do so well on offense is that they don’t make mistakes. They don’t get penalties, they don’t fumble, they don’t throw interceptions. They don’t do all the things that beat offensive football teams. So you put that great defense with a team, who offensively doesn’t make mistakes, and they are going to be very difficult for anybody to beat. And I think Alabama does that extremely well.

I think that LSU is pretty much in the same category. I think that defensively they are very quick, strong and have depth. I think that LSU and Alabama are very similar football teams. Who to give the edge to would be a heckuva decision. I think that Alabama makes maybe one or two less mistakes per game on offense.

When I watch Oklahoma, I see the same exact situation. A great offense, a great defense but I think they make a few more mistakes than Alabama.

So if I had to, it would be a toss up between Alabama and LSU for Number One with Oklahoma No. 3.

Check out other Athlon Sports Legends Interviews:

Air Force's Fisher DeBerry

Georgia's Vince Dooley

West Virginia's Don Nehlen

Washington's Don James
Arizona State's Frank Kush
Arkansas' Frank Broyles
BYU's LaVell Edwards

Special thanks to Athlon Sports partner The Legends Poll

Teaser:
<p> Don Nehlen discusses the future of WVU football and the current college football landscape.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 07:36
Path: /columns/national-notebook/mike-locksley-worst-coach-ever
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

If you have ever been to Vegas and played Blackjack, you have inevitably sat at the table with the "gut" player. The gut player is the guy or gal who splits Kings when the dealer has a six showing, hits on 18 because he "feels" that three coming his or her way, and never ever hits when he or she has sixteen and the dealer has a face card showing because he or she "knows" the dealer doesn't have 20.

Sometimes, gut players have a good night. Most of the time they do not. The players who have the highest chance of actually walking away with more money than they sat down with are the players who stick to the "basic strategy" determined by the numbers and odds. Doing this doesn't guarantee success, but it does greatly reduce the risk of losing your money.

In the world of hiring college football coaches, a lot of universities are gut players. For a case in point, let's examine the case of Mike Locksley.

Coach Locksley was fired this past Sunday after going 2-26. Coach Locksley also had some off-the-field troubles - try choking and punching an assistant coach, or sexually harassing an administrative assistant, or how about his son's girlfriend getting arrested after a "recruit" was busted for DWI in a car registered to Locksley himself (seriously, you cannot make this stuff up) - which certainly made it easier to fire a coach who clearly wasn't getting the job done on the field. Before we get into who might be some possible replacement names for the Lobos, let's analyze the decision to hire Mike Locksley in the first place. On the surface level, Locksley has a pretty solid resume:

1992Towson – Secondary Coach & Special Teams Coach
1993U.S. Naval Prep School – Defensive Coordinator & Secondary Coach
1994U.S. Naval Prep School – Defensive Coordinator & Defensive Line Coach
1995Pacific – Outside Linebacker Coach
1996Army – Wide Receivers Coach & Tight Ends Coach
1997Maryland – Running Backs Coach
1998-2002Maryland – Running Backs Coach & Recruiting Coordinator
2003-2004Florida – Running Backs Coach & Recruiting Coordinator
2005-2008Illinois – Offensive Coordinator & Quarterback Coach

If you don't dig much deeper than his interview (he's a recruiter so we are sure his interview was very compelling) and his resume, you would think you were getting a dynamite coach. However, if the Lobos had decided to dig a little deeper, they would have seen the following:

Coach Position Yrs. Overall WP% Conf. WP% WP% Against Top 25 WP% Against Over .500 Teams
Mike Locksley Off. Co.
(Illinois)
2005-2008 37.50% (18-30) 31.25% (10-22) 18.75 (3-13) 29.03% (9-22)

The numbers above are pretty atrocious, but we do need to keep in mind that Locksley was just in charge of the offense during these years, not the entire team. Given that fact, let's look at the numbers related to what Locksley was controlling (CBTN Rank below is among Big Ten offensive coordinators from 2005-2008 with at least 2 years experience).

Coach Position Yrs. CBTN Stars CBTN Rank Avg. Total Off. Avg. Scoring Off. Avg. Scoring Off. National Rank
Mike Locksley Off. Co.
(Illinois)
2005-2008 11 (out of 14 coaches) 390.95 ypg 23.28 ppg 73.25 (out of 120 teams)

Looking at the numbers for Coach Locksley leaves us scratching our heads as to why this guy was on anyone's radar for a head coaching position?

However, according to one of the news stories  from when Locksley was hired, "Locksley has been praised as one of the top recruiters in the country. He was listed among the top-20 recruiters in the nation by Sports Illustrated and was named a top-25 recruiter by Rivals.com while at Illinois."

(For a whole lot more on why a school shouldn't hire a "recruiter", click here, here, and here.)

We could give you a whole lot of data on Locksley's tenure at New Mexico, but we think the 2-26 record in his 28 games as head coach should tell the story. So, the top "recruiter" with terrible numbers didn't work out for the Lobos.

Who should be next for New Mexico? The first thing to keep in mind about New Mexico is that since 2004 they have played 54.02% of their games with inferior talent, 33.33% with equivalent talent, and 11.49% with superior talent (FCS opponents don't have recruiting data). Whoever is the next coach at New Mexico needs to be someone who can do more with less. The second thing to keep in mind about the New Mexico job is that it's just not a very desirable job. It is currently the 86th best job in the nation by the numbers and one of the weaker jobs in the Mountain West Conference. This is simply to say that Urban Meyer, Gary Patterson, and Chris Petersen are not going to be on the list. With the obvious big names like this out, let's turn to a few other names.

Jarrett Anderson
: Coach Anderson is currently the co-offensive coordinator at TCU and is a New Mexico alum (on why that shouldn't really matter, click here). He has worked under coach Patterson for 14 seasons and has been the co-offensive coordinator since 2009. From 2009 - Present, TCU has put up some of the most impressive numbers in the nation. Among active offensive coordinators with at least 2 years experience, only Chip Kelly and Dana Holgorsen rate higher than Anderson and co-coordinator Justin Fuente. It certainly didn't hurt Anderson to have Andy Dalton at the helm in the 2009-2010 seasons, but without Dalton at the helm in 2011, TCU, after four games, is ranked in the top 25 for scoring offense, third down efficiency, points per play, and yards per play. Additionally, since 2004, TCU has played 53% of its games with inferior or equal talent, so coach Anderson has some experience with having to do more with less.

Ivin Jasper
: If you saw Navy's game against South Carolina, you will understand the meaning of doing more with less. Jasper has been the offensive coordinator at Navy since Ken Niumatalolo took over from Paul Johnson. Jasper played quarterback for Paul Johnson when Johnson was the offensive coordinator at Hawaii and stayed pretty much by Coach Johnson's side until he became Navy's OC under Coach Ken. Given the talent situation at New Mexico, we believe the triple option offense would be a great weapon for New Mexico, as it would give the Lobo's a chance to outsmart opponents instead of out-talent them.

Neal Brown
: He is only 30 years old, but in his four seasons as an offensive coordinator (two at Troy and the last two with Texas Tech) Neal Brown has put up some extremely impressive numbers. He is currently in the top ten among active coordinators with two years minimum experience in the following categories: Scoring Offense, Total Offense, 3rd Down Efficiency, Average Passing TD's Per Game, and Average Passing Yards Per Game. As with any coordinator, there is the risk that all of these coaches make better groomsmen than grooms.

That being said, we like the numbers behind these coaches and believe they would give the Lobos a shot of becoming a competitive program again. The numbers tell you that you should always hit on 16 when the dealer has a ten or a seven showing. Sometime you will bust and sometimes the dealer will still beat you, but hitting is still the right decision because of the way the numbers work. In this instance, we have found three coaches with great numbers and while numbers don't tell the whole story, they give New Mexico the best chance to avoid another bust.

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

Teaser:
<p> Coaches by the Numbers looks at Mike Locksley's tenure and who New Mexico should target.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 13:53
Path: /columns/national-notebook/will-mike-stoops-be-arizonas-coach-2012
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

In the book Wooden on Leadership, legendary basketball coach and leader John Wooden provides us his thoughts on what he terms "emotionalism":

"I prize intensity and fear emotionalism. Consistency in high performance and production is a trademark of effective and successful organizations and those who lead them. Emotionalism destroys consistency. A leader who is ruled by emotions, whose temperament is mercurial, produces a team whose trademark is the roller coaster---ups and downs in performance; unpredictability and undependability in effort and concentration; one day good, the next day bad."

If you are wondering what emotionalism looks like, all you need to do is take a Saturday afternoon or evening and flip on a University of Arizona football game. On display will be Mike Stoops and the extremely wide array of emotions he displays throughout a game. Some watching the games may label Coach Stoops "intense", but given his numbers and performance combined with what Coach Wooden had to say above, we believe it's best labeled emotionalism. It would be hard to come from a better coaching background than Mike Stoops. It seems like you can't turn on a college football game without hearing the name Stoops. Mike's brother Bob is the current head coach at Oklahoma and is the number one rated coach in our system. One of Mike's other brother's, Mark Stoops, is currently the defensive coordinator for the Florida State Seminoles. When the University of Arizona hired Mike Stoops prior to the 2004 season, it appeared that they had picked a real winner. Mike had been the defensive coordinator at Kansas State from 1996-1998, a period when the Wildcats went 31-6. In 1999, after his brother Bob was named the head coach of the then struggling Oklahoma Sooners, Mike became the defensive coordinator of the Sooners. He remained the defensive coordinator until he accepted the head coaching job at Arizona before the 2004 season. From 2001-2003, here is a quick glimpse at some of his numbers as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma:

CBTN Stars Overall WP% Avg. Total Defense Avg. Scoring Defense Avg. Scoring Def. National Rank Avg. Rushing TD's Allowed Per Year Avg. Pass TD's Allowed Per Year
85.37% 271.87 ypg 14.85 ppg 5 (out of 120) 8.33 11.00

To say the very least, these numbers are extremely impressive. So, on paper it appeared that Arizona was getting a defensive guru with an amazing pedigree and knowledge of how to build a winner. In the five years prior to Stoops taking the job at Arizona, the Wildcats had won a measly 37.93% of their games. Stoops was taking over an extremely poor program, but given the job he and his brother did at Oklahoma and his proven track record, Mike Stoops seemed to be the man with the plan for Arizona. So, let's fast forward to 2011 and see how the numbers look on Coach Stoops:

Years CBTN Stars Overall WP% Conf. WP% Non.-Conf. WP%
2004-Present 46.07% (41-48) 42.86% (27-36) 53.85% (14-12)

Additionally:

Years WP% Against Top 25 WP% Against Over .500 Teams WP% Against Under .500 Teams WP% in Close Games (4 pts. or less)
2004-Present 28.13% (9-25) 32.69% (17-35) 64.86% (24-13) 28.57% (6-15)

Given his prowess as a defensive coordinator, we have to assume that his defenses are pretty solid, right? Let's see:

Years Avg. Total Def. Avg. Scoring Def. Avg. Scoring Def. Natl. Rank Avg. Rush TD's Allowed Per Year Avg. Pass TD's Allowed Per Year
2004-2010 351.78 ypg 23.67 ppg 48.57 (out of 120 teams) 16.28 15.85

So, from the numbers, Mike Stoops isn't looking so hot. However, before we judge too quickly, let's consider some additional data. Mike Stoops has had a positive 8.14% impact on the Wildcat's winning percentage compared to the five years before he took the job. Since 1970, Arizona has only won 8 games or more ten times and Mike Stoops is responsible for two of these seasons. Additionally, he has had victories over every single Pac-10 team (he has however lost to every Pac-10 team as well). Finally, and before we make any conclusions, let's consider two more sets of numbers (coach ranking below is among active head coaches - first year coaches don't yet have a rating):

Years CBTN Coach Ranking Avg. Recruiting Rank Differential
2004-Present 45 (out of 104) 42.63 (out of 120) -1.37

To put the above another way, Mike Stoops is the 45th best coach out of 104 active coaches (first year coaches not yet rated) with an average talent of 42.63 out of 120 teams. Finally, let's see how Stoops has performed against opponents with varying levels of talent (based on recruiting class averages):

Years WP% w/Superior Talent WP% w/Equivalent Talent WP% w/Inferior Talent
2004-Present 47.06% (8-9) 43.75% (14-18) 37.50% (12-20)

So, now that we have looked at the data, what can we conclude? Our conclusion is that, as usual, Coach Wooden was right. The emotionalism that defines Mike Stoops has led to a coach that rides the roller coaster. He has had his ups (3 bowl appearances, 2 eight-win seasons, and victories over every Pac-10 team). He has also had his downs (2 eight-loss seasons, mediocre defensive stats, and losses to every Pac-10 team). From our evaluation of the numbers, Coach Stoops is slightly underachieving given his talent level and is not winning nearly as often as he should when he has superior or equivalent as evidenced by his overall winning percentage of 44.89% in these games. Should Mike Stoops be on the hot seat? It really all depends on how much you like riding a roller coaster. Does the thrill of the highs make up for the nausea of the lows?

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

Other CBTN Content:

Rick Neuheisel: Not The Right Fit for UCLA

Is Houston Nutt Still the Answer at Ole Miss?

Teaser:
<p> Coaches By The Numbers looks at the job Mike Stoops has done at Arizona.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 11:10
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten-1
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 4 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Nebraska (4-0) – The 38-14 road win over Wyoming this weekend might have been the Huskers' most complete performance of 2011. Rex Burkhead topped the 100-yard mark and scored two touchdowns for the second straight week and Taylor Martinez added his seventh rushing score. Most importantly, however, the defense allowed only 304 total yards - without star defensive tackle Jared Crick. Pre-season All-Big Ten corner Alfonzo Dennard did return to the field with four tackles. Crick is expected to return this weekend for Big Red's first-ever Big Ten game in Madison against the No. 10 (by Athlon) team in the nation.

2. Wisconsin (4-0) –  The Badgers rolled 59-10 over lowly South Dakota - pushing its averaging margin of victory for the season up to 40 points per game (194-34). Heisman candidate Russell Wilson actually improved his nationally ranked No. 2 QB-rating from 213.4 to 218.38 with 345 yards, three touchdowns and no intercpetions on 19-of-25 passing. Four different running backs visited the endzone as Wisconsin readies for the Cornhuskers visit to Camp Randall Saturday night in what looks to be a Big Ten title game preview.

3. Illinois (4-0) – The Fighting Illini outlasted the Western Michigan Broncos 23-20 for its first 4-0 start since 1951. Ron Zook deployed a trio of running backs, along with quarterback Nathan Scheehaase, to the tune of 296 yards rushing on 52 attempts. Scheelhaase took a couple of nasty hits and had a sore neck and shoulder during throwing drills on Sunday. He is expected to start against Northwestern this weekend as Illinois opens Big Ten play. It is the fifth straight home game for the Illini.

4. Michigan (4-0) – Some were calling for the upset from Brady Hoke's former employer, but San Diego State was outclassed on Saturday by the Maize and Blue 28-7. Denard Robinson ran 21 times for 200 yards and three scores as Michigan jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead. The much-maligned Wolverine defense played bend-but-don't-break football, allowing 376 yards. But with timely turnovers and staunch play on its own half of the field, it kept SDSU out of the endzone all but once. Michigan should start 5-0 as the Gophers of Minnesota come to town this weekend.

5. Penn State (3-1) – The Nittany Lions welcomed 84-year-old head coach Joe Paterno back to the sidelines with a dominating 34-6 win over Eastern Michigan. Penn State's two quarterback system - featuring Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin - finally got rolling and produced the first passing touchdowns of 2011. The duo combined for 335 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-30 passing. The Nits defense held the normally potent Eagles rushing attack to only 68 yards - 221 yards below its season average. However, it came at a steep price as star linebacker and defensive leader Michael Mauti has been lost for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Penn State visits Indiana this weekend.

6. Michigan State (3-1) – After a brutal offensive showing against Notre Dame in Week Three, the Spartans bounced back with a 45-point, 481-yard win over Central Michigan. Le'Veon Bell scored three first half touchdowns as Sparty went into halftime leading 31-0. The defense forced four interceptions and held the Chippewas to a paultry 112 yards of offense and a solitary third quarter touchdown. Michigan State now heads to the Horseshoe to battle Ohio State in its Big Ten opener.

7. Ohio State (3-1) – True freshman Braxton Miller, the nation's No. 2 ranked Class of 2011 quarterback, played poised football in his first career start. He threw two touchdown passes to Devin Smith, ran for 83 yards on 17 carries, didn't turn the ball over and directed the Buckeye offense to a 37-17 win over Colorado. Tailbacks Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde got in on the action as well as Ohio State rushed for 226 yards on 47 attempts. It was a key weekend of experience for Miller as OSU rebounded from its debacle in Coral Gables last weekend and is now preppped for fellow 2011 Big Ten co-champs Michigan State to come to town this weekend.

8. Iowa (3-1) – James Vandenberg threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns and added a rushing score as Iowa rolled over UL-Monroe 45-17. Marvin McNutt caught seven passes for 100 yards and two first-half touchdowns while Marcus Coker ran for 113 yards on 18 carries and visited the endzone twice himself. Iowa played two complete halves of football for the first time in three weeks and will need to continue to improve if it wants to walk into Beaver Stadium two weekends from now and beat Penn State. The Hawkeyes are on bye this Saturday.

9. Northwestern (2-1) – The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Wildcats after a Week Three loss to Army. Starting quarterback Dan Persa, who has yet to play in 2011 due to lingering effects of Achilles' surgery late last season, is hopeful he will start this weekend against Illinois. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald said last Thursday that he would be shocked if Persa didn't play against the Illini.

10. Purdue (2-1) – The Boliermakers were on bye this weekend, and like Northwestern, probably came at a great time. Quarterback Robert Marve played in three series in the Week Three 59-0 win over Southeast Missouri State. He is recovering from ACL surgery and is expected to see more snaps this weekend against Notre Dame. For a team that has been riddled with injuries, two weeks of rest to prepare for the Irish was likely a welcomed experience. Especially considering Purdue's strength of schedule ranks dead last amongst FBS programs according to the Sagarin ratings.

11. Indiana (1-3) – Another a week of football and another brutal loss for the Hooisers as North Texas rolled-up 427 yards of offense in a 24-21 win over IU. Indiana fans, however, might get used to seeing the name Kiel under center. After falling behind 24-0, the Hooisers stormed back behind back-up quarterback Dusty Kiel's two fourth-quarter touchdown strikes and 145 yards through the air. Kiel's younger brother, Gunner, is the No. 2 rated QB prospect in America and is committed to IU. With losses to Ball State, North Texas and Virginia already, National Signing Day 2012 can't come fast enough for Indiana. Penn State comes to Bloomington this Saturday.

12. Minnesota (1-3) – The Golden Gophers have accomplished an unenviable sweep of the Dakotas. After losing to South Dakota in 2010, Minnesota was outplayed at home this weekend by North Dakota State 37-24. Jerry Kill ineffectively rotated quarterbacks MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell as the offense never found a rhythm. A wild and emotionally crushing interception returned for a touchdown on the final play of the first half gave NDSU a 28-14 halftime lead. The Gophers never recovered as Minnesota takes a slight "lead" in the the battle for the bottom of the Big Ten. Kill and company visit Michigan this weekend.

Teaser:
<p> Post Week 4 Big Ten Power Rankings.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 07:59
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12-1
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 4 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Oregon (3-1) – The Ducks have clearly put the LSU loss behind them as they have scored at least 56 points in three straight games after beating Arizona 56-31 in the desert Saturday night. LaMichael James topped 200 yards for the second straight week, rushing for 288 yards against the Wildcats. Darron Thomas continues his sterling play, accounting for four touchdowns and not turning the ball over for the third straight week. Overall, the Ducks rushed for 415 yards at nearly nine yards per carry. Oregon gets some downtime with a bye week this weekend before a Thursday night showdown with Cal on October 6.

2. Stanford (3-0) – The best unbeaten team in the nation no one talks about had a bye week in Week Four. Andrew Luck and the Cardinal will be well rested for a home game against the UCLA Bruins this Saturday. Stanford beat the Bruins 35-0 last fall.

3. Arizona State (3-1) – The Sun Devils survived dust storms and questionable ankles to pull off their first win over USC at home in six tries. The strange, sand-filled weather couldn't stop ASU tailback Cameron Marshall from anouncing his presence as a Pac-12 star. Listed as questionable for the game after turning his ankle in the 17-14 loss to Illinois, Marshall took his first carry 70 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. He added two more scores and finished with 141 yards on 25 carries. Matt Barkley mounted a comeback, taking the lead 22-21 late in the third quarter. But Marshall and the Devils defense took over, scoring the final 21 points of the game for the first ASU win over the Trojans since 1999. Quarterback Brock Osweiler was incredibly efficient, completing 25 of his 32 attempts. Saturday night proved that Arizona State is the favorite to represent the South in the inaugural Pac-12 title game.

4. Washington (3-1) – After a valiant (but losing) effort against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Washington showed its mental toughness and intestinal fortitude with a 31-23 win over Cal at home. The Golden Bears worked the ball to the Washington two-yard line in the final minute, but an incomplete pass and two failed rushing attempts left Cal a final fourth-down chance. When Zach Maynard's attempt sailed over the head of Keenan Allen, Husky Stadium exploded in celebration. Keith Price continued his solid play by completing 19-of-25 passes for 292 yards and three more scores while Chris Polk added 145 yards from scrimmage and two scores. The Huskies are 3-1 for the first time since 2006 and face a tough road test at Utah this weekend.

5. USC (3-1) – After falling behind 21-6 late in the second quarter to Arizona State, the Men of Troy mounted a courageous comeback with 17 unanswered points to take the lead late in the third. The comeback was capped by a ten-yard touchdown run by starting tailback Marc Tyler (who rushed for 149 yards on 22 carries). But USC could not stop Sun Devils tailback Cameron Marshall, and Matt Barkley's interception with just under seven minutes left in the game was returned for a touchdown and sealed the victory for ASU. USC returns home this weekend to face Arizona - who has lost three straight.

6. California (3-1) – Zach Maynard completed 23 passes for 349 yards against Washington, including a 90-yard first-quarter touchdown pass to brother Keenan Allen. Yet, it was his final pass attempt that flew over Allen's head on the penultimate (Washington took a knee with 21 seconds left) play of the game that was the difference in the 31-23 loss to the Huskies. Maynard and Allen have developed as a potent tandem, connecting 10 times for 197 yards and the lone score. The loss is the start of a difficult stretch for Cal as the Bears get a bye week before visiting Oregon and hosting USC and Utah in their next three.

7. Utah (2-1) – Utes fans got an extra week to celebrate their 54-10 shellacking of BYU in the Holy War two weekends ago. The bye week gives Kyle Whittingham and company extra time to prepare for their upcoming Pac-12 slate. Utah will play its second Pac-12 game this weekend when Washington comes calling.

8. Arizona (1-3) – The Wildcats are reeling after three straight blowout losses at the hands of clearly superior opponents. After losing Saturday night to Oregon 56-31, Arizona has been outscored by an average of 25 points per game during its current three-game losing streak. Nick Foles continues to produce big numbers, throwing for 391 yards and three touchdowns on 55 pass attempts. However, the Cats could not stop the run as Oregon ran for 415 yards on 47 carries — good for 8.8 yards per carry. Arizona has played three straight top-ten opponents, but the journey doesn't get much easier as Mike Stoops could be fighting for his job in the Coliseum this weekend against USC.

9. UCLA (2-2) – The Bruins have struggled in 2011, but began the Pac-12 season 1-0 with a 27-19 road win over Oregon State. Richard Brehaut got the start at quarterback and led the offense with 146 passing yards while accounting for two touchdowns. Rick Neuheisel divvied up 49 carries in the backfield to the tune of 211 yards and three scores. Derrick Coleman got 20 attempts (100 yards), Malcolm Jones got nine (38 yards), Johnathan Franklin received six (36) and Brehaut got eight (21). Don't expect the Bruins to stay unbeaten in conference play for long, however, as they head to Palo Alto this weekend to face Stanford.

10. Colorado (1-3) – The Buffaloes were simply outclassed by the Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend 37-17. Tyler Hansen threw for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns but never got the offense rolling. The Buffs were 3-of-13 on third downs, committed nine penalties for 83 yards and fumbled the ball twice. The good news for Colorado: Jon Embree's best chance for a conference win will likely come this weekend in Boulder when Washington State visits.

11. Washington State (2-1) – The Cougars were on bye in Week Four, and they may have their starting quarterback, Jeff Tuel, under center as early as October 15 after he cracked his collarbone in Week One. So even though the break comes at a great time, it still appears back-up Marshall Lobbestael will have to play well if the Cougars expect to win their Pac-12 opener against Colorado this Saturday. Lobbestael has throw for at least 360 yards in each of his last two games and eight touchdowns.

12. Oregon State (0-3) – It is shocking to see the Beavers hold down the last spot on this list, but after losing at home to a struggling UCLA Bruins team 27-19, it is hard to see any movement. The team is still without freshman dynamo Malcolm Agnew and his pulled hamstring, but quarterback Sean Mannion seems to have stabilized the quarterback position. After rotating with the more athletic Ryan Katz through the first two games, Mannion threw for 287 yards and a score while Katz watched from the sidelines. Oregon State travels to the desert to face Arizona State in Tempe this Saturday.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after the fourth week of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, September 26, 2011 - 15:00
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/betting-against-spread-week-4-picks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

In Week 3 of the college football season, Houston and Nevada both won their games but failed to cover the spread. Auburn started out hot (14-0) but couldn't stop my grandmother on defense. However, I continued to move over .500 by using those late-night West Coast contest to bounce back (thanks Stanford, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State). And special thanks to Wyoming and Bowling Green for a late touchdown that gave me a 0.5 win in my only O/U bet of the season.

I will go back out to the West Coast and I will go heavy on the favorites to get the big wins...

Season Record ATS: 15-10-1 (4-3 last week)

Week 4's Top Picks:

1. Oregon (-15) at Arizona
The Wildcats are in the middle of one of the nastiest runs in all of college football. They have lost two straight, to Oklahoma State and Stanford, by allowing 37 points and well over 500 yards in each game. Both teams also covered the spread over Arizona. The Ducks have bounced back quite nicely after losing to LSU. They have scored 128 points in two games. Take the Ducks to roll in the desert. My Pick: Oregon -15

2. SMU (-22) at Memphis
Memphis’ defense has been downright atrocious, allowing 541.3 yards per game, good for 118th in the nation. Against FBS competition, the Tigers have allowed 106 points in two games. The Mustangs, despite the quarterback carousel, posted 416 yards through the air to go with five rushing touchdowns. Look for the Stangs to roll up a big numbers against one of the worst teams in the nation. My Pick: SMU -22

3. LSU (-5.5) at West Virginia
The Mountaineers have yet to play a complete football game  in 2011. They played horrendous first halves in Week 1 and Week 2 before laying a total egg in the second half last weekend against Maryland. LSU has an NFL defensive line and running game that will make life incredibly difficult for Geno Smith. Look for LSU to grind it out, wear down the WVU defense and pull away late in the fourth. My Pick: LSU -5.5

4. UL-Lafayette (+16.5) at Florida International
One of the most improved and surprising teams in the nation is FIU. UL-Lafayette is ranked 114th in total offense and 94th in scoring defense, and will have no answer for do-everything dynamo T.Y. Hilton. FIU is 3-0 against the spread this season and should keep it rolling this weekend. My Pick: FIU -16.5

5. UAB (+14) at East Carolina
Bryan Ellis is banged up for UAB. Even he plays, the leg injury will slow him down. UAB has been outscored 88-10 in losses to Florida (no shame) and Tulane (much shame). East Carolina has played valiantly against superior competition in South Carolina and Virginia Tech. Look for Dom Davis and the Pirates' high-flying passing attack to light up the scoreboard. My Pick: ECU -14

6. Georgia (-10) at Ole Miss
One of the most startling scores in all of college football was Ole Miss trailing 30-0 heading into the fourth quarter last week against Vanderbilt. Georgia, on the other hand got off the schneid with a lopsided 59-0 win over Coastal Carolina. Aaron Murray and Isaiah Crowell are battle-tested, and Georgia has won four straight games in Oxford. Ole Miss has major quarterback issues, and the Dawgs will take advantage. My Pick: Georgia -10

7. Middle Tennessee (+12) at Troy
Troy has won five straight games over MTSU and has won the last four by an average of 27 points. This will be the home opener for Troy after two huge road tests against Clemson and Arkansas. Troy held its own in both games (so to speak) as Corey Robinson threw for 373 yards and three scores against the Hogs last week. My Pick: Troy -12

8. USC (+3) at Arizona State
Arizona State has lost five straight at home to USC, and the Trojans are clearly an improved football team from 2010. The Sun Devils' defense is also missing key pieces with injuries to corner Omar Bolden, linebacker Brandon Magee and end Junior Onyeali. Matt Barkley is playing great football and the Trojans played their best game of the season a week ago. The Sun Devils are 0-3 against the spread this season. My Pick: USC +3

9. Fresno State (-2.5) at Idaho
The Bulldogs slept-walked through a five-point win over North Dakota last weekend after two brutal losses at the hands of quality competition (at Cal, at Nebraska). Idaho ranks 106th in total offense and 89th in total defense after being smoked by Bowling Green and Texas A&M. Look for Robbie Rouse and Derek Carr to put up solid numbers on offense. My Pick: Fresno State -2.5

10. Florida State (+2.5) at Clemson
The Seminoles trigger man EJ Manuel is officially listed as questionable for this game. Should he not play, I reserve the right to take this one off the board. If he is in the line-up, the smart money goes on Florida State to bounce back. This is easily the best defense Clemson has faced as the Tigers will look a lot more like the team that struggled with Wofford rather than the one that turned it on against Auburn. The ACC Atlantic title could be on the line, so FSU will bounce back – if its star quarterback plays. My Pick: Florida State +2.5

3-0 Teams Against the Spread:

Arkansas State, Buffalo, Vanderbilt, Temple, Florida, Florida International, Georgia Tech, Navy, South Florida, Stanford

2-0 Teams Against the Spread:

Baylor, Boise State, East Carolina, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Texas Tech, Utah State

0-3 Teams Against the Spread:

Akron, Arizona State, Boston College, Central Michigan, Colorado State, UConn, Kent State, Nebraska, NC State, Penn State, Pitt, UCLA

0-2 Teams Against the Spread:

Air Force, UAB, FAU, Oregon State

Other Week 4 Content:

Mitch Light's Week Four Weekend on Tap

Steven Lassan's Upset and Match-ups to Watch

 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2011 - 15:00
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/college-fantasy-football-start-or-sit-week-4
Body:

- by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Here is Athlon Sports college football Week Three College Fantasy Football Start or Sit:

Start These Quarterbacks:

BJ Daniels, USF (UTEP)
It’s hard to argue with his production over the last two weekends. Daniels has topped 350 yards in each of the last two games and has accounted for six total touchdowns. He is not running the ball nearly as much and has become a more efficient passer: 58 percent last fall vs. 71 percent over his last two games. South Florida has scored 107 points in those games as the entire offense should be squarely on the fantasy radar this Saturday.

James Vandenberg, Iowa (UL-Monroe)
It is hard to argue with consistency, and Vandenberg has proven he can produce in short order. He has topped 20 fantasy points in each of his three starts this year with a juicy 32.96 effort last weekend. UL-Monore ranks 89th in pass efficiency defense and hasn’t held an FBS passer under 200 yards yet this season. Vandenberg has also rushed for two scores this season.

MarQuies Gray, Minnesota (North Dakota State)
The dynamic athlete has taken the Gophers offense by storm over the last two weeks. He has rushed for 281 net yards while passing for 374 yards. Jerry Kill is finally starting to use his athletic skills to their fullest potential, and North Dakota State should pose no threat. Especially for a team that desperately needs to keep positive momentum as Big Ten play starts.

Sean Renfree, Duke (Tulane)
The talented junior finally put it all together last weekend – and on the road in the ACC no less. Renfree set a school record with 40 completions to go with his 359 yards and three total scores. Tulane allowed 241 yards and three scores to Tulsa’s G.J. Kinne two weeks ago and will not have the horses to slow down Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner.

Trent Steelman, Army (at Ball State)
The West Point signal-caller is entering his 29th career start under center and is guiding the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense. Steelman has rushed for 265 yards and six touchdowns over the last two games, and Ball State is ranked 95th in total defense thus far. Expect that triple option to keep rolling along this weekend.

Derek Carr, Fresno State (at Idaho)
Carr is slowly developing into one of the WAC’s top passers. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 235 yards and two more touchdowns last weekend. And with how bad the Bulldogs defense has played – 97th in rushing, 85th in total defense and 100th in scoring – Carr should have plenty of reasons to throw deep into the second half.

John Brantley, Florida (at Kentucky)
Brantley is no fantasy stud, but he is showing signs of developing. He played very well against Tennessee, throwing for 213 yards and two scores on 61 percent passing. He is also taking care of the football. He has gone two games in a row without throwing an interception for the first time since September 18 of last season. The Wildcats surrendered three passing scores to Louisville last weekend and haven’t beaten Florida since 1986.

Deep QB Plays:

JJ McDermott, SMU (at Memphis)
Jacory Harris, Miami (Kansas State)
Edward Wright-Baker, Indiana (North Texas)

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Geno Smith, West Virginia (LSU)
Did anyone see the Mississippi State-LSU tilt last Thursday? The Dallas Cowboys O-Line of the early '90s would’ve had a tough time slowing down those Bayou Bengals. And did I mention that the Tigers have two lockdown cornerbacks? Smith will throw a lot, but how effective he will be with zero running game remains to be seen. Stay away.

Tyler Hansen, Colorado (at Ohio State)
Despite struggling mightily against the Miami Hurricanes rushing attack, Ohio State still held Jacory Harris to only 123 yards passing and forced two interceptions. And without Nate Solder leading the way, the Buffaloes have struggled to run the football (103rd in the nation). As the Buckeyes return home, fantasy GMs can bet THE OSU will play fired-up football.

Tajh Boyd, Clemson (Florida State)
Boyd turned in one of the most impressive performances on any field in all of college football last week in the second half against Auburn. But this isn’t Auburn Boyd will be facing this weekend. The Noles’ front seven is deep, talented and extremely athletic. Florida State held Landry Jones to 199 yards, a TD and two INTs and the Sooners to 300 yards of total offense. It wasn’t the defense’s fault they fell to the Sooners. Look for Clemson to come back to earth after the emotionally draining win over the Tigers last weekend.

James Franklin, Missouri (at Oklahoma)
The most impressive unit of Week Three was easily the Sooners defense. They held Florida State to 27 yards rushing on 26 attempts and played such a physical brand of football that E.J. Manuel left the game early. Franklin has proven his dual-threat capabilities very quickly, but he has also made some mistakes and could take a pounding this weekend. And you can bet those Sooners haven’t forgotten what happened in Columbia last season.

Brynn Renner vs. Tevin Washington (North Carolina at Georgia Tech)
Time of possession should play a huge factor in this game as both teams have played efficient football on offense. But the defenses should not be overlooked. Tech held Jordan Webb to 148 yards and no scores last week and completely controlled the clock (try 50 att., 602 yards rushing). Renner has been supremely efficient, but no Tech opposing quarterback has topped 180 yards passing thus far. Look for the Jackets to run, run, run and run some more.

Tyler Tettleton, Ohio (at Rutgers)
The Scarlet Knights rank first in the nation in tackles for a loss, third in sacks, is tied for first in turnover margin and has had two weeks to prepare for Ohio. All things that do not add up to fantasy success. Bryn Renner did throw for 273 yards against Rutgers, but also tossed three picks and only one touchdown. Tettleton hasn’t faced a team (NM State, Gardner-Webb, Marshall) that even comes close to the level of player he will face in Piscataway.

Start These Running Backs:

Darrell Scott, USF (UTEP)
The former Colorado Buffalo had the best game of his career last weekend against Florida A&M. The talented junior is finally realizing his potential and will only look to build upon his 230-yard, 4-TD performance last week. The Miners gave up 114 yards and two scores to SMU’s Zach Line at home two weeks ago. Expect big things from all Bulls this weekend.

Kevin Parks, Virginia (Southern Miss)
All signs are pointing to the record-breaking prep star becoming the workhorse for UVa despite his size (5-foot-8). But he is a thickly built 195 pounds, and it appears that Mike London likes him (14 att., 98 yards last week) more than Perry Jones (8 att., 39 yards) in short-yardage, goal-line and tough-yard situations. Southern Miss is good enough to keep it close, but not good enough to stop K.P.

Matthew Tucker, TCU (Portland State)
Waymon James is another Frog to keep an eye on as well in this one-sided affair. With Ed Wesley still nursing an injury, Tucker and James appear to be in for the lion’s share of the carries against the lowly Vikings. Tucker has 31 carries for 161 yards and four TDs in the last two games, while James has 24 carries for 144 yards and one TD over that span. Both could be very useful this weekend.

Andre Williams, Boston College (UMass)
Boston College is 0-3 and is arguably the most desperate team in the nation. They will not mess around with the Minutemen, and Williams is their best option on offense. Expect a heavy dose of the bruiser who has scored three times in as many games and has three 100-yard games in his last six contests.

Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State (Central Michigan)
Larry Caper is another Spartan to keep en eye on as well in this one-sided affair. Bell is leading the team with three touchdowns, and starter Edwin Baker may not be needed in the second half. Look for the burly Bell to get plenty of touches in this game (he has only four fewer carries than Baker thus far in 2011).

Michael Hayes, Bryce Beall, Houston (Georgia State)
Just when you think you have a backfield all figured out? Beall actually got one more carry (11 to 10) than Hayes last week, but Hayes still got the most touches of any Houston back (13). Beall got two fourth-quarter goal-line carries and scored both times, so both options could produce this weekend against Georgia State.

Bench These Running Backs:

Andre Ellington, Clemson (Florida State)
With the aggrevated hamstring injury – and a penchant for getting banged up – staying away from the Clemson bell cow would be smart this weekend. The sledding will tough for all parties involved with the Tigers offense as Florida State’s defense is downright nasty. And they are angry after last week’s defeat. The Noles are fifth in total defense and are allowing only 77 yards rushing after holding Oklahoma to 300 total yards last week.

Ronnie Wingo, Arkansas (at Alabama)
I am not sure why Wingo even needs to be on this list. Bama is ranked fourth in rushing defense (55 ypg), second in pass efficiency defense (62.6 QB rating), third in total defense (170 ypg) and second in scoring defense (6.0 ppg). Enough said?

Henry Josey, Missouri (at Oklahoma)
Yes, Josey posted the No. 1 rushing total of 2011 last weekend (263 yards). And he will be a sneaky good play – in two weeks after Missouri plays Oklahoma and rests up on the bye. Oklahoma’s defense held Florida State to 27 rushing yards on 26 carries and was one of the most impressive units on any side of the ball Saturday.

Cierre Wood, Notre Dame (at Pitt)
It will be hard to bench a player who is off to such a great start, but the Panthers have been rather stingy on the ground. They allowed 86 yards on 23 carries to Marcus Coker last weekend. They held Maine to 37 yards rushing in Week 2 and held fantasy stud Brandon Oliver of Buffalo to 3.2 yards per carry on 35 attempts in Week 1. Lower the upside for Wood this weekend.

Lennon Creer, Louisiana Tech (at Mississippi State)
The Bulldogs of the SEC have far superior talent to that of the Bulldogs of the WAC. Dan Mullen has his defense playing low, hard and fundamentally sound football. LSU was able to plod away and gain 148 yards rushing, but needed 38 carries and never reached the end zone. Mississippi State has also had an extra two days to prepare for a team that had its heart ripped out in the fourth quarter by Houston.

Mike Ball, Nevada (at Texas Tech)
Tech’s defensive numbers against the run were skewed by an odd situation against Texas State – who ran the option to the tune of 50 rushing attempts in Week 1 despite losing 50-10. Tech totally dominated New Mexico on the road last weekend and will prove to everyone this weekend that it is one of the most improved teams in the nation. The Wolf Pack, on the other hand, struggled mightily to score 17 points against San Jose State. Also, Athlon fantasy guru Steven Lassan owns Ball and is not playing him – that should cover it!

Rodney Stewart, Colorado (at Ohio State)
A Nate Solder-less offensive line has found rushing yards tough to come by in 2011. On 61 carries against the likes of Hawaii, Colorado State and Cal, Stewart has managed only 3.6 yards per carry and has failed to reach the end zone. Against an angry Ohio State team in the Horseshoe, I cannot recommend putting Stewart in the lineup.

Lowered Expectations:

Brandon Oliver, Buffalo (UConn)
Bernard Pierce vs Davin Meggett, Maryland (Temple)
Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma (Missouri)
Montee Ball, Wisconsin (South Dakota)

Waiver Wire Wide Receivers:

Josh Jarboe, Arkansas State (Central Arkansas)
Was still targeted against Virginia Tech and Illinois, but was a monster against Memphis.

Emory Blake, Auburn (FAU)
Has scored in all three games this season and should be in store for a fourth against FAU.

Kevin Dorsey, Maryland (Temple)
Is averaging 8.5 receptions per game through two contests. Will be used heavily again this weekend.

Phillip Payne, UNLV (Southern Utah)
Finally showed up last weekend, and the Rebs’ all-time leading receiver should benefit from the poor match-up.

Sterling Griffin, USF (UTEP)
Is averaging nearly seven catches per game and is facing UTEP with Daniels on a roll.

Nick Toon, Wisconsin (South Dakota)
Posted 12 catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns over his last two. Easy match-up.

Top DEF/ST Spot Starts:

1. South Florida (UTEP)
2. Florida (at Kentucky)
3. South Carolina (Vanderbilt)
4. Wisconsin (South Dakota)
5. Penn State (Eastern Michigan)
6. Florida International (UL-Lafayette)
7. Michigan State (Central Michigan)
8. Maryland (Temple)
9. Georgia (at Ole Miss)
10. UConn (at Buffalo)
11. Mississippi State (Louisiana Tech)
12. Illinois (Western Michigan)

Other Week 4 College Foobtall Content:

Big East Expansion Candidates

More Likely to Upset: West Virginia or Arkansas

Mitch Light's Top Ten Games of Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Voting: Week 4

Teaser:
<p> Athlon prepares the college fantasy player with in-depth match-up analysis for Week 4.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2011 - 02:00
Path: /columns/national-notebook/houston-nutt-still-answer-ole-miss
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

The only thing worse than Ole Miss replacing the famed Colonel with the new and more politically correct “Rebel Black Bear” is their on-field performance against Vanderbilt this past weekend.

When Ole Miss decided to replace the Ragin’ Cajun Ed Orgeron with Houston Nutt, it appeared they made the right hire. At the very least, Nutt helped Ole Miss win the press conference.

From 2001-2007 as the head coach at Arkansas, Nutt won nine or more games three different times and competed for an SEC Championship. Coach Nutt is extremely familiar with the SEC and is a four star coach in our system. What is there not to like, right?

Today, a group known as Forward Rebels put out a full page color ad in several Mississippi newspapers calling for a change at Ole Miss. This group is focusing on changes at the administrative level and not the coaching staff, but obviously the Ole Miss fan base realizes that something is amiss in Oxford.

Here at CBTN we like to keep things focused on the coaching level, so let’s take a closer look at Coach Nutt to see if the change the Rebels need is a new head coach.

Let’s dig into Houston Nutt’s numbers since 2001;

View the Coaches By The Numbers complete Houston Nutt profile here

From 05-07 Nutt had Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis in the backfield (three NFL starting running backs) and from 08-09, Nutt had Jevon Snead at quarterback (one of the nation’s top QB’s from 08-09).

Every coach is better when they have superstars, but good coaches don’t just win when they have special talent. Given the talent level of McFadden and Jones alone, you could argue that Nutt didn’t win nearly big enough.

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

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

For example, in his first two years at Ole Miss, Houston Nutt was 18-8 with Jevon Snead at the quarterback position. Since Snead graduated, Nutt is 5-10 with some really embarrassing losses (see Jacksonville State 2010 and Vanderbilt 2010 & 2011).

So, should Houston Nutt be on the hot seat at Ole Miss?

From our perspective, it depends?

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

Before we make any specific recommendations for who might be worth considering, we want to define the Ole Miss job.

Looking at our proprietary CBTN Job Ranking, Ole Miss is the 26th best head coaching job in the country. The bad news about this number is that there are eight other SEC jobs ahead of Ole Miss and four are in the SEC West.

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

Let’s consider this as well:

For some comparison, since 2004, Alabama has only played 13.33% of its game with inferior talent (only 2 since Saban arrived).

This is all to say that while Ole Miss is an attractive job it is not attractive enough to lure a Gary Patterson or Chris Petersen from their current jobs or an Urban Meyer from the ESPN booth.

So, what kind of coach does Ole Miss need? Looking at the data and information above, Ole Miss is not going to win by lining up and trying to out-physical the rest of the SEC. They simply don’t have the horses to do this. They need a coach who can out-think his peers and take a solid talent base and help it overachieve, not through “motivation” or “energy” (see failed attempt with Ed Orgeron) but through better schemes and preparation.

With this in mind, we are going to give the Rebels three names to consider: Gus Malzahn, Mike Leach, and Paul Petrino.

Malzahn: This guy is the extremely obvious choice. He knows the conference, region, and has put up video game numbers as an OC at Arkansas, Tulsa, and Auburn. Additionally, he wants to become a head coach. You always take a risk with a coordinator, but given his numbers, Malzahn is well worth the risk.

Leach: Does Mike Leach come with some baggage (read his book to find out how ridiculous the baggage is)? Yes he does. This “baggage” is the reason Mike Leach would consider taking the Ole Miss job. Since 2004, Ole Miss has won 55.88% of its games with superior talent and 27.27% of its games with equivalent talent. These numbers are the reason the program has been so mediocre. They don’t win enough of the games they should win. From 2004-2009 at Texas Tech, Mike Leach won 78.38% of his games with superior talent and 72.73% of his games with equivalent talent. This guy can flat out coach, and Ole Miss would be a perfect venue for him to reenter college football and resurrect the Rebel program.

Paul Petrino: If you are wondering why Illinois is looking like a respectable program once again, look right past Head Coach Ron Zook to Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino. Since arriving in Champagne last year, the fighting Illini have improved their scoring offense by 10 points and have once again become a relevant Big Ten program. Like his brother Bobby, Paul is not going to win any beauty contests or PR awards, but he is going to help you win football games. Hiring a coordinator brings a certain amount of risk with it, but like with Malzahn, we believe the numbers make the risk one worth taking.

We don’t know anything about the Ole Miss AD, board, or administration. Maybe they are the problem. However, from looking at the numbers, they also have a little bit of a coaching problem if they are looking to have an elite-level program. Houston Nutt is a good coach in a lot of ways, but he is not the guy to take Ole Miss beyond mediocrity.

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

Other CBTN Content:

Rick Neuheisel: Was he the right fit at UCLA?
 

Teaser:
<p> Coaches By The Numbers looks at the future of the Ole Miss football coach.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 12:31
All taxonomy terms: Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/jaguars-name-blaine-gabbert-starter-against-panthers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Jaguars' fans won’t have to wait long for the Blaine Gabbert era to begin in Jacksonville as head coach Jack Del Rio has named the rookie quarterback as the starter for the Carolina Panthers game this weekend.

The move should come as no shock after Del Rio jettisoned former starter David Garrard just days before the 2011 NFL regular season began. Veteran signal caller Luke McCown gave it an admirable try, but after four interceptions and no touchdowns in two games, the reins have been handed over to the rookie from Missouri.

McCown owns a career 2-7 starting record with nine total touchdowns and 14 interceptions in six seasons and simply does not have the talent needed to win in the NFL.

Gabbert, on the other hand, is dripping with talent. So much so that the Jags decided to select him with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, Gabbert has all the skill needed to swim in the deep end of the NFL pool. He has above average mobility, a strong arm and was coached by quarterback guru Gary Pinkel in college.

Thus far in his brief two-game career, Gabbert is 5-of-6 passing for 52 yards. Interestingly enough, when the Jaguars take the field on Sunday, Gabbert will be staring at another rookie quarterback under center as Cam Newton has quickly established himself as an NFL star. Newton’s 854 yards shattered an NFL rookie passing record for the first two games of a career.

The last time two rookie first-round NFL quarterbacks squared-off was 2006 when Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart went head-to-head for Arizona and Denver. Neither passer is with the team that drafted him currently.

There will be another rookie meeting when Jacksonville, should Gabbert survive, welcomes the Cincinnati Bengals to town in two weeks. Andy Dalton has proven his mettle quickly by winning his first career start and throwing for 413 yards, three touchdowns, and most importantly, no interceptions in his first two games.

If Gabbert can experience a fraction of the same success as Dalton or Newton, Del Rio will probably get to keep his job as head coach of the Jaguars.
 

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 15:09
Path: /columns/national-notebook/rick-neuheisel-never-good-fit-ucla-bruins
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

“...when [Dennis] Franchione bolted in 2000 to coach Alabama, TCU barely considered Patterson. He and his second wife were separated, and he hardly projected the smooth leader-of-men look so beloved of chancellors and players’ moms.”

The above passage is from S.L. Price’s recent SI article on Gary Patterson.

If you have ever read Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink, you are familiar with what Gladwell calls the “Warren Harding Error.”

Warren G. Harding, regarded by many as one of the worst presidents in American history, received 60% of the national vote in the 1920 election, the highest percentage ever recorded in a U.S. presidential election.

So, how did the American people get it so wrong with Harding? According to Gladwell, people simply used the superficial clues to make a snap decision about a job that requires everything but superficial abilities.

As the quote at the beginning of this article indicates, athletic directors and university presidents are just as susceptible to the Warren Harding Error as the American voting populace.

Far too often head college football coaches are chosen because they look the part. In fact, from our observations, college football coaches are far too frequently hired using false and meaningless clues. Some of those clues include:

1. The school in question is their alma mater.
2. They are from the same area of the country.
3. They are fit and attractive.
4. They can “communicate.”
5. They have “energy.”
6. They have NFL experience.
7. They are young.
8. They just had a great year.
9. They have a “plan.”
10. They are a dynamic “recruiter.”
11. They will be able to relate to the fans.
12. Their interview went really well.
13. They have “integrity” (see Jim Tressel).
14. They can “motivate.”

The whole point of Coaches By The Numbers is to help fans, ADs, Chancellors, media, and anyone who pays any attention to college football and college football coaches in particular go beyond the gut and use additional analysis to make better informed decisions.

For a case in point, let’s turn to UCLA Head Coach Rick Neuheisel.

After the 2007 season, the UCLA Bruins hired Rich Neuheisel to replace outgoing coach Karl Dorrell. He appeared to be the perfect candidate. If you asked someone to draw a picture of what UCLA’s head football coach should look like, they would more than likely draw Rick Neuheisel.

He played quarterback at UCLA.

He is fit and handsome.

He is a motivator.

He is a recruiter.

He looks great in a suit.

He can give one heck of a speech.

He can impress a booster at a cocktail party. He has won 10 or more games three times as a college coach. He won a Rose Bowl in 2000. He has NFL experience. What more analysis do you need?

View the complete Coaches By The Numbers profile of Rick Neuheisel here

We could keep going with some of the deeper analysis of Coach Neuheisel, but we think you get the picture: looks can be deceiving.

UCLA went with their gut and a guy that fit every meaningless attribute they considered important in their next head coach. They paid attention to where we went to school, how he looked, how he talked, his NFL experience, and the fact that 10+ years ago he had a decent season or two.

What they didn’t pay attention was the deeper analysis that could be done on Coach Neuheisel. For example, is NFL experience really important for college football coaches (see answer here)?

How do you possibly define or quantify a coach’s ability to “motivate.” Why does it matter if a coach went to the school he is coaching? Why does it matter if he can give a really good speech or dress up and impress a bunch of boosters?

Do soft factors like the ones discussed in this article matter? Of course they matter. The legendary investor Warren Buffett has often stated that he will not purchase a company if he doesn’t trust the character and integrity of its CEO. However, Buffett will not even think to question the character or integrity of the CEO if the balance sheet isn’t appealing. Buffett knows that you have to study the hard factors (the data) before you study the soft.

If you are thinking that analyzing football coaches cannot be done with data, then we humbly welcome you to Coaches By The Numbers: the home of 2+ million pieces of data on coaches and counting. With the information at hand and available for use, why in the world do so many decisions get made at the surface level and based on soft, unmeasurable factors?

Do fans watching a game in 2011 really care if Rick Neuheisel played quarterback for the Bruins in the early 1980′s? Do they care if he can give a rousing speech at the pep rally or after beating a mediocre Tennessee team in 2008? The answer is yes they do. However, they only care about these factors if they are accompanied by winning.

In the world of college sports, for better or for worse, winning covers all.

For example, Georgia Tech’s head coach Paul Johnson is known for his blunt manner, stubbornness, and acerbic wit. When Tech won 21 games, an ACC Championship, and a trip to the Orange Bowl in Johnson’s first two years as the Jackets’ head coach, the fan base was buzzing about how much they loved Johnson’s personality.

When he would stick it to a member of the media after being asked a ridiculously ignorant question about his “high school offense”, the message boards would light up with support for Johnson’s brutally honest personality. However, after last year’s 6-7 season and bowl loss to Air Force, fans were stating that Johnson was too stubborn and that his crabby personality was off-putting to fans, recruits, and the media.

The same could be said for Georgia’s Mark Richt.

In his first five years when the Dawgs were winning 80% of their games and SEC titles, the fans praised Richt’s cool, calm, and collected demeanor. In the last four years, with Georgia winning 64% of its games, fans have started to state that Richt is too calm and passive and not intense enough to win in the vaunted SEC.

Do you think people in Alabama are naming their kids Crimson Tide because of Saban’s shining personality and gentle manner? Or do you think winning SEC and National Championships might be the reason behind such fanatical behavior?

We could go on-and-on with these types of examples, but we think you get the picture.

To come full circle, let’s revisit the quote that started this article: “…..he hardly projected the smooth leader-of-men look so beloved of chancellors and players’ moms.”

There really is nothing smooth about Gary Patterson. In fact, he is outright awkward in just about every way. This being said, he has taken TCU to heights the TCU fan base no longer thought possible, and has done it without being a “motivator”, “recruiter”, “leader”, or “insert meaningless superlative here.” He is more than likely perfectly capable of all of these things, but above all else, Gary Patterson is one heck of a football coach and the hard data is definitely on his side.

Too many AD’s worry about winning the press conference when they should be worried about winning more games. Rick Neuheisel certainly won the press conference, but he hasn’t won much since.

So, the next time your school is in need of a new football coach, be sure the AD, President, and Board don’t treat the decision making process like they are buying an ice cream cone. Demand that they look beyond the surface of how boosters or media will receive him and dig a little deeper to see if the guy can really coach or not.

In the end, if you want to please boosters, fans, and the media, all you have to do is one thing: WIN!

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

Other CBTN Content:

Is Houston Nutt Still the Answer at Ole Miss?

Teaser:
<p> Coaches By The Numbers dives into why UCLA was foolish to hire Rick Neuheisel.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 13:01
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-4
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.

Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles didn't post big numbers this weekend, but both helped lead the Sooners to the biggest win thus far by any team in the nation when Oklahoma left Tallahassee with a W. Both still find themselves in the top ten as Big 12 conference play begins. 

The biggest mover has been Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. The nation's No. 2 passer has added a totally new dimension to an already potent Badger offensive attack. Wilson has UW leading the Big Ten in scoring offense (45 ppg) and total offense (505.7 ypg).

And the nation's leading rusher has been inching up the standings each week of the season...

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (85/90 total points, 7/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 57/85, 786 yards, 8 TD, INT, 8 att., 47 yards, TD

Just another ho-hum late-night performance by the best player in America. In a 37-10 thumping of Pac-12 foe Arizona on the road, Luck completed 20 of his 31 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 36 yards and didn’t turn the ball over – again. It marks the 15th time in his career that he didn’t throw an interception. Next Game: UCLA

  Name Pos Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 85 7 - 1 1 - 9
2. Kellen Moore QB Boise St 75 - 5 2 2 - 9
3. Marcus Lattimore RB South Carolina 73 1 2 4 1 1 9
4. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 66 - 3 - 4 1 9
5. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 48 1 - 1 - 2 8
6. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 35 - - - - 3 8
7. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 29 - - - - 1 8
8. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 28 - - - 1 - 8
9. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 26 - - - - 1 7
10. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma 9 - - - - - 3
11. Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame 3 - - - - - 1
12. Robert Woods WR USC 3 - - - - - 1
13. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 3 - - - - - 1
14. LaMichael James RB Oregon 3 - - - - - 1
15. Taylor Martinez QB Nebraska 2 - - - - - 1
16. David Wilson RB Virginia Tech 2 - - - - - 1
17. Ronnie Hillman RB San Diego St 2 - - - - - 2
18. Case Keenum QB Houston 1 - - - - - 1
19. Lamar Miller RB Miami, Fla. 1 - - - - - 1
20. Trey Wilson DB Vanderbilt 1 - - - - - 1

2. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (75 pts)
Season Stats: 60/76, 716 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT, 2 att., 2 yards

What's not to like about 455 yards and five touchdowns on 76-percent passing on the road against Toledo? It was Moore's 40th career victory in 42 career starts, as he finished with his second-highest yardage total of his career (507). This is what he will have to do week in and week out in order to make it to New York as the only test left on the schedule is TCU at home. Next Game: Tulsa

3. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (73)
Season Stats: 87 att., 534 yards, 7 TD, 9 rec., 66 yards

Lattimore is the most talented running back in the nation and in a closer than hoped three-point win over Navy, he was the workhorse Cocks fans have grown to love. He carried 37 times for 246 yards and three scores in the win over the Naval Academy. Lattimore now leads the nation in rushing at 178 yards per game. Next Game: Vanderbilt

4. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (66)
Season Stats: 41/49, 624 yards, 8 TD, 0 INT, 18 att., 116 yards

Most quarterbacks would be happy with 300 yards per game, a 2-0 record and a 1:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, RG3 is operating at a 1:1 touchdown-to-INCOMPLETION ratio — which is downright unheard-of. His 244.52 QB-rating is still leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the country. Griffin III is the most dynamic human being playing quarterback in this great country (sorry Michael Vick) and is easily the most valuable college football player in the nation. Baylor's schedule doesn't get hard until October 15: Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri. Next Game: Rice

5. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (48)
Season Stats: 53/74, 574 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 4 att., -8 yards, TD

The numbers might not have been pretty (18-of-27, 199 yards, TD, 2 INT), but the result on the scoreboard is all that matters. Jones led his Sooner team into a rocking Doak Campbell stadium and pulled off the biggest win by any team in all of college football thus far in 2011. The first big conference test awaits this week. Next Game: Missouri

6. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (35)
Season Stats: 50/66, 791 yards, 8 TD, INT, 11 att., 110 yards, TD

The Wisconsin Badgers offense has never looked as dynamic as is does when No. 16 is under center. Wilson has led UW to a 3-0 record with an average margin of victory of 37 points. His 213.4 QB-rating trails only Griffin III, and he is averaging over 10 yards per carry on the ground. He produced his first 300-yard game as a Badger this weekend with his 347-yard, 3-TD performance over Northern Illinois. Next Game: South Dakota

7. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (29)
Season Stats: 27/55, 531 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT, 50 att., 352 yards, 2 TD

The most electric player in college football rushed for 198 yards in the 31-3 blowout win over Eastern Michigan. Shoelace has "struggled" throwing the ball this season, but there is clearly nothing wrong with his legs — or win/loss record thus far in 2011. Next Game: San Diego State

8. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (28)
Season Stats: 27 rec., 329 yards, 3 TD

The 2010 Biletnikoff winner posted modest totals of seven catches, 57 yards and a single score in the Pokes' 59-33 win over Tulsa (if anyone stayed up until 4 AM to watch the end of it). Blackmon will be needed in a big way this weekend as the Cowboys head to College Station. Next Game: at Texas A&M

9. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (26)
Season Stats: 50 att., 315 yards, 8 TD, 6 rec., 36 yards

Against lowly North Texas, Richardson had his best game of the season. He carried the ball 11 times for 167 yards (for an unreal 15.1 yards per carry clip) and three touchdowns. T-Rich will be in for his biggest test of the young season as the Razorbacks come to Tuscaloosa this Saturday. Next Game: Arkansas

10. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma (9)
Season Stats: 21 rec., 213 yards, TD

There is a large drop-off in the voting after Richardson. Broyles had a modest performance against Florida State, catching seven passes for 55 yards and returning a couple of punts. But his Sooners left Tallahassee unblemished and are now poised for a national title run. His 10.5 receptions per game are still good for second in the nation. Next Game: Missouri

Previous Votings:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> Each week the Athlon editors will vote on the most prestigious award in all of sports.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 08:02
Path: /columns/waiver-wire/idp-waiver-wire-fantasy-football-week-3
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Each week Athlon's fantasy staff will dive into the NFL Fantasy world of Individual Defensive Players, or more affectionately known as IDPs. Weekly top performers, advice and waiver wire adds highlight the Athlon IDP Weekly Potpourri.

Week 2’s Top Defensive Backs

1. Morgan Burnett, S, Green Bay: 7 solo, 1.0 sack, INT, FF, 2 PD
I sure hope you heeded the IDP Waiver Wire’s advice last week and snagged this second year stud, because he was the top IDP defensive back in the NFL. In a secondary without Tramon Williams – and now without Nick Collins – Burnett becomes the top playmaker (sorry Chuck Woodson). His 14 solos stops in two weeks ranks him fifth amongst NFL DBs and is a must add in Week 3.

2. Roman Harper, S, New Orleans: 7 solo, 2.0 sacks, FF
Harper was a preseason top 10 IDP defensive back no matter what format you play in.

3. Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay: 5 solo, 2 INT, FR, 2 PD
Playing against a rookie quarterback always makes for good fantasy numbers. Woodson benefited from some bad throws by Cam Newton and a forced fumble by Burnett. Woodson is a solid play, but don’t expect too many weeks like this one.

DB Waiver Wire Adds

Lardarius Webb, CB, Baltimore: 25.53 TFP (No. 3 DB)
Webb has had one of the more surprising starts to an IDP fantasy season in the NFL. He built on his 11 tackle opener with nine more solo stops against Tennessee. He is also the primary punt returner and back-up kickoff specialist, so in leagues with return yard, his special teams duties add some value.

Sean Jones, S, Tampa Bay: 22 TFP (No. 5)
The veteran safety has posted at least seven total tackles in each of his first two games and added a big sack this weekend. With talented corners helping him on the outside, Jones should be free to patrol the middle of the field all season long.

Patrick Peterson, DB, Arizona: 20.7 TFP (No. 8)
The uber-talented rookie proved his special teams skills in Week 1, but also has proven he be productive on defense as well. He has at least five solo stops in each of his first two career games and has 13 total tackles thus far. He also has 128 return yards and will add value in leagues that count those points. Once he adds the big play – INT, SACK, FF, etc – to his game, he could be a great value the rest of his career.

DB Injury Update

Eric Berry, S, Kansas City
Jon McGraw filled in admirably this weekend – at least in the fantasy world – with 10 tackles and an INT against Detroit. With Berry done for 2011, McGraw could pro

Patrick Chung, S, New England
The former Oregon Duck became the latest Patriot to injure his thumb. He left the field in the third quarter against the Chargers but returned with a hard cast on. Monitor the situation.

Nick Collins, S, Green Bay
The Pro Bowl Packer sustained a serious head/neck injury this weekend and was carted off the field. Mike McCarthy announced Monday that he will miss the remainder of the 2011 season. Charlie Peprah filled in for Morgan Burnett last fall and will do the same for Collins.

Jonathan Joseph, CB, Houston
The Cincinnati import has played well for the Texans but is questionable for Week 3 against New Orleans with an ankle injury.

Week 2’s Top Linebackers

1. Michael Boley, NY Giants: 3 solo, 3 asts, FR, TD, PD
Take his touchdown with a grain of salt. He has only 10 total tackles in two games.

2. Mason Foster, Tampa Bay: 7 solo, 3 asts, 1.0 sack, FF
It hasn’t taken long for this rookie to make his mark in the middle of the Bucs defense. He plays on three downs and is in a great position to continue his production all season long.

3. Desmond Bishop, Green Bay: 9 solo, 1 ast, 1.0 sack
The heart of the Packers linebacking corps has produced two weeks in a row. Look for this type of performance nearly every week from the former Cal Golden Bear star.

LB Waiver Wire Adds

Sean Lee, Dallas: 27.0 TFP (No. 1 LB)
I told you to pick him up last week – and I sure hope you did as he is now the No. 1 LB in IDP fantasy football.

Mason Foster, Tampa Bay: 20.5 TFP (No. 7)
The rookie is in a lucrative fantasy position for the foreseeable future. He has racked-up 17 total stops in his first two games and shows the ability to make the big play. He is consistent and should be a safe bet for 8-10 tackles each week.

Pat Angerer, Indianapolis: 20.5 TFP (No. 7)
The Colts’ defense will be on the field a lot in 2011 and Angerer figures to be the guy who will make the most stops. He was a tackling machine at Iowa and it appears he will continue that trend as his 21 total stops will indicate. His big-play ability is limited, but he should easily top 100 tackles.

Sean Weatherspoon, Atlanta: 18.5 TFP (No. 14)
I called him out last week as a great waiver wire addition and he didn’t disappoint with a very serviceable 10 total tackle performance. He now has 16 total solos on the year and the Falcons' defensive line isn’t even healthy yet. Just wait.

LB Injury Report

Daryl Washington, Arizona
Missed last week’s game with mild calf strain, but should be back in the line-up.

Tamba Hali, Kansas City
The injury bug in KC has been insane. Hali left Week 2 game with an ankle issue.

Week 2’s Top Defensive Lineman

1. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Cleveland: 4 solo, 1 ast, 1.0 sack, FF, FR
This rookie has all the talent in the world and is worth an add after his excellent Week 2 showing. However, keep in mind, most teams he plays won’t be Indianapolis and most teams will be running against the Browns rather than passing.

2. Jason Hatcher, DE, Dallas: 4 solo, 2 sacks
Hatcher has never topped 27 tackles and never had more than 2.5 sacks in a season. While he certainly appears poised to set personal records, I cannot advise you to add him in anything but super-deep DL leagues.

3. Cullen Jenkins, DE/DT, Philadelphia: 3 solo, 1 ast, 2.0 sacks
With the injury to Trent Cole (and with how explosive Jenkins looked on Sunday night) the former Packer could be a sneaky good pick-up for the near future. However, Jenkins has constantly had injury issues of his own, so have a back-up plan ready to go.

Top DL Waiver Wire Adds

See Cullen Jenkins, Jabaal Sheard above.

Jean Pierre-Paul, DE, NY Giants: 20 TFP (No. 2 DL)
Once again, if you paid attention to last week’s IDP potpourri, then Pierre-Paul isn’t likely to be available in most IDP leagues. If he is, do not think twice about adding this future star.

Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore: 15 TFP (No. 9)
The world’s most dominant defensive tackle is one of few nose guards who is worth owning. He simply makes plays. He has 2 FR, a FF and 2 PD to go with above average tackle production from his position.

DL Injury Report

Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia
The dynamic rusher is questionable for Week 3 against the Giants with a hand issue.

Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver
He missed last week’s game with a shoulder issue. Monitor very closely.

Aaron Kampman, DE, Jacksonville
Knee injury already has him ruled out of Week 3 game against Carolina.

Other NFL Fantasy Content:

Corby Yarbrough's NFL Fantasy Week 3 Waiver Wire Report

Feel free to email ([email protected] or @AthlonCorby) or tweet us with any NFL Fantasy questions that you may have. Yarbrough will be answering all your fantasy questions every Wednesday of the regular season.

Teaser:
<p> After two weeks of action, where should you turn for IDP help in Week 3?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 03:09
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-gamecocks-ncaas-next-scandal
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Published Sept. 20, 2011

The nationwide NCAA violations tour has added a new date in Columbia, South Carolina: The South Carolina Gamecocks.

USC, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Miami and now the South Carolina Gamecocks have caught the ire of the NCAA infractions committee after two years of potential violations.

Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks received the official NCAA notice of allegations Monday afternoon regarding its college football, basketball and track/field programs.

The NCAA claims that at least 12 student-athletes (10 football and two track) received just under $47,000 in benefits from the local Whitney hotel. The impermissible reduced rent supposedly included special provision for nine players to pay back the money at a later date. Two football players are reported to have paid the dramatically reduced rate ($14.59 versus $57) for over 400 days. The report indicates that the 10 football players spent a total of 1,717 days/nights at the hotel.

The Whitney Hotel’s general manager, Jamie Blevins, is a South Carolina booster.

The NCAA notice also claims that representatives of the University of South Carolina had illegal contact with potential recruits, including extra benefits. Delaware-based Student Athlete Management Foundation (SAM) – run by two South Carolina grads President Steve Gordon and treasurer Kevin Lahn – is reported to have provided $8,000 worth of benefits to prospective student-athletes. The disobedience is reported to have taken place between the spring of 2009 and February of 2011. These benefits include a boat cruise for nearly 50 football players, entertainment costs, meals, lodging and unofficial trips to campus.

Sharrif Floyd of Florida and Carolina’s Damiere Byrd have both already been served suspenions and repaid monies stemming from relationships with SAM.

It might be a total coincidence that these “impermissible” benefits took place during a period of extraordinary Gamecock recruiting. If you simply extrapolate and speculate, this period of time would heavily involve the two recruiting cycles in which the South Carolina Gamecocks signed the No. 1 player in the nation in the 2011 class, Jadeveon Clowney, and the No. 5 player in the nation from the 2010 class – and current NCAA rushing leader – Marcus Lattimore.

"We have and will continue to cooperate fully with the NCAA in all aspects of their review," said South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman said in his official statement. "Any pertinent information from the NCAA that can help us strengthen our athletics program will be used as an opportunity to make positive change."

Both issues are considered “potential major violations,” and South Carolina has 90 days to respond to the NCAA notice of allegations before eventually appearing before the infractions committee.

It may only be just the beginning and it may not be as bad as it sounds, but with the way college football has been soaked in scandal for the last 18-24 months, it’s has to be tough for Gamecock fans not to be nervous.
 

Teaser:
<p> South Carolina fans may not as much to cheer about in 2011 after the NCAA sent a notice of allegations on Monday.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 11:29

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