Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/mike-sherman-not-getting-it-done-texas-am

-by (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few offensive and defensive stats for you as well:

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

A few more defensive stats to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-by (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

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

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest:

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

Week 6 NFL Fantasy Waiver Wire

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

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 6 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 6 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

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

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

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

Week 6's Top Picks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are still feeling lucky:

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 Trends:

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

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

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

0-5 Against the Spread: Penn State

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

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

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

Other Week 6 Content:

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

Steven Lassan's Oklahoma-Texas In-depth Preview

Athlon Picks Every Game of the Week 6 Slate

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

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

- by Ralph Vacchiano

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

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

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

1.  Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins

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

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

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

2. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams

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

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

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

3. Jack DelRio, Jacksonville Jaguars

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

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

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

4. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs

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

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

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

5. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

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

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

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

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

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Complete Week 5 NFL Fantasy Rankings

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

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

Start These Running Backs:

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

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

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

Deep Week 5 RB Plays:

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

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

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

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

Sit These Running Backs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<p> Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has reenergized the Texas Longhorn defense.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 11:01
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Start or Sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/fantasy-football-week-5-start-sit-wrte

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Complete Week 5 NFL Fantasy Rankings

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

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

Start These Wide Receviers:

Julio Jones, Atlanta (Green Bay)
The first-round pick is starting to assert his authority in opposing secondaries. Seventeen catches for 242 yards in over his last two games says so despite Jones still awaiting his first trip to paydirt. The Packers defensive backs are banged up and are ranked only ahead of the Patriots in pass defense. Look for Matt Ryan and the Falcons passing game to equal or exceed Green Bay's 335 yards allowed per game.

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay (at San Francisco)
The Niners have been great against the run, ranking fourth in the league by allowing less than 75 yards on the ground per game. Josh Freeman is coming off his best game of the season and will be needed to throw it plenty if the Bucs expect to get the win. Look for Arrelious Benn and Preston Parker to have decent games as well.

Santonio Holmes, NY Jets (at New England)
The story is overdone at this point. New England ranks last in the NFL in pass defense by allowing nearly 370 yards per game. Rex Ryan has vowed to get back to the ground game — and they will — but Mark Sanchez will have plenty of opportunities to throw the ball this weekend too. Holmes has been a disappointment thus far in 2011 and has only seven receptions in the last three games. If there is going to be a breakout performance, it's going to come against the rival Pats and their atrocious secondary.

Marques Colston, New Orleans (Carolina)
The injury-prone wideout was eased back into the line-up last weekend with one reception for eight yards. Against Cam Newton, expect a more active day for the Saints' top pass-catcher in a game that could easily get into the 30s. Tone down your expectations for Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson.

Deep WR Plays:

Plaxico Burress, NY Jets (New England)
If fully healthy, all Jets pass catchers should post useful fantasy totals.

Sidney Rice, Seattle (at NY Giants)
The Seahawks finally have a vertical threat with Rice back in the line-up. And Tavaris Jackson is coming off his best game...maybe ever.

Michael Jenkins, Minnesota (Arizona)
This could be a high-scoring game in the Metrodome and Jenkins has built a nice rapport with Donovan McNabb.

Sit These Wide Receivers:

Eric Decker, Denver (San Diego)
Brandon Lloyd demanded the football and he got it with an 8-catch, 136-yard performance against a struggling secondary in a blowout loss. It's only a matter of time before Lloyd gets more redzone targets. The Chargers' secondary has been playing excellent football, however, allowing less than 200 yards passing per game. Look for John Fox to target the slightly less effective defensive line with the ground game and for the Chargers to stymie Kyle Orton — and therefore Mr. Decker.

Mario Manningham, NY Giants (Seattle)
The match-up shouldn't scare fantasy owners much at all; however, not-so-Super Mario is clearly not on the same page as Eli Manning. Or let me rephrase that, Manningham isn't on Manning's page — which is the only one that matters. There needs to be a consistent connection before he returns to must-start status.

Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, New Orleans (Carolina)
With Colston back and getting those slot, seam and redzone targets, and with Lance Moore playing quality football, there is almost instantly less room on the field for either Meachem or Henderson. They both have similar skill sets as vertical threats, so they will likely rotate more often than not. This has antacid tablets written all over it.

Deion Branch, New England (NY Jets)
Not getting targeted at all. As in, games without catches. Stay well away.

Start These Tight Ends:

Dustin Keller, NY Jets (at New England)
The Jets passing attack should be very successful and Keller could come up huge.

Rob Gronkowski, New England (NY Jets)
Public Service Announcement to Gronk owners: Forgive and forget. He will bounce back nicely.

Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit (Chicago)
Getting plenty of looks over the last two (17 receptions) and should be needed against athletic front seven.

Deeper TE Plays:

Greg Olsen, Carolina (New Orleans)
James Casey, Houston (Oakland)

<p> Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 5 Start or Sit: Wide Receivers, Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 09:45
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/fantasy-football-week-5-start-sit-quarterbacks

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Complete Week 5 NFL Fantasy Rankings

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

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

Start These Quarterbacks:

Mark Sanchez, NY Jets (at New England)
The Jets quarterback posted his worst fantasy output of the season last week, completing only 11-of-35 passes for a season-low 119 yards and no touchdowns. However, in two of his last three meetings with New England, Sanchez has thrown three touchdowns and no picks. After four weeks, the Patriots are last in the NFL in pass defense at 368.8 yards allowed per game through the air. Sanchez could easily be a top 12 passer this weekend.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (Green Bay)
The Falcons passer has had an interesting season. He has topped 300 yards twice but has one TD and one INT total in those two games. He has only one game with more than one touchdown, and that was a four-TD explosion in Week Two that featured only 195 yards passing. In three career games against Green Bay, Ryan has failed to reach 200 yards, but with the injuries to the Packers secondary, revenge on the mind and what should be an inability to run the ball, the Falcons passing game should be flying high this weekend. Ryan has 621 yards over his last two weeks, and the Packers are 31st in the NFL against the pass. Fantasy owners can expect that yards per game average to continue this weekend.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (at San Francisco)
It took a large 26.18-point fantasy performance against the lowly Colts to elevate Josh Freeman to No. 19 overall in the fantasy rankings. Needless to say, his start to 2011 has been disappointing (or expected, depending on your preseason take on Freeman). The Niners are fourth in the NFL against the run at 74.0 yards per game, so expect Freeman to have to throw it around against the 27th-rated passing defense (284 ypg). In his only meeting with the Niners, Freeman threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the 21-0 win last fall. Expect him to carry last weekend’s fantasy momentum into this Sunday’s action.

Deep Week 5 QB Plays:

Matt Cassel, Kansas City (at Indianapolis)
Colts allowing 254 yards/game passing, and he is coming off best game of 2011 (260-1-0)

Curtis Painter, Indianapolis (Kansas City)
281-2-0 isn’t a bad line for your first career start, and no one has allowed more passing TD than the Chiefs (10).

Tavaris Jackson, Seattle (at NY Giants)
Posted a 319-3-2 line last weekend, and Giants secondary is decimated by injuries.

Sit These Quarterbacks:

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Tennessee)
Big Ben was walking around in a boot all week, and the Titans have been rather stingy on defense. They rank seventh in the NFL against the pass at 212 yards allowed per game and have intercepted more passes (5) than touchdown passes allowed (4). The Steelers offensive line has been an absolute sieve thus far in 2011, and Big Ben has been sacked nine times and fumbled four times in three career games against the Titans. And with Reshard Mendenhall far below 100 percent, the entire Black and Gold offense could struggle this weekend.

Matt Schaub, Houston (Oakland)
It’s a fairly simple equation: Matt Schaub minus Andre Johnson equals fantasy mediocrity. In 2011, Schaub is averaging only 240 yards per game – his worst per-game average since his first season in Houston back in 2007. This is partly because the Texans boast the NFL’s No. 4 rushing attack now that Arian Foster is back to full strength. Oakland is leading the NFL in rushing and just allowed the Pats to roll up 185 yards on the ground. Expect a lot of handoffs in this contest of running backs Foster and Darren McFadden.

Jay Cutler, Chicago (at Detroit)
As is typical in a Mike Martz scheme, protecting the quarterback is low on his priority list. Cutler has been sacked 15 times — second only to Sam Bradford’s 18. And the Detriot Lions have a nasty front line that has nine sacks and helped with seven interceptions. Cutler entered last weekend averaging 38 attempts and 286 yards per game. He attempted only 17 passes for 102 yards and no touchdowns in a 34-point game against Carolina. Matt Forte was featured prominently and could be once again this weekend. On the road against a swarming front seven doesn’t sound like a recipe for fantasy success this weekend.

<p> Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 5 Start or Sit: Quarterbacks</p>
Post date: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 09:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Washington Huskies
Path: /columns/athlon-interview/washington-husky-legend-don-james-talks-college-football

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports' Braden Gall had a chance to sit down with legendary Washington Huskies football coach Don James. The 1991 National Champion coach touched on the evolution of college football, the current NCAA landscape, his favorite memories and the future of Washington Husky football.

Braden Gall: You started your career at Kent State. What was it like coaching Nick Saban, Gary Pinkel and Jack Lambert all at the same time?

Don James: When I got there, the coach said you’ve got half a dozen guys that you are going to be delighted with because of their attitude and effort. And then you got about a half dozen guys you absolutely have to get rid of because they are going to do everything they can to destroy the locker room. It was safe to say that those three guys were on the good list.

BG: Talk about the job Steve Sarkisian has done so far at Washington.

DJ: I think he has done a great job. He started from an 0-12 season and last year they were 3-6 before winning the last three games to get bowl eligible. And I think two of those wins came with the ball in the air for a field goal when the clock was running out. Then I went down [to San Diego] to see the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska and that was by far their best game of the season. So they have clearly made progress. And [Keith Price] has a much better supporting cast than Jake Locker had. Poor Jake stayed there and helped us without a lot of support. Quarterbacks can play better with good defenses because they get better field position and they get the other team off the field. So, I think we have made good progress.

BG: You were there when the Pac-8 grew to the Pac-10. The conference just went through a major transition with the growth to 12 teams. What are your thoughts on the growth of the conference and the job Larry Scott has done?

DJ: I think he has done a great job, obviously with the [TV] contracts. I was always opposed to expansion because I have mentioned many times if you have a paint store on one block you don’t want two more paint stores coming in on the same block. So I was always a fan of the Pac-8. Of course, then we grew to the Pac-10 and I have learned to live with that and I understand the need for it.

But now I think TV and money dictates everything. You want to get to 12 teams so you can have a championship game and generate more income. Now I see where they are considering ways to pay the athletes, but how are the MAC and other mid-majors schools that don’t get giant crowds going to do that? I don’t understand it. They get academic counseling, they get room, board, books, tuition and fees. Now the NCAA allows summer school as well, so they are very well paid.

BG: What is the biggest difference in college football between the beginning of your tenure versus the end of your career – and now 20 years later?

DJ: When I first got started, I coached at Florida State then went to Michigan and then Colorado. So I got different, great areas of football experience.

Everything changes. Before it used to be players were being paid in some conferences like the old Southwest Conference. Then alums were taken out of the equation. And now it looks like the alums are back in. NFL football grew and then we had agent problems. You know we will probably always have agent problems. Now they are sneaking around trying to get a hold of your young players and get them committed. The situation at Miami, where I played, is unbelievable.

The NCAA rules have taken football coaches away from their players. When I was at Florida State we bed-checked those kids every night of the year and we could work out winter programs to the day. And now it’s a 20-hour work week. So they have taken the coaches away from the players but the coaches are more responsible for the players. So you tell me how that is going to work?

BG: What would you say the toughest part of being a current college football coach is?

DJ: You always have the high pressure of the media because now you have the internet and everybody knows who the top high school players are. So you are being second-guessed on evaluation all the time. I never relied on media for my evaluation. We are going to do that as a staff.

It changes, like I said. We have taken alums out of recruiting and now it seems they are back in it according to the Miami situation. How do you control a guy you don’t even know or see?

The biggest change has been, of course, offering scholarships to juniors. I never had to do that. I saw some guys that were obviously great prospects but I never wanted to offer one a scholarship until they were done with their senior year.

BG: Talk about the 1991 team that won the national championship. What does that group mean to you and what did it mean to share that title with your alma mater?

DJ: First of all, it was sort of a mythical situation where you had two championships. And back in 1984, we won the 1985 Orange Bowl and we lost out in the vote to BYU. I wanted to win one, but you never knew until the votes come in. I think [in 1991] that we were the greatest football team maybe ever up to that date. We had speed, youth, experience, top draft choices, and I think we could have beaten Miami even though they are my alma mater. Obviously they thought they could beat us, but I guess we will never know.

BG: Talk about the favorite places you like to go play?

DJ: There was never any places I liked to go play. If you played at Texas A&M you weren’t going to hear a snap count. There was no way those students were going to let you hear the snap count. So you had to adjust. Arizona State kind of turned into that when John Cooper was there. He was waving a towel and getting the crowd noise up. So I went back to our fans at Washington and I said when teams come into Husky Stadium, they don’t deserve to hear a snap count. So we got our fans revved up. The referee used to step in at the goal-line and try to get the fans to settle down. Fortunately, the refs finally gave up and let the fans make as much noise as they want. You can adjust your offense to go on silent counts or at the snap of the ball.

Stadiums that were tough? It wasn’t tough going to Oregon, Oregon State or Washington State for a while, but then they got good. And those stadiums got much tougher because they are a little smaller, there is no track and the fans are almost right on the field.

BG: Who were some of the most memorable players you coached or coached against?

DJ: The ones you read about everyday. Lambert was a great player for the Steelers and in the NFL Hall of Fame. I like the guys that are coaching now. Dave Christenson at Wyoming played for me and he coached for Gary Pinkel. Of course, Gary played for me and coached with me, working his way up through the ranks. I could see his development.

I kind of got Nick Saban started in coaching. I think his wife needed another year to get her degree so we encouraged him to come out and coach with us. He does a great job. I think those type of guys and I watch their scores and progress.

Then there is a lot of guys who were great kids and great players. Napoleon Kaufman played with the Raiders and now he has a church in Oakland. He has done some great things, so you follow those guys. But there are a lot of guys who have done really well and are successful. I remember mostly the ones who came back to help the University, contribute and go to games.

BG: Any particular players you remember preparing for and thinking how are we going to stop this guy?

DJ: You know there was a quarterback who played at Stanford and played for the Denver Broncos that was probably the hardest guy to prepare for because he was so big and strong. The Elway family was originally from Washington, you know, and we knew about him and tried to recruit him. We probably came close but didn’t get him.

You wanted to try to keep him in the pocket to throw, because if he got outside he could beat you throwing and running. He was probably the hardest player to defend against.

BG: Talk about the Xs and Os. What are the biggest differences in scheme between when you were coaching and today’s game?

DJ: It always changes. When I was at Florida State we threw the ball a ton and looked like an NFL team with Steve Tensi and Fred Biletnikoff. We had great defenses and that is kind of what I built my reputation on. And back in those days we would go to the San Diego Chargers camp and learn everything we could about the NFL, throwing the ball, routes and coverages.

Then I got to the wishbone and we got in real tight like Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma: Run six plays and run them well. Of course, then I was with Eddie Crowder at Colorado. So I got a little bit of that background. Then Woody Hayes – we’re not going to throw the ball. Of course, I grew up in the SEC coaching and that was with Bobby Dodd and General Neyland and those guys. You know, they would punt on third down when they were backed up. The kicking game was just so important back then. Kicking game, defense and run the ball.

Then I worked with Keith Gilbertson my last couple of years here and we had the one-back sets. But when you saw us go to one back, all you worried about was the draw. (Plus all the throwing.) So I brought in Keith and I wanted to do some of the things the Washington Redskins were doing with the counter trey out of the one-back set pulling two linemen and so forth. So I wanted to be a running team also out of the one-back.

So we adjusted and then they adjusted to us. Then we became a blitz team and played man-to-man and blitzed almost every down and had some great defensive years.

The defenses always catch up. It’s going to be interesting to me to see what the defenses do to stop the Oregon offense, for example. They don’t ever want you to huddle up. Pinkel did that with Christenson at Missouri and now Dave’s doing it at Wyoming. It changes and it’s constantly on the change. The offenses do something good and eventually the defenses catch up.

BG: What is your favorite college town in America?

DJ: I grew up in Massillon, Ohio, and as far as high school football goes, you can't hardly beat that. I think the Big Ten schools were special – Michigan and Ohio State. When I was out at Colorado, you couldn’t beat Nebraska. In fact, you couldn’t beat them at home either. They would bring more people into our stadium than we had.

You can go all over the country and find great places. The Coliseum is big, and playing UCLA was always special once UCLA started playing in the Rose Bowl. It was always a thrill just to go to the Rose Bowl. We went to six of them. There are so many great stadiums out there.

BG: In light of what is happening with Miami, is there anything that can be done with all the boosters, go-betweens and agents causing problems?

DJ: You have to fix it with your own players. And I am sure coaches now are doing the same things I did with my players. You have got to tell them the rules. They need to pass an NCAA rules test. And then continue to hammer them with rules. We would hammer our kids about agents and alums all the time. They can't take you to dinner, they can't call you.

And you just have to recruit good kids too. Poor kids are the problem. You bring in kid you doesn’t have a dime and someone like that guy down at Miami is offering them this stuff. And obviously he is down there in prison, so he is obviously not a high character guy. He couldn’t care less about the NCAA rules. He wanted to get close to the athletes. And there are lots of alums like that, they want to get to know the kids and do things for them. You have to keep in front of your own guys. Recruit high quality kids and keep them abreast of the rules and just keep hammering.

Special thanks to Athlon Sports partner The Legends Poll

Other Legend's Interviews:

Georgia's Vince Dooley
Air Force's Fisher DeBerry


<p> Athlon sat down with one of college football's greats to talk Washington football and more.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/stevan-ridley-fantasy-stud-patriots

The New England Patriots have had a history of mixing and matching running backs. That trend was cemented by the fact that Bill Belichick drafted Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. So the Patriots entered the season with reigning 1,000-yard back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, cult hero Danny Woodhead and two highly touted rookie running backs all vying for carries.

Against the Oakland Raiders on the road, the group had its best game of the season, rushing for a season-high 185 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. More impressively, the Patriots did it without Woodhead, who hopped off the field with an ankle injury after two carries. It appears that the injury will not be a serious, but he did not return to the field, and Stevan Ridley reaped the benefits by running for 97 yards on 10 carries and a key touchdown run.

With Vereen still waiting to play his first NFL snap, the onus of running the football for New England will fall to Green-Ellis and Ridley. If you are a fantasy owner with The Lawfirm on the roster, it just makes too much sense to add Ridley. He is a must-add for Woodhead owners as well.

The burly Ridley (5-foot-11, 225) was a workhorse in America's top conference for LSU last season. He carried the ball 249 times for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, and nothing about his breakout performance this weekend says he won't continue to be successful.

Will Ridley become a feature back and get 25 carries per game for the Patriots? Of course not. Keep in mind, Green-Ellis also put forth his best yardage total of the season (75 yards), scored his third touchdown in four games and got six more touches than Ridley.

All signs point to Ridley getting more involved in the offense as both he and Green-Ellis should provide some quality fantasy value for the rest of the year. Whether it's a tough but important match-up (Jets, Steelers, Giants) or an easy lay-up (Miami, Denver, Kansas City, Indianapolis), both backs should expect to get plenty of work for the rest of 2011.

- by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

<p> Stevan Ridley: Fantasy Stud for the Patriots?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 16:49
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NC State Wolfpack
Path: /columns/national-notebook/frank-spaziani-tom-obrien-hot-seat-together

- by (@CoachesBTN on twitter)

Some things just seem to work better when they are paired together: Peanut Butter & Jelly, Tom & Jerry, Laurel & Hardy, Sonny & Cher, Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson. We think we have another pairing to add to the above group: O'Brien & Spaziani. Tom O'Brien took over the head coaching job at Boston College in 1997. That same year he hired Frank Spaziani, then a defensive coordinator in the Canadian Football League, as his defensive backs coach. In 1999, O'Brien promoted Spaziani to the job of defensive coordinator. Let's take a look at some hard numbers from 2001-2006 for O'Brien & Spaziani:  

CBTN HC Stars CBTN DC Stars Overall WP% 9+ Win Seasons Bowl Record Avg. Scor. Def. Avg. Scor. Off.
70.67% 4 6-0 18.77 ppg 23.21 ppg

To say the very least, the above numbers are pretty impressive. In fact, from 2001-2006, Tom O'Brien was a top 20 head coach and Frank Spaziani was a top 20 defensive coordinator. What's even more impressive about this is the fact that from 2002-2006 Boston College had an average recruiting class of 45.20. After the 2006 season, Tom O'Brien accepted the head coaching at North Carolina State. O'Brien took long-time offensive coordinator Dana Bible with him, but Frank Spaziani remained at Boston College as the defensive coordinator for new head coach Jeff Jagodzinski. After Jagodzinski was fired after the 2008 season, Spaziani was named the new head coach at Boston College. Let's take a look at how the two have done without each other:

Coach CBTN HC Star Rating Overall WP% 9+ Win Seasons Bowl Record Avg. Scoring Def. Avg. Scor. Off.
Tom O'Brien 49.09% 1 1-1 27.69 ppg 27.44 ppg

As you can see, without Spaziani as his defensive coordinator, O'Brien's scoring defense numbers have increased by 47.52%. His scoring offense numbers have actually increased by 18.22%, but that doesn't matter too much when you are giving up almost 48% more points per game on average. Also keep in mind that during this time, North Carolina State has had an average recruiting class of 49.80, which is virtually identical to the average recruiting class O'Brien had at Boston College. Now, let's see how Spaziani has fared as a head coach:

Coach CBTN Star Rating Overall WP% 9+ Win Seasons Bowl Record Avg. Scor. Def. Avg. Scor. Off.
Frank Spaziani 51.61% 0 0-2 20.97 ppg 21.28

As a head coach, Spaziani is still putting up solid defensive numbers, but his offensive stats are pretty atrocious. In his thirty games as head coach at Boston College, Spaziani's team has only scored 30 or more points five times or 16.67% of the time. From 2001-2006, Boston College scored 30 or more points 42.67% of the time. So far this year, O'Brien & Spaziani are a combined 3-7 and both coaches appear to be on hot seats at their respective programs. One of the hardest questions to answer when analyzing coaches is how dependent they are on other coaches. Every coach is dependent on other coaches to some degree, but some coaches appear to be more dependent than others (see here and here).

When it comes to O'Brien & Spaziani, the numbers seem to allow for the conclusion that maybe they should have kept the band together.

<p> Both NC State and Boston College will have tough decisions to make at the end of 2011 concerning Tom O'Brien and Frank Spaziani.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 13:01
Path: /nfl/redskins-ryan-torain-running-back-own-washington

NFL Fantasy owners are constantly in search of help at the running back position. And with the bye weeks here for the next two months, Washington Redskins' running back Ryan Torain makes a great addition to any fantasy roster. Especially, those with Roy Helu and Tim Hightower already rostered.

Hightower is dealing with a shoulder injury and rumors swirled last weekend prior to the St. Louis game that Torain was going to get more work. Well, he did just that with 135 yards and one touchdown on only 19 carries. Most importantly, the Redskins won 17-10 behind the solid 7.1 yards per carry work by Torain.

Mike Shannahan has proven over the course of his career that he has no loyalty towards anyone that carries the football and will change running backs like he changes socks. With Hightower banged-up and much better suited for the starting roll versus the change-of-pace roll, Torain figures to get the bulk of the carries from here on out. In fact, Helu may actually jump Hightower on the depth chart because his skill set is, unlike Hightower, better suited for third downs, passing situations and the desired change-of-pace scenarios.

Additionally, Torain is a known NFL commodity. The Redskins running back rushed for 742 yards and four touchdowns on 164 carries in only 10 games last season - making Torain one of fantasy football's top waiver wire additions in 2010.

If Torain can stay healthy, it will be hard for Shannahan and the Redskins not to give the fresh-legged running back the bulk of the carries. The key for fantasy owners will be Torain's ability to stay on the field. He has fractured an elbow, tore an ACL, pulled a groin, strained a hamstring and, in August, had surgery to insert three screws into his broken left hand.

If you own either Hightower or Helu, Torain is a must-add. If you are looking for bye week help, Torain is a must-add. If you are in need of running back depth (which is mostly everyone), then Torain is a must-add.

No matter how you slice it, Torain should not be on your fantasy league's waiver wire.

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

<p> Redskins' Ryan Torain the running back to own in Washington?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 12:52
All taxonomy terms: Andrew Luck, Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/dolphins-chad-henne-injured-will-draft-andrew-luck

Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne is getting a second opinion on a season-ending shoulder injury. While the Dolphins await the results of more tests on Henne's left shoulder, head coach Tony Sparano is looking for a replacement during the bye week.

Apparently, Jake Delhomme, David Garrard, Brodie Croyle and Trent Edwards have all been contacted as potential options to fill in for Henne. Garrard's agent says he will not sign with Miami, while Edwards and Croyle were at the Dolphins' facilities working out for the coaching staff. Delhomme reportedly declined the workout invitation.

The real question Dolphins' fan need to ask themselves is: Is losing the starting quarterback this year a bad thing? The answer to that question is definitively NO. That is right, having Brodie Croyle as your starting quarterback for the remainder of the 2011 season is actually a huge step in the right direction.

And no, not because he is going to win football games. Precisely the opposite is true, actually. Croyle under center ensures one key facet to the rebuilding of the Miami Dolphins franchise: The drafting of Stanford quarterback prodigy Andrew Luck with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

The remainder of the schedule is downright brutal for the Dolphins. The Fish have to play the entire NFC East, New England, the Jets and Bills twice each and Oakland. That leaves a Week 7 match-up with Denver and a Week 9 contest against Kansas City as the only winnable games left on the schedule. A 2-14 record would all but guarantee the Dolphins the worst record in the NFL and the chance to draft Luck with the first overall pick in the April draft.

So cheer up Miami fans, you now have plenty to root for in 2011.

It just won't involve Chad Henne — or winning football games.

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

<p> Dolphins' Chad Henne Injured, Will Draft Andrew Luck</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 12:11
Path: /nfl/chris-cooley-needs-shut-about-tony-romo

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

The Washington Redskins' tight end Chris Cooley has had some interesting things to say about Dallas Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo this week after watching Dallas blow another fourth-quarter lead to the Detroit Lions. He didn't mince words.

“It’s SO good,” Cooley said of Romo’s fourth-quarter choke-job on his weekly appearance on the LaVar and Dukes show. “I was watching the scoreboard in St. Louis, and I didn’t see that they’d lost really until they end, I thought they blew them out so I kind of stopped paying attention. It’s amazing, AMAZING to watch him choke like that.

“I’m just saying, I’m up 24 points in the third quarter, if I’m the head coach, I feel like I could probably just take a knee for the rest of the game, punt it away and there’s no way that Detroit’s gonna drive on you that many times,” Cooley continued. “The only way you’re gonna give up that many points is turnovers, right? It’s hilarious to watch him throw pick-sixes, too, back-to-back. I loved it. But it wouldn’t be as good as my cage fight.”

LaVar Arrington couldn't let the cagefighting reference go unnoticed, so he asked Cooley how long a cage fight with Romo would last.

“For me to beat Tony? I’m gonna be honest, I don’t know what kind of cagefighting skills he has,” Cooley answered. “I would probably try to incorporate my wrestling ability, like when I was in high school. Obviously it’s been a while, but I didn’t like to beat people fast. I like to embarrass 'em a little bit. Like, take a 24-point lead, and then just play with it a little bit.”

I love a good trash talking as much as the next guy — and as far as trash talking goes, this one (as we say around the office) is strong-to-quite-strong. There is one major issue here, however. Cooley and the Redskins got beat by a fourth-quarter comeback on national television by Tony Romo and the Cowboys not even two weeks ago. And Romo did it with receivers who couldn't line up right, a center who couldn't snap the ball and without scoring an offensive touchdown!

Cooley’s comments are not incorrect or egregious in any way. And frankly, they are as entertaining as any comments I have heard in years — especially considering the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry. Maybe they were over the top, but not necessarily untrue. The problem, Mr. Cooley, is your timing. If you are going to run your mouth about a player who is the No. 5-rated passer in NFL history, you better have not just gotten beat by said player 10 days earlier.

To top it all off, Cooley has been dramatically outplayed by teammate Fred Davis and may not even be the best tight end on his own team. Davis has caught 16 passes to Cooley's seven, 248 yards to Cooley's 66 and Cooley has yet to reach the endzone.

I love the attitude. I love the moxie. And I would take Cooley in a cage fight against Romo any day.

But right now, Romo is 1-0 against the Redskins, Chris.

<p> Chris Cooley Needs to Shut Up About Tony Romo</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 10:51
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-6

-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.

The Wisconsin Badgers pulled off the biggest win of the weekend, and quarterback Russell Wilson is a huge reason why. The former All-ACC performer has not only fit in quickly in Madison, but is now leading a national title contender. The Athlon Heisman contender has watched his stock rise every week of the season. Wilson didn't receive a single vote in the preseason ballot. He debuted on the list at 11th before Week Two. He moved to ninth prior to Week Three, sixth before Week Four and fifth last week.

Now, he is the top challenger to Andrew Luck — who has yet to relinquish his hold of the top slot at any point during the 2011 season.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (86/90 total points, 8/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 80/112, 1,013 yards, 11 TD, INT, 11 att., 58 yards, TD

The Cardinal rolled over UCLA 45-19 this weekend and Luck put his athleticism on full display. A tight-rope one-handed catch down the sideline (yes, I said catch) made all of the highlight tapes, but his near-flawless 23-of-27 performance led to Stanford's 12th straight win. He threw for another 227 yards and three more touchdowns. Next Game: Colorado

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 86 8 - - - 1 9
2. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 74 - 3 5 1 - 9
3. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 62 - 1 2 3 2 9
4. Kellen Moore QB Boise State 60 - 2 1 3 - 9
5. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 56 - 2 1 1 3 9
6. Marcus Lattimore RB South Carolina 40 - 1 - 1 1 8
7. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 30 - - - - 2 7
8. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 29 1 - - - - 7
9. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 28 - - - - - 7
10. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 10 - - - - - 3
11. LaMichael James RB Oregon 4 - - - - - 2
12. Robert Woods WR USC 4 - - - - - 2
13. Tyrann Mathieu CB LSU 4 - - - - - 3
14. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma 3 - - - - - 2
15. Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 3 - - - - - 2
16. Darron Thomas QB Oregon 1 - - - - - 1
17. Matt Barkley QB USC 1 - - - - - 1

2. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (74)
Season Stats: 83/111, 1,391 yards, 13 TD, INT, 22 att., 140 yards, 2 TD

If voters hadn't had a chance to watch Wilson's dual-threat skills in action before Saturday, you can bet everyone knows about him now. Wilson danced and dodged Husker defenders all night long to the tune of 255 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers, 32 more yards rushing and another sprint into the endzone in the 48-17 statement win over Nebraska. Wisconsin has outscored its opponents by at least 31 points in every game, and Wilson is No. 2 nationally with an absurd 216.89 efficiency rating. Next Game: Bye Week

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (62)
Season Stats: 92/112, 1,481 yards, 18 TD, 1 INT, 36 att., 173 yards, TD

Griffin III threw five touchdown passes for the third time in four 2011 games in the tough road loss to Kansas State (36-35). The Bears quarterback completed 23-of-31 passes for 346 yards to go with those five touchdowns. He is still leading the nation in efficiency with a 230.33 QB rating; however, his first interception of the season cost Baylor the game against KSU. Arthur Brown picked off the talented quarterback in the closing minutes, leading to the game-deciding field goal. Next Game: Iowa State

4. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (75 pts)
Season Stats: 102/138, 1,137 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT, 5 att., (-6) yards

Despite a dominating 30-10 revenge victory over Nevada this weekend, voters would be shocked by Moore's stat line. He completed only 19-of-33 passes for 142 yards, two touchdowns and a rare two interceptions. It was only Moore's third career game with more than one interception (Hawaii 2010, Nevada in 2008) over 44 career starts (42-2). Next Game: at Fresno State

5. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (26)
Season Stats: 96 att., 622 yards, 10 TD, 11 rec., 148 yards, TD

In the mini-Heisman battle at running back, Marcus Lattimore has led for the entirety of the 2011 season. Until now. Richardson, behind a stellar showing in Gainesville, has leapt over the Carolina stud and into the Top Five. T-Rich carried the ball 29 times for 181 yards and two scores (with two receptions for 27 yards through the air) in Alabama's third extremely convincing quality win of the season, 38-10 over Florida. He has scored at least two touchdowns in four of Bama's five wins thus far. Next Game: Vanderbilt

6. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (73)
Season Stats: 124 att., 691 yards, 9 TD, 12 rec., 139 yards, TD

Coming into the weekend, Auburn ranked 112th against the run (226.5 ypg) and 92nd in points allowed (31.0 ppg). So it was shocking to see Marcus Lattimore held to nearly 100 yards below his season average. Lattimore and the Cocks fell to the defending champs 16-13, and the talented tailback got only 17 carries for 66 yards — both of which were his lowest totals of the season. He also failed to record a reception for the first time since Week Three against Furman in 2010. Lattimore will have to lead Carolina to Atlanta with tremendous statistics if he expects to get to New York as a sophomore — which, of course, is totally within reason considering his talent. Next Game: Kentucky

7. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (48)
Season Stats: 111/155, 1,447 yards, 10 TD, 5 INT, 8 att., 3 yards, 2 TD

The Sooners rolled 62-6 over Ball State last weekend, setting up the big Red River Shootout this weekend (Rivarly just doesn't sound right to a guy who lived in Texas as a kid). Jones lit up the Cardinals defense to the tune of 425 yards (his second straight 400-yard effort) and five touchdowns. The schedule, and potential trip to the BCS title game, gets daunting from here on out. Next Game: Texas (Cotton Bowl)

8. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (29)
Season Stats: 50/91, 793 yards, 8 TD, 6 INT, 77 att., 603 yards, 6 TD

Against a rival in Minnesota, Robinson played his most efficient game of the season. Shoelace completed 15-of-19 passes for 169 yards and two scores and no interceptions. He added 51 yards rushing and another score on only six carries in the 58-0 win over the Gophers. Passing the football with efficiency and staying healthy will be key to Robinson's Heisman — and Michigan's Big Ten title — chances. Next Game: at Northwestern

9. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (28)
Season Stats: 142/191, 1,592 yards, 10 TD, 6 INT, 9 att., (-69) yards

The Pokes had the weekend off after the thrilling second-half comeback against Texas A&M. The schedule gets hard now as Texas, Missouri, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are still on the slate. Kansas should provide another offensive warm-up. Weeden threw for 389 yards and three scores in the 48-14 win over the Jayhawks last season. Next Game: Kansas

10. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (28)
Season Stats: 38 rec., 450 yards, 4 TD

See Brandon Weeden. Blackmon caught 10 passes for 130 yards and a score against Kansas last fall. Next Game: Kansas

Previous Voting:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

<p> Athlon Sports Heisman Voting: Week 6</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 07:50
Path: /nfl/legarrette-blount-continues-impress-buccaneers

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tailback LeGarrette Blount has taken an interesting path to his starting job as an NFL running back.

The 188-mile journey from Taylor County High School in Perry, Florida to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay has been anything but ordinary for Blount. In 2005, he first attempted to enroll at Auburn directly out of high school but failed to qualify after receiving very little interest as a two-star recruit. So Blount landed at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss., where he garnered JUCO All-American honors.

Blount signed with the Oregon Ducks over other offers from West Virginia, Florida State and Ole Miss. After a stellar 2008 season in Eugene, in which he rushed for 1,002 yards and 17 touchdowns, Blount became a national headline (and punchline for that matter) at the start of the 2009 campaign when he delivered a right-handed sucker punch to Boise State Bronco linebacker Byron Hout. Blount, who also got involved with BSU fans as he was escorted from the stadium, had totalled -8 yards from scrimmage and was caught for a safety in the loss to Boise State.

He was suspended indefinitely.

After a letter of apology, Blount was reinstated with four games left in the season and ended up playing a key role in the season finale against Oregon State and played in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State.

Blount went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft and was eventually signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent. In August of his first NFL preseason camp, Blount again got himself into trouble by throwing another right hook at Titans teammate Eric Bakhtiari. Subsequently, the Titans placed Blount on waivers.

Enter the Tampa Bay Bucs. On September 6, Tampa Bay claimed Blount off of waivers and inserted him into the lineup in Week 3 against Pittsburgh. He scored his first touchdown in his first career game. Three weeks later, Blount topped the 100-yard mark for the first time in his short career. He finished the 2010 season with 201 carries, 1,007 yards and six touchdowns.

Now, four weeks into his second season, the Bucs are riding Blount like the franchise back that he could be. He has carried 49 times in the last two games, and he posted his second-highest yardage total of 127 yards on Monday night in the key win over the Indianapolis Colts. Most importantly, his 35-yard fourth-quarter game-winning touchdown run pushed the Bucs to 3-1 on the young season. His 294 yards are sixth in the NFC.

With loads of mental focus question marks swirling around him for the better part of a decade, Blount has overcome suspensions, poor grades, fighting and depth charts to establish himself as a potential go-to tailback.

Now, we'll see if he can stay out of trouble.

<p> LeGarrette Blount Continues to Impress for Buccaneers</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 13:21
Path: /nfl/colts-dolphins-battle-nfls-worst-record-and-andrew-luck

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

One lucky NFL team is going to "acquire" the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and land the surest quarterback prospect in decades. Unfortunately, in order to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, one NFL team is going to have to be very (un)lucky on the field in 2011.

At the quarter pole of the NFL season, four teams have separated themselves from the pack as the top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it) contenders for the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams each have started the season 0-4 and each has a good shot at getting Luck with the first pick. (Just for good measure, keep an eye on the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, as each could easily slip into this race as well.)

Since the St. Louis Rams already have their franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford — and are struggling so mightily due in large part to a rash of injuries — they will clearly not be in the market for the Stanford signal-caller. Additionally, playing in the NFC West should afford the Rams a few more chances to win than if they played in the, say, AFC East.

The Minnesota Vikings have proven in short order that they can compete with just about anyone — for 30 minutes. With the most talented running back on the planet and a potential Hall of Fame quarterback under center, Minnesota should be able to reach four or five wins, which would likely take them out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. There is also that small issue of last year's first-round pick, Christian Ponder — and all of his money — which also impedes the Vikes from selecting Luck.

That leaves the Miami Dolphins and the Indianapolis Colts.

The Andrew Luck watch — aka "Suck for Luck" — should be on in full force in both cities, and one lucky team will get the stellar quarterback. The Colts have a roster loaded with veteran players who are accustomed to winning — and winning big. The team has played well against the Steelers and Bucs in its last two losses — clearly making a big mistake by showing actual desire to win football games. So with games against Kansas City, Cincinnati, Carolina, two with Tennessee and Jacksonville each still left on the schedule, the odds say the Colts win at least four if not five games.

No, the smart money is on Andrew Luck returning to the site of his Orange Bowl thumping of Virginia Tech and becoming a member of the Miami Dolphins. The Fish still have to play the entire NFC East, Oakland, Buffalo twice, the Jets twice and New England again. Kansas City and Denver look like the only two winnable games left on the schedule. So assuming — because this is the NFL, after all — that the Dolphins pull off one upset, they are looking at a 3-13 record at best. Top it off with a coach who could be receiving his pink slip at any moment and you have a recipe for disaster (or in this case, celebration).

So if the Dolphins — and any player with more than one year left on the contract — were smart, they would start the rebuilding process today by losing as many games as possible. It sounds pathetic and flies in the face of all that sports represent, but underachievement from here on out might be the best way to improve the franchise long-term.

Because a player like Andrew Luck does not come along very often.

<p> The race is on for the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 11:00
Path: /columns/waiver-wire/fantasy-football-waiver-wire-week-5

Some of the players listed in Athlon Sports' NFL Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 5 may be one-week adds, some may be season-long adds and some are listed just for you to keep an eye on to stash on your roster if you have the space.

Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point per 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.

Also, if you have any fantasy football questions for Week 5's Ask Athlon, send them my way @AthlonBraden on Twitter or via email to [email protected]


With bye weeks here to stay for the next two months or so, it is time to grab a bigger picture of what might be out there on the waiver wire. For those GMs in two-QB leagues, finding someone for two weeks is imperative. Those who went early and never again on a QB in the draft — which isn't all that terrible of a strategy — might be scowering the waiver wire for a one-week spot start. Any way you slice it, it is never a bad time to start looking to the future — especially when it comes to the QB position.

Matt Hasselbeck, TEN
The Next Six: PIT, bye, HOU, IND, CIN, CAR
He is the No. 8-ranked fantasy QB with 1,152 yards, 8 TD and 3 INT at the quarter pole. I shouldn't have to do the math for you. He is a must-add in two-QB systems, and with Houston, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Carolina looming after Week 7, the Titans signal-caller could prove very worthy from Weeks 7-10.

Colt McCoy, CLE
The Next Six: Bye, OAK, SF, HOU, STL, JAC, CIN
McCoy has outperformed Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman, Big Ben, Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb thus far in 2011. In fact, the Texas product is a top-16 option, while every one of those aformentioned names is not. After the bye this week, the consistency of McCoy will be useful against the likes of St. Louis, San Francisco, Jacksonville and Cincinnati.

Andy Dalton, CIN
The Next Six: JAC, IND, bye, SEA, TEN, PIT, BAL, CLE
His combined QB rating from this last two games (40.8, 64.4) is nearly two points short of his second career start at 107.0. Reality is likely somewhere in between the two. And against the likes of Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Seattle and Tennessee (with a bye week dead in the middle), Dalton should have plenty of chances to utilize his uber-talented receiving corps.

Running Backs

Ryan Torain, WAS
The injury-prone runner finally got his chance in 2011 and he certainly made the most of it. Torain, after a strong second half to last season, had to wait until midway of quarter number two during Week 4 of play against the Rams. After 19 carries and 135 yards, Torain has injected himself into the Mike Shanahan tailback competition. Roy Helu looks like the long-term solution, and Tim Hightower looks like the short-term answer. But Torain could create loads of value should either falter — or get hurt.

Stevan Ridley, NE
This one may take a couple of weeks to pay off, but when Bill Belichick wants to run the football, Ridley will figure prominently. Cries for him to start are overzealous as the Lawfirm will likely always get the bulk (16 carries to Ridley's 10 this weekend) of the workload. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been too effective to completely remove from the eqaution, but if you own BJGE, Ridley would be a smart addition.

Montario Hardesty, CLE
With Peyton Hillis out two weeks ago, Hardesty totalled 86 yards from scrimmage on 17 touches. With Hillis in the game, Hardesty totalled 71 yards on 13 touches, including five catches this weekend. The carries look to be divided much more evenly than expected, so add Hardesty immediately if you are a Hillis owner.

Wide Receivers

No Brainers: Neither Eric Decker of Denver nor Nate Washington of Tennessee should be sitting on your waiver wire. As a public service announcement.

Denarius Moore, OAK
Has wowed coaches since day one of practice and is establishing himself as a player who needs the football on a regular basis.

Antonio Brown, PIT
With Hines Ward and Emmaunel Sanders lacking in production, Brown has surged to the forefront after a team-leading 10 targets this weekend.

David Nelson, BUF
Slowed in Week 4, but still has 18 receptions over the last three weeks. Keep an eye on the Bills' distribution.

Deep Waiver Wire Wide Receiver adds

Laurent Robinson, DAL (10 rec., 165 yards in last two)
Josh Morgan, SF (3 rec., 65 yards, TD last week)
Victor Cruz, NYG (9 rec., 208 yards, 2 TD in last two)
Darrius Heyward-Bey, OAK (team high 115 yards and 7 targets last week)

Tight Ends

Ben Watson, CLE
A quality tight end will always be a young quarterback's best friend, and Colt McCoy seems to have found a nice connection with the very talented Watson. He has 11 receptions for 112 yards and a TD over last two games.

Jermaine Gresham, CIN
See Ben Watson. Andy Dalton would be wise to utilize the Gresham safety net more often. He is supremely talented and is a great redzone target. The two have hooked up eight times for 121 yards and a TD over the last two.

Ed Dickson, BAL
It was an off game for both Dickson and Joe Flacco Sunday night, but he was targeted 12 times against the Jets and has quickly made Ravens fans forget about Todd Heap.

Defense/Special Teams

Both of these match-ups could be worth looking into — on either side of the ball. Depending on your scoring system, all four could be useful.

Houston Texans

Who says you can't go from worst to first in one season? With the coaching staff changes, personnel additions through the draft and free agency, packaged with the gift of no Peyton Manning, this is the year for the Texans. Sit back and enjoy — as long as they stay healthy, of course.

San Francisco 49ers
Schedule: TB, DET, BYE, CLE, WAS, NYG, ARI

This unit is playing inspired football behind the best LB in the nation and a tremendous new head coach. Basically Detroit is all that stands in the Niners' way of fantasy stardom over the next seven weeks.

Washington Redskins
Schedule: bye, PHI, CAR, BUF, SF, MIA, DAL, SEA

Certainly won't help in the short term, but games against Carolina, San Fran, Miami and Seattle are almost must-start for a unit that is so clearly improved under Shanahan — and with Brian Orakpo, LaRon Landry and Ryan Kerrigan.

<p> Some of the players listed in Athlon Sports' NFL Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week&nbsp;5 may be one-week adds, some may be season-long adds and some are listed just for you to keep an eye on to stash on your roster if you have the space.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten-2

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 5 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Wisconsin (5-0) –  The Badgers officially staked their claim to the top spot in the Big Ten with one of the most impressive performances by any team in any league Saturday night when they dismantled Nebraska 48-17. The Huskers went up 14-7 early in the second quarter before UW rolled off 35 unanswered points. Quarterback Russell Wilson was masterful at the helm of the Big Red ship, throwing for 255 yards and two scores while adding 32 yards and another score on the ground. Wilson consistently evaded pressure with ease, only enhancing his Heisman Trophy campaign. Tailback Montee Ball scored four times and is leading the nation in scoring at 16.8 points per game. With a combined margin of victory of 191 points in five games, Wisconsin has yet to beat an opponent by less than 30 points.

2. Nebraska (4-1) – Welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska. The Huskers were given a rude welcome to their new league at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers. Taylor Martinez threw three interceptions — including the first play of the second half — and completed only 11 of his 22 passes in the embarassing 48-17 loss in Camp Randall. The Huskers are still considered the favorites to win the Legends Division, but will need to regroup quickly with The Ohio State University making its first-ever trip to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln this weekend.

3. Michigan (5-0) – The Maize and Blue are unbeaten and might be establishing themselves as the main contender in the Legends Division after winning the Little Brown Jug this weekend. Michigan held Minnesota to 177 total yards and 0-11 on third downs to win 58-0 while starting to resemble the Wolverines of years past. Denard Robinson played his most efficient game of 2011 by completing 15-of-19 without a turnover of any kind. He finished with 169 yards passing and 51 rushing while the team as a whole rushed for 363 yards. Vincent Smith became the fourth player since 2000 to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same game.

4. Illinois (5-0) – The Land of Lincoln Trophy belongs to the Illini after 218 second-half passing yards and 28 final-half points against Northwestern. After his team had trailed 28-10 in the third, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase wiggled into the end zone with 13 seconds left to edge Northwestern 38-35. The passer set a career mark with 391 yards with wide receiver A.J. Jenkins acting as the primary beneficiary. The senior wideout set a school record with 268 yards on 12 receptions and three touchdowns. It was the first time Illinois has won a Big Ten opener since 2007. The fighting Ron Zookers travel to rival Indiana this Saturday.

5. Michigan State (4-1) – The Spartans boast the nation's No. 1 defense, and Saturday did nothing to change that. Michigan State, at 173.4 total yards allowed per game, held Ohio State to 178 total yards of offense. Braxton Miller lasted only 10 attempts before Joe Bauserman took over and led OSU to its only score with 10 seconds to go. The 10-7 win ended a seven-game losing streak for Michigan State against the Buckeyes and sets up a huge game two weeks from now with Michigan (MSU is on bye this weekend).

6. Penn State (4-1) – The Nittany Lions won an ugly, mistake-prone road game over Indiana 16-10. The Nits turned the ball over twice inside of their opponent's five-yard line, leading to a 3-3 halftime score. Matt McGloin reentered the game and on his first pass connected with Derek Moye for a 74-yard touchdown to put PSU up for good. Silas Redd ran for 129 yards, and Penn State improved to 15-0 all-time against the Hoosiers. The rested Iowa Hawkeyes come to Happy Valley this weekend.

7. Iowa (3-1) – The Hawkeyes were on bye last weekend. Iowa has had two weeks to prepare for the lethargic Penn State offense it will have to face this weekend in Beaver Stadium. After Saturday, Iowa gets Northwestern, Indiana and Minnesota, so a win over Penn State should put the Hawks squarely in the Big Ten Legends Division race (with Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska as three of its last four).

8. Ohio State (3-2) – The Buckeyes mustered 178 yards of total offense and scored no points in the first 59:50 of gametime. With the meaningless touchdown pass aside, that is as bad as an Ohio State offense has looked in years - and the crowd let Luke Fickell know it. The boos from Scarlet and Gray nation rained down upon the Buckeyes as they left the field with a 10-7 loss to the Spartans. Things don't get any easier with road trips to Nebraska and Illinois and Wisconsin at home over the next three.

9. Northwestern (2-2) – This might be the year of "What Could Have Been" for Northwestern fans. After surging to a 28-10 lead in the third quarter, the Wildcat defense crumbled in the face of Nathan Scheelhaase. The Illini set all sorts of passing records en route to a 38-35 dramatic comeback over Purple Nation. Dan Persa's return to the field looked like something out of a storybook as he completed 10-of-14 passes for 123 yards and four touchdowns (three to Jeremy Ebert). But the defense couldn't stop Scheelhaase in the second half, and Pat Fitzgerald's bunch headed home with the loss. Despite leaving late in the game as a precaution, Persa appears set for the Michigan game this weekend.

10. Purdue (2-2) – The Boilermakers were outgained 287 to 84 yards on the ground in the thorough 38-10 beatdown at the hands of Notre Dame. The Irish, who have won three straight since starting 0-2, looked good in all phases of the game. Notre Dame held Purdue to only 276 yards of total offense while rolling up 551 of their own without committing a turnover. Neither Caleb TerBush (10-15, 101 yards, TD, INT) nor Robert Marve (9-22, 91 yards) was effective enough to consistently move the football against the developing Notre Dame front seven. Purdue gets Minnesota at home this Saturday.

11. Minnesota (1-4) – To say the Gophers failed to show up for a rivarly game would be quite an understatement. Michigan rolled up 363 yards rushing and 58 points in the shutout victory over the Gophers. Minnesota totalled eight first downs, went 0-11 on third downs, compiled 177 total yards and turned the ball over twice in the loss. Minnesota travels to Purdue this weekend in what could be its only chance for a conference win in 2011.

12. Indiana (1-4) – It appears that Dusty Kiel has cemented himself as the starter after throwing 45 times in a tightly, but sloppily, played 16-10 loss to Penn State. He completed 22 of those passes for 184 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His Hail Mary heave came up five yards short in the final seconds. He added 28 yards rushing. Hoosiers fans need to get used to seeing the name Kiel under center, as Dusty's younger brother, Gunner, is the nation's No. 2 QB prospect and should compete for immediate playing time in 2012.

<p> Post Week 5 Athlon Sports' Big Ten Power Rankings.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: Philadelphia Eagles, Ronnie Brown, News
Path: /news/ronnie-brown-makes-dumbest-play-nfl-history

<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

-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.

<p> The Packers dominated the Broncos with another insane performance from No. 12.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 3, 2011 - 13:54