Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-14

-by Braden Gall ( on twitter)

Start These Quarterbacks:

Philip Rivers, San Diego (Buffalo)
Rivers has had seven games with multiple interceptions, six games with one touchdown or less and no 300-yard games since Week 9. Yet, he is coming off his best showing of the season (22/28, 294 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT) and should be able to chuck around it around against a defense that has allowed 31.4 points per game during its current five-game losing streak.

Rex Grossman, Washington (New England)
Since taking over — for the second time — as the starter, Grossman has been serviceable. He has averaged 260 yards per game and has produced five touchdowns in four games since being inserted back into the lineup. The Pats still rank last in pass defense at 310 yards per game allowed, and Washington should need to throw plenty in this one.

Carson Palmer, Oakland (at Green Bay)
Green Bay ranks 31st in the NFL in pass defense, and while they create turnovers (23 INT), they also give up plenty of fantasy points (22 TDs). Palmer used garbage time to score big points last weekend, and with a receiving corps getting healthier by the day, he should be able to do the same again this weekend.

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (Carolina)
The Falcons quarterback is coming off his worst performance of the season (50.6 QB rating) and shouldn’t be needed much against the Panthers' matador rushing defense — ranked 27th in the league. Ryan posted a pedestrian 163-1-0 line in the 31-17 win over Carolina earlier because the Falcons ran the ball 35 times. Expect Michael Turner to get all the points this weekend.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore (Indianapolis)
In a convincing 24-10 win over Cleveland last weekend, Flacco was needed for 10 completions, 158 yards and no touchdowns. Baltimore ran 55 times with Ray Rice and Ricky Williams for 290 yards against the 31st-ranked rush defense. The Colts are ranked 30th and have allowed more rushing touchdowns than any team in the league. Flacco won’t be needed at all.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Houston)
The Texans' revamped defense has been nothing short of amazing in 2011. They are third in the NFL against the pass at 183.4 yards per game and have a nasty 12:17 TD:INT ratio as a team. And Dalton is showing signs of the rookie wall: three touchdowns, three interceptions over his last three with three games of less than 200 yards in his last six. His passer rating has been under 80 in three of his last four as well.

Start These Running Backs:

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo (at San Diego)
The former Clemson dynamo is finally proving to be useful. He has 39 touches in two games as the starter for 172 yards against two quality defenses (NYJ, TEN). He also scored for the first time since Week 1. He should get 12-17 carries and 3-6 receptions and around 100 yards from scrimmage in what could be a high-scoring game.

Toby Gerhart, Minnesota (at Detroit)
If All-Day doesn’t play, Gerhart is your man. The Lions have been missing a few pieces along the defensive line and have struggled against the run — and Gerhart is likely the Vikings' only hope to keep this one close. The former Heisman runner-up had his best career game last weekend: 21 carries, eight receptions and 133 yards from scrimmage.

Deep Sleepers:

Ricky Williams, Baltimore (Indianapolis)
No one has allowed more rushing scores (17) than the Colts, and Baltimore is clearly looking to run their way to a No. 1 seed. The Ravens ran 55 times for 290 yards last weekend and will get both Rice and Williams plenty of touches this weekend.

Brandon Saine, Green Bay (Oakland)
James Starks is likely to be out this weekend, and Saine brings a totally different skill set to the table than Ryan Grant. Saine is an excellent receiver and should get 8-12 touches in garbage time this weekend.

Bench These Running Backs:

Beanie Wells, Arizona (San Francisco)
Just because Patrick Willis is out of the Niners lineup, that doesn’t mean that Wells should be in yours. This is a “Next Man Up” type of team, and the top-rated rush defense will still be nasty this weekend. The 49ers still have yet to allow a rushing touchdown all season and are down to 71.8 yards allowed per game (1st in NFL).

Donald Brown, Indianapolis (at Baltimore)
It only took him three years, but the former first-round pick is finally living up to the hype. I just can’t buy into it this weekend. Baltimore is No. 2 in the league against the run at 88.8 yards per game, and the Ravens will control the clock like they did last week (55 hand-offs).

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (Houston)
The Texans have not allowed a rushing touchdown to a running back since Week 8 and have allowed only two players to top the century mark all season. Benson is what he is: He performs well when he should (Cleveland, Buffalo, Indianapolis) and struggles when he should (Pittsburgh twice, San Francisco). Houston is good.

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (at Jacksonville)
Against a terrible rushing defense, Blount dropped arguably the most head-scratching, gut-wrenching fantasy performance of the season on owners last weekend. His 11 total touches and 19 total yards were a massive disappointment. I don’t care who he plays, that performance was unforgivable. And the Jags aren’t all that terrible against the run: 11th at 4.1 yards per carry and 14th in yards allowed (111.6 per game).

Start These Wide Receivers:

Nate Burleson, Detroit (Minnesota)
Quick, which Lions wideout has scored the most fantasy points over the last month? It ain’t Megatron. Burleson is No. 12 in fantasy over the last four weeks with 25 catches, 278 yards and one score. And the Lions should have their way against the Vikes.

Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (at San Diego)
Without Fred Jackson to take 25 touches per game, Johnson has flourished on the fantasy gridiron. In fact, Brad Smith deserves a look this weekend as well. Ryan Fitzpatrick will need to throw to keep pace with the Chargers — who won’t be slowed by a Bills defense that has allowed over 30 points per game during the five-game losing streak.

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco (at Arizona)
Crabs is rated as the No. 16 receiver in fantasy over the last month and has had at least five receptions in five of his last seven games. He is averaging 90 yards per game over his last three and should get plenty of targets against the 25th-rated pass defense.

Damian Williams, Tennessee (New Orleans)
With Nate Washington potentially sitting on the bench, Williams figures to be the top target of Matt Hasselbeck. And the Titans will have to throw to keep up with the high-flying Saints. As the No. 26 fantasy WR over the last month, Williams is already nearing WR2 status as it is.

Lowered Expectations:

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (at NY Jets)
Revis Island strikes again. And with Kyle Orton still dealing with dislocated digits, it looks like Tyler Palko will still be the one trying to throw the ball for Kansas City. This isn’t a good sign.

Percy Harvin, Minnesota (at Detroit)
This one carries with it a very large “IF.” If Christian Ponder does not play — and it is Joe Webb under center — then downgrade Harvin significantly. He has been crushing defenses lately with Ponder, so ignore this IF the rookie is on the field.

Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis (at Baltimore)
The Ravens have allowed just seven touchdowns to opposing receivers all season, and prior to his big Week 13 showing against the worst secondary in the NFL, Garcon had been coming up short: 9 rec., 86 yards, 0 TD in three games.

Eric Decker, Denver (Chicago)
You cannot ignore the four touchdowns in six games, but you can’t ignore the nine total receptions over the last five games. Tim Tebow isn’t throwing much, and it appears that Demaryius Thomas (and his vastly superior physical ability) has caught the eye of the quarterback when he does throw. Play at your own risk against a stingy Bears defense

<p> NFL Fantasy Football Start and Sit: Week 14</p>
Post date: Friday, December 9, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/keith-marshall-commits-georgia-pros-and-cons

-by Braden Gall (follow him at )

The nation's No. 1 running back in the has committed to the Georgia Bulldogs.

Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook tailback has decided to take his talents to Athens over finalists Florida, South Carolina, Clemson and Notre Dame. Mark Richt has landed the 5-foot-11, 180 pounder one year after landing the nation's No. 2 running back Isaiah Crowell — who had an excellent season as a freshman this year.

Marshall is the nation's No. 6 overall player regardless of position and recently jumped Aledo (Texas) running back Jonathan Gray as America's top ball carrier. Three of the six major recruiting services have Marshall ranked in the top ten nationally while thinks the most of Marshall as it ranked him as the fifth best prospect in the nation.

How the experts rank him nationally:

Rivals: No. 31 (No. 1 All-Purpose RB)
Scout: No. 5 (No. 1 RB)
ESPN: No. 6, (No. 2 RB)
24/7 Sports: No. 12 (No. 1 RB)
Offense-Defense: No. 8 (No. 2 RB)
NCSA: No. 12 (No. 1 RB)

He has excellent bloodlines and an NFL pedigree as his father, Warren Marshall, was drafted and had a cup of coffee with the Denver Broncos. His father played at James Madison.

As a sophomore, Marshall rushed for 1,166 yards and 12 touchdowns to go with 238 yards receiving and two more scores in 10 games. As a junior, he rushed for 1,550 yards and 17 touchdowns. Marshall is expected to enroll early with the Bulldogs and should compliment Crowell nicely with his big play ability. Aaron Murray has to be pleased with the young talent growing around him.

Marshall is the third , and second top ten prospect in the nation, for the Bulldogs. Georgia also has committed AC100 No. 8 Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles offensive lineman and AC100 No. 38 Millen (Ga.) Jenkins County defensive tackle .

Here is Athlon's scouting report on Keith Marshall, the nation's No. 1 running back prospect:

PROS: Marshall is a slightly bigger version of former Ole Miss athlete and current Kansas City Cheif Dexter McCluster. He has exceptional burst, acceleration, top end speed and cutting ability. His ability to stop and start is among the best in the nation as he loses very little speed when changing direction. He has great vision and if he finds a crease, he will take it to the house. He can score from anywhere on the field. He uses an unbelievable jump-cut to make defenders look foolish in the open field and rarely takes the big hit squarely. He has quality receiving skills and will be an asset in the passing game.

CONS: Like McCluster, his size and power are questionable. He has a low center of gravity and isn’t afraid to run between the tackles, but he looks smaller than he is listed and questions remain if he can handle the workload of a three-down back. This may only affect him on the NFL level, however, as his speed will be game-changing on the college level.

<p> Keith Marshall Commits to Georgia: Pros and Cons</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 12:17
Path: /college-football/larry-fedora-grading-north-carolina-hire


has named its next head football coach. In July of this year, we on the situation at UNC and named a few names for who we thought might be solid replacements for

Larry Fedora was not on our list.

Fedora will take over a UNC program that we believe is a sleeping giant of a program. Since 2002, the Tar Heels have had an average recruiting ranking of 22.20 (only and have had better talent since 2002 in the ACC) and certainly have the name recognition, local talent base, and resources to compete for ACC Championships.

However, when we refer to UNC being a sleeping giant, it's important to remember that someone has to wake them up from their sleeping state. Over the last eleven seasons, the Tar Heels have had five losing seasons, lost at least five games in each and every year, never won their side of the ACC or competed for a conference championship, and have not finished a single season ranked in the AP Top 25. Don't forget that UNC was doing (or not doing) all of this with top 25 talent. So, is Larry Fedora the right man to wake UNC from its slumber? Below is our analysis of the hire:

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- Hiring Summary

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  • Fedora is no stranger to putting up impressive offensive numbers. From 2001-Present as both an offensive coordinator and head coach, Larry Fedora's teams have finished the season in the top 25 in scoring offense in seven of his eleven years on the sidline. In his four years at the helm of Southern Miss, Fedora's teams have scored 30 or more points 63.46% of the time. Among active head coaches with three years minimum experience, only eight head coaches have scored 30 or more points a higher percentage of the time.
  • As a head coach or coordinator since 2001, Fedora has only been involved in one losing season. Over the last two years, Fedora has won 73.08% of his overall games, 70.59% of his conference games, and a Conference USA Championship.
  • Fedora has coached at major programs such as Florida and Oklahoma State and is certainly familiar with what it takes to coach at the highest levels of college football.
  • He wears a visor with more style than Chip Kelly.
  • Although Fedora has only been involved with one losing season since 2001, he has also only been involved with two teams that didn't lose at least five games.
  • In the five years prior to taking over the Southern Miss program, the Golden Eagles won nine games twice and 60.94% of their overall games. Even including Fedora's 11-2 2011 season, he has only won 63.46% of his games at Southern Miss. Prior to the 2011 season, most folks would have been closer to putting Larry Fedora on a hot seat than on a pedestal.
  • As a head coach, Larry Fedora has been involved in 23 games decided by seven points or less. Coach Fedora has won 39.13% (9) of these games.
  • At Southern Miss, Fedora has played 30 of his 49 games with superior talent. Of these 30 games played with superior talent, Fedora has a winning percentage of just 63.33% (19-11). For comparison, from 2004-2007, former Golden Eagles head coach won 78.57% (11-3) of the games he coached with superior talent. One of the biggest issues UNC has had over the years is not winning enough of the games that they should have won. It appears they may have hired someone with this same problem.
  • Coach Fedora has a losing record (6-8) against teams finishing the season over .500.
  • Larry Fedoora lost three straight years to a program that has won just 30% of its games over the last five years. In fact, 25% of UAB's win over the last three years have come against Larry Fedora.
  • The last time we checked, the Ron Zook coaching tree was shaking off many fruitful branches as far as head coaches go.
  • What will Larry Fedora's staff look like at UNC. In Fedora's first two years at Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles went 14-12 and averaged 31.77 points per game. In the last two years with taking over as the offensive coordinator and assuming a lot of the play calling duties, the Golden Eagles went 19-7 and averaged 37.35 points per game. If we were UNC fans, we would be hoping Coach Anderson is also looking for a house in Chapel Hill.
CBTN Conclusion

WYSIATI is an acronym used sometimes by psychologist to refer to an error the human brain makes when making certain decisions. The acronym stands for What You See Is All There Is. The idea behind WYSIATI is simple and is very much in line with what radio host Colin Cowherd refers to as the "Prisoners of the Moment."

Far too often, we simply see what is in front of our face and conclude "that is all there is." For example, Larry Fedora's team went 11-2 this year and won their conference championship. WYSIATI and Larry Fedora should be a candidate for every major head coaching job in college football, right?

Wrong. At least for now.

As we have pointed out in this analysis, sometimes you have to look beyond what is in front of your face to see the bigger picture. Was Larry Fedora's name being thrown around last year for major (or even minor) coaching vacancies? If not, you may want to ask why? We like Larry Fedora and applaud his 2011 season. He might be the next great head coach in college football. However, it is our belief that we should let him have back-to-back good seasons before offering him jobs like North Carolina.

If you are going to talk about Fedora's great 2011 season, you also have to talk about the three years prior to 2011 when Fedora underachieved as a head coach or his losing record against over .500 teams or his 1-3 record against UAB or his underwhelming winning percentage with superior talent.

Some folks may be asking how we could not think Larry Fedora should get the head coaching at a school like UNC but that an unproven offensive coordinator like should? Our answer is simple: we like the unproven head coaching upside of Gus Malzahn better than the proven reality of Larry Fedora's head coaching career.

From our standpoint, Larry Fedora has shown that he can score points. However, he has also shown an ability to underachieve as both a coordinator and head coach and lose far too many games he has no business losing. New UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cummingham is taking the risk that what he saw in Fedora in 2011 is all there is. In the end, he may be rewarded for taking this risk. For us, the numbers simply weren't there when we looked at the bigger picture to warrant Larry Fedora landing one of the better jobs in the ACC.

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Hire Grade


<p> Larry Fedora: Grading the North Carolina Hire</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 11:33
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/robert-griffin-iii-win-heisman-over-andrew-luck

-by Braden Gall ( on twitter)

Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of . In Athlon Sports' final Heisman ballot of 2011, the nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus will vote for the five finalists — even if we do disagree with some of the names headed to New York.

Note: A first place vote earns a player five points. A second place votes earns four points - so on and so forth until the fifth place vote receives one point.

Three of the five finalists received at least two first-place votes, futher illustrating just how close this year's balloting could turn out. Stanford's Andrew Luck is college football's most talented player and will be selected No. 1 overall by any NFL front office lucky enough to pick first. Alabama's Trent Richardson is the nation's most talented running back for what could be considered the nation's best team. Baylor's Robert Griffin III is the nation's most valuable player and has taken the Bears to levels they have not reached in three decades. Wisconsin's Montee Ball is producing at an unprecedented level on the Big Ten championship squad. And LSU's Tyrann Mathieu made flashy plays all season long for the BCS' No. 1 team.

So without further ado, Athlon Sports' 2011 Heisman Trophy winner is...

1. Robert Griffin III, QB, (39/45, 5 first place)
Stats: 267/369, 3,998 yards, 36 TD, 6 INT, 161 att., 644 yards, 9 TD

The Case: Griffin III is the most important, most indispensible player in all of college football. Baylor will play in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1991-1992 and has won nine games for the first time since 1986 . Griffin's 16 combined wins are the most in a two-year span for Baylor since '85-86. RG3 finished the regular season as the nation's most efficient passer at 192.31 with a chance to set the single-season NCAA efficiency mark (186.00). He was No. 2 in total offense (386.8 ypg) behind only Case Keenum. Baylor has beaten Texas twice since 1998 — both times under the leadership of Griffin III. The school's first-ever win over Oklahoma took place three weeks ago. Additionally, the first wins over TCU and Texas Tech since 1995 took place this season, and two of the program's four wins over Missouri have come under RG3 the last two years. Griffin III posted nine 300-yard passing games and threw an interception only once every 62 pass attempts. At 22.7 points per game, Griffin III led the nation in points responsible for in 2011. The Baylor quarterback landed five of the possible nine first place votes from Athlon.

2. Andrew Luck, QB, (36/45, 2 first place)
Stats: 261/373, 3,170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT, 43 att., 153 yards, 2 TD

The Case: Luck is best amateur football player on the planet. The NFL scouts will be sure to confirm that when he is selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. His overall blend of size, athleticism, accuracy, football IQ and work ethic makes him the most gifted athlete in the college game today. He has won 23 of his last 25 games and finished 2011 as the nation's No. 5-rated passer (167.5). Luck's 35 touchdown passes were fourth nationally, and his 18.8 points responsible for were sixth-best nationally. And he did it with very little talent on the outside of the offense — no Stanford Cardinal ranked in the top-15 in the Pac-12 in receptions per game, and only Griff Whalen (55.3 ypg) ranked in the top 15 in receiving yards in the league.

3. Trent Richardson, RB, (28/45, 2 first place)
Stats: 263 att., 1,583 yards, 20 TD, 27 rec., 327 yards, 3 TD

The Case: Richardson was the offensive catalyst for what many believe could be the best team in the nation. He led the SEC in rushing yards and yards per game (131.9) — which was good for fifth nationally. His 20 rushing touchdowns mark the first time an SEC running back has ever reached 20 in a single season, and he appeared to be the best player on the field in the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU (28 touches, 169 yards from scrimmage). T-Rich had nine 100-yard games and likely would have won this award had his team beaten the Tigers on November 5 — and had the extra game to play on the final weekend.

4. Montee Ball, RB, (22/45, 0 first place)
Stats: 275 att., 1,759 yards, 32 TD, 20 rec., 255 yards, 6 TD, 2/2, 57 yards, TD

The Case: The argument for Ball is very simple: He was statistically the nation's best player on the Big Ten championship team. He led the nation in scoring with 38 touchdowns (and one TD pass) and led the nation in rushing. He posted nine 100-yard games, and his 38 trips to paydirt rank No. 2 all-time for a single season behind only Barry Sanders' 39 (which is really 44, counting the bowl game). He even completed both of his pass attempts. The Badgers ball carrier scored at least three touchdowns in eight games this season and was the only running back (No. 7) ranked in the top 30 nationally in points responsible for — the other 29 were quarterbacks. In 297 touches, Ball fumbled only once — which was recovered by Wisconsin.

5. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, (10/45, 0 first place)
Stats: 70 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1.5 sacks, 6 FF, 4 FR, 2 DEF TD, 26 PR, 420 yards, 2 TD

The Case: By far the biggest reach on this list, the Honey Badger's trip to New York is more a function of his high-profile position as a return man (and nickname), plus the fact that he plays for the nation's top-rated team. He scored four touchdowns without touching the ball on offense and was involved in 10 different fumbles. As a return man, he finished No. 2 in the nation in punt returns at 16.2 yards per return. He was not nearly the game-changer people believe, however, as his two punt return touchdowns came in 24- and 32-point victories while his touchdown against Kentucky was a small part of the 28-point win. He was suspended for the Auburn game (a 45-10 win) and might not be the best cornerback on his own team — which is why he was picked last of the five finalists by eight of our nine voters. He is an electric athlete who makes big plays, but it would shock the nation if he won this award.

How the voting turned out:

  Name Pos. Team Pts (of 45) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 39 5 2 2 - -
2. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 36 2 5 2 - -
3. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 28 2 1 2 4 -
4. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 22 - 1 3 4 1
5. Tyrann Mathieu DB LSU 10 - - - 1 8

Names who got left out:

Matt Barkley, QB, (10-2)
Stats: 308/446, 3,528 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT, 28 att., 14 yards, 2 TD

Russell Wilson, QB, (11-2)
Stats: 206/284, 2,879 yards, 31 TD, 3 INT, 73 att., 320 yards, 5 TD, 3 rec., 56 yards, TD

Brandon Weeden, QB, (11-1)
Stats: 379/522, 4,328 yards, 34 TD, 12 INT, 15 att., minus-95 yards

Kellen Moore, QB, (11-1)
Stats: 300/405, 3,507 yards, 41 TD, 7 INT, 19 att., minus-65 yards

LaMichael James, RB, (11-2)
Stats: 222 car., 1,646 yards, 17 TD, 17 rec., 210 yards, 1 TD, 12 PR, 135 yards, TD

Case Keenum, QB, (12-1)
Stats: 383/534, 5,099 yards, 45 TD, 5 INT, 50 att., 25 yards, 3 TD

Collin Klein, QB, (10-2)
Stats: 145/251, 1,745 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT, 293 att., 1,099 yards, 26 TD

Denard Robinson, QB, (10-2)
Stats: 133/237, 2,056 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT, 208 att., 1,163 yards, 16 TD

Bobby Rainey, RB,  (7-5)
Stats: 369 car., 1,695 yards, 13 TD, 36 rec., 361 yards, 4 TD

Previous Voting:

<p> The Athlon editors cast their final ballots for the 2011 Heisman Trophy.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/greatest-sugar-bowl-performances-bcs-era

-by Mitch Light (follow at )

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top Sugar Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Brian Johnson, QB, Utah, 2009
In one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Sugar Bowl, Utah rolled past Alabama, 31–17, with surprising ease. Johnson, a senior quarterback, completed 27-of-41 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns as the Utes completed a season with a perfect record for the second time in five years. Utah finished 2008 with an undefeated 13-0 record.

4. Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia, 2006
West Virginia, from the lightly regarded Big East, surprised favored Georgia with its speed as the Mountaineers outlasted the Bulldogs, 38–35, in Sugar Bowl that was moved to Atlanta in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Slaton, WVU’s diminutive tailback, led the way with 201 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 26 carries. The Mountaineers finished 11-1 after the win.

Or his second touchdown run...

3. Josh Reed, WR, LSU, 2002
Reed set Sugar Bowl records with 14 receptions and 239 yards receiving to lead LSU past Illinois, 47–34, in the highest-scoring Sugar Bowl in history. Reed also added two touchdown catches from quarterback Rohan Davey, who set a Sugar Bowl record with 444 passing yards. LSU, the SEC Champions, finished the season 10-3.

2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida, 2010
Tebow was nearly flawless in his final game in a Florida uniform. The dual-threat quarterback completed 31-of-35 passes for 482 yards and added 51 yards rushing and another score in the Gators’ 51–24 victory over Big East champ Cincinnati. “They couldn't stop Superman,” Gators guard Carl Johnson said. “They needed some kryptonite.” After losing the SEC title game to Alabama, Florida uncorked its venegnce upon the poor Bearcats to finish the season 13-1.

1. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State, 2000
Weinke outdueled Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Michael Vick by passing for 329 yards and four touchdowns as the Seminoles topped the Hokies, 46–29, in the first Sugar Bowl of the new millennium. With the win, Florida State completed the first perfect season of Bobby Bowden’s career as a head coach and secured the Noles’ second national championship.

<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Sugar Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/greatest-orange-bowl-performances-bcs-era

-by Mitch Light (follow at )

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top Orange Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford, 2011
Quarterback Andrew Luck earned game MVP honors, but Fleener was unstoppable from his tight end position, catching six passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns as the Cardinal steamrolled Virginia Tech, 40–12. Fleener scored on plays of 41 yards, 58 yards and 38 yards as Stanford imposed its will on the Hokies in the final 20 minutes of the game.

4. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa, 2009
Clayborn was sensational for an Iowa defense that shut down Georgia Tech’s feared option attack in the Hawkeyes’ 24–14 win. Clayborn recorded 11 tackles, including two sacks, as Iowa held the Yellow Jackets to a season-low 175 yards, almost 270 below their season average.

3. Tom Brady, QB, Michigan, 2000
Michigan outdueled Alabama, 35–34 in overtime, in a matchup between two of the most storied programs in college football. Tom Brady led the Michigan attack with an Orange Bowl record 369 yards passing and added a career-best four touchdowns in his final game in Maize & Blue. The Wolverines overcame two 14-point deficits on their way to the first overtime win in school history.

2. Torrance Marshall, LB, Oklahoma, 2001
It was only fitting that a defensive player was named the MVP of the lowest-scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Marshall, a senior linebacker, recorded six tackles and intercepted a pass to lead Oklahoma to a 13–2 win over Florida State to secure the first national title for the Sooners since 1985.

1. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, 2005
The Trojans staked a claim to their second straight national title with a surprisingly easy 55–19 win over No. 2 Oklahoma. Leinart completed 18-of-35 passes for 332 yards and tossed an Orange Bowl record five touchdowns without throwing an interception. Steve Smith was on the receiving end of three of Leinart’s TDs.

<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Orange Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 07:02
Path: /college-football/greatest-rose-bowl-performances-bcs-era

-by Mitch Light (follow at )

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top Rose Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Mark Sanchez, USC, 2009
Sanchez and the USC offense dominated Penn State, jumping out to an insurmountable 31–7 lead at the half en route to a 38–24 victory. Sanchez, in his final game with the Trojans, completed 28-of-35 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added a six-yard touchdown run in USC’s 24-point second quarter.

4. Andre Johnson, Miami (Fla.), 2002
Johnson hooked up with quarterback Ken Dorsey seven times for 199 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Hurricanes past overmatched Nebraska, 37–14, in the first Rose Bowl that served as the BCS National Championship game.

3. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, 1999/2000
Dayne and the Badgers played in back-to-back Rose Bowls to start the BCS and won both because of the former Heisman Trophy winner. Dayne rushed for a BCS bowl record 246 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-31 win over UCLA. Both records still stand today. A year later, Dayne rushed for 200 yards on a BCS bowl record 34 carries in the 17-9 win over Stanford. Dayne owns two of the four 200-yard BCS bowl rushing efforts in the 14-year history of the series (Steve Slaton, 204 yards, 2006 Sugar/Vince Young, 200 yards, 2006 Rose).

Here is another one from the Dayne Train:

2. Vince Young, Texas, 2005
Young burst onto the national scene with a breathtaking performance in Texas’ thrilling 38–37 win over Michigan on a perfect day at the Rose Bowl. A sophomore at the time, Young threw for 180 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 192 yards and four scores, including two in the fourth quarter as the Longhorns battled back from a 10-point deficit.

1. Vince Young, Texas, 2006
Young was brilliant in the final game of his career, setting a Rose Bowl record with 467 yards of total offense to lead Texas to a 41–38 victory over favored USC to claim the school’s first national title since 1970. Young completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards but is remembered more for his work on the ground. He carried the ball 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a nine-yard run on 4th down to give Texas the lead with 19 seconds remaining.

<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Rose Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-weird-awards

-by Braden Gall (follow on twitter )

Athlon Sports recognizes some of the best, worst, most unfortunate, bizarre and confusing teams, players and statistics of the 2011 season:

The Boy Named Sue Award: Collin Klein, Kansas State

"Son, this world is rough. And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough." Klein personifies this legendary Johnny Cash song. Kansas State hadn't won more than seven games since 2003, but behind Klein's bloody, gritty performances, the Wildcats are playing in the Cotton Bowl and have 10 wins. Klein finished third in the nation in scoring at 13.0 points per game — and just so everyone knows, passing touchdowns don't count towards scoring. His 26 rushing touchdowns are the second-highest total by a quarterback in history (Ricky Dobbs, 27). If it were not "For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye," Kansas State would have been just another 6-6 mediocre bowl team.

The 5th Down Trophy: USC Trojans

The Missouri Tigers got arguably in NCAA history, and it led to a national title for the Colorado Buffaloes. The Trojans lost to Stanford by one score in triple overtime and beat Oregon in Eugene, but never got a chance to prove that they were the best team in the league. This is possibly the best passing attack in the history of USC football. The Trojans led the nation in fewest sacks allowed with eight total surrendered all season. Matt Barkley's 39 passing touchdowns are a single-season school record, and Robert Woods' 111 receptions are not only a school record but a Pac-12 single-season record. The NCAA penalized the Trojans hard, but should have allowed for postseason play in 2011. The west coast's version of the rematch should have taken place over the weekend — in Los Angeles this time — and maybe the Trojans would be facing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

The “Sacko” Master: Pitt Panthers

Named for the last-place finisher in FX’s fantastically disgusting series “The League,” where the Sacko trophy was awarded to Dr. Andre Nowzik for finishing last in his fantasy league. College football's version of The Sacko has only one home: the Pitt Panthers. Todd Graham knows how to score points but apparently doesn’t know how to keep his quarterback upright. At 4.75 sacks allowed per game, the Panthers were nearly one full sack allowed per game worse than the 119th-ranked team (Miami, Ohio at 3.92). Pitt was sacked 57 times in 12 games for a nation-worst 368 lost yards.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Award: Oklahoma State and Wisconsin

We have a split in the voting for this one. Had Oklahoma State not turned the ball over five times in a primetime overtime road loss to 6-6 Iowa State (following the tragic plane crash), the Pokes would be playing for a national title. The Cowboys finshed the season ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring at 49.3 points per game and 386.3 yards per game in passing. They beat eight bowl teams this fall.

Wisconsin led the Big Ten in scoring for the third straight season, and Russell Wilson is poised to have the most efficient season in NCAA history (191.6) if he can play another quality game in the Rose Bowl. Montee Ball has scored 38 touchdowns and is one away from another NCAA single-season record. His 1,759 yards lead the nation. However, the records, second straight Big Ten title and Rose Bowl might not help Badger faithful forget about two last-minute scoring throws that beat UW against Michigan State and Ohio State. Without those two passes, the Badgers are likely playing in the BCS national title game.

The Choking Tiger, Hidden Dabo Trophy: Clemson Tigers

First of all, the Clemson Tigers deserve all the credit for beating Virginia Tech in what was their best perfomance in over a month. However, the Tigers started 8-0, and had they not Clemson-ed their way to a 1-3 regular-season finish, might also be playing in the national title game. The Tigers were ranked No. 1 in ACC in total offense (482.5 ypg) and scoring offense (40.7 ppg) and were No. 12 nationally in turnover margin and No. 2 in the ACC (+1.13) after eight games. In four games to end the season, Clemson committed 12 turnovers in four games (1-3), were outscored 130-74 and lost by an average of 19.7 point per game to three teams that combined for 11 losses. Getting run off the field by in-state rival South Carolina, giving the Cocks three straight wins over Clemson, certainly left a bitter taste. The Tigers finished last in the ACC against the run, eighth in total defense and ninth in scoring defense. The same Clemson team that stomped a very good Hokie team 38-10 should not have been embarrassed by NC State, Georgia Tech or South Carolina. 

The Silver Slugger: Ohio State, Arizona, Washington State

There are plenty of quality jobs open in college football this year, but I am not sure anyone at Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Arizona State, UCLA, North Carolina or Illinois could hit a home run like Ohio State, Arizona and Washington State have done. These three programs hired three head coaches who have a combined career record of 263 wins and 114 losses to go with 14 bowl wins. Mike Leach (84-43) and Rich Rodriguez (75-48) will easily recruit the speedy, talented skill players needed to fuel their high-octane spread attacks. With Chip Kelly, Lane Kiffin, Jeff Tedford and Steve Sarkisian already calling plays in the league, west coast defensive coordinators are in for plenty of sleepless nights.

Urban Meyer (104-23) and Ohio State, who ironically will be facing the Florida Gators in the Gator Bowl, will return basically the entire defense and quarterback Braxton Miller. The Ohio State Buckeyes are the very early favorites to win the 2012 Leaders Division title. Needless to say, these three athletic departments hit massive, towering home run shots with their new head coaches.

The Little Engine That Could: Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers started the season 0-4. It was going to be just another season in the FBS's newest team's eternal struggles. Yet, behind the running of the 5-foot-8 Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky has had its best season since it joined the FBS. The Toppers finished 7-1 in conference play with the one loss coming against Sun Belt champion Arkansas State. Rainey's 1,695 yards are No. 2 nationally behind Ball's 1,759, and he's posted his second straight 1,600-yard season. Western got snubbed in the bowl process and won't be playing in the postseason, but Willie Taggart deserves loads of credit for a 7-5 season. In two full seasons and one transitional year prior to 2011, WKU was an overall 4-32.

The Halftime Speech Award: Texas A&M Aggies

The Texas A&M Aggies had high preseason expectations and were expected to challenge the Oklahoma schools for a Big 12 title. And at halftime, TAMU was poised to win every game it played. Mike Sherman, who is no longer employed by the university, led his team to an average halftime lead of 14.6 points per game. The Aggies had at least a nine-point lead in 10 of 12 games and trailed only once all season at halftime (Oklahoma by 3). But Sherman's bunch allowed an average of 18.2 points per game after the break and were outscored 218-173 in the second half. Texas A&M lost to Oklahoma State, Missouri and Texas at home, Oklahoma and Kansas State on the road and Arkansas in Arlington. And now it appears the entire athletic department could be looking for work.

Mailed It In Medal: Mack Brown, Texas

In an effort to make drastic changes, Brown hired new coordinators Manny Diaz and Bryan Harsin. It didn't work. According to recruiting rankings, the Texas Longhorns have arguably the best collection of talent in the league. Here are the last four years of Texas' recruiting rankings:

2008: 2nd Big 12, 11th nationally
2009: 1st Big 12, 5th nationally
2010: 1st Big 12, 3rd nationally
2011: 1st Big 12, 2nd nationally

Texas is 12-12 over the last two seasons with the "best" roster in the Big 12. Last season, the Horns finished 88th in the nation in scoring, 66th in the nation in rushing, 116th in turnover margin and 58th in total offense. This year, the Horns finished 90th in turnover margin, 85th in passing offense, 88th in passer efficiency and eighth in the league in scoring. There is no lack of talent in the rest of the conference, and quarterback issues have clearly taken a toll on Burnt Orange nation. However, there is absolutely no excuse for the Longhorns to have 12 wins in two years with that roster. And the blame has to go directly to the top.

Deflated Balloon Prize: Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Texas Tech Red Raiders beat Oklahoma 41-38 on October 22 and were 5-2 on the season. Since that road win over the No. 1 Sooners, Texas Tech has lost five straight games by a combined 256-102, an average of 30.8 points per game. Tech finished 120th in the nation in rushing defense at 258.8 yards per game allowed, 115th in total defense, 117th in scoring defense and 101st in sacks. Clearly, Tommy Tuberville allowed the air to escape from the balloon following the signature win over Oklahoma.

Worst Team in the Nation: New Mexico Lobos

The NCAA officially tracks 17 major football statistics for all 120 teams in the nation. New Mexico, who finished 1-11 and fired head coach Mike Locksley, is ranked 100 or worse in 13 of those 17 stats. The Lobos finished last in the nation in scoring offense at 12 points per game and last in pass efficiency defense. They finished 119th in rushing defense at 246.9 yards per game, 119th in scoring defense at 41.7 points per game and 119th in punt returns at 1.33 yards per return. New Mexico lost by an average of 33 points per game (486-123) in their 11 losses. They were shut out three times and scored seven points or less in six games. Good luck, Bob Davie.

The Holiday Spirit Award: Akron Zips

Akron struggled under Rob Ianello. There is no doubt. So after a second straight 1-11 season and a winless league record, it is understandable that Akron athletic director Tom Wistrcill would be looking to make a move. However, he could have had some class about it. Akron informed Ianello that he would no longer be the head coach of the Zips while he was en route to his mother's funeral. His mother, Rita, passed away on a Tuesday, and the family was traveling to eastern New York for the funeral when Ianello received word that he was fired the following Saturday. There is never a good time to hand out pink slips, but it could have been in a more appropriate manner. You stay classy, Akron.

The Hand That Fed You Trophy: Air Force Falcons

The Air Force Falcons finished No. 2 in the nation in rushing at 320.3 yards per game. However, Troy Calhoun's bunch clearly didn't learn much in practice about stopping the run. The Falcons finished 113th in the nation in rushing defense at 227.8 yards allowed per game. The seven wins are the lowest total of the Calhoun era, as the Falcons surrendered 266 yards rushing to Notre Dame, 212 to Wyoming, 204 to TCU, 201 to San Diego State and 142 to Boise State — all losses.

Take the Over: Baylor Bears

Robert Griffin III could be the Heisman winner and the nation's most efficient passer (192.31), but he didn't get any help from his defense. Baylor was No. 6 in the nation in scoring at 43.5 points per game on offense. However, the 9-3 Bears were 109th in scoring defense at 35.7 points allowed per game. In their three losses (Kansas State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State), Baylor allowed 50 points per game.

Against the Spread Trophy: Houston, Stanford, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech

These four teams led the nation against the spread in 2011 with a 10-2 record against the mark. Central Michigan finished with the worst record against the number at 1-11 this fall.

<p> Athlon Sports recognizes some of the best, worst, most unfortunate, bizarre and confusing teams, players and statistics of the 2011 season.</p>
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2011 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-championship-saturday

-by Braden Gall ( on twitter)

The season is basically over. With the possible exception of The Bedlam Series, there is very little on the line this weekend. Six of the eleven conferences have concluded play and have only a champion to crown. The national title game is basically set, despite the LSU-Georgia battle in The Dome. And my 2011 "gambling" season has come to an end. My holiday weekend got started right with a tasty 3-0 Black Friday, but I wrapped up my final weekend with a 3-4 Saturday afternoon.

I picked 133 games against the spread this season and finished 26 games up. So if you laid $100 — for entertainment purposes only, of course — on every game I picked you would have made roughly $2,600 for the season (minus the juice). But just because I cannot leave you hanging with a pseudo-week of action still taking place, I will go ahead and pick the conference championship games. Consider it an early Xmas present.

Final 2011 Season Record ATS: 78-52-3 (6-4 last week)

Bonus Championship Picks:

UCLA (+31.5) at Oregon (Eugene, Friday, 8 PM ET)
Poor Slick Rick. The UCLA Bruins are currently looking for a new head coach after a 50-0 loss to rival USC. Oregon beat the Bruins 60-13 the last time they visited Eugene in 2010, and this edition shouldn't be much different. My Pick: Oregon -31.5

Ohio (+3.5) vs Northern Illinois (Detroit, Friday, 7 PM ET)
The Bobcats have won five straight games and the Huskies have won seven straight, so both teams are confident entering Ford Field. Chandler Harnish leads one of the nation's most dynamic offensive attacks — ranking in the top ten nationally in rushing and total offense. Ohio ranks near the bottom of the MAC in nearly every offensive category. My Pick: Northern Illinois -3.5

Southern Miss (+13) at Houston (Saturday, 12 PM ET)
Houston boasts the best record in the nation against the spread this season at 10-2. With a cover, they would post the best mark ATS of anyone (since the other 10-2 teams are done playing). The Cougars are rolling, are at home and have a trip to the BCS on the line. My Pick: Houston -13

LSU (-14) vs Georgia (Atlanta, Saturday, 4 PM ET)
The Georgia Bulldogs have won ten straight games and are playing for their BCS bowl lives. LSU is playing for...nothing? It is believed that even with a loss to UGA, the LSU Tigers are locked into the BCS title game. I will take LSU to win, but there is no way they aren't looking ahead with nothing really to play for. My Pick: Georgia +14

Virginia Tech (-7) vs Clemson (Charlotte, Saturday, 8 PM ET)
Clemson handled the Hokies when these two got together earlier this season in Blacksburg. The Tigers have been manhandled by Georgia Tech, NC State and South Carolina since. The Hokies simply continue to be one of the nation's best second half teams and have not lost an ACC game in the state of North Carolina in 14 tries. My Pick: Virginia Tech -7

Oklahoma (+3) at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)
The Cowboys have a very small outside shot at landing in the BCS national title game with a convincing win. A BCS bowl is on the line for both, but there is more at stake for little brother. The emotion of the night, the home crowd and some extra motivation give the Pokes their first win over big brother since 2002. My Pick: Oklahoma State -3

Michigan State (+9.5) vs Wisconsin (Indianapolis, Saturday, 8:15 PM ET)
The MSU-UW rivarly has been elevated in recent years as both programs have been competing for conference titles of late. And with the Michigan State Miracle earlier this season, fans can bet the Badgers will be ready. However, as a big underdog, Mark Dantonio will have his Spartans ready for battle. Wisconsin is the best team in the league and should win, but Sparty will keep it very close (if not pull the upset). My Pick: Michigan State +9.5

2011 Top Teams ATS:

Houston (10-2)
Louisiana Tech (10-2)
Stanford (10-2)
Western Kentucky (10-2)
Arkansas State (9-2)*
Kansas State (9-2)*
LSU  (9-3)
Vanderbilt (9-3)
Georgia (8-3-1)
USC (8-3-1)
Oklahoma State (8-3)*
Alabama (8-4)
UL Lafaytette (8-4)
Michigan (8-4)
Michigan State (8-4)
Rutgers (8-4)
Temple (8-4)
Western Michigan (8-4)

2011 Bottom Teams ATS:

Central Michigan (1-11)
Maryland (2-10)
Texas A&M (3-9)
Mississippi (3-9)
Colorado State (3-8)*
Florida Atlantic (3-8)*
Middle Tennessee (3-8)*
Troy (3-8)*
Syracuse (3-8)*
Akron (3-8-1)
Penn State (3-8-1)
Hawaii (3-8-1)
Colorado (4-9)
Auburn (4-8)
Florida (4-8)
SMU (4-8)
Virginia Tech (4-8)

* - one regular season game left to play

<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Friday, December 2, 2011 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-13

-by Braden Gall ( on twitter)

Start These Quarterbacks:

Eli Manning, NY Giants (Green Bay)
The NFL’s second-worst pass defense has allowed six 300-yard efforts and seven multiple-touchdown games. And with the ability the Packers have to score points, Manning should have plenty of chances to chuck it around.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
The ground game should struggle again this weekend for the Steelers, and Big Ben will be the fantasy beneficiary. This offense has been built around the pass this season, and the big-play threats at wide receiver have been very productive.

Matt Moore, Miami (Oakland)
The Raiders have allowed at least two touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in four straight games. Moore has played well since being inserted into the lineup, throwing seven touchdowns (including two 3-TD games) over his last four starts. He is coming off a season-high 288 yards and should be able to produce against the struggling Raiders pass defense.

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (at Houston)
The Falcons passer has been one of fantasy’s top scorers over the last month and half. But against the stingy Texans, that will change. Only twice this season has a quarterback thrown for either more than one TD or 200 yards against the Texans' revamped defense. Wade Phillips is right at home managing half of a football team.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore (at Cleveland)
This one may look out of place with his track record against the Browns; however, the Ravens passer has been a fantasy lump of coal for most of the year, with one multi-TD game since Week 3. The passing game should be largely irrelevant in this one. Ray Rice should get plenty of touches against a Browns defense that hasn’t stopped the run of late.

Carson Palmer, Oakland (at Miami)
Tony Romo’s two scores aside, the Dolphins have been playing excellent football against opposing quarterbacks this month (2 TD, 6 INT in the last four games). And Palmer’s receiving corps looks to be depleted this weekend as Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford both could be out. He'll churn out some yards, but expect scoring to be at a premium.

Start These Running Backs:

Chris Johnson, Tennessee (at Buffalo)
CJ2K got his third-heaviest workload of the season last weekend and did not disappoint. Against the Bucs, Johnson had his best rushing performance of the season with 190 yards on 23 carries. The Bills are 28th in the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed with 12 and are 21st in the league in rush defense (123.8). The Bills are also allowing 33.5 points per game during their current four-game skid and surrendered 138 yards on 6.0 per carry last week to the Jets.

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (Carolina)
No team has allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Panthers' 15 thus far in 2011. They rank 28th in the NFL against the run at 137.5 yards per game, and Blount is playing the best football of his season. He has two straight 100-yard games and even got involved with the passing game last week against the Titans. Expect the Bucs to turn to the burly tailback once again this week.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England (Indianapolis)
Just when you had given up on the Lawfirm, he does something like score two touchdowns. Only six running backs have more than his seven rushing touchdowns this season, and the Colts should not be able to slow anyone on the Pats offense. Indy ranks 31st in the league against the run at 150.6 yards per game, and no one has allowed more rushing touchdowns than their 15.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego (at Jacksonvile)
When the Chargers give One-T Mathews the ball, he produces. He had a big outing last week against an improved Broncos team (142 yards from scrimmage), and the inconsistency of the passing game makes him a much more appealing option for Norv Turner.

Bench These Running Backs:

Steven Jackson, St. Louis (at San Francisco)
The story is pretty clear at this point. The 49ers still have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season and are leading the NFL in rushing defense at 75.5 yards per game. They held Ray Rice to 59 yards on 21 carries in last week’s loss to Baltimore (9.8 TFP in Athlon’s scoring system). I told you to bench Rice last week, and I have to do the same for Jackson, who has averaged 77.5 yards and 3.6 per carry against the Niners in 13 career games (5 TDs) again this week.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (at Pittsburgh)
The Steelers boast a top-five rush defense, and they held Benson to a 57-yard performance three weeks ago. In seven career games against Pittsburgh, the former Longhorn has averaged 45.0 yards per game, 3.4 yards per carry and has scored twice. The Curtain is fifth in the NFL with only six rushing touchdowns allowed this season, and I cannot see that trend changing this weekend.

Reshard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
Yes, he scored twice against the Bengals defense three weeks ago, but don’t expect a repeat. He carried 16 times for 44 yards — a paltry 2.8 ypc clip — in that game. And frankly, he just isn’t getting the ball as much as expected, with only one game of more than 20 carries for the entire season (23, Week 6). And the Bengals are sixth in the NFL against the run at 92.7 yards per game.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo (Tennessee)
The electric tailback got his first big chance at stardom last week and posted an uninspiring 70 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches against the Jets. The Titans are third in the NFL with five rushing touchdowns allowed, and this seems like a game that will be played through the air for the Bills.

Start These Wide Receivers:

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (New England)
The Colts should have to throw early and often. And they will get to do so against the worst pass defense in the league. And with Dan Orlovsky under center, Wayne has a chance. His 5-122-1 line last week was his best of the season. Look for more this weekend.

Eric Decker, Denver (at Minnesota)
The Vikings are just not the same without Antoine Winfield – one of the most underrated corners in NFL history. Despite the Mile High Messiah’s inability to complete the forward pass, Decker has still scored in four of five games. Get him in there.

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
The Steelers have been leaning much more on the passing game this season, and that trend should continue this weekend against a stingy rush defense. Without Leon Hall, the Bengals secondary has struggled to stop big-play wideouts, and Brown is getting tons of targets (46 in five games).

Nate Washington/Damian Williams, Tennessee (at Buffalo)
I had both Plaxico and Santonio on this list last week, and both reached paydirt against the Bills. The same could be the case for Matt Hasselbeck’s improving duo.

Lowered Expectations:

Percy Harvin, Minnesota (Denver)
The Broncos defense has done a complete 180 since the start of the season. They will be chasing Christian Ponder all game long, and Champ Bailey is back playing Champ-ionship football. Harvin and the rest of the Vikings will struggle.

Anquan Boldin, Baltimore (at Cleveland)
Joe Haden should be checking all day, and that does not bode well for the Ravens receiver. Additionally, the passing game should not be needed much in this one.

Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (Tennessee)
David Nelson gets the redzone looks, and Cortland Finnegan will be in his jersey all game long. Johnson cost his team a chance at the win last week, and one has to wonder if he is back in good graces yet — especially considering the offense’s struggles this month.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (at Chicago)
Kyle Orton took a lot of reps with the first team this week, and I reserve the right to upgrade the stud wideout should the Neckbeard start. But if Tyler Palko is under center, Bowe’s value is much lower against a team that will be pressuring whoever is playing quarterback. Oh, and he hasn’t scored in seven games.

<p> NFL Fantasy Football Start and Sit: Week 13</p>
Post date: Friday, December 2, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/dorial-green-beckham-nations-best-player

-by Braden Gall (follow him )

Athlon Sports 2012 recruiting ranking, the , was re-released today.

And there is no change at the top of the truest and most accurate Top 100 list in the nation. Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver remains the No. 1 player in the nation. He received two first-place votes (Rivals, NCSA), two second-place votes (Scout, 247Sports), a third (ESPN) and a fourth (Offense-Defense). While not all the experts agree he is the top player, one look at the numbers makes it is easy to see why the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder is Athlon’s No. 1 prospect once again.


After all, Green-Beckham is the nation’s all-time leading prep wide receiver.

The Calvin Johnson clone caught 119 passes for 2,233 yards — the fourth-highest total in history — and 24 touchdowns as a senior. In the process, his astounding 6,353 career receiving yards broke Shreveport (La.) Evangel Christian Abram Booty’s national record of 5,867 yards. His 300 career receptions rank fourth all-time behind Booty (302), Washington’s Cody Bruns (310) and Nitro’s (W.V.) Christopher Fulmer (329). His 75 career touchdowns rank third all-time in American high school football history behind Booty (83) and Prosser’s (Wash.) Kirby Moore (95).

Almost as remarkable as his statistics has been his recruitment process.

Green-Beckham has let his father and head coach do most of his talking throughout the process and has been playing his entire recruitment extremely close to the vest. The tight-lipped star has let little slip and has instead focused on his team’s successes. He is not only a gridiron monster but also stars on the basketball court as well as the Track and Field team.

He officially visited Texas on November 18 and is scheduled to take an official visit to Oklahoma on December 16. It is widely thought that Arkansas and Missouri will also figure prominently in his decision. If he does not land in Austin, it is reported that the distance from home will be the only reason. The offenses at both Oklahoma and Arkansas have to be appealing to his skills, and the move to the SEC might give the Tigers a slight bump — as could their recent history of elite pass-catchers.

The 2010 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year is a freakish blend of size, speed, hands, toughness and explosiveness. It is why Megatron comparisons are tossed around so liberally. With three months left in his recruitment, the only thing more exciting than a deep pass to DGB will be his announcement ceremony — which should take place sometime near (or on) National Signing Day 2012 (Feb. 1).

Until then, we are all left to ogle the No. 1 prospect's outrageous statistics:

Year Rec. Yards YPC TD
2008 37 801 21.6 13
2009 66 1,616 24.5 23
2010 78 1,703 21.8 15
2011 119 2,233 18.8 24
Total 300 6,353 21.2 75

<p> After the Athlon Consensus 100 was revamped, Green-Beckham still stands above the rest.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 13:01
Path: /college-football/recruiting-rankings-update-risers-and-fallers

-by Braden Gall (follow at )

The is a recruiting ranking used to portray the truest and most accurate list of the top 100 senior football prospects in the nation. Athlon Sports uses six expert compilations to create what is the most complete Top 100 list anywhere in the scouting arena.

Since the debut of the 2012 AC100, each of the four major recruiting services has revamped the rankings. With the 2011 prep football season in the rearview mirror, talent evaluators and scouts around the nation have reconvened and re-ranked every prospect in the country.

And Athlon Sports has adjusted the AC100 accordingly:

The Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver was the No. 1 player when the AC100 debuted months ago, and he has maintained his stronghold atop the rankings throughout the process thus far.

In fact, not only did the top slot remain stable with Green-Beckham, but the top five is also exactly the same. Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook running back moved from No. 9 to No. 6 and became the nation’s No. 1 running back in the process. He is now one slot ahead of Aledo’s . Hueytown (Ala.) quarterback moved from No. 12 to No. 10, knocking Olney (Md.) Good Counsel athlete outside of the nation’s top ten. Winston, who is committed to Florida State, is still the nation’s No. 1 quarterback prospect.

The Nation’s Biggest Risers

The biggest mover in the AC100 ranks came from Miami (Fla.) Norland running back . The 5-foot-9, 170-pound dynamo went from outside of the top 100 to No. 49 in the AC100. Despite his diminutive frame, Johnson is the complete package. He plays an elite level of competition, he has led his team on a deep playoff run and he has the big-play ability to score anytime he touches the ball. His speed and explosiveness are among the nation’s best, and now as the nation’s No. 7-rated running back, he is ranked as such. The Duke is committed to Miami.

Auburn commitment jumped 29 spots from No. 90 to No. 61 after all four major recruiting services bumped him up in the rankings. The Daphne (Ala.) running back made the biggest move in the 247Sports rankings from outside the top 100 to No. 26. Rivals has always thought more highly of Yeldon than anyone else as he is now a five-star at No. 24.

Future Ohio State Buckeye leapt 24 spots in the rankings from No. 47 to No. 23. The Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft defensive end is now ranked as the No. 4 end in the country. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound D-lineman was the Class IV state defensive player of the year as a junior and has very few weaknesses. Scout appears to have nailed this evaluation from the get-go as he has been the No. 18 prospect in their ranks from the start. Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports have each moved the pass rusher into the Top 75.

This is a deep class for running backs as Marshall, Johnson and Yeldon have all risen through the ranks, but Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast runner also made a big jump from No. 55 to No. 35. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Florida State verbal made large jumps in the Scout 300 (from No. 85 to 44) and the 247Sports Top 247 (from No. 110 to 32). The compact runner has one of the best power-to-speed ratios in the entire class and is now the country’s No. 4 running back.

Two-way star jumped from No. 82 to No. 63 after Rivals and Scout pushed the Baltimore (Md.) Gilman athlete from outside the top 150 to No. 106 and No. 105, respectively. ESPN thinks the most of Jones as they have the 5-foot-10, 180-pound prospect ranked at No. 33. Alabama, Auburn and Virginia Tech appear to be the wide receiver/defensive back’s finalists.

Arlington (Texas) Martin defensive end (No. 95) and Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) SM Catholic offensive tackle (No. 98) are two new faces in the AC100. Fields is committed to TCU, while Tuerk is headed to USC.

The Nation’s Biggest Fallers

The biggest faller within the AC100 is Centerville (Ohio) defensive end , who dropped 28 spots to No. 68 from No. 40. Interestingly enough, Scout and ESPN did not move the undersized 6-foot-3, 215-pound edge rusher at all. Yet, 247Sports and Rivals saw something they didn’t like and dropped him precipitously to No. 109 (from No. 61) and No. 148 (from No. 49), respectively. Cal, USC, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford and Northwestern are Odenigbo’s finalists.

Future Texas A&M quarterback was dropped in the rankings by all four major services, and it resulted in a 23-spot drop from No. 65 to No. 88 in the AC100. Rivals and Scout have always been higher on the 6-foot-2, 210-pound dual-threat gunslinger, but both moved the Houston (Texas) Klein passer down. He is now ranked outside of the Top 100 by three of the four major services.

A player who has seen his stock slowly fall all year long has been Fort Mitchell (Ky.) Dixie Heights quarterback . The Auburn Tigers pledge was dropped from No. 104 to No. 145 by Rivals and from No. 98 to outside the Top 247 by 247Sports. ESPN has never had Pike ranked in its ESPNU 150, and it appears they did the best job of evaluating the 6-foot-5, 220-pound pocket passer. As a result, Pike fell 19 spots from No. 63 to No. 82 in the AC100.

Pompano Beach (Fla.) Blanche Ely star wide receiver fell 17 spots from No. 50 to No. 67. The LSU Tigers’ verbal commitment has been dropped out of the top 150 by both Scout and 247Sports while Rivals downgraded him slightly. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound pass catcher is the younger brother of Patrick Peterson – who had his own interesting recruitment process.

Additionally, Boynton Beach (Fla.) lineman Jessamen Dunker fell 15 spots, Hogansville (Ga.) Callaway tight end Ricky Parks dropped 14 slots and Morton (Miss.) nose tackle Quay Evans was downgraded 13 slots. De La Salle quarterback Bart Houston (No. 95), Jim Kelly’s nephew Chad Kelly (No. 98) and Greensboro (N.C.) blocker Brock Stadnik (No. 99) all fell out of the AC100.

<p> The Athlon Consensus 100 has been updated. Who are the nation's biggest risers and fallers?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 13:00
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-championship-saturday

-by Braden Gall ( on twitter)

Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of . 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: 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 vote receives one point.

Today marks the 14th time the Athlon Sports editors have voted on the 2011 Heisman Trophy and for the first time all season, Stanford's Andrew Luck is not atop the ballot. After 13 straight weeks with Luck finishing first, Alabama's Trent Richardson has taken over the top slot in the voting. Luck received three first-place votes and four second-place votes while T-Rich landed the other six first place marks and one second.

In a year that has had more legitimate candidates than can ever be remembered, it is only appropriate that the best player in the nation can throw four touchdowns in a relatively easy win over Notre Dame and fall out of the top slot. But that is what has happened.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III is still hanging around while Wisconsin's Montee Ball and USC's Matt Barkley continue to post record-setting numbers on two-loss teams.

1. Trent Richardson, RB, (85/90 total points, 6/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 263 att., 1,583 yards, 20 TD, 27 rec., 327 yards, 3 TD

Richardson waited until the right time to make his move to the top of the charts. A 27-carry, 203-yard performance in the 42-14 Iron Bowl win over Auburn pushed T-Rich to the top of the Heisman heap heading into Championship Saturday. He is the most physically talented running back in the nation and the only SEC running back in history to rush for 20 touchdowns. He also is the lead offensive weapon for what many think is the best team in the nation. Will it hurt him that he won't be playing again like many of the other finalists — e.g., Montee Ball, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Case Keenum — this weekend?

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 85 6 1 2 - - 9
2. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 80 3 4 1 - 1 9
3. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 75 - 4 4 1 - 9
4. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 53 - - - 2 4 9
5. Matt Barkley QB USC 51 - - 1 3 2 9
6. Case Keenum QB Houston 48 - - - 3 2 9
7. Kellen Moore QB Boise State 31 - - - - - 9
8. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 30 - - 1 - - 8
9. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 13 - - - - - 6
10. LaMichael James RB Oregon 9 - - - - - 4
11. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 6 - - - - - 3
12. David Wilson RB Virginia Tech 5 - - - - - 3
14. Collin Klein QB Kansas St 4 - - - - - 1
15. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 2 - - - - - 1
16. Bobby Rainey RB Western Kentucky 2 - - - - - 1
17. Brad Wing P LSU 1 - - - - - 1

2. Andrew Luck, QB, (80)
Season Stats: 261/373, 3,170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT, 43 att., 153 yards, 2 TD

Luck finished his career at Stanford with a solid 28-14 win over Notre Dame and second straight BCS Bowl berth. He completed 20-of-30 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns. He has led his team to a 23-2 record over the last tw seasons, but his inability to beat Oregon (0-2) over the last two seasons might have cost him not only the Heisman but the National Championship as well. Strangely enough, this weekend marked the fifth game in a row in which he threw an interception.

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, (75)
Season Stats: 252/347, 3,678 yards, 34 TD, 5 INT, 149 att., 612 yards, 7 TD

Griffin III rolled right late in the second quarter and as he was going down, took a major shot to the head. He was clearly knocked stiff. RG3 still mustered 106 yards passing on 7-of-11 passing, 62 yards rushing and three total touchdowns before being knocked from the 66-42 win over Texas Tech. You can do the math on how big the numbers could have been had RG3 been able to finish the game. Back-up Nick Florence threw for 151 yards, rushed for 14 yards and scored three touchdowns of his own. Combine those numbers with Griffin's and he is likely atop the Heisman voting instead of Richardson. He needs a huge game and a win over the Texas Longhorns this weekend. That said, the dynamic passer has taken Baylor to levels of success it has not reached in decades: It has reached its highest single-season win total since 1991, and with one more win will have 16 in two years, its highest total since 1985-86. Next Game: Texas

4. Montee Ball, RB, (53)
Season Stats: 248 att., 1,622 yards, 29 TD, 17 rec., 248 yards, 5 TD, 1/1, 25 yards, TD

With the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl on the line, Ball was handed the ball 25 times, and he delivered once again. The stellar runner rushed for 156 yards and four more touchdowns in the 45-7 division-clinching win over Penn State. Ball is now second all-time in NCAA history with 34 touchdowns this year — 11 more than Richardson's 23. He is five short of the NCAA record (39) with two games to play, is leading the nation in scoring (17.0 ppg) and is second in the nation in rushing (1,622). A big performance in the Big Ten title game could get Ball a much-deserved trip to New York. Next Game: Michigan State (Indianapolis)

5. Matt Barkley, QB, (51)
Season Stats: 308/446, 3,528 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT, 28 att., 14 yards, 2 TD

It was a record-setting Saturday for Mr. Barkley. He completed a school-record 35 passes and tied his own record with six touchdown passes in the 50-0 win over the rival UCLA Bruins. He finished with 423 yards. His 39 scoring strikes this season broke Matt Leinart's single-season school record of 38. Barkley also helped wideout Robert Woods break the Pac-12 single-season receiving record held by Keyshawn Johnson (102 catches). Woods finished with 111 receptions for 1,292 yards.

6. Case Keenum, QB, (48)
Season Stats: 342/467, 4,726 yards, 43 TD, 3 INT, 44 att., 43 yards, 3 TD

Keenum did all he could possibly do in the 2011 regular season. He shattered every major career passing record in NCAA history, and with the 48-16 win over Tulsa, finished the regular season unblemished at 12-0. A win over Southern Miss in the C-USA title game would likely earn Houston a BCS bowl bid. Keenum finished the day 33-of-46 for 457 yards and five touchdowns. He leads the NCAA in total offense at 397.4 yards per game and is the No. 3 most efficient passer at 187.34. Next Game: Southern Miss

7. Kellen Moore, QB, (31)
Season Stats: 272/372, 3,194 yards, 38 TD, 7 INT, 18 att., minus-57 yards

It was just another day at the office for Moore. The Broncos topped Wyoming 36-14 behind Moore's 24-of-36, 279-yard, 3-TD performance. Moore, like Keenum, passed Graham Harrell's career TD mark (134) this weekend and now has 137 career scoring strikes. A couple of missed kicks cost Moore a shot at a Heisman and National Title two years in a row. Next Game: Wyoming

8. Russell Wilson, QB, (30)
Season Stats: 189/231, 2,692 yards, 29 TD, 3 INT, 66 att., 325 yards, 5 TD, 1 rec., 25 yards, TD

Wilson completed 19-of-29 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the 45-7 Leaders Division win over Penn State. Wilson now has a touchdown pass in 36 straight games, which ties Harrell's NCAA record. He has a touchdown pass in 45 of his last 46 games and 45 of his 48 career games. He is the nation's leader in passer rating at 192.9 — which would be a single-season NCAA record (Colt Brennan, 186.0). He already owns most Wisconsin single-season passing records and could become only the fourth QB in Big Ten history to reach 30 passing touchdowns in a season. He has thrown an interception in only two games this season. Next Game: Michigan State (Indianapolis)

9. Brandon Weeden, QB, (13)
Season Stats: 355/486, 4,111 yards, 34 TD, 12 INT, 15 att., minus-95 yards

Weeden and the Pokes had a bye week in an effort to prepare for Oklahoma and the Bedlam Series. If the Cowboys can defeat the Sooners handily and Weeden plays a great game, he could sneak back into the Heisman mix — and will have an oustide shot at the BCS national title game. Next Game: Oklahoma

10. LaMichael James, RB, (9)
Season Stats: 173 car., 1,285 yards, 13 TD, 14 rec., 180 yards, 1 TD

James and the Ducks clinched what should be their third straight Pac-12 title with the 49-21 win over rival Oregon State in the Civil War. James rushed 24 times for 142 yards and scored once. His 142.7 yards per game leads the nation in per game average. With a win over UCLA in the Pac-12 title game, James and Oregon will reach a third straight BCS Bowl. Next Game: UCLA

Previous Voting:

<p> Athlon Sports Heisman Voting: Championship Saturday</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten-9

By Braden Gall ( on Twitter)

Post-Week 13 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our . And two Big Ten teams came in at #1 of our .

1. Michigan State (10-2, 7-1) – Finally, the Spartans can look ahead to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. After handling the Northwestern Wildcats 31-17 for their 10th win of the season, Michigan State sets its sights on the Big Ten's version of "The Rematch." The Spartans and Badgers were clearly the top two teams in the conference this season as the two played the best game of the season back on October 22. The Kirk Cousins' game-winning Hail Mary toss to Keith Nichol was arguably the biggest scoring strike of his school-record 62 career touchdown passes. Sparty carries the Big Ten's No. 1 rushing defense, No. 1 total defense and the league's best pass rush (No. 1 at 3.08 sacks per game) into Lucas Oil Field Saturday night against what is probably the nation's top offensive line. The winner goes to the Rose Bowl to face Oregon, while the loser could fall past Michigan and Nebraska to the Outback Bowl.

2. Wisconsin (10-2, 6-2) –  The Badgers were the most impressive team in the Big Ten conference this season, and after a  45-7 win over Penn State on Saturday, will have a chance to prove it in its rematch with Michigan State. The nation's leading passer, leading scorer and leading punt returner will enter the Oil Drum in Indy with revenge on the mind — and they could be tough to stop. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball leads the nation in scoring (17.0 ppg) and is second in the nation in rushing (1,622 yards). His 34 touchdowns trail only Barry Sanders' 39 on the all-time NCAA list and part of the reason UW lost to Michigan State in October was due to his absence (Ball missed most of the second and third quarters). The 220 yards rushing posted by the Badgers in East Lansing was the season-high allowed by the Big Ten's top rush defense. The win gave the Badgers their fifth 10-win season in seven years.

3. Michigan (10-2, 6-2) – The monkey is officially off the Maize and Blue backs. In the , Michigan and Ohio State played one of the most exciting football games of the year. The Wolverines topped the Buckeyes 40-34 in a game that featured six lead changes and the two most athletic quarterbacks in the nation. Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller offered fans a potential glimpse of the 2012 Big Ten title game by combining for 672 yards of total offense, eight total touchdowns and only one turnover. The win for Brady Hoke likely landed Michigan an at-large BCS bowl bid and its first triumph over rival OSU in eight years. Most importantly, however, is that the Wolverines finished No. 2 in the Big Ten in rush defense (129.1 ypg) and ninth nationlly in scoring defense (17.2 ppg). It is one of the more remarkable defensive turnaronds in recent memory. The Sugar Bowl against an unbeaten Houston Cougars team appears to be the most likely holiday destination for Michigan.

4. Nebraska (9-3, 5-3) – A new rivarly was born when Nebraska toppled Iowa 20-7 in the final game of the regular season on Friday. The Huskers ran for 222 yards on 61 carries — Rex Burkhead getting a school-record 38 of those attempts and 160 of those yards — and held the ball for 37:47 minutes of possession. Meanwhile, the defense held Marcus Coker under 100 yards for only the second time in seven games. Burkhead ended his first season as the starter second in the Big Ten in rushing attempts (261) and third in yards (1,268). Nebraska finishes its first Big Ten season above .500 and will visit Florida this bowl season. It should land in either the Cap One or Outback Bowl, with the smart money on Orlando and the Cap One Bowl.

5. Penn State (9-3, 6-2) – The Nittany Lions have had a nightmarish last couple of weeks and it ended with a 45-7 thumping at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers. With a chance to win the Big Ten Leaders Division, Penn State showed just how far it has left to climb to reach the championship plateau. Penn State was outgained 450 to 233, completed just 11 of its 25 passes, went 4-15 on third and fourth down conversions, turned the ball over four times (to UW's one) and kept the football for a mere 21:43 minutes of possession. The loss drops PSU in the bowl pecking order, and with the radioactivity emanating from Happy Valley, a bowl selection commitees might be hesitant to tab the Lions. Look for the Nits to fall no lower than the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas — and for to reach a rolling boil very shortly.

6. Ohio State (6-6, 3-5) – Did any Buckeyes fan really notice the football game in Ann Arbor this weekend? Fans are already pointing to team as its new head coach Urban Meyer was officially presented to Scarlet and Gray nation on Monday afternoon. With Braxton Miller and a host of talented defenders returning, Ohio State is your likely preseason pick to win the Leaders Division in 2012. Miller finished the final five games of the season with 452 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground to match his developing passing game (450 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT over his last three games). The 6-6 record was the first non-winning season for OSU since 1999 and it appears the Buckeyes are headed for the Gator Bowl.

7. Iowa (7-5, 4-4) – With the 20-7 loss to Nebraska last weekend, the Hawkeyes ended the 2011 campaign with three losses in five games. Despite having the league's No. 2 rusher in Marcus Coker, the Hawkeyes finished 11th in the Big Ten in rushing offense. There are plenty of bright spots, however, as Marvin McNutt led the Big Ten in receiving (105.8 yards per game) and set school receiving touchdown records for a career and season. Additionally, James Vandenberg established himself as a playmaker for 2012. The seven win season again proves the dependability, yet mediocrity, of Kirk Ferentz' tenure at Iowa. It was the sixth time in seven years in which the Hawkeyes finished the regular season between six and eight wins and between four and six losses. Iowa looks to be headed to the Insight Bowl.

8. Northwestern (6-6, 3-5) – The Wildcats were no match for the focused Spartans as they lost 31-17 in the regular season finale. But Pat Fitzgerald's team will be bowling — likely the TicketCity Bowl — for the fourth time in his six-year tenure as head coach. In fact, Fitzgerald owns four of the school's ten total postseason apperances. Look for the Big Ten's top-rated passing offense to take full advantage of whichever Big 12 defense it faces in the TicketCity Bowl.

10. Purdue (6-6, 4-4) – With the 33-25 win over Indiana, the Boilermakers became the 10th Big Ten to earn bowl eligibility in 2011. By winning the Old Oaken Bucket over its in-state rival, Purdue should be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2007. The Little Ceasrs Pizza Bowl on December 27 looks like the right fit — especially considering how unattrative Illinois looks at the moment (see below). The question still reamins: Did Danny Hope do enough to keep his job?

9. Illinois (6-6, 2-6) – One of the most epic collapes in NCAA history came to fruition when Illinois went into Minneapolis and laid one of the largest, smelliest Big Ten eggs in history. In an effort to avoid a six-game losing streak, the not-so-Fighting Illini mustered a pathetic 160 yards of total offense, convereted on 2-of-15 third downs, rushed for 2.6 yards per carry and waited until they were down 27-0 before scoring any points against Minnesota. It turns out, the 27-7 loss to the Gophers was the final straw for Illinois, shortly thereafter. After the 6-0 start, the Illini are still bowl eligible, but won't be very attractive to any bowl committee after the terrible showing this weekend, no head coach and a six-game losing streak.

11. Minnesota (3-9, 2-6) – Ron Zook doesn't deserve all of the credit for the atrocious showing of the Illini in the 27-7 loss to Minnesota this weekend. Jerry Kill and the Gophers get plenty of kudos for showing up with nothing to play for and controling the game from the get-go. Quarterback MarQueis Gray topped the 160 yard mark rushing for the second straight weekend and the third time this season as he carried 27 times for 167 yards and two scores to lead Minnesota. The Gophers won two of its last five games and showed marked improvement over the course of the season. Could things finally be looking up in the Twin Cities?

12. Indiana (1-11, 0-8) – Indiana lost the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket 33-25 to in-state rival Purdue. The Hoosiers are one of five teams in the nation who failed to win a conference game this season. Yet, if there is any silver lining, it is the development of the running game over the second half. Indiana averaged 118.8 yards rushing per game in the first six games. It posted an average of 203.2 yards per game on the ground over the second half. On defense, however, IU finished last in the Big Ten in rushing, passing efficiency, scoring and total defense. Kevin Wilson has his work cut out for him this offseason.

Also Read:

<p> How do the teams in the Big Ten stack up after the 13th week of action?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-gets-recruiting-bump-urban-meyer

-by Braden Gall (follow him on twitter )

Urban Meyer is a proven commodity on the sidelines. His immaculate coaching record speaks for itself.

He is 104-23 overall and 7-1 in bowl games. He was MAC Coach of the Year his first season at Bowling Green (2001). He was Mountain West Coach of the Year in both of his two seasons at Utah – to go with two MWC championships and a BCS Bowl berth. And in six years in the SEC, Meyer's players won two BCS National Championships and one Heisman Trophy.

That’s a serious resume to be handing out at every checkpoint along the Ohio State recruiting trail. Sitting in living rooms all over the Midwest and Northeast, the new Buckeyes coach will bring with him as much clout as any head coach in the nation. More importantly, the Urban Meyer name rings across the fertile Southern recruiting grounds with volume and clarity.

“This is absolutely a home run hire for Ohio State,” national recruiting analyst Barton Simmons told Athlon Sports. “I can’t imagine a better fit from a recruiting standpoint than Urban Meyer. He’s got name recognition nationally and a system that athletes love to play in.”

Simmons continued: “Ohio State has landed some great players out of the state of Florida, and that pipeline will only continue to grow under Meyer. He also has Ohio ties and understands the importance of building a wall around what is arguably the fourth-most talented state in the country.”

Meyer was a force on the recruiting trail with the budget and power of the mighty Florida Gators athletic department. His full classes at Florida (2006-2010) were the envy of nearly every program in the nation and included the 2007 and 2010 recruiting national championships — aka ranked as the No. 1 class in the nation by Athlon Sports. The Gators claimed the best class in the SEC three times in five years under Meyer.

Over the five-year span, Meyer signed 120 total players, 43 prospects, 92 players from southern states and 70 from the state of Florida. To top it all off, he never lost his touch in the northeast, landing 13 players from the area including names like Joe Haden, Aaron Hernandez, Dominique Easley, Jordan Reed, Jelani Jenkins and Sharrif Floyd.

Here is a quick breakdown of his five full Florida classes:

2010: 28 total signees, 13 AC100
National Rank: No. 1, SEC Rank: No. 1

2009: 16 total signees, 5 AC100
National Rank: No. 9, SEC Rank: No. 4

2008: 22 total signees, 7 AC100
National Rank: No. 8, SEC Rank: No. 3

2007: 27 total signees, 12 AC100
National Rank: No. 1, SEC Rank: No. 1

2006: 27 total signees, 6 AC100
National Rank: No. 2, SEC Rank: No. 1

Ohio State has never had a problem attracting elite level talent, and the Buckeye brand has never been a tough sell for any coach who has worked on the banks of the Olentangy. But the brand image had taken a hit recently amidst tattoo-email cover-up scandals and booster payroll smudging. Anything and everything will become fodder for opposing coaches when it comes to recruiting, so a national title-winning head coach being forced to resign was easy pickings for rival Big Ten coaching staffs.

“Schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska were able to come into the Buckeye State and pull players that Ohio State coveted,”’s Kevin Noon told Athlon Sports. is the officially licensed website covering Ohio State football recruiting.

“But when landing Urban Meyer seemed like more than a possibility, players began to show more interest,” Noon went on. “Before Meyer was hired it appeared that the Buckeyes were done with their 2012 recruiting effort with only a handful of kids left on the board. Now, with the new hire, all bets are off and Ohio State could clean up by flipping a few in-state kids and moving on some out-of-state talent.”

The impact of Meyer on OSU recruiting has already been felt. Athlon Consensus 100 defensive end even mentioned Meyer specifically in his announcement speech last Tuesday. Ohio State had 16 total commitments when it officially revealed that Urban Meyer would be the next head coach in the Horseshoe. With two hard months of recruiting left, Bucks fans can bet on The Ohio State University pulling a few upsets and luring a big name or two to Columbus en route to National Signing Day 2012.

Unfortunately for the rest of the Big Ten, it’s merely a warning shot across the bow as every recruiting coordinator in the league should be bracing for Meyer’s impact in 2013.

More Urban Meyer, Ohio State content: by Mitch Light

Follow Braden Gall (), Barton Simmons () and Kevin Noon () on twitter

<p> What sort of impact will new head coach Urban Meyer have on Ohio State recruiting efforts?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2011 - 16:14
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12-8

By Braden Gall ( on Twitter)

Post-Week 13 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our .

1. Oregon (10-2, 8-1) – With the dominating 49-21 win over rival Oregon State in the Civil War, the Oregon Ducks clinched the Pac-12 North. With a win over the 6-6 Bruins on Saturday, the Ducks will win their third straight conference championship and play in their third straight BCS bowl. Oregon finished No. 1 in the league in rushing (291.0 ypg), No. 1 in total offense (510.6 ypg) and No. 1 in scoring offense (45.9 ppg). The Ducks also claim the nation's leading rusher in per game average with LaMichael James' 142.7 ypg and the conference's top return man in DeAnthony Thomas (27.7 ypr). Oregon has won three straight over UCLA including a 60-13 victory in Eugene last season. In his three years as head coach, Chip Kelly is 32-6 overall and 24-3 in conference play. 

2. Stanford (11-1, 8-1) – Heisman hopeful Andrew Luck tossed four touchdown passes in what was likely a BCS bowl-clinching 28-14 win over Notre Dame. Luck, who is the Pac-12's most efficient passer (167.5), is 23-2 over his last two seasons and will see his legacy defined as much by his inability to beat Oregon as his 9,083 yards and 87 total touchdowns. Had Luck managed to beat Oregon in either of the last two seasons, Stanford would likely have played for a national championship. Stanford led the Pac-12 in rushing defense (90.3 ypg) and total defense (331.4 ypg). The 23 wins mark the most in a two-year period and represent the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in program history. A match-up with the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State winner in the Fiesta Bowl is the most likely scenario for Luck's final game at Stanford.

3. USC (10-2, 7-2) – Any team in the nation want to play the USC Trojans in a playoff game? I seriously doubt it. The Men of Troy and Matt Barkley pounded rival UCLA 50-0 in the season finale for USC. It was the Trojans' 11th win in 12 games against UCLA and gave the school their eighth 10-win season in 10 years (counting 2005). Barkley played in what could be his final game for Southern California, completing 35-of-42 passes for 423 yards and six touchdowns. Since the overtime loss to Stanford, the USC quarterback has thrown 17 touchdowns, only two interceptions and averaged 309.5 yards per game while winning all four games. The Trojans are clearly the best team in the Pac-12 South, and it is unfortunate for the players and fans that the NCAA did not lift the postseason bans.

4. Washington (7-5, 5-4) – Despite some second-half struggles, the Huskies ended the 2011 regular season on a high note with a 38-21 win over rival Washington State in the Apple Cup. Keith Price bounced back admirably with a 21-of-29, 291-yard, 3-TD performance in the win. The sophomore gunslinger battled through inconsistency and some injuries in his first year as the starter to finish with 29 touchdowns and 2,625 yards through the air. The win gave Washington its first winning regular season since 2002, and with a bowl win, the Huskies would have their first eight-win season since 2001. Washington appears to be headed for the Alamo Bowl to battle with either Kansas State or the loser of the Bedlam game. The Alamo Bowl could also select Cal, pushing Washington to the Holiday Bowl.

5. California (7-5, 4-5) – Cal may have saved Jeff Tedord's job by beating Arizona State 47-38 on Friday. The Golden Bears rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns on 40 carries. The win assures Tedford of his ninth winning season in 10 years on the job in Berkeley. Cal led the league in pass defense and tackles for a loss this season, and breakout wide receiver Keenan Allen finished second in the conference with 89 receptions and third with 1,261 yards. With three wins in their final four games, the Bears appear to be headed to the Holiday Bowl — potentially against the Baylor Bears and Robert Griffin III.

6. Utah (7-5, 4-5) – Utah missed a golden opportunity to make a huge statement in its first season in the Pac-12. Utah kicker Coleman Petersen missed a 48-yard field goal with two seconds left in a very disappointing 17-14 home loss to the Colorado Buffaloes. It was his third miss of the game, and the loss cost Kyle Whittingham and company a Pac-12 South title — and a chance at a Rose Bowl. Losing star tailback John White IV in the third quarter didn't help, as the Utah running back finished nearly 100 yards below his season average. White carried a season-low 10 times for a season-low 28 yards. The second half of the season has proved that Utah belongs with the BCS big boys, as the Utes finished 4-1 down the stretch in league play. However, the loss to the Buffs leaves an extremly bitter taste in the Utes' mouths — and checkbooks. Instead of the Rose, Alamo or Holiday Bowl, Utah looks to be slated for a trip to El Paso and the Sun Bowl against the ACC's No. 4 team (likely Wake Forest or Virginia).

7. UCLA (6-6, 5-4) – The UCLA Bruins are the inaugural Pac-12 South Champions. The Bruins were outgained 572 to 385 yards, converted on only 3-of-15 third and fourth down conversions and lost 50-0 to USC. But an unexpected loss to Colorado by Utah, awarded the Bruins with a berth in the Pac-12 championship game. As a heavy underdog against the Ducks, the Bruins will likely finish the regular season at 6-7 and will have to apply for a bowl waiver from the NCAA leadership council. If given the waiver, the Bruins have to wait for the conference to fill its other seven bowl commitments before they likely land in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. However, head coach Rick Neuheisel on any postseason trip. Neuheisel is 21-28 overall and 3-25 against teams that finished with a winning record in four years as head coach, and it appears he will be given his walking papers following this Saturday's conference title game.

8. Arizona State (6-6, 4-5) – The Sun Devils finished an up and down 2011 season by losing 47-38 to Cal at home in the season finale. The loss marked the fourth straight loss and fifth in six games after a 5-1 start for Arizona State. A trip to Sin City and the Las Vegas Bowl with a match-up against Mountain West champ TCU appears the likely postseason destination for ASU. Head coach Dennis Erickson, like many Pac-12 coaches this postseason, could be coaching for his job in the bowl game. Arizona State is 31-30 under Erickson in five seasons, featuring one winning season (2007) and no bowl wins. TCU would be a heavy favorite.

9. Washington State (4-8, 2-7) – The Cougars lost 38-21 to the rival Huskies in the 104th edition of the Apple Cup. Washington State allowed 434 yards of offense to Washington and turned the ball over twice in the second straight loss to the Pac-12 North rival. Paul Wulff is now 9-40 as the head man at Wazzu, and the last winning season in Pullman took place in 2003. The offense showed signs of improvement, finishing second in the conference in passing at 322.3 yards per game. However, expect another tumultuous off-season for the Cougars.

10. Oregon State (3-9, 3-6) – In his second stint as head coach at Oregon State, Mike Riley had two losing seasons in his first eight years. After the 49-21 loss to rival Oregon this weekend, Riley now has his third losing season and his worst record in 11 total seasons as the Beavers head coach. Quarterback Sean Mannion has offered some solace, as the freshman has provided the answer at quarterback. He threw for another 299 yards and three touchdowns in the loss this weekend. He was one yard away from his fifth 300-yard effort in nine games. The Beavers uncharacteristically finished last in the league in rushing offense (86.9 ypg) and rushing defense (196.8 ypg).

11. Arizona (4-8, 2-7) – The Wildcats got a "nice" 45-37 win against a decent UL Lafayette team. Although it doesn't count as the first win of the Rich Rodriguez era, Arizona is technically 1-0 with RichRod as acting head coach. Nick Foles extended his single-season school records for completions (387) and yards (4,334) with his fifth straight 300-yard game and 10th of the season. Foles finished as the Pac-12's leader in total offense at 352.6 yards per game. A two-game winning streak is a great way to get what should be an exciting off-season in Tucson started.

12. Colorado (3-10, 2-7) – The first season of the Jon Embree era ended with a bang. The Buffaloes snapped a 23-game road losing streak by topping the Utes 17-14 in Salt Lake City. Not only did Colorado get its second Pac-12 win of the year, but it also crushed the Utes' hopes of landing in the conference title game. Rodney Stewart played his final game in a Buffs uniform with only 12 touches for 45 yards. Stewart finished his career with 3,598 yards rushing, 25 touchdowns, 93 receptions and 969 yards receiving.

<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after Week 13 of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2011 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-week-13-picks

-by Braden Gall ( on twitter)

Like most of us around the world, the state of Oklahoma completely shocked me last week. Two of the worst defensive performances of the season cost both the Sooners and the Cowboys a potential chance at a national title - and me a chance at a third straight winning weekend. Houston and Kansas State continue to be rock solid against the spread and may continue that trend the rest of the way in 2011.

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday everyone and stuff your faces with these almost-but-not-quite locks of the week...

Season Record ATS: 72-48-3 (5-5 last week)

Week 13's Top Picks:
Houston (-3) at Tulsa
Tulsa won this game by three points last season, but the most productive player in NCAA history wasn't on the field. In the two previous meetings, Keenum led the Cougars to victory in Tulsa 46-45 in 2009 and 70-30 at home in 2008. The Houston quarterback threw for 926 yards and accounted for 10 touchdowns in those two games. The Cougars have won every game they have played in 2011 by an average margin of victory of nearly 32 points per - which is actually 43 points per game over the last three. Houston also leads the nation with a 9-2 record against the spread. My Pick: Houston -3

Tennessee (-7) at Kentucky
Everyone knows the stat: Tennessee has won 26 straight games over the Wildcats. The Vols have struggled on offense in SEC play, but that was without star quarterback Tyler Bray. The big-time passer threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns in his return to action last weekend. Expect even more from the future NFL Draft pick this weekend against a team that ranks 12th in the SEC in passing offense, total offense, scoring offense, passing efficiency, sacks allowed and punt returns. My Pick: Tennessee -7

Ohio State (+7) at Michigan
If Michigan cannot beat, as Brady Hoke likes to say, "Ohio" in 2011, it may never beat the Buckeyes ever again. This is arguably the worst Ohio State team we have seen in more than a decade and Michigan is playing as good of football as it has since 2006. Neither teams needs extra motivation, but Hoke knows how important this game is to the seniors on his team and the bill-paying alumni base. Look for the hungrier Wolverine team to break the seven-year losing streak. My Pick: Michigan -7

New Mexico State (+19) at Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech was won six straight games - including an easy win over an SEC team, as well as Fresno State, and a road win over Nevada. Tech leads the league in rushing defense, scoring defense, turnover margin, pass efficiency defense and tackles for a loss. New Mexico State has lost four of five games and will not be able to keep pace against that defense. Tech is also tied for the nation's lead at 9-2 against the spread this season. My Pick: Louisiana Tech -19

UCLA (+14) at USC
Certainly, UCLA has much to play for — a Pac-12 title. But the Bruins have lost four straight and and 11 out of 12 to the rival Trojans. USC is coming off a season-defining win over Oregon and would love nothing more than to knock their crosstown rival out of the Pac-12 title game. Matt Barkley is playing the best football of his career and is 2-0 against the Bruins - including a 21-point win the last time they played in the Colesium. Look for another statement win for USC over a UCLA team that has recently lost by 25 to Utah and 36 to Arizona. The Men of Troy are 7-3-1 against the spread and the Bruins at 3-8. My Pick: USC -14

Virginia Tech (-4) at Virginia
This is the biggest game in Charlottesville in years and should be relatively close. And UVa has won four straight games and is playing for an ACC title game berth. That said, the Hokies operate at a different level of athlete with Logan Thomas and David Wilson powering the offense. The Hokies have won seven straight in this series and the last two haven't been close (37-7 and 42-13). Certainly, this is a different Wahoo team, but Virginia Tech should be able to pressure the quarterback, get off the field on third down and stymie the Cavs' ground game. My Pick: Virginia Tech -4

Arkansas (+11.5) at LSU
The Hogs certainly have the formula to beat LSU: A mad scientist calling plays, the deepest receiving corp in the nation and a quarterback who can sling it. However, how can you complete passes when you are lying on your back? Wilson got hit and hit and hit again against Alabama and should expect much of the same from the deepest defensive line in the nation. Can Arkansas stop the power rushing attack of LSU? And Brad Wing will totally nuetralize one of the nation's top returnmen in Joe Adams. LSU is simply the better team across the board. The Bayou Bengals are also 8-3 against the spread this season. My Pick: LSU -11.5

Rutgers (-3) at UConn
The Knights have a lot to play for in this one. And they have had loads of success against the Huskies recently: Rutgers has won three straight and five out of six. The Knights can clinch a share of the Big East title with a win and UConn's pathetic offense should not be able to challenge a Knights' offense that is rolling behind freak wideout Mohamed Sanu and new workhorse Jawan Jamison (34 att., 200 yards 2 TD last week). The Knights have won three straight and are 8-3 against the spread while UConn is 3-7 against the number on the year. My Pick: Rutgers -3

Louisville (+3.5) at South Florida
The Cardinals also have loads to play for in the Big East. A win clinches a share of the Big East title for Louisville as well and the second half has been a totally different story for Charlie Strong. Wins over Rutgers, Syracuse, West Virginia and UConn speak for themselves. The defense is playing lights-out and the Strong has been preaching the importance of getting the program's first-ever win at USF. With Bulls' starting quarterback BJ Daniels likely not playing, take the Cards to win outright. My Pick: Louisville +3.5

Clemson (-4) at South Carolina
Sammy Wakings says he will be 100% at kickoff and that may be all that matters. The Tigers have turned the ball over entirely too much lately and South Carolina has played great defense of late. But with nothing on the line for either team in terms of conference championships, pure hatred should fuel this rivarly. Clemson should right the ship on offense with Watkins in the game and will outlast a South Carolina team that has struggled to score points. My Pick: Clemson -4

2011 Top Teams ATS:

1t. Stanford (9-2)
1t. Arkansas State (9-2)
1t. Houston (9-2)
1t. Kansas State (9-2)
1t. Louisiana Tech (9-2)
1t. Western Kentucky (9-2)
7t. LSU (8-3)
7t. Michigan (8-3)
7t. Rutgers (8-3)
7t. Oklahoma State (8-3)
7t. Vanderbilt (8-3)
12t. USC (7-3-1)
12t. Georgia (7-3-1)

2011 Bottom Teams ATS:

1. Central Michigan (1-11)
2. Maryland (2-9)
3. Florida Atlantic (2-8)
4. Colorado (3-9)
5t. Texas A&M (3-8)
5t. Ole Miss (3-8)
5t. Virginia Tech (3-8)
8t. Colorado State (3-7)
8t. Troy (3-7)
8t. UCLA (3-7)
8t. UConn (3-7)
8t. MTSU (3-7)
8t. Syracuse (3-7)
14t. Nebraska (3-7-1)
14t. Penn State (3-7-1)
14t. Akron (3-7-1)
14t. Hawaii (3-7-1)

<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 24, 2011 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-12

-by Braden Gall ( on twitter)

Start These Quarterbacks:

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (Minnesota)
After five straight weeks with only one touchdown in each game, Ryan rested on the bye week. Since that bye, Ryan has averaged 314 yards per game with six total touchdowns in his last three games. The Vikings are 28th in the league against the pass and have allowed a league-worst 19 passing touchdowns. Julio Jones or not, Ryan is a great play.

Vince Young, Philadelphia (New England)
Young finished with a useful 258 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in the huge win over New York last weekend. With Jeremy Maclin likely returning to the lineup, facing the worst pass defense in the NFL and probably playing from behind for the majority of the game will give Young owners at worst a Top 15 fantasy number.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Cleveland)
He has thrown five interceptions against division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but he also kept his team in both games and threw for a career-high 373 yards — without A.J. Green. The Browns have been solid against the pass, but only because nobody has had any need to throw the football. Dalton should be around that 220-2 range this weekend in a must-win situation for the Bengals.

Matt Hasselbeck/Jake Locker, Tennessee (Tampa Bay)
No matter who starts, there could be plenty of value under center for the Titans. The Bucs are ranked 29th in the NFL against the pass, and only the Chargers, Colts and Vikings have allowed more passing touchdowns than their 18 allowed. Locker sparked the offense last weekend in the second half and has obvious ability.

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (at NY Jets)
This makes four straight weeks that we have addressed Fitz’s struggles. Here are his last three stat lines: 191-1-2 against the Jets, 146-1-3 against the Cowboys and 209-0-2 against the resurgent Dolphins. His highest passer rating was 51.9 over that span. The Jets have allowed an NFL second-best eight passing touchdowns and are sixth against the pass.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (at Tennessee)
Please do not buy into Freeman’s 342-yard, two touchdown performance last weekend. He still sports an 11:15 TD:INT ratio and posted those numbers against the NFL’s second-worst pass defense. The Titans are stronger against the pass, and Freeman is 27th in the NFL in passer rating behind names like Kolb, Cassel, McCoy and Orton.

Alex Smith, San Francisco (at Baltimore)
This one goes without saying, but Smith and the Niners are traveling across three time zones in a short work week against maybe the best pass defense in the league. They have allowed a league-best seven passing touchdowns and are seventh against the pass at 211.3 yards per game.

***Just so you know not to play them: Colt McCoy (at Cincinnati), Blaine Gabbert (Houston), Tyler Palko (Pittsburgh), Caleb Hanie (at Oakland)***

Start These Running Backs:

Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams, Carolina (at Indianapolis)
Cries for Stewart to become an every down back are getting louder and louder. He has averaged seven yards per touch over the last two games and has become quite a factor — for the first time in his career — in the passing game. The Colts are 31st in the NFL against the rush at 145.6 yards, and both Panther backs could do something in a game that Carolina has to win.

Chris Johnson, Tennessee (Tampa Bay)
The Bucs are 26th against the run at 133.5 yards per game and have allowed 13 rushing touchdowns (only Carolina has allowed more with 14). If Jake Locker is starting, fans can expect a heavy dose of the ground game in the form of CJ2K and maybe even Javon Ringer. If Johnson cannot get on track against Tampa Bay, 2011 will officially become a wasted season for the stubborn contract holdout.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (Cleveland)
Benson averaged 2.7 yards per carry and totaled 41 yards against the Ravens, but he made most prognosticators look foolish by reaching paydirt twice — which matched his season total. The Browns are 29th in the NFL against the run at 139.3 yards allowed per game. Look for all hands on deck for a key divisional game.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis (Carolina)
Carolina ranks 30th in the NFL against the run at 140.7 yards allowed per game and has allowed more rushing touchdowns (14) than anyone else in the league. With Joseph Addai still having major issues, Brown has gotten the majority of the looks at 17 and 18 touches respectively over the last two. Look for the Colts to run the football to keep Cam Newton off the field.

Bench These Running Backs:

Ray Rice, Baltimore (San Francisco)
If you play in a PPR format, you cannot bench Rice. But in a touchdowns and yards league, it is hard to see Rice posting more than 10 fantasy points. The Niners are the only team yet to allow a rushing touchdown and lead the NFL in rushing defense by a wide margin (73.9 yards per game allowed). Look for 20 touches, 70 total yards and an outside chance at a receiving touchdown.

Frank Gore, San Francisco (at Baltimore)
The short week and cross-country flight for a player who has been battling injuries would make me nervous if they were playing the Browns. But this is the Ravens, who lead the NFL at 3.3 yards per attempt and are fifth in the league against the run. This has defensive struggle written all over it — with or without Ray Lewis.

Toby Gerhart, Minnesota (at Atlanta)
The Falcons are No. 2 in the NFL at 85.4 yards per carry and have stifled running backs all season long. Chris Johnson rushed for 13 yards on 12 carries and caught three passes for 15 yards in last week’s dominating performance. If it weren’t for a 17-yard Matt Hasselbeck scramble, the Titans would have totaled 24 yards rushing total.

Start These Wide Receivers:

Percy Harvin, Minnesota (at Atlanta)
With Purple Jesus on the sideline, Harvin is pretty much the only playmaker the Vikings have on offense. He has caught six passes in each of the last two games and routinely gets rushing attempts from out of the backfield. He has 11 attempts for 55 yards and a touchdown over the last three weeks. With the ground game held in check and the game likely getting out of hand early, Harvin could benfit with another strong showing.

Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, NY Jets (Buffalo)
The Bills are 24th in the NFL against the pass at 250 yards allowed per game and are 23rd in passing touchdowns allowed (17). Over the last three games, they have been even worse. Buffalo surrendered 160 yards and three touchdowns to Matt Moore in last week’s blowout loss. Tony Romo threw for 270 yards and three scores in the 44-7 drubbing two weeks ago. And both Holmes (3-29-1) and Burress (5-79) had solid games in the 27-11 win over the Bills.

Nate Washington, Tennessee (Tampa Bay)
Washington was easily the more dependable of the two Titans receivers last weekend. He posted a nasty 9-115-2 line with most of damage coming once Jake Locker was inserted into the lineup. The strong-armed passer hit him for two scoring strikes in the second half, and the Titans will continue to look his way against a defense that ranks 29th against the pass.

Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis (Arizona)
He has caught a touchdown in three of four games and has become Sam Bradford's top target. Against an atrocious Cardinals defense, the only thing that will keep Lloyd from a big fantasy number is the compensation benchmark that kicks in with his 30th reception in a Rams uniform (he has 26 currently). But giving up a fifth rounder instead of a sixth sounds pretty reasonable for a player with 26 catches for 322 yards and three scores in five games.

Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati (Cleveland)
AJ Green is going to try to practice this week, but the Bengals have to play it very cautiously with their prized deep threat. Especially in a game they should have no problem winning. Simpson caught eight passes for 152 yards in his absence last week and has scored in two of the his last three games.

Vincent Brown, San Diego (Denver)
With Malcolm Floyd still on the bench with an injury and Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates drawing the Broncos' top covermen, Brown has a good chance to make a big play. His speed and down-the-field ability were extraordinary in college, and that ability showed in spades against the Raiders. Rivers has targeted him 19 times over the last three weeks and should be looking his way plenty this weekend.

Lowered Expectations:

Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (at NY Jets)
Welcome to Revis Island. No offense has stumbled more over the last month than the Bills. Enough said?

Eric Decker, Denver (at San Diego)
The former Golden Gopher wideout was held without a reception last week and has one total catch in two games. As long Tim Tebow is playing quarterback, the opportunities will just not be there for Decker.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (Pittsburgh)
Tyler Palko is killing Bowe owners everywhere, and the Steelers rank third in the NFL against the pass at 183.2 yards per game. He just cannot be trusted against the Steel Curtain.

<p> Athlon Sports Week 12 NFL Fantasy Start and Sit</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 10:29
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-13

-by Braden Gall ( on twitter)

Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of . 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: 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 vote receives one point.

And then there were three. Stanford's Andrew Luck, Alabama's Trent Richardson and Baylor's Robert Griffin III have separated themselves as the top three candidates for the 2011 Heisman Trophy. Each received a first-place vote, and there is a major drop-off in the voting to the next tier of options.

The second group of three includes two of the hottest risers in the nation and the most productive player in the history of the sport. Wisconsin's Montee Ball and USC's Matt Barkley have improved their stock more than anyone over the second half, and Houston's Case Keenum is still undefeated. These three are trailing the top three by a fairly wide margin, but have plenty of breathing room on the rest of the field.

The final group of candidates features three very talented quarterbacks who each brings something unique to the Heisman discussion.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, (85/90 total points, 5/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 241/343, 2,937 yards, 31 TD, 8 INT, 39 att., 133 yards, 2 TD

Luck wasn't amazing in the 31-28 win over Cal, but he was still the driving force behind the second straight win over the arch-rival Golden Bears. He completed 20-of-30 passes for 257 yards and two scores and has kept the The Axe in Palo Alto for another year. Luck is working with much less on the oustide than, say, a USC, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma quarterback and is still the best player in the nation for a potential one-loss BCS at-large team. Next Game: Notre Dame

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 85 5 3 1 - - 9
2. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 78 3 4 2 - - 9
3. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 75 1 2 5 1 - 9
4. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 47 - - - 3 - 9
5. Case Keenum QB Houston 45 - - - 1 3 9
6. Matt Barkley QB USC 42 - - - 2 3 8
7. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 30 - - 1 - 1 6
8. Kellen Moore QB Boise St 28 - - - - 2 9
9. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 25 - - - 1 - 7
10. LaMichael James RB Oregon 13 - - - 1 - 4
11. David Wilson RB Virginia Tech 6 - - - - - 3
12. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 4 - - - - - 2
13. Collin Klein QB Kansas St 4 - - - - - 1
14. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 4 - - - - - 2
15. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 2 - - - - - 1
16. Bobby Rainey RB Western Kentucky 2 - - - - - 1
17. Brad Wing P LSU 1 - - - - - 1

2. Trent Richardson, RB, (82)
Season Stats: 236 att., 1,380 yards, 20 TD, 26 rec., 322 yards, 2 TD

You don't just line up against Georgia Southern and expect to get a win. Trent Richardson was needed for more than expected in the 45-21 win over the Eagles. T-Rich touched the ball 33 times for 188 yards from scrimmage and three trips to paydirt. Richardson leads the SEC in rushing at 125.5 yards per game and 12.0 points per game. Next Game: at Auburn

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, (75)
Season Stats: 245/336, 3,572 yards, 33 TD, 5 INT, 135 att., 550 yards, 5 TD

RG3 not only won himself arguably the biggest game in Baylor history, but he likely also won himself plenty of Heisman votes and made himself loads of cash with his performance in the 45-38 win over Oklahoma. He completed 21-of-34 passes for 479 yards and four touchdowns for almost 23 yards per completion. He also ran for 72 yards on 18 carries. His 412.2 yards per game of total offense leads the nation, and his 191.65 passer rating is No. 2 in the country — and better than the single-season NCAA record. Simply put, Griffin III is the most valuable player in the nation. Next Game: Texas Tech

4. Montee Ball, RB, (47)
Season Stats: 223 att., 1,466 yards, 25 TD, 16 rec., 233 yards, 5 TD, 1/1, 25 yards, TD

The game started slowly for the Badgers offense, but then Wisconsin gave the ball to Mr. Ball. The Big Red tailback rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the second half of the 28-17 road win over Illinois. Keeping his Big Ten title hopes alive, Ball finished with 222 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns on 40 touches. He became only the fifth player in college football history to score 30 touchdowns in a season and could make a run at Barry Sanders' NCAA-record 39 scores. He is now third in the nation in rushing at 133.3 yards per game and is leading the nation in scoring at 16.9 points per game. His 1,466 yards trail only Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey (1,468 yards) nationally. A big-time Big Ten title game-clinching performance this weekend against Penn State could vault him into the city that never sleeps. Next Game: Penn State

5. Case Keenum, QB, (45)
Season Stats: 309/421, 4,269 yards, 38 TD, 3 INT, 41 att., 54 yards, 3 TD

Lee Corso freudian slips aside, Gameday saw the most productive player in history throw for another 318 yards and account for two more touchdowns. More importantly, he kept his team unbeaten with the 37-7 drubbing of C-USA rival SMU. Keenum is currently the No. 2 in the nation in total offense and is the No. 3 most efficient quarterback nationally. Next Game: SMU

6. Matt Barkley, QB, (42)
Season Stats: 273/404, 3,105 yards, 33 TD, 7 INT, 27 att., 20 yards, 2 TD

Few players have seen their stock rise more quickly than Barkley. On the road in a foggy, cold Autzen Stadium, the Trojan signal-caller completed an outstanding 26-of-34 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-35 win over Oregon. The Ducks never led. Barkley has proven that he belongs on this list, especially in the face of sanctions and probation — which only makes his performance that much more impressive. Next Game: UCLA

7. Russell Wilson, QB, (30)
Season Stats: 170/231, 2,506 yards, 26 TD, 3 INT, 59 att., 289 yards, 5 TD, 1 rec., 25 yards, TD

Wilson didn't post the big numbers, but he played an efficient game in a key win that keeps the Badgers' BCS bowl hopes alive. The UW passer completed 10-of-13 passes for only 90 yards but scored a pair of touchdowns (1 rush, 1 pass). His passer efficiency of 199.27 is not only leading the nation, but would also shatter the NCAA's single-season record of 186.00 set by Colt Brennan. Next Game: Penn State

8. Kellen Moore, QB, (28)
Season Stats: 248/336, 2,915 yards, 35 TD, 6 INT, 16 att., minus-50 yards

Moore is not used to playing games following a loss, but that is what he had to do this weekend. The Bronco put the TCU loss behind him by throwing for 366 yards and four touchdowns in the 52-35 road win over San Diego State. Next Game: Wyoming

9. Brandon Weeden, QB, (25)
Season Stats: 355/486, 4,111 yards, 34 TD, 12 INT, 15 att., minus-95 yards

It is unfortunate that Weeden's entire Heisman campaign might have come down to a couple bad throws against Iowa State. The Pokes quarterback completed 42 passes to his own team — for 476 yards and three touchdowns — but three to the Cyclones as well in the 37-31 overtime road loss. Weeden is fourth in the NCAA in total offense (365.1 ypg) and is No. 2 (to Griffin III) in passing efficiency in the Big 12. However, his Heisman and National Championship aspirations might have fallen by the wayside last Friday night. After the bye, he will have one more major chance to prove himself in the Bedlam Series. Next Game: Bye

10. LaMichael James, RB, (13)
Season Stats: 173 car., 1,285 yards, 13 TD, 14 rec., 180 yards, 1 TD

James and the Ducks experienced one of the most heartbreaking losses of recent memory when the USC Trojans outlasted them 38-35 in Eugene last weekend. James did reach the end zone but was arguably the third most effective back on his own offense. He still leads the nation in rushing yards per game at 142.8 yards but will likely not be making a return trip to New York. Next Game: at Baylor

Previous Voting:

<p> Athlon Sports Heisman Voting: Week 13</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Bo Pelini, College Football
Path: /college-football/bo-pelini-good-coach-or-underachiever


In our on , we focused on the extremely fickle nature of college football fan bases. No longer are fans looking from year-to-year to analyze the state of their football program. In today's college football world, fans are now looking week-to-week.

For a case in point, let's turn to and . Nebraska is coming off a somewhat embarrassing 45-17 loss to . Combine this with a loss to and a 48-17 blowout loss to , and you can almost start to hear those whispers of discontent that turn into screams before you can blink.

Here a few things to keep in mind about Nebraska football and about Coach Pelini:

1. From 1941-1961, the Cornhuskers had 17 losing seasons.

2. In steps Bob Devaney in 1962. In 1969, Bob Devaney hires Tom Osborne as his offensive coordinator. In 1973, Coach Osborne takes over from Coach Devaney. All-in-all, from 1962-1997, Nebraska won 356 of the 430 games it played, didn't have a single losing season, and won 75% of its games 33 of the 36 seasons.

3. Tom Osborne retires in 1997 and from 1998 - 2007, Nebraska won 67.72% of its games and had two losing seasons.

4. In the five years prior to Pelini being hired, the Cornhuskers won 59.68% of their games and only had two seasons with nine or more wins.

5. In 2008, Nebraska hires Bo Pelini. Let's dig into some numbers on Pelini's tenure at Nebraska:

Years Overall WP% Conf. WP% Non-Conf. WP% Against Top 25 (Time of Game) Against Over .500 Teams 9+ Win Seasons
2008-Present 71.15% (37-15) 63.64% (21-12) 84.21% (16-3) 40.00% (6-9) 47.62% (10-11) 3 (on pace for 4 with one win in last two games of 2011)

Let's consider one other set of numbers:

Years WP% w/ Superior Talent WP% w/ Equivalent Talent WP% w/ Inferior Talent
2008-Present 81.82% (27-6) 54.55% (6-5) 33.33% (2-4)

So, what's the verdict so far on Pelini? One thing we know for sure is that Coach Pelini knows defense. Of the nine seasons Pelini has been either a defensive coordinator (5 years) or a head coach (4 years), he has had top 25 nationally ranked scoring defenses in seven of the nine years. In fact, he has had top 10 nationally ranked scoring defenses in five of the nine years.

Furthermore, Pelini seems to have elevated Nebraska from having to worry about 5+ loss seasons ( lost 5 or more games in three of his four seasons as head coach at Nebraska). Pelini has not won less than nine games in his four years as head coach at Nebraska and barring two straight losses to end the 2011 season, he will once again win 9+ games.

On the somewhat negative side of the numbers is Pelini's winning percentage against Top 25 teams (40.00%) and winning percentage against teams finishing the season over .500 (47.62%). We have seen these numbers play out this year for Pelini. All three of Nebraska's losses this year have come against over .500 teams and two of their three losses have come against Top 25 teams. All three of their losses this year have also come against guys that can flat out coach (, , and ).

With Pelini, you pretty much know what you are going to get. You are going to get a coach whose teams play great defense and who beat the teams they should beat around 80% of the time. You are getting a coach that will more than likely win 8+ games every year and keep Nebraska relevant in college football. Can Bo Pelini take Nebraska back to competing for National Championships and winning 12+ games a la the Osborne era? Given the fact that Nebraska is today in a far more competitive conference than years past, we would bet no. However, like with most things in life, let's wait and see how things play out on the field.

<p> Is Bo Pelini producing like he should at Nebraska or has his teams underachieved?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 06:23
Path: /college-football/lsu-alabama-case-against-bcs-rematch

-by Braden Gall (follow him )

LSU and Alabama are probably the best two teams in the nation.

And when you play in a league that boasts the last five National Champions, you are going to get the benefit of the doubt.

That doesn’t make it right, however, for LSU and Alabama to play in the BCS title game. The top two teams in the nation played an undefeated, tightly contested, late-season game in which the No. 1 team beat the No. 2 team by three points.

Shouldn’t that game mean something?

If you are wondering why that scenario sounds so familiar, it’s because it is exactly what happened in 2006, when an unbeaten No. 1 Ohio State topped an unbeaten No. 2 Michigan 42-39 on November 18. The screams against a rematch echoing from around the nation — and from Gainesville in particular — were deafening.

And they were right.

Michigan easily handled a 12-1 Wisconsin team, outlasted a 9-4 Penn State on the road and dismantled a 10-3 Notre Dame team that played in the Sugar Bowl before losing by three on the road to the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation. Sounds awfully similar to an Alabama team that, assuming both LSU and Bama take care of business over the final two weeks, won at Penn State, handily beat a 10-2 Arkansas team at home, beat its Iron Bowl rival and lost to the No. 1 team in the nation by three points. A very simple, and very subjective, case could be made that the 2006 Wolverines deserved the right to play in the national championship game —precisely the identical case Crimson Tide fans are making today.

Through the joy of hindsight, we now know that Florida did, in fact, deserve to play in the BCS National Championship game against the Buckeyes. Obviously. But the 10.5-point spread favoring Ohio State certainly didn’t indicate that was the case before the game was played. Very few experts were picking the Gators to win that game.

And this is where my long-time personal sports philosophies and what I have seen on the college football gridiron this season decisively diverge.

Teams that do not win their division or conference are allowed to win championships in every other major sport. The Green Bay Packers or the St. Louis Cardinals wouldn’t be World Champions if “Wild Cards” were not allowed to participate in the championship format. Yet, the Packers and Cardinals had to prove their mettle by maneuvering an incredibly treacherous postseason path to the title game(s). These teams were rewarded for establishing themselves as “worthy” during the regular season, earning a chance to play for a championship against the sport's best competition.

And they capitalized with epic and unexpected performances.

The Packers had to win three straight road games against the Eagles, Falcons and Bears before defeating the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. The Cardinals had to defeat the mighty Phillies, Brewers and Rangers in order to capture their 11th World Series title.

Herein lies the rub. I believe that Alabama and LSU (for now, Arkansas fans) are the two best teams in the nation. But that is, by definition, just a guess. There is no factual proof that Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Boise State or Stanford wouldn’t beat the Bayou Bengals or the Crimson Tide. Hypothetically, let’s assume each of those teams wins their conference championship, leaving them a combined 57-6. They would easily have established themselves as the best of the rest.

Did anyone pick the Cardinals to win the World Series? Or the Packers to win three road games and the Super Bowl? Assuming that LSU and Alabama would automatically defeat every one of those other teams is prognostication hubris.

In the non-playoff BCS format that is currently employed, the point is to try to objectively select the two best teams in the nation for a one-game playoff scenario. This makes college football’s regular season the most powerful and meaningful in all of sports – as every anti-playoff advocate will so readily point out.

So the 9-6 win by LSU over Alabama in Tuscaloosa on November 5 has to mean something, right? I may have watched that game and still felt that Alabama was the “better” team, but the better team doesn’t always win and LSU has to receive some sort of credit for winning that game.

If Alabama and LSU meet in the BCS National Title game, my eyes will agree that they are likely the two best teams in the nation. But if Alabama beats LSU, then what did that November 6 meeting mean?

Absolutely nothing. And my sports insides would be in a post-Turkey Day knot.

In a system that values the regular season at an unprecedented level, that contest at the Captsone has to have a cost associated with it. Alabama lost its division, its conference and the chance at a national championship that night — even if I still think they are the best team in the nation.

The point of athletic competition is having the opportunity to accomplish greatness against all odds. Joe Namath and John Elway pulled off two of the greatest upsets in football history on sports’ grandest stage. Jimmy V or Villanova would never have had the chance to cut down the nets if it weren't for the tournament. The Florida Marlins and Josh Beckett would never have ruined Steve Bartman’s life if not for the Wild Card. The 2007 Oregon State Beavers baseball team was one of the final at-large bids into the postseason and they captured the College World Series championship. None of which would have happened had we let our subjective hypotheses do the work for us.

The list goes on and on, full of Shining Moments that allow fans to dream big and then witness those fantasies unfold in front of them through the beauty of on-the-field competition. So if Alabama and LSU land in a four-team playoff, for example, and each wins its way to the title game, my inner sports-chi would be totally aligned and comfortable with a rematch. But in the current system, a team that doesn’t even win its own division simply does not deserve the right to play for a National Championship, even if we think it might be the second-best team in the nation.

Because if the BCS is such a perfect format, why is it the most heavily criticized postseason system in all of major American sports?

<p> Why LSU and Alabama should not be allowed to play for the BCS National Championship.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-rivalries

Pep bands, cheerleaders, tailgating, student sections, cornhole and especially rivalries. All of which makes the greatest sport on the planet. The Athlon Sports editorial staff put its collective heads together and ranked the Top 25 rivalries in college football:

1. Michigan-Ohio State (Michigan leads 57-44-6)
Some think the story is a tall tale, but others swear it’s true. After his Ohio State team scored its final touchdown late in a 50–14 rout of Michigan at the end of the 1968 season, Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes elected to go for two points, instead of kicking the PAT. When asked afterward why he did that, Hayes reportedly said, “Because they ­wouldn’t let me go for three.” Hayes’ hatred for “that team up north,” as he referred to Michigan, was legendary. Rest assured that Wolverine fans harbor no affection for the Buckeyes, either. The schools have met every year but five (1913-17) since 1900 — the teams’ first game was in 1897 — and their contests have become appointment viewing for much of the country, late in November, usually under gun-metal gray skies with a hint of winter in the air. More important, Big Ten primacy is usually at stake, especially since Bo Schembechler took over in Ann Arbor in 1969 to turn the U-M fortunes around and provide an irascible counterbalance to the cantankerous Hayes. Since that point, Michigan-Ohio State has been the nation’s most consistently competitive and heated rivalry. Because the games have so much significance and occur at season’s end, a loss can be doubly haunting. Not only does the vanquished team lose to a hated foe, but its season can be destroyed also. For that reason, Michigan-Ohio State tops the rivalry list. There may be games that match these schools’ animosity for each other, and there may be contests that are as consistently important. But none combines the two into such a volatile package.

2. Alabama-Auburn (Alabama leads 40-34-1)
When Bill Curry was coaching at Alabama, he went to a Birmingham elementary school one day to speak with children about football and life. Upon entering the classroom, he saw a boy standing in the corner, sobbing. Curry wondered what was going on, and a student told him, “Jason is an Auburn fan, and we took care of him.” Curry brought Jason out of the corner and told him it was all right to root for the Tigers, no doubt angering the young Crimson Tide supporters in the room. Truth be told, it isn’t all right to be an Auburn fan — if you follow the Tide. Tiger fans feel the same way about Bama. If you live in the state of Alabama, you have to choose; you either yell “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle.” You’re either a fan of the big-brother Crimson Tide, or Auburn, which has its roots in agricultural education and resents the perceived arrogance of its rival. In a state with no major professional sports team, Auburn-Alabama football is a religion. Curry’s minister once told him it was more important. It has been that way from the game’s earliest days, which proved to be so contentious that the schools stopped playing each other for 41 years. Once they resumed hostilities, they did so at a geographically neutral site, in Birmingham, but Auburn fans groused for decades because Legion Field was the Tide’s home away from home. That changed when the game moved to campus, but the vitriol has not abated. Fans of both teams crave victory, and a loss means a full year of misery from friends, co-workers and even family members. It’s enough to make someone want to stand in a corner and cry.

3. Army-Navy (Navy leads 55-49-7)
Go ahead and try to attend this game without experiencing a surge of patriotism. If the Super Hornets’ flyover doesn’t get you, the Army paratroopers will. If you miss the parades of Cadets and Midshipmen, then the non-stop spirit videos on the big board will stir your senses. By game’s end, no matter what the score, America wins. That may seem hokey to some, but they haven’t been there. Trust us, Army-Navy is college football in its purest state. Today, that’s something worth celebrating. Fans of the teams thirst for victory, and so do the players, who are truly playing for their fellow students. Afterward, they rejoin their classmates in preparation for military service, not an NFL career. For 364 days of the year, Army and Navy are on the same team. For three hours on a chilled December afternoon, they represent every soldier or sailor who has ever donned a uniform, walked a post or sailed into the dark of night. The football has been pretty good over the years, too. Five Heisman winners have participated in the rivalry, and dozens of Hall of Famers have taken the field representing the academies. Though Navy has dominated the scoreboard over the past decade, the game remains a huge draw and a still thrills fans across the country. Most important, it pits future military and government leaders against each other as they fight for their Academies and provide the country with an afternoon of prideful competition.

4. Oklahoma-Texas (Texas leads 59-41-5)
One of the most unique characteristics about Dallas’ Cotton Bowl is that the teams’ locker rooms empty into a common corridor, so that players take the field through the same tunnel. On more than one occasion, as Texas and Oklahoma have prepared to charge onto the hallowed stadium’s turf, they have encountered each other in a highly charged, emotional moment that could have ignited an inferno. Instead, they decided to enjoin the fight on the gridiron, in front of 95,000-plus fans divided evenly into crimson and burnt orange enclaves. Rarely has the flame from the ensuing collision failed to heat the passions of all in attendance. While the Texas State Fair rollicks on around them, and vendors offer to fry anything that doesn’t move — and some things that do — the Longhorns and Sooners offer a mid-season football feast that dates back to 1900, when Oklahoma wasn’t even a state and Texas was just beginning to tap into the huge oil reserves deep below its surface. The neighbors harbor a significant dislike for each other, and tempers have boiled over many times on nights before the game. It doesn’t help that many OU grads now live in Texas, lured south by jobs in the petroleum industry. And plenty of Lone Star football talent has headed north to Norman, especially when Barry Switzer was pillaging the state’s top programs for all-stars. The action on the field rarely disappoints. Although there have been several blowouts over the years, including 2011’s 55–17 Sooner wipeout, the action is usually taut and has national implications. Though the game is played in October, several championship runs have been spawned by a victory in Dallas, and several high hopes have been dashed.

5. USC-Notre Dame (Notre Dame leads 43-22-5)
The nation’s top intersectional rivalry owes a debt of gratitude to some unfriendly residents of Lincoln, Neb., and Bonnie Rockne’s love of warm California weather. At a time when traditional gridiron matchups are being torn asunder by the whirling conference kaleidoscope, Notre Dame and USC continue their annual hostilities, treating the nation to a classic matchup of iconic programs. The schools almost didn’t get together. But in 1925, after ND dropped a 17–0 decision at Nebraska, before an inhospitable crowd of Cornhusker fans, coach Knute Rockne and his wife were joined on the train back to Chicago by USC athletic director Gwynn Wilson and his wife, Marion. While Wilson tried to convince Rockne to ditch the burgeoning rivalry with Nebraska for an annual trip west, Marion Wilson and Bonnie Rockne became fast friends in another train compartment. Rockne resisted Wilson’s entreaties, but his wife was enthralled with the idea of Los Angeles in the late fall. She later convinced her husband to play the Trojans. The resulting rivalry has lasted 85 years and has filled the college football history books with dozens of classic tales. More Heisman winners have played in the Notre Dame-USC game than in any other rivalry, and many a national championship hope has been validated with a victory in the game. Though the teams alternate between their home sites, playing in late November in L.A. and mid-October in South Bend, the game retains a glamour that defines it and is a product of two of college football’s most storied programs.

6. Georgia-Florida (Georgia leads 46-40-2)
The party begins at “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” around Tuesday, when the big boats start cruising up the St. John’s River in Jacksonville. By gametime, everybody is in a festive mood – except the players. The Bulldogs and Gators have engaged in some classics over the years, from Georgia’s thrilling comeback in 1980 to Florida’s soggy 1993 triumph. Cheers!

7. (Miami leads 31-24)
For a while there during the 1990s, there was more talent on the field when the ‘Canes and ‘Noles met up than in some NFL stadiums. And everybody wanted to put on a show. This matchup lacks the tradition and history of other rivalries, but the hostility is just as high. And there have been some classics. FSU fans still wince when they hear the words “Wide Right,” while Miami backers still cringe at the 34-3 beating their heroes absorbed in ’84.

8. Harvard-Yale (Yale leads 65-54-8)
The Crimson and Bulldogs may not have played the first-ever college football game, but both schools had hands in how the game developed into what we have today. The late-November meeting between the schools is a history lesson wrapped in a high-class tailgate party. Harvard and Yale no longer compete at college football’s highest level, but they remain forever linked to the sport’s earliest days.

9. Florida-Florida State (Florida leads 33-20-2)
For years, this was a big brother/little brother battle, with the establishment Gators looking down on the upstart Seminoles. Then, FSU started to win games – a lot of games – and things changed. This may lack the in-state hate of Auburn-Alabama, but don’t worry; the two sides harbor plenty of dislike for each other. During the past three decades, as both have competed for national laurels, their games have become more than just neighborhood brawls.

10. (Stanford leads 51-43-10)
To some, The Big Game is the province of the wine-and-cheese crowd, and the schools’ NoCal addresses reinforce that. But there can be no denying that these schools thirst to defeat each other. It’s a classic battle of private (Stanford) against public (Cal), and bragging rights go well beyond which side brings the best pinot to the pre-game party. Plus, what other rivalry can boast a game with a crazy ending as the 1982 contest: “The band is on the field!”

11. (Pitt leads 61-39-3)
Only 75 miles separates the two combatants in the Backyard Brawl. And this rivalry is also helped by the fact that Dana Holgorsen and Todd Graham don't like each other.

12. (Texas leads 75-37-5)
This Thanksgiving weekend tradition is in jeopardy with the Aggies’ move to the SEC.

13. Oregon-Oregon State (Oregon leads 58-46-10)
The Civil War has come a long way since the Ducks and Beavers played to a 0–0 tie in 1983.

14. BYU-Utah (Utah leads 51-31-4)
The Holy War might be the best name for any rivalry in the nation.

15. UCLA-USC (USC leads 43-28-7)
The Southern California showdown was dominated by UCLA from 1991-98, but the Bruins have only won once since, in 2006.

16. Alabama-Tennessee (Alabama leads 47-38-7)
The Third Saturday in October means only one thing to people in the South: Alabama vs. Tennessee.

17. Oklahoma-Oklahoma State (Oklahoma leads 81-17-7)
T. Boone Pickens’ interest in the Oklahoma State program was piqued after the Pokes, 3–7 at the time, knocked OU out of the 2001 national title game with a 16–13 win.

18. Clemson-South Carolina (Clemson leads 65-39-4)
These two schools were bitter rivals well before they started playing football in the 1890s. South Carolina has won two straight, but Clemson holds a 65–39–4 advantage in the all-time series.

19. (Ole Miss leads 60-41-6)
The Egg Bowl is often the only way to salvage a season for these two programs that have struggled to win consistently in the SEC.

20. Michigan-Michigan State (Michigan leads 67-31-5)
It pains MSU fans that Michigan’s biggest rival is Ohio State, but the “Little Brothers” from East Lansing have won the last four in the series.

21. Auburn-Georgia (Auburn leads 54-52-8)
It’s the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and it dates back to 1892. Auburn holds the slimmest of margins, with a 54–52–8 edge in the series.

22. Michigan-Notre Dame (Michigan leads 22-15-1)
These two traditional powers have only played regularly for the past three decades, but they produced a ton of memorable moments. Strike a pose, Desmond!

23. Georgia-Georgia Tech (Georgia leads 61-39-5)
You know it’s a good rivalry when the book about the series is called Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.

24. Minnesota-Wisconsin (Minnesota leads 59-53-8)
The winner of the Gophers vs. Badgers showdown takes home the prized Paul Bunyan Axe. It’s the most played rivalry in FBS football, dating back to 1890.

25. Lafayette-Lehigh (Lafayette leads 76-65-5)
The Rivalry, as it’s called, pits two small private schools located 17 miles apart in Eastern Pennsylvania. Lafayette and Lehigh have met 146 times, including every year since 1897.

<p> College Football's Top 25 Rivalries</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 06:40
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten-8

By Braden Gall ( on Twitter)

Post-Week 12 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our . And two Big Ten teams came in at #1 of our .

1. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) – The Spartans had a pretty good weekend. Michigan State grabbed the Old Brass Spittoon from the Indiana Hoosiers in the not-so competitive rivalry. More importantly, the 55-3 drubbing of Indiana (and eventual Nebraska loss) clinched a spot in the first-ever Big Ten Championship game for Mark Dantonio. The game against Indiana was merely a formality, as MSU outgained IU 470 to 236 and had a 48-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins needed just over one half of action to throw for 272 yards and three touchdowns — bringing him to 60 for his career. With one more scoring strike, Cousins will tie Jeff Smoker for the career TD pass lead in East Lansing. Michigan State now heads to Northwestern for the regular-season finale before heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game on December 3.

2. Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2) –  Wisconsin, as it has all season, struggled to get started on the road against Illinois. But an impassioned halftime speech by head coach Bret Bielema trailing 17-7 lit an appropriate fire under the Badgers offense. Montee Ball and the Badgers scored 21 unanswered points to pull off the 28-17 come-from-behind victory. Ball finished with 224 yards (164 in the second half) and three total touchdowns on 40 touches. He is third in the nation in rushing and became only the fifth player in NCAA history to score 30 touchdowns. Wisconsin's defense also played inspired football in the second half, forcing three of its four turnovers on the day. Wisconsin now welcomes Penn State to Camp Randall in what has become a Big Ten Championship semifinal. The winner of the game at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday in Madison, Wisc., will head to Indianapolis for the debut of the Big Ten title game.

3. Penn State (9-2, 6-1) – Technically, the outcome of the Penn State-Ohio State game had little impact on the Nittany Lions' search for a Big Ten title. Either way, Penn State was going to have to beat the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison this weekend. But the 20-14 win was nonetheless very impressive — and it marked the beginning of a new era. It was the first time PSU won a football without Joe Paterno stalking the sidelines since December 1965 (1950 if you count his years as an assistant). Penn State rushed for 239 yards against the league's No. 3 rush defense (119.3 ypg entering Saturday). The diminuative but speedy Stephfon Green, not Silas Redd, led the way with 93 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Niether team scored a point in the second half as both quarterbacks struggled mightily to produce big plays in the passing game. Matt McGloin will have to play better than his 10-of-18, 88 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT line indicates if he expects to keep pace with the Badgers.

4. Michigan (9-2, 5-2) – In one of the most impressive performances by any team this season, Michigan dominated the line of scrimmage in a 45-17 win over new divisional rival Nebraska. The Wolverines rushed for 238 yards while holding Rex Burkhead to only 36 yards on 10 carries. The Maize and Blue set the tone for the second half when, leading only 17-10, Michigan scored two touchdowns in six minutes to blow the game open in the third quarter. Denard Robinson finished a tidy 11-of-18 for 180 yards and two scores to go with his 23 carries, 83 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. His 33 career rushing touchdowns are sixth all-time in UM history. All the momentum points to Michigan finally snapping its seven-game losing streak to that school from down south this weekend in the .

5. Nebraska (8-3, 4-3) – The wheels are starting to come off the Huskers' 2011 campaign. Losing two out of three isn't all that bad in the modern Big Ten, but how it happened is a bit concerning. Getting upset at home by Northwestern and then getting smoked along the line of scrimmage 45-17 at Michigan is borderline unacceptable. Michigan nearly doubled the Huskers' rushing output (238 to 138) and failed to play inspired football in the second half, getting outscored 28-7 in the latter segment of the game. Taylor Martinez completed only 9-of-23 passes, Rex Burkhead totalled 36 yards from scrimmage and the Huskers lost three of four fumbles. The battle for the whole ear of corn against Iowa should've carried more weight than their combined six Big Ten losses indicate. That said, if Nebraska can beat Iowa in the newly minted season-ending rivalry and then win its bowl game, it will have reached ten wins in its maiden voyage through the Big Ten.

6. Ohio State (6-5, 3-4) – The future is very bright for the Buckeyes, but the end of 2011 could be tough to swallow for The Ohio State University. After losing to Purdue, Ohio State came out flat on defense and got beat 20-14 against Penn State. With a trip to Ann Arbor against a hungry, hot and prepared Michigan team looming this weekend, the Bucks are staring at a 6-6 season. That said, it appears that Urban Meyer will be leading the Scarlet and Gray ship next fall, and he will have a developing star at quarteback in Braxton Miller and a talent-laden defense. Miller has rushed for 352 yards and four touchdowns over the last four games.

7. Iowa (7-4, 4-3) – Iowa got its first road win of the 2011 season by defeating Purdue 31-21 in West Lafayette on Saturday. James Vandenberg continued his impressive development by throwing three touchdowns passes and 273 yards on 22-of-32 passing. Vandenberg is now No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing efficiency at 149.02. Two of his scoring strikes hit Marvin McNutt, who finished with nine catches and 151 yards. Marcus Coker continued his hot play as well, spearheading the Hawkeyes' ground game with 139 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Kirk Ferentz's defense forced four turnovers and held the Boilermakers to 282 yards of offense. Iowa enters the season finale at Nebraska aiming for an eight-win season.

8. Northwestern (6-5, 3-4) – Pat Fitzgerald's bunch stayed hot by winning their fourth straight game, 28-13 over Minnesota. Special teams set the tone early for Northwestern with two big kickoff returns by Venric Mark, allowing the Wildcats to score touchdowns on each of their first three possessions. Dan Persa played wire-to-wire, completing 22-of-31 passes with two scoring throws, and the ground game offered a nice complement by producing 152 yards. After losing five straight, the Cats are now bow-eligbile with a home game against Legends Division Champion Michigan State waiting this Saturday.

9. Illinois (6-5, 2-5) – The 2011 campaign for Illinois has been a tale of two halves. And never was this theme more evident than in the 28-17 home loss to the Wisconsin Badgers this weekend. Ron Zook carried a 17-7 lead into halftime before getting outscored 21-0 over the final 30 minutes. Three second-half turnovers aided the Badgers' Montee Ball, who rushed for 164 yards against Illinois in the second half alone. It was the fifth straight loss for the Illini, who will visit a two-win Minnesota team this weekend. A loss to the Gophers would likely be the final straw for Zook as the head coach in Champaign-Urbana.

10. Purdue (5-6, 3-4) – Senior Day in West Lafayette didn't exactly play out like the Boilermakers hoped. Purdue got outgained 408 to 282 yards, out-possessed 33:30 to 26:30 and turned the ball over four times in a 31-21 loss to Iowa. Three of those turnovers came at the hands of quarterback Roberts Marve, who completed 7-of-18 passes for 95 yards and no touchdowns. Caleb TerBush was the better of the two signal-callers, completing 10-of-16 passes and throwing a first-quarter touchdown to Gabe Holmes. Ralph Bolden rushed for 71 yards and a garbage-time touchdown on 14 carries in a game that was never really in doubt for the Hawkeyes. Purdue now will battle for the Old Oaken Bucket when it visits rival Indiana, which is winless in Big Ten play.

11. Minnesota (2-9, 1-6) – The Gophers managed to roll up 269 yards rushing behind 100-yard performances from quarterback MarQueis Gray (26 att., 147 yards, TD) and Duane Bennett (23 att., 127 yards). Yet the defense and special teams could not overcome the electric start by Northwestern. The Wildcats scored on their first three possessions, and the Gophers managed only two field goals over the final 45 minutes. The Gophers host the Illini in the season finale with a chance to end Ron Zook's coaching career at Illinois.

12. Indiana (1-10, 0-7) – The Hoosiers were on bye last week and enter the final weekend of play with their best shot at a Big Ten win to date. Purdue comes to town in the Hoosier State battle for the Old Oaken Bucket. Indiana's lone win this season came against South Carolina State, and it is safe to say that the Hoosiers are the worst team in the conference.

Also Read:

<p> How do the teams in the Big Ten stack up after the 12th week of action?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 06:10
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12-7

By Braden Gall ( on Twitter)

Post-Week 12 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our .

1. Oregon (9-2, 7-1) – The three-way round robin between this league's three best teams has gone the way of the road team in all three contests. Two weeks ago, Oregon went on the road and toppled the Cardinal — a team that beat USC in Los Angeles back on the last Saturday in October — with relative ease. But A plus B does not equal C, as the Ducks fell 38-35 at home to the Trojans Saturday night. The Ducks came out flat and never had the lead — they were down 24-7 early in the third and 38-20 heading into the fourth. After Oregon fought valiantly to get into a position to win the game, Chip Kelly mismanaged his offense and settled for what appeared to be an easy 37-yard game-tying field goal with only seconds remaining. As the Alejandro Maldonado kick sailed wide left, so too did Oregon's BCS national title hopes. The loss snapped a 21-game winning streak in Autzen Stadium for the Ducks. Oregon will clinch the North with a win in the Civil War this weekend.

2. Stanford (10-1, 8-1) – The rain-drenched Big Game featured multiple first-half lead changes and a 15-point fourth quarter rally that came up just short. Andrew Luck and the Cardinal survived a slow start to win their second straight against arch-rival Cal 31-28. The Heisman front-runner completed 20-of-30 passes for 257 yards and two scores to keep The Axe in Palo Alto for one more season. Stanford outgained Cal 149 to 81 on the ground while holding the Bears to 2.4 yards per carry. It was the 114th meeting between the two West Coast rivals. If the Ducks slip up against the Beavers, Stanford will represent the North. If Stanford beats Notre Dame, it will likely land an at-large BCS bowl bid.

3. USC (9-2, 6-2) – Trojan fans need to sit back this weekend and enjoy Matt Barkley play in what should be his final game at USC agianst the rival UCLA Bruins. Barkley continued his stellar play by completing 26-of-34 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns to outlast Oregon 38-35. It was his fifth 300-yard game and seventh game with at least three touchdown throws. Without a bowl game or Pac-12 title to play for, Barkley and the Men of Troy have a chance to foil their rivals' dreams with a win over the Bruins — who, with a win over USC, would play in the Pac-12 title game. 

4. Utah (7-4, 4-4) – Utah and Washington State scored 14 total points in the first half of their snowy, below-freezing meeting this weekend. But a furious fourth quarter of action that featured 34 total points and a 10-point Wazzu rally with less than seven minutes to play sent the game into overtime. Junior defensive back Mo Lee was the hero for Utah as he intercepted his second pass of the game during the first overtime possession for the Cougars. All Kyle Whittingham needed then was a 38-yard field goal from Coleman Petersen to clinch the 30-27 win. John White IV carried the ball 42 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns to pace the offense. Utah continues its great second half as the win was the fourth straight Pac-12 victory. With Colorado coming up on Friday, the Utes still have an outside chance at the conference title game. Utah owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over UCLA, who faces USC, but lost earlier to Arizona State, who faces Cal. If both ASU (who has lost four of five) and UCLA lose, a win would push Utah into the Pac-12 championship game.

5. Washington (6-5, 4-4) – The 5-1 start seems like a distant memory for Huskies fans. Nick Montana made his first career start and completed only 11 of his 21 pass attempts in the 38-21 road loss to Oregon State. Washington allowed 484 yards of offense and turned the ball over three times — including a key Montana fumble deep in his own territory. The Beavers immediately put the game out of reach with their second of three fourth quarter touchdowns, going up 17 with 11:27 left on the clock. Keith Price took over under center and led a scoring drive, but was intercepted on the next possession. Washington has lost seven of eight to the Beavers and now has the Apple Cup in the regular season finale.

6. UCLA (6-5, 5-3) – The UCLA Bruins are one win away from playing in the first annual Pac-12 championship game. After beating up Colorado 45-6 this weekend, Rick Neuheisel is staring at a conference crown (and 2012 employment checks) if he can beat cross-town rival USC this weekend. Kevin Prince threw for 225 yards and a career-high four touchdowns while Johnathan Franklin rushed for 162 yards and a score in the lopsided home win over the lowly Buffaloes. The Bruins outgained Colorado 553 yards to 229 and forced three turnovers. The game was over by the end of the first quarter, as UCLA took a 21-0 lead into the second frame. Beating the Trojans on the road will be a tall order, however. If the Bruins lose, they can still clinch the divison with either an Arizona State win or Utah loss.

7. Arizona State (6-5, 4-4) – The Sun Devils are reeling heading into what could be the most important game of the year. The Devils had a late lead in the battle for the Territorial Cup, but couldn't stop anyone who played quarterback for Arizona. Nick Foles threw for 370 yards and back-up Bryson Bernie tossed the game-winning strike with just over five minutes left in the game. Brock Osweiler, who attempted 63 passes for 487 yards, led ASU into the Wildcats' red zone, but couldn't complete the rally. The 31-27 loss was the third straight and fourth in five games for the still-hopeful Sun Devils. If Arizona State beats Cal at home, UCLA loses to USC on the road and Utah beats Colorado, the Devils will clinch the Pac-12 South title.

8. California (6-5, 3-5) – Quarterback Zach Maynard completed 20-of-30 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. But the Cal signal-caller got zero help from his ground game in the 31-28 loss to Stanford in the Big Game. Cal rushed for 81 yards on 34 carries for an ugly 2.4-yard clip. The Bears lost The Axe to crosstown rival Stanford for the second straight season but now have a chance to ruin Arizona State's season in the desert this Friday.

9. Washington State (4-7, 2-6) – The Cougars missed a great chance to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2006. Third-string quarteback Connor Halliday, fresh off his 494-yard effort a week ago, threw for 290 yards and two scores in the 30-27 overtime loss to Utah. However, Halliday also threw four interceptions, including his costly fourth pick on the first possession of overtime. Utah kicked a field goal shortly thereafter and gave Wazzu its seventh loss of the year. Winning the Apple Cup in the season finale would give the Cougars five wins and might save Paul Wulff's job.

10. Oregon State (3-8, 3-5) – Sean Mannion is giving Beavers' fans a good reason for hope in Corvallis. The freshman quarterback threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns in the big 38-21 win over Washington. Mike Riley, who could be fighting for his job, led Oregon State to its seventh win in eight games against the Huskies. A 21-point fourth quarter gave OSU its third Pac-12 win on the season. Riley and company now have a chance to spoil arch-rival Oregon's conference title hopes in the Civil War this weekend.

11. Arizona (3-8, 2-7) – The battle in the desert is one of the more underrated rivalries in the nation, and Arizona made a winner of Tim Kish in the 31-27 Territorial Cup win over Arizona State. Nick Foles was the game's MVP, throwing for 370 yards and two touchdowns on 35 completions. Yet, the game's most important pass came from back-up Bryson Berine when he connected with Juron Criner on a 23-yard touchdown pass with just over five minutes to play. It turned out to be the game winner when the Cats defense stopped Arizona State on the Arizona 15-yard line with no time remaining. Despite being banged up and leaving the game, Foles set a single-season school record for yards (3,982) and completions (354). The Wildcats finish with UL Lafayette this weekend (what?).

12. Colorado (2-10, 1-7) – Fresh off its first-ever Pac-12 victory over Arizona, Colorado returned to normalcy this weekend with a 45-6 loss to UCLA. Tyler Hansen threw three interceptions and Rodney Stewart carried 21 times for only 77 yards. The Buffs allowed 328 yards rushing to the Bruins and are ranked 12th in the league in scoring offense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense and kickoff returns. Jon Embree finishes off his first season in Boulder with a trip to Utah, which is fighting for a division title, on Friday.

<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after Week 12 of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 11:11
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-11

-by Braden Gall ( on twitter)

Bye Weeks: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh

Start These Quarterbacks:

Carson Palmer, Oakland (at Minnesota)
The Oakland Raiders passer has thrown for 631 yards and five touchdowns in his last two games and is coming off his best game of his brief tenure on the Bay. He has built an instant rapport with rookie Denarius Moore and will be facing the NFL’s 30th-rated pass defense (272.8 ypg). No team in the league has allowed more touchdown passes than Minnesota’s 18.

Alex Smith, San Francisco (Arizona)
Smith has become a model of consistency – quick, where does that rank among phrases you thought you would hear? It’s true, however, that Jim Harbaugh has turned the former No. 1 overall bust into a serviceable fantasy option. He has thrown for between 170 and 242 yards in six of the last eight games and has a touchdown pass in six straight to go with only three interceptions all season. The Cardinals rank 24th against the pass and pose little threat to the 49ers on defense.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (at Green Bay)
Freeman has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions only three times this season, but in a blowout situation in Lambeau, he should have a good chance to produce a useful fantasy total. The Packers rank 31st in the NFL against the pass, and Freeman is sixth in the NFL in attempts per game. Look for the Bucs to be throwing a lot in the second half.

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Eagles QBs (at NY Giants)
With broken ribs it is hard to imagine Michael Vick being allowed to use his legs — if he plays at all. And against one of the league’s top pass rushes, neither Vince Young nor Vick should have much time to throw. Especially considering the wide receiver issues with DeSean Jackson (contract) and Jeremy Maclin (hamstring, shoulder).

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (at Baltimore)
The red-headed quarterback got his first career taste of Pittsburgh last weekend, and it showed. He threw for only 170 yards and two interceptions (even though he did toss two scoring strikes). Dalton has exceeded all expectations in 2011, but no team has allowed fewer touchdown passes than Baltimore’s six. The Ravens are sixth in the NFL against the pass at 194.3 yards per game as well. Stay away.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (at Miami)
Fitz has topped the 200-yard mark only twice in his last six games and has only seven touchdowns over that same span. His 2:5 TD:INT ratio over his last two doesn’t bode well either — even against the Dolphins. Miami’s pass defense has played dramatically improved football of late, allowing a total of 467 yards, no touchdowns and two picks through the air during the two-game winning streak. Miami has surrendered 12 total points the last two weeks.

Start These Running Backs:

Michael Bush, Oakland (at Minnesota)
Assuming that Darren McFadden is out once again, Bush becomes almost a must-start — even against a relatively solid rush defense. In his fill-in start last week, Bush totaled 242 yards and a touchdown on 33 touches. Palmer and Hue Jackson will get him the ball plenty against the 2-7 Vikings.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle (at St. Louis)
In what was arguably the week's most shocking final score, Lynch torched Baltimore for 167 yards from scrimmage and a score in the 22-17 upset. Lynch has 61 touches in the last two games and should be in for another full day of action against the worst rushing defense in the NFL (150.6 ypg allowed).

Brandon Jacobs, NY Giants (Philadelphia)
I am not ready to say that Jacobs is running as hard as possible yet, but it does appear he is taking advantage of his opportunity with Ahmad Bradshaw still injured. The Eagles are allowing 112.4 yards per game and nearly one touchdown per game to running backs. Expect a full workload for Jacobs, assuming Bradshaw does not play.

James Starks, Green Bay (Tampa Bay)
Arizona, Indianapolis and Carolina are the only three teams in the league that have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Bucs. Tampa Bay ranks 29th in the NFL against the run at 138.2 yards per game. Expect Green Bay to get up big behind Aaron Rodgers early and then turn to the ground game in the second half.

Reggie Bush, Miami (Buffalo)
Sound familiar: Arizona, Indianapolis and Carolina are the only three teams in the league that have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Bills. Buffalo ranks 23rd in the NFL against the run at 125.2 yards per game. Bush has 53 touches over the last three games and is averaging 5.9 yards per touch with three scores over that span. He is finally getting the ball in the red zone, and even if Buffalo pulls away, he will get touches in the passing game.

Kendall Hunter, San Francisco (Arizona)
K-Hunt is a deep sleeper play this weekend. He showed spark and solid quickness while filling in last week for Frank Gore (he averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored). Against a porous Cardinals defense that is last in the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed (12), Hunter should get 12-16 touches and should score.

Bench These Running Backs:

Chris Johnson, Tennessee (at Atlanta)
If you take out CJ’s two 100-yard efforts against lowly Carolina and Cleveland, he has averaged 37.8 yards rushing per game. He has scored only twice this year and is facing one of the NFL’s best run defenses in a must-win situation. The Falcons are allowing a third-best 90.3 yards per game behind stellar play of Sean Weatherspoon, Curtis Lofton, Jordan Babineaux and Corey Peters in the front seven.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (at Baltimore)
Yes, Marshawn Lynch posted a big number against the Ravens last week. But that was following an emotion-draining road thriller over Pittsburgh and a cross-country flight to the Pacific Northwest. This important divisional game will most assuredly feature the NFL’s No. 3 scoring defense (16.9 ppg), the No. 3 rushing defense (90.3 ypg) and the No. 3 total defense (296.4 ypg).

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (at Green Bay)
Expect the touches for Blount to be much lower than normal in what should be a lopsided score in Green Bay. Blount, even when healthy, has not produced in 2011. He hasn’t scored since Week 4 against the Colts, has topped the century mark only one time (Week 4) and has 140 yards rushing in his last three games. The Pack is stingy against the run (8th in the NFL), so don’t expect much from Blount.

Beanie Wells, Arizona (at San Francisco)
Put this one on the tee and start swinging for the fences. There is just no way Wells has any business near your starting lineup. Just thought I would remind you.

Injury Concerns:

Frank Gore, San Francisco (Arizona)
The matchup is very juicy, but Gore is nursing two tender ankles and a bum knee. Owners can expect a lowered workload and plenty of K-Hunt.

Felix Jones, Dallas (at Washington)
DeMarco Murray is on a record-setting tear, and there is just no reason to slow his momentum. Take a major wait and see approach to Jones.

Start These Wide Receivers:

Mario Manningham, NY Giants (Philadelphia)
The Eagles are struggling to stop anyone, and Mario is starting to get his Super back. Manningham has caught at least five passes in four of five games and has scored in three straight. Look for the Manning-Manningham connection to continue to grow as the year goes along.

Denarius Moore, Oakland (at Minnesota)
It was painfully obvious how much Carson Palmer likes Moore. Once Jacoby Ford left the game, No. 17 got most of his looks — and the rookie wideout capitalized with multiple big plays and circus catches (5 rec., 123 yards, 2 TDs on Thursday night). Look for the 30th-rated pass defense that has allowed a league-worst 18 touchdown passes to surrender plenty of fantasy points to the Raiders’ pass-catcher.

Laurent Robinson, Dallas (at Washington)
Robinson lands on this list for the second straight week — and he has earned it. The Illinois State product has caught 13 passes for 208 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games. Romo has clearly defined him as one of his top three options, so keep him in the lineup against the Skins.

Damian Williams, Tennessee (at Atlanta)
The Falcons have been dominant against the run, so expect most of the Titans' offensive success to come through the air. Williams made a fantasy living in college by playing smart, disciplined, fundamentally sound football at USC (and Arkansas), and it is starting to show on the next level. He has scored in two straight games and posted his first career 100-yard game last week against Carolina.

Lowered Expectations:

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (at New England)
Despite a very tasty matchup against the worst pass defense in the league (that is getting better and healthier each week), Bowe still has Tyler Palko throwing him the ball now. Look for Kyle Arrington, who has been arguably the Pats' best DB, to slow Bowe just enough to hurt your fantasy squad.

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia (at NY Giants)
D-Jax has been asleep all season as he his contract issues have put a serious dent in his fantasy production. And without a healthy Michael Vick throwing him the ball, I would look for a more stable, safer play this week. Especially against the Giants’ pass rush.

Roddy White, Atlanta (Tennessee)
The return of Julio Jones, ageless wonder Tony Gonzalez and Cortland Finnegan all make this seem like a low ceiling for the under-performing Hot Roddy. Look for the gameplan to center around Michael Turner anyway.


Vincent Jackson, San Diego (at Chicago)
The Chargers couldn’t block my grandmother last weekend, and Rivers will face a fierce pass rush this weekend. And since secondary shifting a month ago, the Bears have not allowed a wideout to top the 85-yard mark and have allowed only one touchdown since Week 6.

<p> Athlon Sports Week 11 NFL Fantasy Start and Sit</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 06:00