Articles By Patrick Snow

Path: /college-football/nebraska-and-michigan-will-be-b1g-rivalry
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Nebraska and Michigan stand at 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten, and the Cornhuskers still have an outside chance in the Legends division if they can win in Ann Arbor and wait for Michigan State to lose in its final two games. Technically, the Wolverines could still win the division if the Spartans lost both of their final two, but that’s very unlikely with Indiana and Northwestern left on the MSU schedule. Nebraska and Michigan split in their last two meetings — bowl games after the 1985 and 2005 seasons — and have not played in the regular season since 1962. Both traditional college football powers have exciting running quarterbacks in NU’s Taylor Martinez and UM’s Denard Robinson, and Saturday’s game should begin an exciting Big Ten rivalry for years to come.

Who wins: Nebraska at Michigan?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
This is probably one of the toughest games of the week to predict and I’ve probably gone back and forth on my pick a couple of times. I’m going to take Nebraska to win a close game in Ann Arbor. Michigan has been solid all year against the run, which makes it important for Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez to have a good day through the air to open up rushing lanes for running back Rex Burkhead. If Martinez struggles, the Cornhuskers are going to be in trouble. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has been banged up, but is expected to play. One bit of positive news for the Wolverines has been the play of running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. With his emergence, there’s less pressure on Robinson to produce on the ground. Considering both teams are relatively equal, winning the turnover battle is going to be crucial in this game. The Wolverines and Cornhuskers are still in the mix to play for the Big Ten title. However, a loss on Saturday will likely end their hopes of winning the Legends Division.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
The question surrounding Michigan's 2011 Big Ten title aspirations has always been the line of scrimmage. Can the hog mollies in the trenches hold their own against the bigger, more physical teams in the conference — e.g., Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Iowa? Despite dramatically improved line-of-scrimmage play, Michigan has not beaten a team that is strong at the point of attack all season (with the possible exception of the Notre Dame miracle). The Huskers power rushing attack, led by the wildly underrated Rex Burkhead, will lean heavily on the Wolverines' D-line that allowed Marcus Coker (132 yards, 2 TD) and Edwin Baker (167 yards, TD) to run wild in its two losses. Nebraska wins the first of what should be many memorable divisional battles between the Big Red and the Maize and Blue.

Nathan Rush
Hail to the Victors. Michigan will knock off Nebraska at the Big House this weekend. Tied for second in the Legends Division, these two teams are eerily similar — both enter with an 8–2 overall record, 4–2 mark in the Big Ten, exciting dual-threat quarterbacks (U-M's Denard Robinson and NU's Taylor Martinez) and run-oriented offenses ranked 12th (NU's 232.7 ypg) and 13th (U-M's 231.3 ypg) in the nation in rushing, respectively. Coming off a wrist injury, Robinson will need to be in top form in order for the Wolverines to continue their unbeaten (6–0) record this season at Michigan Stadium. In U-M's two losses this year, at Michigan State (28–14) and at Iowa (24-16), Robinson has completed a combined 42.6 percent of his passes and averaged a paltry 159 passing yards, 49 rushing yards and two total TDs per game. In the seven wins Robinson has started this season, he has completed 57.0 percent of his passes and averaged 185 passing yards, 110 rushing yards and three total TDs per game. As he has been his entire career, Denard X. will be the X-factor on Saturday against the Blackshirt defense.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
This is a tough game to pick, but I’ll go with Michigan to win a close one at home over Nebraska. Neither team has a particularly strong run defense this season, but the Wolverines’ group seems slightly stronger. The Huskers have struggled with dual-threat quarterbacks this year, and UM’s Denard Robinson should have a big day if healthy. If Robinson’s wrist becomes an issue, then advantage Nebraska, but I think D-Rob and the suddenly productive Fitzgerald Toussaint will prevail over the NU running duo of Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead. With the Huskers having to travel for a second straight Saturday, I’ll take the Wolverines at home, 27-24.
 

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska and Michigan will be a big rivalry for years in the Big Ten.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 15:46
Path: /college-football/tennessee-faces-must-win-against-favored-vanderbilt
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Tennessee finds itself in a very unusual situation this weekend — a home underdog to Vanderbilt. Unfortunately for Derek Dooley, his Vols have been setting some programs lows throughout this season on the way to an 0-6 SEC record. The roster attrition suffered from multiple regime changes (Phil Fulmer to Lane Kiffin to Dooley) has been damaging, with massive personnel losses in the junior and senior classes. Combine that with injuries to quarterback Tyler Bray and top receiver Justin Hunter, and the result is that the 4-6 Vols must beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky just to become bowl eligible. Defeating the Commodores has basically been a yearly event for Tennessee since the days of General Neyland, but this season’s James Franklin-led Vanderbilt team is playing quality football. The Dores rank ahead of the Vols in both scoring offense and scoring defense, and VU will become bowl eligible with a victory. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers has energized the Vandy offense, while running back Zac Stacy is fourth in the SEC in rushing. Tennessee may get Bray back from a broken thumb for this game, and if so, he will face a Commodores defense that is tied for seventh in the country with 15 interceptions.

Who Wins: Vanderbilt at Tennessee?

Nathan Rush
Vanderbilt has lost to Tennessee 27 times in 28 seasons. In 2005, Jay Cutler led the Commodores to a 28–24 win over the Volunteers. It was Vandy's first win over UT since 1982 and first win at Neyland Stadium since 1975. Despite the Big Orange split stats, Vanderbilt (-1.5) is favored against Tennessee for the second time in 26 seasons. The last time the Dores were favored, in Phil Fulmer's next-to-last game in 2008, they lost 20–10 in Nashville. This week, VU first-year coach James Franklin heads to Knoxville to face UT second-year coach Derek Dooley. The Commodores have been beating the teams they should (Kentucky, 38–8; Ole Miss, 30–7), while staying competitive with the SEC's better squads (at Florida, 26–21; Arkansas, 31–28; Georgia, 33–28) and losing badly to the league's best (at Alabama, 34–0; at South Carolina with Marcus Lattimore, 21–3). The question is, where do Dooley's Vols fall in the SEC's pecking order? Tennessee is 0–6 in conference play and fresh off its worst loss since 1981, a 49–7 beating at Arkansas. This is the Super Bowl for both teams. It should be close, but Vandy quarterback Jordan Rodgers will celebrate a win by doing his older brother Aaron's title-belt, discount double-check dance.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Tennessee has dominated the series with Vanderbilt, but I like the Commodores to win on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Getting quarterback Tyler Bray back in the lineup will help Tennessee, but how close to 100 percent is he after missing five games? Also, the offense has struggled to find a rushing attack, which adds even more pressure on Bray in his first game back. The Volunteers are still searching for their first SEC victory, while Vanderbilt has two wins in conference play, plus close losses against Georgia (five points), Arkansas (three) and Florida (five). If the Commodores are unable to beat Tennessee, they have another chance to earn win No. 6, as they play at Wake Forest in the regular season finale. While missing out on a bowl game would be a blow to Derek Dooley’s rebuilding efforts at Tennessee, it’s foolish to even consider him on the hot seat. The cupboard wasn’t exactly full when he took over and this is a young team with potential to move up the SEC East standings next season. Give Dooley some time, he’ll get Tennessee back on the right track, but the Commodores will end their bowl hopes on Saturday.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
We all know the numbers. This is just the second time in 26 seasons that Vanderbilt has been favored (-1.5) over the Vols. That Tennessee has beaten the Dores in 26 of the last 27 meetings. And we know that the winner of this game is going bowling while the loser is most likely sitting at home for the holidays. We also know that Tennessee is last in the SEC rushing and has scored a total of 58 points in six SEC games — all losses. However, 29 of those points came in the only seven quarters of SEC play quarterback Tyler Bray took part in. Bray has missed five games with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, and should he pull a Willis Reed and lead his team into Neyland Stadium on Saturday, I will take the Vols to pull the upset. If Bray is unable to play, James Franklin will not hesitate to kick Big Orange Nation while they are down.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
This is usually a game where you throw out the details and just pick Tennessee. However, this is the first time I can ever remember where Vanderbilt simply looks like the better team. Even in 2008 when the Vols entered the VU game at 3-7 with a lame duck Phil Fulmer, Tennessee was still the better squad with future NFL players like Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty and Eric Berry on the roster. That is not the case with the 2011 Vols, who have an alarming lack of SEC talent in the junior and senior classes. Meanwhile, James Franklin has improved the Vandy offense into a group that can make big plays with Jordan Rodgers and Zac Stacy. And the Commodores do have some of the veteran, NFL-caliber talent that the Vols lack, especially in senior defenders Casey Hayward, Chris Marve and Tim Fugger. The return of quarterback Tyler Bray would lift Tennessee spirits, but it is difficult to see him being very effective after a month+ with a cast on his throwing hand. In Derek Dooley’s most important game as a head coach, I’ll predict Vanderbilt, 24-20.
 

Teaser:
<p> Tennessee faces a must-win against favored Vanderbilt.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 15:49
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state%E2%80%99s-weeden-vaults-top-heisman-race
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Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was considered by most college football observers to be leading the Heisman race throughout this season. However the Cardinal lost to Oregon on Saturday night, and many voters are now reevaluating their ballots. Is it fair to punish Luck for Stanford’s lack of defense against the Ducks? Maybe not, but Heisman votes usually do not involve fairness. Oklahoma State signal caller Brandon Weeden has had a great season, but some believe he is the product of a good system with an excellent offensive line and the country’s best receiver in Justin Blackmon. There are also several quality running back candidates, including Alabama’s Trent Richardson, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Oregon’s LaMichael James. The race for this year’s award looks like it will go down to the last week of the season.

Who is your Heisman favorite?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
This seems to change every week, but right now I would go with Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State over Trent Richardson of Alabama and Andrew Luck of Stanford. Weeden has been terrific all season for the undefeated and second-ranked Cowboys, but his numbers in recent weeks have been incredible — 502 yards and four touchdowns against Kansas State and 423 yards and five scores in a breathtaking, 66–6, win over Texas Tech on Saturday. Richardson might be the best overall skill-position player in the nation, but Bama has lost a game, and you can argue that he isn’t as valuable to his team as Weeden and Luck are to theirs. Eddie Lacy, Richardson’s backup, has rushed for 580 yards on 74 carries for a 7.8-yard average — almost two full yards more per carry than Richardson. Alabama could survive an injury to Richardson and still be one of the top teams in the nation. That’s definitely not the case with Stanford and Luck, and most likely not the case with Oklahoma State and Weeden.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
I still have to vote for the best player in the nation, Stanford's Andrew Luck. A sloppy field and his secondary’s inability to tackle in the open field cost him an undefeated season. Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden isn't getting enough credit, and Alabama's Trent Richardson was still the best player on the field in the LSU-Alabama slugfest from a few weeks ago. Robert Griffin III pulled-off another clutch win for Baylor and Wisconsin's duo of Russell Wilson and Montee Ball is doing things statically that have never been done before. This is a wide open a Heisman race as I have seen in years, but Luck is still America's best and most important football player.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
I’ve had Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck at the top of my Heisman ballot until this week. It wasn’t all Luck’s fault why the Cardinal couldn’t beat Oregon, but he didn’t have a stellar performance either. The new No. 1 on my ballot is Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. The senior has the Cowboys on the doorstep for an appearance in the national title game, throwing for 3,635 yards and 31 scores. Also, Weeden has tossed only nine picks on 428 attempts and has an impressive passer rating of 164.2. While I have Weeden at No. 1 going into Week 12, his chance to win the Heisman will likely be decided on Dec. 3 against Oklahoma. Whether it’s fair or not, if the Cowboys get beat by the Sooners, his Heisman hopes are going to take a hit. Also, with Luck slipping, and Alabama’s Trent Richardson not gaining any momentum, it’s time to consider Oregon’s LaMichael James as a strong candidate once again. Despite missing two games with an elbow injury, James leads the nation with an average of 150.9 yards per game.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
The best player I have seen this season is Trent Richardson of Alabama, with Stanford’s Andrew Luck right there as well. I do not see the reasoning to push Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden ahead of Luck just because the Cardinal defense cannot stop Oregon. It becomes an even tougher evaluation because Luck and Weeden hardly ever play defenses that rank in the top half of the nation, but Weeden definitely has more around him and a more ‘stat-friendly’ system. In fact, I do not see the 28-year-old OSU quarterback as the best player on his own offense — wideout Justin Blackmon is that player. Running backs like Oregon’s LaMichael James, Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball have had great seasons, but Richardson has been the best. He’s had to go against SEC defenses, plus a top 10-ranked group from Penn State. Richardson outgained James in both rushing and receiving yards against LSU, and the Bama bruiser should be at the top of Heisman ballots.
 

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma State’s Weeden vaults to top of Heisman race</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 14:33
Path: /mlb/jonathan-papelbon-phillies-madson-red-sox
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The pitchers who usually finish games have been the starters of baseball’s offseason news. With free against like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder anticipated to take weeks before signing contracts, two prominent closers have the “hot stove” burning in the northeast.

Former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who collected 219 saves over the last six seasons in Boston, has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. The potential contract also includes a fifth-year vesting option for 2016 that could bring the total value of the deal to over $60 million. Papelbon will take a physical early next week before the deal can become official.

The Phillies’ signing of Papelbon is big news for several reasons. Boston and Philadelphia are current MLB stalwarts, so a prominent player changing between those franchises is noteworthy. A closer getting a four-year deal for over $12 million a season is eye-opening for free agents and management all around baseball. And it’s especially interesting that it was just a few days ago when multiple reports surfaced of last year’s closer, Ryan Madson, agreeing to a four-year, $44 million contract to remain in Philadelphia. Subsequently, it was reported that Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and Madson’s agent, Scott Boras, had verbally agreed to the deal and that it just needed the approval of club president David Montgomery. After no Madson contract was signed, Amaro insisted that there was never a deal in place.

So what happened? Perhaps multiple reports were wrong, or maybe the Phillies got cold feet. Or perhaps once Amaro knew what Madson would take to re-sign, he could then better negotiate with Papelbon’s camp? No deal is ever official until it is signed, as Madson may have learned the hard way.

Papelbon’s signing becomes very interesting for other prominent closers. The Red Sox will be looking for a stopper, with Madson and Padres’ fireman Heath Bell as the leading candidates. The 30-year-old Papelbon will now move from one pressurized MLB market to another, or at least he will when a contract is actually signed.
 

Teaser:
<p> Jonathan Papelbon agrees with the Phillies; Madson could go to the Red Sox.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 18:04
Path: /college-football/penn-state-football-moving-past-paterno
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The current situation at Penn State is truly sad and tragic. We were all shocked by the revelations in the grand jury report involving long-time PSU assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and his 40-count sexual-abuse case. The fallout from this horrific criminal indictment has affected the entire university. The Penn State board of trustees voted unanimously to remove Joe Paterno — head football coach at PSU since 1966 — and school president Graham Spanier "effective immediately." The man who replaced Sandusky as defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley, has taken over as interim head coach. The Nittany Lions have a home game with Nebraska on Saturday in what will be a strange and surreal environment. Legal proceedings will dominate the news in Happy Valley for the foreseeable future, and Penn State will be in search of competent and trustworthy leadership for the school and the football program.

With Paterno gone, what's the future of Penn State football?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
There’s no question it’s going to be a long healing process for Penn State. Rebuilding the image of the school and its athletic department is going to take years. And it’s not going to be an easy job. Focusing on the football aspect, this scandal is likely to have a significant impact on recruiting. And considering the overall shape of the athletic department, can the Nittany Lions lure a top coach to Happy Valley? My guess is they will still be able to land one of their top choices. Miami’s Al Golden is probably atop the coaching list, but there’s also a money factor involved with any candidate. How much is Penn State willing to pay? Adding even more uncertainty to the coaching hire is the situation with the athletic director. The Nittany Lions may not have that position filled in a full-time capacity when the next coach is hired. Considering that the coach may not know who the athletic director will be, it is cause for concern for anyone that is interested in taking the job. Shifting back to the present, Penn State still has a chance to win the Big Ten title. Can Tom Bradley rally the team? There are a lot of questions and no easy answers at this point.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
First of all, I’m not sure that Penn State should be playing against Nebraska on Saturday or going to the postseason. After watching clueless students riot while cheering for Joe Paterno and screaming “Beat Nebraska”, some lessons need to be learned about priorities at PSU. Plus what did Tom Bradley know about Sandusky’s behavior, and are we sure he deserves to coach the team? What else was covered up? There are so many unanswered questions around that football complex. I do not want the current players to be punished, but some things are more important than football. As far as the future, former Nittany Lion player and current Miami coach Al Golden seems to make the most sense. He would be as motivated as anyone to clean up the school’s image. The new PSU leadership may want to go outside the Paterno family, for obvious reasons, and then names like Urban Meyer, Mike London, Kevin Sumlin and Pat Fitzgerald will be considered. Penn State needs a coach with a sterling reputation — which is what most of us mistakenly believed PSU had for 46 years.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
If I were making the decisions at Penn State, the first — and hopefully only — call I’d make would be to Al Golden, the current head coach at Miami. Golden played at Penn State from 1987-91 and served on the coaching staff in State College for one season (2000). He did a tremendous job as the head coach at Temple, turning the Owls into a consistent winner in the MAC, and he has done a commendable job in a difficult situation in his only season at Miami. In ideal circumstances, Golden might be reluctant to leave Miami — located in one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the nation — for Penn State, given the current climate in State College. But Miami is facing NCAA sanctions for violations that occurred prior to Golden’s arrival in Coral Gables. Penn State, obviously, has its own issues, but the school will not be penalized by the NCAA. Rebuilding the image of the university might take a few years, but it is still a better situation for a coach than what Miami is about to encounter. It’s not imperative that Penn State hire one of its own now, but Golden is a quality candidate who would likely be on the school’s short list even if he wasn’t a former player. This hire should be a slam dunk.

Nathan Rush
Despite the historically horrific week at Penn State, saddened fans in Happy Valley must celebrate Senior Day on Saturday in a critical contest against Nebraska at Beaver Stadium. If only for three or four hours, the Nittany Lions and their faithful can focus on the game between the lines rather than the tragic recent turn of events, which exposed Jerry Sandusky as the worst kind of monster and Joe Paterno as an enabler willing to look the other way. After this weekend's final home game of the season, PSU visits Ohio State and Wisconsin in tough road trips that will serve as needed respites from the chaos unleashed in central Pennsylvania. These final three games — and whatever bowl is unlucky enough to receive Penn State as a dirty Santa gift — are far less important than the healing and rebuilding process that will start with an extensive coaching search. State College must rally as a community. The Penn State football family needs a leader to step forward, take control and attempt to honestly achieve the "Success with Honor" aspiration that JoePa and Co. failed so miserably to live up to.
 

Teaser:
<p> Penn State football must move past Joe Paterno.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 16:00
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-still-pac-12-south-favorite-despite-ucla-loss
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Most of the focus in the Pac-12 has been on Stanford and Oregon this season, but an interesting development occurred last Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. While most of the college football world was watching Alabama-LSU, UCLA was pulling off a surprising upset over Arizona State. The Sun Devils looked to be running away with the South division, with USC being ineligible to play in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game. On October 20 at Arizona, the Bruins lost to the Wildcats, 48-12, and dropped to 3-4 on the season. The only conversation involving UCLA football was the job status of coach Rick Neuheisel. However with wins over California and Arizona State, UCLA now controls its fate in the division.

Who wins the Pac-12 South?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
We’ve got to give UCLA credit for making this very interesting, but I’m still going with Arizona State as the team to represent the South in the first-ever Pac-12 Championship Game. The Sun Devils could have all but wrapped up the title with a win at UCLA last weekend, but that, of course, didn’t work out. Now, the two teams are tied — as is USC, but the Trojans are ineligible. Arizona State has the much kinder schedule — at Washington State (which has lost five straight) and home vs. Arizona and California. UCLA, on the other hand, has two of its three remaining games on the road, including trips to Utah (winners of three of its past four games) and rival USC. Rick Neuheisel might have saved his job with this late-season hot streak, but it won’t be enough to get his team to the Pac-12 title game.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
It’s a shame USC isn’t ineligible for the South title this year. Even though they lost to Arizona State earlier this year, I think the Trojans are the better team right now. However, with USC out of the picture, I have to go with the Sun Devils. Despite last week’s inexplicable loss to UCLA, Arizona State still has a great chance to make the Pac-12 title game. The Sun Devils need a loss by the Bruins – which is very likely with games at Utah and USC remaining – and to win their final three games – at Washington State, Arizona and California. Despite UCLA’s upset win last week, I still think it will lose one of the last three games, while Arizona State wins out and finishes 9-3. No matter who wins the South Division, the champion of the North is going to be a heavy favorite in the first Pac-12 title game.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
It is a travesty that the best team in the South will not get a chance to play in the Pac-12 title game. But that is a story for another day. The UCLA Bruins control their own destiny, but will not beat the aforementioned USC Trojans in the season finale on November 26. UCLA has lost four straight to the Men of Troy and 11 of the last 12. Rick Neuheisel is 0-3 against USC and has scored 28 total points in those three games. And don't tell Slick Rick about the last time UCLA visited Utah (which they will do this weekend). That resulted in a 44-6 beatdown in 2007. Arizona State, however, finishes with three games in which it will be favored: at Washington State, Arizona and Cal. I will take the Sun Devils to reach to the first-ever Pac-12 title game.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I like the UCLA story and wanted to pick the Bruins, but the remaining schedule looks too tough for Rick Neuheisel’s bunch to win the division. If UCLA can win this Saturday’s game at Utah, then I like Bruins chances because Arizona State has been so inconsistent. However, the Bruins running back duo of Derrick Coleman and Johnathan Franklin will find a major challenge in penetrating a Utes defense that ranks 10th in the nation against the run. Meanwhile, Utah runner John White has been excellent lately and goes against a UCLA defense that is 86th in the country versus the run. If the Bruins can find a way to get a rare road win, I see UCLA and Arizona State finishing with three league losses and the tiebreaker going to Westwood. However, I will predict that UCLA’s road woes continue and the Sun Devils win the division.
 

Teaser:
<p> Arizona State is still the Pac-12 South favorite despite UCLA loss.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 14:49
Path: /college-football/alabama-gets-nod-nation%E2%80%99s-second-best-team
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Alabama had to drop in the polls after its 9-6 overtime loss in Tuscaloosa to LSU. But how far? It makes sense that the Crimson Tide would fall below undefeated Oklahoma State and Stanford, which happened in the Athlon, AP and Coaches Polls. The BCS standings have Bama ahead of the Cardinal because of schedule strength. Boise State keeps winning Mountain West games, but the Broncos will need some breaks to reach the BCS title game. With its resume, LSU has to be considered the nation’s best team. But who’s next? We forget the rankings today and judge the teams on quality and body of work.

On the field, who is the second-best team in the country?

Nathan Rush
LSU is clearly the No. 1 team in the nation — having defeated Alabama in T-Town, Oregon at the Palace in Dallas and West Virginia in couch-burning country. After Les Miles' club, there are several worthy No. 2 candidates. But Nick Saban's Crimson Tide stand head and shoulders above the likes of Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State, etc. Bama has it all — a mastermind coach (Saban), Heisman-quality running back (Trent Richardson), electric receiver-returner (Marquis Maze), powerful O-line and arguably the most-talented defense (highlighted by NFL-ready playmakers like Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron) led by one of the brightest young minds in the game (Kirby Smart). The Tide are a few missed field goals and unforced errors away from being the undisputed No. 1 team in the country. The "Game of the Century" strengthened my beliefs that LSU and Alabama are Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation. With all due respect, no other team comes close to the Tigers or Tide.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
This question would be a bit easier to answer after this weekend because Stanford will have an opportunity to make a statement against a very good Oregon team. But right now, I will go with Alabama, even after the Tide’s loss at home to LSU. Alabama boasts the premier defense in the nation — and it’s not even close statistically. The Crimson Tide are giving up an average 187.0 yards per game. The next best team is Michigan State, at 249.4 yards per game. In nine games, Bama has allowed a total of 64 points, 34 points fewer than the No. 2 ranked scoring defense, LSU. And despite only scoring six points on Saturday night, Alabama is still a team capable of scoring a bunch of points. Keep in mind that Nick Saban’s club is averaging 39.4 points against teams not named LSU. And even after you factor in the stats against LSU, Bama still ranks 30th in the nation in total offense and 23rd in scoring offense. Combine that type of offensive production with the nation’s best defense, and you have a team that can make a strong case for a No. 2 ranking — even with a loss on its resume.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
The LSU Tigers? This is my subjective opinion, of course, since I still think Alabama is the best team in the nation. However, it's a good thing games aren't decided subjectively, but rather by scoring more points than the other team. Under that assumption, I would say that Alabama is the No. 2 team in the nation. However, there is no way to truly know if the Tide is better than Stanford, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State, Clemson, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech or Georgia without them actually playing the game. Otherwise, it is simply an educated guess by definition. We do know that LSU is better than Oregon and Alabama. We do know that Alabama is better than Penn State and Arkansas. We will know if Oklahoma is better than Oklahoma State. We will know if Stanford is better than Oregon. And we will know if LSU is better than Arkansas and Georgia. What we don't, and may never know if there is a "rematch," is if any of those other teams are better than Alabama or LSU — unless they actually take the field.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I’ll say Stanford because Andrew Luck and crew have not lost, but Alabama would be favored in that game by the boys in Las Vegas. The Cardinal are balanced enough on offense to give the Tide some issues, and the defense does play well against the run. I’d love to see a very physical Stanford-Alabama battle on the field. As far as Oklahoma State, I think the Cowboys would probably lose close in a shootout with Stanford but would get beaten badly by the Tide (just not a good matchup for OSU). That being my opinion, the current rankings have Oklahoma State controlling its own destiny to the BCS Championship Game. The Cardinal and Tide will have to hope OSU or LSU lose down the stretch to get their chance. I know many fans are tired of SEC dominance, but Alabama may get that shot if OSU loses. For now though, I’ll take Stanford on the strength of 17 straight wins with 15 of those by over a touchdown.
 

Teaser:
<p> Alabama edges Oklahoma State and Stanford&nbsp;as nation’s second-best team.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - 15:44
Path: /college-football/missouri-finds-stability-upgrade-sec
Body:

Conference realignment has been a constant theme in college football over the past year and a half. Nebraska got the ball rolling when the Cornhuskers — frustrated by the Big 12’s unequal revenue sharing and Texas’ influence over the league — left for the Big Ten. Colorado departed the Big 12 as well, joining Utah in the new Pac-12. But perhaps the most interesting move came from Texas A&M, who joined the SEC after having enough of the Longhorn Network and league instability. It was only a matter of time before the SEC added a 14th team, and Missouri became that school. The SEC is a gold-standard conference, but some have questioned if the Tigers can compete for the title in the country’s toughest league. And while Mizzou will enjoy the money and exposure of the SEC, there are some concerns over historical rivalries and geographical fit.

Missouri to the SEC: Good move for the Tigers?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
I think it’s a good move for Missouri because the school, with all of its flirtation with other leagues in recent years, had reached a point of no return with the Big 12. From a strictly competitive standpoint, I don’t think it’s a good move. The football program has raised its profile in the last decade under Gary Pinkel and is now to the point where it can be a factor in the Big 12 almost every season. It might be a stretch to call the Tigers one of the league’s elite programs, but they are relevant almost every season. That won’t be the case in the SEC, at least not initially. There are too many programs in the SEC that simply have more to offer than Missouri — from recruiting to fan base to facilities to tradition, etc. From a basketball standpoint, it’s probably a lateral move — or a small step down — and the school is jeopardizing its rivalry with Kansas, one of the premier programs in the nation. Not playing the Jayhawks, even once per season, is not a good thing for Missouri basketball.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
It’s an absolutely great move for Missouri. The Tigers just left the craziness of unequal revenue, constant rumors, the LHN, Dan Beebe leadership and an uncertain future for college sports’ royalty. Mizzou now has a permanent home with more money and exposure than ever before. Of course conference titles are difficult to win, but no big-time school is looking to join a league “because it is easy”. Geographical fit? Missouri borders as many SEC states as Big 12 ones. Rivalries? The Tigers can still play Kansas at the end of the season, just like the Florida-FSU, Georgia-Georgia Tech and South Carolina-Clemson rivalries. If KU wants to go “Rock Head, Jayhawk” and not play Mizzou because of jealously, then that’s Kansas’ fault. Recruiting in Texas? Plenty of recent SEC players — Matt Stafford, Ryan Mallett, DeMarcus Love, Brandon LaFell, Denarius Moore, Greg McElroy — were from the Lone Star State. Missouri fans are going to love trips to places like Neyland Stadium, Sanford Stadium, Rupp Arena, Bud Walton Arena and Alex Box Stadium. And they are also going to enjoy being in a top league with solid leadership and passionate fans.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
From a football viewpoint, I don’t think this move makes a lot of sense for Missouri. The Tigers never won the Big 12 title and now are moving to a tougher conference. Will there be years where Missouri can win the SEC East? Absolutely. However, I would rather take my chances in the Big 12. Also, the Tigers recruit Texas heavily, and it’s unclear how those pipelines would be affected with the shift in conferences. But this move isn’t all about football. Missouri simply had enough of the Big 12 and its instability. With that in mind, I can’t blame the Tigers for moving to the SEC. When an opportunity to join the best athletic conference in the nation comes along, it’s a very difficult invitation to turn down. Additionally, Missouri can make more money in the SEC, which is certainly very attractive to any athletic department. Only time will tell whether or not the Tigers are capable of competing for the SEC East title, but getting away from the instability and constant bickering in the Big 12 makes this move a good one for Missouri.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
This is a phenomenal move for the Missouri Tigers. The dollars and cents differential between the SEC and the new Big 12 contracts are not nearly as great as people think (a reported $12 million dollar difference per year is really more like $2-3 million). But when it comes to stability and recognition, there is no doubt that the SEC has a superior brand. And wins and losses on the field? Well, Mizzou won six conference championships since 1929 when they joined the Big 6 (which became the Big 8 and then the Big 12) and the last came in 1969, so not winning titles in the SEC won't be much of a change. Yet, the football program is currently cranking along at unprecedented levels as three of the school's five 10-win seasons have taken place in the last half-decade under Gary Pinkel. Additionally, Mizzou is 19-7-1 all-time against the current SEC programs and 7-2 all-time in bowl games against the SEC (even if most of them took place before the Cold War). This is the optimal time for Mizzou to make the move and it will be a huge win long-term for the school. Plus, as an added bonus, the SEC upgrades its academic standing and adds one of the more tradition-laden basketball programs in the country — even if both of which really have nothing to do with the move.
 

Teaser:
<p> Missouri leaves the Big 12 for the SEC.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 16:49
Path: /college-football/lsu-alabama-classic-game-or-disappointing
Body:

LSU defeated Alabama 9-6 in overtime Saturday night in one of the most physical battles that college football has ever seen. Many celebrities and NFL scouts joined over 100,000 fans in Tuscaloosa to watch arguably the most-anticipated regular season game in history. After the matchup, reaction throughout the country was mixed. Many fans and football insiders were awed by the physicality and top talent on display. However, another segment of media and fans — especially those tired of the SEC being on top of the college game — were quick to criticize the low-scoring affair as boring and/or not impressive. Some fans would love a possible rematch down the road if LSU keeps winning, while others believe Alabama already had its chance.

Classic defensive battle or disappointing game?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
LSU-Alabama was absolutely a classic defensive battle. If you need the score to be 38-35 to be excited, so be it. But you missed the most physical, hardest-hitting game of the college football year. You will not see another college contest with more NFL-caliber athletes competing. There are only two defenses in the nation that have allowed less than 100 points this season — Alabama and LSU. Neither coach wanted his offense to make a critical mistake, especially after early interceptions. The Tigers and Tide were able to play solid defense and pound each opponent into submission on their way to 8-0 records, but that formula is tough when you have the best two teams in the nation playing. Defenses this good do not let opponents score points; it’s just that simple. I see no reason for any aesthetic criticism of LSU’s overtime win, unless you only like high-scoring or just do not like the SEC. In those cases, there are always MAC and WAC games that need more fans. For hardcore football fans, this one was classic.

Nathan Rush
The Game of the Century, LSU at Alabama, lived up to every ounce of the hype as far as I'm concerned. But the Tigers' 9–6 overtime victory over the Tide was not for high-scoring 7-on-7 flag-football fans or the faint of heart. Les Miles and Nick Saban delivered an old school, classic heavyweight fight between Nos. 1 and 2. With both NFL talent-laden defenses holding strong, the oft-overlooked third side of the football — special teams — was the deciding factor. Bama had one FG blocked and missed three other deep attempts outright; LSU punter Brad Wing controlled field position all night, highlighted by a 73-yard momentum-shifting bomb in the fourth quarter. For purists, I don't think it gets much better than this year's LSU-Bama battle. The showdown in T-Town was everything I hoped it would be — a classic defensive standoff between the nation's top two teams.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Can I say both? I think Alabama and LSU boast the two best defenses in the nation, but that was not a great football game. It was just really close and really physical. Bad penalties, bad special teams, bad quarterback play and one particularly atrocious instant replay review were just as much to be blamed for 12 total regulation points as the elite defenses. And the anti-climactic finish due to one bad sack by AJ McCarron and one quality option run by Michael Ford simply doesn't sit well with this college football fan who had no rooting interest. You want to know what an instant classic between two championship caliber teams with elite level talent on both sides of the ball looks like? Well, I sure hope you watched this epic Sunday night tilt.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
I thought this game was a classic defensive battle. Yes, neither offense was particularly impressive, but the two defenses deserve all of the credit it has been given this year. It was really a game of wills or playing on the edge, just to see who would blink first or make the big mistake. In a game like we saw on Saturday night, one mistake was going to have a significant impact on how the game turned out. For all of the people complaining it was a disappointment, I’m not really sure what they expected going into the game. No one expected to see an offensive shootout, and the defenses have been hyped as two of the best in college football. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sure, both teams could have executed better on offense. However, I thought it was a good game between two rock solid defenses and was not surprised that it ended with 9-6 in overtime.
 

Teaser:
<p> LSU at Alabama was a classic game to many fans, but disappointing to some.</p>
Post date: Monday, November 7, 2011 - 14:42
Path: /college-football/lsu-and-alabama-bcs-rematch-it-could-happen
Body:

There always seems to be controversy surrounding the BCS Championship Game, even though it tends to work out perfectly in most seasons. On the eve of another college football “Game of the Century”, media and fans are already talking about a possible rematch of Alabama and LSU. Some will argue that you should have to win your conference to play in the national title tilt, while others will say that they just want to see the country’s two best teams play in the final game. Florida and Florida State had a unique title rematch 1996, but that was pre-BCS and the Sunshine rivals are not in the same league. There was a huge uproar in 2001 when Nebraska played in the title game after not winning its own division of the Big 12. There was some talk of a rematch between Ohio State and Michigan in 2006, but the BCS got it right in inviting Florida over Michigan. It will be interesting to how the college football season and postseason plays out after the LSU and Alabama game.

Should two teams from the same conference be allowed to meet in the BCS Championship Game?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
Most definitely. The BCS is designed to pair the two best teams in the nation in the national championship game. If the two best teams — as determined by the BCS formula — are in the same league (or even the same division) then those two teams should play for the title, even if they have already met in the regular season. Should LSU (assuming it loses this weekend) be penalized because it plays in the same division as the No. 1 team, Alabama? Why should a one-loss LSU team, with that loss coming on the road to the No. 1 team in the nation, be excluded from playing for the national title if it has a better resume than a (hypothetical) one-loss Oklahoma State or (hypothetical) one-loss Stanford team? I understand the argument that a team should have to win its conference title to play for a national championship. I just don't agree with it. It's not the case in any other sport. Why should it be the case in college football?

Nathan Rush
The formula for determining the national title game participants in the Bowl Championship Series should be allowed to run its natural course — at least as long as the BCS system is able to fight off the angry mob calling for a college football playoff format. If two teams from the same conference end up as Nos. 1 and 2 in the final poll, so be it. There should be no rule preventing Alabama and LSU from playing each other again in a rematch, should the dominoes fall their way. The goal of the BCS is to pit the top two teams against each other every season. Plus, let's face it, conference expansion and the BCS are on a collision course; if they continue down this path, teams from the same conference will inevitably be paired in the national title game. But depending on who you ask, the odds of Alabama and LSU facing each other in a rematch would increase exponentially if a playoff were to be installed. Alabama and LSU are clearly the top two teams in the country — the real national championship kicks off in Tuscaloosa on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
Most media and fans are too busy griping about the BCS to realize its job is to put the two best teams in the country into the Championship Game. If the two best teams are from the same league, then I have no problem with a rematch. We’ll have to see how the LSU-Alabama game plays out, but it is possible that the loser of that contest could very well end up second-best in the country. If Stanford or Oklahoma State (or even Boise State?) finish undefeated, then it’s probably a moot point. But if it comes down to a one-loss contest for a championship spot between the Tigers/Tide loser, Cardinal, Cowboys, Oklahoma Sooners, Oregon Ducks or Nebraska Cornhuskers, then the SEC West team may have the best resume. Before criticizing the BCS, let the season play out. There are always tons of arguments in late October/early November that work themselves out within three or four weeks. In the meantime, enjoy a great SEC battle on Saturday night.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Under the current BCS system - one that the anti-playoff proponents are so happy with - the only allowable answer is absolutely not. I philosophically cannot allow a team that does not even win its own league to play in a one-game National Championship situation. In any given year, there are roughly half a dozen teams at the end of the season that appear to be capable of competing in a national title game. Should all of those "competitors" be allowed to face one another in a true postseason, then I have no issue with two teams from the same league playing in the title game. For example, if Oklahoma, LSU, Nebraska and Clemson each finish with one loss while Alabama, Stanford and Boise State are unbeaten, we can all hypothesize about who and what we think would be the appropriate national title game. But they are, by definition, just guesses since none of them have actually played each other. In fact, in that scenario, the only thing we would actually know is that Alabama was better than LSU. So if LSU and Alabama both were to win two or three playoff games to face each other again in the title game, I would totally support a rematch. But under the current system, there is no way to definitively say which two teams are the best.
 

Teaser:
<p> LSU and Alabama could meet in a BCS title rematch.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 4, 2011 - 15:50
Path: /college-football/aggies-edge-longhorns-best-team-texas
Body:

There were major questions facing most Lone Star teams — besides conference realignment — coming into the 2011 season. Could Texas rebound from a losing campaign? Could Texas A&M continue its late 2010 momentum while being distracted with an SEC move? How was TCU going to replace the massive losses from its 13-0 squad? Could Robert Griffin III lead Baylor to another level? How would Houston’s Case Keenum bounce back from injury? The answers have been mostly positive, especially with the Cougars starting 8-0. The Longhorns and Aggies have some scars but no bad losses. Texas Tech looked solid until last week, while Baylor has faded from its exciting start.

Best team in the Lone Star State?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
Tough call, but I will go with Texas A&M. The Aggies are 5–3 overall, with all three losses by seven points or less. And two of their losses — vs. Oklahoma State and Arkansas — have come against teams currently ranked in the top 10. Texas is 5–2, and both of the Horns' losses have come against top competition, but they weren't as competitive, losing 55–17 to Oklahoma and 38–26 to Oklahoma State. Also, Texas' best win (by far) is at UCLA. A&M, on the other hand, can claim wins at Texas Tech and vs. Baylor (by 27 points) on its resume. We could have thrown Texas Tech into the equation last week, after its shocking win at Oklahoma, but the Red Raiders lost the following week at home to Iowa State by 34 points. I haven't forgotten about Houston, which is ranked No. 25 in this week's Athlon Sports top 25. The Cougars are 8–0 and feature the nation's No. 1 offense, but their schedule has been very, very soft. They do own a win at home vs. UCLA (by four points), but they have not defeated a team with a winning record.

Nathan Rush
Mack Brown Texas Football still has the Lone Star State locked down. Granted, this year's Longhorns are a young group, but they're only getting better. Freshman Malcolm Brown (635 yards, 5 TDs), senior Fozzy Whittaker (288 yards, 4 TDs) and Texas' 17th-ranked ground game (218.9 ypg) have picked up the slack for a passing attack still under construction. Defensively, new coordinator Manny Diaz has a unit that is ranked 13th nationally (296.4 ypg), 19th against the run (104.1 ypg) and has allowed just 11.8 points per win. UT's only losses this season came in back-to-back weeks against two of the top teams in the country — Oklahoma (55–17) and Oklahoma State (38–26). Texas will have a chance to prove it is better than in-state rivals Texas Tech (Nov. 5), Texas A&M (Nov. 24) and Baylor (Dec. 3). Unfortunately, there is no showdown with Houston or TCU this season. But make no mistake, the Lone Star State is still burnt orange.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Despite having three losses, I still like Texas A&M as the top team in the Lone Star State. The Aggies are 5-3, but have close losses to Oklahoma State (by 1), Arkansas (by 4) and Missouri (by 7 in OT). The defense has been less than stellar this season, ranking last nationally against the pass and 90th in yardage allowed. However, the offense is one of the most-balanced in college football. The rushing attack is averaging 224.5 yards a game, while the Aggies are throwing for 295.3 yards a game. Although the offense has been solid all year, turnovers have been an issue. Texas A&M ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 13 turnovers lost, while the defense has forced only six. In addition to turnovers, the Aggies have struggled in the second half, which was a big reason for the losses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas. There’s really not a team in Texas without any question marks. Yes, Houston is undefeated, but the strength of schedule just isn’t there. If the Cougars and Aggies had a regular season game this year, Case Keenum and his receivers would score, but Houston’s defense would struggle to stop Texas A&M’s ground attack of Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael. Considering the Aggies garnered preseason top 10 hype, a 5-3 record is a disappointment. However, considering the options on the table, I still think they would beat the other teams in the state if they played tomorrow.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Case Keenum is the best player in the state of Texas. Gary Patterson is the best head coach in the state of Texas. Robert Griffin III is the most exciting person in the state of Texas. And the most talented collection of athletes is located in Austin. Honestly, this debate will be settled on Thanksgiving in College Station when the Longhorns visit Texas A&M in the Lone Star Showdown. For now, I think the Burnt Orange Longhorns are playing better football than the Aggies. Their only losses are to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (a combined 15-1), and David Ash has stabilized the quarterback position finally. TCU and Houston would play for third place honors with the Baylor/Texas Tech winner rounding out of the top five.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I think if you had a Lone Star round-robin (JerryWorld?), the Texas A&M Aggies would prevail. Texas is close, but it may be another season before the Longhorns can keep up in a shootout. The good thing is that we’ll get the answer on Thanksgiving night in College Station, in what will be the final Big 12 game for the Aggies. Mike Sherman’s club has lost three games (all of which A&M led by double-digits at half) with the defense struggling, but I’d still take the Aggies to outpoint anyone else in Texas. The obvious omission is the 8-0 Houston Cougars, but Keenum and crew just haven’t beaten anyone of consequence. Plus, they struggled to get by UCLA, UTEP, and Louisiana Tech. Every team in Texas has some question marks, but I’ll take the SEC-bound Aggies for the time being.
 

Teaser:
<p> Aggies edge Longhorns as Best Team in Texas</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 15:57
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-will-edge-penn-state-and-ohio-state-leaders
Body:

There were many jokes over the summer about who would be the ‘leader’ in the Big Ten’s Leaders, but the on-the-field answer should provide one of college football’s best divisional races down the stretch. Wisconsin looked like the prohibitive favorite through the first half of the season, but the Badgers have lost two in a row in heartbreaking fashion. Penn State is the current Leaders’ leader by two games, going 5-0 in league play. However, JoePa’s bunch has its three toughest conference games — Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin — still remaining. The Buckeyes seemed like they could miss a bowl game a few weeks ago, but Luke Fickell’s crew is back in the divisional chase after its upset over Wisconsin.

Who wins the Big Ten’s Leaders Division?

Nathan Rush
Wisconsin will win the Big Ten's Leaders division. Although the Badgers' season has been in a free fall — first losing their BCS national title hopes with a last-second loss at Michigan State and then watching the Rose Bowl slip away on another late defeat at Ohio State the following week — the division is still within reach. UW should take care of Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois before what could be a winner-take-all Leaders showdown with Penn State in the season finale. JoePa's Nittany Lions — currently undefeated in-conference, with only a loss to Alabama on their slate — will likely have two more losses (Nebraska, at Ohio State) heading into Camp Randall Stadium. In the end, however, Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and the Badgers will prevail as the Leaders' representative in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Even though Wisconsin has lost its last two games, I still like the Badgers to win the Leaders Division. Looking at the schedules, Wisconsin has a favorable road to finishing 10-2. The Badgers play Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and then the season finale in Madison at Penn State. The Nittany Lions figure to be the biggest challenger to Wisconsin’s claim at the Leaders Division. The Badgers need Penn State to lose twice, which seems likely considering it still has to play Nebraska, Ohio State and then the Badgers in the finale. The Buckeyes also need to lose once, which could happen in the annual battle with Michigan. Considering Wisconsin-Penn State and Ohio State-Michigan play on the final Saturday of the regular season, the Big Ten Leaders Division probably won’t be decided until Nov. 26. However, I still think Wisconsin is the team to beat.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
This might sound crazy but I am going with the true freshman-led Ohio State Buckeyes. This young and very talented defense has proven its worth over the last few weeks, shutting down the Wisconsin rushing attack. The Badgers will beat Purdue this weekend and Penn State in the season finale at Camp Randall and likely finish 6-2 in Big Ten play. Penn State will lose two of its last three (Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin) and finish 6-2. If OSU is one of the two teams to beat PSU (to go with Wisconsin), then the three-way 6-2 tie will go the way of the Scarlet and Gray. Luke Fickell will pull a Ralph Friedgen and win Coach of the Year honors before getting shown the door.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
Despite losing two heartbreakers in a row, I think Wisconsin will lead the Leaders at season’s end. The Badgers have looked vulnerable on defense the last two weeks, but they have a pretty good shot at running the table and finishing with two league losses. Penn State has surprisingly managed to go unscathed through the Big Ten so far. However, the Nittany Lions have played mediocre competition for over a month now and could easily lose two (if not all three) of their three remaining games. The Buckeyes have looked much better lately with the development of Braxton Miller and the return of Boom Herron, but I believe OSU loses one of its last two games. It should be a great November in the Leaders race, and I’ll take Russell Wilson and Montee Ball to rally the Badgers and play in Indianapolis.
 

Teaser:
<p> Wisconsin will edge Penn State and Ohio State in Big Ten's Leaders Division.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 15:30
Path: /college-football/lsu-alabama-most-anticipated-regular-season-game-ever
Body:

The term “Game of the Century” has been used quite often over the last 50 years of college football. It has been 45 years since No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State in the famous game that had everything but a winner. No. 1 Texas defeated No. 2 Arkansas in 1969 with President Nixon in attendance. This season is the 40th anniversary of Nebraska and Oklahoma’s 1971 thriller that the Cornhuskers won 35-31. Other famous No. 1 vs. No. 2 battles during the regular season include USC-Oklahoma in 1981, Notre Dame-USC in 1988, Florida State-Miami in 1991, Florida-Florida State in 1996, Ohio State-Michigan in 2006. We also had the SEC Championship games in 2008 and 2009 between Florida and Alabama, with each school winning one before capturing the national title. On Saturday night, the country’s top two teams, LSU and Alabama, will battle in a game that could break records for media and fan interest.

LSU-Alabama: where does it rank all-time in anticipation?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
I remember a great Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in 1987 and some epic Florida State-Miami games in the late 1980s and early 90s, but I have never anticipated a regular-season game more than the Alabama-LSU showdown. We’ve got the two best teams in the nation, who are in the same division of the same conference. And we’ve got great coaching storylines as well, with Alabama boss Nick Saban having served as the head coach at LSU, and the eccentric Les Miles, who delivers some of the best quotes in the sports on a routine basis. What also makes this game special is that both teams are so similar. Their schemes might not be exactly the same, but they both rely on a ferocious defense and a powerful rushing attack. And the environment will be tremendous as well. Bryant-Denny Stadium is one of the truly great venues for college football and will serve as a perfect setting for the Game of the Century.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I think the LSU-Alabama game probably does rank as tops in regular-season anticipation. There is definitely a tendency to rank newer things as a bigger deal than their counterparts from the past, but this game has everything. The Tigers and Tide are loaded with NFL-caliber talent, well-coached and both play with a punishing, physical style. LSU and Alabama represent the two biggest and baddest bullies of the SEC, college football’s biggest and baddest league. This contest feels like an old-school heavyweight title fight, and the winner will most likely be the favorite to win the BCS crown. There were ton of greats games listed above, but I’m not sure in any of those regular seasons that the top two teams in the nation seemed so clear. There is no guarantee that Saturday night’s winner will wear the BCS crown, but it definitely has that feel. I believe it was the state of Alabama where we all learned to “hide ya kids, hide ya wife”, and this hard-hitting and highly-anticipated battle in Tuscaloosa will not be for the faint of heart.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
As each year passes, I always seem to forget the hype surrounding games. Outside of the Michigan-Ohio State game a couple of years ago, I think this is the one that has the most-anticipation. What more could you ask for? It’s No. 1 versus No. 2 from the best conference in college football. There’s also the intrigue of coaches with Nick Saban and Les Miles. And we can’t talk about this matchup without mentioning the defenses. Alabama and LSU are two of the best on that side of the ball in college football, and the NFL talent in this game is unreal. With so much on the line in the regular season, I think this is the game I’ve been most looking forward to in a long time.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
In the modern era of social media, cable TV, satellite radio, the worldwide internet, tweeting and facey-space, it is hard to imagine any regular season game receiving more hype for longer than this match-up. This game has been circled since the day “Athlonians” sat down and plotted out our 2011 preseason predictions as the top game of the year. Luckily for us fans, Alabama and LSU have taken care of business and only built upon the excitement. And I will say that this could be the highest-rated regular season college football game ever put on the tube. However this is the fifth such regular season No. 1 versus No. 2 meeting of the BCS era, and the last two took place in the SEC championship game between Florida and Alabama with a trip to the BCS National Championship game on the line. Both teams were 12-0 featuring two (potentially three eventual winners) Heisman Trophy winners, Tim Tebow was under center in his final regular season game and the SEC and National Championship were directly at stake (Alabama and LSU still have plenty of work to be done even after this weekend). So I will say not quite, the 2009 SEC title game was a slightly heavier hitter for me.
 

Teaser:
<p> LSU at Alabama might be the most anticipated regular season game in college football history.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 16:00
Path: /college-football/case-keenum-vs-rice-riveting-record-or-ridiculous-%E2%80%98running-it-up%E2%80%99
Body:

Case Keenum seems to be setting records on a weekly basis. Houston’s senior quarterback is in his sixth-year of eligibility and is lighting up Conference USA scoreboards each game. Against Marshall two weeks ago, Keenum became the FBS career leader in total offense when he broke former Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang’s record. Last week against Rice, Keenum set the all-time FBS touchdown pass record at 139 – breaking former Texas Tech gunslinger Graham Harrell’s mark of 134. However, many observers around college football were shaking their heads that Keenum was still tossing touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of the blowout win over the Owls. In a 73-34 rout, Keenum threw nine touchdowns against a Rice defense that ranks 118th (out of 120) in the nation.

Keenum’s nine-TD night: record-setting or ‘running it up’?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Keenum might have been in the game a little longer than was necessary, but Houston's defense did give up 34 points and I can't blame coach Kevin Sumlin for wanting to make sure no comeback could have occurred. Also, since this is Keenum's final year and he had a chance to make headlines in the record book, Sumlin and his staff want to make sure the senior gets a shot to enjoy the final few games of his collegiate career. The Cougars easily could have run the ball, but this is the offense they use. Houston can't easily get into the I-formation and run out the clock. I don't like when any team runs up the score, but it is Rice's job to stop Houston. If the Owls are going to give up a 10-yard pass and let the Cougars run 40 yards for a score, then that's on the defense. Houston probably could have pulled Keenum at the end of three quarters, but Rice also needs to do a better job on defense and not allow the Cougars to score so easily.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
It was definitely running up the score, especially throwing downfield that much after the game was decided. Case Keenum has had an amazing career, and it’s good to see him bounce back after last season’s painful injury. His stellar play and Houston’s undefeated record were enough to get national attention; beating up on poor Rice does not impress anyone. Unfortunately, this was the third game in a row where Keenum has thrown a fourth-quarter touchdown pass in a blowout contest against a losing team. I lost a little respect at the end of the Rice game for Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, who must have been channeling his inner-John Jenkins from the David Klingler era. Most around college football did not notice or will forget quickly when Sumlin most likely moves on to a bigger BCS job after this season, but there was nothing to be gained with nine touchdown passes against defenseless Rice.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Probably a little bit of both. From a philosophical standpoint, I firmly believe in letting the game play out. If you, as a defensive player or coach, don't appreciate someone running up the score, then it's your responsibility to stop them. So I never fault anyone for trying to score points – especially not a player who has accounted for more yards and more touchdowns than any player in NCAA history. But Kevin Sumlin and the Cougars know they can't just win every game to reach a BCS bowl game, but they have to win big. So it is tough for me to blame them for looking to post big numbers every time out there.

Of course, it makes things a bit easier when you have a quarterback who is posting the biggest numbers in NCAA history.
 

Teaser:
<p> Did Houston run up the score against Rice?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 31, 2011 - 16:01
Path: /college-football/denard-robinson-edges-montee-ball-big-ten%E2%80%99s-best-runner
Body:

The Big Ten has been known for elite running backs for years and years. From Mike Hart to Ron Dayne to Eddie George to Anthony Thompson to Archie Griffin to Alan Ameche and Howard Cassady in the '50s, the conference has produced some of college football’s top runners for generations. But what about this season? Montee Ball is a touchdown machine at Wisconsin; Rex Burkhead has been a star for Nebraska, while Penn State’s Silas Redd and Iowa’s Marcus Coker are putting up very respectable numbers. And the two best runners in the Big Ten might not even be running backs, as Michigan’s Denard Robinson and NU’s Taylor Martinez both rank in the top six of the league in rushing yards.

Who is the top runner in the B1G?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
Since the questions asks about the bets “runner” not “running back,” I think you have to go with Denard Robinson, Michigan’s dual-threat quarterback. Montee Ball is having a terrific season at tailback for Wisconsin, but I believe if you asked any coach in the league who is the more dangerous player with the ball in his hands, the answer would be Robinson. The man they call Shoelace is second in the league in rushing, just behind Ball, with 108.8 yards per game, and his 6.4 yards-per-carry average ranks first in the league for players with over 50 crushing attempts. Robinson has been clutch with the ball in his hands as well; 15 of his 27 rushing attempts on third down have resulted in a first down. He might not be a prototypical quarterback — or running back — but Robinson has to be considered the best pure runner in the Big Ten.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I think the answer has to be Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. He may score 30 touchdowns this season, and the Badgers limited him against their non-conference opponents (although Ball did have multiple scores in all four of those games). It’s easy to credit UW’s solid offensive line for his success, but a powerful back like Ball can make any line look good. He’s no more part of a “system” than Denard Robinson at Michigan or Taylor Martinez at Nebraska. While both of those quarterbacks deserve praise for their production and highlight-reel runs, I’m taking the big Badger when you really need a positive play. After scoring 18 TDs last year while sharing carries, Ball has continued his end zone onslaught this season with 17 rushing scores in seven games. And unlike Robinson, Ball’s numbers have improved in Big Ten play with 62 rushes for 408 yards (6.6 ypc) and eight scores in just three league games. While I think Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead and Penn State’s Silas Redd deserve consideration along with the two QBs, I’ll take my chances with Wisconsin’s Montee Ball.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
The change in coaching staffs has limited his ability to run just a bit, but I’d take Michigan’s Denard Robinson as the best in the Big Ten. The junior has to be one of the best athletes playing college football, possessing dynamic all-around skills, speed and electric playmaking ability. Robinson finished 2010 with 1,702 rushing yards, but is likely to fall short of that mark in 2011. The junior has 716 yards and nine scores on the ground through six weeks, while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Also, Robinson has largely carried the offense, as Michigan has struggled to find a go-to running back. There’s the danger of Robinson taking too much of a beating as the year progresses, but the junior is far too dangerous on the ground to prevent Michigan from utilizing his skills. Robinson may not be the power back that Wisconsin has with Montee Ball or the shifty playmaker Nebraska has with Rex Burkhead, but he gets my vote for the Big Ten’s top runner.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Penn State's Silas Redd is leading the Big Ten in rushing at 852 yards and might be the most valuable tailback in the league considering he is the entire Nittany Lion offense (and they are 7-1). Michigan's Denard Robinson is likely the most explosive and electric runner of the football - with the bigger, more physical Taylor Martinez not too far behind him in that category. But Robinson touches the ball 60-80 times per game, has the option to gain yards on pass plays and could never run the football 20 times between the tackles without completely breaking down physically. Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead is the most complete, most underrated and possibly best all-around running back in the league. But Wisconsin's Montee Ball is leading the league in yards per game (108.1) and has scored nine more touchdowns than anyone else in the league. And if you needed any more proof of his value to UW, the Badgers outscored Michigan State 28-7 when Ball was in the game and were outscored 31-3 when he was not last weekend. Plus, his name is Ball after all.

Nathan Rush
With respect to Big Ten running backs, the best pure runner in the conference is Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Over the past two seasons, Shoelace has scrambled 368 times for 2,418 yards (6.6 ypc) and 23 TDs in 19 games. That's an average of 127.3 rush yards and 1.2 TDs per game on the ground in 2010-11. No one in the country can top that. To put those numbers in perspective, Alabama's Trent Richardson (989 yards, 17 TDs in 8 games in 2011) is averaging 123.6 yards and 2.1 TDs per game this year. And all Richardson does is run; Robinson also plays quarterback — leading, play-calling and passing when he's not running at a feature back's workhorse pace. Hail to the Victor, Denard X is the best runner in the B1G.
 

Teaser:
<p> Denard Robinson edges Montee Ball as Big Ten’s Best Runner</p>
Post date: Friday, October 28, 2011 - 16:14
Path: /college-football/will-three-four-or-more-unbeatens-cause-college-football-chaos
Body:

The same concern from fans and media arises each college football season around late October, and that is the potential for an unbeaten team to be left out of the BCS Championship Game. In most seasons, everything works out fine and all of the debate and consternation is for nothing. There have been exceptions, however, like Auburn in 2004. And past non-BCS teams with perfect records such as Boise State, TCU and Utah have argued that they deserve a shot at the title. There are currently eight unbeatens — LSU, Alabama, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Boise State, Clemson, Kansas State and Houston — and this season looks like it could have four or five teams finish with unblemished resumes. If that happens, the college football world will be saturated with heated debates from coast to coast.

How many teams will be undefeated heading into bowl season?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
Three. I believe that Alabama, Oklahoma State and Boise State will head into bowl season without a loss. Stanford is obviously one of the elite teams in the nation, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinal lost at home to Oregon on Nov. 12. Clemson still has some tough tests in the regular season — at Georgia Tech and at South Carolina stand out — but I believe the Tigers will make it through unscathed. A rematch against Virginia Tech in the ACC title game could be problematic, however. The Hokies have improved on the offensive end, most notably at quarterback, since these two teams met in Blacksburg on Oct. 1. Oklahoma State is dominant on offense and good enough on defense to make it through the rest of its schedule — including a home date with Oklahoma — without a loss. Boise State? Not an issue. And finally, Alabama, assuming it beats LSU, will not lose.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I think the number is four, but Kansas State is the only one of the eight unbeatens that I give no shot at a perfect record. My quartet is the Alabama-LSU winner, Stanford, Boise State and Houston. I thought the Cardinal would be more of a 9-10 win team with the departure of Jim Harbaugh, but David Shaw deserves credit for having his team running on all cylinders. Of course, it helps when you have college football’s best player in Andrew Luck. Boise State should cruise the Mountain West, with only TCU potentially posing a problem. Houston will be challenged in late November, but Case Keenum and crew should win them all. Oklahoma State has awesome firepower on offense, but there are too many possible pitfalls down the stretch. The same applies for Clemson, especially if a rematch with Virginia Tech occurs in the ACC title game. Whatever happens, we should let it all play out instead of getting needlessly worked up over early BCS standings. These next few weeks in college football should be as exciting as anything you see in sports.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
I will say four teams finish the regular season undefeated. Boise State won't even come close to being tested and faces no championship game. Houston has SMU, Tulsa and a potential championship game over the final three weeks, but the way the offense is humming (No. 1 in scoring, passing and total offense nationally), the Cougars feel like an unblemished team. Alabama will take down LSU in two weekends and roll into the BCS title game unbeaten. Clemson will not be able to beat Virginia Tech — and a much improved Logan Thomas — for a second time this season in the ACC title game. Oklahoma State will topple Kansas State play before getting beat by the Sooners — who have a litany of reasons to be ecstatic about eliminating the Pokes from the national title picture. That leaves the Stanford Cardinal, who will beat Oregon at home on November 12, as the fourth undefeated team. Andrew Luck vs. Alabama's defense in the BCS title game sounds juicy to me.

Nathan Rush
There will be four undefeated teams prior to bowl games — two in the BCS national title game (the winner of Alabama-LSU and Oklahoma State) and two non-BCS squads (Boise State and Houston). Of those unbeatens still standing, either Alabama or LSU will obviously fall when the nation's top two teams go toe-to-toe in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5. Clemson will lose either at South Carolina or in the ACC title game; Stanford will stumble either in an upset this week at USC or against Oregon; and Kansas State is poised for a potential four-game losing streak against Oklahoma, O-State, Texas A&M and Texas. I'm assuming the Alabama-LSU winner takes down the beast of the East in the SEC title game, that O-State wins a shootout at home against Oklahoma in a classic Bedlam battle and that both Boise State and Houston keep running laps around inferior competition. Then again, last week I was certain Wisconsin would roll to the BCS title game.
 

Teaser:
<p> Three, four or more unbeatens could cause college football chaos.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 15:42
Path: /college-football/can-nebraska-derail-michigan-state%E2%80%99s-big-ten-momentum
Body:

Michigan State has been the talk of the college football world this week after beating undefeated Wisconsin with an improbable Hail Mary pass on the game’s final play. The Spartans have enjoyed a successful month with wins over Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, but now they finish the October gauntlet with a trip to Nebraska. If MSU can defeat the Cornhuskers, Mark Dantonio’s bunch would have a virtual lock on the Legends Division. Nebraska was favored by many to win the league, but Bo Pelini’s crew has looked fairly average despite the 6-1 record. With a raucous home crowd in Lincoln, the Huskers have a chance to show they are still a title contender with a victory over the red-hot Spartans.

Who wins: Nebraska or Michigan State?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
It’s not going to be easy getting a victory in Lincoln, but I like Michigan State to knock off the Cornhuskers on Saturday. I’m interested to see how the Spartans perform in this game, especially after last week’s last-second win over Wisconsin. Can Michigan State come out with the same type of energy? Or will the Spartans come out flat? Michigan State’s defense gave up a season-high 443 yards to Wisconsin last week, but also forced three turnovers. There’s no question the Cornhuskers can run the ball with quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. However, can they establish enough of a passing attack to keep Michigan State’s defense off balance? I’m not sure Nebraska can. Another concern for the Cornhuskers is the defense, as we still don’t know how this unit matches up without tackle Jared Crick in the lineup. The Spartans seem to have their running game back on track, which is going to be a tough test for Nebraska’s defense. This matchup with Nebraska is the last in a very difficult four-game stretch for Michigan State. If the Spartans can survive this game, they should win the Legends Division.

Nathan Rush
Memorial Stadium will be rocking on Saturday when Nebraska takes down Michigan State. Expect the Huskers to showcase underrated running back Rex Burkhead (752 yards, 10 TDs) and expose a Spartans squad that has struggled on the road this season. MSU has only played two games away from East Lansing this season — a 31–13 blowout loss at Notre Dame and an ugly 10–7 win at Ohio State. The Husker faithful are hungry for a huge Big Ten win at home. And since the Blackshirt defense won't get regular-season revenge against Wisconsin — although the Legends could play the Leaders in the inaugural Big Ten title game on Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis — this Michigan State matchup is the next best thing, since Sparty took down the Badgers in a thriller last week. MSU's bubble will burst; NU will roll.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
I know Michigan State has had a very Clemson-like three-game run with wins over Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, but I think the similarities between the Spartans and Tigers end there. Michigan State needed some random and extremely rare plays to beat the Badgers last week — try a blocked field goal, blocked punt, safety, two Russell Wilson interceptions and a key third-down untouched fumble. Nebraska is at home and has its power rushing attack on cruise control while Sparty gave up a season worst 220 yards rushing last week (128 was the previous high). Michigan State's luck runs out this weekend.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I was a huge Nebraska proponent coming into this season, but the defense has struggled mightily. Despite the great crowd in Lincoln, I’ll take Michigan State to stay hot and remain perfect in the Big Ten. I like the Spartans’ balance on offense, and the top ten-rated MSU defense should be able to slow down the one-dimensional NU offense just enough to pull out the win. I expect Nebraska to play better down the stretch, but it’s difficult for me to ignore that the Huskers’ defense has already allowed four 100-yard rushers on the season. Even though MSU has not played well away from East Lansing, I think quarterback Kirk Cousins and crew will be able to play time-of-possession football and leave Lincoln with a close victory.
 

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska will try to derail Michigan State’s Big Ten momentum.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 14:23
Path: /college-football/will-utah-make-its-ninth-consecutive-bowl-game
Body:

It has been quite a successful decade for the Utah football program. The Utes have made a bowl game in every season except 2002 over the last 10 years, including undefeated seasons in 2004 and 2008. Under Urban Meyer and current coach Kyle Whittingham, Utah became the classic “BCS buster” as it challenged schools like Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Alabama in the postseason and won. But those were one-game scenarios, and life in a BCS league has been rough on the Utes. They are 0-4 in Pac-12 play and 3-4 overall. For a squad without Oregon or Stanford on the schedule, it would be highly disappointing to not be playing football in December.

Does Utah make a bowl game?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
Utah has been one of the more difficult teams to figure out this season. The Utes have been very good at times — most notably in a 54–10 win at BYU and a 26–14 win at Pittsburgh — but they are 0–4 in the Pac-12 and have failed to score more than 14 points in any league game. But at 3–4 overall, this team still has a very good chance of playing in a bowl game. Why? The schedule is very, very kind down the stretch. To reach six wins, Utah has to go 3–2 against the following slate: Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado, and three of the games (OSU, UCLA, CU) are in Salt Lake City. The key will be the play of quarterback Jon Hays, who was inserted into the starting lineup three weeks ago after Jordan Wynn went down with an injury. Hays played well in the win over Utah but has a 1-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio in his other two starts, losses to Arizona State and California. If Hays can limit his mistakes, which he should against weaker competition, the Utes should be able to win at least three of their remaining five games and return to a bowl game for a ninth straight season.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Utah’s first season in a BCS conference has been a struggle. The Utes have dealt with an injury to quarterback Jordan Wynn, while trying to build their depth to match up with other Pac-12 teams. Running back John White has been a bright spot, the offense still has a lot of question marks with the offensive line and a group of inexperienced receivers. With five games to go, Utah needs to find three wins in order to reach a bowl game. The Utes have favorable matchups remaining against Oregon State, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado. It’s not going to be easy with a lackluster offense and a backup quarterback, but I think the Utes will find a way to get to six wins. If Utah can’t get bowl eligible, there’s a strong possibility the Pac-12 will only have four teams play in the postseason.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
The Utes have figured out real quick what life in a BCS conference is all about. Utah has four conference losses (0-4) and will likely lose six games for the first time since 2002. However, with two quality non-conference wins over BYU and Pitt, and the easier half of their schedule still ahead of them, there is reason for optimism in Salt Lake City. Utah has to win three of its last five to get to its ninth straight bowl and on paper it seems very feasible. Oregon State, UCLA and Colorado visit the Utes while Utah has to travel to Arizona and Washington State. They will finish 3-2 over the final five and sneak into a bowl game at 6-6.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I think Utah makes the postseason based on the upcoming schedule, but it would not shock me to see Kyle Whittingham’s club miss a bowl game. There have been injuries, but much of the current record reflects finally playing an entire BCS-level slate. With the Utes struggling to score points, I’m not sure they will keep up with Arizona in Tucson. Home games with UCLA and Colorado should produce wins, so that would leave Utah needing one win against either Oregon State at home this weekend or at Washington State. The Beavers and Cougars are one-dimensional throwing teams, but both can put points on the scoreboard if the Utes are not ready to go. I’ll cautiously say Utah gets in at 6-6, but the Utes have not inspired much confidence with their recent play.
 

Teaser:
<p> Utah is fighting to make its ninth consecutive bowl game.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 14:51
Path: /college-football/big-east-race-college-footballs-wildest
Body:

It seems like most of the recent Big East conversation has revolved around expansion, departures or just remaining a viable league. Meanwhile, the gridiron race to wear the conference crown and go to the BCS has become one of the most exciting and unpredictable in college football. Most pundits had West Virginia winning the league in the preseason, but the Mountaineers’ 49-23 loss at Syracuse has created championship optimism throughout the conference. Cincinnati stands alone without a loss in league play, while South Florida is the only winless team in conference games. Rutgers has a 2-1 league record, while the other five schools — Syracuse, West Virginia, Connecticut, Louisville and Pittsburgh — all stand at 1-1. The race for the Big East title should be a wild one and probably won’t be decided until the season’s final weekend on December 3.

Who is your favorite to win the Big East?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Even though West Virginia is coming off a disappointing road loss to Syracuse, I still think the Mountaineers are the team to beat. There’s no question the offense is capable of scoring 35-40 points a game, but it needs more help from the offensive line and rushing attack. Quarterback Geno Smith didn’t have much time to throw against Syracuse, and that has been a reoccurring problem this year. The defense lost a handful of key contributors from last season’s team and it has shown so far. The Mountaineers rank seventh in the Big East in scoring defense and last in stopping the run. Clearly, there are some areas that need to be addressed. And the schedule isn’t overly easy the rest of the way, as West Virginia travels to Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida. The Bearcats seem to be West Virginia’s toughest competition in order to win the Big East, but I’m going to say the Mountaineers find the right answers on both sides of the ball and end up with the conference title.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
I will make a surprise pick and take the best defense in the league — the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. They lead the Big East in scoring defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense and are second in total defense. Rutgers is fifth nationally in turnover margin and leads the conference in sacks. The Knights also get primary challengers West Virginia, Cincinnati and South Florida all at home, with only one Big East road trip left on the schedule (at UConn). Give me Daa Rutgaaars — with WVU a close second. But I guess we will find out the actual answer to this question on Saturday at 3:30 PM ET when the Mountaineers travel to Piscataway.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
This is a very difficult conference to predict from week to week, but I’ll take the Cincinnati Bearcats because of their overall balance. UC quarterback Zach Collaros is a solid passer, and he adds a ton to the run game that already has an outstanding tailback in Isaiah Pead. The Bearcats do give up too many pass yards on defense, but they allow less than 20 points per game. West Virginia is probably still considered the favorite by most, but the Mountaineers’ slow starts are concerning. If they fall behind early against Cincinnati, it may look like Friday night’s loss at Syracuse. It will be a tough November for Butch Jones’ club having to play at Pitt, at Rutgers and at Syracuse, in addition to hosting WVU at Paul Brown Stadium. But I think Cincinnati’s balance with its high-powered offense will carry the Bearcats to the BCS.

Mark EnnisBig East Coast Bias (@Mengus22)
What a difference 17 days or so makes. Going into USF's Thursday night trip to Pittsburgh, I'd have picked them as the clear favorite to win the Big East. Now, they might be playing the worst football in the conference. In fact, the Bulls are the only team that realistically can't win the conference right now. Cincinnati has control of the Big East race and should be the favorite to win the conference for the third time in four years, but I still think West Virginia will win it. The two teams play at Paul Brown Stadium in two weeks and if the Tennessee and South Florida games indicate anything, it's that Cincinnati is susceptible to quality passing attacks. I think West Virginia got a wake-up call in the Carrier Dome on Friday night and is a better football team than it showed. Barring another mental lapse, the Mountaineers will win out. If they do that, Syracuse only has to drop one more Big East game and West Virginia will head back to the BCS.
 

Teaser:
<p> West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Syracuse could all still win the Big East.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 24, 2011 - 14:39
Path: /college-football/can-lsu-wisconsin-oklahoma-state-and-stanford-stay-unbeaten
Body:

There are only ten undefeated teams left in college football. Four of those squads — Stanford, Oklahoma State, LSU and Wisconsin — will face challenging upset bids on Saturday. The Cardinal host Washington, as Huskies quarterback Keith Price has thrown for at least three touchdowns in every game this season. LSU will entertain Auburn without suspended stars Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware. Wisconsin travels to Michigan State, where the Spartans just defeated instate rival Michigan. Oklahoma State heads to Missouri, and the Tigers have won 10 in a row at home in Columbia.

Best shot to beat an unbeaten: Washington, Auburn, Michigan State or Missouri?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
I think Washington has a good chance to knock off Stanford on Saturday. Sure, the Cardinal is undefeated, but their schedule hasn’t exactly been the most difficult in college football. Stanford’s defense has held up well, despite the loss of All-American linebacker Shayne Skov, but Washington will provide a difficult test. The Huskies are struggling on defense, which could hinder their upset chances. However, Washington has the firepower on offense with quarterback Keith Price, running back Chris Polk and receiver Jermaine Kearse. Also, the Huskies are hungry for a marquee win under coach Steve Sarkisian. I am picking Stanford to win, but think this one is much, much closer than some may expect.

Nathan Rush
Missouri has the best shot at taking down an unbeaten when it hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday. Sophomore quarterback James Franklin has been taking strides forward every week as a dual-threat playmaker — passing for 1,488 yards, 10 TDs and four INTs, while scrambling for another 390 yards and seven TDs on the ground this season. Defensively, tackle Sheldon Richardson has stepped up his game since transferring from junior college. The 6'4", 290-pounder has yet to make a major splash on the Big 12 stage, however. Coach Gary Pinkel's club is capable of hanging around against top competition, with three respectable losses — a 37–30 overtime defeat at Arizona State, a 38–28 loss at Oklahoma and a 24–17 loss at Kansas State. With home-field advantage and an improving roster, Mizzou has a good shot at taking down undefeated O-State.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Despite the suspensions, I firmly believe that Auburn won't be able to score enough points to top LSU on the road. I also don't think Washington can slow Andrew Luck (although, they will cover the 20-point spread) on the road. That leaves Michigan State and Mizzou at home against Wisconsin and Oklahoma State respectively. While Michigan State has played well at home against Bucky, the loss of William Gholston along the defensive front against that mammoth UW offensive line makes it hard to call for the upset in East Lansing. That leaves the Tigers of Mizzou, who are looking for on-field respite from conference affiliation talk. The fact that Brandon Weeden has never faced Gary Pinkel might give Missouri just enough of an edge to pull the upset.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I’m not predicting any of the four unbeaten teams will fall this weekend, but I think the best shot may be Auburn to upset LSU. In the other three games, I don’t see the underdog team stopping the All-America-level quarterbacks — Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson. Auburn’s defense has played well recently, and coordinator Ted Roof generally does well against pro-style attacks. LSU should counter that with plenty of Jordan Jefferson runs, but they will miss physical runner Spencer Ware. The LSU defense is solid, but it did give up 27 points to Oregon and 533 total yards to West Virginia. Coordinator Gus Malzahn has a similarly wide-open offense, and Auburn should get top receiver Emory Blake back in the lineup. If Michael Dyer and the AU run game can control the clock, this game could go down to the wire in Baton Rouge.
 

Teaser:
<p> LSU, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and Stanford try to stay unbeaten this weekend.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 21, 2011 - 16:34
Path: /college-football/sec-still-tops-big-12-gap-closing
Body:

The national and regional debate over college football’s best conference happens every season. The criteria for this argument tends to sway towards your favorite conference (fans) or your target audience (many in the media). Should it be based on national title contenders, number of above-average teams, or strength from top to bottom? That’s part of the fun and frustration each year. The SEC has won five national titles in a row and is generally considered the best, but many across America are claiming the Big 12 is best after the first half of the season. The quartet of Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are all BCS Championship contenders, and the debate on the rest of each league gets very interesting.

At the halfway point, who is college football’s best conference?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Many fans and media members around the country are tired of hearing it, but I still think it’s the “S-E-C, S-E-C!” The claim against the reigning five-time champ is, “They are down.” My response is “From what?” Has the SEC gone from being “clearly the best” to “just the best” this season? Maybe so, but that’s still the best. If you see South Carolina (at 6-1) and Auburn (at 5-2) as down, then you would also have to consider the Big 12’s non-conference wins as “down”. While Dan Beebe’s former league has an impressive record, the Florida State, Arizona, Miami and TCU wins now do not stand out as much now as they did at the time of the game. If you match up the SEC and Big 12, I think the SEC starts 3-0. From then on, it probably splits even. I haven’t seen anyone as good as Alabama or LSU this season, although that could change by the end of the year. The good news for other leagues is that only one of those stalwarts can make the BCS title game, where it’s looking more and more like the SEC will be for a sixth straight time.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
This is a lot harder to answer than I thought it would be. I think the SEC is better at the top with Alabama, LSU and Arkansas, but you can make a strong case that the Big 12 is better in the middle — would you take Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas, Missouri and Texas Tech over Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Mississippi State? I think at this point of the season you’d have to say that the middle class of the Big 12 is a bit stronger than the SEC. There are bad teams at the bottom of both league, so it comes down to what you value more — star power at the top (which goes to the SEC, though the Big 12 obviously has two very good teams at the top) or overall depth (which goes to the Big 12). I will go with depth and make the surprising claim that the Big 12 is stronger than the SEC through the first half of the season.

Nathan Rush
The Southeastern Conference will demolish any conference in its way. Alabama and LSU alone make the SEC the biggest, baddest bully league in the land. The Crimson Tide and Bayou Bengals are the top two teams in the country — and it's not even close. The winner of their Nov. 5 heavyweight prize fight will destroy whichever team (Oklahoma? Wisconsin?) lines up against them in the BCS national title game. The SEC's mid-level teams may not be as strong this season. But there are really only two bottom-feeders (Kentucky, Ole Miss). And the top of the conference is so powerful, it's scary — like trying to tackle Trent Richardson.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
It all depends on how you evaluate a conference. I think that at the top, meaning teams 1-2, the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 are the best with an edge going to the boys from the South. The middle of the Big Ten is much stronger than most leagues with Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Penn State and Michigan State filling slots 3-8, but Wisconsin is the only true national title contender at the top of the league. I believe it is incredibly difficult to truly compare leagues, but the SEC and Big 12 appear to be the strongest. While the SEC is elite at the top, it has major mediocrity in Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, while Florida, Auburn and South Carolina are much worse than a year ago. The Big 12 is strongest from top to bottom. It has three total non-conference losses: the Aggies’ choke-job against Arkansas, at Georgia Tech by Kansas and overtime at Arizona State by Mizzou. The non-conference featured road wins at Miami, Florida State, UCLA and UConn with home wins over TCU, Iowa, Arizona and BYU leaving the league 27-3 overall against every other leagues. With two national title contenders and six more quality teams, I give the slight edge to Big 12, but we will find out the only thing that matters when the LSU/Bama winner faces the Bedlam Series winner in the national title game.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think the top two conferences are clearly the SEC and the Big 12. Both leagues have national title contenders, as the Big 12 boasts Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, while the SEC has LSU and Alabama. The Big 12 has a great resume this year, but I’m still going to stick with the SEC. I think Alabama is the best team in college football, which helps tip the scales in the SEC’s direction in a tight battle. Georgia is also coming on strong after an 0-2 start, while Florida will get things going in the right direction once quarterback John Brantley returns from an injury. The bottom of the SEC is bad (Kentucky and Ole Miss), but Vanderbilt has shown improvement this year in James Franklin’s first season. One factor hurting the Big 12 is Texas. Although the Longhorns are better than they were last season, the conference needs Texas to be among the top 10-15 teams in college football.
 

Teaser:
<p> The SEC is still college football's best, but the Big 12 is closing in.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2011 - 14:51
Path: /college-football/clemson%E2%80%99s-sammy-watkins-gets-nod-top-receiver-south-carolina-0
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The South Carolina Gamecocks have struggled on offense this year but still stand at 6-1. Preseason All-America wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will have to lead the way down the stretch with star running back Marcus Lattimore lost for the season with a knee injury. Jeffery has 30 catches for 451 yards and five touchdowns in seven games on the year. That’s not bad, but it is nowhere near the pace of last season’s 88 receptions for 1,517 yards and nine scores. Meanwhile at Clemson, five-star freshman Sammy Watkins is lighting up opponents. In the first seven games of his career, Watkins has 46 catches for 728 yards and eight touchdowns while also adding 127 yards rushing and a kick-return score. The Tigers rank 15th in the country in total offense, and Watkins has been a huge reason for their success.

Who is the top wide receiver in the Palmetto State?

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
If I am down by four late in the fourth quarter with a fourth and goal from the 10, I will take Alshon Jeffery. He is a physical freak and is a monster in jump ball situations. For every other play on the field - and practice - I will take Clemson's Sammy Watkins. He is arguably the most dynamic force at wide receiver in the entire nation and does all of the little things — e.g. blocking, leading and even getting his teammates lined-up correctly — extremely well. Does he play with a better quarterback than Jeffery? Clearly, but he does so much more than Jeffery. Watkins has 20 rushing attempts, 46 receptions, 11 kick returns and two punt returns to Jeffery's 30 receptions. Watkins has 1,205 all-purpose yards to Jeffery's 451. And he has nine scores to Jeffery's five. Both are clutch and both are first-round picks, but Watkins is performing at a much higher level and he is only a true freshman.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
When I first read this question, I thought I had a nice curveball — Aaron Mellette from Elon. But then I remembered that Elon is in North Carolina, not South Carolina. So I can’t go with the Phoenix’s junior who has 74 catches for 990 yards though seven games. That leaves Sammy Watkins of Clemson and Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina. Jeffery entered the season as one of the most hyped offensive players in the nation, but his production has been ordinary this season. He ranks fifth in the SEC in receiving yards per game (64.4) and fourth in total receptions (30). Watkins, on the other hand, has been sensational for the undefeated Tigers. He ranks second in the ACC in yards per game (104.0) and is tied for the league lead in receptions (46). And if you don’t want to judge these guys by stats alone, just watch them play. It’s clear that Watkins — through the first half of the season — is the more electric playmaker. Jeffery is still an outstanding receiver who will be a high NFL Draft pick, but Watkins, even as a true freshman, has to be considered the top receiver in the state.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
It’s easy to go with the current statistics and say Sammy Watkins at Clemson, but I’m still going to pick Alshon Jeffery at South Carolina. He may have gotten a little big in the offseason, but it’s nowhere near as big as the mess that is the Gamecocks’ quarterback situation. There is no way that Steve Spurrier should have the 87th-ranked passing offense in the nation, but the stubborn ball coach allowed this to happen by not recruiting better signal callers. Spurrier’s one “elite” quarterback recruit at USC, Stephen Garcia, was a knucklehead who finally was kicked off the team after a ridiculous amount of drama. It’s hard for me to blame Jeffery for the offensive mess. Conversely, Chad Morris’ attack at Clemson has taken the ACC by storm and the Tigers are scoring in bunches. I love Sammy Watkins’ game, and he may overtake Jeffery quickly for instate bragging rights. Watkins is electric on the outside and catches everything around him. We’ll see if defensive coordinators adjust to his skills and Morris’ offense, but Sammy Watkins is definitely the truth. But for now, I’ll still take the 6’4”, 230-lb (or so) Jeffery and count on South Carolina to do a better job of getting him the ball down the stretch.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think the best receiver in South Carolina at the midpoint of the season is Clemson’s Sammy Watkins. Alshon Jeffery’s numbers are nowhere near the pace he was setting last season. I know Jeffery has had quarterback issues and needs other Gamecock receivers to step up and draw some attention away, but he was expected him to have more than 30 catches after seven games. Clemson’s success on offense has been a combination of factors, but Watkins’ emergence has been huge. The true freshman already has four 100-yard performances this year and is averaging 15.2 yards per touch. Jeffery and Watkins bring a slightly different skill set to the table, but both players are two of the top 10 receivers in college football. Jeffery has a longer resume, but Watkins is having the better 2011 campaign.
 

Teaser:
<p> South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery and&nbsp;Clemson’s Sammy Watkins are striving to be the best receiver in the Palmetto State.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 13:17
Path: /college-football/who-has-been-college-football%E2%80%99s-best-player-season
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There seems to be a constant debate in the college football world over the best player in the country. Is it the best performer on a top team, the player with the best statistics, or the best pro prospect? Much of this season’s conversation has centered on the quarterbacks, with Andrew Luck of Stanford, Russell Wilson of Wisconsin and Robert Griffin III of Baylor leading the way. You also have to include Kellen Moore of Boise State among the top signal callers, and the Big 12 quarterback-receiver tandems of Brandon Weeden-Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State and Landry Jones-Ryan Broyles at Oklahoma have been excellent as well. With unfortunate injuries to LaMichael James of Oregon and Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina, Trent Richardson of Alabama has moved to the top of the running back class. And we should also mention the play of defenders like LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu, Penn State’s Devon Still and Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw.

At the halfway point, who has been college football’s best player?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
The real test for Alabama this season will be on Nov. 5 against LSU, but running back Trent Richardson has been one of the top players, if not No. 1, through the first seven weeks of year. Richardson has rushed for 100 yards in six straight games and is just 88 away from reaching 1,000. The junior has already compiled 15 rushing scores and factored into the passing attack, catching 15 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. Richardson has also shined in Alabama’s toughest games, rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns against a good Florida defense and 126 yards against Arkansas. Even though AJ McCarron has made big progress this year, Alabama's offense will continue to flow through Richardson. Opponents will continue to crowd the box in an effort to stop the junior back, but so far, it hasn't worked. As long as Richardson continues to churn out yards, and the Crimson Tide’s defense plays at its current level, it’s going to be tough for any team to beat Alabama this year.

Chris Childers – Sirius XM Radio (@ChildersRadio
Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson is the best player in college football. Wilson took over the reins of a really good football team and has made them elite. The senior has passed for over 1,500 yards has 14 touchdown passes and only 1 interception in Wisconsin's first six games. Wilson's passing ability mixed in with a powerful run game truly makes the Badgers one of the nation's best.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Baylor's Robert Griffin III might be the most valuable players in the nation. Trent Richardson is - after this jaw-dropping run against Ole Miss  - proving that he is the best back in the nation (especially, now that Marcus Lattimore is out). However, it is hard for me not to say that the best player in the nation, Stanford's Andrew Luck, isn't still the best player in the nation. The Cardinal own the nation's longest winning streak (14) and are winning games by an average of 34.6 points per game this season. Luck is third nationally in passer efficiency (180.55), has thrown for 1,719 yards, 18 touchdowns, only three interceptions, rushed for 60 yards and another score and made a one-handed reception down the sideline. He is simply the best.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I would say Robert Griffin III of Baylor at this point of the season. He has been stellar this year and does not have quite the same supporting cast as Luck, Wilson and Richardson. Griffin has completed an amazing 78% of his passes for 1,950 yards. He has tossed 22 touchdowns against only two interceptions while also adding 295 yards and two scores on the ground. With Stanford’s schedule so backloaded, we really have not seen Luck have to face a quality defense. The same applies to Russell Wilson at Wisconsin, especially with Nebraska’s defense being down. I expect Luck to be the man at the end of the season, but for now I’ll go with the tour de force that is RG3.
 

Teaser:
<p> College football’s best player stirs much debate;&nbsp;Alabama’s Trent Richardson, Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson lead this year's candidates.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 17, 2011 - 16:23
Path: /college-football/clemsons-tajh-boyd-best-acc-quarterback
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It’s been an interesting year for ACC quarterbacks. We have witnessed breakout seasons for Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Wake Forest’s Tanner Price and Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington, and it’s no coincidence that those teams are all 3-0 in league play. Florida State’s EJ Manuel has battled injuries but still has a chance to be a top signal caller. North Carolina’s Bryn Renner has the league’s top QB rating, but he has also thrown six interceptions. Miami’s Jacory Harris and Duke’s Sean Renfree have had solid seasons so far, and it may surprise many that NC State’s Mike Glennon leads the ACC in touchdown passes with 16. Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas has been inconsistent but showed his potential against Miami last week, while the sophomore expectations for Maryland’s Danny O’Brien have faded quickly with a new coaching staff and offense.

Who is the best quarterback in the ACC?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Entering the season, the battle to be the ACC’s No. 1 quarterback at the end of the year appeared to be between Florida State’s EJ Manuel and Maryland’s Danny O’Brien. After six weeks, it’s probably safe to say that neither player will make first-team All-ACC. I’d have to say Clemson’s Tajh Boyd has been the best quarterback in the ACC. Boyd has been a quick study in new coordinator Chad Morris’ offense, and leads the ACC with 310 yards a game. The sophomore has also delivered in Clemson’s toughest games this year, torching Florida State for 344 yards and three touchdowns and 386 yards and four scores against Auburn. Boyd has also thrown only two picks this year. With Clemson’s new up-tempo offense hitting on all cylinders, expect Boyd to continue posting big numbers, while leading the Tigers to an ACC Atlantic title.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
This is a tough question. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Wake Forest’s Tanner Price are both having very productive seasons throwing the ball for two teams that are playing very well, but Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington is having the best season for a quarterback — based on what he is asked to do for his team’s offense. Washington only ranks 11th in the league in yards per game with 175.3, but he has been unbelievably efficient throwing the ball out of the Yellow Jackets’ option attack. He is averaging 14.4 yards per attempt (which would lead the nation by a wide margin if he had enough attempts to qualify) and has a sparkling TD-to-INT ratio of 10-to-2. And as expected, he is running the ball well, averaging over 50 yards per game for team that has yet to lose a game. If you had to pick a quarterback in the ACC to run your team, Washington would not be high on the list — unless, of course, you run the option — but he is clearly doing a great job at the quarterback position for his team.

Jim Young (ACCSports.com, @ACCSports)
To me this a two-quarterback debate between Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Wake Forest's Tanner Price. The numbers — Boyd (1,742 yards, 15 TDs and two INTs in six games); Price (1,352 yards, 10 TDs and two INTs in five games) — are incredibly close. They've both done it against top competition. I'll give the slight edge to Tanner Price of the Demon Deacons because his road statistics are better than Boyd's and because he throws such an accurate deep ball.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Florida State's E.J. Manuel is probably the best prospect in the ACC and Logan Thomas is the best athlete with arguably the most upside. But I just can't find a reason why Clemson's Tajh Boyd isn't the best quarterback in the ACC. He leads the league in yards (1,742) by almost 300 yards, he leads the league in touchdown responsible for (18), is tied for fewest interceptions by a starter (2) and has his team unbeaten and in the national championship picture. Tanner Price, Sean Renfree, Bryn Renner and Mike Glennon all have bright futures and are talented signal callers, but no one has played better in bigger spots than Boyd.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
This is an interesting question, but I will give the slight edge to Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington over Wake Forest’s Tanner Price and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. The quarterback is asked to do so much in Paul Johnson’s attack, and Washington always seems to come through for the Yellow Jackets. He has rushed for six touchdowns and passed for 10 while only throwing two interceptions. Washington’s average of 14.4 yards per pass attempt is just gaudy. Boyd has been great this season, but some of that is the spectacular play of Sammy Watkins and Chad Morris’ offense taking the league by storm. If Price had not been injured in the second half at Syracuse, the Demon Deacons would be undefeated. But right now, I’ll take Washington for leading Georgia Tech to a 6-0 record.

Nathan Rush
Russell Wilson of NC State... wait, he plays for Wisconsin now and is a Heisman Trophy candidate on a BCS national title contender. Of those still in conference, Clemson's Tajh Boyd has been the best all-around signal-caller in the ACC. The redshirt sophomore from Hampton, Va., has battled through a hip injury but still managed to throw for 1,742 yards, 15 TDs and only two INTs; scramble for 120 yards and three TDs; and lead the Tigers to a surprising 6–0 start to the season. The 6'1", 230-pounder is tough, smart, athletic and possesses an "it" factor his teammates rally around. Coach Dabo Swinney may hog the spotlight with his crazy jumping around in-game and tearing up post-game, but it is Boyd who is the emotional leader of Clemson — and the best quarterback in the ACC.
 

Teaser:
<p> Clemson's Tajh Boyd,&nbsp;Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington and Wake Forest's Tanner Price have led their teams to 3-0 in the ACC.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 13:48
Path: /college-football/michigan-michigan-state-who-wins-paul-bunyan-trophy
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Michigan State has won three games in a row over hated-Michigan, but the current streak was preceded by the Wolverines taking six in a row over the Spartans from 2002-07. There have been many dramatic Paul Bunyan Trophy games — from Gary Moeller going for two in 1990, to the MSU clock operator in 2001 to the triple-overtime thriller in 2004 — and the 2011 version sets up as a potential classic. Michigan seems to be back on college football’s national radar under new coach Brady Hoke, who has the Wolverines flying high at 6-0. Mark Dantonio’s club has the top-rated defense in the nation, and the Spartans will have major momentum in the Big Ten’s Legends Division race with a victory. Hoke will try to become the first Michigan coach since 1948 (Bennie Oosterbaan) to beat Michigan State in his debut season. The Spartans and Wolverines will kick it off at noon Eastern Time on Saturday.

Who Wins: Michigan or Michigan State?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
I like Michigan State to win Saturday’s matchup. The Spartans have been rock solid on defense this year, allowing only 10.2 points a game and ranking first nationally in total defense. Those numbers will be put to the test by Michigan’s offense, particularly quarterback Denard Robinson. The junior is having a great year running the ball (674 yards and eight touchdowns), but has had his struggles through the air (9 INTs, 55.8 completion percentage). Although Robinson has been finding ways to win games, I’m not sure the Spartans’ defense is going to allow him many opportunities to launch a comeback if the Wolverines fall behind. Michigan State’s offense needs to play better, particularly on the offensive line and with the rushing attack. The Spartans have won the last three matchups in this series and with this game in East Lansing, I like Michigan State to pull out a close game in the fourth quarter.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
This game is a tough one to pick, but I’m going with Michigan by a field goal. Michigan State does have the top-rated defense in the country, but four of the five Spartans opponents are ranked at 88th or worse in offense. Notre Dame is the one solid offense MSU has faced, and the Irish won 31-13. The Spartans ran all over Michigan’s porous defense a year ago, and they intercepted Denard Robinson three times. I don’t see either one of those things happening this season. The Wolverines defense has improved greatly under Greg Mattison, and the MSU offensive line has struggled early this season. This game will go to the team that wins the running battle, and I think UM’s Robinson will make that happen.

Nathan Rush 
Hail to the Victors. Denard X. Robinson will lead the undefeated Wolverines past the Spartans in front of a hostile crowd in East Lansing. This year, Shoelace has been phenomenal once again, throwing for 1,130 yards, 10 TDs and nine INTs, while running for 720 yards and eight TDs. But this week, in particular, is a redemption game for the X-man, who threw a career-worst three INTs and was held to his fourth-lowest rushing total of the season during a 34–17 embarrassment at the Big House last year. With the Legends Division on the line, expect Robinson to make enough plays with the game on the line against a stingy Spartans defense that ranks first in the nation in yards allowed (173.4 ypg) and third in points allowed (10.2 ppg). The Paul Bunyan Trophy will be reclaimed by the Maize and Blue, thanks to their tall-tale quarterback.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
I will take Kirk Cousins to complete a big fourth-quarter third-down conversion and Le'Veon Bell to rush for two one-yard touchdowns giving the Spartans their fourth consecutive win over the Wolverines. Cousins, if he plays well, will be the difference in the game as his ability to push the ball down the field against the Michigan secondary will play a key role. While Denard Robinson has been electric, he has also been wild and turnover-prone. Look for Jerel Worthy and the nation's No. 1 defense to make life hard on the Maize and Blue offense all game long. Spartans by 3.
 

Teaser:
<p> Michigan is undefeated, but Michigan State has beaten the Wolverines three consecutive times.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 15:39

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