Articles By Steven Lassan

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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 11 ACC Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Clemson (9-1) – Saturday’s performance against Wake Forest certainly wasn’t the Tigers’ best, but it was enough to clinch the ACC Atlantic title. Quarterback Tajh Boyd looked out of sync against the Demon Deacons, completing only 27 of 43 throws and tossing two picks. Receiver Sammy Watkins suffered a shoulder injury and was forced to exit the game early. However, the freshman is expected to return to practice this week and could play in Saturday’s game at NC State. The Tigers’ opponent in the ACC title game is still up in the air, but they could face a rematch against Virginia Tech.

2. Virginia Tech (9-1) – The Hokies inched closer to a spot in the ACC title game with a 37-26 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night. Quarterback Logan Thomas continues to make progress in his first year as the starter, throwing for 209 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 70 yards and two scores on the ground. Running back David Wilson also continued his stellar season, rushing for 175 yards on 23 attempts. Virginia Tech hosts North Carolina this Thursday, and can clinch the Coastal title with a win and a Virginia loss against Florida State on Saturday.

3. Florida State (7-3) – The Seminoles snapped a two-game losing streak in Tallahassee against Miami, knocking off the Hurricanes 23-19. The offense struggled to get on track, as quarterback EJ Manuel threw for only 196 yards, and Florida State managed only 63 on the ground. However, the defense came up big by forcing three turnovers, and Greg Reid scored on an 83-yard punt return late in the first half. The Seminoles have won five games in a row and host a fast-improving Virginia team this week. 

4. Georgia Tech (7-3) – Thanks to Thursday’s 37-26 loss to Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets were eliminated from the ACC Coastal race. The defeat to the Hokies was Georgia Tech’s third in four games, which dropped its record to 7-3. Although Paul Johnson’s team is out of the mix for the conference title, there’s still plenty to play for. The Yellow Jackets play at Duke this Saturday, before closing the year against rival Georgia. Georgia Tech could finish the regular season with an 8-4 or 9-3 record and would squarely be on the radar for a spot in the Sun Bowl.

5. Virginia (7-3) – The Cavaliers kept their ACC Coastal title hopes alive with a 31-21 victory over Duke. While beating the Blue Devils seems like a minor feat, Virginia had lost the last three matchups in the series. Head coach Mike London has done a great job in just two years at Virginia and has been rumored to be a target at Penn State. However, London appears to be more interested in sticking around and building the Cavaliers into a consistent winner in the ACC. If Virginia wants to make the season finale against Virginia Tech a de-facto Coastal title game, it needs to beat Florida State this Saturday.

6. Miami (5-5) - It hasn’t been an easy season for first-year coach Al Golden, but the Hurricanes keep fighting. Miami came up just short against rival Florida State on Saturday, losing 23-19 and dropping its overall record to 5-5. The Hurricanes still need one more win to get bowl eligible and travel to Tampa to take on South Florida this Saturday. The Bulls claimed last season’s matchup, winning 23-20 in Miami. If the Hurricanes lose on Saturday, they should record win No. 6 against Boston College on Nov. 25.

7. North Carolina (6-4) – The Tar Heels had a bye in Week 11 and return to action on Thursday night at Virginia Tech. North Carolina got off to a promising 5-1 start, but has since lost three out of its last four games, including a 13-0 defeat to rival NC State. The Tar Heels have lost six out of their last seven games to Virginia Tech, but won the last time these two teams played in Blacksburg. One bit of good news for North Carolina going into Thursday night’s game: quarterback Bryn Renner should play after suffering a concussion against the Wolfpack.

8. Wake Forest (5-5) – The Demon Deacons came up just short in their upset bid against Clemson, falling 31-28 on a last-second field goal. Wake Forest led 28-14 late in the third quarter, but was unable to hold off a furious rally by the Tigers. Although the moral victory probably won’t sit well with coach Jim Grobe, it’s clear this a much-improved team from 2010. The Demon Deacons still need one more win to get bowl eligible, and they face Maryland this Saturday, before finishing the regular season against Vanderbilt.

9. NC State (5-5) – Coach Tom O’Brien seems to have rival North Carolina’s number, but beating his former team (Boston College) has been difficult. The Wolfpack lost 14-10 to the Eagles on Saturday, dropping NC State to 5-5 and in serious jeopardy of missing a bowl game. NC State has lost four out of its last five games against Boston College. Thanks to two victories over FCS opponents, the Wolfpack will need seven wins to get to the postseason. And getting there won’t be easy with ACC Atlantic champ Clemson visiting Raleigh this Saturday.

10. Duke (3-7) – Any chance the Blue Devils had of making a bowl officially ended with Saturday’s 31-21 defeat to Virginia. The offensive line suffered a huge blow during the game, as tackle Kyle Hill was lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Duke is also riding a five-game losing streak as it enters the final two games of 2011. The Blue Devils take on Georgia Tech this Saturday, before playing at North Carolina on Nov. 26. Although coach David Cutcliffe has made small progress during his tenure, Duke still needs a lot of help to get to a bowl next year.

11. Boston College (3-7) – The Eagles won’t go to a bowl game or have a winning record, but at least they haven’t quit on coach Frank Spaziani. Boston College earned its second victory in three games, knocking off NC State 14-10 on Saturday. Running back Andre Williams has been in and out of the lineup due to injuries, but led the team with 61 rushing yards against the Wolfpack. Also, backup quarterback Josh Bordner continued to give the offense a spark, adding 21 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Eagles close out 2011 with road games at Notre Dame and Miami.

12. Maryland (2-8) – A bad season continued to get worse with a 45-21 blowout loss to Notre Dame on Saturday. The Terrapins were ineffective on offense, while the defense gave up more than 30 points for the sixth time this season. Quarterback Danny O’Brien has been sharing snaps with C.J. Brown, but suffered an arm injury against the Irish and will miss the rest of the season. There are a lot of problems with this team, including what seems to be a division between the players and coach Randy Edsall. Will those issues get fixed before next season? If not, 2012 is going to be another long year in College Park.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the ACC stack up after Week 11?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 05:26
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-sec-8
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 11 SEC Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. LSU (10-0) – Coming off a big win over Alabama, it was only natural for the Tigers to have a sluggish first half against Western Kentucky. Although LSU led only 14-7 at halftime, it was never really in danger of losing to the Hilltoppers. The Tigers head to Oxford to take on Ole Miss this Saturday, which is their final regular season road game of 2011. LSU remains in the driver’s seat for a spot in the national title game, but a loss to Ole Miss, Arkansas or in the SEC Championship would cloud the bowl picture.

2. Alabama (9-1) – After a disappointing loss to LSU in Week 10, the Crimson Tide bounced back with a convincing 24-7 victory over Mississippi State. Running back Trent Richardson continued to build an impressive Heisman resume, rushing for 127 yards and one touchdown against the Bulldogs. The defense has suffocated opponents this year, allowing only one team to score more than 13 points (Arkansas). Alabama has an easy game against Georgia Southern this Saturday, before playing at Auburn in the regular season finale.

3. Arkansas (9-1) – The Razorbacks kept their SEC West title hopes alive with a 49-7 victory over Tennessee on Saturday. Arkansas needs a lot of help to win the division, but it has to first win the final two games – Mississippi State and at LSU – to have a shot. Developing balance on offense is going to be critical to pulling the upset against the Tigers in the regular season finale, and the good news for Arkansas was the play of Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo against Tennessee. The duo combined for 148 yards and two touchdowns.

4. Georgia (8-2) – The mission for the Bulldogs is simple on Saturday: Beat Kentucky and clinch a spot in the SEC Championship. Georgia has won eight games in a row, including a 45-7 thrashing of Auburn on Saturday. Quarterback Aaron Murray has been stellar this season, breaking Matt Stafford’s school record for touchdown passes with 27 through 10 games. The Bulldogs will be a dangerous opponent for LSU or Alabama in the SEC title game, but they have to care of the Wildcats on Saturday, before focusing on winning the conference championship.

5. South Carolina (8-2) – Without Marcus Lattimore and a sluggish passing attack, it’s no surprise the Gamecocks posted an ugly 17-12 victory over Florida on Saturday. South Carolina’s offense managed only 299 yards, but the defense held the Gators to 12 points and made a key stop in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory. The Gamecocks still have hopes of making a return trip to the SEC Championship, but have to hope for a Georgia loss against Kentucky. Considering how much the Wildcats have struggled this season, those chances appear to be slim. South Carolina hosts Citadel this Saturday.

6. Auburn (6-4) – Winning on the road in the SEC has been difficult for the Tigers in 2011. Outside of a 16-13 slugfest against South Carolina, Auburn is winless on the road and has managed only 31 points in three conference losses. The Tigers were easily defeated 45-7 by Georgia on Saturday, which was also their worst loss of 2011. With a handful of young or inexperienced players stepping into key roles, Auburn knew it would have its hands full this season. The Tigers should have no trouble beating Samford on Saturday, before taking on Alabama on Nov. 26.

7. Florida (5-5) – It’s been a disappointing year in Gainesville. Although a new coaching staff and a collection of young players was going to be a difficult mix, most expected Florida to have a better record than 5-5 entering Week 12. The Gators should get bowl eligible with an easy win over Furman this Saturday. However, Florida still has to face Florida State in the finale, which means a 6-6 regular season record is very likely. It’s too early to judge coach Will Muschamp, but 2012 is going to be an important season to show the Gators are headed back in the right direction.

8. Vanderbilt (5-5) – A balanced offense and a swarming defense was more than enough for the Commodores to crush Kentucky 38-8. Running back Zac Stacy continued his march for 1,000 yards, gashing the Wildcats for 135 yards and three scores. Stacy needs just 109 yards in the final two games to get to 1,000. Vanderbilt faces off against Tennessee this Saturday and hopes to reverse its fortune in this series. The Commodores have won only once in the last 28 matchups against the Volunteers. With a win against Tennessee or Wake Forest, Vanderbilt would qualify for a bowl game.

9. Mississippi State (5-5) – The Bulldogs gave Alabama their best shot, but it wasn’t enough in the end. Mississippi State’s offense never got on track, managing only 12 rushing yards, while quarterback Tyler Russell threw for only 110 yards. The seven points scored against the Crimson Tide was the second-lowest output by coach Dan Mullen’s offense this year. The Bulldogs still need one victory to get bowl eligible and head to Arkansas this Saturday, before closing out the year in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.

10. Tennessee (4-6) – The Volunteers enter Week 12 with their backs against the wall. Tennessee has to win its final two games in order to reach the postseason, but received a bit of good news on Monday, as quarterback Tyler Bray could return for Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. The Volunteers have had the Commodores’ number, winning 27 out of the last 28 matchups between these two teams. If Tennessee can knock off Vanderbilt, it should get by Kentucky to finish with a 6-6 record.

11. Kentucky (4-6) – One week after earning their first SEC victory of the season, the Wildcats turned in a dismal effort in a 38-8 loss to Vanderbilt. Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith struggled to find open receivers against a solid Commodore secondary, completing only 15 of 31 throws for 179 yards and one interception. Kentucky’s defense was unable to get stops, allowing Vanderbilt to rush for 203 yards, while quarterback Jordan Rodgers added 207 through the air. The Wildcats still have a shot to get bowl eligible, but they will need to beat Georgia and Tennessee in their final two regular season games.

12. Ole Miss (2-8) – The Rebels’ 2011 campaign somehow got worse on Saturday night. Louisiana Tech upset Ole Miss 27-7 in Oxford, dropping the Rebels to 2-8 overall and winless in their last five games. There’s also another quarterback controversy brewing for this Saturday, as Randall Mackey was pulled in favor of Zack Stoudt. Neither quarterback was particularly impressive, so both may see action on Saturday. Considering LSU and Mississippi State are the final two games for Ole Miss, a 2-10 finish appears very likely. 

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the SEC stack up after Week 11?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 05:21
Path: /college-football/bowl-projections-post-week-11
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

With 11 weeks in the book, it's time to take a look at how teams project to the postseason. There's going to be a lot of changes over the next couple of weeks, especially as teams battle just to get to six wins. 

Bowl Date Tie-In Projected Matchup
New Mexico Dec. 17 MWC vs. Pac-12 Wyoming vs. Temple*
Idaho Potato Dec. 17 MAC vs. MWC Ohio vs. Louisiana Tech
New Orleans Dec. 17 C-USA vs. Sun Belt UL Lafayette vs. Purdue*
St. Petersburg Dec. 20 Big East vs. C-USA UCF vs. Pittsburgh
Poinsettia Dec. 21 MWC vs. WAC Nevada vs. TCU
Las Vegas Dec. 22 MWC vs. Pac-12 Boise State vs. UCLA
Hawaii Dec. 24 C-USA vs. WAC Hawaii vs. SMU
Independence Dec. 26 ACC vs. MWC San Diego State vs. North Carolina
Little Caesars Dec. 27 Big Ten vs. MAC Toledo vs. Northwestern
Belk Dec. 27 ACC vs. Big East West Virginia vs. Virginia
Military Dec. 28 ACC vs. Navy Navy vs. Wake Forest
Holiday Dec. 28 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Baylor vs. Arizona State
Champs Sports Dec. 29 ACC vs. Big East Notre Dame vs. Florida State
Alamo Dec. 29 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Texas vs. Washington
Armed Forces Dec. 30 BYU vs. C-USA BYU vs. Marshall
Pinstripe Dec. 30 Big 12 vs. Big East Rutgers vs. Missouri
Music City Dec. 30 ACC vs. SEC Miami vs. Mississippi State
Insight Dec. 30 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Michigan vs. Texas A&M
Car Care Dec. 31 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Texas Tech vs. Penn State
Sun Dec. 31 ACC vs. Pac-12 Georgia Tech vs. California
Liberty Dec. 31 C-USA vs. SEC Southern Miss vs. Tennessee
Fight Hunger Dec. 31 Army vs. Pac-12 Utah vs. Illinois*
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 ACC vs. SEC Virginia Tech vs. Florida
TicketCity Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. C-USA Tulsa vs. Iowa
Outback Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. SEC South Carolina vs. Nebraska
Capital One Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. SEC Georgia vs. Wisconsin
TaxSlayer.com Gator Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. SEC Auburn vs. Ohio State
Rose Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Michigan State vs. Oregon
Fiesta Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Oklahoma vs. Stanford
Sugar Jan. 3 BCS vs. BCS Alabama vs. Houston
Orange Jan. 4 BCS vs. BCS Clemson vs. Cincinnati
Cotton Jan. 6 Big 12 vs. SEC Arkansas vs. Kansas State
BBVA Compass Jan. 7 Big East vs. SEC Vanderbilt vs. Louisville
GoDaddy.com Jan. 8 MAC vs. Sun Belt Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois
National Title Jan. 9 BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2 LSU vs. Oklahoma State

* Current standings and projections indicate some conferences may fail to fulfill their tie-ins for 2011.

Teaser:
<p> With 11 weeks down, here's a look at how teams stack up for the postseason.</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-12-8
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 11 Big 12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Oklahoma State (10-0) – Two to go. That’s the motto coach Mike Gundy has to keep pushing, as the Cowboys are knocking on the doorstep for an appearance in the national title game. Oklahoma State demolished Texas Tech 66-6 on Saturday, earning its 10 win of 2011. Quarterback Brandon Weeden tossed five touchdowns against the Red Raiders, giving him 31 on the season. The Cowboys have now recorded back-to-back double-digit win seasons since 1987-88. Oklahoma State is back in action this Friday against Iowa State.

2. Oklahoma (8-1) – The bye week came at a good time for the Sooners. With receiver Ryan Broyles and running back Dominique Whaley sidelined for the remainder of the year with injuries, the open date gave Oklahoma a chance to rework its lineup. Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds will have to pickup more of the slack at receiver, while Roy Finch and quarterback Blake Bell will see more action on the ground. The Sooners still have national title hopes, but have to win their final three games, including a date at Oklahoma State on Dec. 3. Oklahoma plays at Baylor this Saturday.

3. Kansas State (8-2) – The Wildcats have been no stranger to close games this season. Kansas State used four overtimes to knock off Texas A&M 53-50, which was its eighth victory of the year and the most since winning 11 in 2003. Six of the Wildcats’ eight wins have been decided by seven points or less. Quarterback Collin Klein is having a solid season – and not getting enough credit nationally – throwing only 10 touchdowns, but adding 24 scores on the ground. The Wildcats are out of the mix for the Big 12 title, but still have a chance to play for a solid bowl game (likely Cotton), by beating Texas and Iowa State in the next two weeks.

4. Baylor (6-3) – The Bears have been trending up in the power rankings over the last two weeks. Thanks to losses by Texas and Texas A&M, along with a victory over Missouri, Baylor has jumped to No. 4. The Bears surprisingly needed overtime to beat Kansas on Saturday, eventually pulling out a 31-30 victory. Quarterback Robert Griffin kept his Heisman hopes alive, recording 415 yards and four total scores to knock off the Jayhawks. Baylor has a difficult finish to the season, hosting Oklahoma and Texas, while playing Texas Tech at Cowboys Stadium.

5. Missouri (5-5) – Considering what transpired with conference realignment, beating Texas has be a little special for Missouri this year. The Tigers knocked off the Longhorns 17-5 on Saturday, which was their first win over the Texas since 1997. The victory over the Longhorns didn't provide all good news for coach Gary Pinkel, as running back Henry Josey suffered a knee injury and will miss the remainder of the year. The Tigers are back in action this Saturday against Texas Tech and close out the year with Kansas on Nov. 26.

6. Texas (6-3) – One week after getting bowl eligible, the Longhorns suffered a 17-5 defeat to Missouri. The Longhorns turned in an awful performance on offense, but that was largely due to injuries to receiver Jaxon Shipley and running backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Quarterback David Ash completed only 13 of 29 passes for 158 yards and one interception. The Longhorns host Kansas State this Saturday, before closing the year with two Texas rivals – Texas A&M and Baylor.

7. Texas A&M (5-5) – The Aggies are one of the most disappointing teams in college football. Texas A&M was ranked among the top 10 teams in preseason polls, but have slumped to a 5-5 record. The Aggies suffered their fifth defeat of the year on Saturday, losing 53-50 to Kansas State in four overtimes. Texas A&M still needs one more victory to get bowl eligible, but that should happen this Saturday against Kansas. Considering the disappointing record, it’s no surprise head coach Mike Sherman is on the hot seat.

8. Iowa State (5-4) – The Cyclones had a bye in Week 11 and return to action this Saturday against Oklahoma State. Iowa State needs one more win to get bowl eligible, but it’s not going to be an easy road with Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State remaining. The Cyclones’ pass defense is going to be under fire on Friday night against the Cowboys, but it has held up relatively well this season, ranking 55th nationally.

9. Texas Tech (5-5) – Since beating Oklahoma on Oct. 22, the Red Raiders are 0-3 and have scored only 33 points. The defense has been a concern all year for Texas Tech and it ranks 114th nationally in scoring defense and 113th in yards allowed. With three straight losses, the Red Raiders are in jeopardy of missing a bowl game for the first time since 1999. Texas Tech plays at Missouri this Saturday.

10. Kansas (2-8) – Oh so close. The Jayhawks led Baylor 24-3 going into the fourth quarter, but was unable to hold onto the lead. The Bears stormed back with 21 points in the final quarter, and stopped Kansas’ two-point try to win in overtime. One bright spot for the Jayhawks was the play of running back Darrian Miller. He rushed for 147 yards on 24 attempts, while teammate James Sims added 64. Kansas is running out of time to record its first Big 12 victory this year, with Texas A&M and Missouri the only two remaining games.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big 12 stack up after 11 weeks of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 06:38
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-east-8
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 11 Big East Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Cincinnati (7-2) – The Bearcats suffered a setback in the Big East title race, losing 24-21 to West Virginia on Saturday. The loss to the Mountaineers was Cincinnati’s first conference defeat this year. Making matters even worse was an injury to starting quarterback Zach Collaros. The senior suffered a fractured ankle and has been lost for the rest of the regular season. Backup Munchie Legaux completed 9 of 20 throws for 138 yards in relief of Collaros, while also rushing for 77 yards and a score. The Bearcats still hold a one-game lead in the Big East, but face road tests the next two weeks – at Rutgers and at Syracuse. Without Collaros, Cincinnati could see its Big East title hopes slip away.

2. West Virginia (7-3) – Don’t count out the Mountaineers in the Big East title race. West Virginia kept its conference championship hopes alive with a 24-21 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday. With the rushing attack going nowhere, quarterback Geno Smith carried the offense with 372 passing yards and one score. The defense also made a few key plays, recording a touchdown in the first half and blocked field goal as time expired to preserve the victory. West Virginia still needs another Cincinnati loss to jump back to the top of the standings, but Saturday’s win was big to get back into the mix. The Mountaineers are off next Saturday and play Pittsburgh on Nov. 25.

3. Louisville (5-5) – The Cardinals had their three-game winning streak snapped with a 21-14 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday. The offense was held in check most of the afternoon, as Louisville’s first score came late in the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for only 162 yards, and the rushing attack never managed to get on track. After building momentum with three straight wins, Louisville has to turn its focus back to getting bowl eligible. The Cardinals need to win one of their final two games (at Connecticut and at South Florida) to get into the postseason. Louisville isn't eliminated in the conference title race, but needs Cincinnati lose out. 

4. Rutgers (7-3) – The Scarlet Knights got all they could handle from Army, but used two fourth quarter touchdowns to finish with a 27-12 victory. Chas Dodd got the call at quarterback and completed 17 of 27 passes for 192 yards and one touchdown. Jeremy Deering also gave the offense a spark, rushing for 66 yards on 14 attempts. This game may be the first of two for Rutgers in Yankee Stadium this year. With a 7-3 record, the Scarlet Knights have to be squarely on the Pinstripe Bowl radar, which is held on Dec. 30 in New York City.

5. Pittsburgh (5-5) – Quarterback Tino Sunseri led the Panthers to a 21-14 victory over Louisville on Saturday, totaling 227 overall yards and posting two scores. The win over the Cardinals was Pittsburgh’s first on the road this year and improved its record to 3-2 in Big East play. The Panthers need one more win to get bowl eligible and have two games remaining: at West Virginia and home against Syracuse. Pittsburgh has a bye this Saturday and travels to Morgantown for the Backyard Brawl on Friday, Nov. 25.

6. South Florida (5-4) – The Bulls snapped a four-game losing streak with a dominating 37-17 victory over Syracuse on Friday night. Quarterback B.J. Daniels carried the offense, rushing for 117 yards and a score, while passing for 254 yards. The defense allowed 405 yards, but kept Syracuse running back Antwon Bailey in check and allowed only seven points in the second half. South Florida still needs one more win to get bowl eligible, and ends the year with three home games – Miami, Louisville and West Virginia. The Bulls expected to be better than 5-4 entering Week 12, but there’s a good chance they can finish 8-4 with a favorable remaining schedule.

7. Connecticut (4-5) – The Huskies had a bye in Week 11 and return to action this Saturday against Louisville. Connecticut needs two wins to get bowl eligible, but there’s no guaranteed victories on the schedule. The Huskies are home against Louisville and Rutgers, before closing out the year at Cincinnati. Connecticut’s postseason hopes largely rest on its quarterback play. Johnny McEntee has been inconsistent, and Scott McCummings may see more time as a change of pace option.

8. Syracuse (5-5) – The Orange head into their bye week with two games remaining, and one victory needed to get bowl eligible. After upsetting West Virginia 49-23 on Oct. 21, Syracuse has lost three consecutive games, including a 37-17 defeat to South Florida on Friday night. The offense had its moments against the Bulls, but was unable to cash in on a couple of key opportunities around the goal-line. And the defense struggled to stop South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels, who totaled 371 overall yards. Syracuse returns to action on Nov. 26 with a home date against Cincinnati.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big East stack up after Week 11?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 06:33
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Big East
Path: /college-football/week-11-college-football-winners-and-losers
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.

Winners

Clemson – The Tigers had their national title hopes end with a 31-17 loss to Georgia Tech in Week 9, but rebounded with a 31-28 victory over Wake Forest. With the win over the Demon Deacons, Clemson has clinched an appearance in the ACC title game. This will be the Tigers' second appearance in the ACC Championship under coach Dabo Swinney. Not bad for a guy that was on the hot seat entering 2011.

Georgia – One more win. That’s all the Bulldogs need to clinch the SEC East. Georgia took a big step towards claiming the division by thumping Auburn 45-7 on Saturday. Quarterback Aaron Murray torched the Tigers’ secondary, throwing for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Considering Kentucky is 4-6 and has only one win in SEC play (Ole Miss), the Bulldogs will be heavily favored for Saturday’s game.

Houston – The Cougars recorded an easy 73-17 victory against Tulane on Thursday night to move to 10-0 this season. However, beating an awful Tulane team is not why Houston makes the winner’s section. Thanks to TCU’s win over Boise State, the Cougars are in the driver’s seat for a spot in one of the BCS bowls. Houston has two regular season games remaining, and if it wins both, will likely face Southern Miss in the Conference USA title game. While the path is favorable, the Cougars still have work to do in order to make their first BCS bowl appearance.

Kansas State – Even with losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats are one of the most surprising teams in college football this season. Kansas State survived four overtimes to knock off Texas A&M, which improved its overall record to 8-2. Quarterback Collin Klein is not getting enough credit nationally for his season, posting 34 overall touchdowns and 2,513 yards. With Texas and Iowa State remaining, the Wildcats could finish 10-2 and play in the Cotton Bowl. Not a bad outcome for a team picked near the bottom of the Big 12.

Michigan State – The Spartans are in full control of the Big Ten Legends Division. With a 37-21 victory over Iowa on Saturday, Michigan State crossed a major hurdle to clinching a spot in the first Big Ten title game. The Spartans close out the year with favorable matchups against Indiana and Northwestern. Considering the upcoming schedule, it would be a shock if Michigan State loses another game in the regular season.

Missouri – Losing running back Henry Josey for the rest of the year was a big blow to the Tigers’ offense, but it doesn’t take anything away from a solid 17-5 victory over Texas. Missouri’s defense held the Longhorns to only 247 yards and moved within one win of getting bowl eligible. The Tigers face Texas Tech this Saturday, before closing out the regular season with a matchup against Kansas.

Oregon – The Ducks have been off the national radar since a loss to LSU in the season opener, but Saturday’s 53-30 win over Stanford has this team back in the mix for a national title. Running back LaMichael James torched the Cardinal for 146 yards and three touchdowns, while the defense forced five turnovers and held Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor to 99 yards. Oregon has a tough matchup against USC this Saturday, but is one win away from clinching the Pac-12 North title. The Ducks need some help, but don’t count them out in the national title picture.

Purdue – I’m still skeptical of coach Danny Hope’s long-term future with the Boilermakers, but getting a 26-23 victory over Ohio State should ease the pressure on his hot seat. The offense got a spark from quarterback Robert Marve, who scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime, while passing for 94 yards on 10 completions. The defense also chipped in with a solid effort, limiting the Buckeyes to only 163 yards. And the win over the Buckeyes moved Purdue within one game of getting bowl eligible. The Boilermakers host Iowa this Saturday, before finishing the regular season with a date against rival Indiana.

TCU – The Horned Frogs gave the Mountain West a final parting shot on Saturday, knocking off Boise State 36-35 and moving into the driver’s seat for the conference title. Quarterback Casey Pachall torched an injury-riddled secondary, throwing for 473 yards and five touchdowns. The Horned Frogs’ defense also made a couple of key plays, including a forcing a fumble with less than three minutes remaining. With Colorado State and UNLV left on the schedule, TCU should finish 10-2 and close out its tenure in the Mountain West with a conference title. 

USC – If quarterback Matt Barkley and tackle Matt Kalil return for 2012, this is going to be an interesting team to watch in the preseason polls. The Trojans knocked off Washington 40-17 on Saturday, which moved their record to 8-2 this season. It’s pretty clear USC is the best team in the Pac-12 South, and it’s a shame it can’t play for the conference title this year.

Utah – The Utes kept their Pac-12 South title hopes alive with a 31-6 victory over UCLA on Saturday. A season-ending injury to quarterback Jordan Wynn has limited the offense over the last few weeks, but running back John White and defense has carried the team. White gashed the Bruins for 167 yards and two touchdowns, which gave him 1,191 yards for the season. The Utes play at Washington State this Saturday.

Washington State – Coach Paul Wulff’s future is still up in the air, but he’s making a strong case to return to Pullman for 2012. The Cougars earned their second Pac-12 victory this season, defeating Arizona State 37-27. Redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Halliday turned in one of the top passing performances of Pac-12 play this year, throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns. With two games left, don’t count out the Cougars from getting to a bowl. Beating Utah and Washington won’t be easy, but if Halliday picks up where he left off against the Sun Devils, anything is possible.

West Virginia – The Mountaineers were in danger of slipping out of the Big East title race, but Saturday’s 24-21 victory over Cincinnati keeps their hopes alive for another week. West Virginia still needs help to claim the top spot, but beating the Bearcats was a step in the right direction. The play of the offensive line and defense will be a concern the rest of the year, but with Cincinnati losing quarterback Zach Collaros for the remainder of the season, the Big East could be up for grabs.

Losers

Arizona State – Two weeks ago, the Sun Devils appeared to be in full control of the Pac-12 South Division. After back-to-back losses, Arizona State’s grip on the South is no more. The Sun Devils were upset 37-27 at Washington State on Saturday night, which dropped their record to 6-4. Arizona State still has the inside track on playing for the conference title, as UCLA still has to win at USC to claim the South.

Boise State – One loss doesn’t spoil a run like the Broncos have put together in recent seasons. But it’s certainly disappointing that a missed field goal will change Boise State’s 2011 campaign. The Broncos dropped their first regular season home game since 2001, losing 36-35 to TCU. Although Boise State should finish with an 11-1 record, it is likely to miss out on a BCS berth for the second season in a row.

Cincinnati – The Bearcats still have a one-game lead in the Big East, but losing to West Virginia 24-21 on Saturday was a costly defeat. Quarterback Zach Collaros is out for the rest of the regular season with a fractured ankle, which leaves Munchie Legaux as the starter. Cincinnati has three regular season contests remaining – at Rutgers, at Syracuse and home against Connecticut – and can’t afford another defeat. Without Collaros, finishing the season without a loss in the final three games won’t be easy.

FAU – With New Mexico’s victory over UNLV, the Owls are the only winless team in college football.

Illinois – The Fighting Illini have been on a slide since beginning the year 6-0. Illinois’ suffered its fourth straight defeat, losing 31-14 to Michigan on Saturday. The offense has been an issue over the last four games, as the Fighting Illini has not scored more than 14 points since Oct. 8 against Indiana. With Wisconsin coming to Champaign this week, Illinois could be 6-5 before the season finale against Minnesota.

NC State – One week after thumping rival North Carolina, the Wolfpack slumped to a 14-10 loss to Boston College. The defeat was particularly damaging to NC State’s bowl hopes, as it still needs two wins to get eligible and face Clemson and Maryland to close out the season. Will coach Tom O’Brien return next season? Although the Wolfpack has been hit hard by injuries, finishing with a 6-6 record and no bowl game is not going to sit well in Raleigh.

Ohio State – The Buckeyes appeared to be headed in the right direction coming into Week 11, as they had three straight wins and was in the mix to win the Leaders Division. Not anymore. Ohio State suffered a disappointing 26-23 overtime loss to Purdue, which dropped its record to 6-4 this year. The Buckeyes have to face Penn State and Michigan to close out the year, so there are no guaranteed victories remaining on the schedule. Although Luke Fickell deserved a lot of credit for leading this team to a victory over the Badgers, a sluggish performance against the Boilermakers certainly raises more questions about his future.

Ole Miss – A bad week for the Rebels got worse on Saturday night. Coach Houston Nutt was fired on Monday, and Ole Miss followed that up with a lethargic performance in a 27-7 loss to Louisiana Tech. The Rebels have not recorded a victory since beating Fresno State 38-28 on Oct. 1. With LSU and Mississippi State remaining, Ole Miss appears headed for a 2-10 record.

Stanford – The Cardinal watched their national title hopes end with a 53-30 defeat to Oregon on Saturday night. The lack of game changers at receiver showed against the Ducks, with quarterback Andrew Luck struggling to hit plays downfield all night. Oregon’s defensive front was also a handful for Stanford’s offensive line. Although the Cardinal is out of the national title picture, there is still plenty to play for. If Stanford wins against California and Notre Dame, it should reach a BCS game.

Texas A&M – We will have to wait until the end of the season to sort out the biggest disappointment of 2011, but it’s fairly certain the Aggies will be near the top of the list. Texas A&M began the season as a preseason top-10 team, but Saturday’s defeat to Kansas State dropped it to 5-5. The Aggies should get bowl eligible with a win over Kansas this Saturday. However, finishing 6-6 or 7-5 is not what most had in mind coming into 2011. Considering the disappointing season, could the Aggies replace coach Mike Sherman?

UNLV – When you lose to New Mexico, it’s an automatic mention into this space.

Looking Ahead to Week 12

A small sample of what’s ahead

North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Thursday)
Hokies can clinch Coastal Division with a win over Tar Heels and loss by Virginia against Florida State.

Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Friday)
Cowboys should win, but have to be careful not to look ahead to Bedlam.

Penn State at Ohio State
A big game for positioning in the Leaders Division.

Vanderbilt at Tennessee
Can the Commodores get bowl eligible in Knoxville?

Miami at South Florida
Bragging rights in the Sunshine State on the line, and the winner gets bowl eligible.

Virginia at Florida State
Seminoles on a roll, but Cavaliers are a dangerous team. 

Nebraska at Michigan
Both teams looking up at Michigan State in the Legends Division race.

Kentucky at Georgia
Mission for Bulldogs is simple: Win and clinch the SEC East title.

Cincinnati at Rutgers
Without Zach Collaros, can the Bearcats hang onto their lead in the Big East?

Oklahoma at Baylor
Bears have no trouble lighting up the scoreboard, but can they slow down Oklahoma?

Wisconsin at Illinois
Badgers still lurking in the Big Ten race, but have to win out to have a chance.

USC at Oregon
Light schedule makes this matchup the game of the week.

Injuries from Week 11

Air Force QB Tim Jefferson (concussion) – questionable for Week 12
BYU QB Riley Nelson (broken rib) – out Week 12
Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros (ankle) – out for the remainder of the regular season
Clemson WR Sammy Watkins (shoulder) – probable for Week 12
Clemson OT Phillip Price (knee) – likely out 2 weeks
Colorado State QB Pete Thomas (knee) – questionable for Week 12
Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes (back) – questionable for Week 12
Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz (broken ankle) – out for remainder of season
Marshall QB A.J. Graham (shoulder) – questionable for Week 12
Maryland QB Danny O’Brien (arm) – out for the remainder of 2011
Michigan QB Denard Robinson (wrist) – probable for Week 12
Missouri RB Henry Josey (knee) – out for the remainder of 2011
North Texas RB Lance Dunbar (knee) – questionable for Week 12
Ohio State LB Andrew Sweat (concussion) – questionable for Week 12
Texas RB Fozzy Whittaker (knee) – out for the remainder of 2011
Texas LB Keenan Robinson (thumb) – questionable for Week 12
USC S T.J. McDonald (concussion) – questionable for Week 12
Washington QB Keith Price (knee) – probable for Week 12
Wisconsin C Peter Konz (ankle) – out 2 to 4 weeks 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon recaps Week 11 of the college football season and takes a look ahead to Week 12.</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 06:28
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-11-preview-match-ups-and-upset-picks
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

10 Key Storylines to Watch for Week 11

1. It has been a difficult week in Happy Valley. Joe Paterno is out as Penn State’s coach, and the program has been rocked by a scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. With all that has gone on this week, how will the Nittany Lions respond on Saturday against Nebraska? Penn State is the only unbeaten team in the Big Ten and holds a two-game lead in the Leaders Division. This is also an important game for Nebraska in the conference standings, as it needs a win to stay within range of Michigan State. Last week’s loss to Northwestern was a setback for the Cornhuskers’ title hopes, as they now need the Spartans to lose in one of their final three games, while navigating a very difficult schedule – at Penn State, at Michigan and Iowa. Although there are bigger issues to address in Happy Valley, this week’s game is important in the Big Ten race. And there will be a lot of interested observers wanting to see if interim coach Tom Bradley will have the Nittany Lions ready to play.

2. Oklahoma State is in the driver’s seat for a spot in the national title game, but don’t forget about Stanford. The Cardinal can make their case for a place among the top two teams, starting on Saturday against Oregon. The Ducks have been out of the spotlight due to the loss in the opener to LSU. However, Oregon has rallied with eight consecutive victories. This game presents an interesting contrast of styles: Stanford’s physical approach versus Oregon’s speed. The Cardinal rank third nationally in stopping the run, but that will be tested by the Ducks on Saturday night. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck gets all the hype (and rightfully so), but the Cardinal also have a very good rushing attack. Considering Stanford’s defense will likely struggle to stop Oregon’s offense, it’s up to Luck and the rushing attack to control the clock and keep the Ducks on the sideline. Last week’s “Game of the Century” featured very little offense. But don’t expect that to be the case in this game, as both teams will have no trouble moving the ball.

3. Cincinnati is the only team in the Big East without a loss in conference play. The Bearcats have been doing it without much fanfare either, but coach Butch Jones has done a good job of turning things around after a disappointing 2010 season. While Cincinnati is surging in the conference race, West Virginia has been a disappointment – at least for now. The Mountaineers have lost two out of their last three Big East contests, and they desperately need a win over the Bearcats to stay alive in the title race. There should be plenty of points in this one, as both offenses are averaging over 30 points – Cincinnati (39.1) and West Virginia (38.2). If the Bearcats knock off the Mountaineers on Saturday, the road to a Big East title is very manageable: at Rutgers, at Syracuse and home against Connecticut.

4. Considering the history of the Florida State-Miami rivalry, it seems strange that both teams enter this week’s game unranked for the third time in the last five matchups. A three-game losing streak ended any hopes the Seminoles had of competing for a national title, but they have rebounded with four blowout victories. The Hurricanes have been up and down in coach Al Golden’s first year and still need one more win to get bowl eligible. Miami has won the last two matchups in Tallahassee, but the Seminoles destroyed the Hurricanes 45-17 last year. Can Miami continue its winning streak in Tallahassee? If the Hurricanes want to knock off the Seminoles, they need quarterback Jacory Harris to continue his efficient play. The senior has quietly had a good season, throwing for 1,757 yards and 18 touchdowns, while tossing only four picks. Although this game won’t have the glow of previous matchups, Florida State-Miami is usually a can’t-miss rivalry game.

5. Death Valley is home to a de-facto ACC Atlantic title game this Saturday. Clemson sits atop the division with an 8-1 record and can clinch a trip to Charlotte with a win over the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest still has division title aspirations, but needs a victory at Clemson and then must beat Maryland on Nov. 19. The Demon Deacons got off to a 4-1 start, but have lost three out of their last four games. The Tigers are coming off their first loss of the season, suffering a 31-17 defeat to Georgia Tech on Oct. 29. Although its national title hopes are over, Clemson still has plenty to play for. The Tigers still have a chance to finish inside of the top 10 of the BCS and make their first appearance in the Orange Bowl since 1982. Both defenses have been inconsistent, so there should be plenty of points. However, Wake Forest has not won in Death Valley since 1998 and will have a tough time slowing down Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins.

6. How many would have expected Utah-UCLA to be an important Pac-12 game just a couple of weeks ago? Probably not many. After losing 48-12 on the road to Arizona, UCLA was thought to have packed it in for the year and coach Rick Neuheisel was finished. Not so fast. The Bruins surprisingly jumped back into the Pac-12 South title race with back-to-back wins, including last week’s 29-28 victory over Arizona State. The Bruins are locked into a three-way tie atop the South, but own the tiebreaker over the Sun Devils, while getting a shot at Utah on Saturday. Even if UCLA beats the Utes on Saturday, it still must beat Colorado and USC to play for the Pac-12 title. Utah’s first season in the Pac-12 has been a mixed bag of success, but is also still alive for the division crown. The Utes have a very manageable three-game stretch, starting with Saturday’s game against UCLA, followed by Washington State and Colorado. Even if Utah wins out, it will need a loss by Arizona State to win the division.

7. Saturday’s matchup in Manhattan features one of the nation’s most surprising teams (Kansas State), against one of the biggest disappointments (Texas A&M). The Aggies were billed as a  preseason top-10 team, while the Wildcats were expected to finish near the bottom of the Big 12. Although Kansas State has dropped back-to-back games, there’s really no shame in losing to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Texas A&M is also trying to snap a two-game losing streak, but second-half collapses early in the year against Arkansas and Texas Tech have this team sitting at a disappointing 5-4. The Aggies’ offense suffered a blow in last week’s loss to Oklahoma, as running back Christine Michael was lost for the year due to a torn ACL. There’s no question the edge in talent has to go in favor of Texas A&M. However, don’t count out Kansas State from finding a way to win this one.

8. Michigan State’s Big Ten title hopes seemed to be hanging by a thread after losing 24-3 to Nebraska on Oct. 29. However, the Spartans caught a break last week, as Northwestern upset the Cornhuskers, shifting control of the Legends Division back to East Lansing. Although Michigan State holds the edge, don’t overlook Iowa. The Hawkeyes control their own destiny in the division, especially after last week’s win over Michigan. Iowa has dominated the recent series between these two teams, which includes a 37-6 victory last season. The Big Ten is one of the tightest conference title races. Will we have any clarity after this weekend?

9. The Stanford-Oregon matchup is going to dominate the headlines in the Pac-12 this week, but don’t overlook USC-Washington. This game is a battle of former Pete Carroll assistants (Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian), and two of college football’s top young coaches. Sarkisian has the Huskies headed back into Pac-12 contention, while Kiffin is trying to navigate USC through a very difficult time with NCAA sanctions. Both offenses are dynamic, but whichever defense can make stops will be the difference. The Huskies have been searching for the right answers on that side of the ball all year, ranking 113th nationally in pass defense and allowing 33.4 points a game. The Trojans have improved in the second year under coordinator Monte Kiffin, but still rank 104th nationally in pass defense. While this game means little on the Pac-12 title race, it should be one of the weekend’s most entertaining. The Huskies have won the last two in this series, but USC is at home and playing with a lot of confidence after its overtime loss to Stanford.

10. No matter what you think of the overall competition level in the Mountain West and the WAC, it’s still very impressive Boise State has lost only five games in its last six seasons. The Broncos stumbled late last year against Nevada, and if there’s a potential upset waiting on the schedule, it has to be this week. TCU will be making its first trip to Boise this Saturday, hoping to knock off the Broncos and claim control of the Mountain West’s top spot. Although the Horned Frogs are a solid team, this is nowhere near the squad that beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. TCU’s offense is averaging 41.6 points a game, but the defense has taken a step back this year. The Horned Frogs rank 61st nationally in pass defense, which is bad news against Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and a solid group of receivers. Playing for a national title is probably out of reach, but if it wins out, Boise State will qualify for an at-large spot in a BCS bowl.

Saturday’s Picks

Athlon editor Mitch Light predicts the 10 biggest games for Week 11 – here’s my take on how some of the top games will play out.

Georgia 27, Auburn 20
Nebraska 24, Penn State 17
Clemson 38, Wake Forest 24
West Virginia 38, Cincinnati 34
Florida 24, South Carolina 20
Kansas State 38, Texas A&M 34
UCLA 23, Utah 20
Oregon 38, Stanford 34
USC 34, Washington 30
Boise State 40, TCU 24
Michigan State 27, Iowa 24
Texas 34, Missouri 31
Michigan 28, Illinois 24

Upset Watch

Looking for a few upsets? Keep a close watch on these games.

South Florida (-3.5) at Syracuse
South Florida is desperate after losing four straight, but the Orange are also hungry for a win after last week’s loss to Connecticut.

Texas A&M (-3) at Kansas State
Can the Aggies find a way to slow down Wildcats’ quarterback Collin Klein?

Texas (-1.5) at Missouri
Tigers are running out of time to get bowl eligible, and expect quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey to give the Longhorns all they can handle.

Michigan State (-3) at Iowa
After beating Michigan last week, Iowa will give the Spartans all they can handle. Especially since the Hawkeyes control their destiny in the Legends Division. 

UCLA at Utah (-7.5)
Believe it or not, this game will have an impact on the Pac-12 South title race. The Bruins have some momentum after beating Arizona State last Saturday.

Around the Web: College Football’s Must Read Articles to Prepare for Week 11

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is getting closer to a return. However, he will not play in Saturday's game against Arkansas. 

Maryland coach Randy Edsall thinks his team is getting better. The players? Not sure they agree with Edsall's assessment. 

Texas Tech will be without two defenders - including one starting cornerback - for the rest of 2011.

Michigan State has a key Big Ten game against Iowa this Saturday, and is expected to get a couple of key contributors back from injury.

Recruiting failures were a big part of why Houston Nutt was unable to succeed at Ole Miss.

Washington State coach Paul Wulff has made steady progress, but will it be enough to keep his job at the end of the year?

Clemson running back Andre Ellington missed the Georgia Tech game due to an ankle injury, but is expected back in the lineup for Saturday's game against Wake Forest.

Missouri's offense has made some key changes to its passing attack this year.  

Last week's game against Oregon was the last at Husky Stadium until 2013 for Washington. Here's a good look at the upgrades coming for the Huskies. 

Nebraska is battling more injuries along its defensive line. 

Will Alabama and LSU rematch in the national title game? The Tigers aren't exactly looking forward to that possibility...

However, Alabama definitely wants another shot at the Tigers.  

Why has Colorado struggled under Dan Hawkins and Jon Embree? Here's a great look at why the Buffaloes are 1-9.

What is going wrong for West Virginia this season?

Florida quarterback John Brantley was banged up in last week's victory over Vanderbilt. However, he is expected to start against South Carolina.

Teaser:
<p> We give you the 10 most important match-ups and upset picks for Week 11.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 07:01
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-oregon-stanford
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

If you were disappointed by the lack of scoring in last week’s No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown (LSU-Alabama), then Saturday’s Oregon-Stanford matchup should make up for that.

For the Cardinal, the mission is very simple: Keep winning. With Stanford ranked No. 4 in the BCS, it has a good chance to play for the national title. The Cardinal need some help, particularly with a loss by Oklahoma State, but a win over Oregon would certainly help their case to jump to No. 2.

For a program that had only one winning season from 2000-07, it’s impressive to see the Cardinal in this position. Jim Harbaugh was a fantastic hire at Stanford, leading the program to an Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech last season. David Shaw is in his first season as head coach, but has done a good job of guiding the Cardinal to a 9-0 record this year. And of course, there’s quarterback Andrew Luck. The junior is the leading candidate to win the Heisman Trophy and expected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft.

Although Stanford has made a splash on the national scene the last two years, Oregon has claimed the Pac-10 title in those seasons. And the Ducks were the national title runner-up last year.

Oregon lost its season opener 40-27 to LSU, but has rebounded with eight wins in a row. The Ducks need a lot of help to play for the national title, but a win against Stanford would put them in control for the Pac-12 North Division title.

The recent matchups in this series have been dominated by Oregon. Eight of the last nine games have been won by the Ducks, with Stanford’s last victory coming in 2009. The Cardinal led 31-24 at halftime last season, but Oregon eventually won 52-31.

There’s also an underlying theme to Saturday’s game: Is there a passing of the torch in the Pac-12 North? Even when Stanford loses Andrew Luck, the Cardinal has enough in the cupboard to remain a top 25 team. Oregon likely won’t be going anywhere, but there’s a dark cloud surrounding this program with a NCAA investigation. If the NCAA comes down hard on the Ducks, will coach Chip Kelly be around? Or will there be significant scholarship reductions? If the Ducks are hammered by sanctions, the Cardinal (along with Washington) are in position to benefit the most. 

When Oregon Has the Ball

Oregon’s speed and tempo on offense is going to be a challenge for Stanford. 

Quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James both missed time with injuries this season, but both are expected to be 100 percent for Saturday’s game.  

Although Thomas has returned to the lineup the last two games, he has had trouble knocking off the rust. Since his return, he is averaging only 161 passing yards and has thrown only two touchdowns.

James has four 100-yard games this season, including 288 yards and two touchdowns in a 56-31 victory over Arizona. The junior struggled in his first game back from an elbow injury (Washington State), but gashed Washington for 156 yards and one touchdown last week.

Stanford’s rush defense has been outstanding this season, ranking third nationally and allowing only 78.9 yard a game. The effort is more impressive when you consider All-American linebacker Shayne Skov was lost in Week 3 due to a knee injury.

However, have the Cardinal really been tested? The defense allowed 148 rushing yards to USC, 141 to UCLA and 172 to Washington. When teams commit to the run against Stanford, success can be found.

The Ducks had no trouble moving the ball on the ground in last season’s matchup against the Cardinal, with James running for 257 yards and Thomas adding 117.

There’s no shortage of rushing options at Oregon either, as when James needs a break, Kenjon Barner (6.8 yards per carry) and De’Anthony Thomas (8.5 ypc) are more than capable. Also, assuming Thomas’ knee is 100 percent, he will factor into the ground attack.

Stanford’s defense did get one bit of good news this week. Safety Delano Howell will return to the lineup, after missing the last three games due to a hand injury.

The Cardinal rank 88th in pass defense, but the Ducks don’t have a clear No. 1 receiver. De’Anthony Thomas leads the team with 382 receiving yards, while Lavasier Tuniei tops the receiving corps with 28 receptions.

One wildcard: Could Stanford’s best defense be its offense? Shutting down Oregon’s offense is nearly impossible. However, the Cardinal will have a huge advantage if they can control the time of possession and wear down the Ducks’ defense.

Stanford won’t be able to completely shut down Oregon. However, the Cardinal have to prevent big plays, and make the Ducks methodically work their way down the field.

When Stanford Has the Ball

When breaking down the Stanford offense, you have to start with quarterback Andrew Luck. The junior is widely-regarded as the top quarterback in the nation and barring a collapse in the final three regular season games, is a lock to win the Heisman.

Luck has thrown for 2,424 yards and 26 touchdowns this year, but those aren’t even his most impressive numbers. The junior is completing 71.3 percent of his throws and has tossed only five interceptions. He also ranks fifth nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 174.1.

Although Luck is one of the top players in college football, he isn’t a one-man show. The Cardinal rank second in the Pac-12 in rushing offense, averaging 224.7 yards per game. Running back Stepfan Taylor leads the team with 891 yards and eight scores, but Tyler Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson and Jeremy Stewart are also capable rushers.

Much of the success of the rushing attack is due to the offensive line. Despite three new starters stepping in, the Cardinal is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has scored 26 times on the ground.

And Stanford’s offensive line is going to have a big advantage in the trenches on Saturday night. The Cardinal’s front five averages 303 pounds, while Oregon’s defensive starting defensive line averages 272 pounds. The Ducks will give up some size for speed up front, but this is one area that Stanford can definitely look to exploit on Saturday night.

Oregon’s defense has struggled early in the year, allowing 30 points in two of its first four games. However, the Ducks have been playing better recently, allowing only 17 points to Washington and holding Arizona State to 27.

While the Ducks have to be concerned about Stanford’s offensive line and rushing attack, they have to feel good about their secondary. Oregon ranks third in the Pac-12 in pass defense, but will once again be without cornerback Cliff Harris, who is suspended indefinitely due to an off-the-field issue.

A big concern for Stanford coach David Shaw has to be the injuries that have taken its toll on the receiving corps. Receiver Chris Owusu suffered a concussion in last week’s win over Oregon State and has been ruled out for Saturday’s game. The Cardinal’s three tight end formation is one of the staples of the offense, but Zach Ertz is listed as doubtful with a leg injury. One bit of good news for Stanford: tight end Levine Toilolo is expected to return after suffering a leg injury against Oregon State.

With Owusu out, senior Griff Whalen, freshman Ty Montgomery and junior Jamal-Rashad Patterson have to step up. Luck has done a good job of spreading the ball around, but losing Owusu and Ertz will have an impact on this offense.

Considering Oregon’s penchant for quick scoring drives, Stanford’s best chance at winning this game could revolve around controlling the clock and keeping the Ducks’ explosive offense on the sidelines.

Special Teams

Give the edge to Stanford in this department.

Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson has missed the last two games due to injury, but is expected to play on Saturday. Williamson has connected on 11 of 12 field goals this season. 

The Cardinal is also in great shape at punter, as David Green is averaging 41.5 yards per punt and has placed seven inside of the 20.

With Owusu sidelined, the Cardinal will lean on Ty Montgomery even more on kickoff returns. He is averaging 29.3 yards per return and has scored one touchdown this season. Drew Terrell is also having a good year on special teams, averaging 13.8 yards per punt return.

Oregon’s kicking situation is uncertain. Rob Beard and Alejandro Maldonado are competing for the job this week. Beard has missed most of the year due to a leg injury, but connected on his only two attempts.

Punter Jackson Rice is averaging 46.8 yards per punt and has placed 13 inside of the 20 this season.

With Cliff Harris sidelined, the Ducks have turned to a variety of options on returns. LaMichael James, De’Anthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner and Josh Huff could all see time on punt and kickoff returns on Saturday night.

Prediction

Stanford’s shot at playing for a national title ends on Saturday night. Oregon’s speed on offense is going to give the Cardinal’s defense all they can handle, and eventually will be the difference in the game.

The Cardinal will be able to control the time of possession, but eventually, LaMichael James makes one play in the fourth quarter that swings the game in favor of Oregon.

Oregon 38, Stanford 34

Teaser:
<p> Oregon-Stanford is one of the big games in Week 11. Athlon Sports previews what both sides need to do in order to win.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 06:42
Path: /college-football/penn-state-coaching-candidates
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

For the first time since 1965, Joe Paterno will not roam the sidelines this Saturday at Penn State. Replacing a coach that won 409 games won’t be easy, and the coaching search is even more difficult with an interim athletic director.  

Who will be Penn State's coach in 2012? Here's a look at some realistic candidates, as well as some longshots to watch in the search.

Realistic Candidates

Tom Bradley, defensive coordinator, Penn State Bradley played at Penn State from 1975-78 and has been a loyal assistant under Paterno since 1980. He was promoted to defensive coordinator after the 1999 season and is regarded as a good recruiter, especially in Pennsylvania. Bradley was in contention to be the head coach at Pittsburgh last season and has been rumored to be Paterno’s successor in the past. He will also have a chance to state his case for the job, as he will serve as the interim coach until the end of the 2011 season. Although Bradley has a solid resume, he does not have any head coaching experience, and Penn State may prefer to start fresh with someone from outside of the Paterno coaching tree.

Kirk Ferentz, head coach, Iowa Ferentz has compiled a 95-63 record and has won two co-Big Ten titles in 12-plus seasons at Iowa. He doesn’t have any experience at Penn State, but is a proven winner at a school without a solid recruiting base in its home state. If Ferentz wants to win a national title, Penn State is a much easier place to accomplish that goal. He's not flashy, but Ferentz would be a solid hire.

Pat Fitzgerald, head coach, NorthwesternConsidering Fitzgerald is an alum of Northwestern, it would be very difficult for him to leave for Penn State. However, there’s no question the better job is in Happy Valley, where the Nittany Lions have the potential to be a top 25 team every season. Fitzgerald has a 38-34 record through five-plus seasons as the Wildcats’ head coach, which is impressive considering this is one of the Big Ten’s most difficult places to win. Upgrading the facilities has been a big issue at Northwestern, which is something that has to be done to keep the current coaching staff in place. Fitzgerald can win big at the right program and would inject some youth and enthusiasm into Penn State. It’s a longshot he leaves Northwestern, but Fitzgerald is certainly someone the Nittany Lions want to talk to.

Al Golden, head coach, Miami Golden seems to be the early favorite to be the next head coach at Penn State. He played under Paterno from 1987-91 and returned to Happy Valley to coach linebackers in 2000. Golden was the head coach at Temple from 2006-10, before taking the top spot at Miami. Considering the cloud of potential NCAA sanctions hanging over the Hurricanes, Golden could be looking to get out after this season. He has the reputation of running a clean program, as well as being a disciplinarian, which is certainly attractive for a school trying to clean up from a cycle of bad publicity. If he does want to leave Miami, Golden would be a terrific fit at Penn State and a home-run hire.

Chip Kelly, head coach, Oregon Although Kelly has experienced tremendous success out West, he’s actually very familiar with the East Coast. He coached at Columbia, New Hampshire and Johns Hopkins, before jumping to Oregon in 2007. In two-plus seasons with the Ducks, Kelly has compiled a 30-5 record and led his team to a berth in the national title last year. Although Kelly has a strong resume, Oregon is under NCAA investigation, which could result in significant sanctions placed on the program. Also, Kelly would need a couple of years to recruit the talent he needs to run his spread attack at Penn State.

Urban Meyer, ESPN analyst Even though Meyer left Florida due to health reasons at the end of the 2009 season, he is not expected to sit on the sidelines for long. Meyer led Florida to two national titles during his time in Gainesville and his record as a head coach is an impressive 104-23. Although Meyer may be ready to jump back into coaching, Penn State may not be his first choice. As an Ohio native, Meyer could be more interested in a potential opening at Ohio State. Meyer’s health is a concern, and his final year at Florida was a disappointing 8-5. Considering what could happen with the Buckeyes’ coaching situation, Meyer is expected to receive plenty of attention this offseason.

Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi StateIt’s difficult to leave a job in the SEC, but Mullen is from Drexel Hill, Pa. and went to school at Ursinus in Collegeville, Pa. In two-plus seasons at Mississippi State, Mullen has a 19-15 record, and has built an impressive resume, with stops at Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. He is a highly-regarded offensive coach, helping to mold Tim Tebow (Florida) and Alex Smith (Utah). Although his record at Mississippi State isn’t overwhelmingly impressive, the Bulldogs play in the toughest division in college football, and their record in the three seasons before his arrival was 15-22.

Greg Schiano, head coach, Rutgers Schiano inherited a program that was 12-43 in the five years prior to his arrival. Since taking over, the Scarlet Knights are 65-66 in the last 10-plus seasons. And Rutgers has played in five bowl games during his tenure. Schiano coached at Penn State from 1990-95 and has built recruiting connections throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania during his time at Rutgers. Has Schiano taken the Scarlet Knights as far as they can go? What will happen to the Big East in realignment? Those questions definitely have to weigh on Schiano’s mind as he considers any job offer this offseason.

Longshots

Tim Beckman, head coach, ToledoBeckman has made a steady climb up the coaching ladder, serving as an assistant at Elon, Bowling Green, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, before accepting the head coaching position at Toledo. He has led the Rockets to a 19-16 record in two-plus seasons and is due for a shot at a BCS job in the near future.

Ron English, head coach Eastern Michigan English’s record is only 7-26 in two-plus years in Ypsilanti. However, he has the Eagles (5-4) on the verge of their first winning season since 1995. Winning at Eastern Michigan has proven to be very difficult, but English has slowly turned this program around. He has Big Ten coaching experience, working under Lloyd Carr at Michigan from 2003-07.

Bud Foster, defensive coordinator, Virginia Tech Foster has been a loyal assistant to Frank Beamer, working at Virginia Tech since 1987. His name has been mentioned in previous coaching searches, but has stayed remained in Blacksburg. Could Foster be waiting for Beamer to retire? Or is he content to be an assistant? Foster is regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in college football, but a longshot to end up at Penn State.

James Franklin, head coach, VanderbiltFranklin has made a splash in his first season at Vanderbilt, leading the Commodores to a 4-5 record and in contention for its second bowl appearance since 1982. He is regarded as a dynamic recruiter and has a solid resume, including experience in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers. Also, Franklin grew up in Pennsylvania, along with playing at East Stroudsburg from 1991-94.

Jim Grobe, head coach, Wake Forest Grobe ranks second in Wake Forest history with 67 victories and led the Demon Deacons to an ACC title in 2006. He has no ties to Penn State or the Big Ten, but he’s produced results at a difficult place to win. 

K.C. Keeler, head coach, DelawareIt’s somewhat of a surprise Keeler hasn’t drawn more interest in FBS job searches, but he is reportedly very happy at Delaware, which is also his alma mater. Keeler is a Pennsylvania native and led the Blue Hens to the 2003 FCS Championship.

Mike London, head coach, VirginiaMost of London’s coaching experience has been in Virginia, but he’s produced at each stop. He led Richmond to the 2008 FCS title and has the Cavaliers poised to make their first bowl appearance since 2007 this year.

Mike Munchak, head coach, Tennessee Titans Munchak is a Penn State alum, so he may draw some interest in the coaching search. However, he has only one year of head coaching experience and has never coached in college.

Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU Just like Chris Petersen, Patterson’s name always comes up when top jobs are vacant. However, with the Horned Frogs moving to the Big 12, the chances of Patterson leaving are very slim.

Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State Petersen’s name always circulates with any job opening, but does not seem interested in leaving Boise State. He has spent most of his life on the West Coast, but coached at Pittsburgh in 1992. There’s no question Petersen is one of the top coaches in college football, but would be a longshot to leave Boise for Happy Valley.

Paul Rhoads, head coach, Iowa State Rhoads has a difficult job at Iowa State, but has a 17-17 record in two-plus seasons. In his tenure, the Cyclones have scored some key victories, including road wins at Nebraska and Texas, along with an Insight Bowl victory against Minnesota. Rhoads was a successful defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh from 2000-07 and at Auburn in 2008. Don’t let the .500 record fool you: Rhoads is good coach and his blue-collar approach would work well at Penn State.

Rich Rodriguez, CBS Sports analystRodriguez was a bad fit at Michigan, and it’s hard to see him being landing at Penn State. However, despite the struggles in Ann Arbor, Rodriguez is a good coach who will land a job at a BCS program very soon.

Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida StateStoops will get a shot to be a head coach in the near future, but he may need another year or two as an assistant before he is ready. He inherited a Florida State defense that ranked 108th nationally in yards allowed, but brought immediate improvement, as the Seminoles finished 42nd nationally in total defense last year.

Charlie Strong, head coach, Louisville Even though Strong recently signed an extension at Louisville, his name may appear in coaching searches at North Carolina, Penn State and Ole Miss. Most of Strong’s experience has been in the SEC, coordinating Florida’s defense from 2003-09. In one-plus season as Louisville’s head coach, Strong has a 12-10 record.

Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston Sumlin is expected to draw interest from Ole Miss, North Carolina and Arizona in their coaching searches. He is no stranger to the Big Ten, coaching at Minnesota from 1993-97 and at Purdue from 1998-00. Although Sumlin has proven to be a good coach at Houston (41-16 in three-plus seasons), he is more likely to land at Arizona or Ole Miss.

Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky Taggart is a rising star in the coaching ranks, leading the Hilltoppers to a 7-14 record in one-plus season. Although Western Kentucky has a losing record during his tenure, it won only two games from 2008-09 and is 5-4 and in the mix to win the conference title this year. It’s a big jump for Taggart, but he’s due for a shot at a BCS program in the near future.

Teaser:
<p> Who will replace Joe Paterno at Penn State in 2012?</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 06:25
Path: /college-football/jerry-sandusky-joe-paterno-penn-state-profile
Body:

In light of the recent, disgusting events that have come out regarding Jerry Sandusky's alleged child sexual abuse while working as an assistant under Joe Paterno at Penn State, we feel that some of our archival content regarding Joe Paterno is worth revisiting now.

This article originally appeared in Athlon Sports 1995 Big Ten regional edition. Jerry Sandusky's quotes are in bold.

Deep Roots In Happy Valley

More than anything else, that explains why they come and, more to the point, why they stay.

They put down roots and those roots have a way of tunneling down as deep as the stately elms that ring the campus, Almost before they know it, time has done a silly thing to them: It has made a lifetime come and go. And the nice thing is, none of them ever seems to be gnawed by doubt or haunted by second-guess. None of them seems to harbor so much as a single regret about never leaving, about not sampling life beyond the leafy hills that wall of Happy Valley from the rest of the world.

The remarkable part about all of this, of course, is that they are gypsies by trade, members of an inherently nomadic profession. The lifters, the career coaches, they tend to change zip codes as casually as coats. But Penn State is a notable exception. In Happy Valley, they tend to stay put.

Since its first season of football, in 1887, the Nittany Lions have had only 14 head coaches, four of whom held that job for just one year. And only 74 assistant coaches in the university’s 108 seasons up to 1995. Many schools have gone through that many in barely a decade. But from “Anderson, Dick, 1973-83, 90-present” to “Yerger, H.C., 1918,” it takes barely half of one page to list every full-time assistant Penn State has ever had.

The most celebrated of them, of course, is Joseph Vincent Paterno himself. After his senior season at Brown in 1949, Paterno was awaiting graduation and anticipating his entrance into law school at Boston University. He had already been accepted there and fully intended to follow the career path taken by his father, who had set a worthy example by going to night school to earn his degree and them, in an admirable demonsration of persistence, passing the bar exam at the age of 44.

“I was all set,” Paterno recalls, “and then I got a surprising phone call from Rip Engle (who had been Paterno’s coach at Brown). He’d just been hired to be Penn State’s head coach, and he said his contract allowed him to bring one assistant.”

Paterno accepted, fully intending to leave after a year or two and resume the pursuit of that law degree. Forty-five years later, he is still in Happy Valley, and it is now impossible to distinguish where the man leaves off and the legend begins. Because he will start his 30th season as head coach this autumn, it is easy to forget that Joe Paterno was an assistant for 16 years. He seemed to set the tone of fidelity that has become so impressive.

There must be a reason for such an unremitting loyalty. Certainly, it is a pull more powerful than wealth and more seductive than ego. Because many of the assistant coaches at Penn State have had their chances to ramrod their own outfits.

Some of them try it, and then come back. Like Anderson. After 11 years on Paterno’s staff, he became the head coach at Rutgers in 1984, and lasted for six seasons. Relieved of that job, almost immediately he came back to Happy Valley and fell easily, naturally, back in step, as though he had left a 1950’s line dance, slipped out of the gym, and come back without losing the rhythm, the feel.

“In some ways,” says Anderson, coach of the quarterbacks and the passing game, “it was like I never left. There were some subtle changes in the offensive system, sure. All systems constantly evolve. They never stand still. But the guts were pretty much the same.”

Anderson’s tone suggests that you don’t mess with what works. The rest of it: the lifestyle, the Happy Days, Happy Valley insulation-that hadn’t changed. That never changes. Some people find that stunting and stultifying. Others find it charming and irresistible. Some of the assistants think about trying it out there on their own, being the boss man, but back away.

Like Jerry Sandusky. In 1988, Temple reached out to Penn State’s longtime defensive coordinator and offered him the head coaching job. Sandusky held it up t the light and examined it. And then politely handed it back.

“Who knows, I may set an NCAA record for staying on as an assistant coach at one school,” Sandusky says, laughing. Well, this will be his 28th season on Paterno’s staff. “Penn State’s my home. It’s more than just the place I make my living. It’s a place my family and I all love. They really don’t know any other place. Penn State spoils you. You get a perspective that doesn’t exist out there.” Some of the assistants accept a head-coaching job, only to have a change of mind-and of heart-literally overnight.

Like Fran Ganter, the offensive coordinator. He went to bed one night last December having decided to accept Michigan State’s offer to succeed George Perles. Like pepperoni pizza at midnight, it seemed to be a good idea at the time, but around 4:30 in the morning, emotional indigestion arrived.

“I thought, ‘What am I doing?’” Ganter says. “I realized then that I didn’t really want to leave.”

The money was infinitely better. The opportunity was there to make a program in his own image. And yet he stated. This will be Fran Ganter’s 25th year of coaching at Penn State.

They don’t all say, of course. Ron Dickerson is the head man at Temple now. Jim Caldwell took the Wake Forest job. Craig Cirbus, who was on Paterno’s staff for 11 seasons, left after the 12-0 season of 1994 to become the head coach at the University of Buffalo, which happens to be his alma mater.

So it’s not as though they’re locked up. It’s not as though Paterno doesn’t answer answer the inquiries, the feelers from other schools, and give them all ringing recommendations. It’s not as though they lack ambition or self-confidence, amd it’s not that they don’t think they can make it on their own or burn to do so. It’s just that, in the end, they can’t bear the thought of saying good-bye.

Corny as it may sound, they stay because no other place looks quite as appealing. They are hapy where they are and unashamed to say so. Besides, how bad is it being part of a program that wins 8- percent of its games, that frequently has a perfect season, that has won two national championships and will challenge for more, that comes to think of a bowl game as routine? Maybe it’s better to be an assistant at a successful school than the overseer of a losing program.

Certainly, there are more sophisticated communities than state college .but then part of the allure of Happy Valley is the absence of bright lights and of all the unsavory things they imply. No, State College exists, happily, in a time warp. It is its own Way Back Machine. It is trapped in an age of penny loafers and crew cuts and sha-boom, sha-boom. It is isolated and revels in its isolation.

“Its just a great place to raise a family,” says Jerry Sandusky. It is a subject he knows something about. He and his wife, Dorothy, have five adopted children. They also founded and run The Second Mile, a charitable organization that addresses the welfare of young people. It has expanded into eight separate non-profit programs, including foster homes and summer camps, and they in turn have touched more than 80,000 children.

Such a venture might not have been possible in a different environment, under different circumstances. The Sanduskys are so involved in what they began that to leave Happy Valley is virtually unthinkable. Some might say they are prisoners of their own making. And some might say they are an extraordinary couple that who would have succeeded wherever they lived. They happened to pick Happy Valley. Or was it, perhaps, the other way around?

“The uniqueness of Penn State football is the number of people who have stayed here and retired here,” says Sandusky. “I don’t know that you can explain the attraction. It’s a lot of small things. I guess you have to experience it.”

You can get a taste of it on Saturdays in the fall, on those tart apple-cider afternoons when 96,000 clog the pitifully few access roads, paralyzing the surrounding area in terminal gridlock. Beaver Stadium keeps expanding, the waves of “progress” keep lapping at the doorstep, but Happy Valley remains pretty much the same, pretty much immune.

Over the years, representatives from other football programs have made the pilgrimage to Happy Valley in an effort to entice Paterno away. He has turned them all down, and some of the opportunities were mightily tempting. Michigan, for one. The Wolverines wound up with Bo Schembechler instead, and went to nine rose Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for another, who settled for Chuck Noll and won four Super Bowls.

“I sure left he door open for some great careers, huh?” Paterno laughs. “The only job I wanted was at Yale, and John Pont got it.”

But the closest Paterno ever came to leaving was for a job in the pros, specifically with the Boston Patriots. “I had decided to accept,” he says, “but the next morning I woke up and told Sue (his wife), ‘You slept with a millionaire…for one night. I just can’t leave.’”

In his 1973 commencement address at Penn State, Paterno amplified on that decision thusly: “Money alone will not make you happy. Success without honor is an unseasoned dish. It will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.”

Paterno, who will be 69 in December, is quite likely to avoid retirement until he has completed half a century at Penn State.

Nor is the Paterno name apt to be severed from Penn State football when the patriarch does retire. To fill the vacancy created by Cirbus leaving this past winter, Joe Paterno named as his new recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach…Jay Paterno.

Teaser:
<p> Our 1995 "Deep Roots in Happy Valley" profile of Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 22:13
Path: /college-football/joe-paterno-living-legend
Body:

In light of the recent, disgusting events that have come out regarding Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual child abuse while working as an assistant under Joe Paterno's at Penn State, we feel that some of our archival content regarding Joe Paterno is worth revisiting now.

This article was originally published in the 2000 Athlon Sports Big Ten Edition.

Living Legend

Joe Pa’s brought a half-century of excellence to Happy Valley. Now, he has the Bear in his sights

The antique shop stands a few hundred feet removed from the Route 322, the rural road that snakes its way through the Pennsylvania wilderness and allows folks from Harrisburg and points southeast access to Happy Valley.

Sitting there on the dusty floor, at first unremarkable among the disorganized mess of goodies, is a quartet of blue and white televisions trays, relics from polyester days of the early 1970s.

But a second glance reveals something very remarkable. Not so much about these particular cheesy bits of Americana, but of the man whose unmistakeable mug has been screened upon them.

Meet Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, the only guy in the business who has been around long enough to have his face emblazoned on antiques. We’re not talking Junior Griffey’s rookie card here. These aluminum beauties are a quarter of a century old if they’re a day.

And, gauche though they may be, they’re about to climb in value.

Because Paterno, who is in his 35th year as head coach of the Nittany Lions, and his 51st year on the PSU staff, is on the brink of passing Alabama’s Bear Bryant for the top spot on the all-time major college win list. The 73-year-old needs six victories to tie the Bear at 323 and a seventh to claim the record as his own.

Considering the Lions have failed to capture at least seven games only three times in Paternon’s tenure as head coach, it’s a good bet the changing of the guard will occur this season.

But while Penn State’s sports information staff expects a deluge of credential requests as Paterno nears and passes the record — from the New York Tiimes to the Los Angeles Times and every outlet in between — there is one person who is not the slightest bit anxious for the big moment to arrive.

Joe Paterno himself.

The first of what will be hundreds of softball questions on the topic was lobbed at a press conference to kick off the Nittany Lions’ spring practice in late March. A reporter asked how he would react when the record became his. And Paterno responded as if he’d been bushwhacked by Jim Gray.

“I haven’t given it any thought,” he snapped. “You ask me questions coming out of the woodwork. I’m an Italian. Who knows how I’m gonna react for crying out loud? I may break down and cry, I don’t know.

“But that’s not gonna be a distraction, and it’s not gonna be anything I spend any time thinking about. If it happens, it happens. I’m more worried about making it happen.”

Barring some unforeseen disaster, he will make it happen. As for how he’ll react?

Well, after winning his 300th game (over Bowling Green at Beaver Stadium in 1998), Paterno broke into tears as he addressed the crowd. It was the first time anyone could remember him showing that particular emotion in public.

No one would be surprised to see more waterworks after Paterno passes Bryant. But those close to him insist the emotion won’t hit until after the record is passed.

“I’ve been around him long enough to know that he’s not gonna think about it until it’s over,” says Budd Thallman, PSU’s associate athletic director for communications. “That’s consistent. That’s how he was at 200 (wins), that’s how he was at 300. It’s almost like he has no clue. He’s remarkable in the way he dose that.”

He’s also remarkable in the way he endures. If Paterno’s health holds up, once he gets the record, it is doubtful anyone will catch him. Sure, Florida State’s 70-year-old Bobby Bowden has 304 wins and is charging hard. But the offseason saw Paterno sign a five-year contract extension, and he’s not entirely sure that will be his last deal.

“I really intend to coach at least five more years,” he says. “If I stay healthy and I can get the kind of people I have been able to get around me and work like they’ve been working, there is no reason I can’t coach five more years. I want to do it.”

As if to prove he’s up to the challenge, Paterno took the occasion of longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s recent retirement to shake up his staff, taking on more responsibility himself in the process. Sandusky used to have a free hand in guiding the defense. Replacement Tom Bradley can expect more input from the head man.

“I’m going to work with everything,” Paterno says. “I am going to have a hand in everything.”

And like the paraphernalia in that antique shop, he’s counting on improving with age. Which is why, even if Penn State wins its third national title in the next few years, he has no intention of slipping off into retirement.

“That has nothing to do with it,” Paterno explains. “Streaks have nothing to do with it, and records have nothing to do with it. I just get up in the morning and I like to coach. I don’t what I could do with myself that I could enjoy as well as I do coaching. That seems to be hard for people to understand. But people write books until they are 85, and why?”

Because they like writing, of course. Just as Joe Paterno likes coaching.

Antique or not.

Teaser:
<p> Joe Paterno is a coaching legend, but his legacy will be tarnished by the recent allegations at Penn State.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 14:59
All taxonomy terms: Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /news/high-expectations-ole-miss
Body:

This article about expectations at Ole Miss appeared in Athlon's 2009 SEC regional edition. With the Rebels' decision to force coach Houston Nutt out at the end of the year, here's a look back at the high expectations surrounding the program going into the 2009 season.

Ole Miss football has been here before. Wins. Rankings. Notoriety. Expectations. They’re all engrained in Ole Miss football — at least the way it was half a century ago.

That picture of Ole Miss football in the 1950s and 1960s was a motivating factor for two men who have helped revive the program. They were part of a plan that has Ole Miss positioned as a consensus top 15 team heading into the 2009 season, a team with a chance to win the SEC — the ultimate conference championship — and a team in the discussion for a BCS bowl game.

Robert Khayat was a kicker and lineman on what was arguably the best football team in the rich history of the University of Mississippi. He was a senior under legendary coach John Vaught in 1959 when the Rebels lost only to a tricky LSU punt returner named Billy Cannon, who cut to the inside instead of the sideline in the Tigers’ 7–3 win on Halloween night. Three outlets proclaimed Ole Miss, at 10–1, the national champion that season.

Pete Boone, now the athletic director, came onto the scene later, lettering from 1970-72. The best times were in the rearview mirror but were still fresh in the minds of Rebel fans.

The lives of Khayat and Boone intersected in the university community. They became good friends and handball buddies.

They longed to see Ole Miss football as what it had been, not what it had become, and they found themselves in position to do something about it.

“We certainly had, and have, that desire,” says Khayat, the school’s outgoing chancellor, who will retire in June.

“What our fans want is consistency in a winning program,” Boone says. “To me that means they come to every game believing we’re going to win. If we don’t win, they feel we should have and that we’re going to win next week.”

Ole Miss fans indeed expect to win this season.

Boone began his first term as AD in 1995. Khayat began his run as chancellor the same year. Under their combined leadership the school has increased its commitment to facilities and coaches’ salaries. The missing piece of the puzzle — a successful, experienced coach — was added in November 2007 when Houston Nutt jumped from Arkansas to Oxford.

Nutt is the primary reason for this season’s expectations.

The Rebels floundered under former coach Ed Orgeron. Khayat and Boone hired a proven recruiter instead of a proven head coach when replacing David Cutcliffe, whom they fired following the 2004 season.

“David Cutcliffe’s last two years we virtually had no recruiting, no signing of people who could play,” Khayat says. “It was pretty natural to go for the person who was viewed as the best recruiter in the country. What we didn’t realize was that Ed was going to have so much difficulty coaching.”

The Orgeron Experiment concluded with the coach’s 3–21 SEC mark in three seasons. He was shown the door but left behind plentiful talent, which Nutt managed more successfully in 2008.

The Rebels started slowly but showed promise in some close losses. In late September they dealt eventual national champion Florida its only defeat, but it was in late October that the football program began to win like it had under Vaught.

Ole Miss won its last six games, routing LSU 31–13 in Baton Rouge, rival Mississippi State 45–0 at home and ultimately handling media darling Texas Tech, ranked No. 7 at the time, 47–34 in the Cotton Bowl.

The Rebels — having suffered through a winless SEC season in Orgeron’s last hurrah — won their four November games by a combined count of 152–20. They finished 9–4, and the Cotton Bowl win propelled them to a No. 14 final ranking. Ole Miss finished 5–3 in the SEC, second in the West.

Virtually every playmaker from the SEC’s No. 2 scoring offense returns. Eight starters are back from a defense that was playing at an elite level late last season, though replacing All-America defensive tackle Peria Jerry will be a challenge.

Boone approaches the topic of expectations cautiously.

“Do I feel like we made a lot of progress last year? Absolutely. Are we going in the right direction? Absolutely. Do I think we’re there? Absolutely not,” he says. “Over the course of a season so many things have to happen to end up in the championship event.”

Many Ole Miss fans in the offseason have bypassed talk of getting to Atlanta — the Rebels are the only Western Division team yet to make the league’s championship game — in favor of their chances for a BCS bowl.

A BCS bid could be hindered by a lack of strength of schedule. After waiting on ESPN to finalize a Thursday night game at South Carolina, then having talks with TCU break off, Boone found himself with a late vacancy and added Northern Arizona for Nov. 7. The move gives the Rebels two FCS opponents.

Nutt hopes his team is in the BCS mix when the time comes.

“I told our players they can no longer hide,” Nutt says. “No longer will they not be on the radar screen. Last year, people didn’t even know about them. This year they’re picked in all the magazines.”

 “With what they have coming back, I think they’ll be under-achieving if they don’t at least get back to a New Year’s Day bowl,” says John Darnell, a quarterback on Billy Brewer’s Ole Miss teams in the late 1980s. “That’s not to put any pressure on them; I think they would say that too. Expectations have been raised not only by the fans but by the players and coaches themselves.”

Modern-day Ole Miss football has less experience with high expectations than Nutt did at Arkansas. The Rebels have never been preseason favorites to win the West. Since the SEC split into divisions in 1992, league media have picked the Rebels has high as No. 2 only twice.

In 2003, senior quarterback Eli Manning’s team went 7–1 in the league — losing at home in November to LSU in what amounted to a Western Division championship game — then won the Cotton Bowl and finished No. 13 in the rankings. That team was only picked third in the division.

In the cannibalistic landscape of SEC football, the Rebels may not start the season on top in the West. The national exposure they received at the close of 2008, however, should have them ranked high enough to continue the important season-long ascent if they prove to be as good as many people believe.

“I think we can handle the expectations,” senior wide receiver/tailback Dexter McCluster says. “We handled it pretty well last year when we had no expectations.”

In one year Nutt’s challenge has changed from making players believe they were better than they thought to making them remember that pride cometh before a fall.

“It’s about being humble and going back to work. It’s doing the little things right, it’s the sacrifice and investment you have to make,” he says. “We’re in the toughest league in America. What we did last year doesn’t just happen.”

At Ole Miss it hasn’t happened with consistency since the days of Vaught. Fans are hoping that 2008 wasn’t lighting in a bottle, but rather the beginning of something big. For six straight games last season, grandfathers talked of how it used to be, and for the first time, grandchildren had a visual aid on the field.

“There’s a level of passion here that I haven’t seen in a long, long time,” Khayat says.

Teaser:
<p> Ole Miss football has been here before. Wins. Rankings. Notoriety. Expectations. They’re all engrained in Ole Miss football — at least the way it was half a century ago.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 10:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-coaching-candidates
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The Houston Nutt era at Ole Miss is over. Through three-plus seasons in Oxford, Nutt has a 24-23 record, but never managed to raise the profile of the program. During his time at Arkansas, Nutt did a good job of exceeding expectations, but that was never the case at Ole Miss. The Rebels appeared in back-to-back Cotton Bowls during Nutt’s tenure, but took a step back with a 4-8 record in 2010 and is a disappointing 2-7 this year. Losing 12 consecutive games in SEC play also weighed heavily in Ole Miss’ decision, especially after blowout defeats to Vanderbilt and Kentucky this year.

This coaching search is shaping up to be an interesting one, especially with the Rebels looking for a new athletic director. In addition to the decision to make a coaching change on Monday, current athletic director Pete Boone also announced his intention to resign by the end of 2012.

With Boone out, Archie Manning and FedEx executive vice president Mike Glenn are in charge of finding the next Ole Miss coach. However, chancellor Dan Jones will have the final decision.

Here is a statistical look at Nutt's tenure and how the potential candidates fit

Realistic Candidates

Mario Cristobal, head coach, Florida International – Cristobal inherited a disaster at Florida International, and has slowly transformed the Golden Panthers into a Sun Belt contender. The program made its first bowl appearance last season, winning 34-32 over Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Cristobal is 21-36 in four-plus seasons at FIU, but the seven victories posted last year were the most in program history. He does not have much experience outside of Florida, with a short stint at Rutgers (2001-03), serving as his only coaching job outside of the Sunshine State. Cristobal has shown he can turn around a program with a little time. Also, he is regarded as a good recruiter, and his pipelines into Florida could pay dividends for Ole Miss.

Larry Fedora, head coach, Southern Miss – Fedora has the Golden Eagles off to an 8-1 start and a spot in the Associated Press Top 25. Southern Miss hasn’t faced the most difficult schedule, but it is in position to play for the Conference USA title for the first time since 2006. Fedora has plenty of experience at high-profile schools, serving under Ron Zook at Florida from 2002-04 and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State from 2005-07. And he’s regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football, coordinating Southern Miss’ offense to an average of 37.6 points a game this year. Fedora’s record is a solid 29-18 in four years at Southern Miss, which includes a 3-5 record against BCS opponents.

Hugh Freeze, head coach, Arkansas State – Ole Miss is certainly very familiar with Freeze and he is probably near the top of its wishlist. Freeze worked in Oxford from 2005-07 under Ed Orgeron, and helped develop offensive tackle Michael Oher at Briarcrest High School. He spent two years as the head coach at Lambuth, posting a 20-5 record. In one year at Arkansas State, Freeze has led the Red Wolves to a 6-2 record, and Arkansas State is the only undefeated team in Sun Belt play. Freeze is a gamble considering his lack of overall head coaching experience on the FBS level, but his results at all stops have been impressive. He is also regarded as a great recruiter and would have no trouble winning the press conference.

Skip Holtz, head coach, South Florida – Holtz’s profile was at its peak early in the season, as South Florida got off to a 4-0 start. However, the Bulls have lost their last four games and are in danger of missing out on the bowl season. Despite the struggles this year, Holtz would be a solid hire for Ole Miss. He has an 84-58 overall record in 12 years as a head coach. Holtz has an outgoing personality, which would be a hit on the recruiting trail and at Ole Miss. Considering the uncertainty surrounding the Big East, Holtz may be looking to make another move.

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, UL Lafayette – Hudspeth has been at UL Lafayette only one season, but has made an immediate impact. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 8-2 and in position to win the Sun Belt title. Hudspeth has injected some much-needed energy into the program and even after one year on the FBS level, appears ready for a jump to a high-profile job. Before coming to Louisiana-Lafayette, Hudspeth recorded a 66-21 record at North Alabama and coached receivers at Mississippi State from 2009-10.

Mike Leach, former Texas Tech head coach – Considering what transpired at Texas Tech, Leach certainly has some baggage. However, he wants to go back into coaching, and for a school that is paying a buyout (Nutt), Leach may come a little cheaper than anticipated. During his tenure in Lubbock, the Red Raiders were 84-43 and made 10 bowl appearances. Leach’s pass-first offense would bring some excitement to Oxford, and he has SEC coaching experience, working at Kentucky from 1997-98. There’s no question Leach is an effective coach and is hungry to get back to work. However, would Ole Miss make a risky hire after firing its last three coaches?

Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator, Auburn – Malzahn was close to accepting the Vanderbilt position last year, so he definitely has interest in becoming a head coach. Malzahn’s only head coaching experience came at three Arkansas high schools – Hughes, Shiloh Christian and Springdale, but has worked under two successful head coaches – Todd Graham and Gene Chizik – during his time at the FBS level. Malzahn and current Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt have some history, as the two worked together at Arkansas in 2006. There’s some risk considering Malzahn has not been a head coach, but his offenses have been dynamic and would help fill the stands at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson – Morris has had quite a rise in the coaching ranks. As recently as 2009, Morris was the head coach at Lake Travis High School in Texas, before spending one season as the offensive coordinator at Tulsa. Under his direction, the Golden Hurricane averaged 41.4 points a game and ranked fifth nationally in total offense. Morris has made an immediate impact at Clemson, as the Tigers rank 14th nationally in scoring offense. There’s some risk involved with Morris, especially since he has no FBS head coaching experience. However, his offensive background is certainly appealing for a program that needs a jolt of energy.

Rich Rodriguez, CBS Sports analyst – Rodriguez has been mentioned as a possible candidate at Tulane, but there’s no doubt he can get a BCS job again. He was fired after a 15-22 record at Michigan, but the team made showed progress each year during his tenure, and the players he recruited are 7-2 under Brady Hoke this season. Before coming to Michigan, Rodriguez was 60-26 at West Virginia, leading the Mountaineers to two BCS games. He doesn’t have any SEC coaching experience, but Rodriguez is a much better coach than his short tenure at Michigan indicated.

Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston – There’s little doubt Sumlin’s name is going to be at the top of BCS coaching jobs that come open this year. Under his direction, Houston is 32-16 over three-plus seasons and is ranked No. 11 in the latest release of the BCS standings. Sumlin worked under Bob Stoops from 2003-07 and has previous stops at Wyoming, Minnesota, Purdue and Texas A&M. He would bring a high-powered passing attack to Oxford and is regarded as a good recruiter. With Arizona expected to show interest in Sumlin, Ole Miss will have to move fast if this is the coach it wants.

Longshots

Kent Austin, head coach, Cornell – Austin is an alum and was a popular coach during his short tenure as Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator from 2008-10. However, his record at Cornell is just 5-13.

Shane Beamer, associated head coach, Virginia Tech – Beamer is a long shot, but certainly a name to watch in coaching searches. He has plenty of experience coaching in the SEC, working as a graduate assistant at Tennessee, and then stops as a defensive assistant at Misssissippi State and South Carolina. This is Beamer’s first season in Virginia Tech, where he works under his father Frank Beamer.

Gunter Brewer, wide receivers coach, Ole Miss – In addition to his current job as the receivers coach, Brewer is well-known in Oxford, as his father served as the school’s head coach from 1983-93. Gunter has worked as an assistant at North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Marshall, but does not have any FBS head coaching experience. Although Brewer has ties to the school, Ole Miss may want to look outside of the Houston Nutt circle for a new head coach.

Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator, Texas – Diaz has steadily worked his way up the coaching ladder and appears ready for his first head coaching job. In addition to his current home (Texas), he has stops at Florida State, NC State, MTSU and Mississippi State. Diaz isn’t short on enthusiasm, which is something Ole Miss desperately needs after the losing record.

Jim McElwain, offensive coordinator, Alabama – McElwain wouldn’t be a flashy hire, but has a solid resume. The veteran coach has stops at Louisville, Michigan State, Fresno State and in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. McElwain has done a good job developing sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron this year, and was Alabama’s offensive coordinator on the 2009 national title team.

Garrick McGee, offensive coordinator, Arkansas – McGee came close to landing the Tulsa head coaching position last offseason, but decided to return to Arkansas. He has worked with Bobby Petrino for the last four years, including serving as the offensive coordinator in the last two seasons. It seems like only a matter of time before McGee lands a head coaching job. However, he may be more likely to land somewhere outside of the BCS, before jumping into a premier job.

Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State – Monken returned to Oklahoma State last offseason after coaching with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007-10. He also has stops at LSU, Louisiana Tech and Eastern Michigan on his resume. Although Monken is a highly-regarded offensive mind, he does not have any experience as a head coach.

Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama – Nick Saban assistants are always popular in the coaching rumor mill, and Smart could become the third Saban disciple (Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley) to be a head coach in the SEC. Smart has coached at Alabama since 2007, but has stops at LSU, Georgia and in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. He is a Georgia alum, so he could be more interested in waiting for that position, rather than jump to Ole Miss.

Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida State – Stoops has done a good job in his two years at Florida State and appears to be ready to take his first head coach position. The Seminoles ranked 108th in total defense in 2009, but Stoops took over in 2010 and brought immediate improvement. Florida State finished 42nd nationally in total defense last season and ranks seventh in scoring defense after nine games this year.

Charlie Strong, head coach, Louisville – Strong is going to be mentioned for a lot of BCS vacancies, but it’s hard to see him leaving Louisville. Strong recently signed a contract extension, which is designed to keep him with the Cardinals until 2018.

Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart is a rising star in the coaching ranks. The Hilltoppers won only two games from 2008-09, but since his arrival, they are 7-14 and in the mix for the 2011 Sun Belt title. Taggart also served under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09 and is college football’s youngest coach at age 35. Taggart may not be ready for this job, but he’s going to be generating a lot of consideration for BCS jobs in the near future. 

Teaser:
<p> Who will coach at Ole Miss in 2012? Athlon takes a look at the most realistic candidates and a few longshots to roam the sidelines next year in Oxford.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 10:05
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-sec-7
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 10 SEC Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. LSU (9-0) – Alabama owned our top spot in the SEC power rankings through the first nine weeks, but there’s a new No. 1. LSU defeated Alabama in a 9-6 defensive slugfest on Saturday night, improving to 9-0 and jumping into the driver’s seat for a spot in the national title. Although the Tigers struggled to get much going on offense, the defense held Alabama running back Trent Richardson in check and forced two timely turnovers. LSU steps out of conference for a matchup against Western Kentucky this Saturday.

2. Alabama (8-1) – For the first time this year, the Crimson Tide are no longer No. 1 in our power rankings. Alabama suffered a 9-6 loss to LSU on Saturday night, dropping it out of control for the SEC West title. Although the Crimson Tide suffered a setback in the national title race, they may get another shot at LSU if things break their way. Alabama needs a lot of help, starting with an Oregon win over Stanford this Saturday. With plenty to play for, expect an angry Crimson Tide squad on Saturday at Mississippi State.

3. Arkansas (8-1) – Most of the attention on Saturday night was focused on Tuscaloosa, but while that game was in progress, the Razorbacks scored a big win over South Carolina. Quarterback Tyler Wilson had a solid outing against the Gamecocks, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Arkansas has now won five games in a row and is still alive in the SEC West title race. The Razorbacks host Tennessee and Mississippi State on the next two Saturdays, before traveling to Baton Rouge for a matchup against LSU in the season finale.

4. Georgia (7-2) – If the Bulldogs can win their final two SEC games, you can bet coach Mark Richt will be sending a Christmas card to Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. With the Razorbacks win over South Carolina, Georgia is now in control of the SEC East. The Bulldogs stepped out of conference for a 63-16 blowout victory over New Mexico State last Saturday, and return to SEC play with a date against Auburn this week. Georgia still has some work to do, but with Auburn and Kentucky both visiting Athens, the odds are in favor of the Bulldogs winning out.

5. South Carolina (7-2) – Without running back Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks knew they had an uphill battle to hold onto their lead in the SEC East. And the injuries finally caught up to South Carolina, as a 44-28 loss to Arkansas has knocked it out of the lead in the SEC East. The Gamecocks still have a chance to return to Atlanta, but need a loss by Georgia in one of its final two games – Auburn and Kentucky. South Carolina plays its final SEC game of 2011, hosting 5-5 Florida on Saturday.

6. Auburn (6-3) – The Tigers had a bye in Week 10 and return to action on Saturday at Georgia. The Tigers have struggled in the recent series against the Bulldogs, losing four out of the last five games. However, Auburn defeated Georgia 49-31 last season and will have a chance to play spoiler on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs need a win to hold onto their lead in the SEC East. Even though the Tigers aren’t as good as they were last season, Georgia will have its hands full in this rivalry matchup.

7. Florida (5-4) – The Gators got all they could handle from Vanderbilt, but eventually emerged with a 26-21 victory. Getting quarterback John Brantley back in the lineup from an ankle injury has made a difference, as Florida has scored 20 points in back-to-back games for the first time since September. The Gators still need one more win to get bowl eligible and play their final SEC game of 2011 at South Carolina this Saturday. If Florida can’t get past the Gamecocks, it should earn win No. 6 against Furman on Nov. 19.

8. Mississippi State (5-4) – The Bulldogs moved closer to bowl eligibility, thanks to a 55-17 blowout win over Tennessee-Martin last Saturday. Quarterback play has been an issue most of the year for Mississippi State, and quarterback Tyler Russell completed 9 of 18 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown, while Chris Relf threw for 61 yards and two scores. Coach Dan Mullen is expected to continue using the two-quarterback system the rest of the year. Mississippi State has a tough battle ahead, hosting Alabama in Starkville on Saturday.

9. Vanderbilt (4-5) – The Commodores suffered another close SEC loss on Saturday, losing 26-21 to Florida. Vanderbilt’s last three losses have all been by five points or less. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers has provided a spark, averaging 301.7 yards of total offense in his last three starts. First-year coach James Franklin has Vanderbilt on the door step of a bowl game, but it still needs two more victories. The Commodores should be able to get one of those needed wins, as they host Kentucky this Saturday.

10. Tennessee (4-5) – A 24-0 shutout over MTSU is just what the doctor ordered for the Volunteers. Tennessee does not have a win in SEC play, but the victory over the Blue Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak and moved it closer to bowl eligibility. Freshman quarterback Justin Worley was solid in his second start, throwing for 291 yards and one touchdown. However, the Volunteers continue to struggle to find a rushing attack. Tennessee travels to Arkansas on Saturday, before finishing out the regular season with Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

11. Kentucky (4-5) – It has been an up and down year for coach Joker Phillips, but the Wildcats appear to be building a little momentum. Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith has jumpstarted the offense in the last two games, including 283 passing yards in the 30-13 win over Ole Miss last Saturday. The victory over the Rebels was Kentucky’s first SEC win of 2011. The Wildcats travel to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt this Saturday.

12. Ole Miss (2-7) – Rumors about Houston Nutt’s job security have been circulating for weeks and after the 30-13 loss to Kentucky, the Ole Miss administration finally had enough. Nutt will not return for the 2012 season and the search is on for a new head coach. The Rebels have been largely uncompetitive in SEC play this season, with their closest loss coming to Arkansas 29-24 on Oct. 22. Also, Ole Miss has not won a conference game since Oct. 2, 2010. It’s all about pride the next three weeks, as the Rebels have been eliminated from bowl contention.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the SEC stack up after Week 10?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-acc-7
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 10 ACC Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Clemson (8-1) – The Tigers had a much-needed bye last week and return to action against Wake Forest this Saturday. With a win over the Demon Deacons, Clemson would clinch the ACC Atlantic title. If the Tigers are able to knock off Wake Forest, they will earn their second trip to the conference title game under coach Dabo Swinney. The Demon Deacons are a much-improved team this year, but have lost four out of their last five matchups to Clemson. The Tigers also expect running back Andre Ellington to return to the lineup, after missing the Week 9 matchup against Georgia Tech due to injury.

2. Virginia Tech (8-1) – The Hokies can add a little more breathing room to their lead in the ACC Coastal on Thursday night, as they travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech. The winner of the last three matchups in this series has only won by seven points or less, so expect another close one on Thursday night. With injuries taking its toll on the defense, having some extra time to prepare for the Yellow Jackets’ option attack will be valuable for the Hokies.

3. Georgia Tech (7-2) – If the Yellow Jackets have any hope of getting back into the ACC title game, they desperately need a win on Thursday against Virginia Tech. With a victory over the Hokies, Georgia Tech would setup a three-way tie atop the division. The last matchup in Atlanta was won by the Yellow Jackets 28-23 and they nearly upset the Hokies 28-21 in Blacksburg last year.

4. Florida State (6-3) – The Seminoles have been on a roll the last four weeks, posting blowout wins over Duke, Maryland, NC State and Boston College. Sure, the competition hasn’t been great, but Florida State is starting to put everything together and will be a dangerous team looking ahead to 2012. The Seminoles host rival Miami this week and have won two out of the last three in that series. Since returning from a shoulder injury, quarterback EJ Manuel has thrown for 1,290 yards, eight touchdowns and only four picks.

5. Miami (5-4) – After a disappointing loss to Virginia in Week 9, the Hurricanes bounced back with a dominant 49-14 win over Duke. Running back Lamar Miller gashed the Blue Devils for 147 yards, which put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Quarterback Jacory Harris is quietly having a good year, throwing for 1,757 yards, 18 scores and only four interceptions. Although the Miami-Florida State matchup may not feature two top-10 teams, this is still one of the top rivalries in college football. The Hurricanes have won the last two in Tallahassee, but last season's game in Miami was a complete mismatch in favor of the Seminoles.

6. Virginia (6-3) – Mike London has done a great job in a short amount of time in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers earned their sixth win of 2011 on Saturday, defeating Maryland 31-13. The win over the Terrapins should send Virginia back to the postseason for the first time since 2007. Although the Cavaliers are headed back to a bowl, there’s still a lot to play for over the final three games of 2011. If Virginia can beat Duke, Florida State and Virginia Tech, it will have a chance to play for the ACC Championship on Dec. 3. Thanks to beating Georgia Tech on Oct. 15, the Cavaliers control their destiny in the ACC Coastal race.

7. North Carolina (6-4) – Interim coach Everett Withers lobbed a few jabs in NC State’s direction, which certainly added some spice to the rivalry leading up to kickoff. However, the result on the field is all that matters, and North Carolina dropped its fifth straight game to NC State, losing 13-0 on Saturday. The shutout was the first time since 1960 the Tar Heels failed to score against the Wolfpack. North Carolina has a bye this Saturday, before making a trip to Virginia Tech for a Thursday night matchup on Nov. 17.

8. Wake Forest (5-4) – The Demon Deacons have been on a slow slide in the power rankings over the last few weeks. After starting 4-1, Wake Forest has lost three out of its last four games, including Saturday’s 24-17 defeat to Notre Dame. However, even with the struggles in recent weeks, the Demon Deacons can take control of the ACC Atlantic with a win at Clemson this Saturday. Wake Forest will be a heavy underdog against the Tigers, especially considering it has not won in Death Valley since 1998.

9. NC State (5-4) – It has been an up and down season in Raleigh, but Saturday’s 13-0 win over North Carolina should give the Wolfpack some momentum over the final three weeks of regular season play. Coach Tom O’Brien has only a 30-29 record at NC State, but has won five in a row over the Tar Heels. Considering O’Brien has been feeling a little pressure, that winning streak over rival North Carolina should buy him another year. And the Wolfpack still have a shot to get bowl eligible, especially with Boston College and Maryland remaining on the schedule.

10. Duke (3-6) – The Blue Devils have suffered some close losses in ACC play this year, but Saturday’s game at Miami wasn’t one of them. Duke suffered its worst defeat in conference play this season, losing 49-14 at Miami. Defense has been a significant question mark for the past couple of seasons in Durham, and the Blue Devils rank near the bottom of the ACC in total, scoring and pass defense. Also, the rushing attack ranks 11th in the conference, managing only 105.3 yards per game. Coach David Cutcliffe has Duke on the right track, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to get to a bowl in 2012.

11. Boston College (2-7) – One week after scoring their first ACC win of 2011, the Eagles suffered a blowout 38-7 loss at the hands of Florida State. Looking for a spark on offense, Boston College turned to Josh Bordner for a few snaps at quarterback and he finished with 45 rushing yards. However, Bordner and starter Chase Rettig wasn't able to get much going through the air. The Eagles host NC State this Saturday, which is probably their best shot at victory in the final three games.

12. Maryland (2-7) – An awful season in College Park continued to spiral downhill with a 31-13 loss to Virginia. There are many reasons on both sides of the ball for the 2-7 record. Despite entering the year with one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks (Danny O’Brien), the offense has yet to find its rhythm. Also, the Terrapins rank 10th in the ACC in points scored. Injuries, most notably to linebacker Kenny Tate, have been a factor in the defense’s poor play. With Notre Dame, Wake Forest and NC State remaining, there’s no guaranteed victory on the schedule. Coach Randy Edsall has a lot of work to do this offseason, especially if Maryland wants to get back into ACC title contention next year.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the ACC stack up after Week 10?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 06:23
Path: /college-football/joe-paternos-last-stand
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In light of the recent, disgusting events that have come out regarding Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual child abuse while working as an assistant under Joe Paterno's at Penn State, we feel that some of our archival content regarding Joe Paterno is worth revisiting now. This is expected to be Paterno's last year as head coach.

Athlon Archives: 2004 Big Ten Regional Edition
Through his first 34 years as head coach at Penn State, Joe Paterno and the university kept a tight lid on the details of his contract. That changed in January 2000, when the school issued a press release saying the legendary coach had been re-upped for five years.
 
The most important reason for the break with tradition was to show recruits that Paterno would be around for the duration of their careers. Penn State was also in the middle of a billion-dollar fundraising drive and in the process of expanding Beaver Stadium, and as the school’s best pitchman, Paterno was needed to help sweet-talk donors and sell seats.
 
At the time, however, nobody realized the potential downside of the announcement. And that is hitting now, because 2004 marks the final year of Paterno’s deal and everyone knows it. As of the spring, with the Nittany Lions in a slump featuring three losing campaigns in the last four seasons, the university had yet to announce another extension for the 77-year-old coach. For the first time since beginning his career with a 5–5 mark in 1966, Paterno may not control his own future at Penn State.
 
“I don’t think it is necessary for me to worry about that,” he says. “I would like to coach at least three more years. ... I have told kids when we are recruiting that I want to have another really good football team before I get out of this thing.”
 
“He said he was staying for sure for my class,” says Jed Hill, an incoming freshman tight end from Struthers, Ohio. “Hopefully, that means all four years. I would love to be coached by him.”
 
Paterno’s status is the burning issue in what has become a frustrated Nittany nation, with fans falling into either the Joe-Must-Go or Joe-Must-Stay camps. The former has become louder than ever as the program has floundered. Meanwhile, the diehards in the latter are not nearly as vociferous in their defense of Paterno as they’ve been in the past, no doubt realizing the end — whenever it may hit — is creeping closer.
 
As for the players, they insist the matter is a non-issue within the program. “We don’t really have any control over that whatsoever,” sophomore linebacker BranDon Snow says. “We’re all under the assumption that he’s going to be here.”
 
Adds junior guard Tyler Reed: “We have no indication that he’s retiring any time soon or anything like that. That’s how Coach Paterno does things. I think he’s going to be around for a while, and we’ll be happy to have him.”
 
Other programs are pointing to Paterno’s unclear status and his advanced age when recruiting against the Nittany Lions. Critics point to PSU’s poor performance the last few years and say the talent has fallen off. Supporters point to Paterno’s most recent class, which includes the best linebacker (Dan Connor) and one of the two best quarterbacks (Anthony Morelli) from Pennsylvania, as proof the old coach can still charm prospects.
 
Having no clear successor to the throne is being used against the Lions as well. Offensive coordinator Fran Ganter was long thought to be the logical replacement, but he was bumped into an assistant athletic director’s post in an off-season shuffle. His replacement, Galen Hall, is 63.
 
High school kids read message boards. And they listen to the opposing recruiters who bash Penn State.
 
“The only thing that bothers me is when you hear people talking about it that really have no clue about anything,” says Matt Hahn, a running back who signed with Penn State in February. “As far as me worrying about it, I really can’t because it’s something I have no control over.”
 
As spunky as ever at practice and as adversarial as ever at press conferences, Paterno hardly looks the part of a lame-duck coach.
 
“As old as he is, he’s still passionate about it,” Snow says. “Obviously, he’s not in it for the money, because I’m pretty sure the man is taken care of. I think for him right now, it’s about returning the program to where it was and going out on top.
 
“I like Coach Paterno, I really do,” Snow adds. “I can’t see myself playing for anybody else.”
Teaser:
<p> Our archive takes a look back at 2004 as the Penn State coach's legacy is under fire</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 04:57
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-12-7
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 10 Big 12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

 

1. Oklahoma State (9-0) – The march to New Orleans continued with a 52-45 victory over Kansas State on Saturday. The 45 points allowed was the most given up by the Cowboys this season. However, the defense did force two turnovers, and the offense had little trouble moving the ball against the Wildcats. Oklahoma State now has three obstacles standing in its way of a shot to play for the national title. And the Cowboys hit the road the next two weeks, taking on Texas Tech and Iowa State, before hosting Oklahoma in the season finale. Although Oklahoma State will be a big favorite the next two weeks, it can’t overlook any team.

2. Oklahoma (8-1) – The Sooners pulled away from Texas A&M in the second half for a 41-25 victory, but it came at a heavy price. Receiver Ryan Broyles suffered a torn ACL and is lost for the year. Although Oklahoma has a lot of weapons at receiver (Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Dejuan Miller), there’s simply no way to replace Broyles’ production. The Sooners have now lost their top rusher (Dominique Whaley) and receiver (Broyles) over the last two weeks. Oklahoma has a bye next Saturday, before playing at Baylor on Nov. 19.

3. Kansas State (7-2) – Moral victories aren’t what coach Bill Snyder wants to see, but the Wildcats went toe-to-toe with one of the top teams in college football and came up just short. Kansas State had three shots at the endzone in the final seconds, but quarterback Collin Klein’s passes all fell to the turf. The Wildcats have been torched on defense the last two weeks, allowing 58 points to Oklahoma and 52 to Oklahoma State. Although this unit has made strides since last season, Kansas State still needs more depth and speed. The Wildcats host Texas A&M this Saturday.

4. Texas (6-2) – After last season’s disappointing 5-7 record, it’s noteworthy the Longhorns are bowl eligible with four games remaining. Sure, Texas wants to compete for national titles (as it should), but this is a small step in the rebuilding process. In the 52-20 win over Texas Tech, the Longhorns’ rushing attack posted 439 yards and six touchdowns. With Malcolm Brown sidelined, freshman Joe Bergeron carried the ground game with 191 yards, while quarterback David Ash had to throw only seven times. Texas plays at Missouri this Saturday.

5. Baylor (5-3) – The Bears snapped a two-game losing streak with an impressive 42-39 win over Missouri. The offense recorded 702 yards and was in complete control of this game in the fourth quarter, but Missouri tacked on two late touchdowns to close the gap. Quarterback Robert Griffin had another huge performance, completing 27 of 41 throws for 401 yards and three scores. The Bears had two receivers go over 100 yards (Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese), while running back Terrance Ganaway gashed the Tigers’ defense for 191 yards on 15 attempts. Baylor hopes to get bowl eligible with a win over Kansas next Saturday.

6. Missouri (4-5) – One week after scoring an impressive win in College Station, the Tigers took a step back with a 42-39 loss to Baylor. The defense apparently missed the flight from Columbia to Waco, allowing 702 yards to Baylor. Missouri’s offense had no trouble moving the ball, but fell behind 35-17 and the deficit was simply too much to overcome. The loss dropped the Tigers under .500 and put a damper on bowl hopes. Missouri needs two wins to return to the postseason and faces Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas over its final three games.

7. Texas A&M (5-4) – The Aggies’ disappointing 2011 season continued with a 41-25 loss against Oklahoma. Texas A&M managed to hang around in the first half, but turnovers eventually allowed the Sooners to pull away for a blowout win. For a team that had preseason top-10 hype, the Aggies are going to close out their time in the Big 12 with a whimper. Texas A&M plays at Kansas State this Saturday, before finishing the year with Kansas and Texas in College Station. The Aggies will easily make a bowl appearance, but winning six or seven games is not what most expected with the talent returning this season.

8. Iowa State (5-4) – Saturday’s 13-10 win over Kansas certainly won’t earn the Cyclones any style points. However, Iowa State has earned back-to-back Big 12 victories and is one win away from getting bowl eligible. Jared Barnett has provided a spark under center for the Cyclones, posting three consecutive games of at least 230 yards of total offense. Iowa State’s defense has also come up big the last two weeks, holding Texas Tech to only seven points and allowing Kansas only 301 yards of total offense. The Cyclones are off next Saturday and will return to action on Nov. 18 against Oklahoma State.

9. Texas Tech (5-4) – Hopes were high in Lubbock after beating Oklahoma two weeks ago, but the Red Raiders have taken a step back. Back-to-back losses to Iowa State and Texas have clouded Texas Tech’s bowl chances. With three games remaining, the Red Raiders need to win one more to reach the postseason, but there’s no guaranteed victory with Oklahoma State, Missouri and Baylor remaining. The main culprit in Saturday’s loss to Texas? The rush defense. The Red Raiders allowed the Longhorns to easily collect 439 yards on the ground. Texas Tech hosts Oklahoma State next Saturday.

10. Kansas (2-7) – A sign of progress? Saturday’s 13-10 loss to Iowa State was the Jayhawks’ first Big 12 defeat under 10 points this year. A defense that has been awful all year showed some signs of life, holding the Cyclones to only one touchdown and running back James White to only 36 yards. Despite a better defensive effort, Kansas didn’t get much help from its offense and lost its seventh game in a row. With only three contests left, will the Jayhawks win a Big 12 game? With Baylor, Texas A&M and Missouri remaining, it appears Kansas will finishes winless in conference play.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big 12 stack up after 10 weeks of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 7, 2011 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-east-7
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 10 Big East Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Cincinnati (7-1) – The Bearcats trailed at halftime, but rebounded in the second half to claim a 26-23 victory over Pittsburgh. Four out of the last five matchups in the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh series have been decided by a touchdown or less, so it was no surprise Saturday night's matchup was close. With the win over the Panthers, Cincinnati continued to tighten its grip on the conference 's No. 1 spot. The Bearcats are the only team without a loss in Big East play, but they are far from being in a position to clinch the conference title. Cincinnati still has games remaining against West Virginia, Rutgers, Syracuse and Connecticut, so the Big East race is far from over.

2. Louisville (5-4) – The rest of the Big East is officially on notice. Thanks to three wins in a row, the Cardinals have jumped into the conference title race. Louisville pulled off a surprising 38-35 victory at West Virginia on Saturday, earning its first win in Morgantown since 1990. The winning streak has the Cardinals within striking distance for the top spot in the Big East. Coming into 2011, the depth chart was littered with youth. And most expected Louisville to be a work in progress for coach Charlie Strong. However, the young players have stepped up over the last few weeks, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The freshman was nearly flawless in the win over the Mountaineers, completing 21 of 27 throws for 247 yards and one touchdown. The Cardinals host Pittsburgh next Saturday.

3. Rutgers (6-3) – Somehow, the Scarlet Knights snapped a two-game losing streak with a 20-17 win in overtime against South Florida. While it’s no surprise Rutgers won, it managed only 226 yards of offense, had two turnovers and got only 16 rushing yards from starting running back Jawan Jamison. Needless to say, you don’t have to have style points to win. The Scarlet Knights’ offense did suffer a blow, as freshman running back Savon Huggins was carted off the field with a knee injury. Rutgers plays Army next Saturday.

4. West Virginia (6-3) – The Mountaineers’ conference title hopes took a significant hit with a surprising 38-35 loss to Louisville on Saturday. West Virginia’s offense collected 534 total yards, but had two costly turnovers. The Mountaineers were also hurt by a blocked field goal that was returned for a score in the fourth quarter. With three games to go, West Virginia is going to need some help in order to claim the Big East title. However, a win over Cincinnati next Saturday would put the Mountaineers back on the radar.

5. Pittsburgh (4-5) – Life without Ray Graham is going to be difficult for the Panthers. Pittsburgh dropped under .500 with a 26-23 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday. Without Graham, quarterback Tino Sunseri has to carry the offense. The junior threw for 218 yards and led the team with 70 on the ground, but it wasn’t enough. The Panthers have a difficult schedule remaining – at Louisville, at West Virginia and home for Syracuse in the season finale. Pittsburgh needs two wins to make a bowl, but considering the loss of Graham and upcoming schedule, it’s no sure thing.

6. South Florida (4-4) – A promising 4-0 start has been completely undone by a four-game losing streak. The Bulls lost 20-17 in overtime on Saturday to Rutgers. Kicker Maikon Bonani had a chance to win the game on the final play of regulation, but pushed a 27-yard field goal wide. South Florida is the only team in the Big East that does not have a win in conference play. Despite the recent struggles, the Bulls still have four games to turn things around. And two victories are all that is needed to qualify for a bowl. South Florida travels to Syracuse for a Friday night matchup next week.

7. Connecticut (4-5) – Don’t write off the Huskies just yet. Connecticut earned its second Big East win of 2011, beating Syracuse 28-21 on Saturday. Quarterback play has been an issue all year, and Johnny McEntee was shaky in the victory, but running back Lyle McCombs carried the offense. The redshirt freshman rushed for 152 yards and one touchdown on 24 attempts. The Huskies still have a long climb to think about winning the conference, but reaching a bowl is a realistic possibility. Connecticut has a bye next Saturday, before hosting Louisville on Nov. 19.

8. Syracuse (5-4) – Figuring out which Orange team is going to show up each week has been difficult this year. Syracuse beat West Virginia 49-23 on Oct. 21, but has since posted back-to-back losses to Louisville and Connecticut. The Orange outgained the Huskies 365 to 308, but had three turnovers and never got running back Antwon Bailey on track. Syracuse needs one more win to get bowl eligible and it could get there with South Florida visiting the Carrier Dome next Friday. The Bulls are reeling with a four-game losing streak and lost to Syracuse 13-9 in Tampa last season.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big East stack up after Week 10?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 7, 2011 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/bowl-projections-post-week-10
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

With 10 weeks in the book, it's time to take a look at how teams project to the postseason. There's going to be a lot of changes over the next couple of weeks, especially as teams battle just to get to six wins. 

Bowl Date Tie-In Projected Matchup
New Mexico Dec. 17 MWC vs. Pac-12 Wyoming vs. Northwestern*
Idaho Potato Dec. 17 MAC vs. MWC Ohio vs. Utah State
New Orleans Dec. 17 C-USA vs. Sun Belt UL Lafayette vs. Marshall
St. Petersburg Dec. 20 Big East vs. C-USA UCF vs. Syracuse
Poinsettia Dec. 21 MWC vs. WAC Nevada vs. San Diego State
Las Vegas Dec. 22 MWC vs. Pac-12 TCU vs. UCLA
Hawaii Dec. 24 C-USA vs. WAC Hawaii vs. SMU
Independence Dec. 26 ACC vs. MWC Air Force vs. North Carolina
Little Caesars Dec. 27 Big Ten vs. MAC Toledo vs. Illinois
Belk Dec. 27 ACC vs. Big East West Virginia vs. NC State
Military Dec. 28 ACC vs. Navy Navy vs. Virginia
Holiday Dec. 28 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Baylor vs. Arizona State
Champs Sports Dec. 29 ACC vs. Big East Notre Dame vs. Florida State
Alamo Dec. 29 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Texas vs. Washington
Armed Forces Dec. 30 BYU vs. C-USA BYU vs. Tulsa
Pinstripe Dec. 30 Big 12 vs. Big East Rutgers vs. Missouri
Music City Dec. 30 ACC vs. SEC Miami vs. Mississippi State
Insight Dec. 30 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Michigan vs. Texas A&M
Car Care Dec. 31 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Texas Tech vs. Ohio State
Sun Dec. 31 ACC vs. Pac-12 Georgia Tech vs. California
Liberty Dec. 31 C-USA vs. SEC Houston vs. Tennessee
Fight Hunger Dec. 31 Army vs. Pac-12 Utah vs. Wake Forest*
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 ACC vs. SEC Virginia Tech vs. Florida
TicketCity Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. C-USA Southern Miss vs. Iowa
Outback Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. SEC South Carolina vs. Wisconsin
Capital One Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. SEC Georgia vs. Nebraska
Gator Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. SEC Auburn vs. Penn State
Rose Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Michigan State vs. Stanford
Fiesta Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Oklahoma vs. Oregon
Sugar Jan. 3 BCS vs. BCS Alabama vs. Boise State
Orange Jan. 4 BCS vs. BCS Clemson vs. Cincinnati
Cotton Jan. 6 Big 12 vs. SEC Arkansas vs. Kansas State
BBVA Compass Jan. 7 Big East vs. SEC Vanderbilt vs. Louisville
GoDaddy.com Jan. 8 MAC vs. Sun Belt Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois
National Title Jan. 9 BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2 LSU vs. Oklahoma State

* Current standings and projections indicate some conferences may fail to fulfill their tie-ins for 2011.

Teaser:
<p> With 10 weeks down, here's a look at how teams stack up for the postseason.</p>
Post date: Monday, November 7, 2011 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Big East
Path: /college-football/week-10-college-football-winners-and-losers
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.

Winners

Arkansas – In the SEC’s other top-10 showdown, the Razorbacks knocked off South Carolina 44-28. Arkansas is a quiet 8-1 and still has a chance to win the SEC West, especially with a shot at LSU in the regular season finale. The Razorbacks’ only loss of 2011 came to Alabama on Sept. 24.

Connecticut – The Huskies seem to be improving with each game. Connecticut won its second Big East contest of 2011 on Saturday, knocking off Syracuse 28-21. It’s unlikely the Huskies will repeat as Big East champions, but making a bowl is still within reach. Connecticut needs to win two out of its last three to get to the postseason – Louisville, Rutgers and at Cincinnati.

Florida State – The Seminoles have been on a tear the last four weeks, defeating Duke, Maryland, NC State and Boston College in easy fashion. And there’s a good chance Florida State can finish 9-3 with winnable games against Miami, Virginia and Florida remaining. Although Florida State won’t reach preseason expectations, this team is starting to come together – and that’s bad news for the rest of the ACC in 2012.

Iowa – One week after a head-scratching loss to Minnesota, the Hawkeyes rebounded with a 24-16 victory over Michigan. The win over the Wolverines put the Hawkeyes back in the Legends Division race, especially with games against Nebraska and Michigan State remaining. Coach Kirk Ferentz took a lot of heat for the loss to the Golden Gophers, but deserves a ton of credit for rallying his team for a key win over Michigan.

LSU – It wasn’t pretty, but all that matters is the Tigers scored a 9-6 victory against Alabama and is squarely in the driver’s seat for a spot in the national title. LSU’s defense held Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson to only 89 rushing yards and came up with two timely turnovers. The Tigers scored easily the biggest win of the weekend and barring a surprising upset, appear to be set for a date in the national title on Jan 9.

Louisville – The Cardinals had one of the youngest teams in the Big East this season, so it’s no surprise they got off to a slow start. However, it’s somewhat of a surprise Louisville has come together this fast. The Cardinals have won three in a row, including a 38-35 upset over West Virginia on Saturday. With Pittsburgh, Connecticut and South Florida remaining, Louisville could finish 8-4.

NC State – It was an entertaining rivalry week between the Wolfpack and Tar Heels, as the two coaches Tom O’Brien (NC State) and Everett Withers (North Carolina) traded jabs, which added a little more spice to Saturday’s game. O’Brien’s ownership of the Tar Heels continued with a 13-0 victory. The Wolfpack still need two wins to get bowl eligible, but five straight victories over their rival is certainly something they can hang their hat on.

Northwestern – The Wildcats seem to pull off an unexpected victory every year and 2011 is no different. Northwestern won 28-25 against Nebraska, improving its record to 4-5 this season. Even with quarterback Dan Persa sidelined with a shoulder injury, the offense continued to click behind Kain Colter. Also, a Wildcats’ defense has struggled all year made some key stops in the victory. With Rice and Minnesota in the next two weeks, Northwestern should be able to get to six wins and return to the postseason.

Oklahoma State – Another week, another victory for the Cowboys. With three games remaining, Oklahoma State is in full control for a spot in the national title game. The Cowboys needed a last-second defensive stand to beat Kansas State, but getting a victory is all that matters. Oklahoma State is on the road the next two weeks, taking on Texas Tech and Iowa State.

Oregon – Since losing to LSU in the season opener, the Ducks have been a little off the national radar. However, Oregon has handled its business, which included a huge 34-17 win over Washington on Saturday. The Ducks are now 8-1 and have a chance to stake their claim for the Pac-12 North title with a win over Stanford next Saturday.

Southern Miss – Houston and Boise State have been getting most of the attention of the non-BCS teams, but it’s time to give some credit to the Golden Eagles. Southern Mississippi’s only loss was in Week 2 to Marshall, and it has solid victories over Virginia, and SMU during this seven-game winning streak. With UCF, UAB and Memphis to close out the regular season, there’s a good chance the Golden Eagles finish 11-1.

Texas – After last season’s debacle, it’s worth noting Texas is bowl eligible after Saturday’s 52-20 win against Texas Tech. Although the Longhorns expect to compete for national titles, coach Mack Brown has a young team back on the rise. Could the Longhorns run the table the rest of the way? It won’t be easy – at Missouri, Kansas State, at Texas A&M and at Baylor – but this team will be dangerous in the final weeks of 2011.

Tulsa – The Golden Hurricane had one of the most brutal schedules in college football to open 2011. They faced Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State and got off to a 1-3 start. However, Tulsa has won five in a row, including Thursday night’s victory over UCF. Assuming the Golden Hurricane can beat Marshall and UTEP, they will setup a huge showdown with Houston on Nov. 25 for the Conference USA West Division title.

UCLA – Not many would have expected the Bruins to make this list after a 48-12 defeat in Arizona on Oct. 20. However, UCLA scored a huge win over Arizona State on Saturday, and believe it or not, controls its destiny in the South. The Bruins still need to win their final three games – at Utah, Colorado and at USC – which is no guarantee. However, UCLA should be able to win at least one of those contests and get bowl eligible. Is that enough to save coach Rick Neuheisel’s job?

USC – Due to NCAA sanctions, the Trojans are ineligible to play in the postseason. And that’s really a shame considering USC is 7-2 and just behind Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State in the conference pecking order. The Trojans demolished Colorado 42-17 on Friday night and will close the year with Washington, Oregon and UCLA. Considering the upcoming matchups, USC is going to play a key role in the Pac-12 race over the final weeks of 2011.

Virginia – Coach Mike London has done a solid job in a short time in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers earned their sixth win in 2011 by beating Maryland 31-13. With the victory over the Terrapins, Virginia is now bowl eligible and should make an appearance in the postseason for the first time since 2007.

Western Kentucky – The Hilltoppers have earned a mention in this column over the past few weeks, but with a five-game winning streak, we have to give them another tip of the cap. Western Kentucky defeated FIU 10-9 on Saturday, which moved it over .500 for the first time since 2007.

Losers

Alabama – The Crimson Tide weren’t exactly outplayed by LSU, but they came up short on the scoreboard. And in the end, that’s all that matters. Alabama needs a lot of help to get back to the SEC title, but could rematch with LSU in the national championship. For now, getting knocked out of the national title game, is enough to put Alabama in this category.

Arizona State – Considering how UCLA has played this year, there was really no excuse for the Sun Devils to lose on Saturday. However, Arizona State was unable to tighten its grip on the Pac-12 South, and now has to hope for the Bruins to lose one of their final three conference games. The Sun Devils are back in action this Saturday at Washington State.

FAU – The Owls remained winless thanks to a 39-21 loss to Arkansas State on Saturday. FAU is 0-8 with four games remaining.

Nebraska – One week after beating Michigan State to take control of the Legends Division, the Cornhuskers suffered a disappointing 28-25 loss to Northwestern. Running back Rex Burkhead was held in check, posting only 69 yards on 22 attempts. The defense had no answer for Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who also saw some action at receiver. With Penn State, Michigan and Iowa remaining, Nebraska won’t have any easy close to 2011. 

New Mexico – Just like FAU, the Lobos make this section due to their winless record (0-9). New Mexico’s best shot at a win this year will be this Saturday, as UNLV visits Albuquerque.

Ole Miss – Tick tick tick. The clock is about to run out on the Houston Nutt era in Oxford, and Saturday’s 30-13 loss to Kentucky certainly didn’t appease an angry fanbase. The Rebels have not won a SEC game since Oct. 2, 2010. Ole Miss closes out 2011 with home dates against Louisiana Tech and LSU, followed by the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State.

South Carolina – Due to Saturday’s 44-28 loss to Arkansas, the Gamecocks are no longer in control of the SEC East. Without running back Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina has struggled to get much going on offense over the last two games. And the offense could be without quarterback Connor Shaw next Saturday, after he suffered a concussion late in the fourth quarter against the Razorbacks. The Gamecocks could still finish with eight or nine wins, but their hopes of repeating as SEC East champs are hanging by a thread.

South Florida – The Bulls have been a frequent visitor to this section throughout the last few month South Florida lost its fourth game in a row, dropping a 20-17 overtime contest to Rutgers on Saturday night. The Bulls are the only team in the Big East without a conference win. Thanks to the four-game losing streak, it’s no guarantee South Florida will make a bowl. With Syracuse, Miami, Louisville and West Virginia remaining, getting to six wins is going to be difficult.

Tim Beckman, Toledo – Tuesday night’s MAC shootout between Toledo and Northern Illinois was entertaining, but Beckman may have cost his team a chance to win by not using his timeouts in the final minute. The Rockets are still in good shape to make a bowl appearance, but needs some help to win the MAC West.

Looking Ahead to Week 11

A small sample of what’s ahead

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (Thursday)
Hokies can take a big step towards claiming Coastal title with a win in Atlanta.

Auburn at Georgia
Loss by South Carolina puts Bulldogs in driver’s seat for SEC East title.

Miami at Florida State
Not a top-10 matchup, but still one of the top rivalry games in the nation.

Nebraska at Penn State
Can the Nittany Lions hang on the Leaders Division?

Wake Forest at Clemson
Tigers will clinch ACC Atlantic with a win over Demon Deacons.

Florida at South Carolina
Gamecocks need a win to keep the pressure on Georgia in the SEC East.

West Virginia at Cincinnati
Key battle for Big East supremacy.

Michigan State at Iowa
Hawkeyes can take control of Legends Division with a win over the Spartans.

Michigan at Illinois
Can the Wolverines bounce back after a last week’s loss at Iowa?

Texas at Missouri
With the Tigers moving to the SEC, who knows when these two teams will play again.

Texas A&M at Kansas State
Are the Aggies one of the most disappointing teams in the nation?

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
With a spot in the national title in range, every week is a must-win for the Pokes.

UCLA at Utah
Might be hard to believe, but this is an important game in the Pac-12 South.

Oregon at Stanford
Ducks can derail Stanford’s national title hopes with a victory on the Farm.

Washington at USC
No Pac-12 title implications, but a battle of former Pete Carroll assistants (Sarkisian and Kiffin).

TCU at Boise State
Are the Horned Frogs the final hurdle to an undefeated season in Boise?

Injuries from Week 10

Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick (shoulder) – questionable for Week 11
Boise State RB Doug Martin (leg) – probable for Week 11
Boise State DT Billy Winn (undisclosed) – probable for Week 11
Florida QB John Brantley (shoulder/hand) – questionable for Week 11
Hawaii WR Royce Pollard (leg) – questionable for Week 11
NC State OT R.J. Mattes (ankle) – questionable for Week 11
New Mexico State QB Matt Christian (undisclosed) – questionable for Week 11
North Carolina QB Bryn Renner (concussion) – probable for Week 12
Northwestern QB Dan Persa (shoulder) – questionable for Week 11
Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles (torn ACL) – out for the remainder of 2011
Rutgers RB Savon Huggins (knee) – questionable for Week 11
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw (concussion) – questionable for Week 11
Stanford WR Chris Owusu (concussion) – questionable for Week 11
Stanford TE Levine Toilolo (undisclosed) – questionable for Week 11
Texas A&M RB Christine Michael (sprained knee) – questionable for Week 11
Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton (undisclosed) – likely out for Week 11
Wisconsin S Aaron Henry (ankle) – questionable for Week 11
Wyoming QB Brett Smith (undisclosed) – probable for Week 11

Teaser:
<p> Athlon recaps Week 10 of the college football season and takes a look ahead to Week 11.</p>
Post date: Monday, November 7, 2011 - 05:41
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-lsu-alabama
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

No. 1 vs. No. 2. Let that sink in for a second. It’s not too often the top two teams in college football meet for a regular season game in November. But that’s exactly what will take place in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.

The hype for Alabama-LSU seemed to begin in late September, and the feeling around this game seems similar to a Super Bowl. Considering what’s at stake, Saturday night’s matchup is the Super Bowl for Alabama and LSU – at least until Jan. 9 and the national championship.

The winner of Saturday night’s game will take a giant step towards winning the SEC West, along with inching closer to a spot in the national title game. Although Alabama and LSU have three regular season games remaining, the resume from both teams in 2011 suggests neither will lose outside of this matchup.

One of the most interesting aspects about this game is just how close the teams mirror each other. Both teams win with defense and a run-first mentality on offense. Also, there’s the coaching dynamic. Alabama’s Nick Saban coached at LSU from 2000-04. And there’s certainly plenty of familiarity between these two teams playing every year in the SEC West.

Alabama has claimed two out of the last three games in this series. However, LSU posted a 24-21 victory last year, rallying from a 14-10 deficit entering the fourth quarter. 

When Alabama Has the Ball

The Crimson Tide’s offense runs through running back Trent Richardson. But can that continue on Saturday?

The junior has rushed for 989 yards and 17 scores this season, and leads the SEC with an average of 155.5 rushing yards per game.

LSU has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, holding Oregon’s LaMichael James to 54 yards and Auburn’s Michael Dyer to 60 yards.

There’s no question the LSU defensive front is one of the best in college football and will key on stopping Richardson. With the Tigers looking to shut down Richardson, it’s up to quarterback AJ McCarron to keep the LSU defense honest. The sophomore is having a solid season, throwing for 1,664 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Alabama may not have an All-American at receiver, but there are plenty of options for McCarron. Marquis Maze leads the team with 39 receptions, while Darius Hanks, Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White will all contribute. Tight ends Brad Smelley and Michael Williams will also figure heavily into the passing attack.

In order for Richardson to find running room, McCarron is going to need to make a few plays. Alabama won’t need McCarron to throw for 300 yards, but he will need to hit a few passes to loosen up the defense. Don’t be surprised if the Crimson Tide throws deep early to prevent LSU’s safeties from creeping too far into the box.

The Tigers are allowing only 174.8 yards per game through the air, and quarterbacks have passed for only five touchdowns. Cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne are two of the best in the SEC, and this will easily be McCarron’s most difficult matchup so far this year.

Keep a close watch on the trenches. LSU’s defensive line is allowing only 2.5 yards per carry and has collected 19 sacks this season. Linemen Sam Montgomery, Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo have wrecked havoc on opposing offensive lines this year, combining for 21 tackles for a loss. However, Alabama’s offensive line is a strength, led by left tackle Barrett Jones and center William Vlachos.

It’s going to be strength versus strength in the trenches, and whichever team can control the battle here will have a major edge in this game.

When LSU Has the Ball

Few differences jump out when comparing the Alabama and LSU offenses. The Tigers are second in the SEC in scoring offense. Ranked No. 1? Alabama.

There’s no question what LSU wants to do on offense: Use the run to setup the pass.

While Alabama has Heisman Trophy candidate Trent Richardson and a solid backup in Eddie Lacy, LSU has more overall depth at the position. Spencer Ware leads the team with 512 yards, but Michael Ford (441), Alfred Blue (252) and Kenny Hilliard (85) are all capable of toting the rock for the Tigers.

And we can’t mention the success of the rushing attack without talking about the offensive line. LSU’s front five has been rock solid this year, opening up rushing lanes for the Tigers to average 4.3 yards per carry, while allowing only seven sacks. The battle in the trenches between LSU’s offensive line and Alabama’s defensive front should be worth the price of admission.

While LSU has plenty of options at running back, it won’t mean anything unless the offense gets solid quarterback play.

Jarrett Lee has been nearly flawless this season, completing 63.2 percent of his throws, tossing 13 scores and only one interception. The senior won’t throw for big yardage, but hasn’t made the big mistake either.

Although Lee has been solid through the first eight games, Jordan Jefferson is also expected to see snaps on Saturday night. Jefferson lost the starting job due to an early-season suspension, but has settled into the backup role, while getting snaps as a change of pace option. The senior has 111 rushing yards and two scores this year, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get extra snaps this week. The Tigers are unlikely to line up and gash Alabama’s defense, so a wildcard like Jefferson could be a difference maker.

When LSU does throw, expect Rueben Randle to be the go-to target. He leads the team with 33 receptions for 638 yards and seven scores, but he could be matched up against one of the top cornerbacks in the country: Dre Kirkpatrick. Although Randle will still figure into the gameplan, the Tigers need Russell Shepard and Odell Beckham to deliver. Shepard is having a quiet season, but this is a game where LSU needs to find ways to get the ball in his hands.

Just like Alabama, LSU has to be able to throw to prevent the front seven from gearing too much against the run. And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Tigers take a downfield shot early on. However, testing the Crimson Tide secondary is risky, as they have allowed only four passing scores this year, and quarterbacks are only completing 49.8 percent of their throws.

Alabama’s defense has only 17 sacks this year, but it has been getting plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower have combined for 17.5 tackles for a loss and 13 quarterback hurries this season.

Considering the Crimson Tide have had two weeks to prepare, it’s likely coach Nick Saban and his defensive staff have a few new looks to throw at LSU.

Special Teams

Another unit breakdown, another relatively even matchup.

Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley has connected on 11 of 13 attempts this year, while LSU’s Drew Alleman has hit 10 of 12 field goals.

The edge in punting is definitely in favor of the Tigers. Freshman Brad Wing is averaging 44.4 yards per punt and has placed 15 kicks inside of the 20. Alabama’s Cody Mandell has only punted 27 times, but is averaging 39 yards per attempt. He has placed seven of his kicks inside of the 20. 

Marquis Maze has been a difference maker for the Crimson Tide on returns, leading the SEC with 29.8 yards per kick return. The senior ranks second in the conference with 13 yards per punt return.

Tyrann Mathieu has yet to break a punt return for a score for LSU this season, but is averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. Morris Claiborne leads the way on kickoffs, averaging 29.5 yards per return with one score.

Considering how even this matchup appears to be, a play on special teams could decide this game. Whether it’s a blocked kick, a punt return for a touchdown or a turnover, a key factor in the outcome could happen with this unit.

Prediction

Some matchups tend to be overhyped, but not this one. LSU and Alabama have played like the top two teams in the nation, now it’s time to decide which is No. 1.

The Tigers have played a tougher schedule so far this year, but it’s not going to be easy to walk into Tuscaloosa and win. After all, Alabama has lost only one game at home in the last three seasons.  

With these two teams virtually even, one or two plays could decide the outcome. Could it be a turnover? How will AJ McCarron and Jarrett Lee handle the pressure? How about a play on special teams? Which coach will take a fourth-down gamble, or pull out a trick play that scores a touchdown?

This one should be decided deep in the fourth quarter, but it’s tough to pick against the Crimson Tide at home.

Alabama 24, LSU 20

Teaser:
<p> Alabama-LSU is one of the big games in Week 10. Athlon Sports previews what both sides need to do in order to win.</p>
Post date: Saturday, November 5, 2011 - 06:09
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-10-preview-match-ups-and-upset-picks
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

10 Key Storylines to Watch for Week 10

1. The much-anticipated Alabama-LSU matchup is finally here. These two teams have been college football’s best teams through the first nine weeks and now they finally get a chance to settle it on the field. Alabama and LSU are nearly mirror images of each other. Both teams want to win with defense, while leaning heavily on the rushing attack on offense. With so much emphasis on stopping the run, the quarterbacks are going to have to make plays. Alabama’s AJ McCarron and LSU’s Jarrett Lee have been solid this year and will need to be once again on Saturday night. Whichever quarterback is able to avoid the big turnover and efficiently distribute the ball could decide the game. Points and yardage are expected to be at a premium, so a score on defense or special teams will be huge. Just how good has Alabama’s defense been in October? The Crimson Tide has not allowed a point in the second half of its last four games. And only one opponent (Arkansas) has managed more than 14 points on this defense in 2011. LSU isn’t far behind, as despite allowing 27 points to Oregon and 21 to West Virginia, the Tigers are giving up only 11.5 points a game. Will either team generate much offense? Will Jordan Jefferson play a key role for LSU? There’s a lot of questions on how this game will play out, but all signs point to this one living up to the hype of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Alabama lost at LSU last season, but has won two out of the last three. Considering this game is in Tuscaloosa, it’s hard to pick against the Crimson Tide.

2. There’s no doubt the main course on Saturday will be LSU at Alabama. However, Oregon-Washington should be a good late-night dessert for college football fans. The Ducks trail in the all-time series to the Huskies, but have won the last seven matchups. With a game at Stanford next Saturday, this matchup in Seattle screams trap game for Oregon. The big question on Saturday night will be the health of Ducks’ quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James. Both players returned to action last week, but neither posted their normal stat line. If Oregon’s dynamic duo is healthy, they should have no trouble moving the ball on the Huskies, a defense that is allowing 33.4 points a game. However, Washington won’t be a pushover, especially with its offense. Quarterback Keith Price is having a solid season, while running back Chris Polk ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards per game. There should be no shortage of points scored in this one, but the Ducks have to be very, very careful to avoid a letdown in Seattle.

3. Despite losing to Texas Tech on Oct. 22, Oklahoma is very much alive in the national title picture. The Sooners jumped back into the No. 6 spot in the BCS standings this week, and there’s enough moving pieces in the top five to suggest getting back to No. 2 is a strong possibility. However, Oklahoma cannot afford another loss. Texas A&M visits Norman, which will be the last meeting between these two teams for the foreseeable future, as the Aggies are moving to the SEC for 2012. There’s a major mismatch shaping up between Oklahoma’s offense and Texas A&M’s secondary. The Sooners are averaging 396.63 passing yards per game, while the Aggies rank last in the nation at stopping the pass. Texas A&M’s best chance to win revolves around getting running backs Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray on track, while controlling the clock and keeping the Sooners’ offense on the sideline. With the national title still within reach, Oklahoma should have plenty of motivation to take care of the Aggies.

4. With LSU-Alabama taking center stage in the SEC, the other top-10 matchup between Arkansas and South Carolina has gone mostly unnoticed all week. However, there’s a lot on the line between these two teams. The Gamecocks are still in control of the SEC East, but a loss to the Razorbacks would put Georgia in the driver’s seat. Arkansas is also still holding on to slim hopes in the West. South Carolina’s offense suffered a major blow with the loss of running back Marcus Lattimore in the win over Mississippi State. Freshman Brandon Wilds filled in admirably against Tennessee, posting 137 yards on 28 attempts. With quarterback Connor Shaw still settling into the starter’s role and no Lattimore, the Gamecocks are going to have to win with their defense. The Razorbacks will test South Carolina’s secondary with the No. 1 passing attack in the SEC, and an offense that’s averaging 36.9 points a game. If the Gamecocks get behind early, it may be too much to overcome against one of the SEC’s best offenses.

5. Even though Iowa is coming off a head-scratching defeat to lowly Minnesota, the Hawkeyes still have a shot to win the Legends Division. With games against Michigan State, Nebraska and Michigan remaining, Iowa can play its way into the division crown. The Wolverines visit Iowa City on Saturday, and they need a win to keep pace with the Spartans and Cornhuskers in the division. Was last week’s loss to the Golden Gophers a sign of things to come for Iowa? Or will the Hawkeyes bounce back with a big victory? Michigan’s offense may have found its go-to running back last week, as Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Iowa’s defense has been surprisingly questionable all year, ranking eighth or worse in the conference in rush, pass, total and scoring defense. Unless Iowa’s defense can answer the bell this Saturday, the Wolverines should leave Kinnick Stadium with a victory. And significantly damage the Hawkeyes’ division title hopes in the process.

6. Vanderbilt’s last victory over Florida came in 1988 and its last win in Gainesville was in 1982. Can the Commodores snap a 20-game losing streak to the Gators? Don’t be surprised if this one is much closer than the recent final scores in this series. Vanderbilt’s offense has found a spark behind quarterback Jordan Rodgers and running back Zac Stacy. The Commodores have scored 28 or more points in their last three games, but have managed only three points in SEC road games this year. The Gators are riding a four-game losing streak and desperately need two more wins just to make a bowl. Quarterback John Brantley returned to the lineup against Georgia, but the Gators finished with only 226 yards of total offense. Considering Florida’s struggles in October, this one is worth monitoring as a potential upset on Saturday.

7. Oklahoma State is firmly in the driver’s seat for a spot in the national title. Can the Cowboys continue to handle the expectations? So far, Oklahoma State is showing no signs of slowing down. The Cowboys take on Kansas State this Saturday, who suffered its first loss of this season last week. The Wildcats are allowing only 24.5 points a game, but was torched by the Sooners’ passing attack last week. No defense has found an answer for Oklahoma State’s offense and its unlikely Kansas State will be able to. The Wildcats’ best chance to win rests with a ball control attack and keeping Cowboys’ quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon off the field. Oklahoma State’s defense is allowing 455.6 yards per game, but has forced 29 turnovers. Unless the Wildcats can dominate the time of possession, the Cowboys should cruise to 9-0 and keep a national title berth squarely in the crosshairs.

8. There are a lot of interesting dynamics surrounding the North Carolina-NC State game this Saturday, especially when it comes to the coaches. Tom O’Brien is 29-29 in his fifth season with the Wolfpack, while interim coach Everett Withers has directed the Tar Heels to a 6-3 record. Withers has no guarantee he will return in 2012, while O’Brien is on the hot seat. However, NC State has dominated North Carolina during O’Brien’s tenure, winning all four matchups. Will that streak continue in 2011? The two coaches have already traded barbs this week, adding a little spice to Saturday's game. The Wolfpack has been hit hard by injuries, especially on defense where they rank 82nd nationally in points allowed. The Tar Heels are led by youth on offense, starting at quarterback with sophomore Bryn Renner and redshirt freshman running back Giovani Bernard. O’Brien will have his team ready to play and a win in this matchup would be huge for NC State. The Wolfpack still need three wins to get bowl eligible, and a loss to North Carolina will raise the frustration from the fanbase about the direction of the program under O’Brien. 

9. Good luck trying to sort out the Big East title picture. Despite this Saturday being the first in November, there’s very little clarity. Cincinnati and West Virginia seem to be the favorites, but no team can be counted out of the conference race. However, things should become clearer after this Saturday, as Cincinnati plays at Pittsburgh, West Virginia hosts Louisville and South Florida travels to Rutgers. The Bulls started out the year as one of the favorites, but slipped back to pack with a three-game losing streak. The loser of the South Florida-Rutgers game figures to be off the radar for the conference title. The Cardinals - thanks to back-to-back wins - are starting to make a climb in the standings. And a victory in Morgantown would only help their chances to make a claim for the No. 1 spot. The Panthers are short-handed without running back Ray Graham, but the Bearcats will get all they can handle from Todd Graham’s bunch. Assuming the Bearcats and Mountaineers win this week, next Saturday’s matchup between these two teams should be one of the must-see games for Week 11. With a lot of uncertainty, it's going to be interesting to see how the Big East race unfolds over the final five weeks of action. 

10. Missouri has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation so far this year. The Tigers are a much better team than their 4-4 record indicates, with close losses to Arizona State, Oklahoma and Kansas State. Last week’s win at Texas A&M should give Missouri some much-needed momentum for the final four games. On the other side, Baylor has lost two out of its last three and has suffered blowout losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. Neither team is going to win the Big 12 title, but both need two more victories to get bowl eligible. Baylor’s defense has struggled in the first year under coordinator Phil Bennett, ranking 108th nationally in yardage allowed. Missouri is one of the most balanced teams in the nation, averaging 243.9 rushing yards a game and 246.4 through the air. Although both teams are going to score plenty of points, whichever defense can get stops will be the difference in this game. Containing Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin is nearly impossible, but that’s the task for Missouri if it wants to move to 5-4 this season.

Saturday’s Picks

Athlon editor Mitch Light predicts the 10 biggest games for Week 10 – here’s my take on how some of the top games will play out.

Alabama 24, LSU 20
Missouri 38, Baylor 34
Oklahoma State 45, Kansas State 27
Arkansas 27, South Carolina 17
Oregon 44, Washington 34
Oklahoma 48, Texas A&M 27
Arizona State 34, UCLA 24
Cincinnati 31, Pittsburgh 20
Notre Dame 34, Wake Forest 17
Michigan 27, Iowa 20
North Carolina 31, NC State 27
West Virginia 34, Louisville 20
Florida 24, Vanderbilt 17
Texas 34, Texas Tech 27

Upset Watch

Looking for a few upsets? Keep a close watch on these games.

South Florida (-1) at Rutgers
The Bulls enter Week 10 desperate for a victory. With three losses in a row, South Florida still needs two wins to get bowl eligible. However, after losing back-to-back games, the Scarlet Knights are also hungry for a win. What does it mean? This game is essentially a coin flip.

Virginia at Maryland (-2.5)
The Cavaliers scored an impressive road victory at Miami last week, while Maryland lost at home to Boston College. With that in mind, this game feels like is a matchup of two teams headed in the opposite directions.

Syracuse at Connecticut (-3.5)
The Paul Pasqualoni Bowl. Even though the Orange is coming off a loss to Louisville, the Huskies still have major offensive question marks.

North Carolina (-3.5) at NC State
Tom O’Brien seems to have North Carolina’s number, as the Wolfpack have won the last four in this series.

Vanderbilt at Florida (-11)
The Gators have more talent than their 4-4 record indicates, but it’s not showing up on the field this year. The Commodores are a much-improved team under first-year coach James Franklin and will give the Gators all they can handle. 

Missouri at Baylor (-2.5)
Last week’s win over Texas A&M should help the Tigers build some confidence for the rest of the year. The Bears have one of the nation’s best offenses, but the defense will have its hands full trying to stop Missouri quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey. And if this game comes down to a defensive stand, I trust the Tigers more than Baylor.

Around the Web: College Football’s Must Read Articles to Prepare for Week 10

Oklahoma is expected to get center Ben Habern and cornerback Jamell Fleming back in the lineup this week.

Freshman quarterback Gary Nova has made some mistakes, but he's still Rutgers' starting quarterback.

Arizona State is inching closer to locking down a spot in the first Pac-12 title game.

Should BYU join the Big East? Here are 10 reasons that suggest the Cougars are a good fit in the remodeled conference. 

Kentucky could have a new starting quarterback for Saturday's game against Ole Miss.

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson knew he had a major rebuilding job ahead of him this year, but the Hoosiers are down three key playmakers.

With running back Ray Graham out for the rest of the year, Pittsburgh will have to lean even more on quarterback Tino Sunseri.

Kansas coach Turner Gill continues to search for answers. Barring an upset, the Jayhawks will likely finish without a win in Big 12 play.

Back-to-back wins may have saved Ohio State's season.

Vanderbilt's offensive line has made big progress this year. 

Colorado coach Jon Embree is vowing to get rid of any complacent players.

Is Kirk Ferentz's way still working for Iowa?

Thanks to its upset win over Texas Tech, Iowa State has momentum going into Saturday's game against Kansas.

West Virginia welcomed Big 12 interim commish Chuck Neinas to Morgantown this week. And here's a look at some of the key questions facing the Mountaineers as they move into the Big 12.

Former Texas starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert plans to transfer to SMU

Penn State is in the driver's seat to win the Big Ten Leaders Division, but the upcoming schedule won't be easy.

California quarterback Zach Maynard is struggling, which could prompt a change under center this week.

The pressure continues to build on Ole Miss' coach Houston Nutt. Will he return in 2012?

Teaser:
<p> We give you the 10 most important match-ups and upset picks for Week 10.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 4, 2011 - 07:54
Path: /college-football/4-things-alabama-needs-do-beat-lsu
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By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)

Saturday's LSU-Alabama matchup is one of the most-anticipated games in recent memory. Athlon Sports breaks down a few keys for each team and its chances at victory.

Click here to read LSU's keys to beat Alabama.

1. Make sure the best offensive player on the field gets a chance to win the game. 
Both teams feature outstanding rushing attacks, but Alabama boasts the best running back in the game, junior Trent Richardson. Both Richardson and Spencer Ware, LSU’s No. 1 tailback, have played six games vs. BCS competition (I am not including LSU’s game vs. Northwestern State or Alabama’s games vs. Kent State or North Texas). In those six games Richardson has outrushed Ware by almost 300 yards on only three more attempts. Richardson has 785 yards on 125 carries for a 6.3-yard average, while Ware has 492 yards on 122 carries for a 4.0-yard average. Ware is good. Richardson is better — much better. Alabama needs to be sure he gets the ball at least 25 times.

2. Don’t give up the big play on defense.
Alabama is in the top five in the nation in preventing plays of 10-plus yards (50, No. 1 in the nation), 20-plus yards (14, No. 1 in the nation), 30-plus yards (6, tied No. 4 in the nation) and 40-plus yards (2, tied for No. 4 in the nation). The Crimson Tide must make LSU drive the ball the down the field and not allow the Tigers to pick big chunks of yards.

3. Don’t let Jarrett Lee beat you.
That’s right. The same quarterback who threw 16 interceptions and 14 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman has emerged as one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the game as a senior. Stopping the run is no doubt important, but the Tigers have been very good throwing the ball due to Lee’s ability to make plays. He leads the SEC in passer rating due to a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13-to-1. He has been solid in all situations, as well — third in the league in passer rating on third down; first in passer rating in the fourth quarter; first in passer rating in road games; third in passer rating vs. ranked teams. You get the point: Lee is very good — good enough to beat Alabama if given the opportunity.

4. Get the tight ends involved in the passing game.
LSU features one of the elite secondaries in the nation, and Alabama’s wide receivers — not exactly a team strength — might not have a ton of room to operate. But Alabama does have two solid pass-catching tight ends in Brad Smelley (16 catches for 165 yards) and Michael Williams (10 catches for a league-high 15.2-yards per catch). Don’t be surprised Smelley or Williams lead the Tide in receptions on Saturday night.

Teaser:
<p> Alabama-LSU is one of the most-anticipated games in recent years. Athlon breaks down Alabama's keys to a victory on Saturday night.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 14:19
Path: /college-football/4-things-lsu-needs-to-do-beat-alabama
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Saturday's LSU-Alabama matchup is one of the most-anticipated games in recent memory. Athlon Sports breaks down a few keys for each team and its chances at victory.

Click here to read Alabama's keys to beat LSU.

1. Stop Trent Richardson and force AJ McCarron to win the game.
Sure, it’s easier said than done, but this is the way LSU will have to attack Alabama. McCarron hasn’t had to do much in his first year as the starter, completing 67 percent of his throws for 1,664 yards and 10 scores. Richardson has at least 100 yards in six games this season, and LSU’s goal should be to keep him under the century mark. Although McCarron has been solid through the first eight games, this will be his toughest test. Despite giving up 463 yards to West Virginia, LSU’s secondary ranks 10th nationally in pass defense. And cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne are dangerous on returns if they are able to force a turnover. The Tigers need to make McCarron prove he can make key throws with the game on the line – something the Crimson Tide haven’t had to do so far in 2011.

2. Unleash Russell Shepard?
An early suspension seems to have knocked Shepard out of sync with the LSU offense. Through five games, he has caught only nine passes for 116 yards and two scores. The Tigers know what Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham can bring to the table this year, but Shepard has been quiet. Is this the game he breaks out? The Alabama secondary will likely match up Dre Kirkpatrick against Randle, which makes the play of Beckham and Shepard even more important. The junior rushed for 47 yards in last year’s win over Alabama, but caught only one pass. Shepard’s all-around ability could be a valuable commodity for LSU on Saturday night. Although he’s been silent for most of this season, the junior could emerge as a key player in LSU’s offensive attack.

3. Give Jordan Jefferson more time under center.
While Jarrett Lee has been solid all year, this game is where a two-quarterback system makes sense. Jefferson has been mostly kept under wraps since his return from suspension, rushing for 111 yards and two touchdowns. The senior has also completed 6 of 10 passes for 123 yards and two scores. It’s always dangerous to break up an offense’s rhythm if Lee is playing well. However, if the Tigers are struggling to move the ball, Jefferson would give them a different dimension. Running in the traditional sets figures to be difficult against a very good Alabama defense. Getting Jefferson an opportunity to run out of the shotgun with a blocker or two leading the way could work in favor of the Tigers’ offense. And who knows, maybe LSU has a few trick plays getting Jefferson and Lee on the field at the same time.

4. Stick with the rushing attack and avoid long-yardage situations.
LSU’s rushing game might not have the big-play capability that Alabama brings to the table, but it is averaging 4.3 yards per carry. The Tigers have done a good job of keeping defenses off balance this year, and that has to continue on Saturday. Although quarterback play from Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee has been solid, LSU does not want to be placed in obvious passing situations. If the Tigers can muster three or four yards a carry, they should be able to keep Alabama’s defense honest. If LSU can’t get Spencer Ware or any of the running backs on track, the Crimson Tide defense will easily keep the Tigers in check. The best way to beat Alabama seems to be scoring early. The Crimson Tide have not allowed a score in the second half in its last four SEC games. Once Nick Saban and his coaching staff have a chance to make halftime adjustments, moving the ball in the second half is very difficult. The Tigers might have to test the Alabama secondary deep early on, especially to keep the safeties from trying to camp out along the line of scrimmage. It’s not the most glamorous offense, but LSU needs to be patient, and stick to its run-first approach throughout the game.

Teaser:
<p> Alabama-LSU is one of the most-anticipated games in recent years. Athlon breaks down LSU's keys to a victory on Saturday night.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Big East
Path: /college-football/breakdown-conference-races-and-national-title-game
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The 2011 college football season is winding down. With just five weeks of full action left, it's time to take a look at how the BCS conferences and national title picture is shaping up. There's a lot of key games remaining, but let's take a look at what teams need to do in order to seal its division.

ACC

Atlantic Division

Clemson
The Tigers have one loss in conference play, giving them an edge over Wake Forest.

What Needs to Happen: The mission for Clemson is simple. Beat the Demon Deacons on Nov. 12, and the Tigers are ACC Atlantic champs. If the Tigers stumble, they will have to hope for a conference loss by Wake Forest against Maryland. Losing to Georgia Tech knocked Clemson out of the mix for a spot in the national title game. However, the Tigers can finish with a solid 11-1 regular season record and a chance to play for a conference championship.

Florida State
The Seminoles have two conference losses, so they need a lot of help to win the Atlantic.

What Needs to Happen: A lot. Florida State needs a Wake Forest win on Nov. 12 against Clemson. If that happens, the Seminoles need the Demon Deacons to lose to Maryland on Nov. 19, and the Tigers to lose to NC State the same weekend.

Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons trail Clemson by one game in the Atlantic. And these two teams meet on Nov. 12 in Death Valley.

What Needs to Happen: For Wake Forest to have any shot at winning the Atlantic, it has to beat Clemson. If the Demon Deacons upset the Tigers, they need to beat Maryland on Nov. 19 to clinch the division title.

Coastal Division

Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets upset win over Clemson bolstered their ACC Coastal title hopes. Had Georgia Tech lost to the Tigers, its division championship hopes were likely over.

What Needs to Happen: The Yellow Jackets are a game behind Virginia Tech in the standings. These two teams will meet on Nov. 10 in Atlanta, which will likely determine the Coastal champ. If Georgia Tech wins, it needs to beat Duke the following week to clinch a spot in the ACC title game. If the Yellow Jackets lose to Virginia Tech, it’s unlikely they could win the Coastal with three conference losses.

Virginia
This might be a surprise to some, but take a look at the ACC standings. The Cavaliers are just a game behind Virginia Tech for the lead and already own a victory over Georgia Tech.

What Needs to Happen: The Cavaliers are a longshot, but they are definitely in the mix. Virginia has to win out to claim the Coastal title, starting on Saturday at Maryland. Virginia also plays Duke and Florida State, before the season finale against Virginia Tech. If the Cavaliers can navigate a difficult remaining schedule and beat the Hokies in the finale, they will make their first appearance in the ACC title game.

Virginia Tech
With a 4-1 record in ACC play, the Hokies control their destiny in the Coastal.

What Needs to Happen: If Virginia Tech wins out, it will win the division title. However, there are two major hurdles that have to be cleared. The Hokies play at Georgia Tech on Nov. 10 and face rival Virginia in the season finale.

Big East

Outside of the Big Ten, the Big East is probably the conference with the most uncertainty surrounding its champion. Cincinnati is the only team with an undefeated conference record (2-0). The Bearcats and West Virginia are the favorites entering Week 10, but Pittsburgh, Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse can’t be counted out of the picture. Cincinnati and West Virginia meet on Nov. 12, which should help provide some clarity to the title race. The Mountaineers were the preseason favorite, but a loss to Syracuse has them just behind the Bearcats in the standings.

Considering Cincinnati still has five conference games remaining, it’s too early to break down the scenarios for each team. There's a lot that could change in the next week or two, but the Bearcats, and the Mountaineers should be considered the favorites.

Big 12

Oklahoma
After losing to Texas Tech, the Sooners are on the outside looking in. However, all is not lost. Oklahoma has jumped to No. 6 in the BCS standings and still has a shot to win the Big 12 title.

What Needs to Happen: Barring another upset, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State’s season will ride on the season finale. The Cowboys host the Sooners in Stillwater, and the winner will not only likely claim the conference title, but a spot in the national championship could be on the line. As long as the Sooners win out, they should be in good shape for the Big 12 crown.

Oklahoma State
With four games remaining, the Cowboys are in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title.

What Needs to Happen: As long as Oklahoma State wins out, it will win the Big 12 crown. And there could be a bigger prize with an undefeated season. If the Cowboys win their final four games, a berth in the national title is very likely. The biggest obstacle to Oklahoma State’s season will be the Dec. 3 date against Oklahoma.

Big Ten

Leaders Division

Ohio State
The Buckeyes have surprisingly climbed back into the Leaders race, thanks to wins over Illinois and Wisconsin.

What Needs to Happen: The Buckeyes have two Big Ten losses, but have a very manageable schedule the rest of the way. Ohio State should beat Indiana and Purdue, with Michigan and Penn State serving as swing games. The Buckeyes need the Nittany Lions to lose twice and beating them once in Columbus would certainly help. Ohio State needs a lot to bounce its way with two conference losses. However, the Buckeyes are still very much in the mix.

Penn State
The Nittany Lions aren’t getting a lot of national attention, but they have quietly posted a solid 8-1 record. Penn State’s only loss was to Alabama and it is 5-0 in Big Ten play.

What Needs to Happen: Although the Nittany Lions have cruised to an 8-1 record, the schedule is going to get tougher over the next few weeks with games against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. If Penn State wants to play in the Big Ten title game, beating Wisconsin and Ohio State are musts. The Nittany Lions are in the driver’s seat, but they can’t feel too comfortable with the upcoming schedule.

Wisconsin
The Badgers appeared to be the frontrunner to win the Big Ten, but back-to-back losses have knocked them out of the race for now.

What Needs to Happen: Wisconsin has a lot of work to do. The Badgers are two games behind Penn State in the conference race, but have a very manageable schedule in November. With Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and Penn State upcoming, a 4-0 finish is likely. Assuming Wisconsin beats Penn State, the Badgers need the Nittany Lions and Ohio State to each lose another game. The bottom line for Wisconsin to play for the Big Ten title: Penn State needs two losses (with one coming against the Badgers) and Ohio State to lose to Michigan or Penn State.

Legends Division

Iowa
Despite a head-scratching loss to Minnesota, don’t count out the Hawkeyes. Iowa is 2-2 in Big Ten play, with losses to the Golden Gophers and Penn State.

What Needs to Happen: Last week’s loss was damaging, but maybe not as much as some may think. Iowa still has to play Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska in the final month of the season. Win all of those games, and the Hawkeyes will win the division crown. It’s unlikely, but you never know what can happen.

Michigan
Brady Hoke’s first season at Michigan has been a success. The Wolverines are 7-1 and locked into a three-way tie for the Legends Division title.

What Needs to Happen: Michigan’s road to finishing 11-1 won’t be easy. The Wolverines take on Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State over the final four games. In order for Michigan to claim the outright division title (assuming it wins out), it needs to hope for a Michigan State loss in the final four weeks. However, the schedule is in favor of the Spartans, with Iowa and Northwestern being the toughest games. The scenarios can get confusing if three teams tie, but the Big Ten would look at the record within the Legends Division. If Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska all finish 6-2, it could work in the Wolverines favor – if they beat Nebraska and lose to Ohio State or Illinois. Why? Michigan’s record within Legends Division play could be better than the Spartans and Cornhuskers.

Michigan State
The Spartans missed a prime opportunity to seize a commanding lead in the Legends Division with last week’s loss to Nebraska. Michigan State is tied with Michigan and the Cornhuskers with one loss in conference play.

What Needs to Happen: As we mentioned with Michigan, there’s the possibility of a three-way tie at the end of the year. It’s confusing to sort out, so let’s focus on how the Spartans can win the division outright. Michigan State owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Michigan, but needs Nebraska to lose once in its final four. The Cornhuskers schedule has some potential landmines – Northwestern, at Penn State, at Michigan and Iowa. So there’s no guarantee Nebraska finishes unbeaten the rest of the way. The Spartans have a very favorable remaining schedule, getting Minnesota and Indiana at home and Iowa and Northwestern on the road. If the Spartans finish with just one loss in conference play, the focus to win the division outright shifts to Nebraska and its record in the next four games.

Nebraska
The win over Michigan State put the Cornhuskers in control of their destiny in the Big Ten Legends Division. Nebraska has only one loss in conference play: Oct. 1 at Wisconsin.

What Needs to Happen: Just like we mentioned with Michigan and Michigan State, the possibility exists for a three-way tie atop the division. However, let’s look at what Nebraska needs to win it outright. The Cornhuskers own a valuable head-to-head win over Michigan State and still have to play Michigan (Nov. 19). Assuming Nebraska sweeps the rest of its games, it will play for the conference title in Indianapolis. That’s not a given, however, as road trips to Penn State and Michigan won’t be easy.

Pac-12

North Division

Oregon
The Ducks’ only loss came in Week 1 to LSU, and they’ve rolled through Pac-12 play with a 5-0 record.

What Needs to Happen: Just win out. If Oregon takes care of business in the final four Pac-12 games, it will represent the North Division in the title game. However, it’s not an easy road with Washington, Stanford and USC remaining. The Ducks’ biggest obstacle figures to be a Nov. 12 date against the Cardinal. If Oregon slips once (outside of Stanford), its hopes of winning the conference aren’t dead. However, losing to Stanford would require two losses by the Cardinal.

Stanford
With a 6-0 conference record, the Cardinal is one win ahead of Oregon in the North standings.

What Needs to Happen: Just like Oregon, if Stanford wins out, it will play for the Pac-12 title. The Nov. 12 date against the Ducks is the biggest obstacle to an undefeated season and will likely decide the winner of the North Division. If the Cardinal loses to Oregon, they need to hope for two losses by the Ducks. Although there’s a possibility both teams could get upset, it’s safe to say the Nov. 12 showdown on the Farm will crown the winner of the North – and where the first Pac-12 Championship will be held.

Washington
The North Division is probably a two-team race, but don’t count out the Huskies just yet.

What Needs to Happen: The Huskies have one loss in conference play (Stanford), and have remaining games against Oregon and USC. If the Cardinal somehow lose twice, and the Huskies win out (which includes a win against the Ducks), Washington would win the North. It’s a longshot, but the Huskies still have a chance. 

South Division

Editor’s Note: USC was not listed due to being ruled ineligible for the Pac-12 South title.

Arizona State
Barring a complete collapse, the Sun Devils should win the South.

What Needs to Happen: Arizona State has only one loss in conference play (Oregon), and the rest of the schedule is very favorable. The Sun Devils have road trips to UCLA and Washington State, before closing the season with games in Tempe against Arizona and California. The Sun Devils play UCLA this week, which would seem to be the final hurdle to clinching the South. If Arizona State loses this Saturday, it would need a loss by UCLA in one of its final three games.

UCLA
It may be a surprise to some, but the Bruins are very much alive in the South title picture.

What Needs to Happen: At 3-2 in the conference, UCLA is just a game behind Arizona State in the standings. And the Bruins host the Sun Devils this Saturday. If UCLA upsets Arizona State, it would move the Bruins into the lead for the division title. However, UCLA would still have to navigate its final stretch – at Utah, Colorado and at USC – in order to win the division. It’s a longshot considering how the Bruins have played this year. However, the matchup with Arizona State this Saturday will be a key factor in determining whether or not the Bruins can legitimately make a run for the conference championship game.

SEC

East Division

Georgia
The Bulldogs are riding a six-game winning streak and a key victory over Florida last Saturday. However, Georgia is still a game behind South Carolina in the East standings.

What Needs to Happen: The Bulldogs have two conference games remaining (Auburn and Kentucky), but needs a loss by the Gamecocks to go to Atlanta. South Carolina isn’t a lock to win its final two SEC games, especially this Saturday’s matchup against Arkansas. If Georgia wins out and the Gamecocks lose once, the Bulldogs will represent the East in the SEC title game.

South Carolina
Thanks to a 45-42 win over Georgia in Week 2, the Gamecocks own the top spot in the SEC East.

What Needs to Happen: If the Gamecocks beat Arkansas and Florida, they will win the SEC East. However, with running back Marcus Lattimore sidelined for the rest of the year, it could be difficult. If South Carolina loses once, Georgia will go to the SEC Championship.

West Division

Alabama
The winner of Saturday’s Alabama-LSU game is going to take a major step towards winning the SEC West. The Crimson Tide is tied with LSU at 5-0 in the West.

What Needs to Happen: Keep winning. If Alabama beats LSU on Saturday and takes care of Mississippi State and Auburn, it will play for the SEC title. If the Crimson Tide lose to the Tigers, then they will need two losses by LSU in its final two SEC games.

Arkansas
Although Alabama and LSU are the overwhelming favorites to win the West, the Razorbacks are still clinging to slim division title hopes. Arkansas lost to Alabama in Week 4, which was its only defeat in SEC play this season.

What Needs to Happen: The Razorbacks need a lot of help. Alabama needs to lose twice. And Arkansas needs to beat LSU in the season finale. The latter part of that scenario would seem to be more likely. This scenario also assumes Arkansas beats South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State. Getting to Atlanta seems like a longshot, but the Razorbacks need to keep winning and let things fall into place over the next few weeks.

LSU
Determining the winner of the SEC West race will become clearer with LSU’s game against Alabama. The Tigers are undefeated in conference play, winning all five games by more than 13 points.

What Needs to Happen: Beating Alabama on Saturday is step No. 1 to a SEC title. If the Tigers knock off the Crimson Tide, they will jump into the driver’s seat for a spot in the national title. LSU still has games remaining against Ole Miss and Arkansas, but it will be heavily favored in both matchups.

National Title Picture

Alabama – The road to the national title is simple for Alabama. Most importantly, the Crimson Tide need to beat LSU on Saturday and finish the season undefeated. If Alabama loses to LSU, it would need two losses by the Tigers to win the SEC West. Even if the Crimson Tide loses to LSU on Saturday, there’s the possibility of a rematch in the national title game. It’s a slim chance, but something that will hang in the balance over the next few weeks.

LSU – Just like Alabama, the Tigers just need to win out and they will play for the national title. However, LSU’s biggest obstacle just happens to be Alabama – ranked No. 1 in Athlon’s 120. If the Tigers lose to the Crimson Tide, their national title hopes aren’t over. The possibility exists for a rematch, but will largely depend on how Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oklahoma and Boise State perform over the next month.

Oklahoma State – Mike Gundy has done a good job of elevating this program, and it’s on the doorstep of playing for a national championship. If the Cowboys win out, it’s very likely they will play the winner of Alabama/LSU for the national title. Oklahoma State still has one very large hurdle to overcome: a date with rival Oklahoma in the season finale.

Stanford – The Cardinal survived one major hurdle to an undefeated season, beating USC in triple overtime last Saturday. However, there’s still a date looming against Oregon on Nov. 12 that will likely decide the Pac-12 North title. Stanford has a lot of ground to make up in the BCS standings to catch Oklahoma State at No. 3, but the numbers gap may not matter. The Cowboys still have to play Oklahoma, which is no guaranteed win. Stanford’s best shot at playing for a national title rests with finishing undefeated, along with an Oklahoma win in Bedlam on Dec. 3.

Boise State – The Broncos are facing an uphill battle in order to play for the national title. Although Boise State is likely to finish undefeated, its best chance to play in the championship game starts with losses by Stanford and Oklahoma State. Considering the Cardinal still has to play Oregon, and the Cowboys have to take on Oklahoma, there’s a strong possibility that will happen. There are two wildcard possibilities that could hurt Boise State’s title hopes. What if LSU-Alabama is a close game? Would the loser stay ahead of the Broncos? Also, Oklahoma is just behind Boise State in the BCS rankings. If the Sooners beat Oklahoma State, it’s likely they will jump the Broncos. Bottom line: Boise State needs a lot of help in order to play for the national title.

Oklahoma – Most wrote off the Sooners’ national title hopes after a loss to Texas Tech. Not so fast. Oklahoma is very much alive in the title picture, but it has to win out, including a Dec. 3 date at rival Oklahoma State. If the Sooners can knock off the Cowboys, that should provide a boost in the BCS rankings. Will it be enough? Take out Oklahoma State as an unbeaten, which leaves Boise State and Stanford. The Broncos are unlikely to lose the rest of the way, but the Cardinal are no lock to finish unbeaten. If the Sooners get a loss by Stanford, combined with a win over Oklahoma State, it may be just enough to move back into the top two. Depending on how Saturday’s Alabama-LSU game plays out, the loser may not fall far in the BCS. The guess here is the Sooners would get the nod over the loser of that game, largely to prevent a rematch.

Teaser:
<p> The 2011 college football season is winding down. With just five weeks of full action left, it's time to take a look at how the BCS conferences and national title picture is shaping up.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 08:03

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