Articles By Steven Lassan

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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

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
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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
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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
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-acc-6
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 9 ACC Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Clemson (8-1) – Despite suffering their first defeat of 2011, the Tigers hold onto the top spot in the power rankings. Taking the whole season into account, Clemson is still the No. 1 team in the ACC. The Tigers were unable to get their high-powered offense on track in the loss to Georgia Tech, scoring a season-low 17 points and turning the ball over four times. Clemson controls its destiny in the ACC Atlantic race, but the Nov. 12 showdown against Wake Forest looms large. Should the Tigers win that game, they will win the division title and clinch a spot in the conference championship game.

2. Virginia Tech (8-1) – Saturday’s 14-10 victory over Duke won’t win any style points, but the Hokies moved one step closer to winning the ACC Coastal. Quarterback Logan Thomas threw for only 191 yards and one score, but the offense got another big effort from running back David Wilson with 148 yards on 23 carries. The defense has been hit hard by injuries, but registered one sack and forced four turnovers. The Hokies are off next Saturday, and their next game will be a big one – at Georgia Tech.

3. Georgia Tech (7-2) – Thanks to Saturday’s 31-17 upset win over Clemson, the Yellow Jackets are back in the ACC Coastal race. Georgia Tech’s offense was among the best in college football through the first six weeks of the season, but sputtered in losses over Virginia and Miami. However, the offense got back on track against the Tigers, getting 176 rushing yards from quarterback Tevin Washington. Running backs Orwin Smith and David Sims also pitched in, combining for 105 yards and three touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets are off this Saturday and return to action on Nov. 10 against Virginia Tech.

4. Florida State (5-3) – Clemson’s loss to Georgia Tech helps to keep the Seminoles’ slim ACC title hopes alive, but that’s not the biggest story in Tallahassee. Florida State is riding a three-game winning streak and none of those matchups have been close. The Seminoles earned their second shutout of the year in Saturday’s 34-0 win over NC State. Quarterback EJ Manuel has been on fire since his return from a shoulder injury, tossing 25 completions for 321 yards and two scores against the Wolfpack. The Seminoles have a short week of rest, as they travel to Boston College for a Thursday night matchup.

5. Miami (4-4) – One step forward, one step back. That’s been the motto for the Hurricanes this year. After posting wins over North Carolina and Georgia Tech, Miami appeared ready turn a corner under first-year coach Al Golden. However, the Hurricanes were upset by Virginia 28-21 on Thursday night, moving their record to 4-4. Miami faces Duke this Saturday, before traveling to Florida State on Nov. 12.

6. North Carolina (6-3) – After all of the offseason turmoil surrounding this team, it’s time to give a little credit to interim coach Everett Withers. The Tar Heels beat Wake Forest 49-24 on Saturday to get bowl eligible, and have a shot to finish the year with eight or nine wins. A big test awaits Withers and North Carolina this Saturday, as it faces in-state rival NC State. The Tar Heels have lost their last four matchups to the Wolfpack and have not won in Raleigh since 2005.

7. Wake Forest (5-3) – After a 4-1 start, the Demon Deacons have been sliding down the power rankings over the last three weeks. Wake Forest has lost two out of its last three games and posted only a 24-23 win over Duke on Oct. 22. Running back Josh Harris made his return from a hamstring injury on Saturday, but mustered only nine yards on three carries. The Demon Deacons need Harris back at 100 percent to have a shot at knocking off Clemson for the ACC Atlantic crown. Wake Forest hosts Notre Dame this Saturday, before traveling to Death Valley to take on Clemson on Nov. 12.

8. Virginia (5-3) – One of the most surprising scores from the ACC in Week 9 was the Cavaliers’ 28-21 upset win over Miami. Considering Virginia was coming off a loss to NC State, and Miami had won two in a row, not many expected the Cavaliers to win on the road. Quarterback Michael Rocco was efficient, completing 11 of 20 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, while the rushing attack was led by Kevin Parks and Perry Jones for 152 yards. Virginia needs one win to get bowl eligible and it should come in the next two weeks, as it plays Maryland and Duke.

9. NC State (4-4) – The Wolfpack had their two-game winning streak snapped at Florida State on Saturday. NC State’s offense posted a season-low 166 total yards and was shut out for the first time since Nov. 24, 2007. The Wolfpack need to win three out of their last four to get bowl eligible, and the road is favorable with North Carolina, Boston College and Maryland remaining. NC State has owned the Tar Heels under coach Tom O’Brien, winning the last four matchups in the series.

10. Duke (3-5) – The Blue Devils suffered another tough defeat, losing 14-10 to Virginia Tech on Saturday. Three of Duke’s losses have come by four points or less, which will likely cost it a shot at a bowl game this year. Developing a rushing attack has been a problem for years in Durham, and the Blue Devils rank last in the ACC with only 100 yards a game. Coach David Cutcliffe has this team closer to contending in the conference, but Duke is still likely to miss the postseason once again. 

11. Boston College (2-6) – It took eight games, but the Eagles finally have a win over a FBS school. Boston College surprisingly handled Maryland on Saturday, easily winning 28-17. Quarterback Chase Rettig threw for only 32 yards, but the rushing attack carried the day for the Eagles. Rolandan Finch rushed for 237 yards and two scores, while Andre Williams chipped in 72 and a touchdown on 16 attempts. The win came at a good time for the Eagles, as they host a red-hot Florida State team on Thursday. Boston College can still get to a bowl, but it will need to win its final four games – Florida State, NC State, at Notre Dame and at Miami. Needless to say, it won't be easy.

12. Maryland (2-6) – Even with the coaching change, there wasn’t expected to be a huge drop-off with the Terrapins this year. However, not much has gone right for Maryland this year, and things got even uglier with Saturday’s 28-17 loss to Boston College. The Terrapins were gashed for 366 yards on the ground, while neither quarterback (Danny O’Brien or C.J. Brown) managed to get the offense on track. Barring a four-game winning streak to close out the year, the Terrapins won’t make a bowl game. Coach Randy Edsall has been getting a lot of criticism for the 2-6 start, but it’s way too early to suggest this was a bad hire by Maryland. 

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the ACC stack up after Week 9?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 06:46
Path: /college-football/bowl-projections-7
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

With nine 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. Pittsburgh*
Idaho Potato Dec. 17 MAC vs. MWC Ohio vs. Fresno 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. Southern Miss
Independence Dec. 26 ACC vs. MWC Air Force vs. Wake Forest
Little Caesars Dec. 27 Big Ten vs. MAC Toledo vs. Illinois
Belk Dec. 27 ACC vs. Big East Cincinnati vs. North Carolina
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 A&M 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 Texas vs. Penn State
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. South Florida*
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 ACC vs. SEC Virginia Tech vs. Auburn
TicketCity Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. C-USA SMU vs. Iowa
Outback Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. SEC South Carolina vs. Michigan State
Capital One Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. SEC Georgia vs. Michigan
Gator Jan. 2 Big Ten vs. SEC Florida vs. Wisconsin
Rose Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Nebraska vs. Stanford
Fiesta Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Oklahoma vs. Oregon
Sugar Jan. 3 BCS vs. BCS LSU vs. Boise State
Orange Jan. 4 BCS vs. BCS Clemson vs. West Virginia
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 Alabama vs. Oklahoma State

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

Teaser:
<p> With nine weeks down, here's a look at how teams stack up for the postseason.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 06:41
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-sec-6
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 9 SEC Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Alabama (8-0) – Let the countdown to Saturday begin. The Crimson Tide had a bye in Week 9 and will be rested and ready to go for Saturday’s matchup against LSU. The No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown is easily the most-anticipated game of 2011. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat for the SEC West title and a spot in the national championship game. Alabama has won two out of the last three against LSU, but lost last season’s matchup in Baton Rouge.

2. LSU (8-0) – As mentioned several times in the power rankings this season, there’s really no separation between Alabama and LSU. However, Saturday will finally provide some insight into both teams. The Tigers have steamrolled all of their opponents this season, with the smallest margin of victory being 13 points (Oregon and Mississippi State). LSU defeated Alabama 24-21 in last year’s matchup.

3. Arkansas (7-1) – The Razorbacks escaped Nashville with a hard-fought 31-28 win over Vanderbilt. Arkansas trailed 21-7 in the second quarter, but rallied behind the steady play of quarterback Tyler Wilson and a fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Jerry Franklin. Arkansas has won four in a row and its only loss this year was to Alabama on Sept. 24. The Razorbacks have a favorable stretch upcoming, as their next three games are at home, starting with Saturday’s matchup against South Carolina.

4. South Carolina (7-1) – Without running back Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks are going to have to win ugly the rest of the year. Saturday’s 14-3 victory over Tennessee is probably a sign of things to come. Freshman Brandon Wilds did an admirable job filling in for Lattimore, rushing for 137 yards on 28 attempts. South Carolina faces a key road test at Arkansas this Saturday. The Gamecocks still own the edge in the SEC East, but a loss to the Razorbacks would put Georgia in the driver’s seat.

5. Georgia (6-2) – Saturday’s 24-20 win over Florida was huge for Georgia’s SEC East title hopes. The Bulldogs got off to a slow start, but the defense stepped up in the second half, while aggressive play calling allowed the offense to score two touchdowns on fourth-down tries. Not only was the win a big one for the SEC East race, it’s huge for coach Mark Richt and should cool the talk of him being on the hot seat. The Bulldogs step out of conference for a matchup against New Mexico State this Saturday.

6. Auburn (6-3) – Thanks to Saturday’s 41-23 victory over Ole Miss, the Tigers are bowl eligible. Considering the personnel losses entering this year, winning seven or eight games is a good season for coach Gene Chizik. Running back Michael Dyer is just 11 yards short of reaching 1,000 for the year, while also recording three 100-yard games in SEC play. The Tigers are off this Saturday, before returning to action on Nov. 12 at Georgia.

7. Florida (4-4) – Will Muschamp is having a rough first season in Gainesville. The 24-20 loss to Georgia on Saturday was Florida’s fourth loss in a row. And the Gators have only two wins in SEC play entering November. Outside of the Nov. 19 date against Furman, there’s not a guaranteed victory on the schedule. A much-improved Vanderbilt team visits the Swamp this Saturday, before traveling to South Carolina and hosting Florida State in the regular season finale. The ankle injury to quarterback John Brantley was costly for the Gators, but they are also struggling to establish their rushing attack in SEC play.

8. Mississippi State (4-4) – The Bulldogs finally broke through in SEC play, winning 28-16 over Kentucky. Quarterback play has been a source of concern Mississippi State this season, and coach Dan Mullen tried out a new strategy against the Wildcats. Chris Relf and Tyler Russell alternated series and the result was a solid statistical outing – 15 of 21 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Mississippi State steps out of conference this Saturday, taking on FCS foe Tennessee-Martin in Starkville.

9. Tennessee (3-5) – True freshman quarterback Justin Worley was thrown into the fire and the results were predictable. The Volunteers struggled to move the ball on offense, while Worley completed only 10 of 26 throws for 105 yards and two interceptions. The rushing attack continued to struggle, managing only 35 yards on 21 attempts. Tennessee steps out of conference for a matchup against in-state foe MTSU this Saturday. The Volunteers still have bowl hopes, but need to win three out of their last four games.

10. Vanderbilt (4-4) – First-year coach James Franklin isn’t into moral victories, but the Commodores have made solid improvement this season. Vanderbilt outplayed Arkansas last Saturday, but fell short, losing 31-28 to drop its record to 4-4 this year. The Commodores have found a spark on offense recently, as quarterback Jordan Rodgers and running back Zac Stacy have played well over the last two games. Vanderbilt is in a good position to get to a bowl game in 2011, as it needs two victories and Kentucky and Tennessee are very winnable.

11. Ole Miss (2-6) – The pressure continues to build on coach Houston Nutt, as the Rebels lost 41-23 to Auburn for their third defeat in a row. Ole Miss’ defense has been a sore spot all season and has allowed at least 41 points in two out of its last three games. If the Rebels are going to win a game in SEC play, it has to happen this Saturday at Kentucky. Ole Miss still has bowl hopes, but winning four in a row to finish out 2011 is very unlikely.

12. Kentucky (3-5) – The Wildcats continued to struggle in SEC play, suffering a 28-16 defeat to Mississippi State on Saturday. However, the news wasn’t all bad coming out of the loss. Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith jumpstarted the offense in the second half, completing 26 of 33 throws for 174 yards. Although Smith performed well, the Wildcats still have a lot of offensive issues going into this week’s game against Ole Miss. If Kentucky doesn’t beat the Rebels in Lexington this Saturday, a victory in conference play appears unlikely.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the SEC stack up after Week 9?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 06:36
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-12-6
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 9 Big 12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings

1. Oklahoma State (8-0) – The stakes are high for the Cowboys and so far, they continue to answer the bell. If Oklahoma State can win out, it will likely play in the national title game. The Cowboys took another step towards an undefeated season, defeating Baylor 59-24 last Saturday. Quarterback Brandon Weeden had another steady performance, throwing for 274 yards and three scores. The rushing attack also shined, getting 152 yards from Joseph Randle and 104 from freshman Herschel Sims. The Cowboys look to improve their record to 9-0 this Saturday, as 7-1 Kansas State travels to Stillwater.

2. Oklahoma (7-1) – Don’t count out the Sooners from the national title race just yet. Oklahoma demolished Kansas State 58-17 on Saturday, moving it back to No. 6 in the BCS standings. Quarterback Landry Jones thrashed the Wildcats’ secondary for 505 yards, while receiver Ryan Broyles posted 14 receptions for 171 yards and one touchdown. The news out of Saturday’s game wasn’t all positive. Running back Dominique Whaley was lost for the year due to an ankle injury, which means Roy Finch, Brandon Williams, and Brennan Clay will need to shoulder the workload in the Oklahoma backfield the rest of the year.

3. Kansas State (7-1) – The Wildcats’ national title hopes are finished, but a 7-1 record entering November is better than most expected. Kansas State was unable to keep its undefeated season alive, losing 58-17 to Oklahoma last Saturday. The Wildcats simply don’t have the athletes or passing attack to keep up with the Sooners right now. Kansas State is still in good shape to finish in the top three of the Big 12, but the schedule is going to be difficult over the next three weeks. The Wildcats are at Oklahoma State this week, then face Texas A&M and Texas.

4. Texas (5-2) – How’s this for a surprising stat: Texas’ win over Kansas on Saturday was its first home Big 12 win since Nov. 21, 2009. The Longhorns easily dispatched the Jayhawks with a powerful rushing attack, getting 136 yards from Joe Bergeron and 119 from Malcolm Brown. Quarterback David Ash turned in an efficient performance, throwing for 145 yards on 14 completions. The Longhorns need just one win to get bowl eligible and that victory could come on Saturday against Texas Tech.

5. Texas A&M (5-3) – The Aggies had their three-game winning streak snapped with a  38-31 overtime loss to Missouri. Texas A&M’s offense had no trouble moving the ball against the Tigers, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill passing for 317 yards, while running back Christine Michael totaled 104 on the ground. However, the Aggies had three turnovers and struggled to contain Missouri quarterback James Franklin. Any outside hopes Texas A&M had of earning an at-large appearance in the BCS went out the window with the loss to the Tigers, and the schedule won’t get any easier this Saturday with a road trip to Oklahoma.

6. Missouri (4-4) – The Tigers evened their record at 4-4 with a big win in overtime against Texas A&M. Missouri quarterback James Franklin bounced back after a disappointing performance in Week 8, totaling 295 yards and four touchdowns against the Aggies. Although the Tigers have four losses, there’s really no shame in any of their defeats. Missouri’s defeats have come at the hands of Arizona State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Tigers return to Texas this Saturday, as they travel to Waco to take on Baylor.

7. Texas Tech (5-3) – Flat. That’s really the only way to describe the Red Raiders’ performance on Saturday night. After beating Oklahoma last week, it’s pretty clear Texas Tech did not have the same energy level against Iowa State and the results showed. The Red Raiders lost 41-7, and quarterback Seth Doege turned in his worst performance of the year with only 171 passing yards. Texas Tech looks to get back on track against Texas this Saturday. The Red Raiders still need one win to get bowl eligible and the road to getting another victory won’t be easy with Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Baylor remaining on the schedule.

8. Baylor (4-3) – The Bears have been sliding down the power rankings over the last few weeks. Baylor has lost three out of its last four games, including a 59-24 defeat to Oklahoma State last Saturday. The Bears moved the ball throughout the first half, but were unable to convert those opportunities into points. Quarterback Robert Griffin’s Heisman hopes have taken a hit with the losses, but the junior hasn’t been the problem. The Bears are struggling on defense, allowing 36.4 points a game and ranking 108th nationally in total defense. Baylor looks to get back into the win column this Saturday against Missouri.

9. Iowa State (4-4) – The Cyclones posted their first Big 12 victory of 2011, ambushing Texas Tech 41-7 in Lubbock. The Red Raiders were coming off a big win against Oklahoma, so there was certainly a letdown effect involved. However, Iowa State was impressive, getting key performances from quarterback Jared Barnett and running back James White. The Cyclones have won back-to-back games against Texas Tech by a combined score of 93 to 45. Iowa State should have a chance to win its second conference game of the season, as it hosts Kansas this Saturday.

10. Kansas (2-6) – Not much has gone right for the Jayhawks over the last few weeks, and they may have hit rock bottom in Saturday’s 43-0 loss to Texas. Kansas’ offense was atrocious, managing only three first downs and 46 total yards. Although it’s unfair to judge to coach Turner Gill after one-plus season, the losses are taking a toll on the fanbase. Unless the Jayhawks pull off an upset, they appear headed for a  2-10 finish and without a victory in Big 12 play.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big 12 stack up after nine weeks of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 31, 2011 - 07:38
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-east-6
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 9 Big East Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Cincinnati (6-1) – The Bearcats remain atop the Big East power rankings for the second week in a row. Cincinnati is the only team without a loss in conference play, but return after its bye week for a tough trip to Pittsburgh. The Bearcats are catching the Panthers at a good time, as starting running back Ray Graham was lost for the year with a knee injury in last week's game against Connecticut. Starting with Saturday’s game, the Bearcats are about to embark on a difficult four-game stretch, which also includes matchups against West Virginia, Rutgers and Syracuse. Can Cincinnati maintain its lead and win the Big East title? This conference has been full of ups and downs this year, so the Bearcats can't feel too comfortable with five games remaining. 

2. West Virginia (6-2) – The conditions weren’t exactly ideal for the Mountaineers’ pass-first offense, but they found a way to pull out the victory, extending their winning streak over Rutgers to 17 in a row. Quarterback Geno Smith passed for only 219 yards and two touchdowns, but West Virginia’s rushing attack helped pickup the slack on offense, led by 110 yards from Shawne Alston. The Mountaineers also took advantage of three turnovers by the Scarlet Knights, while the defense pitched a shutout in the second half. West Virginia controls its destiny in the Big East race and faces an improving Louisville team this Saturday. 

3. Rutgers (5-3) – After a 5-1 start, the Scarlet Knights have taken a step back in the Big East race, losing their last two games. Rutgers led 31-21 at the half over West Virginia, but was unable to hold onto the lead and lost 41-31. The loss continues a recent string of misery in this series for the Scarlet Knights, as they have lost 17 in a row to the Mountaineers. One positive in the loss was the rushing attack, which got 96 yards and two touchdowns from Jawan Jamison. Rutgers hosts South Florida this Saturday, which is a must win if it wants to stay alive in the Big East race.

4. Pittsburgh (4-4) – A 35-20 win over Connecticut on Wednesday night moved the Panthers back to .500 this year. However, the win had a heavy price. Running back Ray Graham suffered a knee injury and is lost for the year. With Graham out, Pittsburgh will have to lean more on running back Zach Brown and quarterback Tino Sunseri. The Panthers need two wins to get bowl eligible, and has a difficult game against current Big East leader Cincinnati this Saturday. Without Graham, contending for the Big East title is very unlikely, but there's a good chance this team can still get to a bowl. 

5. South Florida (4-3) – The Bulls had a bye in Week 9 and are back in action on Saturday at Rutgers. The off week came at a good time for South Florida, as it is riding a three-game losing streak and desperately needs to get things going back in the right direction. The Bulls have a tough two-game road stretch coming up, as they play at Rutgers this Saturday, followed by a date at Syracuse on November 11. South Florida still needs two wins to get bowl eligible, but there’s no guaranteed victory on the schedule the rest of the way.

6. Louisville (4-4) – The Cardinals have been making a steady climb up the power rankings the last two weeks. Louisville has won two games in a row, including Saturday’s 27-10 effort over Syracuse. A big reason for the improvement has been quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The true freshman turned in an efficient performance against Syracuse, throwing for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Center Mario Benavides’ return to the lineup has helped the rushing attack the last few games, and that continued against the Orange with Victor Anderson rushing for 93 yards and one score. The Cardinals travel to West Virginia this Saturday.

7. Syracuse (5-3) – One week after a big win against West Virginia, the Orange took a step back with a 27-10 loss at Louisville. Syracuse’s offense struggled to get on track, as quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for only 162 yards on 36 attempts, and running back Antwon Bailey managed only 70 yards. With the Orange trailing all game, Bailey was really never a factor, which snapped his streak of four consecutive 100-yard games. Syracuse still has Big East title hopes, but is in a big hole thanks to the loss to Louisville. The Orange play at Connecticut next Saturday.  

8. Connecticut (3-5) – The Huskies were unable to build upon the momentum from their win over South Florida, losing 35-20 on Wednesday night to Pittsburgh. Connecticut’s defense had no answer for the Panthers offense, as quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 419 yards and added 40 more on the ground. Quarterback play has been an issue for the Huskies all year, and it wasn’t much better on Wednesday night. Johnny McEntee threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns, but completed only 51.5 percent of his throws. Connecticut looks to get back into the win column against Syracuse this Saturday. The game against the Orange will be a homecoming for Huskies' coach Paul Pasqualoni, who posted a 107-59-1 record in 14 years at Syracuse.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big East stack up after Week 9?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 31, 2011 - 07:34
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Big East
Path: /college-football/week-9-college-football-recap
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

Boston College – The Eagles kept their slim bowl hopes alive with a 28-17 victory over Maryland on Saturday. The offense has been a source of concern all year, however, running back Rolandan Finch gashed the Terrapins for 243 yards and two touchdowns. The win over Maryland was Boston College’s first victory over a FBS team this year.

Case Keenum, QB, Houston – Thanks to some bad weather, the Cougars got off to a slow start in Thursday’s win over Rice. However, the final stat line was a one-sided affair. Keenum threw for 534 yards and nine touchdown passes, and likely could have thrown a couple more had he played the entire fourth quarter. The Cougars remain unbeaten at 8-0 and with a favorable remaining schedule, has a chance to finish the regular season without a loss.

Georgia – Beating Florida has been a big issue for Mark Richt, but the Bulldogs scored a huge 24-20 victory over the Gators on Saturday. Georgia fell behind early, but the defense puts the clamps on Florida’s offense in the second half. The Bulldogs were aggressive on offense, scoring two touchdowns on fourth-down throws by quarterback Aaron Murray. Georgia still trails South Carolina in the SEC East race, but the Gamecocks face a difficult upcoming schedule playing Arkansas and Florida, while the Bulldogs get Auburn and Kentucky.

Georgia Tech – Having lost back-to-back games, most of the nation didn’t give the Yellow Jackets much of a chance against Clemson. However, Georgia Tech’s offense clicked behind quarterback Tevin Washington's running, and the defense forced four crucial turnovers. The Yellow Jackets still have a shot to win the ACC Coastal, but need to beat Virginia Tech on Nov. 10.

Louisville – Considering the amount of youth stepping into playing time this year, it was expected the Cardinals might need a couple of weeks to get everything figured out. The pieces seem to be falling into place for Louisville, as it has won back-to-back games, and all four losses have been by nine points or less. Saturday’s win over Syracuse puts the Cardinals at 2-1 in conference play, with a difficult upcoming stretch – at West Virginia, Pittsburgh, at Connecticut and at South Florida.

Minnesota – The Gophers have been awful this year, but Saturday’s win over Iowa was a step in the right direction. Minnesota’s rush defense struggled to stop Iowa’s Marcus Coker, but kept quarterback James Vandenberg in check. The Gophers also got a key performance from quarterback MarQueis Gray and a well-timed onside kick in the fourth quarter. Coach Jerry Kill has been feeling a lot of pressure for the slow start, but he’s the right man for the job. Give Kill and his staff another year to rebuild the roster, and Minnesota will be back in a bowl.

Missouri – Thanks to a difficult schedule, the Tigers have a mediocre 4-4 record. However, those losses came to Arizona State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State – a combined 28-4. Quarterback James Franklin bounced back after a disappointing performance against Oklahoma State, leading Missouri to a 38-31 win over Texas A&M on Saturday. The Tigers still need two wins to get bowl eligible and games remain against Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas.

Nebraska - The Cornhuskers jumped back into the mix for the Big Ten Legends title after a convincing win over Michigan State. Quarterback Taylor Martinez struggled to find his rhythm through the air, but the offense was carried by running back Rex Burkhead. Nebraska's defense had been a disappointment in the early part of 2011, but turned in its best effort of the year, holding the Spartans to only three points.

Ohio State – Whether or not Luke Fickell returns to the Ohio State sidelines next year remains to be seen. However, give Fickell and his coaching staff a lot of credit for the last two games. The Buckeyes have molded the offense around the strengths of freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, while relying on a young, but talented defense to keep them in games. Ohio State’s 33-29 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday keeps it alive in the race to win the Big Ten Leaders Division. The Buckeyes need a lot of help to win the division, but after some concern they would not make a bowl, Ohio State is looking at eight or nine wins this year.

Oklahoma – After a disappointing loss to Texas Tech one week ago, the Sooners jumped back into the national title discussion with a 58-17 demolishing of Kansas State. Thanks a loss by Clemson, and the win over the Wildcats, Oklahoma is ranked No. 6 in the BCS standings. Although the loss to the Red Raiders was a blow, the Sooners just need to keep winning and they could still find themselves in position to play for the national title.

Penn State – The Nittany Lions aren’t going to win any style points for their victories, but they survived another close one on Saturday against Illinois to move their record to 8-1. Quarterback play continues to be an issue, but Penn State has been winning with a steady dose of running back Silas Redd, and a defense allowing only 12.4 points a game. The Nittany Lions have a difficult upcoming schedule – Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin – but are the only unbeaten team in Big Ten play entering November.

Stanford – The Cardinal kept alive their national title hopes with a 56-48 victory over USC on Saturday night. The Trojans pushed Stanford to the brink, leading by a touchdown with just over three minutes to go. However, thanks to the steady performance of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Cardinal sent the game into overtime. Stanford forced only one USC fumble, but it was a big one, as the turnover sealed the victory and preserved a chance to play for the championship. Stanford still has a big test upcoming, as Oregon will visit the Farm on Nov. 12.

UCLA – One week after an awful showing against Arizona, the Bruins bounced back with a dominating 31-14 win over California. The UCLA defense forced five turnovers, while quarterback Kevin Prince led the offense with 163 yards on the ground. The Bruins still have a shot to win the Pac-12 South, but desperately need a win over Arizona State this Saturday.

Virginia – Not many people expected to see the Cavaliers win on the road at Miami, especially after losing to NC State one week ago. However, Virginia used a balanced attack on offense, some aggressive calls by coach Mike London, while the defense held Miami running back Lamar Miller under 100 yards. The Cavaliers need just one win to get bowl eligible, and they should get to six wins with games against Maryland and Duke remaining.  

Western Kentucky – The Hilltoppers have earned a spot in this column over the past couple of weeks. Western Kentucky continued to turn heads in Sun Belt play with a 31-28 victory over UL Monroe. The win over the Warhawks was the Hilltoppers’ fourth in a row and keeps them within range to Arkansas State for the top spot in the conference.

Losers

Baylor – There’s no shame in losing to Oklahoma State, but the Bears had plenty of missed opportunities in Saturday’s game and lost 59-24. The loss to the Cowboys was Baylor’s third in four games and has quieted the Heisman buzz surrounding quarterback Robert Griffin. The junior hasn’t been the issue, but the Bears need to do a better job of punching in opportunities on offense and find some consistency on defense. Baylor has allowed at least 55 points in each of its last two games.

California – After a 3-0 start, there was some promise and hope that the Golden Bears were going back in the right direction. Not anymore. California has lost four out of its last five games, and now faces a quarterback controversy after a poor performance by Zach Maynard on Saturday night against UCLA. With games against Washington State and Oregon State upcoming, California should find a way to get bowl eligible. However, the losses have done nothing to quiet the pressure on coach Jeff Tedford.

Clemson – The Tigers suffered their first defeat of the year, losing 31-17 to Georgia Tech. The loss effectively ended any hopes Clemson had of competing for a national title, but it still controls its destiny in the ACC Atlantic. The offense was able to move the ball through the air, but four turnovers were just too much to overcome. Even though national title hopes are over, the Tigers can still finish with an 11-1 record at the end of the regular season. And there’s plenty of returning talent to get excited about the possibilities of 2012.

Iowa – The Hawkeyes were quietly keeping within range of Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska in the Big Ten Legends Division. That was until Saturday afternoon. Iowa suffered a disappointing 22-21 loss to Minnesota, dropping it to 5-3 and 2-2 in Big Ten play. Although it’s too early to count out the Hawkeyes in the division race, losing to a Minnesota team with one win is unacceptable.

Kansas – The Jayhawks turned in one of the worst offensive performances of 2011 in Saturday’s loss to Texas. The Kansas offense managed just 46 total yards, three first downs and committed two turnovers. Yikes. Turner Gill should get another year to turn things around, but these losses are not sitting well in Lawrence.

Maryland – It’s been a disappointing season in College Park and things only got worse with the 28-17 defeat to Boston College on Saturday. The loss to the Eagles was Maryland’s fourth defeat in a row and they have only one win over a FBS team this season (Miami). Also, there’s a quarterback controversy again between Danny O’Brien and C.J. Brown, while the defense ranks last in the ACC in points allowed. Needless to say, coach Randy Edsall’s dream job has not provided a honeymoon in year one.

Michigan State – The Spartans had a chance to claim full control of the Big Ten Legends Division with a win over Nebraska on Saturday. However, Michigan State was unable to get anything going on offense, while the defense was worn down by a relentless Cornhusker rushing attack. The Spartans remain squarely in the mix to win the division, but will need some help in the form of a Nebraska loss in the next few weeks.

Texas Tech – One week after beating Oklahoma, the dreaded letdown bug bit the Red Raiders. Texas Tech looked flat and out of sync, as Iowa State posted a 41-7 win in Lubbock. Although it’s just one loss, a look at the Red Raiders’ schedule shows just how important Saturday’s defeat could be. Texas Tech still has games against Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Baylor remaining. Making a bowl game is going to be no easy task.

Wisconsin – Back-to-back losses have effectively ended any hopes the Badgers’ had of playing for a national title. Wisconsin looked like the No. 1 team in the Big Ten through the first six weeks of the season, but has been sliding down the polls with the recent losses. Although the defense ranks 11th nationally in yardage allowed, this group has not delivered in the final moments of the last two games. The Badgers can still win the Big Ten Leaders Division, but need two losses by Penn State and one by Ohio State.

Looking Ahead to Week 10

A small sample of what’s ahead

Northern Illinois at Toledo (Tuesday)
Two of the best teams in the MAC meet for a Tuesday night shootout.

Temple at Ohio (Wednesday)
Winner of this game should have the inside track to winning the MAC East.

North Carolina at NC State
Tar Heels look to snap a four-game losing streak to Wolfpack.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Can the Panthers stay alive in Big East race without running back Ray Graham?

Louisville at West Virginia
Cardinals improving, but Mountaineers still in control of Big East title destiny.

Notre Dame at Wake Forest
First meeting between these two teams.

Vanderbilt at Florida
Much-improved Commodores should give Florida all it can handle.

Missouri at Baylor
Bears have lost three out of their last four, while Tigers coming off big win in College Station.

Texas Tech at Texas
Winner of this Texas matchup will get bowl eligible.

Michigan at Iowa
Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Legends Division title hopes took a hit with puzzling loss to Minnesota.

South Carolina at Arkansas
Can Gamecocks’ banged up offense score enough points to beat Razorbacks?

Kansas State at Oklahoma State
Cowboys in good shape to make a run at a national title, but every week is a must-win.

LSU at Alabama
Without question, this is the must-see game of 2011. 

Texas A&M at Oklahoma
Sooners aren’t finished in national title race, but they can’t afford another loss.

Oregon at Washington
Can the Ducks get LaMichael James and Darron Thomas back on track?

Injuries from Week 9

Air Force QB Tim Jefferson (broken nose) – probable for Week 10
Georgia RB Isaiah Crowell (shin) – probable for Week 10
Georgia RB Richard Samuel (sprained ankle) – probable for Week 10
Georgia OG Dallas Lee (leg) – out for remainder of 2011
Kentucky QB Morgan Newton (ankle, shoulder) – questionable for Week 10
Miami QB Jacory Harris (arm) – expected to play in Week 10
Oklahoma RB Dominique Whaley (ankle) – out for the remainder of 2011
Pittsburgh RB Ray Graham (knee) – out for the remainder of 2011
Pittsburgh WR Cam Saddler (sternum) - out for the remainder of 2011
Stanford TE Zach Ertz (knee) – questionable for Week 10
Tennessee S Brent Brewer (knee) – questionable for Week 10
Texas WR Jaxon Shipley (knee) – questionable for Week 10
USC RB Marc Tyler (shoulder) – questionable for Week 10
USC LB Dion Bailey (concussion) – questionable for Week 10

Teaser:
<p> Athlon recaps Week 9 of the college football season and takes a look ahead to Week 10.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 31, 2011 - 07:33
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-9-preview-match-ups-and-upset-picks
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

10 Key Storylines to Watch for Week 9

1. Week 9 could go a long ways in determining the SEC East champ. South Carolina shares a 4-1 record with Georgia, but defeated the Bulldogs in the second week of the season. The road to winning the East got a lot tougher for the Gamecocks two weeks ago, as running back Marcus Lattimore was lost for the year due to an ACL tear. With Lattimore sidelined, the Gamecocks will turn to true freshman Brandon Wilds and junior Kenny Miles to carry the workload in Saturday’s game at Tennessee. However, South Carolina also needs quarterback Connor Shaw and the defense to step up, as Wilds and Miles can’t replace Lattimore’s production. The Gamecocks have to be licking their chops on defense, as Tennessee has scored only 25 points in its last three games, and will start true freshman Justin Worley at quarterback on Saturday. Worley will be making his first career start and has yet to throw his first pass in game action. With Arkansas and Florida remaining, South Carolina can’t afford to be upset on Saturday at Tennessee.

2. Penn State has flown under the radar this season and despite suspect quarterback play, enters Week 9 with a solid 7-1 record and control of the Leaders Division. The schedule is going to get tougher over the final few weeks, as the Nittany Lions host Illinois and Nebraska, before hitting the road to Ohio State and Wisconsin in the last two games of the year. Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden have shared time under center, combining to complete 53 percent of passes, eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Neither player has seized the No. 1 spot, but Penn State has been able to lean on running back Silas Redd and one of the Big Ten’s top defenses. The Nittany Lions rank eighth in total defense and fifth in points allowed, despite losing linebacker Michael Mauti to a torn ACL early in the season. Illinois is reeling after two straight losses, but defeated Penn State 33-13 in Happy Valley last year. The Nittany Lions are still largely untested in Big Ten play, but will the Fighting Illini find the winning formula again? Or will Penn State’s defense keep Illinois’ quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase in check, while the Nittany Lions get just enough from Redd to keep the chains moving on offense?

3. It seems all of the talk surrounding the Big East this year has been about realignment. Instead of focusing on all of the off-the-field issues, the conference should be able to turn the focus back to actual games with the West Virginia-Rutgers matchup this Saturday. Both teams lost last Friday, but are still realistic options to win the Big East title. The Mountaineers lead the conference in total offense, but the offensive line and rushing attack have been inconsistent. Also, the defense has struggled to replace some departed players from last year's unit. Rutgers has lost 16 consecutive games to West Virginia, and needs to generate some offense if it wants to end that streak. The Scarlet Knights have been winning with defense and by controlling the turnover battle. However, the offense needs to step up this week, specifically freshman quarterback Gary Nova and running back Jawan Jamison. If West Virginia can jump out to a 14-0 lead, the Scarlet Knights may struggle to generate enough offense to get back into the game.

4. Stanford has cruised to a 7-0 start, but the schedule is going to get more challenging over the next few weeks. The Cardinal travels to USC this Saturday, and takes on Oregon on Nov. 12. The Trojans dominated this series in the early 2000s, but the tide has shifted to Stanford. The Cardinal has won three out of the last four over USC. Expect NFL scouts (and maybe the Dolphins, Colts and Seahawks) to have heavy interest in this game, as Stanford’s Andrew Luck and USC’s Matt Barkley will likely be the first two quarterbacks off the board (provided they both leave school early) in April for the 2012 draft. The Trojans are quietly putting together a solid season, and a much-maligned defense has allowed only 26 points over the last two games. The Cardinal gave up a season-high 430 yards in last week’s win over Washington. And the Trojans have plenty of firepower to hang around in this game. Stanford’s secondary will also be without safety Delano Howell, which is a big loss as it tries to stop USC’s potent combination of Barkley to Woods. Can USC’s defense keep up its recent play? The Trojans are allowing only 91.1 yards per game on the ground, which will certainly be tested by Stanford’s physical offensive line and running back Stepfan Taylor. Considering the losses of Oklahoma and Wisconsin last week, the door is open for Stanford to play its way into the national title game.

5. Can Kansas State continue its magical season? The Wildcats were picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12, but are 7-0 and ranked No. 8 in the BCS standings. Although Kansas State has been one of college football’s biggest surprises, the competition is going to increase over the next few weeks. The Wildcats host Oklahoma this Saturday, before playing Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas. After last week’s loss to Texas Tech, there’s little doubt the Sooners will be one angry bunch on Saturday. Oklahoma’s national title hopes are on life support and will need a lot of help the rest of the way. A big reason for Kansas State’s success this year has been a much-improved defense. The Wildcats rank 29th nationally in total defense, but are allowing 243.3 yards per game through the air. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones struggled with his accuracy in last week’s loss, but expect him to get back on track this week. The Sooners should have no trouble moving the ball through the air, which means controlling the time of possession which will be critical for Kansas State’s offense. The Wildcats have proved the doubters wrong all year, but Saturday is arguably their toughest task.

6. If you like offense, then Saturday’s Baylor-Oklahoma State game is for you. Both teams are averaging over 40 points a game and feature Heisman Trophy contenders at quarterback – Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) and Robert Griffin (Baylor). With two dynamic offenses, whichever defense can get key stops and force turnovers will be the difference. The Cowboys rank 103rd nationally in total defense, but are tied for second with 24 forced turnovers. Baylor is slightly better in total defense, ranking 97th nationally. However, the Bears have generated only nine turnovers and opponents are averaging 4.8 yards per carry. With Oklahoma’s loss to Texas Tech last week, Oklahoma State is now in control of the Big 12. However, a loss to Baylor would end any hopes of playing for the national title. The stakes are raised for the Cowboys, and even though Baylor can match score-for-score, expect Oklahoma State to remain unbeaten for another week.

7. Determining the frontrunner in the SEC East could become clearer after this Saturday. South Carolina will be without running back Marcus Lattimore for the rest of the year, which certainly hampers its hopes to repeat as division champs. With the Gamecocks missing their best player, the door is open for Florida and Georgia to make a move in the division. The Bulldogs lost to South Carolina in Week 2, but have a favorable remaining schedule after Saturday’s game against Florida, with only Auburn and Kentucky remaining in conference play. The Gators need a lot of help in order to win the East, but should take a step back in the race with quarterback John Brantley expected to return to the lineup. Florida has dominated this series, winning five out of the last six games, including a 34-31 shootout last year. However, the Gators are reeling after three straight losses. With the Bulldogs sensing a shot to jump back into the East race, there’s a lot of urgency to win on Saturday.

8. Wisconsin’s national title hopes are likely over after last week’s last-second loss to Michigan State. However, there’s still plenty for the Badgers to play for. Wisconsin controls its destiny in the Big Ten Leaders Division and a potential rematch against the Spartans could happen in the conference title game. The Badgers hit the road for an important Big Ten game against Ohio State this Saturday. The Buckeyes snapped a two-game losing streak with a win over Illinois two weeks ago, but this team still has a lot of issues. Ohio State has struggled to establish its passing attack under freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, but the running game has totaled at least 200 yards in three of the last four games. Wisconsin is allowing 121.1 yards a game on the ground, and Ohio State can expect to see eight or nine in the box to try and slow down the rushing attack. Miller doesn’t need to have a big game, but he has to throw better than he has over the last few weeks. Although the Badgers have to be stunned at how last week’s game ended, it’s hard to see Ohio State generating enough offense to win this game.

9. Thanks to back-to-back losses by Georgia Tech, Saturday’s game with Clemson has lost a bit of its luster. These two teams have hooked up for some memorable games in recent memory, with three of the last four matchups decided by five points or less.  The Yellow Jackets offense has cooled in recent weeks, largely due to a lack of big plays in the passing game. Quarterback Tevin Washington has not topped 100 passing yards in the last two weeks, after reaching that mark in the first six games. Controlling the clock and getting big plays from Washington is going to be critical for Georgia Tech’s chances at winning this game, as Clemson is averaging 40 points a game and will be difficult to slow down. The Yellow Jackets are allowing only 170.5 passing yards a game, and have allowed only one touchdown through the air in the last three contests. If Tigers’ quarterback Tajh Boyd gets on a roll early, it would be Georgia Tech’s worst nightmare. Clemson has struggled to stop the run, which should allow the Yellow Jackets to keep this one close into the fourth quarter. In a game of contrasting offensive styles, whichever team can impose its will is going to come out on top. 

10. Michigan State can take a big step towards claiming the Big Ten Legends Division title on Saturday. If the Spartans knock off Nebraska, they will have wins over Michigan and the Cornhuskers, with a game at Iowa on Nov. 12 the biggest hurdle to an unbeaten record in Big Ten play. After winning such an emotional game last week, can Michigan State follow that up with the same effort this Saturday? The Cornhuskers lead the Big Ten in rushing offense, but will face a Spartan defense allowing only 88.9 yards a game on the ground. With Nebraska unlikely to have much success running against Michigan State, quarterback Taylor Martinez needs to have a big game. The sophomore is completing only 55 percent of his throws and has tossed six picks this year. If the Spartans are able to force Nebraska into throwing 25-30 times, they should be able to exit Lincoln with a victory and a commanding lead in the Legends Division.

Saturday’s Picks

Athlon editor Mitch Light predicts the 10 biggest games for Week 9 – here’s my take on how some of the top games will play out.

Florida State 37, NC State 20
Michigan State 24, Nebraska 20
Texas A&M 34, Missouri 24
Arkansas 34, Vanderbilt 20
Penn State 24, Illinois 17
Wake Forest 31, North Carolina 24
West Virginia 33, Rutgers 20
Oklahoma 38, Kansas State 27
Oklahoma State 48, Baylor 34
Notre Dame 38, Navy 23
Georgia 27, Florida 20
South Carolina 24, Tennessee 13
Stanford 38, USC 27
Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 17
Clemson 37, Georgia Tech 27

Upset Watch

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

Wake Forest at North Carolina (-7)
The Demon Deacons need to keep winning to keep the pressure on Clemson in the ACC Atlantic. The Tar Heels started 5-1, but have lost their last two games. Wake Forest has won the last two in this series, including a 24-17 win in Chapel Hill. 

Michigan State at Nebraska (-5.5)
After last week’s win over Wisconsin, can the Spartans recapture the momentum for another week? Michigan State’s defense won’t give up much to Nebraska on the ground, which makes quarterback Taylor Martinez’s passing even more important on Saturday.

SMU at Tulsa (-3)
The Mustangs fell on the road to Southern Miss last week, but still remain the biggest threat to Houston in Conference USA’s West Division.

San Jose State at Louisiana Tech (-9.5)
The Spartans continue to make progress under second-year coach Mike MacIntyre, winning three of their last four games, including a 28-27 thriller of Hawaii on Oct. 14.

Oregon State at Utah (-7)
The Utes are solid on defense, but offense has been an issue. The Beavers have played better recently, winning two out of their last three games.

UL Lafayette at MTSU (-3)
The Ragin’ Cajuns have been a surprise contender in the Sun Belt race, but suffered a setback with a loss to Western Kentucky last week. UL Lafayette owns one of the conference’s top offenses, while MTSU is allowing 32.5 points a game.

Around the Web: College Football’s Must Read Articles to Prepare for Week 9

Despite a painful shoulder injury, Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott continues play well

Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel suffered a calf injury in the loss to Oregon State and is likely out the rest of the year.

Wake Forest expects to have running back Josh Harris back in the lineup for Saturday's game at North Carolina.

Even though he struggled against Louisville, Rutgers will continue to start freshman Gary Nova at quarterback.

Florida State's defensive line has been living up to the hype this year.

Saturday's game against Florida is a big one for Georgia. Just take a look at the upcoming schedule.

Can anyone figure out the Penn State quarterback situation this year?

Utah's problems on offense aren't centered just on the quarterback position.

It's back to working on the fundamentals for Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington.

Michigan State should expect to see a lot of Nebraska's no-huddle offense this Saturday. 

Replacing Marcus Lattimore isn't going to be easy for South Carolina. Brandon Wilds is expected to start this Saturday against Tennessee. 

Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa suffered a turf toe injury in last week's loss to Penn State. But is expected to play against Indiana this Saturday.

Since joining the starting lineup, Randall Mackey has given Ole Miss' offense a spark.

Considering the struggles of UCLA's offense, is it time to take the redshirt off and let Brett Hundley play?

Maryland could be looking at another quarterback controversy for this week's game against Boston College. 

Colorado could be without quarterback Tyler Hansen for Saturday's game against Arizona State. 

With an inexperienced quarterback, Ohio State is going to lean heavily on its rushing attack in the second half of the season.

LaMichael James' status for Saturday's game against Washington State is uncertain

Arizona's offense found a rushing attack in last Thursday's win over UCLA.

Teaser:
<p> We give you the 10 most important match-ups and upset picks for Week 9.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 28, 2011 - 07:41
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-michigan-state-nebraska
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The Big Ten Legends Division has to be one of the most competitive in college football. Michigan State sits atop the division with a 3-0 record in conference play, with Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa tied at 2-1.

Saturday’s game between Michigan State and Nebraska is expected to go a long way in determining the division champ. The Spartans are riding a four-game winning streak, which includes big victories over Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Last week’s win over the Badgers provided one of the best endings to a game this season. However, after an emotional win, there’s usually room for a letdown.

Nebraska began the year as the favorite to win the Big Ten title, but has not performed up to expectations. The Cornhuskers were demolished 48-17 at Wisconsin on Oct. 1 and needed a furious second-half rally to knock off Ohio State on Oct. 8.  Although there’s a month of games to be played, a loss by Nebraska would significantly damage its hopes of playing in the first Big Ten title game.

These two teams have matched up only five times, with Nebraska winning every game. The last meeting occurred in the 2003 Alamo Bowl, with the Cornhuskers taking a 17-3 victory.

When Nebraska Has the Ball

Much of Nebraska’s success on offense this season has been on the ground. Running back Rex Burkhead has rushed for 752 yards and 10 scores this season, including 119 in the 34-27 win over Ohio State.

Although Burkhead has been one of the Big Ten’s top running backs this season, he has a lot of help from quarterback Taylor Martinez. The sophomore is just behind Burkhead in rushing yards, posting 636 yards on 110 attempts.

Although Martinez is one of the nation’s top rushing quarterbacks, his passing ability is still a work in progress. Through seven games, the sophomore is completing only 55 percent of his passes and has tossed six interceptions.

One positive for Nebraska’s passing game has been the emergence of young receivers Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa. Turner leads the team with 15 receptions, while Enunwa is averaging 16.6 yards per catch.

Moving the ball on Michigan State’s defense has been no easy task this year. The Spartans lead the Big Ten in rush, total and pass defense. Also, they have generated 24 sacks and will get defensive end William Gholston back in the mix, after serving a one-game suspension

If Nebraska is to win this game, Martinez has to be able to stretch the field with the passing attack. The Cornhuskers won’t need 300 passing yards from the sophomore, but they need to keep Michigan State’s defense off balance. The Spartans will likely load the box and try to keep Burkhead from getting on track.

When Michigan State Has the Ball

There’s no question the Spartans will attempt to bring more balance than Nebraska to their offense. Michigan State likes to establish its rushing attack and use that to setup the pass.

Running backs Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker have combined for 808 yards and eight rushing scores this season. The offensive line was hit by injuries early in the year, but led the way for the Spartans to post 213 rushing yards against Michigan and 109 against Wisconsin.

Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins is having a solid season, completing 66.7 percent of his throws, 11 touchdowns and 1,607 yards. The senior has not thrown an interception in the last two games, and his experience winning on the road the last few years is going to come in handy in Lincoln.

Helping Cousins’ cause is one of the best groups of receivers in the Big Ten. Seniors Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham and Keith Nichol combine to form a solid trio, while tight ends Dion Sims and Brian Linthicum can attack the middle of the field. Nebraska’s secondary ranks 27th nationally in pass defense, and this group has allowed only one opponent to throw for more than 200 yards in the last three games. Senior Alfonzo Dennard was injured early in the year, but is rounding back to form, and the defense has received a boost from the play of sophomore Stanley Jean-Baptiste at the other corner spot.

Nebraska’s defense was expected to be the best in the Big Ten, but it hasn’t lived up to preseason accolades. The Cornhuskers rank 70th against the run and are allowing 25.3 points a game. The defensive line suffered a big blow when tackle Jared Crick tore a pectoral muscle in the win over Ohio State and was lost for the remainder of the season.

If the Spartans can keep Nebraska’s defense off balance, they should have the inside track to win this game. Even if Bell and Baker won’t get to 100 yards each, it’s important to get three or four yards a carry, allowing Cousins to test the Cornhusker secondary off play-action passes.

Special Teams

The Cornhuskers own a slight edge on special teams. Kicker Brett Maher has connected on 13 of 16 field goals, including 4 of 7 from beyond 50 yards. Ameer Abdullah has been a dynamic returner for Nebraska this season, averaging 10.2 yards on punt returns and 31.9 on kick returns.

Keshawn Martin is capable of scoring every time he touches the ball on special teams for Michigan State, averaging 7.8 yards on 10 punt returns. Kicker Dan Conroy has connected on 6 of 9 field goals this year, including 2 of 3 from 50 yards or more.

Prediction

Can Michigan State follow up with the same momentum and energy it had last week? After the crazy finish against Wisconsin, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Spartans got off to a slow start.

Although it has only one loss, Nebraska’s back is against the wall. A loss to Michigan State would be damaging for its Big Ten title hopes. With a win over the Cornhuskers, the Spartans would be in full control of the Legends Division.

Winning in Lincoln is never easy, but the Spartans are the better team. Don’t be surprised if this is a low-scoring game, but Michigan State’s defense will prevent Burkhead and Martinez from finding too much room, giving the Spartans another big win in conference play.

Michigan State 24, Nebraska 20

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska-Michigan State is one of the big games in Week 9. Athlon Sports previews what both sides need to do in order to win.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 28, 2011 - 07:16
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-coaching-search
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Ohio State is expected to be one of the top coaching jobs open at the end of the season. Interim coach Luke Fickell has guided the Buckeyes to a 4-3 record, but this program expects to be contending for Big Ten titles. Ohio State has a young roster, along with the black cloud of a NCAA investigation and potential sanctions. Fickell's chances of keeping the full-time job in 2012 likely depend on winning the final five games this season. 

If the job comes open as expected, Ohio State will generate a ton of interest from candidates, even with potential sanctions from the NCAA.

Top Targets

Tim Beckman, head coach, Toledo – Beckman is a candidate that is probably off the national radar, but he is quietly building a solid resume at Toledo. Beckman is 18-15 and in two-plus years with the Rockets, has Toledo positioned as the likely favorite to win the MAC title. Also, the Rockets nearly upset Ohio State in Week 2, losing 27-22 after a late stop by the Buckeyes’ defense. Beckman has experience at Ohio State, coaching cornerbacks under Jim Tressel from 2005-06. If for any reason Ohio State can’t lure one of the top coaches to Columbus, Beckman is a rising name in the profession and would accept the job in a heartbeat.

Urban Meyer, ESPN analyst – Meyer stepped away from Florida for health reasons, and has been working as an analyst with Chris Spielman and Dave Pasch for ESPN’s college football coverage. He's had a year off to recharge the batteries and is an Ohio native. If Meyer is serious about getting back into coaching, Ohio State has to be near the top of his destination jobs. And the Buckeyes are likely very interested.

Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State – Mullen could be a hot name on the coaching circuit, as Arizona could be interested in him as a replacement for Mike Stoops. Mullen is just 17-15 (and 0-4 in the SEC this season) in his third year at Mississippi State, but the program has been more competitive under his direction. Although Mullen seems to be happy at Mississippi State, the SEC West has been one of the most difficult divisions in college football. With Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Auburn all likely preseason top 25 teams in 2012, it’s going to be very difficult for the Bulldogs to move up in the division pecking order.

Bo Pelini, head coach, Nebraska – Pelini has a great job at Nebraska, but would he listen to his alma mater? Pelini played at Ohio State from 1987-90 and has recorded a 36-13 record in his fourth year at Nebraska. There’s no doubt about Pelini’s ability to coach a defense (although his 2011 unit is struggling), but his offenses at Nebraska have been inconsistent. Pelini has been a solid recruiter at Nebraska, and could bring in elite classes with a better talent base in Ohio. Pelini and Urban Meyer figure to be near the top of Ohio State’s coaching board when the job officially opens.

Lovie Smith, head coach, Chicago Bears – Is Smith a legitimate candidate? How the Bears finish out 2011 will likely depend on his availability or job status for 2012. Under his direction, Chicago has made the playoffs three times, including a Super Bowl appearance. He coached at Ohio State in 1995, which was his last experience at the college level. Smith would be a good candidate for the job, but how quickly would he adjust to the college game after being in the NFL for the last 15 years?

Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma – Venables is one of the top assistants in college football, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets a shot at being a head coach. He has coached under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma since 1999, serving as the defensive coordinator since 2004. Pulling Stoops away from Oklahoma isn’t likely, so why not get his best assistant? Venables is a Kansas State alum – could he be more interested in waiting for that job?

Longshots

Mark Dantonio, head coach, Michigan State – Dantonio worked as an assistant under Jim Tressel at Ohio State from 2001-03, and has been a solid head coach during his tenure at Michigan State (39-20). However, Dantonio recently got a raise at Michigan State, and Ohio State may wish to separate itself from the Tressel era.

Ron English, head coach, Eastern Michigan – English has resurrected Eastern Michigan into a MAC West title contender this year. Through eight games, the Eagles are a respectable 5-3. While five wins may not seem like much, the last time Eastern Michigan had more than four wins was in 1995. English may not be on Ohio State’s radar, but he’s due for a shot at a BCS school.

Luke Fickell, head coach, Ohio State – There’s still a possibility Fickell returns in 2012, but it seems the odds are stacked against him. The Buckeyes are 4-3 entering Week 9, with losses to Miami, Michigan State and Nebraska. Although Ohio State has suffered some tough defeats and has a young team, there’s a lot of doubt about Fickell’s ability to keep this program among the best in the Big Ten.

Pat Fitzgerald, head coach, Northwestern – Although Fitzgerald is a Northwestern alum and has a contract through 2020, he could get restless if facility improvements continue to drag out. Fitzgerald was targeted by Michigan in its search last season, but was not interested in the position. Fitzgerald would be a great fit at Ohio State, but it would be difficult for him to leave behind his alma mater.

Jon Gruden, ESPN analyst – Gruden has been out of coaching since 2008, but his name continues to pop up for open gigs. He recently inked an extension to stay on as an analyst with Monday Night Football, but can’t be ruled out from returning to coaching. Gruden seems more likely to return to the NFL, as he hasn’t coached in college since 1991.

Skip Holtz, head coach, South Florida – With the uncertainty of the Big East and South Florida’s future conference, would Holtz consider leaving? After a 4-0 start, the Bulls have lost their last three games, so some of the appeal of Holtz has cooled.

Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU – With the Horned Frogs moving to the Big 12, Patterson isn’t going anywhere.

Paul Petrino, offensive coordinator, Illinois – Petrino is a darkhorse candidate. In his two years at Illinois, Petrino has made a positive impact on the offense. The Fighting Illini finished fourth in the Big Ten in scoring and total offense last year. Illinois ranks 23rd nationally in rushing offense through eight games and fourth in the Big Ten in total offense.

Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State – Petersen’s name always pops up for any BCS job that comes open, but it would be a major surprise if he left Boise State.

Gary Pinkel, head coach, Missouri – Pinkel has done a nice job of elevating Missouri football during his tenure, but how much higher can this program go, particularly if it joins the SEC? Pinkel does not have any experience in the Big Ten, but is from Ohio and has a solid 150-86-3 record as a head coach, including a solid stint at Toledo. A longshot, but would be a safe hire by Ohio State.

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma, head coach, Oklahoma – Stoops has a great job at Oklahoma and seems more likely to consider leaving for the NFL than another college. Although he was born in Youngstown, expect Stoops to have little interest in leaving Oklahoma this offseason.

Mark Stoops, Florida State – Stoops’ profile has been on the rise over the last two years, as he has helped to improve Florida State’s defense under Jimbo Fisher. Stoops played at Iowa, so he has familiarity with the Big Ten. Although Stoops has done a nice job in Tallahassee, he may need another year or two before he gets a look as a head coach.

Charlie Strong, head coach, Louisville – Barring a major change of heart, Strong can be crossed off the rumor mill for any head coaching spot that comes open. He recently received a contract extension, designed to keep him at Louisville until 2018. No one knows what conference Louisville will be in two years from now, but it would be a surprise if Strong isn’t the coach.

Teaser:
<p> Ohio State is expected to be one of the top coaching jobs open at the end of the season. Which coaches will the Buckeyes target?</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 11:11
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-bolts-big-12-big-east-about-die
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Defections have hit the Big East hard over the last few months and it appears the conference is going to lose another team: West Virginia has decided to leave the Big East for the Big 12. With Missouri all set to become the 14th member of the SEC, the addition of the Mountaineers returns the Big 12 to 10 members.

West Virginia’s arrival date into the Big 12 is uncertain. The Big East plans to make Syracuse and Pittsburgh honor the conference’s 27-month waiting period to leave for the ACC, so it’s likely the Mountaineers will have to follow the same path. In other words, it could be a few years before West Virginia actually plays its first Big 12 game.

Losing West Virginia is a huge blow to the Big East. The Mountaineers were the conference’s top program, finishing in the Associated Press top 25 six out of the last nine seasons.

In addition to losing West Virginia, the Big East has dealt with the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, along with TCU over the last few months.

Had the Mountaineers stayed in the Big East, it’s likely the conference would have survived.

Now, it’s uncertain if the Big East will survive as a football conference or keep its automatic spot into the BCS.

The Big East has only five members committed to the conference: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida. And there could be future defections.

The Big 12 has committed to a 10-team conference for the immediate future, but Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida could be targets for future expansion. Connecticut and Rutgers are also interested in joining the ACC.

Although the Big East plans to invite Boise State, Houston, SMU, UCF and a couple of others to get to a 12-team conference, it’s uncertain if that would be able to keep an automatic spot in the BCS. And with West Virginia’s departure, it’s fair to wonder if Boise State, Houston, SMU or UCF are concerned about the long-term viability of the Big East and decline an invitation.

West Virginia will be an odd fit in the Big 12, as it will be the eastern-most member of the conference by a wide margin. All of the Big 12 teams were located in the middle of the country and in four states: Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. However, realignment has eliminated geography as a factor with conferences.

The Mountaineers were the Big 12’s best option when it came time to deciding a replacement for Missouri. West Virginia has recruited Florida well as a member of the Big East, but expect it to try to build pipelines into Texas as a member of the Big 12.

The move to the Big 12 is a homecoming for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. The first-year coach is from Iowa, and coached under Mike Leach at Texas Tech and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State.

The move is a win for both sides. The Big 12 gets a program that is a top 25 contender in football and basketball in most seasons. This move helps the Mountaineers exit a conference that is on life support, for one that is surprisingly stable after potential defections in the summer. Although the geographic fit is strange, this move is good for West Virginia and the Big 12.

Distance from Morgantown to Big 12 teams

Baylor: 1,297 miles
Iowa State: 871 miles
Kansas: 901 miles
Kansas State: 982 miles
Oklahoma: 1,138 miles
Oklahoma State: 1,084 miles
TCU: 1,235 miles
Texas: 1,398 miles
Texas Tech: 1,465 miles

West Virginia’s Record Against Current Big 12 Teams

Baylor: Have not played
Iowa State: Have not played
Kansas: Mountaineers lead series 1-0
Kansas State: Series is tied 1-1
Oklahoma: Series is tied 2-2
Oklahoma State: Mountaineers lead series 2-1
TCU: Mountaineers lead series 1-0
Texas: Mountaineers lead series 1-0
Texas Tech: Mountaineers lead series 1-0

Teaser:
<p> With Missouri leaving for the SEC, West Virginia has decided to leave the Big East for the Big 12.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 16:36
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-sec-5
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 8 SEC Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Alabama (8-0) – The countdown is officially on to Nov. 5. Alabama had a sluggish first half against Tennessee, but pulled away in the final two quarters for a 37-6 victory. Running back Trent Richardson was held under 100 yards by the Volunteers, but still managed to reach the endzone twice. Alabama’s defense has been stellar all season and has held its last three opponents to less than 200 total yards. Although it was not the Crimson Tide’s best performance, their hold on the No. 1 spot in the SEC power rankings is secure.

2. LSU (8-0) – As mentioned previously in our SEC power rankings, if Alabama is No. 1, LSU is No. 1b. There’s not much separation between these two teams, but the much-anticipated matchup in Tuscaloosa is just around the corner. The Tigers handled Auburn 45-10 on Saturday, which was their third consecutive victory of at least 30 points. LSU is expected to get suspended cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon and running back Spencer Ware reinstated before the Nov. 5 showdown against Alabama.

3. Arkansas (6-1) – The Razorbacks were heavy favorites against Ole Miss, but the Rebels led at halftime and lost by only five points. Quarterback Tyler Wilson led the way with 232 passing yards, while running back Dennis Johnson ran for 160 yards and one score. Outside of the season finale against LSU, the Razorbacks should be favored to win the rest of their games, starting with Saturday’s contest against Vanderbilt. Arkansas still has SEC West title hopes, but needs Alabama to lose twice and has to beat LSU on Nov. 25.

4. South Carolina (6-1) – Life without Marcus Lattimore begins on Saturday. The Gamecocks are in control of the SEC East, but it’s going to be a challenge to win the division without Lattimore. South Carolina will have to lean on freshman back Brandon Wilds to carry the workload, while quarterback Connor Shaw and the defense will have to step up. The Gamecocks are at Tennessee this Saturday, a team they have beaten two out of the last three tries, but have not won in Knoxville since 2005.

5. Georgia (5-2) – If the Bulldogs want to win the SEC East, a victory on Saturday against Florida is a must. Georgia enters Week 9 riding a five-game winning streak, and Saturday’s matchup against the Gators is the toughest remaining conference game on its schedule. The Bulldogs have not had much success against Florida in recent years, winning only two out of the last 13 matchups. One bit of bad news for Georgia during its off week – safety Shawn Williams and nose guard Kwame Geathers were suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game due to their actions in the win over Vanderbilt on Oct. 15.

6. Auburn (5-3) – Even with three key LSU players suspended, it was a tall order for Auburn to win in Baton Rouge. Auburn’s 45-10 loss to LSU was its biggest margin of defeat this year and puts its overall record at 5-3 entering Week 9. Clint Moseley got his first start at quarterback against LSU and completed 12 of 20 passes for 145 yards and one interception. Moseley is expected to start in Auburn’s game against Ole Miss this Saturday. The Tigers have won four out of their last six games against the Rebels.

7. Florida (4-3) – Thanks to a much-needed bye week, the Gators should get quarterback John Brantley back under center for Saturday’s game against Georgia. Brantley has missed the last two contests, after suffering an ankle injury in the 38-10 loss to Alabama. The Gators can still win the SEC East, but any comeback has to start with a win over the Bulldogs on Saturday. Florida also needs to beat South Carolina when the two teams meet on Nov. 12.

8. Tennessee (3-4) – A brutal October schedule, combined with a thumb injury to quarterback Tyler Bray, has made life very difficult for the Volunteers. Tennessee is riding a three-game losing streak entering Saturday’s contest against South Carolina. To help provide a spark, the Volunteers have turned the offense over to true freshman quarterback Justin Worley. Tennessee still has a shot to get to a bowl game, but beating an improving Vanderbilt team on Nov. 19 could decide the SEC’s last team into the postseason.

9. Mississippi State (3-4) – The Bulldogs had a bye in Week 8 and return to action on Saturday at Kentucky. Mississippi State is still searching for its first win in SEC play, and needs three more victories to get bowl eligible. The Bulldogs have a favorable path to six wins, especially with Kentucky, Tennessee-Martin and Ole Miss remaining on the schedule. Saturday’s game against the Wildcats will likely see Tyler Russell make his second start at quarterback for Mississippi State.

10. Vanderbilt (4-3) – Running back Zac Stacy gashed Army for 198 yards and three scores, which was more than enough for Vanderbilt to post a 44-21 victory over the Black Knights. Also helping the cause was Jordan Rodgers’ first start at quarterback. The junior threw for 186 yards, while adding 96 more on the ground. The win over Army snapped a three-game losing streak for Vanderbilt and puts it two wins away from reaching a bowl. The Commodores host Arkansas this Saturday.

11. Ole Miss (2-5) – The Rebels showed some signs of life on Saturday, opening up a 17-7 at the half over Arkansas. However, Ole Miss was unable to keep the Razorbacks’ offense in check the full game, eventually losing 29-24. Quarterback Randall Mackey seems to have provided a spark for the Rebels’ offense, totaling 249 yards and three scores in Saturday’s game. There’s no doubt coach Houston Nutt needs wins in order to save his job for 2012. The Rebels travel to Auburn this Saturday, before making a trip to Lexington to play Kentucky on Nov. 5.

12. Kentucky (3-4) – The Wildcats snapped a four-game losing streak on Saturday, defeating Jacksonville State 38-14. Kentucky’s offense has been a sore spot all year, but quarterback Morgan Newton completed 10 of 16 throws for 105 yards and two scores, while running back CoShik Williams ran for 148 yards. While getting a victory is nice, let’s see if Kentucky can build upon that momentum on Saturday against Mississippi State. Neither team has a win in SEC play, but the Wildcats are big underdogs.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the SEC stack up after Week 8?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 07:31
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-acc-5
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 8 ACC Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Clemson (8-0) – The Tigers remained unbeaten with a 59-38 win over North Carolina on Saturday. Clemson’s offense had limited success on the ground against the Tar Heels, due to an injury to running back Andre Ellington. Although Ellington was missed, he really wasn’t needed, as quarterback Tajh Boyd (367 yards, five scores) and receiver Sammy Watkins (8 rec., 91 yards and one touchdown) carried the day for the Clemson offense. Although doubts remain about the Tigers’ defense, it’s going to be very difficult for any of the remaining opponents on Clemson’s schedule to stop its offense. The Tigers travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech this Saturday.

2. Virginia Tech (7-1) – Since posting a lackluster performance against Clemson on Oct. 1, the Hokies have shown signs of life on offense, posting three consecutive games of at least 30 points. Quarterback Logan Thomas appears to be a much-improved player over the last few weeks, throwing six touchdowns and no interceptions in Virginia Tech’s last three games. The Hokies defeated Boston College 30-14 on Saturday, and assumed control of the ACC Coastal with Georgia Tech’s loss to Miami. Virginia Tech plays at Duke this Saturday.

3. Miami (4-3) – The Hurricanes are just above .500, but a look at their resume shows this is a solid team. Miami lost by eight in the opener to Maryland, four to undefeated Kansas State and a narrow three-point defeat to Virginia Tech two weeks ago. The Hurricanes seem to be finding their stride under first-year coach Al Golden, particularly after Saturday’s 24-7 win over Georgia Tech. In the victory, the defense held the Yellow Jackets to 134 rushing yards, while preventing any big plays by quarterback Tevin Washington and receiver Stephen Hill. Miami still has a chance to win the ACC Coastal, but it needs a little help in the form of a Virginia Tech loss. The Hurricanes host Virginia on Thursday night this week.

4. Georgia Tech (6-2) – After a 6-0 start, it looked like Georgia Tech was going to cruise to an ACC Coastal title. Not anymore. The Yellow Jackets have dropped back-to-back games, and their offense has started to sputter the last few weeks. After scoring at least 35 points in the first five games of the year, Georgia Tech has not managed more than 21 in its last three games. The Yellow Jackets will always rely on the run, but the passing attack has to hit a few plays to help take some of the pressure off the rushing game. Can Georgia Tech get back on track this Saturday? It won’t be easy with Clemson coming to Atlanta.

5. Wake Forest (5-2) – The Demon Deacons are probably the only team that has a shot to knock off Clemson from the top spot in the Atlantic, and they kept pace with the Tigers with a 24-23 win over Duke on Saturday. Wake Forest hits the road for a key trip to North Carolina this week. The offense has been without running back Josh Harris due to a hamstring injury the last two weeks, but is expected to return to the lineup. A win over the Tar Heels would give Wake Forest the North Carolina ACC championship, as it already has wins over Duke and NC State.

6. Florida State (4-3) – The Seminoles are going to fall short of lofty preseason expectations, but there’s still plenty to play for. Florida State has won back-to-back games (both by the score of 41-16), and if it wins out, can finish with a 9-3 record. In Saturday’s win over Maryland, running back Devonta Freeman breathed some life into the rushing attack, posting 100 yards and one score. Quarterback EJ Manuel has been solid in his return from a shoulder injury, throwing five touchdowns over his last three games. The Seminoles host NC State this Saturday.

7. North Carolina (5-3) – The Tar Heels hope to snap a two-game losing streak this Saturday, as they host in-state rival Wake Forest. North Carolina has started to slide in the power rankings over the last two weeks, and there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding this team going forward. Interim coach Everett Withers’ future with the program is up in the air and will largely be determined over the next few weeks. After Saturday’s game against Wake Forest, the Tar Heels have back-to-back road games against NC State and Virginia Tech.

8. NC State (4-3) – After a disappointing 2-3 start, the Wolfpack has righted the ship the last few weeks. NC State has posted back-to-back wins, including Saturday’s 28-14 victory over Virginia. Quarterback Mike Glennon was a question mark entering this season, but has proven to be more than adequate, throwing for 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. Injuries have factored heavily into NC State’s record, but it still has a shot to get bowl eligible with five games remaining. The Wolfpack play at Florida State this Saturday.

9. Virginia (4-3) – The Cavaliers were unable to build off the 24-21 upset win over Georgia Tech, losing 28-14 to NC State on Saturday. Virginia has yet to settle on a quarterback this year, and coach Mike London can’t be pleased with his passing attack after watching David Watford and Michael Rocco combine for 11 of 35 for 125 passing yards and three interceptions on Saturday. The Cavaliers travel to Miami to take on the Hurricanes on Thursday night.

10. Maryland (2-5) – Are the Terrapins back to square one with their quarterback situation? In Saturday’s 41-16 loss to Florida State, starter C.J. Brown was knocked out of the game and replaced by former No. 1 passer Danny O’Brien. Brown completed 11 of 19 throws for only 92 yards, while O’Brien threw for 180 yards on nine completions. Coach Randy Edsall has indicated the starter for Saturday’s game against Boston College would be a gametime decision. The Terrapins are a longshot to get bowl eligible, but if they have any hope, beating the Eagles on Saturday is a must.

11. Duke (3-4) – Although the Blue Devils fell short in their bid to beat Wake Forest, they deserve credit for rallying from a 17-3 deficit at halftime. Duke had a chance to drive for the winning score late, but quarterback Sean Renfree’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete with just over a minute to go. The Blue Devils have lost two in a row, putting their bowl hopes on life support with five games remaining. Duke hosts Virginia Tech this Saturday, before hitting the road to play at Miami on Nov. 5.

12. Boston College (1-6) – Coach Frank Spaziani hoped the bye week would help find some answers for his team. Unfortunately for Spaziani and the Eagles, the outcome wasn’t much better than the previous weeks, as Boston College remained winless in conference play with a 30-14 defeat to Virginia Tech. With five games remaining, it’s going to be very difficult for the Eagles to get bowl eligible – especially with a schedule that features games against Florida State, Notre Dame and Miami in November. Barring an upset, Boston College could be looking at a 1-11 record at the end of the year. 

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the ACC stack up after Week 8?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 07:21
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-east-5
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Post-Week 8 Big East Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Cincinnati (6-1) – Thanks to a 37-34 win over South Florida on Saturday, the Bearcats are the new No. 1 team in the Big East power rankings. Quarterback Zach Collaros made several clutch plays in the victory, finishing with 389 passing yards and three touchdowns. The Bearcats struggled to stop South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels, but also forced four turnovers. Cincinnati has won five in a row and is the only Big East team without a loss in conference play. The Bearcats are off this Saturday, before returning to action on Nov. 5 at Pittsburgh.

2. West Virginia (5-2) – Due to a 49-23 loss to Syracuse, the Mountaineers relinquish the No. 1 spot in the power rankings for the first time this season. There weren’t many positives in the loss, as both sides of the ball had issues for West Virginia. Quarterback Geno Smith threw two interceptions, but didn’t get much help from the rushing attack or offensive line. The Mountaineers’ defense also struggled to get stops, allowing Syracuse to collect 443 yards of total offense. West Virginia hits the road for a matchup against Rutgers this Saturday.

3. Rutgers (5-2) – The Scarlet Knights make a slight drop in this week’s power rankings. Rutgers had its four-game winning streak snapped on Friday night, losing 16-14 to Louisville. Winning the turnover battle has been huge for the Scarlet Knights this season, but they were on the losing end of that statistic against the Cardinals. Freshman quarterback Gary Nova threw three interceptions, while Louisville only turned the ball over once. Rutgers is still in good shape in conference play, especially with West Virginia visiting Piscataway this Saturday.

4. Syracuse (5-2) – The Orange were heavy underdogs on Friday night, but pulled off one of Week 8’s big upsets by beating West Virginia 49-23. Quarterback Ryan Nassib posted a solid performance, throwing for 229 yards and three scores. The defense did a good job of pressuring West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, along with forcing him into two interceptions. The win on Friday gives Syracuse its first back-to-back wins over the Mountaineers since 2000-2001. The Orange play at Louisville this Saturday.

5. Pittsburgh (3-4) – The Panthers had a bye in Week 8 and will return to action on Wednesday night against Connecticut. Pittsburgh is reeling just a bit, as it has lost back-to-back games and still needs three wins to get bowl eligible. If the Panthers want to get into the postseason, beating the Huskies are a must. Coach Todd Graham has been frustrated with the production from his offense, but will be sticking with Tino Sunseri as his quarterback. Sunseri has struggled, but hasn’t received much help from his offensive line.

6. South Florida (4-3) – A promising 4-0 start has suddenly been washed away with three straight losses. The Bulls looked like one of the top teams in the Big East early this year, but are likely out of the conference race due to the recent losses. South Florida is coming off a 37-34 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday, which makes it the only team in the Big East without a conference win. The Bulls have a bye this Saturday, which comes at a good time for a team that is desperate for wins just to get bowl eligible.

7. Louisville (3-4) – The Cardinals are starting a handful of young players, and it appears things are starting to come together. Louisville snapped a three-game losing streak, defeating Rutgers 16-14 to earn its first Big East win in 2011. The Cardinals finally got their rushing game on track, getting 108 yards from sophomore back Jeremy Wright, while Dominique Brown and Victor Anderson combined for 78 more. Freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress, completing 10 of 18 throws for 122 yards and one score. Louisville still has a lot of work to do in order to get bowl eligible, but a win over Syracuse on Saturday would help postseason hopes.

8. Connecticut (3-4) – The Huskies had a bye in Week 8 and are back in action on Wednesday night at Pittsburgh. Connecticut’s off week came at a good time, as the team upset South Florida to earn its first Big East win of 2011. With the Huskies having some momentum, the bye week allowed them some time to look back and fix some of the mistakes from the first half. The offense is still a concern, particularly at quarterback with Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings getting snaps each week. Connecticut is unlikely to repeat as Big East champs, but returning to a bowl game is still within reach.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big East stack up after Week 8?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 24, 2011 - 07:50

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