Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-texas-am-aggies-preview-and-prediction

Texas A&M and LSU have played 50 times, but the 2012 meeting will be the first as SEC foes. These two campuses are separated by less than 400 miles, and this is a crucial game in the fertile recruiting area of Texas and Louisiana.

So far, Texas A&M’s debut season in the SEC has been a success. The Aggies suffered a three-point loss to Florida in the opener but have won their last two conference games. Texas A&M rallied to beat Ole Miss on Oct. 6 and destroyed Arkansas 58-10 on Sept. 29.

LSU suffered a 14-6 loss to Florida two weeks ago but rebounded with a 23-21 victory over South Carolina last Saturday. Not only was the win over the Gamecocks a huge confidence boost, but also the Tigers were able to keep pace with Alabama in the SEC West standings.

Storylines to Watch in LSU vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel vs. LSU’s defense
It’s not often a redshirt freshman quarterback comes into the SEC and makes a run at the Heisman Trophy but that’s exactly what Manziel has done through the first seven weeks of the season. Johnny Football leads the SEC with 676 rushing yards and is tied with South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore for the No. 1 spot in rushing touchdowns with 10. Manziel is completing 67.4 percent of his throws and ranks third in the conference with an average of 280 passing yards a game. Although the redshirt freshman has been one of this season’s breakout players and one of the top-10 candidates to win the Heisman after seven weeks, Saturday’s matchup against LSU is easily his toughest assignment. The Tigers are the fastest defense Texas A&M has played since the season opener against Florida and rank second nationally in pass defense and total yards allowed per game. Manziel is certainly a special player and will have his moments against the Tigers’ defense. However, expect LSU to counter with several different looks to confuse Manziel, as well as keeping him in the pocket to not allow him to get to the edge to make plays with his feet. Helping Manziel’s cause on offense is two NFL tackles in Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. These two linemen will be in charge of keeping two of the best pass-rush ends (Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo) away from Manziel.

Can LSU get its passing game on track?
It’s no secret the Tigers build their offense on a punishing ground attack and rely on timely plays from their passing game to keep the chains moving. After watching Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee struggle last season, most LSU fans expected Zach Mettenberger to be an upgrade at quarterback. However, that hasn’t been the case, as the junior college recruit ranks 10th in the conference in SEC-only games with 158.3 yards per game and ranks 12th in passing efficiency. Although LSU doesn’t want to throw it 40 times a game, as Louisiana Tech showed against Texas A&M last week, there are holes in the Aggies’ secondary. Texas A&M ranks 107th nationally against the pass, but its defensive line has helped to make up for some of the struggles by registering 3.2 sacks a game. Mettenberger may not top 200 passing yards in this game, but he needs to be efficient and play mistake-free ball to give LSU a chance to win.

Texas A&M’s defensive line vs. LSU’s offensive line
LSU’s offensive line was a huge concern going into last week’s game against South Carolina, but the unit responded with one of its best showings of the season. With Alex Hurst and Chris Faulk out – two potential All-American tackles – the Tigers gashed the Gamecocks for 258 yards and two scores. This unit will be under pressure once again, as it will be greeted by a hostile environment in College Station, along with one of the nation’s most underrated defensive ends in Damontre Moore. The junior has 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss through the first six weeks and will be a tough assignment for LSU left tackle Josh Dworaczyk. Texas A&M is allowing 147.7 rushing yards per game in SEC play, which is one area the Tigers will look to exploit. LSU has one of the deepest backfields in college football and received a boost from true freshman Jeremy Hill in the win over South Carolina last week. The Aggies aren’t bad against the run, but this is one area LSU should be able to take advantage of on Saturday afternoon.

Final Analysis

With a raucous home crowd for Texas A&M, LSU needs to weather the early storm and avoid any big mistakes in the first quarter. The Aggies need quarterback Johnny Manziel to be a playmaker but also need a big day from running backs Ben Malena and Christine Michael. If the Tigers control the line of scrimmage and keep Manziel contained in the pocket, the Aggies will struggle to get their offense on track.

When LSU has the ball, look for the Aggies to load the line of scrimmage and force Mettenberger to win this game through the air. The Tigers will have opportunities to make plays in the passing game but need to contain Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore.

Expect a tight game into the fourth quarter, but LSU’s edge in depth will show, as it will take control of the trenches in the second half and wear down the Aggies.

Final Prediction: LSU 27, Texas A&M 20 

by Steven Lassan


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<p> LSU Tigers vs. Texas A&amp;M Aggies Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:08
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-gamecocks-vs-florida-gators-preview-and-prediction

Even with South Carolina’s loss to LSU last week, Saturday’s game between Florida and South Carolina is one of the marquee games for Week 8. The Gamecocks still have national and SEC title aspirations but another loss would eliminate those possibilities. Florida ranked No. 2 in the first release of the BCS standings and needs a victory over South Carolina to strengthen its grip on the No. 1 spot in the SEC East. The Gators take on Georgia next Saturday, so wins over the Gamecocks and Bulldogs would likely assure Will Muschamp’s team a spot in Atlanta in early December.  

Florida dominated South Carolina in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the Gamecocks have won the last two matchups. The Gators fell 17-12 in Columbia last season, while South Carolina won 36-14 in Gainesville in 2010.

While much of the focus for this matchup will be on the field, let’s not forget about the old ball coach’s return to the Swamp. Gainesville is certainly a special place for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, but there’s no doubt he wants to go into the Swamp and exit with a victory. Spurrier is 3-4 in seven career games against Florida and is 1-2 in games played in Gainesville.

Storylines to Watch in South Carolina vs. Florida

Will South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore play?
In last week’s loss to LSU, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore ran for a season-low of 35 yards on 13 attempts. However, that wasn’t the only bad news, as the junior back suffered a hip injury and may not be able to play in this Saturday’s game against Florida. If Lattimore cannot go, it would be a huge setback for the Gamecocks’ offense. Of course, there’s always the thought coach Steve Spurrier is playing mind games with the Gators, and the junior back will play in Saturday’s game. Freshman Mike Davis and senior Kenny Miles  - a combined 217 yards this season - will carry the workload if Lattimore cannot play. Quarterback Connor Shaw ranks second on the team with 280 rushing yards and will figure more into the rushing attack if Davis and Miles are forced into action. Florida ranks 20th nationally against the run, so it’s unlikely South Carolina would be able to have a huge day on the ground. However, Lattimore’s presence would be a huge boost to the Gamecocks’ offense and is a significant setback if he is unable to play.

Will South Carolina’s defense hold Florida’s Mike Gillislee in check?
There’s really no secret what Florida wants to do on offense. The Gators are averaging 233.3 rushing yards per game and rank 114th nationally in passing offense. Running back Mike Gillislee has been one of the nation’s best running backs through the first half of the season, recording 615 yards and seven touchdowns on 120 attempts. Gillislee rushed for 146 yards in the victory against LSU and seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. South Carolina has been stout against the run this year but allowed LSU to record 258 yards and two scores last week. In addition to trying to shore up last Saturday’s problems, the Gamecocks could be shorthanded this week. Defensive tackles Byron Jerideau and J.T. Surratt are nursing ankle injuries, while Kelcy Quarles may not play due to a shoulder problem. Additionally, South Carolina's top pass rusher (Jadeveon Clowney) is also questionable with a foot injury. At full strength, the Gamecocks’ defensive line should be able to hold their own against Gillislee and the Gators’ offensive line. However, the injuries are adding up, and Florida should own an edge in the trenches.

Which quarterback will make the most plays: Connor Shaw or Jeff Driskel?
With two of the SEC’s best defenses and running backs squaring off, it’s not crucial for either quarterback to have a huge game throwing the ball. However, it’s about timely plays and not making big mistakes. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw ranks 14th nationally in passing efficiency and has thrown only two interceptions in four SEC games. Florida’s Jeff Driskel has not thrown for more than 100 yards in each of his last two contests, but the sophomore is making big plays on the ground, including a 70-yard scamper against Vanderbilt. Neither quarterback will throw for 300 yards in this game but converting third downs and keeping drives alive with their legs will be two areas both quarterbacks can make an impact. Shaw has the edge in playmakers at receiver, which will be crucial with this matchup expected to be undecided deep into the fourth quarter.

Special teams…the x-factor
As with every big game, keep a close eye on the special teams. South Carolina punt returner Ace Sanders is averaging 17.4 yards per punt return and took one for a touchdown against Missouri. The Gators don’t have a standout on returns this season but have the edge on field goals and punts. Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis has converted 11 of 13 attempts, while punter Kyle Christy is averaging 46.4 yards per kick.

Can Florida’s defensive line take advantage of South Carolina’s offensive line?
Even though the Gamecocks are 6-1 and clobbered Georgia 35-7 two weeks ago, the offensive line is a significant question mark for this team. Line coach Shawn Elliott has shuffled some players around, but the front five is allowing 2.6 sacks a game. Florida’s defensive line seems to be getting stronger as the year goes on and it has allowed just one rushing touchdown in the last two games. With concerns on the offensive line, expect South Carolina to move quarterback Connor Shaw around the pocket. However, the Gamecocks have to be able to move Florida’s defensive front in short-yardage situations, as well as paving the way for Lattimore, Davis and Miles to gain ground on first and second downs.

Final Analysis

Considering both teams are allowing less than 20 points a game, expect a low-scoring defensive struggle on Saturday afternoon. Injuries will play a key role in deciding the outcome of this matchup, especially with South Carolina potentially missing running back Marcus Lattimore, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and a couple of defensive tackles. The Gamecocks have the edge at quarterback, but Florida’s defense has allowed only six points in two SEC home games. Expect the Gators to once again establish their rushing attack in the second half, which will be just enough for Florida to edge South Carolina and setup a huge showdown against Georgia next week that could decide the SEC East title.

Final Prediction: Florida 20, South Carolina 17

by Steven Lassan


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<p> South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-northwestern-wildcats-preview-and-prediction

The Big Ten is having a rough 2012 campaign, and the news only got worse with the first release of the BCS standings. The conference failed to have a team inside of the top 25 and only one squad is ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. While the Big Ten has seemingly dealt with only bad news this year, the battle to win the conference title should be one of the nation’s most intriguing races. The Legends Division is a wide-open battle, with Michigan and Iowa undefeated at 2-0. Northwestern and Nebraska each have one loss, while Michigan State isn’t out of the mix at 1-2.

Considering how tight the battle is at the top of the Big Ten, Saturday’s matchup between Nebraska and Northwestern should be a crucial game to sort out the pecking order in the division. The Cornhuskers are coming off a bye week but lost 63-38 to Ohio State in its last appearance. Northwestern won 21-13 at Minnesota last week and is 10-2 in its last 12 regular season games.

These two teams have met only five times and once as Big Ten foes. Northwestern upset Nebraska 28-25 in Lincoln last year, which was its first victory over the Cornhuskers since 1931. The Cornhuskers claimed an easy victory in the 2000 Alamo Bowl against Northwestern and won the only matchup in Evanston (1931) between these two teams.

Storylines to watch in Nebraska vs. Northwestern

Can Nebraska stop Northwestern’s rushing attack?
Stopping the run has been a huge issue for the Cornhuskers this season. The off week should have allowed Bo Pelini and his defensive staff a chance to examine his team’s performance in the first half of the season and find a few answers. Will it make a difference? Nebraska’s defense is uncharacteristically ranked 91st nationally against the run and is giving up 27.7 points a game. Northwestern’s rushing attack ranks 18th nationally and has found a spark behind Venric Mark and quarterback Kain Colter. Mark has 797 yards and eight scores through seven games, while Colter ranks second on the team with 421 yards. Considering Northwestern rushed for 207 yards last season, an improved Wildcats’ ground attack is a bad sign for Nebraska’s defense.

Can Trevor Siemian get back on track for Northwestern?
Siemian and Kain Colter form a dangerous one-two combination for the Wildcats at quarterback, and both will be expected to see significant snaps on Saturday. Northwestern’s offense seems to be at its best when Colter is used in an all-purpose role, while Siemian starts at quarterback. In last week’s win over Minnesota, Siemian completed only 1 of 7 throws for four yards. Although it’s just a one-game struggle, the sophomore is a key piece in the Northwestern attack and needs to be sharp on Saturday. However, Nebraska ranks 15th nationally against the pass and won’t give the Wildcats many easy opportunities through the air. The Cornhuskers are generating 3.5 sacks a game, so Northwestern’s quarterbacks (Siemian or Colter) needs to get rid of the ball quickly and on target.

Which Taylor Martinez will show up for Nebraska this weekend?
There’s no question Martinez is a much-improved passer. The junior is on pace to set a career-high in passing yards and is just two touchdown passes away breaking his total from last season (13). Despite his improvement, Martinez has struggled in Nebraska’s two losses. He tossed one interception and threw for 179 yards against UCLA, while throwing three picks on 25 attempts against Ohio State. Martinez is completing 72.2 percent of his throws at home but only 57.1 percent on the road. The Cornhuskers don’t need 300 passing yards from their junior quarterback, but he needs to be more efficient than he has in his career on the road. Northwestern’s secondary is allowing 270.9 yards per game, so the opportunities for big plays will be there. As Martinez goes, so goes Nebraska. Hitting some easy throws and allowing Martinez to make plays with his legs early on should help the junior ease into the game and erase some of the road demons.

Is Rex Burkhead 100 percent?
Rex Burkhead’s senior year hasn’t gone according to plan, as he suffered a knee injury in the opener and missed the next two contests. Burkhead reinjured his knee against Ohio State but is expected to play against Northwestern. However, it’s fair to wonder if Burkhead is at full strength or if he can handle 25-30 carries. Against the Buckeyes, the senior averaged 8.5 yards per carry and appeared to be close to 100 percent. Even if Burkhead isn’t at full strength, Nebraska has depth in the backfield. Ameer Abdullah leads the team with 514 yards and seven rushing scores, while averaging six yards per carry. Imani Cross and Braylon Heard are also capable of contributing, while quarterback Taylor Martinez is averaging five yards per carry this season. Even though Burkhead is ready to assume 20 carries, don’t be surprised if Abdullah gets a share of the touches.

Final Analysis

This is a crucial game for positioning in the Big Ten Legends Division and there should be no shortage of points with two of the conference’s top offenses. Nebraska is also out for revenge after Northwestern won in Lincoln last season, but there’s also plenty of focus to get things pointed in the right direction after losing at Ohio State on Oct. 6

Both offenses should be able to move the ball, with a turnover or late defensive stop likely deciding this game.

Nebraska should be motivated after losing to Ohio State, and the Cornhuskers make a late defensive stand to win and remain alive for the Big Ten Legends Division title.

Final Prediction: Nebraska 34, Northwestern 31


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<p> Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 05:54
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-byu-cougars-preview-and-prediction

Last week’s goal-line stand against Stanford moved Notre Dame to 6-0 and one step closer to getting the Irish back to a BCS bowl. With six contests remaining, Notre Dame has four games it should be heavy favorites in, while tough road matchups await the Irish against USC and Oklahoma.

With a tough road trip to Oklahoma next week, Notre Dame has to be careful not to overlook this week’s opponent: BYU. The Cougars are 4-3 but have lost to Oregon State and Boise State - a combined 10-1 record – along with rival Utah.

These two teams are the nation’s top Independent squads but have played only six games. Notre Dame holds a 4-2 edge on BYU, with the last matchup coming in 2005. The Cougars claimed victories in 1994 and 2004, but their four losses to the Irish have come by 19 points or more.  

Storylines to Watch in Notre Dame vs. BYU

Winning the turnover battle
Turnovers were a big problem for Notre Dame’s offense last season, but the Irish rank 10th nationally in turnover margin and have lost only four fumbles. The Cougars have been quite generous with turnovers this year, tossing 10 interceptions and losing four fumbles through the first seven games. Quarterback Riley Nelson has been slowed by a back injury the last few contests and has tossed six picks over his last two games. If BYU continues to give the ball away, it will have no shot to leave South Bend with a victory. The weather certainly was a factor last week, but Notre Dame lost three fumbles against Stanford, which has to be a focus for Brian Kelly and his staff this week. Although the Irish are a big favorite, losing the turnover battle is a good way to allow an underdog to hang around until the fourth quarter.

Will BYU be able to run the ball on Notre Dame’s defense?
Establishing the ground attack against Notre Dame has been nearly impossible for opposing offenses this season. The Irish rank 25th nationally in rush defense, allowing only 113.5 yards per game. Also, only three opponents have managed more than 100 yards in a game, and Notre Dame has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season. BYU ranks 52nd nationally in rushing offense, and starting running back Michael Alisa is out indefinitely due to a broken arm suffered against Utah State. With Alisa and backup dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill out, the Cougars have struggled to find a spark on the ground. True freshman Jamaal Williams has big-play potential but was held in check by Oregon State’s defense last week (36 yards). Establishing balance will be critical to BYU's upset hopes, but considering Notre Dame’s rush defense is a strength, that’s easier said than done.

Everett Golson or Tommy Rees?
Notre Dame’s quarterback carousel continued to spin last week, as Everett Golson was forced to leave the game due to a concussion. However, the redshirt freshman was cleared to practice on Wednesday and if he doesn’t suffer any setbacks, should be the starting quarterback on Saturday afternoon. Golson hasn’t posted eye-popping numbers, but he hasn’t made any huge mistakes to cost his team a chance to win and is completing 58.5 percent of his throws. Tommy Rees has been effective as a change of pace option and shined in relief duty against Stanford, completing all four of his passes for 43 yards and one touchdown. Regardless of who starts or finishes this week, it’s crucial for Notre Dame to build some confidence in Golson, especially with a trip to Oklahoma next week. BYU’s defense ranks 24th nationally against the pass but was torched by Oregon State’s backup quarterback for 332 yards last week. The Irish will have plenty of opportunities to make plays through the air, but it’s up to Golson or Rees to deliver.

Can Riley Nelson attack the Notre Dame secondary?
A back injury slowed Nelson in late September and had an underwhelming performance in his return to the lineup. Against Oregon State, Nelson threw for 305 yards but tossed three picks and completed only 28 of 51 passes. The Cougars have some weapons in the receiving corps, led by receiver Cody Hoffman and tight end Kaneakua Friel. However, Nelson won’t have an opportunity to deliver the ball downfield to his receivers if the offensive line continues to struggle. BYU’s offensive line is allowing 2.6 sacks per game, which is a bad sign against Notre Dame’s defensive front. Even though the Irish have some inexperienced players stepping into key roles at cornerback, the secondary is allowing only 173.5 yards per game. If Nelson has time to throw, Hoffman and Friel will have opportunities to make plays downfield. However, Notre Dame’s defense will certainly have other plans, as it looks to copy Oregon State's gameplan last week and force Nelson into a few mistakes to give its offense a short field and easy points. 

Final Analysis

As each week passes, the stakes get a little higher for Notre Dame. The Irish are squarely in the national title mix and next Saturday’s game against Oklahoma will be a huge measuring stick and opportunity. However, the Irish have to focus on BYU this Saturday, a team that is dangerous despite its 4-3 record.

The Cougars should be able to hang around early, especially with a defense that ranks fifth nationally in yards allowed and seventh in scoring defense. However, expect a strong performance from Notre Dame’s defense, while the offense will find its rhythm in the second half. Considering next week's opponent (Oklahoma) will be the Irish's toughest challenge of the season, this is an important game for the offense to get on track and most importantly, build some confidence for quarterback Everett Golson.

Final Prediction: Notre Dame 31, BYU 13


by Steven Lassan


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<p> Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 13:48
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-second-half-predictions

The first half of the college football season provided plenty of twists and turns, but the second half is really when the national championship and the conference title races will be decided. With most teams finished with their non-conference games, the focus shifts to conference play, which is arguably the best stretch of the season. And the best news for college football fans? None of the six BCS conferences is decided, which means there are plenty of big games in the second half of the year.

If you can’t watch any more games the rest of the season, don’t worry: We have predicted how the conference and national title races will play out, along with a few random predictions to monitor over the next seven weeks.

ACC Second-Half Preview and Prediction

Barring a lot of chaos, the ACC won’t have a team play for the national title this season. However, the conference title race could be one of the nation’s most intriguing battles. North Carolina has the inside track on the Coastal Division but is ineligible to play for the conference championship. Miami and Virginia Tech would be next in line, but neither team has seized the No. 1 spot. Until a surprising 17-16 loss at NC State, Florida State was in the mix for the national championship. The Seminoles are the favorites to win the Atlantic title but need NC State to lose at least once. Surprisingly, the only undefeated team in ACC play is Maryland. After a disastrous first season, Randy Edsall has the Terrapins moving in the right direction.

Predicted Atlantic Division Winner: Florida State

Predicted Coastal Division Winner: Virginia Tech (North Carolina ineligible)

Predicted ACC Championship: Florida State over Virginia Tech

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Virginia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 20)
Florida State at Miami (Oct. 20)
Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 1)
Florida State at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8)
NC State at Clemson (Nov. 17)

Big East Second-Half Preview and Predictions

The Big East has unfairly been a national punching bag for the last two seasons, but this season the conference has three teams ranked inside of the top 25 in the BCS standings. Louisville was the preseason favorite, but Rutgers and Cincinnati are a combined 11-0 through the first seven weeks. The middle of the conference is jumbled, but newcomer Temple is a surprising 2-0, and Pittsburgh has shown flashes of promise. The Bearcats have quietly flown under the radar, thanks to a relatively soft schedule. However Cincinnati's Oct. 26 date at Louisville will provide a better assessment of where this team stands. If Rutgers and Louisville continue on their current respective courses, these two teams should be unbeaten for a Nov. 29 showdown in New Jersey, which should decide the champion of the Big East.

Predicted Champion: Louisville

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Cincinnati at Louisville (Oct. 26)
Rutgers at Cincinnati (Nov. 17)
Rutgers at Pittsburgh (Nov. 24)
Louisville at Rutgers (Nov. 29)

Big Ten Second-Half Preview and Predictions

With NCAA sanctions banning Ohio State and Penn State from postseason play, the Big Ten is without a team in the top 25 of the BCS standings. The conference also struggled to earn respect in the non-conference portion of the schedule, which makes bowl season even more important for this league. After Wisconsin’s win over Purdue last Saturday, the Badgers are the clear frontrunner in the Leaders Division. The Legends Division race should be one of the most intriguing battles the rest of the way, with Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan State and Nebraska all harboring division title hopes. Michigan is getting better on defense, while its offense remains deadly with Denard Robinson at quarterback. The Big Ten has taken some hits this year but expect at least two teams to finish in the top 25 of the BCS standings.

Predicted Leaders Division Champion: Wisconsin (Ohio State ineligible)

Predicted Legends Division Champion: Michigan

Predicted Big Ten Championship: Michigan over Wisconsin


Key Conference Games to Watch:

Nebraska at Northwestern (Oct. 20)
Michigan State at Michigan (Oct. 20)
Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 27)
Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 27)
Nebraska at Michigan State (Nov. 3)
Ohio State at Wisconsin (Nov. 17)
Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)

Big 12 Second-Half Preview and Predictions

With nine teams likely to get bowl eligible, the Big 12 isn’t far behind the SEC in terms of overall depth. Kansas State is the conference’s only unbeaten team, but five teams have just one conference loss, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. The Mountaineers host the Wildcats this Saturday and can jump back into the Big 12 title picture with a victory. Oklahoma’s win over Texas last week clearly shows the Sooners will be a factor in the second half of the season, while Texas Tech is a much-improved team, especially on defense where it ranks fourth nationally in yards allowed. With six one-loss teams still in the mix for the conference title, this race will likely go down to the final week of the season. Kansas State’s match-up with West Virginia this Saturday will be huge, but the Oklahoma-West Virginia and Texas Tech-Kansas State games also will be critical to the title picture. Considering how tight this conference is, it’s unlikely the champion will make it through with just one loss.

Predicted Big 12 Champion: Kansas State

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Kansas State at West Virginia (Oct. 20)
Texas Tech at Kansas State (Oct. 27)
TCU at West Virginia (Nov. 3)
West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10)
Oklahoma at West Virginia (Nov. 17)
Texas at Kansas State (Dec. 1)

Pac-12 Second-Half Preview and Predictions

The Pac-12 was widely believed to be a two-team race in the preseason, but there’s more depth than expected, especially with Oregon State’s rise into the top 10 of the polls and Arizona State’s 5-1 start. USC suffered an early setback against Stanford, but the Trojans have won three in a row and should be 7-1 heading into a Nov. 3 showdown against Oregon. The Ducks have cruised to a 6-0 start, but the schedule gets considerably tougher in the second half of the season, as they have to hit the road to play Arizona State, USC, California and Oregon State. If the Trojans want to get back in the national title discussion, they have to beat Oregon on Nov. 3. However, if the Ducks can knock off USC in the regular season and in the Pac-12 title game, they will have a strong resume and a likely spot in the BCS Championship.

Predicted Pac-12 North Champion: Oregon

Predicted Pac-12 South Champion: USC

Predicted Pac-12 Championship: Oregon over USC

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Oregon at Arizona State (Oct. 18)
UCLA at Arizona State (Oct. 27)
Oregon at USC (Nov. 3)
Oregon State at Stanford (Nov. 10)
Arizona State at USC (Nov. 10)
Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 17)
USC at UCLA (Nov. 17)
Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 24)

SEC Second-Half Preview and Predictions

The toughest conference in college football features seven ranked teams, including four among the top 10 in the BCS standings. The East Division appeared to be a two-team race between Georgia and South Carolina in the preseason, but at this point Florida looks like the team to beat. The Gators have already knocked off LSU and Texas A&M but must play South Carolina and Georgia in the next two weeks. The Gamecocks have a chance to stake their claim for the division title in Gainesville this week and already own a tiebreaker over the Bulldogs. Alabama and Mississippi State are the only unbeaten teams in the West, but the Crimson Tide are an overwhelming favorite to win the division title.

Predicted East Division Winner: Florida

Predicted West Division Winner: Alabama

SEC Championship Prediction: Alabama over Florida


Key Conference Games to Watch:

LSU at Texas A&M (Oct. 20)
South Carolina at Florida (Oct. 20)
Florida at Georgia (Oct. 27)
Mississippi State at Alabama (Oct. 27)
Texas A&M at Mississippi State (Nov. 3)
Alabama at LSU (Nov. 3)
Texas A&M at Alabama (Nov. 10)

10 Random Predictions for the Second Half of the 2012 Season

National Championship will be...Alabama vs. Oregon
The SEC’s streak of national champions will continue for one more season. The Crimson Tide will survive a road date at LSU and the SEC title game to finish 13-0 and should be heavily favored in the national championship. Oregon will have to beat USC twice, but the Ducks should find a way to make their second BCS title appearance under coach Chip Kelly.
Predicted National Champion: Alabama

BCS Bowl Predictions:

Rose: USC vs. Michigan
Fiesta: Notre Dame vs. Kansas State
Sugar: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Orange: Florida State vs. Louisville

The Heisman winner will be...Geno Smith
Sure, Smith had an off day in Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech, but every candidate gets a mulligan. The senior will have a couple of opportunities to regain the lead, especially in match-ups against Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma. Smith’s first-half resume is rock solid, as he has yet to throw an interception and leads the nation in passing efficiency. Expecting the senior to not throw an interception the rest of the way is nearly impossible, but as long as West Virginia keeps winning, Smith should be the No. 1 candidate to hoist the Heisman in early December.

Ohio State will finish unbeaten
The Buckeyes are far from a perfect team, but the schedule sets up favorably for a 12-0 record. Home games against Purdue and Illinois should be easy wins, while road trips to Wisconsin and Penn State will be swing games, along with the finale against rival Michigan. Winning in Madison and Happy Valley won’t be easy, but the Buckeyes should emerge victorious, and there’s plenty of incentive to avenge last season’s loss to Michigan. If Ohio State finishes 12-0, the decision not to take a bowl ban after a disappointing 6-6 regular season in 2011 will be a colossal failure by the athletic department.

Notre Dame will finish 10-2 and play in a BCS bowl
With wins over Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Stanford, the Irish have to be considered a legitimate national title contender. The defense is one of the nation’s best and has not allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points in a game this year. Although the defense is capable of winning a BCS title, the offense has been inconsistent, and redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson is still developing as a passer. With a schedule that features BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest, the Irish should easily reach 10 victories but losses against Oklahoma and USC will end any hope of playing for the national championship.

Oregon State’s Mike Riley will win coach of the year honors
The Beavers were picked by many to finish last in the Pac-12 North this season, but Riley and his staff have developed Oregon State into one of the most-improved teams in the nation. The Beavers are off to a 5-0 start, which includes a victory at BYU with their backup quarterback. The schedule sets up nicely for a run at 10 wins, especially with only two road games remaining the rest of the year. Even if Oregon State finishes 9-3 or 8-4, Riley will be a clear favorite to take home coach of the year honors. 

Derek Dooley and Gene Chizik will return for 2013
Dooley and Chizik rank near the top of the hot seat watch after seven games and how well their respective teams perform in the second half of the season will be crucial for their long-term future. Dooley is just 14-17 through his third season, while Chizik is 31-15 in his fourth year. Although Chizik has a winning record, take out the 14-0 national title season in 2010 and his record stands at a mediocre 17-15. Dooley didn’t inherit a great situation at Tennessee, but the Volunteers are 1-10 in their last 11 SEC games. Even though both coaches will fail to meet preseason expectations, a coaching change at either school would be a surprise. The Volunteers really can’t afford to have their fourth head coach in six seasons, while Chizik’s national title probably buys him another year. Assuming both coaches survive for 2013, they will have to win early to save their job for 2014.

No BCS Buster in 2012
Boise State was the only team outside of one of the big six conferences to crack the first release of the BCS standings. The Broncos should climb in the rankings, especially with four out of their next five opponents having only one win this year. The biggest obstacle will be a road date at Nevada in the season finale, which could decide whether or not Boise State will climb high enough in the standings to make a BCS bowl. However, the Broncos lost their last meeting in Reno and struggled on the road against New Mexico and Michigan State this season. If Boise State doesn’t qualify, Louisiana Tech and Ohio are the only other candidates who could potentially crash the BCS. Losing to Texas A&M likely ended any hopes the Bulldogs had, while Ohio’s narrow victories against MAC bottom-feeders UMass, Buffalo and Akron won’t be enough to push it high enough in the polls. Boise State is the non-AQs best shot at a BCS bowl, but the Broncos may not escape Reno with a victory.

Boston College’s Frank Spaziani will be the first BCS coach fired
Spaziani was already in serious trouble with Boston College’s 1-5 start, but the school recently hired a new athletic director and all signs point to a coaching change at the end of the year. Spaziani is 21-24 through four seasons, and the program’s win total has declined every year since 2009. Boston College isn’t an easy job, but the Eagles made a bowl game every season from 1999-2010.

There will be an unexpected BCS job become available this offseason
Even though all signs point to a relatively quiet coaching carousel this offseason, there’s always a job that becomes unexpectedly available. No one expected Todd Graham to leave Pittsburgh after one season and of course, Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle incident in April. Who knows, maybe Chip Kelly decides to revisit the NFL again? Maybe Steve Spurrier decides to retire at South Carolina? Expect one surprise BCS job to be open at the end of the season. 

Conference realignment is over…for now
The days of crazy realignment rumors should be over at least for the next few months. The Big 12 is committed to 10 teams, and the ACC isn’t likely to add any other members unless Notre Dame wants to join for football. The Big East wants to add another team for football, but the conference isn’t in any rush since Navy doesn’t join until 2015. College football’s landscape will have more changes but at least for the rest of this season, conference realignment will stay in the background. 

by Steven Lassan

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<p> College Football's Second-Half Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 08:07
Path: /college-football/acc-week-8-preview-and-predictions

There's a full slate of games in the ACC this week, as all 12 teams are in action on Saturday afternoon. Although there are no marquee top-25 games, there are some crucial conference matchups, including Florida State-Miami and Virginia Tech-Clemson. Duke hopes to get bowl eligible against North Carolina, while Virginia looks to end a five-game losing streak with a win over Wake Forest.

Other Week 8 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

ACC's Top Storylines for Week 8

Is this the week Duke gets bowl eligible?
The Blue Devils need just one more win to get bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. However, the schedule is considerably tougher over the second half of the season, and the team is reeling just a bit from the 41-20 loss to Virginia Tech last Saturday. Injuries have plagued this team this year, but coach David Cutcliffe continues to find the right answers. If the Blue Devils want to their sixth win on Saturday night, the defense will have to have one of their best efforts of the season. North Carolina has defeated Duke eight consecutive times and brings to Durham an offense averaging 40.3 points a game. The Blue Devils appear to be a much-improved team on defense, but the Tar Heels will be the best offense they have faced in 2012. Duke should be able to move the ball on North Carolina’s defense, but if it cannot slow down the Tar Heels’ combination of quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard, the Blue Devils will have to wait another week to get bowl eligible.

Is Maryland a trap game for NC State?
The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for NC State coach Tom O’Brien. With a huge win over Florida State on Oct. 6, the Wolfpack could enjoy that upset a little longer and not have to worry about a letdown last Saturday. With that victory clearly in the rearview mirror, NC State has to refocus and prep for a much-improved Maryland team. The Terrapins have already doubled their win total from last season and are the only unbeaten team remaining in the ACC. Winning in College Park has been a challenge for NC State in recent years, as the Wolfpack have lost three in a row at Maryland. Although the Terrapins are an improved team, they are still limited offensively. If NC State quarterback Mike Glennon can get on track against a Maryland secondary ranked 18th nationally against the pass, the Wolfpack should snap their losing streak in College Park. However, if Maryland controls the tempo and keeps this a low-scoring game, the Terrapins will pull off the upset.

Does Miami have any shot to beat Florida State?
The Hurricanes dominated the series with Florida State in the early 2000s, but Florida State has won five out of the last seven matchups. The Seminoles are clearly the better team but with this being a huge rivalry game, Miami will have extra motivation. Any upset bid for the Hurricanes has to hinge on the health of quarterback Stephen Morris and a defense that has been among the nation’s worst. Morris suffered an ankle injury in last week’s loss against North Carolina and is questionable to play on Saturday night. If he cannot go, Memphis transfer Ryan Williams will make his first start at Miami. Even though the quarterback play is a huge concern, the Hurricanes’ porous defense is a bigger issue. Miami ranks 117th nationally in total defense and has allowed at least 30 points in three out of four ACC games. In Florida State’s loss to NC State, coach Jimbo Fisher took a lot criticism for being too conservative on offense. The Seminoles rebounded with 649 yards and 51 points against Boston College and need to be aggressive once again. If Miami doesn’t fix its defense issues, Florida State will score at will on Saturday night. Expect the Hurricanes to try to control the clock to keep their defense off the field, but the Seminoles rank fifth nationally against the run. Never rule out an upset in a rivalry game such as this one, but Miami’s path to a victory is very, very steep.

Can Virginia Tech’s defense slow down Clemson?
The Hokies’ defense was gashed in two meetings against Clemson last season, allowing 61 combined points and surrendering 451 yards in the 38-10 loss in the ACC Championship. Virginia Tech’s defense was touted as one of the nation’s best in the preseason but has failed to live up to the hype so far. The Hokies are allowing 381.3 yards and 22 points per game and are averaging just 1.9 sacks per contest. The Tigers have been strong on offense all year, scoring at least 37 points in each of their last five games, while leading the conference in passing yards per contest. Cornerbacks Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller figure to have their hands full, especially as they try to cover receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. It’s unlikely Virginia Tech will be able to completely shut down the Tigers, but they need to get pressure on quarterback Tajh Boyd to throw off the timing of this offense and not allow any big plays.

Is this the week Virginia Tech’s offense gets on track?
Statistically, the numbers for Virginia Tech’s offense aren’t awful. The Hokies rank 54th nationally in scoring and are averaging nearly 400 yards per game (398). However, a deeper look into the statistics shows Virginia Tech ranks just seventh in ACC in total offense in conference-only games. The Hokies have picked it up on offense the last two weeks, scoring 34 points against North Carolina and 41 versus Duke last Saturday. The rushing attack has sputtered this season, but freshman J.C. Coleman ignited the ground game last week, rushing for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Although Virginia Tech may have found its answer on the ground, the offensive line has been hit hard by injuries and will be without center Andrew Miller for the rest of the year. Clemson’s defense hasn’t slowed many teams this season and has allowed at least 31 points in each of its three ACC contests. Stopping quarterback Logan Thomas will be a challenge for the Tigers defense, but if the Hokies want to win in Death Valley, they need the offensive line to step up a notch this weekend.

Which defense will step up: Boston College or Georgia Tech?
There should be no shortage of points when Boston College and Georgia Tech meet this Saturday. These two teams rank near the bottom of the ACC in total, rushing and scoring defense. This will be the Yellow Jackets’ first game after the firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh, and coach Paul Johnson promoted assistant Charles Kelly to call the plays for the rest of the year. Boston College has allowed at least 40 or more points in three of its games this season, while ranking 117th nationally against the run. Considering Georgia Tech ranks third nationally against the run, and the Eagles struggled to stop another option team earlier this year (Army), Boston College will need their best effort of the season to contain the Yellow Jackets’ rushing attack. When Boston College has the ball, it should be able to exploit Georgia Tech’s secondary (267.7 ypg). This is a critical matchup for both team’s bowl hopes and whichever defense can turn things around will help score a key victory for their team.

Can Virginia find a spark on offense against Wake Forest?
Saturday’s Wake Forest-Virginia matchup is crucial for both team’s bowl hopes. The Cavaliers have a five-game losing streak entering Saturday’s game, while the Demon Deacons have a 3-3 record and still have to play Clemson, NC State and Notre Dame. Needless to say, the loser of this game probably won’t make a bowl. Virginia’s offensive production has been puzzling this season, as the Cavaliers are averaging 423.1 yards per game but rank 10th in the ACC in scoring offense. Turnovers have been a big problem for Mike London’s team, and the rushing attack has been stuck in neutral most of the year. Alabama transfer Phillip Sims has started the last two games but has just one touchdown pass, while tossing three picks and completing less than 50 percent of his throws. Considering how Sims has played over the last two games, Virginia will likely give former starter Michael Rocco a chance to play in a relief role this week. The Demon Deacons haven’t been the toughest defense in the ACC this year but have played some quality offensive teams, including Florida State, North Carolina and a difficult team to prepare for in Army. Wake Forest ranks 10th in the ACC against the run, which should be a good sign for Virginia’s struggling ground attack. The Demon Deacons don’t usually beat themselves, which adds even more pressure for the Cavaliers to win the turnover battle this week. 

ACC Week 8 Predictions

Week 8 ACC Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Virginia Tech at Clemson Clemson 38-28 Clemson 34-30 Clemson 34-24 Clemson 33-20
Wake Forest at Virginia Wake 21-14 Virginia 24-21 Virginia 28-24 Wake 27-23
Boston College at Ga. Tech Ga. Tech 28-10 Ga. Tech 30-20 Ga. Tech 38-27 Ga. Tech 34-20
NC State at Maryland Maryland 17-10 NC State 31-24 NC State 27-20 NC State 24-17
North Carolina at Duke UNC 35-28 UNC 48-31 UNC 34-24 UNC 24-20
Florida State at Miami FSU 41-21 FSU 30-17 FSU 38-17 FSU 41-24
Last Week: 3-1 3-1 3-1 4-0
Season Record: 48-11 47-12 45-14 49-10

by Steven Lassan

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<p> ACC Week 8 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:03
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-8-upset-predictions

Week 8 of the college football season features a handful of intriguing top 25 matchups, including South Carolina-Florida and West Virginia-Kansas State. While those games will grab the national headlines, Athlon's editors give a look at the top upset picks to watch this Saturday.

College Football's Week 8 Upset Picks

Dave Bartoo (@CFBMatrix), CFBMatrix.comMaryland +3.5 vs. NC State
In a week in which my March game picks matched all but 4 FBS Vegas favorites, it is slim pickings for any CFBMatrix upset alerts. This should be a very close game.  Coach O’Brien of NC State is strong after week 7 of each college football season and their talent is equal to that of Maryland. The Terps are struggling for consistency but the key will be the home field.  When you look at the numbers for both teams home and away the average score is 23-22 in 2012.  Maryland covers and wins by one.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Northwestern (+6) over Nebraska
I have no doubt Nebraska will be motivated to avenge last season’s loss at home to Northwestern. The question, though, is if motivation will matter against the Northwestern offense. The matchup of Kain Colter and Venric Mark against the Cornhuskers defense remains a mismatch, despite the Wildcats sputtering last week against Minnesota. Nebraska’s defense can’t seem to stop the run and Nebraska is still struggling in the turnover department (minus-7 since the Southern Miss opener). Seems to be a recipe for another Northwestern upset.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Penn State (+3) at Iowa
The Hawkeyes defense has played well of late. But that was against a back-up quarterback in Minnesota's Max Shortell and Michigan State's scuffling Andrew Maxwell. I can't believe I am saying this, but Matt McGloin is the best passer of the football in the Big Ten and Iowa's defense hasn't seen one like him all season. He is taking care of the football, getting his power running game involved and letting Michael Mauti and the defense do the rest. Penn State, under Bill O'Brien, has been reenergized and is the better team. I will take the Nittany Lions to win the battle of the Big Ten unbeatens on the road. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Penn State (+3) over Iowa
Even though the Hawkeyes are coming off a huge road victory against Michigan State, I am surprised to see them favored over Penn State. The Nittany Lions have lost four in a row in Iowa City but won last season’s meeting 13-3 in Happy Valley. Penn State’s defense ranks 15th nationally, allowing just 16 points a game. Iowa has struggled to find consistency on offense all year and surprisingly, quarterback James Vandenberg has thrown only two touchdowns and has failed to top 200 yards in back-to-back games. The Hawkeyes got a spark from walk-on Mark Weisman at running back, but the sophomore is questionable to play with an ankle injury. It’s a huge concern for Iowa if Weisman cannot go, especially with Damon Bullock out with a concussion. The Hawkeyes own one of the Big Ten’s stingiest defenses but will be tested by a Penn State passing offense averaging 251.8 yards per game. Both teams have a solid defense, but the Nittany Lions are better on offense, which will be the difference in a low-scoring game.  

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Washington (+7.5) at Arizona
Washington has faced arguably the most difficult schedule in the nation to date. The Huskies have played teams ranked third (Oregon), sixth (LSU), 10th (USC) and 20th (Stanford) in the initial BCS standings. They are 1–3 in those games, with the one win coming vs. Stanford. This is not a bad team, despite its rather ordinary 3–3 overall record. Arizona got off to a 3–0 start under new coach Rich Rodriguez but has since lost three straight, all in league play. The Wildcats, too, have faced a tough slate, with Pac-12 games against Oregon (No. 3), Oregon State (No. 8) and Stanford (No. 20). One of those losses, vs. Oregon State, came by three points; another, vs. Stanford, went to overtime. Arizona is also 3–3, and like Washington, not a bad team. So which “not bad” 3–3 team is better? Well, the home-standing Wildcats are favored by more than a touchdown, and that seems a bit high. Washington 27-21  

Mark Ross: Eastern Michigan (+3.5) over Army
Yes, Eastern Michigan is still searching for its first win, but Army only has one, a three-point home victory over a Boston College team that will be under new leadership next season, if not sooner. So it's not exactly like the Eagles, who are playing at home, are going up against a Black Knight juggernaut here. Granted, Army is No. 1 in the nation in rushing (385.32 ypg), while Eastern Michigan is dead last when it comes to stopping the run (296.8 ypg), but the Knights are giving up close to 240 (114th) on the ground themselves. The Eagles also are coming off of their best performance yet, as they collected 624 yards of total offense in a 52-47 loss to Toledo last week. They piled up more than 300 yards both rushing and passing, by far their best offensive effort of the season, and the five points were their closest margin of defeat yet. It may not be pretty, but a win is a win, and that's exactly what Ron English and his team will finally get this Saturday.  

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Washington (+7.5) at Arizona
This upset seems pretty unlikely at first glance, but the struggling Huskies have played one of the most difficult schedules in the nation at the halfway point of the season. Washington quarterback Keith Price has not been the same behind a banged-up offensive line, but playing the likes of LSU, Stanford, Oregon and USC can make many players struggle. I think Price and running back Bishop Sankey will be able to move the ball against a porous Arizona defense and stay in this road game. Arizona signal caller Matt Scott has flourished under Rich Rodriguez, but the Wildcats have dropped three in a row — albeit to a trio of quality opponents. The Wildcats had a bye week to fix their defense and prepare for a much-improved Huskies defensive unit, and both teams need this win badly to build momentum in the latter half of the Pac-12 campaign. I’ll take the better defense of Washington to shock Arizona in Tucson.

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SEC Week 8 Preview and Predictions

<p> College Football Week 8 Upset Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-8-emergency-starters

This list was originally designed to assist fantasy owners with injury-riddled rosters, bye-week dilemmas, and unfavorable matchups, but the Emergency Starters has evolved into our Waiver Wire 2.0.  Over the past six weeks, many players listed in our Emergency Starters earned spots in our Waiver Wire report the following week, so don’t underestimate their long-term value. 


Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)


Cameron Coffman, Indiana vs Navy

Trent Steelman, Army at Eastern Michigan

Keenan Reynolds, Navy at Indiana

Ryan Katz, San Diego St at Nevada

Cody Vaz, Oregon St vs Utah


Running Backs

Zach Zwinak, Penn St at Iowa

Montel Harris, Temple vs Rutgers

Keith Marshall, Georgia at Kentucky

Rushel Shell, Pitt at Buffalo

Ray Holley, LA Tech vs Idaho

Johnathan Gray, Texas vs Baylor



JJ Worton, UCF at Memphis

Richy Turner, Nevada vs San Diego St

Ryan Grant, Tulane at UTEP

Antavian Wilson, Marshall at USM

Corey Fuller, Virginia Tech at Clemson


For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email to[email protected]


Steven Lassan(@AthlonSteven)


Shane Carden, ECU at UAB

Tyler Russell, Mississippi St vs MTSU

Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech vs Boston College


Running Backs

Larry Dixon, Army at Eastern Michigan

Rushel Shell, Pitt at Buffalo

George Winn, Cincinnati at Toledo


Jamison Crowder, Duke vs North Carolina

Marcus Davis, VA Tech at Clemson

Mike Davis, Texas at Baylor

Richy Turner, Nevada vs San Diego St

<p> College Fantasy Football: Week 8 Emergency Starters</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 04:53
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-8-sit-or-start-report

The first official BCS standings have been released and that means we are nearing the finish line.  However, there is still plenty of time remaining in the fantasy season, especially if you are one of those teams trying to separate from the middle of the pack and qualify for a playoff spot.  By now, the weekly top ten positional players look very similar from week-to-week, but it’s the guys with the favorable matchups that can be the difference at this stage of the game. 


Cody Vaz, QB-Oregon St vs Utah

Vaz was an impressive 20-for-32 for 332 yards and three touchdowns on the road last week in Provo.  Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton are legitimate scoring threats every time they touch the ball.

Carlos Hyde, RB-Ohio St vs Purdue

Hyde has taken his game to another level over the past two weeks, rushing for 296 yards and five touchdowns.  This week, Hyde and the Buckeyes face a Purdue defense giving up 198.7 rushing yards per game.

Andre Williams, RB-Boston College at Georgia Tech

Williams has gotten 20-plus carries for three consecutive games and topped the 100-yard mark last week against Florida State.  He should have an easier time running the ball against a Georgia Tech defense giving up 163.3 rushing yards per game.  

Stephen Houston, RB-Indiana at Navy

Houston averages a touchdown every ten touches from scrimmage.  The problem is that he hasn’t had more than 16 touches in any one game this season.  We’re projecting that he tops his season-high of 102 rushing yards back in week three.

Raymond Maples, RB-Army at Eastern Michigan

Eastern Michigan has the worst rushing defense in the nation by far, giving up 296.8 yards per game.  Odds are very good that Maples reaches 100 yards and he could finish the week as a top ten back if he can find the end zone against the Eagles.

Silas Redd, RB-USC vs Colorado

Redd has scored a touchdown in four straight games and has averaged 21 carries over the past three games.  Plus, Colorado is giving up 181.5 rushing yards per game this season.

Marcus Davis, WR-Virginia Tech at Clemson

Clemson is giving up over 240 yards per game through the air and Davis is quarterback Logan Thomas’ favorite target.  The Hokies will have to put the ball in the air often if they are to keep pace with the Tigers’ high-scoring offense.

Devin Street, WR-Pitt at Buffalo

Street has caught at least ten passes and gone over 100 yards receiving in the Panthers’ last two games.  He leads the team with 39 receptions and has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games.



Tyler Bray, QB-Tennessee vs Alabama

In three SEC games this year, Bray has thrown six touchdown passes and six interceptions.  The absence of running back Rajion Neal this week puts a bigger target on Bray’s back against a ferocious Alabama defense.

Tim Cornett, RB-UNLV at Boise St

Boise State is giving up over 160 yards per game on the ground, but Cornett has only found the end zone twice in the past five games and UNLV doesn’t figure to score many points this weekend on the blue turf.

Fitzgerald Toussaint at Michigan St

The Spartans will try to contain quarterback Denard Robinson and his big-play ability, which should create some opportunities for Toussaint.  However, the junior running back is only averaging 46 rushing yards per game and faces a defense ranked 8th nationally against the run.

John White, RB-Utah at Oregon St

In three PAC-12 games this season, White is averaging 43 yards per game and has not scored a touchdown.  In fact, the senior tailback has not topped the 100-yard mark or scored a touchdown since the opening game of the season against Northern Colorado. 

Jamaal Williams, RB-BYU at Notre Dame

Williams has certainly proved himself as a freshman and has been a fantasy factor up until this point, but don’t expect too much this week when the Cougars travel to South Bend to take on the undefeated Irish.

Justin Hunter, WR-Tennessee vs Alabama

How different is the competition in the SEC?  In three non-conference games this season, Hunter has caught 25 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns, compared to 10-157-0 in three conference games.

Marcus Lattimore, RB-South Carolina vs Mike Gillislee, RB-Florida

The defenses of South Carolina and Florida are both giving up slightly over 105 yards on the ground and 12 points per game.  If both of those numbers hold true, fantasy owners with quality depth may want to turn elsewhere at the running back position.

Cody Fajardo, QB-Nevada vs San Diego St AND Brett Smith, QB-Wyoming at Air Force

Both players are listed high in our weekly rankings, but the rankings were published with the assumption health would not be a concern by the end of the week.  Both head coaches have stated that their starting quarterback should be ready to play this weekend, but if either is listed as a game-time decision, owners must put them on the bench.  Keep in mind that both players are participating in the weekend’s two latest scheduled games, which means if either quarterback becomes a last-minute scratch, fantasy owners will get burned.  Check back later in the week for a status update regarding both players, but prepare for the worst until we know for sure.

For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email to[email protected]

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

<p> College Fantasy Football Week 8 Sit or Start Report</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 04:22
Path: /college-football/should-derek-dooley-return-tennessee-2013

Coaching in the SEC is no easy task. Even though Derek Dooley is entering the halfway point of his third season in Knoxville, he is squarely on the hot seat and needs a strong finish to 2012 to save his job. The Volunteers weren't in great shape when Dooley came to Knoxville but has the team improved under his watch?

Should Derek Dooley Return to Tennessee in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
I’ll be the first to say that Derek Dooley inherited a mess of a situation at Tennessee, one that requires time to clean up. But by Year Three, Tennessee should be looking for signs of real progress. One SEC win -- in overtime over Vanderbilt, no less -- in the last 11 games is not it. This team is better under Dooley than it was a year ago, and it would be fair to give him one more season and one class of his seniors to see it through. But the wins are what counts, and Dooley is running out of time to pick up those wins. Unless the Volunteers can defeat Alabama or South Carolina, what is his chance for a tenure-defining win? Missouri? Vanderbilt? Kentucky? That said, all Tennessee has to do is to win two of those games (plus Troy) to reach a bowl. That won’t make Tennessee fans happy, but we’re looking at a team that could reasonably finish with seven or eight wins. I still think that’s the threshold for Dooley sticking around.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): 
Derek Dooley's tenure in Knoxville is quickly becoming one of the most bizarre and complex to evaluate in the history of college football. He took over a complete dumpster fire and has obviously improved the program as a whole. He also is 0-13 against ranked opponents and is 1-10 in his last 11 SEC games. Even over the last month and a half of the season, fans will be on a rollar coaster of emotion. If things fall the way they should, Tennessee will lose to Alabama and South Carolina over the next two weeks bringing the Vols record to 3-5. And the fans will burn down talk show phone lines. Then the Vols will win four straight to end the year 7-5 on a roll with a bid to a solid bowl game. And the fans will want to give their coach an extension. Is Dooley the long-term answer in Knoxville? That remains to be seen, but a upset win in the next two — or bad losses in the last four — could seal his fate either way. For now, I think he finished 7-5 (two games better than last year) and keeps his job.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
This will be an interesting debate for Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart. The Volunteers will likely be 3-5 at the end of October but play Troy, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky in November. Barring an unlikely loss, Tennessee should finish 7-5, which would be the best mark of Dooley’s career with the Volunteers. While 7-5 isn’t awful, the standards are higher in Knoxville. Dooley didn’t inherit a full cupboard when he took over for Lane Kiffin, but Tennessee is just 1-10 in its last 11 SEC games. Even if coaching in Knoxville isn’t as good of a job as some may believe, that record simply won’t get it done. Even if Dooley returns for 2013, Tennessee could have a rebuilding project on its hands, as quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson could all leave for the NFL. If Hart decides to make a change, this is a hire he needs to get right and one that can add some much-needed long-term stability to the program. Even though the Volunteers may not finish the season ranked in the top 25, going through a coaching change is not what this program needs right now. I think Dooley survives at least one more season in Knoxville. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): 
My guess is that Derek Dooley will not be back at Tennessee for a fourth season. The numbers simply don’t add up: Heading into this week’s game vs. Alabama, Dooley is 14–17 overall and 4–15 in the SEC in his two-plus seasons as the boss in Knoxville. The Vols have lost 10 of their last 11 league games, with the only win coming in overtime at home vs. Vanderbilt. Barring a significant upset this week vs. Alabama or the following week at South Carolina, Dooley will be a combined 0–12 vs. Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida. Not good.

Mark Ross: 
Barring a complete and total collapse, I think Dooley will be back for at least one more season in Knoxville. An upset win over either Alabama or South Carolina, Tennessee's next two opponents, certainly wouldn't hurt his case, but I think Dooley's focus needs to be on the Volunteers' final four games - home against Troy, Missouri and Kentucky and on the road against Vanderbilt. At 3-3 right now, going 4-0 to close the season will give the Vols seven wins, which would be the most in three seasons under Dooley, and more importantly, guarantee a bowl bid. If Dooley doesn't get this team bowl eligible this season, I think it will be very hard for him to convince athletic director Dave Hart, who didn't hire Dooley in the first place, to give him another one on Rocky Top.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
This is a very difficult call, and it is a more complex decision for athletic director Dave Hart than many football fans believe. Constant change and attrition can kill a program once it’s down, and a new boss in Knoxville would equal four Tennessee head coaches in six seasons. Derek Dooley inherited a severely damaged roster and culture, and the likeable head coach has improved the talent level of the Vols. The on-field evaluation in Dooley’s third season is tough, because his club has competed fairly well against three ranked SEC opponents but has lost all three. That trend should continue against Alabama and South Carolina the next two weeks, but close defeats will still leave Tennessee at 0-5 in conference play. While the rushing game has improved greatly, the defense under new coordinator Sal Sunseri has been awful. The Vols can score points but still seem to make too many critical errors at exactly the wrong times when trying to rally in big games.

I believe Hart wants to give Dooley another season to fix the program, along with saving millions of dollars in buyouts and coaching-search costs for a budget that has been squeezed in recent years. If November becomes a disaster (like losing multiple games or too many empty seats), Hart may have no choice but to make a change. Vols fans have every right to demand a better win-loss record, but I think Dooley may survive unless the Vols finish .500 or worse.


Related College Football Content

College Football 2012 Midseason Recap and First Half Awards
College Football's Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 7

<p> Should Derek Dooley Return to Tennessee in 2013?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 06:58
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-midseason-bcs-championship-predictions

With the first half of the season in the books, it's time to evaluate the preseason picks and make a few changes. Athlon's predicted a LSU-USC showdown in August but things have changed over the last seven weeks. 

2012 Midseason Predictions: Who Plays for the National Title?

Coach Gene Stallings, former head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
I would say it would be Alabama and Oregon to play in the Championship game.  I think Alabama is the best team in the country.  They can run the football. Alabama has three or four good running backs. The quarterback is getting better and better. Defensively, they play very sound and don't miss tackles. Their kicking game all around is good.  They've got lots of depth. I don't see any weaknesses.

Coach Dick MacPherson, former head coach of the Syracuse Orange, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
Alabama and who ... that is my answer.  Who is that other team going to be ... probably Oregon. Oregon has a great scheme and do a really good coaching but I would give the edge to Alabama because of Coach Saban.  He can solve problems other teams can't.  Plus, I think talent-wise Alabama has more than Oregon. 

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Oregon vs. Alabama
I started with Oregon and South Carolina in the beginning of the season, and, boy, did that look good after the Gamecocks’ win over Georgia. I still think South Carolina’s going to win the SEC East, but I’m going to switch out South Carolina for Alabama in the title game. The Tide have more than answered questions about the new starters on defense. This program is on a similar run of invincibility we saw out of USC this decade. Oregon will benefit this season from not playing a challenging nonconference game and will have plenty of time to make up ground in the BCS standings. The Pac-12 is deeper than we thought at the start of the season -- Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford will be tougher outs than perhaps we thought -- but the top challenger, USC, doesn’t look like a title contender at this point.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Oregon vs. Alabama
I had Alabama over Oregon in the preseason and I have seen nothing over the first seven weeks to change my mind. In fact, those are the best two teams I have seen thus far, only upping my confidence in the Crimson Tide-Ducks championship bout in Miami Gardens. The Ducks offense is well-known but the defense is the best Chip Kelly has had in Eugene and it has been making big plays of its own. Meanwhile, Alabama has abused any and all takers in demoralizing fashion. I don't give Oregon too much of a chance to beat Alabama in a national title setting but it would be fun to see the high-flying Ducks attack go up against a spread-loathing Nick Saban with a chance at immortality.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Oregon vs. Alabama
My preseason pick was Alabama-USC, but I’m going to make a slight change at the midpoint of the season. I still like Alabama to finish unbeaten and play for the national championship, but I will switch USC for Oregon. I think the Ducks could lose their Nov. 3 matchup to the Trojans but still play for the BCS title, especially if these two teams rematch in the Pac-12 title game. Even though Oregon had to replace its starting quarterback, the offense continues to fire on all cylinders, especially with Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas headlining one of the nation’s top running back corps. Although the defense doesn’t statistically rank near Alabama, the Ducks are registering 2.8 sacks per game and have forced 17 turnovers. Also, Oregon is allowing only 4.6 yards per play, which would place it fifth in the SEC. If these two teams met in Miami for the national title, I’d pick the Crimson Tide to win, but I’d like to see what Oregon’s offense can do against Nick Saban’s defense.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Oregon vs. Alabama
I’m not really going on a limb here, but I’ll take Alabama and Oregon to meet in the BCS Championship Game. The Crimson Tide have been dominant on defense and more than good enough on offense through the first half of the season. Assuming AJ McCarron’s knee doesn’t become an issue, I just don’t see this team losing a game. The trip to LSU will be difficult, and the opponent in the SEC title game will be formidable, but Bama will be the better team in each contest. Oregon has more hurdles to climb — including road trips to Arizona State, USC, Cal and Oregon State — but I believe the Ducks are the most complete team in the Pac-12. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Oregon stub its toe once in the regular season and still reach the BCS title game (assuming Notre Dame doesn’t get in the way.

Mark Ross: Oregon vs. Oklahoma
I am sure this is probably going to surprise some people, including my own colleagues, since Oklahoma came in at No. 9 in the initial BCS standings and has already lost a game. But hear me out. In my opinion, Oregon has the clearest path to the BCS Championship Game as the Ducks are undefeated, No. 3 in the BCS standings and in control of their own destiny. Provided they take care of business against USC, most likely twice, and can defeat a surprising Oregon State team in The Civil War, Oregon will be in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Jan. 7. I would even go so far to say that even if the Trojans were to beat the Ducks in the regular season, as long as Chip Kelly's team returned the favor in the Pac-12 title game, they will still get their chance at a national title. As far as Oregon's opponent goes, I'm leaning towards Oklahoma because I think, at least for this season, not having a conference championship game will help the Sooners. They still have several tough games remaining on their schedule, most notably an Oct. 27 visit from Notre Dame and a trip to Morgantown to play West Virginia on Nov. 17, but I think Bob Stoops has his team peaking at the right time and they will navigate the rest of their schedule undefeated. I also think the SEC is going to continue to beat itself up, leaving you with a situation where the eventual conference champion will have at least one loss, if not more. Under this scenario, I think there will be enough changes in the polls, computer rankings, etc. that in the end the BCS standings will have Oregon at No. 1 and Oklahoma at No. 2. Once these two get to south Florida and play each other in January, I like Kelly and the Ducks to do what they weren't able to two years ago - take the crystal football back to Eugene. BCS Champion: Oregon 31, Oklahoma 24

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Oregon vs. Alabama
I think you have to project Alabama and Oregon at this point, although USC and LSU still have a good shot to get to the title game. It is difficult for me to project anyone from the Big 12, even though Kansas State would be a popular choice for many voters. Notre Dame still has tough road contests against Oklahoma and USC, and unbeaten SEC clubs will knock each other off as the season progresses. Mark it down fans: November 3. That’s when the Crimson Tide travels to Baton Rouge, and when the Ducks head south to face USC. Alabama has been so dominant in 2012, but some forget that Les Miles’ bunch did win the SEC last year. Chip Kelly’s crew was derailed by the Trojans last season but appears to be the better team with its usual high-octane offense and an underrated defense. While the Tide and Ducks could slip, they are definitely the top two candidates at the midseason point to play in Miami in January.


Related College Football Content

College Football 2012 Midseason Recap and First Half Awards
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<p> College Football's Midseason BCS Championship Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 06:08
Path: /college-football/will-notre-dame-play-national-title-2012

Thanks to a goal-line stand in overtime against Stanford, Notre Dame is 6-0 and off to its best start since opening 8-0 in 2002. The Irish have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, which features winnable games against BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest. However, matchups against USC and Oklahoma will decide how high this team can climb in the BCS standings.

Will Notre Dame Play for the National Title in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615):
I do love that Notre Dame defense. Allowing one touchdown since playing Purdue is remarkable, considering that includes Michigan, Miami and Stanford. I’m confident Notre Dame can give Oklahoma and USC trouble later this season, which are the only real tests remaining for the Irish. Although it’s worked so far, I’m having trouble putting my faith in starter Everett Golson and closer Tommy Rees at quarterback. I’m a little leery of a football coach needing to go to the bullpen for his quarterback. That’s going to bite Notre Dame, and I think we’ve seen enough out of Oklahoma, if not USC, to make the Irish vulnerable. 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): 
Notre Dame will not play for the national championship in 2012 because of quarterback play and a pair of nasty games with top ten national powers. Two late-season road trips to Norman to face Oklahoma and out West to play USC will be brutal road tests that Everett Golson— and/or Tommy Rees — will be forced to score points likely means at least one loss for the Irish. This is a truly great defense and with a 10 or 11 win season, Notre Dame can be deemed officially "back" on the national landscape. But to play for the BCS national championship, Brian Kelly's bunch will likely have to go unbeaten. And the odds don't appear to be in the Golden Domers favor.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
There’s no doubt Brian Kelly has Notre Dame going in the right direction. However, I think it’s too early to predict the Irish will make the BCS Championship in 2012. The biggest obstacle Notre Dame has to overcome is a schedule that features road games at Oklahoma and USC. The Irish are just 1-9 in their last 10 matchups against the Trojans, and the Sooners have not lost a non-conference home game since 2005. Although Notre Dame’s defense is one of the nation’s best, the offense has struggled at times, and redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson is going through a few growing pains. Even though the Irish will fall short of reaching the national championship, a 10-2 season with an appearance in a BCS bowl is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
Notre Dame has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises in 2012. The defense has been amazing, holding four straight AQ conference teams (Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Stanford) without an offensive touchdown. But I don’t believe the Irish will be in position to play for the BCS National Championship this season. Notre Dame has two very difficult games remaining — at Oklahoma in two weeks and at USC to end the season. It’s unlikely that the Irish will win both of those games; if they win one, which is possible, they could end the season with an 11–1 record. That would put them in the discussion, but my best guess is that Alabama and Oregon will both be undefeated and leave Notre Dame on the outside looking in. 

Mark Ross: 
Notre Dame is undefeated and came in at No. 5 in the initial release of this season's BCS standings. In some ways, the Fighting Irish control their own destiny because if they can win out and finish their slate without a defeat, they will have to be in the conversation for a spot in the national title game. That said, Notre Dame still has two tough hurdles remaining towards that goal and both of these games are on the road. Notre Dame travels to Norman on Oct. 27 to play a rejuvenated Oklahoma team and ends its regular season with a trip to Los Angeles to play long-time rival USC in the Rose Bowl. As good as Notre Dame has been this season, I just don't think they have enough offense to win both of these games and will end its regular season with at least one loss. Without the benefit of a conference championship game to help their resume, I think Brian Kelly will get the Irish back to a BCS bowl, it just won't be the national title game.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
It is difficult for me to project Notre Dame in the title game with tough road contests left against Oklahoma and USC, but Brian Kelly’s bunch has the defense to beat anyone on its schedule. The Fighting Irish have been absolutely stingy on defense, led by All-America linebacker Manti Te’o and emerging star end Stephon Tuitt. ND has only given up 25 total points in its last four wins (Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Stanford) and is the only team in the nation to not allow a rushing touchdown this season. Another huge reason for the Irish perfect start is a plus-8 turnover margin. In last year’s opening losses to South Florida and Michigan, ND turned the ball over 10 times. This season, the offense has only seven giveaways in six games. Quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Everett Golson will struggle if it becomes a high-scoring contest with the Sooners or Trojans, so I’ll say that the Irish will lose once and not play for it all. However, ND has the defense to run the table and will be a tough out in the BCS. 

Related College Football Content

College Football 2012 Midseason Recap and First Half Awards
College Football's Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 7

<p> Will Notre Dame Play for the National Title in 2012?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/urban-meyer-or-bill-obrien-who-big-tens-midseason-coach-year

Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Penn State's Bill O'Brien are two of the top candidates for college football's midseason coach of the year award. Meyer has the Buckeyes off to a 7-0 start, while O'Brien has guided Penn State through a difficult offseason to a 4-2 record so far.

Is Bill O'Brien or Urban Meyer the Big Ten's Midseason Coach of the Year?

Kevin McGuire,, (@KevinonCFB)
One of the key factors I like to look at when determining who should be coach of the year is what do they have to work with. At Ohio State Urban Meyer inherited a pretty solid program form top to bottom with a Braxton Miller sitting there waiting to be groomed. At Penn State Bill O'Brien took over a program ripped of its heart and soul and destined for some of the heaviest sanctions the college sports world has seen in a long time, which would lead the team's star running back, leading receiver and best kicker create their own exit plans in addition to a handful of others to hurt some depth. Both coaches have dealt with some adversity on the football field as well, with Meyer's defense being shredded by Indiana most recently and with O'Brien's team dropping the first two games of the season. Credit to Meyer for coming away with wins each week so far but also credit to O'Brien for not losing his team when they started off 0-2. The season could have been lost right out of the gate for O'Brien but he and his team have rattled off four straight wins heading in to their bye week. If you take a closer look at both teams, you will also see that Penn State has shown signs of improvement on a weekly basis overall despite depth and injury issues at times. Both coaches are doing fine jobs, but after half a season, O'Brien is the clear leader for coach of the year in the Big Ten, and perhaps the nation.

Coach Dick MacPherson, former head coach of the Syracuse Orange, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
Urban Meyer would be my pick at this point.  He has come to a team loaded with talent.  Coach Meyer has done a nice job with the team but he definitely has an advantage because Coach Tressel did not leave the cupboard bare.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
This is certainly Bill O’Brien, by every measure. No college football team since SMU returned from the death penalty had this much adversity. To think Penn State is three wins away from a winning record is shocking. After the Ohio loss, I was skeptical if Penn State would be Temple or Indiana. Now, seven wins or more seems like a given. Let’s forget about the transfers, the probation and the stain left on the program. Let’s just talk about improvement. A year ago, this paltry offense was nothing more than Silas Redd, who bolted for USC. Now, we’re looking at a team that is third in the league in scoring offense in conference games and fifth in total offense in conference games. Matt McGloin has long since eclipsed his touchdown total from last season and will pass his yardage mark in his next game. And Allen Robinson, who caught three passes last season, is the Big Ten’s best receiver. The coach who landed at Ohio State with Braxton Miller waiting for him has nothing on what O’Brien has done.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
My answer at the end of the year will likely be different than it is today. If Ohio State finishes unbeaten with a Heisman finalist in Braxton Miller, Urban Meyer would easily be my vote for Big Ten Coach of the Year. But right now, Bill O'Brien is the pick with what he has accomplished in the face of the ugliest NCAA scandal in history and a mass exodus of players in the preseason. He is a few plays away from being unbeaten at 6-0 after rattling off four straight wins. He has turned Matt McGloin into a conference player of the year contender and the Nittany Lion offense is more innovative and a creative than it has been in years. Coach BoB's team leads the Big Ten in turnover margin, is No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing offense and is No. 2 in scoring defense at just 16.0 points allowed per game. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
Urban Meyer deserves a lot of credit for leading Ohio State to a 7-0 record, but I have to give the edge to Bill O’Brien at the midpoint of the season. I was skeptical of how well this hire would work out, but the Nittany Lions are 4-2 and enter Week 8 riding a four-game wining streak. Under O’Brien’s leadership, Penn State’s offense is a much-improved group, averaging 27 points and 390.2 yards per game. Quarterback Matt McGloin has thrived under O’Brien’s playcalling, and a team that was lacking proven playmakers at the start of the year has scored at least 30 points in three straight games. As usual, the defense is solid, and linebacker Michael Mauti is one of the frontrunners for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. The schedule gets considerably tougher in the second half for the Nittany Lions, as they have games against Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Even though the strength of schedule will increase, O’Brien should be able to guide this team to at eight wins, which would exceed nearly everyone’s preseason expectations. With the scholarship reductions and bowl ban, O’Brien has his work cut out for him in the next five seasons. However, after the first six games of the year, he should be the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): 
I’d go with Bill O’Brien as the midseason Big Ten Coach of the Year. Not only did O’Brien walk into the worst scandal in the history of collegiate athletics, he also inherited a mediocre roster that was stripped of its two best skill position players (tailback Silas Redd and wide receiver Justin Brown). Yet, the Nittany Lions are a vastly improved offensive team in 2012. They are averaging 390.1 yards and 27.0 points per game, up from 342.4 and 19.3 last season. Penn State has won four straight after losing its first two games, and each of its four wins have come by 11 points or more. O’Brien has done a tremendous job in a very difficult spot.

Mark Ross: 
Not to take anything away from Meyer, who is doing a fantastic job in his first season at Ohio State, but how can you not give this one to O'Brien? Granted the Buckeyes are undefeated and will more than likely finish with a better record and higher in the polls than Penn State, but the situation Meyer was inheriting in Columbus was leaps and bounds better than the mess O'Brien took over in State College. Both schools are dealing with NCAA sanctions and penalties that include postseason bans this year, but that's where the similarities begin and end. Simply put, no school or football program has ever experienced what Penn State has had to go through, and that includes SMU, the only school to ever receive the death penalty from the NCAA. Besides having to deal with everything associated with the Jerry Sandusky scandal, which is far from being completely over, O'Brien had to focus on keeping his recruiting class together and then dealt with a mass exodus of current players. Once the focus finally returned to the field, O'Brien had to keep this team united and positive while enduring two emotionally draining losses to open the season. Since starting 0-2, Penn State has reeled off four straight victories, and now has a legitimate shot at finishing the season with eight or more wins. That is quite a remarkable accomplishment for O'Brien, his staff and the players that stuck around after all they have had to deal with.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
While Bill O'Brien has done a quality job in getting Penn State to a 4-2 after two opening losses, I would have to go with Urban Meyer at this point. It has not always been pretty for Ohio State this season, but 7-0 is 7-0. Meyer does have solid talent on the Buckeyes roster, but this is an OSU team that went 6-7 a year ago. Whether it was a 17-16 defensive battle with Michigan State or a 52-49 shootout with Indiana, Meyer's squad has found a way to prevail every week. The Nittany Lions could lose four or five more games, while I believe Ohio State will go 11-1 with a solid shot at an undefeated season. As controversial as he may be, Meyer projects as the hyphenated Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Related College Football Content

College Football 2012 Midseason Recap and First Half Awards
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<p> Urban Meyer or Bill O'Brien: Who Is The Big Ten's Midseason Coach of the Year?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-using-vegas-odds-determine-best-week-8-plays

In the world of fantasy football, some team owners are relentless in their search for information that will give them a competitive edge over their competition.  Others just simply rely on projections from so-called experts, who try to convince everyone they have devised a computer program that accurately projects player stats by using a scientific formula so complicated that it makes the Drake equation seem elementary.  Eventually, those computer-driven computations prove no more accurate than an old-fashioned gut feeling.  However, in a quest to find a formula for fantasy success, one should just ask the question, “What are the odds?”

Quite simply, Vegas odds could give you all of the necessary insight to make smart roster decisions on a week-to-week basis.  In this weekly article, theCFFsite considers the point spreads and totals(over/under) in order to give our readers a unique perspective into some of the week’s most interesting fantasy matchups.

Week 8

Best Fantasy Matchups(Games with the most fantasy potential)

Ball St at Central Michigan

Line:  Ball St -3(O/U-64.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Ball St 34-31

Best plays:

Ball St (QB-Keith Wenning, RB-Jahwan Edwards, WRs-Willie Snead, Jamill Smith

Central Michigan (RB-Zurlon Tipton, WR-Titas Davis)

Also consider:

Ball St (K-Steven Schott)

Central Michigan (QB-Ryan Radcliff, WR-Cody Wilson)

theCFFsite projects:  Ball St 38-28


San Diego St at Nevada

Line:  Nevada -7(O/U-66.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Nevada 37-30

Best plays:

San Diego St (QB-Ryan Katz, RB-Adam Muema)

Nevada (QB-Cody Fajardo, RB-Stefphon Jefferson, TE-Zach Sudfield)

Also consider:

San Diego St (RB-Walter Kazee, TE-Gavin Escobar)

Nevada (WRs-Brandon Wimberly, Richy Turner)

theCFFsite projects:  Nevada 38-35


Baylor at Texas

Line:  Texas -10(O/U-80.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Texas 45-35

Best plays:

Baylor (QB-Nick Florence, WR-Terrance Williams)

Texas (QB-David Ash, RB-Joe Bergeron)

Also consider:

Baylor(RB-Jared Salubi, WRs-Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson)

Texas (RB-Johnathan Gray, WRs-Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis)

theCFFsite projects:  Baylor 38-31


One-Sided Matchups (Using the odds to find a dominating ‘D’)

New Mexico St at Utah St

Line:  Utah St -30(O/U-56)

Projected score based on point spread:  Utah St 43-13

Stay away from:

New Mexico St (QB-Andrew Manley)

theCFFsite projects:  Utah St 42-14


UNLV at Boise State

Line:  Boise St -28(O/U-53.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Boise St 41-13

Stay away from:

UNLV (RB-Tim Cornett)

theCFFsite projects:  Boise St 31-10


Kansas at Oklahoma

Line:  Oklahoma -35(O/U-57.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oklahoma 46-11

Stay away from:

Kansas (RB-James Sims)

theCFFsite projects:  Oklahoma 45-17


Colorado at USC

Line:  USC – 41(O/U-57.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  USC 49-8

Stay away from:

Colorado (RB-Tony Jones)

theCFFsite projects:  USC 45-14


Must Watch Games(The games with the biggest headlines)

Oregon at Arizona St

Line:  Oregon -9(O/U-68.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oregon 39-30

Outlook:  Since Arizona State’s 24-20 loss at Missouri four weeks ago, the Sun Devils have gone 3-0 in PAC-12 games and have outscored their opponents 115-41.  Interestingly enough, the Ducks have not been held to less than 42 points in any game this season and they should continue their scoring ways in Sun Devil Stadium this Thursday night.

theCFFsite projects:  Oregon 41-30


Kansas St at West Virginia

Line:  West Virginia -3(O/U-71.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  West Virginia 37-34

Outlook:  Two weeks ago, we thought the Mountaineers gained their first signature win since joining the Big 12 when they defeated Texas on the road.  However, Oklahoma’s dismantling of the Longhorns last week made the West Virginia victory over Texas seem rather ordinary.  We’re expecting the Mountaineers to regroup and take down the nation’s No. 4 ranked team in a prime-time showdown.

theCFFsite projects:  West Virginia 38-34


South Carolina at Florida

Line:  Florida -3(O/U-42.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Florida 23-20

Outlook:  Last week, we underestimated the atmosphere in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night and picked the Gamecocks over the Tigers.  While it is extremely difficult to pick against the Gators in The Swamp, the Gamecocks will be playing out of desperation to stay alive in the SEC East race.

theCFFsite projects:  South Carolina 21-20


theCFFsite in Must Watch games:

2012 Season:  Straight Up (14-9)  ATS: (11-12)

2011 Season:  Straight Up (40-9) ATS: (35-14)

by Joe DiSalvo

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Email us:   [email protected]

<p> College Fantasy Football: Using Vegas Odds to Determine Best Week 8 Plays</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 04:05
Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-7-bowl-projections

College football's bowl season is inching closer, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. With seven weeks of results in the books, it's still too early to make long-term projections about teams, especially with some teams just getting into conference play. 

The post-Week 7 bowl projections are a mixture between preseason projections, how things would look if the season ended today, and a dose of the results so far this year. Expect more changes over the next few weeks, especially as we see how teams perform in conference games. 

2012-2013 Post-Week 7 College Football Bowl Projections

Bowl Date Tie-In Projected Matchup
New Mexico Dec. 15 MWC vs. Pac-12 Arizona vs. Nevada
Famous Idaho Potato Dec. 15 MAC vs. WAC Utah State vs. N. Illinois
Poinsettia Dec. 20 BYU vs. MWC BYU vs. San Diego State
Beef 'O'Brady's Dec. 21 Big East vs. C-USA East Carolina vs. Kent State*
New Orleans Dec. 22 Sun Belt vs. C-USA UL Lafayette vs. Tulsa
Las Vegas Dec. 22 MWC vs. Pac-12 UCLA vs. Boise State
Hawaii Dec. 24 C-USA vs. MWC Fresno State vs. SMU
Little Caesars Dec. 26 Big Ten vs. MAC Minnesota vs. Toledo
Military Dec. 27 ACC vs. Army Maryland vs. Marshall*
Belk Dec. 27 ACC vs. Big East NC State vs. Cincinnati
Holiday Dec. 27 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Stanford vs. TCU
Independence Dec. 28 ACC vs. SEC Duke vs. La. Tech*
Russell Athletic Dec. 28 ACC vs. Big East Virginia Tech vs. Rutgers
Meineke Car Care Dec. 28 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Iowa vs. Baylor
Armed Forces Dec. 29 C-USA vs. MWC Houston vs. Air Force
Kraft Fight Hunger Dec. 29 Pac-12 vs. Navy Navy vs. Washington
Pinstripe Dec. 29 Big East vs. Big 12 Pittsburgh vs. Okla. State
Alamo Dec. 29 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Oregon State vs. Texas Tech
Buffalo Wild Wings Dec. 29 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Michigan State vs. Texas 
Music City Dec. 31 SEC vs. ACC Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech
Sun Dec. 31 ACC vs. Pac-12 Arizona State vs. Miami
Liberty Dec. 31 SEC vs. C-USA Arkansas vs. UCF**
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 ACC vs. SEC Clemson vs. Miss. State
Heart of Dallas Jan. 1 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Purdue vs. Iowa State Gator Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Texas A&M vs. N'Western
Capital One Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Wisconsin vs. South Carolina
Outback Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Nebraska vs. Georgia
Cotton Jan. 4 Big 12 vs. SEC West Virginia vs. LSU
BBVA Compass Jan. 5 SEC vs. Big East Vanderbilt vs. UL Monroe* Jan. 6 MAC vs. Sun Belt W. Kentucky vs. Ohio
BCS Bowls      
Rose Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Michigan vs. USC
Orange Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Florida State vs. Louisville
Sugar Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Florida vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta Jan. 3 BCS vs. BCS Kansas State vs. Notre Dame
National Title Jan. 7 BCS vs. BCS Oregon vs. Alabama

* Indicates an at-large team due to a conference unable to fill bowl slots according to Athlon's projections.

** UCF is appealing a postseason ban and for now, is eligible to compete in the 2012 postseason.

by Steven Lassan

(published Oct. 16, 2012)

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College Football Week 7 Recap

<p> College Football Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-coaches-hot-seat-post-week-7-rankings

Week 7 of the 2012 college football season is in the books and plenty of coaches saw the temperature on their seat increase by a few degrees. Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Boston College's Frank Spaziani continue to hold down the top two spots in the rankings. SEC coaches own three of the top five spots, as Auburn's Gene Chizik and Tennessee's Derek Dooley both joined Phillips in the top tier of this list following their latest losses.

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 7 Rankings

1. Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Kentucky: 12-20 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-6
Another week, another big loss for Kentucky. The Wildcats were hammered 49-7 by Arkansas, falling to 1-6 on the season. Phillips’ overall record has slipped to 12-20, and Kentucky has lost eight out of its last 10 games. Although several young players are seeing significant snaps, it probably won’t be enough for Phillips to return in 2013. The Wildcats take on Georgia this Saturday, before hitting the road to play Missouri in Week 9.

2. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Boston College: 21-24 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-5
With a new athletic director coming aboard for 2013, Spaziani is likely coaching out the final six games in his tenure at Boston College. The Eagles were thumped 51-7 against Florida State, dropping their fourth consecutive game of the season. Boston College’s only win of 2012 came against FCS opponent Maine and it lost a disappointing 34-31 game at Army last week. The Eagles need to win five out of their final six games to have a shot to play in a bowl, which seems unlikely with Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and NC State on the schedule.

3. Gene Chizik, Auburn
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Auburn: 31-15 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-5
A miserable season for Chizik only got worse on Saturday, as Auburn lost 41-20 to Ole Miss to drop to 1-5 this year. Although the Rebels are a much-improved team under new coach Hugh Freeze, this team went 2-10 and was winless in SEC play last season. The Tigers have shown little progress on both sides of the ball this season, and could be 1-7 after playing Vanderbilt and Texas A&M in the next two weeks. Considering how Auburn has played this year, a bowl game seems out of the question. Now the question becomes: Does Chizik deserve another year or should the Tigers move on?

4. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Tennessee: 14-17 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 3-3
The orange pants that Dooley wears on the sidelines might as well include flames this week. Tennessee fell to 0-3 in the SEC with a 41-31 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday night. The Volunteers are now 1-10 in their last 11 SEC games, with the only victory coming in overtime against Vanderbilt. The road is only going to get more difficult for Tennessee, as Alabama and South Carolina are the next two opponents. The schedule is considerably more favorable in November, as the Volunteers could go 4-0. However, will that be enough to save Dooley’s job?

5. Dan Enos, Central Michigan
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Central Michigan: 8-22 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 2-4
Instead of building momentum after a 32-31 win over Iowa on Sept. 22, the Chippewas are sliding in the wrong direction. Central Michigan has lost three games in a row, including a 31-13 defeat to Navy on national television last week. The only good news for Enos? The schedule is very manageable in the second half of the season, which includes home games against Ball State, Akron and Western Michigan, along with road dates against Eastern Michigan and UMass.

6. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
Last Week’s Rank: 4
Record at Buffalo: 6-24 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-5
Quinn falls two spots in the rankings, which is more of a reflection of other coaches finding their seats getting hotter after Week 7, than Buffalo’s performance on Saturday. The Bulls were dominated 45-3 by Northern Illinois in Week 7 and the schedule isn’t getting any easier with Pittsburgh, Toledo, Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan coming up. Needless to say, Quinn needs to find a couple of victories in the second half of the season to save his job.

7. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
Last Week’s Rank: 7
Record at New Mexico State: 10-34 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-5
The Aggies had an off date in Week 7 and return to action against Utah State this Saturday. New Mexico State enters Week 8 riding a five-game losing streak and its next two match-ups are against the best teams in the WAC (Utah State, Louisiana Tech), while a visit to Auburn awaits on Nov. 3. With an uncertain conference future, New Mexico State is one of the toughest jobs in college football and finding a new coach (if Walker is fired) won’t be an easy task.

8. Robb Akey, Idaho
Last Week’s Rank: 8
Record at Idaho: 20-49 (6th season)
2012 Record: 1-6
A week after building some momentum with a 26-18 win over New Mexico State, the Vandals were pounded 38-7 by Texas State on Saturday. While the Bobcats beat Houston and gave Nevada a game earlier this year, this is still a program in its first year of playing on the FBS level. With Louisiana Tech, BYU, San Jose State and Utah State remaining on the schedule, a Nov. 17 date against UTSA might be Idaho’s only other shot at getting a victory this year.

9. David Bailiff, Rice
Last Week’s Rank: 3
Record at Rice: 25-43 (6th season)
2012 Record: 2-5
The Owls scored a solid victory over UTSA in Week 7, snapping a four-game losing streak with a 34-14 win over the Roadrunners. The victory over UTSA came one week after an inexplicable loss at Memphis. Bailiff’s future is still up in the air at Rice, but the schedule isn’t particularly difficult in the second half of the season. Rice hosts SMU and Southern Miss, while playing Tulane, Tulsa and UTEP on the road. Outside of the Tulsa game, the Owls have a shot to win the other four contests. 

10. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at UNLV: 5-27 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-6
As the hot seat watch has maintained throughout this season, the Rebels are getting better. However, the losses are starting to pile up for Hauck, as UNLV dropped a 42-37 game to in-state rival Nevada in Week 7. The Rebels’ only win of 2012 came against Air Force, and there are few chances for a victory the rest of the way, especially with New Mexico one of the most improved teams in the conference. Hauck has recruited several promising young players, so he should get another year to prove he can turn this program around.

11. Mike Price, UTEP
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at UTEP: 46-58 (8 years)
2012 Record: 1-6
After starting the season with close losses to Oklahoma and Ole Miss and a victory over New Mexico State, the Miners have been trending in the wrong direction. UTEP has lost four consecutive games and was handled 33-11 by Tulsa on Thursday night. If the Miners want to make a bowl game, they will need to win out, which includes dates against UCF and Houston. Price is 66 years old, so it’s not out of the question he retires at the end of the year.

12. Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Southern Miss: 0-6 (1st season)
2012 Record: 0-6
Johnson moves up a spot in the hot seat rankings, but let’s give a little credit to Southern Miss’ coaching staff for nearly pulling off a win at UCF in Week 7. The Golden Eagles have two promising freshmen on offense in quarterback Anthony Alford and running back Jalen Richard, but the defense is allowing 35.6 points a game and has struggled to stop the run. Southern Miss is still looking for its first win, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier with Marshall coming to Hattiesburg on Saturday.

13. Mack Brown, Texas
Last Week’s Rank:
Not Ranked
Record at Texas: 145-41 (15th season)
2012 Record: 4-2
Barring a complete collapse in the second half of the season, Brown’s job is safe for 2013. However, losses like the one the Longhorns endured in Week 7 won’t be tolerated for long in Austin. Texas was dominated 63-21 by Oklahoma and has lost the last two match-ups against the Sooners by a combined score of 118-38. The Longhorns could still finish 10-2 but games at Texas Tech and Kansas State aren’t guaranteed victories. Is the program headed in the right direction? That’s the question Brown will have to answer in the second half of the year.

14. Skip Holtz, South Florida
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at South Florida: 15-16 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 2-4
The Bulls had an off date in Week 7 and return to action at Louisville this Saturday. However, the news wasn’t all positive for Holtz, as one South Florida trustee John Ramil sent an angry e-mail to USF president Judy Genshaft, calling the football program “disgusting and unacceptable.” Considering Holtz’s success at East Carolina, the struggles at South Florida have been surprising. Holtz received a huge contract extension in the offseason but the last six games of the season could very well decide his fate.

15. Jeff Tedford, California
Last Week’s Rank: 9
Record at California: 82-52 (11th season)
2012 Record: 3-4
Thanks to back-to-back wins, Tedford has slid from the top five in the hot seat watch to No. 15 overall. However, the good vibes coming out of Berkeley may not last long, as California takes on Stanford this week and closes the year with a difficult three-game stretch: Washington, Oregon and at Oregon State. Beating the Cardinal this week would go a long ways to helping Tedford’s resume, along with bolstering California’s bowl hopes. However, a loss will raise even more questions about whether or not Tedford will be back for 2013.

16. Jon Embree, Colorado
Last Week’s Rank: 16
Record at Colorado: 4-15 (2nd season)
2012 Record: 1-5
The Buffaloes put up a fight in the first half of Thursday’s game against Arizona State but it wasn’t enough. Colorado was outscored 31-0 in the second half and lost 51-17 to a fast-improving Sun Devils’ team. Credit Embree and his staff for giving the Buffaloes a chance in the first half, but Colorado simply does not have the talent or depth to push the top teams in the Pac-12 right now. Barring a complete disaster the rest of the way, Embree should be back in Boulder in 2013. However, he has a lot of work to do if he wants to be Colorado’s coach for 2014 and beyond.

17. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Syracuse: 19-24 (4th season)
2012 Record: 2-4
A week after building some positive momentum with a 14-13 win over Pittsburgh, Syracuse lost 23-15 at Rutgers to drop its record to 2-4. The Orange have a difficult stretch the rest of the year, playing four out of their final six games on the road and catching Big East frontrunner Louisville at home in mid-November. Although Marrone is a Syracuse alum, another losing season won’t sit well in upstate New York.

18. Bill Cubit, Western Michigan
Last Week’s Rank: 18
Record at Western Michigan: 50-43 (8th season)
2012 Record: 3-4
The Broncos came up short against one of the MAC West’s top teams on Saturday, losing 30-24 to Ball State in overtime. Western Michigan has been without starting quarterback Alex Carder for the last three games due to a hand injury, which has jeopardized this team’s bowl hopes. The Broncos face Kent State and Northern Illinois – a combined record of 11-2 – in the next two weeks and finish the year with Central Michigan, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan. Cubit’s teams have been criticized for underachieving in the past and barring an upset or two, it seems Western Michigan will finish with a disappointing 6-6 record.

19. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Last Week’s Rank: Not ranked
Record at Connecticut: 8-11 (2nd season)
2012 Record: 3-4
Pasqualoni could easily be higher in the rankings but this is only his second year at Connecticut. However, it’s hard to ignore a disappointing 17-14 loss to Temple on Saturday, as well as a 30-24 road defeat to Western Michigan in late September. Despite having one of the Big East’s top running backs in Lyle McCombs, the Huskies have been awful on offense the last two years and rank 109th nationally in scoring this season. Pasqualoni was a strange pick to succeed Randy Edsall, and a new athletic director has been hired at Connecticut since his arrival. If the Huskies miss out on a bowl game, Pasqualoni will be one of the top coaches on the hot seat in 2013.

20. June Jones, SMU
Last Week’s Rank:
Not ranked
Record at SMU: 26-32 (5th season)
2012 Record: 2-4
Although Jones has helped to lead SMU to three consecutive bowl games, it’s fair to wonder if the school should part ways with him after this year. Jones nearly had the Arizona State job, so it’s clear he isn’t interested in sticking around at SMU. The Mustangs have won just two games this season (UTEP, Stephen F. Austin) and are coming off of a disappointing loss to previously winless Tulane in Week 7. Even though Jones is a solid coach, both the coach and the school might be better off with a fresh start. 

by Steven Lassan

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College Football Week 7 Recap

<p> College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 7 Rankings</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/college-football-2012-midseason-awards-and-recap

With the completion of Week 7, the first half of the 2012 college football season is officially in the books. As expected, there have been plenty of surprises from the first two months of action and no shortage of preseason picks gone awry. With West Virginia's loss on Saturday, the race to win the Heisman Trophy is wide open, with Ohio State's Braxton Miller taking a slight lead over Geno Smith. Alabama and Oregon are the favorites to play for the national championship, but both teams still have plenty of hurdles left to clear the rest of the way. While a lot will happen over the second half of the year, it's time to step back and take a look at some of the top performers and disappointments for 2012. 

College Football's Midseason Awards for 2012

Heisman frontrunner: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Geno Smith’s Heisman hopes didn’t completely disappear in Lubbock, but they certainly took a hit, especially considering West Virginia lost by 35 points to an unranked team. Due to Smith’s setback, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller takes a slight edge as the new Heisman frontrunner. The sophomore has thrown for 1,271 yards and 11 scores, while adding 912 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Miller ranks 17th nationally with 311.9 total yards per game and also places third nationally in rushing yards by a quarterback. Most importantly, the sophomore has delivered in the clutch this season. With Ohio State still searching for playmakers around him, Miller has produced big plays late in games against California, Michigan State and Nebraska to lead his team to victory. The Ohio State coaching staff would like to reduce Miller’s workload to keep him fresh for the final five games of the year, but the sophomore is simply too valuable and too much of a playmaker to take away his touches.

The Next Four Candidates:

2. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
4. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
5. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

Offensive Player of the Year – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Since Braxton Miller is listed as our Heisman favorite, we thought we would spread the wealth and give Smith the nod as our offensive player of the year for the first half of the season. Despite the disappointing showing at Texas Tech, the senior has thrown for 2,271 yards and 25 scores this year. Smith is completing 75.3 percent of his passes and has yet to toss an interception through the first six games. With match-ups against Kansas State and Oklahoma in the second half of the year, the senior will have a chance to climb back into the Heisman mix, along with pushing West Virginia into contention for a BCS bowl.

Honorable Mention:

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State

Defensive Player of the Year: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Te’o has been simply outstanding this year, as he is the heart and soul for one of the nation’s best defenses through the first seven weeks of the season. The senior leads Notre Dame with 59 stops, has recorded two tackles for a loss, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Te’o’s impact goes beyond the box score, especially in terms of leadership and was a key cog in Notre Dame’s goal-line stand over Stanford in Week 7. It’s not often a defensive player is a serious Heisman contender, but if Te’o continues to perform at this level, he should be one of the five finalists for college football’s most prestigious award.

Honorable Mention:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Coach of the Year: Mike Riley, Oregon State
After finishing 2011 with a 3-9 record, the expectations were low in Corvallis. Even though Mike Riley had resurrected the program from one of the worst in the nation to respectability, some wondered if he should be on the hot seat if Oregon State got off to a slow start this season. Fast forward to October, and the Beavers are in the thick of the Pac-12 title hunt. Oregon State is one of 12 unbeaten teams and quietly has one of the best resumes in the nation with victories over Wisconsin, UCLA, Arizona, Washington State and BYU. The Beavers are a much-improved team in the stat box, ranking fourth nationally against the run and are averaging 83.9 yards more per game on offense. Oregon State has a shot to be unbeaten when it plays Oregon on Nov. 24, but the biggest takeaway through the first seven weeks is Riley remains one of the Pac-12’s best coaches.

Honorable Mention:

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Will Muschamp, Florida
Bill Snyder, Kansas State

Best Coaching Hire: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
As expected, Meyer and Ohio State have been a perfect combination. The Buckeyes had plenty of talent last season, but the uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff and inexperience of quarterback Braxton Miller contributed to a disappointing 6-7 record. Meyer’s spread attack has ignited an offense that was conservative under former coach Jim Tressel, while turning Miller into a Heisman frontrunner. Ohio State’s defense still needs some work but help is on the way from another impressive recruiting class. Even though the Buckeyes are banned from postseason play, Meyer has this team poised to claim a top-five finish at the end of the year.

Honorable Mention:

Bill O’Brien, Penn State
Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Biggest surprise: Notre Dame
It’s a tossup between Oregon State and Notre Dame for this honor, but since we gave Mike Riley the coach of the year spot, let’s give some credit to the Irish. Notre Dame is off to its best start since beginning 8-0 in 2012. High expectations surrounded the Irish last season, but Brian Kelly’s team didn’t quite meet those goals, finishing 8-5 with a loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. However, the Irish are on track to finish with at least 10 victories and make a BCS bowl appearances. Kelly developed an impressive resume at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati with high-scoring offenses, but it has been the defense leading the way for Notre Dame in 2012. The Irish rank second nationally in scoring defense and are allowing just 287 yards per game. The offense needs to show improvement if Notre Dame wants to challenge for a national title, but a 10-2 season and a BCS bowl would go a long way towards making the Irish a yearly top-10 team once again.

Honorable Mention:

Oregon State
Penn State

Biggest disappointment: Auburn
No one anticipated Auburn would compete for the national title in 2012, but the Tigers weren’t expected to be this bad either. Auburn is off to its worst start since 1998, opening the year 1-5 with a narrow 31-28 win over Louisiana-Monroe as its only bright spot of the season. Both sides of the ball are to blame, as the Tigers rank 115th nationally in scoring offense and 78th nationally in total defense. Auburn’s quarterback play has been a disaster, and there’s too much talent on this defense to be ranked 12th in the SEC in yards allowed after six games. The Tigers have recruited as well as anyone in the SEC but the results on the field aren’t matching up. With only two winnable games remaining on the schedule, Auburn will likely miss out on a bowl game for the first time since 2008. Even though Gene Chizik won a national title in 2010, he may not be back for 2013.

Honorable Mention:

Michigan State
South Florida
Virginia Tech

Breakout player: Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
Although Florida’s defense has been stingy this year, the real reason for the Gators’ turnaround has been the offense. Gillislee had 920 career rushing yards coming into the season but has been a workhorse through the first six games. The senior has 615 yards and seven rushing scores on 120 attempts, while catching four passes for 26 yards. Gillislee’s best performance came in the win over LSU, rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 34 attempts. The senior’s performance is a key reason why Florida is second in the BCS standings and is one of college football’s top national title contenders.

Honorable Mention:

Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern

Top Freshman: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Life in the SEC was supposed to be tough for Texas A&M. However, the emergence of Johnny Manziel has quickly turned the Aggies from a likely .500 finish into a solid top-25 team. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns, while adding 676 yards and 10 scores on the ground. Manziel has tossed only three picks and is completing 69.3 percent of his throws. In addition to his stats, Johnny Football has produced several highlight-reel plays and will be a handful for the rest of the SEC over the next three-plus seasons.

Honorable Mention:

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Devonte Fields, DE, TCU

Coach on the Hot Seat: Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Phillips has experienced some bad luck this season, as the offense has lost two quarterbacks (Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles), while several young players have been forced to step into significant playing time on both sides of the ball. However, the Wildcats haven’t been competitive in SEC competition and suffered a crushing 32-31 defeat to Western Kentucky in Week 3. Although Phillips led Kentucky to a bowl game in his first season, he is just 6-13 since 2010 and the program has fallen behind Vanderbilt in the new 14-team SEC.

Honorable Mention:

Gene Chizik, Auburn
Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Jeff Tedford, California

Worst Coaching Hire: Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
Johnson seemed like a strange fit at Southern Miss when he was hired and so far, the results have matched those initial feelings. The Golden Eagles have played a difficult schedule but are off to a miserable 0-6 start. Southern Miss has struggled to be competitive most of the year, before taking UCF to two overtimes in Week 7. Johnson’s career record as a head coach is 17-34, with previous stints at Gardner-Webb and The Citadel resulting in four .500 or worse seasons. It’s unlikely Johnson will be fired after one year; however, he may not last past 2013 if Southern Miss has another losing season.

Honorable Mention:

Tim Beckman, Illinois
Norm Chow, Hawaii
Carl Pelini, FAU
Charlie Weis, Kansas

From Hot Seat to Low Pressure:  Randy Edsall, Maryland
Edsall had a disastrous start to his tenure at Maryland, as the Terrapins went 2-10 last season and 25 players have left the team since his arrival. However, Maryland appears to be one of the most-improved teams in the ACC, doubling its win total from last season with a 4-2 record through six games. With starting quarterback C.J. Brown sidelined for the year with a torn ACL, the Terrapins have been forced to start true freshman Perry Hills at quarterback, but the young passer has held his own and continues to get better with each snap. Even if Edsall doesn’t lead Maryland to a bowl game this season, it’s clear the program is headed back in the right direction.

Honorable Mention:

Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech

National Title frontrunners: Alabama vs. Oregon
There’s a lot of football left, but Alabama and Oregon hit the halfway point of the season as the favorites to meet in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Jan. 7. The Crimson Tide’s schedule is very favorable, with a road trip to LSU on Nov. 3 the toughest game the rest of the year. The Ducks have a few more landmines on their schedule, starting with a Thursday night game at Arizona State this week. Oregon also travels to USC, California and Oregon State in the regular season. If both teams manage to navigate the rest of the schedule unbeaten, each will have to survive a conference title game. Alabama has avoided the top teams from the East Division this year, but a match-up against Florida or South Carolina is no cupcake. If Oregon makes it to the Pac-12 title game, a rematch against USC appears likely. If this is the national title match-up, these two teams have never met and it will be Oregon’s second championship appearance against an SEC squad.

Newcomer (JUCO) – Morgan Breslin, DE, USC
The defensive line was one of USC’s top concerns in the preseason, but Breslin has emerged as a force in his first season out of the junior college ranks. The Diablo Valley (Calif.) transfer has 26 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and seven sacks through the first six games. Breslin has been one of the Pac-12’s top defenders through the first half and his play will be especially critical down the stretch, as USC takes on Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame in November.

Honorable Mention:

Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech
Deion Belue, CB, Alabama

Coach on the Rise: Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky
When the coaching carousel begins later this year, expect Taggart’s name to be floated for many of the top vacancies. The Hilltoppers have won 12 out of their last 14 games, with the only losses coming to Alabama and LSU. In the two seasons prior to Taggart’s arrival, Western Kentucky was 2-22. The Hilltoppers are in good position to make their first bowl appearance since moving to the FBS level in 2008, but keeping Taggart will be a challenge with a couple of marquee jobs likely to be open at the end of the year. 

Honorable Mention:

Gary Andersen, Utah State
Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech
Darrell Hazell, Kent State
Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State

by Steven Lassan

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Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

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College Football Week 7 Recap

<p> College Football 2012 Midseason Awards and Recap</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 11:50
Path: /college-football/big-12-2012-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review

The first half of the Big 12 season is in the books. It’s been a strong first seven weeks for the conference, as four teams are ranked in the Associated Press poll and only one team is out of bowl contention (Kansas). The Big 12 still has a legitimate national title contender, along with two players who could get into the Heisman mix (Geno Smith and Collin Klein). It’s still a wide-open battle to win the conference, but Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma appear to be the frontrunners. However, Texas Tech cannot be ignored after last week’s win over the Mountaineers.

Coach of the Year – Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Underrate the Wildcats at your own risk. Kansas State was picked by most to finish outside of the top four in the preseason, yet hit the midpoint of the year as the No. 1 team in the conference. Once again, Snyder’s team isn’t overwhelming or overly impressive on paper but always finds ways to win games. Kansas State simply isn’t beating itself, as the Wildcats are averaging just three penalties per game and rank seventh nationally in turnover margin. Quarterback Collin Klein has carried this offense, averaging 264 yards per game, but running back John Hubert is quietly averaging 101 yards per contest. Kansas State is 3-0 in Big 12 play after seven weeks and has a huge test at West Virginia next Saturday. Snyder isn’t flashy and will never have the nation’s most prolific offense. However, the Wildcats are a national title contender and can take a commanding lead in the Big 12 standings with a win in Morgantown.

Freshman of the Year – Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
Fields was one of TCU’s top recruits and has lived up to the hype through the first six weeks of the season. The true freshman leads the Big 12 with 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss. In the 42-21 win over Baylor, Fields recorded five tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. With Stansly Maponga on the other side, TCU has one of the nation’s most dangerous end combinations.

Newcomer of the Year – Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma
Williams came to Oklahoma via the junior college ranks and has helped to spark a rushing attack that ranked seventh in the Big 12 last year. The junior had back-to-back 100-yard efforts to open the season and gashed Texas for 167 yards and one score on 22 attempts last Saturday. The Sooners have one of the Big 12’s top passing attacks but needed to establish more balance this year. If Williams continues to average 7.7 yards per carry, he should be a lock for first-team All-Big 12 honors, and Oklahoma’s rushing offense should be in great shape the rest of the year.

Offensive Player of the Year – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Even though Smith didn’t have a standout performance against Texas Tech, he still gets the edge for the top spot in this category. Smith has thrown 25 touchdowns and 2,291 yards, while tossing no interceptions through the first six games. Although the win over Texas looks worse with its loss to Oklahoma, Smith threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns in a key road victory against the Longhorns. Although West Virginia is out of the national title picture, there’s still plenty (Big 12 title and BCS bowl) for Smith and his team to play for in the second half of the year.

Defensive Player of the Year – Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
This is a tough award to hand out after the first half of the season. The Big 12 has produced a handful of solid defensive performances so far but none that standout as the clear No. 1 pick. However, let’s give a slight nod to Brown, who has 47 stops, four tackles for a loss, one sack and three passes broken up this year. While Brown’s stats aren’t eye-popping, his presence has been a big reason why Kansas State ranks 15th nationally against the run and no opponent has scored more than 21 points this year. In addition to Brown, Iowa State linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, Texas defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, and TCU end Devonte Fields all deserve consideration for this spot.

Midseason Disappointment (Team) – Texas
With 12 returning starters and a three-win improvement from 2010 to 2011, most expected the Longhorns would return to a spot among the top 10 teams in college football. That’s still possible but would seem like a longshot for Texas at this point of the year. The Longhorns have allowed 111 points in the last two games, which is a shock considering this unit was hailed as one of the nation’s best in the preseason. Although quarterback David Ash has played better this year, he was off against Oklahoma and the rushing attack has been average the last two weeks. If Texas continues to struggle the rest of the year, it’s fair to wonder if coach Mack Brown will be back on the sidelines next season.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) – Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas
No one expected Crist to lead Kansas to the Big 12 title but most expected he would be an upgrade over last year’s quarterbacks. However, Crist has been awful so far, throwing for 1,088 yards and three touchdowns, while tossing seven interceptions. Redshirt freshman Michael Cummings replaced Crist against Oklahoma State and may see more playing time the rest of the year. 

Midseason Surprise (Team) – Texas Tech
After the disastrous finish to last season, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was on the hot seat and the Red Raiders were picked by many to finish in the bottom three spots in the Big 12. A soft non-conference schedule allowed Texas Tech to build some early confidence, but it’s clear this team is no fluke. The Red Raiders owned one of the nation’s worst defenses last year but held West Virginia to 14 points and have allowed only one opponent to manage more than 20 points this season. New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has been one of the best assistant hires in college football and has finally brought some stability to that side of the ball. As usual, the offense is deadly, but the defense has been a key point of the turnaround. Texas Tech still has games remaining against TCU, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma State, but getting to eight wins and a solid bowl game is a good sign for Tuberville and his staff.

Midseason Surprise (Player) – David Ash, QB, Texas
Anytime a true freshman plays the way Fields has through the first six weeks, it’s certainly notable and worth a mention in this space. However, since Fields earned the freshman of the year award, let’s spread the wealth a little bit and give Ash a mention. Sure, his performance against Oklahoma was forgettable and he may be out with an injured wrist this week, but Ash has thrown for 1,389 yards and 11 touchdowns through the first six games. The sophomore’s emergence gave Texas’ offense more balance than it had last year, but Ash still needs to play better than he did against the Sooners (113 yards, two picks) if the Longhorns want to get back to a BCS bowl.

What Athlon Sports got right: With so much uncertainty still surrounding the Big 12 standings, it’s hard to call much right or wrong at this point of the year. However, Athlon predicted Oklahoma would finish as the conference champ, which is still possible after its win over Texas. And it should be no surprise Kansas was picked to finish last in the conference and is clearly on its way to end up in 10th this year.

What Athlon Sports got wrong: As we mentioned with the other section, the Big 12 still has a lot to sort out in the second half of the year. However, it’s clear we missed on Kansas State, who we picked to finish sixth in the final standings. The Wildcats are the only Big 12 team without a loss in conference play and appear to be the favorite to win the conference crown in 2012. Also, picking Texas Tech to finish eighth seems low after the Red Raiders knocked off West Virginia in Week 7.

Second Half Predictions

Here's how Athlon predicts the standings will look at the end of the regular season.

1. Kansas State
2. West Virginia
3. Oklahoma
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Texas Tech
7. TCU
8. Baylor
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas

Three Things to Watch in the Second Half

Who Wins the Big 12? – Through seven weeks, there isn’t a ton of clarity in the battle to win the Big 12. Kansas State is the conference’s only unbeaten team, but it has a showdown against West Virginia next Saturday. Thanks to a blowout win over Texas, Oklahoma cannot be counted out of the title picture. Don’t be surprised if the top contenders in this league each has at least one conference loss, which could make it difficult for the Big 12 to have a representative in the national title game.

Heisman Winner? – Even though West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith had an off day against Texas Tech, the senior still has to be considered one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman. Smith has 25 touchdown passes and has yet to throw an interception through the first six games. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein continues to inch his way into the Heisman discussion, recording 292 overall yards and three scores against Iowa State. If Smith and Klein continue to perform like they have, it’s possible the Big 12 has two players in New York City for the trophy presentation.

Where does Texas go? – After a 4-0 start, it looked like Texas was back on track. However, after the last two weeks, there’s plenty of unrest starting to creep back into Austin. The Longhorns have allowed 111 points in their last two games and there’s simply no excuse for losing to Oklahoma 63-21. If Mack Brown and his staff can’t find some answers in the second half of the year, is it possible a coaching change could be coming?

Five Games to Watch in the Second Half

Kansas State at West Virginia (Oct. 20) – This matchup has lost some of its appeal after the Mountaineers’ loss in Week 7. However, with a win, West Virginia can climb back into Big 12 title contention.

Notre Dame at Oklahoma (Oct. 27) – Barring an unexpected loss, the Irish should be 7-0 when they visit Norman.

West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10) – Dana Holgorsen returns to Stillwater, which comes one week before West Virginia’s matchup against Oklahoma.

Oklahoma at West Virginia (Nov. 17) – If the Mountaineers beat Kansas State this Saturday, this game figures to be an elimination game in the Big 12 standings.

Texas at Kansas State (Dec. 1) – The Wildcats have won the last four matchups against Texas.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Kansas State (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) – It’s not pretty, but the Wildcats always find a way to win. Kansas State’s victory over Iowa State sets up a huge showdown against West Virginia next Saturday.

2. Oklahoma (4-1, 2-1) – The Sooners have thrashed Texas by a combined score of 118-38 in their last two meetings. Not only was it a huge victory to beat their rival, Oklahoma stays alive for the Big 12 title.

3. West Virginia (5-1, 2-1) – The Mountaineers were due for a letdown after beating Texas last Saturday and having to make back-to-back long road trips. However, losing 49-14 is certainly worse than most expected and knocks West Virginia out of the national title picture.

4. Texas Tech (5-1, 2-1) – New coordinator Art Kaufman has made a huge difference in Lubbock, as Texas Tech’s defense shut down West Virginia and propelled the Red Raiders to an upset 49-14 victory.

5. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) – After losing to Iowa State, the Horned Frogs appeared to be in a lot of trouble, especially with quarterback Casey Pachall sidelined for the rest of the year. Not so fast. TCU rebounded with an impressive 49-21 victory over Baylor to move to 5-1 on the year.

6. Texas (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) – There’s still a long way to go in the 2012 season, but it’s fair to wonder if this program is any better than it was from last year. The Longhorns are out of the Big 12 title mix and now have to set their sights on getting to 10 wins and a BCS bowl.

7. Oklahoma State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) – A weather delay certainly didn’t help, but Saturday’s victory over Kansas was an overall sluggish performance for the Cowboys.

8. Iowa State (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) – The Cyclones had a chance to knock off Kansas State, but the offense just couldn’t make enough plays late in the fourth quarter to get into scoring position.

9. Baylor (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) – After winning their first three games to start the year, the Bears have lost two in a row, including a surprise defeat to TCU in Week 7.

10. Kansas (1-5, 0-3 Big 12) – The Jayhawks gave Oklahoma State all it could handle but are winless in Big 12 play since beating Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010. 

by Steven Lassan

Related College Football Content

Week 7 College Football Recap

ACC Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

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Big Ten Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

SEC Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

<p> Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:21
Path: /college-football/acc-2012-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review

The first half of the season has been an up and down affair for the ACC. After watching Florida State climb into the top five of the polls, the Seminoles suffered a disappointing loss to NC State, effectively ending any national title hopes. While the ACC is without a national championship contender, this conference still has a lot of intrigue to follow in the second half of the year. The Coastal Division is wide open, while the Seminoles, Clemson and NC State figure to be locked in a tight battle for the Atlantic crown.

Coach of the Year – David Cutcliffe, Duke
Despite the 41-20 loss to Virginia Tech in Week 7, Cutcliffe takes this award at the midpoint of the season. The Blue Devils are in the thick of the Coastal title race with a 2-1 record and need just one victory to get bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Duke doesn’t have a marquee win, but it also doesn’t have a bad loss. With upcoming games against North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami, the Blue Devils won’t have an easy time getting to six victories. However, this is clearly Cutcliffe’s best team at Duke and should be able to find one more win to get bowl eligible.

Freshman of the Year – Duke Johnson, RB, Miami/Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
There’s not really much separating Johnson and Diggs, so we’ll give them each a share of the award. Johnson leads Miami with 428 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while adding 447 yards on kick returns. He ranks second in the ACC with 151 all-purpose yards per game. Diggs seems to be getting stronger as the year progresses, and he leads the conference with an average of 168.8 all-purpose yards per game.

Newcomer of the Year – Eddie Johnson, LB, Miami
The Hurricanes have struggled all season on defense, but this unit is playing a lot of young players, which will pay dividends for future seasons. Johnson has been a bright spot for this team, ranking second on the team with 39 tackles, along with recording 5.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and three forced fumbles.

Offensive Player of the Year – Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
There’s really not a clear standout for this award through the first seven weeks of the season. Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel and North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard each could stake a claim for the top spot, but Boyd gets a slight nod over his teammates (Andre Ellington and DeAndre Hopkins). The junior quarterback has thrown for 1,748 yards and 14 touchdowns, while adding 224 yards and two scores on the ground. Boyd is an improved runner and is completing an impressive 68.2 percent of his throws.   

Defensive Player of the Year – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
With Brandon Jenkins sidelined for the year, the Seminoles needed a big season from Werner and fellow end Tank Carradine. Both players have responded with huge seasons, as Florida State’s defense ranks fifth nationally against the run and fourth in scoring defense. Werner ranks second in the ACC with 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.

Midseason Disappointment (Team) – Virginia Tech
Even with Saturday’s win over Duke, the Hokies are still 4-3 – a far cry from what most expected in the preseason. With eight starters returning, Virginia Tech expected to have one of the nation’s best defenses. However, the Hokies allowed at least 20 points in each of their last three games and rank 73rd nationally in stopping the run. Quarterback Logan Thomas has accounted for 16 touchdowns but hasn’t had much help from the running backs or offensive line. J.C. Coleman appeared to give the offense a spark against Duke, but the rushing attack has to be more of a factor the rest of the season. Despite the early struggles, Virginia Tech still has a chance to win the Coastal, especially with North Carolina ineligible to win the division title. With a schedule that features games against Clemson, Miami and Florida State, it’s important the Hokies find some answers for the second half of the season.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) – David Amerson, CB, NC State
The overall numbers for Amerson aren’t bad, as he has recorded 24 tackles, three interceptions and three pass breakups. However, the junior cornerback struggled in the opener against Tennessee and gave up a few big plays in the loss to Miami. For a player that had All-American potential in the preseason, Amerson has not lived up to the hype so far.

Midseason Surprise (Team) – Maryland
After a disastrous 2-10 campaign last year, no one could have predicted the Terrapins would be the only unbeaten team in ACC play after the first seven weeks of the season. True freshman quarterback Perry Hills has done just enough to keep the offense moving, while the defense ranks ninth in the nation in yards allowed. Maryland may not eclipse the seven-win mark, but it’s clear Randy Edsall has this team moving in the right direction.  

Midseason Surprise (Player) – Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
A big reason for Duke’s five victories this season has been the play of its defense. While the Blue Devils don’t have a lockdown defense, this unit has made significant progress over the last couple of years. Cockrell had 23 starts coming into this season but is having his best year. The junior ranks second on the team with 38 tackles but leads all defenders with four picks and 13 passes defended. Cockrell is a strong candidate to earn first-team All-ACC honors at the end of the year.

What Athlon Sports got right: It’s still too early to declare how the Coastal Division will shape out, but we had a pretty good feel for the Atlantic in the preseason. While Maryland is currently at the top of the division, Athlon’s top three teams – Florida State, Clemson and NC State – are still in the mix for the Atlantic crown. As expected, Boston College is ticketed for a sixth-place finish in the division. 

What Athlon Sports got wrong: As mentioned above, the Coastal Division is difficult to sort out after seven weeks. If Miami and Duke continue on its path, we would have clearly missed on both teams in the preseason. We also thought Virginia would build on its promising 2011 season and threaten seven or eight victories in 2012. However, the Cavaliers will struggle just to get bowl eligible in 2012.

Second Half Predictions

Here's how Athlon sees the standings looking at the end of the regular season:


1. Florida State
2. Clemson
3. NC State
4. Maryland
5. Wake Forest
6. Boston College


1. North Carolina
2. Virginia Tech
3. Miami
4. Georgia Tech
5. Duke
6. Virginia

ACC Championship Game: Florida State over Virginia Tech

Three Things to Watch in the Second Half

The Coastal Division – With North Carolina ineligible to play for the ACC title, can either Virginia Tech or Miami wrestle control of the division? Since the Tar Heels have wins over the Hokies and Hurricanes, they will likely finish with the best record in the division. However, someone has to represent the Coastal in the championship game, which leaves Miami and Virginia Tech as the most likely candidates.

A crucial moment in the Paul Johnson era at Georgia Tech? – Despite recording 19 wins in his first two years at Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson could be sitting on the hot seat at the end of 2012. The Yellow Jackets are just 16-16 in their last 32 games and are no lock to get bowl eligible with BYU, North Carolina, Duke and Georgia remaining on the schedule. Johnson canned defensive coordinator Al Groh and shuffled his defensive staff to find some answers for one of the ACC’s worst units. If Johnson finishes with a 5-7 or 6-6 record, he could be one of the top coaches on the hot seat entering 2013.

Will Florida State win the ACC title? – Even though the Seminoles lost to NC State last week, most still believe this is the best team in the ACC. The schedule isn’t too difficult, but Florida State plays three of its next four games on the road. Although the Seminoles missed out on a chance to remain in the national title hunt, winning the ACC Championship and finishing in the top five of the BCS would be a good season. While Florida State may not be ready to be “back” as a national championship team, there’s still a lot of talent on this team and a subpar finish to the season won’t sit well in Tallahassee.

Five Games to Watch in the Second Half

Virginia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 20) – The Tigers smacked the Hokies twice last season. Can Virginia Tech return the favor this year?

NC State at North Carolina (Oct. 27) – Can the Tar Heels snap a five-game losing streak to the Wolfpack?

Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 1) – Could this game decide who represents the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship?

Florida State at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8) – The Hokies are struggling, but a Thursday night matchup in Blacksburg won’t be an easy victory for Florida State.

NC State at Clemson (Nov. 17) – If the Wolfpack avoid a loss until Nov. 17, a victory over Clemson could put them in the ACC Championship.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Florida State (5-1, 2-1 ACC) – The Seminoles bounced back after a disappointing loss to NC State, crushing Boston College 51-17 to move to 5-1 on the season.

2. Clemson (5-1, 2-1 ACC) – The Tigers had a bye week on Saturday and return to action next Saturday against Virginia Tech.

3. NC State (4-2, 1-1 ACC) – The bye week came at a good time for the Wolfpack, as Tom O’Brien’s team had plenty of time to forget about the win over Florida State. NC State takes on Maryland in Week 8.

4. North Carolina (5-2, 2-1 ACC) – With Saturday’s 18-14 win over Miami, the Tar Heels control their destiny to win the Coastal Division. However, there’s just one problem – North Carolina is ineligible to win the division title.

5. Miami (4-3, 3-1 ACC) – The Hurricanes’ defense held North Carolina to just 18 points, but an injury to quarterback Stephen Morris prevented any shot at a comeback victory late in the fourth quarter.

6. Virginia Tech (4-3, 2-1 ACC) – It wasn’t a particularly impressive first half, but the Hokies rallied to get a key 41-20 victory over Duke. The win over the Blue Devils snapped a two-game losing streak.

7. Georgia Tech (2-4, 1-3 ACC) – The Yellow Jackets’ defense is in desperate need of a turnaround, which coach Paul Johnson hopes a change in coordinator will provide a spark.

8. Duke (5-2, 2-1 ACC) – The Blue Devils need one more win to get bowl eligible, which won’t be easy with a schedule that features North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami.

9. Maryland (4-2, 2-0 ACC) – With the 27-20 win over Virginia, the Terrapins have doubled their win total from last season (two).

10. Virginia (2-5, 0-3) – The Cavaliers look to snap a five-game losing streak with a home date against Wake Forest this Saturday.

11. Wake Forest (3-3, 1-3 ACC) – The Demon Deacons had a bye in Week 7 and return to action against Virginia this Saturday.

12. Boston College (1-5, 0-3 ACC) – The Eagles’ miserable season continued with a 51-7 loss at Florida State.

by Steven Lassan

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<p> At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the ACC.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /news/ball-states-crazy-tip-drill-interception-highlights-win-over-wmu

The MAC is a conference known for its offensive fireworks, but Ball State used a little creativity on defense to beat Western Michigan on Saturday.

With Western Michigan ready to punch in a score to take a lead, the Cardinals tipped a pass intended for a receiver in the endzone. One tip is usually enough for a pass to be intercepted or caught, but this time, the ball was tipped twice and picked off. Another element to the play was another Ball State defender ripping the ball from a defensive lineman in an attempt to take it back for a score.

<p> Ball State's Crazy Tip Drill Interception Highlights Win over WMU</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:17
Path: /news/streaker-interrupts-texas-tech-west-virginia-game

Saturday's West Virginia-Texas Tech matchup was supposed to be one of the weekend's best games. However, the Red Raiders scored an easy 49-14 win, effectively ending any hopes the Mountaineers had of making the national title game.

Although the game had a few highlights, one of the best moments was when a streaker jumped onto the field in the second half. Although the streaker managed to make his way around the field, he was quickly nabbed before he removed all of his clothing.

The best part of this video? Watching the police in cowboy hats trying to catch and tackle the streaker.

<p> Streaker Interrupts Texas Tech-West Virginia Game</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-post-week-7-waiver-wire-report

This week's Waiver Wire may be the weakest of the season in regards to past fantasy performance, but the list offers several names with a lot of fantasy potential over the final six weeks of the season.  For those of you jockeying for a playoff spot, do not sleep on anyone listed below because you must assume that your opposition will not.

Trevone Boykin, QB-TCU

Boykin was impressive commanding the offense against Baylor on Saturday and his dual-threat ability adds extra value for owners needing quality depth at the quarterback position.

Taylor Kelly, QB-Arizona St

Kelly has thrown at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive games and has rushed for at least 40 yards in three of his six starts.

James Sims, RB-Kansas

Since his return from suspension, Sims has rushed for 344 yards and four touchdowns in three games and has carried the ball at least 27 times the past two weeks.

Jeff Scott, RB-Ole Miss

Scott has three 100-yard performances to his credit this season and has scored a touchdown in five of the six games in which he has played.

Bronson Hill, RB-Eastern Michigan

When a guy comes out of nowhere and rushes for 283 yards and four touchdowns this late in the season, we’re going to make room on our roster for him, especially when he plays in the MAC

Jeremy Hill, RB-LSU

We know the Tigers are loaded at running back, but don’t leave him on the waiver wire and let someone else have a shot at the talented freshman, especially if you play in a BCS-only league.

Devin Street, WR-Pitt

Street has caught at least ten passes in his last two games and has scored a touchdown in three of his last four.  Even better, the junior receiver should continue his hot streak over the next two weeks as the Panthers play Buffalo and Temple.

Richy Turner, WR-Nevada

Turner has caught at least seven passes in four of Nevada’s previous five games and has found the end zone two weeks in a row.

Jordan Leslie, WR-UTEP

Leslie is averaging five catches and 83 yards per game and has scored in four of seven contests.  UTEP’s six losses have all been by ten points or more, so expect the Miners’ to be playing from behind for most of the remainder of the season.

by Joe DiSalvo

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Email:  [email protected]

<p> College Fantasy Football: Post-Week 7 Waiver Wire Report</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 04:22
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-preview-and-prediction

Another week, another big showdown in the SEC. This matchup lost some of its appeal when LSU lost to Florida last week, but this game still features two of the nation’s top-10 teams.

South Carolina blasted Georgia last Saturday, dominating from the opening snap and finishing with a 35-7 victory. Although the win over the Bulldogs was huge for positioning in the SEC, the Gamecocks can’t afford to be overconfident, especially with Florida emerging as a top-five team.

Night games in Baton Rouge have provided some memorable moments, and the home crowd should give LSU plenty of momentum after last week’s disappointing road loss. The Tigers have not lost back-to-back games since 2008 and in 19 matchups against South Carolina, LSU has lost just two times.

Storylines to Watch in South Carolina vs. LSU

South Carolina’s defensive line vs. LSU’s offensive line
This was supposed to be a strength versus strength matchup. However, LSU’s offensive line has suffered a few setbacks this year, as starting left tackle Chris Faulk was lost for the year with a torn ACL, and guard Josh Williford left last week’s game against Florida due to injury. Tackle Alex Hurst missed practice time due to personal issues and may not play on Saturday night. The Tigers’ injury and personnel concerns on the line will be magnified this week, especially with South Carolina’s defensive front coming to town. The Gamecocks rank ninth nationally in rush defense and are averaging 4.2 sacks per game. End Jadeveon Clowney is one of the top players in the nation and has plenty of help around him. LSU needs its offensive line to step up after struggling to generate a push against Florida’s defense. If the Gamecocks dominate the line of scrimmage, LSU will once again have a hard time moving the ball on offense.

Can LSU get quarterback Zach Mettenberger on track?
While it wasn’t expected to be overly prolific, LSU’s passing offense was expected to show improvement in 2012. However, the Tigers have sputtered once again, as they rank 12th in the SEC in passing offense and are averaging just 195.7 yards per game. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrown for 1,174 yards and six touchdowns but failed to throw a score against Florida and completed less than 50 percent of his passes. The junior doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards every game, but he has to hit more big plays than LSU has connected on so far. South Carolina’s secondary ranks 28th nationally in pass defense, while its pass rush never allows opposing quarterbacks to get comfortable in the pocket.

Marcus Lattimore vs. LSU’s run defense
As each week passes, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore looks more and more comfortable in his return from a torn ACL. The junior has three 100-yard games this year and has reached paydirt in all six contests. LSU will be Lattimore’s toughest test this season, as the Tigers rank 14th nationally against the run and have allowed only five rushing touchdowns. The Gamecocks’ offensive line has struggled at times this season and matching up against one of the nation’s best defensive fronts will be a challenge. Lattimore is the glue to South Carolina’s offense, as his success helps take the pressure off of quarterback Connor Shaw. Even if running room is limited early on, the Gamecocks need to give Lattimore 20-25 touches. While LSU has plenty of depth on the defensive line, South Carolina’s rushing attack figures to get stronger as the game progresses.

Final Analysis

This is a crucial game for both teams, but there is more pressure on LSU to win on Saturday night. The Tigers can’t afford to fall two games behind Alabama in the SEC West standings.

For South Carolina, a win in Baton Rouge would keep alive its national title hopes, as well as move the Gamecocks one step closer to booking a trip to Atlanta to play for the SEC title in December.

There’s no question LSU is a desperate team and it has to have this game. Although quarterback Zach Mettenberger has struggled to find his rhythm, the homefield edge and defense should be enough for the Tigers to beat the Gamecocks on Saturday night.

However, with a tight game expected, the team with the better quarterback will find a way to win.

Final Prediction: South Carolina 20, LSU 17

by Steven Lassan

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<p> LSU Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 08:56
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-7-preview-match-ups-upset-picks-and-storylines-watch

Week 7 of the college football season doesn't feature a ton of prominent match-ups, but there are a lot of games that will set the table for the rest of the year. West Virginia scored a huge victory over Texas last week but has a potential trap game at Texas Tech this Saturday. In addition to the West Virginia-Texas Tech pairing, the Big 12 also features Texas-Oklahoma and Baylor-TCU. As usual, the SEC isn't short on intrigue, as South Carolina-LSU is one of the must-watch games for Week 7. 

Top Storylines to Watch in Week 7

Elimination Game in the Big 12?
With West Virginia and Kansas State off to 2-0 starts in Big 12 play, Texas and Oklahoma cannot afford to fall two games behind in the standings. The stakes in the Red River Rivalry are always high, but with this year’s meeting essentially an elimination game for the conference title, there’s even more pressure on both teams to win on Saturday. One of the season’s biggest surprises has been the struggles of Texas’ defense, which ranks 74th nationally in yards allowed and 83rd against the run. Although the Longhorns are allowing over 400 yards per game, this defense will cause problems for Oklahoma’s offense, especially in the trenches with Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor – two of the nation’s best defensive ends – lining up on the outside. Texas could also get a boost with the return of linebacker Jordan Hicks, who has missed the last two games due to an injury. Although quarterback Landry Jones has played well in the last two meetings against the Longhorns, the Sooners have to establish balance if they want to win. Considering how well quarterback David Ash has played this season, the Sooners will have their hands full trying to slow down a much-improved Texas offense. Texas-Oklahoma is usually the Big 12’s most-important game of the season. However, West Virginia and Kansas State appear to be the frontrunners for the Big 12 title, which makes this year’s game in Dallas a must-win if either team wants to be a conference champion.

Showdown in Baton Rouge
With LSU’s loss to Florida, Saturday’s match-up between the Tigers and South Carolina lost a bit of its appeal. However, this is still a huge game on the national scene and will have an impact on who wins the SEC East. LSU desperately needs to win, as a loss to the Gamecocks would put the Tigers two games behind Alabama in the SEC West standings. With a win over LSU, South Carolina would set up a huge showdown on Oct. 20 against Florida, which will likely decide the winner of the East Division. Although quarterback play is always important, it’s even more crucial for Saturday’s game. The Tigers struggled to establish their passing attack in last week’s loss to Florida and need to find a spark against the Gamecocks. Considering both defenses rank in the top 10 in scoring defense, whichever team finds a spark on offense first should emerge from this SEC clash with a victory.   

BCS defining game for Notre Dame?
There’s a lot of football left and anything could happen in the second half of the season, but Saturday’s game could be a defining contest for Notre Dame’s BCS bowl hopes. With a schedule that features winnable games against BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest, a victory over Stanford would likely lock Notre Dame into 10 wins and a BCS bowl. The Cardinal are anything but a guaranteed victory for the Irish, especially after Stanford’s offense got on track in last week’s win over Arizona. Although the Wildcats aren’t one of the Pac-12’s best defenses, it was a critical performance for quarterback Josh Nunes to build some confidence for the second half of the year. Notre Dame’s secondary has played well despite the new faces, but the key to this match-up will be the battle in the trenches. Stanford wants to pound the ball at opposing defenses, but Notre Dame ranks 17th nationally against the run and is the only team not to allow a rushing touchdown through the first six weeks of action. If Notre Dame controls the line of scrimmage, Nunes will have to show he can play well on the road, something he did not do in the loss to Washington. Notre Dame probably isn’t thinking about the BCS implications of this game, but a win against Stanford will go a long ways towards the Irish earning their first BCS bowl berth since 2007.

Wisconsin vs. Purdue…A Big Game?
Don’t laugh, this is an important game in the Big Ten standings. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible to win the Leaders Division, Wisconsin and Purdue are the two favorites to play the Legends Division winner in Indianapolis. After a slow start, the Badgers seem to be on the right track. Joel Stave has stabilized the quarterback position, while running back Montee Ball has five touchdowns in his last two games. The Boilermakers are reeling after a 44-13 loss to Michigan and have yet to beat an opponent from a BCS conference this season. Purdue quarterback Robert Marve is dealing with a torn ACL, but played in last week’s game against the Wolverines, completing 5 of 8 passes for 43 yards. Wisconsin has won the last six meetings in this series, including a 62-17 beatdown in Madison last year. The Boilermakers are capable of playing better than they did last week, but the Badgers seem to have found the right answers on offense and still hold the edge in this game.

Under the Radar Games

Louisiana Tech vs. Texas A&M (Shreveport)
This game was originally scheduled for the first week of the season, but Hurricane Isaac forced it to be postponed. The Bulldogs are ranked in the Associated Press and USA Today polls and need to keep winning to have a shot at a BCS game. This match-up shouldn’t be hurting for points, as both teams are averaging over 40 points a contest.

North Carolina at Miami
It’s unfortunate that the Tar Heels are ineligible to play for the ACC Championship, as this team might be the best in the Coastal Division. North Carolina beat Virginia Tech 48-34 last week and its offense should have no trouble moving the ball against a Miami defense allowing 510 yards a game.

Auburn at Ole Miss
What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Rebels were the worst team in the SEC West and lost to Auburn 41-23. Could we see that score reversed on Saturday? Ole Miss is a much-improved team under new coach Hugh Freeze, while the Tigers continue to search for answers on both sides of the ball. If Auburn struggles to generate its offense once again, the Rebels should be able to add to the Tigers’ misery this season.

Duke at Virginia Tech
In a bit of a surprise, Duke enters this game with a better ACC record than Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils also need just one more victory to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. The Hokies have lost three out of their last four games and a defense that was expected to be among the nation’s best is allowing nearly 400 yards per game.

TCU at Baylor
These two teams met for a 50-48 shootout game last season and there should be plenty of fireworks once again this Saturday. TCU will be without quarterback Casey Pachall for the rest of the season, but Baylor’s defense ranks dead last (120th out of 120 FBS schools) nationally in yards allowed. The Horned Frogs rank 19th nationally in pass defense but have yet to be tested by a passing attack as potent and produtive as Baylor's.

Utah State at San Jose State
Both teams are looking up at Louisiana Tech in the WAC pecking order, but this is still a huge game. Utah State has a win over Utah this year, along with a two-point loss to Wisconsin and a three-point defeat to BYU. The Spartans are off to a 4-1 start and nearly beat Stanford in the opener. This game also features two of the nation’s rising stars in the coaching ranks – Gary Andersen (Utah State) and Mike MacIntyre (San Jose State).

Oregon State at BYU
The Beavers will be without quarterback Sean Mannion, but don’t write off the Beavers in Provo. The Cougars expect to have quarterback Riley Nelson back under center, but BYU’s offense struggled mightily against Boise State and Utah State. Expect a low-scoring game, with a play or two on defense likely deciding the outcome.

USC at Washington
Although USC has a clear edge in talent, this game may be closer than some expect. The Huskies won the last meeting  played in Seattle, and two out of the last three games in this series have been decided by three points or less. The two coaches in this game (Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin) are certainly familiar with each other, which will help keep this one close into the fourth quarter.

Tennessee at Mississippi State
Could this game decide Derek Dooley’s future at Tennessee? It’s unlikely, but this still is a must-win game for the Volunteers. With match-ups against Alabama and South Carolina coming up the next two weeks, a loss to Mississippi State would more than likely leave the Volunteers with a 3-5 mark heading into the final month of the season. The Bulldogs are 5-0 but have played a soft schedule.

Upset Watch

Fresno State (+7) at Boise State
The Broncos have lost only three games at home since 2000, and the Bulldogs have not fared well on the blue turf in recent years. However, Boise State is still trying to find the right answers after losing a handful of key contributors from last season’s team, while Fresno State boasts two of the nation’s most underrated players in quarterback Derek Carr and running back Robbie Rouse.
Prediction: Fresno State 31, Boise State 27

Kansas State at Iowa State (+6.5)
The Cyclones are always good for an upset or two, and the last four meetings in this series have been decided by eight points or less. Kansas State is the better team, but Iowa State’s run defense will be a tough test for Wildcats’ quarterback Collin Klein.
Prediction: Kansas State 31, Iowa State 24

Louisville at Pittsburgh (+3)
The Big East is unpredictable, so nothing in this game would be a surprise. Pittsburgh has won the last four games in this series, including a 21-14 win in Louisville last year. The Cardinals are clearly the better team, but the Panthers are capable of getting hot at the right time.
Prediction: Louisville 27, Pittsburgh 20

Letdown Alert?

West Virginia at Texas Tech
After a big win at Texas last Saturday, the Mountaineers should be wary of this week’s trip to Lubbock. Texas Tech is coming off a loss to Oklahoma, but the Red Raiders’ offense will test a shaky West Virginia defense. Back-to-back road games are never easy, especially for a team that has never played in Lubbock.

California at Washington State
The Golden Bears desperately needed a win last week, and they responded with a surprising 43-17 blowout victory over UCLA. The second half schedule features a handful of tough games, including road trips to Oregon State and Utah, along with home contests against Stanford, Washington and Oregon. If California wants to go to a bowl game, it can’t afford a letdown on the road at Washington State.

Florida at Vanderbilt
Coming off a big win against LSU and with a key SEC East showdown against South Carolina next Saturday, the Gators have to be careful not to overlook the Commodores. Even though Vanderbilt is 2-3, the Commodores nearly beat Florida last season (26-21) and have some momentum after beating Missouri 19-15 last week. It’s a longshot, but a road game in the SEC is never easy.

Injuries to Watch

James Franklin, QB, Missouri – Franklin suffered a knee injury in last week’s loss to Vanderbilt and is out indefinitely.

MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota – Gray has not played since suffering a high ankle sprain against Western Michigan on Sept. 15. However, the senior quarterback is close to 100 percent and is expected to play against Northwestern this Saturday.

Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas - Hicks has missed the last two games with a hip injury but is expected to return for Saturday's game against Oklahoma. The junior's return should help the Longhorns' defense, which struggled against Oklahoma State and West Virginia.

Alex Hurst, OT, LSU – The Tigers’ offensive line has not played up to preseason expectations and could have even bigger issues on Saturday, as Hurst is dealing with personal issues and may not play against South Carolina.

Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State – Lunt is still recovering from a knee injury suffered against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 15. J.W. Walsh filled in admirably for Lunt against Texas and appears to be in line to get the start once again this week.

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State – Mannion suffered a knee injury in last week’s win over Washington State and is out indefinitely after surgery. Cody Vaz will get the start under center for Oregon State.

Sean Renfree, QB, Duke - Renfree missed last week's game against Virginia due to an elbow injury but all signs point to the senior returning this Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State – Sims suffered an ankle injury against Indiana last week and is out for this Saturday’s game against Iowa.

Patrick Towles, QB, Kentucky – A bad season only got worse for Kentucky last Saturday. Towles, who led the Wildcats on a scoring drive in his first collegiate action, suffered an ankle injury against Mississippi State is out indefinitely.

Josh Williford, OL, LSU – Williford was banged up in last week’s loss to Florida and is questionable to play this week due to a head injury.

Games to Avoid

Alabama at Missouri
With quarterback James Franklin sidelined, Missouri will have a tough time moving the ball against Alabama’s defense. With the Crimson Tide having two weeks to prepare and a well-rested team after an off date, this one should get ugly early.

Boston College at Florida State
Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses, but the situation is more dire for Boston College, especially after slumping to a 1-4 start, including last Saturday's loss to a struggling Army team. Expect an angry Florida State team to handle its business and keep its ACC title hopes alive with an easy win over the Eagles.

Oklahoma State at Kansas
Thanks to two off dates, this will be Oklahoma State’s second game in four weeks. The Jayhawks hung tough for a half against Kansas State but dropped their fourth consecutive game of the year. The Cowboys might be a rusty early on, but it’s hard to see this one being close in the fourth quarter.

Illinois at Michigan
The Tim Beckman era is off to a horrendous start at Illinois. The Fighting Illini are 2-4, with their only wins coming over Western Michigan and Charleston Southern. Illinois has been blown out in all four losses, and Michigan seems to be finding its stride after beating Purdue 44-13 last week.

Fordham vs. Cincinnati
The Bearcats are quietly flying under the radar with a 4-0 start and should remain unbeaten with an easy victory over Fordham.

by Steven Lassan

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<p> College Football Week 7 Preview: Match-Ups, Upset Picks and Storylines to Watch</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-vs-texas-longhorns-preview-and-prediction

With Texas and Oklahoma each having one loss in Big 12 play this season, Saturday’s annual matchup in Dallas is essentially an elimination game. The winner keeps its Big 12 title hopes alive, while the loser is not only out of the mix for the conference championship but is also likely out of the picture for an at-large spot in a BCS game.

Oklahoma bounced back after losing to Kansas State on Sept. 22, beating Texas Tech 41-20. The win was huge for the Sooners’ offense, which had four turnovers and never established a rushing attack in the loss to the Wildcats. The Longhorns find themselves in Oklahoma’s position this week, as they hope to rebound from a 48-45 loss to West Virginia.

The Sooners have won the last two matchups in this series and have claimed three out of the last five. Oklahoma’s 55-17 victory last season was Texas’ worst showing in this game since losing 65-13 in 2003.

Not only is this game big for positioning in the conference standings and in the polls, this is a huge matchup for recruiting purposes. While a win on the field isn’t necessarily going to guarantee players landing at a particular school, it doesn’t hurt to have a good showing against a rival school.

Storylines to Watch in Texas vs. Oklahoma

Can Oklahoma lean on Landry Jones to win this game?
In Oklahoma’s last two games against Texas, Jones has been solid, throwing for five touchdowns and 603 yards. However, Jones has been inconsistent at times throughout his career and did not play well in the 24-19 loss to Kansas State. Even though the senior may not be a Heisman Trophy contender or the Big 12’s first-team quarterback, he does have 100 touchdown passes and 13,411 passing yards in his career. In order for Jones to lead Oklahoma to a victory on Saturday, he has to get help from his supporting cast. The Sooners have a young receiving corps but has to be optimistic about its passing attack after watching Texas allow 268 yards and four touchdowns to West Virginia’s Geno Smith. The key battle for Oklahoma to win will be in the trenches and with the rushing attack. Although the Sooners are averaging 190.5 yards per game, they have not rushed for more than 121 yards against a BCS opponent in 2012. While Jones is capable of throwing for 350 yards and four touchdowns against Texas, Oklahoma’s best plan should be balance, especially with the emergence of Damien Williams at running back.

Is Texas’ defense ready to turn things around?
One of the biggest surprises of the 2012 season has to be Texas’ defense. The Longhorns were supposed to have one of the nation’s best, especially with the Big 12’s No. 1 secondary and defensive line returning. However, this unit has not met expectations, allowing 404.2 yards per game, while ranking 83rd nationally against the run. The defense could get one piece of good news this Saturday, as linebacker Jordan Hicks could be ready to return to the lineup. Hicks’ leadership should help the defense correct some of the assignment problems it has experienced over the last few games. All of the pieces are in place for the Longhorns to have their best defensive effort in Big 12 play this year. The defensive line seemed to find its rhythm last week and with Hicks returning, the linebacking corps should be in better shape. If there’s ever a week for Texas to turn its defense around, Saturday’s matchup against Oklahoma would be the one.

Which team will win the battle on the ground?
Although both teams can win this game by throwing 35-40 passes, expect both offenses to strive for balance. Oklahoma’s rushing attack ranks ninth in the Big 12 in conference-only games, while Texas checks in at No. 5. Junior college recruit Damien Williams helped to provide a spark to Oklahoma's rushing attack in the first two games, but he has just 82 yards over the last two contests. The Longhorns may not have Malcolm Brown available for this game, which means Joe Bergeron and true freshman Johnathan Gray will handle the majority of the carries. Texas clearly has the edge in talent at running back, but the Sooners have been slightly tougher against the run, allowing 142.5 yards per game. The matchup favors Texas, but Oklahoma will be geared to stop the Longhorns’ rushing attack and hopes to force David Ash to win this game through the air.

Final Analysis:

The stakes are usually high in the Red River Rivalry but there’s even more pressure on both teams to win on Saturday afternoon. Even with one loss, Texas and Oklahoma still have legitimate Big 12 title hopes but can’t afford to drop another contest.

The Longhorns’ passing attack has improved from a weakness to a strength, especially considering quarterback David Ash has thrown just one interception on 138 attempts this year. The sophomore has a handful of quality weapons at receiver, including Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis, Marquise Goodwin and Daje Johnson.

This matchup will likely come down to how quickly Texas’ defense can turn things around against a potent Oklahoma offense. Even though Landry Jones has struggled at times during his career, he has a solid group of weapons – led by junior receiver Kenny Stills – and has played well against Texas in his previous two matchups.

The Longhorns are more balanced on offense, and their defensive line should get enough pressure to make things uncomfortable on Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Expect a close game, but Texas snaps a two-game losing streak to the Sooners on Saturday afternoon.

Final Prediction: Texas 31, Oklahoma 27

by Steven Lassan

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<p> Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas Longhorns Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 05:50