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Path: /college-football/northwestern-wildcats-vs-nebraska-cornhuskers-preview-and-prediction-2017

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true, both Northwestern and Nebraska are still technically fighting for the Big Ten West Division title. Granted, both teams are 3-2 in conference play and would need a minor miracle to catch 5-0 Wisconsin, especially since they have both already lost to the Badgers.


Nonetheless, the Wildcats sit at 5-3 overall, one game from bowl eligibility, which would be their third straight trip to the postseason. The Cornhuskers are in serious trouble of missing out on the postseason with a 4-4 overall record.


Well let’s not jump off the cliff yet, there is plenty of football left to play here folks. But the Wildcats look to be a bit more of a charmed team, having won their last two games over Iowa and Michigan State in overtime. Nebraska had to rally from behind to beat Purdue, which the boys in Vegas tabbed as an “upset.”


These teams look pretty even on paper. We’ll see how they shake out on the field.


Northwestern at Nebraska


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Northwestern -1


Three Things to Watch


1. Is there anything left in the Wildcat tank?

Man, could the Northwestern Wildcats use another bye week about now, or what? The last two games they have played were overtime white-knucklers that both turned out their way, beating Iowa 17-10 and then taking down Michigan State 39-31 in triple OT. While the Purple Crew and the Big Red seem to be pretty even in most measurements, the fatigue factor has to favor the Cornhuskers, who enter the game still needing two more wins to get to the post-season. The last two times Nebraska played at home it was taken to the woodshed by Wisconsin and Ohio State. With the Huskers’ offense clicking a bit better and the Wildcats being torched for 445 yard through the air vs. MSU, the home team needs this one more


2. Whoever is less “giving”

Both quarterbacks have a knack of being a little too generous when it comes to handouts (i.e., interceptions). Nebraska’s Tanner Lee has thrown 10 to the opposite uniform and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson has thrown nine. But it’s hard to completely blame Thorson, he has been running for his life and been sacked a Big Ten-high 24 times this season. Lee is second in the conference with 268 passing yards per game, but has hit on just 56 percent of his throws. Cornhuskers head coach Mike Riley said Lee is getting more comfortable with the offense and he’ll now face the second-worst pass defense in the conference this week. The Huskers must take advantage and stay out of long down-and-distance situations. Which brings us to the third point...


3. Crank up the ground game

Somewhere out there, I.M. Hipp, Jarvis Redwine, Mike Rozier and Roger Craig are hanging their heads. Nebraska’s running game is ranked No. 106 in the country, running for a measly 121 yards a game. Aye-yaye-yaye. Even Northwestern runs the ball better – though only slightly – gaining 128 yards a game, though Justin Jackson (right) is fifth in the conference averaging 81 rushing yards per game. Neither rushing attack strikes fear into their opponents but the Wildcats have a solid run defense, giving up just 118 yards per game on the ground. Nebraska’s offensive line is a far cry from the Husker Pipeline days and has actually been more of a weakness. It gets even worse with center Michael Decker and guard Tanner Farmer out for this game.


Final Analysis


As mentioned above, these two teams are pretty similar on paper. None of their statistics really stand out as dominant. So this will be a huge game of momentum and energy. The Wildcats got beat pretty soundly in two of their three road games this year. And coming off of two draining overtime games, you have to wonder if their luck is going to hold up.


Tanner Lee has a trio of really talented receivers in Stanley Morgan Jr., J.D. Spielman and the dynamic De’Mornay Pierson-El (above, right), who all took a big step forward in the confidence department as the Big Red pulled off a big rally in a road game at Purdue. That and an energized Memorial Stadium crowd should help put the Cornhuskers in a good position to get a win. That is, of course, if they can stop the yo-yoing hot-and-cold style of play and not succumb to the occasional bonehead play. Which is, of course, a big if.


Prediction: Nebraska 28, Northwestern 24


— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.

Northwestern Wildcats vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 10:20
Path: /college-football/georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-vs-virginia-cavaliers-preview-and-prediction-2017

The question over the first six games of the ACC season was, “What in the world has gotten into the Virginia Cavaliers?” With a 5-1 start that included a 19-point win at Boise State, the Cavaliers were the surprise of the league.


But over the past two weeks, the question has become, “What has happened to the Virginia Cavaliers?” They lost by a combined 48 points to Boston College and Pittsburgh, two teams UVA expected to beat.


This week the Hoos go to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. The Jackets are coming off a loss in the slop at Clemson on Saturday night that dropped them to 4-3.


Georgia Tech at Virginia


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network/Raycom Sports

Spread: Georgia Tech -10


Three Things to Watch


1. Georgia Tech getting back on track

The Yellow Jackets had 198 rushing yards against Clemson, but it certainly didn’t seem like it. A good chunk (65) of those yards came on one big KirVonte Benson (above, right) gallop early in the game, and 22 more came on TaQuon Marshall’s late TD run. Georgia Tech also had 21 rushes of two yards or less. This week the game won’t be played in a monsoon and Clemson will not be on the other side of the ball. Virginia is 58th in rushing defense and surrendered 237 yards on the ground to Boston College and 176 more to Pitt. 


2. Kurt Benkert

Last season, the Cavaliers' quarterback started the year out fast and faded down the stretch. He began his final season in Charlottesville on fire again but in the last two games has slumped, completing just 52 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Georgia Tech gives up less than 200 yards passing on average, so this will be another great challenge for Benkert. One positive note for Virginia is that Georgia Tech does not have a dynamic pass rush; the Cavaliers have had trouble protecting their quarterback the past couple of weeks.


3. Coverage units

Virginia's are pretty bad. Actually, they’re really bad. UVA's punt coverage team ranks 121st in the nation, which is the same ranking as the kickoff coverage team. Pitt’s Quadree Henderson turned a 14-0 Panthers lead into a 21-0 Pittsburgh runaway with a 75-yard punt return in the second quarter. It was the second time UVA allowed a punt return score this season. Interestingly, the punt coverage unit that is right below Virginia at No. 122 is Georgia Tech. There will be big plays to be made on special teams, and the team that converts may have the upper hand.


Final Analysis


It was an ugly Saturday night for Georgia Tech. In the driving rain, Clemson got up early and put the option-based Yellow Jackets in an uncomfortable position. The loss puts Tech two games behind Coastal leader Miami, and since the Jackets lost to the Hurricanes a few weeks ago, there is little hope of claiming a division title. But Paul Johnson’s team can enhance its bowl resume down the stretch, starting with the game against the Cavaliers. Virginia stumbles into this game once again needing just one more victory for bowl eligibility. With games against Louisville, Miami and Virginia Tech remaining, it won’t be easy. Georgia Tech jump-starts its rushing attack this week, and Virginia will have to keep trying for that elusive sixth victory.


Prediction: Georgia Tech 34, Virginia 21


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Virginia Cavaliers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 10:10
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/betting-against-spread-nfl-week-9-picks-and-odds-lines-2017

Quarterback play in the NFL has been a huge mixed bag so far this season, but we were treated to a taste of the future in the Houston/Seattle game. Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson went pass for pass in the best game of the season. The future is bright at the position with the likes of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and others entering the tail end of their careers. Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, among others, will keep things going under center.


Record: 22-13-2 (2-2 last week; 13-6-1 last four weeks)


Note: All times are ET and all games are on Sunday, Nov. 5 unless otherwise noted.


Los Angeles Rams (5-2) at New York Giants (1-6), 1 p.m.

The bye week won't fix what ails the Giants as they host the Rams on Sunday. Janoris Jenkins is not playing as he’s been indefinitely suspended after not reporting to the team quick enough coming off of the bye. The defense has been good for the most part although this unit is spending way too much time on the field. Eli Manning has no run game to speak of and he's running out of pass catchers with all of the injuries. On the other side is a Rams squad that has allowed a total of 33 points over their last three games. Jared Goff is making this offense work although Todd Gurley is doing a lot of the work. To me, this one seems like a lower-scoring contest. The Rams have gone under in 23 of their last 39 games. Yes, they have skewed to the over this season, but I think both teams’ defenses will be fresh and ready for this one. SELECTION: Under 42


Atlanta Falcons (4-3) at Carolina Panthers (5-3), 1 p.m.

Carolina traded Kelvin Benjamin away, a somewhat curious move considering the absence of tight end Greg Olsen. So for now, the top targets will be Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey, who has already emerged as a dangerous pass catcher no matter where he lines up. Atlanta's defense isn't that great, but it's been good against the run and has allowed more than 300 passing yards just once and that was against Aaron Rodgers. The Falcons’ offense has disappointed and isn’t the same without Kyle Shanahan calling the plays. Atlanta has gone under in three of its last four and it’s hard to get a read on this team right now. Carolina's defense has been fantastic and will be glad to be finally come home after playing four of five on the road. These NFC South rivals have played 16 unders in their last 21 meetings in Carolina because the Falcons’ offense is completely different outdoors. SELECTION: Under 44


Baltimore Ravens (4-4) at Tennessee Titans (4-3), 1 p.m.

I know that the Titans are coming off a bye week, but Baltimore has had more than a week as well coming off of their 40-0 romp of Miami last Thursday. The Ravens’ defense is getting healthier and it's showing on the field as they held the Dolphins to less than 200 yards of total offense. Baltimore’s offense has been an issue although Alex Collins has taken over the reins at running back and Danny Woodhead is working his way back as well. Tennessee has been held to 14 points or less in three of its last four and has been relatively unimpressive on both sides of the ball. The Titans probably should have lost in Cleveland two weeks ago and are not looking like the team we thought they would be. Tennessee has covered just 14 of its last 39 games and eight of its last 30 against the rest of the AFC. I think this is a lower-scoring game and the underdog is better suited for those. SELECTION: Ravens +4


Oakland Raiders (3-5) at Miami Dolphins (4-3), 8:30 p.m.

To me, it's kind of a joke that the Raiders are favored in this one. They've lost four of their last five as the defense continues to fail and the offense doesn't do enough. The addition of Marshawn Lynch hasn't added what the team thought it would and Derek Carr at times is doing a little bit too much. The defense has sprung too many leaks for my liking as well. Now Miami isn't much better right now, just traded Jay Ajayi and was beaten 40-0 by Baltimore in its last game. The defense has played pretty well for the most part and the offense could get Jay Cutler and DeVante Parker back. Miami should be able to take advantage of Oakland's banged-up secondary. I think the Dolphins win this one outright so I'll gladly take the points. SELECTION: Miami +3


Detroit Lions (3-4) at Green Bay Packers (4-3), 8:30 p.m. (Mon.)

I backed the Packers two weeks ago at home against New Orleans and it didn't work out. Two weeks later, I'm going to back them again at home fresh off of their bye. Brett Hundley is better than he played against the Saints and with two weeks to prepare, I think we see a better effort. Aaron Jones is running the ball well and has taken a stranglehold of the position. The Packers’ defense is on par with the Lions although they are more vulnerable on the ground, but that’s not something Detroit will be able to take advantage of. The Lions have lost three straight and four of their last five games as Matthew Stafford has hit a bit of a rough patch. Detroit didn't capitalize on its red zone trips at home against Pittsburgh this past Sunday night and now heads to Green Bay. The Lions have failed to cover in 15 of their last 21 games as a road favorite of three points or less. I think the Packers bounce back. SELECTION: Packers +2.5




— I really wanted to take the Broncos plus the points, but there were too many situations against me in that one. You've got a Denver team on the road for the third straight week coming off of a tough divisional loss on Monday night. The Broncos are starting Brock Osweiler at quarterback, and that doesn’t seem to be an improvement. Emmanuel Sanders is expected back, but that's not enough for me to back Denver on the road. The Broncos also have the Patriots on deck for what that’s worth. Philadelphia has played well, but still has things to work on and Denver’s defense remains pretty strong. If the line keeps going up, I may hop back in, but right now, I'll sit it out.


— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Betting Against the Spread: NFL Week 9 Picks and Odds
Post date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-week-10-2017

The real fun starts now!


Now that the College Football Playoff selection committee has published its first rankings of the 2017 season, you can expect complete chaos to ensue. It's as though the football gods decided to match all of the contenders with teams that can beat them, just when we think we are starting to figure the season out. We're hearing doomsday scenarios of three Power 5 conferences getting left out of the four-team playoff. Fans are already booking travel plans.




Here are this week's OUTRAGEOUS* predictions.


Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 10


Iowa shocks Ohio State

I have no stats or science to back this up. No logic. No "this is how it can happen." All I have is a gut feeling and a history of craziness going down in Iowa City. It's going to be cold and rainy. The Hawkeye fans will be responsibly hydrated. The Buckeyes are coming off of a physically and emotionally challenging win. Iowa has nothing to lose. The conditions are perfect for an upset. Look for Akrum Wadley, Josey Jewell and the Hawkeye offensive line to play out of their minds en route to an Iowa win.


NC State eliminates Clemson from contention

Not only do the Tigers have a loss, it's a conference loss. They can't afford another, and they're facing a team in NC State coming off an embarrassing loss to Notre Dame. I like the Wolfpack defensive line to neutralize Clemson's rushing attack, making the Tigers one-dimensional on offense. From there, it's a shootout between Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant and NC State's Ryan Finley. I'll take Finley and his skill players every day of the week in that matchup. NC State gets the win, takes command of the ACC Atlantic Division and eliminates Clemson from College Football Playoff contention.


Virginia Tech beats Miami by 20

There's a reason the Hurricanes are the College Football Playoff committee's lowest-ranked unbeaten Power 5 team — they haven't beaten anyone. Their best win was against Toledo earlier in the season, in a game that featured almost zero defense. That won't be the case this weekend when the Hokies come to town. If there's one thing Virginia Tech has been known for since Bud Foster has been the defensive coordinator in Blacksburg, it's sound, attacking defense. Miami hasn't seen anything close to that this season. Between that and a more-than-capable offensive attack led by Josh Jackson, look for Virginia Tech to come away with a relatively easy win.


Texas hands TCU its second straight loss

Matt Campbell and Iowa State drew up the blueprint for stopping the Horned Frogs' offense. Don't think for one second that Texas head coach Tom Herman doesn't have a stack of notes from watching that game film. The Longhorns have the athletes, but it will be their coach and his scheme that get the upset win for Texas in this one.


Mike Riley is out of a job by Monday

Florida is already shopping for a head coach, and one of the guys they are interested in is UCF's Scott Frost. Nebraska wants Frost as well, but needs a vacancy like Florida has if the Cornhuskers want to make any promises to Frost or any other potential candidate. After Northwestern hands Nebraska its fifth loss of the season on Saturday, it'll make new athletic director Bill Moos' already easy decision that much easier. The Mike Riley era at Nebraska is about to come to an end.


*Remember, "outrageous" can be defined as “wildly exaggerated or improbable,” and “very bold, unusual, and startling.” These are "outrageous" predictions and should be treated as such.


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also covers the Big Ten for Black Heart Gold Pants, Iowa's SB Nation blog. His work has appeared on,, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 10
Post date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-10-best-position-battles-watch-week-10-2017

The College Football Playoff rankings are out and the race for the national title is heating up with numerous big-time games on the horizon. As great as some of the college football matchups are this weekend between title contenders are though, they might not hold a candle to the games within a game — between players on either side of the ball.


Whether you’re a college football fan, a coach or an NFL scout, here are 10 of the best position vs. position battles of the bunch between offensive stars and their defensive counterparts on the other side:


1. LSU LBs Arden Key and Donnie Alexander vs. Alabama QB Jalen Hurts and RB Damien Harris

The Tigers and Crimson Tide have combined for some epic games over the years and while this season’s matchup doesn’t quite measure up, it’s still going to be a fascinating battle. If Ed Orgeron has any hope of pulling off an upset, he’ll need his linebackers to stop the run and chase down an elusive dual-threat quarterback in Hurts (above, right). Luckily for LSU, Key and Alexander are two of the most talented defenders in the league and they’ll need their A-games against an offensive backfield that can beat you up the middle as easy as they can hit the edge.


2. Clemson OL Mitch Hyatt vs. NC State DL Bradley Chubb

Hyatt has been a mainstay on the Tigers’ offensive line and you can count on one hand the number of sacks he’s allowed. He’ll face another huge test on Saturday though as Chubb has been the best pass rusher in the country this season and well tested after playing several top-notch tackles the past few weeks.


3. Oklahoma DBs Steven Parker, Jordan Thomas, Parnell Motley and William Johnson vs. Oklahoma QB Mason Rudolph, WRs James Washington, Marcell Ateman and Jalen McCleskey

Bedlam might be the best game of the weekend and in such a closely matched contest between rivals, stopping big plays will be a must in order to come out with a win. The Cowboys feature the country’s most potent aerial attack given the burners they have on the outside, putting a ton of pressure on a Sooners secondary that has already been lit up at times this season.


4. USC LBs Cam Smith and Uchenna Nwosu, DL Rasheem Green vs. Arizona QB Khalil Tate, RBs J.J. Taylor and Nick Wilson

Be prepared to stay up late on Saturday night to catch a potential shootout in the Pac-12 South as the most exciting player in the sport right now, the electric Tate, returns to his hometown to take on the Trojans. Smith has been one of the best tacklers in the conference the last few seasons and his teammates are the best edge tandem USC has had in a while. All three will need their best efforts in order to wrap up the dangerous Wildcats backfield.


5. LSU RBs Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams vs. Alabama LBs Shaun Dion Hamilton and Rashaan Evans

The Tigers have had a long line of highly touted running backs and very few of them have been able to solve that fearsome Crimson Tide defense. Next up? Guice and Williams will be looking to help spring an upset and move the chains on a more consistent basis against the No. 1 rushing defense in the FBS, keyed by Hamilton and Evans.


6. Oklahoma State DBs Tre Flowers and A.J. Green vs. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and WR CeeDee Lamb

For as good as the Cowboys’ offense is, you still have to play a little defense in the Big 12 in order to win games. OSU has a pretty good combo in the secondary with Flowers and Green but they know they’re going up against one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Mayfield and his young playmaker on the outside.


7. Florida State DBs Derwin James, Tavarus McFadden and Trey Marshall vs. Syracuse QB Eric Dungey, WRs Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips

This season has been an utter disaster for the Seminoles but that doesn’t mean the team is devoid of talent. The secondary in particular has several guys who will keep playing on Sundays but they’ll need to come to play against the Orange, whose passing attack is extremely dangerous and can hit big plays downfield even in tight coverage.


8. Miami QB Malik Rosier, WRs Ahmmon Richards and Braxton Berrios vs. Virginia Tech DBs Brandon Facyson, Greg Stroman and Terrell Edmunds

It’s been a while since the Hurricanes have been in this kind of position and they can help secure that elusive ACC Coastal Division title with a big win on Saturday night to remain undefeated. The biggest challenge in the game might come on the offensive end as their trio of stars in the passing game will try to figure out a lock-down secondary that will give a ton of different looks on the back end.


9. Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham vs. Texas A&M DB Armani Watts

Watts is one of the biggest playmakers in the SEC and roams the secondary like a center fielder who loves to pick off passes if you leave them up in the air just a bit too long. Stidham has been solid as a passer on the Plains but hasn’t had a huge game for the Tigers just yet. Given who he’s facing off against in College Station, it could be difficult to come out with a road win if he doesn’t avoid the Aggies safety when dropping back to find a receiver.


10. Virginia LB Micah Kiser and DB Quin Blanding vs. Georgia Tech RB KirVonte Benson and QB TaQuon Marshall

Kiser is one of the ACC’s top linebackers and should be in contention for All-American honors after being a tackling machine in the middle of the underrated Cavaliers defense. He’s also backed up by one of the hardest hitting safeties in the league in Blanding, who will team up with Kiser to look and slow down the Yellow Jackets’ dangerous option-oriented offense and potentially get Virginia to an elusive bowl game.


Best of the Rest



*NC State RB Nyheim Hines and HB Jaylen Samuels vs. Clemson LBs Dorian O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph, DB Van Smith

*Virginia Tech LBs Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds vs. Miami RB Travis Homer

*Wake Forest DL Duke Ejiofor vs. Notre Dame OL Mike McGlinchey

*NC State DL Justin Jones vs. Clemson OL Tyrone Crowder

*NC State OL Tony Adams vs. Clemson DL Dexter Lawrence

*Syracuse LBs Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett vs. Florida State RB Cam Akers


Big Ten

*Iowa LB Josey Jewell vs. Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins

*Northwestern DB Godwin Igwebuike vs. Nebraska QB Tanner Lee and WR De’Mornay Pierson-El

*Ohio State LBs Chris Worley and Jerome Baker vs. Iowa RBs Akrum Wadley and James Butler

*Penn State LB Jason Cabinda vs. Michigan State RBs LJ Scott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London

*Michigan State LBs Chris Frey and Joe Bachie vs. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

*Penn State DB Marcus Allen vs. Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke

*Nebraska DB Joshua Kalu vs. Northwestern SB Garrett Dickerson

*Indiana WR Simmie Cobbs and TE Ian Thomas vs. Wisconsin DBs Derrick Tindal and D’Cota Dixon

*Minnesota RB Rodney Smith vs. Michigan DL Maurice Hurst and LB Mike McCray

*Iowa OL Sean Welsh vs. Ohio State DL Dre’Mont Jones and Tracy Sprinkle

*Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook vs. Indiana CB Rashard Fant

*Iowa DL Nathan Bazata vs. Ohio State OL Michael Jordan


Big 12

*Texas LBs Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler vs. TCU RB Kyle Hicks

*Iowa State LB Joel Lanning vs. West Virginia RB Justin Crawford

*Texas DBs DeShon Elliott and Kris Boyd vs. TCU QB Kenny Hill, WRs John Diarse and KaVontae Turpin

*Texas Tech DBs Jah’Shawn Johnson and Octavious Morgan vs. Kansas State WRs Byron Pringle and Isaiah Zuber

*Oklahoma State OL Zach Crabtree vs. Oklahoma LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

*West Virginia DBs Kyzir White and Dravon Askew-Henry vs. Iowa State WR Allen Lazard and QB Kyle Kempt

*Oklahoma LBs Kenneth Murray and Caleb Kelly vs. Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill

*Kansas State RB Alex Barnes vs. Texas Tech LBs Dakota Allen and Jordyn Brooks

*West Virginia LBs Al-Rasheed Benton and David Long vs. Iowa State RB David Montgomery

*West Virginia OL Kyle Bosch and Matt Jones vs. Iowa State DL Ray Lima

*Iowa State DB Kamari Cotton-Moya vs. West Virginia QB Will Grier



*Stanford RB Bryce Love vs. Washington State DL Hercules Mata’afa and LB Isaac Dotson

*Colorado LBs Derek McCartney and Rick Gamboa vs. Arizona State RBs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard

*Washington LBs Azeem Victor, Ben Burr-Kirven and Keishawn Bierria vs. Oregon RBs Royce Freeman, Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James

*Oregon LB Tony Dye vs. Washington RBs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman

*Utah DBs Chase Hansen and Marquise Blair vs. UCLA QB Josh Rosen and WR Darren Andrews

*Washington State OL Cody O’Connell vs. Stanford DL Harrison Phillips

*Oregon OL Tyrell Crosby vs. Washington DL Vita Vea

*Arizona State LBs Christian Sam and D.J. Calhoun vs. Colorado RB Phillip Lindsay

*UCLA OL Scott Quessenberry and Najee Toran vs. Utah DL Lowell Lotulelei

*UCLA LBs Kenny Young and Lokeni Toailoa vs. Utah QB Tyler Huntley and RB Zack Moss

*Washington State WR Tavares Martin Jr., QBs Luke Falk and Tyler Hilinski vs. *Stanford DBs Alijah Holder, Quenton Meeks and Justin Reid

*Stanford LBs Peter Kalambayi and Mike Tyler vs. Washington State RB Jamal Morrow



*Auburn DBs Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews vs. Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk

*Texas A&M RBs Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams vs. Auburn LBs Tre’ Williams, Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams

*South Carolina LB Skai Moore vs. Georgia RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel

*LSU QB Danny Etling and WR D.J. Chark vs. Alabama DBs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Anthony Averett

*Auburn OL Austin Golson, Mike Horton and Darius James vs. Texas A&M Qualen Cunningham, Zaycoven Henderson and Jarrett Johnson

*Florida DB Duke Dawson and Missouri WR J’Mon Moore

*LSU DBs John Battle and Donte Jackson vs. Alabama WRs Calvin Ridley and Cam Sims

*LSU DL Christian LaCouture vs. Alabama OL Jonah Williams

*Ole Miss DL Marquis Haynes and LB DeMarquis Gates vs. Kentucky RB Benny Snell

*South Carolina OL Alan Knott vs. Georgia DL John Atkins

*Kentucky DB Mike Edwards vs. Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown


Group of 5

*Wyoming DBs Andrew Wingard, Marcus Epps and Rico Gafford vs. Colorado State QB Nick Stevens and WR Michael Gallup

*Temple DB Sean Chandler vs. Navy QB Zach Abey and WR Tyler Carmona

*Tulsa RB D’Angelo Brewer vs. Memphis LB Genard Avery

*Tulsa DB Mc


— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

College Football's 10 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 10
Post date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-picks-predicting-every-game-week-10-2017

The Week 10 edition of picking every game on the college football schedule is highlighted by some pivotal conference games with College Football Playoff implications. The Bedlam battle between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State takes center stage, but Virginia Tech-Miami is an equally important matchup as it likely determines the winner of the ACC Coastal Division. Here is every game on the Week 10 slate:


Thursday, Nov. 2


Ball State at Eastern Michigan

Eastern Michigan has lost six games. Eastern Michigan is a pretty good team. Yes, both of those statements are accurate. Each of the Eagles’ losses has come by seven points or fewer, including five straight by four points or fewer. Ball State, on the other hand, is not a good team. The Cardinals have lost five straight games, the last four by an average of 42 points. Eastern Michigan 44, Ball State 14


Northern Illinois at Toledo

The two best teams in the MAC meet in a game that likely will decide the Western Division title. Both teams are unbeaten in league play. Toledo, however, has played a more difficult schedule and appears to be the better team. Toledo 34, Northern Illinois 20


Navy at Temple

Temple has one relatively significant advantage heading into this game: The Owls faced an option team (Army) last week. They did, however, give up 248 rushing yards. Navy 35, Temple 21


Idaho at Troy

Troy made national headlines with its 24–21 win at LSU in late September but has been rather ordinary in many of its other games (even with a 6–2 overall record). The Trojans struggled with Akron at home (22–17 win) and followed up their big win at LSU with a 19–8 loss at home to South Alabama. Troy 30, Idaho 20


Friday, Nov. 3


Marshall at FAU

Marshall had its five-game winning streak snapped with a surprising 41–30 loss at home to surging FIU. Now, the Thundering Herd hit the road to face FAU, another team from South Florida playing very well, in a pivotal game in the C-USA East title race. It’s hard to go against FAU, which has won four straight (by an average of 25 points). FAU 38, Marshall 25


Memphis at Tulsa

Memphis hasn’t always played at a high level on a consistent basis — the Tigers struggled in wins over ULM and Southern Illinois and were shut out in the first half of a win over Houston — but this team is very, very good when it’s playing up to its potential. Memphis 48, Tulsa 30


UCLA at Utah

Utah is emerging as one of the most disappointing teams in the nation. At 4–4 overall (1–4 in the Pac-12), the Utes will need to win two of their remaining four games to become bowl eligible. Utah has had only two losing records in Kyle Whittingham’s 12 seasons on the job. UCLA 28, Utah 20


Saturday, Nov. 4


Auburn at Texas A&M

Texas A&M was alarmingly uncompetitive in a 35–14 loss at home to Mississippi State. The Aggies had won five of the previous six, with the only loss by eight points to Alabama. Auburn 34, Texas A&M 17


Baylor at Kansas

Neither team has defeated an FBS opponent this season, but Baylor has been far more competitive. The Bears have lost three games by single digits — three more than Kansas, whose closest defeat was by 10 points last week to Kansas State. Baylor 30, Kansas 17


East Carolina at Houston

Houston has had a strange season. The Cougars won at Arizona and South Florida but lost at Tulsa by 28 points and lost a 17–0 halftime lead at home to Memphis. Houston 41, East Carolina 17


Florida at Missouri

Missouri, which has yet to win an SEC game, is favored over Florida. Think how crazy that would have sounded a month ago. Florida 24, Missouri 20


Illinois at Purdue

Purdue’s once-promising season has taken a few bad turns. Just a few weeks ago, the Boilermakers were 3–2 overall, with respectable losses to Louisville and Michigan. Now, they are 3–5 (and losses to Louisville and Michigan aren’t quite as respectable as they once seemed). It’s time to get back on track. Purdue 27, Illinois 10


Kansas State at Texas Tech

Kansas State’s four wins have come against Central Arkansas, Charlotte, Baylor and Kansas. Not the most impressive list. But this still has the potential to be a good team; the Wildcats lost one-score games to Vanderbilt, Texas (in OT) and Oklahoma. Texas Tech opened the season with a 4–1 record that included wins over Arizona State and Houston but has since lost three in a row. Texas Tech 34, Kansas State 24


Massachusetts at Mississippi State

After starting the season with six straight losses, all by 10 points or fewer, UMass has won two straight, beating Sun Belt foes Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. This week, it’s a Southeastern Conference opponent — and it will not go well. Mississippi State 48, UMass 20


Penn State at Michigan State

Penn State must regroup after an agonizing loss at Ohio State — a loss that likely will bump the Nittany Lions from the CFB Playoff picture. Michigan State, too, is coming off a tough loss, 39–31 in triple overtime at Northwestern. Penn State is the better team, but winning in East Lansing is never easy. Penn State 20, Michigan State 17


Wisconsin at Indiana

Wisconsin continues to cruise through the softest Big Ten schedule imaginable — the Badgers don’t play Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan State, and they get Michigan, their toughest opponent from the Big Ten East, at home. The Badgers, assuming they win the West, will eventually get their shot at one of the Big Boys from the East … in the league title game. Wisconsin 28, Indiana 17


Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt is in the midst of a five-game losing streak, but two of the losses came against Alabama and Georgia and the other three were on the road (Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina). Western Kentucky is 5–3, but the five wins have come against Eastern Kentucky, an FCS school, and four FBS teams ranked 120th or lower in the most recent Athlon Sports national rankings. The Hilltoppers have taken a step back in the post-Jeff Brohm era. Vanderbilt 30, Western Kentucky 17


Syracuse at Florida State

Florida State’s season hit rock bottom last Friday night with a 35–3 loss at Boston College. The Seminoles are an unthinkable 2–5 — and still have to play at Clemson and at Florida (though that trip to Gainesville doesn’t appear too intimidating). This team is desperate for a win. Florida State 24, Syracuse 20


Appalachian State at ULM

It won’t hurt its standing in the Sun Belt, but Appalachian State suffered a disappointing loss last week, dropping a 30–27 decision at UMass. The Mountaineers are still unbeaten in league play and will be favored to win each of their final four games. Appalachian State 30, ULM 20


Georgia State at Georgia Southern

Georgia State has bounced back nicely from its Week 1 loss at home to Tennessee State. The Panthers are 4–3 overall and have a great chance to become bowl-eligible with Georgia Southern and Texas State on the slate in the next two weeks. Georgia State 34, Georgia Southern 13


Georgia Tech at Virginia

What’s going on at Virginia? The Cavs emerged as one of the surprise teams in the nation with four straight wins but have since lost to Boston College and Pittsburgh by a combined score of 72–24. Georgia Tech 31, Virginia 21


New Mexico State at Texas State

Texas State last week defeated an FBS opponent for the first time since Week 1 of the 2016 season, rolling past Coastal Carolina 27–7. Can the Bobcats make it two straight? The guess here is no. New Mexico State 35, Texas State 17


Rice at UAB

UAB continues to be one of the best stories in the nation. The Blazers, who did not play a game the last two seasons, are 5–3 after last week’s impressive 30–12 win at Southern Miss. Bill Clark’s team will become bowl eligible on Saturday. UAB 34, Rice 13


Army at Air Force

Jeff Monken has Army bowl eligible for the second-straight season — and the Black Knights still have four games to play. The schedule, to put it kindly, has been soft. The wins have come against Fordham, Buffalo, UTEP, Rice, Eastern Michigan and Temple. So while we can credit Army for winning games, we can also be skeptical about this team’s ability to beat good teams. Air Force 38, Army 24


Charlotte at Old Dominion

Old Dominion, which went 7–1 in Conference USA last season, is 0–4 in league play at the midway point. The Monarchs find themselves in the bottom third of the conference in both total offense and total defense. Charlotte is 1–7 on the season but did beat UAB (which is 5–3) two weeks ago. Old Dominion 27, Charlotte 24


Clemson at NC State

NC State controls its own destiny in the ACC but has almost no shot at reaching the College Football Playoff due to non-conference losses to South Carolina and Notre Dame. Clemson is still in great shape, but the Tigers’ margin for error remains small (translation: don’t lose again). Clemson 27, NC State 20


Iowa State at West Virginia

Iowa State takes its show on the road, where the Cyclones are 3–0 with wins at Akron, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. A defense that has allowed a total of 20 points the last three weeks will be tested by Will Grier and the explosive Mountaineer attack. Iowa State is a great story, but the Cyclones will have a tough time winning in Morgantown. West Virginia 30, Iowa State 20


Maryland at Rutgers

Rutgers is showing signs of improvement in Chris Ash’s second season — two Big Ten wins! — but is still struggling to score points. The Knights scored 35 in a win at Illinois but have scored 17 or fewer in their other six games against FBS opponents. Maryland 27, Rutgers 20


North Texas at Louisiana Tech

North Texas sits atop the C-USA West standings with a 4–1 record, and the Mean Green have wins over three of four teams in the division with two losses. The other two-loss team is Louisiana Tech, so North Texas can just about wrap up the West title with a win in Ruston. North Texas 30, Louisiana Tech 23


Northwestern at Nebraska

Wisconsin has all but wrapped up the Big Ten West title, but second place is up for grabs. And the winner of this game — between 3–2 teams in the Big Ten — will put itself in position to secure the No. 2 spot in the division. Northwestern has won three straight, the last two in overtime. Nebraska 30, Northwestern 24


Ohio State at Iowa

Ohio State has played its way back into the national title mix, but there are still several difficult tests for the Buckeyes in the final month of the regular season. Urban Meyer should have no difficulty getting his team ready for this trip to Iowa City. Ohio State 28, Iowa 14


South Carolina at Georgia

Georgia earned the No. 1 spot in the initial CFB Playoff Poll on the strength of an undefeated record that is highlighted by an early season win at Notre Dame. The Dawgs should remain in the top spot after an easy win over South Carolina. Georgia 38, South Carolina 13


South Florida at Connecticut

South Florida dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten with a loss at home to Houston, but the Bulls still control their own destiny in the AAC East. Beat UCF on Nov. 24, and South Florida will advance to the league title game. South Florida 38, UConn 14


Stanford at Washington State

Take a look at Washington State’s points allowed in recent weeks: 10 vs. Oregon, 37 vs. Cal, 0 vs. Colorado and 58 vs. Arizona. Not exactly the most consistent bunch. Stopping Stanford — assuming Bryce Love plays — will be a challenge. Stanford 31, Washington State 23


Wake Forest at Notre Dame

The good news for Notre Dame: The Irish are ranked No. 3 in the initial College Football Playoff ranking. The bad news: They still have to play Wake Forest, Miami (Fla.), Navy and Stanford. Notre Dame likely will be favored in all four games, but it will be difficult for the Irish to win them all. Notre Dame 27, Wake Forest 20


Cincinnati at Tulane

Cincinnati is one loss away from clinching a losing season for the second straight year — something that hasn’t happened since the late 1990s. Tulane 34, Cincinnati 13


Coastal Carolina at Arkansas

It’s been a tough season for Arkansas, but the Hogs will have at least one memorable win on their résumé. Last week, they rallied from a 31–7 deficit to beat Ole Miss 38–37 in Oxford. Arkansas 47, Coastal Carolina 10


Louisiana at South Alabama

Both teams are 2–2 in the Sun Belt. Go with the team with the best win. South Alabama beat Troy — the week after Troy won at LSU. South Alabama 34, Louisiana 30


Ole Miss at Kentucky

Kentucky reached the six-win mark in gratifying fashion, beating Tennessee for the second time in 33 seasons. Now, the Wildcats are jockeying for bowl position. Ole Miss, even without Shea Patterson at quarterback, is a potent offensive team. Kentucky 30, Ole Miss 27


Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

The Big 12 race is wide open — four teams are tied atop the standings with a 4–1 record — but this feels like the most significant game of the regular season. The pick is Oklahoma State for two reasons: The Cowboys are home and appear to be a bit more trustworthy on defense. Oklahoma State 34, Oklahoma 30


Oregon State at California

Cal has done some nice things in Justin Wilcox’s first season, but the Bears are 1–5 in the conference, and only one of the five defeats was by fewer than 10 points. They should pick up their second league win this weekend, though Oregon State showed some nice fight in a painful loss at home to Stanford last week. California 33, Oregon State 17


Utah State at New Mexico

New Mexico, which went 6–2 in the league in 2016, has been a bit of a disappointment in 2017. The Lobos have lost three straight to fall to 3–5 on the season. They will need to beat either Texas A&M or San Diego State on the road to get to six wins. New Mexico 27, Utah State 17


Hawaii at UNLV

UNLV is fresh off one of the most surprising results of the 2017 season; the Rebels, having lost three straight games, won at Fresno State, 26–16. Fresno State had won four straight, most notably a 27–3 victory at San Diego State. UNLV 28, Hawaii 20


Colorado State at Wyoming

Last week, Colorado State suffered its first loss of the season against a non-Power 5 opponent, dropping a 45–28 decision at home to Air Force. The Rams, who host Boise State in two weeks, still control their own destiny in the Mountain West Mountain Division, but they cannot afford to lose this week in Laramie. Colorado State 21, Wyoming 20


Nevada at Boise State

Boise State slipped off the national radar by losing two games in September, but the Broncos have played well over the last month. They’ve won four straight and have not allowed more than 14 points in any game. The winning streak should reach five. Boise State 37, Nevada 20



Butch Davis has done a remarkable job in his first season at FIU, guiding the Panthers to a 5–2 record highlighted by last week’s huge win at Marshall. FIU plays four of its final five games at home — but the biggest game, against rival FAU, is on the road. FIU 31, UTSA 24


Texas at TCU

Texas is playing as well defensively as any team in the Big 12. The Longhorns held Baylor to seven points last week, Oklahoma to 10 in regulation two weeks ago and Oklahoma to a season-low 29 three weeks ago. I smell upset. Texas 20, TCU 17



SMU has a huge opportunity to make a statement with UCF, the top Group of 5 team in the nation, coming to Dallas. The Mustangs are 6–2 in Chad Morris’ third season, but nothing on their résumé suggests they are good to beat the mighty Knights. UCF 37, SMU 21


Minnesota at Michigan

Michigan climbed to No. 7 in the Coaches Poll after it opened the season with a 4–0 record. Now, a month later, the Wolverines aren’t even ranked in the top 25 of the initial College Football Playoff poll. Minnesota is 1–4 in the first season of the P.J. Fleck era after losing last week at Iowa. Michigan 21, Minnesota 13


Southern Miss at Tennessee

Two signs that Tennessee is not having a good season: The Volunteers were a 3.5-point underdog last week to a Kentucky team that had lost to Mississippi State by 35 points the previous weekend, and they are only a 5.5-point favorite at home over a Southern Miss team that lost to UAB by 18 points at home last weekend. Tennessee 30, Southern Miss 14


UTEP at Middle Tennessee

It’s been a rough season for Middle Tennessee, which has been forced to play the six weeks without star quarterback Brent Stockstill. It’s unclear if Stockstill will be back this week. It shouldn’t matter against UTEP. Middle Tennessee 28, UTEP 14


LSU at Alabama

Alabama leads the nation in league games in both scoring offense and total offense and scoring defense and total defense. LSU is playing well of late, but the Tigers shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to the Crimson Tide — especially in Tuscaloosa. Alabama 34, LSU 13


Virginia Tech at Miami (Fla.)

Miami has returned to national relevance in Year 2 of the Mark Richt era thanks to a 7–0 start that has the Hurricanes ranked No. 6 in the Coaches Poll. Despite the undefeated record and the lofty ranking, this is not a team many consider to be a threat to make the College Football Playoff. Virginia Tech heads to South Florida with one blemish on its record — a 31–17 loss to Clemson — but has otherwise played very well. Virginia Tech 27, Miami 20


Colorado at Arizona State

Arizona State’s run of solid defensive play ended at two weeks. After giving up a total of 17 points in wins over Washington and Utah, the Sun Devils lost at home to USC 48–17 at home on Saturday. Colorado bounced back from a shutout loss to Washington State by beating Cal 44–28 in Boulder. Arizona State 34, Colorado 31


Oregon at Washington

The College Football Playoff committee has not been impressed with Washington. The Huskies are ranked No. 12 despite having a 7–1 record, with each of its seven wins by at least 16 points. The Huskies need to keep winning big. Washington 34, Oregon 14


San Diego State at San Jose State

San Jose State let its best opportunity to beat an FBS team slip by last week, losing 41–20 at BYU (a team that had not defeated another FBS team). It’s tough to envision the Spartans beating San Diego State, Nevada, Colorado State or Wyoming. San Diego State 44, San Jose State 7


Arizona at USC

USC gave up 497 yards, including 377 on the ground, in a loss at Notre Dame two weeks ago. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate should put up some gaudy numbers … as usual. The key for Arizona: Can the Wildcats’ defense, which is allowing an average of 38.0 points during its winning streak, slow down USC? USC 41, Arizona 40


BYU at Fresno State

BYU did the unthinkable last week: Won a game against an FBS team (San Jose State) and scored 41 points. This week, the quality of the opponent will be far greater. Fresno State 34, BYU 10


College Football Picks: Predicting Every Game in Week 10
Post date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/5-greatest-alabama-vs-lsu-college-football-games-all-time

It’s hard to believe, but LSU will take the lead in the SEC West if it beats Alabama in Tuscaloosa this weekend.  The Tigers have bounced back from a very rough first month and are 6-2 and ranked No. 19.


This rivalry is one of the greatest since 2000 and gets a prime-time slot from CBS, but there have been many great games since these schools first met back in 1895. Here are the top five


5. Alabama 27, LSU 27

Baton Rouge, La. — Sept. 30, 1944

Ties in football in the 1940s were pretty normal. However, 27-27 ties were not. LSU was led by freshman quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who slung a 34-yard touchdown pass to Don Sandifer to put the Tigers up 14-7 in the second quarter. Alabama, which was fielding its first team since 1942, then scored two touchdowns on long runs to go into the half up 21-14. In the second half, LSU's Felix Trapani blocked Harry Gilmer’s punt and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game. Gilmer then took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, but kicker Hugh Morrow missed the extra point to make the score 27-21. In the fourth quarter, LSU’s Clyde Lindsey blocked another Gilmer punt and returned it for a touchdown. Then kicker Andrew Lay missed the extra point and the game was tied. Tittle drove the Tigers to the Alabama 21-yard line in the final minutes, but a Norwood Hodges interception sealed the unsual tie.


4. LSU 9, Alabama 6 (OT)

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — Nov. 5, 2011

LSU was No. 1, Alabama was No. 2, both teams were undefeated. In what would be a game of attrition, neither team scored a touchdown and Alabama missed three field goals in regulation. LSU tied the game with a field goal early in the fourth quarter and the two teams traded field position for the remainder of the period. The second half ended with both teams tied at six and Alabama got the ball first in overtime. A substitution penalty and sack put the Crimson Tide back on their 35-yard line, where kicker Cade Foster attempted a 52-yard field goal and missed. The Tigers then took the ball inside Alabama’s 10-yard line and Drew Alleman booted the game-winning field goal. Two months later, LSU and Alabama met again in the Sugar Bowl in the BCS National Championship Game. This time, the Crimson Tide won 21-0. Nevertheless, the regular season game was the more classic of the two matchups and more importantly, it gave us this.


3. Alabama 21, LSU 20

Baton Rouge, La. — Sept. 27, 1952

The Crimson Tide jumped out to 7-0 lead on a touchdown run by Bobby Luna. Then LSU responded by tying the game with a score of its own. The tie would be brief, as Bob Conway took the kickoff and ran 95 yards into the end zone to put ‘Bama up 14-7. LSU responded with another touchdown but missed the extra point. The Tigers then scored again to take a 20-14 lead.  Alabama put together a late drive that ended with another touchdown run by Luna, who then kicked the extra point to put his team up for good at 21-20. Alabama went 10-2 and won the Orange Bowl. LSU finished the season 3-7.


2. LSU 17, Alabama 13

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — Nov. 6, 1993

Alabama had not lost a game since Sept. 14, 1991, but its rock, quarterback Jay Barker, was out with a shoulder injury. The Tigers were 3-5, but collected four interceptions from the three Crimson Tide quarterbacks who tried to replace Barker. After a scoreless first half, LSU jumped ahead 14-0 in the third quarter with touchdown runs by Jay Johnson and Robert Toomer. Alabama head coach Gene Stallings then put David Palmer, his kick returner and receiver extraordinaire, in at quarterback and he promptly threw a touchdown pass to cut the lead in half. LSU kicker Andre Lafleur then made it 17-7 with a field goal. Palmer added another touchdown, but that was as close as Alabama got and its streak of 31 consecutive games without a loss came to an end.


1. Alabama 27, LSU 21 (OT)

Baton Rouge, La. — Nov. 8, 2008

This game marked Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s first visit to Death Valley since leaving LSU in 2004. The Crimson Tide were 9-0 and ranked No. 1, while LSU was the defending national champion. After both teams turned the ball over on their first possessions, Alabama got on the board first when quarterback John Parker Wilson scored from the one-yard line. The Tigers roared back, scoring touchdowns on their next two possessions to lead 14-7 at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, Alabama’s Rashad Johnson intercepted Jarrett Lee’s pass and raced 54 yards into the end zone to tie the game.


In the third quarter, Crimson Tide running back Glen Coffee, who would finish the day with 126 rushing yards, put the Tide ahead with a three-yard touchdown run. The Tigers then put together a 74-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 21-21. Alabama later got the ball with 1:45 in the fourth quarter and drove all the way to the LSU 12-yard line. With one second left, kicker Leigh Tiffin lined up to kick the game-winning field goal, but it was blocked and time expired.


LSU got the ball first in overtime and once again Johnson intercepted Lee’s pass. On the first play of Alabama’s possession, Wilson hit Julio Jones for a 23-yard pass that put the team just oustide of the end zone. Wilson scored two plays later on a one-yard plunge. With the win, Alabama clinched the SEC West and Saban became the first head coach to ever win a road game at a school where he had won a national title. Although the Tide would lose the SEC Championship Game to Florida, this game showed that Alabama football was back.


— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.


(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

5 Greatest Alabama vs. LSU College Football Games of All Time
Post date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/athlon-sports-qa-allonzo-trier

Arizona’s Allonzo Trier sat and waited at the start of last season after dealing with an NCAA suspension that limited his time on the court to just 18 games. Upon his return, Trier still managed to play at a high level, and in a shocking move, the 6'5" wing from Seattle opted to return to Tucson for his junior season.


Trier opens up about what it was like to sit on the sidelines last season, his views on coach Sean Miller’s sweating issue and why he decided to come back to school instead of declaring for the NBA Draft.


What arena is your favorite place to play in the Pac-12 besides Arizona’s McKale Center?

Utah is a great environment. We didn’t play there my sophomore year, but we played there freshman year. That was one of the best crowds, best experiences and toughest places to play I have ever been in.


Who is the best player you have guarded in college?

There wasn’t a guy I didn’t want to see, but there have been a few guys that were tough to guard. I did have to go up against Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball [last] year, and Jaylen Brown [in 2015-16], so there’s a few guys. I don’t know who was the toughest, though.


Who is the coach in the league you would want to play for not named Sean Miller?

It was Coach [Lorenzo] Romar, and I’m glad he was able to join us at Arizona on the staff.


What’s your relationship with him, and how did that play into your decision to come back?

It made my decision easier. It’s something I talked with Coach Miller about since we knew we had to fill a coaching spot. I wanted to know who it was going be, and that if it was Romar I would definitely be at more ease with my decision. Romar is a guy who has known me since I was a young kid growing up playing basketball and going to his camps and team camps. Our relationship is close. He has seen me grow up, almost like a father figure.


What’s your best memory from last season?

Definitely winning the Pac-12 conference tourney and regular-season title. I think those two things are great feats for our team, especially the way we started out with injuries. We didn’t know how our season was going to go. I was just proud of the way we finished and I was able to finish up strong.


What was the low point of last season?

My whole situation of not playing in the beginning, kind of being helpless and out of control of the whole situation. That was really tough, but after all I went through to end up winning the conference and getting tournament [MOP] was great. We had a great run, and even though it didn’t end going to the Final Four, there were some great things for the team.


How did you deal with sitting out and the rumors and not being able to play? (Editor’s note: Trier was suspended for failing a PED test. He missed the first 19 games.)

It was different. I was kind of sitting in a glass house with everybody looking in. A high-profile college athlete in a college town like Tucson, everywhere I go I’m getting questioned or even if I’m walking around campus, I’m going to grab something to eat or just walking anywhere, you know there’s a lot of speculation, and no one knows what’s really going on in the inside. It was frustrating, but I just worked on my game and stayed committed to my teammates.


Athlon Sports' College Basketball magazine provides full team previews, schedules, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017-18 NCAA basketball coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

Most were shocked when you decided to come back to school, largely due to the NCAA suspension earlier in the season. Why did you come back?

Absolutely that had a lot to do with it. I think we all know that if I played the whole year I wouldn’t be here right now, but you know that’s the way things break, stuff happens. If I didn’t break my hand freshman year, I could have been gone — but everything happens for a reason. It was my decision to come back, it really was between my family and Coach Miller and my desire to be able to win here and help this program accomplish something great.


How much are you driven to win the national championship?

It’s a burden of mine for me to win as a player for this program and to help Coach Miller achieve something that people give him flak for because he hasn’t gotten to the Final Four yet, so I think we both use that as motivation together to fuel the team, and hopefully it leads to something big in the upcoming year.


How do you describe Miller as a coach?

Passionate for sure, intense. I think one of the best things about him is his work ethic and how he dedicates himself in trying to make our team better every single day. He works tirelessly, and I am about that process as well.


How much crap do you give Miller about how much he sweats? Do you see him sweating through his shirts on a regular basis?

I didn’t even notice it in the game until I saw pictures, because we were in the heat of the battle and everything. Every now and then when he’s very active and involved on the sidelines we’ll see he gets very sweaty when he takes his jacket off. It’s interesting, that’s for sure.


Your mom says that you’re all about basketball. If you’re not playing you’re watching.

Yeah, I’m a junkie. It’s pretty much all I do.


What do you watch when you’re not in the gym? Old games? Your own games?

I really watch everything — old games, games now, my college and high school games to see how much I have transformed since I have been here and what I’m doing differently. I’m very much about observing. It’s very desirable to me watching and being engaged all the time. I feel like I can’t get enough.


Who was your favorite old-school player?

Tracy McGrady was that guy for me growing up. I thought he was just an unbelievable talent and he was great. I wanted to be just like him and Kobe. I thought they were elite level, and I try and do a lot of the things they did in the way they played.


Describe your relationship with Kevin Durant.

Our relationship started when I was in high school. We had a lot of similarities. He happened to get drafted out to Seattle, and then he and the franchise moved to OKC. I happened to move out [to Seattle] as well so he kind of heard about me and knew who I was and he wanted to reach out and be a mentor. I actually ended up going to prep school because I wanted to compete at the highest level of high school. I went to Montrose [Christian School in Maryland] my junior year, and that happened to be where he went to high school. Our relationship has gone all the way through — even until now. We text, talk and keep in touch all the time. He’s my role model, and if I need anything, I can talk to him, and not just about basketball, but about life or anything that going on. During my period of not playing we were very much in touch almost every day talking just about life.


In middle school you were on the cover of New York Times Magazine. What did that do for you?

It gave me an early taste of how to deal with the media and how to deal with the hype. I think that one thing I learned was to not be complacent. I am proud about it that I’m still playing ball at a high level today. And that I stayed the course through a tough road in high school. I think I have accomplished a lot of great things.


What’s the difference between you a year ago and you in this upcoming season?

I hope to be more hands-on and in control of things like I haven’t had in the previous two years. Being confident and setting the tone early.


You have a reputation as being guarded. Have you come out of your shell? 

When you have conversations with me, you know who I am and about me. I think it is just a perception thing because I don’t really open up to anyone about me.


You have dyslexia. When did you know you had it and how have you dealt with it?

In grade school. I have grown out of it now. It was not much of a barrier growing up and still today.


What do you want to do after basketball?

I want to be involved in the game. I
haven’t chosen a major yet, so I’m still deciding my path.


If you are the head of the NCAA, what rule are you changing?

Players should be paid other than just scholarships, money not just stipends. It’s not enough for the revenue we bring in, and for what we bring to the program.


Athlon Sports Q&A: Allonzo Trier
Post date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 08:50
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/athlon-sports-2017-18-top-100-players-nos-1-50

The list of Athlon Sports top 100 players in college basketball for the 2017-18 season is headlined by Michigan State sophomore forward Miles Bridges, who checks in at No. 1. Two true freshmen follow Bridges, but the remainder of the top 10 is comprised of savvy veterans who will lead teams with high expectations.


Here are the first 50 players on our top 100-list. Be sure to check out Nos. 51-100 too.


1. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State

In the last quarter century, no high-major freshman has averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and two assists per game and decided to return to school — until Bridges. The Michigan State forward should enter the season as the clear National Player of the Year favorite on a team that could push for another Final Four under Tom Izzo.


2. Marvin Bagley, F, Duke

At 6'10" with freaky athleticism and a modern skill set, Bagley is a late game changer for college basketball. He can create shots on the block, get out and run in transition and even hit the occasional 3. He’s the clear-cut favorite to go No. 1 in the 2018 NBA Draft. 


3. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

A polished shooter and scorer at 6'10" who was the best senior in high school basketball last season. He can create and knock down shots at all three levels and is also a great offensive rebounder who will get dirty buckets. He’s good enough to lead Missouri to an NCAA Tournament berth this season mostly on his own.


4. Jalen Brunson, G, Villanova

Saved his best for Big East play last year as he averaged 16 points and nearly five assists per game on an outrageous 67.1 true-shooting percentage. He’s the perfect point guard for Jay Wright’s scheme on offense, and he’ll take an even bigger step forward without Josh Hart around this season.


5. Bonzie Colson, C, Notre Dame

A bona fide monster inside who continues to develop as an outside threat. The long-armed 6'6" center averaged 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds in Mike Brey’s spacing-oriented scheme last year. He’s also a sneaky good defender due to his quickness, strength and active hands.


6. Ethan Happ, C, Wisconsin

The best true interior threat in all of college basketball — on both ends. He shot 59 percent from the field while posting comparable per-possession stats to All-American Caleb Swanigan. He’s also a menace on the block defensively due to his strength, and he forces turnovers with his remarkable motor, anticipation and hands.


7. Allonzo Trier, G, Arizona

A polished scorer who will be relied upon as the Wildcats’ go-to guy. He averaged an efficient 17 points per game while also improving as a passer and giving better defensive effort a season ago. He’s a constant threat to get to the foul line and should continue to benefit from single coverage due to Arizona’s wealth of talent.


8. Trevon Bluiett, G, Xavier

The prototypical small-ball 4 in college basketball. He’s a matchup nightmare offensively who can take advantage of bigger players off the bounce to get to the foul line, or knock down shots from the outside over smaller defenders. Bluiett averaged 21.3 points per game during Xavier’s run to the Elite Eight last year.


9. Joel Berry II, G, North Carolina

He might not be the best player in college hoops, but you can argue that he’s the most important. Berry is the engine that makes Roy Williams’ system go on offense, averaging 13.8 points and 3.2 assists during North Carolina’s NCAA run last year. As a senior, look for him to be the most consistent threat who gets the team’s transition attack going.


10. Grayson Allen, G, Duke

After a monstrous sophomore season, Allen took a step back as a junior due to injuries and issues with tripping the opposition. Still, when this shooting guard is on his game, he’s an unstoppable offensive force on this level who can attack the rim aggressively and knock down shots from all over the halfcourt.


Athlon Sports' College Basketball magazine provides full team previews, schedules, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017-18 NCAA basketball coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

11. DeAndre Ayton, F, Arizona

No player in college basketball has more pure talent than Ayton. At 7-feet with long arms and high-level athleticism, he looks like he was built in a lab to play basketball. He can score inside and out, block shots, and has great mobility.


12. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama

The freshman should be one of the best competitors in all of college basketball. Sexton is an elite-level shot creator and scorer. The point guard also showed improved passing ability late in his high school career.


13. Devonte’ Graham, G, Kansas

Without Frank Mason around, look for Graham to take the leap under Bill Self. He’s a pick-and-roll maestro who can both create for his teammates and knock down shots himself.


14. Jevon Carter, G, West Virginia

He sets the tone for West Virginia’s aggressive press. Carter also averaged nearly 14 points, five rebounds and four assists per game last season. He’ll enter the year as a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate.


15. Robert Williams, F, Texas A&M

Williams is a 6'9" pogo stick who might be the best shot blocker in college basketball this season. He also finishes (way) above the rim and has good touch around the basket.


16. Bruce Brown, G, Miami (Fla.)

Always known as an elite athlete, the 6'5" guard added some ability as a lead ball handler to complement his jump shot in his freshman season.


17. Angel Delgado, C, Seton Hall

A double-double machine, Delgado led the NCAA in rebounding last season at 13 per contest. He also became a more diverse offensive weapon, showing off more advanced post moves as well as an improved passing game off the block.


18. Trevon Duval, G, Duke

Duval possesses absolutely elite athleticism that allows him to break down defenses and get into the lane with ease. He’ll need to iron out some of the out-of-control tendencies of his game, but if he can harness his immense gifts, he could be an All-American as a freshman.


19. Rawle Alkins, G, Arizona

After flirting with the 2017 NBA Draft, Alkins decided to stick around. He’s a tough, physical straight-line driver who improved as a shooter this past season while averaging nearly 11 points and five rebounds.


20. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

At 7-feet with a monstrous 7'9" wingspan, Bamba swallows everything at the rim. He’s also a mobile, switchable perimeter defender and a good roller toward the basket.


21. Landry Shamet, G, Wichita State

After the calendar turned to 2017, Shamet really figured things out. He averaged nearly 13 points, three rebounds and three assists while also posting outrageous efficiency numbers and minuscule turnover rates.


22. Yante Maten, F, Georgia

One of the most underrated players in America last year. Maten averaged 18.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while somehow improving his efficiency despite taking on an increased offensive load.


23. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky

A matchup nightmare, Knox is another example of a prototypical 4 in the college game. However, it’s up for debate as to how much he’ll actually get to play there as a freshman.


24. Jock Landale, C, Saint Mary’s

Spearheading Saint Mary’s efficient offensive attack inside, the 7-footer averaged nearly 17 points and 10 rebounds despite playing for one of the slowest teams in America.


25. Reid Travis, F, Stanford

Finally past the barrage of injuries that befell him early in his career, Travis averaged 17 points and nine rebounds, with opposing coaching staffs commenting that he’s basically a brick wall inside.


26. Wendell Carter, F, Duke

At 6'10" with a 7'3" wingspan, Carter is imposing inside. But he also is skilled with good footwork and great touch out to potentially the college 3-point line.


27. Deng Adel, F, Louisville

A matchup problem who can both create off the dribble at the 3 and play as a small-ball 4. His game is well rounded, with athleticism and the skill to score, pass and defend.


28. Chimezie Metu, F,  USC

An elite athlete, Metu has added the ability to knock down shots from the midrange as well as create shots on the block in the last year. He’s also a game changer defensively due to his ability to protect the rim.


29. Jaylen Adams, G,
St. Bonaventure

He’s an elite offensive creator who can get shots for both himself and his teammates. Was the only player in the country to average more than 20 points and six assists per game last year.


30. KeVaughn Allen, G, Florida

Allen is a killer shooter from deep and is developing as a creator for others. Without Kasey Hill this year, he should slide onto the ball a bit more and handle the point.


31. Hamidou Diallo, G, Kentucky

Maybe the most athletic player in the country, Diallo is a highlight reel waiting to happen. If he’s taken steps to rectify a shaky jump shot this offseason, he has a chance to be a lottery pick.


32. Marcus Foster, G, Creighton

Foster will certainly put up buckets for the Bluejays this year as he always has. He averaged more than 18 points per game last season in the tough Big East, and he’s capable of creating shots off the bounce or off of screens.


33. Mike Daum, F, South Dakota State

One of the country’s absolute best shooters, Daum averaged more than 25 points and eight rebounds per game while posting an outrageous 65.5 true shooting percentage.


34. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova

Will Bridges be the next Nova player to take the leap? He’s a terrific shooter and finisher, averaging 10 points, five rebounds and two assists per game last season. He needs to create more for himself this year without Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins around.


35. Bryant Crawford, G,
Wake Forest 

Crawford is the only returning high-major player who averaged at least 16 points, five assists and three rebounds per game. He’ll be the major reason Wake Forest stays relevant despite losing John Collins.


36. Vince Edwards, F, Purdue

A jack-of-all-trades type who will be asked to step into a much larger role in 2017-18 with the departure of Caleb Swanigan. He’ll likely fit right into his natural small-ball 4 spot and continue with his ability to hit shots, unselfishly create for others and defend multiple positions.


37. Moritz Wagner, C, Michigan

Wagner is an elite offensive weapon as a stretch-5 whose ability to space the floor not only allows him to efficiently score but also creates space for teammates. The biggest question: Can he slow down the opposition on defense?


38. Rob Gray, G, Houston

Coaches in the AAC rave about Gray’s ability not only to create looks, but also to make shots. The former junior college transfer averaged more than 20 points per game last year and is a threat to score from all three levels.


39. Nick Ward, F, Michigan State

A per-minute wonder last season who averaged nearly 14 points and seven rebounds despite playing under 20 minutes per game. He needs to stay out of foul trouble and work on his defense.


40. Shake Milton, G, SMU

The Mustangs lose a lot from last year, but Milton should be ready to take the reins on offense as a more involved lead ball handler. We know he can shoot and pass; the key is creating more consistent offense on his own.


41. Aaron Holiday, G, UCLA

Holiday often was in the shadow of Lonzo Ball last year, but he’s capable of getting hot in a hurry and putting up points. He’ll also be UCLA’s best defender this season as he’s a dogged pest on the perimeter.


42. Kelan Martin, F, Butler

Martin is a tough player to gauge. On one hand, few can put the ball in the basket at the rate he can. On the other, though, former Butler coach Chris Holtmann would sit him for long stretches, seemingly not trusting him. Will new coach LaVall Jordan feel differently?


43. Tyus Battle, G, Syracuse

Few closed out the season quite as well as Battle, as he averaged more than 17 points per game over his last seven to build momentum toward this year. He’ll be counted on to be the Orange’s go-to guy this year.


44. Matt Farrell, G, Notre Dame

Farrell was one of the breakout stories of college hoops last year, averaging 14 points and five assists per game while playing an aggressive, constantly attacking style.


45. Ben Lammers, C, Georgia Tech

The ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, Lammers also brings a well-rounded offensive skill set due to his ability to post as well as hit midrange jumpers.


46. Tyler Davis, C, Texas A&M

Davis is an immovable monster inside with tremendous touch and high-level rebounding ability. Defense will always be a concern for him, but he’s well insulated next to Robert Williams inside.


47. Jacob Evans, G, Cincinnati

A terrific two-way player who can play both on and off the ball due to his shooting ability and passing acumen. He’ll be among the favorites for AAC Player of the Year while leading a Cincinnati team that will challenge for a league title.


48. Quinndary Weatherspoon, G, Mississippi State 

Weatherspoon just straight up gets buckets. He averaged nearly 17 points per game last year, dragging the Bulldogs toward respectability.


49. Tyler Hall, G, Montana State

A monster shot creator and shooter. Despite being Nos. 1, 2, and 3 on opposing teams’ scouting reports last year, Hall averaged more than 23 points per game on an obscene 63.4 true shooting percentage.


50. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky

Washington’s a true 4 in modern basketball who will be tough and physical inside while also occasionally stepping outside of the paint. He will put up points and rebounds in bunches in his freshman year.

Athlon Sports 2017-18 Top 100 Players: Nos. 1-50
Post date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 08:40
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /fantasy-golf-picks-shriners-hospitals-children-open-lineup-draftkings

The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open golf tournament is set for Nov. 2-5 at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. That means it's time to pick your optimal DraftKings fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help. 


Here's what our best Shriners Hospitals for Children Open 2017 lineup looks like:


Tony Finau ($11,700)

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that we’re riding the Tony Train this season. He plays great almost everywhere, but he comes up sevens in Vegas, with a 68.33 scoring average in 12 rounds at TPC Summerlin. His last five finishes: T7 (BMW), T7 (Tour), 2 (Safeway), T26 (CJ Cup), T11 (HSBC). Do the Vegas thing and bet the college fund.


Luke List ($8,300)

Luke’s on the short list of smart fantasy plays this week. He’s playing great right now — T13 and T5 in his last two starts — and he makes a lot of birdies (T11 on Tour in 2016-17). Finished T15 here last year. 


Smylie Kaufman ($8,200)

Kaufman was all smiles here in 2015 after a closing 61 to win. He’s also coming off the second-best finish of his career — a T4 at the Sanderson Farms. 


Nick Taylor ($7,600)

He’s risen 234 spots in the World Golf Ranking since January and has a T9, T13 and T23 to show for his first three starts of 2017-18. Three-for-three in made cuts at the Shriners. A solid under-the-radar play moving forward. 


Scott Piercy ($7,400)

It’s the hometown stop for the Vegas-born Piercy, who would love to put on a show in front of the home folks. He usually does — six top-25 finishes here since 2009. 


Ricky Barnes ($6,800)

His Sunday 66 at the Sanderson was the best round of the day and gave him a back-door top 10. Maybe he’s figured something out after a rough patch and is back to the top-20 form he was showing in August.

Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 15:05
Path: /fantasy/tight-end-rankings-week-9-fantasy-football-2017

Jack Doyle: Tight End Rankings Week 9

With six teams on a bye this week, it can be tricky trying to find the right tight end to start for your fantasy team in Week 9, especially if you own Rob Gronkowski or Kyle Rudolph. Fortunately there are some names out there who should be available on your league’s waiver wire, such as Jack Doyle or Vernon Davis.


And several of the top-flight options are playing this week and have favorable matchups, starting with Zach Ertz against a Denver defense that has been vulnerable against tight ends this season.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, New England, Pittsburgh


Rank Player Team Opp
1 Zach Ertz  PHI vs. DEN
2 Travis Kelce  KC at DAL
3 Jimmy Graham  SEA vs. WAS
4 Evan Engram  NYG vs. LAR
5 Cameron Brate  TB at NO
6 Jack Doyle  IND at HOU
7 Austin Seferian-Jenkins  NYJ vs. BUF (Thurs.)
8 Jason Witten  DAL vs. KC
9 Jared Cook  OAK at MIA
10 Delanie Walker  TEN vs. BAL
11 Vernon Davis  WAS at SEA
12 Tyler Kroft  CIN at JAC
13 Austin Hooper  ATL at CAR
14 Ryan Griffin  HOU vs. IND
15 Ed Dickson  CAR vs. ATL
16 Benjamin Watson  BAL at TEN
17 Nick O'Leary  BUF at NYJ (Thurs.)
18 George Kittle  SF vs. ARI
19 Jordan Reed  WAS at SEA
20 Eric Ebron  DET at GB (Mon.)
21 A.J. Derby  DEN at PHI
22 Tyler Higbee  LAR at NYG
23 Martellus Bennett  GB vs. DET (Mon.)
24 Jonnu Smith  TEN vs. BAL
25 O.J. Howard  TB at NO
26 Coby Fleener  NO vs. TB
27 Julius Thomas  MIA vs. OAK
28 Gerald Everett  LAR at NYG
29 Charles Clay  BUF at NYJ (Thurs.)
30 Marcedes Lewis  JAC vs. CIN


— Rankings by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Tight End Rankings Week 9
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 13:30
Path: /fantasy/kicker-rankings-week-9-fantasy-football-2017

In Week 8, the kicker with the third-most fantasy points was Mike Nugent, owned in four percent of Yahoo! leagues. Nugent, taking over for Dan Bailey, barely cracks the top 12 this week. However, with six teams on a bye again, he is worth filling in on fantasy rosters. Dallas puts up plenty of points on offense (although how the Cowboys will fare without Ezekiel Elliott is up in the air) and Nugent should have plenty of opportunities in Week 9 as well.


In Week 9, Harrison Butker is the top-ranked kicker. He had the most fantasy points in Week 8. In the five weeks since he's been Kansas City's kicker, he's missed one field goal and he hasn't missed an extra point. He has given fantasy owners double-digit points in four of the past five games played as well.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, New England, Pittsburgh




— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.


(Top photo courtesy of

Kicker Rankings Week 9
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 13:30
Path: /fantasy/defense-special-teams-rankings-week-9-fantasy-football-2017

Telvin Smith/Jacksonville Jaguars: Defense/Special Teams (DST) Rankings Week 8

While Week 6 was filled with defensive touchdowns, Week 7 was more of a reality check for fantasy defense/special teams (DSTs). However, Week 8 was back to DSTs scoring points. The Baltimore Ravens had two defensive touchdowns, and six other teams had one such score. While defensive touchdowns are hard to predict, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the most defensive touchdowns so far this season. They are the second-ranked defense for Week 9. 


In Week 9, similar to Week 8, six teams are on bye. For those looking to stream DSTs, the Cardinals DST is owned in 38 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Arizona faces San Francisco on Sunday, a team that is struggling mightily on offense (and just traded for a new QB). The 49ers have scored 10 points in each of the past two games, which bodes well for opposing defenses.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, New England, Pittsburgh




— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Defense/Special Teams Rankings Week 9
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army West Point Black Knights, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, CFB, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, college football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Denver Broncos, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, Eastern Washington Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida A&M Rattlers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, James Madison Dukes, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami (OH) RedHawks, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, Montana State Bobcats, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Dakota Fighting Hawks, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northern Iowa Panthers, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Oakland Raiders, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Pac-12, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Portland State Vikings, Purdue Boilermakers, ranking, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Troy University, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, uniforms, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-picks-expert-predictions-every-game-week-10-2017

Week 10 of the 2017 college football season features plenty of intriguing matchups, as conference play is in full effect with just five weeks of games remaining, and Athlon Sports is ready with complete predictions, preview and picks for the upcoming weekend of action. The Week 10 slate kicked off on Tuesday night with two MAC games and continues on Wednesday with Central Michigan taking on Western Michigan. On Thursday, four matchups are slated, including Northern Illinois at Toledo and Navy taking on Temple. The Friday slate includes three contests, with Marshall visiting FAU in a key Conference USA matchup, and UCLA traveling to Salt Lake City to take on Utah for a critical game for bowl positioning for both teams. A deep slate of great matchups is on tap for Saturday. Penn State-Michigan State and Auburn-Texas A&M highlight the first wave of games. In the afternoon, South Carolina takes on Georgia, Notre Dame hosts Wake Forest, West Virginia looks to knock off Iowa State, and Clemson plays at NC State in a showdown that could decide the ACC Atlantic Division. Additionally, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and Stanford-Washington State are two other must-see matchups for the afternoon. At night, Texas-TCU, UCF-SMU, Arizona-USC and LSU-Alabama round out a busy schedule for Week 10 action.


Each week, Athlon Sports’ editors will pick every game in the FBS ranks. Follow us on Twitter: (@AthlonSports)


Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 10







Central Michigan at

Western Michigan


Northern Illinois at



Ball State at

Eastern Michigan


Navy at 



Idaho at



Marshall at



Memphis at






Florida at


Appalachian State at


Wisconsin at


New Mexico State at

Texas State

Coastal Carolina at


Kansas State at

Texas Tech

Louisiana at

South Alabama

Georgia Tech at


Cincinnati at


Northwestern at


Army at

Air Force

Rice at


Utah State at

New Mexico

Georgia State at

Georgia Southern

Minnesota at


WKU at


Syracuse at

Florida State

Hawaii at


Nevada at

Boise State

Illinois at


Baylor at


UCF at


Colorado State at




Auburn at

Texas A&M

Ole Miss at


Arizona at


East Carolina at


Texas at


USF at


South Carolina at


Southern Miss at


Colorado at

Arizona State



San Diego State at

San Jose State

Oregon State at


UMass at 

Mississippi State

Wake Forest at

Notre Dame

Ohio State at


Charlotte at

Old Dominion

BYU at

Fresno State

North Texas at 

Louisiana Tech

Oklahoma at

Oklahoma State

Oregon at


Iowa State at

West Virginia

Maryland at


Stanford at

Washington State

Penn State at

Michigan State

Virginia Tech at


Clemson at

NC State

LSU at


Akron at

Miami, Ohio


Bowling Green at




College Football Picks: Expert Predictions for Every Game in Week 10 2017
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/podcast-college-football-week-10-preview-listen-now-2017

In the latest Cover 2 podcast, Braden Gall and Mitch Light preview the Week 10 slate in college football. The schedule is highlighted by two huge conference showdowns: Oklahoma State hosts Oklahoma in one of the biggest Bedlam battles in recent memory, and Virginia Tech travels to Miami to play the Hurricanes in a game that likely will determine the ACC Coastal champ.


Other topics discussed:


• Mitch and Braden break down the first College Football Playoff ranking


• Can LSU make Alabama sweat?


• Can USC slow down the great Khalil Tate?


• Mitch picks five games against the spread (after going 5-0 last week)


Send ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall@AthlonMitch or email [email protected].


The podcast can be found on, iTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:57
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-vs-texas-am-aggies-preview-and-prediction-2017

The SEC has several appetizing games on the Week 10 slate, but none may hold as much intrigue and drama, on and off the field, as the showdown between the Auburn Tigers (6-2, 4-1 SEC) and the Texas A&M Aggies (5-3, 3-2) Saturday afternoon in College Station.


The last time Auburn touched the field, the Tigers walked off victorious after pummeling Arkansas 52-20 in Fayetteville heading into a bye week. The Tigers offensive line opened running lanes for 345 yards while allowing Jarrett Stidham to pass for 218 yards. The defense was stifling, limiting the Hogs to 303 total yards. The bad news: Auburn’s leading rusher against Arkansas, Kamryn Pettway, is out with a fractured scapula. Pettway was out-touched 21-11 by Kerryon Johnson but still ran for 90 yards and three scores against the Hogs.


The late-season panic for Aggie fans that normally arises in November has come early this year after a 35-14 home loss to Mississippi State last weekend. The Bulldogs smothered A&M’s offense, allowing just 285 total yards. The A&M run game produced only 96 yards, and true freshman quarterback Kellen Mond had a second consecutive bad game, connecting on 8-of-26 passes for 56 yards with two interceptions and two sacks. Mond was replaced by opening-game starter Nick Starkel, who showed some rust but completed 8-of-13 passes for 133 yards with one touchdown and one interception.


The rumor mill is floating end-of-era stories about Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. Unhappy fan bases could call for the dismissal of either coach following another loss in 2017, making this a must-win game for both coaching staffs.


Auburn at Texas A&M


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Texas A&M +15


Three Things to Watch


1. The production of Kellen Mond

About the only person left believing in Mond (above, right) is head coach Kevin Sumlin, who is giving Mond the start over Nick Starkel. Mond has completed 51 percent of his passes for 1,281 yards with seven touchdowns against six picks. The dual threat is not using his speed in the pocket effectively, taking 17 total sacks. After back-to-back eight-completion games against Florida and Mississippi State, Mond now faces an Auburn defense that is one of the best in the country, allowing just 178 passing yards a game.


Worth noting: A&M averaged 255 passing yards per game last season but is now ranked No. 89 out of 129 FBS teams with 196 passing yards per game. How long will Sumlin wait to give Mond the hook for Starkel if things go south quickly?


2. The production of Jarrett Stidham on the road

The offensive production and responsibilities placed upon Stidham (right) on the road becomes restricted, either by design or by circumstance. But with Kamryn Pettway out, Stidham will need to take some of the offensive burden off the shoulders of standout Kerryon Johnson in the run game.


A&M is vulnerable against the pass, giving up 232 yards per game through the air. Over the past three games, the Aggies have limited teams to 131 passing yards per game, but that is because the run defense is allowing 234 per contest over the same span. Expect Stidham to be around 250 yards passing if all is going Auburn’s way.


3. Texas A&M’s rushing attack

Wanted posters of the Aggies’ missing run game are spreading throughout College Station. For the first five games of the season, A&M was punishing the opposition on the ground, averaging 256 yards per game. The decline has been dramatic, as the Aggies have averaged just 83 yards per game on the ground in the last three contests. In conference games, if Kellen Mond does not rush for at least 52 yards, his team loses. Trayveon Williams leads the team with 472 yards but has been held below 72 yards in each of his last six games.


Auburn is not the team you want to face if you're struggling to find a ground attack. The Tigers have the SEC’s fourth-best run defense and No. 24 overall, holding the opposition to 124 yards.


Final Analysis


A&M could catch a break if Auburn starts looking ahead to next week’s home game against Georgia, but outscoring the Tigers will be a challenge. Barring a rash of Auburn turnovers or the Aggies adding scores on special teams or from their defense, how will A&M put points on the board? Auburn is lighting the board up for about 36 a game, while A&M has not scored more than 24 points in any of the last four conference games played. The Tigers have the nation’s No. 9 scoring defense, holding the opposition to 16 points each time out.


Since 2012, this series has alternated winners, with the visitor winning each time. The trend continues.


Prediction: Auburn 38, Texas A&M 17


— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.

Auburn Tigers vs. Texas A&M Aggies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:55
Path: /college-football/syracuse-orange-vs-florida-state-seminoles-preview-and-prediction-2017

One of these teams will look to take a big step toward becoming bowl-eligible on Saturday in Tallahassee, and to the surprise of many, that team is not Florida State. Syracuse arrives at Doak Campbell Stadium with a record of 4-4 and 2-2 in ACC play. The Orange were idle last week after a hard-fought loss at Miami the week before.


Meanwhile, the Seminoles are off to their worst seven-game start since 1976, which happened to be the legendary Bobby Bowden’s first season at head coach. At 2-5, FSU is in real danger of missing a bowl game for the first time since 1981 and having its first losing season since that aforementioned year of '76. The Seminoles are coming off an embarrassing 35-3 loss at Boston College.


Florida State has won nine straight in the series with Syracuse, including four by an average margin of more than 32 points since the Orange joined the ACC in 2013. Entering the season, the Seminoles had not lost to Miami or Boston College under head coach Jimbo Fisher, but that all changed in 2017. Syracuse hopes that holds true for it, too.


Syracuse at Florida State


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12:20 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network/Raycom Sports

Spread: Florida State -4.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Eric Dungey

Syracuse's dual-threat quarterback was unavailable last season when the Seminoles invaded the Carrier Dome and beat the Orange, 45-14. He did, however, play well early in his last trip to Tallahassee two years ago, and that Florida State defense was much better than this one. After an injury-riddled career, Dungey has finally managed to stay healthy this season and has either passed for 300 yards or rushed for 100 five times this season.


Dungey is coming off his worst passing performance of the season, throwing four interceptions in a loss to Miami — as many as he had all year coming in and more than the Seminoles currently have as a team. Mobile quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts, John Wolford, Anthony Brown and most notably, Lamar Jackson have given FSU fits with their legs this season. Dungey will look to continue that trend against embattled FSU coordinator Charles Kelly’s defense.


2. FSU O-line vs. Syracuse D-line

After failing to run the ball with success against two defenses struggling to stop it in Louisville and Boston College, Florida State will have a new challenge on Saturday — trying to pass protect against a defensive line that has struggled to generate pressure. That has been an issue for the Seminoles for three seasons now, and with the offensive line having to be reshuffled due to the injury to guard Landon Dickerson, things have only gotten worse.


For the year, Syracuse has managed just 10 sacks, which ranks dead last in the ACC. Chris Slayton is the best defensive lineman for the Orange, but the junior defensive tackle is much more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. Sophomore defensive end Alton Robinson leads the team with two sacks, while no other Orange player has more than one. If the Seminoles can keep Syracuse out of freshman quarterback James Blackman’s face, he could have a nice day throwing the ball against a young secondary.


3. Syracuse receivers vs. FSU secondary

Florida State’s secondary was expected to be one of the best units in the country. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, but there is still no lack of talent there with cornerback Tarvarus McFadden and safety Derwin James both expected to be high NFL draft picks. While the duo doesn’t get the national or even regional acclaim they deserve, Syracuse may have the best one-two punch of wide receivers in the ACC.


Senior and Miami native Steve Ishmael leads the conference with 66 catches for 843 receiving yards. At 6-foot-2 and nearly 210 pounds, Ishmael is a big target who uses his size to outleap defenders and stretch opponents vertically. Ervin Philips is more of a possession receiver and is second only to Ishmael in receptions in the ACC. Against talented wideouts, it has been a mixed bag for FSU. While the Seminoles held Miami’s Ahmmon Richards and Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick in check, others like Wake Forest’s Greg Dorch, Duke T.J. Rahming and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley were able to stretch the FSU secondary.


Final Analysis


From a talent standpoint, Syracuse isn’t in Florida State’s league, but the Seminoles are a battered football team — both mentally and physically. The Orange have shown the ability to hang with good teams, beating Clemson while losing by nine points or fewer to the likes of LSU, NC State and Miami. FSU is a 4.5-point favorite, but the Seminoles have yet to cover the spread or win at home. Syracuse has a bowl appearance on its mind, while Florida State seems to have lost its fight.


Prediction: Syracuse 24, Florida State 22


— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.

Syracuse Orange vs. Florida State Seminoles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:50
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-vs-texas-tech-red-raiders-preview-and-prediction-2017

It’s a battle between two teams that are fighting for bowl relevancy. Kansas State snapped its three-game losing streak last week with a 30-20 win over Kansas. But the Wildcats didn’t look pretty in the process. They gave up more than 400 passing yards to Carter Stanley, while getting outgained by the Jayhawks in total yards. The quarterback situation remains a mess as backup Alex Delton left the game with an injury, which turned things over to third-stringer Skylar Thompson (4-for-6, 40 yards).


Meantime, Texas Tech’s 4-1 start is a thing of the past, as the Red Raiders have dropped three in a row, all by double digits, against West Virginia, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Granted, all of Tech’s losses this season have come against teams ranked or receiving votes, but Kliff Kingsbury’s seat is slowly starting to warm back up, especially if the collapse continues through the month of November.


Kansas State at Texas Tech


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: Texas Tech -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Who’s at quarterback for K-State?

Quarterback Jesse Ertz has been out of action for a couple weeks. In his Monday teleconference, head coach Bill Snyder (above, right) denied a report that Ertz was done for the season, while insisting Ertz will play again this year. But Snyder’s credibility on this topic is suspect as he implied last week Ertz would play against Kansas. He never did.


Now they have backup Alex Delton dealing with an injury after he left the game against Kansas. Will it be Skylar Thompson getting the nod? Thompson flashed some wheels last week against Kansas, with 10 carries for 39 yards. Against KU, Kansas State only attempted 13 passes, compared to 43 rushes. Regardless of who is under center for the Wildcats, expect a heavy dose of running back Alex Barnes.


2. Kansas State secondary vs. Tech’s passing offense

The Wildcats were supposed to have one of the best secondary units in the Big 12, if not the country. But that has been far from the case. As mentioned earlier, K-State gave up more than 400 passing yards to Kansas last week, the same Kansas team that had a total of 21 yards against TCU the week prior.


Since conference play began, Kansas State is allowing 359 passing yards per game, which is the worst mark in the Big 12 by more than 40 yards. By comparison, we know Kliff Kingsbury wants to throw the ball, and Tech QB Nic Shimonek will look to build on his 322-yard passing day against Oklahoma last week, which included four touchdowns and just one interception.


3. Exploiting the inexperienced

Texas Tech is second in the Big 12 with a plus-seven turnover margin. While K-State is likely to focus on its running game, Tech needs to try and take advantage of any mistakes made by the young Kansas State quarterback(s). Tech’s 10 interceptions are the second most in the Big 12 this season and their 17 turnovers gained are tied for the most in the Big 12.


On the other side, Shimonek does need to be careful as he’s thrown five of his six interceptions since conference play began. While the Kansas State secondary has been leaky, there is still solid talent in the back end with D.J. Reed, Duke Shelley and Kendall Adams.


Final Analysis


These are two teams who are not playing very good football at the moment. But they both realize that the winner of this game has a much better chance of making a bowl game. It’s been a series dominated by the Wildcats of late, as Kansas State has won five of the last six meetings against the Red Raiders.


But with the issues K-State is having on defense and at quarterback, combined with the fact that the Wildcats have to go on the road with an early start time, it’s hard to believe Bill Snyder’s team is going to head to Lubbock and pick up the victory.


Kansas State is going to want to run the ball as much as possible. In past years, that might have worked, but this Texas Tech run defense has been slightly better than in years past, ranking seventh in the Big 12. The Red Raiders have been more vulnerable through the air, but unfortunately for the Wildcats, K-State doesn’t appear like it will have the player, specifically at quarterback, to exploit that weakness on Saturday.


Prediction: Texas Tech 34, Kansas State 24


— Written by Pete Mundo, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as well as owner and operator of, a site for Big 12 fans. Mundo also is a sports anchor at CBS Sports Radio and can found on Twitter @PeteMundo. Follow Heartland College Sports on Twitter @Heartland_CS.

Kansas State Wildcats vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:45
Path: /college-football/baylor-bears-vs-kansas-jayhawks-preview-and-prediction-2017

Somebody has to win, right? The two winless teams in Big 12 play meet on Saturday. Baylor is coming off a thrashing against Texas, losing 38-7 at home. The Bears have lost 14 of their past 15 games dating back to last season. New head coach Matt Rhule is continuing to pick up the pieces left from the Art Briles mess and is dealing with a depleted roster.


Meantime, Kansas has dropped seven straight games since opening the season with a win over FCS opponent Southeast Missouri State. This was supposed to be the year KU started to show some improvement, however it’s been anything but. David Beaty is now 3-29 in his Kansas tenure, including a 1-22 record in Big 12 play.


Baylor at Kansas


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FSN

Spread: Baylor -8


Three Things to Watch


1. Who’s at quarterback?

Both teams have some issues at the quarterback position. Let’s start with Baylor, who spent time rotating Zach Smith and Charlie Brewer last week against Texas. Smith, the sophomore, went just 4-for-11 for 37 yards with one interception (pick-six). Brewer received more playing time, finishing 17-for-27 for 181 yards. Neither were overly effective and the battle between the two continues this week in practice.


Meantime, after giving junior college transfer Peyton Bender a very long leash, Kansas went with last year’s starter Carter Stanley last week against Kansas State. Stanely more than held his own, going 23-for-48 with 418 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception against a solid Kansas State secondary. The Jayhawks would be wise to stick with Stanley the rest of the season and see what exactly he can accomplish in Doug Meacham’s offense. He’s only a sophomore and could still be a part of the future at KU.


2. Who wants the ball?

Baylor and Kansas are, respectively, at the bottom of the Big 12 in turnover margin. Baylor is minus-eight on the season, while Kansas is minus-10. No one else is the conference is worse than minus-two in turnover margin. Neither team has done a particularly good job creating turnovers, as Baylor has only two interceptions all season, while Kansas has three. Meanwhile, both teams have thrown double-digit interceptions. Baylor has thrown 10, while Kansas has tossed 11. So who is going to make the big mistake or the big takeaway this weekend?


3. Kansas defensive line

All season we’ve been waiting for the Kansas defensive line to break out. The unit was supposed to be the strength of the team led by preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year Dorance Armstrong Jr. (above, right). Unfortunately, the Jayhawks got off to a slow start, but they have improved drastically. For the season, Kansas has 14 sacks in eight games, tied for second worst in the Big 12. But since conference play started, they’ve racked up 12 of those 14, which puts them at third in the conference.


If Armstrong, along with Daniel Wise, Joe Dineen and others can get in the backfield against a Baylor offensive line that lacks depth and skill, it could result in a KU upset. Baylor has given up 24 sacks on the season, which is, by far, the most in the Big 12.


Final Analysis


It won’t be a pretty game, but it should be a hard-fought one, as both teams realize this is their best chance to pick up a Big 12 victory this season.


Baylor will likely try to establish the running game, as the Bears are healthy at the position with Terence Williams, JaMycal Hasty, Trestan Ebner and John Lovett. Last week, as a team, Baylor had just 31 rushing yards on 37 carries. That should be a little bit easier this week against a Kansas run defense giving up nearly 200 yards per game.


KU also could try and establish the running game, as Baylor has the worst run defense in the Big 12 (217 ypg), but it’s more likely that Doug Meacham gets back to his Air Raid with Carter Stanley to see if the quarterback can build on last week’s momentum from Kansas State.


The final scores don’t show it, but Kansas’ defense has played better in recent weeks. I actually think the Jayhawks found something in Stanley last week. Plus, they’re home and the Baylor offensive line is such a problem it will give the KU front line time to get to the quarterback, whoever it is for Baylor.


Prediction: Kansas 24, Baylor 21


— Written by Pete Mundo, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as well as owner and operator of, a site for Big 12 fans. Mundo also is a sports anchor at CBS Sports Radio and can found on Twitter @PeteMundo. Follow Heartland College Sports on Twitter @Heartland_CS.

Baylor Bears vs. Kansas Jayhawks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:40
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-vs-missouri-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2017

After parting ways with Jim McElwain, Randy Shannon will take the field as interim head coach of the Florida Gators for the first time on Saturday against the Missouri Tigers.


The Gators (3-4, 3-3 SEC) will try to snap their three-game losing streak as Florida has not won a game since Sept. 30 against Vanderbilt. The team also could have a new starter under center against the Tigers.


Malik Zaire came in during the Gators’ eventual 42-7 loss against Georgia last week. He was just 3-for-6 for 36 yards, but he did help engineer a touchdown drive late in the game. Shannon said earlier this week that it would be a quarterback competition to see if Zaire or Feleipe Franks starts on Saturday.


Missouri (3-5, 0-4) is coming off a 52-12 victory over Connecticut last week. During that game, quarterback Drew Lock completed 31 of his 37 attempts for 377 yards and five touchdowns.


This will be the sixth time the Gators and Tigers have met as SEC East divisional foes since Missouri joined in the conference in 2012. Florida won last year’s meeting 40-14.


Florida at Missouri


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Missouri -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Gators’ offense

Jim McElwain was supposed to bring a high-powered offense to Gainesville, but that never happened. Once again Florida has one of the worst offenses in college football. Florida ranks 112th in the nation in total offense with just 336.6 yards per game. The Gators also are in the bottom third of the FBS in scoring at 21.3 points per game.


On Monday, interim head coach Randy Shannon said he would be involved in the offensive game plan for this weekend’s game. “For me, being a defensive coordinator and me just hanging around with the defense, when you take over a team, it’s not the right thing to do,” Shannon said. “I got to be a part of the whole defense and offense and special teams.”


On Thursday, Florida announced Malik Zaire would start over Feleipe Franks at quarterback.


2. Drew Lock

Missouri head coach Barry Odom said he believes Lock is playing the best football of his career and it is tough to argue.

In Missouri’s four most recent games, Lock has thrown 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions and averaged 15.9 yards per attempt. For the season, Lock has thrown 28 touchdowns against eight interceptions.


Lock will be going up against a Florida defense that has been a shell of units from recent seasons. The Gators are sixth in the SEC in total defense, as they are giving up an average of 360.3 yards per game. Last season, Florida was fifth in the nation in that category (292.8 ypg). This season the Gators enter this game ranked 40th.


Florida has done a decent job against the pass, giving up just 195.3 yards per game through the air (34th), so Lock could have a difficult time matching his recent production.


3. Mark Thompson

Shannon announced on Monday that the Gators would be without Gators leading rusher Malik Davis for the rest of the season. Davis injured his right knee in the first quarter of Saturday's blowout loss to archrival Georgia.


With Davis out, Thompson will share carries with Lamical Perine. Thompson is a junior college transfer from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College where he was named a second-team All-American in his final season. He came to Florida with high expectations, but he has yet to match his JUCO production.


“He’s a senior, he’s a guy that’s 6-2, 240, runs a 4.4,” Shannon said about Thompson on Monday. “It’s his opportunity to come in and play and we’ve got to challenge him on offense and make sure there’s a reason why he was recruited to be a part of Florida. And that’s to be a skilled running back like he is, but also to be productive and be a physical type guy that can get open in space that can make plays.”


Thompson has just 30 carries this season for 119 yards, and his only touchdown came during garbage time in the loss to Georgia. Shannon and the Gators need Thompson to take advantage of his opportunities against a Missouri defense that is giving up 192.4 rushing yards per game.


Final Analysis


Florida’s offense has struggled all season, and this could be the wrong time to play a Missouri team that’s put up an average of 45.5 points per game over its last four.


For the Gators to win on Saturday, they will need to rely heavily on their running game with Mark Thompson and Lemical Perine leading the way. Last week against Georgia, Florida has too many three-and-outs early. That wore down the defense and allowed the Bulldogs to jump out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.


If Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is able to continue putting up big numbers against the Gators’ secondary, it could be another long day for the Florida fans that make the trek to Columbia.


Prediction: Missouri 34, Florida 17


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Florida Gators vs. Missouri Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:35
Path: /college-football/western-kentucky-hilltoppers-vs-vanderbilt-commodores-preview-and-prediction-2017

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will make the short trip to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores in the final installment of a three-game series that began in 2015. It's a series that has yet to disappoint, with each of the first two contests decided on the final play of the game.


The teams are deadlocked at one win apiece heading into the Saturday afternoon rubber match. Vanderbilt garnered a 31-30 victory last season in Bowling Green, as Western Kentucky came up empty on a potential game-winning 2-point conversion in overtime. Western Kentucky notched a hard-fought 14-12 win in its 2015 trip to Nashville, after Vanderbilt failed to convert on a game-tying 2-point attempt at the end of regulation.


This contest will serve as a much-needed break from SEC action for Vanderbilt. After starting the season 3-0, the Commodores have lost five consecutive conference games. They are now charged with winning three of their final four games just to become bowl eligible. The opportunity to get their season back on track starts on Saturday as Derek Mason’s Commodores go for a series-clinching win over Western Kentucky.


The Hilltoppers also find themselves in bounce-back mode after having a four-game winning streak snapped by C-USA foe Florida Atlantic last week. The defending Conference USA champs now sit in fourth place in their division at 5-3 on the season, in search of a sixth win on Saturday to clinch bowl eligibility. The underdog Hilltoppers could also add a feather to their cap by beating an SEC opponent for the second time in three seasons.


Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Vanderbilt -10


Three Things to Watch


1. Mike White vs. Vanderbilt pass defense

The senior quarterback (above, right) is the primary catalyst for a potent passing attack that ranks No. 16 in the nation (309.4 ypg). And while White’s production has dipped a bit compared to 2016, thanks in part to the departure of star wideouts Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris, the Hilltopper passing game is slowly but surely starting to return to 2016 form. White has accounted for 1,073 passing yards and 13 touchdowns (one rushing) in his last three contests alone.


The bad news is that he will be matched up against the best pass defense that he has faced all season. Vanderbilt ranks No. 11 nationally against the pass, giving up just 170.9 yards per game. Additionally, the Commodores were responsible for White’s second-worst performance of the 2016 season, limiting him to 222 passing yards (115 below his season average) with just one touchdown and one interception. White has been on a roll of late, but he could have his work cut out for him on Saturday.


2. Kyle Shurmur vs. the Western Kentucky pass defense

This will mark Shurmur’s third game of the season against a non-Power 5 school. He fared exceptionally well in two early-season matchups against MTSU and Alabama A&M, combining for 498 passing yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. That said, Western Kentucky is the best defense against the pass, statistically speaking, that Shurmur has faced this season. The Hilltoppers currently rank No. 22 in the nation against the pass, allowing 182.3 yards per game. They also have nine interceptions to their credit, while giving up just five touchdowns through the air in eight games.


Shurmur could indeed be tested, but he does enter Saturday’s matchup with an outstanding 18-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season. He should have a boost of confidence as well, after racking up a season-best 333 passing yards and four touchdowns last week on the road against South Carolina.


3. The run game

This should be one of the more intriguing aspects of this matchup. Both teams have been terrible running the football this season. In fact, the Hilltoppers rank dead last among FBS teams in rush offense, averaging just 83.3 ground yards per contest. The Commodores aren’t far behind, ranking No. 125 of 129 FBS teams, averaging only 94.4 rushing yards per game.


Regardless, you can probably expect to see both teams make a concerted effort to establish their respective run games on Saturday — primarily due to the fact that both teams have been really bad when it comes to stopping the run as well. Western Kentucky ranks No. 91 in the country in that regard, giving up 187 rushing yards per game, while Vanderbilt comes in at No. 121 nationally, allowing 238.8 rushing yards per contest.


It should be noted that there is a big difference between the quality of opposition that each of these teams has faced to this point. Vanderbilt has been paired against great rush offenses and defenses for much of the season, including those of Georgia and Alabama. Keeping that in mind, the battle-tested Commodores should have an edge in the run game.


Final Analysis


It’s hard to believe that this is the first time that Vanderbilt has been favored against Western Kentucky, especially when you take into account the Commodores’ current five-game losing skid. But it does make sense. The Hilltoppers have faced no one of consequence en route to a 5-3 record. Their five wins have come against four of the worst teams in college football and FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky. In their only other matchup of the season against a Power 5 school, the Hilltoppers lost 20-7 to an uninspiring Illinois team that has since lost six straight games. Vanderbilt might even be undefeated right now had the Commodores played the same schedule.


This simply isn’t the same caliber Western Kentucky team under head coach Mike Sanford that it was under Jeff Brohm. Mike White is a solid talent at quarterback, and the WKU secondary makes for worthy opposition. Otherwise, this is a team on the decline. The Commodores obviously haven’t been at their best of late either, but they did show signs of life last week against South Carolina. And it would come as a surprise if a superior Vanderbilt team doesn’t come away with a win at home over the Hilltoppers on Saturday.


Prediction: Vanderbilt 31, Western Kentucky 20


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/illinois-fighting-illini-vs-purdue-boilermakers-preview-and-prediction-2017

Saturday will feature the 93rd meeting between Illinois and Purdue, and the 66th time that the two Big Ten foes will compete for the Purdue Cannon. Illinois narrowly leads the all-time series 44–42–6, but Purdue has claimed 34 wins in the 65 games since the Purdue Cannon was introduced as the trophy for the rivalry. The road team has won each of the matchups dating back to 2012, with '11 the last time the Boilermakers claimed a victory in West Lafayette, the site of Saturday's contest.


Illinois stands at 2-6 this season and last in the Big Ten. After the Illini started 2-0 with wins over Ball State and Western Kentucky, head coach Lovie Smith's team is currently in the midst of a six-game losing skid. In that stretch, the Illini are averaging only 16 points per game. Illinois likely needs to win its final four games in order to make a bowl, which it has done only once in the last five seasons (Heart of Dallas Bowl, 2014).


Purdue is in a similar position currently on a three-game losing streak, though they sport one more win — and sit one spot higher in the Big Ten West — than Illinois. Four of the Boilermakers' five losses have been by one possession, however, and all three of their wins have come by at least 14 points. In his first year at Purdue, head coach Jeff Brohm has this program trending in the right direction, still with a real possibility to get back in bowl contention. Sure, Purdue would need to win three of its final four games, but with its slew of close losses, this team has the talent and confidence to eclipse the three-win mark for the first time since 2012 (also Purdue's last bowl appearance).


Illinois at Purdue


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Purdue -14


Three Things to Watch


1. Purdue’s passing attack vs. Illinois' pass defense
Purdue quarterback David Blough will have his work cut out for him against the Illini. Blough averages 114 passing yards per game this season, and only 78 yards per game in the four conference games in which he started at quarterback (did not start at Wisconsin). Illinois has allowed 191 passing yards per game this season, which puts them sixth in the Big Ten and in the top 30 nationally. If Blough can bounce back and turn around his struggles against conference foes, it could take some pressure off his running game and establish a balance on offense.


2. The little things: ball control and penalties 
Not much more is overlooked and underappreciated than in-game discipline. Two elements stand out here: hanging onto the football and staying away from penalties. Both teams like to take the ball away on defense, ranking in the top four in the Big Ten and top 20 nationally in fumbles recovered, with Purdue (second in Big Ten, 10th nationally) at nine and Illinois one behind (fourth, 17th) at eight. With regard to penalties, both teams average more than six and seven committed per game. If this game comes down to the finish, that discipline could very well be the deciding factor come Saturday.


3. Finishing off drives in the red zone
These two offenses are closer to the bottom than the top in scoring offense, so when one side gets into the red zone it is imperative to get points. Purdue (third in the Big Ten) scores on more than 90 percent of its red zone trips, with Illinois (fifth) at 87 percent. Defensively, the two are nearly identical. Purdue is only allowing scores on 77.8 percent of opponents’ red zone opportunities (fourth in Big Ten), with the Illini (sixth) just percentage points behind at 78.4 percent. With both teams very strong in this area, a key stop in the red zone might swing the momentum in a big way.


Final Analysis


The teams enter Saturday’s matchup with one conference win between the two, but record is far from the only indicator of their performances so far. A bowl is still in sight for both sides, but a loss would all but eliminate Illinois from contention while a loss would force Purdue to win its final three games to play in December.
With both teams riding losing streaks, starting out November with a win would be a tremendous step in the right direction as both teams try to gain momentum down the stretch. Pulling out a win would be a huge momentum boost for Illini head coach Lovie Smith as he looks to right the ship in Champaign, while Jeff Brohm and the Boilermakers have been oh-so-close over the last few weeks. One other point: don’t forget the recent success of road teams — the road team has won each of the last five games — in this rivalry. Can Purdue buck the trend and beat Illinois in West Lafayette for the first time since winning 21-14 in 2011?


Prediction: Purdue 31, Illinois 14


— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and works for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Associate Editor of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:25
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-vs-indiana-hoosiers-preview-and-prediction-2017

The Wisconsin Badgers and Indiana Hoosiers meet up in Bloomington on Saturday in a key Big Ten tilt with College Football Playoff implications. The undefeated Badgers (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) come limping into the contest with a number of stars either out or questionable due to injury. The Hoosiers (3-5, 0-5) are coming off of a high-scoring shootout loss to Maryland and are still looking for their first conference win of the 2017 season.


An upset win by Indiana over a wounded Wisconsin squad would throw yet another wrench into the College Football Playoff process and make the race for the B1G West title a little tighter.


Wisconsin at Indiana 


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Wisconsin -11


Three Things to Watch


1. Johnathan Taylor's status

The Badgers have a very simple recipe for winning this and all of their matchups this season: run the ball. Few players have had the success that Taylor has had toting the rock this season, and the presence of the Big Ten's leading rusher (and fifth in the FBS) would go a long way in sealing a tricky win on the road. But the freshman suffered a left leg injury in the second half of last week's game against Illinois and didn't return. He is considered questionable for this game and If he can't go, Bradrick Shaw likely becomes the bell cow for the Badgers. Though arguably more elusive, Shaw is nowhere near as effective a runner between the tackles as Taylor is. That's where Wisconsin's bread is buttered, and the Badgers need to be dominant in that facet of the game to get this win here.


2. Can the Hoosiers close the deal?

Indiana has lost three straight games that were tied or in which the Hoosiers were leading in the fourth quarter. Suffice it to say that taking care of the ball and killing the clock late will be key in this one. Indiana has the horses on offense to put points on the scoreboard — especially through the air. A wounded Badgers secondary leaves the door open for Indiana receivers Simmie Cobbs (above, right) and Luke Timian to have big days. If the Hoosiers can keep it close or take a lead into the fourth quarter, a big play by one of the receivers could end up being the difference.


3. The battle in the trenches

Despite the laundry list of injuries to the Badgers heading into this one, the Wisconsin offensive line appears to be healthy and firing on all cylinders. As a result, you may see head coach Paul Chryst choose to just pound the ball straight ahead until the Hoosiers prove they can stop it. It will be up to Indiana's defensive line to get a couple of stops and force Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook to throw the ball more than he wants — especially with a depleted receiving corps. If the Badgers are not dominating up front early, this one will get interesting.


Final Analysis


The Badgers seem to know exactly what they need to do each and every week this season in order to get the win and go home. This weekend is not likely to be any different. Even with a wounded roster heading into Saturday, Wisconsin is the more talented and physical team on both sides of the ball. Look for the visitors to control the clock with the run and limit Indiana's offensive possessions. When the Badgers are on defense, look for them to pin their ears back and rush the passer as they show little respect for an Indiana rushing attack that ranks among the worst in the country. If Wisconsin can throw off the timing of the Hoosier passing attack, it should be all she wrote.


Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Indiana 13


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on,, Yahoo!, Bleacher Report and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:20
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-vs-michigan-state-spartans-preview-and-prediction-2017

After suffering a heartbreaking loss at Ohio State, Penn State must regroup and hit the road for another Big Ten East battle in East Lansing. Penn State will visit a Michigan State team coming off its own crushing defeat on the road last week, an overtime loss at Northwestern.


The Big Ten picture could have looked much different coming into this weekend had the Nittany Lions and the Spartans won last weekend. As it stands now, both teams are giving chase to Ohio State. For Penn State, after losing a head-to-head tiebreaker to the Buckeyes last week, there is no margin for error if Ohio State continues to win. Penn State must win out and hope Ohio State loses twice. Michigan State has a slightly more optimistic outlook in the Big Ten East if it can take down Penn State this week. The Spartans play Ohio State next week. A 2-0 record the next two games likely puts Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game at the end of the season, and that would mean defeating Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State in the same season for Mark Dantonio's program.


Bottom line: The winner remains in the hunt for the Big Ten championship, with or without some help, and the loser can start making plans for a less prestigious bowl destination at the end of the season.


Penn State at Michigan State


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Penn State -8.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Saquon Barkley looks to rejuvenate Heisman momentum

The Penn State running back set the tone early last week in Columbus with his second game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown of the season and a 36-yard touchdown run later in the first half as Penn State was rolling early. However, Barkley's lack of production aside from those two plays took some of the steam out of his Heisman run, and the game also saw Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett jump into the conversation in a big way. But Barkley remains the betting favorite and will look to redeem himself down the final stretch while keeping Penn State on the playoff radar and in position for a New Year's Six bowl game. Barkley was held to 14 rushing yards on 12 carries and 11 receiving yards on two receptions by Michigan State last season, with one rushing touchdown.


2. Was Penn State's defense exposed?

Ohio State's J.T. Barrett had a career day against a Penn State defense that had been playing really well this season. So is Penn State's defense as good as previously advertised, or was it exploited by the Buckeyes? The better question may be whether or not it matters, as Penn State will not face an offense as potent as Ohio State's the rest of the year, including this week's matchup at Michigan State. Will the Spartans and quarterback Brian Lewerke manage to find the same holes in coverage? Penn State's defense will be itching to move on from last week, and this is a solid opportunity to bounce back against a Michigan State offense ranked in the middle of the Big Ten and nationally in total offense, rushing offense and passing offense.


3. Spartans will rely on defense

Michigan State may have its ups and downs on offense, but the Spartans' defense is what will give them the best chance to hang around and perhaps score a big win in the end. Michigan State is allowing 4.4 yards per play, which is fourth in the Big Ten and just behind Penn State's 4.36. The Spartans have allowed 19.6 points per game, a number that was inflated a bit by last week's triple-overtime loss to Northwestern, with 22 points allowed in the overtime sessions. Penn State's offense has shown the ability to shred a defense like Michigan's, but Ohio State's proved to be difficult to exploit. Michigan State may fall somewhere in between.


Final Analysis


Michigan State gave Penn State a good run last season in the regular-season finale, but the Nittany Lions turned things up a few notches in the second half with a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game on the line. Given last week's results, the stakes this week are not quite as high, but a win is necessary for both teams in their hopes of getting to a New Year's Six bowl game. Penn State's offense could be in for a slow start against an inspired Michigan State defense that will focus on Saquon Barkley as teams have done recently to varying degrees of success, and Penn State will have some offensive line concerns at play, but the Nittany Lions are still incredibly tough to keep off the scoreboard. Even Ohio State can admit that. Penn State will get out of East Lansing to keep its glimmer of playoffs hope in play.


Prediction: Penn State 31, Michigan State 17


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.

Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins, Utah Utes, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/ucla-bruins-vs-utah-utes-preview-and-prediction-2017

Both Utah and UCLA find themselves in a precarious situation as the two teams clash this week.


The Utes (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) have sunk to the Pac-12 South cellar amid a four-game slide. Utah hit its lowest point yet, falling to Oregon 41-20 after surrendering 347 rushing yards to the Ducks. Questions have arisen for the Utes on both sides of the ball and no easy solutions have appeared on the horizon.


The Bruins (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) face the possibility of playing without star quarterback Josh Rosen. Success for UCLA this season has come exclusively on Rosen's arm. He has helped compensate for an anemic running game and porous defense.


UCLA holds an 11-4 lead in the all-time series with Utah. The Utes have won two of the last three meetings, but have not beaten the Bruins at home since 2011.


UCLA at Utah


Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 3 at 9:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Utah get the ground game going?

One staple of Utah's offense in past seasons has been a bruising rushing attack. The Utes are typically strong in the backfield, having churned out multiple 1,000-yard rushers over the past decade. This season, the running game has taken a few steps backward.


For Utah to get back on track in November, getting more consistent production out of the backfield is critical. The Utes have the tools to get it done. Zack Moss seemed poised for a breakout season a few weeks ago when he tallied a season-high 141 rushing yards against USC. Tyler Huntley also is a shifty and mobile quarterback who can make plays with his legs.


A major issue for Utah is struggles along the offensive line. The Utes returned only one full-time starter from a season ago and the lack of experience has been felt in run blocking. Run gaps aren't opening up frequently enough and pressure often develops too quickly for Huntley, Moss or other runners to make a play and pick up significant yardage.


Playing against UCLA could be the cure for Utah's run game. The Bruins rank last in the Pac-12 against the run, allowing 307.13 rushing yards per game.


2. Will Josh Rosen be available to play?

Losing Rosen (right) to a shoulder injury ultimately derailed UCLA's season a year ago. History threatens to also leave the Bruins in a precarious spot this fall with the injury bug attacking Rosen once again.


Rosen did not practice on Monday after suffering undisclosed injuries in UCLA's loss to Washington on Saturday. He left the game against the Huskies after throwing for a career-low 93 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-21 passing. His status for Friday's game remains in doubt. Backup quarterbacks Devon Modster and Matt Lynch took all of the reps in practice with Rosen unable to participate.


Modster finished the game against the Huskies and threw for 77 yards and a touchdown on 7-of-12 passing. The redshirt freshman had appeared in only one other game this season, getting some mop-up time against Hawaii.


UCLA head coach Jim Mora said Rosen does not need to practice in order to play this week. Still, if he can't go, it would deprive the Bruins of their most reliable offensive weapon. Rosen leads the Pac-12 in total passing yards (2,713), passing yards per game (339.1) and total offense (333.9 ypg).


3. Will either defense get consistent stops?

Both Utah and UCLA lit up the scoreboard when the two teams met in Los Angeles a year ago. Joe Williams rushed for a school-record 332 yards to lead the Utes to a 52-45 victory. It's a safe bet that more scoreboard fireworks are on the way this season.


The Bruins possess the worst all-around defense among Pac-12 teams. UCLA allows a league-worst 487.5 yards per game and yields 37.6 points per game, ahead of only Oregon State. In four losses, the Bruins have allowed opponents to score 49.3 points per contest.


Utah's defense dropped off a cliff over the last half of October, largely because the Utes have struggled to stop the run. Utah has allowed 224.4 rushing yards per game against Pac-12 opponents. Lingering injuries to key defensive players like Bradlee Anae, Kylie Fitts, Chase Hansen and Sunia Tauteoli have been part of the problem.


Final Analysis


It isn't too dramatic to say the season hangs in the balance for both teams on Friday. Both Utah and UCLA likely need a win here to qualify for a bowl game. The loser could very well finish the season without six wins, since both teams have tough opponents still ahead. With Josh Rosen questionable to play, this seems like the best remaining chance for the Utes to turn things around.


Prediction: Utah 27, UCLA 24


— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

UCLA Bruins vs. Utah Utes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 12:10