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The midweek MACtion portion of college football’s schedule officially kicks off on Halloween night, as Miami travels less than 200 miles to Athens to take on Ohio. While both teams should have plenty of incentive in the Battle of the Bricks rivalry, this matchup isn’t quite as appealing as it appeared to be back in the preseason. Before the season started, this Oct. 31 showdown was projected by most to decide the winner of the MAC’s East Division. However, the RedHawks are struggling to meet preseason expectations at 3-5 overall, while the Bobcats head into the final stretch as the favorite to make it to Detroit to play for the conference title on Dec. 2.

 

Miami coach Chuck Martin inherited a significant rebuilding project when he took over the program prior to the 2014 campaign. Martin was a highly regarded hire after spending time as a head coach at Grand Valley State, along with a stint at Notre Dame as the program’s offensive coordinator. After a 5-19 start through the first two seasons, Martin guided Miami to a 6-7 record last year, which included six consecutive victories to reach the St. Petersburg Bowl. With 16 returning starters and the development of quarterback Gus Ragland, the RedHawks were the pick by some to win the MAC East. But things haven’t gone according to plan for Martin. Ragland suffered an injury against Bowling Green on Oct. 7 and has missed the last two games. Additionally, untimely turnovers have been a problem and factored into close losses (four by eight points or less).

 

While Miami is hoping to put together a run in November to reach a bowl game, Ohio has its sights set on another MAC East title. Under coach Frank Solich, the Bobcats have been of the league’s most consistent teams. This program has just one losing record over the last 11 seasons and has not finished lower than third in the East since 2007. Additionally, Ohio has claimed the division title four times since 2006 and nearly knocked off Western Michigan (29-23) in last season’s game. This year’s team is off to a 6-2 start, with the only losses coming at Purdue (44-21) and Central Michigan (26-23). 

 

Miami leads the all-time series 52-39-2. However, Ohio has won the last four meetings against the RedHawks.

 

Miami, Ohio at Ohio

 

Kickoff: Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Off

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Miami’s Quarterback Situation

Will Gus Ragland make his return to the lineup on Tuesday night? The junior threw for 1,398 yards and 12 touchdowns through the first six games before suffering a lower-body injury against Bowling Green. With Ragland sidelined, Miami stumbled against the Falcons (37-29), lost to a struggling Kent State team (17-14) and defeated Buffalo (24-14) on Oct. 21. When healthy, Ragland is one of the MAC’s top quarterbacks and can ignite an offense averaging only 24.5 points in conference action this season. If Ragland can’t go, fellow junior Billy Bahl will make his third start of the season. Bahl has 14 career starts under his belt but has struggled through his three appearances in 2017. The junior is completing 50 percent of his passes for 470 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. Ragland is also a better runner, which adds a dimension to an offense that has had some issues (16 sacks allowed) protecting the quarterback.

 

In order for Miami to pull off the upset, it needs a healthy Ragland taking snaps under center. Is the extra time off from the last contest going to be enough for Ragland to make his return? Or will the RedHawks hand the keys to Bahl for another start?

 

Related: Bowling Green Falcons vs. Kent State Golden Flashes Preview and Prediction

 

2. Ohio’s Rushing Attack

It’s no secret Solich’s offense is going to pound the rock on Tuesday night. Ohio leads the MAC with an average of 243.4 yards per game and ranks fourth in the conference with 344 attempts. Additionally, the Bobcats have reached the end zone 28 times on the ground, which ranks among the best in the nation.

 

Junior A.J. Ouellette missed nearly all of last season due to injury but hasn’t showed any rust in his return to the lineup. The junior running back leads the offense with 747 yards and averages a healthy 6.23 yards per carry. He’s supported by Dorian Brown (443 yards), and quarterback Nathan Rourke (499 yards) as secondary options in the ground attack. Rourke replaced Quinton Maxwell as the team’s starter under center following the loss to Purdue and has taken the first snap in each of the last six games. Rourke hasn’t passed for more than 200 yards in a start but has rushed for over 100 yards in three out of his last four contests.

 

Miami will counter Ohio’s rushing attack with a front seven that ranks fifth in the MAC against the run. The RedHawks are allowing 164.9 yards per game on the ground but just 4.2 yards per carry in MAC games. Linebacker Brad Koenig leads the way for Martin’s defense with 63 stops, and Junior McMullen (missed three games due to injury) has recorded 25. Koenig (seven tackles for a loss) has been active around the line of scrimmage, but the RedHawks have only recorded 38 tackles for a loss this year. This unit needs to create more havoc behind the offensive line and force Ohio into obvious passing downs.

 

Ouellette and Rourke have led Ohio’s offense to back-to-back performances of at least 300 rushing yards. Can this dynamic duo do it again? Or will Miami’s defense have success winning the battle up front and force Rourke to take to the air? 

 

3. Ohio’s Defense

Defense is usually a strength for Ohio under Solich, and this unit has allowed only 19.8 points per game and 4.4 yards per play through four MAC contests. Through eight overall matchups, the Bobcats rank second in the conference with 21 sacks, third with 55 tackles for a loss and have surrendered only three plays of 40 or more yards. And in last year’s matchup against Miami – albeit before the RedHawks’ offense took flight under Ragland – the Bobcats limited this unit to just seven points and 238 total yards.

 

Linebacker Quentin Poling should be a lock for first-team All-MAC honors at the end of 2017, and the senior heads into Tuesday night’s matchup with 70 tackles, three forced fumbles, two pass breakups and 1.5 sacks. Poling is the leader for a unit that doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses. However, the Bobcats rank sixth in the MAC in pass efficiency defense and 15 of the 24 touchdowns allowed by this group came via the pass.

 

Even if Ragland starts for Miami, the RedHawks need to establish some balance and protect up front. That could be a challenge versus Ohio, especially with Poling and linemen Trent Smart, Andrew Payne and Cleon Aloese attacking the offensive line. Miami’s rushing attack features two talented rushers in Kenny Young (566 yards) and Alonzo Smith (463), but the offense is averaging only 3.82 yards per rush behind a line off to an uneven start. On the outside, Miami has one of the MAC’s better receiving corps. James Gardner (32), Jared Murphy (20) and Sam Martin (13) are a good trio at receiver, with tight end Ryan Smith (23) attacking the middle of the field. If Ragland or Bahl has time to throw, there are plays to be made against an Ohio secondary that ranks sixth in the MAC in pass efficiency defense.

 

Miami has managed only 10 points in the last two meetings against Ohio’s defense. On paper, this matchup favors the Bobcats once again, especially if this unit can create pressure on Ragland or Bahl and slow down the Young-Smith tandem at running back. Can Martin put together a gameplan that allows for Miami to have its best showing against Ohio in three seasons?

 

Final Analysis

 

With Ragland’s status up in the air, this is a hard game to get a read on. However, even if Ragland plays, it will be a tough assignment for the RedHawks to win in Athens. Ohio’s rushing attack has been mashing opponents in recent weeks, and Rourke hasn’t needed to take on too heavy of a workload through the air with a dominant ground game and defense. Expect that formula to be used once again for the Bobcats. Rourke and Ouellette will pound away at Miami’s front seven, and Ohio’s defense comes up with key stops in the second half to seal the victory. And most importantly, a win over Miami would help Solich’s team cross off another hurdle in its quest to earn another MAC East title and a trip to Detroit in early December.

 

Prediction: Ohio 31, Miami, Ohio 20

 

(Quentin Poling photo courtesy of Daniel Kubus/Ohio Athletics; Gus Ragland photo courtesy of www.miamiredhawks.com)

Teaser:
Miami, Ohio RedHawks vs. Ohio Bobcats Preview and Prediction 2017
Post date: Monday, October 30, 2017 - 13:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/podcast-college-football-week-9-recap-listen-now-2017
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In the latest Cover 2 podcast, Braden Gall and Mitch Light recap the week 9 college football action. Ohio State played its way back into the College Football Playoff picture with a huge win over Penn State, and Iowa State knocked off a top-five opponent for the second time this season.

 

Other topics discussed:

 

• Which teams did Braden eliminate from the Playoff race? And is he allowed to add a team?

 

• What the heck is going on at Florida?

 

• Will the Big 12 have a playoff-worthy team?

 

• Braden has a big announcement (you can win free Athlon Sports mags, if you listen).

 

 

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

 

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

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, October 30, 2017 - 12:46
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/kansas-jayhawks-2017-18-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction
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For the past 13 years — after nearly every practice and every game — the Kansas Jayhawks have broken their huddle with the same chant:
“BIG 12 CHAMPS!”

 

It’s among the subtle methods Bill Self uses to keep his players locked in during the regular season, to help them focus on winning a league title instead of thinking ahead to the NCAA Tournament.

 

Thirteen straight times now, the tactic has worked. Kansas has claimed at least a share of every Big 12 championship since 2005 — a 13-year run of league dominance matched only by UCLA from 1967-79. Fueled by one of the nation’s top backcourts — and with the rest of the league in a state of flux — there’s no reason to believe the Jayhawks won’t set a Division I record by capturing a 14th straight crown in 2017-18.

 

At a Glance

 

HEAD COACH: Bill Self

2016-17 RECORD (Big 12): 31–5 (16–2)

2016-17 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Oregon 74–60 in the Elite Eight

KEY LOSSES:

F Carlton Bragg Jr. (5.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

G Josh Jackson (16.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg)

F Landen Lucas (8.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg)

G Frank Mason III (20.9 ppg, 5.2 apg)

 

Frontcourt 

 

As lethal as Kansas will be on the perimeter, the Jayhawks are as vulnerable in the paint as they’ve ever been under Self. The main issue is a lack of depth. The loss of senior Landen Lucas and the departures of Dwight Coleby (transfer) and Jack Whitman (left the program after transferring in following the 2016-17 season) have left Kansas with just three post players — all of whom lack experience. 

 

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!

The most intriguing player down low will be Udoka Azubuike, a 7'0", 280-pound behemoth who was averaging 5.0 points and 4.4 rebounds before a wrist injury ended his freshman season after just 11 games. Azubuike dominated the Jayhawks’ offseason workouts and could become one of college basketball’s breakthrough players in 2017-18. The biggest hurdle for Azubuike, Self says, will be staying out of foul trouble.

 

That will also be a focus for freshman Billy Preston, a McDonald’s All-American who will likely be thrust into a starting role before he’s ready. A 6'10" athletic phenom, Preston can handle the ball like a guard, making him a tough matchup for opposing forwards. The key for Preston will be how quickly he adapts to the mental part of the game — and Self’s tough-love coaching style. Reserve forward Mitch Lightfoot should play a significant role off the bench. 

 

Backcourt 

 

The departures of All-American Frank Mason and lottery pick Josh Jackson haven’t done anything to squelch optimism about the Jayhawks’ perimeter game. That’s mainly because of the return of senior Devonte’ Graham, a 41.2 percent career 3-point shooter who is also the Jayhawks’ vocal leader. “There’s no question,” Self says, “that this is Devonte’s team.”

 

Joining Graham in the backcourt will be Malik Newman, a McDonald’s All-American who played one year at Mississippi State before relocating to Kansas. A volume shooter, Newman should combine with Graham to form one of the highest-scoring backcourts in the country.

 

The threats won’t stop there in Kansas’ small-ball attack. Competing for the third guard spot will be senior Svi Mykhailiuk, who ranked fourth on the team in scoring (9.8 ppg) last season, and junior Lagerald Vick. Once considered a potential first-round NBA Draft pick, Mykhailiuk has yet to live up to expectations, as his streaky shooting and average defensive play have opened the door for Vick, a high flyer who scores in multiple ways.

 

Kansas is also hoping Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe, a former top-50 recruit, contributes quality minutes when he becomes eligible in December.

 

Final Analysis 

 

Kansas will play small ball to take advantage of a guard-heavy roster talented enough to propel the Jayhawks to their first Final Four since 2012. A record 14th straight Big 12 title also seems likely, as there appears to be a considerable gap between Self’s squad and the rest of the league.

 

Teaser:
Kansas Jayhawks 2017-18 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, October 30, 2017 - 12:10
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/duke-blue-devils-2017-18-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction
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When asked about the fluid nature of college basketball, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says it’s something he’s made peace with.

“Change is exciting,” he says.

 

By now, Krzyzewski’s become an expert on both change and excitement. Recently, Duke has built around elite recruits who’ve breezed through Durham, leaving rosters often deep in talent but light on continuity. The result has been an alternating run of successes and challenges.

 

Last season’s team was a microcosm of Duke’s wild new normal. Battling injuries, distractions and a deep league, the Blue Devils — the preseason No. 1 team that ended up having four of the first 32 players taken in the 2017 NBA Draft — sandwiched an uneven regular season and a second-round NCAA Tournament loss around a brilliant ACC Tournament title run.

 

Duke again has a roster of star freshmen and a small-but-crucial dose of experience. With seven of last season’s top eight scorers gone, change is still a constant. And if recent history is a guide, excitement — for better or worse — will be, too.

 

At a Glance

 

HEAD COACH: Mike Krzyzewski

2016-17 RECORD (ACC): 28–9 (11–7)

2016-17 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to South Carolina 88–81 in the second round

KEY LOSSES:

G Frank Jackson (10.9 ppg)

F Amile Jefferson (10.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg)

G Matt Jones (7.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

G Luke Kennard (19.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg,)

G Jayson Tatum (16.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg)

 

Frontcourt 

 

The Blue Devils' already-strong frontcourt received a huge boost when Marvin Bagley, originally the top recruit in the Class of 2018, reclassified and enrolled at Duke. Bagley is a freakish athlete who can score on the low block, get out and run in transition and even hit from the 3-point line on occasion.

 

As a top-15 recruit, 6'11" center Marques Bolden was expected to be a major part of last season’s front line. But a preseason foot injury slowed his progress and left him unable to carve out a consistent spot in the rotation. That shouldn’t be an issue this season as Bolden will join forward Bagley and Wendell Carter, a top-five recruit in the 2017 class, as focal points down low. 

 

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!

While his 6'10", 259-pound body suggests that Carter is best suited to be a rugged inside force, he’s billed as having stretch-4 capabilities. There’s no mystery how the Blue Devils plan to use Bolden, who should be a straightforward post. Krzyzewski says he’d like to play the two together, which would be a departure from smaller, quicker recent Duke lineups.

 

Javin DeLaurier, a 6'10" sophomore, and Antonio Vrankovic, a 7'0" junior, played sparingly last season. There should be more minutes available now, but it’s anyone’s guess whether DeLaurier or Vrankovic will grab them.

 

Backcourt 

 

Much to the relief of his detractors — and possibly himself — the winding college career of senior guard Grayson Allen will come to a close this season. From the time he rocketed to fame with his 2015 NCAA title game heroics, through the three tripping incidents that painted him as college basketball’s villain, Allen’s tenure has been filled with massive expectations and unrelenting scrutiny.

 

However, this season there’s one less thing he has to worry about. Trevon Duval, one of the top point guards in the 2017 class, will assume the ball-handling duties that were an unnatural fit for Allen in past seasons.

 

With Duval running the offense, Allen and Gary Trent Jr., considered the top shooting guard in the 2017 class, can focus on simply doing damage from the wings.

 

Depth on the perimeter could be an issue, as sophomore Jack White, who appeared in only 10 games last season, and freshmen Jordan Tucker and Alex O’Connell are the likely candidates to crack the rotation.

 

Final Analysis 

 

This season’s Duke team doesn’t have as much firepower as some recent squads, but the weapons it has should fit together nicely. There are no obvious deficiencies or redundant pieces. But once again, the question facing Duke isn’t whether it has enough talent, but whether that talent will have enough time together to figure out how good it can be.

 

Teaser:
Duke Blue Devils 2017-18 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, October 30, 2017 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/bowling-green-falcons-vs-kent-state-golden-flashes-preview-and-prediction-2017
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Leave it to the MAC to offer college football fans a treat with two games on Halloween night, including Bowling Green taking on Kent State. However, it’s been a rough season for both the Falcons (1-7, 1-3 MAC) and Golden Flashes (2-6, 1-3) as the two teams find themselves near the bottom of the East Division.

 

Both teams’ lone conference victory thus far came against Miami (Ohio), and a win by Kent State Tuesday night would keep the Golden Flashes’ chances of gaining bowl eligibility alive. With just four games left, Bowling Green is all but assured of sitting out this postseason.

 

These two schools have plenty of history together with Bowling Green leading the all-time series 59-19-6. That’s the most wins for the Falcons over any other opponent in program history. Bowling Green also has won four in a row over Kent State, outscoring the Golden Flashes 161-49 during that span.

 

Bowling Green at Kent State

 

Kickoff: Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Bowling Green -1.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Bowling Green’s three-headed QB?

James Morgan started the last seven games of the 2016 season at quarterback for Bowling Green and was instrumental in the Falcons’ three-game winning streak to wrap things up. The sophomore was fully expected to take the next step forward this season, but instead he has gone the wrong direction. In seven games, Morgan has completed just 45.3 percent of his passes with nearly as many touchdowns (nine) as interceptions (seven).

 

As a result, head coach Mike Jinks benched Morgan in favor of freshman Jarrett Doege, the brother of former Texas Tech star Seth Doege. Jarrett came on in relief of Morgan in the 49-7 loss at Northwestern and then made his first start the following week at Middle Tennessee. He showed good accuracy (63.5 percent completion rate) and had some success running the offense but then suffered a back injury in his second start against Akron. Morgan took over and led the Falcons to a 37-29 victory on the road against Miami (Ohio) in the next game, but gave way to another freshman, Grant Loy, in last week’s 48-17 blowout home loss to Northern Illinois.

 

Although it was initially feared that Doege was lost for the season, he has recovered enough and was available if needed last week. So who will get the call against Kent State? If healthy enough, the safe bet would be Doege since he could be the long-term solution at quarterback, but the depth chart has “or” listed with all three names so don’t be surprised if Jinks has a few “tricks” up his sleeve under center on Tuesday night.

 

Related: Miami (Ohio) RedHawks vs. Ohio Bobcats Preview and Prediction

 

2. Falcons gaining ground

For the season, Bowling Green is averaging 150.3 rushing yards per game. That relatively modest amount is good for sixth in the MAC and tied for 80th overall in the FBS. However, in conference games only the Falcons have been much better, gaining 219.3 yards per game on the ground. That average would place them 26th in the nation just behind defending national champion Clemson.

 

Senior Josh Cleveland leads the way with 504 rushing yards, but freshman Andrew Clair has been the star recently. He’s posted three straight 100-yard games, averaging 7.7 yards per carry during that span. Kent State is giving up more than 220 rushing yards per game, including 336 (and four touchdowns) to Ohio last week. Look for Bowling Green to try keep things rolling on the ground with Clair and Cleveland getting a lot of carries.

 

3. Can Kent State “Flash” some offense?

To put it simply, the Golden Flashes have had their issues on offense all season. Out of 129 FBS teams, Kent State ranks 125th or worse in three out of the four major offensive categories – scoring (10.0 ppg, last), total yards (249.6 ypg, second to last), and passing yards (101.0 ypg, 125th). Take away the 38 points the Golden Flashes scored in their win over Howard, an FCS opponent, and they have scored a total of 42 points against seven FBS teams (6.0 ppg).

 

Injuries have had something to do with this lack of offensive production, as senior quarterback Nick Holley, who also was the team’s leading rusher in 2016, was lost for the season just three games in. However, if there’s a potential silver lining for this game it’s that Kent State is seventh in the MAC in rushing offense (148.6 ypg) while Bowling Green is dead last in the conference (and 125th in the FBS) against the run (258.0 ypg). Moving the ball has been a struggle for Kent State all season, but if the Golden Flashes stay grounded Tuesday night they may able to put a scare into the Falcons.

 

Final Analysis

 

Even though Kent State still has a mathematical shot at getting to six wins, the reality is that the Golden Flashes won’t go bowling this season. With Bowling Green already sitting at seven losses, a postseason berth isn’t in the Falcons’ future either. But what is at stake is a second MAC win and some positive momentum headed into the final month of the season.

 

Despite their similar records, the Falcons have clearly been more productive on offense. While the quarterback position is somewhat unsettled, the running game appears to be rounding into form. Bowling Green’s defensive issues should give the Golden Flashes a chance to at least move the ball and go above their scoring average, but the Falcons will score plenty of points of their own.

 

Prediction: Bowling Green 31, Kent State 20

 

(Top photo courtesy of www.bgsufalcons.com)

Teaser:
Bowling Green Falcons vs. Kent State Golden Flashes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, October 30, 2017 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/seven-step-drop-seven-burning-questions-college-football-playoff-selection-committee-2017
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Well, we’ve arrived. Now it’s time to get serious about the national title chase, the Heisman Trophy and even those conference title races.

 

This past weekend introduced several shakeups to the college football standings across the country, from Ames to Columbus to South Bend. As our eye turns toward November and the home stretch of action, it’s also finally time to feast our eyes on the initial set of College Football Playoff rankings. How will the Selection Committee sort out all this chaos from coast-to-coast?

 

Here are seven burning questions to keep in mind heading into Tuesday night’s ranking release.

 

1. Where will the paper tigers rank?

Before we get to the heart of this matter, take a time machine trip and think back to 2015. The Iowa Hawkeyes surprised the entire country by rolling through the regular season undefeated, rising to as high as No. 3 in the polls. They survived close games just about every other week but kept their record perfect mostly by beating up on bad teams — just two wins over ranked teams all year.

 

While there was continued talk about Iowa making it to the College Football Playoff, it was all taken with a grain of salt the size of a boulder. The Hawkeyes were eventually exposed in the postseason, losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and then letting Christian McCaffrey run all over them in the Rose Bowl.

 

This year we have two candidates for taking a similar path to being a paper tiger in Wisconsin and Miami. Both are very solid football teams, don’t get me wrong, that play good defense and have good, but not spectacular, offenses. The Badgers romped over Illinois on Saturday to move to 8-0 and it seems likely they won’t have a win over a top-25 team until going to Indianapolis. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, sleep-walked on the road and nearly were upset by a truly awful North Carolina squad. Both can finish with some pretty solid seasons, but based on what they’ve done so far, the undefeated records are quite the mirage.

 

Which makes it fascinating to see how the committee will treat them both. Will they look at the record more than the effort on the field? Wisconsin moved into the top four on Sunday in the other polls but it seems like a stretch to think the Badgers will be that high in the committee’s top 25. Likewise, the Canes are back in the top 10 but are they really as good as the Oklahoma schools or even Penn State? They have not proven to be yet.

 

We’ll find out if the committee members have truly been watching games and examining the analytics by seeing how highly ranked Wisconsin and Miami are on Tuesday.

 

2. What in the world does the committee do with the Big 12 standings?

It seems pretty well established by this point that the Big 12 is the best overall league from top to bottom (well, minus Kansas and Baylor of course). There’s playoff contenders like the Oklahoma schools, dark horses like TCU and giant-slayers like Iowa State. Even the middle-class of the league is a test on each weekend, whether it’s West Virginia, Texas or Kansas State.

 

But how do they sort them all out?

 

Oklahoma has perhaps the best win in the country, going into Columbus and beating the Buckeyes. Even their lone loss has turned out to be better than anybody not named Notre Dame given recent events. Yet the Sooners have been in one-score games in Big 12 play just about every week (and gave up three first-quarter touchdowns in the one exception), including having to hold on at winless Baylor. Baker Mayfield might be the best quarterback in the country but surely the committee is examining just how meh the team has been on defense.

 

How about their Bedlam rivals? We’ll find out this Saturday just how good or great the Cowboys are but their best win might be at Texas on a fluke play in overtime. Everybody knows they have the horses on offense, but anytime that high-powered attack has played a top-30 defense, points are much harder to come by than when they were rolling over average teams earlier in the year.

 

Then there’s TCU, which lost by a touchdown to the Cyclones but still seem like it has the most well-rounded team of the bunch in the conference. The Horned Frogs’ resume isn’t eye-popping but it’s solid and they are outscoring opponents by a nearly 3-to-1 margin on average.

 

Maybe the most telling thing about the Big 12 could be figuring out where Iowa State slots in. Does the committee throw out the name on the front of the jerseys and the preseason misconceptions like they should, and look at the current version of the Cyclones — the one with Kyle Kempt starting at quarterback instead of Jacob Park — and award them accordingly with a top-10 ranking? It will be no easy task but don’t be surprised to see the Big 12 all over the top 25 with a few surprises as to their order come Tuesday.

 

3. Notre Dame puts which conferences in peril of missing out?

The Irish might be playing as well as anybody who’s not an undefeated SEC team right now. They have one of the most potent ground games in the country and we saw some big-time throws by developing quarterback Brandon Wimbush in that impressive win over NC State. Most folks are talking about the offense at the moment but the defense is very salty too, having given up no more than 20 points in a game all year. Even the current iteration, which has been dealing with some key injuries, looked as fast and as physical any team.

 

By virtue of the independent being in the thick of the playoff race, that means two conferences could be in line to get left out. It seems like the Pac-12 is going to be one (see No. 5 below), but who else is on thin ice? Might the Big 12 and ACC be pondering life in the New Year’s Six if another upset happens in the next few weeks and the Irish keep winning? Sure seems like it.

 

4. Will committee give Clemson a pass for Syracuse loss?

A few years ago, Stanford’s loss at Northwestern was excused due to “body clocks.” Then there was Oregon’s loss at Arizona without several starting offensive linemen being glossed over. We’ve seen a wild variety of stats, theories and plain old excuses used by the committee to justify one team staying in one spot over the other despite a comparatively better resume.

 

Which leads us into this past week. After a bye and a bunch of rest, Clemson returned to the early-season form it displayed in wins over Auburn, Louisville and Virginia Tech in a romp against Georgia Tech. The final score didn’t really convey the fact that the Tigers controlled the outcome throughout and were once again impressive on defense in stopping the Yellow Jackets’ option. Perhaps just as big, the offense looked completely different with a healthy Kelly Bryant running things even as conditions made things less than ideal for operating downfield.

 

Dabo Swinney’s team has good wins and may have been even more impressive than Alabama and Georgia prior to that trip to the Carrier Dome. Lots of folks are curious as to who might be in the No. 3 spot and it wouldn’t be shocking if the committee ignored that injury-filled loss against the Orange and, as they should, look deeper into the whole body of work for the Tigers. They do that and it makes sense to give them a pass for their lone blemish and slide them in right behind the SEC teams and ahead of the Big Ten ones.

 

5. Is the Pac-12 totally and completely dead?

If there’s any conference who would rather avoid the long, agonizing analysis and breakdowns that surround the actual committee rankings release, it’s the Pac-12. That’s because things should be short and sweet: the conference of champions is likely going another year without a title in the marquee college sport.

 

Washington would seem to have the best chance of winning out and sneaking into the final four but needs considerable help. The Huskies have a sub-par non-conference slate and have been relatively unimpressive in conference play so far — completing just nine passes in their blowout of a lackluster UCLA side on Saturday. While there are opportunities to state their case against Stanford and Washington State in November, it says plenty that the best win Chris Petersen’s squad has right now is against Fresno State.

 

If Washington can’t crack the top 10 — or heck top 12 — on Tuesday, that might signal for good that Larry Scott’s league will be on the outside looking in on New Year’s Day. Perhaps the Cardinal, with that game against Notre Dame to end the regular season and the potential for a rematch with USC, stand a chance. But if the committee is skeptical that they’re nothing more than a team who has a Heisman candidate carrying them on offense, they might struggle to crack the top 20. And who knows where preseason favorite USC might land in the top 25 come Tuesday night.

 

There’s still a lot of football to be played in the next month but we’re almost to the point where we can write the Pac-12 out of the playoff in pen and not pencil.

 

6. Does the SEC have a shot at two?

Every single year, the first set of committee rankings will inevitably spur the debate: can a conference put two teams in the playoff? Not surprisingly, the debate usually centers around the SEC being the one to do so.

 

We’re going to have this debate once again this week, next week and probably right up until the final set of rankings in early December. It’s a product of both the current media environment as well as the fact that Alabama and Georgia are really, really good football teams. So let’s hear what chair has to say about the two SEC front-runners, sure. But that won’t be the key to possibly seeing a rematch of the SEC title game in Atlanta at the same place a month later.

 

The key will be what other SEC teams are in the committee’s top 25 and how highly regarded they are. Remember this isn’t a case like we had a few years ago where the SEC, led by the Mississippi schools, stuffed the ballot box in the top 10. The middle of the pack in the conference simply isn’t all that great and the Bulldogs in particular need teams like Auburn to come in closer to the top 10 than the 15 or 20 mark. Will Mississippi State and LSU not just be in the top 20, but sneak into the top 15? Could South Carolina turn heads and make an appearance too?

 

The name of the game is all about racking up top 25 wins by the time those final rankings come out and the SEC will need some help in making sure that’s the case starting on Tuesday.

 

7. How does the Group of 5 shake out?

As always, there will be very close attention being paid to the Group of 5 teams in the poll and where they stack up nationally and against each other. It would be a shock to see anybody other than AAC teams in the committee’s top 25, with two — UCF and Memphis — seeming likely to wind up in the top 20. There’s a little less drama going into Tuesday given that USF finally lost after looking mediocre since the beginning of the season but who knows. And given the dearth of issues finding solid teams at the bottom of the top 25, perhaps somebody like Boise State could sneak into the picture in an unexpected way.

 

Stat(s) of the Week

 

 

 

Tweet of the Week

 

 

Superlatives of the Week

 

Best player: J.T Barrett, Ohio State

Heisman five: 1. Saquon Barkley (Penn State), 2. Bryce Love (Stanford), 3. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), 4. Josh Adams (Notre Dame) 5. Khalil Tate (Arizona)

Projected final four: 1. Alabama, 2. Notre Dame, 3. Ohio State, 4. Clemson

Team of the week: UMass

Honorary Les Miles goat of the week: Jim McElwain

Quote of the week: “He's a professional. He's a college athlete, but he's a pro.” — Urban Meyer on J.T Barrett.

 

Play of the Week

 

 

Super 16

 

I’m a voter in the FWAA/National Football Foundation Super 16 Poll and will be releasing my ballot here every week. Here’s my ballot heading into Week 10.

 

I’m a voter in the FWAA/National Football Foundation Super 16 Poll and will be releasing my ballot here every week. Here’s my ballot heading into Week 10.

 

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Notre Dame

4. Ohio State

5. Clemson

6. Penn State

7. TCU

8. Wisconsin

9. Oklahoma State

10. Iowa State

11. Oklahoma

12. UCF

13. Miami (FL)

14. Virginia Tech

15. Auburn

16. Arizona

 

Best of the rest: USC, Washington, LSU, NC State, Memphis, Stanford, Mississippi State, Toledo, Navy

 

Pre-snap Reads

 

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

This seems like a Bedlam that really can go either way, as the separation between the two rivals is as close as ever. What’s more is this one is pitting a pair of offensive-minded sides with some defenses that are solid but capable of giving up big plays. I hate to pick against Baker Mayfield given the big stage, but we’ll lean Cowboys at home by a touchdown.

 

Virginia Tech at Miami

It seems like both teams were looking ahead to this one based on the way they played in a pair of lackluster wins against bad teams on Saturday. The Hurricanes have been very beatable the past month but have found a way to remain undefeated every time. The Hokies play too disciplined and too well on defense however, and emerge with a victory that likely comes down to a key play for the visitors in the fourth quarter.

 

LSU at Alabama

This isn’t your mama’s LSU-Alabama game. It’s not even you older cousin’s Tigers and Tide matchup. Nick Saban’s side rolls in this one after breaking things open just before halftime at home.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Seven-Step Drop: 7 Burning Questions for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee
Post date: Monday, October 30, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/monday-night-football-denver-broncos-vs-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-and-prediction-2017
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The Week 8 finale tonight features two division rivals on different, yet for the moment, similar paths. The Broncos (3-3) started out the 2017 campaign with hard-fought, AFC West wins over the Raiders and Chargers that paired nicely with a 25-point home victory against the Cowboys. But Denver has all but wasted their hot start following back-to-back losses after their bye week and having lost three of its last four games overall.

 

Even if the Chiefs (5-2) falter on “Monday Night Football” they would still lead the Broncos, with Oakland and Los Angeles currently bringing up the rear at 3-5. But Kansas City, masters of the hot start the past several seasons, also has faltered the last two weeks, losing back-to-back games after opening 5-0. While a win against Denver wouldn’t necessarily sew up the AFC West at this point, it would give the Chiefs a comfortable cushion at the midway point while the Broncos would join the Raiders and Chargers with sub-.500 records.

 

Denver at Kansas City

 

Kickoff: Monday, Oct. 30 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Kansas City -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The return of Jamaal Charles

For the first time in his NFL career, Charles (above, right) will be playing at Arrowhead Stadium as a member of the visiting team. The four-time Pro Bowler was cut by Kansas City this offseason after nine seasons, amassing 7,260 rushing yards and 63 total touchdowns as a Chief. In May, Charles, thought by many to be done after back-to-back injury-plagued seasons, was signed by Denver.

 

While no one truthfully thought that Charles would put up the same numbers in Denver that he did in Kansas City, he probably will be getting more touches as the Broncos’ offense searches for answers.

 

Charles will undoubtedly find himself being honored in front of the Chiefs home crowd one Sunday afternoon in the somewhat near future, but until then, the former Texas Longhorn will look across the sideline to watch his predecessor, Kareem Hunt. Hunt, like Charles before him, follows in an unprecedented lineage of franchise running backs that feature not only Charles, but names like Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes as well.

 

No matter what, tonight figures to be an emotional homecoming for Charles.

 

2. Denver’s disappearing offense

The Broncos started out the season looking like contenders, winning three tough games out of four. But since a 42-17 stomping of the Dallas Cowboys back in Week 2, Denver’s offense simply has not gotten the job done.

 

The Broncos have scored just three touchdowns on their last 49 drives, kicking seven field goals, while committing eight turnovers. In the last four games, Denver has scored 32 total points, including being blanked 21-0 by the Chargers — the first shutout at home in 25 years

 

Making matters worse, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is expected to miss another game, as the dynamic playmaker is still suffering from a lingering right ankle sprain. The Broncos have a great opportunity to right the ship against a Chiefs defense that has been marginal, at best, this season. The question is does Denver’s offense have the horses to get it done?

 

3. Kansas City balancing act

It’s almost reminiscent of the old Peyton Manning Colts teams — great offense, bend-but-don’t-break defense. That seems to be the approach that’s being employed by Andy Reid and the Chiefs. Of course, some of this team’s defensive woes are out of Reid’s control with All-Pro safety Eric Berry out for the season and linebacker Justin Houston nursing a sore knee. But with or without Berry or Houston, the Kansas City’s defensive issues are worrisome for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

 

Currently, the Chiefs rank 29th in the NFL in yards allowed (396 per game) and 19th in points (23 per game). Last week, they surrendered 505 yards and 31 points to an Oakland squad that had been averaging just 13 points during a four-game losing streak.

 

But on the other side of the coin, Kansas City’s offense has been outstanding, ranking third in the league in both yards (392) and points per game (29.6) per game. Led by quarterback Alex Smith, who has yet to throw an interception this season, and a dynamic running game, the Chiefs finally have the ability to outscore opponents in order to win games. And with an ailing defense, that may be just the winning ticket en route to an AFC West title.

 

Final Analysis

 

While the spread would assume that the Chiefs should run away from the Broncos on tonight at home, a struggling, banged-up Kansas City defense facing off against a struggling, banged-up Denver offense could lead to mayhem, which is something we have seen plenty of this season already. The Broncos may not come away with the win, but here’s saying they cover, if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

Prediction: Chiefs 28, Broncos 24

 

— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.

 

(Jamaal Charles photo by Ric Tapia, courtesy of www.denverbroncos.com)

Teaser:
Monday Night Football: Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, October 30, 2017 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/fcs-rankings-power-poll-week-10-2017
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FCS Power Poll RankingsOK, there’s no sugar-coating it anymore: Once you move beyond, say, the first 10 teams of the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll, you’re on your own.

 

Week after week all season, many of the top subdivision teams have dropped like flies trying to survive the fall chill. While only one of last week’s top 12 teams lost (No. 8 Western Illinois, which was matched against No. 7 South Dakota State), nine of the next 13 teams went splat this past weekend.

 

Here is the Athlon FCS Power Poll heading into Week 10 of the regular season:

 

1. James Madison

(8-0, 5-0 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: 1

Last Week’s Result: 21-0 win over New Hampshire

Of Note: In JMU’s Division I-high 20th straight win, quarterback Bryan Schor set the Dukes’ career record for touchdown passes (53).

Next Opponent: at Rhode Island (Nov. 4)

 

2. North Dakota State

(8-0, 5-0 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 2

Last Week’s Result: 30-14 win over then-No. 13 Northern Iowa

Of Note: Junior linebacker Levi Jordheim tied both the school and MVFC single-game records with three fumble recoveries.

Next Opponent: at No. 7 South Dakota State (Nov. 4)

 

3. Jacksonville State

(7-1, 5-0 Ohio Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 3

Last Week’s Result: 23-7 win over Southeast Missouri State

Of Note: Members of the Gamecocks’ 1992 Division II national championship squad were on hand to watch this year’s team make it 29 straight wins in the OVC.

Next Opponent: Murray State (Nov. 4)

 

4. South Dakota

(7-1, 4-1 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Last Week’s Result: 42-0 win over Southern Illinois

Of Note: Senior quarterback Chris Streveler was knocked from the game early with a shoulder injury, but he’s expected to be fine for the Coyotes’ stretch run.

Next Opponent: at No. 19 Northern Iowa (Nov. 4)

 

5. Central Arkansas

(7-1, 6-0 Southland)

Last Week’s Ranking: 5

Last Week’s Result: 47-17 win over then-No. 22 McNeese

Of Note: Hayden Hildebrand threw two touchdowns each to Brandon Cox and Lester Wells.

Next Opponent: at Lamar (Nov. 4)

 

6. Sam Houston State

(7-1, 5-1 Southland)

Last Week’s Ranking: 6

Last Week’s Result: 33-23 win over Southeastern Louisiana

Of Note: On the rare occasion that Sam Houston State ran the ball 48 times compared to just 26 pass attempts, Corey Avery rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Next Opponent: Incarnate Word (Nov. 4)

 

7. South Dakota State

(6-2, 3-2 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 7

Last Week’s Result: 52-24 win over then-No. 8 Western Illinois

Of Note: Jackrabbits quarterback Taryn Christion accounted for six touchdowns, including three to wide receiver Jake Wieneke, who raised his career total to 54 – good for No. 3 in FCS history.

Next Opponent: No. 2 North Dakota State (Nov. 4)

 

8. Elon

(7-1, 5-0 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: 9

Last Week’s Result: 19-14 win over then-No. 18 Villanova

Of Note: Kortez Weeks had 11 receptions for 205 yards in the Phoenix’s seventh straight victory. They’ve come by a combined 28 points.

Next Opponent: Towson (Nov. 4)

 

9. Wofford

(7-1, 5-1 Southern)

Last Week’s Ranking: 10

Last Week’s Result: 31-24 win over ETSU

Of Note: Another week, another tight Wofford game. Seven of the eight have been decided by seven points or less.

Next Opponent: Chattanooga (Nov. 4)

 

10. Northern Arizona

(6-2, 5-0 Big Sky)

Last Week’s Ranking: 11

Last Week’s Result: 37-17 win over Sacramento State

Of Note: Quarterback Case Cookus completed 35-of-57 passes for 407 yards and one touchdown, while the defense produced two scores off interceptions.

Next Opponent: at Montana (Nov. 4)

 

11. Southern Utah

(6-2, 4-1 Big Sky)

Last Week’s Ranking: 12

Last Week’s Result: 27-14 win over Northern Colorado

Of Note: The Thunderbirds have clinched a third straight winning season for the first time.

Next Opponent: North Dakota (Nov. 4)

 

12. Eastern Washington

(5-3, 4-1 Big Sky)

Last Week’s Ranking: 14

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Of Note: A year after losing three 1,000-yard receivers, Nic Sblendorio (576) and Nsimba Webster (562) lead the Eagles in receiving yards.

Next Opponent: No. 15 Weber State (Nov. 4)

 

13. Illinois State

(6-2, 4-1 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 24

Last Week’s Result: 35-0 win over then-No. 21 Youngstown State

Of Note: The Redbirds racked up 299 rushing yards behind Markel Smith (124 yards, one touchdown) and James Robinson (117 yards, three touchdowns).

Next Opponent: No. 14 Western Illinois (Nov. 4)

 

14. Western Illinois

(5-3, 2-3 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 8

Last Week’s Result: 52-24 loss to No. 7 South Dakota State

Of Note: The Leathernecks have dropped two straight games and don’t want to match some of their late-season collapses in recent years. They also started 5-1 last season, finishing 6-5.

Next Opponent: at No. 13 Illinois State (Nov. 4)

 

15. Weber State

(6-2, 4-1 Big Sky)

Last Week’s Ranking: Unranked

Last Week’s Result: 41-27 win over then-No. 19 Montana

Of Note: The Wildcats jumped to a 31-0 first-half lead in handling Montana. The scored 21 points off the Griz’s five turnovers.

Next Opponent: at Eastern Washington (Nov. 4)

 

16. North Carolina A&T

(8-0, 5-0 MEAC)

Last Week’s Ranking: 20

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Of Note: A win over Norfolk State would give head coach Rod Broadway’s squad its first-ever 9-0 start and a fourth straight season of at least nine wins for the first time.

Next Opponent: at Norfolk State (Nov. 4)

 

17. Furman

(6-3, 5-1 Southern)

Last Week’s Ranking: Unranked

Last Week Result: 28-6 win over then-No. 15 Western Carolina

Of Note: Antonio Wilcox (202 yards, TD) and Kealand Dirks (119 yards, 2 TDs) fueled a 363-yard ground assault at Western Carolina. The Paladins’ three losses are to teams that are a combined 20-4.

Next Opponent: The Citadel (Nov. 11)

 

18. Stony Brook

(6-2, 5-1 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: Unranked

Last Week’s Result: 27-24 win over then-No. 23 Richmond

Of Note: The Seawolves never trailed against Richmond. Wide receiver Ray Bolden came up huge with 13 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

Next Opponent: Albany (Nov. 4)

 

19. Northern Iowa

(4-4, 3-2 Missouri Valley)

Last Week’s Ranking: 13

Last Week’s Result: 30-14 win over No. 2 North Dakota State

Of Note: The Panthers turned the ball over five times and managed only 157 net yards with quarterback Eli Dunne getting sacked six times.

Next Opponent: No. 4 South Dakota (Nov. 4)

 

20. Nicholls

(6-2, 5-1 Southland)

Last Week’s Ranking: Unranked

Last Week’s Result: 38-31 win over Incarnate Word

Of Note: Chase Fourcade passed for a career-high 358 yards as well as three touchdowns, including two to Dai’Jean Dixon.                   

Next Opponent: Houston Baptist (Nov. 4)

 

21. Western Carolina

(6-3, 4-2 Southern)

Last Week’s Ranking: 15

Last Week’s Result: 28-6 loss to Furman

Of Note: Standout quarterback Tyrie Adams was injured as the Catamounts fell from a tie for first place in the SoCon. Redshirt freshman Ray Smith replaced Adams.

Next Opponent: at The Citadel (Nov. 4)

 

22. Samford

(5-3, 3-2 Southern)

Last Week’s Ranking: 16

Last Week’s Result: 23-21 loss to Chattanooga

Of Note: In a game with 11 turnovers, Samford committed seven of them. Star quarterback Devlin Hodges threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles.

Next Opponent: at Mercer (Nov. 4)

 

23. Grambling State

(7-1, 4-0 SWAC)

Last Week’s Ranking: 25

Last Week’s Result: 50-24 win over Texas Southern

Of Note: Quarterback Devante Kincade had a hand in Grambling’s first four touchdowns.

Next Opponent: at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 4)

 

24. Delaware

(5-3, 3-2 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: 18

Last Week’s Result: 18-17 loss to Towson

Of Note: Once again, the Blue Hens struggled to get the passing game going in an utterly disappointing loss to struggling Towson.

Next Opponent: at Maine (Nov. 4)

 

25. Richmond

(4-4, 2-3 CAA)

Last Week’s Ranking: 23

Last Week’s Result: 27-24 loss to Stony Brook

Of Note: The majority of the statistics favored the Spiders against Stony Brook except the most important one on the scoreboard.

Next Opponent: at Villanova (Nov. 4)

 

Power Poll Possibilities: Kennesaw State (7-1, 3-0 Big South); Monmouth (7-1, 2-0 Big South); New Hampshire (5-3, 3-2 CAA)

 

— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

 

(Photo courtesy Illinois State Athletics)

Teaser:
FCS Rankings: Power Poll for Week 10
Post date: Monday, October 30, 2017 - 09:00
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Path: /college-football/college-football-top-25-rankings-2017-9
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Weekly college football top 25 rankings are a big part of every season, and Athlon Sports will update its top 25 following the games each weekend. The ninth weekend of the 2017 season was filled with exciting games and intriguing conference matchups. The top games of Week 9 took place in the afternoon, as Ohio State rallied to beat Penn State in a 39-38 thriller. The Buckeyes used a huge second-half performance from their defense, along with a standout performance from quarterback J.T. Barrett to knock off the Nittany Lions. Notre Dame dominated NC State 35-14, Georgia crushed rival Florida 42-7 and Iowa State upset TCU 14-7 to round out some of the top games from the afternoon slate on Saturday, Elsewhere around the nation, Clemson rebounded from the loss to Syracuse by beating Georgia Tech, and Mississippi State handled Texas A&M in College Station to return to the top 25 rankings.​ Alabama - the nation's No. 1 team - was on bye in Week 9. 

 

College Football Top 25 Rankings
 

1. Alabama (8-0)

Week 9 Result: Bye Week

 

The Crimson Tide had a bye in Week 9 and return to action on Saturday night against LSU.

 

2. Georgia (8-0)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Florida

 

Bulldogs move once step closer to winning SEC Championship after blowing out rival Florida in Jacksonville.

 

3. Notre Dame (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Defeated NC State

 

Fighting Irish gashed a standout NC State defensive line for 318 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s 35-14 victory.

 

4. Clemson (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Georgia Tech

 

A healthy Kelly Bryant at quarterback makes a big difference for the Tigers’ offense.

 

5. Oklahoma (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Beat Ohio State

 

Oklahoma’s place in the Big 12 and CFB Playoff mix is likely to be decided in next two weeks with matchups against Oklahoma State and TCU.

 

6. Ohio State (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Beat Penn State

 

Since the loss to Oklahoma, quarterback J.T. Barrett has passed for 22 touchdowns and zero interceptions. And Barrett’s performance against Penn State should get the senior into the Heisman conversation.

 

7. Penn State (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Lost to Ohio State

 

Despite the loss to Ohio State, don’t count out the Nittany Lions in the CFB Playoff mix.

 

8. Wisconsin (8-0)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Illinois

 

The Badgers have allowed only one opponent (Northwestern) to score more than 20 points in a game this season.

 

9. Miami (7-0)

Week 9 Result: Defeated North Carolina

 

The Hurricanes turned in a sluggish performance against North Carolina but once again found a way to win.

 

10. TCU (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Lost to Iowa State

 

Three turnovers (including two in the red zone) were tough to overcome against Iowa State.

 

11. Oklahoma State (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Defeated West Virginia

 

The Cowboys’ defense came up big in Saturday’s win against West Virginia.

 

12. Washington (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Defeated UCLA

 

The Huskies remain the Pac-12’s best hope to get a team in the CFB Playoff. However, this team has a lot of work to do in November in order to get to the top four.

 

13. Virginia Tech (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Duke

 

The Hokies have allowed only 20 points over their last three games.

 

14. Iowa State (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Defeated TCU

 

Matt Campbell’s second season has been a special one in Ames. The Cyclones have two wins – Oklahoma and TCU – over top-five teams this season.

 

15. UCF (7-0)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Austin Peay

 

The Knights are the clear frontrunner to earn the Group of 5 bowl spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.

 

16. LSU (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Bye Week

 

The Tigers had a bye in Week 9 and return to action on Saturday against Alabama.

 

17. USC (7-2)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Arizona State

 

Arizona State’s improved defense was no match for USC’s offense on Saturday night, as the Trojans recorded 607 total yards in the 48-17 win.

 

18. Auburn (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Bye Week

 

Auburn had a bye in Week 9 and return to action in Week 10 against Texas A&M.

 

19. NC State (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Lost to Notre Dame

 

The Wolfpack’s CFB Playoffs are over after loss at Notre Dame. However, a win over Clemson in Week 10 would put coach Dave Doeren’s team in control to claim the ACC’s Atlantic Division title.

 

20. Stanford (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Oregon State

 

It wasn’t pretty, but the Cardinal found a way to escape Corvallis with a victory.

 

21. Mississippi State (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Texas A&M

 

Each of Mississippi State’s six victories have come by 20 points or more this season

 

22. Michigan State (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Lost to Northwestern

 

Spartans’ running game managed only 95 yards in loss to Northwestern.

 

23. Michigan (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Rutgers

 

Quarterback Brandon Peters (10 of 14 for 124 yards and a score) finally got an extended look in on-field action during Saturday's win over Rutgers.

 

24. Memphis (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Beat Tulane

 

With Tulsa, SMU and East Carolina remaining, Memphis has a clear (and favorable) path to the American Athletic Conference’s West Division title.

 

25. Arizona (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Defeated Washington State

 

The emergence of quarterback Khalil Tate has propelled Arizona into the mix to win the Pac-12 South.  

Teaser:
College Football Top 25 Rankings
Post date: Monday, October 30, 2017 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/12-coaching-candidates-replace-jim-mcelwain-florida
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Following a 42-7 loss to Georgia on Saturday, Florida has decided to fire head coach Jim McElwain. During his 34 games with the Gators, McElwain went 22-12 and claimed back-to-back SEC East titles. Prior to Florida, McElwain worked under Nick Saban at Alabama as the program’s offensive coordinator and went 22-15 in three years as Colorado State’s head coach from 2012-14.

 

Although McElwain (a former offensive coordinator) had a winning record and won the East in back-to-back years, Florida’s offense struggled to make progress and failed to develop a quarterback under his watch. Additionally, the Gators slipped in recruiting and watched as rival Georgia emerged as a national title contender in coach Kirby Smart’s second season. The split between McElwain and Florida culminated after a bad week of PR surrounding the former coach’s comments in a press conference prior to the Georgia game.

 

Who could replace McElwain in Gainesville? Here are 12 candidates.

 

12 Candidates to Replace Jim McElwain at Florida

 

Neal Brown, head coach, Troy

Brown is in his third season at Troy, guiding the program to a 20-13 record since 2015. He had big shoes to fill in replacing Larry Blakeney at Troy but led the Trojans to a 10-win season in 2016 and beat LSU in Baton Rouge this year. The Kentucky native has previous experience in the SEC from a two-year run as Mark Stoops’ offensive coordinator with the Wildcats from 2013-14. Additionally, he called the plays at Texas Tech (2010-12) and Troy (2008-09). Brown is a young, up-and-coming coach who has a strong background on offense.

 

Scott Frost, head coach, UCF

Frost is a rising star in the head coaching ranks and has UCF ranked as the top Group of 5 team in just his second year at the helm. In Frost’s two years in Orlando, the Knights are 13-7 and 8-4 in AAC play. UCF made a six-game improvement in the win column in Frost’s debut and doubled last year’s total (six) to 12 in 2017. Another reason Frost would be enticing to Florida: Offense. The former Nebraska quarterback worked under Chip Kelly at Oregon from 2009-12 and called the plays for the Ducks from 2013-15. At UCF, Frost’s offense is averaging 51 points a game in 2017, up from 28.8 in 2016.

 

Chip Kelly, ESPN analyst, former Oregon/NFL coach

Could Florida convince Kelly to return to the college sidelines? In addition to being an offensive innovator, Kelly went 46-7 as Oregon’s head coach from 2009-12. The Ducks won at least 10 games in every year in that span and played for the national championship in the 2010 season. Kelly left Eugene for the NFL in 2013 and spent three seasons with the Eagles, accumulating a 26-21 record. He was dismissed from Philadelphia just before the 2015 season ended and was hired as San Francisco’s head coach for 2016, where he finished 2-14. Life as a head coach in the SEC isn’t easy. Would Kelly prefer to stay in the studio with ESPN or potentially look for a job with less scrutiny out in the Pac-12? Florida at least has to call and find out.

 

Joe Moorhead, offensive coordinator, Penn State

It’s only a matter of time before Moorhead takes over as a head coach at a Power 5 program. As the head coach at Fordham from 2012-15, Moorhead accumulated a 38-13 record and went to the FCS playoffs in three seasons. He was hired as Penn State’s offensive coordinator prior to the 2016 campaign and brought immediate improvement to Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring in 2015 but improved to third in Moorhead’s first year and rank second after eight games in 2017. Prior to his last two jobs, Moorhead was an offensive coordinator and assistant at UConn from 2009-11 and also worked at Akron from 2004-08. 

 

Chad Morris, head coach, SMU

Morris is a coach with extensive ties to the state of Texas, so he could be a prime candidate for any openings (Texas A&M?) in the Lone Star State this offseason. After spending from 1994-09 in the high school ranks, he was hired to call the plays at Tulsa in 2010. Under Morris’ watch, the Golden Hurricane averaged 41.4 points a game that season. Morris became Clemson’s play-caller in 2011 and remained in Death Valley through 2014. His hire and development of the offense was a big reason why the Tigers won 42 games from 2011-14. Morris inherited a struggling SMU program in 2015 but has brought steady improvement to Dallas. The Mustangs are 13-19 over the last three years but finished 5-7 last season and are 6-2 through eight games in 2017. 

 

Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State

Mullen already has a connection to this job. Former Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin was hired in the same role at Florida last September. Whether or not that plays any role (good or bad) in this hire is uncertain, but Mullen would be an outstanding hire for the Gators. Mississippi State is the toughest job in the SEC West, yet the Bulldogs have been to seven consecutive bowl games and posted winning records in six out of the last seven years. Additionally, this program won 10 games, ranked No. 1 in the first CFB Playoff rankings and earned a trip to the Orange Bowl in 2014. The Pennsylvania native worked under Urban Meyer in Gainesville from 2005-08 and also has stops on his resume from stints at Utah, Bowling Green and Notre Dame. Mullen has a strong background on offense and a track record of developing quarterbacks. That’s a huge need in Gainesville right now.

 

Mike Norvell, head coach, Memphis

Norvell picked up where Justin Fuente left off and has Memphis poised to finish in the top 25 this season. The Tigers went 8-5 in Norvell’s debut and are off to a 7-1 start in 2017. Overall, Memphis is 15-6 under Norvell and is the frontrunner to win the AAC’s West Division this season. Prior to taking over as the head coach at Memphis, Norvell worked under Todd Graham at Arizona State as the offensive coordinator from 2012-15 and also at Pitt (2011) and Tulsa (2007-10). Norvell is one of college football’s youngest coaches at age 36. And he’s also one of the nation’s top minds on offense.

 

Charlie Strong, head coach, USF

Strong has ties to Florida from previous stints in 1991-94 and again from 2003-09. The Arkansas native inherited a Louisville program in need of repair and guided the Cardinals to a 37-15 record from 2010-13. During that span, the Cardinals went to four bowl games and won 23 contests over the final two seasons. Strong was hired at Texas in 2014 and went 16-21 over three years. While Strong was a bad fit in Austin, he’s a proven head coach at Louisville and is 7-1 through eight games at USF. He’s also a good recruiter and has extensive connections to the state of Florida.

 

Longshots…But Worth a Mention

 

Dino Babers, head coach, Syracuse

Babers is one of college football’s top minds on offense and has brought steady improvement to Syracuse in his two seasons at the helm. The Orange are 8-12 under Babers and have already matched last year’s win total (four) through eight contests in 2017. Prior to Syracuse, Babers went 18-9 at Bowling Green and 19-7 at Eastern Illinois. While there may be some interest from Florida, it seems unlikely he will leave after this year.

 

Matt Campbell, head coach, Iowa State

Iowa State has showed marked improvement under Campbell’s watch. After a successful stint at Toledo, Campbell went 3-9 in his debut at Iowa State in 2016 and is off to a 6-2 start in 2017. He’s a good recruiter and has a track record of success on offense, which would be appealing to Florida. However, it seems like a longshot Campbell will leave Iowa State.

 

Justin Fuente, head coach, Virginia Tech

It’s probably a safe bet to assume Fuente’s name will come up in connection with openings this offseason. After all, he’s 43-28 as a head coach since 2012 and is 17-5 through two years at Virginia Tech. However, Fuente is comfortable in Blacksburg and not likely to leave anytime soon.

 

Bob Stoops, former Oklahoma head coach

Stoops retired as Oklahoma’s head coach prior to the 2017 season. He appears to have no interest in a return to the sidelines, but Florida has to at least check.

Teaser:
12 Coaching Candidates to Replace Jim McElwain at Florida
Post date: Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 15:50
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Alternate uniforms and helmets are a big part of every team’s wardrobe throughout any season. While there’s nothing wrong with traditional uniforms and helmets, a different look is never a bad thing. And over the last few years, it seems more teams are using alternate uniforms throughout the season. With several awesome designs making an appearance in Week 9, here are ones we liked the most from the weekend action: 

 

CFB's Best Alternate Uniforms from Week 9

 

Ohio State

 

Southern Miss
Maryland
Eastern Michigan

 

Illinois
South Florida
Marshall
Texas A&M
Boston College
Virginia Tech
Arizona State
North Carolina
Oregon
Louisville
SMU
Northwestern
Buffalo
Oklahoma State
Duke
Kentucky
Teaser:
Awesome College Football Alternate Uniforms from Week 9
Post date: Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 14:00
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
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Week 9 of the 2017 college football season was filled with several intriguing matchups and storylines. The weekend's biggest game took place in Columbus, with Ohio State rallying from an early deficit to beat Penn State 39-38. The Buckeyes were led by a stout defense in the second half, along with the standout play of quarterback J.T. Barrett. Notre Dame soundly defeated NC State to improve to 7-1, and Clemson rebounded from the Week 7 loss to Syracuse with a victory over Georgia Tech. Additionally, USC handled Arizona State, Oklahoma knocked off Texas Tech, Georgia dominated rival Florida and Iowa State upset TCU to round out some of the key games from Week 9.

 

With the ninth weekend of the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor some of the top performances. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, team, freshman and unsung hero from Week 9:

 

College Football Week 9 Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Week: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

Ohio State’s offense has been on fire since losing to Oklahoma, but doubts remained about this unit due to the level of competition. Consider those question marks answered after Saturday’s 39-38 win over Ohio State. Barrett was brilliant in leading the Buckeyes to a one-point win, connecting on 33 of 39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 95 yards on 17 carries. Barrett closed the game by completing 16 consecutive passes and totaled 423 total yards – both school records.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Te’von Coney, LB, Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s defense had another strong collective effort in the win over NC State. But let’s give a tip of the cap to Coney after he registered nine stops (one for a loss) and one quarterback hurry versus the Wolfpack. Coney’s performance at linebacker helped limit NC State to just 14 first downs, 263 total yards and an average of 2.1 yards per carry.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Offense): Scot Loeffler, Boston College

Boston College added to Florida State’s disappointing 2017 season with a 35-3 victory in Chestnut Hill on Friday night. Loeffler’s offense continued its recent uptick in performance by scoring 35 points against the Seminoles, with the ground game churning out 241 yards. Additionally, Boston College had only one three-and-out and went four-for-four in red zone trips.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Defense): Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State

West Virginia’s offense entered Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State averaging 43.3 points a contest. However, Spencer and the Cowboys’ defense put the clamps on the Mountaineers in Saturday’s 50-39 win by Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State limited West Virginia to an average of 4.8 yards per play and just 347 overall yards. The Mountaineers converted only two of 15 third-down attempts, had five three-and-outs and lost five turnovers to an aggressive Cowboys’ defense. While West Virginia scored 39 points, two of those touchdowns came on non-offensive scores.

 

Freshman of the Week (Offense): Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest

Dortch was quarterback John Wolford’s favorite target in Saturday’s win over Louisville, as the freshman grabbed 10 receptions for 167 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdown catches set a new single-game school record.

 

Freshman of the Week (Defense): Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern

Fisher was all over the field in Northwestern’s upset win over Michigan State. The freshman recorded 17 tackles (one for a loss) and two quarterback hurries.

 

Team of the Week: Iowa State

Iowa State stunned the college football world for the second time this season, as coach Matt Campbell’s team knocked off TCU 14-7 in Ames on Saturday afternoon. The victory over the Horned Frogs is the Cyclones’ second win over a top-five team in 2017. Iowa State’s defense limited TCU’s high-powered offense to just 307 overall yards (5.2 per play), forced three turnovers and zero offensive touchdowns. The Cyclones made timely plays on defense, including two takeaways in the red zone and another interception with TCU near midfield on the final drive of the game. Iowa State’s offense managed only 255 total yards but delivered two key drives in the first half to open up a 14-0 lead by halftime. The Cyclones now have wins over two of the Big 12’s top teams (Oklahoma and TCU) and have to be considered one of the frontrunners to earn a trip to the conference title game in December.

 

Unsung Hero of the Week (Offense): Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska

Nebraska’s running game was stuck in neutral against Purdue, but Lee delivered a standout performance to guide the Cornhuskers to a 25-24 win. The Tulane transfer completed 32 of 50 throws for 431 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score with less than 15 seconds remaining.

 

Unsung Hero of the Week (Defense): Jayd Kirby, LB, Kansas State

Kirby recorded five tackles (four for a loss), one sack, one pass breakup and three forced fumbles in Kansas State’s 30-20 win over Kansas.

Teaser:
College Football Week 9 Awards 2017
Post date: Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-9-college-football-awards-2017
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Week 9 of the 2017 college football season produced several big performances and memorable moments from the Pac-12. Stanford kicked off the Week 9 action with a last-second win over Oregon State on Thursday night. And as usual, Saturday provided plenty of drama around the league. Colorado beat California 44-28, and Washington rebounded from its loss to Arizona State by handling UCLA 44-23. Oregon beat Utah 41-20 to end a three-game losing streak, Arizona continued to surge behind quarterback Khalil Tate with a win over Washington State, and USC hammered Arizona State 48-17.

 

With the ninth weekend of the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor some of the top performances from the Pac-12. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, team, freshman and unsung hero from Week 9:

 

Pac-12 Week 9 College Football Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona

Another week, another dominant performance from Tate. The sophomore completed 10 of 17 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns and added 146 yards and one score on the ground in a 58-37 victory over Washington State.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Uchenna Nwosu, LB, USC

Nwosu wreaked havoc all night around the line of scrimmage against Arizona State. He led the defense with eight overall tackles (three for a loss), recorded three sacks, one pass and breakup.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Offense): Tee Martin, USC

Arizona State’s defense allowed just 20 points over its last two games prior to Saturday night’s matchup against USC. However, the Sun Devils were no match for the Trojans’ high-powered attack, as Martin’s group posted 607 total yards (7.5 per play), converted 7 of 15 third-down attempts and scored on seven of 12 drives on offense.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Defense): Jim Leavitt, Oregon

With starting quarterback Justin Herbert sidelined due to injury, Oregon had to lean on its defense and ground game to carry this team to a win over Utah. Leavitt’s defense delivered in a big way, as the Ducks held the Utes to 384 total yards (5.3 per play), forced one turnover and registered 10 tackles for a loss. Additionally, Oregon held Utah to just 91 rushing yards and clinched the win by ending the Utes’ final three drives on downs.

 

Freshman of the Week (Offense): Tyler Vaughns, WR, USC

Vaughns was the go-to target for quarterback Sam Darnold on Saturday night, catching six passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Arizona State.

 

Freshman of the Week (Defense): Tony Fields, LB, Arizona

Fields continued an impressive freshman season by recording 11 tackles (10 solo) and one interception in the win over Washington State on Saturday night.

 

Team of the Week: Arizona

Arizona earned its fourth win in a row by defeating Washington State 58-37 in Tucson. The victory over the Cougars sets up a huge showdown against USC next Saturday in the Coliseum. The Wildcats continue to ride the hot hand of quarterback Khalil Tate, as the sophomore accounted for 421 total yards and three scores. Tate had plenty of help in the backfield with J.J. Taylor accounting for 153 rushing yards, including a 79-yard touchdown in the third quarter. As expected, Washington State had success moving the ball (646 yards), but Arizona’s defense made plays when it counted. The Wildcats forced four turnovers, broke up six passes and registered one forced fumble.

 

Unsung Hero of the Week: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

Arcega-Whiteside caught only three passes in Thursday night’s win over Oregon State, but one of those was a three-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter with less than 25 seconds left to lift Stanford to a 15-14 win.

Teaser:
Pac-12 Week 9 College Football Awards 2017
Post date: Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 13:20
Path: /college-football/acc-week-9-college-football-awards-2017
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Week 9 of the 2017 college football season produced several big performances and memorable moments from the ACC. The Week 9 slate started with Boston College's 35-3 blowout win against Florida State, as the Eagles earned their third consecutive victory in impressive fashion. On Saturday, Miami avoided an upset at the hands of North Carolina, with the Hurricanes holding on for a 24-19 victory. Wake Forest knocked off Louisville, Pitt beat Virginia, Virginia Tech dominated Duke, and Clemson defeated Georgia Tech 24-10 to round out ACC play. NC State suffered its second loss of the year by falling 35-14 at Notre Dame.

 

With the ninth weekend of 2017 in the books, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor some of the top performances from the ACC. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, team, freshman and unsung hero from Week 9:

 

ACC Week 9 College Football Awards
 

Offensive Player of the Week: John Wolford, QB, Wake Forest

Louisville’s defense had no answer for Wolford and the Wake Forest passing attack in Saturday’s 42-32 victory by the Demon Deacons. Wolford completed 28 of 34 passes for 461 yards and five touchdowns and added 14 rushing yards and one score on the ground.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Ty Schwab, LB, Boston College

Schwab led the way for Boston College’s standout defensive effort on Friday night. He led the Eagles with 12 tackles (two solo and 2.5 for a loss), registered one sack and an interception. Schwab’s play is also a big reason why Florida State managed just 64 rushing yards.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Offense): Scot Loeffler, Boston College

Boston College added to Florida State’s disappointing 2017 season with a 35-3 victory in Chestnut Hill on Friday night. Loeffler’s offense continued its recent uptick in performance by scoring 35 points against the Seminoles, with the ground game churning out 241 yards. Additionally, Boston College had only one three-and-out and went four-for-four in red zone trips.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Defense): Brent Venables, Clemson

After giving up 27 points (a season high) in Week 7 against Syracuse, Clemson’s defense returned to form against Georgia Tech. The Tigers limited the Yellow Jackets to just 230 yards (4.1 per play and 10 points) and allowed only three third-down conversions on 15 attempts. Venables’ group also recorded four sacks, 11 tackles for a loss and forced one turnover.

 

Freshman of the Week (Offense): Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest

Dortch was quarterback John Wolford’s favorite target in Saturday’s win over Louisville, as the freshman grabbed 10 receptions for 167 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdown catches set a new single-game school record.

 

Freshman of the Week (Defense): John Lamot, LB, Boston College

Lamot recorded 10 tackles (five solo and two for a loss) and one sack in Friday night’s 35-3 win over Florida State.

 

Team of the Week: Boston College

After a 2-4 start, it seemed unlikely Boston College would finish 2017 with a winning record. However, the Eagles have reeled off three impressive victories in a row, including Friday night’s dominant 35-3 victory over Florida State. The offense only had 88 passing yards, but the ground attack pounded the Seminoles for 241 yards and scored on three of their first five possessions. Boston College’s defense held Florida State’s offense to just three points and 213 total yards. Friday night's game continued the standout play from the Eagles' defense, as this unit has held five out of their last six opponents to 10 points or less. After a slow start, coach Steve Addazio has this team playing at a different level and poised to exceed last year’s seven-win mark.

 

Unsung Hero of the Week: Darrin Hall, RB, Pitt

After posting 254 yards against Duke last Saturday, Hall continued to lead the way for Pitt’s backfield. In Saturday’s 31-14 win over Virginia, Hall recorded 111 yards and one touchdown on 25 attempts.   

Teaser:
ACC Week 9 College Football Awards 2017
Post date: Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 13:10
Path: /college-football/sec-week-9-college-football-awards-2017
Body:

Week 9 of the 2017 college football season produced several big performances and memorable moments from the SEC. The weekend slate featured Georgia's 42-7 blowout win over Florida in Jacksonville, Mississippi State's 35-14 road victory against Texas A&M, along with Kentucky's last-minute win over Tennessee. Additionally, South Carolina knocked off Vanderbilt, Missouri easily defeated UConn and Arkansas rallied to beat Ole Miss.

 

With the ninth weekend of the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor some of the top performances from the SEC. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, team, freshman and unsung hero from Week 9:

 

SEC Week 9 College Football Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

Fitzgerald carried the Mississippi State offense in Saturday night’s win at Texas A&M. The junior completed 12 of 21 throws for 141 yards and two touchdowns and led the offense with 105 yards and a score on the ground. Fitzgerald accounted for 246 of the Bulldogs’ 369 total yards.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Lorenzo Carter, LB, Georgia

A couple of Georgia defenders deserve consideration here after Saturday’s standout performance against Florida. Carter gets the nod after leading the team with nine tackles (one for a loss) and one sack in the 42-7 victory over the Gators.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Offense): Eddie Gran, Kentucky

Kentucky’s offense managed 371 yards and 29 points in Saturday night’s win over Tennessee, but Gran won this award thanks to his play-calling on the final drive. The Wildcats went 72 yards on 10 plays in just over four minutes to score the game-winning touchdown. Kentucky also tacked on a two-point play to extend the lead to three, which was more than enough to score the program’s second victory over Tennessee in seven meetings. The Wildcats scored touchdowns on three drives of 70 yards or more and had two other drives extend 50 or more yards.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Defense): Todd Grantham, Mississippi State

Mississippi State’s defense continued its impressive 2017 season under first-year coordinator Todd Grantham by limiting Texas A&M to just 14 points and 285 overall yards. Additionally, 184 of the Aggies’ 285 yards came on the final three drives when the outcome was no longer in doubt. Grantham’s defense also racked up three sacks, six tackles for a loss and three turnovers (with one interception returned for a score) in the 35-14 victory over Texas A&M.

 

Freshman of the Week (Offense): Cole Kelley, QB, Arkansas

With Austin Allen sidelined once again due to a shoulder injury, Kelley made his third consecutive start under center. The redshirt freshman was instrumental in the win over Ole Miss on Saturday, connecting on 19 of 30 throws for 189 yards and three scores and rushing for 22 yards and one touchdown. Kelley also guided the offense on a 12-play, 62-yard drive to get into position for kicker Connor Limpert to connect on the game-winning field goal with less than 10 seconds remaining.

 

Freshman of the Week (Defense): Erroll Thompson, LB, Mississippi State

With Dez Harris limited due to injury, Thompson played significant snaps in Saturday night’s game against Texas A&M. The freshman recorded seven tackles (four solo and one for a loss) and one pass breakup.

 

Team of the Week: Georgia

Georgia was a heavy favorite entering Saturday’s game against Florida, and coach Kirby Smart’s team wasted no time jumping on their struggling rival. The Bulldogs opened up a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and tacked on 21 more points in the second half to win 42-7. Georgia’s offense made the most of its 42 plays, averaging 9.4 yards per play and 8.3 on rushing attempts. Smart’s defense limited Florida’s offense to 249 overall yards, with 71 coming on the game’s last drive. Additionally, the Gators had four three-and-outs and only two drives went longer than 30 yards. Even though Georgia was a heavy favorite, Florida had a history of knocking off the Bulldogs in an underdog role. But Smart and his staff had this team prepared and focused, while the outcome was never in doubt.

 

Unsung Hero of the Week: A.J. Turner, RB, South Carolina

With Rico Dowdle sidelined due to a significant leg injury, Turner has assumed a bigger role in the backfield over the last two games. In Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt, Turner posted 121 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and caught four passes for 24 yards.

Teaser:
SEC Week 9 College Football Awards 2017
Post date: Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 13:00
Path: /nfl/dallas-cowboys-vs-washington-redskins-preview-and-prediction-2017
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Talk about a sophomore slump. It took the whole NFL regular season last year for young Dallas Cowboys stars Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to pile up three losses. The rookies thrashed opposing defenses, earned fans’ respect for “doing everything right,” and waltzed to the NFC East title at 13-3.

 

Now? Dallas has three losses already just six games into the season. Elliott is fighting a six-game suspension for domestic violence that’s turned into months of guilty-or-not-guilty legal drama. It’s left the offense in a sort of weird limbo although the last two weeks, Elliott is looking like himself (back-to-back 100-yard performances).

 

That puts the pressure squarely on Prescott, who’s done well in the Cowboys’ three wins this season but thrown at least one interception in each of their defeats. The sophomore, expected to be the star in the face of struggle, has had growing pains you’d expect from a young player.

 

To be fair, the missing “D” in the Cowboys’ defense drags down the offensive duo. Before a get-well game against the lowly 49ers last Sunday, the Cowboys had given up 30-plus points in three of their previous four games. They sit 22nd in points allowed and 21st in rushing yards allowed per game.

 

America’s Team tries to right the ship this weekend against one of their longtime rivals, the Washington Redskins. The ‘Skins are in a 3-3 slump of their own although two of those losses are to the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles.

 

What’s at stake for both teams? The rights to still compete for an NFC East division title that’s already a long shot. A 3-4 record, seven games in would be a massive disappointment for two teams with rosters built for the postseason.

 

Dallas at Washington

 

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 29 at 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Cowboys -1.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Was San Francisco the “fix it” moment for the Cowboys?

Any way you look at it, the Cowboys dominated the 49ers on national television. Ezekiel Elliott had his season high in rushing yards (147), yards per carry (5.7), and he scored twice on the ground for the first time all year (added a TD catch for good measure). Dak Prescott threw for three touchdowns and no picks while Dez Bryant tied his season high with seven catches and a touchdown.

 

All those who watched that game on FOX saw the definition of a rout. The 49ers were no match for who the Cowboys put on the field... but they’re also 0-7. They’ve had the lead in a game for a total of six plays the entire season.

 

Did Sunday give us a false sense of security with the Cowboys as they played against inferior competition? Or did the 49ers knock some sense into a team that’s stumbled to start 2017?

 

"I felt ready to go out there and play ball," Elliott told the Dallas Morning News. "I'm not going to say I didn't feel ready earlier in the season. I felt the same.

 

"But I think all together this team we had a different mentality coming into [Sunday] and I think we're at the right place in the season."

 

Only time will tell. But the Cowboys clearly looked and felt different watching them last weekend. They need to take the emotional momentum from that game and keep it going.

 

2. Can the Redskins run the ball while stopping the run?

Last week against Philadelphia, the Redskins were beat badly on the ground. The Eagles outrushed them 127-75, no back had more than 38 yards, and their 18 rushing plays were the fewest for the ‘Skins since Week 1 (also a loss to Philadelphia).

 

That means this team needs to step it up, at home against an opponent in the Cowboys whose front line is vulnerable to the run. Their defense has given up 125 yards to unheralded rookie Aaron Jones of the Packers, 121 yards to Todd Gurley of the Rams (his season high), and 118 yards to C.J. Anderson (also a season high).

 

Enter Chris Thompson (above, right), premier pass catcher but without a 100-yard game on the ground this season. He’ll have his work cut out for him, too, as four of the five offensive linemen on the ‘Skins are dealing with some type of injury. Three of them (Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, and Brandon Scherff) got hurt against the Eagles. Two (Spencer Long, Ty Nsekhe) linemen have already been ruled out for this game and Washington signed Orlando Franklin and Arie Kouandjio and added both to the active roster on Saturday because of all the injuries up front.

 

3. Whose secondary will step up?

Rumor has it Redskins cornerback Josh Norman (ribs) will return on Sunday against the Cowboys. He can’t come back quickly enough after Carson Wentz torched this unit last week with a 64-yard touchdown to Mack Hollins and a 126.3 quarterback rating after an awful start.

 

The Cowboys, meanwhile rank a respectable 15th against the pass but have just two interceptions, ranking them near the bottom of the NFC. Why is that important? Kirk Cousins has been a good-but-not-great quarterback this season, always giving you one turnover to play with. Earning those takeaways, especially on the road will be key to keeping the crowd quiet and the score low. Remember, this Redskins offense has scored at least 20 points in each of the last five games.

 

Final Analysis

 

Expect this game to stay close as these teams are evenly matched. On paper, it looks like the Cowboys have more talent and the Redskins have to figure out how to run the ball.

 

But also look at the ‘Skins' season to date. Their three losses are arguably to the two best teams we’ve seen from each conference: Philadelphia and Kansas City. They’re better than the 3-3 record indicates and a marquee team like Dallas coming to town offers them the chance to prove it.

 

Two factors have me throwing this one toward the ‘Skins. One: Ezekiel Elliott’s next appeal hearing is Monday. That’s going to weigh on his mind. But more importantly, the Cowboys are dealing with a new kicker. Dan Bailey’s groin injury has him sidelined for several weeks; veteran Mike Nugent, with an unremarkable resume, replaces him.

 

How many times have we seen a kicker make the difference all season? I could easily see a missed field goal being the difference here.

 

Prediction: Redskins 27, Cowboys 24

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

Teaser:
Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 08:00
Path: /nascar/first-data-500-martinsville-preview-fantasy-nascar-predictions-2017
Body:

And then there were eight. NASCAR’s group of title contenders has been whittled down to a select group that includes four previous winners: Brad Keselowski (2012), Kevin Harvick (2014), Kyle Busch (2015), and Jimmie Johnson (seven titles, including last season).

 

The heavyweights go even deeper, with 2017 favorite Martin Truex Jr. holding what seems like an insurmountable lead. Truex has a 52-point cushion on the Championship Four cutline by virtue of a NASCAR-best seven victories and 69 total playoff points. Add in a fellow Toyota driver, Denny Hamlin, and this list is filled with familiar names at the front.

 

But if you’re NASCAR, down in Daytona Beach you’re secretly rooting for two others, buried at the bottom of the list. Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott, a duo whose age combined (44) barely outranks Johnson’s 42, starts this round as major underdogs. They have a total of one career Cup Series win combined while beginning eight and 11 points behind the cutline, respectively.

 

But the Blaney-Elliott duo is also the key to NASCAR’s future. Those are the names young fans must latch onto to stop this absurd decline, both in the Nielsen ratings and the stands. At Talladega Superspeedway a few weeks ago, Elliott surged to the front, on the verge of a first win and the stands roared like retiring teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in out front.

 

Blaney, meanwhile has established a niche social media following along with best friend Darrell Wallace Jr., who on Wednesday announced his full-time ride in Cup for 2018. Blaney is jumping to Team Penske next year, a ride whose expectations come hand-in-hand with championship performances.

 

Those are the names truly on the rise. Even Truex, whose first title would be a great storyline with a once single-car operation based outside Charlotte, wouldn’t move the needle like those two. Blaney and Elliott, considering the names ahead of them, also enter Martinsville with nothing to lose. Neither driver was expected to even be in this round after inconsistent regular seasons.

 

As we’ve seen the past few years (2014: Ryan Newman, 2015: Jeff Gordon) the Round of 8 has allowed some upset picks to sneak in. The unpredictability of Sunday’s short track action offers these youngsters an opportunity.

 

NASCAR, after a season filled with challenges, hopes this is one challenge their 20-something drivers can navigate through.

 

First Data 500

 

Time: Sunday, Oct. 29 at 3 p.m. ET

Track: Martinsville Speedway (Martinsville, Va.)

TV: NBCSN

Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90

 

Who’s at the Front: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Yes, it’s Martin Truex Jr. who’s been successful during the NASCAR playoffs, but Earnhardt’s No. 88 team also has their act together. The last four races have produced runs of seventh, 12th, seventh and seventh, easily the best stretch of his season.

 

Now, the sport’s Most Popular Driver heads to two tracks where he can pop up and win. Earnhardt’s been victorious at Martinsville as recently as 2014 and he was fifth at Texas Motor Speedway in the spring (a season best). Come to think of it, TMS was where Earnhardt picked up his first ever Cup victory as a rookie in 2000. Is a storybook ending on the way?

 

Who’s at the Back: Danica Patrick

Still seeking a ride for 2018, Patrick’s fall audition is suddenly falling flat. Three straight wrecks have sidelined a solid run of top-20 performances. The latest one, at Kansas, produced her 10th DNF, a total that leaves her second in the Cup Series to Jeffrey Earnhardt. Earnhardt though drives for an underfunded team at Circle Sport/TMG. For Patrick, millions in sponsorship make the failures stand out although a number of those crashes have not been her fault.

 

News Briefs

 

Darrell Wallace Jr. officially signed with the No. 43 of Richard Petty Motorsports Wednesday. That makes him the first full-time African-American driver in the series since Wendell Scott in 1971. Sponsors, manufacturers, and even the race shop for RPM will be announced at a later date.

 

Travis Mack has been announced as the crew chief for Kasey Kahne next season at Leavine Family Racing. Mack, who’s a car chief at Hendrick Motorsports, will move over with Kahne to the single-car No. 95 team.

 

NASCAR by the Numbers

 

4

Wins for Kyle Larson this season. That’s the most for any driver who failed to reach the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8. Larson had an engine failure sideline him at Kansas and keep the No. 42 team from advancing through.

 

138

Starts for Larson with Chip Ganassi Racing before experiencing his first Cup DNF for engine failure. That’s nearly four full seasons with the team.

 

Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)

 

Top Tier

 

Martinsville and Denny Hamlin are intertwined. One of the two tracks in Hamlin’s native Virginia has delivered him the greatest success over his Cup career. He’s earned five victories at the paperclip-shaped oval and has four straight top-10 finishes in the fall event here. The No. 11 Toyota team knows this race is a chance to create distance between them and the other Championship Four contenders fighting for fourth. They’ll be up front.

 

Just like Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson knows a victory would provide an automatic bid to the Championship Four. Why spend the next three weeks on the bubble when you own nine career victories at Martinsville? The No. 48 team has missed a beat for most of the Playoffs but Sunday offers a chance to make it right.

 

Related: DraftKings NASCAR Lineup Picks for First Data 500

 

Middle Tier

 

Ryan Newman has had it rough during the NASCAR Playoffs but a short track like Martinsville evens the score for middle-tier Richard Childress Racing. Newman has four straight top-16 finishes here, a win back in 2012, and knows how to dodge short track mayhem. Expect the No. 31 to be a dark horse contender.

 

How about Joey Logano? The Team Penske driver has been virtually invisible throughout a season where he missed the NASCAR Playoffs altogether. But at Martinsville, he has nine straight starts inside the top 10 (including three poles) and has run as high as third. He’d even have a win, back in 2015 without a little Matt Kenseth payback. Keep an eye on the No. 22 team and grab him for the roster if he qualifies near the front.

 

Underdog Tier

 

JTG-Daugherty Racing and AJ Allmendinger stand out above the pack. The ‘Dinger has four straight top-11 finishes at this facility which have all come in disappointing seasons. No matter how bad the No. 47 is running coming in, Martinsville is the place that makes it all better.

 

Don’t count out JTGD teammate Chris Buescher, either. He had a solid sixth at Kansas last weekend and earned an 11th-place finish at Martinsville back in the spring.

 

What Vegas Thinks

Kyle Busch holds the edge with 3/1 odds while Hamlin sits second at 5/1.

 

What I Think

Toyotas have dominated the playoffs thus far and Sunday, it’s Denny Hamlin’s time to shine. Look for the No. 11 Toyota to punch its ticket to the Homestead Championship Four.

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

 

(Top photo courtesy of ASP Inc.)

Teaser:
First Data 500 at Martinsville Preview and Fantasy NASCAR Predictions
Post date: Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/week-8-fantasy-football-injury-updates-jameis-winston-melvin-gordon-emmanuel-sanders-golden-tate-2017
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It’s a good news, bad news situation for fantasy owners as it relates to the injury report for Week 8. The good news it it’s short. The bad news is that’s because six teams are on bye, so any injuries make filling out a complete lineup that much more difficult.

 

Hopefully, the fact that there are only a handful of fantasy-relevant players listed below will make things a little easier for those owners already digging deep into their benches or the waiver wire. But the reality is this is one of the toughest weeks with the Cardinals, Giants, Jaguars, Packers, Rams and Titans all on bye. (And we get to do this again next week with six more teams on bye.)

 

Besides those on bye, players already ruled out for Week 8 include Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford, Kenny Golladay, Tyler Boyd, Charles Clay and Dan Bailey. C.J. Prosise is doubtful for Week 8 and fantasy owners shouldn’t count on him either. If you do have a player considered questionable be sure to check the inactive report before plugging him into your lineup.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Arizona, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, Tennessee

 

Note: All times are ET and all games are on Sunday, Oct. 29 unless otherwise noted.

 

Jameis Winston (shoulder), QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.

It has since been revealed that Winston may have re-injured his throwing shoulder in Week 7. He didn't throw in practice on Wednesday or Thursday, but did on Friday. All signs point to him playing in Week 8, so fantasy owners should start him with confidence. The Panthers, over the past five weeks, have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for at least 220 yards and two touchdowns with the exception of Mitchell Trubisky last week. Winston should throw for more than 200 yards with a couple of touchdowns as well.

 

Melvin Gordon (foot), RB, Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots, 1 p.m.

Gordon has been listed as questionable for the past few weeks and has played each week. While his numbers were down last week, it was a result of the matchup (vs. Denver) rather than any injury. He's clearly not 100 percent, but he won't be for probably the rest of the season. The matchup against New England is a great one, as the Patriots struggled on defense. They allow the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Continue to start Gordon as a RB1.

 

Emmanuel Sanders (ankle), WR, Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:30 p.m. (Mon.)

After missing practice all week, it is highly unlikely that Sanders plays on Monday night. Fantasy owners should not plan on having him in their lineups for Week 8. The Broncos have already had their bye week, so the team needs to make sure Sanders is healthy before sending him back on the field. Their offense has struggled in recent weeks, not scoring more than 16 points in the past four games. The Broncos didn't score at all against the Chargers in Week 7 and certainly could use Sanders, but that's not going to happen this week.

 

Golden Tate (shoulder), WR, Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m.

After leaving Week 6 with a shoulder injury (later determined to be a sprained AC joint), Tate did return to practice this week. All initial reports had Tate missing Week 8, so his return would be earlier than expected. It seems like Tate is truly questionable for Week 8, which is going to be tough for fantasy owners as the Lions play Sunday night. Even if Tate is active, he may be limited given the shoulder injury. The safe bet for fantasy owners is to keep him on the bench.

 

Stefon Diggs (groin), WR, Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns, 9:30 a.m. (London)

Diggs not only made the trip to London, he also put in full practices on Thursday and Friday. He's missed the last two weeks but may be ready to return. The matchup against the Browns is a great one, but he does still have to deal with Case Keenum as his quarterback. Prior to last week, the Browns had given up a touchdown to an opposing wide receiver every week of the season (except Week 1, but Antonio Brown  had 182 yards). Diggs is a WR2 this week.

 

Danny Amendola (knee), WR, New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Amendola missed practice on Wednesday with a hyperextended knee, an injury he suffered in Week 7. He returned to limited practice on Thursday and Friday and has said he will play on Sunday. While players are typically overly optimistic, it does seem that Amendola will suit up for Week 8. He has a good matchup, but he's also had three receptions in the past two games and only one touchdown on the year. He's a low WR3 for Week 8.

 

Marquise Goodwin (back), WR, San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.

In Week 5, Goodwin broke out with 116 yards. He returned to earth in Week 6, with his usual 2/26/0 stat line, and then in Week 7 he had four receptions for 80 yards. He's been dealing with a back injury and shouldn't be considered a fantasy option in standard leagues for Week 8. The Eagles have given up plenty of fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, but Pierre Garcon is the receiver to start in this game, not Goodwin. In deeper leagues, Goodwin is a low WR3.

 

Graham Gano (knee), K, Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m.

For some reason, a number of kickers have made their way onto the injury report this year. Gano is questionable and did not practice on Friday. In addition, the Panthers have added another kicker (Roberto Aguayo) to the roster. All of these signs point to fantasy owners dropping Gano and grabbing another kicker. Kickers are expendable in fantasy; no sense risking a zero at the kicker position (by means of the kicker not playing... unlike Adam Vinatieri owners last week).

 

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

Teaser:
Week 8 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Jameis Winston, Melvin Gordon, Emmanuel Sanders, Golden Tate
Post date: Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB
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AstrosHouston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman might have to start working on a new bucket list.

 

Over the past three seasons, the 23-year-old has moved through the Astros' system to become a key player in the team's 2017 World Series run.  

 

However, this isn't Bregman's first World Series — he's just 28 months removed from playing for the LSU Tigers in the 2015 NCAA College World Series, where his team finished 1-2. 

 

The second-year player was an All-American for the Bayou Bengals and said he still exchanges texts with coach Paul Mainieri on a consistent basis.

 

“I’ve been talking to Coach Mainieri every single day of the playoffs,” Bregman told the Shreveport Times after the Astros topped New York in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. “(The CWS) definitely prepared me for this point.”

 

But Bregman has since traded his aluminum bat for a wooden one and his sports management classes for a roster spot in Houston, where he has displayed prowess at the plate and the hot corner. 

 

In fact, Bregman's defense is a big reason why Houston finds itself in the Fall Classic. 

 

In Game 7 of the ALCS, Bregman gunned down New York’s Greg Bird to preserve a 1-0 lead, and the Astros went on to take the American League pennant with a 4-0 victory.

 

“I had a play like that earlier in the year…Justin Upton hit it to me and I tried to turn a double play and he beat it out,” Bregman said. “I thought to myself…‘in the playoffs, to keep the momentum on our side, I need to go home and get the out there.’”

 

Despite his defensive contributions, Bregman struggled at the plate for much of the postseason, hitting just .190 (8-for-42) during the American League Division Series and the ALCS.

 

However, his bat has improved through the first three games of the World Series. The Albuquerque, N.M., native is 3-for-13 with a double, three RBI and a home run, although he went 0-for-3 on in Game 3 on Friday night.

 

Bregman is part of a large influx of homegrown talent the Astros have developed in recent years. Other big hits for the Houston scouting department include Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer and Dallas Keuchel.

 

The Astros selected Bregman with the second overall pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft, just after Arizona took Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson. Through a season-and-a-half, Bregman has outperformed his counterpart in nearly every statistical category.

 

Swanson is hitting .246 with 9 home runs and 68 RBI in his first 617 at-bats, while Bregman is batting .279 with 27 home runs and 105 RBI through 757 MLB at-bats.

 

Bregman’s brief minor league career included stops in Quad Cities, Lancaster, Corpus Christi, and Fresno — he played a total of 146 games between the four teams. In late July 2016, the Astros deemed Bregman ready for the big leagues and he hasn’t looked back since.

 

Bregman got his feet wet by appearing in 49 games in 2016, and the highly-touted prospect came into his own this season, finishing with a .284 average, 19 home runs and 71 RBI.

 

If the Astros plan to emerge as the victor in this World Series, Bregman will need to continue to be an impact player both in the field and at the plate.

 

“It’s been a blast playing all year long with these guys,” Bregman said. “We took a big step (against New York) in getting to the World Series, but we want to go win the whole thing.”

 

Not bad for a guy that was living out an entirely different World Series dream in Omaha two years ago.

 

“Playing in Omaha is a huge stage, and we’re playing on a pretty big stage right now, too,” Bregman said.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, October 28, 2017 - 09:31
Path: /nfl/sunday-night-football-pittsburgh-steelers-vs-detroit-lions-preview-and-prediction-2017
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Since an ugly overtime loss to Chicago, Pittsburgh has won three of four. Meanwhile, Detroit has lost three of four since a 2–0 start. That doesn’t bode well for the home team when the Steelers and Lions meet Sunday night at Ford Field.

 

Pittsburgh appears to have found its stride offensively, putting up back-to-back games of 400-plus yards since an ugly five-turnover performance in a loss to Jacksonville. The Steelers' defense has been dominant at times and ranks second in the NFL in total defense and third in scoring defense. Pittsburgh has not allowed more than 313 yards in any game this season.

 

The Lions had last week off to recover from a wild 52–38 loss at New Orleans during which they turned the ball over five times. Don’t be surprised to see more turnovers in this one; no defense has more takeaways than Detroit’s 14, including at least three in four of six games so far, while the Steelers have forced at least one turnover in every game but one.

 

Pittsburgh at Detroit

 

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 29 at 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Steelers -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The Lions must find a way to protect Matthew Stafford

Detroit fans knew it wasn’t good when starting left tackle Taylor Decker was lost for the season before it even started. But things are getting really ugly now, as three tackles, including current starters Greg Robinson and Ricky Wagner, are listed as questionable for this game. Wagner has the better chance of playing at right tackle, but left tackle is more likely to be Brian Mihalik than Robinson. Mihalik has never started an NFL game, and he’ll be facing a defense that is tied for second in the NFL in sacks. Given that Stafford has been sacked 17 times in the last three games with more experienced players than Mihalik protecting his blind side, the Steelers must be licking their chops.

 

2. The running game may rule the day

If for some crazy reason you couldn’t find the scores for Steelers games this season but you did have the rushing totals, you could still easily tell who won. Pittsburgh averages 131 yards in wins, 70 in losses. It’s even more pronounced on the other side of the ball. In their five wins, the Steelers are allowing 65.8 yards per game on the ground. In their two losses? A whopping 226.5. The Lions aren’t exactly built for 200-yard rushing days, but they may be able to slow Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers' running game. Detroit ranks seventh in the NFL against the run and has held four of six opponents to 87 yards or fewer on the ground.

 

3. Road Roethlisberger? Not so fast...

Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles on the road in recent years have been well documented. The script has been flipped a bit this season thanks to his five-interception day at home against the Jaguars, but generally teams would rather face Big Ben in their homes as opposed to his. But Roethlisberger has actually thrived indoors; he has won four of his last five starts in domes and is 5–3 in his career, completing 73 percent of his passes for 1,805 yards with 10 TDs and five INTs. That’s good for a passer rating of 106.8, well above his overall career road rating of 88.8. The Lions' ball-hawking defense could still force him into some mistakes, but this week it’s not as easy as “Bet against Roethlisberger on the road.”

 

Final Analysis

 

The Steelers appear to be rolling, especially on defense. That’s bad news for a Lions team that is still banged up along the offensive line and has mostly relied on takeaways to save its 28th-ranked defense. Unless Detroit can force Ben Roethlisberger into another handful of turnovers, the Steelers will enter their bye week at 6–2.

 

Prediction: Steelers 30, Lions 20

Teaser:
Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 15:50
All taxonomy terms: Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
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Football fans are going to be in for a treat on Sunday afternoon watching quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson face off at CenturyLink Field as the Seattle Seahawks (4-2) host the Houston Texans (3-3). These two teams last met back in 2013 in Houston, where the Seahawks rallied from a 20-3 deficit to beat the Texans by a score of 23-20. Seattle leads the all-time series 2-1.

 

Last week, in a 24–7 win over the New York Giants, the Seahawks couldn’t get out of their own way in the first half when it came to finishing drives. However, in the second half, the offense got rolling and started to cash in on its opportunities thanks to Wilson, who completed 27-of-39 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Also, it would not be a normal game for Seattle without some controversy, and this time around it was provided by Doug Baldwin, who shoved offensive line coach Tom Cable during the second quarter in an attempt to clear the way for Wilson to address the offense. Pete Carroll chalked this up to the Seahawks having a “frenetic” environment. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Seahawks are a lock to provide crazy game-day drama on a weekly basis.

 

Houston is coming off a bye week after taking it to the hapless Cleveland Browns in Week 6 by a score of 33-17. With injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, the defense is a bit short-handed and will be tested by an improving Seattle offense. On the other side of the ball, Watson has done a fantastic job of elevating the Texans' productivity ever since he became the starter. Houston has scored at least 33 points in each of its last four games and has the look of a team that is going to be unstoppable at times moving the football.

 

Houston at Seattle

 

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 29 at 4:05 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Seattle -4.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Seahawks' defense vs. Deshaun Watson

This is going to be one heckuva chess match between defensive coordinator Kris Richard and Houston head coach Bill O’Brien. Keeping Watson primarily in the pocket is easier said than done, so when Watson does break contain on the Seahawks defense, they must limit the damage he does with his legs. The quick passing game utilizing DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller is going to be a big part of the Texans' game plan, as is feeding Lamar Miller in the running game. The ability to maintain balance should keep the Seattle defensive front at bay. The Seahawks did pick up Dwight Freeney to add some experience and depth to the defensive line and offset some of the lost production of Cliff Avril. You can expect this Seattle defensive front to test Watson with different looks all afternoon long.

 

2. Texans' secondary vs. Russell Wilson

Houston will have to find ways to shut down Wilson and the Seahawks passing game by winning one-on-one matchups in the secondary. Cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson will try to make life difficult for the Seattle wide receivers and limit the big chunk play — particularly Jackson, who is likely to draw Doug Baldwin as his assignment. It will be a lot easier on the Texans defense if they can force Wilson and the Seahawks to have to drive the ball 75-80 yards on a regular basis and take 10-12 plays to do it. The longer the field, the greater the chance of penalties, blown assignments and turnovers.

 

3. Jimmy Graham

When used properly by Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Jimmy Graham can be a very dangerous weapon. Look for Graham to be moved around all over the field in different formations to try and confuse the Houston linebackers and secondary. The Texans have had their share of issues when it comes to covering quality tight ends in recent games. For example, in the Kansas City game, the Chiefs got Travis Kelce involved early and often resulting in eight catches for 98 yards. The Seahawks will look to produce similar numbers for Graham on Sunday.

 

Final Analysis

 

Look for this game to go back and forth with the teams taking turns grabbing the momentum. Watson is going to make some plays against this Seattle defense despite how well it is currently playing. However, one key red zone stop could be enough to propel Seattle to its fourth consecutive victory in what should be one of the best games of the week in the NFL.

 

Prediction: Seahawks 27, Texans 20

 

— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.

 

(Deshaun Watson photo courtesy of www.houstontexans.com)

Teaser:
Houston Texans vs. Seattle Seahawks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 15:40
All taxonomy terms: Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-london-games-minnesota-vikings-vs-cleveland-browns-preview-and-prediction-2017
Body:

The NFL continues their expansion of the brand and the product Sunday morning as the Minnesota Vikings take on the Cleveland Browns. For the second straight week the scene will be Twickenham Stadium in London in front of 70,0000-plus fans. The story of this one is two teams heading in different directions. The Browns are still looking for their first win of the season despite losing four games by just three points. The prevailing theme is inconsistency on offense although they have consistently turned the ball over as a group. It'll be DeShone Kizer under center for his sixth game of the season. Kizer's thrown just three touchdown passes compared to 11 interceptions. On a normal team, those stats would not allow for someone to make more starts, but when your other options are Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler then you persevere with the rookie.

 

Things will not get any easier for the former Notre Dame signal-caller as the Vikings are one of the best defenses in the league. Minnesota has won three straight and four of its last five games. The defense has allowed more than 20 points just once this season and that was at Pittsburgh back in Week 2. Four straight opponents have thrown for less then 160 yards. The defense has had to carry the offense which has had some issues of their own. Quarterback Sam Bradford is out for Sunday which means Case Keenum gets the call. Keenum has thrown for five touchdowns to two interceptions and has been able to manage the offense. The run game is being relied on by Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray, who are trying to replace the explosiveness lost by the injury to Dalvin Cook.

 

This is the fourth of five games overseas this season with the fifth coming in mid-November when the Patriots play the Raiders. The other three games were pretty big blowouts with the Jaguars, Saints and Rams each winning by 20 points or more. In some ways, the lack of a true home team evens things up a bit, but it also takes away a home game from someone as well.

 

Minnesota vs. Cleveland (London)

 

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 29 at 9:30 a.m. ET

TV Channel: NFL Network

Spread: Vikings -9.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. European flavor

One of the many factors that go into a game like this is familiarity with the experience as a whole. Some teams treat this as a business trip and are used to all that surrounds it whether it be the stuff off the field or the time difference. This is just the second time that Minnesota has taken part in a contest like this with the first one being back in 2013, a 34-27 victory over the Steelers. It's Cleveland's first time playing in the NFL's International series so we'll see if the newness of something like this overwhelms the young Browns. Some teams leave really early for their players to get their body clocks right while others don't change their practice schedule and keep things normal as can be. The field at Twickenham Stadium isn't the greatest so the extra time practicing on it would be a benefit. Baltimore lost this year after making its first trip overseas and there were some with the team that admitted they could have put their schedule together a little differently.

 

2. Will either offense break out?

To some extent, both of these teams are looking for more from their offense. Cleveland is averaging just under 15 points per game and around 300 yards per contest. The lack of weapons is evident when you are relying on the likes of Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis. Running back Duke Johnson is the team's leading receiver and he's not exactly a game-breaker or anything like that. When you don't have one of those, you have to matriculate down the field and it's hard to trust this offense to not turn it over on 10- and 11-play drives. Minnesota, meanwhile, is averaging just over 20 points and around 350 yards per game. Case Keenum is a good game-manager that has relied on Adam Thielen in Stefon Diggs' absence. The run game has been highly pedestrian behind the Vikes' suspect offensive line. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon don't inspire fear in opponents at all. First team to 20 points may win this game.

 

3. Intangibles

We mentioned the Europe angle to the intangibles involving this game. There's also the mental side of maybe the Vikings going into this one a little overconfident. Let's face it, they should win this contest rather easily, but will the players play like that? With the bye week coming up, there's nothing next week to take their mind away from Sunday. Cleveland's closest games have come at home for the most part, but that's with a highly partisan crowd. The jokes are out there that maybe the Browns are better not playing on U.S. soil. An early big lead for the Vikings will probably clinch themselves a victory.

 

Final Analysis

 

I mean let's be honest here... Minnesota is going to win this game, the question is by how much. It might be close early as both teams get used to the field and their surroundings, but ultimately talent wins out. The shame of it here for Cleveland is that they could have had Deshaun Watson or Carson Wentz under center, instead of DeShone Kizer. I think we get a low-scoring affair and even in metric numbers, it all adds up to another loss for the Browns.

 

Prediction: Vikings 24, Browns 10

 

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

 

(Top photo courtesy of www.clevelandbrowns.com)

Teaser:
NFL London Games: Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 15:30
Path: /nascar/draftkings-nascar-lineup-picks-first-data-500-2017
Body:

DraftKings’ daily fantasy NASCAR heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend for the First Data 500. This race marks the opening event of the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The green flag flies Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

This weekend at the sport's oldest short track, it's a two-day show. Cars will hit the track on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. for first practice. Qualifying will be held on race day at 12:05 p.m.

 

Here are eight drivers to keep an eye on this weekend while setting your DraftKings lineups, courtesy of Frontstretch.com's Corey Brewer.

 

ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up

 

Kyle Busch ($11,000)

Martinsville: 24 starts, one win, 12 top fives (50 percent), 13 top 10s (54.2 percent)

Average finish at Martinsville: 13.6

 

Busch has four straight top-five finishes at Martinsville, including a win in early 2016. During that victory, he led 352 laps and completely dominated the race. He followed that up with a fifth-place finish during last season’s playoff, igniting a second straight run into the Championship Four.

 

Earlier this year, he led 274 laps at the paperclip-shaped oval en route to a second-place finish. It's the latest strong run at a track Busch has finally mastered after years of struggling.

 

Busch is one of the top dominator picks this weekend, especially if he starts at the front of the field.

 

Jimmie Johnson ($9,800)

Martinsville: 31 starts, nine wins, 19 top fives (61.3 percent), 24 top 10s (77.4 percent)

Average finish at Martinsville: 7.5

 

Johnson has an average finish of 7.5 in 31 career starts at Martinsville. He is the active leader in wins (nine), top fives (19), top 10s (24), and laps led (2,838) and is also the defending playoff Martinsville winner. He locked in his spot at Homestead after leading 92 laps and will look to do the same this weekend.

 

Johnson is tied with Kevin Harvick for fourth in points and is currently sitting on the final cutline. A victory Sunday would take the pressure off and give the No. 48 team a boost in its bid for an eighth title.

 

Brad Keselowski ($9,600)

Martinsville: 15 starts, one win, five top fives (33.3 percent), nine top 10s (60 percent)

Average finish at Martinsville: 12.9

 

Keselowski has four top-five finishes through his last five Martinsville starts. Even the one bad race in the bunch, back in the fall of 2015 was one of this driver's best short track performances. He was running inside the top five, having led 143 laps when a wreck wiped out his chance at a solid finish.

 

Keselowski has one career win at Martinsville in the Cup Series. That win came earlier this year, a race where he started fourth and led 116 laps. While not the top dominator for the weekend, he still ran up front and added 90 fastest lap points onto his total.

 

Expect more of the same this Sunday as Keselowski now fights for his spot in the Championship Four.

 

ALL-STAR TIER: $8,000 – $9,400

 

Chase Elliott ($9,400)

Martinsville: Four starts, one top five

Average finish at Martinsville: 18.2

 

Up until April, Elliott's small sample size at Martinsville was nothing to write home about. During his debut race in 2015, he finished 38th. Elliott followed that up with a 20th and a 12th-place result. That means the sophomore has gotten quietly and progressively better as he has run more events.

 

Part of Elliott's growth at the track has involved running Truck Series races during the weekend. He was runner-up in a Martinsville start last season before finally earning the win earlier this year.

 

Elliott has been on a roll since the Cup Series playoffs started. He has four top fives in the past six races, a run which includes three second-place finishes. Elliott enters the Round of 8 with momentum and should finish well again this weekend.

 

Denny Hamlin ($9,200)

Martinsville: 23 starts, five wins, 12 top fives (52.2 percent), 17 top 10s (73.9 percent)

Average finish at Martinsville: 10.1

 

Hamlin is phenomenal at Martinsville. He has five wins through 23 career starts and is averaging a top-10 finish. Even though his last win here came back in 2015, Hamlin has run up front and led laps in three of the four races since.

 

Hamlin is a cheaper alternative to Busch and Martin Truex Jr., but has the same ability to lead laps and compete for the victory. He will be a great play if the No. 11 Toyota qualifies well, a guy you have to start if he lands on the front row.

 

Jamie McMurray ($8,500)

Martinsville: 29 starts, two top fives (6.9 percent), 15 top 10s (51.7 percent)

Average finish at Martinsville: 17.1

 

This season has been one of the most consistently successful for McMurray. He's earned his best average finish in over a decade (14.4) while logging the second-most single-season top-10 finishes in his 16 years behind the wheel (16).

 

At Martinsville, McMurray has put on a couple of great performances the past few years. In 2015, as the sun was setting in Virginia, he came up just short of the win and finished second behind Jeff Gordon. In the playoff race last season, he finished eighth after starting 14th.

 

McMurray has had top-10 speed all season and could be a great sleeper pick this weekend.

 

BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $7,900

 

Austin Dillon ($7,500)

Martinsville: Seven starts, two top fives

Average finish at Martinsville: 16.0

 

What sticks out the most when looking at Dillon’s past performances at Martinsville is his ability to climb through the field. He has only started inside the top 20 twice, 19th in 2014 and 20th in the first race this season. But although he has started deep on the grid, Dillon has an average finish of 16.0. That includes two top-five finishes in the past three Martinsville events.

 

As is the case with every driver, it will be important to look through practice times to see how Dillon does on long runs. A good run on Saturday will make him a good pick for Sunday no matter the qualifying result.

 

AJ Allmendinger ($6,000)

Martinsville: 18 starts, two top fives (11.1 percent), six top 10s (33.3 percent)

Average finish at Martinsville: 18.2

 

Allmendinger is the top bargain pick this weekend. He has six finishes of 11th or better in his seven races at Martinsville since joining JTG Daugherty Racing in 2014. The 'Dinger finished second in the first race of 2016, and then 10th in the playoff race. Back in April, he finished sixth after starting way back in 30th. At $6,000, adding this veteran to your lineup leaves more room to chase after a top dominator.

 

Pre-Qualifying Optimal Lineup Example:

 

(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)

Teaser:
DraftKings NASCAR Lineup Picks: First Data 500
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/san-diego-state-aztecs-vs-hawaii-rainbow-warriors-preview-and-prediction-2017
Body:

Just two weeks ago, San Diego State was an undefeated top-20 team marching toward a third straight Mountain West Conference championship and potentially a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game. However, Boise State manhandled the Aztecs 31-14 in San Diego to dash any hopes of an undefeated season. Though Rocky Long’s team still controlled its own destiny in the conference race, last week’s ugly 27-3 loss to West Division rival Fresno State put the team two games behind the Bulldogs in the win column, meaning that a return to the title game is now highly unlikely with four games to play.

 

Desperate to get back on track, the Aztecs face another tough task: a cross-Pacific trip to Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors, 3-4 overall and 1-3 in conference play in their second season under Nick Rolovich, are rested coming off a bye week and had an extra week to prepare for a reeling San Diego State squad set to play its ninth game in nine weeks. Hawaii also features a diverse offense that has averaged 261.0 passing yards and 219.1 rushing yards per game, and has racked up at least 450 total yards in every contest. 

 

San Diego State at Hawaii


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 11:15 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: San Diego State -9.5

 

Three Things to Watch


1. Top two rushers in the Mountain West
Both the Aztecs and Rainbow Warriors rely heavily on the running game, which makes perfect sense, because each team features one of the best running backs in the Mountain West. San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny even looked like a potential Heisman Trophy candidate early on, racking up six straight 100-yard performances to open the season, but he has been held to fewer than 70 yards in each of the last two games. Overall, the 5-11, 220-pound senior has 1,115 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, surpassing 1,000 yards on the ground for the second straight season.

 

Penny leads the conference in raw rushing yardage, but Hawaii running back Diocemy Saint Juste (above, right) leads the league with 156.3 rushing yards per game. Saint Juste has averaged 6.0 yards per carry while racking up 1,094 rushing yards in seven contests. He has scored six touchdowns. Though he ranks second nationally with 26.1 carries per game, expect Saint Juste to take on an even heavier workload in the coming weeks, because quarterback Dru Brown will be without his favorite target, John Ursua, who suffered a season-ending knee injury.

 

2. Run defense
Despite facing Stanford’s Bryce Love (the nation’s leading rusher) and Air Force (the No. 5 rushing offense in the country), San Diego State has a major statistical advantage over Hawaii in run defense. The Aztecs have held opponents to 143.3 rushing yards per game this season, third in the Mountain West. Teams not named Stanford or Air Force have averaged 125 yards on the ground against San Diego State, though the Aztecs have allowed 192.5 rushing yards per game during their two-game losing streak.

 

The Rainbow Warriors have surrendered more rushing yards to weaker opponents, so Penny and the Aztecs could be poised for a big game. Hawaii ranks seventh in the Mountain West and 90th in the country in rush defense (183.7 yards allowed per game) and has allowed 5.0 yards per carry. Three opponents — Western Carolina, Colorado State and Nevada — gained more than 200 yards on the ground against the Rainbow Warriors.

 

3. Turnover battle
In college football, the team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the game. In Hawaii’s case, that adage has been true 100 percent of the time this season. The Rainbow Warriors have a plus-3 turnover margin in their three wins, having recorded a plus-1 ratio in each. San Diego State has earned a reputation for taking care of the football offensively, and forcing turnovers. In fact, the Aztecs’ plus-42 turnover ratio is the best in the nation over the past three seasons. SDSU has also won 21 games in a row when winning the turnover battle. However, the Aztecs have been on the wrong side of that battle in each of their last three games and failed to produce a takeaway in either of the last two.

 

Final Analysis

 

On paper, Hawaii looks like a clear underdog. San Diego State has a better defense, especially against the run, and plenty of offensive weapons at its disposal. And though the Rainbow Warriors have been terrific on offense, the team lost its top receiver to injury, which is significant. Nevertheless, SDSU is on the ropes. The Aztecs have to travel 2,600 miles over the ocean following nine straight weeks of action, including two straight losses. SDSU is the more talented team and should win the game, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Aztecs struggle for a third straight week.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 28, Hawaii 20

 

— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.

 

(Diocemy Saint Juste photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
San Diego State Aztecs vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 11:20
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-vs-arizona-state-sun-devils-preview-and-prediction-2017
Body:

USC competing for a Pac-12 South divisional title? Hardly a shock, and those are the stakes as the Trojans return to conference play Saturday. But Arizona State? The Sun Devils' midseason resurgence is one of the most surprising stories of this college football season.

 

After falling to 2-3 with a loss at Stanford Sept. 30, Arizona State looked headed for a third straight sub-.500 finish. Head coach Todd Graham would have occupied a seat hotter than leather upholstery in a Phoenix parking lot on a July day.

 

All the Sun Devils have done since returning from their bye week is beat defending Pac-12 champion Washington, ranked No. 5 at the time, and then rout a good Utah team on the road, all while surrendering just 17 total points.

 

Now, Saturday's contest at Sun Devil Stadium becomes a battle for first place between two teams coming off much different outcomes. USC's College Football Playoff hopes were squashed in a blowout loss last week at Notre Dame.

 

USC at Arizona State

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 10:45 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: USC -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Turnover battle

A defensive coordinator before becoming a head coach, Todd Graham has long been committed to a style predicated on aggressive blitzing, designed to generate turnovers. Arizona State was perhaps too aggressive in recent years, or at least lacked the necessary secondary play to allow heavy blitz packages to flourish, as the Sun Devils ranked last in FBS in pass defense in both 2015 and '16.

 

Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett came on board to make adjustments to Arizona State's scheme. With the development of some talented young defensive backs, the Sun Devils have found their rhythm. Arizona State comes into Saturday's contest having forced six turnovers in the past three Pac-12 games, including four last week at Utah.

 

Meanwhile, USC has struggled mightily with turnovers. The Trojans' 19 are most among Power 5 conference teams.

 

2. Big plays via the pass

Some of the Pac-12's best wide receivers will be on display Saturday night. Arizona State's N'Keal Harry is a big target capable of going over the top of defenders for long gains. He's reminiscent of former Sun Devil Jaelen Strong — a name most USC fans would prefer to forget.

 

Meanwhile, USC's Deontay Burnett is well established as the primary target for quarterback Sam Darnold, but freshman Tyler Vaughns has stepped up as a reliable No. 2. It's a one-two dynamic reminiscent of Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith-Schuster a few seasons ago. Steven Mitchell is coming off his best game of the season, scoring a touchdown against Notre Dame.

 

USC might need all three big-play targets to come through at least once on Saturday.

 

3. The run game wins

USC has had a pretty simple formula: When their run game is working, the Trojans are tough to stop. Barring one, long Ronald Jones II (above, right) carry at Washington State, USC struggled to establish a consistent rushing attack against Wazzu and Notre Dame.

 

Juxtaposed with the second half against Utah, when the Trojans were ripping off first downs on nearly every rush, the difference is night and day.

 

Head coach Clay Helton emphasizes the need for balance in order for USC's offense to work. The same is true for Arizona State, which relied heavily on quarterback Manny Wilkins' passing early in the season. The Sun Devils did not show off their full offensive potential until the two-man backfield of Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard started clicking.

 

Final Analysis

 

This unexpected showdown for first place ensures that Sun Devil Stadium will be rocking into the late night. Arizona State's outstanding defense of late will be put to the test, particularly a young secondary. JoJo Wicker, D.J. Calhoun and Christian Sam must find ways to generate pressure on Sam Darnold and perhaps garner takeaways. Otherwise, the defensive resurgence will come to an abrupt end.

 

Likewise, USC needs to get into the backfield to limit Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage — a key for teams that have beaten Arizona State this season.

 

Prediction: USC 30, Arizona State 24

 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of TheOpenMan.com. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Teaser:
USC Trojans vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 11:10

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