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Non-conference losses to Washington State and Virginia knocked Boise State out of the New Year’s Six bowl game discussion early this season, but a 24-14 victory over Wyoming last week improved the Broncos' Mountain West record to a perfect 3-0. Now 5-2 overall, and riding a three-game winning streak, Boise State travels to Logan to play Mountain Division rival Utah State. Matt Wells' Aggies improved to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the league with a 52-28 win over UNLV Saturday night. 

 

Boise State at Utah State


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 10 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Boise State -8

 

Three Things to Watch


1. Rotating quarterbacks
Both Boise State and Utah State have used multiple quarterbacks this season, and often in the same game. Despite Brett Rypien earning All-Mountain West accolades in each of his first two seasons as the starter, head coach Bryan Harsin has worked Kansas transfer Montell Cozart into the mix. Cozart is an effective runner who ranks second on the team with 260 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and he was used primarily in the red zone last week against Wyoming. He scored twice on the ground against the Cowboys and also threw a TD pass. 

 

Cozart started the conference opener against New Mexico with Rypien injured, and the senior also saw significant time as the team’s primary quarterback when Rypien was ineffective against Troy and Washington State. Surprising given Rypien’s track record, Cozart has also been the better passer of the two this season, at least statistically speaking. Cozart has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 559 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception. Rypien has thrown for 822 yards and two TDs with three interceptions and has completed 61.2 percent of his passes. Rypien will likely start against the Aggies, but Cozart is sure to play. The two might even share the field on the same snap at times, as seen last week.

 

The Aggies aren’t likely to shuffle two QBs as often as Boise State, but two signal callers could see action. Kent Myers began the season as the starter and has thrown for 1,206 yards with seven touchdowns, but he has also tossed seven interceptions. He played only one series last week. Jordan Love started against UNLV and threw for 316 yards and three TDs without a pick. He has completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 701 yards, four scores and four interceptions overall.

 

2. Chunk yardage
Boise State wide receiver Cedrick Wilson is one of the best playmakers in the Mountain West, if not the nation. Wilson is the Broncos' leading receiver by a wide margin, having caught 39 passes for 654 yards — a 16.8-yard average — and four touchdowns. Wilson's longest reception of the season, a 47-yard TD against Washington State, is also the team’s longest scoring play of the season. He also had a 47-yard reception in the win over New Mexico.

 

However, the fact that Wilson’s 47-yard catches are the longest plays from scrimmage for the Broncos' offense is a symptom of the Broncos' lack of explosiveness. Boise State is one of only six FBS programs without a play of 50 yards or more. The Broncos have also struggled to pick up chunk yardage in smaller doses, having gained 10 yards or more on only 81 plays, which ranks 11th in the conference and 112th in the nation.

 

Meanwhile, Utah State has produced 112 plays of 10 yards or more, including five plays longer than 50 yards. Three Aggies receivers have scored on touchdown receptions of at least 70 yards, and Myers posted a 68-yard TD run.

 

However, both defenses also mirror their offenses in terms of chunk yardage allowed. Boise State ranks among the top 20 nationally with only 76 plays allowed of 10 yards or longer. The unit sits eighth among FBS defenses with just eight plays of 30 yards or more allowed, though four of those were longer than 50 yards. The Aggies are one of just 10 FBS teams to surrender one or fewer plays longer than 50 yards, but Utah State has allowed 121 plays longer than 10 yards (ranking 115th nationally), including 14 plays longer than 30 yards. 

 

3. Takeaways
Utah State has surrendered 398.6 yards of total offense per game and 5.45 yards per play this season, both of which fall in the middle of the pack in the conference. However, the Aggies lead the Mountain West and rank second nationally with 20 takeaways — 10 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Also, no team has been better at turning turnovers into immediate points. The Aggies have scored four defensive touchdowns this season, tying the team for the most nationally. The Boise State defense has also been good taking the ball from its opponents. The Broncos have forced eight interceptions and have recovered three fumbles (two of which were returned for touchdowns).

 

Final Analysis


Boise State has had success rotating quarterbacks this season, and Cozart brings an added wrinkle to an offense that, despite Wilson’s playmaking ability, has failed to take the lid off opposing defenses consistently. Utah State has also played two quarterbacks, but both have been inconsistent. The Aggies have surrendered large amounts of chunk yardage but have also been among the nation’s best at forcing turnovers.

 

Utah State has home-field advantage, but the Broncos have the better team. As long as Boise State takes care of the football, the Broncos should survive and keep pace with Colorado State atop the division standings.

 

Prediction: Boise State 28, Utah State 24

 

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

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Boise State Broncos vs. Utah State Aggies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/washington-state-cougars-vs-arizona-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2017
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The 2016 campaign was one Arizona Wildcats faithful would probably rather forget. The low point in one of the worst seasons in program history came on Nov. 5 in Pullman, Washington, when Washington State drilled Arizona, 69-7. "They totally embarrassed for several years, and especially last year," Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said.

 

Though 2016 had particular significance as the most lopsided loss in UA history, Washington State has won three of the last four in the series, including its last two at Arizona Stadium in 2013 and '15.

 

This time around, the Wildcats welcome the Cougars to Tucson with the two teams tied for first place in their respective divisions. Washington State's status as a co-leader in the North is not exactly unexpected: Head coach Mike Leach retained the most veteran roster in the Pac-12 coming into 2017, led by quarterback Luke Falk. Arizona has outplayed expectations, however, almost doubling last season's win total and far exceeding the Pac-12 media's preseason last-place projection.

 

Saturday's outcome could prove pivotal to the championship race as the Pac-12 enters the final month of this regular season.

 

Washington State at Arizona

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 9:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: Washington State -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Arizona's pass rush

Prior to last season, Marcel Yates was hired as Arizona's defensive coordinator to bring a more aggressive style after Jeff Casteel oversaw a 3-3-5 stack for the previous four seasons. The switch to a 5-2 look faced serious growing pains, partially the result of a lack of personnel to run it.

 

Never were Arizona's deficiencies with the new defense more evident than against Washington State. Quarterback Luke Falk operated with a clean pocket throughout the afternoon and dissected Arizona with a staggering 32 completions on 35 attempts.

 

This season, freshmen Tony Fields and Kylan Wilborn have added a much-needed, more consistent pass rush to the Arizona defense. The Wildcats have 16 sacks on the season, and they need to find ways to generate pressure to throw Falk off his rhythm on Saturday.

 

2. Washington State's defense of the Arizona run game

Rodriguez-coached teams typically run the ball well, but Khalil Tate's insertion into the lineup as starting quarterback a few weeks ago has taken Arizona to another level in that regard.

 

Tate has emerged as the Wildcats' leading ball carrier, averaging almost 14 yards per carry. But Arizona's win over Cal last week demonstrated the depth of the Wildcats rushing attack, as Zach Green stepped up to carry for 130 yards with Nick Wilson injured and J.J. Taylor ejected for targeting.

 

Washington State counters with its ballyhooed "speed defense," the brainchild of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Grinch emphasizes fast playmakers over big bodies — like Hercules Mata'afa, a defensive tackle who goes just 250 pounds, but who bursts through seams on the offensive line with an aptitude unmatched at his position.

 

3. Dictating pace early

Washington State has won the last two against Arizona, including its 2015 visit to Arizona Stadium — a much more competitive game than the 2016 encounter, but one in which the Cougars started to pile on early.

 

In its current winning streak, Arizona has held early leads rather than playing from behind. Such is the best course of action for an offense predicated on the run, but it's especially important against a Washington State team that improves offensively as games progress.

 

Whether against Boise State, USC or in last week's shutout of Colorado, the Cougars offense typically gets clicking in the middle quarters. If Washington State comes out scoring early, that could doom the Wildcats.

 

Final Analysis

 

Washington State rebounded nicely from a bizarre blowout loss at Cal on Oct. 13, locking down Colorado's offense and getting effective, if not spectacular, production out of the passing attack in a cold downpour.

 

The Cougars remain tied atop the Pac-12 North with games against Stanford and Washington still to come. They have an outside chance of factoring into the College Football Playoff discussion, but they need to avoid another hiccup. Playing Arizona on the road seems the most likely candidate for such a stumble, given the Wildcats' resurgence of late.

 

Khalil Tate has been excellent, not only in the run game but also in delivering explosive passes as the defense allows. He's averaging at least one 50-plus-yard passing play per appearance, a weapon the Wildcats will need against Washington State's outstanding run defense.

 

Arizona also needs to generate turnovers. Cal got to Luke Falk for five interceptions to turn the tide of that game, and with the Wildcats coming in ranked ninth nationally in that category, Arizona could deliver those necessary takeaways for the upset.

 

Prediction: Arizona 41, Washington State 38

 

— 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:
Washington State Cougars vs. Arizona Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 10:50
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-red-raiders-vs-oklahoma-sooners-preview-and-prediction-2017
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Texas Tech and Oklahoma have one thing in common – both teams lost to surprising Iowa State at home. Now the Red Raiders (4-3, 1-3 Big 12) and Sooners (6-1, 3-1) are set to get together in Norman with the former looking to snap their two-game losing streak while the latter is trying to keep pace with the top teams in the Big 12.

 

There is plenty on the line for both teams in this game, as Texas Tech still needs two wins to become bowl eligible and Oklahoma needs to keep winning to stay in the discussion for a possible College Football Playoff berth. Kilff Kingsbury’s Red Raiders got off to a 4-1 start but have lost their last two games and still have Kansas State, TCU and Texas on the schedule. The Sooners have just that one loss to the aforementioned Cyclones but Bedlam at Oklahoma State and a home date with the Horned Frogs loom after this game.

 

Oklahoma has beaten Texas Tech five times in a row, including last season’s 66-59 free-for-all in Lubbock that broke the NCAA record for combined offensive yards (1,708).

 

Texas Tech at Oklahoma

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC or ESPN2

Spread: Oklahoma -20.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Baker Mayfield’s finale vs. former school

Mayfield started his collegiate career as a walk-on with Texas Tech and ended up the Big 12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in 2013. He transferred to Oklahoma after that season and has since established himself as one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in program history. He has a shot at becoming a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist as he’s averaging 335.3 passing yards per game while completing 74 percent of his attempts with 19 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

 

Fair or not, his games against his former school draw extra attention given how things ended, and Mayfield is 2-0 in two starts against the Red Raiders. He also just happened to have his best game of his 2016 campaign against Texas Tech, throwing for 545 yards and seven touchdowns in the Sooners’ 66-59 win in Lubbock. While he may be hard-pressed to put up the same numbers Saturday night, there’s no doubt he wants to get another win against Texas Tech. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said following last week’s win against Kansas State that Mayfield has been dealing with a shoulder injury. Still he managed to throw for 410 yards with two touchdowns and ran for another two scores in the 42-35 victory over the Wildcats. It will take much more than a sore shoulder to keep the senior from facing the Red Raiders.

 

2. Texas Tech trending in wrong direction

Two weeks ago, the Red Raiders led West Virginia 28-17 at halftime of their game in Morgantown. Since then, however, Texas Tech has scored a total of 20 points over their past six quarters. The Mountaineers scored 29 unanswered to come from behind and beat the Red Raiders 46-35 while Iowa State held them to just two touchdowns in the Cyclones’ 30-13 victory in Lubbock. This is not a good sign for a team getting ready to face one of the nation’s most potent offenses. Oklahoma is second in the FBS in total offense (581.7 yards per game) and tied for seventh in scoring offense (42.0 ppg). Texas Tech is no slouch itself at 514 and 40.3, respectively, but the Red Raiders need to get back to where they were in the first half against West Virginia (four touchdowns in the first five drives) compared to their past six quarters.

 

3. Nic Shimonek’s time to shine?

From a numbers standpoint, Shimonek (above, right) favors comparably to Mayfield. The two are separated by just six passing yards, a single touchdown pass and their completion rates (73.8 percent for Mayfield, 70.9 for Shimonek) are close too. The biggest differences come in interceptions (2 for Mayfield, 5 for Shimonek) and rushing, as Mayfield has 170 yards and three touchdowns while Shimonek is much more of a pocket passer (-58 rushing yards, TD). There’s also the win column as Oklahoma enters this game at 6-1 and still in position for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game and possibly the College Football Playoff, while Texas Tech is 4-3 and still has work to do to simply qualify for a bowl game.

 

But first, Shimonek has a prime opportunity to make a name for himself should he lead his Red Raiders to a win in Norman. Texas Tech has lost the past five meetings with Oklahoma so a win Saturday night would be quite the feather in the cap for the first-year starter. Shimonek has had big games against good teams. He had 503 passing yards and six touchdowns earlier this season in a 52-45 win against an Arizona State team that’s in the hunt in the Pac-12 South Division. And he most likely will need similar numbers if the Red Raiders are to beat the Sooners considering Patrick Mahomes had 819 total yards (734 passing) and seven total touchdowns (5 passing, 2 rushing)  in last season’s meeting, and it still wasn’t enough.

 

Final Analysis

 

No need to worry about Baker Mayfield getting up for this game nor Oklahoma for that matter as the Sooners still have dates with Oklahoma State and TCU to follow with their sights still focused on a Big 12 title and return to the College Football Playoff. Texas Tech needs to get back to its winning ways and would love to do so in Norman, but the Red Raiders don’t seem to have enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with Oklahoma. This matchup probably won’t feature near as many offensive fireworks as last year, but don’t expect the defenses to dominate either.

 

Prediction: Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 21

Teaser:
Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Oklahoma Sooners Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-vs-clemson-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2017
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The off week couldn’t have come at a better time for Clemson. The time away allowed the Tigers to come to grips with the loss at Syracuse and, perhaps more importantly, gave injured quarterback Kelly Bryant time to heal. Plus, head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff had more time to prepare for the next opponent.

 

And extra prep time is nice to have when going up against Georgia Tech. The 5-2 Yellow Jackets are four points away from being undefeated, and at 3-1 in the ACC, they remain a contender in the Coastal despite the loss to Miami.

 

Clemson and Georgia Tech have played 81 times with the Jackets holding a 50-29-2 series edge, though the Tigers have won four of the last five meetings.

 

Georgia Tech at Clemson

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC or ESPN2

Spread: Clemson -14

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Kelly Bryant’s health

It was clear early in the Syracuse game that Bryant’s ankle was still bothering him. It's difficult to say whether or not it led to the hit that caused the concussion, but it certainly did not help. Bryant has cleared concussion protocol and has said that the ankle that was originally injured against Wake Forest is much better. But we will not know for sure how well he can move until the game starts on Saturday night. Though Zerrick Cooper was serviceable against the Orange, Bryant’s ankle will be a major story going into the Georgia Tech game.

 

2. Avoiding the Georgia Tech cut blocks

It’s what the Yellow Jackets do: In the Georgia Tech blocking scheme, they take down defenders with low blocks. Some opposing coaches may complain that these chop blocks are dangerous, but they are perfectly legal and are a part of the game. Clemson’s defense is very quick, and it is tough to run to the outside against the Tigers because of their team speed. But if the Jackets can put the guys in Orange on the ground, it will open up running lanes. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables knows Georgia Tech’s offense well enough and will have his guys in the right spots. From there, it will just be a matter of execution.

 

3. Special teams

The early-season injury to kicker Greg Huegel was part of the story in Clemson’s 27-24 loss to Syracuse. The Tigers failed to add six points when Alex Spence missed kicks from 35 and 38 yards. On the other side, Georgia Tech has been terrible in punt coverage, and Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud is dangerous in the open field. The Yellow Jackets’ kick coverage is not great either, and though Clemson freshman Travis Etienne has not broken a return yet, he has the speed to do so at any time.

 

Final Analysis

 

So much is dependent upon Kelly Bryant. Georgia Tech has a very formidable defense, but if Bryant is close to 100 percent, the Tigers will be tough to stop. Clemson is balanced offensively with Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster running the ball and a slew of talented wide receivers. The Clemson defense did not have its best game in the Carrier Dome, but the Tigers have held the Georgia Tech option attack under 100 yards rushing each of the last two years. Even though Yellow Jackets quarterback TaQuon Marshall (above, right) has developed into a premier signal-caller in Paul Johnson’s system, Clemson knows how to defend this offense and will do enough to come away with a victory.

 

Prediction: Clemson 28, Georgia Tech 17

 

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

Teaser:
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 10:30
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A chance to play in a postseason bowl game will be fading quickly for either Nebraska or Purdue this weekend in West Lafayette. Both the Cornhuskers and Boilermakers will take the field in Big Ten West action looking to snap a two-game losing streak, and whoever can break out of the recent funk will see a chance to play in a bowl game begin to come into view. The loser will likely be staying home this bowl season, and that is an uncomfortable spot for Nebraska should the Huskers fail to win on the road this weekend.

 

Nebraska is coming off a bye week, one that came at a great time for the program. Things have not gone well this season in Lincoln and a change in athletics director brings questions about head coach Mike Riley's future. Riley may be able to navigate himself out of this season to hold the job, but getting to a bowl game feels like an absolute must in order to do so. If Riley is going to guide Nebraska to a bowl game, outfoxing Big Ten newcomer Jeff Brohm will be key. Brohm has helped bring new life to the Purdue program, but the Boilermakers are coming off back-to-back losses at Wisconsin and Rutgers after witnessing the offense go into a shell. Look for Purdue to get back on track offensively this week.

 

Nebraska at Purdue

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Purdue -4.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Purdue no longer letting teams score at will

When Jeff Brohm was hired as Purdue's head coach, it was expected the offense would turn things around and open things up. However, it is the addition of Nick Holt as defensive coordinator that may be having the more significant impact this season. Holt's defense is allowing just 19.3 ppg this season, which is half of the points allowed per game compared to a year ago when Purdue was allowing a Big Ten-worst 38.3 ppg. Purdue allowed 40-plus points six times last season. This year, only Louisville in the season opener has managed to crack the 30-point barrier and Purdue has held three straight opponents to fewer than 20 points, including Wisconsin in Madison two weeks ago.

 

2. Who comes up short in the red zone?

When Nebraska has entered the red zone this season, frustrating moments have been far too common for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska has the Big Ten's 13th-ranked scoring percentage inside the opponent's 20-yard line with 19 scores on 25 red zone trips. Purdue has been far more effective with 24 red zone trips out of 27 putting points on the scoreboard. However, Purdue's red zone touchdown percentage (55.5 percent, 15 TDs) is slightly lower than Nebraska's (56.0, 14). Nebraska had two red zone scores in five red zone trips in their last two games against Wisconsin and Ohio State.

 

3. Bowl ramifications make this a must-win game

It has been a decade since the last time Nebraska failed to play in a postseason bowl game and Purdue did, but we could be heading in that direction if Nebraska cannot find a way out of West Lafayette with a win. A win would put Purdue within two wins of their first bowl trip since the 2012 season with enough winnable games remaining to make the push. Nebraska, on the other hand, has quite the uphill journey to a bowl game if they lose this one. Nebraska would need three wins in their final four games that will include road games at Minnesota and Penn State and home games against Northwestern and Iowa.

 

Final Analysis

 

It can be difficult to comprehend the mere idea of Nebraska being a road underdog against Purdue if you have not been paying attention to what has been happening this season. Purdue, up until last week, has been one of the biggest turnaround successes in the Big Ten this season. Returning home after two rough road games should be welcome, and playing a team that fails to shut its opponents down with defense and a turnover-filled offense like Nebraska looks like the kind of opportunity the Boilermakers can take advantage of. Purdue's defense should continue to keep things tied down enough for the offense to make some things happen, and Purdue will get back in the win column because of it.

 

Prediction: Purdue 27, Nebraska 23

 

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

Teaser:
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 10:20
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-vs-kentucky-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2017
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The Kentucky Wildcats (5-2, 2-2 SEC) and Tennessee Volunteers (3-4, 0-4 SEC) were on two completely different trajectories prior to last week. But they now share something in common after suffering identical 45-7 beatings at the hands of SEC West opponents. While no one was really shocked by Tennessee’s loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the Wildcats' loss at Mississippi State in blowout fashion came as a huge surprise, especially coming off a bye week.

 

Kentucky will attempt to get back on track as it returns home to Kroger Field to take on arch-rival Tennessee. Mark Stoop’s Wildcats would become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season with a win over the Vols. A victory would also get them back above the .500 mark in the SEC. But wins have not exactly come easy for the Wildcats in this series. The Volunteers have won 31 of the last 32 meetings, with each of the last five contests decided by fairly wide margins.

 

However, this isn’t your typical Tennessee team. The Volunteers have lost four of their last five games, they remain winless in the SEC, and the Tennessee offense has now gone 14 consecutive quarters without finding the end zone. The constant chatter regarding head coach Butch Jones’ future (or lack thereof) on Rocky Top further complicates matters. And to top it all off, running back John Kelly has been suspended for Saturday’s game, leaving the Volunteers without their best weapon on offense.

 

The Vols enter this pivotal game with the deck clearly stacked against them. That said, Kentucky may be in the early stages of a downward spiral of its own following last week’s embarrassing loss to Mississippi State. It should make for a compelling matchup.

 

Tennessee at Kentucky

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Kentucky -4.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Life without John Kelly

Kelly has been the life-blood of the Tennessee offense throughout the 2017 season. So, it’s safe to assume that the Tennessee ground game could be in for a serious challenge without him, particularly against a Kentucky run defense that ranks third in the SEC, giving up just 123.6 yards per game.

 

But there is hope, as a talented trio of young Tennessee running backs attempts to fill the void. Ty Chandler, Carlin Fils-Aime and Tim Jordan have combined to average 5.1 yards per carry on the year. And while the Wildcats’ run defense can be a handful, it has shown a vulnerable side in each of the last two games, giving up almost 500 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Kentucky allowed just 370 rushing yards and four touchdowns in its first five games of the season. Dual-threat quarterback Jarrett Guarantano may also be able to capitalize against a Kentucky defense that allowed Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to run wild last week, racking up 115 rushing yards and two scores on the ground.

 

2. Kentucky run game vs. Tennessee run defense

While the Kentucky rushing attack has been inconsistent and somewhat of a disappointment this season, it should provide the Wildcats offense with its best avenue for success on Saturday. Tennessee ranks among the worst teams in the nation (No. 122 of 129 FBS teams) when it comes to stopping the run, giving up 247 rushing yards per game.

 

The Vols have been particularly generous in the latter stages of games when their lack of depth up front starts to reveal itself. Look for Kentucky to lean heavily on Benny Snell Jr. in an effort to wear down the Tennessee defense and expose this weakness. Snell is coming off his worst performance of the season, rushing for just 18 yards against Mississippi State. But he should be able to rebound nicely against a leaky Tennessee run defense.

 

3. Turnover battle

The turnover battle could loom large in this matchup, and it is an area that heavily favors the Wildcats. Kentucky ranks near the top of the SEC in turnover margin at plus-six on the season. In seven games, the Wildcats have forced 13 turnovers (six interceptions, seven fumble recoveries). They have committed just seven turnovers in that span.

 

Tennessee ranks near the bottom of the SEC in turnover margin at minus-three. The Volunteers have committed 11 turnovers on the season, while forcing just eight. Kelly’s absence will leave the Vols to rely on relatively inexperienced running backs, possibly making the Vols more susceptible to turnovers against Kentucky’s opportunistic defense. And Guarantano, who also lacks experience, will need to be particularly aware of Kentucky safety Mark Edwards, who is tied for second in the SEC with three interceptions. Ball security will be of the utmost importance for Tennessee on Saturday night.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Tennessee offense should finally end its touchdown drought against a Kentucky defense that has struggled mightily in recent weeks. That said, I don’t see the Volunteers suddenly springing to life and putting a bunch of points on the scoreboard, particularly without John Kelly. This game is shaping up to look a lot like Tennessee’s matchup against South Carolina — a game in which Tennessee hangs around, but ultimately wears down in the end. Kentucky has a tendency to allow teams to hang around as well. Regardless, this is probably the best opportunity the Wildcats are going to have to finally get over the hump against Tennessee. It won’t be pretty, but Kentucky wins a close one in front of the home crowd, possibly putting the final nail in Butch Jones’ coffin in the process.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 20, Tennessee 17

 

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

Teaser:
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kentucky Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/duke-blue-devils-vs-virginia-tech-hokies-preview-and-prediction-2017
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Virginia Tech came out of its off week guns blazing. In what was a complete effort that saw scores from the offense, defense and special teams, the Hokies got North Carolina down and never let the Tar Heels up.

 

This week, Virginia Tech hosts another struggling team in Duke. The Blue Devils lost their fourth straight game last Saturday, falling to a Pittsburgh team with its own host of issues. Stopping the skid at Lane Stadium will be a tall task, and at 4-4, Duke needs a couple more wins to become bowl eligible.

 

Duke trails the in series 9-15 but has won the last two games in Blacksburg.

 

Duke at Virginia Tech

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7:20 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network

Spread: Virginia Tech -15.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Duke rushing defense

Normally, teams struggle to run the ball on the Duke defense, but something strange happened last week. Pittsburgh, a team that has had trouble establishing a ground game all year, piled up 336 rushing yards against the Blue Devils. Despite rushing for 179 yards per game, Virginia Tech does not get a lot of big plays in the running game. But Pittsburgh had two runs of over 75 yards last week, and the Hokies will have to let running backs Travon McMillian and Coleman Fox find out if the Devils had a bad week or if there is a trend developing.

 

2. Pressuring Daniel Jones

Duke’s slide has corresponded with its quarterback’s tailspin, and this week he will be facing an aggressive Virginia Tech defensive front. Duke has allowed 21 sacks on the year, but at times it has seemed even worse. The Hokies are coming off a game in which they lived in the UNC backfield, registering six sacks and 13 tackles for lost yardage. For Jones (above, right) to get back on track, he will need a helping hand from his offensive line.

 

3. Duke's T.J. Rahming vs. Virginia Tech secondary

If Jones can get time to throw, he has a very good target in Rahming. His 44 catches ranks 27th nationally, and last week against Pittsburgh, the junior from Powder Springs, Georgia, had eight grabs for 142 yards. The Virginia Tech defensive backfield is a little stronger than their counterparts at Pitt, however. Greg Stroman is among the national leaders in passes defended and is part of a very deep back end crew that will make Rahming work for everything he gets.

 

Final Analysis

 

On paper, this should be a comfortable win for Virginia Tech. Duke had trouble blocking Pittsburgh, and now the Devils have to face Tim Settle, Ricky Walker and the Virginia Tech front. They couldn’t stop the Panthers running game, and Hokies quarterback Josh Jackson is clicking with receiver Cam Phillips. The only thing Virginia Tech has to overcome is the knowledge of who is next up on the schedule. The following Saturday, the Hokies will venture to south Florida to play Miami in a game that may very well decide the Coastal title. But while this is a trap situation for the Hokies, Duke is not good enough right now to take advantage.

 

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Duke 14

 

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

Teaser:
Duke Blue Devils vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-vs-texas-am-aggies-preview-and-prediction-2017
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Two creative and balanced offenses will be on display when the Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-2, 2-2 SEC) travel to College Station on Saturday to take on the Texas A&M Aggies (5-2, 3-1), highlighting one of the better national matchups in Week 9 of the college football season. The big questions in this SEC West showdown: Which stars will grab the spotlight, and which defense is ready to take on the challenge?

 

Mississippi State travels to Texas with a full head of steam after dismantling Kentucky 45-7 in Starkville in Week 8. Everything was clicking for the Bulldogs, who racked up 441 yards of total offense behind standout junior dual-threat QB Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald completed 18-of-26 passes for 155 yards with a touchdown and rushed for a team-high 115 yards on 12 carries with two more scores. The MSU defense was stout, allowing 134 yards passing and 115 rushing.

 

The Aggies entered their bye week with a momentum-building 19-17 win over Florida on Oct. 14. A&M was outgained by Florida 355 to 251 but buckled down on defense when it counted and got two big plays from receiver/return specialist Christian Kirk to set up the win in the Swamp. The offense limped along against the Gators but stuck with true freshman quarterback Kellen Mond through an 8-for-24, 180-yard, one-interception game in the road victory.

 

Mississippi State at Texas A&M

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7:15 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Mississippi State -1

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The production of Kellen Mond

Mond's performance in the pocket has been a roller-coaster ride for head coach Kevin Sumlin and the 12th Man. He played well against Arkansas but seemingly took a step back against South Carolina. He did surprisingly well against Alabama, hitting 19-of-29 passes for 237 yards with a score and pick, but then turned in a dud against Florida. Mond hurt the Hogs and SC with his running abilities but was hemmed in against the Tide and Gators. The Aggies offense works best when their quarterback keeps the opposition off balance with the run and the pass.

 

Mississippi State is fielding a top-10 total defense, allowing just 281 yards per game, including games against Georgia and Auburn. The Bulldogs will be ready for Mond.

 

2. Stopping Nick Fitzgerald

The secret to beating MSU this season is stopping the Bulldogs dual-threat QB from running, which is easier said than done. In losses to Georgia and Auburn, the talented junior rushed for 47 and 56 yards, respectively, and was held out of the end zone. In every other game this season, Fitzgerald has at least one rushing score. The trick is for defenses to win on first and second down, forcing third and long for MSU.

 

A&M’s defense is fantastic on third downs, allowing a conversion only 29 percent of the time. The Aggies are strong against the run this year as well, holding teams to 135 yards a game and setting up a great matchup within the game. Aiding the Aggies' cause, MSU’s leading receiver Keith Mixon (16/238/1) is questionable for Saturday.

 

3. Can A&M run the ball?

For the first five games of the season, the Aggies were running the ball down the opposition’s throat. Over the last two contests, the Aggies could muster only 71 yards against Alabama and 83 against Florida. Trayveon Williams leads the Aggies in rushing with 440 yards and five touchdowns on 91 carries, but he has not come close to the 100-yard mark since rushing for 203 against UCLA to open the season. His 10-carry, 18-yard performance against Florida will not cut it in SEC play. Backup Keith Ford is not fairing any better.

 

Mississippi State is solid against the run, limiting teams to 128 yards per game. If Mond is ineffective, the tailbacks must find a way to move the chains.

 

Final Analysis

 

The best player on the field come Saturday will be Aggies receiver/returner Christian Kirk, who is a game changer on offense and special teams. But Mississippi State is among the best in the nation at limiting punt returns, giving up an average of two yards per return, and the Bulldogs have the second-best pass defense in the FBS ranks, holding teams to 154 yards per game. If they limit Kirk and stop Kellen Mond from running, Mississippi State can pick up a very big SEC road win.

 

The home team has won the last four games in the series, but that could change on Saturday.

 

Prediction: Mississippi State 24, Texas A&M 21

 

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

Teaser:
Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Texas A&M Aggies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 09:50
Path: /college-football/san-jose-state-spartans-vs-byu-cougars-preview-and-prediction-2017
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In any given year, a San Jose State-BYU matchup wouldn’t conjure up much intrigue. This year however is very different. The intrigue is in this game for all the wrong reasons. Both teams are having near identical seasons with each currently 1-7 and their lone wins have come against winless teams from the FCS ranks.

 

So if you want a game to determine who might be the worst team in college football for the 2017 season, BYU and San Jose State in an afternoon tilt in Provo is right up your alley.

 

San Jose State at BYU

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: BYUtv/ESPN3

Spread: BYU -12.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Both head coaches worked together at their previous schools

Two years ago when Kalani Sitake was being courted by BYU while the defensive coordinator at Oregon State, current San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan was a wide receivers coach for the Beavers and was one of the first people to learn that Sitake was going to be the next head coach at his alma mater.

 

Sitake discussed possible scenarios with Brennan to get him to BYU, but nothing ever transpired. Sitake and Brennan have a close friendship and they were even next door neighbors while they lived in Corvallis.

 

Both coaches know they are better than their 1-7 records show and they looking to get back on the winning side of things.

 

2. BYU’s running back situation

Not only have the Cougars been losing games on the field, they are now losing players off of it.

 

BYU’s starting running back Ula Tolutau is not expected to play this weekend after being arrested earlier this month for possession of marijuana.

 

BYU returns an injured Squally Canada, who was the starter at the beginning of the season, and KJ Hall, who returned last week from an injury after being sidelined for the previous six games.

 

3. Let’s talk about stats

In the 25 major team statistics nationally, both BYU and San Jose State are sub-100 (out of 129 FBS teams) in nearly almost category. BYU is sub-100 in 16 and San Jose State is sub-100 in 17 statistics.

 

Nearly the highest statistical category for each team is in Net Punting. BYU ranks 23rd in the nation while the Spartans are 65th. Field position will be key in this game. Whoever wins the field position battle is going to have a great chance at winning this one.

 

Final Analysis

 

Have I made you excited for this game yet? Which team wants to avoid the dubious distinction of being the worst team in college football? From looking at everything, BYU is the best bet here. But don’t expect the Cougars to have an offensive explosion. The Spartans will be in this one till the very end. Both teams struggle to put up points, so I expect a low-scoring affair that ultimately swings in favor of BYU due to a few costly San Jose State turnovers that give the Cougar offense short fields to work with.

 

Prediction: BYU 17, San Jose State 13

 

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

 

(Brent Brennan photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
San Jose State Spartans vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-vs-ohio-state-buckeyes-preview-and-prediction-2017
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Columbus is the epicenter of college football’s Week 9 slate, as Penn State takes on Ohio State in a must-see Big Ten matchup between two of the nation’s top teams. The stakes are high in this conference matchup, as the winner of Saturday afternoon’s contest between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will take a big step forward in winning the Big Ten’s East Division. And of course, there are major CFB Playoff implications. The first rankings will be released on Tuesday, Oct. 31 and the winner of this one should be inside of the top four.

 

Ohio State started its season with a 49-21 road win at Indiana but lost in Week 2 at home to Oklahoma (31-16). The defeat to the Sooners was an early setback for coach Urban Meyer’s program and showcased a few deficiencies this team still had to iron out before a run at the Big Ten title. Since that loss, Ohio State has been on a roll. The Buckeyes have claimed five victories in a row and none of those games were decided by less than 30 points. In addition to the implications for 2017, revenge is on the mind for Meyer and his team. Penn State upset Ohio State 24-21 in Happy Valley last fall, which prevented the Buckeyes from playing for the Big Ten Championship.

 

Penn State is in the midst of a difficult three-game stretch, but coach James Franklin’s team crossed off one hurdle with a win over Michigan last Saturday. The Nittany Lions thoroughly dominated the Wolverines due to a monster effort from quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley, along with another standout performance from the defense. Penn State enters this matchup ranked inside of the top three in most polls, but the next two weeks are critical for this team’s hopes of a repeat trip to the Big Ten Championship. After the game in Columbus, the Nittany Lions travel to East Lansing to play Michigan State. That’s the last team remaining on Penn State’s schedule with a winning record during the regular season.

 

Ohio State holds a 18-14 series edge over Penn State. The Buckeyes have won four out of the last five meetings. The last victory for the Nittany Lions in Columbus took place in 2011.

 

Penn State at Ohio State

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Ohio State -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Ohio State’s Offense

After losing to Clemson 31-0 in last year’s Fiesta Bowl in the CFB Playoff, it was clear Ohio State’s offense needed a reboot. Coach Urban Meyer wasted no time with changes, as former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson was hired to call the plays in early January. But the optimism for this group didn’t last long. The Buckeyes started slow on offense in the win against Indiana and managed only 16 points and 5.1 yards per play in the Week 2 loss against Oklahoma. However, the narrative on this offense has changed since the defeat to the Sooners. Ohio State’s offense appears to be back on track after scoring 54 or more points in each of the last four games, including 62 against Maryland and 56 versus Nebraska.

 

The recent production is certainly a positive sign for Meyer and Wilson, but this unit has yet to be tested by a defense like the one Penn State brings to Columbus on Saturday. Were the performances after Oklahoma simply a product of questionable competition? Or is the Ohio State offense really firing on all cylinders under Wilson? Saturday’s game should provide answers.

 

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett took a lot of criticism after the loss to Oklahoma but has been on fire since that game. The senior has not tossed an interception in each of his last five games and has completed at least 64 percent of his passes in each contest during that span. Barrett isn’t just living off a bunch of short passes or quick tosses out of the shotgun. Rather, he’s averaging 13.3 yards per completion and leads all Big Ten quarterbacks with five completions of 50 or more yards. Barrett is still a dynamic option on the ground (359 yards and five scores) and the ability to make plays on the ground is critical with Penn State’s pass rush on tap. In addition to Barrett’s development, the receiving corps has also turned a corner. Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill are tied for the team lead with 28 receptions, and Johnnie Dixon is averaging a healthy 27.6 yards per catch on 10 grabs this year. Binjimen Victor (18 catches), Terry McLaurin (20) and tight end Marcus Baugh are just a few of the other options available to Barrett. Even though the passing game has been taking over the spotlight for this offense in recent weeks, don’t forget about the ground game. The one-two punch of J.K. Dobbins (775 yards) and Mike Weber (227 yards) is as good as any in college football.

 

Penn State’s defense enters Saturday night’s game giving up just 9.6 points a contest. This unit has yet to allow an opponent to score more than 19 points and leads the Big Ten by limiting offenses to 3.98 yards per play. Coordinator Brent Pry’s group has been effective against the run (115.3 ypg allowed) and is first nationally versus the pass. Additionally, Penn State is active around the line of scrimmage (24 sacks) and doesn’t allow much in the way of big plays.

 

Is Ohio State’s recent production on offense legitimate or was it the product of questionable competition? And even if the Buckeyes are improved on offense, will Penn State’s defense simply prove to be too much? We should find out a lot about both groups when this game kicks off on Saturday afternoon.

 

Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 9

 

2. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley Against Ohio State’s Defense

In last week’s win over Michigan, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley produced two of the game’s biggest plays. On the second snap from scrimmage, Barkley gashed the Wolverines for a 69-yard touchdown run. He later added a 15-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and caught a 42-yard score from quarterback Trace McSorley in the fourth quarter. While Barkley delivered the big play on the second snap, he was largely held in check by Michigan’s defense. On his 14 other carries, Barkley managed only 39 yards. However, that stat underscores just how difficult it is to contain the junior running back. Even if a defense can limit his production through 10-15 carries, it’s a safe bet Barkley breaks a big play at some point.

 

Ohio State’s defense is the latest group looking to contain Barkley and put a dent into his Heisman campaign. The Buckeyes enter Saturday afternoon’s game ranked fourth in the Big Ten against the run, limiting opponents to just 109.6 yards per game. And if that number wasn’t impressive enough, here’s another stat to consider. If the matchup against Army (259 yards) is eliminated, Ohio State is holding opponents to just 2.5 yards per carry and 84.7 yards per game. It’s no secret the Buckeyes own one of college football’s top defensive fronts and a couple of the standouts in the trenches could be All-Americans by the end of 2017. Ends Tyquan Lewis, Nick Bosa and Sam Hubbard have combined for 9.5 sacks, with Tracy Sprinkle, Dre’Mont Jones, Jashon Cornell, Davon Hamilton and Robert Landers clogging the interior. This line has it all for coordinator Greg Schiano – speed, athleticism, strength and the ability to stuff the run. Most importantly for Schiano, he has plenty of depth to rotate players and keep the front four fresh in the fourth quarter.

 

Penn State’s offensive line has struggled at times to open up running lanes and faces its toughest test of the season on Saturday night. This group will be under pressure to hold its blocks and give Barkley enough time to get up field and make a couple of big plays. In last year’s game, Barkley managed just 99 yards on 12 carries. Can Ohio State hold the junior to less than 100 yards once again? Or will the Nittany Lions’ offensive line deliver one of its best performances of the year, allowing Barkley to eclipse 100 yards and add a few more highlights to the Heisman Trophy campaign?

 

3. Penn Sate QB Trace McSorley

With the depth and talent in Ohio State’s front seven and focus on stopping Saquon Barkley, Penn State could lean a little more on quarterback Trace McSorley to win on Saturday afternoon.

 

Through seven contests, McSorley has passed for 1,879 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also completing 66.8 percent of his throws and has tossed only five picks on 220 attempts. In addition to his success through the air, McSorley’s mobility (254 yards and seven touchdowns) is a valuable asset for an offensive line that has struggled at times to create holes for the ground game and protect on passing downs. Penn State’s quarterbacks have been sacked 18 times through seven games, including two in last week’s win over Michigan.

 

Why is McSorley and the passing attack a critical factor for Saturday afternoon’s game? Look back at Ohio State’s defensive performance in the opener against Indiana. The Buckeyes gave up 420 yards and three passing scores to the Hoosiers and struggled to defend Indiana’s bigger receivers on the outside. The Nittany Lions can utilize a similar approach with tempo and jump balls to their big receivers, including tight end Mike Gesicki and wide outs Juwan Johnson, Saeed Blacknall and DaeSean Hamilton (all over 6-foot-1). Barkley is also a valuable outlet in the passing game, as he leads all Penn State players with 32 receptions.

 

Ohio State’s secondary has developed and improved since the opener against Indiana and the second week loss to Oklahoma. Denzel Ward is a lockdown option for coordinator Greg Schiano and anchors a defensive backfield that ranks 33rd nationally in pass efficiency. And over the last five games, only one opponent (Nebraska and largely with the game out of reach) threw for more than 100 yards. However, Penn State’s offense is the best test for the secondary since the Week 2 defeat to the Sooners. Are the Buckeyes really improved on the back end? Or can McSorley and coordinator Joe Moorhead spread the field and attack the outside successfully?

 

Final Analysis

 

Considering college football has reached Week 9 of its 2017 season, it’s difficult to say we will learn a lot about both teams. However, it’s also fair to say Ohio State hasn’t been tested since the loss to Oklahoma, and the Buckeyes have the best collection of talent on both sides of the ball that Penn State has faced all year. Two key questions are likely to determine this matchup. How will Ohio State’s passing game perform? And on the other sideline, can Penn State’s offensive line and rushing attack generate production against the Buckeyes defensive front? In a tight game, turnovers or special teams could be the difference. This one is a tossup, but the edge goes to Ohio State at home, with Barrett and the passing game sealing the victory in the fourth quarter with a touchdown.

 

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Penn State 24
Teaser:
Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Preview and Prediction 2017
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/five-up-five-down-derek-carr-joe-mixon-matt-ryan-will-fuller-week-8-2017
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Fantasy Football 5 Up, 5 Down: Derek CarrFantasy owners may have a hard time finding players they feel confident in to fill their lineups this week. Plenty of injuries are affecting fantasy owners, plus the additional challenge of having six teams on a bye is tough. Spoiler alert: six teams are on a bye again next week again.

 

In looking at fantasy rosters (or waiver wires or DFS lineups), sometimes it is tough to choose which player to pick. By Week 8, fantasy owners have had almost half a season’s worth of games to see how their players are performing (for better or worse).

 

At the bottom is the full disclosure, listing how well last week's picks performed. Please note that 5 Up/5 Down is a guide on players that should exceed or fall below their rank this week. This is based on past performance, injury status and matchup. This is not a start/sit column, but rather a guide.

 

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

 

5 Up

 

Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders 

With Buffalo's secondary banged up, Carr should be a QB1 for Week 8. He's ranked No. 15, which puts him in the QB2 range, but he could easily exceed that. He probably won't throw the ball 52 times like he did in Week 7, but he's finally realized Amari Cooper is on the team. With Marshawn Lynch suspended, the Raiders should look to throw the ball. The Bills have allowed the past two quarterbacks facing them to throw for more than 300 yards and Jameis Winston last week had three TD passes.

 

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals 

Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease (see Antonio Brown's targets in Week 5). Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets suspended (see Martavis Bryant, Week 8). Mixon publicly complained about his usage following Week 7, which could go either way: he could be given more carries than he can handle in Week 8 or he could ride the pine. The Indianapolis Colts allow the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, putting Mixon in a prime spot to exceed his No. 11 ranking.

 

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers 

McCaffrey has the eighth-most targets in the league so far this season. As a running back! It's unheard of that a running back would have more targets than most wide receivers in the league. In PPR leagues, McCaffrey has solid RB2 value. In standard formats, when fantasy owners are relying on his rushing yards, they are disappointed. However, he has at least five receptions in the past three games, so here's saying he can exceed his No. 19 ranking this week.

 

Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles 

Over the past three weeks, Agholor has four receptions and a touchdown in each game. While that's a streak of coincidence more than anything else, the reality is that Carson Wentz is throwing the ball a lot and he's spreading it around. Wentz trusts Agholor and the matchup is a good one for him this week. With Wentz as the No. 1-ranked quarterback, he's going to have to throw it to someone — why not Agholor? He's the No. 23 ranked wide receiver this week, but should crack the top 20.

 

Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts

In the past three weeks, Doyle has at least five receptions in each game. He has a touchdown in that span as well. It's not pretty, but he's providing Jacoby Brissett with an option when he's in trouble. Brissett keeps checking down to Doyle, which results in fantasy points, especially in PPR formats. While he isn't a typical red-zone target (assuming the Colts can score points this week), in PPR leagues, Doyle should exceed his No. 13 ranking.

 

5 Down

 

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons 

If Ryan couldn't do it against the Patriots, is he going to be a top-10 fantasy quarterback against the New York Jets? While the Jets aren't a formidable matchup, they did hold Tom Brady to under 300 yards. Ryan has only thrown for more than 300 yards once (in Week 1) and only has more than one touchdown pass once this season (two in Week 3) as well. This is not the Matt Ryan of 2016; he should finish below his No. 9 ranking.

 

Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

While Martin will get plenty of opportunity against the Carolina Panthers, it is a tough matchup. They have only allowed three running backs to score rushing touchdowns and no receiving touchdowns. LeGarrette Blount was the running back with the most rushing yards against them so far this season with 67. It's a tough run defense, and Martin may not be able to get through. He's ranked No. 12 but is only a RB2.

 

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys 

Putting Bryant on the "down" list is based on him matching up with Josh Norman. Norman is questionable for Week 8, and if he does play, Bryant should finish below his No. 6 ranking. Bryant is a solid wide receiver, but when he's faced with tough matchups, he tends to struggle. In Week 3 against Patrick Peterson, Bryant had two receptions for 12 yards and a touchdown.

 

Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans 

Unfortunately for Fuller, he will likely see a lot of Richard Sherman in Week 8, driving his fantasy value downward. Fuller has five touchdowns in three games, but only has eight receptions in that span as well. At some point, he's going to have a low fantasy week; all signs point to it being Week 8. He's the No. 27-ranked wide receiver, but he may not make the top 30 by the time Week 8 is over. This is a matchup-based call; DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson should still be fine for fantasy owners.

 

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins 

The Redskins play the Cowboys in Week 8, a team that has allowed one touchdown to opposing tight ends (Virgil Green in Week 2). While Reed is a solid tight end option, he's ranked No. 7 for Week 8, which is high. He is still sharing snaps with Vernon Davis for some reason, and until the Redskins can commit to one tight end, Reed's value takes a hit. He had two touchdowns in Week 7 so fantasy owners hope Reed will get more looks moving forward, but it might not happen just yet.

 

Full Disclosure, Week 7:

 

5 Up

Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (Ranked: 8, Actual: 24)

James White, RB, New England Patriots (Ranked: 32, Actual: 12)

Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers (Ranked: 22, Actual: 47

Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints (Ranked: 40, Actual: DNP)

Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons (Ranked: 12, Actual: not in top 50)

 

5 Down

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (Ranked: 17 Actual: 14)

DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans (Ranked: 14, Actual: 24)

Adrian Peterson, RB, Arizona Cardinals (Ranked: 15, Actual: 46)

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (Ranked: 13, Actual: not in top 50)

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys (Ranked: 13, Actual: 5)

 

— 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:
Fantasy Football 5 Up, 5 Down: Derek Carr, Joe Mixon Up, Matt Ryan, Will Fuller Down for Week 8
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 09:15
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The NFL wheels keep spinning and this weekend's weather for the Week 8 slate could be a factor on the East Coast. Rain is in the forecast for a lot of places so that's something to consider when handicapping these games.

 

People will automatically think rain is a bad thing for scoring, but if you think about it, it's harder for the defense to react to a move on a wet track. Betting on bad teams nowadays also is not a bad way to go as well with pretty much everyone being competitive.

 

Record: 20-11-2 (3-2-1 last week; 11-4-1 last three weeks)

 

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

 

Carolina Panthers (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4), 1 p.m.

The Buccaneers were a preseason chic pick and unfortunately, they have not lived up to it. Tampa's two wins were at home against the Bears and the Giants. The defense is not in good form right now allowing 30 points or more three times this season although all of those were on the road. Now the Bucs come home in a spot where little is expected of them. Jameis Winston is putting up good numbers through the air, but he needs to cut down on the turnovers. Carolina has lost two straight and Cam Newton is struggling with consistency (and answering questions from the media). The defense has been its typical strong self, but it hasn't been enough during this losing streak. Last year, the Bucs won two close, low-scoring games, forcing seven Carolina turnovers along the way. I don't like to go against the line move because usually those guys are right, but I think we're getting Tampa in a good spot. The Panthers are playing their fourth road game this month and I think it catches up to them here. SELECTION: Tampa -1.5

 

San Francisco 49ers (0-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-1),1 p.m.

The mismatch of all mismatches on paper, but this screams situational play with the road team. First off, rain is in the forecast which may factor into the play-calling for the Eagles, who have been very balanced. Philly is coming off a highly emotional Monday night game against the Redskins and have a bigger test next week against the Broncos. They also lost right tackle Jason Peters and linebacker Jordan Hicks, two valuable cogs to their respective unit. San Francisco has lost five games by three points or less this season and that includes at Seattle, Arizona and Washington. Of concern is the amount of travel that the 49ers have done as of late, but I think they get to play an unfocused Eagles team that is hearing how good they are from all angles. As an Eagles fan, I hope this isn't a sweat, but I think it will be. SELECTION: 49ers +12.5

 

Oakland Raiders (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (4-2), 1 p.m.

The Raiders are heading east to play the Bills on Sunday and everyone is back on their bandwagon after the home win last Thursday over the Chiefs. But as Lee Corso says, not so fast my friends. That victory snapped a four-game losing streak and showed an Oakland team that couldn't run and struggled at times to stop the pass. Marshawn Lynch will miss this game due to suspension. The Bills have been a huge surprise sitting at 4-2 on the season. They are coming off an impressive comeback win over Tampa Bay at home. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews is getting healthy and giving Tyrod Taylor another weapon. LeSean McCoy should have his way in this one against a vulnerable Raiders D. Yes, Buffalo has shown some leaks against the pass, allowing its last two opponents to put up more than 300 yards through the air, but I think they match up well with Oakland. The money move is with the road team. I think the home team takes this one. SELECTION: Buffalo -2

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Detroit Lions (3-3), 8:30 p.m.

The Steelers are a weird team to figure out especially on the road. The splits for Ben Roethlisberger away from home are not great. This team struggled in Cleveland and lost to Chicago on the road, but also have victories at Kansas City and Baltimore. Pittsburgh has decided to build the offense around Le’Veon Bell and the ground game and that's the way to go. The better unit has been the defense, which has allowed only one opponent to put up more than 25 points and that was Jacksonville, who did it with the benefit of five turnovers. Detroit is coming off a tough loss in New Orleans and is now fresh off a bye week and at home. The defense has been pretty good outside of a few efforts against Atlanta and Carolina. The Lions have forced at least three turnovers four times already this season. Pittsburgh has gone under in six of its seven contests and 30 of the last 44 overall. To me, this play says a lot about the Steelers’ road offense and their awesome defense against a Lions team rested off a bye week with a decent defense of their own. SELECTION: Under 45.5

 

Notes

 

— I really debated adding the Colts to this card. I'm so thoroughly unimpressed by the Bengals, who did not look good against the Steelers last week. The problem is that the Colts seem like they've packed it in for the season and aren't showing much life. The defense is awful and banged up and Jacoby Brissett is under siege almost every snap. This number is so big and I really don't think the Bengals are worth it.

 

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

Teaser:
Betting Against the Spread: NFL Week 8 Picks and Odds
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/louisville-cardinals-2017-18-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Games cannot resume soon enough for the Louisville program, even with the loss of three of the Cardinals’ top five scorers and the school’s legendary head coach. Games will move the discussion on from the tumultuous offseason — one that featured four years of probation being handed down by the NCAA and the ouster of Rick Pitino in unrelated incidents.

 

David Padgett, a 32-year-old who was the program’s director of operations as recently as 2015, was promoted to interim head coach in late September.

 

Despite the off-the-court drama, Padgett’s team should remain relevant in the ACC by playing the Cardinals’ trademark defense, which has ranked in the top 10 nationally in points per possession for seven consecutive seasons.

 

At a Glance

 

HEAD COACH: David Padgett

2016-17 RECORD (ACC): 25–9 (12–6)

2016-17 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Michigan 73–69 in the second round

KEY LOSSES:

G Tony Hicks (3.7 ppg)

F Jaylen Johnson (8.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

C Mangok Mathiang (7.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg)

G Donovan Mitchell (15.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg)

 

Frontcourt 

 

Deng Adel waited until the deadline before choosing to return for his junior season. A dynamic athlete, Adel was one of the Cards’ best players down the stretch, averaging more than 16 points in the final six games. If he can improve his 3-point shooting (34.6 percent last season), Adel will be one of the ACC’s top wings because he is fearless off the dribble.

 

 

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 Cards’ frontcourt by committee will continue. Center Anas Mahmoud can defend and shoot a high percentage (.623), but he still needs to add 15-to-20 pounds to his narrow 7-foot frame. 

 

The coaching staff challenged forward Ray Spalding to upgrade his intensity and consistency. Spalding is a terrific weapon in the Cardinals’ full-court press and zone defense but scored three points or fewer in nine of Louisville’s last 16 games.

 

Louisville’s frontcourt reserves are all freshmen. Malik Williams will play center and power forward, but shooting is his primary strength. Lance Thomas and Jordan Nwora might need some time to develop.

 

The status of wing Brian Bowen, a top-25 recruit who is at the center of the school’s legal issues, is unknown.

 

Backcourt 

 

Senior point guards bring value beyond scoring, and that’s certainly true at Louisville, where Quentin Snider has started 61 games over three seasons. Snider is more likely to beat you with savvy than speed. He won’t do the spectacular, but Snider avoids silly plays. He has learned to tune out criticism from Pitino and lead the team.

 

Sophomore V.J. King is the Cards’ likely breakout star. A former McDonald’s All-American, King averaged under 15 minutes per game last season because Pitino questioned his defense. King is a 42.1 percent 3-point shooter with the length and skills to attack the rim.

 

Freshman Darius Perry arrived with the announced goal of becoming the best defensive player in the ACC, which will earn him more playing time than shooting jump shots. Ryan McMahon is a zone buster who made five 3-pointers vs. Pittsburgh.

 

Final Analysis 

 

With a veteran point guard in Snider, guys with NBA ability in Adel and King, and veteran post players in Mahmoud and Spalding, the Cardinals will be dangerous in the ACC again.

 

But replacing Mitchell won’t be easy. He was the guy who delivered late in the game as well as late in the shot clock.

 

And the coaching situation is obviously a huge question mark as Padgett steps in for Pitino, one the game’s all-time greats.

 

Teaser:
Louisville Cardinals 2017-18 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 08:50
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/kentucky-wildcats-2017-18-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Even for Kentucky in the one-and-done John Calipari era, the 2017-18 rebuild/reload is a massive undertaking. The Wildcats will feature eight freshmen (another No. 1 recruiting class) and could start five newcomers after losing eight members from last season’s Elite Eight and SEC championship team.

 

“I’m telling you, hey, it’s going to be hard,” Calipari says. “We will be the youngest team, most inexperienced team in the country. This may be my youngest team ever. But you know what? I love the challenge of it because we have kids that will share, that are going to give it up for each other, that are comfortable in their own skin, come from great homes, understand they’re on a mission. They want to get better.”

 

At a Glance

 

HEAD COACH: John Calipari

2016-17 RECORD (SEC): 32–6 (16–2)

2016-17 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to North Carolina 75–73 in the Elite Eight

KEY LOSSES:

F Bam Adebayo (13.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg)

G Isaiah Briscoe (12.1 ppg, 4.2 apg)

G De’Aaron Fox (16.7 ppg, 4.6 apg)

G Malik Monk (19.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg)

 

Frontcourt 

 

Get ready for Calipari to overuse the term “positionless players” this season. Versatility and willingness to play wide open and without constraints of set positions and pace will be Kentucky’s advantage in the frontcourt and perhaps in recruiting pitches moving forward.

 

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!

Kevin Knox, P.J. Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt all stand 6'8" or taller and can play in the paint or on the perimeter. Knox, a 6'9" Florida native, is the most polished of the trio offensively and should start from Day 1 at small forward. Washington, a 6'8" forward, can defend the rim as a center, dribble like a point guard and has 3-point range. Vanderbilt, a 6'8" forward, is versatile and has potential, but he will be sidlined for at least the first six weeks of the season after injuring his left foot in late September.

 

Nick Richards, a 6'11" native of Jamaica, has a background in volleyball, soccer and track and field but committed to basketball full time when he moved to the United States during high school.

 

Sophomore Wenyen Gabriel made 23 starts as a freshman and could remain a contributor with an improved 3-point shot and better defensive awareness. Sacha Killeya-Jones appeared in only 15 games as a freshman, but the former McDonald’s All-American remains one of the youngest players on the team and has upside as an athletic option with good shooting touch.

 

Sophomore Tai Wynyard figures to be the most physical option in the paint. The 6'10" son of a lumberjack starred for the New Zealand team at the FIBA World Cup in July.

 

Backcourt 

 

Hamidou Diallo will be key on and off the court this season. The 6'5" freshman guard from Queens, N.Y., enrolled at UK in January and — though he didn’t play in games — practiced against the likes of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk for months and spent weeks with Calipari playing for USA Basketball at the FIBA World Cup. Those experiences have given Diallo a head start on learning what Calipari expects on a daily basis and create leadership in a backcourt that will be otherwise occupied by newcomers.

 

Freshmen Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will handle point guard duties. Gilgeous-Alexander and Diallo have the versatility and length to play the 1, 2 and 3 positions. Freshman Jemarl Baker is considered to be one of the best pure shooters in the 2017 signing class.

 

Final Analysis 

 

For Kentucky, the narrative remains the same: Plenty of talent exited, and plenty of talent enrolled. Winning the SEC title is the expectation, and anything short of a national title will be a disappointment.

 

“Nobody can really guard us,” Washington says. “I don’t expect a lot of teams to man us this year because we’re too long and we’re too tall. We can all shoot, dribble and pass. We can do it all. It’s going to be scary for us this year.”

 

Teaser:
Kentucky Wildcats 2017-18 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 08:40
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/usc-trojans-2017-18-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction
Body:

USC has taken strides each season under Andy Enfield. It won a combined 23 games during his first two years, before a breakout 21-win season in 2016 that included an NCAA Tournament appearance. Last March, the Trojans again raised the bar with a program-record 26 wins. With virtually the entire roster back, they’re hopeful that their current trajectory will continue.

 

At a Glance

 

HEAD COACH: Andy Enfield

2016-17 RECORD (PAC-12): 26–10 (10–8)

2016-17 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Baylor 82–78 in the second round

KEY LOSSES:

None

 

Frontcourt 

 

The Trojans were big winners at the NBA Draft’s early entry deadline, particularly in the frontcourt. All of their underclassmen return, including forwards Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, who were thought to be potential late first-round draft picks. Both players, who will be juniors, offer unique skill sets.

 

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 6'11" Metu is one of the more athletic big men in the country, known for his flurry of finishes at the rim and shot-blocking ability. He earned the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player award last season and took on a larger role in the paint while Boatwright missed two months with a knee sprain. Boatwright is akin to a stretch-4. The 6'10" forward finished as the team’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game, shooting 36.4 percent from beyond the arc. Enfield is fond of mentioning his “guard-like skills.”

 

Nick Rakocevic, an active 6'11" forward, offers depth. Rakocevic was instrumental last March when the Trojans rallied from 17 points down to defeat Providence in the First Four.

 

Charles O’Bannon Jr., a 6'6" freshman who was USC’s first McDonald’s All-American since 2008, should see minutes, too. His father, Charles O’Bannon, starred on UCLA’s 1995 national championship team, as did his uncle, Ed O’Bannon.

 

Backcourt 

 

USC is particularly experienced on the perimeter, led by a pair of seniors who were among Enfield’s earliest recruits — Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart. They have been fixtures during the program’s yearly improvement and are key reasons why the Trojans could advance deeper into the NCAA Tournament. McLaughlin, a point guard, is a dependable distributor who has also developed as a scorer. He averaged a career-high 5.5 assists per game last season as a junior. Stewart, a wing, is a streaky shooter, capable of scoring 30 points any night, and an explosive athlete. He made the game-winning 3-pointer to upset sixth-seeded SMU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in March.

 

There’s also young talent. De’Anthony Melton, a do-everything guard, joined Dwyane Wade last season as the only other freshman since the 1992-93 season to average at least 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Melton stands 6'4" but boasts a 6'8" wingspan and remains one of the Trojans’ more skilled defenders despite once being an overlooked high school prospect.

 

Derryck Thornton, a transfer from Duke, presents a new dynamic to the veteran backcourt. A former five-star recruit, Thornton averaged 7.1 points and 2.5 assists in 26.0 minutes per game for the Blue Devils two years ago. He will split point guard duties with McLaughlin, a setup that is familiar to the Trojans. Two seasons ago, they used two point guards, McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs.

 

Final Analysis 

 

This is easily Enfield’s deepest team. There is no talent shortage. A handful of players figure to be first-round NBA Draft picks in 2018. And there is depth. The Trojans will have 13 scholarship players, having fully recovered from NCAA sanctions that followed the O.J. Mayo scandal. The challenge will be for the team to match the new expectations and for the staff to blend the talent together.

 

Teaser:
USC Trojans 2017-18 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 08:30
Path: /mlb/ten-greatest-home-runs-world-series-history
Body:

This year’s World Series has already seen history made when it comes to the home run. In Game 2 on Wednesday night, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers combined for eight home runs, the most ever in a World Series game. Of the 13 total run scored, only three were not courtesy of a home run.

 

And while George Springer’s two-run home run in top of the 11th inning proved to be the game-winner for Houston, it certainly was not one of the most important or significant blasts in the Fall Classic’s 113-year history. Here are the 10 greatest home runs in World Series history.

 

10. Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees

Oct. 10, 1964 – Yankee Stadium (Bronx, N.Y.)

Tied 1-1 with St. Louis in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 3 of the 1964 World Series, Mantle hit Barney Schultz’s movement-less knuckleball into the right field stands to give the Yankees a 2-1 win. The game-winning home run also broke Babe Ruth’s career record for World Series home runs of 15. Although the Yankees would ultimately lose in seven games, Mantle’s home run has not been forgotten.

 

9. Reggie Jackson, New York Yankees

Oct. 18, 1977 – Yankee Stadium (Bronx, N.Y.)

Jackson earned the nickname “Mr. October” with his performance in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Down 3-2 in the fourth inning, the Yankees outfielder hit a two-run home run and did the exact same thing in the fifth inning. Then in the eighth, he hit another home run to put the Yankees up 8-3. His performance secured the win and the series for New York. Which one of these three deserves the ninth spot on this list? Take your pick.

 

 

8. Babe Ruth, New York Yankees

Oct. 1, 1932 – Wrigley Field (Chicago)

The most mythical home run on this list came in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series between the Yankees and the Cubs. Tied 4-4, Ruth came to home plate and allegedly pointed to the center of Wrigley Field as Charlie Root prepared to pitch. The Bambino then blasted a home run to center field. Whether or not he called his shot has been the subject of intense debate, but it remains etched in pop culture and baseball folklore. Oh, and the Yankees won that game and swept the Cubs.

 

7. Dusty Rhodes, New York Giants

Sept. 29, 1954 – Polo Grounds (New York)

The 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and Cleveland Indians is best remembered for Willie Mays’ legendary catch in the eighth inning of Game One. Then in the bottom of the 10th, his teammate Rhodes pinch hit for Monte Irvin and smacked a walk-off home run that barely cleared the right field fence of the Polo Grounds. New York would go on to sweep Cleveland.

 

6. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

Nov. 1, 2001 – Yankee Stadium (Bronx, N.Y.)

The 2001 Fall Classic between the Diamondbacks and Yankees started later in October because of 9/11 and emotions were at a fever pitch during the three games played in New York. They may have very well peaked when Jeter took the plate in the 10th inning of Game 4 shortly after midnight on Nov. 1. Facing a full count with his team down two games to one against Arizona, Jeter (above, right) hit a walk-off home run to tie the Series. Although New York would lose the in seven games, Jeter’s home run remains etched in our memories.

 

 

5. Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins

Oct. 26, 1991 – Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Minneapolis)

With five games decided by one run, the 1991 World Series between Minnesota and Atlanta is widely considered to be the best of all time. The most exciting moment came in Game 6 when Puckett came to the plate in the bottom of the 11th with his Twins down three games to two. Puckett told teammate Chili Davis he just planned to bunt to get on base and Davis responded, “Bunt my ass. Hit it out and let's go home!" Puckett did and the Twins won Game 7 to win a true Fall Classic.

 

4. Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox

Oct. 21, 1975 – Fenway Park (Boston)

Cincinnati and Boston were tied 6-6 in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series when Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk came to the plate in the bottom of the 12th. In a moment further immortalized in the movie Good Will Hunting, Fisk hit a shot towards Fenway Park’s Big Green Monster that looked like it would go foul. Fisk waved his arms as if he was willing it to go fair. The ball stayed fair and forced a Game 7, which the Reds won 4-3. Still, Fisk’s homer was the greatest moment of the Series.

 

3. Joe Carter, Toronto Blue Jays

Oct. 26, 1993 – SkyDome (Toronto, Ontario)

Carter came to the plate with his Blue Jays down 6-5 to Phillies in the bottom of the ninth of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Facing a 2-2 count with Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor on base, Carter blasted a three-run shot to win back-to-back world championships for the Jays. As he rounded the bases, Toronto’s radio announcer Tom Cheek famously said, “Touch 'em all, Joe, you'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!" It remains one of only two walk-off home runs to win a Series.

 

2. Kirk Gibson, Los Angeles Dodgers

Oct. 15, 1988 – Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles)

Gibson had injured his left hamstring in Game 5 and right knee in Game 7 of the National League Champion Series against the Mets and was not expected to play in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against the A’s.  But with the Dodgers down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth and Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley ready to put the nail in the coffin, he told manager Tommy Lasorda that he was available to pinch hit. So with Mike Davis on first base, Gibson hobbled to the plate and engaged in a duel with Eckersley that culminated in a home run to right field. Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully summed up the scene as Gibson celebrated with his teammates by saying, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!” Gibson would not have another at-bat for the season and wouldn’t need it as the Dodgers won the Series in five games.

 

 

1. Bill Mazeroski – Pittsburgh Pirates

Oct. 13, 1960 – Forbes Field (Pittsburgh)

The other walk-off home run to win a World Series closed one of the best Game 7s ever. The Pirates jumped out to 4-0 lead in the second inning, but the Yankees battled back to take a 5-4 lead in the sixth and extend it to 7-4 in the top of the eighth. Pittsburgh roared back with five runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 9-7 lead, but New York tied the game in the top of the ninth. Then in the bottom, Mazeroski was the first up and hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” to left field on the second pitch to win the Series for the Pirates. It remains the only home run to win Game 7 of a World Series.

 

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

 

(Joe Carter, Derek Jeter photos courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
10 Greatest Home Runs in World Series History
Post date: Friday, October 27, 2017 - 05:30
Path: /college-football/stanford-cardinal-vs-oregon-state-beavers-preview-and-prediction-2017
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Believe it or not, but No. 20 Stanford’s push for a potential College Football Playoff spot starts Thursday night in Corvallis against Oregon State. The Beavers may just be 1-6 overall and winless (0-4) in the Pac-12, but the Cardinal (5-2, 4-1) cannot afford to look past their seemingly overmatched opponent if they have any hope of playing for a national title.

 

The Pac-12 is already fighting somewhat of an uphill battle when it comes to putting a team in college football’s version of the final four, thanks to some upsets two weeks ago as well as USC’s blowout loss at Notre Dame this past Saturday. But Stanford’s schedule sets up nicely for not only a potential North Division title, it also provides the Cardinal with three opportunities to impress the selection committee by season’s end. But first, David Shaw and company must take care of business on the road against a team whose only win thus far has come against an FCS opponent.

 

Stanford at Oregon State

 

Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 26 at 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Stanford -23

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Stanford’s opening statement?
With two losses already, the Cardinal seem like a long shot to get into the College Football Playoff. However, they still have games at No. 15 Washington State, home dates with No. 12 Washington and Cal, and end the regular season against No. 9 Notre Dame. Beat both the Cougars and the Huskies and at worst Stanford is the Pac-12 North Division champion and headed to Santa Clara, California, on Dec. 1 to play for another conference title.

 

However, combine that with a win over a top-10 ranked Fighting Irish team and should the Cardinal win out (including the Pac-12 title game), and Stanford has one impressive resume, even for a two-loss team. Is that still enough to get the Cardinal into the playoff? Only time will tell, but none of this will matter if they don’t take care of the first thing on the to-do list – beat Oregon State, and handily, on Thursday night.

 

2. Beavers peaking at the right time?
It’s hard to qualify a team that’s 1-6 as “peaking,” but Oregon State is coming off of its best performance of the season, albeit in a losing effort. Following the unexpected resignation of head coach Gary Andersen, the Beavers gave Colorado all it could handle and then some, before falling 36-33 at home in interim head coach Cory Hall’s debut two weeks ago. Oregon State actually led 33-29 with a little more than four minutes remaining but the Buffaloes answered with a touchdown and Jordan Choukair’s potential game-tying, 52-yard field goal came up short with just 10 seconds left.  

 

In the loss, Oregon State posted a season-best 569 yards of offense, including 280 on the ground, while averaging nearly seven yards (6.9) per play. The Beavers’ previous high for yards was 456 in the opener against Colorado State. Their previous best effort in terms of rushing yards was 155 at Washington State back on Sept. 16. The defense also got in on the act, limiting the Buffaloes to 385 total yards and 5.8 yards per play. Consider that prior to this game, Oregon State had been giving up 494 yards per game and 6.6 yards per play over its first six contests.

The Beavers have had an extra week to build on what they did right against Colorado as well as prepare for Stanford. As we have already seen on multiple occasions this season upsets can happen anytime and anywhere. Is it Oregon State’s turn?

 

3. Run, run and run some more

Stanford running back Bryce Love didn’t even play last week (because Cardinal were on bye) and he’s still the nation’s leading rusher – and it’s not even close. Love, a junior, has already run for 1,387 yards in seven games (198.1 ypg). He’s more than 200 yards clear of the No. 2 rusher, Navy quarterback Zach Abey. But he’s also nursing an ankle injury and it was announced a few hours before game time that he will not play against Oregon State.

 

In Love’s absence, Cameron Scarlett and Trevor Speights figure to share the workload. Scarlett, a junior, is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has six rushing touchdowns. Speights, a sophomore, has 62 rushing yards in limited action (10 carries in four games). The good news for both is that the Beavers are yielding 200 rushing yards per game. 

For Oregon State, Ryan Nall (above, right) is sixth in the Pac-12 in rushing at 85.5 yards per game, but he’s coming off of his best effort of the season. Nall, who did not play against USC because of an ankle injury, ran for 172 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries (7.2 ypc) in the 36-33 loss to Colorado. Not only were the yards and touchdowns season bests, but the 24 carries also were the most he’s had in a game, surpassing the 16 vs. Portland State back on Sept. 2. Nall is critical to the Beavers’ offense’s success and he should be able to find some running room against a Stanford defense that ranks 10th in the Pac-12 (195.4 rushing ypg allowed).

So even with no Love tonight, between the defenses’ inability to stop the run as well as get off of the field on third down (Stanford ranks 107th in the FBS, Oregon State 128th in opponent third-down conversions), don’t be surprised if both teams stay grounded Thursday night.

 

Final Analysis

 

On paper, this has all the makings of a mismatch, especially with Stanford boasting the nation’s top rusher in Bryce Love. However, Oregon State is at home and seems to be building some momentum under interim head coach Cory Hall. Besides, it’s not like this season hasn’t already had its share of seemingly improbable upsets.

However, the Cardinal know what’s at stake on Thursday night, as they still have a potential path to getting into the College Football Playoff. Even without Bryce Love playing, Stanford simply has too much talent for a fired-up Beavers team to overcome.

 

Prediction: Stanford 27, Oregon State 17

Teaser:
Stanford Cardinal vs. Oregon State Beavers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 20:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/start-em-sit-em-week-8-2017-amari-cooper-and-other-wr-te-start-sit-fantasy-advice
Body:

With six teams (yes, six!) on bye this week that makes figuring out which wide receivers and tight ends to start or sit for your fantasy team(s) even more difficult than usual. This is especially the case considering we are getting into crunch time to make the fantasy football playoffs.

 

So with Week 8 here and all these teams on a bye, who should you start? Amari Cooper right? Maybe not. What about Adam Thielen and Dez Bryant? Not so fast on either of them too.

 

So why shouldn’t you start those guys and who should you start instead? Keep reading to find out.

 

Good Calls for Week 7...

Start Jarvis Landry (15.3 fantasy points) – Even with Jay Cutler out for a few weeks, expect Landry to continue to get peppered with targets.

 

Sit. T.Y Hilton (2.7 FP) – Hilton owners are going to have to get use to games where he scores fewer than five fantasy points

 

Bad Calls for Week 7...

Start Jordy Nelson (1.3 FP) – In the past when Aaron Rodgers was injured, Nelson still produced, but it’s hard to produce when your QB only throws for 87 yards.

 

I said it might be worth the risk to start Eric Decker (0 FP) the week after he finally showed some life against the Colts. What was I thinking?

 

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

 

Wide Receivers

 

START THESE WRs...

 

Jarvis Landry, MIA (at BAL, Thurs.)

Matt Moore didn’t look great against the Jets, which explains why the coaching staff signed Jay Cutler in the first place, but if he goes, keep in mind that he threw five of his 13 completions to Jarvis Landry, who will be his safety valve. There’s a good chance Baltimore grinds the poor Dolphins into Florida orange juice, but don’t get cute and bench Landry. Especially if you’re in a PPR league.

 

Michael Crabtree, OAK (at BUF)

Against a solid Buffalo defense, Derek Carr will need his receivers to come down with some contested balls and not waste any open passes. That will direct him to Crabtree. Crabtree had a quiet game until his game-winning catch last week. This week, he is the primary receiver for Oakland and goes home with another touchdown and 90 yards.

 

Alshon Jeffery, PHI (vs. SF)

Jeffery was thought to be a low-end WR2 as he entered the season. The surrounding parts were present for him to become the focal point of a pass-heavy offense. Unfortunately, he has been a boom/bust WR3/flex option through seven weeks. This week he matches up against a 49ers team which ranks 25th in the league in passing defense and has allowed four receivers to eclipse the 100-yard mark, including Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods in Week 3.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (at SEA)

Hopkins is a worry against a Seattle defense allowing the fourth-fewest FPPG to WRs, but if there's a sliver of hope for Hopkins (besides his talent level and tremendous amount of targets), it's that two of the three touchdown passes caught by wide receivers against the Seahawks were by WR1s (Jordy Nelson, Rishard Matthews).

 

SIT THESE WRs...

 

T.Y. Hilton, IND (at CIN)

Hilton remains one of the biggest boom-or-bust players in fantasy, and this admittedly isn't a good matchup, as Cincinnati allows the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game to WRs. As with DeAndre Hopkins, Hilton's saving grace is the amount of targets (seven per game) and that Cincinnati has allowed the most points to WR1s (Jeremy Maclin, Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown). That's not a huge surprise given that they're the most talented players, but it still gives us some hope for Hilton, who's tough to bench during such a thinned-out week. But you may have to consider it.

 

Adam Thielen, MIN (vs. CLE, London)

Here’s a secret for you. The Cleveland Browns are a top-10 fantasy DST against wide receivers. Their overall defense is not bad in real life. Just ask Marcus Mariota and the Titans, who were held without a touchdown last week. If Stefon Diggs plays in Week 8, you can sit him instead. But Thielen sits either way. If you are a Vikings fan, relax. Quarterbacks just throw to their tight ends and backs against Cleveland. Kyle Rudolph and Jerick McKinnon will have big days this week. But not the wide receivers. Sit ‘em.

 

Dez Bryant, DAL (at WAS)

Washington gives up the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers. For the most part, the Redskins have achieved that level without Josh Norman in the lineup. Norman may or may not be back in time to face the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott will play, which could limit opportunities through the passing game too.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Amari Cooper, OAK (at BUF)

I’m not ready to declare Cooper as "back," but his huge Week 7 performance is certainly a good sign. Derek Carr hasn't been as good on the road, and Bills have been relatively decent against WRs (13th-fewest FPPG). They do give up a good amount of passing yards though (259 per game), but don’t be surprised if it’s Michael Crabtree that once again has the big game.

 

Tight Ends

 

START THESE TEs...

 

Kyle Rudolph, MIN (vs. CLE, London)

Cleveland is one of the two teams that have allowed a tight end to score a touchdown every game this season. The Browns’ defense covers wide receivers well, but tight ends can break free. Pencil Rudolph in for a big day regardless of who is quarterbacking the Vikings Sunday. He might even score twice for good measure.

 

Hunter Henry, LAC (at NE)

It took until Week 7 for the Patriots to hold TEs to less than six fantasy points in standard leagues.  The Chargers’ offense, which relies on their TEs in the red zone, will put the Patriots’ defense back on track on giving up major points to TEs. They’ve already given up the eighth most to the position on the year.

 

Jason Witten, DAL (at WAS)

Witten hasn't been getting the touches many fantasy owners would like, but he is coming off his best performance of the season where he hauled in 54 yards on four catches and a touchdown against San Francisco. Witten has 31 receptions on the season through seven games, but 12 of those catches have come in the last two weeks.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ (vs. ATL)

That’s three straight games with a TD for Seferian-Jenkins.  It'll be tough to produce a fourth against a Falcons defense that has given up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends so far, but his high volume of targets (24 in past three games) should offset a possible weak performance if he doesn't find the end zone.

 

SIT THESE TEs...

 

Austin Hooper, ATL (at NYJ)

The Hooper drum is being banged far too much for a guy who has trouble topping 50 yards on nine targets. After seeing him get a single target while the Falcons play from far behind against the Patriots, it’s time to move on.

 

Jack Doyle, IND (vs. CIN)

Considering how much the Bengals use their own tight end, their defense is downright inhospitable to opponents’ tight ends. They yield an average of 5.0 fantasy points per game to the position group. That doesn’t bode well for Doyle. Throw in a young quarterback operating behind a damaged offensive line and it could be a long day for the Colts’ offense in general.

 

George Kittle, SF (at PHI)

Philadelphia plays tight ends very well, yielding only 6.5 fantasy points per game to the position. It does not seem like a good bet that Kittle will bounce back from the tough game against Dallas last week even if his quarterback is an old college teammate.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Zach Ertz, PHI (vs. SF)

Yes, Ertz is a top-three fantasy tight end who has already scored 116.4 PPR fantasy points and hasn’t scored less than 13 PPR points all season, but the 49ers are among the best at defending tight ends. So far, they’ve allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends on the year and just gave up their first touchdown pass last week. Don’t be surprised to see Ertz struggle this week.

 

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

Teaser:
Start 'em, Sit 'em Week 8: Amari Cooper and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice
Post date: Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/start-em-sit-em-week-8-2017-joe-mixon-and-other-rb-start-sit-fantasy-advice
Body:

Last week Ezekiel Elliot showed us why fantasy football owners will miss him for the majority of the remaining fantasy schedule IF he is suspended. He showed his ability to run the football, catch the football and tip-toe down the sidelines.

 

And at least for one more game, those fantasy owners who gambled on Elliot in fantasy drafts will have him at their disposal. He’s a guaranteed start obviously. For the remaining questions marks, and there are many with six teams on bye, here are those running backs you should start and a few you might want to leave on your bench.

 

Good Calls for Week 7...

Start Mark Ingram (17 fantasy points) – Even though Ingram and Alvin Kamara are splitting touches, the fantasy value for each is through the roof right now.

 

I warned you about starting Ty Montgomery (1.5 FP) as his days of getting on the field for just about all of the offensive snaps appear to be over thanks to Aaron Jones.

 

Bad Calls for Week 7...

Start Carlos Hyde (8.8 FP) – With rookie C.J. Beathard at QB, the 49ers’ offense could only spin its wheels against the Cowboys.

 

Start Jerick McKinnon (5.7 FP) – It appears that Latavius Murray is still going to get carries and McKinnon’s PPR value drops when the Vikings are leading.

 

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

 

Running Backs

 

START THESE RBs...

 

Joe Mixon, CIN (vs. IND)

Mixon could be in line for a breakout performance for a couple of reasons. One: The Colts’ defense is bad, and Mixon could find some running room and get in the open field where he thrives. Two: The Colts’ offense won't score many points, meaning that the Bengals don't have to play from behind and air it out, allowing Mixon the opportunity to get more carries than usual, utilizing a ground-and-pound approach. He hasn't been able to eclipse the 62-yard mark all season, but things could change rapidly against a defense that is ranked 31st in yards allowed per game (425.4) and last in points (31.7).

 

Jay Ajayi, MIA (at BAL, Thurs.)

Believe it or not, Ajayi has yet to find the end zone, but he's rushed more than 100 yards twice. The Ravens are the only team that has already given up more than 1,000 yards on the ground, and even if Ajayi doesn’t get a touchdown, he should at least eclipse 100 yards again.

 

Alvin Kamara, NO (vs. CHI)

The Bears surprisingly have been pretty solid at stopping the run this season, but the Saints’ rushing attack without Adrian Peterson, with its complementary threats in the air, makes Kamara a solid start this week. Not to mention, they're even better at home.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Tevin Coleman, ATL (at NYJ)

The Jets have faced five teams who feature a secondary tailback heavily into their offense. Four of those five scored more than 10 fantasy points. Expect Coleman (above, right), who was averaging nearly 10 FPPG before the meltdown in New England, to do the same.

 

SIT THESE RBs...

 

Frank Gore, IND (at CIN)

Marlon Mack finally out-snapped Gore against Jacksonville. Maybe that was due to the game being out of hand, but where do these Colts go from here? They might as well see what they have in the young Mack. Gore is a legend and a Hall of Famer, but he doesn’t do much for the team at this point.

 

Isaiah Crowell, CLE (vs. MIN, London)

Crowell continues to see the majority of carries, tying a season-high 17 last week. Still, he mustered up only 35 yards. Crowell has zero rushing TDs so far, and the Vikings have only given up one rushing TD all year. Crowell is a flex play at best.

 

Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy (vs. HOU)

Desperate fantasy owners in need of a flex starter this week could decide to roll the dice on Rawls or Lacy, but neither is a worthwhile option. These two backs have split touches right down the middle over the last two weeks, and neither has produced in the stat sheets. The Texans have been tough on opposing running backs, giving up the third-fewest fantasy points to the position so far.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Doug Martin, TB (vs. CAR)

Doug Martin has been solid through his first three games this season, putting up 14, 14, and 8 points in standard leagues. However, Martin has yet to eclipse 85 total yards on the year and as expected, has only totaled four receptions. Martin draws a tough matchup this week against a Panthers team that has only given up one double-digit-point game to an RB this season. While it’s tough to bench Martin on a week with six teams on bye, I would definitely lower expectations.

 

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

 

(Top photo courtesy of www.bengals.com)

Teaser:
Start 'em, Sit 'em Week 8: Joe Mixon and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice
Post date: Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/start-em-sit-em-week-8-2017-carson-wentz-and-other-qb-dst-start-sit-fantasy-advice
Body:

It was feast or famine for fantasy quarterbacks in week 7. Big names like Russell Wilson, Derek Car and Dak Prescott produced major fantasy numbers, while Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota were really bad.

 

We have one injury with Carson Palmer, but even though he is leading the league in pass attempts (for now), he wasn’t offering his fantasy owners that much production. But for those who did have Palmer on their team, don’t expect Drew Stanton to replace him, even with six teams on bye this week. Look elsewhere.

 

And with six teams on bye this week, the QB and defense/special teams (DST) pools are a little more diluted than usual. So which ones should you trust this week?

 

Good Calls for Week 7...

Start Russell Wilson (26.36 fantasy points) – Wilson is the entire Seahawks offense at this point.

 

I warned you about starting Cam Newton (7.44 FP). Even though he has had a few good games, he just doesn’t have it this year.

 

Bad Calls for Week 7...

Start Marcus Mariota (8.92 FP) – How Mariota couldn’t get anything going against a terrible Browns defense is mind boggling.

 

Sit Jameis Winston (23.36 FP) – Winston went into Buffalo, bum shoulder and all and threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns.​​

 

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

 

Quarterbacks

 

START THESE QBS...

 

Carson Wentz, PHI (vs. SF)

The 49ers are being scored on at will, and Wentz is coming into his own with a high-octane offense that can score from just about anywhere. We saw a precursor of this game as Dallas and Dak Prescott destroyed the 49ers 40-10, and then Wentz marched up and down the field against Washington on Monday night, throwing four touchdowns in the process. He should score more points for you at home in a cushy matchup. Bask in his glory.

 

Philip Rivers, SD (at NE)

The Patriots were handing out points to opposing offenses like never before, then Bill Belichick got desperate and called in the fog machines during the Super Bowl rematch against the Falcons Sunday night, and things got better. Conspiracies aside, you should be picking on the Patriots whenever you can, and Rivers should be a top-eight play this week with some nice upside. If he can look sharp and spread the ball around against Denver, he’s going to eat at a buffet of points against New England.

 

Andy Dalton, CIN (vs. IND)

Things are getting desperate with the bye weeks and injuries, so now we have to consider Dalton, who, like usual, has been up and down all season. He should take advantage of a Colts defense that behind only the Patriots in passing yards allowed, and the Colts just lost their first-round pick, safety Malik Hooker for the season. Besides, A.J. Green might get a second squeaky wheel game, which means good things for Dalton.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Josh McCown, NYJ (vs. ATL)

Every NFL season is weird in its own way, and this year, we have McCown, who could be the savior for some QB-need owners, especially those in deeper leagues. Over the last four weeks, McCown has been a top-10 fantasy QB. A lot of that is thanks to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but wide receivers Jeremy Kerley and Jermaine Kearse have been solid as well. McCown should be a top-12 option against the weak Falcons D at home.

 

SIT THESE QBs...

 

Deshaun Watson, HOU (at SEA)

It’s going to be painful, benching the studly Watson, but if you have him, and you aren’t an unlucky Rodgers/Palmer or any other underwhelming QB owner, you may want to look to your backup. Watson will play in Seattle against a top-four passing defense. Unless you simply have no other option, this might be a good week to give the rookie a break.

 

Matthew Stafford, DET (vs. PIT)

The Steelers’ offense has been wonky, but their defense has been consistent all year. They currently are giving up 172.2 passing yards per gamer, and they’re getting to the quarterback often with the second-highest sack total in the league. Stafford’s been sacked 17 times in the last three games alone.

 

Derek Carr, OAK (at BUF)

His still-healing back didn’t seem to hinder him against the Chiefs last Thursday as he threw 52 times for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns (and even had a questionable QB keeper called), but quarterbacks playing in Buffalo have had a tough time if their name isn’t Jameis Winston. Bye weeks are awful, but consider Andy Dalton or Philip Rivers if you have them. You probably already have a solid backup QB after Carr got hurt. Put him to use.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Matt Ryan, ATL (vs. NYJ)

Ryan was the first QB unable to record at least 300 passing yards against the Patriots all year, and the former MVP has posted only two fantasy weeks inside the top 15 (9th in Week 1, 15th last week). With all the bye weeks, Ryan might finish in the top 15 this week, but look for the Falcons to rely heavily on Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman this week.

 

Defense/Special Teams

 

START THESE DSTs...

 

Minnesota Vikings (vs. CLE, London)

This is kind of an easy one, but until the Browns get their act together, you can do your best to stream DSTs against them all season. The Vikings are strong against the run and feature one of the league’s’ best shutdown corners and they get to face a team that has been struggling all season (all decade really) and is now without their best offensive lineman.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (vs. DEN, Mon.)

Yes, the Chiefs’ defense was terrible last week, scoring minus-one fantasy points, but keep this DST active this week against Denver. Believe it or not, the last two DSTs to face the Broncos combined to score a ridiculous 47 fantasy points. Trevor Siemian has four giveaways in that time, too.

 

SIT THESE DSTs...

 

Los Angeles Chargers (at NE)

The upside with points for sacks is strong here with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram wreaking havoc all year, but facing a Patriots team that seems to finally be clicking and looking like the Patriots most people have grown to hate, you can look elsewhere this week as the potential for a blowout looms large.

 

Carolina Panthers (at TB)

The Panthers’ D was good last week, finishing with 11 fantasy points in a loss to the Bears. But, you should bench them this week in a difficult matchup against the Buccaneers. Just one DST has had more than seven fantasy points against Tampa Bay, and three have finished with four or fewer.

 

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

Teaser:
Start 'em, Sit 'em Week 8: Carson Wentz and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice
Post date: Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFL
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-vs-new-orleans-saints-preview-and-prediction-2017
Body:

Believe it or not, but Sunday’s matchup between Chicago and New Orleans features two of the hotter teams in the NFL right now. The Bears (3-4) have won two in a row after last week’s 17-3 victory over Carolina at home in which the defense suffocated the Panthers, holding them to just a field goal.

 

Eddie Jackson did all the scoring, as the rookie safety produced touchdowns on a 75-yard fumble return and 76-yard interception return. Otherwise, Chicago’s offense managed a total of 153 yards, five first downs and just one field goal in nine drives.

 

Meantime, the Saints (4-2) ran their winning streak to four in a row, beating Green Bay 26-17 in the Packers’ first game without Aaron Rodgers. New Orleans visit to Lambeau Field started poorly, with interceptions on their first two trips into Green Bay territory, and the Saints trailed 14-7 at halftime. But the second half was a different story, as Drew Brees and the offense scored on four straight possessions and then picked off Packers quarterback Brett Hundley to seal the deal.

 

Chicago holds a slim 15-14 in head-to-head meetings with New Orleans but the Saints have won the past three matchups.

 

Chicago at New Orleans

 

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Bears +9

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Can the Bears’ ground attack contribute enough to keep the pressure off Mitchell Trubisky?

Success in running the ball is the key to winning the game for the Bears. In their three victories, they have averaged 4.4 yards per carry and 173.7 rushing yards per game. In defeat, they have averaged 3.9 yards per carry and only 90.8 yards per game. It is no coincidence that the only two 100-yard rushing games for the Bears this season, both by Jordan Howard, came in wins.

 

Trubisky, a rookie, will start his fourth NFL game in the Big Easy. Frankly, John Fox and his staff want Trubisky to avoid losing games much more than they want him to try to win them himself. That specifically means grinding out yardage on the ground and avoiding turnovers.

 

That philosophy explains the Bears’ play-calling when Trubisky has been under center. Against Carolina, Trubisky threw only seven passes during the entire game, completing four of them. The previous week, in a win at Baltimore, he had just 16 pass attempts, half of which were successful. In his first appearance of the regular season in Week 5, he had his highest totals of his brief career in pass attempts (25), completions (12) and yards (128). Those came in a Bears loss.

 

2. Will the the Saints continue to maintain balance on offense?

For the Saints to win, they need to have considerable success running the ball to achieve balance in their attack. In the first two games of the season, both losses, they ran the ball just nineteen times per game for 70.5 yards on average with no touchdowns. During the four-game winning streak, they have run the ball 32 times for 147.3 yards per game on average, scoring five rushing touchdowns.

 

A huge number of passing attempts and yards do not bode well for New Orleans. In their losses, Drew Brees averaged 41 passing attempts for 316 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. In the following four games, his average passing attempts and yards dropped to 34.5 and 246, respectively, but his average number of touchdowns rose to exactly two per game.

 

Chicago is capable of keeping the Saints’ running game under wraps. Only one opponent has piled up more than 150 rushing yards in seven games against the Bears. They have held three teams under 100 rushing yards.

 

3. Can the Bears make this a low-scoring affair?

Chicago’s offense cannot hope to win a shootout in New Orleans. The target number for the Monsters of the Midway is 19. When the defense has held opponents under 20 points, they have won all three times. They are 0-4 when the other team's offenses has scored at least 20 points.

 

The Bears need to play keep-away with the ball. Ideally, they want to score on their first possession, keep the Saints' offense out of the end zone for the game and dominate time of possession. The longer they can remain ahead, even if by single digits, they can pressure Sean Payton into his habit of junking the running game when trailing. The Saints have struggled when their offense becomes one-dimensional.

 

Final Analysis

 

There's no doubt that the Bears’ defense single-handedly won the game against Carolina. It is unlikely that their defense can replicate last week’s two touchdowns. It is impossible to believe they can limit Drew Brees and company to just a field goal as the Bears did to Carolina.

 

Although the Bears currently reside in the basement of the NFC North, their season is far from finished. They are only two games out of first place. They need to extend their two-game winning streak by picking up another conference win. With a victory, they would remain within striking distance as two divisional games follow the trip to New Orleans.

 

With four straight wins and everyone else in the NFC losing during the past two weeks, the Saints slipped into the lead in the NFC South. Besides staying ahead of its divisional rivals, New Orleans has an eye on the rest of the NFC. The Saints trail the Eagles by one game and the Vikings and Rams by a half game in the race for the top seed in the playoffs. They need a win to keep pace.

 

Prediction: Saints 27, Bears 13

 

— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur and read his viewpoints at gridironconnoisseur.wordpress.com and at gridiron-connoisseur.blogspot.com.

Teaser:
Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 12:40
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-10-best-position-battles-watch-week-9-2017
Body:

It’s another loaded weekend of great games and one that is shaping up to have a huge impact on the College Football Playoff race. As great as some of these college football matchups are this week though, they might not hold a candle to the games within a game — between players on either side of the ball.

 

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

 

1. Notre Dame OLs Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson vs. NC State DLs Bradley Chubb and B.J. Hill

McGlinchey and Nelson form an absolute wall on the left side of the Irish’s line and each should garner some All-American honors at the end of the year. The duo will once again have their hands full on Saturday though, as Chubb (above, right) is the top pass rusher in the country right now and Hill is a load to move in the interior. Whoever comes out on top in this one will no doubt see their draft stock take off in the spring.

 

2. Ohio State DL Tyquan Lewis, Dre’Mont Jones and Tracy Sprinkle, LBs Chris Worley and Jerome Baker vs. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

If anybody in the Big Ten stands a chance of stopping — or more accurately slowing down — the Heisman front-runner, it’s Ohio State’s front seven. The Buckeyes have to get push into the backfield as soon as Barkley gets a handoff and the linebackers simply can’t miss a gap or just try and arm tackle the tailback or else it could be a big gain the other way.

 

3. Washington DBs JoJo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp vs. UCLA QB Josh Rosen and WRs Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley

The Bruins have had their struggles this year but it’s pretty clear that no matter what happens, they have a chance in games thanks to their prolific passing attack powered by Rosen’s arm. This week might not be the one to pile up the yards through the air however, as Washington’s safety tandem is one of the best in the country and will be looking to make even more plays with a thin group at corner for the Huskies.

 

4. Penn State DB Marcus Allen vs. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett

Barrett (right) should hold nearly every Big Ten offensive record by the time he’s done in Columbus and he’s hoping that the improving passing game for OSU will pay off big time on Saturday. Looking to put a halt to that is Allen, one of the most versatile defenders in the conference and somebody who has the skills to stop Barrett through the air and on the ground.

 

5. Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins and OL Billy Price vs. Penn State DL Curtis Cothran and LB Jason Cabinda

Everybody talks about the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack but the Buckeyes have a home-run hitter of their own in the backfield with Dobbins. The freshman is not only fast, but he’s wise beyond his years when it comes to being patient and finding the right running lane. Looking to bottle him up is the spine of the PSU defense and the tackling machine that is Cabinda in particular.

 

6. Texas A&M DB Armani Watts vs. Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald

Watts has been terrific for the Aggies’ defense and a big reason why the team has turned their season around by feeding off his big plays (four INTs). He’ll have a tough task on Saturday though as Fitzgerald can beat you over the top with his arm but also is a dangerous threat to run the ball that the hard-hitting safety will need to be aware of.

 

7. USC LBs Cam Smith and Uchenna Nwosu vs. Arizona State RBs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard

The Trojans got run out of the building against Notre Dame last week and could see their Pac-12 title hopes slip out of their hands if they don’t bounce back against a suddenly dangerous ASU team. Key to that will be stopping the terrific tandem of Ballage and Richard, who find a dozen different ways to get the ball and can take it to the house if they see even a sliver of open space.

 

8. Clemson LBs Dorian O’Daniel, Tre’ Lamar and Kendall Joseph vs. Georgia Tech QB TaQuon Marshall, RBs Qua Searcy and KirVonte Benson

Georgia Tech’s option attack heads to Clemson for a huge game in the ACC standings and we’re about to find out just how stingy that Tigers rush defense really is. Marshall has been a touchdown machine and his fellow backs are liable to rip off a big run at any time. The Clemson linebacking corps is as athletic as they come and can range sideline-to-sideline, but they’ll need to play extra disciplined if they want to shut the option down.

 

9. Washington State DL Hercules Mata’afa, LBs Frankie Luvu and Isaac Dotson vs. Arizona QB Khalil Tate, RBs Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor

Tate has been a revelation at the quarterback position for the Wildcats this season and is absolutely electric running the ball (his fellow backfield mates aren’t too shabby either). Things are a little different this week as the Cougars are one of the best defenses that trio has seen and Mata’afa in particular has been so disruptive he’s a near lock for All-Pac-12 honors. No matter what scheme Wazzu DC Alex Grinch comes up with, it will be up to his front seven to come through and wrap up whoever has the ball or else they could be looking at a long touchdown in the making.

 

10. Florida RB Lamical Perine and Malik Davis, OL Martez Ivey vs. Georgia LBs Lorenzo Carter, Roquan Smith, Davin Bellamy and Natrez Patrick

The Bulldogs have clamped down on just about everybody defensively thanks to their linebacking corps that is as good as any in college football. If Florida holds out any hope of pulling off a shocker in Jacksonville to upend the SEC East race, they’ll need the ground game to come through and hope that highly touted offensive line can open up some running lanes.

 

Best of the rest:

 

ACC

*Georgia Tech OL Parker Braun, Will Bryan and Shamire Devine vs. Clemson DL Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant

*Notre Dame LB Nyles Morgan and DB Nick Coleman vs. NC State HB Jaylen Samuels and RB Nyheim Hines

*Florida State DL Derrick Nnadi, LB Ro”Derrick Hoskins and DB Derwin James vs. Boston College QB Anthony Brown and RBs A.J. Dillon and Jon Hilliman

*North Carolina DBs M.J. Stewart, Myles Dorn and Donnie Miles vs. Miami WRs Braxton Berrios and Ahmmon Richards and TE Chris Herndon

*Louisville DB Chucky Williams vs. Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch and TE Cam Serigne

*Florida State QB James Blackman and RB Cam Akers vs. Boston College DL Harold Landry and LB Ty Schwab

*Virginia Tech DL Tim Settle, LBs Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds vs. Duke OL Austin Davis, QB Daniel Jones and RB Shaun Wilson

*Miami DL Chad Thomas vs. North Carolina OL Bentley Spain

*Wake Forest DL Duke Ejiofor, LB Jaboree Williams and DB Jessie Bates vs. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson

*Virginia DB Quin Blanding vs. Pitt WRs Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson

*Virginia QB Kurt Benkert and WR Donovan Dowling vs. Pitt DBs Jordan Whitehead and Avonte Maddox

 

Big Ten

*Penn State QB Trace McSorley and WR DaeSean Hamilton vs. Ohio State DBs Damon Webb and Denzel Ward

*Iowa LB Josey Jewell vs. Minnesota RB Rodney Smith

*Illinois WR Malik Turner vs. Wisconsin DBs Derrick Tindal and D’Cota Dixon

*Indiana DB Rashard Fant vs. Maryland WR D.J. Moore

*Michigan State LBs Chris Frey and Joe Bachie vs. Northwestern RB Justin Jackson and HB Garrett Dickerson

*Rutgers DL Kemoko Turay and Sebastian Joseph vs. Michigan OL Mason Cole and Patrick Kugler

*Michigan State OL Brian Allen vs. Northwestern DL Tyler Lancaster

*Michigan LB Mike McCray, DBs Tyree Kinnel and Lavert Hill vs. Rutgers WR Janarion Grant

*Nebraska DBs Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones vs. Purdue QBs David Blough and Elijah Sindelar

 

Big 12

*Oklahoma State DBs Tre Flowers, A.J. Green and Ramon Richards vs. West Virginia WRs David Sills, Gary Jennings and Ka’Raun White

*West Virginia DBs Kyzir White, Dravon Askew-Henry and Mike Daniels vs. Oklahoma State WRs James Washington, Jalen McCleskey and Marcell Ateman

*TCU DBs Ranthony Texada and Niko Small vs. Iowa State QB Kyle Kempt and WR Allen Lazard

*Oklahoma DBs Steven Parker, Jordan Thomas and William Johnson vs. Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek, WRs Dylan Cantrell and Cameron Batson

*Iowa State LB Joel Lanning vs. TCU RB Kyle Hicks

*Texas Tech DBs Ja’Shawn Johnson and Octavious Morgan vs. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and WR CeeDee Lamb

*West Virginia LB Al-Rasheed Benton vs. Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill

*Oklahoma State LB Chad Whitener vs. West Virginia RB Justin Crawford

*TCU LBs Montre Wilson and Travin Howard vs. Iowa State RB David Montgomery

*Baylor RB Terence Williams vs. Texas LB Malik Jefferson

*Texas RB Chris Warren vs. Baylor LB Taylor Young

 

Pac-12

*Oregon RB Royce Freeman vs. Utah DL Lowell Lotulelei and LB Sunia Tauteoli

*Arizona State LBs Christian Sam and D.J. Calhoun vs. USC RB Ronald Jones

*Stanford DL Harrison Phillips, LBs Peter Kalambayi and Bobby Okereke vs. Oregon State RBs Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce

*USC OL Nico Falah and Viane Talamaivao vs. Arizona State DL JoJo Wicker and Tashon Smallwood

*Utah WR Darren Carrington vs. Oregon DBs Arrion Springs and Thomas Graham Jr.

*USC DBs Chris Hawkins and Marvell Tell vs. Arizona State QB Manny Wilkins and WR N’Keal Harry

*Arizona LB Kylan Wilborn, DBs Jace Whittaker and Scott Young vs. Washington State RB Jamal Morrow and WR Tavares Martin Jr.

*Colorado LBs Derek McCartney and Rick Gamboa vs. Cal RB Vic Enwere

*Oregon State WRs Jordan Villamin and Timmy Hernandez vs. Stanford DBs Alijah Holder and Quenton Meeks

*UCLA OL Scott Quessenberry vs. Washington DL Greg Gaines

*Oregon WR Charles Nelson vs. Utah DB Chase Hansen

*Cal DL James Looney vs. Colorado OL Jeromy Irwin

*Oregon State LB Manase Hungalu vs. Stanford RB Bryce Love

*Washington QB Jake Browning and WR Dante Pettis vs. UCLA DBs Nate Meadors and Adarius Pickett

 

SEC

*Florida DL Taven Bryan, LBs David Reese and Vosean Joseph vs. Georgia RBs Nick Chubb and Sony MIchel

*Mississippi State DL Jeffery Simmons, LBs Leo Lewis and Dezmond Harris vs. Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond, RBs Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams

*South Carolina LB Skai Moore vs. Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb

*Texas A&M DL Qualen Cunningham and LB Otara Alaka vs. Mississippi State OL Martinas Rankin and RB Aeris Williams

*Arkansas DB Josh Liddell vs. Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown

*Ole Miss OL Greg Little vs. Arkansas DL McTelvin Agim

*South Carolina OL Alan Knott and Donell Stanley vs. Vanderbilt DL Nifae Lealao

*Ole Miss LB DeMarquis Gates vs. Arkansas RB Devwah Whaley

*Kentucky DB Mike Edwards vs. Tennessee TE Ethan Wolf

*Mississippi State DBs Brandon Bryant and Tolando Cleveland vs. Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk

 

Group of 5

*Boise State QB Brett Rypien and WR Cedrick Wilson vs. Utah State DBs Jalen Davis and Dallin Leavitt

*Hawaii DB Trayvon Henderson vs. San Diego State TE David Wells

*Tulane DBs Parry Nickerson and Jarrod Franklin vs. Memphis WRs Anthony Miller and Phil Mayhue

*USF OL Cameron Ruff vs. Houston DL Ed Oliver

*Hawaii DL Meffy Koloamatangi and David Manoa, LB Jahlani Tavai vs. San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny

*Memphis LB Genard Avery vs. Tulane RB Dontrell Hilliard

*Tulsa OL Evan Plagg vs. SMU DL Justin Lawler

*Ball State DB Marc Walton and DL Anthony Winbush vs. Toledo QB Logan Woodside

*Houston LBs Matthew Adams, D’Juan Hines and Khalil Williams vs. USF QB Quinton Flowers and RB D’Ernest Johnson

*San Diego State LBs Ronley Lakalaka and Jay Henderson vs. Hawaii FB Diocemy Saint Juste

*New Mexico DL Garrett Hughes vs. Wyoming QB Josh Allen

*Tulsa DB McKinley Whitfield vs. SMU WR Courtland Sutton

*Colorado State DL Darnell Thompson, LBs Josh Watson and Evan Colorito vs. Air Force QB Arion Worthman, RBs Timothy McVey and Parker Wilson

*Wyoming LBs Logan Wilson and DL Carl Granderson vs. New Mexico RBs Tyrone Owens and Richard McQuarley

*Eastern Michigan QB Brogan Roback vs. Northern Illinois DB Shawun Lurry

 

— 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:
College Football's 10 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 9
Post date: Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/minnesota-golden-gophers-vs-iowa-hawkeyes-preview-and-prediction-2017
Body:

The Minnesota Golden Gophers and Iowa Hawkeyes will hook up in Iowa City on Saturday in a game that could have serious bowl implications. The loser of this contest would need to do no worse than split the remaining Big Ten games on the schedule in order to qualify for a postseason bowl trip. Given how the two teams have performed as of late — combined with the teams still left on their schedules — that could be a tall order for both squads.

 

Minnesota at Iowa

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: Iowa -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Iowa offensive line

The Hawkeyes continue to rotate guys on the line due to injury. The various combinations and lack of continuity have taken their toll on this unit — normally one of the best in the country. The tackle positions have been hit the hardest, and that could have a detrimental impact on any runs that go off tackle, which is an area where Hawkeye running back Akrum Wadley likes to attack and subsequently creates explosive plays. The Iowa offense has had plenty of issues moving the ball as of late. The last thing they need is to lose the battle in the trenches against the Gophers.

 

2. Minnesota passing game

Gophers quarterback Demry Croft (above, right) completed just five of his 15 attempts in Minnesota's win over Illinois last weekend. The Gophers leaned on a sound running game to sneak away with a win over the Illini, but they might not have that luxury against an Iowa front seven that is night-and-day better than Illinois' front. Minnesota must have success through the air early on to loosen up that Hawkeyes front and give its talented running backs space to operate. Gophers receiver Tyler Johnson has the ability to get open consistently against an average Iowa secondary. Look for Minnesota to attempt to feed him the ball early.

 

3. Josey Jewell's health

Iowa's top linebacker did not play against Northwestern last weekend due to a shoulder injury. Though the Wildcats scored only 17 points, the Hawkeyes still missed their best player. Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson worked the middle of the field in the passing game — often putting the ball in areas where Jewell would have been operating. One of those passes was a 23-yarder to running back Justin Jackson to set up what ended up being the game-winning score in overtime. Jewell is a rare playmaker at linebacker against both the run and pass. Iowa's defense is still solid without him, but his presence takes the unit to another level. If he's anywhere near 100 percent, that's bad news for the Minnesota offense.

 

Final Analysis

 

Even with the injuries Iowa is dealing with, the Hawkeyes are the more talented team to a man in this game. That said, this is a game where Kirk Ferentz's conservative nature could bite his team. Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck is an innovator, so you can expect a trick play or two to keep Iowa on its heels and possibly keep Minnesota hanging around in this game longer than it probably should. As a result, look for the Hawkeyes to force the ball dowfield on more vertical routes to tight end Noah Fant. Aside from the occasions when running back Akrum Wadley lines up in the slot, Fant is Iowa's most dangerous big-play threat as a receiver. The attention he'll require on those vertical routes will eventually make Minnesota more vulnerable on defense and set up the intermediate passing attack for the Hawkeyes. As usual, a big play from Wadley in the running game will likely be the difference, but look for Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley to have one of his best games of the season statistically in this one.

 

Prediction: Iowa 24, Minnesota 20

 

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

Teaser:
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 12:20
Path: /college-football/missouri-tigers-vs-connecticut-huskies-preview-and-prediction-2017
Body:

Missouri (2-5, 0-4 SEC) snapped a five-game slide with its 68-21 win against Idaho last week. The win was the Tigers' first since their season opener on Sept. 2. While there hasn't been much reason for optimism for Missouri this year, fans were treated to a 658-yard performance by the Tigers' offense on Homecoming. It's been a rough go of things in Columbia this season, and it doesn't look to get any easier as four SEC opponents await the Tigers after this week's contest against Connecticut.

 

The Huskies welcome the Tigers to East Hartford for their second-ever matchup against the SEC opponent. UConn is riding a two-game win streak after last week's 20-14 home victory over Tulsa. Like Missouri, UConn (3-4, 2-3 AAC) also found itself on a multi-game slide following a season-opening win, dropping its next four games before stabilizing against Temple on Oct. 14. A win against Missouri would put the Huskies two wins away from bowl eligibility, but back-to-back games against South Florida and UCF (both undefeated) follow Saturday's contest, making this game a must-win if UConn has any hopes of playing in the postseason.

 

Missouri defeated UConn 9-6 when the teams met in 2015 in their first and only meeting.

 

Missouri at UConn

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Missouri -13

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Missouri's passing attack

The Tigers' 2-5 overall record certainly doesn't suggest it, but quarterback Drew Lock (above, right) has quietly led Missouri's passing offense to No. 2 in the SEC. Lock has thrown for 2,190 yards, and his 23 touchdown passes lead all conference passers. Lock's 23 scoring tosses this season tie the career high he set last year, and his 16.85 yards per completion number ranks tops in FBS.

 

The junior went 23-for-33 for 467 yards and six touchdowns against one interception last week against Idaho, and he posted 521 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception in Missouri's season-opening win against Missouri State.

 

UConn's pass defense is the worst in the nation, giving up 373.4 yards per game, and Lock should feast against the porous unit.

 

2. UConn's pass rush

UConn's defense is coming off a six-sack performance against Tulsa, part of a defensive effort that limited Tulsa to two touchdowns. The Huskies defense also put together a three-sack performance against SMU in September.

 

Fans of strong line play are in for a treat, as Missouri ranks tied for No. 11 in FBS in sacks allowed. The Tigers' offensive line has allowed just six sacks totaling 42 yards through seven games this year. UConn checks in at No. 53 in FBS with its 16 sacks on the season.

 

3. Missouri wide receiver Emanuel Hall

When it comes to yards per catch, no receiver in the nation ranks higher than Hall. Heading into Saturday, he's averaging a nation-leading 28.38 yards per reception. Hall played in eight games for the Tigers last year and ended the season with 307 yards and two touchdowns on 19 receptions. In 2017, he already has accumulated 454 yards and four touchdowns.

 

Hall torched Georgia for 141 yards and two touchdowns on Oct. 14, and he had four catches for 129 yards and a touchdown a week earlier against Kentucky. He's a sure-handed receiver who has found great chemistry with Lock, and he should tally his third 100-yard receiving performance Saturday.

 

Final Analysis

 

As stated earlier, optimism and morale have been low this season for the Missouri faithful. The Tigers have yet to win an SEC game this year, and wins against the likes of Idaho don't make up for the team's lackluster performances for much of the season. That said, wins equal steps toward bowl eligibility, and Missouri could get closer to a spot in the postseason with a road win against UConn.

 

UConn's win over Tulsa last week injected life into a faltering season and also gave the Huskies their first conference win. While a loss against Missouri won't hurt the Huskies' standing in the American Athletic Conference, it could ensure that they won't sniff a .500 season with USF and UCF lurking around the corner.

 

Yes, Missouri is a shell of its former self, but even in its watered-down state, it should be able to handle UConn. The Tigers should win this one without much difficulty.

 

Prediction: Missouri 41, UConn 20

 

— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Teaser:
Missouri Tigers vs. Connecticut Huskies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 12:10
Path: /college-football/utah-utes-vs-oregon-ducks-preview-and-prediction-2017
Body:

Both Utah and Oregon are in search of an offensive identity. A lack of offensive firepower has contributed to a three-game slide for both teams ahead of their matchup at Autzen Stadium this week.

 

The Utes (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) were dominated on both sides of the ball in a 30-10 loss to Arizona State last week. Utah totaled just 265 yards and coughed up four turnovers to the Sun Devils. Tyler Huntley played for the first time in three games, but looked rusty after having limited reps in practice leading up to the game.

 

“Right now we are still searching for who we are,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “That is concerning when we are seven games in. I am asking the same question. We have to find out what we do best and hitch our wagon to that and go in that direction."

 

It's a similar story for the Ducks. Oregon (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) hasn't been the same since Justin Herbert fractured his collarbone. The Ducks have totaled 31 points in their last three games combined. They have averaged 302 total yards in that stretch after totaling more than 400 yards in each of their first five contests.

 

Oregon holds a 21-9 lead in the all-time series with Utah. The Ducks fell to the Utes 62-20 in Eugene in 2015 before upsetting Utah 30-28 in Salt Lake City a year ago.

 

Utah at Oregon

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 5:45 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: Utah –3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Can Utah tighten up its rush defense?

Stopping the run has been Utah's bread and butter on defense for many seasons. In the last four games, run defense has transformed from a strength to a weakness for the Utes.

 

Utah has given up 775 total rushing yards on an average of 5.1 yards per carry in Pac-12 play. This is a surprising development after the Utes led the league in rush defense through their first three games of the season. It could be problematic going against an Oregon team that's averaging 220.4 yards on the ground against Pac-12 opponents.

 

Injuries along the defensive line are partially to blame for some of it. Defensive ends Bradlee Anae and Kylie Fitts have both been banged up with injuries. Fitts, in particular, has missed one game and seen limited action in four others. Even with their injury troubles, Fitts and Anae are tied for the team lead in sacks (2.0). Anae also leads the Utes with two fumbles recovered and is second in tackles for a loss (3.0).

 

2. Will Oregon solve second-half woes?

Coming out flat after halftime has become a recurring nightmare for Oregon's offense. It has cost the Ducks big time during their current three-game slide.

 

Oregon been outscored 58-0 during the third and fourth quarter over the team's last three games. The Ducks have generated just 56 total second-half points through eight games and 35 of those points came against FCS opponent Southern Utah in the season opener.

 

Last week's loss to UCLA encapsulated just how futile things have become for Oregon after halftime.

 

The Ducks had their final third quarter drive end with Colin Samuel intercepting a pass from Braxton Burmeister at the UCLA 4-yard line. One fourth quarter ended in a missed 32-yard field goal attempt from Aidan Schneider while another resulted in a turnover on downs after Burmeister fumbled on 4th-and-1 and recovered the ball for a four-yard loss.

 

3. Quarterback health

Both Utah and Oregon have rowed the same boat when it comes to dealing with keeping quarterbacks healthy. The Utes just had Tyler Huntley return last week after a two-game absence. Meanwhile, Justin Herbert, began participating in some drills in practice for the Ducks this week. It's been tough sledding for both teams without their stars.

 

With Huntley on the sidelines, Utah suffered close losses to Stanford and USC and struggled to move the ball at critical junctures in both games. The sophomore's return didn't revive the sleepwalking offense. Huntley tossed four interceptions and totaled just 155 passing yards against Arizona State.

 

Burmeister has filled in for Herbert since he suffered a fractured collarbone against California. It's been a rough stretch for the freshman. In his three starts, Burmeister has totaled just 242 passing yards while throwing five interceptions and has completed only 52 percent of his passes.

 

Final Analysis

 

Both Utah and Oregon are in a desperate situation with each program trying to dig its way out of a three-game losing streak. The Ducks have had a lifeless offense without Herbert. The Utes have struggled on defense more than normal and reverted to mediocre offense since Huntley got injured. Still, Huntley is closer to full strength. If Utah can hold Oregon's backfield in check, it should be enough to walk out of Eugene as a winner for the second time in three seasons.

 

Prediction: Utah 27, Oregon 20

 

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

Teaser:
Utah Utes vs. Oregon Ducks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 12:00

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