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Josh McCown: Start 'em, Sit 'em Week 13The fantasy football playoffs are almost here, and for some of you, this week is the difference between paying attention to the next few weeks or sitting out the remainder of the NFL season.

 

And no, playing in the consolation bracket of your fantasy football league doesn’t count.

 

If you have been streaming quarterbacks all year, the choice you make this week could make or break your season or solidify your place in the standings. Luckily, there are some excellent options in Week 13.

 

Good Calls for Week 12...

Start Ben Roethlisberger (30.54 fantasy points) – Yes, Big Ben was at home, but ever since he said “maybe he doesn’t have it anymore,” he’s been one of the best fantasy QBs going.

 

Sit Dak Prescott (3.16 FP) – Prescott has been a major letdown since Ezekiel Elliot started serving his suspension and he isn’t worth starting until he proves he can do it

 

Bad Calls for Week 12...

Sit Josh McCown (25.08 FP) – McCown and the Jets aren’t going down without a fight as he threw for 307 yards and three TDs against the Panthers last week.

 

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

 

Quarterbacks

 

START THESE QBs...

 

Marcus Mariota, TEN (vs. HOU)

One of these days, Mariota will finally break out in a good matchup. He failed last week, but he gets the best matchup possible this week. The Texans allow the most fantasy points to QBs (21 per game), and before Joe Flacco's zero-TD game Monday night, they had given up 12 TD passes in four games.

 

Josh McCown, NYJ (at KC)

The Chiefs return to New Jersey two weeks after their stunning loss off a bye week to the New York Giants. This week, McCown and his teammates get a shot at the reeling Chiefs. McCown is coming off a 300-yard, three-touchdown game against the Panthers. Both Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson went for more than 100 receiving yards. There were concerns McCown could be running out of gas as he entered new territory as far as the number of passes thrown, but he came out of the bye week sharp. There is no reason to think he won’t continue his solid play against the generous pass defense of Kansas City.

 

Trevor Siemian, DEN (at MIA)

Miami is ranked 24th against quarterbacks in fantasy. Last week, Tom Brady barely broke a sweat despite a strong pass rush from the Dolphins. Meanwhile, Siemian entered last week’s game against Oakland in the fourth quarter and led the Broncos on two touchdown drives. Siemian is eager to show that behind a slightly improved offensive line, he can win more games for Denver. He is the most accurate of the trio of passers the Broncos have used this season and his receivers are comfortable with his throws. Watch for the Siemian-led offense help Denver put together a couple of wins. It starts with a streamer-worthy three-touchdown performance in Miami.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Brett Hundley, GB (vs. TB)

With a very solid performance at Pittsburgh in Week 12, Hundley seems like he may have turned a corner. It was easily his best game yet and came against a Steelers D that has been stout against the pass all season. Hundley now gets the Buccaneers, who are giving up the most passing yards in the league and plenty of scoring strikes as well. After a game like that against the Steelers, the Bucs should be a piece of cake.

 

SIT THESE QBs...

 

Alex Smith, KC (at NYJ)

At one point this season, Smith was a legit MVP candidate with a rookie of the year running back and two playmakers catching passes. One was even a wide receiver! Now the NFL has collectively figured out Mr. Smith, and the Chiefs look pedestrian. Smith is back to the 12-20 range he’s been for most of his career, and we must move on. Even against the Jets. Sad.

 

Derek Carr, OAK (vs. NYG)

Only three teams are ranked worse in fantasy defense against quarterbacks than the New England Patriots. One of them is the 30th-ranked New York Giants. Among their claim to fame is giving up 28 fantasy points to C.J. Beathard in San Francisco’s only victory of the season. But now the Giants are coming off back-to-back games where they held Alex Smith to 7.9 fantasy points and Kirk Cousins to 16. Carr is no Cousins and he will be missing at least one of his top receivers. Look for the Giants’ defense to continue its resurrection in front of the home crowd at the expense of a struggling Carr.

 

Matthew Stafford, DET (at BAL)

Stafford and the Detroit coaching staff apparently think it is a good idea to play hurt. Whether they think it shows leadership or they just don’t have an iota of faith in their backups, Stafford has ended several games with additional tape and splints holding his body together. In Week 12, it appeared to be catching up to him. Stafford had some solid throws, but way too many sailed all over the field. Against Baltimore’s top-ranked defense, and second-ranked fantasy defense against quarterbacks, several of those passes would have been interceptions. The Ravens will get after Stafford in Baltimore. If he isn’t 100 percent, it could be a long day for the Lions’ signal-caller.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Matt Ryan, ATL (vs. MIN)

The Falcons balled out in Week 12 and Julio Jones finally flashed his full potential this season. Unfortunately, this passing attack should come crashing back to earth against a much tougher Vikings D. Minnesota has given up only 12 TD passes this season (tied for fourth-fewest in the league) – allowing multiple scoring strikes in a game only three times, and never more than two. The Vikings also have held teams to no TDs through the air three times (two of those games coming against Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff). Matty Ice has a really low ceiling this week.

 

Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)

 

START THESE DSTs...

 

Los Angeles Chargers (vs. CLE)

One of the hottest fantasy DSTs, the Chargers have had six sacks, 10 takeaways, and three defensive TDs the past three games. And now they face the Browns.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (at CIN, Mon.)

The Bengals managed just 14 points while allowing four sacks and two takeaways when these teams met in Week 7. And while this game is in Cincinnati, the Steelers’ fierce pass rush will travel and make life difficult for Andy Dalton, who's notorious for struggling in prime-time games.

 

SIT THESE DSTs...

 

Buffalo Bills (vs. NE)

Don’t get too caught up in last week’s defensive showing on the road against the formerly high-powered Chiefs offense. The Chiefs are regressing and the Bills’ performance was an outlier. Coming off that game, they get to face the Patriots, and that’s never good for your fantasy defense.

 

Atlanta Falcons (vs. MIN)

The Falcons have strung together some solid defensive performances recently, enough to rank as the DST-7 over the past four games. But this week they face the Minnesota Vikings. On the season, Case Keenum’s unit has surrendered an average of only three fantasy points per game to opposing DSTs. Minnesota doesn’t turn the ball over, doesn’t take sacks, and won’t be impressed by Atlanta’s recent success. Don’t stream the Falcons 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 13: Derek Carr and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-10-best-position-battles-watch-championship-week-2017
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The regular season is in the books for most college football teams across the country but a precious few are left standing to battle for a conference title. As great as some of the matchups are this weekend between championship contenders are though, they might not hold a candle to the games within a game — between players on either side of the ball.

 

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

 

1. Georgia LBs Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith vs. Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham, RBs Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin

The Tigers’ rout in the regular season edition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry was marked by the balance they had between the run game and the passing game. Johnson (above, right) rushed for 167 yards three weeks ago and will be looking to put up similar numbers in Atlanta, even if he’s a little banged up. The Bulldogs' linebacking corps is one of the most talented groups in the sport and they will need to live up to that kind of billing if they want some revenge for their lone loss on the way to an SEC title.

 

2. USC LBs Cameron Smith and John Houston vs. Stanford RB Bryce Love

Even with an injured ankle, Love is still a threat to break a 50-plus-yard run on just about every play from his side of the field. While the Trojans won the first meeting going away over at the Coliseum, the Cardinal tailback still busted a 75-yard touchdown run and was averaging a robust 9.4 yards per carry until the game got out of hand. While more weapons have helped the Stanford offense evolve, the key to stopping the team and capturing USC’s first conference title since 2008 will come as a result of how well their two inside linebackers can wrap up No. 20.

 

3. Wisconsin LBs Garret Dooley, T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly vs. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett, RBs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber

Everybody keeps discounting Wisconsin’s chances of winning in Indianapolis but the Badgers are built to slow down teams just like Ohio State. The team’s deep linebacking corps is a big reason why they’re undefeated and sport the best rush defense in the country — allowing only 2.6 yards a carry and four touchdowns on the ground all year. If they can bottle up the Buckeyes’ running backs and force Barrett to beat them with his arm instead of his legs, Wisconsin can book a ticket to the playoff.

 

4. Auburn LBs Tre’ Williams, Darrell Williams and Deshaun Davis vs. Georgia RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel

Chubb and Michel combined for just 48 rushing yards and a touchdown when they played Auburn a few weeks ago in what was the worst UGA rushing performance in a long time. Chances are that kind of lack of production won’t happen again but the Tigers’ linebackers are still one of the best all-around groups in the league and will be intent on duplicating their performance from the regular season.

 

5. Miami RB Travis Homer vs. Clemson LBs Dorian O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph

If you can sense a theme from the first five of these position battles, it’s that stopping the run will be key to emerging with a conference title this weekend and that certainly applies to the outcome down in Charlotte. The Hurricanes’ passing game has been stuck in neutral the past few weeks and is missing two big weapons for their showdown with Clemson, putting a ton of pressure on Homer to be the focal point of the offense and loosen things up for his struggling quarterback. He’ll be up against two of the most athletic, hard-hitting linebackers in the country however so it won’t be a walk in the park to get past the Tigers.

 

6. TCU DBs Ranthony Texada, Ridwan Issahaku, Niko Small and Nick Orr vs. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield

Mayfield (right) is well on his way to the Heisman Trophy and probably doesn’t need to do much on Saturday afternoon to lock the award up. Still, he’ll face the stiffest secondary in the Big 12 for a second time around and don’t discount the fact that Gary Patterson is one of the best at making tweaks with his veteran group. Orr is out the first half of the championship game and Small is nicked up but this is still a deep group for the Horned Frogs, who figure to play a ton of different coverage schemes as they try to trip up the Sooners’ talkative quarterback.

 

7. Stanford DL Harrison Phillips and LB Bobby Okereke vs. USC RBs Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr

Sam Darnold gets all the headlines for USC but the team’s run game has been what’s really put them in position to win the conference for the first time in nearly a decade. Jones is a home-run hitter who can make seven-yard runs look effortless and take three-yard losses to the house after contact. Phillips is a monster in the middle of the Stanford defense though and fights off double-teams with ease while Okereke does a terrific job filling gaps. The pair needs their A-game if they’re to contain the Trojans’ one-two punch at running back and give the Cardinal another Pac-12 title.

 

8. Memphis LBs Genard Avery and Curtis Akins vs. UCF QB McKenzie Milton and Adrian Killins

UCF leads the nation in scoring, Memphis is right behind at No. 2. Safe to say that there will be plenty of offense in the AAC title game so getting stops will be crucial if either side wants to take home the trophy and win a trip to the New Year’s Six. Milton and Killins are a terrific combo in the backfield and they ran wild in the teams’ first meeting back in late September while Avery had a relatively pedestrian game trying to stop them. If the Tigers harbor any hope of pulling off the upset, they’ll need a heroic performance from their star defender in order to do so.

 

9. Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook and TE Troy Fumagalli vs. Ohio State LB Jerome Baker and DB Damon Webb

Tight ends have been a big Achilles heel for the Buckeyes’ defense and the Badgers’ star at the position is the best in the Big Ten, if not the country. While the passing of Hornibrook sometimes leaves plenty to be desired, he’s been sharp when needed and has a great connection going with his best pass catcher. Baker and Webb will be tasked with making sure the combo doesn’t get going in Indy, whether that’s down the field or in the flats.

 

10. Ohio State LBs Chris Worley and Tuf Borland vs. Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor 

Taylor has burst onto the scene as a true freshman and played phenomenally as the Badgers’ bell-cow back, coming pretty close to the 2,000-yard mark in the regular season. While he has plenty of speed to take it to the house, it’s his ability to churn out yards behind that big offensive line and run patiently when needed that really makes him special. The Buckeyes’ linebackers will need to play disciplined and focus on wrapping up if they want to put a dent in that Wisconsin ground game and force the Big Ten West champs to be more one-dimensional.

 

Best of the Rest

 

*UCF DL Jamiyus Pittman and LB Shaquem Griffin vs. Memphis QB Riley Ferguson

*Miami DL Chad Thomas vs. Clemson OL Mitch Hyatt

*Stanford DB Quenton Meeks vs. USC WR Deontay Burnett

*Miami OL Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott vs. Clemson DL Austin Bryant and Dexter Lawrence

*Auburn OL Braden Smith and Darius James vs. Georgia DL Trent Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter

*Oklahoma LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo vs. TCU QB Kenny Hill

*TCU LB Travin Howard and DL Matt Boesen vs. Oklahoma OL Orlando Brown and RB Rodney Anderson

*Miami WR Braxton Berrios and QB Malik Rosier vs. Clemson DBs Ryan Carter and Van Smith

*Fresno State OL Aaron Mitchell vs. Boise State DL David Moa

*Troy QB Brandon Silvers and RB Jordan Chunn vs. Arkansas State DL Dee Liner and Ja’Von Rolland-Jones

*Georgia DBs Dominick Sanders and Malkom Parrish vs. Auburn WRs Darius Slayton and Nate Craig-Myers

*Stanford OL Devery Hamilton and David Bright vs. USC DL Rasheem Green and LB Uchenna Nwosu

*Oklahoma DB Steven Parker vs. TCU WR KaVontae Turpin

*North Texas DB Kishawn McClain vs. FAU QB Jason Driskel

*Troy DB Kris Weatherspoon vs. Arkansas State QB Justice Hansen and TE Blake Mack

*Toledo LBs Ja’Wuan Woodley and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi vs. Akron QB Tommy Woodson and RB Manny Morgan

*North Texas LBs E.J. Ejiya and Brandon Garner vs. FAU RB Devin Singletary

*UCF DL Trysten Hill vs. Memphis OL Gabe Kuhn 

*ULM OL Frank Sutton vs. Florida State DL Demarcus Christmas 

 

— 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 Championship Week
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/big-ten-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-ohio-state-buckeyes-vs-wisconsin-badgers-2017
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It has been quite a week off the field leading up to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Ohio State and Wisconsin meet again for the first time since the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff. A 59-0 victory for the Buckeyes launched Ohio State into the playoff and set the tone for a remarkable national championship run. J.T. Barrett watched from the sideline as Cardale Jones stole the show and Ezekiel Elliott ran his way past Alabama and Oregon, while Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen decided enough was enough and got out of town to take the job at Oregon State.

 

The sting of that 59-0 defeat has not sat well for Wisconsin. Just last year, Wisconsin was back in Indianapolis and things were looking good with a 28-7 lead on Penn State in the first half. But Wisconsin was unable to hold the fort and Penn State celebrated a 38-31 victory on their way to the Rose Bowl after Ohio State advanced to the playoff.

 

The stage is set now for a Big Ten Championship Game that either sees Wisconsin improve to 13-0 to erase the stain of last year's conference title game and wrap up a spot in the College Football Playoff for the first time in school history, or Barrett finally leads the Buckeyes to a Big Ten championship to further cement his legacy in Columbus, with a slight chance to wiggle into the playoff.

 

The ACC and SEC title games may be de facto play-in games for the playoff, but the stakes are incredibly high in the Big Ten too. The latest playoff rankings moved Wisconsin up to No. 4, which means they should feel confident about being in the four-team field with a win. If Ohio State wins, the Buckeyes may have to hope TCU knocked off Oklahoma or hope they have enough good quality wins to help overcome their two losses to win a debate between them and 11-1 Alabama, who sits home in Tuscaloosa watching the events unfold.

 

Big Ten Championship: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Ohio State -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Young workhorse running backs

For a conference as deep as it is at the running back position, two of the best in the conference this season have been Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor and Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins. Both are freshmen and completed the regular season leading the Big Ten in average rushing yards per game, total rushing yards, and yards per carry. It was a monster year for each, with Taylor racking up 1,806 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Dobbins recorded 1,190 rushing yards and just seven touchdowns, but his impact and ability to make big runs happen gave Ohio State some more confidence in the running game when it chose not to ignore it.

 

How much of an impact will either have in this game? That remains to be seen, but both Taylor and Dobbins will be going up against some of the best rushing defenses in the Big Ten. Wisconsin allowed just 966 rushing yards all season, with just four rushing touchdowns surrendered in 12 games. The Buckeyes allowed roughly 400 more rushing yards this season and 11 touchdowns, but Ohio State ranks second behind Wisconsin in opposing rushing average. There may not be much room to run for either team in this one, but Ohio State may have the advantage in having a few more reliable rushing options with Mike Weber and, if healthy, J.T. Barrett.

 

Speaking of which...

 

2. How effective is J.T. Barrett?

Barrett (right) was forced to leave the regular season finale against Michigan with an injury, which apparently occurred on the sideline before the game thanks to a camera cart. We don't know if Urban Meyer has had the time to track down the alleged camera assailant, but we do know we can expect to see Barrett available for this week's conference championship game. But at what capacity? Will Barrett be limited from the injury last week, or will he be fully available to play without physical limitations?

 

Barrett is at his best when he can roll out of the pocket and keep plays alive until a receiver can get open or he sees room to take off and run for yardage himself. Wisconsin will not make that easy with the way it has played defense all year, but pay close attention to what Barrett is doing with the football and his legs. If he seems content to stay in one spot, then he may not be going at full capacity and that could weigh him down.

 

3. Can Badgers' defense wear down Buckeyes?

Wisconsin has had a distinct advantage on defense and in the trenches all season long. This is why Wisconsin continues to be so strong running the football and why the Badgers have allowed so few yards on defense. Until now, Wisconsin has had the better-conditioned roster with the deepest reserves in the tank. Ohio State will be a stark contrast to much of what Wisconsin has seen this season (of course, Wisconsin throttled the same Iowa team that manhandled Ohio State, which should not be forgotten)., and the Buckeyes' depth is what makes them so scary.

 

Iowa just jumped all over Ohio State from the start, but Oklahoma is a textbook example of how much Wisconsin could potentially gain the edge. Oklahoma was one of the few teams to wear down Ohio State in the trenches this season, especially with the Sooners' offensive line. Few teams are capable of doing that to an Ohio State line that is deep and athletic, but Wisconsin will have to try gaining the edge there as the running game plays a key role.

 

Final Analysis

 

Despite having two losses, it is Ohio State that arrives in Indianapolis as the favorite in this game. But why that is the case when the Buckeyes were blown away by the same Iowa team that couldn't move the ball at all against Wisconsin remains a bit of an example of how much the Badgers are still looking to make a statement. They can make no bigger statement than by taking down the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer and punching their ticket to the College Football Playoff.

 

To do that, the defense and running game have to continue doing what they have been accustomed to, but quarterback Alex Hornibrook must avoid making mistakes. The sophomore has thrown the second-most interceptions among Big Ten quarterbacks this season (13). Hornbrook had been picked off at least once in eight consecutive games this season until snapping that streak last week against Minnesota. Hornibook had his best game of the year against the Gophers and will hope to ride the momentum into Indianapolis against a much tougher defense.

 

After getting a feel for what the opposition is going to do, this looks like a game in which Wisconsin can dictate tempo. Chewing up clock and putting points on the board will be the key to success for the Badgers and their quest to go 13-0.

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 26, Ohio State 20

 

— 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:
Big Ten Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 11:10
Path: /college-football/mountain-west-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-fresno-state-bulldogs-vs-boise-state-broncos-2017
Body:

Can Fresno State beat Boise State two weeks in a row?

 

That's the challenge facing the 25th-ranked Bulldogs when they travel to Idaho to face the Broncos in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game on Saturday. Fresno State beat Boise State 28-17 a week ago after racking up 431 yards of total offense. Bulldogs quarterback Marcus McMaryion put together a brilliant performance in helping his team outgain an opponent for the seventh time in nine games.

 

It's another highlight in a dramatic turnaround for Fresno State under head coach Jeff Telford. The Bulldogs (9-3, 7-1 MW) won just one game a year ago before Telford arrived on the scene and didn't beat an FBS opponent.

 

The Broncos (9-3, 7-1) are sure to give Fresno State a stiff test in the rematch. Boise State totaled 401 yards a week ago, but struggled to finish drives. The Broncos had multiple first-half drives stall in Bulldog territory, turning it over on downs one time and missing a field goal on another drive.

 

Boise State holds a 13-6 lead in the all-time series with Fresno State. This is the second time the Bulldogs and the Broncos are meeting in Boise with a conference title at stake. Boise State claimed the 2014 Mountain West crown after taking down Fresno State 28-14.

 

Mountain West Championship: Fresno State at Boise State

 

Kickoff: Saturday, December 2. 5:45 PM MT.

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Boise State –8.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. What will McMaryion do for an encore?

One reason why Fresno State has improved so dramatically from last season is the play of Marcus McMaryion. The Oregon State transfer has blossomed at quarterback this year.

 

McMaryion lit up Boise State's defense last week, throwing for a career-high 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His second touchdown pass, an 81-yard strike to KeeSean Johnson, helped the Bulldogs, pull away in the fourth quarter after Boise State cut Fresno State's lead to 19-17. It ended up being the second career 300-yard game for the junior.

 

After three games with Fresno State, McMaryion won the starting job and hasn't looked back since. He has thrown for 2,212 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions while completing 63 percent of his passes. McMaryion's 146.8 quarterback rating ranks second in the Mountain West.

 

2. How much of an impact will Mattison and Wilson make?

Boise State has plenty of weapons on offense that extend beyond quarterback Brett Rypien. Fresno State's success will hinge on keeping running back Alexander Mattison and receiver Cedrick Wilson from burning the Bulldogs on big plays.

 

The Broncos have produced a 1,000-yard rusher for nine straight seasons. Mattison became the latest running back to join the club, after gaining 63 yards against Fresno State on Saturday. Only a sophomore, Mattison has 1,024 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground this season and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

 

Wilson gave the Bulldogs plenty of trouble on Saturday, totaling 134 yards on only seven catches. It marked the senior's second consecutive 100-yard game. His 1,142 receiving yards on 65 catches this season represents the fifth-highest single-season mark in team history.

 

Wilson is only the third Boise State receiver to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, joining Titus Young (2009-10) and Thomas Sperbeck (2015-16) in that distinction. He has totaled 2,271 receiving yards over the past two seasons, which is the second-best two-season stretch for a Boise State receiver.

 

3. Can the Bulldogs conquer the "Smurf Turf"?

Topping Boise State on its home field to earn a conference championship seems like a borderline impossible scenario. The Broncos went 5-1 at home this season, losing only to Virginia, and beat conference opponents by an average margin of 18.8 points on the Smurf Turf. Since joining the Mountain West in 2011, Boise State has lost just four home games against conference opponents.

 

If there's a team equipped to do it, though, Fresno State is one that qualifies. The Bulldogs went 4-0 away from home against league opponents. They allowed just 10.3 points per game in those contests and allowed only one opponent to score more than a single touchdown.

 

The Bulldogs haven't beaten Boise State in Idaho since a 37-21 win over the Broncos in 1984, back when Boise State still played at the Division I-AA (now FCS) level. Since that time, Fresno State has lost eight straight road games to the Broncos, most recently falling in the 2014 MWC title game.

 

Final Analysis

 

Fresno State will be eager to make a statement after being denied the right to host the Mountain West Championship Game despite beating Boise State head-to-head and finishing with identical records in league play. The problem is that the Broncos are tough to overcome on the Smurf Turf. Fresno State has a strong enough defense to limit the damage, but it can't keep Boise State's playmakers in check for another four quarters.

 

Prediction: Boise State 24, Fresno State 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.

 

(Top photo courtesy of gobulldogs.com)

Teaser:
Mountain West Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Boise State Broncos
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/troy-trojans-vs-arkansas-state-red-wolves-preview-and-prediction-2017
Body:

Although the Sun Belt is the only one of the 10 FBS conferences without a championship game, Saturday’s matchup between Troy and Arkansas State somewhat serves as a de facto title contest. Both teams enter with 6-1 records in Sun Belt play, so the winner will have at least a share of the conference crown and could claim it outright if Appalachian State loses to Louisiana.

 

Both the Trojans (9-2) and Red Wolves enter this game with momentum, as Troy has won five in a row and Arkansas State has won its past two games. The Trojans opened their season with a close 24-13 loss to Boise State, but made plenty of noise across the country when they went into Baton Rouge and upset then-No. 25 LSU (24-21). Troy has been pretty dominant during its current five-game winning streak, beating opponents by an average of 25.4 points per game.

 

The Red Wolves hung tough with Nebraska in Lincoln before losing 43-36 and had to cancel a home date with Miami due to the threat of Hurricane Irma. Arkansas State enters this game having won two in a row and six of its last seven, scoring 37 or more points five times during this stretch.

 

The Red Wolves have won four straight against the Trojans, including last year’s 35-3 victory on the road.

 

Troy at Arkansas State

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Arkansas State -1.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Arkansas State’s offensive strength vs. Troy’s defensive strength

The Red Wolves are second in the Sun Belt in passing offense at 331.1 yards per game and lead the way with 33 touchdowns through the air. Justice Hansen (3,219 yards, 32 TDs) has done most of this damage and is coming off of a 520-yard, four-TD performance against ULM. The Trojans are tops in the conference against the pass, holding teams to 206.1 yards per game, and have nearly as many interceptions (12) as touchdowns (15) allowed through the air. Seven different players have recorded one of Troy’s 12 interceptions, including four by Blace Brown. The junior cornerback is tied for second in the Sun Belt in that category and also has returned one of his picks for a touchdown. It will be imperative for Hansen to make enough plays for Arkansas State through the air while trying to avoid the big mistake.

 

2. Troy's offensive Line vs. Arkansas State's Ja'Von Rolland-Jones

The reigning Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, Rolland-Jones (above, right) could take home the honor yet again as the senior defensive end is leading the conference and tied for second nationally with 12 sacks. Rolland-Jones is a big reason why the Red Wolves are in the top 20 in the FBS in sacks (33 total) and the 6-foot-2, 244-pounder has shown an ability to take over games. Two weeks ago, he had seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in a 30-12 win over Texas State. Rolland-Jones needs just 1.5 sacks to tie former Arizona State standout Terrell Suggs for the FBS career record (44.0). The Trojans have done a fine job of keeping quarterback Brandon Silvers upright, giving up just 13 sacks in 11 games, but stopping Rolland-Jones figures to be arguably the stiffest challenge this offensive line has faced. And that includes going up against LSU, who got to Silvers three times in the Trojans’ upset win back in September.

 

3. Can Jordan Chunn find running room against Arkansas State?

One of the best ways to counteract the Red Wolves’ pass rush while keeping their offense off of the field is to extend drives and control the clock. Troy can do this with an effective running game, which is where Chunn comes in. He’s third in the Sun Belt in rushing with 741 yards and second in touchdowns on the ground with 10, but he’s been somewhat hampered since returning from a two-game absence in late October because of injury. Over his past three games he’s run for 223 total yards, but he’s been limited to 40 carries. Still, he’s averaging a respectable 5.6 yards per carry and has four rushing touchdowns over this span. Chunn is capable of big games, such as his 191 rushing yards to fuel the upset of LSU, and he will be needed against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves are fourth in the conference against the run (146.6 ypg) and have held Sun Belt foes to just 3.2 yards per carry.

 

Final Analysis

 

Both teams are coming into this game with confidence, having played well against premier programs, and playing well against conference opponents. There is a reason why the oddsmakers have this one so close, as the teams are both well-coached and should be well-prepared. This one may come down to whichever team commits a turnover, or has the ball last with time running out.

 

Prediction: Arkansas State 42, Troy 35

 

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is writing and podcasting for www.theozone.net. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

Teaser:
Troy Trojans vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 10:50
Path: /college-football/louisiana-ragin-cajuns-vs-appalachian-state-mountaineers-preview-and-prediction-2017
Body:

One season after going 9-3 and claiming a share of the Sun Belt championship, Appalachian State finds itself in familiar territory entering Saturday's regular-season finale against Louisiana.

 

While the overall record (7-4) may not be as impressive as last year, the Mountaineers are still playing for a share of the conference crown thanks to their 6-1 record against Sun Belt foes. Arkansas State and Troy also are tied for first place and playing each other on Saturday, so a win by Appalachian State would make it a shared title, and make the Mountaineers back-to-back champions in the process.

 

Louisiana also is playing for something on Saturday — bowl eligibility. The Ragin' Cajuns (5-6, 4-3 Sun Belt) need one more win to qualify for the postseason after coming up short last week at home against Georgia Southern (34-24). For Louisiana to have any hopes of going to a bowl game, the Ragin' Cajuns must dash the Mountaineers' title hopes.

 

History suggests an Appalachian State win, as the Mountaineers are 3-0 against Louisiana, including last year's 24-0 victory.

 

Louisiana at Appalachian State

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 2 at 2:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Appalachian State -14.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Louisiana's stellar wide receiving corps
The Ragin' Cajuns trio of Jarrod Jackson, Keenan Barnes and Rhyeem Malone lay claim to each having tallied 100-yard receiving games in 2017. Malone collected 100-yard games against Tulsa (119), New Mexico State (113) and Georgia Southern (106); Barnes posted back-to-back 100-yard games with 102 vs. the Golden Hurricane and 118 on the road against Texas A&M, while Jackson shredded ULM for 113 yards.

 

Jackson, Barnes and Malone have combined for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns this year, and they'll go up against an Appalachian State defense that currently ranks second in the Sun Belt and No. 50 in the FBS in passing yards allowed at 212 per game.

 

2. Appalachian State's senior leaders
Quarterback Taylor Lamb, offensive lineman Colby Gossett and linebackers Eric Boggs and Devan Stringer carry more than 40 starts into senior day at Kidd Brewer Stadium, where they'll look to cap their home careers with a win.

 

Lamb will go down as one of the most decorated quarterbacks in school history, as he's gone 34-13 as a starter. His 86 touchdown passes are a school and Sun Belt record. Boggs leaves behind a legacy as he is just one of three current FBS players to boast 300 career tackles, 10 sacks and seven interceptions. Stringer has tallied a career 206 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss and six pass deflections.

 

Appalachian State's senior class has gone 35-14 overall and a sparkling 26-5 in Sun Belt games to go along with two bowl victories.

 

3. Ragin' Cajuns running back Trey Ragas
A freshman, Ragas' play this year has given Louisiana fans reason to be excited about the future of the program. Georgia Southern held the talented youngster to just 41 yards last week, but he enters this game third in the Sun Belt with 799 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

 

Ragas is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and he's posted 100-yard rushing games against Tulsa (130) and New Mexico State (132). Appalachian State's rushing defense is among the best in the Sun Belt and the nation for that matter, ranking third and No. 39, respectively, at 145.7 yards per game allowed.

 

Final Analysis

 

Appalachian State's senior class boast a 26-5 Sun Belt record, proving conference losses by the group are an outlier and not the norm. Throw in a chance for another Sun Belt title, and the momentum of playing at home on senior day, and Louisiana will have its hands full as it tries to clinch bowl eligibility. 

 

The Mountaineers' 7-4 record this year is a bit of a disappointment, but a win against the Ragin' Cajuns followed by a bowl appearance will give the Appalachian State faithful plenty to brag about with the possibility of another nine-win season still in play.

 

The Mountaineers' talented senior class adds one more accomplishment to their resume by claiming a share of the Sun Belt title with one more win at home.

 

Prediction: Appalachian State 35, Louisiana 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.

 

(Top photo courtesy of www.ragincajuns.com)

Teaser:
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/how-usc-and-stanford-changed-way-pac-12-championship-game-2017
Body:

Temperatures inside the visiting team media tent within the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum tunnel get sweltering; especially on a late summer night. Despite this, and a 42-24 loss to Pac-12 rival USC, Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips was not sweating.

 

"We have a lot to improve on, and a lot of weeks to get there," Phillips said. "So, we'll see who's a better team at the end of the season."

 

Phillips' statement looks more like a prognostication now that the Cardinal are in their fourth Pac-12 Championship Game in the past six seasons. Stanford has the opportunity to stack up with USC again, head-to-head, with a conference championship at stake.

 

Two much different teams face off Friday night at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara compared to the squads that took the field at the Coliseum in early September. How much different may well determine the outcome of this championship clash in a budding rivalry.

 

Stanford's need for improvements were evident from that early juncture. USC ran the ball at will against a typically stout Cardinal defense, with running backs Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr both going over 100 yards. Conversely, after a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Stanford's potent rushing attack was held in check.

 

"Honestly, this could be the best thing that happens to us," said safety Justin Reid, who had an interception in the September meeting. "Because it gives us a chance to lock in on some details. All the preseason hype, it lets us know exactly where we are, and be critical of ourselves."

 

Some more opportunity for internal reflection followed with a loss in the final minutes the next week at San Diego State, dropping Stanford to an uncharacteristic 1-2. The program that, along with Oregon, replaced USC as the conference standard bearer in the 2010s fell from the Top 25 by Week 4 and spent a good portion of the regular season as an afterthought.

 

But then, come November, Stanford landed right back where it typically resides at this time of year under head coach David Shaw: in the hunt for the Pac-12 title. So what changed?

 

"I love saying this: We have a better sense of who we are; what we can do, and what we probably shouldn't do, because it isn't just results oriented," Shaw said. "At the beginning of the year, we were still figuring it out. Some guys were playing in new spots. Now we have a better handle of who we are and what we are."

 

What Stanford is coming into the Pac-12 Championship Game is a team that won eight of nine, including a dominant fourth-quarter performance to rout Notre Dame. In that win, perhaps the most obvious change central to Stanford's turnaround became evident; that being the play of quarterback K.J. Costello.

 

Keller Chryst started in the first half of the season, but an injury forced Costello (right) into the lineup. Leaning heavily on the nation's leading rusher, Bryce Love, Costello eased into the job. He was ready in big moments against top 10-ranked opponents in two of the last three weeks, passing for 211 yards against Washington's stellar defense, spreading the Huskies to open rushing lanes for Love in a win critical to Stanford winning the Pac-12 North.

 

In the romp against Notre Dame, Costello threw four touchdown passes, including a few impressive darts under pressure.

 

"Our wide receivers have made plays, our tight ends have made plays and our quarterback has made plays, which takes a lot of the pressure off the offensive line," Shaw said.

 

The Notre Dame win marked a high point for the Cardinal's season, the exact opposite of an encounter with Notre Dame in October for USC. The 49-14 loss on Oct. 21 was a decided low point for the Trojans not just in the 2017 season, but since Sept. 30, 2016, when Sam Darnold stepped in as the starting quarterback.

 

USC is undefeated since, rolling off three wins by double digits, and playing its best football since... well, since beating Stanford on Sept. 9.

 

"In the last few weeks, they're getting back to running it with Ronald [Jones]," Shaw said. "The quarterback's back to being what we know he could be, which is an unbelievably accurate, competitive quarterback [who] almost plays better when he's in crunch time."

 

Indeed, Darnold has come alive down the stretch. He's thrown just three interceptions from Oct. 14 on, and played with an air of confidence resembling the record-setting show he put on at last January's Rose Bowl Game — or against Stanford earlier this season.

 

Darnold threw four touchdown passes against the Cardinal, and his mobility in the pocket extended the type of plays that typically result in a patented Stanford #PartyInTheBackfield.

 

"They had a lot of slides dialed up to eliminate the stunts we wanted to run. That kind of goes to Sam Darnold," Phillips said. "We got home a lot of times, but he was able to make plays with his feet, as well as his hands."

 

As good as Darnold looked that night, he has even more weapons around him now. Redshirt freshman Tyler Vaughns has stepped up as a consistent No. 2 target behind Deontay Burnett, catching 48 passes for 664 yards with four touchdowns. In the final four games, sophomore Michael Pittman became a regular in the passing attack, as well, making 10 of his 13 grabs down the stretch. He also caught his first career touchdown pass in the South division-sealing win Nov. 11 at Colorado.

 

For USC head coach Clay Helton, the emergence of this diverse and talented receiving corps is the greatest development of the Trojans' 2017 season.

 

"The most in the offensive skill [positions]," Helton said. "I see our young wideouts really performing over the second half of the season — the development of Tyler Vaughns, the development of a Michael Pittman on the outside, to get Daniel Imatorbhebhe back to complement Tyler Petite, getting Steven Mitchell back healthy — the most growth we've had is in the outside skill position."

 

New stars in new roles on both sides of the ball should make for a new game in this championship installment of USC vs. Stanford. Will the outcome differ this time around?

 

As Harrison Phillips said in early September, we'll see who the better team is at the end of the season.

 

— 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:
How USC and Stanford Changed on the Way to the Pac-12 Championship Game
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/sec-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-auburn-vs-georgia-2017
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For the second time this season, Auburn and Georgia are set to meet on the gridiron, but the stakes and implications of Saturday’s matchup in the 26th SEC Championship Game are significantly higher than the first contest between these two teams. In this week’s release of the CFB Playoff rankings, Auburn ranked No. 2 and Georgia checked in at No. 6. While a lot of games and scenarios are in play for Championship Saturday, there’s no doubt the winner of this SEC Championship showdown is in the CFB Playoff.

 

Auburn dominated Georgia in the first meeting between these two teams, and coach Gus Malzahn’s squad hopes to ride the momentum for one more victory and its first trip to the CFB Playoff. The Tigers crushed the Bulldogs 40-17 on Nov. 11 and beat Alabama 26-14 in the Iron Bowl to claim the SEC West title last Saturday. Since a 27-23 loss at LSU on Oct. 14, Malzahn’s team has been playing at a different level. The Tigers have scored at least 40 points in four out of their last five games and have not allowed an opponent to eclipse more than 20 points in that span. Considering the margin of victory against Georgia and Alabama, Malzahn’s team might be playing the best football of any team in the nation.

 

In addition to the conference title and CFB Playoff berth, Georgia is out for revenge on Saturday. The Bulldogs played their worst game of the year against Auburn on Nov. 11, as the offense generated only 46 rushing yards, and the defense gave up 40 points (the most this group has allowed in 2017). Coach Kirby Smart clearly has this program on the right path (and probably ahead of schedule) in his second year at the helm. And a win over Auburn and berth in the CFB Playoff would only add to the overall trajectory of this program. With a loss on Saturday, Georgia isn't likely to fall out of the top 10 in the final rankings and would be in line for a berth in a New Year's Six bowl. 

 

Georgia holds a 57-56-8 series edge over Auburn. The Bulldogs have won five out of the last seven in this series.

 

Auburn vs. Georgia (Atlanta – SEC Championship)

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Auburn -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Georgia’s Rushing Attack

Whether or not Georgia wins on Saturday is likely to rest on how well its rushing attack performs. In the first meeting between these two teams, the Bulldogs only managed 46 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. Running back Nick Chubb was held to 27 yards, while Sony Michel only managed 21 yards on nine carries. The 46 overall yards and production by Chubb and Michel was a significant drop off from Georgia’s usual totals. The Bulldogs average 265.7 yards a game and have scored 35 times on the ground this season.

 

Simply, less than 100 rushing yards isn’t going to get it done for Georgia on Saturday afternoon. In 12 regular season games, the Bulldogs were held to less than 200 rushing yards in just two contests.

 

Can the Georgia offensive line and ground attack find a way to churn out yardage on first downs against an Auburn defense limiting opponents to just 125.9 yards a game? In last week’s win over Alabama, the Tigers gave up 211 yards and a score on 38 carries. Alabama’s offensive line is a better overall group than Georgia’s front five, which certainly helped the Crimson Tide find running lanes against coordinator Kevin Steele’s defense. However, last week's performance should give the Bulldogs some confidence about their ground game and establishing it on early downs after struggling in the first matchup. 

 

Considering the firepower on the other sideline, establishing the run and keeping Auburn’s offense off the field is essential. The Bulldogs can’t afford to get into long-yardage situations all night and ask quarterback Jake Fromm to win this one through the air.

 

Which side wins out? Is it the one-two punch of Chubb and Michel? Or will Auburn’s defense dominate once again in the trenches?

 

Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 14

 

2. The Quarterbacks

In the first meeting between these two teams, it was a one-sided affair in terms of quarterback play. Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham connected on 16 of 23 throws for 214 yards and three touchdowns and added a score on the ground. Georgia’s Jake Fromm was hindered by a few dropped passes but completed 13 of 28 throws for 184 yards and a touchdown.

 

Even though Fromm has been the starter for nearly all of 2017, Georgia isn’t equipped to win high-scoring games. Instead, this offense needs to establish the run and allow Fromm to attempt 20-25 passes, with some play-action mixed in on favorable downs. The story is a little different on the other sideline, as Stidham is making a run at first-team All-SEC honors. The Baylor transfer has posted a strong first season on the Plains, throwing for 2,682 yards and 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Additionally, he’s connected on 17 passes of 40 or more yards in 2017. Stidham is surrounded by a solid group of receivers – including Ryan Davis (69 catches) and Darius Slayton (25.5 ypc) – which figure to test a Georgia secondary ranked fourth in the SEC in pass efficiency defense. The Bulldogs haven't played a tough slate of quarterbacks, but Missouri and Auburn - the top passing teams on the schedule - both eclipsed 250 yards against this secondary. If Auburn's line can protect, there are plays to be made downfield.

 

As mentioned in the previous section, Georgia has to do a better job of running the ball in this matchup. But Fromm could alleviate some of the pressure on the ground attack by hitting on some early throws to loosen up the front seven of Auburn. Will Fromm perform better against this defense after struggling in the first matchup? And when Stidham has the ball, can he continue to connect on a few deep passes a game, limit the mistakes and distribute the ball to playmakers on the outside? Stidham's play in recent weeks could be especially important due to...

 

3. Auburn’s Ground Game

The biggest uncertainty surrounding Saturday afternoon’s game is the health of Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. In last week’s win over Alabama, Johnson left the game due to a shoulder injury and is questionable to play on Saturday. The junior has rushed for 1,276 yards and 17 touchdowns this year and posted more than 100 yards in each of his last four games. In the first meeting against Georgia, Johnson gashed the Bulldogs for 167 on the ground and caught two passes for 66 yards and a touchdown.

 

If Johnson is sidelined, sophomore Kam Martin (409 yards and two touchdowns) will get the call as the starter. And even if Johnson is able to go, he could be limited in terms of overall volume he can handle.

 

Regardless of Johnson’s status, Georgia has to do a better job against the run than it did in the first matchup on Nov. 11. The Bulldogs’ rush defense ranks second in the SEC by limiting opponents to just 112.5 yards per game on the ground. In last week’s win over Alabama, Auburn’s offense converted 9 of 18 third-down attempts. Can Georgia find a way to stop Johnson, Martin and the read plays by Stidham to get the Tigers into third-and-long situations? If so, that’s a win for the Bulldogs.

 

Final Analysis

 

It’s never easy defeating an opponent two times in a season. Adding to Auburn’s challenge was a physical contest against Alabama last week, along with the emotions that come with a rivalry matchup. Despite those factors working against coach Gus Malzahn’s team, the Tigers are still the team to beat in this game. Even if Johnson is limited, Stidham and the passing attack won’t be easy for Georgia to contain, and Martin is a capable fill-in at running back. The Bulldogs have to establish the run and win the battle up front on defense in order to have a shot. Georgia keeps it closer this time, but Stidham continues his strong late-season play by hitting a couple of key passes in the second half to earn the victory.

 

Prediction: Auburn 27, Georgia 20
Teaser:
SEC Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Auburn vs. Georgia
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/five-reasons-why-wisconsin-will-win-big-ten-championship-game-2017
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The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers enter the Big Ten Championship Game as nearly a touchdown underdog to the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes. Pay no attention to that spread, as it falls in line with the disrespect Wisconsin has had to deal with every step of the way this season. College football fans don't respect the Badgers. The College Football Playoff selection committee waited until last night to include them in the top four and they've been receiving the "Iowa treatment" from Colin Cowherd. In the face of all that, they just keep winning. On Saturday against the Buckeyes, the Badgers will have their sights set on remaining the last unbeaten Power 5 team.

 

5 Reasons Why Wisconsin Will Win the Big Ten Championship Game

 

1. The coaching staff knows exactly who it is

Paul Chryst (above, right) is a coach's son. He knows the game. He knows Wisconsin. He's from there, he's played there and he knows what works there. He's built a staff — highlighted by defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard — that also knows what it takes for this team to win games each week. They have limitations. They have talent. They have a plan and they execute it to perfection week after week, never straying from it. The players see this and never get flustered or anxious in close games or even when playing from behind. There's nothing Ohio State can do to make this staff flinch.

 

2. The dominant offensive line

I don't know if there's another unit at any other program in the country as consistent as Wisconsin's offensive line. The Badgers lose star players to the NFL draft every year. They plug new faces in and keep on rolling. Lather, rinse and repeat. There's probably less star-power on the 2017 unit than there has been in recent years. No matter. All they've done this season is open holes in the run game to the tune of 5.3 yards per carry. That sort of consistency and efficiency wears down even the best of opponents.

 

3. Jonathan Taylor

The holes that the Badgers' offensive line make can be massive, but you still need a difference-maker running through them to make them count. Taylor is exactly that. The freshman has burst onto the college football scene with an elite combination of power, speed and vision. There may not be a better pure runner in the country, and combined with Wisconsin's offensive line — he makes the Badgers' always-solid rushing attack downright lethal.

 

4. Underrated playmakers at receiver and tight end

A lot of teams who rely as heavily on the run as the Badgers do often lack any real playmaking threats in the passing attack. Not Wisconsin. The constant threat of a big play through the air only adds to the degree of difficulty that comes with trying to stop Taylor and the run game. A.J. Taylor is a shifty wideout with game-breaking speed that Wisconsin moves all over the field. Danny Davis III is a sure-handed, crisp route-runner who has stepped up his game since the injury to Quintez Cephus. Tight end Troy Fumagalli is simply one of the best in the country at his position and a name you'll hear for years to come on Sundays. If Ohio State decides to stack the box against Taylor, Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook has no shortage of targets to deliver the ball to downfield.

 

5. Suffocating defense

The Badgers only give up 12 points per game. If you find the end zone against them more than once, it's a badge of honor. No team in the country is better than Wisconsin at stopping the run, and that's the key to everything. If you can't run, you can't set up the pass. You can't set up the pass because Wisconsin isn't even worried about a team running on it, thanks largely to its elite defensive front.

 

Defensive tackle Olive Sagapolu is a space-eating monster in the middle who plugs holes and forces traffic outside. He'll do just that to the Buckeyes all day, and a speedy corps of linebacker will be right there to clean up the mess he created.

 

Outside linebacker Garret Dooley is one of the nation's most dominant edge rushers. He led the Big Ten in sacks with eight, and he'll likely add to that total when Sagapolu forces J.T. Barrett his way. And don't forget the quarterback of the defense, free safety D'Cota Dixon. He's one of the best safeties in the nation — an enforcer over the middle against the pass and an asset against the run. Not many college football teams can claim to have a surefire future NFL player on all three levels of defense. The Badgers can, and the Buckeyes will find that out the hard way on Saturday.

 

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

Teaser:
5 Reasons Why Wisconsin Will Win the Big Ten Championship Game
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-championship-week-2017
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Championship Week is upon us, and we have an incredible slate of games that simply WILL decide who punches a ticket to the College Football Playoff.

 

There have been a lot of narratives leading up to this weekend. The lobbying has already begun — including some by teams who aren't playing for a conference title. Now, however, all that matters is what happens on the playing fields this Friday and Saturday. 

 

Do you think you know who is in? You better read these OUTRAGEOUS* predictions first.

 

Outrageous College Football Predictions for Championship Week

 

Wisconsin holds Ohio State under 10 points

The Badgers have been doubted and disrespected all season, but all they've done is win — and they've done so the old-fashioned way. They run the ball, beat you up and play stingy defense. It's a simple formula and they've perfected it. Ohio State had a hard time scoring early last weekend against Michigan. That will be the case again against Wisconsin — a team with a better overall defense than what the Wolverines field. While the Buckeyes' offense struggles to move the ball, Urban Meyer's defense will be getting punched in the mouth repeatedly by the Badger ground game. Expect Wisconsin to do what it has done all season — pull away from an exhausted opponent in the second half and cruise to an easy win.

 

Stanford blows out USC

As usual, David Shaw has his Cardinal rolling at the end of the year. They are healthy and firing on all cylinders — and they are ready to bulldoze a much less physical Trojan squad. USC is not equipped defensively to stand up against the Stanford rushing attack. On the other side of the ball, look for Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips to set up shop in Sam Darnold's pocket all game long, throwing off the timing of the Trojans' passing attack. It'll be a long Friday night for USC on both sides of the ball.

 

Georgia gets its revenge

The Bulldogs were flat-out embarrassed a couple of weeks ago against Auburn. Now the Tigers are coming off the high of beating their rival and may not be focused enough for a neutral-site tilt with what was the best team in the land for most of the season. You learn more from losses than you do from wins. Look for Georgia to take what it learned the first time around against Auburn and ride a couple of trick plays to a close win over the Tigers.

 

Alabama gets into the playoff

The winner of Miami and Clemson will get in. Wisconsin will get in with a win. Georgia will get in with a win. That leaves one spot that would go to Oklahoma if the Sooners beat TCU. The problem is, Oklahoma is not going to beat TCU. Horned Frogs quarterback Kenny Hill is going to win a shootout against Baker Mayfield, beat the Sooners, knock them out of playoff contention and open the door wide open for the committee to do what they've wanted to do since the first poll: write in the Alabama Crimson Tide with a Sharpie.

 

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

 

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

Teaser:
Outrageous College Football Predictions for Championship Week
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/fcs-football-second-round-playoff-games-and-predictions-2017
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FCS Power Poll RankingsThe big boys come out in the second round of the FCS playoffs. Each pounds its chest over having a seed, is rested from a first-round bye and gets started with a home game.

 

Ah, enjoy the calm feeling until kickoff.

 

Don’t be mistaken, the first-round winners who are on the road this week aren’t quite the little brothers set to fall in line. In the first four years since the playoffs increased to 24 teams in 2013, 10 unseeded road teams have rolled through town to post victories.

 

Saturday’s second round (aka the Round of 16) is hotly contested, including four games matching teams from the same conference.

 

The FCS second-round playoff games:

 

Note: All times ET; All games on ESPN3

 

Saturday, Dec. 2

 

Stony Brook (10-2) at No. 1 seed James Madison (11-0), 2 p.m.

The top two finishers in CAA Football, although they haven’t met in the 12-team conference’s schedule rotation since 2015, will flex their defensive muscles. No unit has been better in the FCS than defending national champion James Madison, which leads the nation in scoring defense (9.0 ppg) and total defense (228.2 ypg), and has gotten after quarterbacks with 43 sacks. The Dukes, who have won 23 straight games, have the distraction of head coach Mike Houston’s name being mentioned for FBS openings, but is that enough to knock them off the "Road to Frisco"? Probably not. The winner will play Weber State or No. 8 seed Southern Utah in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Pick: James Madison

 

Furman (8-4) at No. 7 seed Wofford (9-2), 2 p.m.

The Deep South’s oldest rivalry, which dates to 1889, reaches its 92nd meeting, and the first in the playoffs. Wofford won 24-23 on Sept. 2 after Furman failed on a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute. The score tells the closeness of these two Southern Conference teams, just like the 37-mile separation of their campuses. Both teams seek to establish the run game, so the play at the line of scrimmage is crucial. The difference could come from Wofford’s stout defensive line and the Terriers’ ability to win close games. The winner will play San Diego or No. 2 seed North Dakota State in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Pick: Wofford

 

Kennesaw State (11-1) at No. 3 seed Jacksonville State (10-1), 2 p.m.

Having signed on to meet next November in the first college football game at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, Big South champ Kennesaw State and Ohio Valley Conference kingpin Jacksonville State get their new series started early. Kennesaw’s third-year program leads the FCS in rushing behind option quarterback Chandler Burks, but the Owls have to solve the Gamecocks’ ferocious defense, anchored by senior end Darius Jackson, the conference’s two-time defensive player of the year. Incredibly, the Gamecocks’ offensive line that opened holes for offensive player of the year Roc Thomas placed four members on the All-OVC first team for the third straight season. The winner will play South Dakota or No. 6 seed Sam Houston State in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Pick: Jacksonville State

 

Northern Iowa (8-4) at No. 5 seed South Dakota State (9-2), 3 p.m.

As South Dakota State opens its sixth straight playoff appearance, it always seems the Missouri Valley Football Conference power has the nation’s toughest draw. In this year’s Round of 16, it’s faced with reversing a 20-point loss to Northern Iowa on Oct. 14. Granted, the Jackrabbits’ offensive firepower is top-notch with quarterback Taryn Christion, tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver Jake Wieneke, but the Panthers will pound, pound and pound away with the run, as they did with running back Marcus Weymiller’s 42 carries on Oct. 14, when a streak of six wins in seven games began. The winner will play New Hampshire or No. 4 seed Central Arkansas in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Pick: Northern Iowa

 

New Hampshire (8-4) at No. 4 seed Central Arkansas (10-1), 3 p.m.

Central Arkansas doesn’t garner the national attention that it deserves, so the Bears hope to use the playoffs as a coming-out party. Head coach Steve Campbell’s team’s team placed a whopping 20 players on the All-Southland team, including 10 first-teamers, and had the overall player of the year (quarterback Hayden Hildebrand), defensive player of the year (linebacker George Odum) and freshman of the year (running back Kierre Crossley). The visiting Wildcats struggled in the first round to put away a Central Connecticut State squad without its starting quarterback, so they need to lift their play quickly. The winner will play Northern Iowa or No. 5 seed South Dakota State in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Pick: Central Arkansas

 

South Dakota (8-4) at No. 6 seed Sam Houston State (10-1), 3 p.m.

If you like 7-3 defensive struggles, watch this game for about the first five minutes. Sam Houston leads the FCS in points per game (45.9) and yards per game (544.6), while South Dakota, which outgunned another Southland team, Nicholls, in the first round, is second in yards per game (514.2) and fifth in points per game (37.8). As seniors, dual-threat Chris Streveler (USD) and pocket passer Jeremiah Briscoe (Sam Houston) have been the most productive quarterbacks in the FCS. Whoever has the ball last might be the one to survive and advance. The winner will play Kennesaw State or No. 3 seed Jacksonville State in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Pick: Sam Houston State

 

San Diego (10-2) at No. 2 seed North Dakota State (10-1), 3:30 p.m.

The best thing San Diego did in the first round was blow out Northern Arizona, 41-10, to advance to a meeting with North Dakota State for the second consecutive year. The worst thing San Diego did in the first round was get the Bison’s attention – unlike last year when the Toreros were coming off the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League’s first-ever playoff win. USD quarterback Anthony Lawrence has a ridiculous line of 33 touchdown passes against two interceptions, but the Bison have, well, the Bison defense, led by senior linebacker Nick DeLuca, one of the grittiest players in the FCS. The winner will play Furman or No. 7 seed Wofford in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Pick: North Dakota State

 

Weber State (10-2) at No. 8 seed Southern Utah (9-2), 8 p.m.

These Beehive State rivals grab the prime-time spotlight, and that’s what they were in the Big Sky while sharing this year’s title. However, there was a decided difference in their regular-season meeting when Southern Utah rolled 32-16 at Weber State, whose starting quarterback, Stefan Cantwell, was knocked from the game early in the second quarter under concussion protocol. Weber’s defense has surged since the loss, keying six straight wins, but Southern Utah has gone one better with seven straight wins under 32-year-old coach Demario Warren. The Thunderbirds are favored, but the rematch should be close. The winner will play Stony Brook or No. 1 seed James Madison in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.

Pick: Weber State

 

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

 

(Photo courtesy of Weber State Athletics)

Teaser:
FCS Football: Second-Round Playoff Games and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Super Survivor
Path: /super-survivor/colorectal-cancer-prevention
Body:

Colon and rectal cancer combined are the third most-common cancer in the United States. To put it in perspective, about one in 21 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Even more serious, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death. But there are preventative measures that can be taken. Here are a few tips from the Cleveland Clinic’s Jeremy Lipman, M.D., regarding colorectal cancer prevention:

 

Stop Smoking

Like most cancers, the most important thing you can do to lower your risk is stop smoking. This is really hard, but you doctor has lots of tools available to help you. Get help and stop. Today.  

 

Improve Diet

Eating a lot of red meat like beef increases your risk. And having more than one alcoholic drink per day can increase your chances. You could reduce your risk by eating a lot of fiber, as well as fruits and vegetables.

 

Exercise Daily

If you’re overweight or don’t engage in a lot of activity each day, your likelihood of getting cancer is much higher than people who are active. If you can do 20 minutes of medium-level exercise daily — a brisk walk, a slow bike ride or even gardening — you can reduce your risk as much as 25 to 50 percent.

 

Get Screened

There are a number of ways to get screened for colorectal cancer, but a colonoscopy is the only one that can help prevent cancer from even starting. Colorectal cancer doesn’t just appear suddenly. It starts as a small growth on your colon called a polyp that rarely causes symptoms. If left alone over many years, polyps can grow into cancer. The only way to know it’s there is to look.

 

The good news is that if a polyp is detected during a colonoscopy, it can usually be removed. Once it’s removed, it can’t hurt you anymore. If you’re 50 years old, it’s time to get a colonoscopy. If everything looks good and you have no polyps, you won’t need another one for 10 years.

 

Up to 85 percent of colorectal cancers could be prevented or successfully treated if everyone who is eligible for a colonoscopy got screened.

Teaser:
Cleveland Clinic tips for minimizing the risk of colorectal cancer
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 19:46
All taxonomy terms: Super Survivor
Path: /super-survivor/melanoma-prevention-and-monitoring
Body:

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, resulting in the majority of skin cancer deaths each year. But with the proper precautionary steps, the risk of a melanoma diagnosis can be dramatically reduced.

 

“To prevent skin cancer, there’s a number of things people can do and change in your own lifestyle,” says Ragini Kudchadkar, M.D. “It’s not just not being outside. Certainly no one wants to just stay inside all day.”

 

Using the proper SPF (Sun Protection Factor) sunscreen is key, as is the application and reapplication of sunscreen. In addition to the sunscreen method, there are additional barrier methods like sun shirts and sun hats that can be helpful. Here are a few tips from the American Cancer Society to help prevent melanoma and other skin cancers:

 

Teaser:
American Cancer Society tips to help prevent melanoma and other skin cancers
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 17:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/podcast-championship-week-preview-listen-now-2017
Body:

In the latest Cover 2 podcast, Braden Gall and Mitch Light dive into the latest College Football Playoff Rankings and preview what should be a great championship weekend.

 

Other topics discussed:

 

• Braden makes the case that USC is underrated. Mitch counters that TCU is better.

 

• If Alabama is “better” than Wisconsin, should Alabama be ranked ahead of Wisconsin — even if the Badgers beat Ohio State.

 

• Where should UCF be ranked?

 

• Mitch shares his daughter’s scorching hot take on the Arizona State coaching search.

 

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

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 13:52
Path: /fantasy/flex-rankings-week-13-fantasy-football-2017
Body:

Todd Gurley: Flex Rankings Week 13

For many fantasy football owners, Week 13 is the final week of the regular season. Win and you’re in your playoffs or are you already eliminated and relegated to playing spoiler? If you’re in the latter category, don’t forget there’s always DFS.

 

But if you are in the former or your league’s playoffs have already started (and you aren’t on a bye), then the goal is simple — survive and advance. To that end, I hope these flex rankings will help you put together the best possible lineup to accomplish this goal.

 

Things are always subject to change, but for now the top five will include both Steeler studs, Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley. Hopefully by this point your lineups are pretty set, barring injuries, since there are no byes, but for those tough decisions or when it comes to determining who will fill your flex spot, these rankings are here to help.

 

For example, if you are really torn on who to start and tempted to go with Kenyan Drake over Kareem Hunt, I wouldn’t overthink things, unless you have nothing to lose. 

 

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

 

 

 

— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Teaser:
Flex Rankings Week 13
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 13:30
Path: /fantasy/kicker-rankings-week-13-fantasy-football-2017
Body:

The top fantasy kicker for Week 12 was Greg Zuerlein. He's the top kicker in terms of fantasy points on the season as well. It should be no surprise that the's the top-ranked kicker for Week 13. He faces the Arizona Cardinals, which means weather is not a concern for this week.

 

Many fantasy owners are dropping Harrison Butker, ranked No. 11 this week. The Kansas City Chiefs' offense is struggling, which means the kicker doesn't get as many opportunities. He's been great on the season — he's missed one field goal (in Week 1) all season and he hasn't missed any extra points. However, in the past three weeks, he's only attempted five field goals and three extra points.

 

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

 

 

 

— Rankings 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.

 

(Harrison Butker photo courtesy of www.chiefs.com)

Teaser:
Kicker Rankings Week 13
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 13:30
Path: /fantasy/defense-special-teams-rankings-week-13-fantasy-football-2017
Body:

Telvin Smith/Jacksonville Jaguars: Defense/Special Teams (DST) Rankings Week 12

As teams are entering the last weeks of their fantasy regular season, the team with the Jacksonville Jaguars defense/special teams (DST) is in great shape heading into Week 13. The Jaguars are the top-ranked DST not only for Week 13, but also for the season. They have the most fantasy points out of all DSTs (in most scoring formats). This week, they face the Indianapolis Colts. Jacoby Brissett struggled against the Tennessee Titans (he was sacked eight times!); just imagine how he'll fare against the Jaguars.

 

For those looking to stream DSTs, the Los Angeles Chargers (just under 40 percent owned) face the Cleveland Browns. The winless Browns have been are a team to target when it comes to opposing DSTs. They allowed double-digit fantasy points (depending on scoring) to the Cincinnati Bengals last week. The Chargers actually have a really great schedule heading into the fantasy playoffs, so they may be a multi-week streaming option.

 

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

 

 

 

— Rankings 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:
Defense/Special Teams Rankings Week 13
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 13:30
Path: /fantasy/tight-end-rankings-week-13-fantasy-football-2017
Body:

Zach Ertz: Tight End Rankings Week 13

In Week 13, the final week of the regular season for many fantasy leagues, it’s scary to think that making the playoffs could come down to which tight end you choose to start.

 

After all, not every owner is fortunate to have Rob Gronkowski or Zach Ertz to plug in at TE. Even if you have Travis Kelce, can you trust him this week? And what about guys like Jack Doyle, Evan Engram or Hunter Henry, who is turning into the textbook boom-or-bust option?

 

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

 

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

 

Rank Tight Ends Team Opp
1 Rob Gronkowski NE at BUF
2 Travis Kelce KC at NYJ
3 Zach Ertz PHI at SEA
4 Jimmy Graham SEA vs. PHI
5 Jared Cook OAK vs. NYG
6 Delanie Walker TEN vs. HOU
7 Evan Engram NYG at OAK
8 Hunter Henry LAC vs. CLE
9 Jack Doyle IND at JAC
10 Vernon Davis WAS at DAL (Thurs.)
11 Kyle Rudolph MIN at ATL
12 Jason Witten DAL vs. WAS (Thurs.)
13 Charles Clay BUF vs. NE
14 Austin Seferian-Jenkins NYJ vs. KC
15 Tyler Kroft CIN vs. PIT (Mon.)
16 Greg Olsen CAR  at NO
17 Julius Thomas MIA vs. DEN
18 Ricky Seals-Jones ARI vs. LAR
19 O.J. Howard TB at GB
20 Benjamin Watson BAL vs. DET
21 Austin Hooper ATL vs. MIN
22 Eric Ebron DET at BAL
23 Cameron Brate TB at GB
24 Marcedes Lewis JAC vs. IND
25 C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU at TEN
26 Jordan Reed WAS  at DAL (Thurs.)
27 Jesse James PIT at CIN (Mon.)
28 Adam Shaheen CHI vs. SF
29 Ed Dickson CAR at NO
30 Tyler Higbee LAR at ARI

 

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

Teaser:
Tight End Rankings Week 13
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 13:30
Path: /fantasy/wide-receiver-rankings-week-13-fantasy-football-2017
Body:

Antonio Brown: Wide Receiver Rankings Week 13

Believe it or not, but Week 13 of the fantasy football season is upon us. Just like that the fantasy playoffs are right around the corner as owners are either making their last push for to get in or looking to solidify their roster and chase that coveted league title.

 

Besides flying by, the season also has seen plenty of changes over the past 12 weeks. For example, bac in Week 4, Kareem Hunt was the must-have player that people were putting in the same category as Le’Veon Bell while Alvin Kamara was just a flashy, third-down back with upside. Fast-forward to the present and Hunt owners are scratching their heads while Kamara owners are rightfully giddy.

 

The Giants’ season has been in a tailspin once they lost Odell Beckham Jr., but now with the news of Eli Manning getting benched it seems New York truly has hit rock bottom. Manning’s numbers certainly weren’t great, but a switch to Geno Smith or Davis Webb won’t make any of the Giants’ weapons must-starts.

 

Last week, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Keenan Allen put on clinics as to what elite wide receivers can do. The difference is Brown does it literally every week while Jones has been consistent, but not dominant like he was in Week 12. As for this week, Allen has best matchup which is why he’s ranked above Jones, who is facing the Vikings’ stout secondary.

 

Again, for most leagues this is the final week of the regular season and for some the playoffs have already started. Either way, it’s crunch time as every game from here out truly matters.

 

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

 

 

 

— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Teaser:
Wide Receiver Rankings Week 13
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 13:30
Path: /fantasy/running-back-rankings-week-13-fantasy-football-2017
Body:

Samaje Perine: Running Back Rankings Week 13

With this being Week 13 and the final week of the regular season for most leagues, some fantasy owners may have tough decisions when it comes to your running backs. Like should you start Kareem Hunt or Samaje Perine? Or can you really start Ameer Abdullah, Isaiah Crowell or DeMarco Murray this week if you need to win?

 

With all of the changes that have transpired at this position whether due to injury or performance-related, the pecking order is not what it was at the start of the season. So outside of the your trusted RB1s like Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley, who can you trust this week?

 

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

 

Rank Running Backs Team Opp
1 Le'Veon Bell PIT at CIN (Mon.)
2 Todd Gurley LAR at ARI
3 Alvin Kamara NO vs. CAR
4 Leonard Fournette JAC vs. IND
5 Jordan Howard CHI vs. SF
6 Melvin Gordon LAC vs. CLE
7 LeSean McCoy BUF vs. NE
8 Mark Ingram NO vs. CAR
9 Samaje Perine WAS at DAL (Thurs.)
10 Carlos Hyde SF at CHI
11 Jamaal Williams GB vs. TB
12 Dion Lewis NE at BUF
13 Kareem Hunt KC at NYJ
14 Christian McCaffrey CAR at NO
15 Lamar Miller HOU at TEN
16 Joe Mixon CIN vs. PIT (Mon.)
17 Marshawn Lynch OAK vs. NYG
18 Tevin Coleman ATL vs. MIN
19 Adrian Peterson ARI vs. LAR
20 Latavius Murray MIN at ATL
21 Alex Collins BAL vs. DET
22 Rex Burkhead NE at BUF
23 Kenyan Drake MIA vs. DEN
24 Jerick McKinnon MIN at ATL
25 Orleans Darkwa NYG at OAK
26 DeMarco Murray TEN vs. HOU
27 Isaiah Crowell CLE at LAC
28 Alfred Morris DAL vs. WAS (Thurs.)
29 Derrick Henry TEN vs. HOU
30 Devontae Booker DEN at MIA
31 Ameer Abdullah DET at BAL
32 Duke Johnson CLE at LAC
33 Frank Gore IND at JAC
34 Devonta Freeman ATL vs. MIN
35 Danny Woodhead BAL vs. DET
36 Jay Ajayi PHI at SEA
37 Bilal Powell NYJ vs. KC
38 Austin Ekeler LAC vs. CLE
39 Jonathan Stewart CAR at NO
40 LeGarrette Blount PHI at SEA
41 Jacquizz Rodgers TB at GB
42 Matt Forte NYJ vs. KC
43 C.J. Anderson DEN at MIA
44 Rod Smith DAL vs. WAS (Thurs.)
45 J.D. McKissic SEA vs. PHI
46 Mike Davis SEA vs. PHI
47 Tarik Cohen CHI vs. SF
48 Doug Martin TB at GB
49 Corey Clement PHI at SEA
50 Ty Montgomery GB vs. TB

 

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

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
Running Back Rankings Week 13
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 13:30
Path: /fantasy/quarterback-rankings-week-13-fantasy-football-2017
Body:

Case Keenum: Quarterback Rankings Week 13

In the past three weeks, Tom Brady has thrown for 10 touchdowns, which is fantasy gold for his owners. He's showing no signs of slowing down, despite his age. Even with a tough matchup against the Buffalo Bills on the slate for Week 13, Brady is the top-ranked quarterback. He's scored the third-most fantasy points out of all quarterbacks so far this season. Besides Week 1, Brady's "worst" game, in terms of fantasy points, was Week 5 (at Tampa Bay) in a game where he had 303 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception. He's an elite QB that will lead fantasy teams into the playoffs.

 

In most leagues, no one is streaming quarterbacks. However, for those that don't like the matchup their quarterback has for Week 13 (or perhaps are concerned with Matthew Stafford's ankle), the best option that may be available on waivers is Case Keenum. Granted, he may be benched at any point for Teddy Bridgewater, but he's been playing so well, it's hard to fathom that will come mid-game this week.

 

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

 

 

 

— Rankings 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:
Quarterback Rankings Week 13
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army West Point Black Knights, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, CFB, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, college football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Denver Broncos, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, Eastern Washington Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida A&M Rattlers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, James Madison Dukes, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami (OH) RedHawks, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, Montana State Bobcats, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Dakota Fighting Hawks, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northern Iowa Panthers, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Oakland Raiders, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Pac-12, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Portland State Vikings, Purdue Boilermakers, ranking, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Troy University, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, uniforms, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-picks-expert-predictions-every-game-week-14-2017
Body:

Week 14 of the 2017 college football season is the final weekend of action and several key matchups are on tap for Championship Saturday. The action starts on Friday night with the Pac-12 Championship and a rematch from earlier this year, as USC and Stanford meet at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. Saturday's slate features a couple of intriguing matchups in the first wave of games, including the American Athletic Conference Championship with UCF hosting Memphis. Additionally, Toledo meets Akron in the MAC Championship Game, while Lane Kiffin's FAU Owls look to claim the Conference USA title against North Texas. The top matchup in the first window of games takes place in Arlington, as TCU and Oklahoma square off in the Big 12 Championship. The SEC Championship between Georgia and Auburn highlights the afternoon window, with the winner of this game expected to secure a spot in the CFB Playoff. The night slate features two showdowns in conference title games. Miami takes on Clemson in the ACC Championship, with Wisconsin and Ohio State meeting in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title. 

 

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

 

Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 14
 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Bryan

Fischer

USC vs.

Stanford

(Friday)

Akron vs. 

Toledo

(Detroit)

Georgia Southern at

Coastal Carolina

Idaho at

Georgia State

UMass at

FIU

South Alabama at

New Mexico State

Troy at

Arkansas State

Louisiana at

Appalachian State

ULM at

Florida State

North Texas vs.

FAU

Memphis vs.

UCF

Oklahoma vs.

TCU

(Arlington)

Fresno State at

Boise State

Wisconsin vs. 

Ohio State

(Indianapolis)

Clemson vs. 

Miami

(Charlotte)

Georgia vs. 

Auburn

(Atlanta)

 

Teaser:
College Football Picks: Expert Predictions for Every Game in Week 14 2017
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: AAC, ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC
Path: /college-football/10-head-coaching-moves-college-football-programs-would-forget
Body:

With the end of college football’s regular season comes numerous coaching vacancies. Some programs, like Florida and UCLA, have found their guy. Others — um, Tennessee — have made national news, but still don’t have a coach to show for it.  

 

A good coaching hire can revitalize a program. A bad one can cause years of damage. Everything looks easy from a distance, but here are 10 that stand out for various reasons.

 

10. Auburn 1975: Doug Barfield Replaces Shug Jordan

Ralph “Shug” Jordan was a legend at Auburn. Heck, the school’s stadium is even named after him. When he decided to retire in 1975, the university replaced him with offensive coordinator Doug Barfield. From 1976-80, Barfield went 29-25-1 and two of those victories were due to forfeitures by Mississippi State thanks to NCAA probation. Barfield was fired in 1980 and has been a fixture in Alabama high school football since then.  While his record at Auburn was not bad, it pales in comparison to his predecessor and successors.

 

9. Kansas 2011: Charlie Weis Replaces Turner Gill

The Jayhawks brought in Turner Gill from Buffalo after the 2009 season to replace Mark Mangino, who had resigned amid accusations of abusive coaching practices. Kansas gave Gill a five-year, $10 million contract and he proceeded to go 5-19 in his two seasons. Gill was fired at the end of the 2011 season, but his contract stipulated that he had to receive the remaining $6 million within 120 days of being fired. Kansas reached out to its top boosters to help cover that cost and then turned around and hired Charlie Weis to replace him. The ex-Notre Dame head coach went 6-22 and was fired after four games into the 2014 season. Kansas would have been better off just letting Gill finish out his contract.

 

8. Michigan State 1999: Bobby Williams Replaces Nick Saban

Nick Saban guided the Spartans to their best season in three decades before departing for LSU.  Then he had second thoughts. How likely it was that he would have stayed and how hard athletic director Clarence Underwood tried to keep him is the subject of debate, but in the end Saban went to Baton Rouge. Underwood replaced him with running backs coach Bobby Williams, who coached the team to victory in the Citrus Bowl.  Williams then went on to have one winning season in three years as head coach and his team was 3-6 in 2002 when he was fired.

 

7. Notre Dame 1980: Gerry Faust Replaces Dan Devine

Some would call this a terrible coaching move. Others, including Notre Dame athletic officials, called it “The Bold Experiment.” After Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine retired at the end of the 1980 season, he was replaced by Gerry Faust, who had coached for 19 seasons at Archbishop Moeller High School in the Cincinnati area and won five of the last six Ohio State Championships. Notre Dame officials knew it was a gamble, but Faust had an amazing record and had sent a lot of great players to Notre Dame, including Bob Crable and Tony Hunter (He also coached former Speaker of the House John Boehner.). Faust also was a devout Roman Catholic and Notre Dame was his dream job. The experiment ultimately failed. Faust went 5-6 in his first season and never matched the success of Devine. He resigned in 1985 in the midst of another 5-6 season and his final game was a nasty 58-7 blowout by Miami. Faust coached at Akron for the next nine seasons and – class act that he is – still attends Notre Dame games. While great coaches often get their start in high school, none since have ever gone straight from high school to leading a major program.

 

6. Arkansas 1989: Jack Crowe Replaces Ken Hatfield

Razorback head coach Ken Hatfield had won the Southwest Conference (SWC) in 1988 and ‘89, but had a tense relationship with AD Frank Broyles. When Hatfield bolted for Clemson after the 1989 season, Broyles asked Hatfield’s offensive coordinator, Jack Crowe, to stay and lead the program. Crowe went 9-14 in Arkansas’ last two seasons in the SWC. Then in 1992, the Razorbacks opened their first SEC season with a loss to The Citadel. Crowe was fired and defensive coordinator Joe Kines coached the team for the remainder of the season.

 

5. Alabama 2002: Mike Price Replaces Dennis Franchione

After Dennis Franchione surprised Alabama by leaving for Texas A&M at the end of a 10-3 season in 2002, AD Mal Moore then surprised fans by hiring Mike Price. In his 14 seasons at Washington State, Price had made the Rose Bowl twice. He also enjoyed the nightlife a little more than the Alabama officials preferred. His five months in Tuscaloosa included a reprimand for being seen out drinking into the early morning hours, but everything came to a head in April 2003. Price went to Pensacola for a golf tournament where he was seen at a strip club that ultimately resulted in a bawdy Sports Illustrated story (Price later sued SI and the lawsuit was settled.). Alabama President Robert Witt, who had promised to clean up the Crimson Tide’s image after NCAA sanctions, rescinded Price’s contract and hired Mike Shula. Price went to UTEP, where he and his family were beloved, and coached for nine seasons. Looking back, his actions seem pretty tame when compared to some of the coaching scandals that have occurred since then. 

 

4. Tennessee 2008: Lane Kiffin Replaces Phillip Fulmer

After firing Phillip Fulmer in 2008, AD Mike Hamilton hired Lane Kiffin, the former offensive coordinator at USC and the recently fired head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Hamilton gave Kiffin full control of the program and he proceeded to fire the entire staff, including graduate assistants and secretaries. After leading the team to a 7-6 record, he bolted in January 2010 to return to the Trojans as their head coach, leaving the Volunteers with no other options than Derek Dooley to lead their program. It has taken Tennessee years to recover, and the program is looking to start over yet again following the firing of Butch Jones.

 

3. SMU 1981: Bobby Collins Replaces Ron Meyer

When head coach Ron Meyer left to coach the New England Patriots, SMU hired Bobby Collins, who had an impressive seven-year run as head coach of Southern Miss. Collins put together a 43-14-1 record and two Southwestern Conference championships while at SMU, but his tenure resulted in the program being given the “Death Penalty” in 1987. Many are to blame for this and Collins inherited a program that was already violating NCAA rules, but he still bears a lot of the responsibility as head coach. As the NCAA report on SMU’s probation noted, Collins had told the NCAA that, “all known violations had been disclosed and that every effort would be made to avoid violations in the future. Both assurances turned out to be false.” SMU has never fully rebounded from the severe NCAA sanctions.

 

2. Nebraska 2003: Bill Callahan Replaces Frank Solich

After an eight-win season and six straight bowl appearances, Nebraska AD Steve Pederson fired head coach Frank Solich. Granted, Solich’s success had not mirrored that of his predecessor Tom Osborne, whose final four years had included three national championships. The Huskers’ vaunted option offense also was losing its effectiveness. So in addition to firing Solich, Pederson decided to scrap it and bring in head coach Bill Callahan to install the West Coast offense. The decision did not work out and both Pederson and Callahan were fired in 2007.

 

1. Ole Miss 2004: Ed Orgeron Replaces David Cutcliffe

The success of USC under Pete Carroll caused ADs across the country to reevaluate the way they managed their football programs. It also caused some to lose their minds, the most egregious example being Ole Miss’ Pete Boone. After taking the reins in 1998, David Cutcliffe led the Rebels to five straight winning seasons, something no coach in Oxford had done since Johnny Vaught. After losing many key starters at the end of the 2003 season, including quarterback Eli Manning, Ole Miss went 4-7 in ‘04. Boone fired Cutcliffe and replaced him with Ed Orgeron, the assistant head coach and recruiting director for USC. It became apparent quickly that Boone should have stayed with Cutcliffe. Orgeron won 10 games in three seasons and was fired in 2007. Cutcliffe is now at Duke, where he poised to take the Blue Devils to their fifth bowl in 10 years. And he is the last Ole Miss head coach to have five straight winning seasons.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
10 Head Coaching Moves College Football Programs Would Like to Forget
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/when-conference-championship-games-cause-chaos
Body:

Ever since Antonio Langham returned an interception for a touchdown in the first SEC Championship Game 25 years ago, one truth has remained: no college football team is safe on conference championship weekend.

 

Since that groundbreaking night in 1992, more conference championships have been created and they add to the excitement of the season. However, they can also wreak havoc on the national title picture (or in the current landscape, the College Football Playoff) depending on the results. Here is a history of how upsets in conference championships have impacted the national championship outcome.

 

1994

Most college football fans remember that the 1994 Penn State team may be the best team to not win a national title. The undefeated Nittany Lions finished second to unbeaten Nebraska as voters were moved to give Tom Osborne his first national title. Few remember that Alabama also was 11-0 going into the SEC Championship Game, the only such contest at the time, but the Crimson Tide lost 24-23 to a 10-1 Florida team. In this instance, the loss eliminated some of the chaos, allowing voters to only make one unpleasant decision instead of two.

 

1996

Nebraska went 60-3 and won three national titles in Tom Osborne’s final five seasons. A loss to Florida State in the 1994 Orange Bowl cost the Cornhuskers a fourth title and an upset by Texas in the 1996 inaugural Big 12 Championship Game prevented them from playing for a fifth. The third-ranked Huskers were beaten 37-27 by a 7-4 Longhorn team. Had they won, they would have met top-ranked Florida State in the Sugar Bowl and since No. 2 Arizona State lost the Rose Bowl, the game would have been for the national championship. Instead, Florida moved into Nebraska’s spot and beat the Seminoles in a rematch to win the school’s first national title.

 

1998

Tennessee, Kansas State and UCLA were undefeated going into conference championship week and there was great controversy over who would play in the first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national title game. By the end of the day, there was still controversy, but in a different form. UCLA played first, meeting Miami in the Orange Bowl in a game that had been postponed earlier in the season because of Hurricane Georges. The Bruins blew a 38-21 lead with 1:28 left in the third quarter and the resurging Hurricanes upset them 49-45. When the upset was announced over the loud speaker at St. Louis’ Trans World Dome, Kansas State fans had little time to cheer because their team was in the middle of a dogfight with Texas A&M for the Big 12 title. Instead of closing the deal, the Wildcats imploded, giving up 15 points in the fourth quarter to allow the Aggies to tie the game. Texas A&M then scored a touchdown in the second overtime to end Kansas State’s national championship hopes. Tennessee nearly followed suit, as the Vols were down 14-10 to Mississippi State in the fourth quarter but they scored two touchdowns to win the SEC Championship Game 24-14. The controversy over which one-loss team would face Tennessee was now mostly a moot point. Florida State got the nod, and the Volunteers beat the Seminoles in the Fiesta Bowl to claim the national title.

 

2001

The chaos actually started Thanksgiving weekend, when Colorado beat top-ranked and undefeated Nebraska 62-36. The loss knocked Nebraska out of the Big 12 Championship Game, as the Buffaloes represented the North Division instead. The next week, the Buffaloes upset third-ranked Texas in the conference championship game. The SEC Championship Game was delayed until the next week because of 9/11, but No. 2 Tennessee was upset by LSU. The upsets left voters and the BCS computer rankings to determine whether 9-2 Colorado, 10-1 Oregon or 11-1 Nebraska should face No. 1 Miami in the Rose Bowl. In the end, the Huskers became the first team to play for a national title without winning its conference or division and they were blown out 37-14 by the Hurricanes.

 

2003

Top-ranked Oklahoma had blown out virtually all of its regular season opponents, but suffered an embarrassing 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game. The loss knocked the Sooners down to No. 3 and moved USC and LSU into the respective top spots in the AP poll, but somehow the BCS rankings kept OU at No. 1 and moved USC to third. Second-ranked LSU beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl and the Trojans won the Rose Bowl resulting in the only split national championship of the BCS era.

 

2007

The final week of one of the wackiest seasons in college football history began with Missouri and West Virginia holding the top two spots. The Tigers faced Oklahoma in a rematch in the Big 12 title game, and as was the case with the regular season, the Sooners won. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers lost to a 4-7 Pittsburgh team in the Backyard Brawl. The upsets resulted in LSU being the only two-loss team to play for a national title, and the Tigers beat Ohio State 38-24 in the BCS National Championship Game.

 

2013

Ohio State was No. 2 and riding a 24-game winning streak. A victory in the Big Ten Championship Game would pit the Buckeyes against undefeated Florida State in the final BCS title game, but they had to beat an 11-1 Michigan State team. Ohio State led 24-20 going into the fourth quarter, but the Spartans scored two touchdowns to secure the 34-24 win and end the Buckeyes’ national championship hopes. Because of the loss, SEC champion Auburn (12-1) went on to face Florida State (13-0) for the national championship, which the Seminoles won after beating the Tigers 34-31 in thrilling fashion.

 

— 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.

 

(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
When Conference Championship Games Cause Chaos
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-tcu-horned-frogs-vs-oklahoma-sooners-2017
Body:

Seven years have passed since what was thought to be the final Big 12 Championship Game took place. The 2010 edition ended the same way as many of its predecessors: Big 12 South champ Oklahoma vanquished the Big 12 North representative (Nebraska, in this case).

 

The title game is back, and so are the Sooners. Standing between them and another conference championship is TCU, a program that wasn’t even a member of the Big 12 the last time the game was held.

 

OU is also gunning for a bid to the College Football Playoff, which is a certainty with a win over the Horned Frogs. TCU and irascible head coach Gary Patterson, meanwhile, would love to play spoiler in a rematch of the game the Sooners dominated earlier this year.

 

Big 12 Championship: TCU vs. Oklahoma

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 2 at 12:30 p.m. ET

Where: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Oklahoma -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Keeping composure

TCU head coach Gary Patterson made it clear this week that he still harbors some ill will over pregame shenanigans from the last time these teams played. That game also saw Horned Frogs senior defensive lineman Mat Boesen get tossed for kicking an OU player.

 

Last week, a brawl erupted on the sidelines during TCU’s matchup with Baylor, and as a result Horned Frogs starting safety Nick Orr, the team’s third-leading tackler, was suspended by the Big 12 for the first half of Saturday’s game. The Sooners have engaged in their own share of scuffles lately, including offensive lineman Dru Samia’s ejection last week for punching a West Virginia defender.

 

Bottom line: These teams have been feisty as of late. Don’t be surprised if tensions are running high on Saturday.

 

2. Containing Rodney Anderson

Star quarterback Baker Mayfield makes the OU offense go, but Anderson’s emergence at running back has proved vital to the team’s offensive explosion in the second half of the season. He had his best performance of the year against TCU, posting nearly 300 yards from scrimmage (151 rushing, 139 receiving) and scoring four total touchdowns.

 

The Horned Frogs should start with trying to limit Anderson’s effectiveness on the ground Saturday and work up from there.

 

3. Sonny’s disposition

What did TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie take away from the previous meeting with the Sooners? The Horned Frogs broke a few big plays early in the game, signaling a classic Big 12 shootout was in store. Eventually, however, the Sooners settled in on D and did just enough to prevent TCU from keeping pace with OU’s run-and-gun offense.

 

In crafting his game plan, Cumbie needs to figure out what really worked and what didn’t against OU in round one. Then, do that. A good place to start would be for Horned Frogs quarterback Kenny Hill (above, right) to complete at least half of his pass attempts, something he did not do against the Sooners (13-for-28, 270 yds., TD) the first time.

 

Final Analysis

 

Oklahoma won handily the first time these two teams played this season. Would anything suggest the result might be different in their second meeting?

 

The Sooners won’t have home-field advantage. TCU will (presumably) have starting defensive lineman Mat Boesen on the field for the entire contest.

 

On the other hand, little about game one indicates the 38-20 result was fluky. Notably, there were no turnovers on either side or controversial plays. It came off mainly like a top-to-bottom beating by the Sooners.

 

That shouldn’t rule out an upset. Gary Patterson is a masterful tactician, and his teams often seem to feed off the multitude of grudges that he holds near and dear to his heart. The Horned Frogs defend well enough to fluster the country’s most prolific offense and capitalize on the mistakes.

 

Still, nothing about the first game offered any indication that TCU has enough firepower to hang with OU for four quarters. The Horned Frogs might put a scare into the Sooners, but this appears to be shaping up as another comfortable OU win.

 

Prediction: Oklahoma 38, TCU 30

 

— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.

Teaser:
Big 12 Championship Game Preview and Prediction: TCU Horned Frogs vs. Oklahoma Sooners
Post date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 11:30

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