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Path: /fantasy/10-bold-fantasy-predictions-week-3-nfl
Body:

Week 3 of this young NFL season is coming up, but first let’s take a look to see how my Week 2 bold predictions fared.

 

I just took a look. You don’t want to see my bold Week 2 predictions. Seriously, don’t look them up. No good can come from that.

 

Instead let’s focus on Week 3’s bold predictions and hope that I get better at making such brazen, off-the-wall predictions.

 

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

 

1. Le’Veon Bell Reminds Everyone Why He’s the Best Running Back in the Business

After last week’s predictions debacle, I am going to start off with something that will make me look good next week. Bell finally hits the field this week for the Steelers. Not as if the Steelers really missed him, as his temporary replacement DeAngelo Williams was fantastic. Williams has amassed 40.4 fantasy points from 204 rushing yards and four touchdowns. This is the same Williams who was hurt last year in Carolina and when he did play, he looked like father time had caught up with him. Now Bell returns as the lead back in a high-octane Steelers attack. Luckily for Bell he opens his season against a struggling Rams defense that just allowed Redskins rookie Matt Jones to run for over 120 yards. Chalk Bell up for over 100 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards and at least one touchdown. You’ll be happy you drafted him so early in your draft.

 

2. LeGarrette Blount Scores More Fantasy Points Than Dion Lewis (in standard leagues)

Blount returned last week from his one-game suspension and did a whole lot of nothing, scoring 0.4 fantasy points. But it’s not as if fantasy owners needed him, or even the Patriots for that matter. This week against the Jaguars it will be a different story. It’s true that right now the Patriots' backfield is all about Dion Lewis, but in a game where the Patriots should jump out to a big lead, they are going to need a workhorse to keep moving the chains and the clock. Look for Blount to get 15-plus carries and a touchdown this week.

 

3. Devonta Freeman Scores 15-plus Fantasy Points This Week

Sometimes real football and fantasy football all come down to the same thing – opportunity. For Freeman, opportunity is knocking this weekend. His teammate, rookie running back Tevin Coleman, is out at least this week with a broken rib, which means Freeman now has a chance to show what he's capable of. Freeman does lack the size and speed to be a dominating back, and it doesn’t help that he seems to get overwhelmed between the tackles at times, but remember that he did get tons of red zone looks last week when Coleman went down. This week against the Cowboys it is possible that their stout defense might bottle him up as a runner, but Freeman is excellent as a receiver and is likely to catch five balls or so. Freeman should be able to get over 100 total yards and a touchdown this week.

 

4. Ryan Tannehill Finishes Week 3 as a Top-3 Fantasy QB

You might think this is crazy seeing that Tannehill is going up against one of the best defenses in all of football in the Bills, but believe it or not this pass D is ranked 31st in the NFL after two games, allowing 345.5 net passing yards per game, five TD passes, two interceptions and four sacks. You probably remember that Tom Brady bombed the Bills for 466 yards and three scores last week. Tannehill won’t throw for 400 yards, but a 300-yard passing game and three passing TDs isn’t out of the question, especially with running back Lamar Miller hobbling around. Don’t hesitate to start Tannehill this week.


Related: Why You Should Start Ryan Tannehill And Other QB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 3

 

5. C.J. Anderson Owners Take a Sigh Of Relief as He Finishes This Week With 100 Yards and a Touchdown

The Broncos' running game has been absolutely terrible thus far in 2015. Anderson and company are averaging a meager 1.48 yards before contact per run this season, that’s good for second worst in the NFL. It appears that the offensive line is focused more on keeping Peyton Manning upright and alive then creating running room. Luckily for the Broncos and Anderson owners they are matched up against a Lions rush D that is currently ranked 28th, giving up 147 yards per game, along with two rushing scores coughed up per contest. Last week, Adrian Peterson and the other Vikings running backs punished Detroit with 199 rushing yards and two scores. If there is ever going to be a week for Anderson to bounce back, this is it.

 

Related: Fantasy Football 2015 Patience or Panic — C.J. Anderson, Brandin Cooks, Justin Forsett, Andre Johnson

 

6. Crockett Gillmore Does it Again

Was that Gillmore or Todd Heap catching Joe Flacco touchdown passes and breaking tackles last weekend? It’s true that much like Tyler Eifert in Week 1, Gillmore’s huge day came against the Raiders, who seem unable to cover tight ends, but the most important thing is that Gillmore appears to be getting more and more looks from Flacco. This is huge on a team that has no real receiving threats (no, Steve Smith doesn’t count). Gillmore looks like a great candidate for 60-plus yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.

 

7. Blake Bortles Finishes Week 3 as a Top-10 Fantasy Quarterback

A lot of this prediction has to do with the fact that the Jaguars in all likelihood are going to be playing most of their game against the Patriots from behind. This will be an excellent opportunity for Bortles to air it our against a Patriots defense that doesn’t care about giving up garbage-time fantasy points. Last week Bortles and wide receiver Allen Robinson really got on the same page and you can expect their chemistry to continue this week.

 

8. Jordan Matthews Still Finishes as a Top-10 Fantasy WR Despite Darrelle Revis' Presence

The Eagles' offense (and the whole team) is a mess and this week it’s best to stay away from all the players that you would normally consider starting. All of them except Matthews. He is the only reason that the Eagles have been in the first two games. He is basically carrying the offense all by himself. The Jets did just stymie Andrew Luck and the Colts, but Donte Moncrief had a huge game (122 yards, TD), and Matthews can at least match that. Plus, news of Revis dealing with a groin injury that could put his playing status in doubt certainly doesn't hurt either.

 

9. Jimmy Graham Goes For Over 100 Yards and 2 Touchdowns

What’s that saying about the squeaky wheel? That’s right, and right now whether or not the report is true about Graham “hating his role in the Seahawks offense,” he definitely has the attention of head coach Pete Carrol and Russell Wilson. It also helps that Graham and the rest of the Seahawks are at home this week against a pathetic Bears defense. Look for Wilson to target for Graham early and often and almost all the time in the red zone.

 

10. The “Legion of Boom” Returns and Gets 5 Turnovers Against the Chicago Bears

Of course the Seahawks' defense that could have safety Kam Chancellor back is going to have a great game against a Bears team that is starting Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. But what really makes this prediction bold is that the Seahawks' D is going to force four interceptions and recover one fumble. Still not bold enough because they’re facing a backup QB? How about a pick-six to boot? That sounds just about right.

 

— 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:
10 Bold Fantasy Predictions For Week 3 in the NFL
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/week-4-college-football-picks-against-spread
Body:

Things got ugly last weekend. But so did most of college football and that is what makes the sport so great. 

 

The SEC West and Pac-12 South both got flipped on their heads, Ohio State and the ACC struggled and the state of Texas was a spectacle.

 

After going 2-3, I am in big need a bounce back this weekend so I've included some stats below to help you all with your... entertainment this weekend. I'm going hard into the Big 12.

 

Last Week: 8-8

Year-to-date: 2-3

 

Maryland (+16.5) at West Virginia

This game has been really close the last two seasons and appears like a decent matchup at first glance. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Terps gave up 692 yards and 48 points to Bowling Green’s spread offense in a 21-point loss at home. West Virginia is better on offense and really good on D and is at home. Prediction: West Virginia -17

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

TCU (-6.5) at Texas Tech

I really wanted to pick the upset after Texas Tech rolled over Arkansas last week and TCU is down to one leg and two arms on defense. But this line opened at 9.5 and has plummeted. Now that it’s under a touchdown, I’m all over Trevone Boykin and company. Tech still doesn’t play defense. Prediction: TCU -6.5

 

Oklahoma State (-3.5) at Texas

The Longhorns are rejuvenated with the emergence of Jerrod Heard at quarterback. They also smoked the Pokes last fall 28-7 in Stillwater. Oklahoma State is much better now than they were then but Texas will play them hard. And the hook helps too. Prediction: Texas +3.5

 

BYU (+4.5) at Michigan

Big Blue has some serious defense this year and BYU is coming off three brutally tough games — win or lose. Michigan is at home and has allowed 138 yards (Oregon State) and 235 yards (UNLV) in consecutive home drubbings. The Cougars are the ranked team but the Wolverines have Jim Harbaugh. Prediction: Michigan -4.5

 

Mississippi State (+2) at Auburn

Auburn is switching quarterbacks (to a snowboarder) but has to have some pride on the line this weekend at home. Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp are too good not to be competitive and LSU is THAT much better than Mississippi State (despite the score two weeks ago). Prediction: Auburn -2

 

Northern Illinois (+4.5) at Boston College

The Huskies played Ohio State really well and Boston College was shutout last weekend so this line feels skewed. The Eagles play great defense and the Huskies probably took a lot of body blows last weekend. Prediction: Boston College -4.5

 

Georgia Southern (-16) at Idaho

The Vandals are 121st in total defense at 541.3 yards allowed per game in three contests, including a massive 8.68 yards per play allowed. The Eagles got star quarterback Kevin Ellison back from suspension and  last week and posted 484 yards and 7.1 per play on offense in a win over The Citadel. The Kibbie Dome isn’t ready. Prediction: Georgia Southern -16

 

RecordTeams ATS
3-0Air Force, BYU, Buffalo, MTSU, Ole Miss, NC State, Northwestern, Ohio, Rice, SMU, Southern Miss, Washington
2-0 UL Lafayette, Navy, Colorado St*, Texas Tech*
0-2Baylor, Boise St, Fresno St**, Kansas, New Mexico St** North Texas, UTEP**
0-3Akron, Arizona St, Auburn, UCF, Cincinnati, Michigan St, Mizzou, Old Dominion,  San Diego St,

* — 2-0-1
**  — 0-2-1 

Teaser:
Week 4 College Football Picks Against the Spread
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:53
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-miami-dolphins-dst-and-other-dst-k-startsit-fantasy-advice-week-3
Body:

No one likes agonizing over what defense or what kicker to start in their fantasy football lineup. The truth is that most of the time all we do is check to make sure that the defense or kicker we have on our roster isn’t on a bye that week and then forget about it.

 

So here are some DSTs and kickers to start and sit if you happen to be one of the brave who like to stream their defenses and kickers week-to-week.

 

Defense/Special Teams

 

START THESE DSTs...

 

Miami Dolphins (vs. BUF)

The Dolphins have an awesome pass rush led by Cameron Wake and Vernon Oliver, oh and they added some guy named Ndamukong Suh in the offseason. This week the Dolphins get to play against a quarterback in Tyrod Taylor who is only starting his third career game (even though he’s looked pretty good so far), but most importantly they get to go up against a Bills offensive line that allowed eight sacks last week to the Patriots. Wake and Oliver have to be licking their chops.

 

New York Jets (vs. PHI)

Believe in head coach Todd Bowles' system. The former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator has the Jets' defense firing on all cylinders to start the 2015 season. They are a turnover machine that just made Andrew Luck and the supposedly high-powered Colts look like the Jaguars. This week the J-E-T-S matchup against an Eagles offense that is struggling and can’t get out of its own way. Start the Jets DST and enjoy the 10-plus fantasy points.

 

SIT THESE DSTs...

 

Dallas Cowboys (at ATL)

The Cowboys' defense was awesome last week against the Eagles, scoring an outstanding 17 fantasy points. That said this week Dallas goes up against the Falcons, who despite losing rookie running back Tevin Coleman, are firing on all cylinders and so far it seems impossible to stop the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones connection. So far defenses going up against the Falcons have averaged only three fantasy points, making the Cowboys' D a must sit.

 

St. Louis Rams (vs. PIT)

So far the Rams' defense has failed to live up to lofty expectations, both on the field and in fantasy circles. They were taken to school last week by Redskins rookie running back Matt Jones. This week St. Louis has a date with the Steelers, who just so happen to be welcoming Le’Veon Bell back into their lineup. The Rams will figure it out and be a solid D soon, but this is a tough matchup.

 

Kickers

 

STARTS THESE KICKERS...

 

Steven Hauschka, SEA (vs. CHI)

So far this season Hauschka is the No. 9 kicker in terms of fantasy points. This week the Seahawks play the lowly Bears in their home opener. It's an appealing matchup that should provide all the Seahawks offensive studs, including Hauschka, plenty of opportunities to score points.

 

Matt Bryant, ATL (vs. DAL)

The Cowboys may take the bend-but-don't-break approach this week to try and slow down Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. If this is the case, that means a lot of scoring opportunities for Bryant, who is currently among the top 10 fantasy kickers.

 

SIT THESE KICKERS...

 

Robbie Gould, CHI (at SEA)

Gould has been on fire to start the season, already scoring 26 fantasy points in his first two games, which has him tied for most fantasy points at his position. Unfortunately for Gould, things are trending downward this week as the Bears now have Jimmy Clausen lining up under center and are playing in Seattle this week.

 

Cody Parkey, PHI (vs. NYJ)

Last season Parkey was one of the best fantasy kickers, but he’s been less than impressive to start 2015. In fact, he’s currently the 26th-best fantasy kicker. Things don’t look like they are going to get any better for Parkey this week as the Jets have allowed only 2.5 fantasy points per game to opposing kickers.

 

— 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:
Why You Should Start the Miami Dolphins DST and Other DST and K Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 3
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:50
Path: /college-football/rice-owls-vs-baylor-bears-game-preview-and-prediction
Body:

There is no doubt that Baylor is ready to put all of the off-the-field stories behind it and get back to football. The Rice Owls will come into Waco with a 2-1 record and an offense that has shown a knack for being able to move the ball. A 14-point loss to Texas in Austin opened some eyes around the country.

 

Baylor will be looking to finish off its non-conference schedule undefeated before entering Big 12 play next week.

 

Rice at Baylor


Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports Net
Spread: Baylor -34.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Rice Offense

This just in, Rice can move the ball. The Owls are averaging 522.3 total yards per game this season. That includes an offensive performance against Texas in which the Owls outgained the Longhorns 462-277. Rice’s balanced offensive attack has been a pleasant surprise for Owls fans this season. With 749 yards through the air and 818 on the ground Rice has been able to keep defenses off balance.

 

Baylor's defense will be the toughest Rice has faced yet this season and it will be interesting to see how well the Owls can maintain their offensive momentum against a Bears defense that is currently ranked 56th in the nation.

 

2. Baylor's Rushing Attack
The early-season statistics for the Bears' rushing attack are impressive. Coming into Saturday, Baylor leads the nation at 7.66 yards per attempt. What makes this even more impressive is this feat is being accomplished using multiple backs. Four different Baylor running backs have at least 14 carries this season. When talking about Baylor, the passing game usually dominates the conversation. And while that aspect of this offense is stellar, the running game should get some credit for what it has accomplished thus far too.

 

3. Can Baylor's Defense Improve?

While Baylor's defense is ranked among the upper half of FBS team (56th), don't lose sight of the fact that the opposition has been SMU and Lamar. Just like SMU, Rice has the ability to move the ball. If Baylor is going to avoid any slip ups in conference play this is the last game the Bears have to iron out any kinks before jumping into Big 12 action next week.

 

Although the Bears are only giving up an average of 26 points per game Rice is potentially the most potent offense Baylor will have faced yet. As weird as it sounds Rice may be the perfect test for the Bears.  
 

Final Analysis

 

While Rice will be able to move the ball, just like the Texas game, the score will probably not reflect the Owls' offensive success. Baylor has the ability to run away with games although these Bears have yet to live up to their full potential yet this season.

 

Much like Rice, the Bears' offense has been very balanced so far. The biggest difference in this game is that Baylor has the ability to finish drives whereas Rice has only managed to score on 85 percent (62nd nationally) of their trips into the red zone this season.

 

The score could be lower than many expect simply due to the fact that Rice may be able to run some clock by sustaining drives. But Baylor is just way too good for this game to be close.

 

Prediction: Baylor 60, Rice 24

 

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

Teaser:
Rice Owls vs. Baylor Bears Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/maryland-terrapins-vs-west-virginia-mountaineers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

West Virginia will enter Saturday looking for a clean sweep of its non-conference schedule before entering Big 12 play the following week. Maryland is coming off a good win against South Florida but still trying to fully recover from a devastating loss to Bowling Green at home two weeks ago as the Terrapins prepares for their second season in the Big Ten.

 

There are never any guarantees when these two get together. There is a history between these two ranging from recruiting to blowouts to heartbreaking defeats. Many will argue this isn’t a rivalry — I beg to differ.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Maryland at West Virginia

 

Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: West Virginia -17

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Special Teams Play

Maryland leads the nation in starting field position at 38.7 (meaning the Terrapins start their drives on average on their own 38-yard line). Much of that ranking can be attributed to Maryland kick returner William Likely. Likely is currently averaging 29 yards per kick return and just over 28 yards per punt return.

 

On the other side of the field the Mountaineers boast one of the best field goal kickers in the nation, Josh Lambert. Lambert is averaging 2.5 field goals per game which is ranked second in the nation. His range and accuracy has garnered him national attention. Anything within 55 yards is within his range, making him a dangerous threat which Maryland knows all too well.

 

Not to be outdone, Maryland kicker Brad Craddock has quickly made a name for himself at Maryland. Coming off a season where he made 18-of-19 field goals, including a game-winner against Penn State, Craddock is quickly becoming the face of Terrapins football.

 

Expect special teams to play a large role in this game. Whether or not it will be a determining factor in the outcome is yet to be determined but it would not be surprising.

 

2. Maryland's Secondary

While the Terps' secondary showed improvement against South Florida it revealed drastic weaknesses against Bowling Green two weeks ago. Despite having the most experienced unit on the team, Maryland’s secondary gave up 491 passing yards and six touchdowns against the Falcons.

 

The Mountaineers have always based their offensive schemes off the spread. Although Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen has stated they have become a run first offense they are not scared to throw the ball. With threats like true freshman Jovon Durante and Shelton Gibson on the outlines the Terrapins may be in for a long day. The Mountaineers also boast the No. 1 team pass efficiency ranking in the nation.

 

3. It’s Still A Rivalry

Maryland and West Virginia have never been in the same conference. However, that has not stopped this annual game from becoming a rivalry. WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen still remembers what happened to the Mountaineers two years ago in Baltimore when the Terrapins embarrassed them to the tune of 37-0. He calls it one of the worst losses he has experienced as a coach.

 

Likewise Maryland definitely remembers losing to the Mountaineers at home last season 40-37 on a 47-yard field goal as time expired.

 

This will be the last meeting between the two schools until 2020. West Virginia leads the all-time record against the Terrapins 27-22-2.
 

Final Analysis

 

Special teams may very well play an important role in Morgantown this Saturday. The Terrapins have not played in Morgantown since 2012 and Mountaineer fans can’t wait for their return. The Mountaineers should be able to take advantage of the Maryland secondary just like the Terrapins should be able to take advantage of the Mountaineers' kickoff coverage. West Virginia will be able to score through the air and if they are able to finish strong in the red zone the Terrapins may be in for a long day.

 

Maryland will have to scratch to get into scoring position against a Mountaineer defense that doesn’t bend. Maryland’s best chance at sustaining drives will be on the ground as keeping the ball away from the Mountaineers' secondary will be a must.

 

Prediction: West Virginia 34, Maryland 17

 

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

Teaser:
Maryland Terrapins vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:35
Path: /college-football/northern-illinois-huskies-vs-boston-college-eagles-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Being in the national spotlight is nothing new for Northern Illinois. The Huskies have been to seven straight bowl games including an Orange Bowl appearance following the 2012 season. They have won at least ten games five years in a row. From Jerry Kill to Dave Doeren to Rod Carey, the program has thrived.

 

Even with all of their success, last Saturday was very nearly the crowning moment. The Huskies were leading No. 1 Ohio State midway through the second quarter and were tied at halftime. Down 20-13, NIU had two opportunities late in the game to tie the score. But the Buckeyes held on and Northern Illinois had to be content with a noble effort.

 

The Huskies get another opportunity at a Power 5 team this week when they head to Boston College to face the Eagles. BC is coming off its own tough battle, losing to Florida State 14-0 and seeing quarterback Darius Wade break his ankle. 

 

Northern Illinois at Boston College

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Boston College  -4

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Boston College Quarterback Situation

Both Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie saw action against Florida State after Wade went down. Head coach Steve Addazio said that the two would compete in practice this week for the starting position and that both may play on Saturday. The freshman Smith is more equipped to operate the read option game while the redshirt freshman Flutie is a better passer and has mobility. Neither was very effective against FSU but BC didn’t move the ball well with Wade in the game either.  

 

2. Protecting Drew Hare

The NIU quarterback put up big numbers the first two weeks with much of his production coming to wide receiver Kenny Golladay. But the Huskies have had some issues protecting Hare through the first three games. It’s understandable that Ohio State would pressure the Huskies quarterback, but UNLV sacked him three times in the season opener. Boston College is sixth in the nation with 11 sacks and they will be a formidable challenge for the Huskies offensive line.

 

3. Mental State of Both Teams

Northern Illinois and Boston College both have some mental hurdles that they have to clear this week. Northern Illinois is coming off that emotional loss and now they have to hit the road once again to play a major conference foe. Boston College also had a hard-fought loss to a highly ranked conference rival and they have to adjust to a new quarterback. The team that is able to regain their focus will have a decided advantage.

 

Final Analysis

 

Boston College has no choice but to try and run the ball a lot this week. Their quarterbacks are very young and their receivers are not great. Whether it is by using Smith in the zone read or giving the ball to Jon Hilliman, BC will try to move the ball on the ground. Northern Illinois would love a balanced attack, but they will find it tough to run on an Eagles defense that was effective in limiting Dalvin Cook last Friday night. Hare will throw and hope that he gets protection. BC has a very good defense and an inept offense which means this should be a low scoring game. Northern Illinois played Ohio State tough, but they also struggled with UNLV in week one. Boston College will get by at home.

 

Prediction: Boston College 13, Northern Illinois 10

 

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

Teaser:
Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Boston College Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/arkansas-defense-braces-high-octane-texas-am-offense
Body:

The start of the 2015 season for Arkansas and Texas A&M could not have started out any differently with both teams hurdling in opposite directions. The Hogs were preseason No. 18 in the AP poll while Texas A&M was unranked. After a 3-0 start that included a 38-17 opening win over then-No. 15 Arizona State, the Aggies are the No. 14 team in the nation. Arkansas has lost back-to-back, close non-conference games to Toledo (16-12) and Texas Tech (35-24) falling from SEC West contender to a bowl invite hopeful.

 

When the two teams meet on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, some familiar threads from a year ago will be at play.

 

Related: Texas A&M Aggies vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Preview and Prediction

 

In 2014 A&M rolled into Arlington as the No. 6 team in the nation with a 4-0 record. Arkansas was 3-1 but a heavy underdog. The Razorbacks defied the odds, building a 28-14 lead before their secondary gave up an 86-yard Kenny Hill-to-Edward Pope touchdown pass and Josh Reynolds hit pay dirt on a 59-yard Hill connection. In overtime Hill found Malcome Kennedy on a 25-yard pass play on the opening series, as the Aggies won 35-28.

 

Hill lit up the Razorbacks defense, completing 21-of-41 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception. The Razorbacks stayed in the game by controlling the clock, rushing for 285 yards. Alex Collins splintered A&M defense for 131 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown, while the now-injured Jonathan Williams had 18 carries for 95 yards with another score.

 

A&M would finish the season with the No. 26 scoring offense in the nation, averaging 35 points per contest and the No. 12 passing offense, netting an average of 306 per outing.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

As time goes by some things change and some do not. Hill is no longer under center for Texas A&M but Kyle Allen has picked up the torch continuing to burn opposing college football defenses. Allen is completing 61 percent of his passes, tallying 594 yards in the air with nine touchdowns against two picks. Backup true freshman quarterback Kyler Murray has completed 15-of-27 passes in limited action coming up with another 146 yards a score and a pick.

 

What Arkansas, and every other team on A&M’s schedule in 2015, must brace for is arguably the best receiving unit in the nation on the outside and in the slot. Junior receiver Josh Reynolds is continuing his assault on A&M’s record book picking up three scores in three games after setting the school single-season receiving touchdown record a year ago with 13. Ricky Seals-Jones has nine receptions in three games for 83 yards and Speedy Noil has six receptions for 68 yards and a score.

 

Two 2015 recruits have contributed right from the start for A&M, Damion Ratley and Christian Kirk. Ratley, a rangy (6-2) target, has seven receptions for 93 yards, proving to be a valuable addition to the team. Perhaps the most impressive freshman out of the 2015 recruiting class in the entire nation thus far in the season has been Kirk. Kirk has 16 grabs for 269 yards with two scores. He also has been explosive in the return game, highlighted by a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown and an impressive 37 yards per return average on his four attempts.

 

Can the Hogs stop this elite unit?

In Week 3 against Texas Tech, the Hogs were picked apart by Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes completed 26-of-30 passes for 243 yards with one score, and the silver lining of hope for Razorback Nation, two picks.

 

The Air Raid offense is known for dinking and dunking all the way up the field but the Red Raiders had an explosive 72-yard touchdown pass on a trick play in the second quarter when Jakeem Grant hit Reginald Davis on a run-pass option. Tech did have four other receivers bring down passes of 16 yards or longer.

 

Arkansas' pass defense did succeed in one respect, as the 315 passing yards allowed to Tech was well below the Red Raiders’ per game average, which is now at 399 per contest. A&M averages 261 yards passing per game while Arkansas is giving up 233 per contest. Can the Hogs hold another high-octane offense well below its typical aerial production?

 

Arkansas’ secondary is young with only one senior in the two-deep, starting safety Rohan Gaines. The secondary is a good unit but gets very little help up front from the defensive line. While A&M leads the nation with 15 sacks in three games, Arkansas is tied with Tulane, Western Michigan, Illinois and San Jose State for dead last in FBS with just one sack in three games.

 

If the Razorbacks seek to put pressure on Allen in the pocket a change in coordinator Robb Smith’s defense is forth coming. A mix of blitzing a linebacker, a safety, or a cornerback should be coming, which means big-play potential for the Aggies if Allen can read the defense quickly picking up the hot route.

 

Arkansas still has enough talent on the roster to give A&M troubles. The opening betting line went out A&M -3 but bettors quickly bumped up the line to -7. With all of the Razorbacks’ woes, to only be an opening -3 point underdog is interesting. Someone in Vegas must know something the rest of us are missing!

 

The old Southwest Conference rivals kick off Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. 

 

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

Teaser:
Arkansas Defense Braces for High-Octane Texas A&M Offense
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/texas-am-aggies-vs-arkansas-razorbacks-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Arkansas and Texas A&M enter Saturday night’s neutral site matchup in Arlington, Texas as two programs seemingly headed in opposite directions this season. While both were projected as top 25 teams by most outlets this preseason, the Razorbacks are 1-2 and the Aggies are 3-0 after three weeks.

 

Texas A&M started its season with a marquee win over Arizona State in non-conference play in Houston and followed the opening weekend victory with one-sided affairs against Ball State and Nevada. Arkansas opened its season with a dominant performance against UTEP, but the Razorbacks lost by four to Toledo and by 11 to Texas Tech. Luck has not been on Arkansas’ side in the injury department this season, as running back Jonathan Williams was lost for the year with a foot injury, and receivers Keon Hatcher and Jared Cornelius are sidelined indefinitely due to ailments.

 

Arkansas owns a 41-27-3 all-time edge over Texas A&M, but the Aggies have claimed the last three (and only meetings as SEC foes) in this series. The Aggies won by 48 in their first meeting against the Razorbacks as SEC opponents (2012), but Arkansas has cut that margin to 12 in 2013 and by seven in 2014.

 

Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (at Arlington, Texas)

 

Kickoff: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Texas A&M -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The Battle in the Trenches

This game features one of the nation’s top offensive lines (Arkansas) versus one of the nation’s most talented defensive lines (Texas A&M). Through three games, the Razorbacks have yet to allow a sack on 94 pass attempts and are paving the way for rushers to average 4.8 yards per carry. The Aggies’ defensive line has thrived under new coordinator John Chavis, leading the nation with 15 sacks and limiting opponents to 3.9 yards per carry. Something has to give here. Arkansas’ line is anchored by standout left tackle Denver Kirkland, and it’s a safe bet the junior will spend some time blocking sophomore Myles Garrett (6.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks). The Razorbacks have been throwing more under new coordinator Dan Enos and senior quarterback Brandon Allen, but the receiving corps was hit by injuries recently to Keon Hatcher and Jared Cornelius. If the Razorbacks protect Allen, there should be plays available against the Texas A&M secondary. And it’s critical for the Aggies to slow running back Alex Collins to force Arkansas into third-and-long situations.

 

On the other side of the battle, keep an eye on the Arkansas’ defensive front against the Texas A&M offensive line. The Razorbacks have generated only one sack but are going against an Aggie front that has allowed 10 sacks through three games.

 

2. Tempo/Style of Play

Through three games, Texas A&M has a 234 to 202 edge in offensive plays. That’s not a huge difference, but these teams have a different approach on offense. Arkansas is methodical behind a powerful offensive line and rushing attack, while Texas A&M prefers to push the tempo and utilize its deep receiving corps and quarterback Kyle Allen to stretch the defense. Which style will win out on Saturday night? Can the Razorbacks establish the run and control the clock? The Aggies would prefer to jump out to an early lead and force Arkansas to take to the air to win. Considering the Razorbacks injuries in the receiving corps, Bielema’s team does not want to get into a shootout.

 

Related: Arkansas Defense Braces for High-Octane Texas A&M Offense

 

3. Red Zone Performance

One of the main factors in Arkansas’ 1-2 start is its performance in the red zone. The Razorbacks converted just 64.3 percent of their opportunities inside of the red zone for scores, which ranks 13th in the SEC. Against a high-scoring team like Texas A&M, Arkansas has to take advantage of all of its opportunities. Simply, when the Razorbacks get into the red zone, they need touchdowns – not field goals. The Aggies’ red zone defense has struggled, giving up scores on 11 of 13 drives inside of the 20. However, those stats could be skewed, as Nevada scored 17 points in the second half with the outcome no longer in doubt, while Ball State scored 20 in the final two quarters (in a 56-23 win). If Texas A&M limits Arkansas to three points on red zone trips, that’s a win for Chavis and this defense.

 

Final Analysis

 

After back-to-back losses, a victory in this game would help Arkansas right the ship and turn the momentum around for SEC play. However, the path to a victory for the Razorbacks in this neutral site affair is challenging. The rushing attack isn’t as potent as it was last season, and the offense is without two key receivers. Quarterback Brandon Allen should target tight end Hunter Henry frequently on Saturday night. But even if Arkansas performs better on offense, the Texas A&M defense has improved, and the offense is just as explosive (if not better) as it was in 2014. Expect quarterback Kyle Allen and a deep receiving corps to challenge an Arkansas secondary that has allowed only three passing scores so far. The Razorbacks will fight, but the Aggies have too much on both sides of the ball.

 

Prediction: Texas A&M 34, Arkansas 24
Teaser:
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-ole-miss-rebels-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The Ole Miss Rebels are riding high following a 43-37 victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa last week. Following that victory, Ole Miss made a huge jump in the polls – all the way from No. 15 to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 – and now has the inside track in the SEC West. However, the Rebels must face an improved Vanderbilt team Saturday in Oxford.

 

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss


Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Ole Miss -25

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Will There Be a Hangover Effect for Ole Miss?

Ole Miss has been arguably the most dominant team in the nation through the first three weeks of the 2015 season. The Rebels lead the nation in scoring offense (64.0 points per game), and have scored 43 points or more in three consecutive contests for the first time in school history. They also beat Alabama on the road for the first time since 1988, giving Ole Miss two straight wins over the Crimson Tide for the first time ever.

 

With so many people slapping the Rebels on the back following the strong start to the season – and especially following last week’s big win in Tuscaloosa – is Ole Miss susceptible to the hangover effect this week against Vanderbilt? The Commodores may only be 1-2 this season, but have been playing much better under second-year head coach Derek Mason, and are coming off an impressive 47-7 victory over Austin Peay.

 

2. Can Vanderbilt Slow Down the Ole Miss Offense?
After suffering through an embarrassing 3-9 season in his head coaching debut, which included a 0-8 record against SEC opponents, Mason decided to take over defensive play-calling duties for the Commodores in 2015. The change has had an immediate impact.

 

Vandy ranked dead last in the SEC and No. 104 in the nation in scoring defense in 2014 (33.3 points per game), and allowed more than 400 total yards per contest last year. Through three games this season, the Commodores have cut those numbers to 17.3 points per game (No. 5 in the SEC) and 270.7 yards on average (No. 3 in the SEC). And it’s not simply the product of a soft schedule – Vanderbilt held an explosive Western Kentucky offense to 14 points and 246 yards in a 14-12 season opening loss, and of the 31 points Georgia scored in Week 2, 14 came as the result of defensive and special teams touchdowns.

 

Ole Miss has been incredible on offense this season, but the Vanderbilt defense has made huge strides in 2015, and could be pose a tougher challenge than most expect.

 

3. How Will the Rebels Respond to Tony Conner’s Injury?
Despite the explosiveness of the Ole Miss offense this season, the Rebels are still led in large part by a talented, fast, and opportunistic Land Shark defense. Last week against Alabama, the Rebels forced three turnovers on defense (and two more on special teams), and now have created 10 turnovers this season, which ranks first in the SEC and is tied for the most nationally. Safety Trae Elston has intercepted one pass in each game this season, and returned two of them for touchdowns.

 

Unfortunately, Ole Miss will be without preseason All-American and All-SEC performer Tony Conner, who suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee against the Crimson Tide and is expected to miss at least four weeks. Conner recorded six tackles, including one for a loss, last week and had 10 tackles through the first three weeks of the season.

With Conner out, the Rebels are likely to rely on backup A.J. Moore at the Huskie (hybrid linebacker/safety) position, though others could factor in as well. Rover Mike Hilton has started five games at Huskie in his career.

 

Final Analysis

 

We’ve gotten this far, and have yet to even mention the two stars of the show for Ole Miss. That should tell you how much of an edge the Rebels have coming into this matchup.

 

Quarterback Chad Kelly has been brilliant through the first three games this year, having completed 47 of 73 passes (64.4 percent) for 898 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception, and he has spread the ball around to playmakers Cody Core (12 receptions, 299 yards, three touchdowns), Quincy Adeboyejo (10 catches, 224 yards, 5 TDs) and Laquon Treadwell (14 receptions, 197 yards, 1 TD). On the other side of the ball, Robert Nkemdiche was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Crimson Tide, which included six tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and half a sack.

 

With Kelly and Nkemdiche leading the way, the Rebels should roll to an easy victory Saturday.

 

Prediction: Ole Miss 35, Vanderbilt 10

 

— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work on college football can also be found on SaturdayBlitz.com and FanSided.com. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.

Teaser:
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Ole Miss Rebels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-4-value-plays
Body:

The college fantasy football season is in full swing and Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans CollegeFootballGeek.com to help you dominate in 2015!

 

Whether you play daily or season-long college fantasy football, CollegeFootballGeek.com (@CFFGeek) prepares you to win with the best advice, tools and customer service in the industry — they've been doing it since 2008. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to CFG for FREE.

 

DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for the week, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket. These are the guys poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week.

 

Below, you will find AthlonSports.com contributor and CFG writer Todd DeVries' top picks for the early Saturday games. To see the full in-depth article, be sure to check out CollegeFootballGeek.com.

 

VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY EARLY SLATE

 

QUARTERBACK

 

Driphus Jackson, Rice QB ($5600) vs. Baylor:
Jackson threw for 373 yards and three scores last week against North Texas and could approach similar numbers against Baylor. The Owls will likely find themselves playing from behind and Jackson could be forced to throw the ball early and often. The Baylor defense has shown a propensity for giving up plenty of big plays and could yield plenty of them to Jackson this week. Rice could easily exceed value and be a good choice for the No. 2 QB on DK.  


RUNNING BACKS


Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia RB ($4900) vs. Maryland:

Smallwood has 184 yards and three rushing touchdowns in two games and appears to have seized control of the Mountaineers' backfield. He could go bananas against a Maryland defense that is anything but stout. The price tag for Smallwood is very enticing and he could easily put up numbers of an $8,000 RB this week. Look for this Mountaineer to go over 100 yards rushing and add a score or two against the Terrapins.

 

Vic Enwere, Cal RB ($4500) vs. Washington:

Enwere had 73 yards and two rushing touchdowns last week as he filled in for injured starter Daniel Lasco. The status of Lasco is in question this week and Enwere could be worth a look if Lasco is unable to play. Monitor this situation and if Lasco is a no go, plug Enwere into a few lineups at minimum price.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

Jovon Durante & Shelton Gibson, WR West Virginia ($3900 & $4400) vs. Maryland:

Durante and Gibson have both scored twice in the first two game for West Virginia and appear to be the top receiving options. They could both have big games this week against a marshmallow soft Maryland pass defense that ranks 97th in the nation. Look for both playmakers to find the end zone once again and both appear to be outstanding punt options this week. Don’t be afraid to take a shot with one or both of these Mountaineer wideouts.

 

Dennis Parks, Rice WR ($4800) vs. Baylor:

Parks had eight receptions for 163 yards and two scores last week against North Texas and appears to be the top option in the Rice passing attack. He could see a ton of targets in this game as Rice may be playing from behind and throwing often against Baylor. Look for Parks to crush his value this week and provide great salary relief at minimum price. He could easily top the 100-yard mark for the second week in a row and be a truly sneaky play this week.

 

Isaiah Jones, ECU WR ($5000) vs. Virginia Tech:

Jones is a PPR machine and could have plenty of grabs against Virginia Tech in a potentially high-scoring game. He has 24 receptions for 265 yards over the past two games against Florida and Navy. Expect Jones to see a ton of targets against the Hokies and he could be the best dollar per point player in this slate of games. This Pirate appears to be criminally underpriced this week and DFS players should look to take advantage of the pricing snafu. 

 

VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY LATE SLATE

 

QUARTERBACKS


Fredi Knighten, Arkansas State QB ($6900) vs. Toledo:

Knighten is a dual-threat guy that exploded on the scene in 2014 with over 4,000 total yards and 35 total touchdowns. He has struggled in the early part of 2015 and is returning from a groin injury. This could be the game that kick starts his season and produces a ton of fantasy points. There could be plenty of points scored in this game and look for Knighten to be heavily involved in all the fantasy fun. Look for Knighten to rack up at least 300 total yards and add a few total touchdowns against the Rockets.

 

RUNNING BACKS


Justin Jackson, Northwestern RB ($6700) vs. Ball State:

Jackson has gone over 100 yards rushing in two of three games this season, but has only crossed the goal line once. Expect that touchdown number to go up by a couple this week against Ball State. Jackson is a DFS stud and his price is simply too low considering his volume of carries and weak opponent. This Wildcat should be a staple in both cash and GPP lineups this week on DraftKings. Don’t miss out on the gift that DK is giving players this week in Jackson.

 

Dare Ogunbowale, Wisconsin RB ($4700) vs. Hawaii

With Corey Clement already ruled out for this game and then some due (4-6 weeks) to sports hernia surgery, Ogunbowale could be in line for a strong fantasy outing. He has scored in each of the last two games with Clement out of action and is averaging 17.7 FD points over that span. This game with Hawaii could be just what the doctor ordered to fix the Badgers' running game, so look for Ogunbowale to see plenty of opportunities for success. A third straight game with a rushing touchdown seems likely for this Badger against an overmatched Hawaii rush defense. Look for Ogunbowale to easily exceed his price tag this week.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

Drew Morgan, Arkansas WR ($4400) vs. Texas A&M

The wide receiver position at Arkansas is a mash unit with multiple starters out with injuries. Morgan scored last week against Toledo and could see a bunch of targets this week against Texas A&M. There could be a lot of points scored in this game and Morgan could post a solid stat line against the Aggies. It would not be a big surprise to see Morgan find the end zone this week and easily reach value. 

 

Quincy Adeboyejo, Ole Miss WR ($5300) vs. Vanderbilt

Adeboyejo is on a scoring tear to start the season, with five receiving touchdowns in the first three games. He is a big play waiting to happen as evidenced by his 22.4 yards per reception in 2015. He could have a big night against a Vanderbilt defense that could have a tough time containing the Ole Miss passing game. Look for this Rebel to find the end zone at least once against the Commodores this week and easily reach value.

 

— Written by Todd DeVries, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A pioneer of online college fantasy football strategy and advice, DeVries is the founder of CollegeFootballGeek.com and founder and Director of Writer Development for Football Nation. Follow him on Twitter @CFFGeek.

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football Week 4 Value Plays
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:10
Path: /college-football/delaware-blue-hens-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

North Carolina put all three phases of the game together on Saturday and blew out Illinois 48-14. It was exactly what the Tar Heels needed in order to put the season-opening loss to South Carolina in the rear-view mirror.

 

The Heels now face their second FCS opponent of the year when Delaware heads to Chapel Hill. The Blue Hens have a rich football history but the last few years have not been up to their usual standards. Delaware has not finished better than fifth in the Colonial since winning the league in 2010. They are off to a 1-2 start following a 28-21 loss this past weekend to Villanova.

 

This will be the first meeting between UNC and Delaware.

 

Delaware at North Carolina

 

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: RSN/ESPN3

Spread: N/A

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Improving the UNC Run Defense

Gene Chizik has done wonders so far with the North Carolina defense. A unit that was No. 117 in total defense last season is No. 57 through three weeks and they have played two Power Five opponents. But the run defense still lags behind, ranking No. 105. Illinois ran for 227 yards and South Carolina had 254 on the ground. Delaware doesn't throw well, but they have a strong rushing game and that is how they will attack the Heels. Carolina has a good opportunity to shore things up before conference play begins with Georgia Tech and their triple option next Saturday.

 

2. Keep Marquise Williams Rolling

After the early interception, Williams torched Illinois with both his arm and his legs. Head coach Larry Fedora would like to see his senior quarterback continue the rhythm that he developed as the Illinois game progressed. It is unlikely that Williams carries the ball as often as he did last Saturday and ideally the Heels get up enough that back up Mitch Trubisky receives a lot of snaps. But Marquise needs to leave the Delaware game feeling as confident as he does entering the game.

 

3. A Dominant North Carolina Offensive Line

Just like Williams, the offensive line had a great performance on Saturday. Many questioned this group coming into the season and not many fears were alleviated after week one. But Illinois has a solid front seven and North Carolina owned the line of scrimmage. The Heels ran for 254 yards and both Elijah Hood and Williams topped the century mark. UNC should push the undermanned Hens all over the field.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Tar Heels may have found themselves last Saturday. No one considers Illinois a playoff contender, but they are a team that went to a bowl game last year out of the Big Ten. With Georgia Tech on the horizon, UNC could be looking past Delaware. However, North Carolina got a wakeup call against the Gamecocks and Delaware simply can’t match up physically with the Heels. Chizik will have his group ready for the Hens and the offense will score at will. Heels roll.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 52, Delaware 7

 

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

Teaser:
Delaware Blue Hens vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:10
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-syracuse-orange-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

A matchup of Power 5 Conference will be on display on Saturday when LSU (2-0) travels to upstate New York to face Syracuse (3-0) grabbing SEC vs. ACC headlines.

 

The reality of the matchup is a blue blood in LSU with national title hopes taking on a Syracuse team trying to rebound from a 3-9 season a year ago. To make matters worse for the Orange, looks like they will be without another starting quarterback against the Tigers.

 

LSU has rolled to a 2-0 record with wins over Mississippi State and Auburn missing out on a third potential victory when the opening week McNeese State game was called due to inclement weather. Syracuse has a 3-0 record looking to go 4-0 on the season for the first time since 1991. The Orange’s undefeated path thus far has been slightly different with wins over Rhode Island (47-0), Wake Forest (30-17), and Central Michigan (30-27).

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

The Tigers have the nation’s No. 5-ranked rushing attack averaging 339 yards per game behind potential Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette. Fournette is a game behind his peers in the race for total rushing yards, but leads the nation with an average of 193.5 yards per game with six touchdowns on the ground.

 

Syracuse also relies heavily on their ground game, coming in with the nation’s No. 45 rushing attack averaging 209 yards per game.

 

Both teams have stout defenses to this point in the season and both have large questions marks under center going forward.

 

LSU at Syracuse

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET

Coverage: ESPN

Line: LSU -24.5

 

Three Things to Watch For

 

1. Syracuse’s rush defense against Leonard Fournette

Leonard Fournette has ripped apart two SEC defenses getting 159 yards against Mississippi State and set a career high in Week 3 with 228 yards against Auburn. In both contests Fournette has found the end zone three times.

 

Syracuse has been one of the nation’s best run defenses with coordinator Chuck Bullough molding his unit into the No. 3 squad. The Orange are only allowing 46.7 yards per game, but that stat line will be put to a serious test against LSU.

 

Orange sophomore linebacker Zaire Franklin has set the tone stopping the run coming up with 21 tackles to lead the team. Fellow sophomores, linebacker Parris Bennett, 18 tackles, and safety Rodney Williams, 12 tackles, have been extremely active. Sophomore cornerback Antwan Cordy has been tested in the run game and has responded with 12 tackles and 4.5 tackles for a loss.

 

The group will have to be on high alert stopping Fournette, a running quarterback in Brandon Harris, and backup running backs Darrel Williams and Derrius Guice.

 

2. Syracuse must keep a quarterback healthy for an entire game

The “next man up” motto is being put to good use under center for Syracuse. Season opening starting quarterback Terrel Hunt is out for the season after an Achilles tendon tear and now last week’s starter Eric Dungey is likely out with concussion-like symptoms. Enter sophomore quarterback Austin Wilson, a former walk-on.

 

Wilson has completed 4-of-8 passes for 49 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Tough time to make his first start against the nation’s No. 36 defense only allowing 319 yards a game.

 

In Syracuse’s overtime win against Central Michigan, Zack Mahoney made the play that kept the Orange in the game, a 13-yard third down pass to tight end Kendall Moore. Offensive coordinator Tim Lester may have no choice but to rotate both quarterbacks in and out of the lineup against LSU.

 

3. How will the Orange create offense against LSU’s defense?

As mentioned, LSU has the nation’s No. 35 defense. One of the things Syracuse does well — run the ball — LSU does well at stopping. The Tigers are No. 22 in the nation at stopping the run allowing 102 yards per contest. Syracuse has averaged 209 yards per game on the ground spreading out carries to Jordan Fredericks, George Morris, and Jacob Hill. Fredericks, a true freshman, is leading the team with 197 yards on the ground with two scores. Morris, a junior, is close behind with 116 yards on 19 carries.

 

With the loss of Dungey in the pocket, that takes away not only Syracuse’s best passing option but also takes away one of their better running options. Dungey is third on the team with 106 yards on the ground.

 

Austin Wilson has not shown the ability to move the chains with his feet. He has one rushing attempt, a sack, for a loss of two yards. Most quarterbacks new to starting hit the panic button quickly opting to run for their lives over making a second or third progression read. If LSU can get to Wilson early getting him out of rhythm and fearing for his life, this could be a really long day for Syracuse fans.

 

Final Analysis

 

Right now LSU looks like world beaters, and very well could be when all is said and done, but the Tigers are still far from perfect. If they ever come across a team that can stop the run with a decent pass defense they could be in trouble… Syracuse is not that team.

 

The Orange are ahead of a lot of preseason predictions with a shot at making a bowl game, if they can stay healthy. All coaches want their team to play hard until the end but if the game is out of hand early, will Scott Shafer pull his starters in favor of resting guys for next week’s bye to prepare for South Florida and then a pretty tough conference slate that includes Virginia, Florida State, Pitt, Louisville, and Clemson? Or will he look for the offense to gel under his new quarterbacks pushing the issue against a tough Tigers team?

 

Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush threw for 430 yards last week against Syracuse. Can Harris find his elite receiving core for some much needed stat padding in Week 4?

 

Prediction: LSU 52, Syracuse 20

 

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

Teaser:
LSU Tigers vs. Syracuse Orange Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/southern-mississippi-golden-eagles-vs-nebraska-cornhuskers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The locals are restless in the heart of Husker Nation as the Big Red starts the season 1-2 for the first time since 1981. A tonic in the form of a win over the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles would be more than welcomed.

 

Unfortunately, Nebraska finds itself without linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey again, this time due to groin injury while Josh Banderas is gutting things out with one of his own. Big Vincent Valentine is week-to-week with a high ankle sprain as well.

 

What this spells out is another game with the potential for a lack of a pass rush and a shattered secondary as a result. The Golden Avian Attack is no group of Miami Hurricanes in disguise, but don’t confuse them for the South Alabama Jaguars of two weeks ago in terms of talent.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Southern Miss at Nebraska

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Network: ESPNews/WatchESPN

Spread: Nebraska -21.5

 

Three Things to Watch For

 

1. The Reemergence of the Nebraska Running Game

After the Huskers were down 17-0 to the Hurricanes in fast order, the Big Red couldn’t afford to try to set up a rushing attack that doesn’t have the “Kickstart My Heart” speed of Ameer Abdullah to rely on anymore.

 

While Nebraska’s attempt wasn’t completely stymied (Terrell Newby had 11 carries for 82 yards), every Big Red score was initiated by quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s arm.

 

The good news for Big Red coaches is that Southern Miss surrenders 194 yards on the ground to the opposition per game (No. 96 in the country). Don’t be surprised to see Newby, Mikale Wilbon and Imani Cross return to the Memorial Stadium FieldTurf.

 

2. A Successful Pass Rush

While Freedom Akinmoladun will still be filling in for Jack Gangwish for a game or two, he’s done rather impressively for a converted tight end.

 

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker has got to find someone to be used as a legitimate threat opposite Maliek Collins with Valentine on the sideline or dial up some funky sets to confuse junior Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens.

 

The Golden Eagles have only given up four sacks on the year, but three were to their most impressive opponent, Mississippi State.

 

3. A Solidified Secondary

At this point, most Big Red backers would probably trade some yardage on the ground for the barrage that has their team claiming the title of the nation’s No. 127 pass defense (out of 128).

 

Perhaps the most interesting storyline going into this game is whether or not cornerback Daniel Davie will be starting, have a short leash if he does or if he plays at all.

 

Joshua Kalu and Jonathan Rose seem to be a far stingier combo at cornerback while Nathan Gerry and Byerson Cockrell can hold their own at safety.

 

If the defensive backfield can come together due to the subtraction of Davie and coverage sacks are a result, don’t expect to see No. 23 except in garbage time and maybe the current walking wounded situation won’t be such a problem.

 

Final Analysis

 

Even Mississippi State took some shots from Mullens as he threw for 311 yards and one touchdown, but the Bulldogs did snag two interceptions. It’s vital that Nebraska comes out and rattles his cage early or stonewall any rushing attempts from backs Jalen Richard or Ito Smith.

 

There’s no reason to expect Tommy Armstrong to regress. In fact, if a running game can be established, Nebraska may look as good as they did versus South Alabama. That wouldn’t be a bad thing heading into conference play.

 

As a side note, safety Deshadrick Truly is expected to sit the first half out following his ejection for targeting last week against Texas State.

 

All that said, I expect Southern Miss to put some points on the board and since he’s due, a Gerry interception (maybe a pick-six?).

 

Prediction: Nebraska 48, Southern Miss 27

 

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.

Teaser:
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/byu-cougars-vs-michigan-wolverines-preview-and-prediction
Body:

For just the second time in both schools' history, the BYU Cougars (2-1) and Michigan Wolverines (2-1) will meet at the Big House in what should be one of the more entertaining games in the early slate of games on Saturday.

 

BYU is coming off of their first defeat of the season at the hands of UCLA, but the Cougars have been awfully impressive to begin the year, already beating the likes of Nebraska and Boise State. A one-point loss on the road against a potential playoff contender in the Bruins is nothing to scoff at.

 

Michigan has rebounded nicely since the opening loss at Utah, allowing a combined 14 points the past two games. The goal for the Wolverines against BYU will be getting a passing game that has lacked consistency on track before Big Ten play begins next week.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

BYU at Michigan

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Michigan -6

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Continued Struggles for Rudock
It has been well-documented why Jim Harbaugh brought Rudock in from Iowa to be the starting quarterback for the Wolverines in 2015. The Michigan head coach puts a premium on taking care of the football, and that was considered to be one of the strengths that the fifth-year senior brought to the table. After throwing just five interceptions all of last year for the Hawkeyes, Rudock now has five interceptions through three games this season. Despite the lack of production, Rudock continues to have the support of his new head coach. “To be clear, Jake Rudock’s still the best quarterback,” Harbaugh said to local reporters. “Not by a small margin. He’s our best quarterback.” Taking care of the football will be paramount this week against a BYU defense that is tied for first in the country in interceptions with seven.

 

2. Chucking it
In the two games since Tanner Mangum took over as the starting quarterback, the Cougars have not been shy about throwing the football. Mangum is averaging 37 passes per game since taking over for the injured Taysom Hill, including 47 attempts against UCLA. Much of this is due to a lack of a rushing attack, but the offense has been tailored to fit Mangum’s strengths. Against the 14th-best rush defense in the country in Michigan that game plan is unlikely to change.

 

3. Major Recruiting Note

Rashan Gary, the No. 2 high school prospect in the country for 2016, confirmed earlier this week that he will be on an official visit to the Big House on Saturday. The list of schools after Gary is a mile long including the likes of LSU, Auburn, Georgia and a host of others. Gary has stated he will wait until February before making a commitment, but Michigan has a chance to make a very strong impression, and a win certainly helps the cause.   
 

Final Analysis

 

Combining Michigan’s seventh-ranked defense with a BYU defense that has the propensity to take the football away means a low-scoring affair is likely upon us. Look for Michigan to continue to feed De’Veon Smith and Ty Isaac with carries and force BYU to stop the run. Against this ball-hawking defense, Harbaugh will want to keep Rudock out of many third-and-long situations where he is forced to put it in the air.

 

The big question for BYU is do they have enough "Mangum Magic" left in the tank as they conclude this rugged non-conference stretch? The early start time and home-field advantage for the Wolverines may wind up being the difference in this evenly-matched contest.

 

Prediction: Michigan 24, BYU 23

 

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.

Teaser:
BYU Cougars vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 08:55
Path: /ucf-knights-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The UCF Knights come to Columbia this Saturday, and it couldn't come at a better time for the South Carolina Gamecocks.

 

South Carolina is humiliated after losing their last two games to Kentucky and Georgia, the latter by a 52-20 score. But UCF is broken, with eight key injuries on offense including their starting quarterback, Justin Holman, and receiver Jordan Akins. George O'Leary's Knights, 21-5 the last two seasons, are now 0-3 following a 16-15 loss to Furman last Saturday.

 

Suddenly the woes of the Gamecocks (1-2) don't seem so bad. At least USC has a victory, even if not their own starting quarterback, Connor Mitch.

 

UCF at South Carolina

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: USC -14

 

Three Things To Watch

 

1. Who will be playing quarterback, and when?

Lorenzo Nunez will get his first start at South Carolina against UCF after Perry Orth proved ineffective against Georgia, completing just 6-of-17 passes.

 

While Nunez was accurate with his passing in the second half, completing four of five passes, he gained only 18 yards with them. Instead, he accumulated 76 yards rushing.

 

The Knights aren't much better off. Holman was to get the stitches taken out of his broken finger on Tuesday and O'Leary is holding out hope he can return on Saturday, but that's not considered a likelihood.

 

Instead, UCF's head coach will likely choose between Bo Schneider or Tyler Harris, and he's indicated the starter will play the entire game. Schneider has started both games since Holman was injured in Week 1 and Harris has relieved him in both games. Both have produced just one touchdown drive this season.

 

So far this season Schneider has completed 14-of-30 passes for 109 yards and two interceptions, while Harris is 14-for-32 for 131 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.

 

2. Which is worse, the Knights' offense or the South Carolina defense?

South Carolina is giving up 7.3 yards a play on defense, which is worst in the Southeastern Conference and 124th (out of 128) in the nation. UCF is gaining 3.7 yards per play, last not only in the American Athletic Conference, but dead last (yes, 128th) in the country among FBS teams.

 

The dismissal of All-Conference running back Will Stanback from the Knights for illegal drug use will not help the UCF offense, either.

 

Against Furman, UCF allowed a 61-yard touchdown pass, so the thought here is that Pharoh Cooper could finally break a long gain... if Nunez can get the ball to him.

 

3. Strategy

Steve Spurrier was once famous for using a two quarterback system, or rather changing quarterbacks at the first sign of trouble. It would be a surprise if that trend doesn't continue this season, and not just in circumstances when South Carolina is trailing by three touchdowns.

 

O'Leary, meanwhile, has hinted he would like to shed the interim athletic director title he has and move into the role full time, while leaving the coaching duties to someone else.

 

So both Spurrier and O'Leary are now on the hot seat. Questions remain about Spurrier's ability to recruit due to his age, which is used against him as rivals tell prospects he won't be around for their entire college career.

 

And at 69 years of age, O'Leary is only one year younger than Spurrier.

 

Point is, if a strategic gaffe costs either team the game, it may help grease the skids to their departure. Even though both programs have regressed in recent times it is difficult to see either one being fired — bad strategy could be what gets the boosters, administration and fans to pressure a coach into leaving.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Knights are likely just the opponent South Carolina needed. An interesting note is UCF has only sacked opposing quarterbacks twice this season, so perhaps Nunez won't be chased from the pocket and can concentrate on throwing from the pocket in this game. 

 

Prediction: South Carolina 28, UCF 14

 

— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

Teaser:
UCF Knights vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 08:50
Path: /georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-vs-duke-blue-devils-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Georgia Tech will visit Duke on Saturday in what will be its second road game in a tough four-game stretch where the Yellow Jackets also will visit Clemson in a couple of weeks. Tech's offense was halted last week by a very good Notre Dame defense, which only gave up one rushing touchdown and 337 total yards compared to the 67 points and 467 yards per game the Yellow Jackets were averaging. Tech will look to improve as this game now becomes a must-win for the Jackets to stay alive in the ACC.

 

Duke is coming off a defensive battle which it lost to Northwestern last week. The Blue Devils just couldn’t really get anything going on offense as they turned the ball over three times to the Wildcats. Last year, David Cutcliffe and Duke ended a 10-year skid by defeating the Jackets. The Blue Devils will try and make it two in a row this Saturday.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



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Georgia Tech at Duke

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Georgia Tech -9

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Georgia Tech Needs to Get its Offense Going Again

Everyone thought Notre Dame’s defense was a fluke. Not so fast my friend. The Yellow Jackets were held to 219 yards rushing and only one rushing touchdown last week, very un-Yellow Jacket numbers. Justin Thomas was a measly 8-24 which is something he will have to get better at if the Jackets are to contend in the ACC. Yes, I know this is a running offense but Thomas has to be more accurate. They usually don’t throw a lot of passes so his room for error is smaller than most quarterbacks.

 

2. Revenge

The Blue Devils snapped a 10-year losing streak to Georgia Tech with their win last year. It was an even bigger bragging chip when you look at how the Yellow Jackets finished their year. Duke will be the underdog in this game but Georgia Tech will play like one. The Yellow Jackets know they can’t afford another slip up this early in the season so I look for them to pile on the points early and often.

 

3. Georgia Tech’s Defense Has to Get Better

One of the biggest concerns for the Yellow Jackets coming into this year was their defense and it was heavily exposed last week. Georgia Tech was gashed on the ground and may have shown a weakness for Duke to exploit even more. The Yellow Jackets will need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to get teams off the field before a more high powered offense like, say Clemson, comes knocking on the door.

 

Final Analysis

 

I really don’t think this game is going to be close. Duke doesn’t strike me as the gritty Cutcliffe teams of the past couple of years and Georgia Tech has a lot of weapons to score at will. Georgia Tech will need to show they can actually stop someone but I think they do enough to shut down Duke. Georgia Tech will also need to show that there is no hangover affect after last week’s game.

 

Prediction: Georgia Tech 38, Duke 13

 

— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails.

Teaser:
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC
Path: /southern-university-jaguars-vs-georgia-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

So I guess Greyson Lambert and the rest of the Georgia Bulldogs took what I wrote last week to heart as the Bulldogs manhandled the visiting South Carolina Gamecocks 52-20, and covered. So what do I know about the spread? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And on top of that, Lambert went out and set both Georgia and national records as a quarterback. Now, I’m not completely sold on the fact that this is the Lambert we will see all year, but playing Southern University should be a nice tune up before Alabama comes to Athens next week.

 

The Bulldogs looked to be in mid-season form last week against the Gamecocks and should roll past Southern pretty easily this week. Getting some extra playing time for younger guys and keeping the starters fresh and healthy will be the name of the game this week.

 

Southern University at Georgia

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC TV

Spread: N/A

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Greyson Lambert Can Be Better. Really.

It’s hard to imagine Greyson Lambert being any better than he was last week. Lambert was 24-25, 96 percent completion rating and 330 yards while throwing three touchdowns. So how can you get better than that? By sustaining. One of the knocks on Lambert coming over from Virginia was that he had the tools to be successful, he just couldn’t put it all together on a weekly basis. So even though it is a lesser opponent, Lambert can do a lot for this offense by continuing to get better. The worst thing that could happen is if he comes out and makes bad decisions with the ball. This Bulldog offense showed last week just how dangerous it can be when running on all cylinders. Now let’s see if Lambert can keep the ship going in the right direction. So far, so good.

 

2. The Reemergence of Sony Michel

Everyone in college football knows just how important Nick Chubb is to the Georgia Bulldog offense. But Sony Michel made a huge statement on Saturday as the X-factor in this Bulldog offense. Michel finished his night with eight carries for 51 yards, including a 21-yard run for a touchdown and adding three catches for 32 yards and two more touchdowns. Michel showed that Georgia can use him in multiple positions and he is dangerous in each and every one. Look for Michel to get a bigger workload and further cement his place as a huge contributor to this Bulldog offense going forward.

 

3. Georgia’s Defensive Depth

To compete in the SEC, you need depth on the defensive side of the ball. Georgia’s defense is getting better each week. Look for some of the younger guys to get a chance to come in and show defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt if they can be dependable going forward this season. The schedule gets tougher from here on out. Georgia will need all the help they can get.

 

Final Analysis

 

It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is a payday for Southern. Coach Richt will have an opportunity to put some less experienced guys in a game situation and see just how deep his roster is. Georgia rolls and could add depth in the midst of it.

 

Prediction: Georgia 55, Southern 7


— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails

Teaser:
Southern University Jaguars vs. Georgia Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 08:40
Path: /college-football/central-michigan-chippewas-vs-michigan-state-spartans-prediction-and-preview-2015
Body:

The Chippewas and Spartans will conclude the non-conference portions of their respective schedules this Saturday. This game is Michigan State's next step in its quest to claim the mythical "state championship." Their neighbors in Mount Pleasant will visit Spartan Stadium.

 

The Chippewas are not as weak as their 1-2 record might indicate. The first loss occurred at home against Oklahoma State by only 11 points, a team currently ranked in both major polls. Last week, CMU forced Syracuse into overtime inside the Carrier Dome before the Orange escaped with a win. 

 

Michigan State holds a 6-3 advantage in the series history. The first eight of those meetings occurred in East Lansing. The Spartans won the most recent meeting, 41-7. That was the only game ever played in Mount Pleasant between these two programs. 

 

Central Michigan at Michigan State

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan State -28.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Generous Spartan defense vs. well-tested Chippewa offense

After three games, Michigan State has allowed an average of 388.3 yards per game and 5.7 yards per play. Additionally, the Spartans have been outscored in the second halves of games, 49-34. Permitting that many yards and points may let an overmatched underdog hang around through the fourth quarter. The Chippewas have averaged 334.5 yards in two games against FBS opponents. CMU could snatch a victory away from a lackadaisical defense and unproductive offense with a few well-timed big plays late in the game after coming up agonizingly short last week.

 

2. Injuries and suspensions among defense level the playing field

The Spartans have lost a starting linebacker, Ed Davis, and a starting cornerback, Vayante Copeland, for the rest of the season due to injuries. Darian Hicks, a starting cornerback in the majority of last season's games, is still recovering from mononucleosis. Another linebacker, Riley Bullough, will miss the first half after being ejected in the second half versus Air Force. Two reserves, safety Mark Meyers and defensive end Montez Sweat, are also suspended. Will the absence of these players make a difference between Central Michigan being manhandled and having a legitimate chance to upset the Spartans?

 

3. Motivation versus complacency

Central Michigan has 75 players from the Great Lake State. Surely, they would love to knock off their upscale neighbor from the Big Ten. Very few of them were likely recruited by Michigan State. The fact that the Spartans are ranked second by the media and third by the coaches would make an upset even sweeter for the guys wearing maroon and gold.

 

Michigan State faces its second of eight straight unranked opponents. Preferably, the Spartans have to provide enough style points in winning to stay in the high regard of the College Football Playoff selection committee. The men in green need to stay focused on the current opponent and not on what might lie ahead. Any references to a possible "Game of the Century" in late November must be squashed. Is it possible for a team to be caught looking ahead to a game two months in the future?

 

Final Analysis

 

This shapes up as a typical match between one team with nothing to lose and another team with everything to lose. A victory for CMU would give the Chippewas a huge burst of momentum heading into its Mid-American Conference slate. However, the gap in talent and depth will eventually make the difference despite the Chippewas' skill and motivation and Spartans' missing players and suspect pass defense.

 

Prediction: Michigan State 34, Central Michigan 23

 

— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 08:35
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-4-picks
Body:

Week four of the college football season is upon us and I put together another week although I was disappointed with the two losses in the FCS vs. FBS realm. I'm pretty sure it's a sign of true degeneracy when you are yelling at your TV or computer for an FCS team that is clearly outmatched to hold on or perform better in their matchup. Last week I pointed out that I'd like to learn a little more about Charlotte and Temple, and boy did we. The 49ers are not ready for primetime while the Owls just might be. These two teams play next Friday in a game that I will be attending. 

 

Record: 17-12 (6-4 last week)

 

Boise State (2-1) at Virginia (1-2) (Friday)

Virginia welcomes Boise State to Charlottesville for a Friday night tilt. The Broncos enter this one without starting quarterback Ryan Finley, who broke his ankle vs. Idaho State. The Cavaliers nearly knocked off Notre Dame in week 2 and also nearly let one slip away against FCS opponent William and Mary in a 35-29 win. Virginia's received good quarterbacking from Matt Johns, who is taking over for Greyson Lambert (transferred to Georgia). The offense will get T.J. Thorpe at full strength and the UNC transfer is going to add another dimension to things. Boise's defense has shut down three rushing attacks although two teams don't commit to the run as much as UVA does. Boise's offense hasn't overwhelmed anyone of the FBS variety. The Cavaliers have covered seven of their last 11 non-conference games and 10 of their last 17 at home. The Broncs are an okay ATS team having split their last 12 road games against the spread. SELECTION: Virginia +3

 

Missouri (3-0) at Kentucky (2-1)

Kentucky is coming off a rough outing where the Wildcats lost to Florida 14-9 at home. Missouri, meanwhile, had its own troubles at home with UConn in a 9-6 victory. For the second straight week, the Tigers managed under 300 yards of offense.  They got the victory by virtue of a good defense that has held every opponent under 300 yards. UK's offense has put up better numbers, although the level of opponent hasn't been the best. South Carolina didn't put up much resistance in week 2. Last year these two played a 20-10 game in Missouri. September's been a good month for unders for both teams as Missouri is 2-8 O-U in its last 10 while Kentucky is 2-7 O-U. SELECTION: Under 44

 

Arkansas State (1-2) at Toledo (2-0)

Toledo is 2-0 after a second straight Power 5 win over Iowa State. The Rockets are getting a lot of publicity for their start as they host Arkansas State on Saturday. The Red Wolves are 1-2, but have the talent to make things interesting in this one. Toledo's defense has allowed around 500 yards per game in both of its contests and could struggle with Fredi Knighten and Michael Gordon. These two teams played in a bowl game back on Jan. 4 with Toledo winning 63-44. We could see that many points in this one. The Rockets are 41-21 O-U since 1992. SELECTION: Over 60

 

Vanderbilt (1-2) at Ole Miss (3-0)

Ole Miss is flying high after a huge 43-37 win at Alabama. Now the Rebels welcome woeful Vanderbilt to town for the Commodores' first road game of the season. The Commodores have been pretty awful offensively this season scoring just 26 points in two home games against FBS opponents. They'll find it hard to score on the Rebels, who have forced 10 turnovers. Ole Miss has been rolling offensively, putting up 192 points in three games. Chad Kelly is putting up solid stats for a potential Heisman campaign. Money is streaming in on Vanderbilt, because of course people think that Ole Miss will start slow. That's probably true so I don't recommend any first half wagers, but in the end Ole Miss is the better team and the Rebels will pull this out. The Rebs have covered in 11 of their last 16 home games. Last year at home Vandy lost this game 41-3. We expect a similar score, but wait and maybe more line movement will help you out. SELECTION: Ole Miss -24.5

 

FIU (2-1) at Louisiana Tech (1-2)

Last year, I was on FAU whenever I could and it worked out well. This year, we're transferring over to FIU, which already has a road win over UCF. The Panthers have a very good defense that has held down two of their last three opponents. Louisiana Tech is coming off a pair of tough road losses and will be hungry to get back on the winning side. Jeff Driskel and Kenneth Dixon have been a solid pair on offense. FIU's offense is inconsistent, but the Panthers might be able to find some things that work against the Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech has played just 11 home games the last three seasons and have covered five. Playing a hunch here and going with the road team. SELECTION: FIU +14.5

 

Rice (2-1) at Baylor (2-0)

Baylor had the week off entering this contest with Rice on Saturday. The Bears have put up 122 points in two games while allowing 52 to SMU and Lamar. The numbers look great offensively, but the competition hasn't been great. Rice possesses some offensive firepower, but the Owls will struggle defensively. The Owls gave up 42 points to Texas and 24 to North Texas. Driphus Jackson leads a Rice team that has scored 28 points or more in each of its three games. Baylor has played 18 overs in its last 28 games including nine of 14 at home. The Bears' opponent has gone over in 11 of the last 15 road games including both this season. SELECTION: Over 75

 

Ohio (3-0) at Minnesota (2-1)

Last week I hit the under in the Minnesota game and it paid off handsomely, as the Golden Gophers won 10-7 at home over Kent State. Now it's the second straight MAC opponent for them as Ohio comes to town. The Bobcats have played impressively on defense especially in week two when they held Marshall to 10 points and 241 yards of offense. Minny has managed just 50 points this season and has struggled with turnovers. Ohio's offense won't be able to get much going on this Big Ten defense that held TCU to just 23 points. Minnesota has three unders in three games this season and 10 of its last 16 home contests. Ohio has played 11 unders in its last 13 games as an underdog. SELECTION: Under 47

 

Marshall (1-2) at Kent State (2-1)

The other side of that Minnesota contest last week was Kent State, whose anemic offense comes home to host Marshall. Kent State has scored just 10 points against FBS opponents managing under 250 yards in each tilt. The good thing for the Golden Flashes is how well they are playing on defense. While they did give up 52 points to Illinois in week one, it didn't help that they had four turnovers and frequent short fields to defend. Marshall's offense is still working on some things. The Thundering Herd will play two quarterbacks in this one and that's going to make things difficult. Devon Johnson is steady at RB, but the passing attack needs work. Kent State has gone under in six of its last eight games against teams with a winning record. SELECTION: Under 50.5

 

Northern Illinois (2-1) at Boston College (2-1)

The Eagles play their second straight FBS opponent as they host Northern Illinois. It's hard to get a read on Boston College with wins over Maine and Howard on the docket already. BC did hold Florida State to just 217 yards of offense last Friday night. We also don't know about NIU's defense. The Huskies struggled with UNLV and Murray State before holding the Buckeyes to 298 yards of total offense. Northern Illinois is capable of scoring, but a trip to Chestnut Hill will make things tough. The Eagles don't have Darius Wade for this one so the offense will have a new signal-caller. NIU has been an underdog nine times the last three seasons with six of those games going under the total. SELECTION: Under 47

 

Nicholls State (0-2) at Colorado (2-1)

This is a mismatch of sorts on Saturday as Nicholls State has lost 20 straight games. This year the Colonels fell 47-0 to ULM and 20-10 to Incarnate Word. They have played 17 freshmen in their first two games including several in the secondary. That's a bad set up to face the Buffaloes, who love to sling it around and figure to find wide receiver Nelson Spruce early and often. Nicholls has lost five straight FBS games getting outscored 311-33. The only concern here is that Colorado hosts Oregon next Saturday, but even its second and third teams should be able to score here. SELECTION: Colorado -45

 

Notes: 

- It's a classic matchup of a good defense against a good offense as Wake Forest hosts Indiana. The Demon Deacons are 2-1 with wins over Elon and Army. Wake Forest has been very good on the defensive side, but has not played anyone as good as Indiana. The Hoosiers have three wins over mediocre teams for the most part excluding Western Kentucky. It's their first road game of the season as well. IU has made each of those teams look good offensively. I really thought about the under in this one as well as Wake Forest, but couldn't make either official. Ohio State comes to Bloomington next Saturday so focus could be an issue as well. 

 

- It is a matchup of two of the worst Power 5 schools as Rutgers takes on Kansas. It is week two of Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood's suspension as well as wide receiver Leonte Carroo, who is the Scarlet Knights' best offensive player. The Jayhawks are horrendous, but had two weeks to prepare for this one. This game will go one of two ways... Rutgers blows out the awful Jayhawks or the Scarlet Knights' misery continues and Kansas comes away with a rare victory. I almost lean to KU in this one, but really who can bet on either team.

 

- Vegas has thwarted one of my favorite spot plays for Saturday. Old Dominion is coming off the biggest home game in school history and now Appalachian State is coming to town. The Monarchs' offense couldn't get anything going in the 38-14 loss to NC State and now have to play a Mountaineers team that is coming off a bye after a loss at Clemson. Appy State has a potent offense to go with a decent defense. I was hoping to get a number where I could fade Old Dominion, which won't be focused in this spot, but unfortunately it's at a number I don't feel comfortable playing on the road.

 

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

Teaser:
Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 4 Picks
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-pac-12-basketball-coaches-2015-16
Body:

Compared to the lineups in other power conferences, the Pac-12 coaching lineup has a few key items missing on its collective résumés.

 

Namely, a coach who has been to the Final Four.

 

The Pac-12 is the only one of the top nine conferences — the Power 5 plus the American, Big East, Mountain West and Missouri Valley — without a coach who has been to the Final Four. Of the top nine conferences, six have multiple Final Four coaches.

 

That’s not to say the Pac-12 is bereft of quality coaches. Miller is widely considered the peer of the nation’s elite coaches, and his first Final Four appearance seems to be a matter of when rather than if.

 

The Pac-12 has two coaches who could claim to be the top guys on the bench in the modern era for their respective programs (Washington’s Lorenzo Romar, Colorado’s Tad Boyle). One Pac-12 school (Washington State) has the all-time wins leader from another conference school (Ernie Kent, at Oregon).

 

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak led one of the best rebuilding jobs of the last four seasons, and Oregon’s Dana Altman has done something in the last three years that’s never been done in program history.

 

While the Pac-12 lineup isn’t perfect, several schools — even not named Arizona — have reason to feel confident.

 

The Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine is available now.

 

Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?



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Ranking the Pac-12 Basketball Coaches for 2015-16

 

 

1. Sean Miller, Arizona

Record at Arizona: 163-52, 79-29 Pac-12

NCAA record: 17-8

Number to note: Not only has Miller been to either the Elite Eight or Sweet 16 in each of his last six trips to the NCAA Tournament, Miller has never been knocked out of the Tourney by a team seeded lower than third.

Why he’s ranked here: Miller is only 46 and on the short list of best coaches in the game. He’s seeking his first Final Four, but he’s already on a Hall of Fame trajectory.

 

2. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Record at Utah: 68-64, 30-42 Pac-12

NCAA record: 3-3

Number to note: In Krystkowiak’s four seasons, Utah has improved in KenPom’s ratings from No. 297 to No. 108 to No. 42 to No. 8.

Why he’s ranked here: By taking Utah to its second Sweet 16 since Rick Majerus left, Krystkowiak has resurrected the Utah program in an improving Pac-12. With Delon Wright gone, this is could be a critical season for Utah’s staying power.

 

3. Dana Altman, Oregon

Record at Oregon: 123-57, 55-35 Pac-12

NCAA record: 6-11

Number to note: Altman has won at least 10 conference games in 18 of his last 19 seasons, the exception being his first season at Oregon in 2010-11.

Why he’s ranked here: Altman is the first coach to lead Oregon to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, but scandal and faltering attendance have marred his program.

 

4. Steve Alford, UCLA

Record at UCLA: 50-23, 23-13 Pac-12

NCAA record: 9-9

Number to note: All of Alford’s teams since 2006-07 at Iowa have been ranked in the top 100 of both offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom.

Why he’s ranked here: UCLA has reached the Sweet 16 in each Alford’s first two seasons (with the assist of facing double-digit seeds UAB and Stephen F. Austin in the round of 32). With his deepest roster in Westwood, Alford will be expected to challenge for bigger prizes.

 

5. Cuonzo Martin, Cal

Record at Cal: 18-15, 7-11 Pac-12

NCAA record: 3-1

Number to note: In 2015, Martin signed Cal’s first McDonald’s All-Americans since 2003.

Why he’s ranked here: Cal is expecting big things with Martin adding freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb to a veteran team. Martin likely will coach a ranked team for the first time in his career.

 

6. Tad Boyle, Colorado

Record at Colorado: 108-68, 46-42 Big 12/Pac-12

NCAA record: 1-3

Number to note: The Buffaloes went 7-11 in the Pac-12 last season, the first losing conference season for Boyle since 2007-08 at Northern Colorado.

Why he’s ranked here: An injury-plagued year for Colorado was a major disappointment after three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. Can Boyle get back on track?

 

7. Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State

Record at Oregon State: 17-14, 8-10 Pac-12

NCAA record: 0-3

Number to note: The Beavers ranked 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom last season.

Why he’s ranked here: Tinkle’s first team at Oregon State overachieved to beat Arizona and UCLA and stay competitive in conference. His second team will have the sons of the best player in school history (Gary Payton II), the head coach (Tres Tinkle) and an assistant (Stephen Thompson Jr.).

 

8. Lorenzo Romar, Washington

Record at Washington: 270-159, 132-102 Pac-12

NCAA record: 8-7

Number to note: Washington’s 5-13 Pac-12 record was Romar’s first losing conference season since 2007-08 and worst league mark since his first season with the Huskies.

Why he’s ranked here: Washington has had its ups and downs under Romar, but the Huskies are currently in their most sustained funk of the last 12 years, missing the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. Romar is either on the hot seat or headed for another turnaround.

 

9. Johnny Dawkins, Stanford

Record at Stanford: 141-100, 58-68 Pac-12

NCAA record: 2-1

Number to note: Dawkins is a combined 4-23 against Arizona and UCLA since arriving at Stanford.

Why he’s ranked here: The Sweet 16 run in 2014 may have saved Dawkins job, allowing him to win his second NIT championship at Stanford last season.

 

10. Bobby Hurley, Arizona State

Record at Arizona State: First season

NCAA record: 0-1

Number to note: In two seasons at Buffalo, Hurley was responsible for two of the top seven win totals in program history.

Why he’s ranked here: Arizona State believes it has a rising star in Hurley, who has only two seasons of head coaching experience. The family name — and the turnaround at Buffalo — carries significant weight.

 

11. Ernie Kent, Washington State

Record at Washington State: 13-18, 7-11 Pac-12

NCAA record: 6-6

Number to note: Washington State’s seven Pac-12 wins (including two in OT) came by an average of 4 points per game. The Cougars’ 11 Pac-12 losses were by an average of 15.2 points per game.

Why he’s ranked here: Kent, who last coached at Oregon in 2010, coaxed seven league wins out of last year’s group. That was a rather impressive feat for what we thought was a ho-hum hire.

 

12. Andy Enfield, USC

Record at USC: 23-41, 5-31 Pac-12

NCAA record: 2-1

Number to note: The Trojans have ranked 25th and 26th in tempo in his two seasons at USC.

Why he’s ranked here: Enfield started building from the ground up at USC, building his program around local high school prospects. Those players are now sophomores and juniors. Progress must be made this season.

 
Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12 Basketball Coaches for 2015-16
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: videos, High School, Overtime
Path: /high-school/high-school-lineman-7-feet-440-john-krahn-southern-california-max-preps
Body:

If you're about to line up against John Krahn, stop it. Quit football. Move to another state.

 

This lineman hailing from Southern California is a senior and literally tosses opposing players like a ragdoll. Krahn is working on trying to shed some pounds to increase his agility and mobility. When that happens, watch out. Adding speed to an already dominant player is only going to make things worse for opponents.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 16:16
Path: /college-football/boise-state-broncos-vs-virginia-cavaliers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

In the first-ever meeting between these schools, Boise State and Virginia square off under the Friday night lights in front of a nationally televised audience.

 

Both teams are coming off victories against FCS schools, and both schools are entering the final game of their respective non-conference slates.  Both of which have been some of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



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Virginia is 1-2 and is looking to get a signature win to maybe cool down the hot seat conversation for head coach Mike London.  The Cavaliers nearly pulled off a huge upset against Notre Dame, but came up short when Irish backup quarterback DeShone Kizer stepped in for the injured Malik Zaire to lead some late-game heroics.

 

Boise State, who is 2-1, is making one of the longest trips in college football this season by travelling 1,999 miles to Charlottesville.  This is the Broncos’ second game against a program from what the Broncos call the “Resource 5” in non-conference play.   The other was against Washington in the season opener where the Broncos held the Huskies to only 13 points in a game they won by a field goal.

 

Boise State at Virginia

 

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Boise State -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Will the two-quarterback system work for Boise State?

Ryan Finley, who started the first three games of this season for Boise State, suffered a broken broke in his right ankle in the win against Idaho State.  In relief of Finley were two quarterbacks who had never played a collegiate snap prior to last week - sophomore Tommy Stuart and true freshman Brett Rypien.

 

Head coach Bryan Harsin hasn’t tipped his hat as to who will get the start, but all indications point to the Broncos giving reps to both quarterbacks on Friday night.

 

Rypien is the more heralded quarterback, as he was a four-star recruit in the class of 2015 this past February, and the lineage is there.  Rypien’s uncle is former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien.

 

With Finley out for eight weeks, Harsin is eventually going to turn to Rypien or Stuart as the every-down starter, and I’d hedge my bets that Rypien is the guy that eventually gets the nod.  Finley did nothing in his three starts to suggest he would have a hold on the starting job when he is healthy from his injury.

 

Virginia’s defense has given up big yards to true freshman quarterbacks already this season when they let UCLA’s Josh Rosen throw for 351 yards in his collegiate debut.

 

2. Follow the “Smoke” trail from Virginia tailback Taquan Mizzell

Mizzell a.k.a. “Smoke,” was one of the nation’s top recruits in the class of 2013, and in his first season as the feature back out of the backfield for the Cavaliers, Mizzell is establishing himself as one of the most versatile running backs in the country.

 

Mizzell has already amassed 484 all-purpose yards this season, and 233 of those yards have come in the receiving game.  Mizzell is Virginia quarterback Matt Johns’ top target in the passing game.  With a national audience, this could be the game where Mizzell establishes himself as a household name nationally.

 

3. What can we expect from Virginia’s defense?

The Cavaliers have faced the toughest Power 5 schedule in the country to this point, and it shows with some of the yards they are giving up.

 

Virginia made UCLA quarterback Rosen the week 1 pick to win the Heisman, and they let Notre Dame rally with a new quarterback to win in Charlottesville.  The Hoos have been giving up 444 yards per game, with 184 coming on the ground.  First-year starter at linebacker Micah Kiser has been a bright spot as a tackling machine of the front seven, but this defense has yet to force a takeaway this season.  With inexperienced quarterbacks lining up against them, they have to rattle those two and force takeaways if they want to pull off the upset.

 

Final Analysis

 

Both teams have been battle tested, and both teams are ready for a national spotlight game.  The Broncos have been in this setting before where the nation’s eyes are watching, Virginia not as much.  I’d expect Boise State’s front seven on defense to be the difference in this game, as the Broncos get another victory over a “Resource 5” program, in a game that will be a back-and-forth defensive battle.

 

Prediction: Boise State 21, Virginia 17

 

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

Teaser:
Boise State Broncos vs. Virginia Cavaliers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 15:00
Path: /college-football/stanford-cardinal-vs-oregon-state-beavers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

After three games, Oregon State is starting to take on the defining characteristics of a Gary Andersen-coached team. The Beavers feature a stifling defense and a stout run game. How will it translate into Pac-12 play? No. 21 Stanford should offer a good test for that question.

 

The Cardinal have dominated Oregon State in recent seasons. Stanford has won five straight games in the series – the Cardinal's longest winning streak over the Beavers since claiming six consecutive victories from 1990-95. Their average margin of victory in those five games has been 19.8 points per contest.

 

Stanford could be ripe for the upset with senior quarterback Kevin Hogan battling a left ankle injury. Hogan injured his ankle in the second half against USC last week and is a game-time decision against Oregon State.


Related: Stanford Brings Concept of Momentum to Life

 

Stanford at Oregon State

 

Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV: Fox Sports 1

Spread: Stanford -15.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Tight End U is back

Stanford's offense traditionally features a talented tight end who can move the chains with similar efficiency of a speedy running back. The Cardinal may have found their latest gem at that position. Austin Hooper had a breakout game in Stanford's 41-31 upset victory over USC last weekend. Hooper tallied 79 yards on four receptions – highlighted by a 16-yard touchdown catch. The Cardinal will need another big game from Hooper if Hogan isn't ready to go.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



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2. Making a lasting mark

Storm Barrs-Woods is on the verge of joining the Oregon State record books. Barrs-Woods needs only 13 receiving yards to become just the second player in school history to accumulate at least 2,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving during his career. Jacquizz Rodgers was the first player to do it for the Beavers. Barrs-Woods has already rushed for 2,410 career yards. He can also become just the fourth Oregon State player to tally 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards joining Rodgers, Pat Chaffey (1986, '88-89) and James Rodgers (2007-11).

 

3. Defensive battle brewing?

Neither team is likely to light up the scoreboard on Friday night. Oregon State and Stanford both rank among the top three teams in the Pac-12 in total defense. The Beavers have allowed just 278.7 yards per game through three games. The Cardinal are not that far behind, allowing 312.7 yards per game in their three contests. Oregon State's defense has been especially stingy on third down. The Beavers have allowed opponents to convert just 7-of-39 third downs. That 18 percent conversion rate leads the Pac-12 and ranks second in the nation.

 

Final Analysis

 

Oregon State has a history of upsetting ranked Pac-12 opponents in its home stadium. Stanford appears vulnerable to such a loss with the status of its starting quarterback in question. The odds are still long for the Beavers though. Oregon State did not fare well against Michigan – a team that features a run-oriented offense with a physical defense much like the Cardinal. The Beavers will beat a Pac-12 team they aren't supposed to beat at some point this season, but Stanford likely won't be it.

 

Prediction: Stanford 24, Oregon State 13

 

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

Teaser:
Stanford Cardinal vs. Oregon State Beavers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Utah Utes, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/five-burning-questions-utah-entering-pac-12-play
Body:

Utah has generated all sorts of positive momentum while starting 3-0 for a second consecutive season. The Utes have shown signs of being elite defensively, once again, in a conference filled with high-flying offenses. They already lead the Pac-12 in several key defensive and special teams categories after three weeks.

 

Will it be enough for Utah to take a step forward and contend for the Pac-12 South title in 2015? Five questions remain for the Utes to answer going into their Pac-12 opener at Oregon on Saturday:

 

1. Will Travis Wilson stay consistent?

Wilson, a four-year starter at quarterback, has shown frustrating inconsistency when facing Pac-12 opponents during his career at Utah. He lost his starting job twice last season after struggling against UCLA and Arizona State. Wilson reclaimed the No. 1 spot on the depth chart each time and he followed up with strong performances against teams like USC and Colorado.

 

Signs of better consistency have emerged this season. If Wilson can stay healthy, a strong final year looks promising for him. The senior has only played a little over five quarters of football after spraining his left shoulder against Utah State. During his limited time, however, Wilson has thrown for 286 yards on 33-of-45 passing and rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage



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2. Will the outside receivers get more involved in the offense?

Utah's offense has missed Dres Anderson more than anyone anticipated. The Utes have not seen a deep threat emerge early in the season to take pressure away from Devontae Booker and the running game. Kenneth Scott ranks fourth on the team in receiving with 49 yards on six receptions. Scott's longest catch has been for only nine yards. True freshman Tyrone Smith has 39 yards on five catches.

 

Injuries have impacted the group's lack of production. Tim Patrick appeared briefly in just one game and Raelon Singleton has been sidelined the entire season so far. Both were expected to be important contributors on the outside. If Patrick and Singleton get healthy, it could take some pressure off Scott and let more big plays develop.

 

3. Can the pass rush elevate to 2014 levels?

Utah earned the nickname “Sack Lake City” for a good reason last fall. The Utes made a living off of pressuring the quarterback and forcing them into making bad throws and turnovers. Creating turnovers has not been a problem through three games. Still, there has been a noticeable drop-off in QB pressure.

 

Utah generated just three sacks for a net loss of 20 yards in non-conference play. This is a stark change from last season when Utah led the nation with 55 sacks in 13 games. Part of the problem stems from doing fewer blitzes under first-year defensive coordinator John Pease. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has indicated that blitzes may feature more prominently in defensive game plans as the season progresses.

 

4. How will Devontae Booker handle being a defensive target?

It's no secret that Booker is the fuel that powers Utah's offensive engine. He is the team's all-purpose yardage leader through three games with 471 yards. Booker has rushed for 345 yards and four touchdowns on 84 carries. He is also the No. 2 receiver behind Britain Covey with 126 yards on 14 receptions.

 

Booker did not emerge as the full-time starter until Utah's Pac-12 opener a season ago. He caught many defenses off guard with his powerful and bruising running style. They will be more prepared to contain him in season two. How Booker responds will go a long way to determining the Utes' chances for finishing higher than fifth in the Pac-12 South this season.

 

5. Can the secondary limit big offensive plays?

Another area of concern for Utah's defense beyond pressuring the quarterback is the tendency for the Ute secondary to yield occasional big plays. The Utes are allowing 258.7 passing yards per game and all seven touchdowns scored against Utah have come through the air. Opponents are averaging 11.8 yards per catch.

 

That's an unsettling number in a conference filled with pass-happy offenses. The good news for Utah is that it has tallied five interceptions in three games – including one pick-six by Justin Thomas against Michigan. Still, interceptions are just a start. The Utes will need to find ways to generate a higher number of pass breakups and limit yards per catch to keep opposing offenses bottled up.

 

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

Teaser:
Five Burning Questions for Utah Entering Pac-12 Play
Post date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/athlon-cover-catch-lsus-gabe-northern-talks-yoga-conflict-resolution
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Younger college football fans probably wouldn’t recognize the LSU football program for which Gabe Northern played.

 

From 1992-95, Northern was a bright spot on LSU teams that struggled just to make a bowl. Northern played before Nick Saban and Les Miles turned LSU into a national power. Northern was a dominant defensive end for coaches Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo, twice earning first-team All-SEC honors. His time at LSU featured one winning season — a 7–4–1 appearance in the Independence Bowl during his senior season.

 

Northern left LSU as a second-round draft pick and played four seasons for the Buffalo Bills before injuries hampered his career. He tried his hand at coaching at Grambling and Prairie View A&M and a business venture with a former teammate, but both vocations ended in disappointment.

 

Northern’s resolve was tested, but through yoga and lessons learned at LSU, he’s found a new start in Buffalo.

 

You played at LSU during some lean years. How closely have you watched LSU’s rise during the last 10-15 years?

 

I’ve paid a little bit of attention to it, not as much as you may think. Once I got out of LSU, there were a lot of changes made, a lot of administrational changes made. A lot of regime changes from DiNardo to Saban to Les Miles. It’s good to see them where they are right now to have two national championships because I thought we had championship-level talent when I played. A lot of the personalities conflicted from the coaches, coach-to-coach, player-to-player, player-to-coach. With that type of lack of cohesion, it’s hard for a team to win no matter what talent you have. In order to win a championship, you have to have just about everything go your way. You never get those breaks if you’re not on the same page from the get-go. Sometimes we weren’t in the same book or in the same library, so it was tough to be victorious against teams like Tennessee, Florida, Texas A&M back then.

 

What are you doing right now?

 

I’m spending most of my time in Buffalo right now. They look out for me pretty good in Buffalo. That’s where I call my home. I’ve tried to go back to Baton Rouge a few times, but it seem like Baton Rouge is a little bit limited with opportunities. I hooked up with a good group of people up where in Canada and Western New York.

 

I do a whole lot of yoga, and I teach fitness in Buffalo and Canada as well. What I do is what I feel is the perfect mixture of football and yoga in my business Zoo-ology99. It got started out of necessity because I didn’t want to go to the gym and I didn’t want to pay to go to the gym. I had just come off some rough times and I couldn’t afford to go to the gym, so I got a medicine ball and from that one medicine ball, I’d start to throw it around and try to find different ways to throw this medicine ball around. After that I started training people with that medicine ball and a few footballs. As I trained people, I bought more medicine balls, footballs, ropes. I just built my business based different ways to move those things around, and I blended it with yoga.

 

What they’ve presented to (at yoga) me has led me on a spiritual and almost religious journey as to looking within myself and the energy I can spread throughout this world. It’s crazy to have a polarizing couple of loves in my life being football and yoga. In football, you crash into each other, you knock people down, you hurt people and in yoga it’s all about peace, good vibrations, positive energy, helping the world, clean living. Somehow through a little trial and error I think I’ve come up with what I think is a perfect blend of both. And I’m sharing that with anybody who will listen.

 

Did you do a lot of yoga during your playing days?

 

No. I feel like if I had done yoga when I was playing, I would have played five more years. My career was heading toward its end after I blew out both of my hamstrings right before I was heading to training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I signed with Pittsburgh after my last year in Buffalo. I ended up getting hurt and then I could stay healthy after that.

 

For your training, do you have a facility?

 

I had a facility. I owned a gym for a while with a good friend of mine in Tallahassee, a guy I played ball with, a guy I took on his recruiting trip. But that’s a lesson — you need to be careful of who you partner with or go into business with because I ended up having a lot of issues with my “best friend.” I ended up losing my ass in the deal, but I learned a whole lot. I still look at it as a positive experience because I always look at it like as long as I have breath in my lungs, I could always make something happen and that God always had my back.

 

(Editor’s Note: Northern and former LSU teammate Kevin Franklin opened an Anytime Fitness franchise in 2007 in Tallahassee, Fla. According to a feature in the Baton Rouge Advocate in 2014, Franklin and Northern lost the franchise during the recession. Franklin worked several jobs before he was hired as a building manager with the YMCA.)

 

You alluded to some rough times. Is this business deal what you’re referring to?

 

It was rough, but I was able to fall back on the foundation of my family, my mother and father, my sister and brother. I don’t know where I would have ended up today because I was going through all that depression and thinking about what if I had that gun in my hand or what if I had that cliff to jump off of. I was at that stage in my life, and something just pulled me out of it. And I think what pulled me out of it was the love of my family.

 

What’s the timetable of all this? When did things start going wrong and how did you pull yourself out of it?

 

It’s hard to say because in the midst of all of it, there were some beautiful moments, and I came across a lot of beautiful people every step of the way. It’s just life. I refuse to complain about it because of all the people who showed me love. I prefer to not dwell on it.

 

And during all of this you were coaching?

 

I was coaching at Prairie View. I coached at Grambling for a few years, but I ended up getting fired. Coach said he wanted to go into a new direction. That’s one of the things that happens when you don’t control your own destiny. Now I’m my own boss, and it’s probably going to be a while before I fire myself.

 

Man, the way I look at it, there are so many coaches out there who know so much more than what I learned when I played for four years under Wade Phillips’ tutelage. I only learned for four years under one of the best defensive coordinators in history of the game. For that not to be good enough for certain institutions and certain people, hey man, you’re right. It takes four years to graduate, a little less to get a Master’s degree and something else to get a doctorate. I figure I’ve got some kind of degree in great defense after leaning from Wade Phillips. If other people couldn’t understand that, that’s on them. I promise you they lost more games by not being confident in what I learned and doing things the other way. I stand firm in my belief in that.

 

One thing that’s come up when searching your name is Men Against Violence. Can you tell me about that?

 

It’s something I started with a group of guys at LSU. There were a lot of negative aspects at LSU when it came to guys fighting guys, guys fighting girls, domestic violence, fratboy fights, football fights with fratboys. There was a whole lot of that going on back when I was in school. Between me and a few other guys, it was something we created. It’s something that was dear to my heart. If not for the training I got with that program, I would have been dead, I might have killed somebody or I would have been in jail. I would have been in a really bad circumstance had it not been for what I learned in that group. We went from place to place and trained people in conflict resolution. Just like what we learn in yoga, daily life is a practice. You have to practice love, you have to practice peace, you have to practice diligence. Those were things we learned back then with Men Against Violence. That’s a lot of what I teach today. Some people don’t know how to be people. All they know is chaos or mayhem, fighting, war. If you don’t know how to deal with conflict and resolving conflict, you will not be able to function in today’s society.

 

Just the other day, I was hosting my first Zoo-ology camp in Buffalo. I was doing some grocery shopping. I was in a hurry. I go to swipe my card to buy my items and my business credit card didn’t work. So I had to walk out to my truck, get my personal credit card, come back in and swipe it and my personal credit card didn’t work. I grab my checkbook and everything is all good until the damn check won’t clear. I’m about to blow a gasket up in this place if I don’t get some service. I go to the ATM, the card works I end up getting my money. I got my items. But I’m telling you, I had to consciously warn myself to breathe. To take some time, close my mouth and breathe. After that, everything worked out. I had a wonderful camp. I helped some kids. I had a wonderful group out there helping me. If it hadn’t been some training I had received from Men Against Violence or the yoga, I would have been in trouble that day. I would have kicked somebody’s ass, threw something around. Any of the options that I would have chosen would have been poor choices and it would have led to some self-destruction.

 

So when you’re working with kids or athletes in your training, do you share these lessons of daily struggles or internal battles?

 

All the time. People look at me, with what people see of my physical stature, they would think that I always had it going on, that I’ve always been sitting on top of the world, never been kicked in the ass financially. People wouldn’t have guessed that I’ve had certain battles, certain struggles, certain demons that I had to exorcise.

 

Teaser:
Athlon Cover Catch-Up: LSU's Gabe Northern Talks Yoga, Conflict Resolution
Post date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 13:36

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