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All taxonomy terms: Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-vs-indianapolis-colts-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Saints have discovered the way to cure their struggles on offense and ineptitude on defense: play in prime time. Maybe the NFL could grant the Saints special accommodations due to phengophobia (fear of daylight)? Assuming that will not happen, they will have to learn how to win a game with an afternoon kickoff.


The Colts have fared slightly more successfully than the Saints. They have won and lost the same number of games (three). However, all three victories occurred within the AFC South. They need to figure out how to beat an opponent outside of the division in order to pad their lead within the AFC South.


The Saints lead the all-time series 7-5. The Saints have won two out of the three games played in Indianapolis. The Colts won both meetings played in Baltimore between these franchises.


New Orleans at Indianapolis


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Saints +4.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Dependable replacements for the departed Graham, declining Colston and the disappointing duo of Cooks and Coleman?

Against the Falcons, tight eend Ben Watson had 10 catches, 40 percent of all his receptions this season so far. His total yards in receptions exceeded 100 yards for the first time this year. The exact number (127) was more than three times his second best performance. He also scored his second touchdown in 2015 as well.


Despite having his second lowest number of yards in receptions this season versus Atlanta, Willie Snead has also shown signs of increasing importance for the Saints' offense. He has had 100-plus yards in receiving. Since the season opener, he has caught at least four passes per game.  


Drew Brees needs a reliable safety valve. In the past four seasons, Jimmy Graham filled that role. Marques Colston's catching abilities are noticeably reduced in his 10th professional season. Brandin Cooks has hauled in more than 50 yards in receiving in only half of this season's contests; he has scored just one touchdown. Brandon Coleman had four receptions and a touchdown in the season opener. In the past five games, he has a total of five catches and no scores. Can Watson or Snead continue to contribute and become a dependable cog in the Saints' offense?


2. Status of Andrew Luck

Against New England, Andrew Luck seemed to show that his right shoulder has recovered. He completed 30 out of 50 passes for 312 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Compared to his efforts in the first three games, those passing yards exceeded his numbers by more than fifty yards. He threw more touchdowns in a game last week than he did in his three previous starts. Also, he did not have any interceptions in a game for the first time in 2015. Was this an aberration or an indication that he has returned to pre-injury?


3. Winning the turnover margin

A team that recovers three fumbles by the opponent while not turning over the ball stands a great chance of winning the game. That may seem obvious to anyone who understands football. For the re-worked and struggling defense in New Orleans, holding a decided advantage in the turnover margin really matters. Those three recoveries with no giveaways of their own tilted the game versus Atlanta in the Saints' favor. The Saints have lost all three games in which they have committed more turnovers than the opponent. When they had the same number of turnovers as the other team, they are 1-1.


For the Colts, the turnover margin matters very much as well. In their three losses, their average turnover margin has been minus-two (-2). When they have won, they have averaged an equal number of turnovers as their opponents.


Final Analysis


Both teams have their quarterbacks back and have seemingly recovered from mid-season injuries. Neither team has a dependable defense, having allowed an average of more than 400 yards on offense to opponents. The Colts' outstanding placekicker will make the difference.


Prediction: Colts 38, Saints 35


— 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.

New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, NFL
Path: /nfl/atlanta-falcons-vs-tennessee-titans-preview-and-prediction-2015

The 5-1 Atlanta Falcons will travel to Nashville in Week 7 to take on a struggling 1-4 Tennessee Titans team that will be without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota suffered an MCL sprain in last week’s embarrassing loss to Miami and the team decided on Friday that backup Zach Mettenberger will get the start on Sunday. Mettenberger has shown flashes of being a good quarterback at times, but his 0-6 overall record as the Titans’ starting quarterback is concerning to say the least.


The Falcons have a few concerns of their own following a mistake plagued Week 6 performance against the Saints that ended their undefeated run. Atlanta will be looking for a rebound performance against a Titans team that would like nothing more than to simply forget Week 6 altogether. Tennessee head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, now has the daunting task of trying to resurrect the confidence of a team heading in the wrong direction. If he is somehow successful, the Titans could earn their second victory of the season against an NFC South opponent.


This will be the 14th meeting all-time between the Titans and the Falcons dating back to 1972. Tennessee holds a slight edge in the series with a 7-6 overall record against Atlanta. The teams last met in 2011 with the Falcons coming away with a narrow 23-17 victory. The Titans had won five in a row against the Falcons prior to that 2011 loss.


Atlanta at Tennessee


Kickoff: 1 p.m ET (Sunday)


Spread: Atlanta -4.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The Falcons’ Offense vs. The Titans’ Defense

In spite of a terrible 1-4 record, the Titans have actually played pretty well on the defensive side of the football this year. They rank third in the NFL in yards allowed per game (313) and first in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (184). That being said, Tennessee has yet to face an offense nearly as potent as the one they will compete against in Week 7.


The Titans will be hard pressed to slow down a Falcons passing attack that can be dominant with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Tennessee will be equally tested by a Falcons run game that features a red hot Devonta Freeman and explosive rookie Tevin Coleman. Freeman has been torching opposing defenses all season, accumulating ten touchdowns in his last five contests. A top flight Atlanta offense is unlikely to repeat a bad Week 6 performance, even against a solid Tennessee defense. The Titans will likely meet their match and then some in Week 7.


2. Tennessee’s Offensive Line

Without question, the Titans’ biggest liability so far this season has been the offensive line. In five games, Tennessee has already allowed twenty sacks. The Titans gave up six sacks last week to a Dolphins defense that had just one sack to their credit all season prior to Week 6. To make matters worse, Tennessee will be without starting center, Brian Schwenke, who was lost for the year to a severe ankle injury suffered in last week's loss.


Like most of the Titans’ previous opponents, the Atlanta Falcons do not come into this matchup with impressive pass rush numbers. In fact, they are currently tied for the fewest sacks in the NFL with just seven on the season. Regardless, the Falcons will make it their mission to exploit a weak Titans offensive front, especially considering that Mettenberger isn't nearly as mobile in or out of the pocket as Mariota.


3. Delanie Walker’s Breakout Performance?

In Week 6, the Saints were able to expose a significant weakness in the Falcons’ defense. The inability to cover the tight end. New Orleans’ tight end, Benjamin Watson, who had put up very pedestrian numbers prior to Week 6, managed to have a field day against the Atlanta defense. In fact, Atlanta has allowed an opposing tight end to score a touchdown in each of their last three games. Two of those touchdowns coming from backup tight ends that you have probably never even heard of.


This should be an area that the Titans will also look to exploit in Week 7. The biggest potential benefactor being Delanie Walker. In spite of a somewhat disappointing season so far, Walker is Tennessee’s second leading receiver, and a major focal point in the Titans’ offense when it is at its best. He is also one of the better tight ends that Atlanta has faced so far this season. The Falcons could not make the necessary adjustments to slow down an aging Benjamin Watson in Week 6, so it stands to reason that they will be vulnerable against a younger and more explosive Walker in Week 7. A weak Falcons secondary could also have their hands full with receivers Kendall Wright and Dorial Green-Beckham. Green-Beckham is also a prime candidate for a breakout performance if the Titans can find some semblance of a passing attack on Sunday.


Final Analysis


Regardless of who starts at quarterback or the challenges provided by a porous offensive line, the Titans may still be able to find some success through the air against the mediocre Falcons’ pass defense. On the other side of the ball, a solid Titans defense probably won’t be enough to overcome an elite Falcons offense set on redemption. In addition, Tennessee may have lost more than just their starting quarterback in last week’s pummeling at the hands of the Dolphins. They may have lost their spirit.


As for Atlanta, even really good NFL teams sometimes fall victim to the occasional bad week. That appears to have been the case for the previously undefeated Falcons in Week 6. Logic alone would suggest that Atlanta’s Week 6 debacle against the Saints is not likely to repeat itself, especially against a 1-4 Titans team that showed few signs of life in Week 6.


Prediction: Falcons 31, Titans 17


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

Atlanta Falcons vs. Tennessee Titans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Path: /nfl/buffalo-bills-vs-jacksonville-jaguars-preview-and-prediction-2015

In a non-stop attempt for world domination, the NFL continues its yearly trip across the pond to England where the fine folks of foggy London town will be given the gift of American football. The folks of London probably see this game like a Christmas gift from their estranged American cousin, predictable and probably not very good. 


For the third straight season, the Jacksonville Jaguars grace London with their brand of football, this time against the Buffalo Bills. The Jags are 0-2 in their previous two attempts on foreign land, but hope to turn their Euro-misfortunes, as well as their 2015, around with a win over Rex Ryan’s Bills at Wembley Stadium. 


The Bills gained early attention when they beat the doors off of the Colts and Dolphins and only lost a one-possession game to the Patriots in the first three weeks of the season. Since those impressive three weeks, however, the Bills have looked like the Bills that we are used to seeing over the past few seasons. They’ve lost two straight home games to the Giants and Bengals and only beat the lowly Titans by one (14-13) in Nashville, 14-13 With a team that is battered and bruised, and now voicing their dissent to the media, Ryan is already seemingly at a crossroads in his first season in Buffalo.


On the other sideline, the Jacksonville Jaguars are who we all thought they would be — bad. At 1-5, the Jaguars are probably the worst team in the NFL, again. Quarterback Blake Bortles continues to struggle, taking one step forward and one step back seemingly every week. The Jaguar defense only compounds matters, having given up the second-most total points so far this season.


Buffalo vs. Jacksonville (London)


Time: 9:30 a.m. ET

TV: Yahoo! Sports (

Line: Buffalo -4


Three Things to Watch


1. American Football Online In London

The NFL can directly thank the rise in popularity of television over the past several decades as a major contributor to their American sports empire. But times have been changing for a while now. People are “cutting the cord” and are watching more and more sporting events and television shows online. The other big three North American sports leagues offer versions of their games via online broadcast. Since the NFL essentially owns a day of the week on several television networks, the need to offer games online has been unnecessary. But as I said, times are changing. 


For the first time ever, the NFL will stream a regular season game online, and online only (except in Buffalo and Jacksonville markets). Internet giant Yahoo! landed the rights to the game, thanks in large part to their one billion monthly worldwide users. The move is seen by most as two things, experimental and progressive. Yahoo reportedly paid $20 million for streaming rights to this game, money that seems to be well spent as all ad space has been sold for this event featuring the typical NFL sponsor giants. As somewhat of an experiment, and perhaps a testament to our collective shortening attention span, there will be a noticeable drop in the number of advertisements. NFL senior vice president for media strategy, business development, and sales Hans Schroeder told The New York Times, “The streamed game will have seven to eight fewer minutes of advertising that a typical televisions broadcast... We’re focused on overall game length, to see how a slightly reduced ad load allows the game to move quicker.”  


Since this game is being played in another country’s time zone, the kickoff will be much earlier than NFL fans east of the Pacific Time Zone will be used to. Plan to set your alarm, East Coast as this game kicks off at 9:30 a.m.


2. Banged-Up Bills

Part of the recent Bills’ slide is due to their brimming injury report. Tyrod Taylor was leading the pack for the NFL’s best feel-good story of 2015, winning over the starting quarterback job in training camp after spending the first four seasons of his career as Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore. Taylor certainly looked like the real deal in his first five starts for the Bills, completing 70 percent of his passes and throwing for nine touchdowns and just four picks. Taylor was out last week with a sprained knee ligament and it cost the Bills, as they fell to the Bengals at home 34-21. Taylor will not be in the lineup for a second straight week as former first-round pick EJ Manuel lines up behind center again. 


Manuel will be without two of his most explosive weapons at wideout, as Percy Harvin and Sammy Watkins have already been ruled out, as well as back up running back Karlos Williams. Watkins is out with a left ankle injury, and Williams with a concussion, but Harvin’s situation is much more complex. Reports indicate that Harvin is very frustrated over recurring hip and knee issues that have sidelined him for much of his career. The Buffalo News reported that Harvin was thinking about possibly retiring, a report that ESPN has challenged through an anonymous source. Harvin did not travel with the Bills to London and Ryan said, “I don’t know where he is right now.” 


Harvin, Watkins and Williams aside, the Bills will be without defensive tackle Kyle Williams, safety Aaron Williams and cornerback Leodis McKelvin this week on that side of the ball as well.


3. Protecting Blake Bortles

Bortles’ growing pains have been tough to watch at times. He has all of the physical attributes that an NFL coach could ever hope for, but Jaguars fans can’t help but wander if they are seeing the second coming of Blaine Gabbert (Sorry for bringing it up, Jags faithful.) But a lot of those pains aren’t necessarily Bortles’ fault, he’s been running for his life behind a shoddy offensive line ever since he was drafted. 


When the Jag’s O-line buckles down and gives Bortles time to sling it, he shows flashes of his fantastic UCF days. Bortles has already surpassed last year’s passing TD total (11) with 13 through six games, and he leads the league in pass attempts and completions over 20 yards this season. Bortles’ improvement is thanks in large part to his young receiving duo of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.


On the other side, Ryan is trying to stave off the wolves, not just from injury, but also from his own player’s discourse. Earlier this week Pro-Bowl defensive studs Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus were critical of Ryan’s deployment of them in his defensive schemes. Ryan essentially agreed with his players and tried to move on before saying the defense is paid to win games. Disagreement aside, Bills’ players and coaches can all agree the the defense hasn’t been living up to their own high standard. This week in London would be a perfect time for the defense to get back on track by putting pressure on Bortles, last year’s most-sacked QB.


Final Analysis


Bortles has slowly shown signs of improvement, but one of the worst turnover margins in the NFL (-6) is proof that the Jaguars are a long way from being able to compete on a weekly basis. I like the Bills to rebound this week and get back into the AFC East hunt with a victory on the road... er, on another continent, thanks to a healthy dose of LeSean McCoy and a defense ready to make a statement. 


Prediction: Bills 20, Jaguars 14


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

Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-five-up-five-down-todd-gurley-up-antonio-brown-down-week-7
By Week 7, it's time to take stock of your fantasy team. You look at the players you drafted and now are on your bench. You look at the waiver wire, trying to find a diamond in the rough. As you make your way through Week 7, let's look at some guys who are poised to have good weeks and others that may struggle.


With four teams chock full of fantasy players on a bye (Denver, Chicago, Green Bay, Cincinnati), filling rosters may be a bit more difficult this week. Please note that this is not a start/sit column, just guys that are ranked higher or lower than in the past because of performance and/or matchup.


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


Five Up


Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, New York Jets

The Jets always play well against the Patriots, and this week should be no exception. The Patriots have been either in the lead in games or have kept the score close, so opposing quarterbacks have to throw the ball. The Pats’ secondary can be beaten, and if Blake Bortles can throw for 242 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, Fitzpatrick can certainly do better than that. With the exception of Brandon Weeden, the Patriots have allowed opposing quarterbacks to score at least 20 fantasy points in all games so far this year. Fitzpatrick is a solid bye week fill-in, falling just outside the top 10 in the quarterback ranks this week.


Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams

The Cleveland Browns have the worst rush defense in the league, and guess who faces the Browns this week? Yup, that’s right, Gurley, who is coming off two 100-plus-yard games before the bye week. Gurley should run all over the Browns and even though he is second in the running back rankings, don't be surprised if he finishes the week as the No. 1 running back. He's looked great in the two games that he's played, and a matchup with Cleveland is just icing on the cake.


Related: Why You Should Start Todd Gurley and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice For Week 7


Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Tennessee Titans

Coming out of the bye week, the Titans had said they wanted to get DGB more involved. Fantasy owners started him in Week 5, and earned a goose egg. In Week 6, he did get six targets (second most on the team, behind Delanie Walker). He turned those six targets into three receptions for 56 yards. Harry Douglas is questionable for Sunday, and if he is out, the door is open for Green-Beckham to have more targets. He has a big game in him, and it's hard to predict when it will be. However, Zach Mettenberger was able to find him and he will likely be quarterback again this week. For a bye-week fill-in that absolutely is boom-or-bust, go for DGB as a WR3.


Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers

Even though Green only had four targets in Week 6 (with Antonio Gates back), he turned those four targets into three receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown. With both Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson banged up and questionable to play, Green may earn a bigger role by default. The Chargers play the Raiders, who (except for Owen Daniels) are notoriously bad against tight ends. While Antonio Gates is certainly a great play this week, don't be surprised if Green puts up low TE1 numbers as well.


Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills

Clay has emerged as a TE1 this season, and even with EJ Manuel in Week 6, he had nine receptions for 62 yards. This was mostly the result of Percy Harvin being out, and Sammy Watkins exiting the game early. Already knowing that Harvin and Watkins are out and Manuel is in, Clay is in line for a ton of targets in Week 7. The Jacksonville Jaguars have allowed big games to tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Coby Fleener), and Clay is in line for a big game as well. Start him as a solid TE1 this week.


Five Down


Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

This should be a good matchup for Smith. The Steelers are in the bottom third in terms of pass defense. However, Smith may be without his No. 1 receiver, Jeremy Maclin. The running game of Knile Davis and Charcandrick West didn't exactly take off last week. Pittsburgh's rush defense is much better than its pass defense, but the Chiefs have not been able to get any offense going since losing Jamaal Charles. Travis Kelce has some value, but Smith has looked awful. Don't trust him this week, even as a bye week fill-in.


LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots

Trying to pick a Patriots running back to play each week is like spinning a roulette wheel. Dion Lewis was supposed to have a big game last week, and fantasy owners don't know whether he was hampered by injury or the Pats just decided to go with Blount. Blount had 93 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown. Lewis had four carries for 21 yards and three receptions for 18 yards. Now the Patriots face the Jets, who allow the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs. They've allowed one rushing and one receiving touchdown to running backs this season. They've also allowed the fewest yards to opposing running backs, so this is shaping up to be a very tough matchup for Blount. If Lewis is healthy, he should be the featured back in this matchup, as he excels at catching the ball. Blount is a low RB2.


John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Brown had a breakout game in Week 6, but the stats from the remaining five games are mediocre. He only has two touchdowns on the season and didn't have more than 75 receiving yards in a game prior to last week. The Cardinals’ passing offense is one of the best in the league, and Baltimore's secondary can be beat, so this should be a good matchup for Brown. However, he tweaked his hamstring (which caused him to be on the injury report last week) in practice and is questionable for Week 7. Odds are that he'll play, but if he's limited or re-injures the hamstring during the game, he's not the high WR2 that you've been counting on.


Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Fantasy owners of Brown know that it's been rough. It doesn't appear that Ben Roethlisberger will play this week, and Landry Jones didn't seem to find Brown any more than Michael Vick did. He did have eight targets in Week 6, but he only caught three of them. Brown drops to the No. 13 wide receiver in the Week 7 rankings. It's hard to recommend sitting him because he is arguably one of the best receivers in the NFL, but it's hard to trust him when he's not getting the ball.


Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

To be fair, Gronkowski is still the third-ranked tight end for Week 7. However, a fall from the top is notable. The reason why Gronk is lower (and may actually finish the week outside of the top five TEs) is because of the matchup. The New York Jets have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. While they haven't faced many top-tier tight ends, they have only allowed one touchdown to a tight end this season. Gronk, over the past three games, hasn't had more than four receptions. Sure, he was able to get in the end zone last week, but if he can't get to the end zone, a 4/60/0 line isn't what you want out of your tight end. He's still a TE1, but lower expectations for Week 7.


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

Fantasy Football Five Up, Five Down: Todd Gurley Up, Antonio Brown Down for Week 7
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/bold-fantasy-predictions-week-7-nfl

Week 7 of the NFL season is upon us, which can only mean one thing... time to look into the crystal ball and see what crazy things are going to happen this week.


Last week I was right about Andrew Luck being a stud again, Matthew Stafford proving he doesn’t suck and DeAndre Hopkins going ballistic and Greg Olsen torching the Seattle Seahawks.


Of course I can’t always be right, which is why it was nice of you to ignore the whole Eddie Lacy being a beast again thing and Tom Brady throwing for over 500 yards and five touchdowns (but Brady did play a great game).


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


Now let’s see what the future has in store for Week 7...


Todd Gurley Runs for 200 Yards and 3 TDs

This is Todd Gurley’s world and we’re living in it. Not very often does a rookie running back come along and not only live up to the hype, but also make you wish you had him on your team over other stud running backs like Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. Gurley has been sensational since he’s been giving the reins as the Rams’ No. 1 ball carrier. In his last game he ran the ball 30 times for 159 yards against Green Bay at Lambeau Field. That’s very impressive, especially when you consider that the Rams were playing from behind. That means that Gurley is going to get the ball no matter the game flow or what the game script says. This week the Rams are coming off of their bye and play host to the Cleveland Browns, whose defense is allowing a league-high 149.8 rushing yards per game and are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs. The sky is the limit in terms of fantasy points for Gurley this week.


Related: Why You Should Start Todd Gurley and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice For Week 7


Tom Brady Only Throws 1 TD Against the New York Jets

The “Tom Brady Revenge Tour” has been a complete success so far this season. He’s already thrown 14 touchdown passes to only one interception. Brady’s good, real good. The next stop on the “revenge tour” is a home matchup this week against the New York Jets. Brady hasn’t played a defense this good yet and historically has had issues in the past against the Jets. To make things even more concerning, the Jets are allowing just 186.6 passing yards per game, which is second best in the NFL and they’ve given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks so far this season. This looks like a game where Brady hands the ball off to LeGarrette Blount and to a lesser extent, Dion Lewis, to move the chains and score points. The Patriots will still win, but Brady won’t throw for his usual 300 yards and three scores.


Both Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green Go Over 100 Yards with a Touchdown

It seems that the Chargers are going to let Philip Rivers throw the ball over one million times this season. Partially because the Chargers can’t run the ball (or hold onto it when they run with it – Melvin Gordon) and also because they are usually playing from behind. This week the Chargers play at home against Oakland. The Raiders have shown that they can’t cover a tight end if their lives depended on it, which is great news for both Gates and Green. The other thing to note here with the Chargers is that their wide receivers (Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson) are banged up and questionable to play this week, which means a lot of targets for Gates and Green.


Jameis Winston Has the Best Game of His Career (So Far)

Interesting note: the Buccaneers are 2-0 when Winston throws fewer than 21 passes and 0-3 when he throws more than that. But this week will be different? Why? Because even though Doug Martin is starting to play like he did in his rookie year, the Washington Redskins’ defense is going to step up and stifle Martin all game. This will mean that Winston will have to throw the ball downfield to make plays. Don’t forget that Winston has two excellent receivers in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson and this is the game that he finally utilizes them and throws for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns. I know that sounds crazy.


T.Y. Hilton Breaks Out of His Slump with 150 Receiving Yards and 2 TDs

Andrew Luck was finally able to play last week against the New England Patriots and the Colts’ offense finally looked like it did last year. Last week Luck wasn’t even 100 percent and he still threw for more than 300 yards, which led to Hilton having his best game of the season so far with 74 yards and a touchdown. Luck loves throwing the ball downfield to Hilton and this is the week that their magic finally finds its spark. It helps that the Colts are playing at home against the New Orleans Saints and their 24th-ranked passing defense. With Drew Brees on the other side you know that this game is going to be a high-scoring game and look for Luck to connect with Hilton on several deep balls, leading to a big fantasy day for both.


Carson Palmer Throws for More Than 250 Yards and 3 Touchdowns by Halftime

Under the bright lights of “Monday Night Football” head coach Bruce Arians is going to show the world that the Arizona Cardinals are Super Bowl contenders and crush the Baltimore Ravens. The Cardinals are coming off a surprising loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and even in that defeat Palmer threw for 421 yards, but only one touchdown (and two picks). This week with his array of weapons (Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown), Palmer must be salivating at the thought of hitting the field against the NFL’s worst pass defense and the unit that  has given up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Palmer won’t do much in the second half, but he’ll get his numbers in the first half.

Related: Why You Should Start Carson Palmer and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 7


Sam Bradford Gets Benched in Favor of Mark Sanchez

Bradford has been on quite the roller-coaster ride to start his career as a Philadelphia Eagle. It’s starting to look more and more like Chip Kelly may have made a mistake in choosing Bradford as the guy to run his up-tempo offense. Bradford is second in the NFL with nine interceptions, after throwing three picks on Monday night. He now has five picks in his last two games, even though the Eagles have won both of these games. This week against the Carolina Panthers and super-elite cornerback Josh Morgan, Bradford will throw two picks by the middle of the second quarter and get yanked from the game. Not too sure if Sanchez will fare much better against the Panthers and their defense that has given up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, but at least there will be a whole lot of questions after the game and maybe even a full-blown QB controversy.


— 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.

Bold Fantasy Predictions for Week 7 in the NFL
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-8-value-plays

The college fantasy football season is more than halfway over. Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans to help you dominate in 2015!


Whether you play daily or season-long college fantasy football, (@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 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 contributor and CFG writer Todd DeVries' top picks for Saturday. To see the full in-depth article, be sure to check out






Perry Hills, Maryland ($5700) vs. Penn State

Hills shocked DFS players two weeks ago with 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns versus a tough Ohio State defense. While he may not hit those gaudy totals, he could provide some value with his feet this week against Penn State. He should also carry a low ownership percentage as DFS players may be scared off by the opponent and the player himself. Hills could provide some salary relief and allow DFS players to afford higher priced players at other positions.


Phillip Ely, Toledo ($6400) vs. UMass

Ely threw four touchdown passes last week against Eastern Michigan and could duplicate that effort this week versus UMass. The Minutemen rank 103rd against the pass and could be hard-pressed to stop Ely and friends this week. The Rockets’ offense can probably name their score this week and Ely could easily exceed value. Look for this Rocket to blast off this week with solid yardage total and a few touchdown tosses.




Saquon Barkley, Penn State ($5600) vs. Maryland

This impressive freshman returned from injury last week and ran all over a tough Ohio State defense to the tune of 194 yards. He received 26 carries to only four carries for Akeel Lynch, so it looks like he has taken that job away from Lynch. Look for this youngster to run all over a Maryland rush defense that ranks 101st in the country and could yield some big plays this week. Barkley could go north of 150 yards rushing this week and add a score or two against the Terrapins. He could crush value this week.


Jared Baker, Arizona ($5500) vs. Washington State

Baker filled in for Nick Wilson last week against Colorado and went ballistic. He accounted for 247 total yards and three total scores and left many DFS players smiling. Baker could post equally impressive numbers this week if Wilson cannot answer the bell. The matchup is especially enticing with the Cougars’ rush defense ranked 110th in the nation. This Wildcat is a must-start at this price if Wilson sits out this game. If Wilson is able to play, Baker still holds value and could be a decent option.




Dom Williams, Washington State ($5600) vs. Arizona

Williams exploded for 158 yards and two scores last week versus Oregon State and could match those numbers this week against Arizona. He is in the 1B role in the Washington State passing game that is averaging 399 yards per game and should continue to see tons of targets on a weekly basis. He has a very enticing matchup this week with a soft Arizona pass defense that ranks 92nd in the country. Look for plenty of receptions and yards out of Williams this week in a potentially high-scoring affair with the Wildcats. 


Alex Erickson, Wisconsin ($4600) vs. Illinois

Erickson is the leading receiver for Wisconsin and is averaging eight catches for 99 yards over the past two games. He is targeted often and holds particular value on DK with the full point per reception scoring. Erickson is not flashy by any means, but he does produce and often carries a low ownership number in tournaments. Look for this Badger to easily exceed value this week and make a nice punt play at WR. He could go over the 100-yard mark and find his way into the end zone against Illinois.


Deon Cain, Clemson ($3400) vs. Miami

This highly recruited true freshman has superstar written all over him and is starting to turn heads with his recent performances. He is averaging 95 yards receiving in the last two games and appears to be getting way more involved in the Clemson passing game. He has a solid matchup this week against a Miami defense that gives up its fair share of big plays. Cain appears to be a decent bet to reach value this week and allow DFS players to load up elsewhere.


Rodney Mills, UMass, TE ($3400) vs. Toledo

There has been an interesting trend on DK this year in CFB involving the use of the TE position in lineups. Even though the TE position has been eliminated as a standalone position, many winning lineups have been using TEs as value plays at the WR or flex position. Mills could fit the bill for that trend this week. He is averaging 16.30 DK points in the last two games and is targeted often in the pass-heavy UMass attack. Expect Mills to easily reach value this week and be an awesome punt play. Don’t overlook this TE this week.






Seth Collins, Oregon State ($6900) vs. Colorado

Collins has rushed for over 100 yards three times this season and has five rushing touchdowns in the last four games. He could run wild against a Colorado defense that has given up tons of big plays this season. This Beaver could post a huge stat line this week and make for a sneaky GPP option. Look for Collins to have his way with the Buffaloes and be an excellent option for a QB2 on Saturday night.


Brett Rypien, Boise State ($6500) vs. Wyoming

Boise State got blitzed last week by Utah State and Rypien was one of the casualties, tossing three interceptions. He could bounce back in a huge way this week against Wyoming. The Cowboys’ defense is not good and could allow Rypien and his wideouts to get back on track. Look for this freshman to approach the 300-yard mark and add a couple of touchdown tosses on the blue turf. This Bronco could be a sneaky GPP option in the late slate.




Phillip Lindsay, Colorado ($4300) vs. Oregon State

Lindsay has multiple touchdowns in two of the last four games and seems to have locked up the starting job. He received 23 carries last week against Arizona and could do some real damage this week against Oregon State with a similar workload. The Oregon State rush defense has been a sieve this year, ranking 103rd in the country. It would be no surprise to see this Buffalo run all over the Beavers this week. A 100-yard day with a score or two seems well within reach for Lindsay.


Derrius Guice, LSU ($3500) vs. Western Kentucky

Guice has shown excellent ability in a limited role this year behind Leonard Fournette and could see an expanded role this week versus Western Kentucky. This game could get out of hand and the Tigers could turn to Guice to churn out the clock and get Fournette some much-needed rest. The Hilltoppers’ defense should be no match for the powerful ground game of the Tigers and Guice could find the end zone once or twice. He appears to be a potentially solid punt play this week.




Kermit Whitfield, Florida State ($4600) vs. Georgia Tech

Whitfield is averaging nine catches and 133 yards per game over the last two contests and could have another productive evening versus Georgia Tech. The Florida State passing game is starting to click under Everett Golson and Whitfield has developed into his top target. Look for this speedster to catch a bunch of short passes and turn them into long gainers against a potentially overmatched Yellow Jackets secondary. Kermit could be a nice under the radar play this week.


Braxton Miller, Ohio State ($4200) vs. Rutgers

Don’t look now, but it appears that Miller is finally getting involved in the Ohio State offense. He has scored in consecutive games and is also receiving carries out of the backfield. He could put up nice numbers this week against a super soft Rutgers pass defense that ranks 125th in the country. Expect this Buckeye to churn out a couple of big plays this week and possibly cross the goal line for the third straight game.


Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M ($4200) vs. Ole Miss

Reynolds started off the season slowly, but is averaging 17.95 DK points over the last four games. He is playing a bit of second fiddle to freshman phenom Christian Kirk, but still garners plenty of attention in the Aggies’ passing game. He will be lining up against a Rebels pass defense that just gave up 384 yards and three scores to Memphis last week. Look for Reynolds to easily reach value and be a solid punt play at the WR position.


— 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 and founder and Director of Writer Development for Football Nation. Follow him on Twitter @CFFGeek.

College Fantasy Football Week 8 Value Plays
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 10:20
Path: /college-football/washington-huskies-vs-stanford-cardinal-preview-and-prediction-2015

Stanford has been ascending over the course of the season. The Cardinal are on pace to win the Pac-12 North. The crew from Palo Alto is being mentioned as an outside contender for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.


Washington has been terribly erratic. Chris Petersen and the Huskies narrowly lost at Boise State to open their season. After that, UW beat up two rent-a-wins at home. They followed up a six-point loss at home to California by knocking off the Trojans in the Los Angeles Coliseum.


Washington leads the overall series history, dating back to 1920, 41-39-4. In Palo Alto, the Huskies hold a 20-19-1 advantage. However, Stanford has won eight of the ten most recent meetings.


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Washington at Stanford


Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN


Three Things to Watch


1. Running Over the Huskies?

The Cardinal have averaged 226.3 rushing yards on the ground and scored 16 touchdowns. Washington has allowed only 129.7 rushing yards on average and six touchdowns this season. Can Christian McCaffrey and Barry Sanders find the same amount of running room as they have in the previous weeks? The Huskies must hold the Cardinal at or below the 130- yard total or else Stanford will literally run away with a victory.


2. Status of Jake Browning

Browning injured his throwing shoulder in the waning minutes last Saturday. That pressed K.J. Carta-Samuels into service to try to pull out a last-minute win. Considering that Carta-Samuels has only thrown three passes all season, it is understandable why Chris Petersen did not definitely decide on who will start as quarterback early in the week. Carta-Samuels has completed as many passes to opposing players as he has to his teammates.  


3. Washington's Post-Oregon Recovery

The Huskies were licking their chops last Saturday, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the wounded Ducks. Everyone associated with the University of Washington's football team thought this was the golden opportunity. They desperately wanted to end the cursed eleven game losing streak to their gaudily attired neighbors to the south. 


Alas, Oregon jumped out to a 13-0 lead. Then the Ducks never let Washington within single digits until less than four minutes left in the game. Carta-Samuels' interception with less than 30 seconds to play extinguished any hope of halting the dozen years of frustration.


How will the Huskies deal with the crushing disappointment of failing to score the go-ahead touchdown and ending their misery? Will that pre-occupy them all week and sabotage their preparation for the leaders of the Pac-12 Northern Division? Will that unfulfilled drive energize them to upset Stanford?


Final Analysis


The Cardinal will follow the tried-and-true script of hammering away at the opposing defense with some deep play-action passes mixed in the offensive possessions. Washington's run defense has looked stout so far. However, the Huskies have yet to face a powerful rushing attacking like these guys in the dark red jerseys. The match will be competitive through the first half as Washington will remain with 14 points or less. However, Stanford will wear down the Huskies defense that will spend too much time on the field. Washington's offense with either a seriously limited quarterback or glaringly inexperienced quarterback in charge will not be able to sustain drives. That means very short respites for the defenders. The lack of rest between Stanford's possessions will sap the stamina and will of those dressed in purple and gold.


Prediction: Stanford 45, Washington 23


Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Washington Huskies vs. Stanford Cardinal Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/colorado-buffaloes-vs-oregon-state-beavers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Only two Pac-12 teams still haven't won a conference game this season. That number will be cut in half when Colorado and Oregon State play each other on Saturday.


Life has been tough for the Buffaloes even before they joined the Pac-12 in 2011. Colorado has endured nine straight losing seasons, averaging just 3.4 victories per year in that span. The Buffaloes have won just four conference games in the Pac-12 and have lost 14 straight games in conference play dating back to 2013.


Things aren't much better for the Beavers right now. Oregon State has lost 15 of its last 17 games against Pac-12 opponents dating back to 2013. The Beavers are trying to bounce back from their worst start since going 1-5 to open the 2011 season.


Colorado at Oregon State


Kickoff: 10:30 pm ET (Saturday)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: Oregon State -2


Three Things to Watch


1. Moving up the Ladder

Sefo Liufau and Nelson Spruce are on track to be the best quarterback and receiver duo in Colorado history. Liufau ranks third all-time in career passing yardage for the Buffaloes, with 6,709 career yards midway through his junior season. He passed Kordell Stewart in passing yardage against Arizona after throwing for 339 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats. Spruce continues to add to his school marks as well. He now has 250 career receptions and 2,797 yards. The senior currently ranks fourth all-time in the Pac-12 in receptions.


2. Running Man

Seth Collins takes the whole idea of a mobile quarterback to a new level. The Oregon State freshman is good enough on the ground to be a legitimate running back. Collins tallied his third 100-yard rushing game of the season when he rushed for 142 yards against Washington State last week. He has accumulated 486 yards so far, averaging 81 yards per game. If Collins maintains that pace, he will finish his debut season with 972 rushing yards. The Pac-12 record for rushing yards by a quarterback is 986 yards, set by former Washington standout Jake Locker in 2007.


3. Bag of Tricks

Could Oregon State break out some razzle dazzle plays from the playbook on Saturday? It wouldn't surprise anyone since the Beavers added Gary Crowton as an offensive consultant this week. Crowton, a former head coach at BYU and former offensive coordinator at Oregon and LSU, joined Oregon State after suddenly resigning as the offensive coordinator at Southern Utah earlier this month. The Beavers could use a fresh perspective on offense. Oregon State ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (21.7 points per game), total offense (332.7 yards per game) and passing offense (145.5 yards per game).


Final Analysis


Colorado and Oregon State are both holding down last place in their respective divisions, but these two cellar dwellers are anything but equal. The Buffaloes have capable playmakers on offense, but have been unable to overcome a weak defense at times. Still, Colorado won't have to worry about going winless in Pac-12 play this season. The Beavers are a complete mess on both sides of the ball.


Prediction: Colorado 37, Oregon State 31


— 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.

Colorado Buffaloes vs. Oregon State Beavers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-vs-rutgers-scarlet-knights-preview-and-prediction-2015

Fresh off a #DarkNight 38-10 victory over Penn State, Ohio State travels to High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey, to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. This game will mark the first trip to High Point Solutions Stadium for the Buckeyes, as the teams played for the first time in 2014; Ohio State defeated Rutgers in Ohio Stadium 56-17.


New Jersey is one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country, and Ohio State is no exception to pulling talent from New Jersey. Among the players on Ohio State's roster that call New Jersey home are freshman offensive lineman Kevin Feder, sophomore wide receiver Noah Brown, sophomore cornerback Eli Apple, redshirt freshman defensive end Darius Slade, and senior placekicker Jack Willoughby. Of the players listed, Apple and Willoughby are certain to play against Rutgers; Brown is out for the season with an injury. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer expressed his affinity for the caliber of talent and coaching within New Jersey, among other things ~



Rutgers enters this game at 3-3, fresh off a comeback victory at Indiana (55-52). The victory over Indiana marked the first game back on the sidelines for embattled Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood. Flood had served a three-game suspension, following a university-led investigation into rules violations for inappropriate contact with a faculty member.


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Ohio State at Rutgers


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Ohio State -21


Three Things To Watch


1. Rutgers WR Leonte Caroo vs. Ohio State's Secondary

Caroo is averaging over 22 yards per reception and leads Rutgers with nine touchdown receptions. Fresh off a game at Indiana where Caroo had seven receptions for 157 yards and three touchdowns, look for Ohio State cornerbacks Eli Apple and Gareon Conley to share responsibility for covering Caroo, if Caroo plays. Caroo was listed as questionable for the Ohio State game at the beginning of the week.


2. J.T. Barrett's Time To Start, And Shine

Barrett was named Ohio State's starter by Meyer on the afternoon of Oct. 20, during The B1G coaches' teleconference. Barrett has been a spark for the Ohio State offense the last two games against Maryland and Penn State; how will Barrett perform as a starter for the first time in the 2015 season?


3. Ohio State's Rush Defense Against Rutgers' Running Game

Ohio State has been giving up substantial yardage on the ground, especially the last few games in wins over Maryland and Penn State. Rutgers brings in running backs Robert Martin and Josh Hicks, who both average over five yards a carry. Ohio State is also dealing with the loss of starter Tommy Schutt, who is out due to surgery. Ohio State will rotate other defensive linemen, such as Josh Hale, Michael Hill, and true freshman Robert Landers, to supplement Schutt's absence. Will Ohio State be able to shut down the Rutgers running game?


Final Analysis


Rutgers and its fans are gearing up for the first ever visit by the Buckeyes. Considering how much of a scare Rutgers was able to put into Michigan State when the Spartans visited, as well as a start by Barrett at quarterback, look for Ohio State to come out playing efficiently and effectively.



Prediction: Ohio State 49, Rutgers 21


— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 10:05
Path: /college-football/utah-utes-vs-usc-trojans-preview-and-prediction-2015

The 2015 season is slowly getting away from USC in a big way. After losing by 10 points to rival Notre Dame, the Trojans return home to welcome the Pac-12 South leaders and the No. 3-ranked Utah Utes to the Coliseum. With a Halloween road game against the explosive Cal Bears next week, the Trojans could find themselves fighting to remain bowl eligible before too much longer.


Whether it was Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, Steve Sarkisian or Clay Helton, every USC coach since Pete Carroll has found a way to win the press conferences during the week. Okay, maybe not so much with Lane Kiffin but the others knew how to work a crowd. The problem came when the coaches were asked to win actual games. The platitudes are there during the week, but the performances to back them up are nowhere to be found come game time. 


After losing a very winnable game against Notre Dame in a disastrous fashion, interim head coach Helton will be under a microscope moving forward. A 2:1 pass-to-run ratio had the Trojans relying on quarterback Cody Kessler to win them the game late against Notre Dame. With 3:35 on the clock and down by 10, the Trojans began a drive at their own 1-yard line. The Trojans would finally cross the 50 with just under 50 seconds remaining in the game, they never even came close to scoring.


With a seven-point lead and significant advantage in total offensive yards and plays, the Trojans would post fewer than 90 yards in the quarter, turn the ball over twice, accumulate negative (-6) rushing yards, and bafflingly threw the ball on every, single first down play they had in the quarter. USC began the fourth quarter with a lead and 156 rushing yards. They ended the game with a loss and 150 rushing yards. Why Helton chose not to grind down the clock against a defense allowing 6.5 yards per carry is something he will have to explain if he has any real hope of landing the job on a more permanent basis.


With USC's College Football Playoff hopes dashed, a win over a Utah team that some experts feel are the No. 1 team in the country would go a long way toward building confidence in his ability to motivate this team moving forward. For all the bravado and player love shown toward Orgeron, the team's performances against Notre Dame and UCLA were less than impressive. Helton is already sitting behind the eight ball after Saturday, a loss to Utah could very well eliminate him from consideration before the season is over.


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Utah at USC


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: USC -3


Three Things to Watch


1. USC's ability to contain Britain Covey

The Trojans have been erratic on special teams in 2015. Several opponents have enjoyed prime field position to start drives and Notre Dame was no exception. The Irish's average starting field position against the Trojan defense was their own 37-yard line. For most of the game, the Irish started near midfield. If Utah kick returner Britain Covey is allowed to run wild in special teams and coverage, the Utes could put this game out of reach before USC's offense even has time to fail on its first third down of the game.


Covey has returned one punt for a touchdown already and he's No. 20 in the nation in yards per punt return. On offense, Covey is second on the team in receptions (22) and receiving yards (216). Given USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's tendency to surrender the middle of the field, Covey could enjoy the finest game of his young Ute career out of the slot. Expect the Utes to use running back Devontae Booker similar to how Notre Dame used C.J. Prosise, who had a field day against the Trojans' defense. 


Covey may not be the biggest or strongest guy on the field, but he's extremely quick, very intelligent, and has all of the tools to beat you from anywhere on the field. It would be the least surprising thing in the world to see him put up over 100 yards of offense against the Trojans.


2. Avoiding costly self-inflicted mistakes... maybe

This still isn't coming out of the "Things to Watch For" section until the Trojans prove that they're capable of limiting mistakes. Ten penalties against Notre Dame for a total of 105 yards moved the Trojans to No. 110 in the nation in penalty yards per game. The Trojans have 45 flags on the year, averaging 7.5 penalties per game. Their average penalty yardage per game has become more offensive as the year progresses, they're now spotting their opponents 72.8 free yards a game. At some point, this trend has to stop


USC's opponents have committed 17 fewer penalties and only average around 4.7 flags a game. They're also only giving up 46 yards a game via penalties, which means the Trojans are still consistently losing the discipline battle. They're No. 115 in the country in drawing penalties and No. 97 in the nation in committing them (per game), as undisciplined play has cost them in critical situations against Stanford, Washington, and Notre Dame. All of them ended up being losses. The Trojans excel at beating themselves and opposing coaches now notice. An opposing defensive coordinator can almost count on USC's offense bailing him out after his defense gives up a huge play. The frequency with which big plays are called back to the offensive line has gotten out of hand.


3. USC's ability to generate a pass rush

USC's opponents are averaging 6.8 yards per attempt when they drop back to pass and 11.8 yards per completion. Travis Wilson is averaging 7.15 yards per attempt and has completed 67.9 percent of his attempts. As a team, the Utes lead the Pac-12 in sacks allowed, giving up only 52 yards on seven sacks.


The Trojans are currently tied with Colorado in total sacks by a team. The Trojans' 86 total sack yards come 20 yards short of Washington State's 106 total yards. Yep, the Trojans are generating less of a presence in the backfield than the Cougars or the Buffaloes. With the Utes sitting at No. 2 in the conference in total time of possession and the Trojans sitting at No. 11, getting in Wilson's face will be key to any success on defense.


USC pundits and national experts have been extremely critical of the Trojan offensive line the past couple of games and Utah's defense is built to expose teams unable to generate a rush or defend the middle of the field. Of the five players on USC with the most sacks in '15, three of them do not play on the defensive line and one of them plays in the defensive backfield. Only about a third of USC's total sacks are coming from the defensive line and only about a quarter of their sack yardage comes from the defensive line.


The Trojans need their playmakers to come up big against the Utes. Turnovers, sacks, and quarterback hurries will come at a premium in this game. The Trojans are facing an uphill battle if they lose the majority of those battles. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is known for getting after opposing quarterbacks, forcing opponents into mistakes, and allowing teams to beat themselves. The Trojans will need to find a way to flip this script if they plan to bring Utah's title hopes crashing back down to earth.


Final Analysis


The Trojans' biggest weakness also is the reason they are going to lose this game big. Utah QB Travis Wilson excels when given time to choose his targets or pick up the first down with his legs. Last week, Wilson proved himself capable of running elements of the option. When you add in the fact that he was already a run-pass threat, intelligent option play just about makes him USC's worst nightmare. While it's unlikely that Utah suddenly switches to an option-based attack, Wilson's ability to run seemingly any offensive system gives him myriad methods of picking apart a very suspect USC defense under defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.


The Trojans routinely beat themselves when they don't have to and the Utes are capable of punishing mistakes as well as anyone in the country. They average 3.2 turnovers per game, that's good enough for No. 4 in the country. Utah State lead the nation in turnovers per game at 3.2, so the state of Utah in general is enjoying a great season for punishing opponent's mistakes. Both the Utes and Trojans average about 1.2 turnovers per game, so it will come down to who can take protect the ball. That's been a problem for Kessler against top defenses.


Prediction: Utah 49, USC 17


— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Webb is a recruiting analyst for BarkBoard, Scout’s Fresno State affiliate. A contributor to, Scout’s USC affiliate. He is also a regular guest and contributor for Reign Of Troy, USC’s FanSided affiliate. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.

Utah Utes vs. USC Trojans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /college-football/juco-football-game-ends-after-brawl-erupts-east-mississippi-junior-community-college

The East Mississippi Community College vs. Mississippi Delta Community College game couldn't even make it to halftime.


During the game Thursday night, a brawl erupted clearing both benches toward the end of the second quarter. EMCC had a 48-0 lead and players from both teams can be seen throwing punches and even trash cans as the officials try to separate the sides. The game was obviously called early due to "violent ejections."





Only at MDCC ...

Posted by Darius LaRentrez Scott on Thursday, October 22, 2015
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/kentucky-wildcats-vs-mississippi-state-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2015

Mississippi State hosts Kentucky Saturday in an SEC cross-divisional battle of two teams both searching to become bowl eligible. A victory for the Bulldogs would extend the school record streak of bowl games to six, while a win for the Wildcats would put them one step closer to snapping a four-year stretch without a post-season appearance. Should UK find a way to upset Mississippi State, the Wildcats would also snap a six-game losing streak in the series, and would hand Dan Mullen his first career loss to Kentucky as a head coach since taking over in 2009.


Though the series has been one-sided in recent seasons, it is tied 21-21 all-time, and last year’s 45-31 shootout in Lexington was closer than the final score indicated. The No. 1 Bulldogs (playing the first game in program history as the nation’s top-ranked team) put the game away with a 61-yard onside kick return touchdown with 2:22 remaining in the contest.


Kentucky at Mississippi State


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Mississippi State -11


Three Things to Watch


1. If Mississippi State Wins the First Half, the Bulldogs Will Win the Game

Last week, Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel completed two touchdown passes in the first quarter of last week’s game against Mississippi State that gave Tech a 14-0 lead. However, State responded with four scoring drives and pulled ahead on a two-yard TD run by quarterback Dak Prescott with 0:57 left to play in the second quarter, which gave MSU a 24-17 edge at halftime. It was the 47th time head coach Dan Mullen’s team had led at the half during his tenure, and the Bulldogs are 46-1 since 2009 when taking a lead into the locker room.


2. Patrick Towles is Heating Up

In last season’s meeting between Mississippi State and Kentucky in Lexington, Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles set a career-high with 390 passing yards during a 24-for-43 performance in which he threw two touchdowns. It was only the second time in his career that Towles had surpassed 300 passing yards in a game. Towles also set a career high with 76 rushing yards (and a personal-best 48-yarder), 23 carries and two rushing touchdowns.


After the Wildcats came up short against Mississippi State, Towles struggled and didn’t throw for 300 yards in a game until a 329-yard performance Oct. 3 against Eastern Kentucky in which he also tossed three touchdowns and two interceptions. The following week against Auburn, Towles completed 27 of 44 passes (which included several drops by receivers) for 359 yards and an interception, giving the junior 300-plus passing yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.


Over his last three games, including a 22-for-27, 249-yard, two-touchdown performance against Missouri Sept. 26, Towles has completed 78 of 113 passing attempts (69.0 percent) for 937 yards (312.3 per game) and five touchdowns with three interceptions.


3. Another Record-Setting Performance for Dak Prescott

Following a two-touchdown passing performance last week that pushed his seasons totals to 1,700 passing yards and 11 touchdowns on 148-for-225 passing, Dak Prescott put himself into elite company among SEC quarterbacks. The senior signal caller joined Tim Tebow (who was coached by Dan Mullen at Florida) and Johnny Manziel as the only QBs in league history to throw for 50 or more touchdowns and run for 30 or more TDs in a career.


Prescott also extended his school-record streak of consecutive passes without an interception (one of 23 school records Prescott currently owns, five of which were set earlier this season) to 274, which is the longest active streak in the nation and is 51 shy of former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson’s SEC record of 325.


Final Analysis


In three seasons since Mark Stoops was hired as the head coach at Kentucky, the Wildcats have improved the talent level on the roster, as well as production on the field, which has helped the team improve from 2-10 in 2013 to 5-7 last season and 4-2 this year. However, UK has yet to get over the hump and gain bowl eligibility.


With quarterback Patrick Towles leading the offense and Boom Williams offering explosive playmaking ability out of the backfield, the Wildcats can score against a Mississippi State defense that ranks No. 9 in the SEC and No. 47 in the country in total defense with an average of 368.4 yards per game.


However, Kentucky’s defense is a near mirror image at 374.8 yards allowed per contest, which ranks No. 10 in the conference and No. 54 nationally and the Bulldogs have more offensive weapons in record-setting quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receivers De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross. Therefore, expect MSU to outscore Kentucky and secure the sixth consecutive bowl bid for Mullen and the Bulldogs.


Prediction: Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 24


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

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/western-kentucky-hilltoppers-vs-lsu-tigers-game-preview-and-prediction-2015

Key SEC teams have suffered true upset losses this college football season. Should Western Kentucky (6-1) pull off the unexpected upset over LSU (6-0) a major reshuffling of the College Football Playoff landscape would be in order.


The non-conference matchup between the Hilltoppers and the Tigers is a rare treat for college football fans, seeing two of the best offensive players at their given position display their skill sets against one another during a regular season game. All eyes will be on WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty and LSU running back Leonard Fournette when the game kicks off in Baton Rouge. 


The Hilltoppers have one of the most dynamic offenses in FBS thanks in large part to Doughty’s arm. Doughty (6-3, 220) has been on a roll since WKU’s season opener against Vanderbilt when he threw for just 209 yards with one score. Since then he has ripped off six consecutive games of at least 350 yards passing with four contests topping the 400-yard plateau.


On the other sidelines, LSU has jumped into the Playoff picture with a heavy dose of Fournette’s FBS-leading 1,202 rushing yards and a stout, and scary enough, improving defense. The Tigers are coming off a tough 35-28 home win over then-No. 8 Florida staring down a tough stretch of games that includes Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.


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Western Kentucky at LSU


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Coverage: EPSNU

Line: LSU -16.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Brandon Doughty vs. LSU’s Defense

The Hilltopper offense runs directly through their senior quarterback. If Doughty gets time to pass and is allowed to get into a rhythm with his receivers this could be a scoring shootout. In WKU’s last contest against North Texas, the Hilltoppers poured it on the Mean Green racking up 683 total yards of offense with Doughty passing for 350 yards, four touchdowns, and one pick even after being taken out early in the second half.


The one area where LSU could be dinged this season is in the secondary. The pass rush is great and improving but the Tigers are tied for 46th in the nation in pass defense giving up 205 yards a game. In their last outing Treon Harris came off the bench to throw for 271 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.


2. WKU’s Rushing Attack vs. LSU’s Defense

If Doughty gets hot the Hilltoppers have been blessed with tailbacks that have produced. Senior Leon Allen was injured in the second game of the year but redshirt freshman D’Andre Ferby and senior Anthony Wales have stepped up in his absence. Ferby has 317 rush yards on the season off 86 carries with a team-high six touchdowns but missed the North Texas game. Allen, who has appeared in three total games, has come on over the last two contests to post 313 yards rushing with 193 of those yards coming against the Mean Green. Ferby is expected back on the field against LSU after suffering a sprained ankle and an unclarified but presumed concussion.


LSU’s run defense is one of the best in the nation currently tied for eighth in FBS with Temple at 92 yards per game. The reality is WKU will be very lucky to pick up yards on the ground against the Tigers sans a breakaway run. The Hilltoppers are statistically one of the worst teams in the nation running the ball but if LSU sleeps on the run game and only focus on getting to Doughty then some key yardage or first downs could be had.


3. LSU’s Rushing Attack vs. WKU’s Rush Defense

Everything on offense for LSU begins and ends with Leonard Fournette. The Hilltoppers nearly allowed two North Texas 100-yard rushers with Damarcus Smith going for 122 and Jeffery Wilson stopped shy at 91 yards. In WKU’s lone loss of the season, a 38-35 thriller to Indiana, the Hoosiers had 639 yards of total offense covering 284 on the ground.


Florida entered the Week 7 contest against LSU with the nation’s No. 12-ranked run defense limiting teams to 99 yards a game. Fournette picked up 180 on 31 carries. Western Kentucky has the nation’s No. 76-ranked run defense allowing 173 yards a game.


Final Analysis


If Western Kentucky has hopes of defeating LSU two things need to happen: 1) Doughty lights it up for 400 yards with five touchdowns, and 2) the Tigers are caught looking ahead to their next game against Alabama. What makes this non-conference matchup interesting on a national scale is both keys to a WKU victory could happen.


Logic dictates that LSU is just too stacked on both sides of the ball for Western Kentucky. LSU’s offensive line is playing great, especially Ethan Pocic and Vadal Alexander. If Fournette’s touches are limited for one reason or another Derius Guice and Darrel Williams are both capable of controlling the game with the ball in their hands out of the backfield.


WKU typically scores quickly and their defense is used to being out on the field way too long game after game.


Unfortunately for Hilltopper fans, LSU’s offensive game plan is to wear out the opposing defensive front by controlling the game and clock with their ground attack. Look for the Hilltoppers to have their hands on their hips gasping for air early in the second quarter.


LSU is averaging nearly three sacks a game, can they get to Doughty early and often?


Prediction: LSU 48, WKU 28


— 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 Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. LSU Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:50
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-vs-georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-preview-and-prediction-2015

Florida State and Georgia Tech’s midseason matchup had so much more pizzazz at the beginning of the year. The Justin Thomas vs. Everett Golson talk would be in full swing and both would be leading their teams towards an ACC Championship Game berth.


Funny how things change so quickly in college football.


Georgia Tech is now coming off its fifth loss in a row. Count them, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and then Pittsburgh. The Yellow Jackets have no chance at repeating as ACC Coastal champions and the offense is averaging its lowest total rushing yards per game since Paul Johnson arrived in Atlanta. In case you forgot, Tech is a triple option team.


Meanwhile, Florida State is rolling through the competition with new quarterback Everett Golson who is still learning the offense. To date, Golson has 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions. Dalvin Cook is the best running back in the ACC and top five in the nation. The Seminoles' defense continues to be good at the right moments, as FSU is undefeated at the midway point.


This game is a rematch of last year’s ACC title game but lacks all of the juice it had coming into this year. Georgia Tech could save its season with a big win over Florida State while the Seminoles will try and continue their run to a return trip to the College Football Playoff.


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Florida State at Georgia Tech


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Florida State -6


Three Things to Watch


1. The Evolution of Everett Golson

Remember when everyone said Everett Golson wouldn’t do well because he is turnover prone and that he would struggle in a new offense? Well Golson has the exact opposite of all of that. Golson has 11 touchdowns to ZERO interceptions in 2015. Zero. This is coming from a guy that threw 14 a year ago. Jimbo Fisher continues to work wonders with quarterbacks. FSU doesn’t need Golson to be flashy, they just need him to play well. And he has done that so far this year. At some point Golson will have to make plays to win a game but he is playing within himself right now and that’s all Jimbo and the Seminoles need.


2. Dalvin Cook’s Heisman Resume

If you don’t think Dalvin Cook is a Heisman frontrunner, you haven’t watched enough football this year. Cook will enter Saturday’s game averaging 159 yards per game, 10 touchdowns and an impressive 8.68 yards per carry average. Even more impressive is the fact that Cook is averaging 4.5 yards per carry after contact, which leads the nation. Cook is explosive and will need to continue that trend if Florida State wants to make the playoffs.


3. Georgia Tech Needs to Show Life

You’ve lost five games in a row and have no shot of making it back to the ACC championship game or the playoffs. So what do you play for? Pride. And the fact that you can still knock a rival from the unbeaten stage on Saturday night. It hasn’t been pretty for Yellow Jacket fans this year but it happens. The Yellow Jackets have only endured one losing season since Johnson took over in 2008 so it’s not like this is a problem right now. But Johnson needs to show that he still has this team and they can still go out and compete.


Final Analysis


This game has all the makings for an upset. Florida State is undefeated and on the road. Georgia Tech is scrambling to win a game and their back is against the wall. Georgia Tech has an offense that FSU hasn’t played against this year. But when it comes down to the meat and bones of it all, Florida State is just a far superior team this year. Everett Golson and Dalvin Cook are playing on a high level and Jimbo Fisher continues to show people that he is an elite coach. I think Georgia Tech keeps the game close for a half but then Florida State’s talent and depth will eventually shine through.


Prediction: Florida State 34, Georgia Tech 21


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

Florida State Seminoles vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/washington-state-cougars-vs-arizona-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2015

Since losing in Week 1 to FCS Portland State, few teams in the Pac-12 have been as hot as Washington State. The Cougars have won four of their last five, with the sole loss coming in a back-and-forth, one-score contest at nationally ranked Cal.


With its overtime defeat of Oregon, Washington State positioned itself as a possible X-factor in the Pac-12 North race. Maintaining that place is contingent on winning Saturday at Arizona.


The defending Pac-12 South champion Wildcats cling to the hope of repeating. Despite an 0-2 start to conference play, Arizona's not eliminated from contention. Both teams ahead of the Wildcats in the loss column, Arizona State and Utah, are on the November docket.


Arizona cannot endure another loss, however, and stopping the surging Cougars is a tall order.


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Washington State at Arizona


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: Arizona -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Arizona Ground The Air Raid?
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk is hitting his stride in Pac-12 play. Thrust into the starting lineup last season after Connor Halliday's season-ending injury, Falk's experience has translated into a savvy command of head coach Mike Leach's offense.


Falk is second in the nation at 395.2 passing yards per game, is completing better than 72 percent of his attempts and has 21 touchdowns to just four interceptions.


Washington State's deep and diverse corps of receivers pose match-up problems for an Arizona secondary that's dealt with injuries all season. Converted wide receiver DaVonte' Neal thrived in his move to cornerback, but was dinged up for last week's win at Colorado.


Defending Washington State's receivers is a case of pick your poison, but a healthy Neal is vital, particularly in a matchup with dangerous Gabe Marks.


Arizona's No. 92-ranked passing defense is most susceptible to big plays. Look for Washington State to attack early with a vertical route to either Marks or Williams, likely in a situation wherein Cam Denson is isolated in coverage.


2. Arizona's Two-Quarterback Attack
Arizona came out clicking at Colorado last week, scoring 17 points on its first three possessions. The Wildcats then went stale, coughing up turnovers and failing to get into scoring range as the Buffs rallied to take the lead.


Head coach Rich Rodriguez shook things up by pulling quarterback Anu Solomon for dynamic ball carrier Jerrard Randall. Arizona sacrifices a dimension from the passing game with Randall, but his explosiveness out of the pocket put Colorado's defense back on its heels. The Wildcats rolled up 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to regain control for the win.


While two-quarterback systems are typically less than ideal, Rodriguez tapped into a quality last week that, at the very least, forces defensive coordinators to prepare for two distinctly different styles. Solomon is pass-first but will rush if the opening is there; Randall is a speedster who relies on quick, short routes through the air.


3. Winning The Long Game
Arizona and Washington State are two of the nation's very best in explosive plays; that is, plays from scrimmage going for at least 20 yards. The Wildcats rank No. 11 and the Cougars No. 17.

While Arizona's Solomon is capable of uncorking a deep pass, Wildcat ball-carriers are adept at finding gaps created by their version of the spread offense. Whether it's Randall, Jared Baker or Nick Wilson, Arizona can turn the tide of a game with a long touchdown run.


The difference in explosive plays Saturday is likely to spell the difference in final score.


Final Analysis


Arizona enjoyed a five-game win streak over Washington State from 2006 through 2010, but the series went on a two-year hiatus after the conference's expansion to 12 teams. Washington State ended the streak in impressive fashion in 2013, shutting down the Wildcats' explosive offense to win in Arizona Stadium for the first time since 2004.


With its margin for error in the Pac-12 virtually gone, Arizona must defend its home field this time around. The Wildcats are in a manageable stretch, with a road trip to Washington on Halloween before a three-game South run at USC, Utah and Arizona State.


Avoiding an offensive lull akin to the drought it suffered last week at Colorado, or in the first half of the home loss to UCLA, is vital. Washington State's explosive offense can pile on quickly if presented an opportunity — just ask Oregon, which had a two-score lead erased in the fourth quarter against the Cougars two weeks ago.


Wilson's return to the lineup after missing the Colorado game gives Arizona a boost, particularly with Baker playing well in the starter's absence. The Wildcats' ability to attack with a two-headed backfield — if not three-headed with Randall in the lineup — should buoy Arizona against a Washington State defense ranked No. 110 nationally.


Prediction: Arizona 42, Washington 35


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

Washington State Cougars vs. Arizona Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/missouri-tigers-vs-vanderbilt-commodores-preview-and-prediction-2015

Two of the SEC's most disappointed fan bases will likely gaze upon a defensive struggle when their teams collide Saturday. Really, the storyline in this one is bad offense. Missouri is averaging just 16.6 points per game, while Vanderbilt paces slightly ahead at 19.3.


Mizzou comes into the game with a decent record of 4-3 (1-3 SEC) but the Tigers are lacking any sort of momentum to carry them into the remainder of the season. That, of course, has not been the case over the last two years. The defense is playing well, but the Tigers can't seem to find the end zone.


On the other hand, Vanderbilt has done a fairly decent job of moving the football, but it also has done everything in its power to turn it over. The Commodores come into this one having relinquished the ball 16 times en route to a 2-4 record, still winless in the SEC.


Saturday will mark the eighth meeting all-time between Mizzou and Vandy on the gridiron. The Tigers hold a 4-2-1 edge in the series, having won the last two. The series would be tied if not for back-to-back Missouri victories in 1895 and '96. For what it's worth, Babe Ruth was born around this time and Henry Ford was getting ready to unveil his first automobile.


Missouri at Vanderbilt


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Missouri -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Will either team score a touchdown?

This is a basic starting question, but it's worth asking. Neither team has had any success finding pay dirt through the first half of the season. Mizzou has scored single digits in three of its last five games and has not scored a touchdown since the South Carolina game Oct. 3. Vandy is finding the end zone a bit more often, but usually no more than once or twice a game. The Tigers will possess one of the best defenses Vanderbilt has seen this season. On the flip side, Missouri could be in for a rough going against an improved Commodore front seven. 


2. Is anyone taking the over in this game?

Continuing that rhetoric, the way the offenses match up with the defenses in this game could be truly remarkable. It would not be surprising to see this one head to overtime tied at zero. In fact, the offenses are struggling so mightily that when the opening over/under came out for this game, it nearly set a record. At 34, the opening over/under line for this game was the lowest set for a college football game since 2004. The line has since moved to 35, but it begs the question: Can anyone envision even a 17-17 game?


3. Can Vanderbilt finally get over the hump?

Despite the lack of touchdowns, Vanderbilt has looked much better this year moving the ball. The same really can't be said for Missouri. If the Commodores can somehow find the end zone, maybe even once, they have a real shot at winning this game. Also, they must limit turnovers. Vanderbilt benefits from playing this one at home and second-year head coach Derek Mason is in desperate need of a signature win. This game against the Tigers is a grand opportunity for Mason and his team.


Final Analysis


It's going to be a struggle. I think we can all agree on that. The over/under is probably set so shockingly low for good reason. One more important aspect to note is that both teams are in the top four in the SEC in field goals made this season. There is a good chance the kickers will be called on in this one, so special teams could factor in heavily. Vanderbilt won't go down without a fight, but Mizzou is known for getting it done in sloppy fashion. Gary Pinkel's team will be far more prepared when the fourth quarter arrives and a stingy Tigers defense will be the difference in a close game.


Prediction: Missouri 16, Vanderbilt 10 


— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

Missouri Tigers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-vs-illinois-fighting-illini-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Badgers head into Champaign on Saturday in an attempt to defeat the Fighting Illini for the sixth consecutive time. Wisconsin is fresh off a 24-7 victory over Purdue, holding the Boilermakers to just 192 total yards of offense, only solidifying their nationally-ranked third overall defensive unit.


The Badgers have won nine of the last 10 meetings against Illinois, the last three ending in blowout fashion with an average win margin of 17 points per contest.


Wisconsin is expected to get starting center Dan Voltz back, and could see the return of starting tailback Corey Clement, who's been sidelined since Week 3 with a sports hernia (groin) injury.


Wisconsin at Illinois


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: Big Ten Network

Spread: Wisconsin -7


Three Things to watch For


1. Corey Clement

The Badgers' tailback had preseason Heisman expectations, but a sports hernia injury has derailed the junior to this point.


Wisconsin is hopeful Clement can play on Saturday, after suiting up and going through warm ups last week against Purdue before ultimately deciding not to force the issue.


With Clement, the Badgers expect to open up their offensive firepower, which has been somewhat vanilla so far this season.


2. Wisconsin offensive line

Wisconsin will see the return of starting senior center Dan Voltz, one of the few linemen on the roster with true experience.


Head Coach Gary Andersen said he expects Voltz to play and hopes that the offensive line can start to glue together down the stretch against tough conference opponents. It remains to be seen how much the offensive game plan changes with Voltz re-inserted back into the lineup.


3. Illinois RB Josh Ferguson

Ferguson has rushed for 381 yards so far this season, but sat out last week with a shoulder injury. His status is listed as "very questionable" by interim head coach Bill Cubit on Wednesday when speaking with reporters.


The Fighting Illini are going to need to attack Wisconsin effectively through the air and ground if they want any chance of defeating the Badgers, though unlikely.


Ferguson's presence in the backfield would be a huge plus for the Illini, as they continue to successfully overcome a late preseason fire of their former head coach.


Final Analysis


Wisconsin has been rolling, despite its home hiccup loss to Iowa. Expect the team to be even more efficient with the return of key offensive starters en route to another Big Ten victory on Saturday.


Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Illinois 13


— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for and has written for other sites, including and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-red-raiders-vs-oklahoma-sooners-preview-and-prediction-2015

Texas Tech and Oklahoma enter their game Saturday coming off of starkly different performances. The Sooners could do no wrong in their 55-0 shellacking of Kansas State. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders squeaked by the worst Power 5 team in America, Kansas, in a showing that even head coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted was a “lucky” win.


Still, spirits in Lubbock have to be high following the Red Raiders’ 5-2 start. Tech already has more wins than it did last season and only needs one more to secure a bowl bid. The oddsmakers say it’s unlikely to come on Saturday, installing OU as a 14-point favorite.


The Sooners, however, have shown that they’re vulnerable to spread offenses in the mold of Texas Tech’s Air Raid scheme. Tulsa, for example, rolled up 600 yards of offense in a visit to Norman last month, averaging 6.6 yards per play.


If the Sooners can’t slow down Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, running back DeAndre Washington and the rest of the Red Raiders’ dangerous arsenal of offensive weapons, this could turn into an upset along the lines of Tech’s stunning win in Norman in 2011.


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Texas Tech at Oklahoma

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Oklahoma -14


Three Things to Watch


1. Le’Raven Clark’s health

In Clark, Tech has possibly the best offensive lineman in the entire Big 12 and a major contributor to the team’s prolific offense. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, an injury to the veteran tackle has left his status for Saturday’s contest up in the air. Tech needs Clark at somewhere close to full strength to stave off OU’s imposing pass rush.


2. Ball security

Tech ranks 17th nationally in turnover margin thanks in large part to defensive coordinator David Gibbs’ ballhawks. The Red Raiders have snagged eight interceptions and recovered seven of their opponents’ fumbles through seven games. If the dicey weather forecast for Saturday afternoon in Norman comes to pass, Tech will have an even better shot than usual to knock some balls loose.


3. OU’s secondary versus Tech’s receivers

Tulsa QB Dane Evans and his productive receiving corps strafed OU’s defense for 427 yards and four touchdowns through the air earlier this year. It provided a stark reminder for OU fans of all the big passing plays given up a year earlier. Otherwise, though, opponents have actually found flying the Sooner skies pretty unfriendly this year. Mahomes and his receivers will provide the toughest test yet in 2015 for OU’s secondary.


Final Analysis


OU’s pass defense has tightened up significantly since the Tulsa game, raising some legitimate doubts about the capability of Tech’s offense to score often enough to hang with the Sooners on their home turf. However, Mahomes has taken steps forward this year in terms of making better decisions, and he still has the same rocket arm and elusiveness in the backfield.


For the Red Raiders to have a crack at winning this game, Kingsbury needs to keep OU’s D honest by utilizing Washington on the ground and spreading the ball around the field with the pass. When Mahomes delivers the ball to his receivers, Tech will need greater consistency than it has been getting from the likes of Jakeem Grant and Devin Lauderdale when it comes to securing catches.


Ultimately, OU probably has too much offensive firepower for a Tech defense that is outgunned against Big 12 attacks. The Sooners’ offensive line showed signs of greater cohesion last week against Kansas State, which hints at the sputtering running game getting a jolt in the near future. This could be the week that Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon finally start fulfilling their potential out of the backfield.


Whatever the case may be, look for the Sooners to overwhelm a beleaguered Tech defense in the second half and pull away towards a comfortable win.


Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Texas Tech 28


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

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Oklahoma Sooners Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/week-8-college-football-picks-against-spread

Last week was both unpredictable and bizarre.


Entering last weekend, there were the seven teams left in college football without a win against the spread all year. Five covered and UTEP didn't play, leaving the Miners and Old Dominion as the only teams in college football without a win against the spread.


Meanwhile, Central Michigan remained the lone unbeaten against the number (6-0-1) after drubbing Buffalo 51-14.


I'm still well into the black on the season but have been struggling the last two weekends. Time to bounce back (with some underdogs)!


Last Week: 3-4

Year-to-date: 25-18


Texas A&M (+6) at Ole Miss

The Rebels are reeling right now after two losses and lots of injuries. Texas A&M was much closer to Alabama than the score indicated last week and is desperate for a marquee win in the SEC West this fall. The Rebels' D-Line has been non-existent lately and Kyle Allen could light the Landsharks up. Prediction: Texas A&M +6


Utah (+3.5) at USC

Yes, somebody somewhere knows something and I’m not buying it. USC is more talented and more athletic but Utah has been beating teams like that all year long. Defense and special teams travel and the veteran quarterback knows how to handle this situation. Prediction: Utah +3.5 (There is a caveat, however, if the big money keeps rolling in on USC and the line gets bigger, something is up and you should take USC.)


Washington St (+7.5) at Arizona

The Wildcats' defense isn’t stopping anything and is banged up without Scooby Wright. The Cougars are arguably the best passing offense in the nation and could easily win this game outright after handling both Oregon schools. Prediction: Washington State +7.5


Indiana (+16.5) at Michigan State

Indiana has an offense (when healthy) that can score on any defense in the nation. Michigan State is coming off a physical and emotional win over Michigan. Look for Nate Sudfeld and the Hoosiers' spread offense to keep it close. The Spartans are also a nasty 1-6 against the number this year. Prediction: Indiana +16.5


Ohio St (-21) at Rutgers

Last weekend against Penn State will be the game the nation looks back at Ohio State and says, that looks familiar. J.T. Barrett is running the show now and Urban Meyer will want to get his new guy as much confidence as possible. Look for a huge showing from the Buckeyes. Prediction: Ohio State -21


Florida State (-6) at Georgia Tech

Just like the Buckeyes, the Noles are finding their stride at just the right time. Everett Golson is playing well, Dalvin Cook is unstoppable and the defense is playing really well. The betting public still doesn’t believe and that is the only reason this line is so low. Prediction: Florida State -6


Houston (-21) at UCF

I’m going back to this well. Houston is crushing teams and not only is UCF winless on the season but is 1-6 against the spread too. Look for the Cougars to continue to make statements. Prediction: Houston -21


Bowling Green (-14) at Kent St

The Falcons boast one of the highest-scoring offenses in college football and a 5-2 record against the spread. Kent State just gave up 38 to Toledo in a 31-point loss and has mustered just 22 points over the last two games (including a 15-10 win over a terrible UMass team last weekend). Prediction: Bowling Green -14


Best/Worst Records Against the Spread


Best TeamsRecordWorst TeamsRecord
C. Michigan6-0-1Old Dominion0-6
Notre Dame6-1UTEP0-5-1
So. Miss6-1Michigan St1-6
Navy4-1North Texas1-5
USF4-1-1Oregon St1-5
  Fresno St1-5-1
  Texas St1-4


Week 8 College Football Picks Against the Spread
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:17
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-vs-alabama-crimson-tide-prediction-and-preview-2015

When it comes to SEC rivalries, it doesn’t get much better than when Alabama plays Tennessee. The two teams have met 97 times since 1901. Alabama holds a 52-37-8 lead in the series and currently carries an eight-game win streak. The Crimson Tide defense held off a Tennessee rally led by then-backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs and current NFL receiver Amari Cooper shattered ‘Bama’s single-game receiving record with 224 yards on nine receptions, as the Crimson Tide cruised to a 34-20 win last year in Knoxville.


The Vols picked up their first conference win of the season on Oct. 10 against Georgia. Dobbs accounted for five touchdowns (3 passing, 2 rushing) in the contest, helping Tennessee overcome a 21-point deficit to give the Vols a 38-31 win ahead of the bye week. After a 3-3 season, morale in Knoxville is understandably low. But a win against a bitter rival could quickly turn that around. Tennessee last beat Alabama in 2006 and the Vols’ last win in Tuscaloosa came in '03.


The Tide return to Tuscaloosa one week after traveling to College Station, Texas, where it posted more than 40 points on Texas A&M for the second consecutive year. But unlike last season’s offensive explosion that netted 602 yards of total offense, the Tide defense this year did most of the heavy lifting, forcing four turnovers and scoring on three to win 41-23. Head coach Nick Saban will look for that momentum to spill over into Saturday's conference showdown.


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Tennessee at Alabama


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -14.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs

Many who follow college football know what Dobbs is capable of doing. He showcased his ability to the entire country in his team’s nationally televised win against Georgia. Behind Dobbs, who will make his 16th career start Saturday, the Tennessee offense ran 90 offensive plays. The aerospace engineering major threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, while adding another 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Dobbs is one of the SEC’s most effective signal-callers, as he is 8-4 since the end of 2013. A much-improved Alabama secondary was able to stifle Texas A&M’s high-octane offense last week, and it will be interesting to see if they can replicate that performance against one of the conference's best quarterbacks. While the unit's four forced turnovers were a source of pride, the 'Bama defensive front held Aggie rushers to a combined 32 yards.


2. Alabama running back Derrick Henry

If not for LSU phenom Leonard Fournette, Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry would likely be the conference’s most hyped back. Last week against Texas A&M Henry rushed for 236 yards — a career high — with two rushing touchdowns. The current SEC Offensive Player of the Week’s 55-yard, first-quarter touchdown extended his rushing scoring streak to an NCAA best 12 games. Only Fournette (1,202) has more yards than Henry’s 901 in the SEC, and Henry’s 12 rushing touchdowns also rank second in the conference to Fournette’s 14. The junior ranks eleventh in the nation in rushing yards per game (128.7). He has also broken the 100-yard rushing mark in four of the team’s seven games this year. The Volunteers’ rushing defense has shown itself to be porous this season as it currently ranks tenth in the conference in rushing yards and allows 170.5 per game. With running back Kenyan Drake nursing a thigh injury that he sustained last week in College Station, the Volunteers are in for a large helping of Henry. It isn’t unrealistic to expect him to power past 1,000 rushing yards on the season by game’s end.


3. Alabama’s health and stamina

Drake isn’t the only ‘Bama player nursing an injury. Starting center Ryan Kelly also left Saturday’s game early after suffering a concussion in the first half. Kelly has been held out of Alabama’s practices as he attempts to pass the mandatory concussion protocol. An embattled Alabama team has the misfortune of playing Tennessee on the heels of the Vols’ by week. Carrying arguably the nation’s toughest schedule, ‘Bama’s first half of the season has included physical matchups against Wisconsin, Ole Miss, Georgia, Arkansas and Texas A&M. While the the Crimson Tide will receive a much-needed bye week next week, it must first get past Tennessee.


Final Analysis


Even with three blemishes on its record, Tennessee isn’t to be taken lightly. The Vols are a formidable opponent with a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball. Although head coach Butch Jones is still in the process of resurrecting the program, this year’s team ranks among one of his most talented since his arrival in Knoxville three years ago. Players like running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, a former member of the Crimson Tide, and a number of talented youthful defenders will offer the Tide a challenging test. But stealing a road win in Bryant-Denny Stadium won't be an easy task. Simply put, Alabama just doesn’t lose to unranked opponents. And it most certainly doesn't lose at home. The Crimson Tide have won 19 of their last 20 home games, dating back to 2012. Even more staggering is that the Tide, since Saban's arrival, has rattled off 57 straight wins against unranked teams. Fans shouldn't expect a blowout Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, but rather a hard-fought, physical matchup. But Henry and Alabama's offensive line should ultimately send the Tide into the bye week on a winning note.


Prediction: Alabama 24, Tennessee 14


— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Prediction and Preview
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/duke-blue-devils-vs-virginia-tech-hokies-preview-and-prediction-2015

The ACC Coastal Division has been widely criticized as the weakest division among the Power 5 conferences. But halfway through the season, three teams remain unbeaten in the league and another has four overall victories.


Duke finds itself squarely in the mix at 2-0 in the ACC and 5-1 overall with their lone loss coming to Northwestern before the Wildcats were ravaged by injuries. David Cutcliffe's team features a very stingy defense, one that leads the nation by surrendering just 9.3 points per game.


Virginia Tech, on the other hand, finds itself faltering near the bottom of the Coastal standings. Injuries to key players, including quarterback Michael Brewer and cornerback Kendall Fuller, along with an inconsistent offensive line have been the main reasons for the Hokies’ struggles.


Virginia Tech has won 14 of the 22 meetings between the two schools.


College Football Podcast: Week 8 Preview

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Duke at Virginia Tech


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Virginia Tech -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Michael Brewer Getting the Start

The senior quarterback returned to action in the second half against Miami. With the Hokies down 23-13, Brewer started out 3-for-3 and threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Ford to cut the Hurricanes' lead to three. He later threw an interception that ended any Hokie hopes, but he definitely added something to the passing game. Brenden Motley can make plays running the ball, but his three turnovers against Miami were disastrous and he is not the same passer as Brewer. The Hokies hope that the spark Brewer provided against Miami carries over to this Saturday.


2. Blocking the Duke Defensive Front

Brewer can only make a difference if the Virginia Tech offensive line, which has been a problem all season, can keep him on his feet and can open up holes for the Hokies running backs. Duke’s defense has not pressured the quarterback all that much this year, but that’s about all they don’t do. The defensive Devils allow just 121.67 yards rushing per game and 131.2 yards passing, and when you put those together you get FBS’ No. 4 total defense. Kyler Brown and the Duke defensive line are tough, but where they really excel is in providing space so that superstar safety Jeremy Cash and linebacker Dwayne Norman can make plays. Virginia Tech’s line showed some positive signs against Miami, but Duke’s defense is a lot stronger than the Hurricanes’.


3. Duke’s Running Game

The Blue Devils don’t have big offensive numbers, but their 181 rushing yards per game is more than respectable. Quarterback Thomas Sirk is the team’s leading rusher and Duke features a deep group of running backs that includes Shaquille Powell, Shaun Wilson and Jela Duncan. Bud Foster’s Hokie defense is still strong but they have been susceptible to effective ground games, ranking 84th in rushing defense. Duke will take a shot in the passing game only after the running game is established.


Final Analysis


Perhaps Brewer’s return can give the Hokies a lift. But that seems to be Virginia Tech’s only hope. They have been laboring while the Blue Devils are surging. The Hokies' shaky offensive line goes against one of the best defenses in the country. Duke should be able to pick up some yardage on the ground and they have one of the best kickers in the country in Ross Martin, who is 12-of-12 with a long of 53 yards. Duke probably won’t score a ton of points, but they won’t need to. The Devils go to 6-1 with a win in Blacksburg.


Prediction: Duke 20, Virginia Tech 13


— 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.

Duke Blue Devils vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:10
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-midseason-breakout-players-2015

With the first half of the 2015 college football season completed, it’s time to take a look back at the first seven weeks and examine some of the new stars across the nation. Breakout players are hard to predict in the preseason, but the emergence of new stars are a huge boost for a team’s win total or the opportunity to compete for a playoff spot.


Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Houston quarterback Greg Ward are two of college football’s top breakout players from the first half of 2015, and both show no signs of slowing down. McCaffrey has elevated the Cardinal’s offense since the opening week loss to Northwestern, while Ward could help the Cougars earn the Group of 5 bowl spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowls.


Expect to see more stars and standouts emerge over the next seven weeks of action, but here’s a look at 10 breakout players from the first half of 2015.


College Football's Top 10 Breakout Players at Midseason


Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

It should be no surprise a Mike Leach-coached quarterback is posting huge passing totals. After starting the final three games last year, Falk stepped into the full-time role this spring and ranks as one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks midway through the 2015 season. The sophomore has completed 235 of 325 throws for 2,371 yards and 21 scores. Falk also recorded at least three games of 400 passing yards or more this season, while his 72.3 completion percentage ranks second nationally. 


Related: College Football 2015 Midseason Awards


Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

The rapid development of Harris is another example of why Missouri’s line coach Craig Kuligowski is one of the top defensive assistants in the nation. The Tigers entered 2015 looking to replace Shane Ray and Markus Golden at end, but Harris has eased any concerns this coaching staff had at defensive end. Through seven contests, Harris has recorded 29 tackles (12.5 for a loss), five sacks, four quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. 


Willie Henry, DT, Michigan

Henry is just one of a handful of players having a standout year for Michigan’s defense. The Wolverines are giving up only 9.3 points per game and rank second nationally by holding opponents to 3.45 yards per play. Henry accumulated 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss in his first two years of playing time in Ann Arbor and has already exceeded those totals seven games into 2015. The junior has 19 tackles (nine for a loss), six sacks and two pass breakups.


Related: Predictions for Every Week 8 Game


Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Kirk is another dynamic addition to Texas A&M’s high-powered offense, and the Arizona native is arguably the nation’s top true freshman midway through the 2015 season. Kirk leads the team with 39 catches for 609 yards and four scores, while his per game average (101.5) is the best in the SEC. The freshman is also second in the conference with an average of 195 all-purpose yards per game.


Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Stanford’s run of six consecutive 1,000-yard rushers ended last season, but the Cardinal will start a new streak in 2015 with the emergence of McCaffrey. The sophomore is one of the nation’s top all-purpose performers, averaging 253 total yards per game and 8.9 yards per touch. McCaffrey has 844 rushing yards and five scores through the first six games of 2015.


Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State

Despite the loss of Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan, the Penn State defensive staff felt confident in its defensive ends this offseason. So far, that prediction is holding true. Nassib is one of the nation’s top overall defensive performers in the first half of 2015, recording 35 tackles (15.5 for a loss), 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. The senior is a former walk-on and only had 19 career tackles entering the 2015 season.


Related: Top 15 Games for the Second Half of 2015


Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh

New coach Pat Narduzzi is already making an impact on Pittsburgh’s defense. The Panthers are holding opponents to 21.7 points per game, 5.04 yards per play and lead the ACC with 22 sacks. Headlining the rush off the edge at defensive end for Narduzzi is Price, who has registered 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss through the first six games. Additionally, Price has 13 tackles, one blocked kick and one forced fumble in 2015.


C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame

A season-ending knee injury to Tarean Folston in the opener against Texas pushed Prosise into the No. 1 role. The Virginia native converted from receiver to running back after the 2014 campaign and entered this fall with just 10 career rushing attempts. Through seven games, Prosise has ensured there was no drop in production from Folston. The junior has rushed for 922 yards and 11 scores and caught 18 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown. Prosise’s 11 rushing touchdowns is tied for sixth nationally. 


Greg Ward, QB, Houston

New Houston coach Tom Herman is widely regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football. Under Herman’s direction, Ohio State’s offense never missed a beat last season after injuries sidelined Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, forcing Cardale Jones to start the final three games of 2014. Ward showed promise last season, and the junior has thrived under Herman’s watch and developed into one of the top Group of 5 quarterbacks. Ward has passed for 1,524 yards and nine scores in 2015 and rushed for 631 yards and 14 touchdowns. The junior’s 359.2 total yards per game average ranks seventh nationally.


Marcus Williams, S, Utah

Williams had his share of ups and downs as a true freshman for the Utes last season, but the sophomore is on pace to finish 2015 as one of the top safeties in the Pac-12. After six games, Williams ranks fourth on the team with 29 tackles but leads the Utes with four interceptions. The sophomore also has five passes defended and one fumble recovery. Williams is a key cog in a Utah secondary that held Arizona State without a passing score in last week’s win and has limited the last four teams on its schedule to less than 55 percent completion percentage.

College Football's Top 10 Midseason Breakout Players for 2015
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:07
Path: /college-football/virginia-cavaliers-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2015

Virginia’s Mike London entered the season on perhaps college football’s hottest seat. Many felt that if the Cavaliers did not pull off an upset over UCLA, Notre Dame or Boise State that London would be gone.


After losing all three of those games, including getting shellacked 56-14 by the Broncos, the biggest upset may be that London is still gainfully employed. But since the loss to Boise there have been little signs of progress. Virginia had the ball in Pittsburgh territory with just under a minute left and a chance to tie the game. And last week, the Cavs beat Syracuse in three overtimes.


This week Virginia heads to Chapel Hill to face the red-hot North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC got off to a bit of a slow start last week against Wake Forest, but once the ball got rolling, it picked up steam in a hurry as the Heels cruised to a 50-14 victory. North Carolina has won five in a row and is 2-0 in the ACC.


Virginia at North Carolina


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: RSN/ESPN3

Spread: North Carolina -17.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Marquise Williams vs. the Virginia Defense

The senior’s play has mirrored that of the entire North Carolina team. He had a rough outing in the season opening loss to South Carolina and he was pulled from the Delaware game after the team’s slow start. But in the two most recent wins over Georgia Tech and Wake, the Charlotte native has been sensational, going a combined 27-of-44 for 416 yards with three touchdowns passing and 207 yards with three scores rushing. Virginia gives up 252 yards passing per game and Eric Dungey of Syracuse gave Virginia problems running the ball last week. It could be a big game for Williams.


2. Virginia Finding Offensive Balance

Running the ball is not Virginia’s strong suit. The Cavaliers rank No. 119 in rushing offense with much of their yardage coming on jet sweeps. What offensive success they’ve had has come from Matt Johns throwing the ball. But Gene Chizik’s Tar Heel defense is one of the best in the country at defending the pass. However, they are 113th in run defense. Virginia needs Taquan Mizzell and Albert Reid to be able to run a little bit and keep the UNC offense on the bench.


3.  North Carolina Defensive Pressure

It is one of the most interesting aspects of this North Carolina team. They rank No. 4 in the nation in pass defense, yet they have just four sacks on the year, ranking 127th out of 128 FBS programs. The Heels have gotten the job done without pressure. I think this week that may change. With Virginia being so ground game-challenged, Chizik may want to send guys like Shakeel Rashad and Jeff Schoettmer from the second level. Interestingly, Johns has thrown some beautiful balls this year with guys in his face. Then again, he has eight interceptions so disrupting his timing in any way may lead to turnovers.


Final Analysis


North Carolina looks like they have things cranked up. Beating Wake Forest is not a cause for huge celebration, but it was the first time the Demon Deacons had been blown out this season. The only pause for concern is that the next three games following Virginia are against UNC’s chief rivals for the Coastal Division throne and they could be looking ahead. That shouldn’t matter, though. North Carolina’s defense will be a tough nut to crack for UVA’s limited offense and Williams will hurt the Cavs by throwing to Quinshad Davis and Bug Howard as well as by tucking the ball away and running. North Carolina wins big, to the point where it is possible that this is London’s last game with Virginia.


Prediction: North Carolina 38, Virginia 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.

Virginia Cavaliers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/texas-am-aggies-vs-ole-miss-rebels-preview-and-prediction-2015

Texas A&M and Ole Miss both enter Saturday night’s matchup in Oxford hoping to get back on track after suffering a loss last week. Memphis defeated the Rebels 37-24 in Week 7, while the Aggies gave away four turnovers in a 41-23 loss in College Station against Alabama.


Both teams are still smarting from last Saturday’s performances, but a win on Saturday night would help keep pace with Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. Ole Miss has one loss in league play (Florida) and owns a potential key conference victory over Alabama. It’s a bit early to consider West Division scenarios, but if the Rebels win out, the September win over Alabama would be huge for tiebreaker purposes. Texas A&M’s only SEC loss in 2015 came against the Crimson Tide last Saturday. If the Aggies win in Oxford, the rest of the conference slate is manageable. Coach Kevin Sumlin’s team hosts South Carolina and Auburn before stepping out of conference to play Western Carolina on Nov. 14. After the matchup with the Catamounts, the Aggies play at Vanderbilt and then LSU to close out the regular season. Texas A&M should be favored in all but one of its remaining games (at LSU) after Saturday night. If the Aggies win in Oxford, the Nov. 28 game at LSU could decide the SEC West winner.


Related: SEC Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review


Ole Miss and Texas A&M have met three times as SEC foes. The Aggies own a 2-1 series edge in those matchups, but the Rebels won 35-20 in College Station last season.


Texas A&M at Ole Miss


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Ole Miss -6


Three Things to Watch


1. The Rushing Attack

It seems odd to focus on this area with all of the explosive and big-play threats at receiver in this game, and two talented quarterbacks in Ole Miss junior Chad Kelly and Texas A&M sophomore Kyle Allen. Even though both teams have explosive passing attacks, establishing the run and generating production from the ground game is critical to keep the offense out of third-and-long situations or to reduce the pressure on Kelly and Allen. A consistent ground attack has been a problem for both teams in conference play this year, as Texas A&M ranks 14th in the SEC (97 yards per game) and Ole Miss at 10th. Additionally, the Rebels average just 2.9 yards per carry in SEC games. Neither team has to run for 200 yards a contest to be successful, but more balance – especially on first and second downs – would allow both offenses to stay out of third-and-long and obvious passing down situations. Which team will find the right answers on Saturday? The Rebels have an advantage here, as Texas A&M allows 228.7 rushing yards per game in league play.


Related: Predictions for Every Game in Week 8


2. Turnovers

As referenced in the opening, a significant reason for Texas A&M’s loss to Alabama has to do with turnovers. The Aggies lost four in last week’s game after giving away just three in the prior five matchups. The Rebels are in a similar predicament, as coach Hugh Freeze’s team has lost at least two turnovers in each of the last four games, including six in losses against Memphis and Florida. The outcome of this matchup is more complicated than just the turnover margin. However, whichever team can finish on the positive side of this stat is probably going to win on Saturday night.


Related: SEC Week 8 Predictions


3. The Offensive Lines and Quarterbacks

Ole Miss is getting a huge addition to its offense this Saturday. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil was suspended for the first seven games but is slated to return for Week 8. Tunsil is one of the nation’s top linemen and will help to stabilize a line that lost Robert Conyers to a torn ACL against Memphis and allowed 13 sacks in 2015. Tunsil’s return is good news for Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly against a Texas A&M defensive front that is among the nation’s most active groups at the line of scrimmage. Sophomore end Myles Garrett was arguably the No. 1 defender in college football through the first half of 2015, but if he can’t get to Kelly, the Rebels will have opportunities for big plays downfield to receivers Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, and Quincy Adeboyejo. Ole Miss’ defensive line hasn’t been as stout as most predicted this offseason, but there was some good news for this unit announced on Thursday. Standout ackle Robert Nkemdiche will play against Texas A&M after suffering a concussion against Memphis. The Rebels rank ninth in the SEC with 11 sacks, and the secondary has allowed its share of big plays (eight plays of 30 yards or more in 2015). If Texas A&M’s line keeps the pass rush off quarterback Kyle Allen, the Aggies have plenty of options at receiver - standout true freshman Christian Kirk is the go-to target - to exploit the leaky pass defense.


Final Analysis


College football’s weekend slate is relatively light on must-see matchups, but this meeting between the Rebels and Aggies in Oxford has to be one of the better games for Week 8. Both teams need to win this game to stay alive in the SEC West title mix and keep within striking distance of LSU and Alabama. There should be no shortage of points scored on Saturday night. Which team makes a critical stop on defense or forces a timely turnover? Considering the yards and points expected between the two high-powered offenses, one stop on defense in the second half may decide this game.


Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Texas A&M 31
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Ole Miss Rebels Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/indiana-hoosiers-versus-michigan-state-spartans-preview-and-prediction-2015

Who will show up for this contest, the "same old Spartans" from the past or the recent "new and improved Spartans" of the previous eight seasons? From 1970 through 2006, after Michigan State defeated Michigan, the Spartans struggled to win the next game, going 4-4 in those following matches. During head coach Mark Dantonio's tenure, his teams have won five out of six times after having defeated their archrivals in the previous game.


In September, Indiana was rolling toward a bowl game. Once the Hoosiers started the Big Ten portion of their schedule started, they hit some obstacles. They followed up a gutsy loss at home against Ohio State by being dominated at Penn State. Last week, they built up a 52-33 lead on Rutgers in the third quarter only to let the game slip away in the fourth.


Michigan State leads the overall series 45-13-2. In East Lansing, the Spartans dominate the series 24-5-1. Michigan State has won 15 of the 17 most recent matches against Indiana.


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Indiana at Michigan State


Kickoff:  3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Indiana +16.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Which Indiana offense arrives in East Lansing?

In six out of seven games, the Hoosiers gained at least 400 yards on offense. They averaged 38.7 points in those games. Can they repeat that against the Spartan defense who has given up an average of 397.3 yards?


However, the week after Indiana lost a nail-biting heartbreaker at home versus the top-ranked Buckeyes, they sputtered, only managing to gain 234 yards and score seven points at Penn State. Was that one clunker in Happy Valley just an outlier? Will they struggle in similar fashion after last week's gut-wrenching loss at home then traveling for the following game?


2. Repeated Spartan gaffes versus solid Hoosier efforts in the kicking game

Michael Geiger has missed four of nine field goals, all of those less than 40 yards in distance, in addition to shanking an extra point. The coverage teams have allowed an average of 20.7 yards per kickoff and 16.1 yards per punt. Opponents have returned a kickoff and a punt return for touchdowns.


Of the three Hoosier kick returners who have at least six returns, they have averaged more than 17 yards per return. The only Hoosier who has returned punts, Mitchell Paige, has averaged 12.1 yards per return in addition to scoring a touchdown. Griffin Oakes has been nearly perfect, connecting all 29 extra points and ten out of eleven field goals.


3. Responses to highly emotional finishes last week

The Spartans snatched an inexplicable victory from the collective maw of the Wolverines. Michigan State won in Ann Arbor in a manner that no football fan should ever expect to see in a lifetime full of watching thousands of games. How long will the players and coaches need to calm down from the exhilaration to focus on the rest of season?


Like Michigan, Indiana also allowed its opponent to score the winning points as time expired last week. The game-winning field goal capped a string of 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for Rutgers. Indiana allowed three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes though the Hoosiers did manage to thwart a two-point conversion and block an extra point. Can the Hoosiers put that blown opportunity behind them in order to focus on the trip to East Lansing?


Final Analysis


Both teams' goals are still within their control. Michigan State can still win the Big Ten Eastern Division to head to the conference championship game with hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff after winning that. Indiana only needs two victories in its five remaining games to go to a bowl game.


Viewers should expect another uninspired and sloppy performance by the Spartans. The Hoosiers will play with a nothing-to-lose attitude. The guys in crimson will remain pesky far into the fourth quarter. The teams will trade scores. However, the Hoosiers settling for a few field goals will be their downfall.


Prediction: Michigan State 35, Indiana 31


— 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.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:55