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Path: /college-football/south-carolina-gamecocks-vs-missouri-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Missouri (3-1, 0-1) suffered its first loss after falling 21-13 to Kentucky in Week 4. The Tigers offense was held to just 338 total yards and went 6-of-14 on third down conversion attempts.


South Carolina (2-2, 0-1) is coming off a 31-14 win against UCF. It included a breakout performance by new starting quarterback Lorenzo Nunez.


Saturday's matchup is a must win for both teams who are looking to gain some ground in an open SEC East division.


South Carolina at Missouri


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Missouri -4


Three Things to Watch


1. Next in line

Drew Lock will make his first start for Missouri following Maty Mauk's suspension. He's seen limited time in each game and enters with 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 15-of-25 passing.


Lock has an opportunity to nab the starting job long-term should he provide a strong performance facing a struggling South Carolina defense.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

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2. Is Lorenzo Nunez's sudden hype validated?

Nunez recorded 123 rushing yards on 30 attempts and threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-22 passing. The true freshman gave South Carolina's offense a much needed jolt after a disappointing 1-2 start and several lackluster performances from the quarterback position.


Nunez was a four-star prospect, so his natural ability shouldn't be much of a surprise. But was Saturday's game a sign of things to come or the product of a matchup against a bad UCF team?


3. Missouri vs. the injury bug

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel listed star linebacker Kentrell Brothers as questionable for Saturday's game. Brothers leads the SEC with 52 total tackles and also has three tackles for loss and two interceptions.


Missouri also needs to overcome injuries to two starting offensive players. Both tight end Sean Culkin and right tackle Nate Crawford were ruled out for Saturday's game.

Final Analysis


This game won't be a shootout by any means. Both Missouri and South Carolina have flaws in several areas, which should be on display Saturday.


South Carolina's defense seems incapable of stopping opposing teams. Aside from Skai Moore, there's a lack of true SEC defensive talent. Its offense isn't much better with a lack of weapons outside of Pharoh Cooper.


Missouri has managed to capture "ugly wins" in 2015 and that will likely continue on Saturday. Despite Lock's inexperience as a starter, he's still managed to earn enough playing time to assume he'll be prepared for a matchup against one of the SEC's bottom-tier defenses.

Prediction: Missouri 17, South Carolina 7


— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Missouri Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-clemson-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Death Valley is the epicenter of college football’s Week 5 slate, as Notre Dame travels to Clemson for a must-see non-conference matchup. The Fighting Irish enter Saturday night’s game at 4-0 and ranked No. 6 in the latest Associated Press poll, while the Tigers are 3-0 and ranked No. 12. Needless to say, this marquee matchup will have playoff implications for both teams and will have a huge impact on the top 25 rankings on Sunday.


There’s a potential wild card element in play on Saturday night, as Hurricane Joaquin could bring heavy rainfall to the area. Playing conditions could be an issue if the inclement weather hits Clemson, S.C. on Saturday night.


Related: Predictions for Every Game in Week 5


The path to an unbeaten record has been significantly different for both teams. Notre Dame was hit with a rash of injuries, including season-ending ailments to quarterback Malik Zaire and running back Tarean Folston. Personnel issues also hindered Clemson, as the Tigers returned just five starters from last year’s team. Additionally, standout receiver Mike Williams was lost for an indefinite period due to a neck injury suffered in the opener against Wofford. However, Clemson was able to quickly reload and was picked at ACC Media Day as the projected champion. Despite both teams suffering significant personnel setbacks, both teams are squarely in the mix to be a playoff team in 2015.


Notre Dame and Clemson have played only two previous matchups. The series is tied at one victory apiece, with the last meeting between the Tigers and Fighting Irish taking place in 1979.


Notre Dame at Clemson


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Clemson -1


Three Things to Watch


1. The Quarterbacks

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson has only eight starts under his belt, but the sophomore is already one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. Through three games in 2015, Watson has completed 58 of 78 passes for 641 yards and seven scores. While Watson is a known commodity and a proven star, there’s a different feeling on the Notre Dame sideline about its quarterback. The Fighting Irish lost starter Malik Zaire to an ankle injury in the second week of the season against Virginia, forcing unproven redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer into the starting lineup. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is no stranger to quarterback changes and adapting to injuries at the position, and Kizer has been steady through his first two starts. But Saturday night is a tough assignment for any quarterback to step into. Clemson is one of the best venues in college football, and Kizer will face the best defense of his career so far. Notre Dame doesn’t need Kizer to throw for 300 yards on Saturday night, but he has to take care of the ball and limit mistakes. For Watson, Clemson may ask him to carry more of the workload. It’s no secret quarterback play is crucial to winning every game, but the battle between a redshirt freshman making his third career start against a rising star will be an interesting storyline.


Related: Three Reasons Why Notre Dame Will Beat Clemson


2. Battle in the Trenches

The biggest concern for Clemson in the preseason was its rebuilt offensive and defensive lines. So far, it’s been a mixed bag of success in the trenches. The Tigers have allowed six sacks, and quarterback Deshaun Watson faced heavy pressure in the win over Louisville on Sept. 17. The Fighting Irish’s front seven has been the strength of this defense in 2015, limiting opponents to 4.1 yards per carry and generating eight sacks. Tackle Sheldon Day is the headliner up front, while linebacker Jaylon Smith is one of – if not – the best in the nation at his position. It’s no secret what Notre Dame’s defense has to do on Saturday night. Disrupting the timing of Clemson’s offense starts up front. If Watson and the deep group of receivers have time to make plays, there’s opportunities downfield against a Fighting Irish secondary that has allowed six plays of 30 yards or more.


On the other side of the ball for Clemson, coordinator Brent Venables has managed to quickly restock the team’s defensive line. The Tigers have generated seven sacks and 28 tackles for a loss through three games. End Shaq Lawson is the unit’s top player (six tackles for a loss, two sacks in 2015), but the interior is also performing well with the emergence of true freshman Christian Wilkins (24 stops), along with junior Carlos Watkins (16 tackles). Clemson’s rush defense has also remained tough, limiting opponents to 2.9 yards per carry. However, the Tigers will face their toughest test of the season on Saturday night. Notre Dame’s offensive line is arguably one of the best in the nation, with left tackle Ronnie Stanley leading the way. Although Kizer has performed well in his limited action, it’s critical for the Fighting Irish to establish the line of scrimmage and allow running back C.J. Prosise to take some of the pressure off the redshirt freshman quarterback.


Related: Three Reasons Why Clemson Will Beat Notre Dame


3. Notre Dame WR Will Fuller vs. Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander

Assuming the weather cooperates, Saturday’s matchup could feature one of the best one-on-one battles of the year between two likely All-American candidates. Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller has grabbed 22 catches for 454 yards and six scores this season, averaging a healthy 20.6 yards per catch. Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander is one of the best in the nation but has only two tackles and one pass breakup in 2015. However, that’s not his fault for the low totals on the stat sheet – opponents aren’t simply throwing to his side of the field. Fuller’s string of 100-yard games this season was snapped against UMass (only 57 yards on four catches), and there’s a good chance he’s blanketed by Alexander on Saturday night. Can Alexander limit Fuller’s production and force Kizer to target Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle? Or will Fuller win the one-on-one matchups and allow Kizer to connect on big plays downfield?


Final Analysis


Both teams have been tested this year, but Saturday night’s game is each program’s toughest opponent so far in 2015. Will the injuries finally catch up to Notre Dame? Or is Clemson’s rebuilding effort still a work in progress? Of course, there’s the weather element to consider. If conditions are an issue, an edge has to go to the Fighting Irish with its offensive line and running back C.J. Prosise. Even if conditions aren’t an issue, the Tigers still have question marks about the play in the trenches against Notre Dame’s offensive and defensive lines. Clemson has the edge at quarterback, but the Fighting Irish’s defense and strength up front on offense will be the difference.


Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Clemson 24
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/three-reasons-why-notre-dame-will-beat-clemson

Notre Dame will be going into a difficult environment on Saturday in Death Valley. With an 8 p.m. start, the Clemson faithful have plenty of time to get themselves in the right frame of mind for kickoff. It will be loud. It will be hostile.


Related: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction


More importantly, the Irish are facing a very talented Clemson team. Deshaun Watson is an outstanding quarterback and he knows how to get the ball in the hands of playmakers like Artavis Scott and Wayne Gallman. Defensively, Shaq Lawson up front and Mackensie Alexander in the back know how to stymie opposing offenses.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

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But this is Notre Dame and this is just their next big game. And they have several very talented players on their side.


The Irish are going to Clemson expecting to win and here are three reasons why they will.


1. The Irish Defensive Front vs. the Clemson Offensive Line

The weakest spot of Clemson’s offense — and probably their entire team — is the offensive line. Injuries have affected the unit’s play and center Ryan Norton, by far Clemson’s most experienced offensive lineman, will miss the Notre Dame game with a knee sprain. But it has been more than injuries. The group has simply not dominated lesser competition the way you would expect. They are tied for 70th in the country allowing two sacks a game and that is despite ranking No. 105 in passing attempts. This week, they will be up against Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell, Jaylon Smith and the rest of a tough Notre Dame front seven. It won’t be like blocking Wofford, Appalachian State or Louisville, that’s for sure.


2. Wearing Down the Clemson Defense

Clemson has a very solid defense. But due to injuries and other personnel losses, they are not deep with quality talent. This is where Notre Dame’s big offensive line will be a factor. They will pound on Clemson play after play. Though Notre Dame does not play at TCU-like speed, a little faster tempo may be the way to go in this game. Keep Clemson’s defenders moving. Notre Dame has a depth advantage and as the game drags on it should become more and more evident.


3. The Schedule

Clemson’s last game was on Sept. 16, giving them 16 days off before the Notre Dame clash. They have plenty of time to game plan for the Irish and they got some bruises healed. But that’s a long time without game action. Meanwhile, Notre Dame played the perfect lead-in opponent in UMass. While the first half did not go exactly as planned, Notre Dame did get to see a team that can throw the ball, something Clemson will do on Saturday night. Also, the Irish have played a tough road game and met up with Texas and Georgia Tech. Clemson started with two patsies and then inched by a struggling Louisville team. Notre Dame is the more battle tested team going into Saturday night.


— 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.

Three Reasons Why Notre Dame Will Beat Clemson
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/three-reasons-why-clemson-will-beat-notre-dame

When Notre Dame reached their agreement with the ACC and the schedule was finalized, the fine, Orange-clad folks in the Palmetto State had this coming Saturday circled on the calendar. The Irish and Tigers have only met twice on the gridiron and Notre Dame’s lone trip to Clemson was back in 1977.


Related: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction


The Irish come in ranked higher in the AP Poll at No. 6 as opposed to Clemson at No. 12. Jaylon Smith is good. Sheldon Day is good. C.J. Prosise is good. Will Fuller is good.


It doesn’t matter. Here are three reasons why Clemson will win on Saturday night.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


1. Deshaun Watson and the Passing Game

Matt Johns and Virginia threw for 289 yards against Notre Dame. In that game, Canaan Severin had 11 catches for 153 yards. Last week, UMass had 302 yards passing against the Irish. And Georgia Tech mounted a comeback against ND when they passed the ball at the end of the game. Notre Dame’s pass defense has been suspect and Saturday they will have to contend with Watson throwing to Artavis Scott, Ray-Ray McCloud and the rest of the talented Clemson receivers. If Notre Dame’s secondary does not step up its play, it will be a long night for the guys in the gold helmets.


2. The Clemson Rush Defense

Notre Dame got a shot in the arm when running back C.J. Prosise replaced the injured Tarean Folston in Week One. Prosise is No. 5 in America in rushing yards per game with 150. But that yardage has come against Georgia Tech and their 60th-ranked rushing defense, Virginia and the No. 65 rushing defense, Texas’s No. 105th-ranked rushing defense, and UMass, who is No. 126 at stopping the run. Clemson is at No. 30 and although Wofford and Appalachian State are inferior opponents, they are both run-heavy teams that will get yards on the ground. Notre Dame has a very good offensive line, but Shaq Lawson and his Tiger teammates will be by far the Irish's biggest challenge of the year.


3. The Environment

Notre Dame is well accustomed to playing big games on the road. Last year’s game at Florida State is the most recent crazed setting that the Irish have encountered and many of the ND players remember that well. However, Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer can only tell you what that contest looked like from the sideline. Kizer did respond on the road at Virginia. But being the starting quarterback going into a night game in Death Valley is a whole different animal. The crowd will be ready. Clemson will be ready. We don’t know about Kizer.


Related: The Best College Football Stadium Entrances in the ACC 


— 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.

Three Reasons Why Clemson Will Beat Notre Dame
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 09:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-5-picks-2015

We now enter the conference portion of the college football season which really ramps up the intrigue and how much is at stake with each matchup. This also means the FCS/FBS matchups will go away for the most part. Some disappointing results as far as our selections are concerned. Any team that gives up that many points to Kent State should be sent to a lower level as the Golden Flashes' offense is quite anemic. The end of the Ohio/Minnesota game was also a clunker as far as I was concerned. I'll try to improve upon that and get back on the winning side.


Record: 21-18 (4-6 last week)


Memphis (4-0) at South Florida (1-2) (Friday)

If you are looking for someone in an awful spot, you may want to look at Friday night when Memphis plays at South Florida. The Tigers should win the game easily although their defense is horrendous. Memphis has allowed 87 points in its last two games. To make things even more difficult, the Tigers have a game at home against Ole Miss on Oct. 17 which may also have their attention. Well I don't have the stones to take USF, I'll lean to the under. It's a high number because quarterback Paxton Lynch and the Tigers' offense is capable of putting up points. I think they will do so, but I just don't think the Bulls will be able to take advantage of the issues Memphis has on defense. The Bulls have gone under in 18 of their last 27 games including 15 of their last 20 as an underdog. Memphis has gone under in eight of its last 13 on the road. SELECTION: Under 62


Wyoming (0-4) at Appalachian State (2-1)

Appy State's offense was rolling last time out as the Mountaineers pounded ODU 49-0 in Norfolk. The Mountaineers are rushing for 288.3 yards per game while the Cowboys have allowed 207.2 yards per game on the ground. Wyoming has been awful defensively and should struggle to get many stops. The Cowboys have put up over 400 yards per game on offense. They should have more success then Howard and Old Dominion who each failed to move the ball consistently. The road team has gone over in nine of their last 13 road games including four of their last six in October. Appy State gets Montez McGuire back on offense and he was third in receiving yards last year. SELECTION: Over 53


Minnesota (3-1) at Northwestern (4-0)

The Wildcats are one of the best stories in college football and have proven their opening win over Stanford wasn't a fluke. Last time out they struggled with Ball State, but you had to expect it coming off their first road game with conference play beginning the next week. Northwestern's offense has looked modestly pedestrian outside of the 41-0 win over Eastern Illinois. The Wildcats have put up a boatload of yards, but have scored just 59 points in those three games. We can continue to look at Minnesota's effort against TCU in the opener but its defense overall has been very good. The offense is an issue though especially since they scored just 10 points at home vs. Kent State. Northwestern has gone under in 18 of its last 28 games including 12 of its last 17 at home. SELECTION: Under 40.5


UCF (0-4) at Tulane (1-2)

This matchup will cause almost no ripples in the college football universe on Saturday. The only publicity this game will get is if UCF wins and The Basement in Orlando will stop giving away beer. The Golden Knights get Dontravious Wilson back at RB, which will help an offense that has only scored 50 points in four games. Their defense hasn't been too awful and shouldn't have much trouble facing Tulane who has just five WRs on scholarship right now on the roster. The Green Wave are coming off a bye week, which should refresh them a bit entering conference play. The under has hit in 11 of Tulane's last 16 conference games and five of its last six after a bye week. SELECTION: Under 44


Air Force (2-1) at Navy (3-0)

In one of the most underrated games of the weekend, Navy hosts Air Force. These two have had some spirited battles in the past. The Falcons are coming off a bye week after a 35-21 loss to Michigan State. AFA's defense has been very good even against Sparty, which rushed for just 77 yards on 42 carries. Navy's triple option rolled through its first three games, but will now run into a team very familiar with it. These two have played nine unders in the last 11 meetings. Rain could be an issue, but these two don't throw it much anyway. Originally I was ready to pick the home team, but anytime someone has two weeks to prepare it's a concern. Also, Navy is at Notre Dame next week, which is a big game to them as well. SELECTION: Under 52


Vanderbilt (1-3) at Middle Tennessee (2-2)

Despite the proximity, these two schools have played just three times since 1992 with the Blue Raiders winning each of those games. While things aren't working out for the Commodores on the scoreboard, their defense continues to play well. They held a very potent Western Kentucky team to just 14 points in the opener and Ole Miss scored just 27. The problem has been with Vandy's offense, as the Commodores just can't get things going on that side of the ball. No one will confuse MTSU's defense for the Seattle Seahawks, but the Blue Raiders have played well for the most part. Middle Tennessee State has gone under in eight of its last 12 non-conference games. SELECTION: Under 51


East Carolina (2-2) at SMU (1-3)

These two teams had quite different results last week. The Pirates knocked off Virginia Tech at home in the rain while the Mustangs lost a shootout at home to James Madison. ECU has another huge road game next week at BYU and is currently in a stretch of four on the road in the first six overall. The Pirates' offense has been inconsistent this season. Two weeks they ran for less than 100 yards while the other two saw them put up over 180. SMU's offense has not had many problems scoring, as the Mustangs are averaging 33.5 per contest. The problem comes defensively where they allow 603 yards of offense. I don't like the spot for the road team in this one. East Carolina has not covered in seven of its last eight games as a road favorite and 12 of its last 17 conference contests. SELECTION: SMU +6


Eastern Kentucky (2-1) at Kentucky (3-1)

Classic letdown spot here potentially for Kentucky as the Wildcats take on in-state FCS member Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels lost to NC State 35-0 already this season, but they are ranked in FCS polls and have several FBS transfers. The Wildcats are coming off a solid 21-13 win at home over Missouri and are staring at a home game vs. Auburn on Oct. 15. Kentucky's inconsistency may hurt the Wildcats in this matchup. SELECTION: Eastern Kentucky +30.5


UNLV (1-3) at Nevada (2-2)

It's a big rivalry game as Nevada hosts UNLV. Not quite sure on the line movement in this one as the Rebels haven't really shown much outside of their 80-8 win over Idaho State last week. The offense has been modestly pedestrian while the defense has been gashed on the ground. Nevada is coming off a win at Buffalo and has shown more consistency on offense. The defense is an issue for the Wolf Pack, but I don't know if UNLV can take advantage here. Devonte Boyd is a good receiver for the road team. Nevada has covered six of its last eight home games in this series. SELECTION: Nevada ML



- Injuries are complicating things when it comes to handicapping Penn State and Army. Ahmad Bradshaw is the Black Knights leading rusher and quarterback and his status is up in the air. Penn State has some issues as well with their two top running backs. If Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley were healthy, then I think the Nittany Lions roll in this one. As it is, I think head coach James Franklin sits them out as it's just not necessary that they play. Army's not going to be able to run the ball much on the home team so it's basically PSU calling their shots. If we learn Lynch or Barkley is going to play, then I take the team out of Happy Valley.


- Two of my favorite teams to keep my eye on are playing as UMass is hosting FIU. The Minutemen kept up with Notre Dame for a half or so before falling to their potent offense. They should have beaten Temple if not for special teams errors. The Golden Panthers, meanwhile, have played well at home, but injuries are mounting. I have no selection in this one, but the winner could go on a nice win streak potentially as the talent is there on both sides.


- Should be a fun one as Rice hosts Western Kentucky. The Owls are playing just their second home game after three straight on the road including contests with Texas and Baylor. This game is going to be high scoring as both teams have leaky defenses and potent offenses. Rice will try to keep up with Brandon Doughty, but Driphus Jackson isn't a bad QB either. Small lean to the over in this one.


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

Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 5 Picks
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-georgia-will-beat-alabama

For Georgia, the time is now and the Bulldogs have zero excuses going into Saturday's home matchup with Alabama. Georgia will go into this game against the Tide undefeated, the favorite in Vegas, and on paper the better team in all three phases on the football field. Head coach Mark Richt has a few big wins under his belt but nothing would be as big as knocking off Alabama and putting what would appear to be an end to the Crimson Tide's College Football Playoff hopes in 2015. All the cards are in Georgia's favor at this point in the season. No pressure, Mark.


Related: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs Preview and Prediction


Side note: as pointed out by Clay Travis from FOX Sports, if Alabama loses to Georgia, it will be the first time in SEC history that both Alabama and Auburn have started 0-2 in conference.


History in the making? I think so.


So why will Georgia beat Alabama on Saturday? Here are five reasons.


1. Georgia’s defense is playing lights out.

Georgia has looked more than impressive on defense in 2015. Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has taken a talented core of returners from last year and made them even better so far. Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd, Lorenzo Carter, Dominick Sanders and Jake Ganus among others have placed this defense among the best units in the nation. I realize that Georgia has played less than stellar opponents so far in 2015 but from what I have seen, Georgia is an elite defense. They have playmakers at every level and have depth at many of those positions. We could go through the numbers all day but these guys know how to make big plays. And big plays will need to be made on Saturday.


2. The one/two punch of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel is the best in the nation.

Yes, you read that right. Georgia has the best running back combo in college football. And it’s not even close. We all knew just how good Chubb was going to be this year. But many may have forgotten that Michel was ahead of Chubb on the depth chart last year before he got hurt. Now Chubb and Michel have this healthy competition between themselves as to who can score more touchdowns in any given game.


Are you kidding me? These two are actually tallying who can score more? It’s like they’re playing "NCAA Football 2015" but in real life.

Side note: Chubb leads 6-4. And oh yeah, just behind Michel is Keith Marshall with three. Unbelievable.


Related: College Football's Top 10 Running Backs for September


Couple that with an offensive line that is helping average 257 rushing yards per game and you have the best rushing attack Georgia has seen in a long time. And I didn’t even mention Malcolm Mitchell’s downfield blocking capabilities, which may be among the best by a wide receiver in the country.


3. Greyson Lambert is the better quarterback going into this game.

Yes, you read that correctly.


Okay, I will admit that I have been super harsh on Lambert and his ability to lead this team. And it was warranted. But I’ve got to admit that the last couple of games, Lambert has played very well. I mean, he set national and SEC records two weeks ago. I never saw that coming. He looks poised in the pocket, calm and he is making good decisions with the ball. I knew that putting better talent around him would help and so far it has made him look better. But he will face the best defense that he has played against since Vanderbilt. Against Vandy, he didn’t look so hot but things can change. Lambert will have a huge hurdle to jump come Saturday but if he can stay calm, make good decisions and put his team in a position to win; people will see this team as a legitimate Playoff contender.


4. Georgia’s OC is not in hot water, which takes the pressure off of him.

Lane Kiffin vs. Brian Schottenheimer. What a matchup. Besides Alabama fans wanting to run Kiffin out of town for not running the ball more and those nasty “Joey Freshwater” rumors swirling in Tuscaloosa, this is actually a great offensive mind vs. offensive mind pairing.


Both teams can put up massive points and both have showed that in recent games. But I would think that both coaches are still a little weary about cutting their quarterbacks completely loose. I felt like Jake Coker finally cemented himself as the starter in the game against Ole Miss but then had a subpar day against ULM. On the other side, for as good as Lambert has been, I still haven’t seen him stretch the field like he will need to do against Alabama. That could be Schottenheimer’s decision or it could be he doesn’t trust his quarterback to do that just yet. That Vanderbilt game has to be in the back of Georgia’s mind.


All in all, Schottenheimer knows that he is in a good position as he has probably watched the Ole Miss tape 100 times already this week. Georgia has been given a blueprint as to how to beat Alabama and that was a team that had no run game whatsoever.


5. Special Teams

Alabama has been a train wreck on special teams all year. They fumbled multiple kickoffs in the Ole Miss game; their kicker hasn’t even hit half of his field goals and all of a sudden, their ace punter seems to be losing his mind as well. Maybe it’s just me but we all talk about how important success in all three phases of the game are to winning, so why would I think Alabama has a shot with their special teams playing this way? Both teams are fielding the ball pretty well, except for Alabama during the Ole Miss game, but if it's crunch time, I just trust the Georgia kickers far more than I do Alabama right now. And for good reason.


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

5 Reasons Why Georgia Will Beat Alabama
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:55
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-georgia-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2015

Georgia and Alabama have been two of the SEC’s top programs in recent years, and Saturday afternoon's matchup in Athens could be a preview of the conference championship game in early December. And in a slight role reversal, the Crimson Tide is not the favorite on Saturday. For the first time in 72 games, Alabama is considered an underdog. Georgia isn’t a huge favorite by Vegas standards, but this should be a good barometer test for both teams.


The Crimson Tide has some work to do in order to win the SEC West, as coach Nick Saban’s team is 0-1 in conference play after a loss to Ole Miss in Week 3. Mark Richt’s Bulldogs are undefeated, but this is the biggest test for Georgia after accumulating wins against ULM, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Southern so far.


Related: 5 Reasons Why Georgia Beats Alabama


Although Georgia and Alabama are two of the SEC’s top programs, these two teams have not played in a regular season game since 2008. That matchup is a memorable one for both fanbases, as a No. 3 ranked Georgia team was a seven-point favorite over Alabama, but the Crimson Tide went into Athens and won 41-30.


Alabama owns a 37-25-4 series edge against Georgia. The last matchup between these two teams took place in the 2012 SEC Championship.


Alabama at Georgia


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Georgia -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The Quarterbacks

It’s no secret Georgia and Alabama both entered fall practice with uncertainty at quarterback. And after four weeks, it’s fair to say the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs still have question marks about their signal-callers. Georgia’s Greyson Lambert set a NCAA record by completing 96 percent of his passes in the win over South Carolina but struggled in the road win at Vanderbilt (11 of 21 for 116 yards). While Lambert has managed to take care of the ball (no interceptions) and boasts a 76.5 completion percentage, this is by far his toughest game of the season. Alabama has started two quarterbacks with Jake Coker and Cooper Bateman combining to complete 98 of 163 passes for 1,030 yards and nine scores in 2015. Bateman started in the loss against Ole Miss, but Coker took the first snap in the other three games and is expected to start on Saturday afternoon. Both teams are built in a similar blueprint with a strong defense and rushing attack. However, Lambert and Coker are going to have to make plays through the air for their team to win this game. Which quarterback steps up in the clutch on Saturday afternoon?


Related: College Football's Top 10 Running Backs from September


2. Stopping the Run

This matchup of two of the SEC’s best teams also features one of the top running back duels college football will see in 2015. Alabama’s Derrick Henry is a physical specimen at 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds and gashed opponents for 422 yards and eight scores in September. Henry has a good blend of size, speed and power and is primed for a huge season in his first as the Crimson Tide’s feature back. On the other sideline, Georgia’s Nick Chubb has rushed for at least 100 yards in 12 consecutive games and enters this matchup No. 2 in the SEC (behind Leonard Fournette) with 599 rushing yards. Considering the question marks or uncertainty at quarterback for both teams, the offenses want to establish the ground attack and limit the pressure on the passing attack. But establishing the rushing game will be difficult for both teams. Georgia ranks fourth in the SEC against the run, limiting opponents to 107.3 yards and just 3.1 yards per carry. Alabama has been stingier, as the Crimson Tide has limited opponents to 1.97 yards per carry and only 56.8 yards per game. The edge in offensive line play goes to Georgia. But will the Bulldogs find rushing lanes against the Alabama defense? Keep an eye on the battle in the trenches Saturday afternoon.


Related: SEC Week 5 Predictions


3. Turnovers, 3rd Down and Red Zone Conversions

With a close game anticipated on Saturday afternoon, turnovers are going to be critical in the outcome. If the good folks in Vegas are right, and this game is decided by a field goal or less, a turnover or a key stop in the red zone could decide the winner of this critical SEC showdown. Through four games in 2015, Georgia has a plus-two margin and has lost only three turnovers. Alabama hasn’t been as strong in this department. Nick Saban’s team ranks near the bottom of the SEC in margin (minus-one) and has lost eight turnovers. However, it’s notable the Crimson Tide lost five turnovers against Ole Miss, which accounts for more than half of the giveaways in 2015. Considering the gameplan on offense for both teams, avoiding third-and-long situations are critical. Georgia is only converting 35.5 third-down attempts, while Alabama is only converting at a 36.8 rate. And once both teams reach the 20-yard line, seven points – not three – is needed. So far, The Crimson Tide has cashed in 89.5 percent of its trips into the red zone for scores, while the Bulldogs are converting at an 84.2 percent rate. All three areas – third downs, red zone conversions and turnovers – are a small factor. However, they could have a huge impact on how this game plays out on Saturday afternoon.


Final Analysis


While Alabama and Georgia haven’t played in the regular season since the matchup in 2008, there’s a lot of familiarity between these two programs. Three current Bulldog assistants spent time at Alabama under Nick Saban, including defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. In addition to the familiarity between the two programs, the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs are built in a similar fashion. Both teams want to establish the run and win with their defense. Which team wins the battle in the trenches and makes the least amount of mistakes on Saturday is going to have a huge advantage. Both quarterbacks – Greyson Lambert and Jake Coker – will be tested after experiencing their share of ups and downs so far this season. This one is a tossup.


Prediction: Alabama 27, Georgia 24
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:55
Path: /college-football/boston-college-eagles-vs-duke-blue-devils-preview-and-prediction-2015

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is considered an offensive mastermind. His specialty is quarterbacks and his work with both of the Manning brothers is well known.


But this is not your typical Cutcliffe coached team. The Blue Devils are a bit offensively challenged this year and quarterback Thomas Sirk, while playing okay, has not been the main reason for Duke’s success. The Blue Devils have relied on a stellar defense led by safety Jeremy Cash to get to 3-1 on the season.


Boston College is similar. Offensively, the Eagles are anemic. Defensively, they are rock solid. That sets up a good, old-fashioned defensive slugfest this Saturday in Durham.


Boston College at Duke


Kickoff:  3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel:  ESPN3/RSN

Spread:  Duke -6.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Who Will Make Plays for the Eagles?

Against Florida State, quarterback Darius Wade broke his ankle. In the Northern Illinois game, running back Jon Hilliman injured his foot. He had surgery on Sunday and will miss an extended period of time. Hilliman, by far the Eagles' biggest offensive threat, rushed for 122 yards before leaving Saturday’s game. To make matters worse, backups Myles Willis and Marcus Outlow sustained shoulder injuries, making junior Tyler Rouse this week’s go-to guy. They are also down to their backup center and the No. 3 tight end. For a team with limited offensive weapons to begin with, these losses could be devastating.


2. Sirk Throwing the Ball

No one has run on Boston College this year and it is unlikely that will change this week. Shaquille Powell is a good back and Sirk can pick up yardage on his own. But for Duke to be effective offensively, they are going to have to achieve something in the passing game. Sirk did not throw downfield much at all against Georgia Tech and the pressure BC can bring may make short passes the way to go for Duke this week. The Devils do have a pretty good offensive line, so it is possible Sirk could have time to look for deeper targets. Whether it is short or long, Duke would like to have some success throwing the ball.


3. Who Will Score?

Boston College is second in the nation giving up just 7.8 points per game. They have allowed just four touchdowns in four games and one of those was a defensive score by Florida State, another was a kickoff return in the Northern Illinois game, and a third was a four yard drive set up by an NIU interception. Duke is No. 7 in America, surrendering just 11.5 points per game. This past Saturday, they shut down a potent Georgia Tech offense. Perhaps the first score wins.


Final Analysis


Obviously, don’t expect a replay of the TCU-Texas Tech game. Yards, never mind first downs and scores, will be hard to come by. Jeremy Cash and the Duke defense will completely stifle Troy Flutie and the Eagles offense. However, the Duke offense will have no fun trying to move the ball on the Boston College defense. The attrition that Boston College has to endure will be too much to overcome on Saturday. Duke wins a close, low-scoring affair.


Prediction: Duke 13, Boston College 7


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

Boston College Eagles vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:50
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-vs-army-west-point-black-knights-preview-and-prediction-2015

It's Military Appreciation Day in Happy Valley this weekend when Penn State welcomes Army to Beaver Stadium for the first time since 1979. The Nittany Lions look to keep the good vibes going after three straight wins following a season-opening loss to Temple. The rejuvenated running game of Penn State should once again be in for a productive afternoon against Army, and Christian Hackenberg may have some time to make things happen through the air for the final tune-up before re-entering Big Ten play for the remainder of the season.


Army West Point at Penn State


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Penn State -23


Three Things to Watch


1. How healthy is Penn State's running game?

The past couple of games have shown great strides from the Penn State running game behind improved offensive line play. Freshman Saquon Barkley has been electric and Akeel Lynch has had some good runs as well, but both were injured in last weekend's home win over San Diego State. Lynch's injury appeared to be the more serious of the two, but Penn State head coach James Franklin has been mum on the injury status of both top running backs this week, as he is prone to do.


If neither player is available this weekend, Penn State will have to put the ball in the hands of freshmen Brandon Polk and Mark Allen on a regular basis. Polk has already rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown this season, and Allen has seen some playing time as well.


2. Penn State's defense must be mentally and physically prepared

Anytime you go up against a service academy on the football field, you have to be prepared physically and mentally for a long afternoon grinding things out in the trenches. Penn State and just about every power conference program will tend to have a size advantage on the line, but programs like Army and Navy and Air Force will stick to the ground routinely and make those big guys up front earn a chance to catch a breath on the sideline. That will be the case this weekend with Army already rushing for 1,178 yards and 13 touchdowns in four games this season. Last week against Eastern Michigan the Black Knights rushed for 556 yards and seven touchdowns.


Army's passing game has put together just 370 yards and four touchdowns, with three interceptions this season. Army has completed just 47.2 percent of its pass attempts.


3. Will Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw be good to go?

Speaking of Army's passing game, quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw's status for the game is up in the air this week. Bradshaw left last weekend's game against Eastern Michigan with an undisclosed injury and was seen on the sideline wearing a boot in the second half. Army head coach Jeff Monken has not revealed much about his status for this weekend, but Bradshaw would be a big loss for Army's offense. Bradshaw is Army's leading rusher with 341 yards and four touchdowns. If Bradshaw is not available, the Black Knights will likely go with senior A.J. Schurr, who has appeared in three games this season. 


Final Analysis


Penn State may still be a work in progress with the offensive line, and the running game appears to be a legitimate concern entering this week with injuries to key players. Despite these concerns, Penn State should still be equipped well enough to take down Army at home this weekend. Army's offense is too one-dimensional to give Penn State a serious run, so look for Hackenberg to be the difference maker as Penn State's receivers and tight ends give Penn State an advantage this weekend. Penn State should be 4-1 as they prepare for Indiana next week.


Prediction: Penn State 37, Army 13


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Army West Point Black Knights Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/louisville-cardinals-vs-nc-state-wolfpack-preview-and-prediction-2015

The NC State Wolfpack and the Louisville Cardinals have started their seasons on two entirely different paths. For NC State head coach Dave Doeren and his team, it will be their first conference test after starting the season 4-0.


In their last game against South Alabama, the Wolfpack scored a school-record seven touchdowns as they defeated the Jaguars 63-13.


Louisville begins its second year in the ACC with a losing record to begin the young season. Bobby Petrino's Cardinals are 1-3 as they have lost to Auburn, Houston and Clemson. Louisville’s lone win of the season came last week as they defeated Samford 45-3.


Last season, NC State lost at Louisville, 30-18 behind 173 rushing yards and a touchdown by Michael Dyer.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

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Louisville at NC State


Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. EST (Saturday)

Network: ACC Network/ESPN3

Spread: NC State -4.5


Three Things to Watch For


1. Louisville rushing defense

The Cardinals rushing defense has been one of the worst in the country during its first four games of the season. Louisville has given up an average of 172.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 75th in FBS. This week, they will be lining up against one of the nation’s best running attacks in NC State.


The Wolfpack have averaged 259 rushing yards per game through their first four games, which ranks 16th in the country. Running back Matthew Dayes has rushed for 454 yards this season and he also leads the nation in rushing touchdowns with nine.


Louisville will have to win the matchups at the line of the scrimmage if they are expected to slow down the Wolfpack rushing attack. The Cardinals only have 4.5 tackles for a loss through the first four weeks, so that will certainly have to improve.


2. Jacoby Brissett

NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country. The senior has thrown for 809 yards, six touchdowns against zero interceptions and has a 77.9 completion percentage, which is the best in college football.


While Louisville has lost against Auburn, Houston and Clemson, their passing defense has been solid. The Cardinals are allowing an average 175.5 yards per game, which is the 32nd-best in college football.


The Louisville defense leads the FBS with nine interceptions. They were able to intercept two passes from preseason ACC Player of the Year Deshaun Watson in their close 20-17 loss against Clemson. This will be the biggest test of the season for Brissett.


3. Lamar Jackson

It isn’t often a freshman quarterback can come in right away and produce at the FBS level, but that was certainly the case for Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.


In his first four games of the 2015 season, Jackson has thrown for 495 yards, two touchdowns against four interceptions, while completing 60 percent of his passes. This week, the Boynton Beach, Fla., native will have a tough task of gaining yards against the NC State.


NC State ranks third in the nation in total defense as they have given up an average 205.8 yards per game. If Louisville is going to pull off the upset on the road, Jackson will have to limit the mistakes and play his best game of the season.


Final Analysis


The Wolfpack are on a seven-game winning streak, which is the longest active streak among ACC teams. NC State hasn’t had any problems going through their first four opponents so far this season, but Louisville should provide them with more of a challenge.


This game is as close of a must-win for Louisville as it can get. If the team falls to 1-4 on the season, a bowl invitation in December could be in doubt. The team still has to play Florida State, Pittsburgh and Kentucky all on the road.


If the Cardinals can stop the run and put pressure on Brissett, they have a chance to keep the game close. Even then, it will be tough for Louisville to keep up with the ninth scoring offense in the country (46.3 points per game).


Final Score: NC State 38, Louisville 24


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Louisville Cardinals vs. NC State Wolfpack Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:40
Path: /nba/purdue-boilermakers-vs-michigan-state-spartans-preview-and-prediction-2015

Each team enters this game from diametrically opposed directions. Michigan State churned out two victories over non-Power 5 teams after pole vaulting into the top three of both major polls. Purdue has only managed one win in its first four games; that came at the expense of an FCS opponent. However, the teams are even in one important category: the number of victories in Big Ten games.


This will be the 66th meeting between these two programs. The first occurred in 1918. Michigan State holds a 21-11 advantage in games played in East Lansing as well as the lead in the overall series 35-27-3. The Spartans have won the last six games played versus the Boilermakers. Before that streak, Purdue had won seven of eight games against Michigan State.


Purdue at Michigan State


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Michigan State -22


Three Things to Watch


1. Inexperienced Purdue QB vs. struggling Spartan secondary

David Blough started his first college game last week. In an impressive debut, he passed for 340 yards with a completion percentage of 74 percent along with two touchdowns and one interception. He showed great potential by the offense converting 60 percent of combined third and fourth downs.


Mark Dantonio has shuffled and inserted different lineups of defensive backs. Despite those changes, the Spartans have allowed an average of 277 yards per game. That ranks at No. 107 of the 127 FBS programs.


2. Terrible special teams vs. improving special teams

Paul Griggs, Purdue's kicker has missed five out of eight field goals so far — all five were from less than 45 yards. Also, the Boilermakers are giving up an average of 27 yards on kickoffs. Virginia Tech blocked a punt by Purdue then returned it for a touchdown.


Michigan State had four of its kickoffs returned by Central Michigan; none gained more than 18 yards. The only punt return by the Chippewas went for a two-yard loss. More importantly, MSU blocked two field goals in the first quarter, helping to keep CMU off the scoreboard until late in the first half. Even with all of this improvement, the Spartans still had a breakdown: a blocked extra point after the final touchdown.


3. Looking back vs. looking ahead

Last week, Purdue allowed Bowling Green to score a touchdown with nine seconds remaining. Paul Griggs missed a field goal at the end of each half that would have given the Boilermakers the lead. Following each of those, the Falcons scored a touchdown. How much of the Boilermakers' attention in practice will be focused on having let the Falcons escape West Lafayette with a victory?


Meanwhile in East Lansing, the Spartans were trudging through another non-conference game at home.  With less than nine minutes left in the game, they only led by seven. The stadium has been noticeably less than packed to watch the highly ranked home team kick off at noon against unranked foes. Could the complacency of the fans filter down to the players in the form of another second half nap? Could that attitude possibly let an underdog push the game into overtime or score the game-winning points in the final minute?


Final Analysis


Despite an awful beginning, Purdue can salvage the season. The path to the Big Ten Championship Game is still in its control. Even if that goal is too lofty for the Boilermakers, they can qualify for a bowl game with a winning record in their conference games. The start of a reclamation of the 2015 season would start by upsetting the second-ranked team in the country on the road.


The Spartans' most impressive win was noticeably tarnished after Utah's plucking of the Ducks in Eugene. Michigan State's high ranking has been questioned due to that result. MSU has let three opponents with much less talent and depth hang around and remain within two touchdowns of tying the game or taking the lead in the fourth quarter. In order to halt this growing doubt lest it permeate the College Football Playoff selection committee, the Spartans need to score on the Boilermakers early and often. Then the guys in green must keep the guys in black and gold in the single digits for the entire game. Michigan State will improve but not quite meet that goal


Prediction: Michigan State 37, Purdue 17


— 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.

Purdue Boilermakers vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:35
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-vs-indiana-hoosiers-preview-and-prediction-2015

To paraphrase that famous college football fan William Shakespeare, a win by any other name would smell as sweet... or something like that, as it pertains to the 2015 Ohio State Buckeyes. Presently undefeated, with a 4-0 record, Ohio State travels for the second time this season, traveling to Bloomington, Indiana, to take on the also undefeated Indiana Hoosiers. Ohio State defeated Western Michigan 38-12 in Ohio Stadium, with a performance that was an improvement over the previous two games, but still left some questions for Buckeye fans.


Ohio State has defeated Indiana the last nineteen times the teams have played. As a matter of fact, Ohio State and Indiana played to a tie back in 1990 (27-27) in Bloomington, when John Cooper was Ohio State's head coach, current ESPN studio analyst Robert Smith was a freshman phenom running back, and current ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit served as a backup quarterback.


Indiana has come close on several occasions to toppling Ohio State. The last time Ohio State visited Bloomington, Ohio State did not so much beat the Hoosiers but outlast them, winning 52-49 in Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer's debut season in 2012.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

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Indiana enters this game with strong performers across the board offensively. Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld will play this game, after missing last season's contest due to injury. Indiana has been bolstered by the transfer addition of running back Jordan Howard, who has rushed for 675 yards already this season. Ricky Jones paces the Hoosier receiving corps, averaging 22.8 yards per reception. While Ohio State is well-respected for its offensive talent, Indiana actually has a better points per game average than the Buckeyes, with a 38.2 point per game average, compared to Ohio State's 34.5.


Of course, where Indiana has struggled under the leadership of Kevin Wilson is on the defensive side of the ball. Indiana has been formidable offensively, yet continues to give up points to the opposition. At this writing, Indiana ranks 97th in the country, surrendering 32 points a game.


Further intrigue from an Ohio State perspective comes in the form of two former Ohio State players who have moved on to play for Indiana. Indiana offensive lineman Tim Gardner originally signed with Ohio State, yet was kicked off the team for a disciplinary incident back in 2013. Indiana defensive back Jayme Thompson also signed with Ohio State in 2013, but left after a redshirt season; after a season at JUCO Iowa Western, Thompson signed with Indiana in July 2015.


Ohio State at Indiana


Kickoff: 3:30 pm ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2 mirror

Spread: Ohio State -21


Three Things To Watch


1. The Turnover Margin

Ohio State has been far too careless with the football, dating back to the end of the 2014 national championship run. While Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones played better against Western Michigan, Jones did throw an interception that was an underthrown pass. While it has not yet hurt the Buckeyes in the win column, Meyer has to be strongly concerned that the Buckeyes are developing poor habits as they relate to football possession.


2. Ohio State's Run Defense

Against a two-headed attack by Western Michigan's Jamauri Brogan and Jarvion Franklin, Ohio State gave up 169 yards and 4.1 yards a carry. Ouch. With a tremendous back such as Jordan athlHoward, as well as future B1G opponents on the horizon, Ohio State needs to tighten up its interior run defense, or the national championship hopes may not be realized.


3. Braxton Miller's Role

For the last several weeks, Ohio State has tried to force-feed Miller into the offense, often resulting in a sputtering effect. While Miller's dynamic spin move at Virginia Tech was mesmerizing, it has seemed that the coaches have overthought on how to get Miller into the game plan, without just allowing for plays to happen when or if the right time comes along.


Final Analysis


Ohio State had its feel-good game against Western Michigan; now the Buckeyes need to take their act on the road to see if there are other kinks that need to be fixed. Ohio State needs to fine tune its deep passing game with Cardale Jones and the receiving corps, as well as develop its traditionally strong running game with Ezekiel Elliott. Against an improving Indiana team that is still a work in progress defensively, Ohio State should still wind up on the winning ledger, albeit with some minor frustrations against the Hoosiers.


Prediction: Ohio State 42, Indiana 24


— 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. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /north-carolina-tar-heels-vs-georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-preview-and-prediction-2015

Georgia Tech and North Carolina are coming into Saturday’s game from opposite sides of the road. Georgia Tech has lost two games in a row and more importantly seems to have lost a part of its identity. North Carolina is coming off three straight wins and head coach Larry Fedora may have found the answer in new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. The Tar Heels will face the best offense they have seen all year but Notre Dame and Duke have given Chizik a blueprint as to how to stop the Yellow Jacket offense.


Georgia Tech can’t afford to lose another ACC Coastal game and North Carolina doesn’t want to start conference play with a loss. Both can benefit from a huge win this Saturday.


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North Carolina at Georgia Tech


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

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Georgia Tech -7


Three Things to Watch


1. North Carolina’s Defense

In four games this season, the Tar Heels are giving up a little over 14 points per game. In today’s college game with talent spread throughout the country and teams putting up huge numbers every week that is impressive. Gene Chizik may have found his second chance in college football after being run out of Auburn. This week will be a tough test.


2. Georgia Tech’s Identity

As I have written before, the Georgia Tech offense has looked like a shell of itself in the past two weeks having thrown the ball 40 times. That’s not what Paul Johnson wants to do. He wants to control the clock and run the ball efficiently. As Johnson has said multiple times already, the Yellow Jackets need to execute the plan that is put in place. The lack of execution may be due to young running backs and newcomers in the backfield, but it all starts with Justin Thomas and he must play better if the Jackets want to return to the ACC championship game.


3. Looking at the Over

The Over/Under has been set at 62 at the time I am writing this. In the past five meetings between these two teams, this game has gone over that three of those times. The other two were still high scoring affairs and I look for that to be the same this year. For whatever reason, these two teams always put up gaudy numbers every time they play and for fans of offensive football, including myself, it’s a treat to watch. Even though I think Gene Chizik has done a pretty good job so far as defensive coordinator, the recent history says this will be a shootout. I hope I’m right.


Final Analysis


I’ve said it for two weeks in a row but it still holds true: Georgia Tech has to get this offense fixed if they are going to win games. And I am a firm believer that Johnson and company will right the ship. You can only hold this offense down for so long. Georgia Tech will stick to their run game and welcome Chizik into ACC play with lots of misdirection runs. Plus, I always like the team that has its back against the wall.


Prediction: Georgia Tech 38, North Carolina 35


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

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:25
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/10-college-basketball-coaches-hot-seat-2015-16

Earlier this week, Athlon Sports ran down the top 50 coaches in college basketball for 2015-16.


This isn’t necessarily the flip side of that argument, but these are the coaches who are facing the most pressure in this upcoming season.

The following article and more can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine, available now.


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Travis Ford, Oklahoma State

The good news: Ford has guided Oklahoma State to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three seasons. The bad news: The Cowboys are 0–3 in the NCAAs and have had a losing record in the Big 12 in each of the past two seasons. Ford has recruited well and kept the Pokes relevant, but he has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2009, his first season at the school. 


Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets slumped to 3–15 in the ACC last season, giving Gregory a 19–51 mark in league games in his four seasons at Georgia Tech. Over the last 10 years (six at Dayton, four at Tech), Gregory has coached only one team that finished higher than seventh in its respective league. The Yellow Jackets need to show significant progress in 2015-16.


John Groce, Illinois

Other than a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13, his first season at Illinois, there’s not much to like about Groce’s tenure at Illinois. The Illini are 24–30 in the Big Ten and have not finished higher than a tie for seventh place in the league standings. Last year, they missed the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, something that hadn’t happened at Illinois since the early 1990s.


Barry Hinson, Southern Illinois 

Hinson has been unable to restore order at Southern Illinois, the once-proud program that has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2007. The Salukis slumped to 12–21 overall and 4–14 in the Missouri Valley last year and are 19–35 in the league in Hinson’s three seasons.


Donnie Jones, UCF

Jones has survived NCAA sanctions — he was hit with a three-year show-cause order following an 2011 investigation — but the former Billy Donovan assistant won’t be around much longer if his program doesn’t make a move in the American Athletic Conference. UCF is 25–36 overall and 9–27 in league play in the last two seasons after making the move from Conference USA to the AAC.


Josh Pastner, Memphis

Pastner has compiled a gaudy record in six seasons at Memphis — 148–58 overall and 74–26 in league play (C-USA and AAC) — but his teams never seem to play up to their potential, and he has struggled in the postseason (2–4 in the NCAA Tournament). Roster upheaval has hit this program hard as well. This past offseason, Austin Nichols, the team’s best player and a Memphis native, transferred to Virginia.


Dave Rice, UNLV

Rice has done a phenomenal job attracting talent — he’s signed three top-10 classes in the last four years — but the Runnin’ Rebels continue to underachieve. They are 18–18 in the Mountain West the past two seasons and have yet to win an NCAA Tournament game on his watch, losing as a No. 6 seed in 2012 and a No. 5 in ’13.


Lorenzo Romar, Washington

Romar has done some good things at his alma mater — Washington advanced to the NCAA Tournament six times from 2004-11 and averaged 12.5 league wins from ’09-12 — but the Huskies went 5–13 in the Pac-12 last year and have not played in the NCAAs since 2011. To make matters worse, Nigel Williams-Goss, the Huskies’ leading scorer in ’14-15, transferred to in-state rival Gonzaga in April.


Bruce Weber, Kansas State

Weber is a respected head coach who has won a lot of games, but he never seems to be in good graces with his fan base. He enjoyed immediate success after taking over for the popular Frank Martin, tying for first in the Big 12 in 2012-13 with a 14–4 league mark. Since then, however, the Wildcats have regressed, to 10–8 in ’13-14 and 8–10 last season. And things don’t look promising moving forward; leading scorer Marcus Foster transferred, and Nino Williams and Thomas Gipson, the team’s two other double-figure scorers, graduated.


Kevin Willard, Seton Hall

Seton Hall is 30–60 in the Big East in Willard’s five seasons. The high-water mark in his tenure came in Year 2, when the Pirates went 21–13 overall and 8–10 in league play. There has been significant roster turnover of late, notably the loss of guards Jaren Sina (in the middle of last season) and Sterling Gibbs (in late April). 

10 College Basketball Coaches on the Hot Seat in 2015-16
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/bold-fantasy-predictions-week-4-nfl

It’s that time of the week again. Time to dust of the magic crystal ball and peer into the future. Not for lottery numbers, but for amazing fantasy football predictions of course.


Last week the crystal ball did me well. It predicted that Le'Veon Bell would be a stud right out of the gate, that Devonta Freeman would explode, that LeGarrette Blount would have more fantasy points than Dion Lewis and that Jimmy Graham would rebound.


Of course it missed on a few — like predicting that C.J. Anderson would finally have a good game and that Crockett Gillmore would have another two touchdown game.


But don’t lose the faith — even Nostradamus was wrong every once in a while.


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


Now let’s see what’s in store for Week 4.


Martellus Bennett Goes Off for 100 Yards and 2 Touchdowns

While you might not think that this is a bold prediction, seeing that Bennett is going up against a Raiders defense that can’t cover tight ends (they just let Gary Barnidge of the Cleveland Browns go over 100 yards with a TD), remember that Bennett will probably have Jimmy Clausen throwing him the ball. That fact alone makes predicting any player in the Bears’ offense to do anything special a bold fantasy prediction.


Melvin Gordon Busts Loose for Over 150 Yards and 3 Touchdowns

The Chargers have been easing Gordon into life in the NFL through the first three games. He’s carried the ball 14 times, 16 times and then 14 times last week so far, averaging about 15 carries per game. This week against the Cleveland Browns, things change as Gordon finally gets 20-plus carries. He’s going up against a Cleveland Browns defense that allows an average of 122 yards and one touchdown per game to opposing running backs. Look for Gordon to have a breakout game and remind everyone why he was such a high draft pick and that not all Wisconsin running backs are busts.


Antonio Brown Doesn’t Score 10 Fantasy Points (In Standard Leagues)

This might seem like sacrilege, but poor Brown is trading Ben Roethlisberger for Michael Vick and that spells fantasy disaster for Brown owners. He’s been averaging an incredible 145 yards receiving per game through the first three contests of the season, but there is no way that is going to happen with Vick under center. If the Steelers are smart they will make sure they hand the ball of the Le'Veon Bell 25-plus times, dump the ball off the Bell and just throw wide receiver screens to Brown. Of course the Ravens know this and will bottle Brown up at the line of scrimmage. Of course you’re not going to sit Brown, just don’t be surprised if he has a down week.


A.J. Green Proves That He’s Truly Back With 150 Yards Receiving and 2 TDs

Last week Green was a fantasy monster catching 10 balls for an awesome 227 yards and two touchdowns. It looks like Andy Dalton and Green are back on the same page after the two struggled to connect in the first two games. Look for the magic to continue this week against the Kansas City Chiefs, who were just torched by Randall Cobb and James Jones and gave up 230 yards and four touchdowns to the pair (yes it helps that they had Aaron Rodgers throwing them the ball). But don’t forget that so far this season other elite receivers like DeAndre Hopkins in Week 1 and Emmanuel Sanders in Week 2 both scored two touchdowns against the Chiefs. Just sit back and watch the numbers Green puts up this week.


Maxx Williams Finishes as a Top-3 TE

Here’s a bold prediction for you. The unfortunate thing is that in most fantasy leagues Williams won’t be on many starting rosters (unless you were smart and played in a GPP in DFS). Joe Flacco only has one real target in Steve Smith and he has leaned heavily on Crockett Gillmore this year. Now with Gillmore out of this week’s matchup against the Steelers, look for Williams to be featured a lot and a 60-yard evening with touchdown is in store.


Andy Dalton Finishes the Week as the No. 1 Fantasy QB

Dalton is on fire, and it’s not just his hair. In his first three games Dalton has compiled 866 passing yards, eight touchdown passes and only one interception. Not bad for a guy many fantasy experts wrote off and wasn’t even drafted in most leagues. This week the Bengals play host to the Kansas City Chiefs and the league’s second-worst defense at allowing fantasy production to QBs. Look for Dalton to continue to light it up and throw for well over 300 yards and four touchdowns.


— 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 4 in the NFL
Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 16:30
Path: /college-football/uconn-huskies-vs-byu-cougars-preview-and-prediction-2015

UConn and BYU, a pair of 2-2 teams that are on two-game losing streaks, look to get back on the winning path with a Friday night tilt in one of college football’s most scenic venues, Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.


The Huskies and Cougars are set to square off against each other for just the second in the two programs’ respective histories. The previous meeting came in last season’s opener, where BYU rolled to a 35-10 win in Storrs.


This year, the Huskies will make their longest trip in school history by travelling 2,000 miles to Provo, Utah, to try and get revenge on the Cougars.


BYU suffered an embarrassing 31-0 loss last week at Michigan and is a team that is beaten up and doing some soul-searching, chomping at the bit to get back on the field and avenge that loss from a week ago.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


UConn at BYU


Kickoff: 10:15 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: BYU -18.5


Three Things to Watch


1. What BYU team will show up?

BYU was “America’s Team” through the first two weeks of this young season, with a pair of Hail Mary victories that had every football fan on the edge of their seat watching the Cougars.


Now, the Cougars are reeling after two losses and the last game BYU played in against Michigan saw the Cougars get shutout for only the second time since 1975.


Was BYU exposed against the Maize ‘N Blue, or was that performance in Ann Arbor an outlier and a byproduct of the fourth game in a four-game stretch that was the toughest September schedule in the country?


These questions will need to be answered starting with this Friday’s game against UConn.


On paper, BYU should roll on the Huskies, but UConn had success on the road against Missouri in a game the Huskies felt they should have won. UConn won’t be fazed by the large atmosphere and crowd in Provo.


BYU players this week have said they are hungry to get back out on the field, and prove that the Michigan game was not who they are. If they play the way they did in the first three weeks, the Cougars should get back on the winning path.


2. UConn seeking a signature win

Year two of the Bob Diaco era has already shown improvement. The Huskies have matched their win total from a year ago, and have been competitive in every game thus far. Now, the Huskies are looking for that signature win to elevate the status of their program, and position themselves to make a run at a bowl game this season.


This UConn program is desperately looking for excitement, and they’ve been looking since Randy Edsall bolted for Maryland. Diaco is building things the right way, now it’s time to see a big win or two. A win at BYU would fall under the big win category and would give the Huskies a ton of confidence entering the meat of their AAC schedule.


3. BYU offense vs. UConn defense

Through four weeks, the Huskies boast one of the top 25 total defenses in the country. This is an impressive stat for a team that last season gave up 30 points or more on seven different occasions. This unit is led by safety Andrew Adams, who is the Huskies’ all-time leader in interceptions.


BYU’s offense has suffered a lot of injuries in the backfield, headlined by quarterback Taysom Hill, who injured his foot in the first half in the season opener at Nebraska. Then at running back, BYU might be down their top two rushers in Adam Hine and Algie Brown, both of whom will be game-time decisions this week.


BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum will look to attack UConn’s man press coverage on the Cougar wide receivers, in hopes of getting this offense back on track.


Final Analysis


Expect a hangover for BYU (save your honor code jokes) early on in this game as UConn’s defense will keep the Huskies in the ball game, and give them hopes of pulling off a possible upset. But in the second half, BYU’s advantage in the trenches and with the high altitude will prevail as the Cougars will pull away for a two-touchdown victory..


Prediction: BYU 28, UConn 13


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

UConn Huskies vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-cover-catch-mike-hart-talks-about-working-his-way-coaching

For the most part, Mike Hart’s football career has known nothing but the big time. He signed with a Michigan team coming off a Rose Bowl appearance. His freshman season ended in Pasadena as well.


As a junior, Michigan was in the national title race until the last day of the regular season when the No. 2 Wolverines lost to No. 1 Ohio State.


After setting Michigan’s career record in rushing yards (5,040) and rushing attempts (1,015), Hart spent three seasons in the NFL with one of those ending in the Super Bowl.


His first season in coaching, though, was a wake-up call. He was a quality control assistant for one of the worst programs in major college football at Eastern Michigan. Five years later, he’s coaching a 1,000-yard running back for one of the top teams in the MAC at Western Michigan.


Hart twice appeared on an Athlon Sports Big Ten cover in 2005 and 2007. We caught up with him during an off week at Western Michigan to talk about his start in coaching and facing rivals Michigan State and Ohio State in the same season again.


When did you figure out that coaching was something wanted to do?

Growing up, football was something I always loved and something I thought I would be able to do. I didn’t know what level I would be able to coach at. Once I got to college, I thought this is really what I want to do. I knew after my freshman or sophomore year that I wanted to be a coach. I knew I was going to be a coach. I just didn’t know how fast or how soon. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. As soon as I got done (in the NFL) I was set up with a job coaching.


Going to Eastern Michigan and starting as a quality control assistant, was that more or less a graduate assistant or a full-time job?

It was a little lower than that (as a full-time assistant). It was the bottom of the totem pole.


You had such a successful college career and I’m sure plenty of connections from Michigan. Eastern Michigan isn’t really a place that launches a ton of careers. What attracted you to starting at that kind of position?

Ron (English, former Michigan defensive coordinator) called and he had a position that was open. He knew what I was thinking about doing. It was during the lockout and I knew the Colts weren’t going to re-sign me. The lockout started in March, and I talked to him in April after spring ball finished up. I told him that if I don’t get picked up I want to get into coaching, and he said he’d hold a spot for me. He said it’s a quality control spot. It doesn’t pay much. It doesn’t pay much at all. I damn near worked for free. The good thing about his quality control job was that you can only have 10 full-time coaches and he had nine on his staff. You can be a quality control coach and actually coach on the field, which was awesome. I saved a lot of money in the NFL, so I wasn’t worried about the pay. First of all, it was the first job I was actually offered. I didn’t look for a bunch, but it was offered and he was going to hold it for me. No. 2, Ron English was a guy I respected. I knew I could learn from him. I knew what he was about it. Obviously, Lloyd (Carr) was a mentor of mine, and he learned under Lloyd. It was a bout building a program. I won a bunch of games in high school. I won a bunch of games at Michigan. I was in a great organization with the Colts. That’s not real life. Coaching is hard. Coaching is tough and you have to learn. I thought a great place to learn would be at Eastern Michigan with Ron English to watch him try to turn around a program. I watched him give everything he had.


What were your responsibilities as a quality control coach?

When you’re at those type of programs, you don’t have 10 people doing that job. You’ve got to do everything. I made coffee. Luckily, right at the end of the year, I got bumped up to full-time. But it was, Mike, you’re in charge of admissions, in charge of dorm rooms, in charge of APR, in charge of this and that, you’ve got to put the kids’ study table together. I had to do so much where if you’re at another program there’s 15 people doing each of those things. When you talk about working from the bottom up and learning at the ground level, I couldn’t have started at a lower position and had more responsibilities. I think you earn a greater respect for the coaching profession and for the people who work for you and with you.


Did any of that catch you by surprise, or did you know you were getting into a place that had so few resources?

When I became a position coach and he gave me those responsibilities, it was because he trusted me. That was a great sign of respect in my opinion and I’m so grateful for it. I have learned so much because it was my job. I had to set everything up myself and report back to him, and I wasn’t going to report to him with bad information. It was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.


How did you first get connected with P.J. Fleck and the Western Michigan program?

P.J. got there my last year at Eastern. I was still coaching at Eastern when he called me. Coach English got fired and they kept me on staff. We had recruited against each other when I was at Eastern. When P.J. first got the job and (Western Michigan defensive line) coach (Vinson) Reynolds was in Detroit, we bumped into each other at three schools. He saw that I would recruit, and he had good things to say about me, and he’s a guy I can say is a friend now. It was initially that. P.J. called me and offered me the job and I saw the way he was building Western Michigan and how he was recruiting. I saw it as a great opportunity to learn again. I was so engraved in the Michigan way. His style is a lot different from a practice standpoint, from playing music. It’s just different. There’s no right or wrong way to do things, but I think that the more you can learn, the better.


With the success Western Michigan has had the last few years, people are getting to know P.J. Fleck and the way he does things differently. What is it like to be an assistant for him?

He’s going to push you every day. He brings intensity to everything he does, and he expects you to bring intensity in everything you do. The way he runs his program is awesome. He’s a visionary. He gets things done. You see all the stuff he’s done at Western Michigan when everyone told him he couldn’t do it. It’s don’t take no for an answer. Find a way. It’s Xs and Os and teaching. What he teaches these kids about life and football… He forces you to look in the mirror and say, how am I going to teach this?


You’re not too far removed from your college playing career. Do guys you’re recruiting or coaching know or remember you as a Michigan player?

I’ve got a couple more years left. It’s a little less every year. When I started coaching four years ago, all the seniors knew who I was. I think I’ve got one or two more years before none of the kids know who I am. It’ll be all Denard Robinson and no Mike Hart.


That’s got to be humbling.

I tell people everything comes to an end at one point. I tell kids and my players, people are only going to ask for your autograph for so long. That’s life. You get old and people move on.


This season, Western Michigan’s non-conference schedule has been pretty interesting with Michigan State and Ohio State. Do those games still mean anything to you?

No matter who you are or what you do in life, I think that you’re alma mater is always going to be part of who you are. I don’t care who it is. Going against those teams, it’s Michigan State and Ohio State. You don’t like them. It’s how you’re born and bred when you go to Michigan. That’s just who you are and who you become. That doesn’t ever leave you. Michigan made me who I am at the end of the day. It’s different. They’re a lot nicer to you when you’re not wearing maize and blue. Going into the Horseshoe last week, the last time I was there was when we played No. 1 vs. No. 2. Bo (Schembechler) died the day before. That flashes back. It was one of the best games in college football history, and I was in it. Same thing when we played Michigan State. You remember those things. But I live in Michigan. I recruit in Michigan. Every high school I go to has Michigan State fans and Ohio State fans. They remind me. Trust me.

Athlon Cover Catch-Up: Mike Hart Talks About Working His Way Up in Coaching
Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 14:21
Path: /college-football/memphis-tigers-vs-south-florida-bulls-preview-and-prediction-2015

One month into the college football season it is beginning to look more and more as though the Group of 5 representative in the New Year's Six could be coming out of the American Athletic Conference. Houston, Navy and Temple are all off to solid starts while the Mountain West Conference has stumbled, but the Memphis Tigers may be putting together the best possible resume as we enter October.


The Tigers are coming off of back-to-back wins against legitimate preseason Group of 5 contenders Bowling Green and Cincinnati. Memphis head coach Justin Fuente also may have the best offense going among the Group of 5, and the Tigers look to keep things rolling this week with a Friday night contest at South Florida.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Memphis at South Florida


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Memphis -8.5

Three Things to Watch


1. How can USF keep pace with Memphis?

On paper there is no comparison to be made between the offenses of Memphis and USF. The Tigers are on the prowl with an average of 53.8 points and 570.2 yards per game. The Bulls have scored about half as many points per game (27.3 ppg) and gained roughly 200 fewer yards per game (376.7 ypg). Memphis carries the longest active streak among FBS programs with at least 40 points per game (six straight going back to 2014). USF has scored at least 40 points in a game just once since the beginning of the 2012 season, and that was about a month ago in a season-opening 51-3 win against FCS member Florida A&M.


2. USF must keep protecting the football on the ground

If the Bulls are going to pull the upset, the offense will have to attempt to manage the clock with some effective possessions. That falls on being able to run the football, which has been working well so far. USF has rushed for 221.3 ypg and the Bulls are the only team in the AAC entering October yet to lose a fumble even though they have the second-most fumbles this season among conference teams. At some point the Bulls will not have a bounce go their way, and they cannot afford to have that streak end against Memphis.


3. Time for Memphis defense to get back in a flow

Memphis has more than enough offense to take care of just about any game left on its schedule this season, but this week should see the defense regain some form. In the last two games against Bowling Green and Cincinnati, Memphis allowed 87 points. Fortunately, the Tigers had the offense to prevail anyway against a pair of Group of 5 contenders. Memphis enters the week with the nation's 104th-ranked total defense, a big drop from last season's 28th-rankined unit. The early part of a season can skew the numbers and things should even out for Memphis defensively. That should begin this weekend against USF and an offensive attack that currently ranks just 92nd nationally in yards per game.


Final Analysis


This one doesn't need to be over-analyzed. Memphis is simply playing at a higher level than most teams in the Group of 5 mix, and this one should once again be a comfortable victory for the Tigers. Paxton Lynch will look to keep his interception-free season going, although USF has picked off five passes so far this season (three against Maryland two weeks ago). At the end of the game though, Memphis should be heading home with a 2-0 record in AAC play and looking like the top Group of 5 team in the hunt for a New Year's Six bowl.


Prediction: Memphis 43, USF 24


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

Memphis Tigers vs. South Florida Bulls Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/mlb-announcers-make-fun-selfie-sorority-girls-diamondbacks-game

Girls get a bad rep when they go to sporting events and after watching this, you'll see why.


A group of sorority girls at the Diamondbacks were taking selfies with each other and the announcers couldn't help but to hilariously mock them. It's all in good fun but it raises a good point... who takes pictures with hotdogs?


Just an FYI, not all girls take selfies with their food. Just want to point that out.

Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 13:16
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/predictions-every-college-football-game-week-5

Week 5 of the 2015 college football season starts on Thursday night with Miami traveling to Cincinnati and continues on Friday with three matchups, including UConn visiting BYU. But as usual, the focus for every weekend slate is on Saturday. Several marquee matchups dot the schedule in Week 5, starting with Alabama visiting Georgia, Notre Dame traveling to Death Valley to take on Clemson, and two intriguing contests in the Big 12 with Texas Tech and Baylor meeting in Arlington, Texas and Oklahoma hosting West Virginia. 


Conference Predictions for Week 5


ACCBig 12Big TenPac-12SEC


College Football Week 5 Predictions











Miami at


Temple at


Memphis at


UConn at


Purdue at

Michigan State

Army at

Penn State

Pittsburgh at

Virginia Tech

Kansas at

Iowa State

South Carolina at


Minnesota at


West Virginia at


Texas at


Iowa at 


UCF at


Houston at 


Louisville at 

NC State

Ohio at


Toledo at 

Ball State

Northern Illinois at

Central Michigan

FIU at 


Boston College at


Alabama at


North Carolina at

Georgia Tech

Ohio State at


Florida State at

Wake Forest

Nebraska at


Baylor vs. 

Texas Tech

Old Dominion at


WKU at


Wyoming at

Appalachian State

Air Force at


Liberty at

Georgia State

Bowling Green at


Miami, Ohio at

Kent State

San Jose State at


Kansas State at

Oklahoma State

Washington State at


East Carolina at 


Ole Miss at


Arkansas at


Eastern Michigan at 


Vanderbilt at


UL Lafayette at

Louisiana Tech

North Texas at

Southern Miss

Idaho at 

Arkansas State

Georgia Southern at 


South Alabama at




Eastern Kentucky at


Mississippi State at

Texas A&M

Arizona State at


Notre Dame at


Michigan at 




New Mexico State at

New Mexico

Oregon at 


Hawaii at

Boise State

Colorado State at

Utah State

Arizona at


Fresno State at

San Diego State


Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/tony-stewart-sails-sunset-right-time

Sports, even for the best of athletes comes with a cruel final chapter. A corporate vice president can choose when to end their career; if they’re lucky, it’s at a ripe old age where they can retire into the sunset, gray-haired and with a grandchild under each arm on the way out the door.


For athletes, Father Time doesn’t leave them with a choice. Diminishing skills at an early age leave the rug pulled out from under them well before they see it coming. For every John Elway, winning two Super Bowls and leaving at the top there’s ten Michael Jordans hanging on too long, clinging to the records they set while mistakenly thinking the mountain they’re sliding down can one day be climbed all over again.


I thought of those awkward realities as Tony Stewart went up on stage Wednesday, announcing his retirement from NASCAR effective the end of next season. Stewart, who will be 45 by the end of 2016, will go down as one of the best in stock car history, winning three titles, two Brickyard 400s and earning well over $120 million in career earnings. Unlike Jeff Gordon, retiring one year earlier (age 44) Smoke never had the desire to retire this early. Instead, he’s a guy out of the A.J. Foyt mold you could have seen aiming to pull a random Daytona 500 attempt well into his mid-50s.


Time, however told a different story, as well as an aging body. It’s hard to believe that Stewart, who’s scored all of two top 10s this season was the series champion as recently as November 2011. He won five races that year, surged from 10th in the standings to first during the Chase and ended Jimmie Johnson’s streak of five straight titles. Since then? He’s won only four times, not once since 2012 and gone through two major crew chief changes. An ugly sprint car accident broke his leg, left him out of the sport for half a season and still had him limping at times inside the garage area for nearly two years. Add in the tragedy of Kevin Ward Jr., the young driver killed by Stewart’s car in an incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, and it’s clear the downhill slide was filled with more vicious potholes than one could have ever predicted. (Ward’s family, filing a wrongful death civil lawsuit has brought forth litigation that could stretch on for years if no settlement is reached).


Credit Stewart, who was never even close to making the Chase this season, for realizing quickly that his on-track skills were diminishing. His choice? Retire rather than pull a Darrell Waltrip and drag on for years, riding around “just because” of his famous last name and past accomplishments. He’s not a man who enjoys running 35th and already has a four-car organization, one of the best dirt racetracks in the country (Eldora) and plenty of money to fall back on.


“It was a choice that was 100 percent mine,” Stewart said, claiming his off-track distractions – and leg – had nothing to do with it. “There wasn't any pressure from anybody. If anything, it was the opposite. I had more people trying to talk me out of it than anything. You know, I think it's a scenario where everybody in their career at some point makes the decision that it's time for a change. I think deep down, you know.”


Give credit to Stewart for knowing; he’s 25th in points during a year when two of his teammates may challenge for the championship. Even next year’s set of rumored rule changes, designed to put a looser car on the track (his specialty) wasn’t enough to convince him otherwise. And once Clint Bowyer became available, willing to work on Stewart’s timetable (he’ll run for another lower-tier team, run by Harry Scott before taking over the No. 14 car in 2017) making the call turned into a no-brainer.


“That’s when you know you seize the opportunity,” he said. “When somebody in a scenario like Clint's this year came about, you jump on those opportunities, and you know that timing is everything.”


Stewart hopes he’ll have one last chance now to rewrite his final chapter. Just 24 laps led, no top-5 finishes and no shot at a title isn’t exactly what he had in mind for an epilogue. But even if next year is as bad as this one, Stewart kept himself from falling into the trap of hanging on too long. He’s still got a chance to leave under his own terms.


It’s an example that other famous athletes should follow. Through the Gears we go as NASCAR’s first round of the Chase winds down at Dover this weekend…


FIRST GEAR: Harvick’s Postseason Nightmare


Reigning champion Kevin Harvick was in the midst of a record-setting season entering this Chase. Now? He’s poised to become the most surprising title knockout since NASCAR adopted a playoff format in 2004.


For Harvick, the ending is especially cruel considering his No. 4 Chevrolet was in position to win New Hampshire. Leading 216 of 300 laps, he had a dominant car only to have crew chief Rodney Childers get caught napping during a late caution flag. Waiting too long to call his driver in to pit, the duo was stuck with a terrible choice: give up all their track position to come in a lap later than everyone else or stay out, trying to go the final 86 laps on one tank of gas. For whatever reason, whether it was a faulty fuel tank or poor mileage, Harvick ran out with three laps left, dropping down to 21st at the finish and leaving himself an insurmountable 23 points outside the Chase with one race remaining until the reset. 


It’s possible Harvick, winless during his career at the Monster Mile, can get over the hump: he was second in the spring and has led 1,676 laps, nearly twice as many as any other driver this season. But it seems like the frustration of two horrible weekends combined with the success of other drivers at Dover (Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have combined to win the past four races there) make moving on to the next round a bit of a longshot. The next eight weeks may be filled with “what might have been” moments for a team that’s racked up two victories this season but a whopping 10 second-place finishes. What would have happened if one of those “silver medals” were turned into gold? That would have been 15 extra bonus points for the first round of NASCAR’s Chase and the ending here might have been different. Perhaps second place is the first loser after all.


SECOND GEAR: An Awkward End for Michael Waltrip Racing


Wednesday’s news Clint Bowyer’s 25-point appeal was denied put the final black eye on the knockout punch for Michael Waltrip Racing. The penalty scored at Chicagoland for messing with the track bar now leaves Bowyer a whopping 39 points behind 12th place in the standings entering Dover. Barring a miracle win, MWR will be knocked out of the Chase and now faces the natural distraction of all their major employees focused on new jobs beginning somewhere else in a few short months.


MWR’s fall from grace will always surround the infamous Spingate incident in the Fall of 2013 where Bowyer intentionally spun in a move designed to put teammate Martin Truex Jr. in position to still make the Chase. Who would have guessed that would wind up costing 200-plus jobs, three Sprint Cup teams and millions in investment from co-owners Rob Kauffman and Michael Waltrip?


THIRD GEAR: Big Names on a Big Bubble


Loudon led to major potholes in the title bids of both Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Busch, whose mid-race bout with the wall left him struggling to a 37th-place finish, now sits one point outside the Chase with one race remaining. Earnhardt is directly ahead, the victim of a faulty fuel tank like Harvick that sent him spiraling down to 25th during the final hectic laps of New Hampshire.


In some ways, both men have overachieved during a season where neither one was expected to contend for the title. Busch spent 11 races recovering from serious leg injuries suffered in a February Daytona accident; he had to win four races and surge inside the top 30 in points to even have a chance. For Earnhardt, running the first season with new crew chief Greg Ives there were necessary chemistry and communication adjustments he needed to get through. But now that they’re here, both have high expectations and for either one to get knocked out inside the first round would be a major disappointment. Both men have struggled at times at Dover, too; Busch crashed out in 36th this spring while Earnhardt was a ho-hum 14th. A repeat of either performance will leave both men on the outside looking in.


FOURTH GEAR: Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Keep on Rolling


Meanwhile, back at the ranch Matt Kenseth earned his fifth win of the season at New Hampshire and is cruising to the next round of the Chase. His No. 20 team now appears as strong as his runner-up title performance two years ago and he’s looking like a formidable challenger to other drivers that dominated the early part of the season: four-time winner Johnson, Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing.


But he’s not the only one from JGR mounting a bid. Carl Edwards looks settled in at his new JGR ride and overcame a pit road penalty to surge from the back into the top 5 at New Hampshire. He, along with teammate Denny Hamlin have the veteran experience needed to manage NASCAR’s multi-round Chase format and be there when the smoke clears at Homestead. What’s frustrating for traditional fans is neither one, like Kenseth, would be close to the top of the standings if NASCAR stuck to its old “regular season” format. Under that system, Logano would have a commanding lead and none of the JGR drivers would be closer than 117 points.




Danica Patrick had to be frustrated over mid-race contact with Ryan Newman at New Hampshire that left her car a mangled mess. Patrick, 40th in the final rundown after flashing top-10 speed hasn’t run better than 15th in any Sprint Cup race since Dover in June... Don’t count out Paul Menard to advance to the next round of the Chase. Menard, the largest underdog in the 16-driver field, was eighth at Dover this spring and a second straight top-10 finish would send his No. 27 Chevy into the final 12.


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


Photos by ASP Inc.

Tony Stewart Sails Off Into Sunset At Right Time
Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 12:30
Path: /overtime/jimmy-graham-congratulates-akiem-hicks-saints-trade-seahawks-patriots

It's common knowledge that Jimmy Graham was pretty happy to get out of New Orleans. 


Although there were reports the tight end was frustrated with his new role with the Seahawks, he later claimed they were untrue. Whatever the situation is in Seattle, it has to be better than New Orleans where the Saints are 0-3. Graham's former team traded Akiem Hicks to the Patriots, and he tweeted (and deleted) a congratulations to the defensive lineman.



The deletion of the tweet is leaving many to believe there's some underlying details surrounding Graham's departure from the Saints. We may never know the exact truth.

Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 12:10
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-start-ted-ginn-jr-and-other-wrte-startsit-advice-week-4

So how did I do in dispensing sound fantasy advice when it comes to wide receivers and tight ends in Week 3? 


Good Calls...


Start Steve Smith (30.6 fantasy points) — He’s the only option on the Ravens and he just keeps producing.


Start Brandon Marshall (14.9 FP) — Forget that ugly lateral. He is back to being a superstar.


Start Travis Benjamin (8.5 FP) — He scored another touchdown, I told you he might be worth the risk.


Sit Brandin Cooks (7.9 FP) — Couldn’t get anything going with Luke McCown under center.


Bad Calls...


Amari Cooper (11.4 FP) — Two weeks in a row I said sit Amari Cooper. That won’t happen a third time.


So who made the cut this week?


Teams on bye: Patriots, Titans


Wide Receivers




Rishard Matthews, MIA (vs. NYJ, London)

Matthews has been one of the most pleasant surprises in all of fantasy football so far and he has played so well that he is now a must own in all 12-team leagues. Matthews appears to have a firm grasp on the No. 2 WR spot on a Dolphins team that has been throwing it more than they would like because they can’t get their run game going and have been playing from behind. This week Miami is in London to play the New York Jets, who may be without Darrelle Revis (and if Revis does play, he will probably be matched up with Jarvis Landry), and have already given up the 13th-most fantasy points to WRs this season. This makes Matthews a great WR3/flex play this week.


Ted Ginn Jr., CAR (at TB)

No that’s not a typo, I’m actually suggesting that you start Ginn this week against the pathetic Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. Ginn has led all Panthers receivers in targets the last two weeks and seems to be developing great rapport with Cam Newton. Again, he’s not more than a WR3/flex play, but when someone is getting targeted as much as Ginn, and actually turning those targets into steady fantasy points, it’s time to start thinking logically instead of throwing Green Bay’s new WR3 Ty Montgomery out there and hoping that he turns into Jordy Nelson.


Jordan Matthews, PHI (at WAS)

Don`t give up on Matthews just because he didn`t really produce last week (he was stuck on Revis island) and that it appears Sam Bradford might not be a great fit for Chip Kelly`s offense after all. Matthews is going to bounce back this week with an outstanding game. This week Philadelphia travels to Washington to play a pass defense that surrendered 31 fantasy points to Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle one week ago. You can bet that Kelly is going to exploit Washington`s secondary in this game.




Travis Benjamin, CLE (at SD)

Hear me out before you think I’m crazy. Benjamin is still available in a lot of leagues and he has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season. Even the elite receivers can’t say that. Now of course you aren’t going to rely on Benjamin as your No. 1 wide receiver, but he is a good flex play this week as the Browns travel all the way out west to take on the San Diego Chargers. Believe it or not Josh McCown played pretty well last week in his return as the Browns’ starting QB and he has shown no hesitation to throw the ball deep down field in Benjamin’s direction. It’s been working so far, so look for it to continue.




Vincent Jackson, TB (vs. CAR)

Last week against the Saints, even with Austin-Seferian Jenkins not playing and Mike Evans just getting back into game shape from a hamstring injury, Jackson managed to catch only two balls on four targets for 40 yards. That’s just not good enough for a guy you are probably starting as your WR2. Things don’t get much easier this week for Jackson and the rest of the Buccaneers as they play one of the best defenses in football in the Carolina Panthers, who will no doubt keep Jackson to a similar anemic stat line.


Alshon Jeffery, CHI (vs. OAK)

The good news for Jeffery owners is that he should return from his various injuries this week. The bad news is that he returns with Jimmy Clausen as his starting quarterback. With Clausen under center that means the Bears will lean heavily on their running game and any passes will be short throws to Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. To make things worse for Jeffery, the Raiders' pass defense has actually been solid, at least against wide receivers. Oakland has allowed just one touchdown catch to a WR this season. Too bad the Raiders can't cover tight ends.


John Brown, ARI (vs. STL)

Brown is really good and a favorite target of Carson Palmer, so his time will come, just not this week. Look for the Palmer-to-Fitzgerald combo to keep rolling this week and Brown to be held to under 10 fantasy points. The Rams have surrendered just 14.37 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts, so there might not be enough of an opportunity for Brown to produce this week.




Jarvis Landry, MIA (vs. NYJ, London)

This all comes down to what type of league you have Landry in – PPR or standard. Landry has been a beast in PPR formats so far in 2015 with 24 catches already, but he`s not even in the top 20 in standard leagues. This week Landry is most likely going to be lined up opposite Darrelle Revis, rendering Landry useless in standard leagues and probably a WR3 at best in PPR.






Tyler Eifert, CIN (vs. KC)

So Eifert put up a big bagel on the stat sheet last week. That’s right – he had zero catches, for zero yards which means zero touchdowns. Instead Andy Dalton kept throwing the ball to A.J. Green (who had 227 yards and two touchdowns) and Marvin Jones (97 yards). But don’t jump off the Eifert bandwagon just yet. Keep in mind that Eifert scored 22.4 fantasy points in Week 1 and 10.9 fantasy points in Week 2 and was heavily targeted by Andy Dalton in those first two games. Look for that trend to continue this week, as Eifert should play a bigger role against Kansas City and should finish with a stat line closer to six catches for 65 yards and toss in a red zone touchdown for good measure.


Martellus Bennett, CHI (vs. OAK)

You could say that Bennett has been a disappointment to start the 2015 season. After all, he was widely considered the No. 3 tight end heading into the season. But 13 catches for 118 yards and only one touchdown so far just doesn’t cut it. Sure it doesn’t help that the whole Bears offense (other than Matt Forte) has struggled and now he is catching passes from Jimmy Clausen, but this is the week where Bennett turns things around. The Bears play the Raiders, a team that just let Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge get over 100 receiving yards last week plus a touchdown. If the Bears are going to have any chance of finally winning a game they are going to need to lean on Bennett, as he is the only dependable receiving threat they have when Alshon Jeffery is out of the lineup.


Jordan Reed, WAS (vs. PHI)

The Redskins might stink, but Reed sure doesn’t. Reed is breaking out right before our eyes as he has been one of the most consistent tight ends so far this season. When you look at the tight end position, you always want to take into consideration total targets, and Reed has been a target monster this year. Last week against the Giants he had nine targets, he caught six of those for 96 yards, which is good and totally awesome if you are in a PPR league. This week the Redskins play against an Eagles defense that is struggling and won’t be able to contain Reed. He will keep on rolling in Week 4 and with DeSean Jackson still nursing a hamstring injury, Reed should once again push close to 100 receiving yards.




Owen Daniels, DEN (at MIN)

It took some time but Daniels finally had the game that everyone had been expecting of him. He was targeted an outstanding nine times last week by Peyton Manning, which means that he is finally gaining trust in Daniels. It also helps that Daniels caught a great touchdown pass, something that Manning won’t forget when they are in the red zone this week against the Vikings. Denver is struggling mightily to run the ball, so you know that the Vikings are going to try and lock down Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, which should open up some space for Daniels. Five catches for 60-plus yards isn’t a bad game for a tight end that you might have to start if your starting tight end (like Gronk) is on a bye this week.




Jared Cook, STL (at ARI)

Cook has had an excellent start to the 2015 season, until last week when everything came to a crashing halt as he had only one catch for seven yards, burning many fantasy owners who were jumping on the Cook bandwagon. Even though Cook is leading the Rams in targets and seems to be Nick Foles' favorite target, he is not a good sleeper pick this week. The Rams play the Cardinals, a defense that just simply crushed the 49ers last week – scoring an incredible 28 fantasy points thanks to four picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns. With the bye weeks starting this week, many folks will be looking for a tight end to pick up off the waiver wire, but Cook isn’t the answer.


Kyle Rudolph, MIN (at DEN)

Usually Rudolph is a low-end TE1 that you can start and hope he scores a touchdown, especially in a Norv Turner offense that loves to feature the tight end. Different story this week as you should probably look elsewhere as the Vikings are going up against the Broncos and their dominant defense and it looks like the way the Vikings need to win games is keep the ball out of Teddy Bridgewater’s hands and instead hand it off to Adrian Peterson.


Jordan Cameron, MIA (vs. NYJ, London)

Cameron had a nice start to his Dolphins career, catching seven passes for 135 yards in his first two games. Then last week with the Dolphins trying desperately to climb out of a huge hole against the Bills, he scored a mere 1.6 fantasy points and now faces a tough opponent all the way in London this week. The Jets have allowed the third fewest fantasy points, an outstanding 3.17 point per game, to tight ends so far this season.




Richard Rodgers, GB (at SF)

Rodgers is one of those tight ends that you start and know that if he doesn’t score a touchdown, he’s not going to score enough points to help you win your weekly matchup. He just doesn’t get enough targets – even with Jordy Nelson and now it looks like Davante Adams out of the lineup. Aaron Rodgers has shown that he will throw to Richard Rodgers in the red zone, but are you willing to gamble that they connect for a touchdown this week against the 49ers?


— 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.

Why You Must Start Ted Ginn Jr. and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 4
Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-start-karlos-williams-and-other-startsit-rb-fantasy-advice-week-4

Let's take a quick recap of my start/sit running back fantasy advice from Week 3.


Good Calls...


Start Latavius Murray (20.9 fantasy points) — Murray broke out for a huge game against the Browns rushing for 139 yards and a TD.


Start Joseph Randle (28.5 FP) — With Romo and Bryant out, he finally got his chance and scored 3 TDs.


Start Adrian Peterson (24.6 FP) — I know, I know – this one was too easy.


Sit Lamar Miller (6.5 FP) — The Dolphins can’t run the ball. Miller doesn’t look like he is going to break out this year.


Bad Calls...


Actually, it was a pretty good week last week. But I did tell you to consider sitting Jamal Charles against the Packers Monday night. Hopefully you didn’t listen and enjoyed his three touchdowns.


Teams on bye: Patriots, Titans




Karlos Williams, BUF (vs. NYG)

It seems that LeSean McCoy’s hamstring injury just won’t go away and actually might keep him out of action for a couple of games. This is great news for anyone smart enough to pick up Williams off the waiver wire. Last week he ran 12 times for 110 yards and one touchdown, that’s excellent production. Williams now has an excellent opportunity to play himself into a timeshare when McCoy does return to action. This week Williams goes up against a Giants run defense that has given up the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs this season and you know that Rex Ryan loves to pound the ball, so expect the rookie to have a big day.


Latavius Murray, OAK (at CHI)

If you are one of the lucky few who have Murray as your RB3, you’re awesome. Actually, just having Murray on your roster right now is awesome as he is one of the few starting running backs out there who isn’t in a timeshare of any shape. Murray showed what he can do last week in a win against the Cleveland Browns having his biggest day as a Raider (139 yards rushing, TD). This week he is an absolute must start simply because he is playing the Chicago Bears, who just let undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls of the Seattle Seahawks rumble for 104 yards on 16 carries. Just imagine what Murray can do. Look for another 100-yard day with at least one trip into the end zone.


Mark Ingram, NO (vs. DAL)

You would think that it might be best to sit Ingram this week since he is playing against a usually stout Cowboys defense. But that was the thought process last week against not starting Devonta Freeman and all Freeman did was run for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Even with C.J. Spiller destined for a larger role (believe it when you see it) and even if Drew Brees does play, the Saints are going to have to rely on their running game to keep the chains moving and put points on the board. A 100-yard rushing day and a touchdown should be in store for Ingram this week.




Lance Dunbar, DAL (at NO)

So Dunbar only ran the ball once for five yards last week against the Falcons. So what? He also was the most targeted player on the Cowboys and caught all 10 of them for 100 yards. That’s awesome if you have Dunbar in a PPR league, and still pretty good in standard leagues. This week against the Saints he’s an absolute must start in PPR leagues as Brandon Weeden just loves dumping the ball off to Dunbar instead of trying to force it downfield. Dunbar won’t get much of an opportunity to run the ball with Joseph Randle emerging as a decent RB1, but another 10 catches for 100 yards seems very likely against the Saints.




Alfred Morris, WAS (at PHI)

There's a good chance that you may have drafted Morris as your RB1 and if so, you are probably wishing you hadn’t. Morris now finds himself in a full-blown running back-by-committee (RBBC) approach in Washington with him, Matt Jones and even Chris Thompson in the mix for touches. If you are going to gamble and start Morris, you better hope he makes the most out of his limited opportunities. Even if he manages to get 15-plus carries, Morris is playing against an Eagles defense that has allowed an average of fewer than 13 fantasy points per game to RBs.


Todd Gurley, STL (at ARI)

You’ve drafted Gurley in the middle rounds, hoping that he would return to action sooner rather than later and last week he finally got on the field and ran the ball six times for nine yards. So forget about that game, what about this week. Well, keep in mind that by no means is Gurley the Rams' featured back. He finds himself (at least for now) in a time share with Tre Mason, and throw in the odd touch here and there for Benny Cunningham. Of course Gurley has the potential to break one every time he touches the ball, it just won’t happen this week against the Arizona Cardinals.


Doug Martin, TB (vs. CAR)

Hopefully you don`t even need to start Martin, but just in case you should probably know that he is playing against a Panthers defense that has allowed just 195 rushing yards and an average of 16.43 fantasy points to running backs in their first three games. This isn’t good news for Martin, who was once again dynamic during the preseason, but average at best so far during the regular season.




Giovani Bernard, CIN (vs. KC)

Jeremy Hill started last week against the Ravens, carrying the ball seven times and then it was all Bernard after that. His stat line wasn’t amazing (13 carries for 49 yards and 3 catches for 34 yards), but the Bengals appear to be moving forward with Bernard as their feature back in both the run and the passing game. This week against a stout Chiefs rush defense you are going to need Bernard’s pass-catching abilities to help you win and he shouldn’t disappoint. Bernard should be able to get over 100 total yards and maybe throw in a bonus touchdown for good measure. But be wary of the potential for a one-dimensional stat line from this Bengal.


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


(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Why You Must Start Karlos Williams and Other Start/Sit RB Fantasy Advice for Week 4
Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 11:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-start-derek-carr-and-other-startsit-fantasy-qb-dst-advice-week-4

I nailed it last week. In last week’s Start/Sit column for the quarterback position I suggested it would be a good idea to start Cam Newton, Carson Palmer and Ryan Tannehill and even take a flyer on Tyrod Taylor.


I also thought you would be wise to sit Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees (who didn’t play).


So hopefully in your eyes I’ve built some degree of credibility/trust.


Let’s keep the good times rolling this week.


Teams on bye: Patriots, Titans






Derek Carr, OAK (at CHI)

You’re probably as surprised as me starting off with the notion that you should actually start an Oakland Raiders quarterback this week. It simply just makes sense, not just because Carr is playing against the Chicago Bears, but because the second-year signal-caller has been outstanding in his last two games, scoring a combined 46.8 fantasy points. In case you were curious that’s more than Andrew Luck. If you’re a Tom Brady owner you are in need of a quarterback this week and if Carr is available don’t hesitate to pick him up and start him this week. The Bears have allowed eight touchdown passes and an average of 20.15 fantasy points to QBs this season.


Related: Fantasy Football 2015 Waiver Wire - Week 4


Tyrod Taylor, BUF (vs. NYG)

Can you name someone who has been a better waiver wire pickup this season than Taylor? Believe it or not, after three games, Taylor is a top-5 fantasy quarterback. This week he will continue to put up 20-plus fantasy points as the Bills play host to a New York Giants defense that so far has allowed an average of 18.40 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Taylor figures to do better than that.


Related: 5 Quarterback Replacements for Fantasy Owners Who Lost Ben Roethlisberger


Andy Dalton, CIN (vs. KC)

Dalton is on fire. It’s almost like he is on a mission to prove all the haters wrong (even though he is usually good during the regular season. The playoffs are a different story). He currently ranks as the No. 4 fantasy QB after three games, ahead of Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger. This week Dalton is lucky enough to play against a Chiefs pass defense that can’t stop anyone – the Chiefs have given up the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Look for Dalton to connect early and often with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert because the Bengals' run game will continue to struggle.




Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (at MIA, London)

So let’s say you have Tom Brady and can’t get your hands on Derek Carr, what should you do? Go and get Fitzpatrick as a one-week starter. While Fitzpatrick hasn’t been a superstar from a fantasy perspective, he’s doing very well in the Jets system and this week he gets a matchup against the Dolphins that screams huge upside. The Dolphins allowed Blake Bortles to score 20 fantasy points in Week 2 and Tyrod Taylor to score 24 last week. The Jets should get Chris Ivory and Eric Decker back this week, giving their offense more balance and more weapons for Fitzpatrick. A 20-point fantasy day isn’t out of the question.




Matthew Stafford, DET (at SEA, Mon.)

Hopefully you didn’t draft Stafford as your starting fantasy quarterback. If you did, I feel sorry for you. Stafford has failed to score 15 fantasy points in two of his first three games this season, that’s not good and things are not going to get better this week as he and the Lions gets to play in Seattle on "Monday Night Football." Even with Calvin Johnson at 100 percent and Golden Tate on the opposite side of the field, Stafford is going to struggle big time, making him a must sit this week.


Ryan Tannehill, MIA (vs. NYJ, London)

In real football, Tannehill was awful last week. In fantasy football, Tannehill wasn’t horrible – getting 18.78 fantasy points. This week Tannehill is a "must sit" simply because he is playing against a New York Jets defense that is currently ranked as the fourth best in the league in passing yards allowed and one that is giving up less than 10 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Traveling all the way to London, England this week won’t help either. Stay away from Tannehill this week.


Eli Manning, NYG (at BUF)

Manning played well in the Giants' first win of the season against Washington last Thursday, scoring 19.16 fantasy points thanks to 279 yards passing, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. This week he goes up against a Buffalo Bills defense that has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. So why is Manning a must sit? Because other than Week 2 against Tom Brady, the Bills' D has held Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill to 18 fantasy points or less, while creating several turnovers. If you have a better option this week, go with that.




Michael Vick, PIT (vs. BAL. Thurs.)

As tempting as it might be to start Vick this week because of all the weapons he has at his disposal in Pittsburgh, please remember this isn’t 2006. Vick is 3-12 in his last 15 starts and is playing on a short week against a Ravens team that is currently 0-3 and desperate for a win. If the Steelers are going to win this game it will because Vick handed the ball off to Le'Veon Bell most of the game, not because Vick aired it out downfield for Antonio Brown. Stay away.


Defense/Special Teams




Arizona Cardinals (vs. STL)

The Cardinals' defense was ridiculous last week, scoring an incredible 28 fantasy points in a blowout win versus the 49ers. Even though it is extremely unlikely the Cardinals' DST will score 28 fantasy points every week, Arizona does go up against a very weak St. Louis Rams offense, which is still trying to figure out its identity. First-round pick Toddy Gurley is still getting acclimated to the NFL and also keep in mind that opposing defenses have averaged the fifth-most fantasy points when facing Nick Foles this season.


Denver Broncos (at MIN)

It would be very hard to argue against the Broncos being the best defense in all of football so far this season – both on the field and in fantasy football. To prove that point, no defense has scored more fantasy points through the first three games than the Broncos. Even though the Broncos are up against a rejuvenated Adrian Peterson this week, they are still a must start. All the Broncos have to do is contain Peterson and force the Vikings to use Teddy Bridgewater and fantasy success will be yours.




St. Louis Rams (at ARI)

The Rams were ranked as a top-3 fantasy DST heading into the season, but haven’t really lived up to their billing, even though they have scored 11 fantasy points in two of their first three games. However, this week the Rams go up against one the best offenses in football – the Arizona Cardinals. Carson Palmer is on fire, so is Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals got their ground game going last week too and Andre Ellington should be back this week. Find a different DST to start this week.


New York Giants (vs. BUF)

Even though the Giants are playing the Bills at home on Sunday, just ask the Dolphins how that worked out for them last week. Thanks to Tyrod Taylor the Bills have a sneaky-good offense and this week they will feature Karlos Williams, who is going to pound the ball up the middle for over 100 yards and at least one touchdown. Throw is at least two Taylor touchdown passes and you have a situation where you must sit the Giants DST this week.


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

Why You Must Start Derek Carr And Other Start/Sit Fantasy QB/DST Advice for Week 4
Post date: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 11:30