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All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-vs-detroit-lions-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The Chicago Bears (2-3) roll into Detroit Sunday on the high of a two-game win streak that has included two late comeback victories against the Chiefs and Raiders. Meanwhile, the Lions (0-5) are reeling after a blowout loss last week to the Arizona Cardinals that has many questioning whether Jim Caldwell has already lost the team just a year and five games into his tenure as Detroit's head coach.

 

Can Chicago get back to the .500 mark with their first victory over the Lions in three seasons?

 

Chicago at Detroit


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Lions -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Fans' response to Tate comments
Following the Lions 42-17 loss last week to the Arizona Cardinals, wide receiver Golden Tate made his thoughts known about the fans' response to the team’s poor performance. "You know, I'm the first one to say I love our fans," Tate told the Detroit Free Press. "I think our fans are amazing, and they've been patient for a long time. But before the game got out of hand, before the game started, I looked up and there were a lot of empty seats. Early on, our team is getting booed.” A day later, Tate went on record again, but this time stating that his effort has not been where it needs to be this season. Both comments did not sit well within the Lions' fan base, one that has seen these types of performances all too many times in the past. How early will the booing start this week if things go south again?

 

2. Levy out again
Detroit star linebacker DeAndre Levy suffered a setback with his hip injury last week and it looks to be trending in the direction of him being shut down for 2015. At this point, with the season already down the drain, why risk further injury to one of the organization's most important players? One year after ranking first in the league in rush defense, the Lions now sit at 27th, giving up nearly 127 yards per game on the ground. With the league’s leading rusher coming to town in Matt Forte, the Lions face a tough task in trying to limit him without their best run defender in the lineup.

 

3. M*A*S*H Unit

Six starters missed last week’s matchup against the Chiefs for Chicago, including two starting wide receivers, three offensive linemen, and starting safety Antrel Rolle. Despite the reshuffled lineup, the Bears still clawed their way back from a 17-6 deficit in the fourth quarter to notch their second win of the season on the road in a hostile environment. Jay Cutler was without both Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal, and still managed to throw for 252 yards and a pair of scores, including the game-winning touchdown to Forte in the waning seconds. The offensive line that was missing three starters completely stonewalled Justin Houston and Tamba Hali throughout the contest, limiting both to a combined four tackles and zero sacks. Even with less talent on the roster this year, the Bears are winning games they easily would have found a way to lose last season.
 

Final Analysis

 

Before the season began, every Lions fan and probably most Bears fans would have written this one down as a Lions victory. Five games in, it is a complete 180. After two straight wins, the Bears finally look like a competent football team – something that could not be said last season and even earlier on in the year. Chicago is running the football with success, playing sound defense and not turning the ball over in critical moments. The same could not be said about Detroit right now and the Lions have provided little evidence that things will turn around for the better anytime soon. The game will remain close throughout, but look for the Bears to come up with a late field goal to get their first win against Detroit in three years.

 

Prediction: Bears 20, Lions 17

 

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

Teaser:
Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 15:45
All taxonomy terms: New York Giants, Victor Cruz, Life
Path: /life/fall-style-guide-victor-cruz
Body:

Whether he’s salsa dancing in the end zone or dressed to the nines out on the town, Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is one of New York’s most stylish men. Here are a few of his fashion tips.

 

Trending…

I was in Paris for fashion week and there’s this pink trend that’s coming for men. Not a bright pink, but kind of subdued pink. I think that’s going to be next for either fall or spring.

 

Fitting in…

I think the biggest thing is understanding your fit. Understanding how you want your clothes to fit. Don’t be too oversized and don’t be too small. That’s the biggest thing.

 

Fashion icon…

I get it from my dad. He was a guy that was always dressed to impress, always well put together, understood his fit. So I grew up watching that.

 

Personal style…

My style is sort of casual chic. I might be wearing a varsity jacket, jeans and sneakers. But the jacket will have some color pop to it or the sneakers might match the jacket or the sneakers might be the focal point. I try to wear little pieces here and there that stand out.

Teaser:
Talking style with New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 15:33
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, NFL
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-vs-buffalo-bills-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The 5-0 Cincinnati Bengals travel to Buffalo on Sunday to face a 3-2 Bills team that should provide a solid challenge for Andy Dalton and the impressive weapons around him. The Bengals will enter their bye week after this and would like nothing more than to be sitting atop the AFC North with a 6-0 record, but Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan has a history of slowing down good offenses and he has the defensive pieces to challenge the Bengals.

 

The Bills pulled out an unlikely win over the Titans last week, continuing their season-long trend of losing one, winning one. This week they'll have to take on the undefeated Bengals most likely without starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is unlikely to play due to a sprained MCL. That puts EJ Manuel under center for Buffalo, owner of a 6-8 lifetime record after being drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft. Manuel showed some potential in the past and this might be his last shot to seize the starting job.

 

Games are never boring when Rex Ryan is involved and this will be one of those sneaky, fascinating games that tells us a lot about both of these teams' place in the AFC.

 

Cincinnati at Buffalo

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: CBS

Line: Bengals -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. What does Rex do to slow down Dalton, Eifert and Green?

There might not be a more creative and aggressive defensive coach in the NFL than Rex Ryan, and the list of "elite" quarterbacks he's beaten is significant. So far the Bills' defense hasn't quite lived up to expectations given their talent level and Ryan's schemes, ranking just 13th overall in points and 24th in passing yards per game. However they are third in rushing defense and that shifts the focus to the Bengals' passing attack, ranked fifth in the league. Rookie cornerback Ronald Darby has been exceptional so far, and with Stephon Gilmore the Bills have the best No. 1 WR coverage DVOA in football. This could force the Bengals to win with Eifert and Giovani Benard, instead of relying on A.J. Green. But the Bills are also fourth in the league against tight ends. Expect Marvin Jones to be a key player. 

 

2. Can Manuel manage the game?

The Bills have had some tough injuries on offense. Leading rusher Karlos Williams (concussion) will miss another game, while Tyrod Taylor (MCL sprain), Sammy Watkins (calf) and Percy Harvin (hip) are listed as questionable. The offense could get back LeSean McCoy, who is probable after missing the past two games with a hamstring issue. That leaves tight end Charles Clay and wide receiver Robert Woods as the healthiest primary weapons. Should Taylor not be able to play, no one should expect Manuel to tear up this Bengals defense that ranks 10th in points allowed; but what's important is that he not give the game away on a silver platter with a bunch of turnovers. With the Bengals likely to be less concerned with the Bills' ground game with a backfield that's operating at less than 100 percent, Manuel must find a way to move the ball through the air safely.

 

3. Can Dalton decipher the Bills' pass rush?

The Bills' pre-snap disguise is amongst the best in the NFL and they have as good a front four as there is in football. The Bengals' offensive line is no slouch either, but when Ryan is able to confuse offenses the result is often free defenders coming in hot on the quarterback. Dalton must process what the Bills' front is doing and understand when the overload blitzes are coming and when everyone is dropping into coverage. The Bills will badly need turnovers to help their offense out in the field position battle, which is why Dalton can't let confusion and miscommunication lead to game-changing mistakes.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Bengals are flying high, coming off a stunning, come-from-behind, overtime home win over the Seahawks, one of the best teams in the league. But this test on the road is not one which the Bengals should take lightly. Rex Ryan's teams are never intimidated and nothing would get the Bills back on track like dethroning an undefeated team with less than their best lineup. The Bills certainly have no margin for error on the offensive side of the ball, but their defense matches up well with the talented Bengals offense and should give them plenty of problems at times.

 

Prediction: Bengals 24, Bills 10

 

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of PatsPropaganda.com (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

Teaser:
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, NFL
Path: /nfl/kansas-city-chiefs-vs-minnesota-vikings-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The Minnesota Vikings (2-2) return to action after a Week 5 bye to host the Kansas City Chiefs (1-4). The Vikings fell 23-20 against Denver in Week 4, as a collapsing pocket and Broncos pass rush prevented quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from mounting a successful comeback drive.

 

Kansas City has lost three consecutive games since its 27-20 win against Houston in Week 1. The Chiefs not only lost 18-17 to Chicago at home in Week 5, but also will now be without star running back Jamaal Charles (torn ACL) for the remainder of the season.

 

Here's a preview and prediction for Sunday's game in Minnesota:

 

Kansas City at Minnesota

 

Kickoff:1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Minnesota -4

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Adrian Peterson

Peterson's redemption tour returns to Minnesota in Week 6 against a Kansas City defense that is averaging 98.6 rushing yards allowed per game. But aside from Matt Forte and Eddie Lacy — who was limited to just 10 carries — the Chiefs haven't faced an elite NFL running back in 2015.

 

Peterson is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and still ranks eighth in rushing, despite the Vikings' early bye week. The veteran back should continue his success in Week 6.

 

2. Teddy Bridgewater's development into a top-tier NFL QB

Bridgewater has been impressive in his second season. The former first-round pick has worked more as a game manager and provided the Vikings with consistent passing when needed.

 

Against Denver, Bridgewater nearly completed a successful comeback on the road against one of the NFL's top defenses. However, his lack of protection prevented the Vikings from completing a successful drive.

 

The young quarterback will get more chances to prove his worth in 2015. But with Peterson running as well as ever, Bridgewater won't have as much pressure to carry the offense.

 

3. Kansas City offense without Jamaal Charles

The Chiefs lost their best offensive player in Week 5. Kansas City averaged 23.4 points per game, which ranked 14th among NFL teams, through five games.

 

But without Charles, who accounted for four of the offense's 15 touchdowns, that average will likely see a decline. Quarterback Alex Smith is the only other player to record more than 100 rushing yards.

 

Kansas City could see more production from Knile Davis, who finished second on the team in rushing yards behind Charles in 2014. There's also Charcandrick West, an undrafted free agent from Abilene Christian University who replaced Charles last week after he got hurt. West is expected to get the starting nod against the Vikings, but Davis, as well as De'Anthony Thomas, should see time in the backfield.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Vikings' 2-2 record is deceptive. Minnesota's Week 1 loss showcased a much different team than each of its following four games — mainly the lack of carries given to Peterson.

 

Even the loss at Denver provided fans with something to be optimistic about moving forward. Minnesota should win Sunday's game at home with another stellar performance by Peterson and a solid output by Bridgewater.


Prediction: Vikings 31, Chiefs 13

 

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

Teaser:
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Minnesota Vikings Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 15:15
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
Path: /nfl/arizona-cardinals-vs-pittsburgh-steelers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

After the 2011 football season, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians retired/was fired/did not have his contract renewed by the front office after a 12-4 record the season after winning an AFC title and losing to Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV.

 

Arians then joined Chuck Pagano's staff in Indianapolis, did wonders with Andrew Luck, went 9-3 as an interim head coach in 2012, and is now enjoying success in Arizona perhaps never seen before in franchise history as the Cardinals’ head coach.

 

He’s done it with an assistant coaching staff that reads like a who’s who of unsung Pittsburgh sports heroes. Assistant head coach Tom Moore once held a similar role under Chuck Noll. Assistant coaches Brentson Bucker and Larry Foote both played on Super Bowl teams for the Steelers. Strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris made out the lifting plans of the great University of Pittsburgh teams in the early 1980s as well as during Dave Wannstedt’s mini-revival at Pitt several years ago, and his assistant, Roger Kingdom, was an Olympic gold medalist and Dapper Dan Award winner.

 

At least the Steelers have Carnell Lake, Jerry Olsavsky and Joey Porter on their own staff!

 

This winner of this game will be a true contender, but there’s additional meaning to beating the Steelers for the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald is returning to play in the same stadium he did in college. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley is a former Steeler, and former Cincinnati Bengal Carson Palmer is no stranger to Heinz Field. There aren’t many veterans left from when these two teams played in the Super Bowl seven years ago, but a victory in Pittsburgh would be extra sweet to Cardinals enter Lyle Sendlein and defensive end Calais Campbell.

 

Arizona at Pittsburgh

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: FOX

Spread: Cardinals -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. What’s more resurgent, the Cardinals’ offense or the Steelers’ defense?
The Cardinals lead the NFL in scoring with 190 points. They are the 12th team of the Super Bowl era to have outscored their first five opponents by at least 100 points. Seven of the previous 11 teams went to the Super Bowl. All made the playoffs.


The reason is a running game in which the Cardinals’ three leading rushers - Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington and David Johnson - are all averaging more than five yards per carry. Therefore it is imperative inside linebacker Ryan Shazier return for this game from a three-game hiatus from a shoulder injury, as he made 15 tackles against San Francisco and the Steelers have been suspect in pass coverage in the flat without him.

 

On the other hand, new defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s Bison Blitz packages have resulted in 16 sacks for the Steelers, the fourth-highest total in the NFL.


Since Will Allen injured his ankle in the Steelers’ 24-20 victory at San Diego on Monday night and didn't return to practice until Friday (in a limited capacity), it’s likely Sharmarko Thomas will take his place. The Cardinals’ line has protected Palmer well this year, so the Steelers' ability to disrupt him is imperative.

 

2. Strategy
Bruce Arians was never a popular figure in Pittsburgh. When he was the head coach at Temple the Owls always seemed to have Pitt’s number, and then as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator he was a whipping boy despite the team's success during his tenure.

 

He’s enjoying the last laugh now, and though he won’t mention it publicly, a victory against his old boss Mike Tomlin would be most satisfying.

 

Arians had the Cardinals train for this game at Greenbrier in West Sulphur Springs, W. Va., rather than make the trip back to Phoenix following last week’s game at Detroit. Arizona players have discussed how professional practice has been, with the Cardinals getting up early instead of practicing in the afternoon and naturally having less media to handle.

 

Tomlin, meanwhile, will try to play a ball control game to keep possession away from Arizona’s high-scoring offense but also its defense. The Cardinals’ secondary has returned three interceptions for touchdowns and Michael Vick has not proven to be an effective downfield passer, his 72-yard touchdown pass on Monday night to a wide open Markus Wheaton notwithstanding.

 

3. Just what can Michael Vick do these days, anyway?

As any Pittsburgh sports fan can tell you, Terry Bradshaw began his career as a scrambler but evolved into a drop-back passer in the second half of his career.

 

At 35, conventional wisdom had Vick doing the same. Only this season when Vick has been a pocket passer he has looked awful, but when he rolled out against the Chargers he was sensational.

 

With two starts under his belt, could the old Vick be back? His 24-yard scramble was the key play of the Steelers’ final drive to set up Le’Veon Bell’s 1-yard touchdown run to beat San Diego at the gun.

 

There is a school of thought as a left-handed thrower Vick was able to take advantage of Chargers’ right cornerback Donald Brown. Arizona right cornerback Jerraud Powers has only defended four passes this season and is the only starter in the Cardinals’ secondary not to return an interception for a touchdown, so look for the Steelers’ wide receiver that lines up on the left side of the line to be a key, especially with the likely return of Martavis Bryant from suspension and injury.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Steelers had it wrong about Arians. This is not to say Todd Haley has done a poor job as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator; Ben Roethlisberger was the league’s leader in passing yards last year and twice threw for a franchise-record six touchdowns in a game. But Arians isn’t just winning in Arizona, he’s winning in a most Pittsburgh way.

 

Prediction: Cardinals 24, Steelers 21

 

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

Teaser:
Arizona Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, NFL, Life
Path: /life/fall-style-guide-julian-edelman
Body:

Game day fashion doesn’t have to be sweatshirts, jerseys and jeans. New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman — with the help of Cielo Brands stylists Arturo Castaneda and Stephanie Higgs — sports a “high low” or “athleisure” look that fits any setting, thanks to the NFL’s new line of lifestyle apparel (nflshop.com). “The high would be the suit and the low would be the t-shirt,” says Castaneda. “What’s trending now is an athleisure look which is combining actual sport apparel and sneakers with a suit or with a blazer and such.”

 

Suit  “We tried to go for that monochromatic look,” says Higgs. “We wanted it to match.”

 

Pocket Square  “The fold that he has is a presidential fold so it’s super clean and simple,” says Castaneda. “It’s a white linen pocket square.”

 

Sunglasses  “Those are Ray Bans,” says Castaneda. “It’s a minimal look to balance it all out.”

 

Sneakers  “It’s a Common Projects. They use Italian leather for the sneaker,” says Castaneda. “It’s fully lined in leather inside and out and even the insole.”

 

Haircut  “It’s not something new, it’s actually a throwback if you look at it,” says Castaneda. “It’s almost a crew cut but not. It’s trendy now.”

 

T-shirt  “The t-shirt is a fitted t-shirt for him,” says Castaneda. “It’s a large. But if there was a bigger man who wanted that look, just scale up a size and it still fits like his does.”

Teaser:
New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman talks style
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-enters-saturday-crossroads
Body:

The Georgia Bulldogs enter this weekend at a crossroads. The good news is the Bulldogs are still in the SEC East hunt and a win on Saturday would be twofold: on one hand it gives Georgia another SEC win and on the other it will hand Missouri its third SEC East lost. Two birds, one stone, you get it. 

 

Related: Missouri Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs Preview and Prediction

 

The bad news is the Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back losses in a single season for the eighth time under Mark Richt — 2001, '05, '06, ‘09-11, '13 and now 2015. Of the previous seven seasons only one ended in a 10-win regular season. (Georgia did win 10 games in 2005 but the tenth came in the SEC Championship Game.) So if we go on history alone, we can pretty much count Georgia in for at least one more loss. Furthermore, Richt has been head coach at Georgia for 15 seasons including this year. And in eight of those seasons the Bulldogs have lost back-to-back games.

 

That’s unbelievable to me.

 

For a team and a coach that has been so successful in the past 15 years, to see, first, eight of your seasons as a coach feature back-to-back losses is one thing but that only one of those seasons resulted in a 10-win season blows my freakin’ mind. Those numbers are worse than my betting numbers. And I’ve had some really bad weeks this season.

 

Georgia is coming off of its second loss in devastating fashion after losing star running back Nick Chubb on the very first play of the game. After the injury, Georgia answered by jumping out to a 24-3 lead on a Tennessee team that I was completely convinced might lose seven games this season. Butch Jones was being compared to Derek Dooley but with worse hair. Man, that’s brutal.  

 

But this is college football and as you know, anything goes. Literally anything.

 

The Vols answered by scoring 28 straight points and finishing the game on a 35-7 run to upset the Bulldogs in Knoxville 38-31.

 

I know Chubb is a great player and his loss will be felt throughout the year and I wish him the best on his recovery. But Chubb didn’t allow Alabama and Tennessee both to put 38 points on the board. The point I am making here is that we have all seen this play out during the Richt era. Georgia losses a couple of games and it seems like the Bulldogs can’t get over that hump the rest of the year. Why is that? Why is a team that is so talented each and every year creating stats like the one I used at the beginning of this article? I wish I had the answer. But it’s becoming predictable when watching these Bulldogs and knowing that if back-to-back losses come, the chances of a 10-win season are almost impossible.

 

Georgia fans have gotten so used to almost having a great season that they now respond to losses with GIFs and Memes that utter sayings such as “Win, lose, or tie Imma Dawg fan Till I die!”

 

And I didn’t even make that up. I literally Googled “Georgia Bulldogs GIF after a loss quotes” and it’s one of the first images that popped up.

 

Georgia fans are getting used to this because their coach is a “good guy” and “does it the right way.” You’ve heard all of the dumb sayings. Growing up in Georgia and seeing the entire Richt era, I’ve heard them all. And it’s all true. Richt gave me goose bumps when I heard him on a radio interview a couple of days before the Alabama game. He told a touching story about his father finding money on the floor and returning it to a front desk clerk instead of pocketing the money. You know, things people with half a moral fiber will do.

 

I’m not debating the fact that Richt is a great guy. I’m a football fan. I’m simply confused by a fan base that can’t stop talking about the “Herschel” days and all of the what-ifs that followed after Herschel Walker left. Georgia fans haven’t seen an undefeated season since 1980 and haven’t seen a one loss team in the regular season since 2012 (the one loss during the regular season was a 35-7 blowout loss to South Carolina).

 

Look familiar? It should. It happens almost every year. And now in 2015 this Bulldogs team is at a crossroads. They have a chance to win out and, with a little help, and get back to Atlanta. The problem is history says that won’t happen. History says at least one more loss is on the schedule and a return trip to Atlanta is almost certainly out of the picture.

 

Here’s to you, history. Let’s see if this Georgia team makes it or allows it to be collected for future use.

 

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

Teaser:
Georgia Bulldogs Enter Saturday at a Crossroads
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/eddie-jackson-heating-new-position-alabama-defense-huge-test-looms
Body:
Looks like Eddie Jackson is warming up to his new home for the Alabama Crimson Tide defense. Just in time, too.

The 6-foot, 194-pound junior made the switch to safety this season after spending his first two seasons playing cornerback. There were questions about how he would fare back there. He's a little light and maybe not quite as physical as the prototypical safety, and he wasn't exactly a ball hawk at corner the past two seasons, totaling one interception as a freshman in 2013 and one as a sophomore last season.
 
In the last couple of weeks, however, Jackson has been coming on strong. And erasing all doubt. In fact, the Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., product is starting to show signs of not just being a serviceable safety but a bona fide standout at safety. 
 
Against Georgia two weeks ago, Jackson picked off a Brice Ramsey pass and then showed off his athleticism by weaving through several would-be Georgia tacklers, following his blocks and finishing with a highlight-reel 50-yard return for a score.
 
He made it two games in a row with a pick last Saturday against Arkansas when he stepped in front of a Brandon Allen pass and again tacked on a nice return. This time, though, he didn't quite reach the end zone, but he did bring it back 20 yards to the Arkansas 13 to set up Alabama points — an Adam Griffith field goal that made it 20-7.

Jackson's first pick on the season came against Wisconsin in the opener, and, like his other two picks, he added a nice return (41 yards) after making the interception.
 
Through six games now, Jackson's three interceptions is tops on the team. Not bad for a safety. And especially not bad for a first-year safety who spent the past two seasons at corner. And not bad considering Jackson isn't that far removed from having suffered a torn ACL, which occurred during spring drills 18 months ago.
 
Only five other safeties at Alabama over the last seven years have recorded more interceptions in one season, and none since 2012. Robert Lester actually did it twice. He and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix each had four picks in 2012. Lester had eight in 2010. Mark Barron had seven in 2009. And Rashad Johnson and Justin Woodall had five and four, respectively, in 2008. Oh, and Jackson still has at least six more games to play this season.
 

Most Interceptions by Alabama Safety Over Last Eight Seasons

YearPlayerINTs
2010Robert Lester8
2009Mark Barron7
2008Rashad Johnson5
2012Ha Ha Clinton-Dix4
2012Robert Lester4
2008Justin Woodall4
2015Eddie Jackson*3
2014Landon Collins3
2010Mark Barron3
2009Justin Woodall3
 *Through six games 

"Eddie's done a really good job for us," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Wednesday. "I think he was a little apprehensive at first to move only because it was out of his comfort zone, and he hadn't (played safety) in a long time and there was a lot of new things he was gonna have to learn. 


"But he's been very dedicated in his approach to trying to learn the position and do the things at the position you need to do to play winning football. He's always been a very instinctive, sort of playmaker kind of guy even when he played corner. That's carried over into safety. He has done a really good job for us."

 

While he's becoming increasingly good at it, picking off passes isn't all Jackson is about when it comes to helping anchor the back end of this stingy Alabama defense, which ranks sixth nationally in yards allowed per game. Jackson is currently tied for fifth on the team with 22 total tackles. He's also defended three passes, recorded a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.


It's likely Alabama is going to need another big-time performance out of No. 4 this Saturday when it plays at undefeated and No. 9-ranked Texas A&M. The Aggies, who employ an up-tempo, spread offense, love to throw, and, as their record indicates, they're quite good at it.


Related: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas A&M Aggies Preview and Prediction


Quarterback Kyle Allen ranks 15th nationally and second in the SEC (behind only Ole Miss' Chad Kelly) in TD passes with 13. He's also thrown only two picks all season. Allen's favorite target is freshman sensation Christian Kirk who ranks 13th nationally and is tops in the SEC with his 103.8 receiving yards per game.


Suffice it to say, a quickly heating up Jackson is pretty much exactly what this Alabama defense needs at this juncture in the season.

 

"We're not as big as we've been at safety, but the guys that we have playing safety now are athletic and have a little more range and speed," Saban said, referring to both Jackson and Geno Matias-Smith. "I think that has helped us against some of the teams we have to play that are more spread out."

 

This Saturday, of course, will likely be the ultimate test to Saban's theory on more athletic safeties versus spread out offenses. And the ultimate test for a once average cornerback who isn't looking so average anymore playing safety.

 

— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.

Teaser:
Eddie Jackson Heating Up At New Position on Alabama Defense As Huge Test Looms
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/15-facts-about-notre-dame-vs-usc-rivalry-you-may-not-know
Body:

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and USC Trojans meet for the 87th time this Saturday in South Bend, Ind., and the stakes will be predictably high. A second loss for Notre Dame could take them out of the College Football Playoff picture. As for the Trojans, they are reeling after two losses at home to Pac-12 North teams and the termination of head coach Steve Sarkisian earlier this week. With Trojan offensive coordinator Clay Helton taking the tag of interim head coach for the second time in three years, any hopes of making the gig permanent start and end with putting a quality product on the field in South Bend.

 

Related: USC Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Prediction

 

With all of the distractions off the field taking away from this historic showdown, here are 15 interesting, fun and/or amazing facts about one of college football’s original intersectional rivalries that you may or may have already known.

 

1. Notre Dame holds a 45-36-5 edge over USC in the all-time series, which dates back to 1926.

 

2. USC wanted to hire Knute Rockne as its head coach, but he suggested Howard Jones instead.

 

3. After wearing green jerseys as early as the 1920s under Rockne, the Fighting Irish made them iconic against USC in 1977 when they surprised everyone by putting them on after warmups. The Irish won 49-19.

 

4. Current USC athletic director Pat Haden served as Notre Dame’s color analyst on NBC for several years.

 

5. Anthony Davis’s four-touchdown performance to lead USC to a comeback win over Notre Dame in 1974 forced the Heisman Trust to change their voting procedures, requiring all games to have been played before casting a ballot. Davis finished second to Ohio State’s Archie Griffin in the voting.

 

6. USC and Notre Dame set a college football attendance record in 1927, playing in front of an estimated 120,000 fans at Soldier Field in Chicago.

 

7. The Fighting Irish and Trojans have met just once as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams, with top-ranked Notre Dame beating USC 27-10 in 1988.

 

8. USC and Notre Dame have both been ranked in the AP top 10 in an astounding 18 meetings.

 

9. The rivalry was played every late November in both South Bend and Los Angeles until 1959, when USC athletic director Jess Hill negotiated a move to October at Notre Dame, as a way of avoiding frigid conditions.

 

10. Pete Carroll was 8-1 against Notre Dame, including beating the Irish by exactly 31 points in three straight years from 2002-04.

 

11. During the 2005 game, the famous 4th-and-9 conversion play was Treble Right 61 Sam Y-Option and it was designed to go to Dominique Byrd if the defense didn’t show blitz. When Notre Dame showed blitzed, USC quarterback Matt Leinart checked to their backup play called Sluggo Z Win.

 

12. Dwayne Jarrett, the USC wide receiver who caught the famous 4th-and-9 pass, had been recruited and offered by Notre Dame during his junior season. The Irish pulled his offer during his senior season, believing he would not qualify academically.

 

13. Despite the long history between these teams, 2015 marks only the third time these two historic programs will have played at night. The only other two times this happened have occurred within the past five years (2011, 2013).

 

14. The Trojans have only beaten the Irish on two occasions (1971 and 1997) when they entered the game with two losses. The Trojans enter Saturday’s contest with a 3-2 overall record.

 

15. USC, Notre Dame, and UCLA are the only FBS programs to have never played an FCS opponent in their entire history.

 

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

Teaser:
15 Facts About the Notre Dame vs. USC Rivalry You May Not Know
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: A.J. Green, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, AFC East, AFC NFC, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, Alex Smith, Alfred Morris, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Antonio Brown, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Baltimore Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger, Bishop Sankey, Buffalo Bills, C.J. Spiller, Calvin Johnson, Cam Newton, Carlos Hyde, Carolina Panthers, Carson Palmer, Chicago Bears, Chris Ivory, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Colin Kaepernick, Dallas Cowboys, DeMarco Murray, Denver Broncos, Derek Carr, Detroit Lions, Devante Adams, Dez Bryant, Dion Lewis, Doug Martin, Drew Brees, Eddie Lacy, Eli Manning, Giovani Bernard, Green Bay Packers, Heath Miller, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jamal Charles, Jameis Winston, Jason Witten, Jeremy Hill, Jimmy Graham, Johnny Manziel, Jonathan Stewart, Jordan Matthews, Jordan Reed, Jordy Nelson, Joseph Randle, Julien Edelman, Julio Jones, Kansas City Chiefs, Keenan Allen, Kendall Wright, Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, Lev’eon Bell, Louis Rams, Marcus Mariota, Mark Ingram, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West, Nick Foles, Oakland Raiders, Peyton Manning, Philadelphia Eagles, Philip Rivers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Randall Cobb, Rashad Jennings, Rob Gronkowski, Russel Wilson, Ryan Mallet, Sam Bradford, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Teddy Bridgewater, Tennessee Titans, Tevin Coleman, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert, Tyrod Taylor, Washington Redskins, Zac Ertz, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/bold-fantasy-predictions-week-6-nfl
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Put your hand up if you had Gary Barnidge scoring more fantasy points last week than Rob Gronkowski? Anyone? How about Josh McCown throwing for 457 yards and two touchdowns? Or how about Adrian Peterson scoring zero fantasy points? Ah ha! Got you there! Peterson was on his bye last week.

 

What I’m getting at is making fantasy football predictions is never easy, but it sure is a lot of fun to try.

 

This week the crystal ball has gotten a tune-up. I took out the Windex and actually cleaned it. Now I should be able to see better into the future.

 

So let’s do it. Here are some bold, but maybe not-so-crazy fantasy predictions for Week 6.

 

Andrew Luck Returns and Throws For Over 350 Yards and 3 TDs

Anyone who has Luck on their roster really hopes this prediction is true. So far this season Luck has been terrible. Guys like McCown and Brian Hoyer have played better than he has and then things got even worse when he suffered a mysterious shoulder injury in a game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3, and he hasn’t played since. The word this week out of Colts practice is that Luck is making all the throws and is pain free. That’s good news for Luck owners (and T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief owners too) because they are going to need Luck to be at 100 percent health and the Luck of old if the Colts are going to have any chance of beating the New England Patriots Sunday night. More on this in a bit, but you just know that the Patriots are going to run up the score on the Colts thanks to the whole “Deflategate” thing and that will provide Luck with plenty of opportunities to air it out against a New England secondary that has given up the 12th-most fantasy points to QBs this season. But no matter what Luck does it won’t matter because...

 

Tom Brady Will Throw For Over 500 Yards and 5 TDs

This week’s game against the Colts has been circled on Bill Belichick’s and Tom Brady’s calendars since the end of last season all because of “Deflategate.” Now finally after a few warm-up games to start the season where Brady has already thrown 11 TDs and zero interceptions, they get their main event. Don’t be surprised if the score is 30–0 by halftime. And don’t be even more surprised if in the second half Brady keeps “airing it out” (pun intended) and tries to set some single-game records. If you’re a Colts fan, it’s probably best to watch "The Simpsons" instead Sunday night.

 

Eddie Lacy Finally Gets Going With 150 Rushing Yards and 2 TDs

To put it bluntly, Lacy has sucked so far this season. He hasn’t scored 10 fantasy points in a single game since Week 1 and is coming off a game where he had 13 carries for 27 yards. That’s absolutely pathetic for someone who was a sure-fire top-6 pick in most fantasy drafts. Is there something wrong with Lacy or has the entire Packers offense changed because they really do miss Jordy Nelson? Well we might know the answer to that question after this week as Lacy and the Packers play host to the San Diego Chargers, who are coming off a heartbreaking Monday night loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and are playing in Lambeau on a short week. Plus the Chargers don’t travel well, they’ve been smoked in their two previous road games. Plus the Chargers can’t stop the run, they’re giving up an average of 130.2 rushing yards per game. Plus the Chargers are third worst in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs. If Lacy is going to break out of his early-season funk, this is the game.

 

Related: Why You Should Start Eddie Lacy and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice For Week 6

 

Marshawn Lynch Finally Returns To Action and Looks Like His Old Self

You have to think that the competitor deep down inside Lynch is going to come out this week and he is going to go full “beast mode” against the Carolina Panthers. Lynch has been terrible all year and has sat out the last two games after barely playing in Week 3. In his absence he’s watched an undrafted free agent named Thomas Rawls run for 321 yards in those three games and look a lot like a younger and faster Lynch. With the Seahawks' inability to pass protect, they are really going to need to lean on Lynch to carry the offense. That will suit Lynch just fine, even though he might get only about 60 percent of the carries, as Rawls has earned some playing time this week. The Seahawks host the Panthers, a defense that has given up the eighth-most fantasy points to RBs so far this year. Look for Lynch to get over 100 yards and score one touchdown.

 

Matthew Stafford Proves He Doesn’t Suck and Finally Ends His Slump

If you drafted Stafford to be your starting quarterback this year because you thought that he was going to have a breakout season, I feel for you. Lots of people thought this was the year that Stafford could put all his talent together and actually be a legit QB1 in fantasy football. Well, so far that’s not been the case. Believe it or not, Stafford has only one more fantasy point than Ben Roethlisberger this season. That’s crazy when you consider that Stafford has started five games this season and Big Ben has only played two and a half. Playing the Chicago Bears at home this week is just what the doctor ordered for Stafford to break out of his slump. The Bears rank fourth in the league in passing yards allowed and have given up 11 touchdown passes with just two interceptions. If you also take into consideration that the Lions are really struggling to run the ball, this offense needs Stafford to throw the ball to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate a lot if they are finally going to get into the win column. Look for Stafford to go over 300 yards passing with two touchdowns.

 

DeAndre Hopkins Catches 20 Balls For Over 175 Yards

Who’s the best wide receiver in the NFL today? Julio Jones? Maybe, but he hasn’t been very productive the last two weeks. Calvin Johnson? Not even close. Demaryius Thomas? Not with Peyton Manning throwing him lame ducks. The best receiver in football today is Hopkins and he just keeps getting better, week in and week out. Through five games this season he has an incredible 74 targets. That’s 12 more than Julio Jones. Since the Texans can’t defend a JV team, they are forced to throw the ball all game and they really only throw the ball to one guy - Hopkins. Now notice I didn’t call Hopkins the best fantasy wide receiver, that’s because he hasn’t scored many touchdowns. But if you have Hopkins in a PPR league, you’ve struck pure gold. This week he matches up against the Jacksonville Jaguars who know they won’t be able to slow Hopkins down. Look for another big game from the Texans' top target.

 

Greg Olsen Torches The Seahawks For 10 Catches, 100 Yards and 2 Touchdowns

Like all tight ends (yes even Gronk), Olsen has had his ups and downs this season. He’s scored 25.4 fantasy points in one game, and a pathetic 1.1 in another. Thankfully for all Olsen owners, he has a great matchup this week as the Carolina Panthers travel all the way to the west coast to visit the Seattle Seahawks. Normally starting any fantasy player against the Seahawks in Seattle is a bad idea, but this year the Seahawks have not been able to defend against tight ends. They are fifth in fantasy points allowed to TEs as last week Tyler Eifert caught eight passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. It also helps that Olsen is the only receiving threat that the Panthers have and Cam Newton will look to get the ball in his tight end's hands as often as possible. The Panthers won’t win this game, but they will keep it close thanks to Olsen.

 

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

Teaser:
Bold Fantasy Predictions For Week 6 In The NFL
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-five-up-five-down-eli-manning-calvin-johnson-up-jimmy-graham-jeremy-hill-down-week-6
Body:

As we look at Week 6, it is likely your fantasy team is marred by injuries. Whether it was to the quarterback position, the running back position or you are staring at a listing of Qs or DNPs next to names on your roster, it's been tough. As a fantasy owner, your goal is simple: set your best lineup each week. We all know how frustrating it is to see a player have a huge day... on your bench.

 

While we make bad calls (no one can truly predict what will happen - that's why they play the games), we try to use the data we have to make good calls. Part of that is knowing which players are poised to have a good game (five up) and others that are lower in the ranks because they aren't expected to do as well this week (five down). This isn't a start/sit, just an analysis of the rankings.

 

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

 

Five Up

 

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

With Philadelphia in the bottom third of the league in terms of pass defense, Eli Manning is the seventh-ranked quarterback for Week 6. The Giants do play on Monday night, and Manning seems to shine in prime time. He's thrown for three touchdowns in the past two games and currently has 10 touchdowns to two interceptions on the year. Assuming Odell Beckham Jr. plays, Manning is a QB1.

 

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins

Yes, Miller has been terrible. However, the Dolphins supposedly are going to focus on the run and getting Miller more involved. Through four games, Miller has 37 carries. Granted, he's only run for 131 yards with those carries, but hopefully the Dolphins have worked on the run game over the bye week. It's a gamble to start Miller, because fantasy owners have been burned over his previous four games, but Tennessee can be beat on the ground. The Titans are allowing an average of 4.4 yards per attempt, the sixth-worst average in the league.

 

Antonio Andrews, RB, Tennessee Titans

Andrews didn't exactly run away with the starting job for the Titans, but he did get in the end zone, which helped his fantasy line for Week 5. Andrews will get the goal-line carries, and he catches the ball, which gives him value in PPR leagues. He's not worth starting in standard leagues, but he has value as a RB3 in PPR leagues. The Titans aren't committed to any of their running backs (as they say), so expect Andrews to still get an opportunity to carry the ball.

 

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

When Megatron has to be on a "five up" list, it's hard times in the fantasy football world. But Johnson hasn't had a game over 100 yards yet this season and he only has one touchdown on the year. Historically he has played very well against Chicago, and everyone knows that the Bears' secondary can be beaten. He's averaged 6.4 receptions per game, and Matthew Stafford has been terrible. However, keep in mind the Lions played Denver, Arizona and Seattle over the past three weeks. While good players should still be able to beat good defenses, a date with Chicago is just what this 0-5 team ordered. Johnson is our 11th-ranked wide receiver this week.

 

Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

While everyone knows that Oakland is terrible against tight ends (don't talk about Week 5 and Owen Daniels), it's lesser known that the Giants are pretty bad too. The Giants have given up the third-most fantasy points to tight ends, and they haven't played against any elite ones (Jason Witten, Jacob Tamme, Jordan Reed, Charles Clay, Garrett Celek). Each week a tight had has either had a touchdown or at least 75 yards. Ertz is coming off seven targets in Week 5, where he caught five of those for 60 yards. Look for him to be more involved in the passing game against a weak defense.

 

Five Down

 

Josh McCown, QB, Cleveland Browns

While McCown has been on fire recently, he is only the 14th-ranked quarterback for Week 6. Denver's defense has been playing lights-out. The Broncos have only allowed three passing touchdowns this season, and the longest reception they've allowed is 33 yards. McCown has been playing well and utilizing the weapons on his team, but he's no match for the Broncos. He's a low QB2 this week.

 

Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Hill has 58 rushes for 176 yards through five games. Without the five touchdowns (which came in two bursts - two in one game, three in another), he would be waiver-wire fodder. The Bengals insist he is their starter, but when it come to the eye test, Giovani Bernard is the better back. It's hard to trust starting Hill until he proves that he is going to get carries and be able to do something with them. He has two fumbles on the year as well and in a year where running back is a tough position, Hill is just a RB3 for Week 6.

 

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions 

As the Lions' offense has been struggling, Abdullah has not looked like the running back that experts thought he could be in the preseason. Since Week 1, Abdullah has not had more than 35 rushing yards, more than two receptions, more than 20 receiving yards and he hasn't found the end zone. Joique Bell has missed the past two games, and Abdullah has done nothing to run away with the starting job. With Bell expected back and Theo Riddick stepping up, Abdullah's value has taken a hit. He's the 26th-ranked running back for Week 6. While the matchup with Chicago is favorable, it's hard to trust him as more than a RB3.

 

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

While Watkins hopes to return from his calf injury this week, he simply can't be trusted. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor status is uncertain due to a MCL sprain, which means EJ Manuel could get the start. While Manuel is capable of throwing the ball, he will likely be used as a game manager to just get through with backup running backs and banged-up receivers. The matchup against Cincinnati isn't a cakewalk, but the Bengals can be beaten through the air. However, let Watkins get back into a game before starting him in fantasy.

 

Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks

A stat line: 21/204/2. That's Jimmy Graham through five games this season. He's had two games with over 50 yards and three games with 30 yards or less. It's been brutal as a Graham fantasy owner, and there's no sign that will change this week. Graham is our 14th-ranked tight end for Week 6, which is a far cry from where he was last season. Carolina has been the stingiest to tight ends thus far, so until the Seahawks can game plan to get Graham more involved, he's only a TE2.

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football Five Up, Five Down: Eli Manning, Calvin Johnson Up; Jimmy Graham, Jeremy Hill Down For Week 6
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/louisiana-tech-bulldogs-vs-mississippi-state-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Mississippi State jumped out to a 38-0 halftime lead over Troy last week and cruised to a 45-17 victory to improve to 4-2 overall. It’s Homecoming week in Starkville and the Bulldogs host Louisiana Tech before turning full attention to the second half of the schedule and five SEC opponents over the final six weeks of the season. Louisiana Tech, the defending Conference USA Western Division champion, also is 4-2 and has won three games in a row after last week’s dramatic 34-31 victory over UTSA.

 

Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Mississippi State -13.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Mississippi State’s Attacking Defense

The Bulldogs were very aggressive on defense against Troy, which resulted in four sacks. That tied the season-high performances State produced against Northwestern State and Auburn, and improved Mississippi State’s season total to 17. State has had at least one sack in every game, and has gotten to the quarterback 13 times over the last four contests.

 

Ryan Brown recorded one sack and also contributed seven tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss against Troy, which helped the defensive end earn SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors. Beniquez Brown intercepted a pass, Nelson Adams recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and the unit held the Trojans to just 254 total yards. Overall, it was a very good day for the defense.

 

2. Louisiana Tech’s Jeff Driskel and Kenneth Dixon

Mississippi State is coming off one of its best defensive efforts of the season, but the Bulldogs will have their hands full with one of the best one-two combos they will face this season in Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Kenneth Dixon.

 

Driskel, the former Florida quarterback, has completed 136 of 223 pass attempts (61 percent) for 1,812 yards (which ranks No. 11 in the country) and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions. He is also the team’s second leading rusher with 211 yards and has scored five times. Dixon leads Louisiana Tech with 583 rushing yards and six touchdowns. The senior, who set an NCAA freshman record with 27 rushing touchdowns in 2012 and has scored a grand total of 69 TDs in his college career, missed last week’s game with an ankle injury but did dress out and is likely to play Saturday.

 

Related: Record-Smashing RB Kenneth Dixon Doing the Unimaginable

 

3. The Rise of Wide Receiver Fred Ross

Record-setting quarterback Dak Prescott, NFL prototype wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson and an offensive line that has struggled to open holes in the running game have been the most talked about pieces of the Mississippi State offense this season, but receiver Fred Ross has quietly emerged as one of the Bulldogs’ most consistent performers this season. The 6-foot-2 junior leads the team with 35 receptions and 386 receiving yards, and scored his first two touchdowns of the season against Troy on a 59-yard reception and a 77-yard punt return.

 

Final Analysis

 

With a three-point loss to WKU and a six-point loss to Kansas State as its only blemishes to date, Louisiana Tech is a strong program capable of competing for the Conference USA title. Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz saw the potential up close last season as the DC in Ruston. Louisiana Tech may keep the game close early, but State is the better team and with Prescott, Wilson, Ross and an attacking defense trending up, expect Mississippi State to win by two touchdowns.

 

Prediction: Mississippi State 31, Louisiana Tech 17

 

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

Teaser:
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-7-value-plays
Body:

The college fantasy football season has reached the halfway point. Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans CollegeFootballGeek.com to help you dominate in 2015!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY EARLY SLATE

 

QUARTERBACK

 

Thomas Woodson, Akron QB ($6800) vs. Bowling Green
Woodson has sewn up the starting job and has scored more than 31 DK points in two of the last three contests. He has proven to be adept at running the football with almost 240 rushing yards in the past four games. He could be running and throwing the ball all over the place this week against Bowling Green. The Falcons’ defense is not very good and Woodson could post big numbers in what could be an explosive contest. Expect over 300 total yards and a few total scores out of this Zip on Saturday. Play Woodson and enjoy the MACtion!

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

Chris Hairston, ECU RB ($5200) vs. Tulsa

Hairston has scored a rushing touchdown in the last two games and is starting to heat up. He has a very juicy matchup this week, facing a porous Tulsa rush defense that is ranked 123rd in the nation and is allowing 270 yards rushing per game. Expect Hairston and the Pirates’ ground game to run roughshod this week and produce plenty of fantasy goodness. This Pirate could make for a very nice GPP play as he could carry a low ownership percentage. Racking up 100 yards and a score or two seem just about right for Hairston this week.

 

Dare Ogunbowale, Wisconsin RB ($4900) vs. Purdue

Ogunbowale ran for 117 yards last week versus Nebraska and more importantly received 18 carries. He could see an uptick in carries this week as Taiwan Deal may not suit up against Purdue. This Badger could have a huge game against a Purdue defense that cannot stop the run and is ranked 111th in the country. Expect Ogunbowale to top the 100-yard mark and likely find the end zone against the Boilermakers. Look for this Badger to blow his price point out of the water and make for an excellent punt play this week.

 

Justin Stockton, Texas Tech RB ($4700) vs. Kansas

This talented sophomore has scored a touchdown in five of six games this season and could find the end zone a couple of times against Kansas this week. He could do plenty of damage against a pathetic Jayhawks defense that is allowing 257 yards rushing per game and 15 rushing touchdowns on the season. Stockton could be an excellent punt play at the RB position that could provide some much needed cap relief. Look for this Red Raider to easily reach value against the Jayhawks.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

Joshua Atkinson, Tulsa WR ($5400) vs. ECU

Atkinson has gone over 100 yards receiving in four straight games and is averaging seven receptions per game over that span. He has ascended to the 1B role in the passing game with the season ending injury to Keevan Lucas and should continue to see tons of targets on a weekly basis. He has a very enticing matchup this week with a soft ECU pass defense that could allow plenty of chunk plays to Atkinson and company. Look for plenty of receptions and yards out of Atkinson this week in a potentially high scoring affair with the Pirates.

 

Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama ($5200) vs. Texas A&M

The heir apparent to Amari Cooper is here and his name is Calvin Ridley. He has 260 yards receiving and two scores over the last two weeks and could duplicate those numbers this week versus Texas A&M. The Aggies could be hard-pressed to contain this budding superstar. Expect this kid to have another stellar stat line and easily reach value against the Aggies. Ride with the Tide and Ridley this week.

 

Shelton Gibson, West Virginia WR ($4700) vs. Baylor

Gibson has scored a touchdown in four out of five games this season and is the top playmaker for the West Virginia passing game. He has an attractive price this week against a weak Baylor pass defense. This game could be a track meet and Gibson could see a ton of targets as the Mountaineers try to keep pace with the record-setting Bears offense. Expect Gibson to crack the 100-yard mark and find the end zone for the fifth time in six games. This Mountaineer could have a huge outing in this Big 12 shootout. 

 

Trevon Brown, ECU WR ($4600) vs. Tulsa

Brown has snared a receiving touchdown in three consecutive games and could very easily extend that streak to four in a row versus Tulsa. While teammate Isaiah Jones gets all the fantasy love, Brown has developed into a reliable weekly DFS option. The Tulsa pass defense is ranked 113th in the country and routinely gives up huge plays to opposing wideouts. Expect Brown to find plenty of room to operate and likely find the end zone for the fourth consecutive week.

 

VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY LATE SLATE

 

QUARTERBACK

 

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame QB ($6800) vs. USC

Kizer is averaging 27.3 DK points in the last three games and could match that number against USC on Saturday night. The Trojans are a mess right now coming off a loss to Washington and the recent firing of their head coach. This seems like the perfect time for Kizer and the Irish to jump all over USC and post big numbers doing so. Look for this Golden Domer to easily hit value and be a nice GPP option on the late slate.

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

Myles Gaskin, Washington RB ($5300) vs. Oregon

This freshman may have had his coming out party last week against USC with 134 yards rushing and a score. He received double the carries of Dwayne Washington and appears to have stolen the starting job from him. He could run all over an Oregon defense that has looked horrible this season. Expect Gaskin to find the end zone again this week and easily hit value. Take a shot with this kid before his price goes up.

 

Mike Warren, Iowa State RB ($6500) vs. TCU

This freshman continues to produce at a high level and still appears to be underpriced. He ran for 245 yards last week versus Texas Tech and is averaging 182 yards rushing in his last three games. He could approach the 200-yard mark this week against a TCU rush defense that ranks 87th in the country and has allowed 16 rushing touchdowns. The Cyclones would be wise to feed Warren early and often to keep the high-powered Horned Frogs offense parked on the sideline. Keep playing this Cyclone until his price finally gets adjusted.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

Robbie Anderson, Temple WR ($4100) vs. UCF

Anderson appears to be waking up after a quiet start to the season. He has three touchdown receptions in the last two games and is averaging 17.9 DK points per game over that span. He could add a couple more touchdown grabs this week against a UCF pass defense that ranks 95th this season and has allowed 13 receiving touchdowns. This Owl could easily exceed value this week and provide some much needed cap relief.

 

Tim White, Arizona State WR ($4300) vs. Utah

White is averaging 17.3 DK points per game on the year and has developed into the leading receiver for the Sun Devils. The Utah defense has been surprisingly susceptible to the pass this year and comes in ranked 101st in the country. He could see plenty of targets as Arizona State could look to exploit the Utes’ secondary. Expect White to hit value and be a solid punt play.

 

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

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football Week 7 Value Plays
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-washington-huskies-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Coinciding with Oregon's ascent atop the Pac-12 mountain is a winning streak of 11 games against rival Washington.

 

The Huskies' last win, in 2003, is the perhaps the sole remarkable moment of the short-lived Keith Gilbertson era.

 

Since that meeting on Nov. 1 almost 12 years ago, Washington football endured some brutal lows — 1-10 and 0-12 finishes in 2004 and '08 — with modest peaks. A nine-win 2013 is Washington's best finish since, and that season also looked like the Huskies' best opportunity to unseat Oregon.

 

That is, until this year's encounter.

 

After two near-misses against nationally ranked Boise State and Cal, Washington got over the hump with a 17-12 win last week at USC. The victory has the Huskies showing some swagger, in stark contrast of the identity crisis suddenly stumbling Oregon faces.

 

The Ducks need a road win to avoid falling below .500 and digging a virtually insurmountable 1-3 hole in Pac-12 play.

 

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Oregon at Washington

 

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

TV: ESPN

Spread: Washington -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Dictating Tempo

The Pac-12 has teams that rely on a physical defensive presence to set the tone — specifically, Stanford and Utah. However, the Cardinal and Utes both have the offensive personnel to put up points as needed.

 

Washington's defense has been wildly impressive through the season's first half, holding opponents to 15 points per game, good for 14th in the nation. But with a true freshman quarterback, Jake Browning, at the offensive controls, the Huskies lack the firepower to compete in a high-tempo affair.

 

Washington wants to drag the pace down several RPMs from Oregon's typical rate. A combined score below 50 points behooves the Huskies' style of play, whereas the Ducks need to set a fast tempo at some point. It need not be early; many of Oregon's best wins have come with second-, third-, even fourth-quarter avalanches as was the case in the Ducks' 2013 win at Washington.

 

2. Which Quarterback Shows Up?

Quarterback play can be overvalued, but not in the case of Saturday's matchup. Oregon's well-documented issues at the position this season, stemming from Vernon Adams' injured finger, play a profound role in the functioning of the Ducks' up-tempo offense.

 

Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie have split the role to mixed results. Lockie threw for a pair of touchdowns last week against Washington State, and Alie rushed for one, but there's an unquestionable dip in passing production from either of the two when compared to a healthy Adams.

 

For Washington, the talented Browning has shown flashes of brilliance, but little consistency. His inability to sustain drives or connect on the deep ball limits what the Huskies can do, despite featuring a talented corps of pass catchers with receivers Jaydon Mickens and Brayden Lenius, and tight end Joshua Perkins.

 

3. Can Washington Stop Royce Freeman?

Oregon's offense starts with star running back Royce Freeman. He's been a rock despite the revolving door at quarterback, most recently going for 246 yards and two touchdowns against Washington State.

 

His effort against the Cougars was for naught; Oregon suffered defensive lapses that allowed Washington State's prolific offense to come roaring back. But against the less explosive Huskies, a similar night from the sophomore power-back would be enough to spoil Washington's night.

 

The Huskies were gashed via the run repeatedly early last week at USC, but the Trojans surprisingly abandoned the run for much of the second half. Washington can expect no such reprieve from Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost this week.

 

Final Analysis

 

The stakes for this year's rivalry showdown between Washington and Oregon are especially high. This is a pivotal Saturday for both teams.

 

Oregon's season is on the brink after back-to-back home losses, both in conference play and both in uncharacteristic fashion. Utah destroyed the Ducks, virtually from bell-to-bell, while Washington State rallied in the fourth quarter, forcing overtime and scoring a comeback win in extra frames.

 

A loss at Montlake Saturday drops Oregon to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the Pac-12, with games against Cal, Stanford and USC still looming. The prospect of a sub-.500 season suddenly looms.

 

With its win at USC, Washington has positive momentum and a chance to play spoiler in the Pac-12 North. This also is the Huskies' best opportunity to snap the skid in several years. Sustaining a loss in the current conditions of the rivalry would be especially disheartening.

 

Two of Washington head coach Chris Petersen's marquee wins at Boise State came at the expense of Oregon, but he's 0-1 against the Ducks since moving to the Pac-12. He led less talented BSU teams over better-tuned Oregon squads in the past.

 

With Oregon struggling and Washington surging, the streak is primed to end this weekend.

 

Prediction: Washington 28, Oregon 27

 

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

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Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 10:05
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-sun-devils-vs-utah-utes-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Utah has already reached several new milestones this season. The No. 4 Utes won their Pac-12 opener for the first time with their earlier victory over Oregon. They have their highest regular season ranking since 2004. Now Utah can take another step forward when it faces Arizona State on Saturday.

 

The Sun Devils are one of only two Pac-12 opponents that the Utes have not beaten since joining the league in 2011. Utah trails the all-time series 6-20. It has lost 11 straight games to Arizona State dating back to 1977 when both teams played in the Western Athletic Conference. The Utes last beat the Sun Devils in Salt Lake City in 1973.

 

Utah seems poised to turn the page and write a new chapter in the series. The Utes have one of their strongest defensive teams yet. Breaking the long losing streak won't be a simple task. Head coach Todd Graham's Arizona State team has bounced back after a rough start and possesses more than enough weapons on both sides of the ball to seriously challenge Utah.

 

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Arizona State at Utah

 

Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Spread: Utah -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Stretching the Field

Getting multiple receivers involved in the offense is not a problem for Arizona State. The Sun Devils have had a different receiver lead the team in total receiving yards in each of the team's six games this season. Six different receivers have eclipsed 200 receiving yards through six games compared to just four receivers crossing that same plateau during the entire 2014 season. Arizona State is one of only eight teams to have five or more receivers with at least 15 receptions.

 

D.J. Foster has been the most consistent receiving threat for the Sun Devils. Foster has had at least one reception in 46 consecutive games and currently leads Arizona State with 267 yards and three touchdowns on 29 catches. If he catches a pass in each of the next three games, Foster can overtake the Pac-12 record of 48 straight games with a reception held by former USC receiver Kareem Kelly.

 

2. Dynamic Defensive Duo

Linebackers Jared Norris and Gionni Paul may be the strongest link in a rugged Utah defense. Norris and Paul have made it easier for the defensive line to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks and the secondary to snag interceptions with their nose for the ball and ability to disrupt plays.

 

Paul leads the Pac-12 and ranks 4th among FBS players with two fumble recoveries. He is also tied for 4th in the league with a pair of interceptions. Additionally, Paul has 2.5 tackles for loss, a pair of pass breakups, and a forced fumble. Norris has tallied three pass breakups and a forced fumble. Both players are co-leaders for Utah in tackles with 39 tackles apiece.

 

3. Making a Mark

What can Marcus Williams do for an encore? Williams has enjoyed a breakout season in the Utah secondary this fall and is coming off of his finest performance to date. The sophomore safety snagged a turnover on each of California's first two series on Saturday — hauling in an interception and recovering a fumble.

 

Williams leads the Pac-12 with four interceptions and 0.80 interceptions per game. He is tied for sixth nationally in those categories. Coming into the season, Williams had just one career interception. His game-changing abilities have turned the secondary into a major area of strength for the Utes defense and a major headache for opponents.

 

Final Analysis

 

Utah has had close calls with Arizona State the past two seasons, losing by a combined four points. The Utes held 4th-quarter leads in both games before stumbling late. Breaking through won't be easy. The Sun Devils have an improved run defense over the past two games and their offense is always capable of firing off a string of big plays. The difference is that Utah's offense finally has enough juice to score more than it did the past two years. Arizona State has never defeated two Top 10 teams on the road in the same season before. That streak will continue on after Saturday.

 

Prediction: Utah 27, Arizona State 24

 

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

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Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/arizona-wildcats-vs-colorado-buffaloes-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Defending Pac-12 South champion Arizona dug an 0-2 hole to open conference play, but got back on track in Week 6 with a 44-7 romp over Oregon State. With the win and upheaval throughout the league, the Wildcats are still in the hunt for the divisional title but cannot afford another setback.

 

A loss at Colorado would likely doom any remaining hope Arizona has to repeat atop the South — and Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez knows the Buffs’ capability of upending a contender.

 

“They have won a couple games, but they've also been very close to beating some very good teams, especially at home,” he said in his weekly press conference.

 

Motivated by the pursuit of its first bowl bid since 2007, and seeking to end a 13-game Pac-12 losing streak, Colorado is a dangerous opponent for the suddenly resurgent Wildcats.

 

Arizona at Colorado

 

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: FS1

Spread: Colorado +8

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Arizona’s Rushing Attack

Rodriguez-coached teams have rushed for 299 (2014), 405 (2013) and 438 (2012) yards against Colorado.

 

Players have changed — Ka’Deem Carey, who set a Pac-12 record against Colorado in 2012 is now in the NFL — but Arizona’s ability to roll up rushing yards hasn’t.

 

The Wildcats are coming off a 368-yard deluge against Oregon State that included two multiple-touchdown rushers (Nick Wilson and Orlando Bradford) and 12.3 yards per carry from Jared Baker. Arizona is the seventh-most prolific rushing offense in college football, though could be without Wilson, who's listed as questionable on the most recent injury report. 

 

Likewise, Colorado’s inability to stop the run effectively has carried over from years past. The Buffs rank No. 101 nationally in rush defense, surrendering 197.2 yards per game. Oregon and Arizona State hit the Buffs for almost 600 yards combined on the ground in the last outings, both losses.

 

While defending Arizona’s multifaceted rushing attack may have been easier a few weeks ago without the threat of a reliable pass, Anu Solomon’s return to the lineup gives the Wildcats balance to keep Colorado honest. Solomon hit Colorado for four touchdown passes a season ago.  

 

2. Turnover Battle

Of Colorado’s improvements made from 2014 to '15, none stands out quite like its jump in turnover production. One of the nation’s worst in generating takeaways a season ago — the Buffs ranked No. 125 — Colorado ranks a respectable 37th nationally this season and No. 12 in interceptions.

 

The uptick in interceptions is particularly noteworthy, as the Buffs' nine so far in 2015 triples their output for the entire 2014 campaign.

 

Saturday, Colorado’s improved turnover-creating defense faces a stiff challenge in Solomon, who has yet to throw a pick this season. Despite problems with fumbles, most noticeably in a disastrous first quarter against UCLA, Arizona’s been solid protecting the ball.

 

Turnovers have been the Colorado offense’s Achilles heel this season. The Buffs have nine giveaways through six games, but eight of those came in their three losses. Meanwhile, of Arizona’s seven turnovers gained, all seven came in wins.  

 

3. The Boulder Trap

Despite its current losing streak, Colorado is a team poised to score a major upset this season. This week screams upset possibility for the Buffs, and letdown for the Wildcats.

 

Arizona is still injury-plagued despite the return of Solomon, particularly on defense with linebackers Scooby Wright, Haden Gregory and Derrick Turituri leading the way.

 

Colorado also benefits from getting Arizona a week after a blowout as opposed to the losing it was coming off last week.

 

With an assuredly loud Homecoming crowd welcoming the Wildcats in Folsom Field, the Buffs have perhaps their best opportunity at a Pac-12 win since 2013, and a chance to get on the right side of .500 heading into the back-half of the season.

 

Final Analysis

Last week’s romp over a young Oregon State team was probably the closest we have been to seeing the real Arizona this season — the Arizona Rodriguez hinted at Pac-12 media day could be the most talented in his four years at the helm.

 

The bevy of injuries the Wildcats have sustained have made consistency almost impossible, and could be an issue Saturday in the high elevation of Boulder.

 

Mike MacIntyre’s done an admirable job rebuilding Colorado into a competitive member of the Pac-12, but still lacks the wins to show for his efforts. The Buffs need to force turnovers, but that may be too much of a challenge against an Arizona offense that runs the football exceedingly well.

 

Prediction: Arizona 38, Colorado 30

 

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

Teaser:
Arizona Wildcats vs. Colorado Buffaloes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-vs-ohio-state-buckeyes-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Some comments I received after Ohio State defeated Maryland 49-28, "That's a little more like the Ohio State we were expecting." Offensively, I would agree — Ohio State played its most complete game, with quarterbacks Cardale Jones and J.T Barrett combining to score five touchdowns. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer seemed to develop a system that played to both Jones and Barrett's respective strengths.

 

Defensively, Ohio State continued its alarming trend of allowing the opposition to run, seemingly at will. Defensive end TyQuan Lewis combined with teammate Joey Bosa to continually apply pressure on passing downs. A win is a win — it would be fair to suggest that Ohio State took a step in the right direction with the victory over Maryland that sealed former Terrapin head coach Randy Edsall's fate.

 

The Penn State Nittany Lions come into Ohio Stadium for a night game, against a Buckeye team unveiling new black uniforms for the occasion:

 

 

After an opening loss to Temple, Penn State has won five in a row. Penn State is led offensively by quarterback Christian Hackenberg and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton. Running back Saquon Barkley is Penn State's leading rusher, but has been hampered with injuries.

 

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Penn State at Ohio State

 

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Ohio State -17

 

Three Things To Watch

 

1. Penn State's Offensive Line vs. Ohio State's Defensive Line

Every Ohio State fan, and probably every Penn State fan, remembers how Joey Bosa manhandled Penn State's offensive line last season in Happy Valley to secure the Ohio State victory. Penn State's offensive line has been much maligned; have the Nittany Lions improved enough to adequately protect Hackenberg against the Buckeyes?

 

2. Ohio State's Rush Defense

See my comments from up above. Ohio State has been giving up yards on the ground for the past few games. While Hackenberg is not a mobile quarterback, look for Penn State to try and exploit what may be a weakness in Ohio State's defensive scheme.

 

3. The Turnover Battle

Ohio State emerged from the Maryland game with no turnovers. Considering the strength of the Penn State defense, Ohio State cannot revert to its bad habits that were on display for most of this season.

 

Final Analysis

 

Ohio State, and its fans, always get up for a night game. Urban Meyer will certainly have a considerable number of recruits on hand to soak up the atmosphere of Ohio Stadium. Penn State will be looking to redeem themselves after coming out on the losing end of this series ever since their last win over Ohio State in 2011.

 

Prediction: Ohio State 35, Penn State 21

 

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

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Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:50
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There’s always a lot of drama when USC meets Notre Dame. They are two of college football’s most historic programs and the game often has national ramifications. Also, there a number of recruits every year that are considering both schools.

 

Related: 15 Facts About the Notre Dame vs. USC Rivalry You May Not Know

 

However, the main talking point on this Saturday’s game is something totally different. Monday afternoon, USC coach Steve Sarkisian was fired after showing up at the football facility intoxicated on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be taking over on an interim basis.

 

The Trojans are coming off a 17-12 loss to Washington where many flaws were exposed. Meanwhile, Notre Dame rebounded from their loss to Clemson by defeating Navy 41-24. The first half was not pretty for the Irish, but they outscored the Middies 17-3 after the break.

 

At 5-1, Notre Dame is ranked No. 14 in the AP Poll and a win over the Trojans could push them into the top 10. USC finds itself at 3-2 with both losses coming to Pac-12 opponents. That puts the Men of Troy in an early conference hole. But with games remaining against all of their Southern Division rivals, hope is not entirely lost.

 

The Trojans and the Irish have played 86 times since 1926 and Notre Dame leads the series by a 45-36-5 margin.

 

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USC at Notre Dame

 

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -4.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. How Will USC Respond to Clay Helton?

Projecting how the Trojans will play on Saturday night is a total crapshoot. Sometimes in situations like this, a team will bond together and their play is elevated. When Lane Kiffin was fired during the 2013 season, a 3-2 USC squad went 7-2 the rest of the way and ended the season with Helton guiding the team to a 45-20 win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. However, the dysfunction caused by the turmoil could create an uneasiness that affects focus. And while the Kiffin dismissal was bizarre, it was nothing compared to the Sarkisian situation. No one can tell where the USC team is mentally right now. We’ll find out on Saturday night.

 

2. Protecting Cody Kessler

Washington used a variety of pressure packages and was in Kessler’s face all night long. The Huskies sacked the USC quarterback five times and forced two interceptions. They held him to just 156 yards passing and without a touchdown pass. If there is one thing that Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder loves to do is blitz the opposing quarterback. USC ran the ball well against Washington. However, it is unlikely the Trojans will have the same success running the ball as well against the bigger, more physical Irish front. Also, center Max Tuerk, the unquestioned leader of the USC offensive line, injured his knee against Washington and is lost for the season. USC has a lot of great receivers that could have success against the Notre Dame secondary. Kessler just has to have time to get them the ball.

 

3. Notre Dame Remaining Balanced on Offense

USC ranks 64th in rush defense and 74th in pass defense. Myles Gaskin ran for 134 yards against the Trojans on Thursday night. Stanford’s Kevin Hogan threw for 279 in the Cardinal’s 41-31 win at the Coliseum in September. So the Trojan defense can be exploited either by land or by air. Notre Dame has run well with C.J. Prosise, and quarterback DeShone Kizer can beat teams throwing the ball. The Irish would like to be equally effective running and passing. Most likely, USC will look to take Prosise away and make the younger Kizer win the game. If Notre Dame’s offensive line can open some lanes for Prosise, the Notre Dame offense will be tough for USC to stop.

 

Final Analysis

 

Notre Dame’s secondary has had some rough patches this year and USC’s Juju Smith-Schuster and Adoree Jackson could pose problems for ND’s back end. But USC’s offensive line had trouble keeping Washington at bay and Notre Dame will also be sending pressure from different angles at Kessler. The Trojans have been up and down defensively this season, so it’s hard to gauge which unit will show up. That is true for the entire USC team that is now faced with their head coach’s sudden firing. The Trojans will have trouble with the Notre Dame defensive front but will hit a big play or two to Smith-Schuster, and running backs Tre Madden and Ronald Jones will have their moments. But the Irish will tough out yardage with Prosise while Kizer will find receivers Will Fuller and Chris Brown when necessary. Notre Dame’s grinding will beat USC’s flash.

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 28, USC 20

 

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

Teaser:
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Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/missouri-tigers-vs-georgia-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Missouri and Georgia are both coming off of their second conference loss. With a win on Saturday, either team can position themselves to still make a run at the SEC East title. Last year Georgia went into Columbia and smashed the Tigers right in the mouth with a 38-0 win. The Tigers got the last laugh though as they once again returned to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Funny how this football thing plays out sometimes.

 

Georgia still has a lot of questions to answer, including how will the offense go forward without Nick Chubb and will Greyson Lambert step up and lead this team. Missouri’s offense has looked putrid at times this year and now will go against a defense that is reeling after back-to-back losses to Alabama and Tennessee.

 

Can Missouri put together an offensive game plan to help them win or will Georgia’s depth once again help them run the Tigers out of the ball park?

 

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Missouri at Georgia

 

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

TV Channel: SEC TV

Spread: Georgia -16

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1.  Who does Missouri turn to on offense?

With Maty Mauk out once again this week, the Tiger offense will run through Drew Lock and that’s not a great thing. Lock is barely completing 57 percent of his passes and has as many interceptions, three, as touchdowns. To go along with the lack of good quarterback play the Tigers only have two rushing touchdowns. Two! We all know you still have to be able to run the ball if you are going to be successful in the SEC. As a unit, the Tigers are averaging 3.4 yards per rush this year. Which means the offensive line isn’t getting any type of push up front. Something has to give if Missouri is going to beat Georgia because scoring nine points as the Tigers did in their game against UConn isn’t going to cut it this week.

 

2. Sony Michel has to step up this week. And so does Keith Marshall.

I said a couple of weeks ago that I thought Georgia had the deepest set of running backs in the nation and it wasn’t even close. Losing Nick Chubb changes that. A lot. But Georgia is still very talented at the position and those guys have to step up this week. Sony Michel has had a great year so far and will need to be even better with the loss of Chubb. Keith Marshall has quietly sat back and watched both Michel and Chubb run circles on defenses this year but here is his chance to step up and make his presence known. Look for both Marshall and Michel to get lots of carries and help regain momentum for an offense who just lost its best player.

 

3. Greyson Lambert has to play better.

With Florida losing Will Grier to a season ending suspension, it looks like the SEC East is once again up for grabs. If Georgia can win out, the Bulldogs can get back to Atlanta for the first time since 2012. But that journey starts and ends with Greyson Lambert. Don’t jump off a bridge just yet Georgia fans. Lambert has looked great at times and then again he has looked awful. Good Greyson has to show up and stay there if this Georgia team is going to make it to Atlanta. Georgia doesn’t need Lambert to be perfect. But he has to be better. Lambert didn’t play bad at Tennessee but he has to play better. He is still only completing about 62 percent of his passes. The good thing is he isn’t turning the ball over. As long as he continues to play within the system and within himself, the Bulldogs have a great shot of winning this game as they march into the heart of their SEC schedule.

 

Final Analysis

 

Sometimes these games simply come down to one team being more talented than the other. And that is the case this week. Vegas has Georgia as a 16-point favorite. That tells you all you need to know about what Vegas thinks about the amount of talent Missouri has. Georgia is just too good and Missouri is not. Georgia gets back to winning games this week.

 

Prediction: Georgia 42, Missouri 7


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

Teaser:
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Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:40
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The SEC has had a fair share of twist and turns throughout the first six weeks of the 2015 college football season, and the Week 7 showdown between No. 8 Florida (6-0, 4-0) and No. 6 LSU (5-0, 3-0) could provide more, potentially sending one half of the conference into a free-for-all while essentially declaring a conference champ for the other half.

 

The Gators have been one of the biggest surprise teams at the midway point of the 2015 season. Florida is undefeated with three tough games left on their schedule, including LSU. The Gators have played great team ball behind a patchwork offensive line with redshirt freshman Will Grier leading the way. But a bombshell was dropped on Gator Nation on Monday with the announcement that their rising star in the pocket would be suspended for a calendar year after testing positive for PEDs. The offense is now left in the capable hands of Treon Harris.

 

The Tigers on the other hand, per usual, were expected to be a Top 25 team but with big question marks under center — like who and how well will he play? A question mark remains but quarterback Brandon Harris has helped guide the Tigers to an undefeated mark thanks to the nation’s No. 14 defense and the nation’s top running back, Leonard Fournette.


Related: 12 Amazing Stats About LSU RB Leonard Fournette After Five Games in 2015

 

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Florida at LSU

 

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Coverage: ESPN

Line: LSU -9.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Brandon Harris vs. Treon Harris

Brandon Harris set career-highs in completions, connecting on 18-of-28 pass attempts, with another career-high, 228 yards passing, against South Carolina in Week 6. Perhaps the most important stat for the challenged quarterback, he has avoided throwing an interception and has played cleanly thus far over 91 pass attempts.

 

The weight of being the No. 8 AP ranked team in the nation just fell into Treon Harris’ lap, but one can assume that is exactly what the true sophomore wanted. Harris started six games in 2014 and the season opener against New Mexico State. Harris missed one game due to suspension but has appeared in three games total compiling 269 yards on 19-of-27 passing with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Treon, like Brandon, adds a dual-threat element to the game which will keep linebackers tight on both sides of the ball and loosening up holes in the passing game.

 

Florida and LSU can trade quips about which team is “DBU” but neither team has truly been a shutdown unit this season on pass defense, with LSU facing the only true quarterback threat in Dak Prescott. LSU is winning the yards per game battle allowing 192 per contest, No. 38 in the nation, while Florida is close behind at 197 yards (No. 44). Neither Brandon nor Treon needs to be prolific on Saturday just good enough to get 150 to 200 yards to help move the chains and hopefully keep the opposing defense from lining eight men in the box play after play.

 

2. Florida’s Run Game vs. LSU’s Rush Defense

One area where Florida has not done well so far under Jim McElwain is in the run game. Statistically, the Gators are one of the worst run teams in the nation only gaining an average of 139 yards per game. This is where a weakness meets a strength. The Tigers are one of the best in the nation at stopping ball carriers out of the backfield only giving up 99.6 yards a game.

 

Junior running back Kelvin Taylor is the Gators’ leading rusher with 438 yards off 114 carries with seven scores. True freshman Jordan Cronkrite has emerged as the team’s primary backup rushing 28 times for 106 yards. Will Grier and Treon Harris are second and fourth on the team’s rushing list respectively. If the Gators are to pull out the victory, expect Harris to have a big game on the ground to help supplement needed offensive production that is not expected to come from the passing game.

 

3. Leonard Fournette vs. Florida’s Run Defense

Anytime LSU sophomore running back Leonard Fournette is healthy and in a LSU uniform, opposing defenses will have to find a way to slow him down. Fournette was held to a season-low 158 yards on 20 carries against South Carolina breaking off an 87-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter to pad the stats. The Gamecocks' front seven did a good job of bottling up Fournette holding him to 71 yards on 19 carries the rest of the game. Backup Derrius Guice led the Tigers with 161 yards on 16 carries, setting up a tough one-two combo for any defense to shut down for four quarters.

 

The Gators may have the squad that can keep LSU’s run game under wraps — not stopped but under wraps. Florida has the nation’s No. 12 run defense allowing 99.2 yards per game. In fairness to stats, the Gators have not really faced a potent rushing attack outside of maybe Tennessee in Week 4. In a 28-27 win over the Volunteers, Tennessee rushed for 254 yards with quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd both going over the 100-yard mark.


Related: How Can the Florida Gators Contain LSU's Leonard Fournette?

 

Final Analysis

 

From a schedule standpoint, this game means more to LSU than to Florida. The Gators get a bye after LSU wrapping up their conference play with Georgia, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina. LSU on the other hand is really just starting their season. The month of November is brutal with a road trip to No. 10 Alabama, vs. Arkansas, a trip to No. 13 Ole Miss, and vs. No. 9 Texas A&M.

 

A win for Florida all but wraps up an SEC East Championship. A loss for LSU puts the winner of the Alabama (5-1, 2-1) vs. Texas A&M game in the driver’s seat until November, especially for the Aggies (5-0, 2-0); sorry Ole Miss.

 

Both teams have done a great job of winning turnover battles but Florida has a slight tendency to hand the ball back in the passing game. Both squads also have good defenses and neither team has a prolific passer in the pocket that will scare the opposing defense. The one thing that is a known is LSU’s rushing attack. The Tigers may be one of the worst and best one-dimensional teams in the nation on offense but the one thing they do, they do really well.

 

The 2014 matchup in the Swamp was a barnburner with LSU getting a 50-yard Colby Delahoussaye field goal with seconds left to win 30-27. Expect another tight one in Death Valley on Saturday.

 

Prediction: LSU 28, Florida 21

 

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

Teaser:
Florida Gators vs. LSU Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:35
Path: /college-football/tcu-horned-frogs-vs-iowa-state-cyclones-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The high-flying TCU Horned Frogs take their 14-game winning streak on the road to Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa, this Saturday to take on an Iowa State Cyclone squad still licking it's wounds from an old-fashioned 66-31 smackdown at Texas Tech last weekend.

 

Things don't look to get much easier for the Cyclones defense, currently checking in at a lowly 101st in the nation, as the Horned Frogs boast the third-ranked offensive unit nationally and average a mind-blowing 51 points per game.

 

TCU leads the all-time series 5-1, including a 2-0 mark inside Jack Trice Stadium and a 2-1 mark against the Cyclones since joining the Big 12 in 2012.

 

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TCU at Iowa State

 

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: TCU -20.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The QB duel

On paper the comparisons between TCU's Trevone Boykin and the Cyclones' Sam B. Richardson are unmistakable. The pair are among only five active quarterbacks in FBS with a combination of at least 5,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in their careers. And both were named to the preseason Manning Award Watch list. But since then, Richardson's path has gone south while Boykin's has gone considerably north. This doesn't look to be a game in which their fortunes are likely to make much of a change.

 

2. Mike Warren's offensive impact

Since joining the offensive lineup against Toledo, Iowa State freshman RB Mike Warren has quickly become one of the best rookie ball carriers in FBS. He currently leads all freshman running backs at 114.8 yards per carry, which is good for 23rd nationally overall. More impressive, however, is his 8.1 yards per carry average, which puts him sixth in the nation. With Richardson not at his peak performance levels in recent weeks, look for Warren to once again have a big day against another susceptible rushing defense. TCU is 86th nationally against the run, allowing 183.0 yards rushing per game.

 

3. The Utah effect

Halfway through the season, coaches start looking more at the polls and standings to get a gauge on what they need to do to be in contention for a shot at a possible conference championship, as well as strengthening their resume in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee. And while the Utah Utes won't be literally on the field against the Cyclones on Saturday, TCU head coach Gary Patterson will undoubtedly be looking to make a strong statement to poll voters and Playoff committee members alike regarding his team's ranking and status among the current top teams, especially considering the Horned Frogs' slim margin over the Utes in the polls. A strong and dominating performance over the Cyclones might be just what is needed for TCU to avoid any further slippage against a surprising Utah team, thereby maintaining its position in the conversation regarding potential Playoff teams. 

 

Final Analysis

 

Last week I chose the Cyclones to put up a serious fight and give the Texas Tech Red Raiders an unexpected surprise on Homecoming in Lubbock. Given Iowa State's dismal performance in that game, as well as its lackluster showings in other losses this season, I won't be making that mistake twice.

 

The Cyclones switched to a 3-4 defensive scheme earlier this year, largely to counter the offensive output of teams like Texas Tech, TCU and next week's opponent, Baylor. While they're making strides in that direction, they simply don't have the ability to make the leap to competitive defensive play any time soon against upper echelon teams.

 

Watch for TCU to follow a similar script to Texas Tech in last week's drubbing, and win it going away.

 

Prediction: TCU 58, Iowa State 30

 

— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network and a native Iowan currently based in Southern California. Boleyn attended both the University of Iowa and UCLA, and is a former contributing writer for The Daily Iowan and a die-hard Hawkeye. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.

Teaser:
TCU Horned Frogs vs. Iowa State Cyclones Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/week-7-college-football-picks-against-spread
Body:

It was inevitable. A regression to the mean. Aka, a losing weekend.

 

I did get two of my three Letdown Alert picks correct but that struggling Florida State offense ruined me for the weekend.

 

I'm not shying away from the big games this weekend (except one) and am feeling like going big or going home. We’ve also now entered the “win one for the Gipper... because the other guy got fired (or suspended)” portion of the season as well.

 

Last Week: 2-3

Year-to-date: 22-14

 

Houston (-19.5) at Tulane

The Cougars are sixth in the nation in total offense (573.4 ypg) and scoring at 46.4 points per game. Tulane is 113th in scoring defense at 37.8 points per game allowed and 94th in the nation in total defense (419.8 ypg). Can you say one-sided? Prediction: Houston -19.5

 

Ole Miss (-10.5) at Memphis

There will be a lot of emotion and focus in this one for the Tigers but they are just too overmatched. Memphis is giving up 438.4 yards per game — 104th nationally — and allowed 46 points to Cincinnati and its backup quarterback (and 41 to Bowling Green). Look for the Rebels to flex some muscle. Prediction: Ole Miss -10.5

 

Florida (+8) at LSU

This is LSU's toughest test and the Tigers still haven't proven they can be a balanced offense. Treon Harris steps in for Will Grier but does so with plenty of starting experience. The Gators' defense travels and will show up and could win this game outright. Florida is 5-1 against the spread this year and "Win one for the Gipper" applies to the QB position too. Prediction: Florida +8

 

USC (+7) at Notre Dame

Don’t be surprised if the galvanized Trojans play really well this weekend. They are extremely talented and playing against arguably their biggest rival (who are also really banged up). Notre Dame is solid but this Trojan offense is still extremely efficient and led by an elite QB and quality running game. Prediction: USC +7

 

Michigan St (+7) at Michigan

Normally, I’m totally adverse to going with the herd mentality and everyone is picking Michigan. But the key matchup is the Spartans' banged-up O-Line and Michigan’s dominant and surging defensive line. The line of scrimmage is the most predictable area of the football field. And Michigan State is a nation's-worst 0-6 against the spread. Prediction: Michigan -7

 

Oregon St (+8) at Washington St

The Cougars are extremely unpredictable but are playing much better ball these days while Oregon State is reeling. The Beavers have been outscored 86-31 and has allowed 1,132 yards at an absurd 7.5 yards per play in the last two games. The Beavers are 1-4 against the spread this fall as well. Prediction: Washington State -8

 

West Virginia (+22.5) at Baylor

All of the Wise Guys seem to be all over WVU this weekend so I’m going to piggy back. I have no real analysis other than the Mountaineers are pretty solid and Baylor has yet to be challenged whatsoever. In fact, Baylor is out for revenge as well. I’m not sure why I’m doing this... (how's that for analysis). Prediction: West Virginia +22.5

 

Best/Worst Records Against the Spread

 

Best TeamsRecordWorst TeamsRecord
C. Michigan5-0-1UCF0-6
Florida5-1Michigan St0-6
Notre Dame5-1Auburn0-5
Ohio5-1Old Dominion0-5
Southern Miss5-1North Texas0-5
Buffalo4-1Fresno St0-5-1
Ga. Southern4-1UTEP0-5-1
Louisville4-1Missouri1-5
Navy4-1Ohio St1-5
Stanford4-1Kansas1-4
Temple4-1Oregon St1-4
Texas A&M4-1Texas St1-4
Toledo4-1Colorado1-4-1
Washington4-1  
Texas Tech4-1-1  
W. Kentucky4-1-1  

 

Teaser:
Week 7 College Football Picks Against the Spread
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:27
Path: /college-football/wake-forest-demon-deacons-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

North Carolina had last Saturday off. In the afternoon they probably turned on the TV to get a look at its next opponent, Wake Forest. What the Tar Heels player and coaches saw was pure ugliness.

 

The Demon Deacons had 142 total yards with just 33 rushing yards. They had five first downs. They were outgained by 138 yards. Yet thanks to poor Boston College kicking, four BC turnovers, and the Eagles messing up the end of game situation, amazingly Wake Forest emerged with a 3-0 victory.

 

The Deacons are 3-3 on the season and with six tough games remaining on the schedule, they need every win they can get to reach bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels have different aspirations. After losing their first game of the year to South Carolina, UNC has rattled off four wins in a row. They are 1-0 in the ACC and have their sights set on claiming the wide-open Coastal Division.

 

Wake Forest at North Carolina

 

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN3/RSN

Spread: North Carolina -17.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The UNC Running Game

Boston College cannot throw the ball at all so Wake Forest’s first priority was to stop the run. But BC still had 196 yards rushing. Wake Forest has a good overall defense but they defend the pass much better than the run. Elijah Hood is averaging 89 yards a game this season and quarterback Marquise Williams is coming off a 148-yard rushing effort against Georgia Tech. A solid ground attack will open things up for Williams throwing the ball, something he does much better than anyone on the BC roster.

 

2. Wake Forest Getting Solid Play at Quarterback 

John Wolford’s ankle injury suffered against Army gave Kendal Hinton a chance against Indiana and Florida State. The freshman performed admirably, but Wolford was back in there against Boston College going 11-of-25 for 109 yards. It is possible that both quarterbacks play against the Tar Heels and each will give UNC a different look. No matter who takes the bulk of the snaps, Wake will need the quarterback to play well if they have any shot of beating North Carolina.

 

3. North Carolina Getting Back to Work

The open date came at a pretty good time for the Heels. North Carolina had to prepare for Georgia Tech and an extra week to de-optionize itself is not a bad thing. Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik has the Tar Heels at No. 45 in total defense. That may not sound all that special but since UNC ranked No. 117 in that department a year ago, that rating is something to be proud of. And it should go up this week since Chizik has a week to prepare for a less than dynamic Wake Forest offense.

 

Final Analysis

 

Congratulations to Wake Forest for getting by at Boston College. It is not easy to win on the road in the ACC and they did it against a very tough defensive team. That being said, this week will be a greater challenge. The Deacons played Florida State tough and they have a pretty formidable defense of their own. But North Carolina is averaging 38.6 points per game and their defense has improved mightily under Chizik. The final score will be respectable, but this will be a very comfortable North Carolina win.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 31, Wake Forest 17

 

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

Teaser:
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/boston-college-eagles-vs-clemson-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Bear Bryant is believed to be the first person to say, “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” The Bear, however, did not live to see the 2015 Boston College football team, a group that proves Bryant's statement is not necessarily true.

 

Steve Addazio's Eagles are No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense, passing defense, and total defense. They are No. 2 in scoring defense only because their special teams and offense have allowed touchdowns. The defense has given up just two touchdowns on the year and one of those was on a four-yard drive.

 

But they also have an abysmal offense that has led to a 3-3 record. They are No. 111 in scoring offense and that's including the 76 points scored against hapless Howard. In games against FBS opponents, BC is averaging 5.25 points a game which would be last nationally by a mile. They have also shot themselves in the foot over and over, as their four turnovers and end of game debacle against Wake Forest proves. 

 

Now the Eagles head to Clemson and the Tigers are rolling. Their offense cranked up against Georgia Tech and they have a nasty, athletic defense. That’s not something the Eagles want to face.

 

Boston College at Clemson

 

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Clemson -16

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Clemson Big Plays

It is unlikely that Clemson will have many home runs hit in the running game against the BC rush defense. So it will have to come in the passing game, something that won’t be easy either. While the Eagles are allowing just 98 passing yards per game, they haven’t played any high-powered aerial attacks. Deshaun Watson and his bevy of receivers should present a more difficult challenge. Clemson will struggle putting together long, sustained drives. But if the developing offensive line can give Watson time, he will be able to get the ball to Artavis Scott, Ray-Ray McCloud, and company in situations where they can make a big play.

 

2. Boston College’s Anemic Kicking Game

Along with a woeful offense, the Eagles' kicking game is terrible. Last season, three kickers combined to miss eight extra points. This year they are 16 of 16 on point after touchdowns, but Alex Howell and Colton Lichtenberg have combined to go two of six on field goal attempts. The long made field goal was from 31 yards and three misses have come from inside 35 yards. Last Saturday, in the 3-0 loss to Wake Forest, Lichtenberg missed from 26 and 31 yards. Against Clemson, the Eagles need to score points any way they can. Missing makeable field goals is not acceptable.

 

3. Clemson Defense – Just Do Your Job

The Boston College offense is so bad that they cannot beat Clemson. That is assuming Clemson doesn’t help them out. If the Tigers don’t miss assignments and don’t commit foolish penalties, BC will not be able to do a thing. Clemson’s defense is excellent from front to back and there is not a unit of the Boston College offense that can even be considered good. If the Tigers defense does not beat itself, they will have no trouble.

 

Final Analysis

 

Clemson has the best offense Boston College has seen, but the Tigers still won’t score a lot of points. The Eagles are that good on defense. BC’s defense controlled Florida State and while the Seminoles passing game isn’t exceptional, the Eagles are the only team that has been able to neutralize Dalvin Cook. Clemson will score some points, though, and there is a good chance Boston College will not. They generated nothing on Florida State and that was before they lost quarterback Darius Wade and running back Jon Hilliman, who was their only real threat on offense. The result will be an ugly Clemson victory.

 

Prediction: Clemson 13, Boston College 0

 

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

Teaser:
Boston College Eagles vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

With the focus of the week on Steve Spurrier’s resignation, the actual game between South Carolina and Vanderbilt seems secondary.

 

Related: 10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Steve Spurrier at South Carolina

 

But there is a game in Columbia this Saturday, starting a new era in Gamecocks football, however long or short, behind interim head coach Shawn Elliott.

 

It also will establish who the worst team in the SEC is this year.

 

Spurrier took the final verbal shot of his coaching career when he mentioned in the postgame press conference following the Gamecocks’ 45-24 loss to LSU, “I think we have a team next week which we match up better with” when referring to the Commodores, but turned the comment into a compound sentence when he added, “but we’ll have to wait and see.”

 

Both teams enter this contest at 2-4. The two teams have played one common opponent, Georgia, and while the Commodores lost 31-14 and were outgained by only 22 yards (422-400), the Gamecocks fell 52-20 to the Bulldogs and were outgained by more than 300 (576-258).

 

It’s been less than two years since these two programs’ previous head coaches enjoyed unprecedented success at their locales. Both teams have fallen fast, and the possibility exists this game is “must-win” for both Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason and Elliott to return to their current helms next year.

 

Vanderbilt at South Carolina

 

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET

TV: SEC Network

Spread: South Carolina -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Who plays quarterback for South Carolina, and when?

Perry Orth gets his third start of the season and second straight for South Carolina. Though he has not been spectacular, he did have his best game against LSU when he completed 14-of-28 passes for 200 yards.

 

More importantly, it seemed like for the first time this season he was able to get the ball to Pharoh Cooper for longer routes, resulting in a 43-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter that kept the game competitive, part of a season-high 105-yard game for the SEC’s second-leading receiver.

 

But initial starter Connor Mitch might be available after sitting since the second week of the season with a shoulder separation, and Lorenzo Nunez, who missed last week’s game with a sprained shoulder, also practiced this week.

 

The decision of who will lead the Gamecocks under center and when figures to be Elliott’s first as head coach, and it will likely define his tenure.

 

2. Can Vanderbilt capitalize on opportunities for a change?

When looking through the Commodores’ stats, it’s somewhat surprising they have a losing record. Vanderbilt is averaging more than 400 total yards a game. Sophomore wide receiver Trent Sherfield has been a breakout performer, leading the conference with 34 catches while averaging 13.7 yards per reception. In a down year for SEC quarterbacks, Johnny McCrary is second behind only Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly as the conference’s total offense leader.

 

But Vanderbilt hasn’t scored a first half touchdown all season against an opponent other than FCS member Austin Peay.

 

Elliott’s reported high energy aside, after all South Carolina has been through recently — the losing, the injuries, the relocation of a home game, the coaching change — the Gamecocks have the makings of a team that would lie down if they got behind early.

 

But a few stops early on, and with a home crowd egging them on, South Carolina could win the battle of emotion. That said, all four victories enjoyed by these two teams have been come-from-behind affairs. Vanderbilt even trailed Austin Peay 7-3 early before scoring the final 44 points against the Governors. Still, it would seem the Commodores are better equipped to come from behind because of Sherfield, and South Carolina’s defense has often been porous since Jadeveon Clowney left for the NFL.

 

3. Can South Carolina run the ball? Who will run the ball?

The Commodores’ 3-4 defense, led by defensive end Caleb Azubike, is one of the best rushing defenses in the country statistically.

 

But a closer look also indicates that while the defense has dominated the likes of Austin Peay, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, this unit allowed 133 yards to Ole Miss running back Jalen Walton and 189 to Georgia’s Nick Chubb.

 

Where does that leave the Gamecocks? Starting running back Brandon Wilds was a game-time scratch last week with his rib injury, but Shon Carson has matched Wilds’ impressive stats when subbing for him. David Williams, who leads the Gamecocks in carries this year, not so much.

 

Final Analysis

 

If there is one aspect to this game not covered above giving one team a significant advantage over another, it might be special teams. While Vanderbilt employs the same player to handle both kickoffs and punt returns, South Carolina’s Rashad Fenton returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week against LSU. The Gamecocks also enjoy a significant statistical advantage in return yards. But significant field position battles are often gained through turnovers, not kicks.

 

Often times baseball teams will fire their manager in an attempt to give their club a midseason spark. There’s the chance that could happen for South Carolina, and there’s also the chance Spurrier’s resignation could send the Gamecocks into collapse for the rest of 2015.

 

Frankly, there may not be another game left on Vanderbilt’s schedule it can win. South Carolina at least still has The Citadel left on its slate.

 

Both teams suddenly now realize without the primo coaches they once employed, their programs seem very ordinary. They may choose to rectify that in 2016, but until then...

 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 24, South Carolina 20

 

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

Teaser:
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 09:15

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