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Path: /what-does-dominique-hatfields-return-mean-utah
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No Utah football player has traveled a rockier road in recent months than Dominique Hatfield. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior endured a personal hell through much of the offseason, but now the door is open again for him to retake his place as a defensive leader and playmaker for the Utes.

 

The door also is wide open for Utah's defense to become even more imposing now that Hatfield's talents are once again available to use.

 

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham announced on Monday that Hatfield had been reinstated to the team after being dismissed in July following his arrest on suspicion of aggravated robbery. Hatfield was charged with aggravated robbery after a man alleged that the Utah defensive back stole money from him at knife point outside a convenience store where the victim allegedly set up a meeting with him to buy an Xbox.

 

All charges were dropped at the end of July when video surveillance footage from the convenience store showed that Hatfield was not involved in the robbery. An unrelated misdemeanor assault charge is still pending with the Salt Lake City Police Department, but the university cleared Hatfield and let him return to school. Whittingham believed his cornerback also deserved to rejoin the football team.

 

“I just felt he had served enough of a punishment,” Whittingham said. “As things are turning out, it was our belief, he was deserving to be reinstated back on the football team.”

 

What will Hatfield's return do for Utah's secondary? Simply put, he is a player that instantly makes that unit much more dangerous.

 

Hatfield made a switch from receiver to cornerback a year ago and enjoyed a breakout season. He started 10 games, recording 38 tackles with an interception and nine pass breakups. By season's end Hatfield had emerged as an excellent cover corner and the Utes anticipated bringing him back as a key building block for the secondary this fall.

 

Now Hatfield will get a second chance to make an impact. Whittingham said he will play as soon as he is in game shape. His experience will definitely help strengthen a pass defense that yielded 279 yards to Michigan last week – even while forcing three interceptions.

 

Utah can't afford to let any team pile up yardage through the air since the Utes will see plenty of pass-happy offenses once Pac-12 play begins. Hatfield's presence will help keep those offenses honest.

 

His teammates are eager to see exactly what Hatfield can do to build on what he did as a sophomore.

 

“Everybody is excited for him to come back,” senior defensive end Jason Fanaika said. “He's obviously a playmaker. You saw that last year. Having him out there on the island, I definitely trust him. We're excited to see him and how well he does.”

 

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

Teaser:
What Does Cornerback Dominique Hatfield's Return Mean for Utah?
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/why-chris-laviano-over-hayden-rettig-bad-move-rutgers-moving-forward
Body:

Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is certainly an interesting man. His recent announcement naming sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano the starter over LSU transfer Hayden Rettig was both surprising and bold. Flood’s announcement was filled with head-scratching quotes and questions still left unanswered, but was adamant that his decision is the best for the program moving forward; or at least into week 2’s game against a lowly Washington State.

 

What’s most intriguing about Flood’s decision of Laviano over Rettig is that he used the term “body of work” as one of the major deciding factors in the competition. What’s alarming about that is prior to last week’s game against Norfolk State, Laviano’s body of work consisted of all of 11 passes in his career. Laviano was 4-of-4 for 138 yards and three scores, compared to Rettig’s 9-of-11 for 110 yards and a touchdown against the Spartans, who play in FCS. Rettig, however, was without leading receiver Leonte Carroo, and didn’t have a 14-point cushion to start the game.

 

Rettig looked fairly impressive during the first half. All but one of his 11 throws were very accurate, almost sending a pass right into the chest of a Spartan defender. Rettig looked poised, composed and capable of leading a Rutgers team against top-level competition. Rettig has always been noted as a team-first player, a trait he boldly showed while making a touchdown-saving tackle on a fumble recovery by Norfolk State. Laviano on the other hand, had a favorable lead against a team that prior to kickoff had been outscored by Rutgers 139-0 in their three prior meetings.

 

Rettig, the former 4-star recruit, was neck-and-neck with Laviano throughout spring and summer camp. Flood seemingly made the competition closer than it actually was, but sources close to the program have said that it was somewhat “puzzling, but understandable” why Flood chose Laviano to start moving forward.

 

Laviano is Flood’s first quarterback recruit, and one that’s grown under his wing since his arrival on campus. Laviano’s first-half suspension for attempting to enter an establishment with a fake ID isn’t necessarily what you’d like to see out of the field general of your offense, but young kids will make mistakes, and Laviano is no different.

 

It took Laviano four passes to win the starting job over Rettig, who nearly everyone expected to come to Rutgers and take over for former four-year starter Gary Nova. It seems that right now Rettig is truly the better passer, but Flood knows more what he has in Laviano than what he could have in Rettig.

 

If nothing else, this is the safe move during a time where Flood’s job security has never been weaker, and the school is in the middle of an internal investigation involving a player that has since been dismissed along with four others for an alleged assault altercation.

 

Rutgers looked dominant in their week 1 victory over Norfolk State, and it wasn’t because of Laviano’s four passes, three of which were to Carroo. Rettig didn’t get a fair shot in week 1, and should be given more opportunity over the next three games before the Scarlet Knights host Michigan State at home for what’s expected to be a defining game for each program’s 2015 campaign.

 

Essentially the quarterback competition was simple. It was Laviano’s to lose, not to win. Laviano didn’t make enough mistakes to lose the job to Rettig, and that’s why he’s the named starter moving forward. Although many Rutgers players such as running back Paul James and the aforementioned Carroo have been much impressed by Rettig’s ability to learn the offense both quickly and efficiently, it just wasn’t enough for the junior to unseat the incumbent Laviano.


Flood has also said that he no longer plans to use both quarterbacks, a reversal of course from earlier this offseason when he said that both would get their opportunities on the field early in the season until one signal-caller stood out above the other. Clearly that decision has been made, and it’s Laviano’s team to lead. This could either be the flame the Scarlet Knights need to move past their turbulent offseason, or this could be the beginning of a very damning swan song for Flood as the head of Rutgers' football program.

 

— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com and has written for other sites, including FanSided.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.

Teaser:
Why Chris Laviano over Hayden Rettig is a Bad Move for Rutgers Moving Forward
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 12:15
Path: /nfl/can-pittsburgh-steelers-secondary-step-up-against-new-england
Body:

All offseason the Pittsburgh Steelers thought they’d get a break and not have to face superstar quarterback Tom Brady, but instead matchup against backup Jimmy Garoppolo in the season opener against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

 

Related: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots Preview and Prediction

 

Sure, the Steelers would be without running back Le’Veon Bell, but who wouldn’t make that trade?

 

Then Deflategate blew up on the NFL, Brady’s suspension was vacated, and promising Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was suspended along with Bell for Thursday's night game for violations of the league's policy on substance abuse.

 

But while Steelers fans are thinking about how the NFL suspension momentum turned against them (New England running back LeGarrette Blount, in the same car as Bell when the two were arrested last preseason when both played for the Steelers, also is suspended, but who cares?) there’s something more pressing.

 

The secondary.

 

Just a few hours before the Steelers play the defending Super Bowl champions, and fans still don’t know who Mike Tomlin is going to play in the defensive backfield.

 

Pittsburgh’s defensive backs were awful in the preseason, allowing more points (122) and more completions (112) than any other team in the NFL. Granted, those stats are inflated by the fact the Steelers played five preseason games whereas 30 other teams played only four, but overall Pittsburgh ranked just 25th in pass defense in the NFL in the preseason, and no team allowed quarterbacks a higher passing rating than the Steelers this summer (108.1).

 

Not only is future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu gone, but none of the three defensive backs drafted by the Steelers in 2015 made the active roster for the season opener.

 

The Steelers' depth chart lists Cortez Allen and William Gay as the cornerbacks and Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas as the safeties, though talk is former Miami safety Will Allen will start instead of Thomas. Brandon Boykin, formerly Philadelphia’s nickel back, is slotted in that role in this game but one wonders if he might not eventually beat out the inconsistent Cortez Allen at right corner.

 

In order to beat New England, the Steelers must jam the Patriot wide receivers’ pass routes. Brady generally takes short drops when passing to make quick hits. The Steelers’ new Cover 2 scheme is designed for cornerbacks to jump the routes and make “splash plays,” the term that has replaced “It is what it is” and “obviously” as the favorite phrase in Tomlin’s lexicon for interceptions and other big defensive plays.

 

Which is why second-round draft choice Senquez Golson’s spot on injured reserve is so costly. Golson led the SEC in interceptions with 10 in 2014. Take away Boykin’s six interceptions two years ago in Philadelphia, and no current Steelers cornerback has ever intercepted more than three passes in a professional season.

 

In lieu of picks, there’s the coverage, the disruption of routes. It’s imperative Pittsburgh’s defensive backs wreck havoc with New England’s pass routes.

 

If they don’t, need we remind you the Steelers ranked only 26th in the NFL last season with 33 sacks? Or that New England put up 55 points against the Steelers, the most ever allowed in franchise history, the last time the two teams played?

 

Suddenly, the reasoning for signing running back DeAngelo Williams becomes clearer. Williams is like backup quarterback Michael Vick, a veteran representing the perceived best available option in relief for Pittsburgh.

 

Williams will allow the Steelers to attempt to beat the Patriots like they did in 2011, when Pittsburgh enjoyed nearly a 2-to-1 time of possession advantage against New England.

 

The thing is, does anyone really think the best bet for a Pittsburgh victory tonight is taking the ball out of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s hands?

 

— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson has been a contributor to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 15 years. He has covered the Steelers, Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

Teaser:
Can the Pittsburgh Steelers' Secondary Step up Against New England?
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-want-start-sam-bradford-fantasy-football-lineup-and-other-startsit-advice-week-1
Body:

It’s finally here! Week 1 of the NFL regular season and fantasy football season is finally upon us. By now you’re all set with your dozen or so fantasy football teams and maybe this year you are also starting to dabble in some daily fantasy football as well. Life is sweet and it’s just about to get better.

 

But as kickoff creeps closer and closer with each ticking second all those tough decisions can no longer be avoided. You will have to choose who to start and who not to start. Should you stream your tight end and defense? Your stud running back is going up against last year’s No. 2-ranked rushing defense while your backup running back is going up against last year’s 27th-ranked rushing defense. What should you do?

 

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

 

Thankfully by reading this, you will be able to sleep easier at night, knowing that you made the right decisions. And if not, you have no one to blame but yourself (okay fine, you can blame me). Here we go.

 

Quarterbacks

STARTSIT
Aaron Rodgers (at CHI)Cam Newton (at JAC)
Andrew Luck (at BUF)Jay Cutler (vs. GB)
Matt Ryan (vs. PHI. Mon.)Colin Kaepernick (vs. MIN, Mon.)
Tom Brady (vs. PIT, Thurs.)Matthew Stafford (at SD)
Sam Bradford (at ATL, Mon.)Jameis Winston (vs. TEN)
Ben Roethlisberger (at NE. Thurs.)Marcus Mariota (at TB)
Ryan Tannehill (at WAS)Philip Rivers (vs. DET)
Peyton Manning (vs. BAL)Alex Smith (at HOU)
Eli Manning (at DAL)Teddy Bridgewater (at SF. Mon.)
Drew Brees (at ARI)Carson Palmer (vs. NO)
Russell Wilson (at STL)Andy Dalton (at OAK)
Tony Romo (vs. NYG)Nick Foles (vs. SEA)

STUDS

 

Sam Bradford (vs. ATL, Mon.)
Bradford had a stellar preseason and Chip Kelly is going to show everyone why he traded for the former Ram in Week 1. Bradford has shown that his arm strength and accuracy are still at an elite level and with new offensive weapons all over the field, a three-touchdown pass day is not out of the question. It also helps that Bradford is going up against what was an absolute terrible pass defense last year in Atlanta. While the Falcons have upgraded their pass rush, it remains to be seen if they can stop anyone through the air.

 

Tom Brady (vs. PIT, Thurs.)
Think about all the times Tom Brady has played when he was pissed off and with a chip on his shoulder? What usually happens? He goes off – big time. Brady is going to go out there Thursday and shred a mediocre Steelers pass defense. Don’t be surprised if he approaches 350 yards passing and 4 TDs.

 

BREAKOUTS

 

Ryan Tannehill (at WAS)
The Dolphins really upgraded their offense this offseason bringing, in Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and Jordan Cameron and then drafted soon-to-be stud DeVante Parker in the first round. Put that all together with Jarvis Landry and Lamar Miller and Tannehill is going to end up as a top-6 fantasy quarterback at the end of the season and it starts in Week 1 one against the poor Redskins.

 

BUSTS

 

Cam Newton (at JAC)
This one is too easy, but Newton has always been touted and drafted as a starting fantasy quarterback. Some love his creativity and running ability, but he’s lost his No. 1 target for all of 2015 in Kelvin Benjamin and has no one to throw the ball too other than TE Greg Olsen. The Panthers are going to have to lean on their running game more than ever before and if (or when) they are down late in the game, they will have to let Newton air it out, where he excels at throwing to the other team. Stay away.

 

Running Backs

STARTSIT
Adrian Peterson (at SF. Mon.)DeMarco Murray (at ATL, Mon.)
Jeremy Hill (at OAK)C.J. Spiller (at ARI)
Eddie Lacy (at CHI)Devonta Freeman (vs. PHI, Mon.)
Jamaal Charles (at HOU)LeSean McCoy (vs. IND)
Justin Forsett (at DEN)T.J. Yeldon (vs. CAR)
C.J. Anderson (vs. BAL)Benny Cunningham (vs. SEA)
Lamar Miller (at WAS)Tre Mason (vs. SEA)
Ameer Abdullah (at SD)Doug Martin (vs. TEN)
Melvin Gordon (vs. DET)Giovani Bernard (at OAK)
Mark Ingram (at ARI)Rashad Jennings (at DAL)
Marshawn Lynch (at STL)Joseph Randle (vs. NYG)
DeAngelo Williams (at NE, Thurs.)Darren McFadden (vs. NYG)
Frank Gore (at BUF)Latavius Murray (vs. CIN)
Chris Ivory (vs. CLE)Joique Bell (at SD)
Jonathan Stewart (at JAC)Isaiah Crowell (at NYJ)
Carlos Hyde (vs. MIN, Mon.)Alfred Blue (vs. KC)
Andre Ellington (vs. NO)James White/Dion Lewis (vs. PIT, Thurs.)
Tevin Coleman (vs. PHI) 

 

STUDS

 

Jeremy Hill (at OAK)
Those of you lucky enough to get Hill in the second round, or if you were smart enough to take him at the end of the first round, are going to be paid off handsomely this season and it starts in Week 1 against a non-existent Raiders rush defense. Hill will rush for well over 100 yards and easily score at least 1 TD.

 

Adrian Peterson (at SF, Mon.)
The last time anyone doubted AP he was coming off a torn ACL and all he did was challenge the single-season rushing record. Now people are questioning him again after he basically took one year off. They say he is getting old at 30 and that he has lost a step. Watch out naysayers. Peterson is going to score the most fantasy football points in Week 1.

 

BREAKOUTS

 

Lamar Miller (at WAS)
It sure doesn’t hurt that Miller’s first game of the season is against the Redskins, but with an increased workload of around 20 carries per game, plus more involvement in the passing game and the fact that there is no one behind him to challenge his starting job, Miller is set to be the Dolphins’ bell cow.

 

Ameer Abdullah (at SD)
By now I’m sure you’ve heard all about how good Abdullah was in the preseason and how he has been climbing up draft boards everywhere. Abdullah is the real deal and he is going to show it Week 1 in San Diego. Abdullah will carry the ball at least 15 times and he is a serious threat out of the backfield where he can get into open space and the Lions love throwing to their running backs. Abdullah is going to be PPR gold!

 

BUSTS

 

Marshawn Lynch (at STL)
This might come as a surprise, seeing that I just told you to start Lynch above. I did that because anyone who has Lynch drafted him in the first round and is going to start him no matter what. With that said, be wary of his opening matchup against St. Louis. The Rams have the best front four in the game and are going to stuff the box, where Lynch makes his living. Don’t be surprised if Lynch is held to about 70 yards total on the ground, but if you’re lucky, he’ll sneak in a touchdown to save you.

 

Joseph Randle/Darren McFadden (vs. NYG)
Dallas is going to have an excellent running game again in 2015. It’s almost impossible not to with that offensive line. The problem from a fantasy perspective is that it looks like Randle and McFadden are going to be running backs 1A and 1B, which doesn’t do anyone who owns these guys any good. Use the wait-and-see approach to see which one starts to get more carries, or if you own Randle, just wait until McFadden gets hurt – probably on Sunday.

 

Wide Receivers

STARTSIT  
Julio Jones (vs. PHI, Mon.)Emmanuel Sanders (vs. BAL)
Antonio Brown (at NE, Thurs.)Andre Johnson (at BUF)
Odell Beckham Jr. (at DAL)Sammy Watkins (vs. IND)
Dez Bryant (vs. NYG)Golden Tate (at SD) 
Demaryius Thomas (vs. BAL)Roddy White (vs. PHI, Mon.)
Calvin Johnson (at SD)DeSean Jackson (vs. MIA)
Randall Cobb (at CHI)Eric Decker (vs. CLE) 
Jordan Matthews (at ATL, Mon.)Marques Colston (at ARI)
Brandin Cooks (at ARI)Danny Amendola (vs. PIT, Thurs.)
Mike Evans (vs. TEN)Torrey Smith (vs. MIN, Mon.)
DeAndre Hopkins (vs. KC)Pierre Garcon (at MIA)
Brandon Marshall (vs. CLE)Charles Johnson (at SF, Mon.)
Julian Edleman (vs. PIT, Thurs.)Doug Baldwin (at STL)
A.J. Green (at OAK)Mike Wallace (at SF, Mon.)
Amari Cooper (vs. CIN)Malcom Floyd (vs. DET)
Eddie Royal (vs. GB)Kendall Wright (at TB)
T.Y. Hilton (at BUF)Michael Floyd (vs. NO)
Alshon Jeffery (vs. GB)Kenny Stills (at WAS)
Davante Adams (at CHI)Percy Harvin (vs. IND)
Keenan Allen (vs. DET)Jerricho Cotchery (at JAC)
John Brown (vs. NO)Terrance Williams (vs. NYG)
Steve Smith (at DEN)Michael Crabtree (vs. CIN)
Jarvis Landry (at WAS)Kenny Britt (vs. SEA)
Vincent Jackson (vs. TEN)Brian Quick (vs. SEA)
Markus Wheaton (at NE, Thurs.)Devin Funchess (at JAC)
Larry Fitzgerald (vs. NO)Marvin Jones (at OAK)
Anquan Boldin (vs. MIN, Mon.)Cody Latimer (vs. BAL)
Allen Robinson (vs. CAR)Donte Moncrief (at BUF)
Rueben Randle (at DAL)DeVante Parker (at WAS)
Nelson Agholor (at ATL, Mon.)   
Stevie Johnson (vs. DET)   

 

STUDS

 

Antonio Brown (at NE, Thurs.)
Ben Roethlisberger is going to have a field day against a New England secondary that lost its two starting corners from 2014 (Brandon Browner and some guy named Darrelle Revis). It’s already a proven fact that Big Ben looks for Brown early and often and isn’t afraid of throwing him the ball in coverage. What makes Brown an even bigger stud is that fact that he is now a serious red-zone threat and without Martavis Bryant (or Le’Veon Bell for that matter), Brown will be the go-to-guy in the end zone.

 

Jordan Matthews (at ATL, Mon.)
If you didn’t skip all the way to the wide receiver section, you’ll have noticed that I included Sam Bradford as a must-start fantasy stud for Week 1. So if Bradford is going to be a stud, who is going to be on the receiving end? None other than Matthews. They really showed excellent chemistry in the preseason and Chip Kelly showed great trust in Matthews’ ability when he let Jeremy Maclin go in free agency. Matthews and Bradford are going to connect early and often and if you have Matthews in a PPR league, watch out.

 

BREAKOUTS

 

Eddie Royal (vs. GB)
Royal is going to have a huge game in Week 1. Why? There are numerous reasons that are going in his favor. He might be the healthiest Bears wide receiver come Sunday. Opposite him, Alshon Jeffery is going to start, but he won’t be at 100 percent, but he will still demand attention and most likely double coverage on the outside. The Bears are playing the Packers, meaning that they are going to be playing from behind probably the whole game, so they are going to have to let Jay Cutler chuck the pigskin all over the field, especially to Royal. You can probably start Royal as your flex (if you have one) and reap the rewards.

 

Markus Wheaton (at NE, Thurs.)
In a lot of leagues Wheaton was going undrafted, if that’s your league, don’t worry checking the waiver wire, as a smart owner has already scooped him up. Wheaton is the No. 2 wide receiver in a pass-happy offense that doesn’t have its top running back (Lev’eon Bell) and is going up against a Patriots defense that no longer has cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Wheaton is in for a big day.

 

BUSTS

 

Andre Johnson (at BUF)
This is not a slight against Johnson, he’s a stud and is going to have a fantastic year. But he is going to get off to a slow start because he’s playing Buffalo, which might just have the best defense in the entire NFL. Last season the Bills only gave up 206 passing yards per game, good for third in the league and now with Rex Ryan as their head coach, they are going to be even better. This doesn’t bode well for Johnson’s numbers in his Colts debut. Look elsewhere if you can for a WR2.

 

Sammy Watkins (vs. IND)
Watkins is a sensational talent and there is no doubt that Buffalo will try to get him the ball, but he has a very unproven QB in Tyrod Taylor throwing him the ball and so far they have yet to develop any type of real chemistry. Plus, with LeSean McCoy being limited due to a hamstring injury, you know the Colts are going to focus on stopping Watkins, as he is the Bills’ only big-play threat (sorry Percy Harvin fans).

 

Tight Ends

STARTSIT
Rob Gronkowski (vs. PIT, Thurs.)Brent Celek (at ATL, Mon.)
Greg Olsen (at JAC)Zach Ertz (at ATL, Mon.)
Martellus Bennett (vs. GB)Heath Miller (at NE, Thurs.)
Travis Kelce (at HOU)Austin Seferian-Jenkins (vs. TEN)
Jimmy Graham (at STL)Larry Donnell (at DAL)
Jason Witten (vs. NYG)Charles Clay (vs. IND)
Ladarius Green (vs. DET)Owen Daniels (vs. BAL)
Delaine Walker (at TB)Vernon Davis (vs. MIN, Mon.)
Jordan Cameron (at WAS)Eric Ebron (at SD)
Jordan Reed (vs. MIA)Dwayne Allen (at BUF)
Tyler Eifert (at OAK)Coby Fleener (at BUF)
Kyle Rudolph (at SF, Mon.) 

STUDS

 

Rob Gronkowski (vs. PIT, Thurs.)
This may seem too obvious and Gronk might be listed as a stud here every week, but in Week 1 he is as studly as they come. Finally 100 percent healthy, he has a super-pissed of Tom Brady throwing the ball. As mentioned in the QB section, Brady is going to go off on Thursday night in primetime and his favorite target Gronkowski is going to be the beneficiary. Don’t be surprised to see Gronk go over 100 yards receiving with two touchdowns.

 

Martellus Bennett (vs. GB)
Everything that was said in the WR section about the Bears’ Eddie Royal applies to Bennett as well. The Bears are going to be playing from behind and are going to need to air it out. Plus, with Alshon Jeffery ailing, the Bears lack a real red-zone threat and Bennett will step in and be that guy. He has good chemistry with Jay Cutler and new offensive coordinator Adam Gase loves to feature his tight end in the red zone, just look at the results Julius Thomas was able to put up in Denver.

 

BREAKOUTS

 

Jordan Cameron (at WAS)
Two years ago Cameron was being considered as an elite top-5 tight end, and he was in Cleveland with terrible quarterbacks throwing him the ball. Now in Miami, Cameron has up-and-coming Ryan Tannehill throwing him the ball in an offense that relies heavily on the tight end, especially when Tannehill needs an escape window.

 

Tyler Eifert (at OAK)
Because he was injured for basically all of last season, Eifert really isn’t on anyone’s radar heading into the 2015 season. However, if you were watching the preseason you saw that Andy Dalton was really comfortable throwing the ball to Eifert. It’s true the Bengals are going to be a run-first team, but Eifert is going to be the team’s No. 2 target behind A.J. Green.

 

BUSTS

 

Zach Ertz (at ATL, Mon.)
In the offseason and even in the preseason, all you heard about was how amazing Ertz was performing and how he was going to be a major part of the Eagles’ offense. Well, turns out that Chip Kelly really, really likes their other tight end, Brent Celek, a lot more. Mainly because Celek is an excellent blocker and can contribute offensively. It’s going to take an injury to Celek for Ertz to have any real fantasy value.

 

Dwayne Allen/Coby Fleener (at BUF)
Both these guys are good tight ends, and if either one of them gets hurt (most likely Allen as he seems to be hurt all the time), then whoever is healthy will be a must start. But for Week 1 both guys are healthy and will be playing and stealing targets and fantasy points from one another. Best to stay away.

 

Kickers

START

SIT

Stephen Gostkowski (vs. PIT, Thurs.)

Cody Parkey (at ATL, Mon.)

Mason Crosby (at CHI)

Dan Bailey (vs. NYG)

Brandon McManus (vs. BAL)

Matt Bryant (vs. PHI, Mon.)

Chandler Catanzaro (vs. NO)

Adam Vinatieri (at BUF)

Josh Lambo (vs. DET)

Andrew Franks (at WAS)

Mike Nugent (at OAK)

Zach Hocker (at ARI)

Josh Scobee (vs. NE, Thurs.)

Steven Hauschka (at STL)

Josh Brown (at DAL)

Graham Cano (at JAC)

Kyle Brindza (vs. TEN)

Justin Tucker (at DEN)

Blair Walsh (at SF, Mon.)

Dan Carpenter (vs. IND)

Robbie Gould (vs. GB)

Nick Folk (vs. CLE)

Matt Prater (at SD)

Randy Bullock (vs. KC)

Sebastian Janikowski (vs. CIN)

STUDS

 

Stephen Gostkowski (vs. PIT, Thurs.)
Without LeGarette Blount and Brandon LaFell, the Patriots are going to struggle in the red zone. They can’t just throw the ball to Gronk all the time (can they?). There will be plenty of opportunities for Gostkowski to rack up the points.

 

BREAKOUTS

 

Chandler Catanzaro (vs. NO)
Who? Catanzaro is the kicker for Arizona and he is set to have a great game in Week 1. Carson Palmer is back to lead what looks to be a potent Cardinals offense against a terrible Saints defense. The Cardinals lack a true red-zone threat, so they will probably be kicking their fair share of field goals on Sunday.

 

BUSTS

 

Steven Hauschka (vs. STL)
Hauschka is a great kicker, he just has a terrible matchup in Week 1. This game has all the makings of a 13–10 affair because both the Rams and Seahawks have such excellent defenses. Go with a kicker that has way more upside this week.

 

Defense/Special Teams (DST)

STARTSIT
Seattle Seahawks (at STL)Buffalo Bills (vs. IND)
New York Jets (vs. CLE)St. Louis Rams (vs. SEA)
Carolina Panthers (at JAC)Detroit Lions (at SD)
Tennessee Titans (at TB)Arizona Cardinals (vs. NO)
Miami Dolphins (at WAS)San Francisco 49ers (vs. MIN, Mon.)
Cincinnati Bengals (at OAK)New England Patriots (vs. PIT, Thurs.)
Green Bay Packers (at CHI)Minnesota Vikings (at SF, Mon.)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. TEN)Kansas City Chiefs (at HOU)
San Diego Chargers (vs. DET)Pittsburgh Steelers (at NE, Thurs.)
Houston Texans (vs. KC)Baltimore Ravens (at DEN)
Denver Broncos (vs. BAL)Philadelphia Eagles (at ATL, Mon.)
Cleveland Browns (at NYJ)Dallas Cowboys (vs. NYG)
Indianapolis Colts (at BUF) 

STUDS

 

New York Jets (vs. CLE)
The Jets are poised to have a top-5 fantasy defense in 2015. Led by new head coach Todd Bowles, they welcome back DBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, who form arguably the best corner combo in the league. Plus their already stout defensive line welcomes first-round pick Leonard Williams, who tore it up in the preseason. Oh and the Jets are playing the Browns in Week 1. Enough said.

 

BREAKOUTS

 

Tennessee Titans (at TB)
This has nothing to do with the Titans’ defense actually being any good or not, only time will tell. But this week they play Tampa Bay and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, who is looking every bit the part and is going to serve up plenty of interceptions. If you stream your DST, this is the D to start in Week 1.

 

DUDS

 

Buffalo Bills (vs. IND)
Most of the time the Bills’ D will be in the must-start section. Not this week though because they play Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. The Bills have an excellent front four that will no doubt pressure Luck all game but Luck is too good and will still lead the Colts to 30-plus points.

 

(Sam Bradford phoot courtesy of Getty Images)

 

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

Teaser:
Why You Want Sam Bradford in Your Fantasy Football Lineup and Other Start/Sit Advice for Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-2-predictions-2015
Body:

For the most part, Week 1 was a forgettable weekend of action for the Pac-12. Utah scored a good win over Michigan on Thursday night, but Stanford lost to Northwestern, Washington State had a bad loss to Portland State, Colorado lost to Hawaii and Arizona State was defeated by Texas A&M.

Luckily for the Pac-12, this Saturday has a few opportunities to rebound. Oregon takes on Michigan State in the biggest game for Week 2, Washington State heads to the East Coast for a winnable game against Rutgers, while USC, UCLA, Arizona State and Washington should win big in non-conference matchups.

 

Athlon Sports offers its Pac-12 Week 2 predictions from four editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

 

Pac-12 Week 2 Game Power Rankings & Predictions

 

1. Oregon at Michigan State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

 

David Fox:

Both defenses gave their fans reason to worry in matchups with directional schools — Oregon against Eastern Washington and Michigan State against Western Michigan. Michigan State over time has shown more reason for us to believe in the Spartans. New Ducks QB Vernon Adams had a nice debut, but Connor Cook is playing the part of a trusty veteran who has been in the system for four years.

Michigan State 31–21

 

Braden Gall:

Revenge, playoff implications, playing at home and a veteran quarterback gives Michigan State a slight edge against an Oregon team that allowed 549 yards in the opener to an FCS foe. Can Vernon Adams take the beating Michigan State's defense is sure to enforce? Connor Cook is the difference. Michigan State 37-30

 

Steven Lassan:

The best game of Week 2. Lots of intrigue here, as new Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams takes on his toughest opponent in Michigan State, while the Spartans have revenge on their mind after last year’s loss in Eugene. The Ducks’ secondary was torched by Eastern Washington last week, and that’s a big concern with Connor Cook up next.

Michigan State 38-30

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Preview



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Mitch Light:

It was only one game, but Oregon has to be concerned about a defense that gave up 491 yards (and 6.4 per play) in a 61–42 win over Eastern Washington. 

Michigan State 37-33

 

2. Utah State at Utah

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

 

David Fox:

Utah has won 13 of the last 14, and Utah State had enough trouble putting away Southern Utah last week.

Utah 24–7

 

Braden Gall:

Chuckie Keeton vs. that Utah defense should be fun to watch. Hopefully, he survives. Utah is too strong at the point of attack. Utah 23-17

 

Steven Lassan:

Week 1 went significantly different for these two teams. Utah State struggled to get by Southern Utah, while Utah picked up a solid win over Michigan. The Aggies need a big performance from quarterback Chuckie Keeton and his offensive line against a solid Utes’ defense.

Utah 27-17

 

Mitch Light:

Utah State has made impressive strides in recent years but has lost 13 of its last 14 to Utah, including seven straight in Salt Lake City. 

Utah 27-24

 

3. Oregon State at Michigan

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: ABC

 

David Fox:

The loss to Utah revealed Michigan still has a host of problems on offense. Oregon State is in even deeper trouble than Michigan.

Michigan 28-14

 

Braden Gall:

The defense was excellent and the offense identified a few nice players in Jake Butt, Amara Darboh and De'Veon Smith but the rest of the Michigan offense needs to develop. Oregon State was solid in its debut but Weber State isn't The Big House. Michigan wins in its home opener. Michigan 24-10

 

Steven Lassan:

A matchup between two of the best head coach hires for 2015. Jim Harbaugh’s first home game should be a relatively easy win for the Wolverines. Oregon State freshman quarterback Seth Collins is a dynamic playmaker, but the Beavers are in rebuild mode under coach Gary Andersen.

Michigan 31-10

 

Mitch Light:

Michigan will reward the home folks with the first win of the Jim Harbaugh era. Oregon State isn’t overly talented, but freshman Seth Collins was impressive in his debut (152 yards rushing, 92 yards passing with two TDs). 

Michigan 28-13

 

4. Washington State at Rutgers

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

 

David Fox:

Rutgers is a different team with the pass-catch tandem of Chris Laviano and Leonte Carroo. Not necessarily a good team, but a different one.

Rutgers 35–28

 

Braden Gall:

One team lost as a 31-point favorite to an FCS school and the other's athletic department is an episode of Law and Order. Take the Knights at home. Rutgers 35-31

 

Steven Lassan:

Both teams are dealing with some turmoil, albeit for two different reasons. Rutgers has an ongoing investigation about coach Kyle Flood, and four defensive backs were kicked off the team last week. Washington State is reeling after last Saturday’s surprise defeat against Portland State. This one should see its share of fireworks between the two offenses.

Washington State 38-34

 

Mitch Light:
Washington State lost at home, 24–17, to FCS foe Portland State in Week 1. Not a good start for Mike Leach. Things aren’t going great at Rutgers, either, but at least the Scarlet Knights won their first game. 

Rutgers 33-30

 

5. UMass at Colorado

Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

 

David Fox:

UMass didn’t play in Week 1. Colorado probably wishes it hadn’t. Now the Buffs face another solid quarterback and passing game.

Colorado 28–24

 

Braden Gall:

Nothing will be easy for the Buffaloes but this is one of few games they should win this fall. Colorado 38-30

 

Steven Lassan:

Upset alert? The Minutemen nearly defeated the Buffaloes last season and are a better overall team in 2015. Expect a close one, but Colorado should find a way to erase last week’s disappointment against Hawaii to edge UMass.

Colorado 34-31

 

Mitch Light:
Colorado has returned to the mainland after a tough loss at Hawaii on Thursday night. UMass has yet to play. I smell upset. 

UMass 34-30
 

6. San Diego State at California

Kickoff: 5 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

 

David Fox:

Jared Goff faces a tricky Rocky Long defense. An interesting storyline, but Cal should win.

Cal 38–24

 

Braden Gall:

This is one of the games against a quality mid-major program that Cal has to win easily if it wants to prove it belongs in the national conversation again. Jared Goff is awesome and he needs to eliminate the Aztecs quickly to make a statement. Cal 48-20

 

Steven Lassan:

San Diego State’s defense is one of the best from the Group of 5 ranks, but I’m not sure the Aztecs will be able to generate enough offense outside of running back Donnel Pumphrey to win this one.

California 38-17

 

Mitch Light:
California leads the nation in passing (471 yards) after one week of action. 

California 37-21
 

7. Arizona at Nevada

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

 

David Fox:

Arizona’s defense was lost once Scooby Wright went down last week against UTSA. The Wildcats will need to learn to live without him for the next few weeks.

Arizona 35–24

 

Braden Gall:

The Wildcats gave up a lot of yards and points in the opener to UTSA and Nevada hasn't had issues scoring historically. Give me Arizona but RichRod's bunch better be focused. Arizona 38-28

 

Steven Lassan:

The Wolf Pack defeated the last Pac-12 opponent (Washington State) to visit Reno. Going on the road to face a Group of 5 opponent always has the potential to be a trap game, but the Wildcats – even with linebacker Scooby Wright sidelined – won’t be upset.

Arizona 38-24

 

Mitch Light:

Arizona gave up 525 yards of total offense to a UTSA team that returned zero starters. That could be an issue going forward. 

Arizona 38-33

 

8. UCF at Stanford

Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

 

David Fox:

Two teams are trying to bounce back from deflating season-opening losses. Stanford’s defense will keep the Cardinal ahead in this game. Will the defense have any life to it?

Stanford 21–14

 

Braden Gall:

Both teams were upset in Week 1 and Stanford needs to prove its performance was just a fluky early kickoff, opening weekend walk through. Otherwise, this team is in trouble. Kevin Hogan needs to play with some pride here. Stanford 27-3

 

Steven Lassan:

After Week 1 losses, there’s urgency on both sidelines for this one. Points will be at a premium between these two teams, as Stanford and UCF combined for just 20 points last week. The Cardinal shows some life on offense, while the defense holds the Knights in check.

Stanford 31-13

 

Mitch Light:

Stanford must regroup after its surprisingly lethargic performance at Northwestern. The Cardinal looked good on their first drive of the day — which ended in a field goal — but struggled to move the ball the rest of the day, ending with 240 total yards. 

Stanford 21-13

 

9. UCLA at UNLV

Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

 

David Fox:

UCLA’s quarterback was in high school this time last year. So was UNLV’s head coach. Other than that, the two teams don’t have a ton of similarities.

UCLA 42–20

 

Braden Gall:

What does the D-Line look like without Eddie Vanderdoes and how quickly can this O-Line come together? UCLA 40-17

 

Steven Lassan:

UCLA is the second Pac-12 team to hit the road against a Group of 5 opponent on Saturday. UNLV showed improvement in coach Tony Sanchez’s debut last week, but the Bruins have too much firepower on offense and talent on defense to slip in Las Vegas. How will quarterback Josh Rosen follow his impressive debut against Virginia?

UCLA 45-13

 

Mitch Light:

UCLA freshman Josh Rosen was one of the breakout stars of the opening weekend. UNLV lost its opener, 38–30 at Northern Illinois, but the Rebels look to be much improved under first-year coach Tony Sanchez. 

UCLA 37-20

 

10. Idaho at USC

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

 

David Fox:

USC may like to brag that it doesn’t play FCS teams. The Trojans play Idaho instead.

USC 52–7

 

Braden Gall:

What? USC 55-10

 

Steven Lassan:

This one will be ugly. USC was sharp in its opener and won’t have much trouble with the Vandals.

USC 55-10

 

Mitch Light:

USC was impressive in its 55–6 win over Arkansas State, but the Trojans did give up 401 yards of offense. Not a big deal in such a decisive win, but it’s something to watch. 

USC 51-0

 

11. Cal Poly at Arizona State

Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

 

David Fox:

Arizona State goes from facing the Texas A&M Air Raid to the Cal Poly triple option. That’s probably not fun.

Arizona State 35–17

 

Braden Gall:

The Sun Devils need an easy win after that performance in Houston last weekend. Arizona State 41-17

 

Steven Lassan:

The Sun Devils take some frustration out on Cal Poly after last week’s loss to Texas A&M.

Arizona State 48-17

 

Mitch Light:

It’s a long season, but Arizona State was a bit underwhelming in its loss to Texas A&M in Houston. 

Arizona State 43-13

 

12. Sacramento State at Washington

Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

 

David Fox:

Freshman quarterback Jake Browning has a chance to get back into a groove against an FCS team.

Washington 27–10

 

Braden Gall:

Any signs of life on offense would be a positive step in the right direction for Chris Petersen's bunch. One of few easy wins for the Huskies this year. Washington 31-10

 

Steven Lassan:

True freshman quarterback Jake Browning is going to be a good one for coach Chris Petersen. The Huskies break into the win column this week.

Washington 40-10

 

Mitch Light:

Sacramento State was outgained by 254 yards in a 41–20 loss to Eastern Oregon last week. Washington will break through and pick up win No. 1. 

Washington 41-10

Teaser:
Pac-12 Week 2 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-2-predictions-2015
Body:

The Big Ten was in the spotlight in college football’s first week of 2015, as Jim Harbaugh’s debut with Michigan was a huge television hit on Thursday night, and Ohio State capped the weekend with a victory over Virginia Tech. The conference is back in the spotlight once again for Week 2, as Michigan State-Oregon is the weekend’s must-see game in college football. The Ducks knocked off the Spartans last season, but Michigan State is favored this Saturday.

 

Outside of East Lansing, there are a handful of games with intrigue in the conference. Indiana needs a win over FIU to bolster its bowl hopes, Rutgers hosts Washington State, Michigan takes on Oregon State and Iowa-Iowa State meet for the Cy-Hawk Trophy.

 

Athlon Sports offers its Big Ten Week 2 predictions from four editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

 

Big Ten Week 2 Game Power Rankings & Predictions

 

1. Oregon at Michigan State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

 

David Fox:

Both defenses gave their fans reason to worry in matchups with directional schools — Oregon against Eastern Washington and Michigan State against Western Michigan. Michigan State over time has shown more reason for us to believe in the Spartans. New Ducks QB Vernon Adams had a nice debut, but Connor Cook is playing the part of a trusty veteran who has been in the system for four years.

Michigan State 31–21

 

Braden Gall:

Revenge, playoff implications, playing at home and a veteran quarterback gives Michigan State a slight edge against an Oregon team that allowed 549 yards in the opener to an FCS foe. Can Vernon Adams take the beating Michigan State's defense is sure to enforce? Connor Cook is the difference. Michigan State 37-30

 

Steven Lassan:

The best game of Week 2. Lots of intrigue here, as new Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams takes on his toughest opponent in Michigan State, while the Spartans have revenge on their mind after last year’s loss in Eugene. The Ducks’ secondary was torched by Eastern Washington last week, and that’s a big concern with Connor Cook up next.

Michigan State 38-30

 

Mitch Light:

It was only one game, but Oregon has to be concerned about a defense that gave up 491 yards (and 6.4 per play) in a 61–42 win over Eastern Washington. 

Michigan State 37-33

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Preview



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

2. Iowa at Iowa State

Kickoff: 4:45 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

 

David Fox:

The rivalry game actually carries some weight for the respective futures of coaches Kirk Ferentz and Paul Rhoads. Iowa has a big-time defensive difference maker in Drew Ott and the makings of a competent offense. Edge: Hawkeyes.

Iowa 34–21

 

Braden Gall:

One of the more underrated rivalries in the country has gone the way of the Cyclones and Paul Rhoads more times than not recently. Both offenses played well in Week 1 and Jack Trice is also underrated. Iowa's balance on offense gives the CyHawk Trophy to the Hawkeyes. Iowa 30-24

 

Steven Lassan:

A rivalry matchup in Week 2 is certainly welcomed to help spice up a pedestrian slate of games. Iowa State has won three out of the last four games in this series, but I think the Hawkeyes take this one on Saturday.

Iowa 27-20

 

Mitch Light:

Iowa showed nice balance last week, rushing for 210 and throwing for 221 in its 31–14 win over FCS power Illinois State. 

Iowa 24-20

 

3. Oregon State at Michigan

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: ABC

 

David Fox:

The loss to Utah revealed Michigan still has a host of problems on offense. Oregon State is in even deeper trouble than Michigan.

Michigan 28-14

 

Braden Gall:

The defense was excellent and the offense identified a few nice players in Jake Butt, Amara Darboh and De'Veon Smith but the rest of the Michigan offense needs to develop. Oregon State was solid in its debut but Weber State isn't The Big House. Michigan wins in its home opener. Michigan 24-10

 

Steven Lassan:

A matchup between two of the best head coach hires for 2015. Jim Harbaugh’s first home game should be a relatively easy win for the Wolverines. Oregon State freshman quarterback Seth Collins is a dynamic playmaker, but the Beavers are in rebuild mode under coach Gary Andersen.

Michigan 31-10

 

Mitch Light:

Michigan will reward the home folks with the first win of the Jim Harbaugh era. Oregon State isn’t overly talented, but freshman Seth Collins was impressive in his debut (152 yards rushing, 92 yards passing with two TDs an zero INTs). Michigan 28-13​

 

4. Washington State at Rutgers

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

 

David Fox:

Rutgers is a different team with the pass-catch tandem of Chris Laviano and Leonte Carroo. Not necessarily a good team, but a different one.

Rutgers 35–28

 

Braden Gall:

One team lost as a 31-point favorite to an FCS school and the other's athletic department is an episode of Law and Order. Take the Knights at home. Rutgers 35-31

 

Steven Lassan:

Both teams are dealing with some turmoil, albeit for two different reasons. Rutgers has an ongoing investigation about coach Kyle Flood, and four defensive backs were kicked off the team last week. Washington State is reeling after last Saturday’s surprise defeat against Portland State. This one should see its share of fireworks between the two offenses.

Washington State 38-34

 

Mitch Light:

Washington State lost at home, 24–17, to FCS foe Portland State in Week 1. Not a good start for Mike Leach. Things aren’t going great at Rutgers, either, but at least the Scarlet Knights won their first game. 

Rutgers 33-30

 

5. Minnesota at Colorado State

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

 

David Fox:

Minnesota’s standout secondary faces a Biletnikoff finalist in Rashard Higgins. Which quarterback can make plays in this game?

Colorado State 28–24

 

Braden Gall:

Upset alert for the Gophers after Mike Bobo's quality debut for the Rams. However, the defense is too much for Colorado State as Jerry Kill's bunch rarely overlooks an opponent. Minnesota 24-10

 

Steven Lassan:

Solid under-the-radar matchup in Fort Collins this Saturday, as Minnesota’s standout secondary takes on one of the nation’s top receivers in Rashard Higgins. Defense certainly isn’t the issue for the Golden Gophers, but the offense needs to play better to win the Big Ten West. Keep an eye on promising running back Rodney Smith in this one.

Minnesota 27-24

 

Mitch Light:

This is not an easy trip for Jerry Kill and the Gophers. Colorado State averaged 8.7 yards per play in its win over Savannah State. 

Minnesota 24-20

 

6. Bowling Green at Maryland

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

 

Braden Gall:

A sneaky upset alert here for the Terps despite all of the points last week. The Terps running game is the difference, however, after the Falcons were gashed last weekend by Tennessee. Maryland 40-35

 

Steven Lassan:

Bowling Green is a dangerous opponent for the Terrapins. As last week’s loss to Tennessee showed, the Falcons can score (30 points) and averaged 6.5 yards per play. Maryland’s secondary should do just enough to keep Bowling Green’s high-powered passing attack in check, while the offense leans on Brandon Ross to wear down the Falcon defense in the fourth quarter.

Maryland 34-31

 

Mitch Light:

Bowling Green threw for 424 yards and averaged 8.7 yards per passing attempt in last week’s 59–30 loss vs. Tennessee in Nashville. Maryland will have to score a bunch of points to win this game. 

Bowling Green 41-37

 

7. Hawaii at Ohio State

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

 

David Fox:

The Buckeyes get Joey Bosa, Jalin Mashall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson back from suspension. Good luck, Hawaii.

Ohio State 49–10

 

Braden Gall:

Poor, poor Hawaii. Ohio State 59-3

 

Steven Lassan:

Might be a sluggish start in the works for both teams, as Hawaii is making the long trip to the mainland, while Ohio State has a short turnaround from playing Virginia Tech. Even if the Buckeyes have a slow start, this won’t be close in the fourth quarter. 

Ohio State 52-17

 

Mitch Light:

Hawaii recorded a nice win for embattled coach Norm Chow, topping Colorado 28–20 last Thursday night. The win streak will end at one. 

Ohio State 44-13

 

8. Buffalo at Penn State

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

 

David Fox:

Penn State’s offensive line can’t get much worse than last week’s 10-sack effort against Temple. Then again, we said that about the offensive line last season. Buffalo has a solid veteran quarterback who will make this closer than it should be.

Penn State 21–17

 

Braden Gall:

Arguably the worst opening weekend in the nation can only get better for Penn State, right? Block someone, PSU, anyone. Penn State 30-10

 

Steven Lassan:

After last week’s offensive debacle against Temple, it will be interesting to see what changes coach James Franklin makes to jumpstart this group. The offensive line has to play better, but quarterback Christian Hackenberg also shares part of the blame. Buffalo made one of the offseason’s best coaching hires by getting Lance Leipold from Wisconsin-Whitewater, and the Bulls were impressive in their opener against Albany. Buffalo keeps this one interesting until the fourth quarter.

Penn State 27-17

 

Mitch Light:

Penn State will be eager to bounce back after last week’s debacle against Temple. The natives will not be pleased if the Lions struggle to beat Buffalo. 

Penn State 27-6

 

9. South Alabama at Nebraska

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

 

David Fox:

Nebraska hasn’t started 0–2 since 1957, and it should stay that way. The Huskers should roll.

Nebraska 41–14

 

Braden Gall:

Nebraska gets back on track after the Week 1 heartbreaker. Nebraska 38-10

 

Steven Lassan:

Nebraska should be able to take out some of its frustration from last week’s last-second loss to BYU in Saturday’s matchup against South Alabama. Mike Riley breaks into the win column in his second game with the Cornhuskers.

Nebraska 40-13

 

Mitch Light:

Nebraska is still smarting from losing its opener to BYU on the final play of the game. The Huskers will bounce back against a South Alabama team that is coming off a 10-point win over Gardner-Webb. 

Nebraska 48-3

 

10. FIU at Indiana

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

 

David Fox:

Indiana’s 48–47 win over Southern Illinois came down to a stopped two-point conversion, and this week’s opponent, FIU, is coming off a road upset of UCF. The Hoosiers’ hopes for a quick start to the season just got a little tougher.

Indiana 42–35

 

Braden Gall:

FIU pulled off the improbable upset over UCF last week and Indiana couldn't stop air in it's opener. That said, give me Nate Sudfeld and company to outscore FIU. Indiana 38-30

 

Steven Lassan:

Indiana avoided a costly upset last week, and the Hoosiers could have their hands full with a FIU team that knocked off UCF last week. The Panthers are improving on offense behind promising quarterback Alex McGough, but the defense – led by standout cornerback Richard Leonard – held the Knights to 14 points last week. Indiana’s defense has to take a step forward if this team wants to get to a bowl.

Indiana 34-27

 

Mitch Light:

Ron Turner and the Panthers had a nice win at UCF last week. Indiana had to make a stop on a two-point conversion to beat Southern Illinois. 

FIU 27-20

 

11. Miami (Ohio) at Wisconsin

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

 

David Fox:

Miami ended its 16-game losing streak but still hasn’t defeated an FBS team since Oct. 27, 2012 and hasn’t defeated a Power 5 team since 2007 (Syracuse).

Wisconsin 42–14 

 

Braden Gall:

I am willing to bet Wisconsin rushes for more than 40 yards in this game. Badgers big in their home opener. Wisconsin 42-14

 

Steven Lassan:

Running back Corey Clement might be limited due to injury, but it shouldn’t matter. The Badgers build a little confidence in quarterback Joel Stave with an easy win.

Wisconsin 45-13

 

Mitch Light:

The Badgers were manhandled by a superior Alabama team last weekend in Arlington, Texas. Wisconsin will have the physical advantage in this matchup. 

Wisconsin 41-11

 

12. Eastern Illinois at Northwestern

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNEWS

 

David Fox:

Eastern Illinois lost 33–5 to Western Illinois. Northwestern just beat Stanford. The old Northwestern might flirt with an upset.

Northwestern 35–7

 

Braden Gall:

Tony Romo isn't walking through that door. Northwestern big. Northwestern 34-10

 

Steven Lassan:

Northwestern continues its momentum from the Week 1 victory against Stanford with an easy win over Eastern Illinois. Interested to see how much quarterback Clayton Thorson progresses this Saturday.

Northwestern 38-7

 

Mitch Light:

EIU, which lost its opener 33–5 at Western Illinois, is still looking for its first touchdown of the season. Northwestern only scored one touchdown in Week 1, but it was enough to knock off Stanford. 

Northwestern 37-7

 

13. Indiana State at Purdue

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPNEWS

 

David Fox:

How will Austin Appleby come back from his collapse at Marshall last week? The answer will determine if Purdue can stay competitive this season.

Purdue 38–28

 

Braden Gall:

Purdue lost a tough one at Marshall but there were signs of life. Get this one, Boilers. Purdue 37-21

 

Steven Lassan:

Purdue showed some improvement in its opener against Marshall, but the Boilermakers gave away four turnovers, including two interceptions returned for scores. Purdue should break into the win column this week.

Purdue 38-17

 

Mitch Light:

Purdue did some good things in its loss on Sunday to Marshall. This team is improved but might have trouble making a move in the Big Ten West. 

Purdue 38-21

 

14. Western Illinois at Illinois

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

 

Braden Gall:

Wes Lunt is out of the game at halftime again. Illinois 42-13

 

Steven Lassan:

Bill Cubit’s debut was a success, as the Fighting Illini easily dispatched Kent State. Expect another big day from quarterback Wes Lunt as Illinois improves to 2-0.

Illinois 45-10

 

Mitch Light:

It seems as though the Fighting Illini enjoy playing for interim coach Bill Cubit. The 52–3 win over Kent State was very impressive.

Illinois 48-10

Teaser:
Big Ten Week 2 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-top-150-flex-rankings-week-1
Body:

It is Week 1 and by now you have hopefully perused Athlon Sports' positional rankings, and other strategy articles but here is another resource for you —  Top 150 Flex rankings. Rankings are relatively self-explanatory and our positional rankings do just that — they rank each individual position for each week. 

 

Every week is different, and every situation and game plan will be different so there will clearly be players ranked higher some weeks than others. The difficulty I have found, and the most common question prior to Thursday's or Sunday's kickoff time is this: "Who do I start in my Flex position <Insert Player A> OR <Insert Player B>." 

 

Often times positional rankings will cover this, but what if the owner is deciding between a running back or a wide receiver, or heck maybe even a second tight end is in the mix?  This will not be easily answered in positional rankings every week, and overall preseason rankings are not often updated, nor accurate for particular fantasy week.

 

That is where Athlon's fantasy contributors come in and will provide you not only with the fantastically useful positional rankings each week, but also a Top 150 Flex rankings to help you decide some of those trickier start/sit situations.

 

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

 

Besides these be sure to follow me on Twitter (@FantsyChillpony) and as always feel free to reach out to me with any questions at all. I promise I will respond to each and every question as soon as I can! Have a great Week 1, and enjoy the first week of real NFL action!

 

Disclaimer: I was unable to export the Flex rankings without including another position so I included my QB rankings. Use or disregard as you feel necessary, but the Flex tab holds the good stuff.

 

 
2015 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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

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Fantasy Football 2015 Flex Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/acc-week-2-predictions-2015
Body:

The ACC didn’t pickup a key non-conference win in any of its marquee matchups, and the league slate for Week 2 isn’t full of enticing games. Notre Dame-Virginia is arguably the best matchup this Saturday, and the Fighting Irish are a heavy favorite over the Cavaliers. Elsewhere in the ACC this week, Louisville turns to true freshman Lamar Jackson at quarterback against Houston, while Florida State hosts South Florida in Everett Golson’s second start under center for the Seminoles.

 

Wake Forest-Syracuse is the only league matchup on the schedule in Week 2.

 

Athlon Sports offers its ACC Week 2 predictions from four editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

 

ACC Week 2 Game Power Rankings & Predictions

 

1. Notre Dame at Virginia

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

 

David Fox:

The start of Virginia’s schedule may be tougher than the Cavaliers anticipated as UCLA’s Josh Rose and Notre Dame’s Malik Zaire quickly take charger of their respective quarterback positions. The Cavs will look to shut down Notre Dame’s weakened run game, but the Irish defense could be dominant.

Notre Dame 31–13

 

Braden Gall:

Virginia isn't all that bad but made Josh Rosen look like a Heisman Trophy candidate last week. This is a game where Notre Dame should do what it wants on both sides of the ball if it wants to be taken seriously in the playoff conversation. Notre Dame 34-13

 

Steven Lassan:

It’s a light slate of games in the ACC when Notre Dame-Virginia is the No. 1 matchup. The Cavaliers’ brutal non-conference slate continues against a Fighting Irish team with momentum on their side after last week’s win over Texas. Virginia’s defense keeps it close for a half, but will the offense generate enough points?

Notre Dame 30-13

 

Mitch Light:

The Cavs’ ridiculously tough non-conference schedule continues with a home date against Notre Dame. Last week, they faced one of the nation’s top young players in UCLA true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. Now, they play a Fighting Irish team that dominated Texas in every phase. 

Notre Dame 30-14 

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Preview



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Related: College Football's Top 15 QB Debuts from Week 1

 

2. Houston at Louisville

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

Prepping for Gus Malzahn, Houston coach Tom Herman and the Clemson offense in the first three weeks has to be tough on Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Underwhelming quarterback play has to be tough on Bobby Petrino. Upset alert?

Louisville 21–17

 

Braden Gall:

Louisville's defense is better than advertised, and Tom Herman put up big numbers in his debut for Houston. Look for the Cardinals to pull away late in a battle of former Big East and C-USA rivals. Louisville 31-17

 

Steven Lassan:

This matchup is an intriguing, under-the-radar game in Week 2. Louisville lost its opener against Auburn, but true freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson is a future star under coach Bobby Petrino. New Houston coach Tom Herman had a successful debut, and dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward will give Louisville’s defense a few problems.

Louisville 34-20

 

Mitch Light:

A rebuilt Louisville defense limited a powerful (we think) Auburn offense to 327 total yards. That bodes well for the rest of the season — beginning with this week’s game against Houston. 

Louisville 33-17

 

3. USF at Florida State

Kickoff: 11:30 a.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

 

David Fox:

USF has won six total games in 2013-14 by a combined margin of 26. The Bulls beat Florida A&M in their opener by 48. They’re better but not good enough to challenge Florida State.

Florida State 42–14

 

Braden Gall:

Florida State started slow last week but Everet Golson rallied the troops. Much of the same this time around. Florida State 40-13

 

Steven Lassan:

Both quarterbacks in this matchup – Florida State’s Everett Golson and USF’s Quinton Flowers – were sharp last week. While Flowers is a promising player for the Bulls, the Seminoles are the better overall team, and Golson should continue to progress with another week of learning coach Jimbo Fisher’s offense.

Florida State 38-13

 

Mitch Light:

The Bulls take on a team from Tallahassee for the second straight week. Florida State will be far more formidable than the Rattlers from Florida A&M. 

Florida State 38-10

 

4. Appalachian State at Clemson

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

Appy State’s run of seven consecutive wins, including two shutouts, ends here.

Clemson 49–10

 

Braden Gall:

The depth for Clemson was impressive in Week 1 and I expect more of the same in Week 2. Just keep Deshaun Watson healthy, please. Clemson 51-10

 

Steven Lassan:

This is Clemson’s last tune-up before the ACC opener against Louisville next Thursday. Appalachian State should be a better test for the Tigers than Wofford, as the Mountaineers enter this matchup on a seven-game winning streak. Clemson will miss receiver Mike Williams (sidelined with a neck injury), but there’s plenty of playmakers to keep this offense performing at a high level.

Clemson 41-17

 

Mitch Light:

Appalachian State rolled up 663 yards — 376 on the ground, 287 through the air — in a Week 1 win over Howard. Don’t expect similar results when they visit the home of Howard’s Rock. 

Clemson 41-13 

 

5. Wake Forest at Syracuse

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

Syracuse quarterback Terrell Hunt is out for the season with a torn Achilles. He’ll be replaced by a freshman. In a matchup of the two worst teams in the ACC, that’s huge.

Wake Forest 24–17

 

Braden Gall:

This might be the only chance for either team to get a win in the ACC. Cuse is at home but without it's starting quarterback. Give me John Wolford on the road. Wake Forest 28-24

 

Steven Lassan:

This is the first conference game of the year in the ACC. And the winner of this one probably avoids the cellar in the Atlantic. Syracuse lost quarterback Terrel Hunt last week, but freshman Eric Dungey played well. Wake Forest’s offense also showed signs of life in Week 1.

Wake Forest 24-20

 

Mitch Light:

Both teams feasted on overmatched FCS foes in Week 1. Syracuse, however, lost the services of quarterback Terrel Hunt, who is sidelined with a torn Achilles tendon. Freshman Eric Dungey will make his first start against a stout Wake Forest defense. 

Wake Forest 17-7

 

6. Miami at FAU

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

 

David Fox:

A nice game for those of us appreciate bizarre road trips and all things Howard Schnellenberger, the architect of both programs. FAU was done in by four turnovers in an OT loss to Tulsa last week.

Miami 38–31

 

Braden Gall:

The Howard Schnellenberger Bowl SHOULD be an "easy" win for The U. Miami 38-20

 

Steven Lassan:

The Hurricanes make the short trip to Boca Raton for this one, as FAU hopes to pull off the upset as a 17-point underdog. The Owls have a talented quarterback in Jaquez Johnson, but I’m not sure the defense will be able to slow Miami’s offense. Quarterback Brad Kaaya won’t have Stacy Coley or Braxton Berrios to throw to, but the Hurricanes pull away in the second half.

Miami 38-17

 

Mitch Light:

FAU gave up 618 yards (7.2 per play) in last week’s overtime loss at Tulsa. The Owls will have a tough time slowing down Brad Kaaya & Co.

Miami 47-24

 

7. Pittsburgh at Akron

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

Pittsburgh lost to Akron at home last season. By 11. The Panthers get Tyler Boyd back but lost James Conner for the season. They may get revenge here, but the long-term prospects are questionable.

Pittsburgh 21–14

 

Braden Gall:

No James Conner, no problem for Pitt. At least, not this week against the Zips. Qadree Ollison and Tyler Boyd are more than enough. Pitt 34-17

 

Steven Lassan:

The Zips stunned Pittsburgh at Heinz Field last season. Another upset coming? Possibly. Akron’s defense is solid, but the offense struggled mightily against Oklahoma last week. Even though running back James Conner is out for the year, the Panthers should be able to run the ball, and receiver Tyler Boyd is back from suspension this Saturday.

Pittsburgh 31-20

 

Mitch Light:

Pittsburgh has the nation’s second-leading rusher — but it’s not James Conner, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison stepped in and rushed for 207 yards on 16 carries against Youngstown State last week. 

Pittsburgh 37-24

 

8. Tulane at Georgia Tech

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

Don’t overthink it: Georgia Tech won its opener 69–6. Tulane lost its opener 37–7.

Georgia Tech 41–14

 

Braden Gall:

Tulane was terrible against Duke and Georgia Tech is virtually unstoppable on the ground. Tech please. Georgia Tech 51-14

 

Steven Lassan:

The Yellow Jackets were very impressive last Thursday. Of course, the opponent – Alcorn State – had a lot to do with the outcome. Expect Georgia Tech to dominate once again, as coach Paul Johnson’s team gets another tune-up before next week’s showdown against Notre Dame.

Georgia Tech 45-10

 

Mitch Light:

Tulane was overmatched at home in a Week 1 loss at home to Duke. Now, the Green Wave hit the road to face a potent Georgia Tech ground attack. The Yellow Jackets have one more tune-up before they head to Notre Dame. 
Georgia Tech 48-13

 

9. Eastern Kentucky at NC State

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

Eastern Kentucky is one of the better teams in the FCS, but NC State shouldn’t have a ton of trouble.

NC State 41–20

 

Braden Gall:

Jacoby Brissett, Jacoby Brissett and more Jacoby Brissett. NC State 42-17

 

Steven Lassan:

The Wolfpack cruised in their Week 1 victory against Troy. Coach Dave Doeren’s team continues the momentum with an easy win over Eastern Kentucky. With matchups against Old Dominion and South Alabama up next, we won’t find out much about NC State until the Oct. 3 game against Louisville.

NC State 45-7

 

Mitch Light:

Jacoby Brissett was outstanding in the Pack’s 49–21 win over Troy, completing 21-of-23 for 196 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.

NC State 38-17

 

10. Furman at Virginia Tech

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

The Hokies need to find out of Brenden Motley can pass.

Virginia Tech 21–10

 

Braden Gall:

The Paladins are no match for Tech (more specifically its defense) even without Michael Brewer. Virginia Tech 28-3

 

Steven Lassan:

With Michael Brewer out indefinitely with a collarbone injury, Brenden Motley will start at quarterback for the Hokies. However, freshmen Chris Durkin and Dwayne Lawson may also see snaps. Either way, Virginia Tech wins big this Saturday.

Virginia Tech 41-3

 

Mitch Light:

Virginia Tech’s season took an unfortunate turn when quarterback Michael Brewer went down with a broken collarbone. Brenden Motley will do his best to keep the ship afloat until Brewer returns. 

Virginia Tech 28-0

 

11. North Carolina A&T at North Carolina

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

How will Marquise Williams recover from a disastrous game against South Carolina?

North Carolina 41–21

 

Braden Gall:

Marquise Williams needs and will get a bounce back game after a lot of summer hype. His play against South Carolina cost his team a win. North Carolina 50-17

 

Steven Lassan:

Marquise Williams and the rest of North Carolina’s offense gets back on track after a sluggish performance against South Carolina

North Carolina 50-13

 

Mitch Light:

Mistakes in the red zone cost UNC last Thursday night against South Carolina. Marquise Williams can’t make those mistakes if this team is going to be a factor in the ACC Coastal Division. 

North Carolina 48-3

 

12. North Carolina Central at Duke

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

Duke won’t get to a bowl by playing Ohio State in the non-conference.

Duke 38–10

 

Braden Gall:

Duke is always going to be sneaky good and the non-conference schedule should afford a bunch of easy wins. Duke 42-10

 

Steven Lassan:

The Blue Devils were quietly impressive in their Week 1 blowout win over Tulane. The momentum keeps rolling here against North Carolina Central.

Duke 48-10

 

Mitch Light:

Duke topped 200 yards rushing and 300 yards passing in its win at Tulane last weekend. Expect more of the same.

Duke 48-10

 

13. Howard at Boston College

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

With Maine and Howard, Boston College has two de facto exhibition games before Florida State next week.

Boston College 38–7

 

Braden Gall:

Where is Howard again? Boston College 41-7

 

Steven Lassan:

Boston College shouldn’t have much trouble here after Howard was soundly defeated by Appalachian State last week. Another opportunity for the Eagles to get their revamped offensive line and quarterback Darius Wade valuable game reps.

Boston College 41-7

 

Mitch Light:

Boston College plays its second FCS foe of the young season when Howard — the same team that gave up 663 yards to App State — visits Chestnut Hill. 

Boston College 38-0

Teaser:
ACC Week 2 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/sec-week-2-predictions-2015
Body:

The SEC flips the calendar to conference matchups a little earlier than other leagues this season, as three league contests dot the schedule for Week 2. LSU-Mississippi State, Kentucky-South Carolina and Georgia-Vanderbilt should be a good indicator of where all six teams stand. But the headliner in the SEC this week is in Knoxville, as Tennessee hosts Oklahoma. Can the Volunteers continue their momentum under coach Butch Jones with a big non-conference victory?

 

Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Alabama, Florida and Arkansas are heavy favorites this Saturday.

 

Athlon Sports offers its SEC Week 2 predictions from four editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

 

SEC Week 2 Game Power Rankings & Predictions

 

1. Oklahoma at Tennessee

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

 

David Fox:

Tennessee’s looking to make a big-time statement, but the Volunteers might not have the depth in the secondary to pull it off. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield was that impressive in Week 1.

Oklahoma 38–28

 

Braden Gall:

The first ever trip inside Neyland Stadium for Oklahoma will be as good an atmosphere as any game this season. Both teams are ranked, both offenses are loaded with playmakers and both lines of scrimmage have questions. Baker Mayfield will try to exploit a Vols secondary that got torched for 424 yards last week, while the Sooners will try to stop a Vols offense that rolled up 399 yards of offense. It's back and forth and very close. Give me the Vols in a tight one. Tennssee 38-35

 

Steven Lassan:

This matchup has to be one of the most intriguing games of Week 2. The Sooners’ revamped offense got off to a slow start last week, but quarterback Baker Mayfield finished with 388 passing yards and three scores. Mayfield’s performance and the development of Oklahoma’s receivers is critical, especially when you consider Tennessee allowed 433 passing yards against Bowling Green last week. This is also a good barometer test for the Volunteers as they look to continue the momentum behind coach Butch Jones’ rebuilding effort.

Oklahoma 31-27

 

Mitch Light:

Oklahoma took to the air in its first game under new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, a Mike Leach disciple with roots at Texas Tech. The Sooners threw the ball on 54.5 percent of their offensive plays in their 41–3 win over Akron; last year, they attempted a pass on only 40.1 percent of their snaps. With Tennessee’s struggles defending the pass last week against Bowling Green, expect another pass-happy plan of attack from Riley and the OU coaching staff. Oklahoma 33-30

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Preview



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Related: Ranking the Top 15 QB Debuts from Week 1

 

2. LSU at Mississippi State

Kickoff: 9:15 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

 

David Fox:

Dak Prescott dominated in this game a year ago and will need to do so again, given Mississippi State’s personnel losses on offense since last season. LSU’s opener was cut short and canceled. Is that an edge for Mississippi State or LSU? We say Mississippi State.

Mississippi State 24–17

 

Braden Gall:

LSU has won seven straight and 11-of-12 since 1984 in Starkville. Having their game cancelled last week probably hurts Brandon Harris' development but LSU's running game should be way too much for a defense that is totally reworked under new coordinator Many Diaz. Dak Prescott will be great but he can't do it alone. Geaux Tigers. LSU 27-23

 

Steven Lassan:

LSU’s opener was canceled due to weather, so this will be our first look at the Tigers this season. How much has quarterback Brandon Harris progressed since the end of 2014? That’s the big question. Winning in Starkville isn’t easy, especially with Dak Prescott guiding the Bulldogs’ offense. I’ll take LSU’s defense to get one late stop that shifts this game in favor of Les Miles’ team.

LSU 24-20

 

Mitch Light:

Brandon Harris’ only start last season against an SEC opponent was a disaster; he completed 3-of-14 passes for 52 yards in a 41–7 loss at Auburn in early October. The reports in preseason camp were all positive, but Harris — now a sophomore — will have to prove himself to a skeptical fan base that is growing frustrated by the program’s inconsistency at the quarterback position under Les Miles.

LSU 24-20

 

3. Kentucky at South Carolina

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

The South Carolina defense would like to replicate last week’s key stats — three interceptions, four sacks — against Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles. The Wildcats, though, have the balanced attack that could give South Carolina trouble.

South Carolina 31–27

 

Braden Gall:

This is a huge game for both teams in the SEC East pecking order. The Carolina defense showed marked improvement last weekend in a win over North Carolina. Kentucky gave up a lot of points and yards to a quality ULL team last week. Both got good wins and both need this one badly, but I'll take the home team. South Carolina 30-27

 

Steven Lassan:

Intriguing matchup. Neither team played particularly well in the opener, and there’s an injury concern with South Carolina quarterback Connor Mitch. Kentucky’s bowl hopes would get a boost with a win here, but the defense has to play better after struggling in the opener. This one is essentially a toss-up game, so I’ll go with the home team.

South Carolina 31-27

 

Mitch Light:

Both teams won in Week 1, but neither staff had to be overly pleased. South Carolina was sluggish on offense (17 points against UNC), and Kentucky let a 23-point lead in the second half evaporate before scoring late to beat UL-Lafayette.

Kentucky 27-24 

 

4. Georgia at Vanderbilt

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

 

David Fox:

Vanderbilt beat Georgia on the Bulldogs’ last trip to Nashville in 2013. That seems like eons ago. Vandy’s new defense may give Georgia trouble, but the ‘Dores can’t score.

Georgia 31–10

 

Braden Gall:

The Dawgs should win easily but have struggled in Nashville historically. This Dores defense wasn't the problem in the loss to Western Kentucky and should provide a great early barometer for Georgia's new starting quarterback Greyson Lambert. Georgia 37-13

 

Steven Lassan:

Even though Vanderbilt came up short in the opener against WKU, coach Derek Mason’s team showed improvement off last year’s 3-9 mark. While the Commodores are better, it’s going to take a lot to knock off Georgia. The Bulldogs win this one with defense and the ground attack.

Georgia 34-13

 

Mitch Light:

Vanderbilt limited Western Kentucky to 246 yards in Week 1 but lost the game due to its inability to convert in the red zone. Georgia barely broke a sweat in a dominating win over ULM. 

Georgia 27-10

 

5. Toledo at Arkansas

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

The Rockets had a top-20 rush offense and rush defense last season, but they’ll be without star tailback Kareem Hunt, who is suspended for two games. If the Razorbacks continue to be the balanced offense they showed in the opener, this could be a lopsided finish.

Arkansas 38–10

 

Braden Gall:

Brandon Allen was spectacular last weekend but the level of competition was highly questionable. The Rockets are better but only slightly — and certainly won't be able to hang with the Hogs along the line of scrimmage. Arkansas 35-7

 

Steven Lassan:

Arkansas was sharp in its opener, as quarterback Brandon Allen completed 14 of 18 passes for 308 yards in guiding the offense to an average of 9.1 yards per play. Toledo’s opener against Stony Brook was canceled due to weather, and the Rockets won’t have their best offensive weapon in running back Kareem Hunt.

Arkansas 41-17

 

Mitch Light:

Toledo’s Kareem Hunt, the nation’s leading returning rusher (1,631 yards in 2014), will miss this game due to a suspension. That’s a big blow to the Rockets’ upset hopes. 

Arkansas 40-17

 

6. Missouri at Arkansas State

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

Mizzou still has to work out the kinks on offense. Of Missouri’s 10 pass catchers against Southeast Missouri State, eight were freshmen and sophomores.

Missouri 31–13

 

Braden Gall:

The Red Wolves are the team to beat in the Sun Belt, but Maty Mauk will be too much. Missouri 34-17

 

Steven Lassan:

Arkansas State didn’t play well in its opener at USC, but it should be a different story this week. The Red Wolves are at home, and the offense still has plenty of firepower behind quarterback Fredi Knighten. Missouri does have two notable players injured in center Evan Boehm and running back Russell Hansbrough. The Tigers win, but Arkansas State can make it interesting.

Missouri 34-20

 

Mitch Light:

Missouri was impressive in a 34–3 win over SE Missouri State last week, but quarterback Matty Mauk completed only 12-of-22 passes. A low completion percentage has been an issue throughout his career. 

Missouri 31-13

 

7. East Carolina at Florida

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

 

David Fox:

Florida will allow its quarterback competition to continue for another week after Treon Harris, who earned the Game 1 start, and Will Grier were nearly perfect in the opener against New Mexico State. Florida is facing East Carolina for the second time in three games after defeating the Pirates 28–20 in last season’s Birmingham Bowl.

Florida 38–14

 

Braden Gall:

This isn't a vintage ECU team and Florida showed signs of life on offense last week, scoring more than 60 points and posting more than 600 yards of offense - even if it was against New Mexico State. Florida 38-17

 

Steven Lassan:

A rematch of last year’s Birmingham Bowl. The Gators were sharp in their opener against New Mexico State, but it’s tough to read too much into that victory. The quarterback battle is worth monitoring, as Will Grier and Treon Harris are expected to share snaps once again. East Carolina could hang around for a quarter on Saturday night, but this team lost its starting quarterback late in fall practice and won by eight in its opener against Towson.

Florida 41-13

 

Mitch Light:

ECU received a bit of a scare in the opening week before surviving for a 28–20 win over Towson. This should be relatively stress-free for the Gators. 

Florida 44-17

 

8. MTSU at Alabama

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

Nick Saban says he’s going on “feel” for his quarterback. Jake Coker (15-of-21, TD against Wisconsin) and Cooper Bateman (7-of-8) have to feel good after seeing action in the opener. Alabama may have one more game of tryouts before Ole Miss.

Alabama 42–10

 

Braden Gall:

Roll Damn Tide. Alabama 45-7

 

Steven Lassan:

Jake Coker was solid in his debut, but a big test looms next week against Ole Miss. MTSU should be a good opportunity for Coker and this offense to work out some of the kinks. Assuming the score is out of hand as expected, how many quarterbacks will play for the Crimson Tide?

Alabama 45-10

 

Mitch Light:

Middle Tennessee, quarterbacked by the head coach’s son (Brent Stockstill), was one of three teams nationally to score 70 points in Week 1. The guess here is that won’t happen this week in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama 41-14 

 

9. Ball State at Texas A&M

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

 

David Fox:

Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray will both see work again. Will Kevin Sumlin stick with one or the other or go with a two-QB plan?

Texas A&M 49–14

 

Braden Gall:

Look for more pressure from the John Chavis defensive line and big plays from youngsters Christian Kirk and Kyler Murray. Texas A&M 51-20

 

Steven Lassan:

Texas A&M’s defense looked great in the opener against Arizona State. Now the offense has a chance to flex its muscles against a Ball State defense that allowed 36 points to VMI last Thursday.

Texas A&M 50-17

 

Mitch Light:

Texas A&M was one of the more impressive teams in the first week of the season, beating Arizona State by 21 points in Houston. Ball State gave up 547 yards in a win vs. VMI. This will not end well for the Cardinals. 

Texas A&M 48-10

 

10. Fresno State at Ole Miss

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

 

David Fox:

This isn’t a vintage Fresno State squad, but the Bulldogs are still a step up from the UT Martin team Ole Miss beat by 73 points on Saturday afternoon.

Ole Miss 42–7

 

Braden Gall:

This isn't a vintage Bulldogs team, and Ole Miss might be as good as its been in 50 years. Ole Miss 40-10

 

Steven Lassan:

Fresno State has pulled a few upsets against Power 5 opponents in previous years. However, don’t expect it to happen here as the Bulldogs are rebuilding. New Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly was impressive in his debut and should build on that performance in Week 2.

Ole Miss 45-13

 

Mitch Light:

Ole Miss averaged 10.3 yards per play against UT Martin. That is very good. 

Ole Miss 44-10

 

11. Jacksonville State at Auburn

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

Jeremy Johnson should have a much more efficient game after going 11-of-21 with three interceptions against Louisville.

Auburn 56–7

 

Braden Gall:

I doubt Jeremy Johnson looks as bad this weekend. Auburn 49-13

 

Steven Lassan:

Expect the Tigers to use this matchup to get quarterback Jeremy Johnson back on track before next week’s game at LSU. Jacksonville State is a good FCS team, but Auburn simply has too much talent for this one to be close.

Auburn 48-10

 

Mitch Light:

It’s too early to panic, but Auburn’s offense was surprisingly underwhelming in Week 1. The Tigers averaged 5.3 yards per play, and quarterback Jeremy Johnson was intercepted three times. Yes, Louisville was a tough first test, but the expectations are always high for a Gus Malzahn offense. 

Auburn 44-17

Teaser:
SEC Week 2 Predictions 2015
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/byu-football-players-embrace-taysom-hill-after-learning-hell-be-out-season
Body:

BYU will have to go on without senior quarterback Taysom Hill.

 

It didn't look good on the field, but coming to grips with that they feared the most is a heart-wrenching moment. The other seniors on the team felt the loss more than anyone. They knew this was supposed to be Hill's year.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 10:04
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-cover-2-podcast-2015-week-2-preview
Body:

Week 2 isn't a heavy week of action for College Football but the big games that dot the schedule are... HUGE!

 

Hosts Mitch Light and Braden Gall go in-depth, breaking down and predicting the Oregon-Michigan State, Oklahoma-Tennessee and LSU-Mississippi State matchups.

 

The guys also pick every Top 25 game, offer locks of the week against the spread and cover THE LEAST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE WEEK!

 

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonMitch or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcastiTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
College Football Cover 2 Podcast: 2015 Week 2 Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/tennessees-secondary-ready-oklahomas-passing-game
Body:

If contending the SEC requires a team to build depth, upstart Tennessee will soon learn where it stands.

 

The Volunteers were a preseason top 25 team for the first time since 2008, largely on the talent of the first stringers. Josh Dobbs is as solid as any quarterback as any in the SEC in 2015. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara make up one of the better running back duos. Derek Barnett is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and Curt Maggitt isn’t far behind. Two returning starters in the secondary, corner Cam Sutton and safety Brian Randolph, where Athlon second-team All-SEC selections.

 

The cracks in Tennessee’s ability to contend in the SEC East may be found upon closer examination of the depth chart. The Volunteers learned that tough lesson in the opener against Bowling Green.

 

When Oklahoma visits Tennessee for the first game between ranked teams in Knoxville since 2012, the Sooners almost certainly will try to follow the Bowling Green method to beating Tennessee.

 

Tennessee lost two de facto starters during the preseason when nickel Rashaan Gaulden was lost for the season to a foot injury and safety LaDarrell McNeil was sidelined indefinitely with a neck injury.

 

Even with the corner Sutton locking down one side of the field and the veteran Randolph at safety, Bowling Green tested Tennessee downfield in the passing game and hand enough success to the keep the Volunteers nervous for three quarters.

 

Bowling Green converted nine pass plays of 20 yards or more against the Tennessee defense. No team in the country had more such plays in the first week of the season.

 

Oklahoma, with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator culled from the Air Raid, wasn’t far behind in Week 1 with six pass plays of 20 yards or more against Akron.

 

The Tennessee secondary undoubtedly knows Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield, who didn’t play OU’s 34–10 win in Norman last year, will come into Neyland Stadium targeting Tennessee’s onetime backups in the secondary.

 

“I don’t think it will be a concern at all,” Sutton said. “A lot of those things are at the line — having good technique, wedging receivers, things like that. Those are things we can get better at.”

 

That’s the story Tennessee is trying to tell after giving up 433 passing yards and two touchdowns in the opener against Bowling Green. The secondary has nowhere to go but up.

 

Indeed, Tennessee says its pass defense should improve by Week 2, if for no other reason than the young Vols’ DBs got the first game out of the way.

 

Though the two starters with Sutton and Randolph (corner Emmanuel Moseley and safety Malik Foreman) played last season, three defensive backs were seeing their first college action — true freshmen Darrell Miller and Micah Abernathy and junior college transfer Justin Martin.

 

“We had a lot of guys in our secondary where this was their first game,” Sutton said. “Guys are eager to be out there, anxious to be out there. You’ve got to calm them down. After the first few plays, they settled in. Sometimes you bounce back and make plays.”

 

Tennessee also has reason to believe communication will be better when Oklahoma visits — and not just because some of the more green members of the secondary will have the first game of 2015 under their belts.

 

The Volunteers surprised their own players when they announced secondary coach Willie Martinez would be suspended for the game due to a secondary violation of NCAA rules stemming from impermissible contact with a recruit in 2014.

 

Not having Martinez, a DB coach at Tennessee, Auburn, Oklahoma and Georgia since 2001, in the press box removed one key set of eyes for a secondary already down on numbers.

 

“It has an impact from a communication standpoint,” Jones said. “Coach Martinez brings so much from the box. Not having him available, I think, hurt us. I’m not going to stay it didn’t.”

 

And then there’s the possibility Bowling Green was simply that good in the passing game. Quarterback Matt Johnson missed all but one game in 2014 with a hip injury. In his last full season as a starter in 2013, Johnson passed for 3,467 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions for a MAC championship squad.

 

Now healthy, Johnson completed 27-of-49 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee

 

“I’ll be honest with you: Players make plays,” Jones said. “There were a few throws they made and catches where you couldn’t have been more perfect. We had perfect coverage.”

 

Perhaps Bowling Green had a perfect storm situation against the Tennessee defense — a game the Vols won by 29, mind you — but it’s one Oklahoma may have the ability to replicate.

Teaser:
Is Tennessee's Secondary Ready for Oklahoma's Passing Game?
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-2015-regular-and-postseason-predictions
Body:

The defending world champion New England Patriots open defense of their title on Thursday night at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers to kick off the 2015 NFL regular season. While football fans everyone are overjoyed that the attention on the nation's most popular sport will finally shift back to what happens on the field, the ultimate goal for all 32 teams remains the same — get to Super Bowl 50.

 

The Patriots are the champs looking to pull of another repeat, while the Seahawks would like to make some history of their own by becoming just the third team to play in three straight Super Bowls. The Buffalo Bills were the last to do so back in the early 1990s. Can Seattle be the next? Not likely, according to the panel of Athlon editors who have made their predictions for how the upcoming season and postseason will play out.

 

There does seem to be mutual agreement when it comes to the top and bottom of each division, as all five editors have the same champion for six of the eight and the same cellar dweller for all but one (NFC South). The only disagreement when it comes to first-place teams is in the AFC North and NFC East. After that, opinions vary, but in the end this panel seems to believe that Green Bay will wind up on top of the football world when all is said and done.


In addition to the predicted standings for every conference, Athlon’s editors also make their Wild Card (WC) picks as well as the respective conference championship game (CG) matchups and their best guess as to which teams will face off at Levi's Stadium on Feb. 7, 2016 with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.    
 

AFC

AFC East
 Rob Doster
@AthlonDoster
Braden Gall
@BradenGall
John Gworek
@JohnGworek

Steven Lassan
@AthlonSteven

Mark Ross
@AthlonMarkR
1
2
3
4
AFC North
1
2
3
4
AFC South
1
2
3
4
AFC West
1
2
3
4
AFC Playoffs
WC
WC
CGPatriots over
Colts

Colts over

Ravens

Colts over
Broncos
Patriots over
Colts

Broncos over

Patriots

NFC

NFC East
 Rob Doster
@AthlonDoster
Braden Gall
@BradenGall
John Gworek
@JohnGworek
Steven Lassan
@AthlonSteven
Mark Ross
@AthlonMarkR
1
2
3
4
NFC North
1
2
3
4
NFC South
1
2
3
4
NFC West
1
2
3
4
NFC Playoffs
WC
WC
CGSeahawks over
Saints
Packers over
Seahawks
Packers over
Seahawks
Packers over
Seahawks
Seahawks over
Cowboys

 

Super Bowl 50

 Rob Doster
@AthlonDoster
Braden Gall
@BradenGall
John Gworek
@JohnGworek

Steven Lassan
@AthlonSteven

Mark Ross
@AthlonMarkR

 
       over

    over

    over

        over

       over

 

Teaser:
NFL 2015 Regular and Postseason Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/big-12-week-2-predictions-2015
Body:

The Big 12’s Week 2 slate is relatively light on interesting matchups. However, the Oklahoma-Tennessee contest should compensate for a schedule featuring a couple of blowout wins by teams against FCS opponents. Outside of the Volunteers-Sooners meeting on Rocky Top, Iowa State-Iowa is the other must-see matchup from the Big 12 in Week 2.

 

In addition to the on-field action, all eyes will be on Texas as the Longhorns look to rebound after a dismal performance against Notre Dame. Will new play-caller Jay Norvell make a difference?

 

Athlon Sports offers its Big 12 Week 2 predictions from four editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

 

Big 12 Week 2 Game Power Rankings & Predictions

 

1. Oklahoma at Tennessee

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

 

David Fox:

Tennessee’s looking to make a big-time statement, but the Volunteers might not have the depth in the secondary to pull it off. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield was that impressive in Week 1.

Oklahoma 38–28

 

Braden Gall:

The first ever trip inside Neyland Stadium for Oklahoma will be as good an atmosphere as any game this season. Both teams are ranked, both offenses are loaded with playmakers and both lines of scrimmage have questions. Baker Mayfield will try to exploit a Vols secondary that got torched for 424 yards last week, while the Sooners will try to stop a Vols offense that rolled up 399 yards of offense. It's back and forth and very close. Give me the Vols in a tight one. Tennessee 38-35

 

Steven Lassan:

This matchup has to be one of the most intriguing games of Week 2. The Sooners’ revamped offense got off to a slow start last week, but quarterback Baker Mayfield finished with 388 passing yards and three scores. Mayfield’s performance and the development of Oklahoma’s receivers is critical, especially when you consider Tennessee allowed 433 passing yards against Bowling Green last week. This is also a good barometer test for the Volunteers as they look to continue the momentum behind coach Butch Jones’ rebuilding effort.

Oklahoma 34-31

 

Mitch Light:

Oklahoma took to the air in its first game under new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, a Mike Leach disciple with roots at Texas Tech. The Sooners threw the ball on 54.5 percent of their offensive plays in their 41–3 win over Akron; last year, they attempted a pass on only 40.1 percent of their snaps. With Tennessee’s struggles defending the pass last week against Bowling Green, expect another pass-happy plan of attack from Riley and the OU coaching staff. Oklahoma 33-30

 

Related: Ranking the Top 15 Quarterback Debuts from Week 1

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Preview



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

2. Iowa at Iowa State

Kickoff: 4:45 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

 

David Fox:

The rivalry game actually carries some weight for the respective futures of coaches Kirk Ferentz and Paul Rhoads. Iowa has a big-time defensive difference maker in Drew Ott and the makings of a competent offense. Edge: Hawkeyes.

Iowa 34–21

 

Braden Gall:

One of the more underrated rivalries in the country has gone the way of the Cyclones and Paul Rhoads more times than not recently. Both offenses played well in Week 1 and Jack Trice is also underrated. Iowa's balance on offense gives the CyHawk Trophy to the Hawkeyes. Iowa 30-24

 

Steven Lassan:

A rivalry matchup in Week 2 is certainly welcomed to help spice up a pedestrian slate of games. Iowa State has won three out of the last four games in this series, but I think the Hawkeyes take this one on Saturday.

Iowa 27-20

 

Mitch Light:

Iowa showed nice balance last week, rushing for 210 and throwing for 221 in its 31–14 win over FCS power Illinois State. 

Iowa 24-20

 

3. Rice at Texas

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Longhorn Network

 

David Fox:

Rice is 1–40 against Texas since 1965, yet the Owls are (realistically) thinking upset. Charlie Strong will have to do more than change playcallers if that happens.

Texas 21–14

 

Braden Gall:

If the offense, under the new direction of Jay Norvell, doesn't do something (anything) against Rice, then maybe the issues in Austin are bigger than previously imagined. And no Rice band? Who's fault is that? Texas 35-10 

 

Steven Lassan:

I’m not sure the switch to Jay Norvell as the play-caller over Shawn Watson is going to drastically help the Texas offense. But not having to play Notre Dame this week will help Norvell’s transition to the coordinator role. The Longhorns ease some of the pressure on Charlie Strong.

Texas 30-13

 

Mitch Light:

All eyes will be on the Texas offense, which made the move to Jay Norvell as the offensive coordinator after a dismal showing at Notre Dame. But the Horns’ defense — so stout last year — is also on notice after getting torched for 527 yards in South Bend. 

Texas 28-14

 

Related: Will the Switch to Jay Norvell Make a Difference for Texas' Offense?

 

4. UTEP at Texas Tech

Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

 

David Fox:

Arkansas put up passing yards against UTEP. Who knows what Texas Tech can do? The Red Raiders defense, it seems, needs to force turnovers to keep the team afloat.

Texas Tech 49–38

 

Braden Gall:

Patrick Mahomes II was 425 yards of excellence last week and the offense should be firing on all cylinders once again. But can Kliff Kingsbury do something with that defense? Texas Tech 47-24

 

Steven Lassan:

The good for Texas Tech last week: Patrick Mahomes threw for 425 yards and four scores. The bad: The defense allowed 6.5 yards per play. The Red Raiders should take a step forward on defense this week, while Mahomes delivers another big performance.

Texas Tech 48-27

 

Mitch Light:

Texas Tech gave up 637 yards to Sam Houston State in David Gibbs’ first game as the Red Raiders’ defensive coordinator. That’s the bad news. The good news? As usual, a Gibbs-led defense forced a bunch of turnovers. In this case, it was four — and that ended up being the difference in the game.  

Texas Tech 44-40

 

5. Kansas State at UTSA

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

 

David Fox:

UTSA put up 525 yards and 32 points last week. With or without Scooby Wright for the Wildcats, that’s impressive. Kansas State, down to its backup quarterback, should be worried.

Kansas State 24–20

 

Braden Gall:

The Roadrunners put up some yards last week in a loss to Arizona. Kansas State is on its backup QB already. However, the Wildcats will still win big. Kansas State 34-20

 

Steven Lassan:

Kansas State lost starting quarterback Jesse Ertz (likely out for the year) last week, which means Joe Hubener steps into the No. 1 spot. Despite returning only three overall starters, UTSA played well in a road loss to Arizona last week.

Kansas State 34-13

 

Mitch Light:

UTSA, which lost almost every key contributor from last year’s disappointing four-win team, was surprisingly effective in Week 1 — even in defeat. The Roadrunners outgained Arizona 525-to-392 in a 42–32 loss in Tucson. This might not be as easy as most Wildcat fans would like. 

Kansas State 33-27

 

6. Memphis at Kansas

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

 

David Fox:

Memphis hasn’t defeated a Power 5 team on the road since Ole Miss in 2004. Should it count against this Kansas squad?

Memphis 35–21

 

Braden Gall:

The Tigers are good enough to go into Lawrence and roll. Pride probably keeps that from happening for Kansas, but the Jayhawks still won't win. Memphis. Memphis 31-21

 

Steven Lassan:

Credit Kansas for mounting a comeback against South Dakota State last week, but the schedule is only going to get tougher from here. 0-12 is a real possibility.

Memphis 38-20

 

Mitch Light:

Kansas is a 13.5-point underdog at home to Memphis — not a good sign for the Jayhawks going forward. David Beaty’s team did show signs of life in Week 1, gaining 576 yards in the loss to South Dakota State.

Memphis 34-32

 

7. Liberty at West Virginia

Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Root Sports

 

David Fox:

West Virginia’s shutout of Georgia Southern, led by five takeaways, was mighty impressive. Do Turner Gill and Liberty have any answer?

West Virginia 41–7

 

Braden Gall:

That WVU defense is much better than people think. Shutting out Georgia Southern is no easy feat. Sorry, Liberty. West Virginia 42-3

 

Steven Lassan:

West Virginia looked sharp in its opener against Georgia Southern, and the Mountaineers keep rolling this week against Liberty.

West Virginia 41-10

 

Mitch Light:

West Virginia was quietly impressive in Week 1, pitching a 44–0 shutout over Georgia Southern. GSU was missing standout QB Kevin Ellison — the only returning player who threw for 200-plus yards and rushed for 100-plus yards per game last season — but this was still an outstanding performance by the WVU defense. 

West Virginia 41-10

 

8. Stephen F. Austin at TCU

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

 

David Fox:

TCU should be able to get some of its imperfections cleaned up against SFA.

TCU 52–10

 

Braden Gall:

The Horned Frogs won't be nearly as jittery in this game as they were against Minnesota. TCU big. TCU 51-13

 

Steven Lassan:

Injuries are a concern for TCU coach Gary Patterson, as linebacker Sammy Douglas was ruled out for the year and end James McFarland may miss the rest of the season as well. It won’t matter much this Saturday. Horned Frogs win this one easily.

TCU 52-7

 

Mitch Light:

TCU will be eager to flex its muscles after a relatively lethargic win at Minnesota last week. 

TCU 51-13

 

9. Lamar at Baylor

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FSN

 

David Fox:

Nothing to see here.

Baylor 49–7

 

Braden Gall:

Ouch. Baylor 61-7

 

Steven Lassan:

Another week, another monster offensive performance coming for Baylor.

Baylor 60-10

 

Mitch Light:

Baylor will score lots of points. 

Baylor 58-14

 

10. Central Arkansas at Oklahoma State

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FSN

 

David Fox:

Oklahoma State will go 2–0 against “Central” schools. This one will be easier than the matchup against Central Michigan last week.

Oklahoma State 35–14

 

Braden Gall:

A lackadaisical performance against Central Michigan didn't have Pokes faithful very happy last weekend but that shouldn't be an issue this time around. Oklahoma State 49-13

 

Steven Lassan:

The Cowboys’ offense was a little sluggish in the opener against Central Michigan. The guess here is that changes in a big way against Central Arkansas.

Oklahoma State 52-7

 

Mitch Light:

Central Arkansas lost its opener at Samford, 45–16. This should not be close. 

Oklahoma State 58-10

Teaser:
Big 12 Week 2 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 09:15
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-vs-new-england-patriots-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers kick off the NFL season on Thursday night in a game between two of the most storied franchises in league history. The Steelers have an NFL-best six Lombardi Trophies while the Patriots will be raising their fourth banner before the game.

 

The two have also had one of the better AFC rivalries over the last decade, meeting twice in the AFC Championship Game with New England coming out on top both times back in 2001 and '04. In their last three meetings the teams have gone back and forth, with the Pats getting decisive victories in 2010 and '13, and the Steelers handing the Pats their worst loss of the year in 2011.

 

Both teams feature explosive offenses and defenses that will be looking to re-establish themselves after considerable turnover. 

 

The season opener always delivers and this one should be no exception.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

 

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Patriots -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Antonio Brown vs. New Patriots Cornerbacks

The Steelers have the most explosive wide receiver in the game in Brown and his ability to stretch a defense with his speed is something the Patriots must be wary of. Over the last five seasons no one has given up more 20+ passing plays than the Pats. Even in 2014, with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner at the corners, they gave up the third-most 20+ passes with 62. So there should be big plays there for the Steelers if Ben Roethlisberger has time to throw downfield.

 

Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler is likely to match up on Brown, but exactly how the Patriots use their new corners is unknown. With Matavis Bryant and Le'Veon Bell sitting this one out due to suspension, the Patriots will devote as many resources necessary to take away Brown. It's what they do — force teams to beat them without their best punch, and there's no doubt Brown is the Steelers' best punch. Whether or not New England can execute that plan with its current personnel will be a direct reflection on an offseason do-over at cornerback.

 

2. Gronk Problems

In three career games against the Steelers, Rob Gronkowski has 21 catches for 409 yards and four touchdowns. There's no secret, Gronkowski is the Patriots' most potent weapon and one that the Steelers must come up with a plan for. Their job is a bit easier without outside target Brandon LaFell, but it's the big tight end who can do the most damage. Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier said it's all about getting a jam on Gronkowski, but that's something easier game planned than executed. The Patriots have traditionally attacked the Steelers' defense by spreading them out and throwing all over the place, but the biggest key is Gronkowski, a task not made any easier by the addition of fellow tall tight end Scott Chandler. With an unproven offensive backfield, the Steelers should look to force Tom Brady to handoff as much as possible while putting multiple defenders on Gronkowski.

 

3. Sloppiness

The first game of the NFL season is rarely indicative of how good either team will be at the end of the year. They are sloppy affairs with missed tackles, bad turnovers and generally bad football. With the new league rules to limit the amount of tackling in training camp, it only exacerbates the problems we see in the first few weeks of the season. The Patriots know this as well as anyone as their recent Septembers include losses and closer-than-anticipated wins over teams like the Cardinals, Bills and Chiefs. Special teams will be a huge key and an area where the game could turn on a dime. Whichever team can play the more "clean" game, will likely be the one that wins.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Patriots are always tough to beat at home and with Brady in the lineup after having his suspension vacated the team will be fired up and the environment will be hostile for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has never beaten Brady at home so it's a tough time to pick them to do so now. New England's weakness could be along the interior of the offensive line where we're still unsure who will start, though it will be at least one rookie and very possibly two at the guard spots. Pittsburgh must attack there and force turnovers. The Patriots still have enough weapons to attack the Steelers like they have in the past when Dick LeBeau was the defensive coordinator. Will the Steelers learn from those past game plans and shift their thinking? It could be just enough to gain the edge they need. This one will be ugly at times but the Patriots should have enough to squeak out the win.

 

Prediction: Patriots 20, Steelers 17

 

— 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:
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-quarterback-rankings-week-1
Body:

Welcome back to football! And with the beginning of a new football season comes time to set a fantasy football lineup. While Week 1 is always a question mark because we never know how well players are going to perform, by watching the preseason and reading the reports, AthlonSports.com's fantasy contributors are here to offer positional rankings for those that have lineup questions each week.

 

Those who drafted the top quarterbacks should not be too concerned with Week 1 despite injuries to some of their receivers. For example, Aaron Rodgers is still at the top of this list even though he will be without Jordy Nelson. Tom Brady should be a top-10 quarterback as he's returning to the field with most of his main weapons. Brandon LaFell is on the PUP list, and Brady did lose Shane Vereen, but a healthy Rob Gronkowski will more than make up for those two.

 

Sam Bradford at Atlanta is another interesting play. While he's healthy, Bradford, running a Chip Kelly offense, should put up top-10 fantasy QB numbers. He has young receivers and running backs who can catch the ball. Don't be afraid to start him, as it was health that has been the black mark against his name in the past.

 

Rookie quarterbacks are low on the ranks, at least until they can prove themselves. Battling each other in Week 1, it will be a good test to see how both respond to the pressure in the NFL.

 

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

 

Here are the quarterback rankings for Week 1:

 
2015 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

— 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 2015 Quarterback Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-1
Body:

When it comes to setting fantasy football lineups, most people spend a lot of time trying to figure out which running back and wide receiver will put up the most fantasy points each week. While it is true that most of the fantasy points will come from these positions, choosing a defense/special teams (DST) can be just as tricky.


Related: Fantasy Football 2015 — How Scoring Can Impact the Value of the Defense/Special Teams Position

 

In Week 1, DST rankings are based mostly on speculation. While the previous year's rankings and performance can play a small role, so much changes on a team's defensive front it is hard to truly carry rankings forward.

 

Rather, look at the matchup for the DST. This is the reason Seattle, Carolina and Miami are the top three DST plays for Week 1. Even though all three of these teams have away games, the opponent (St. Louis, Jacksonville and Washington, respectively) is reason enough to trust them for Week 1.

 

The New York Jets are home to a Cleveland team that is trusting Josh McCown, Isaiah Crowell and Andrew Hawkins to lead their offense. It doesn't quite sound like a group that is going to put a lot of points on the board.

 

Rookie quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston face off in Week 1, and both of their respective DSTs are in the top 20, although Tampa Bay's DST is ranked higher than Tennessee's.

 

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

 

Here are the DST rankings for Week 1:

 
2015 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

— 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 2015 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-kicker-rankings-week-1
Body:

Kickers are usually the last pick of a fantasy football draft. No one cares about a kicker. It's an afterthought. Heck, if a player needs to be dropped, most people will drop their kicker without hesitation in order to pick up a position player and then figure out what to do with the kicker spot later. During a bye week, most people have no problem with dropping their kicker and picking up another one. Some people may drop their kicker for a position player and play the week without a kicker!

 

Related: Fantasy Football 2015 — Finding the Perfect Kicker

 

That being said, don't start Week 1 without a kicker. These ranks are based on how dependable each kicker is and also which games should be high scoring. The Dallas/New York Giants game should be high scoring, for example, but Josh Brown isn't as highly ranked as Dan Bailey.

 

The key, truly for Week 1, when picking a kicker is to make sure they are still the kicker for their team. During the preseason, many teams cut their kicker (Caleb Sturgis, Nick Novak are two examples). Other kickers were injured (Shaun Suisham, Garrett Hartley) and are not playing.

 

Choosing a kicker is a gamble, but one surefire way to get zero points is to start a kicker that isn't playing the game.

 

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

 

Here are the Kicker rankings for Week 1:

 
2015 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

— 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 2015 Kicker Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-wide-receiver-rankings-week-1
Body:

It has finally arrived! Football is officially here this week, and with the start of the NFL regular season comes AthlonSports.com’s fantasy football rankings for Week 1. There was plenty of moving and shaking needed leading up to this week with season-ending injuries, trades, and player cuts. Fear not though we have you covered, and will all season long.

 

Besides offering positional rankings, AthlonSports.com will provide plenty of fantasy information and analysis, including waiver wire, start/sit advice, recaps and more. Hopefully, AthlonSports.com should become one of your weekly destinations.

 

These WR rankings are one man’s opinion, but in case you are not of the blind-trusting type the FantasyPros.com's ECR rankings are also listed to perhaps guide you some more or break a tie on a difficult start/sit question.

 

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

 

Good Luck this week everyone. May the best teams win and may no team lose to a kicker. No need to keep you waiting; feast on the rankings below.

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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

,

 

 

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-running-back-rankings-week-1
Body:

Is there any better time of year than Week 1 of the NFL season? You’ve got your dozen or so fantasy teams and now it’s time to sit down and figure out which players are going to give you the best chance to win in week 1.

 

When it comes to running backs for week 1 you’ve got your no brainers…

 

*Adrian Peterson — he’s pissed off and going to prove to everyone why he’s still the best in the league

*Eddie Lacy — he’s playing the Bears, enough said

*Jeremy Hill — the Bengals are going to feature their ground and pound game and against the Raiders, Hill is going to go for over 100 yards and score at least one touchdown

 

The real fun comes in finding that diamond in the rough.

 

Guys like Chris Ivory, who is the unquestioned starter for the Jets and is going to get around 25 carries. Other breakout guys will be Lamar Miller, who finally has the trust of head coach Joe Philbin and will see an increased role in rush attempts and passing targets.

 

Last but not least there’s Jonathan Stewart. Carolina doesn’t have anyone other than Greg Olsen to throw the ball to, so they are going to have to rely on Stewart to move the chains.

 

And with the breakouts come the disappointments like DeMarco Murray (he’s going to split time with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles) and Marshawn Lynch (who is always a stud, except against a Rams defense that has the best D-line in the league).

 

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

 

Here are the RB rankings for week 1:

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Adrian PetersonMINat SF (Mon.)
2Eddie LacyGBat CHI
3Jeremy HillCINat OAK
4C.J. AndersonDENvs. BAL
5Jamaal CharlesKCat HOU
6Lamar MillerMIAat WAS
7Chris IvoryNYJvs. CLE
8Jonathan StewartCARat JAC
9Matt ForteCHIat CHI
10Mark IngramNOat ARI
11Justin ForsettBALat DEN
12Marshawn LynchSEAat STL
13Andre EllingtonARIvs. NO
14DeMarco MurrayPHIat ATL (Mon.)
15Frank GoreINDat BUF
16T.J. YeldonJACvs. CAR
17Ameer AbdullahDETat SD
18DeAngelo WilliamsPITat NE (Thurs.)
19Tevin ColemanATLvs. PHI (Mon.)
20Carlos HydeSFvs. MIN (Mon.)
21Alfred MorrisWASvs. MIA
22Melvin GordonSDvs. DET
23Joseph RandleDALvs. NYG
24Latavius MurrayOAKvs. CIN
25Doug MartinTBvs. TEN
26Rashad JenningsNYGat DAL
27Giovani BernardCINat OAK
28Darren McFaddenDALvs. NYG
29LeSean McCoyBUFvs. IND
30Isaiah CrowellCLEat NYJ
31Benny CunninghamSTLvs. SEA
32Joique BellDETat SD
33Alfred BlueHOUvs. KC
34Shane VereenNYGat DAL
35Josh RobinsonINDvs. BUF
36Dion LewisNEvs. PIT (Thurs.)
37Duke JohnsonCLEat NYJ
38Devonta FreemanATLvs. PHI (Mon.)
39James WhiteNEvs. PIT (Thurs.)
40Bishop SankeyTENat TB
41Khiry RobinsonNOat ARI
42Ryan MathewsPHIat ATL (Mon.)
43Tre MasonSTLvs. SEA
44Charles SimsTBvs. TEN
45Danny WoodheadSDvs. DET
46Darren SprolesPHIat ATL (Mon.)
47Denard RobinsonJACvs. CAR
48Matt JonesWASvs. MIA
49Anthony DixonBUFvs. IND
50Bilal PowellNYJvs. CLE

 

— 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:
Fantasy Football 2015 Running Back Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-tight-end-rankings-week-1
Body:

Tight end is the only position in fantasy football with one sure thing — Rob Gronkowski — and a whole lot of intriguing players that have huge upside but come along with questions.

 

Guys like Greg Olsen — he’s Cam Newton’s only target, so Jacksonville’s D is going to focus on him.

 

What about Jimmy Graham? He’s in a new situation on a run-heavy team and in Week 1 he and Russell Wilson will be trying to figure things out.

 

Then there are the unproven guys who have an excellent opportunity.

 

Ladarius Green finally gets to show what he’s made of with Antonio Gates suspended. Will be produce Gates-like numbers?

 

How about Packers’ tight end Richard Rodgers? He’s got the support of Aaron Rodgers and with the loss of Jordy Nelson could that mean more targets?

 

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

 

Here are the tight end rankings for Week 1:

 

RankPlayerTeamOPP
1 Rob GronkowskiNE vs. PIT (Thurs.)
2 Greg OlsenCARat JAC
3 Martellus BennettCHIvs. GB
4 Jordan CameronMIAat WAS
5 Travis KelceKCat HOU
6 Jimmy GrahamSEAat STL
7 Delaine WalkerTENat TB
8 Jason WittenDALvs. NYG
9 Ladarius GreenSDvs. DET
10 Tyler EifertCINat OAK
11 Kyle RudolphMINat SF (Mon.)
12 Heath MillerPITat NE (Thurs.)
13 Larry DonnellNYGat DAL
14 Jordan ReedWASvs. MIA
15 Richard RodgersGBat CHI
16 Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBvs. TEN
17 Owen DanielsDENvs. BAL
18 Brent CelekPHIat ATL (Mon.)
19 Dwayne AllenINDat BUF
20 Charles ClayBUFvs. IND
21 Vernon DavisSFvs. MIN (Mon.)
22 Eric EbronDETat SD
23 Coby FleenerINDat BUF
24 Zach ErtzPHIat ATL (Mon.)
25 Josh HillNOat ARI
26 Jeff CumberlandNYJvs. CLE
27 Crocket GillmoreBALat DEN
28 Jared CookSTLvs. SEA
29 Jacob TammeATLvs. PHI (Mon.)
30 Ben WatsonNOat ARI

 

— 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:
Fantasy Football 2015 Tight End Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/louisiana-tech-bulldogs-vs-western-kentucky-hilltoppers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

It’s unusual to find a pair of conference heavyweights squaring off so early in the season, but that’s what’s happening in Bowling Green, Ky., Thursday night when Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky stage an inter-divisional C-USA clash that has huge implications — despite its September date.

 

Both teams enter the game with 1-0 marks, although WKU’s 14-12 road win over Vanderbilt, accomplished when the Hilltoppers stuffed a Commodore two-point conversion late in the game is certainly more impressive than Louisiana Tech’s 62-15 thrashing of helplessly overmatched Southern. Both teams were favorites to take their respective divisions, so this could be a preview of December’s Conference USA Championship Game.

 

Despite the teams’ favorable preseason prospects, Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz is trying to play up the Hilltoppers’ advantage. Western Kentucky’s game with Vandy was played Sept. 3, while the Bulldogs’ meeting with Southern came a couple days later, giving WKU more time to prepare. And though many oddsmakers have made the Bulldogs a one-point favorite — and Louisiana Tech walloped the Hilltoppers, 59-10 last year — Holtz is looking to establish his side as the underdog.

 

“We are going against a team that has been picked to win the East,” Holtz said. “Most people pick them to win this game. Most people pick them to win the conference. We realize going there we are an underdog in this situation and we are looking forward to the challenge."

 

Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky

 

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV: Fox Sports 1

Spread: Louisiana Tech -1

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Revenge is Sweet

Of course, it is only delectable if a team can achieve it, and that’s what Western Kentucky wants. The Hilltoppers were manhandled last year by the Bulldogs, who intercepted WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty four times and stifled the nation’s sixth-leading scoring attack.

 

There can be no denying that Western Kentucky wants to treat its fans to a reversal of fortune, but to do that the attack that was so prolific last year must awaken. The Hilltoppers managed just 246 total yards against Vanderbilt, struggled mightily on the ground and punted 10 times. Granted, an SEC defense is not as easy to throttle as is a C-USA outfit, but victory will only be likely if things pick up on that side of the ball.

 

2. QB Battle

Western Kentucky received some big news when Doughty was granted a sixth year of eligibility after a 2014 season that included a nation’s-best 4,830 yards and 49 TD passes. Although he was a modest 19-of-30 for 209 yards and a score against the Commodores, he is expected to be far more productive the rest of the season.

 

Louisiana Tech counters with Florida transfer Jeff Driskell, who played just a quarter-and-a-half against Southern but still managed to throw for 274 yards and four scores on just 12-of-15 passing. Driskell may not have been able to grab the starting spot for the Gators, but he certainly looks comfortable in Ruston and could be one of the nation’s most dynamic transfers this year.

 

3. Defensive Maneuvers

Last year, the Hilltoppers were fifth worst in the country in scoring defense (39.9 ppg), but they appeared much more sturdy in the win over Vanderbilt. Against a Louisiana Tech attack that put up 587 total yards, despite its starters playing less than a half, WKU must match its success or get overrun again.

 

“The defense has been hearing a lot after last year,” Western Kentucky tight end Tyler Higbee said. “They didn't have the best year. But they came out and they played [against Vanderbilt]. They stepped up today. They performed really well. We knew it was going to happen. At the beginning of camp in the spring, we added a few guys to the defense and some young guys getting more experience, and they won this game for us today."

 

Final Analysis

 

The Hilltoppers have plenty to play for after last year’s shellacking at the hands of the Bulldogs, but both teams realize that a loss in this one isn’t crippling, since each has all of its games against divisional rivals remaining. Whoever wins, though, does establish itself as the C-USA big dog.

 

Although Western Kentucky’s defense was improved against Vanderbilt, it will struggle to keep Louisiana Tech under control. It’s unlikely Doughty will toss four picks again, as he did last year, but he will have to have a big day to offset what should be strong showings by Driskell and the rest of the Louisiana Tech offense. In the end, Tech has too much firepower.

 

Prediction: Louisiana Tech 34, Western Kentucky 28

 

— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.

Teaser:
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/athlon-cover-catch-ken-simonton-talks-oregon-state-helping-community
Body:

Ken Simonton was an unlikely trailblazer for Oregon State. At Pittsburg (Calif.) High, Simonton had a dream of playing at USC. Mike Riley, then the Trojans’ offensive coordinator, took an interest in Simonton, but Riley eventually took the head coaching job at Oregon State.

 

Simonton followed Riley to Oregon State, but Riley soon left to be the head coach of the San Diego Chargers.

 

Under new coach Dennis Erickson, Simonton flourished, rushing for 5,044 career yards (still the third-highest total in Pac-12 history) and leading the Beavers to the Fiesta Bowl in 2000, still their only major bowl appearance since 1964. After Simonton followed a line of productive Oregon State running backs from Steven Jackson to Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers, giving the Beavers four of the top 17 rushers in Pac-12 history.

 

Simonton appeared on the Athlon Sports Pac-10 cover in 2000 and since his college career played for stints in the NFL and Canadian Football League. He has since returned to Southern California.

 

What are you up to these days?

Chasing kids. I’ve been really keeping myself busy. These last few years, I’ve been coaching at my alma mater Pittsburg High School and this last season I’ve transition to some youth track. My kids are that age where they’re starting to compete, so coaching some youth track is my big kick right now. My daughter qualified for the Junior Olympics in the long jump and mini (javelin).

 

What did you coach at Pittsburg?

I coached running backs and returners. High school is becoming so much like college, man. For me, unless you’re completely committed to coaching, they’re putting in so many hours, I wouldn’t even think about being a high school coach.

 

Did the running backs you coached know your Oregon State career?

A lot of the guys I’ve had are local guys as well, so, heck, their parents are guys I played against or with. It’s kind of neat. My runners use a lot of my highlights and high school stats as their measuring point. It gives them a good barometer. I had a kid who should be at Oregon State last year, but he had to go to junior college. My career from high school on has given them a good barometer of where to work.

 

You said your daughter (Mayelli) is involved in Junior Olympics. Does she take after dad a little bit?

It’s crazy. She’s not a sprinter yet. She doesn’t know how to use her arms. She’s kind of, “If it comes easy I like it. If I have to work at it, umm…” But I’m really proud of her because she’s learned to love the process. Kids her age ask if she won the race and she says, “No, but my time got better and I finished hard.” I’m really proud of her to be seven years old and kind of humble herself and learn to love the process. But she’s a natural jumper. She’s so consistent. My daughter is within six or seven inches in every meet.

 

Is there anything she does at this age that’s similar to where you were?

More than anything, I see she has great balance. She had a classmate who took years of gymnastics. And after a few days, I think she got tired of everyone clapping for her doing one-handed cartwheels. My daughter taught herself to do one-handed cartwheels. She has tremendous balance and a competitive nature. I can definitely see those two traits.

 

And what do you do for a day job?

For the past six years I’ve been an investigator with the Department of Labor. Our primary focus is looking at how workers are paid — minimum wage, overtime, child labor and record-keeping. That’s the base of what I do. Within that, we look at child labor issues, migrant workers and that their living arrangements are satisfactory. Quite honestly, that they’re living in human conditions. We get a myriad of cases, everything from aerospace to ag to mom and pop business.

 

Was this a field that interested you in college?

Heck no. That’s one of those things I kind of fell into. Our regional administrator served on our school board locally and when I stopped playing he asked about what I was doing and let me know they were doing some hiring. At the time, I really wanted to get into firefighting. That was really something I felt strongly about. Here in California, it’s such a competitive field. In the county where I live, there were maybe 6,000 applicants for maybe eight jobs. I took a few tests, did well but never quite high enough to get a foot in the door. I looked at this as viable option, and now I love it. Looking after low-wage workers and serving my community in this capacity is something where I can hold my head up high.

 

Do you still stay involved with Oregon State?

The new coach, Gary Andersen, I met him and some other alumni in Vegas during the summer. We got a chance to hear his vision and he got a chance to hear from some of us alums. I’ve tried to keep myself available. I’ve reached out to every running back since I left from Steven Jackson to Terron Ward who is fighting to compete in Atlanta right now. I always took it as a personal mission so that those runners knew who I was and knew that I was watching and that I was in support and that they always had an ear if they wanted to call and vent. I know how Corvallis can be at times. I let coach Andersen know that it was always on my heart to be around the program, and he kind of called me on it. He said, I’d love to have you and guys like Steven Jackson come back and watch the team compete and speak with them. He was very instrumental in making that happen.

 

You played early in Mike Riley’s first tenure at Oregon State. What do you remember about him getting started at Oregon State?

He was still at USC (when I first talked to him). We didn’t even have a home phone. He found my grandmother’s phone. Growing up as a runner, what was bigger than Tailback U. I was kind of sold on him from Day One. He believed in me from Day One. When he went up to Oregon State, it was crushing a little bit. When Mike recruited me, what he said was that he wanted to recruit guys who know how to win and came from winning program. His primary focus was turning that program around and getting the right guys in there no matter where they were from and guys who were sold out to winning. I don’t think people understand how competitive that man is.

 

How much did you realize at the time how special the 2000 season was for Oregon State? That’s still Oregon State’s only major bowl appearance since 1964.

Going into that season, I think we knew that was a team that every reason to splinter, to fracture. You had brothers from Florida, California, Texas, kids from the Midwest and Oregon. You talk about a rag-tag bunch… I tell people the biggest cultural change in Corvallis isn’t the people it’s the weather. There were just so many factors that we had to fight through. It was late spring, early summer that team made a decision to come together. We knew it before the coaching staff did. We knew we were good. And more than that, we were willing to fight. Guys realized there was nothing else out here but us. I think that team made a conscious decision that we didn’t have anything to lose. Let’s just go out and punch people in the face. I really wished the College Football Playoff was around then because at the end of the season, there wasn’t a team in the country that would have beat us. I really believe that.

 

When Riley was there and especially as they’ve gone through this coaching change, a lot of people have said this is the toughest job in the Pac-12 or one of the toughest jobs. Do you agree that this is a tough place for a guy to win?

Poppycock! I tell you what: It’s one of the best jobs in the Pac. It might be a tough place to recruit. You’re not going to get some of the can’t-miss five-star kind of kids unless they’ve got a little baggage, unless you take a chance on a Chad Johnson. That’s kind of a rare one. That guy was a legitimate talent, but he was looking for a home. Steven Jackson is a future Hall of Famer but he saw the momentum we were building. You had guys that were actively recruiting. In his early junior year, senior year, they got after this guy and made him feel like he was a stud before the rest of the world showed up. If you’ve got a bunch of lazy recruiters, it’s going to be a hard job. But if you have guys that are actively out recruiting and have a system of what they want to build… Put it this way: When I talk to young guys who are there, you have no distractions. You get a chance to play in the same conference as USC and you don’t have this big bull’s eye on you every time you burp out loud. If you recruit the right people, you’re going to get all the flair and the nuts environment any other Pac-12 university has. But at the end of the day you get to just focus on your business. I think if there’s a coach who is focused on building to that experience, the environment you get up there is second to none. The problem you had was some coaches, man, who at one point got lazy in recruiting. You stop recruiting the players that are there. I think that environment is really second to none. If Coach Andersen continues to recruit and recruits the guys that are there and continues that mindset of maintaining and keeping that environment exciting for the guys that are there, because there’s nothing else to do there. It’s football and the 60 guys in the locker room. You have the opportunity to live in a bubble, go to school and be nuts about building your own USC or UCLA. If you can recruit guys who are of that caliber, who are pissed off because they didn’t get that offers from USC or UCLA, you can’t tell me that if you can win at Boise or Baylor or TCU, that you can’t win at Oregon State.

 

Teaser:
Athlon Cover Catch-Up: Ken Simonton Talks Oregon State, Helping the Community
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfls-best-players-25-and-under
Body:

As the NFL season approaches, many eyes will be on the league's youngest players, and what they can do for their team. Several high profile players are still 25 and under and will be stars for many years to come. Here is a list of some of the best young players in the NFL (Note: Includes players that are 25 and under until Opening Night on September 10):

Andrew Luck (25), QB, Indianapolis Colts

Not only is he the best player 25 and under, but he’s also in discussion for the top spot in the entire NFL. Touted as a historic prospect, Luck has lived up to all the hype, leading the Colts to three straight playoff appearances. At such a young age, Luck has accomplished so much and has many years ahead in the NFL.

 

Luke Kuechly (24), LB, Carolina Panthers

Luke Kuechly simply gets to the ball carrier as good as anybody in the NFL. In two of three NFL seasons, he has led the league in tackles. He’s the best young defender in the game and rising to the top in the NFL, having made two straight Pro Bowls. In just his second year, he won the Defensive Player of the Year Award; the only others to win it within their first two seasons: Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt.
 

Odell Beckham Jr. (22), WR, New York Giants

Best known for the one-handed catch, his incredible rookie season was seemingly overshadowed by that one play. He rewrote dozens of franchise and NFL rookie receiving records, hauling in 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns on 91 receptions. To little surprise, these impressive stats earned him the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. And he only played in 12 games, while playing through hamstring injuries.

 

Patrick Peterson (25), CB, Arizona Cardinals

Patrick Peterson has four years in the league and four Pro Bowl honors. Since he’s come into the league, he’s been among the top cornerbacks and playmakers in the NFL. There’s a reason why the Cardinals made him one of the highest paid defenders in the NFL. Peterson is a premier player, especially considering the emphasis on the passing game in the league.
 

Le’Veon Bell (23), RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

After a solid rookie season, Le’Veon Bell exploded last year, finishing the season with the second most rushing yards. He ran for 200+ yards in three straight games, which tied an NFL record. He took home a whole slew of awards and honors, including a Pro Bowl appearance, All-Pro recognition, AFC Co-Offensive Player of the Year, and the FedEx Ground Player of the Year award. The only knock on him is a two game suspension for a marijuana possession and DUI.

 

T.Y. Hilton (25), WR, Indianapolis Colts

After beginning his career deep in the depth chart, Hilton has gradually progressed with each season and more chances. On 82 receptions, Hilton gained 1,345 yards and 7 touchdowns, making him a true deep threat with such great speed. Now that the Colts have Andre Johnson, Hilton’s stats may naturally decrease some, but he should also get more one-on-one opportunities to do some serious damage to defenses.

 

Tyron Smith (24), LT, Dallas Cowboys

While Tyron Smith is surely the best young lineman in the NFL, there can certainly be an argument that he is the best at his position among anybody in the NFL. There’s a reason why the Cowboys made him the highest paid offensive lineman by paying him $109 million over eight seasons. The Cowboys have built one of the league’s best offensive lines, and Smith is certainly a factor in that.

 

Robert Quinn (25), DE, St. Louis Rams

The St. Louis Rams have several weapons along their defensive lines, and Robert Quinn has established himself as one of the league’s premier pass rushers. For the past three seasons, he has racked up at least 10.5 sacks. The Rams are no team to look past, as they could be a serious contender because of this stout defense. The offense just needs to stay healthy if they want to make a playoff run because the defense can certainly be top notch. 
 

Khalil Mack (24), LB, Oakland Raiders

Khalil Mack’s rookie season was very strong, although the high expectations for him are what make him most exciting. In college play, he holds the all time record for tackles for a loss and forced fumbles. The Oakland Raiders are expecting this type of production from him, as he showed his best production against the rush last year.

 

Marcell Dareus (25), DT, Buffalo Bills

Like so many other young players, Marcell Dareus only continues to get better, and opposing quarterbacks should be frightened. Last year, he raked in 10 sacks at defensive tackle, making him one of the best pass rushers at the position. Much like the Rams, the Bills have built one of the league’s best defensive lines.
 

Lavonte David (25), LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For the entirety of his three-year career, Lavonte David has been around the top of the league in total tackles. His ability to find the ball carrier and shed blockers propels him to star status at linebacker. He’s also shown that he can get to the quarterback and play coverage, making him a threat anywhere on the field, depending on what he’s called upon to do.

 

Muhammad Wilkerson (25), DE, New York Jets

Opposite Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson takes care of the left side of the defense just as well. Without Richardson for a few games, he will have to pick up on some of the lost production. After battling an injury for some of the season, a healthy Wilkerson should be able to contribute even more to an already great defense.
 

Eddie Lacy (25), RB, Green Bay Packers

Even though the Packers have one of the best passing games in the NFL, Eddie Lacy makes them truly balanced on offense. Lacy is one of the premier power backs in the league, as his ability to break tackles is hardly matched. The Packers offense is top notch, much in part to his strong contribution to the team.

Sheldon Richardson (24), DE, New York Jets

After winning Rookie of the Year, he followed that up with a Pro Bowl invitation, highlighted by eight sacks over the course of the season. However, a four-game suspension, as well as charges stemming from another recent off-the-field incident, will put a damper on his total production for the season. The Jets will miss him over the first part of the season, if not longer.


DeAndre Hopkins (23), WR, Houston Texans


After racking up over 1200 yards and catching six touchdowns, Hopkins is poised for an even better year with the departure of Andre Johnson. He will become the premier wide receiver on a team that desperately needs him to help out with the uncertainity at quarterback.


Jeremy Hill (22), RB, Cincinnati Bengals


In just his first year in the league, Hill established himself as a premier back, helping the Bengals to another playoff spot. The running game will once again be an essential part to the Bengals' success, and he will be at the forefront of it. He certainly will get more carries this year, and that should only help the Bengals.

Bobby Wagner (25), MLB, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the NFL for the past few years much in part to the youth of their team. While much of the focus is given to the Seahawks' secondary, Wagner has played a crucial role in their success. He manages over 100 tackles in just 11 games last year, sidelined for some due to an injury. The difference of him on and off the field was remarkable, as they cut their points allowed significantly in the games he wasn't in and the ones he came back for after the injury.
 

Justin Tucker (25), K, Baltimore Ravens

There may be no other time where kickers will be so important than the upcoming season, as the extra point has been moved back. For the Ravens, however, this rule change shouldn’t make a difference because of Justin Tucker’s accuracy from anywhere. The distance never seems to faze Tucker, who has established himself as one of the league’s best kickers.

Other notable players: Mark Ingram, Giovani Bernard, Paul Worrilow

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfls-best-players-35-and-over
Body:

Veteran players are a great commodity in the NFL, and their expertise and experience are extremely valuable to their teams. While teams are built with youth, they often must center around older players. Take a look at some of the best players over 35 in the NFL:

Tom Brady (38), QB, New England Patriots

Even at his age, Tom Brady can still lead his team to a Super Bowl. No current player in the NFL is as much of a winner as he is, with four Super Bowls to his name. Since 2003, the Patriots have made the playoffs in ever year he’s started the full season. Brady has stated his desire to play into his 40s, so he’ll continue to be on this list for years to come.

 

Peyton Manning (39), QB, Denver Broncos

For so many years, Peyton Manning has dominated the NFL. In terms of pure quarterback play, Manning is certainly in consideration for the best ever at the position. While he may not have the postseason success that Brady has, he’s one of the most decorated players. Manning holds dozens of NFL records, and he really hasn’t seen much decline in production.

 

Drew Brees (36), QB, New Orleans Saints

Since joining the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees has developed into one of the league’s most prolific passers. He holds the NFL record for most 5,000+ yard seasons and consecutive games with a touchdown pass, among others. No matter who his receivers are, Brees simply can tear apart defenses.

 

Steve Smith Sr. (36), WR, Baltimore Ravens

There might not be any player in the NFL who comes out to play with more intensity than Steve Smith Sr. After being released by the Panthers following over a decade of dominance, Smith seemed only to gain another reason to play that much harder. He provided Joe Flacco a reliable target and led the team in receiving yards. While the wide receiving corps makes another transition, Smith will still certainly remain the featured leader and playmaker of the group.

 

Antonio Gates (35), TE, San Diego Chargers

After being signed by the Chargers and having not played football since high school, Antonio Gates shattered any expectations. Since he gained the starting tight end role, Gates has been among the league’s best at the position for over a decade. Even last year, he raked in over 800 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, the NFL suspended him for four games for using PEDs.

 

Charles Woodson (38), FS, Oakland Raiders

Over his career, Charles Woodson has not only been a premier safety in the secondary, but he has also contributed to the pass rush. While he has seen a clear decline in his play since leaving the Packers, he still remains a viable threat on defense for the Oakland Raiders. His presence and history alone deem him more than worthy enough for this list.
 

Tony Romo (35), QB, Dallas Cowboys

Having gone undrafted in 2003, Tony Romo flew under the radar until he finally replaced Drew Bledsoe several games into the 2006 season. The Cowboys got immediate results, as Romo helped lead them to the playoffs. Since he’s been a starter, the Cowboys have gone to four playoffs, but Romo’s postseason success has been very limited. Nobody questions his ability, but his clutchness always has been.
 

Adam Vinatieri (42), K, Indianapolis Colts

Adam Vinatieri ranks among the best all time kickers in terms of his accuracy and clutch kicks in key moments. Just last year, Vinatieri led the NFL in field goal percentage, having missed just one kick all season. As the oldest player in the NFL, his 20th season will surely be another successful one in his already storied career.


Julius Peppers (35), LB, Green Bay Packers

Even as he progresses late into his career, Julius Peppers still continues to post impressive numbers, after moving to linebacker this past year. He managed a strong seven sacks, four forced fumbles, three recovered, and two interceptions in his first year at the new position. If he can maintain this production, he will continue to be regarded as one of the top NFL defenders.

Carson Palmer (35), QB, Arizona Cardinals

For so many years, Carson Palmer has been a mainstay at quarterback. He's been among the best at times, but he's only made two playoff appearances in his career. Last year, he began the season extremely impressively and looked poised for another playoff. However, an injury caused him to miss most of the season, and the Cardinals struggled at quarterback without him. If he remains healthy, the Cardinals will be a team to watch throughout the season.

James Harrison (37), LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
James Harrison is clearly not the player that he once was, but he's certainly still a threat on that defense. After announcing his retirement a few years ago, Harrison has returned as a solid player and leader. He hasn't played a full season since 2010, but the Steelers just simply need any contribution that he can give them. He managed 5.5 sacks last season, showing that he still has flashes of his once dominant pass rushing skills.
 

Reggie Wayne (36), WR, New England Patriots

After Reggie Wayne remained a free agent for most of the offseason, he finally signed a one-year deal with New England. While he is surely no longer a number one receiver for a team, he showed last year that he can still be productive. Injuries have plagued him for the past two seasons, but he stated his desire to continue playing. It was only a matter of time before a team signed him, and the Patriots will surely get value out of his veteran experience.

Other notable players: Shane Lechler, Sebastian Janikowski

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Post date: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - 12:30

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