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Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-sit-russell-wilson-and-other-qb-dst-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-13

Welcome to this the latest installment of start/sit fantasy advice for quarterbacks and defense/special teams (DST). Last week was Thanksgiving, so let’s see if there was enough evidence to thankful for my suggestions or not.


Good Calls:


Start Derek Carr (23.7 fantasy points) – Huge bounce-back game on the road against the Jaguars.


Sit Matt Ryan (11.1 FP) – What has happened to Matty Ice?


Bad Call:

Start Sam Bradford (DNP) – He can’t do anybody’s fantasy team any good if he doesn’t play, right?


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






Jay Cutler, CHI (vs. SF)

Believe it or not Cutler is averaging close to 20 fantasy points per game this season and most people aren’t even starting him. It’s true that he’s only scored 23.4 fantasy points combined in his last two games, but you were probably smart enough and didn’t start him because those games were against the Broncos and Packers. This week he gets an excellent matchup as the San Francisco 49ers come to town.  The 49ers did shut down Carson Palmer and the high-powered Arizona Cardinals last week, but that game was in San Francisco, where for some reason the 49ers are able to play excellent defense. On the road, the 49ers’ defense is terrible! On the year the 49ers are giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and this is a game where Cu6tler should easily go over 300 yards passing with at least three touchdowns.


Marcus Mariota, TEN (vs. JAC)

As most rookie quarterbacks do, Mariota has struggled at various stages this season, but also shown glimpses of his future fantasy superstar potential. Still, Mariota has a 2:1 TD-to-INT ratio (16 TDs, 8 INTs). It appears that Mariota has recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him for a couple of games and he is now playing at a high level and getting more comfortable with each passing week. While the Titans as a team are a train wreck, Mariota is their lone bright spot and he will shine even brighter this week as the Titans welcome the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars to town. This is a defense that just got torched by Philip Rivers last week. The Jaguars are giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and Mariota should finish the day with close to 300 passing yards and three TD tosses.


Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (at NYG)

When Brandon Marshall is healthy and plays like an elite WR1, Fitzpatrick also becomes a QB1, albeit a lower-end QB1, but that’s fine. Case in point is last week where thanks to Marshall, Fitzpatrick was able to finish with 29.18 fantasy points courtesy of 277 passing yards and four TDs against the Dolphins. This week the Jets are technically the away team as they play the New York Giants in the stadium that they also call home. The Giants can’t defend the pass and as only one team is allowing more fantasy points to QBs this season. Look for Fitzpatrick to match his numbers from last week and once again hook up with Marshall all over the field.




Derek Carr, OAK (vs. KC)

For Carr and the Raiders, it must feel like an eternity since they last played a home game since they’ve spent the past two weeks on the east coast, losing to the Lions and beating the Jaguars this past week. Carr was terrible against the Lions, scoring only 7.56 fantasy points, but was great against the Jaguars scoring 23.7 fantasy points. Normally, Carr is a must-start at home, but this week the Raiders are hosting one of the hottest teams and defenses in the NFL right now in the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have won six games in a row and have been led by their resurgent defense, which is allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. If Justin Houston, the Chiefs’ best pass rusher, is able to play, Carr will be in for a tough day. Even if Houston is out, Carr isn’t going to produce the 20 fantasy points that we’ve grown accustomed to.




Russell Wilson, SEA (at MIN)

Heading into the season many expert prognosticators had Wilson finishing as a top-5 fantasy quarterback and may had him ranked as high as No. 3. After all, the Seahawks had added tight end Jimmy Graham and Wilson was one of the best running quarterbacks in the league. Well, even though Wilson has finally put up some decent fantasy points the last two weeks, the Graham acquisition has been a bust and he is now out for the season, while Wilson still hasn’t scored a single rushing touchdown. This week Wilson and the Seahawks travel to Minnesota to take on a Vikings defense that is currently allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks on the year. Wilson also has struggled on the road, averaging less than 15 fantasy points per game away from CenturyLink Field. If you have another viable option to use at QB, it would be best to go with him this week.


Philip Rivers, SD (vs. DEN)

Rivers has been one of the best fantasy quarterbacks this season. He’s currently fifth at his position in fantasy points, which isn’t too bad for a guy who was drafted as an afterthought in most fantasy drafts. Rivers is coming off a huge game against the Jacksonville Jaguars where he scored 28.9 fantasy points thanks to 300 yards passing and four touchdowns. This week the Chargers return home, but unfortunately for Rivers, they are hosting the Denver Broncos, whose defense that has given up the fewest fantasy points to QBs this season. It’s true that the Broncos’ defense is a little bit banged up, but the Chargers really have no offensive threats with Keenan Allen on injured reserve and Antonio Gates can barely run. That leaves Stevie Johnson as the only viable receiving option and he will be shut down by Denver cornerback Aqib Talib. Stay away from Rivers this week.


Matt Ryan, ATL (at TB)

What has happened to Ryan this year? While not a truly elite fantasy quarterback, over the last few years he has at least been one of the most consistent. That’s not the case this year as “Matty Ice” sure has struggled, which is strange with the emergence of Devonta Freeman and the presence of  Julio Jones. This week Ryan faces the Buccaneers on the road where he’s been very inconsistent in the past (7 G in Tampa – 9 TDs, 10 INTs). While on paper the Buccaneers’ defense has given up the 14th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, they have been playing extremely well as of late, allowing an average of just 13 FP per game since Week 9.




Drew Brees, NO (vs. CAR)

Brees is as usually an automatic start, especially when the Saints play in the Superdome, but Brees and the entire Saints offense looked terrible last week against the Houston Texans, and that was coming off their bye week. This week the Saints return home to face the only undefeated team in the NFL, the Carolina Panthers. If you’re hoping that Brees bounces back this week, you might want to think again. Thanks to cornerback Josh Norman and the rest of their defense, the Panthers are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Brees is going to struggle in this one and will be hard pressed to score 15 fantasy points. Not good if you have Brees and are fighting to make your league’s playoffs.


Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)




Cincinnati Bengals (at CLE)
In a make-or-break week for many fantasy GMs looking to make the playoffs, you would usually like to start a defense that is

playing at home, but this week the Bengals have the best matchup even though they are on the road. After scoring an outstanding 17 fantasy points last week against the Rams, the Bengals travel to Cleveland this week to play a Browns team that will be starting Austin Davis at quarterback. Look for Cincinnati to once again put up some nice numbers this week.


New England Patriots (vs. PHI)

Over the last two weeks, opposing DSTs have averaged a terrific 13.5 fantasy points a game when facing the Eagles’ struggling offense. That's good news for the Patriots, even after their defense scored a mere four fantasy points in a road loss to the Broncos. New England's D should bounce back and produce in this contest.




St. Louis Rams (vs. ARI)

What has happened to the Rams’ defense? Over the last four weeks, this unit has scored a combined 13 fantasy points. That's not good. What's more, St. Louis has a brutal matchup against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. Opposing DSTs have combined to score the third-fewest fantasy points against Arizona this season.


New York Jets (at NYG)

Last week without Darrelle Revis, the Jets DST scored a respectable eight fantasy points in a win over the Dolphins, but this unit has put up a combined 15 points in its last three games overall. Couple that with a matchup against the Giants, who have not been kind to opposing fantasy DSTs, and the Jets become a serious risk for owners for Week 13. This is the case even with Revis is able to play and go head-to-head with Odell Beckham Jr.


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

Why You Should Sit Russell Wilson and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 13
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-usc-vs-stanford-2015

Prior to Stanford's Sept. 19 game against USC, head coach David Shaw asked all Cardinal players with two conference championships to stand in the locker room before kickoff.


Shaw's pregame, motivational tactic was meant to rally Stanford, a sizable underdog against what was then a top 10-­ranked USC team. The Cardinal responded resoundingly, as their 41-31 victory not only snapped a two-game losing skid to the Trojans it also set the foundation for a third Pac-12 North title in four years.


Saturday when Stanford and USC meet at Levi's Stadium in the Pac­-12 Championship Game, it will be USC seeking pregame motivation as the underdog. Those league titles Shaw invoked at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum a few months ago give Stanford an inherent edge this weekend. The Cardinal are tested in championship contests.


For USC and newly minted head coach Clay Helton, this is unfettered territory. The Trojans have never played in the Pac-12 Championship Game. When the program last won a league title (2008), most of the players on the current roster were in elementary or middle school.


An outside, albeit realistic shot at the College Football Playoff is on the line for Stanford. USC is playing with the proverbial house money.


College Football Podcast: Championship Week Preview

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USC vs. Stanford (Santa Clara, Calif.)


Kickoff: 7:45 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Stanford -4.5 


Three Things to Watch


1. A Much Different USC

Various factors contribute to a team's evolution over the course of a football season: injuries, players maturing into new roles, chemistry. USC's evolution came under particularly unusual circumstances, as Clay Helton replaced Steve Sarkisian amid a 3­-2 start.


Shaw said playing the same opponent twice in a season is a challenge in and of itself.


"When you play [a team twice] in the same year, you guard against thinking what worked last time will work this time," Shaw said. "It's a bit of a chess match."


Add to that a coaching change and stark change in philosophy, as USC underwent in the move from Sarkisian to Helton, and the chess match is all the more intense. Stanford can expect a much different strategy compared to September, when quarterback Cody Kessler passed more times (32) than the Trojans ran (28).


"They're running the ball more. They've got the backs to do it. They've got a big, physical, offensive line," Shaw said.


Indeed, under Helton's watch, USC has embraced a run-first offensive approach, relying on a talented platoon of backs to carry the ball an average of 42.7 times per game in the seven since the coaching change. Junior Justin Davis and freshman Ronald Jones II have broken out in that time.


2. A Foot Race to the Finish

The implementation of a more run-based offensive approach at USC mirrors the Stanford philosophy in many ways. Shaw called it, "football that I appreciate and have a lot of respect for."


Stanford's style this season has fostered the rise of running back Christian McCaffrey, a Heisman Trophy contender and the 2015 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. McCaffrey's meteoric ascent to the upper echelon of college football unofficially began against USC, when he rushed 26 times for 115 yards. He also caught three passes for 37 yards, primarily on short passes that functioned like runs.


With one more opportunity to make a splash among Heisman voters, look for McCaffrey to come out with added motivation against a USC defense that's been up-and-down in its rush defense. The Trojans limited Utah to just 99 yards in one of Helton's two signature wins on the season.


In USC's other marquee victory, last week over UCLA to sew up the Pac-12 South, the Bruins finished with just 140 yards on the ground. However, running backs Paul Perkins and Nate Starks were ripping off 8.8 and 5.6 yards per carry respectively. UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone abandoned the run and called for more pass plays.


Stanford won't give up the run easily. Against both Utah and UCLA, the Trojans forced both teams' hands by generating turnovers, a strategy USC must replicate Saturday to keep the ball away from McCaffrey as much as possible.


3. Scaling the Tall Trees

Among Stanford's favorite offensive weapons throughout Shaw's tenure is a receiving corps loaded with tall targets - wide receivers and tight ends who range from 6-foot-4, to as tall as 6-foot-8, as in former tight end Levine Toilolo.


This season, the Cardinal have Devon Cajuste and Austin Hooper continuing that tradition. Cajuste and Hooper, both 6-foot-4, combined for six receptions and two touchdowns in Stanford's win over USC in September.


Stanford's collective size does pose matchup problems, but Helton has confidence after USC's strong showing against UCLA.  


"We kind of faced that last week. You see it in [Jordan] Payton, who we feel is a big man, and we've got Iman Marshall," Helton said. Marshall is USC's 6-foot-2, freshman cornerback.


Appropriately nicknamed "Biggie," Marshall is a sizable defensive back in the vein of Richard Sherman, coincidentally a Stanford product. Marshall played the best game of his collegiate career against UCLA, holding Payton to 60 yards, but more importantly, keeping him out of the end zone.


Marshall also read a Josh Rosen pass for a key interception. He'll need to duplicate that effort against Cajuste Saturday. That leaves Hooper as the other big, primary target USC must contend with.


Once again, the Trojans can look to the UCLA win for inspiration defending Stanford.


"I'll tell you who did a great job last week was Su'a Cravens," Helton said. "He went against an incredible tight end in [Thomas] Duarte and really followed him around all day and limited him to two catches."


"I'm looking forward to that matchup," Cravens said. "He's a first-round [NFL draft] tight end, so I don't shy away from competition."


Final Analysis


USC-Stanford matchups have routinely been among the most exciting of any Pac-12 season, dating back as far as the Cardinal's colossal upset in 2007. The Pac-12 could not have asked for a more appropriate championship game matchup, even if each team's road to Levi's Stadium was unusual.


Stanford overcame a Week 1 loss to play some of the conference's most dominant football for the duration of the campaign. USC endured turmoil, but came out of it stronger as a result. These are two much different squads than the two that faced in September.


Nevertheless, the outcome is likely to be the same. Stanford's veteran savvy is a decided advantage, as is the Cardinal's longtime marriage to the brand of football USC is now transitioning to under Helton. Joshua Garnett, Kyle Murphy and rest of Stanford's stout offensive line should dictate tone early to help the Cardinal win their third Pac-12 championship since 2012.


Prediction: Stanford 34, USC 24


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

Pac-12 Championship Game Preview and Prediction: USC vs. Stanford
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 11:35
Path: /college-football/aac-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-temple-vs-houston-2015

For the first time in its brief history, the American Athletic Conference (AAC) will hold its first conference championship game, and Houston will get to serve as host. The champions of the AAC's West Division, under the first-year guidance of head coach Tom Herman, earned the right to host the championship game following an 11-1 season that included victories over Louisville, Memphis and Navy.


Their opponent will be a Temple program looking to reach the next step after winning its first division championship following a 10-2 season. It's going to be Houston's offense against Temple's defense with the conference's championship and a spot in the New Year's Six on the line.


College Football Podcast: Championship Week Preview

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Houston at Temple


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Houston -7


Three Things to Watch


1. Two coaches on the rise looking to stay put?

There is no question the American Athletic Conference is ripe with good coaches, many of which are on the rise. Memphis has already lost Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech, but it looks as though both Houston and Temple may survive this cycle of the coaching carousel and keep their head guys in place for at least one more season. Houston's first-year head coach, Tom Herman, has had quite a successful debut season in charge of his own program and Houston is looking to make him happy with a nice new contract as a result. Temple also is looking for ways to keep Matt Rhule more interested in sticking around Philadelphia instead of following in the footsteps of Al Golden and Steve Addazio and pursue Power 5 conference opportunities.


2. Greg Ward Jr. vs. Tyler Matakevich

Two of the best players in the conference will be on the field at the same time with Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. leading the Cougars' offense and linebacker Tyler Matakevich manning the Owls' defense. Mobile quarterbacks have been a problem at times for Temple this season. Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer broke some big runs against the Owls earlier this season, but Matakevich and the Owls can find ways to limit the impact of a dual-threat quarterback. Look to see which of these two can gain the advantage if Ward takes off with his feet.


3. Can Temple's offense keep pace with Houston?

While Temple may have the better defense when the Owls take the field, Houston's offense still looks to have the upper hand while playing at home. Temple's offense will be put to the test of trying to answer Houston's scoring opportunities and find a way to keep pace with the home team when needed. Having Jahad Thomas pound the ball on the ground will be Temple's best bet to control the tempo of the game, as well as keeping Houston's quick-strike offense off the field.


Final Analysis


This certainly is not the Temple of old, but these Owls may still be a bit shy of having what it takes to claim the conference crown on the road. Temple showed some cracks on defense coming down the stretch against SMU and South Florida (the Bulls handed Temple its only loss in conference play this season), and Houston has all of the weapons needed to open those cracks, and could do so quickly. Look for Houston to try and get off to a quick start and put Temple down a couple of scores as soon as possible. Temple will tighten up on defense, but the damage may already be done by the time the Owls do.


Prediction: Houston 26, Temple 20


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

AAC Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Temple vs. Houston
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/big-ten-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-michigan-state-vs-iowa-2015

Nobody called this. Back in August, most experts, writers and fans had Ohio State playing either Minnesota, Wisconsin or Nebraska for the Big Ten title. Michigan State would provide Ohio State with a formidable opponent and a quality win, but nothing more. Iowa? Please. Kirk Ferentz was coaching for his job again and Hawkeye Nation was strapping in for another mediocre campaign.


That, as they say, is why they play the games.


On Saturday, the two most consistent teams in the Big Ten Conference all season will meet at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship trophy and a berth in the College Football Playoff. Both teams got to this point by playing tough defense, running the ball well and remaining largely mistake free. It's an age-old recipe for success — especially in the Big Ten — and both programs executed it at a championship level.


College Football Podcast: Championship Week Preview

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Iowa vs. Michigan State (Indianapolis)


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Michigan State -4


Three Things to Watch


1. Aaron Burbridge vs. Desmond King

The Big Ten's top receiver will be matched up with the conference's top corner for much of the night. Iowa will be banking on Spartans QB Connor Cook looking elsewhere for a big play. Don't bet on Cook not challenging King early. If Michigan State can establish Burbridge as a threat early on, it will open up the rest of the offense against an Iowa defense that is much better at stopping the run than the pass. If King shows any signs of needing help early, you will see Iowa's front seven loosen up and give the Spartans room to pound the ball in the run game.


2. Can Iowa establish the run?

The Hawkeyes average 203 yards rushing a game. They control the tempo with a massive offensive line and a stable of backs who run downhill. On the flip side, Michigan State is giving up fewer than 120 yards per game on the ground. If Iowa gets its running game rolling, it'll open up the play action for QB C.J. Beathard against a Spartan secondary that has been suspect at times. Beathard also can do damage with his legs. Either way, the Hawkeyes are comfortable with the ball in Beathard's hands. He hasn't turned it over since Oct. 17, a span of five games.


3. Who will make a play on special teams?

Each team won at least five games by one score or less. Iowa needed a 57-yard field goal as time expired to beat Pitt. Michigan State needed to return a botched punt to the end zone to beat Michigan. Neither team is playing for a Big Ten or national title without both luck and solid execution on special teams. The way these teams play, a blowout win is not likely in the cards for either. It is very possible that the final margin of victory is a result of a huge special teams play -- whether it be a long field goal, kick return for a score or a blocked kick.


Final Analysis


It's no accident that Iowa leads the Big Ten in interceptions and is tied for third in the nation in points scored off of them. There is nothing flashy about the Hawkeyes, but they are always in position to make a play when they need to be. That's coaching, and Kirk Ferentz and Mark Dantonio are two of the best in the nation. Iowa's ability to limit the big play, make some of its own on defense and control the tempo with the run game is going to be the difference in this one just like it has been all season. Iowa's underrated defensive line will stifle the Spartans' running game and allow the Hawkeyes to drop into coverage in large numbers to shut down Michigan State's aerial attack. The Hawkeyes will come into this game with a chip on their shoulder and play like it throughout en route to a gritty win that silences the doubters nationally.


Prediction: Iowa 23, Michigan State 17


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Big Ten Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Michigan State vs. Iowa
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/brett-favre-joins-jimmy-fallon-tonight-show-throwdown-green-bay-packers

Brett Favre is retired but that doesn't mean he's lost his touch.


The former Packers quarterback went on Jimmy Fallon's show to take part in a little "Tonight Show Throwdown." The results were that the old man hasn't lost his touch.


Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 10:34
Path: /college-football/conference-usa-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-southern-miss-vs-western-kentucky-2015

If anybody asks for some betting advice about Saturday’s Conference USA title tilt, give him a quick response: Bet the over. Both Western Kentucky and Southern Miss pile on the points, and there is little doubt that although their defenses have some strong entries on their resumes, there will be some spinning scoreboards in Bowling Green, Ky.


Western Kentucky is just the seventh team in 20 years to make it through C-USA play unscathed, and offense is clearly the Hilltoppers' strength, as evidenced by the team’s 44.2 points per game (fourth nationally) and 519.8 yards per game (10th) this season. Southern Miss ranks eighth in the country in yards (534.8) and ninth in points (41.7) per game, and has been particularly potent the last three weeks, putting up 65, 56 and 58 to finish the season on a six-game winning streak.


College Football Podcast: Championship Week Preview

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Southern Miss at Western Kentucky


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Western Kentucky -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Big Numbers
Both teams boast some of the nation’s most potent skill position players. Western Kentucky QB Brandon Doughty is one of the country’s premiere passers, thanks to his FBS-leading 42 TDs and 4,184 yards, which rank fifth nationally. Last week, in the 49-28 win over Marshall, Doughty threw for 370 yards and five scores. His top wideouts, Taywan Taylor (71 catches, 16.9 yards per reception, 15 TDs) and Jared Dangerfield (67, 10.3, 7) are potent, and Anthony Wales has run for 933 yards and seven scores, while averaging a huge 7.2 yards/carry. Hilltoppers head coach Jeff Brohm is quite familiar with Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens, whom he recruited to UAB when was the Blazers’ offensive coordinator. Mullens has thrown for 3,964 yards and 35 TDs with just nine interceptions. The Golden Eagles’ passing attack is robust, but the ground game may be even better, thanks to Jalen Richard (1,065 yards, 13 TDs) and Ito Smith (983, 7).


2. For the Defense
The expected offensive explosion shouldn’t diminish the accomplishments of the two defenses, even though it’s likely they will be under tremendous duress all afternoon. Southern Miss is particularly strong at getting into enemy backfields and has posted 84 tackles for a loss and 31 sacks this season. It should be interesting to see how that plays against a Western Kentucky team that has allowed just 14 sacks all year and whose backs (other than Doughty) have lost only 93 yards all year. Western Kentucky has registered 74 tackles for a loss this year and has intercepted opposing passers 14 times while holding them to a completion rate of 54.9 percent. In the win over Marshall, the Hilltoppers limited the Thundering Herd to just 31 rushing yards and picked off Chase Litton twice.


3. Bowl Mania

Since the C-USA champion isn’t tied into any specific postseason destination, it will be interesting to see what happens after Saturday’s game. Many think that Western Kentucky would prefer to play in the Miami Beach Bowl, against the American Athletic Conference (AAC) runner-up. That’s a pretty nice destination for the Hilltoppers and a good matchup. Southern Miss could well end up in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which would provide a reasonable traveling assignment for fans and the opportunity to match up with a team from the Pac-12.


Final Analysis


The Hilltoppers weren’t perfect in their win over Marshall – Brohm was angry at Western Kentucky's special teams play – but they looked pretty good, as they have in winning eight of their last nine games. The offense is humming, as usual, and the opportunity to play at home is a big deal for a team that played at L.T. Smith Stadium only twice in its final six games. Expect a big performance from Western Kentucky.


It’s easy to focus on just the Hilltoppers, thanks to their undefeated C-USA record, but Southern Miss' 7-1 league mark isn’t too shabby, and Todd Monken's team has been particularly explosive of late. The key to this one will be whether the Golden Eagles can get any pressure on Doughty. If not, it’s going to be a big day for Western Kentucky.


Prediction: Western Kentucky 41, Southern Miss 37


— 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.

Conference USA Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Southern Miss vs. Western Kentucky
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/sec-championship-preview-and-prediction-florida-gators-vs-alabama-crimson-tide-15

Alabama and Florida meet for the eighth time in the SEC Championship Game history on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. The Gators own a 4-3 edge over the Crimson Tide in SEC Championship appearances but enter Saturday’s game as a heavy underdog. According to the good folks in Vegas, Alabama is favored by at least two touchdowns (17.5 spread). That’s the largest spread among the eight conference championships in Week 14.


The stakes are high for the Crimson Tide, as coach Nick Saban’s team is one win away from locking up a spot in the College Football Playoff and their third SEC Championship in four seasons. Alabama ranked No. 2 in the latest rankings and an impressive win over the Gators could be enough for the committee to consider Saban’s team for the No. 1 overall seed. Since losing to Ole Miss on Sept. 19, the Crimson Tide have won nine in a row. And even more impressively, the margin of victory in eight out of those nine contests was at least 13 points. 


Florida’s first season under new coach Jim McElwain has been a success. The Gators finished the regular season at 10-2, with losses to rival Florida State and a seven-point defeat at LSU in mid-October. McElwain still has a lot of work to do, but the program is back on track after finishing 11-13 under Will Muschamp from 2013-14.


Alabama owns a 24-14 series edge over Florida. The Crimson Tide have a four-game winning streak over the Gators, including a 42-21 victory last season in Tuscaloosa. This is Florida’s first appearance in the SEC Championship since the 2009 season.


Florida vs. Alabama (Atlanta, Ga.)


Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -17.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Florida’s Offensive Line

On paper, the matchup between Florida’s offensive line and Alabama’s defensive front is the biggest mismatch in this game. The Gators have struggled to find consistency in the trenches all year and surrendered 37 sacks in 12 games – the most in the SEC. This unit also had trouble generating a push for the ground attack, as Florida rushers averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per carry. Alabama’s defensive line is deep, aggressive and the best in the nation. This unit has limited opponents to 2.5 yards per carry and just 78.9 rushing yards per game. Additionally, the Crimson Tide wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage against quarterbacks, which disrupt the timing and big-play ability of passing games. Nick Saban’s defense ranks third nationally with 41 sacks and also has 86 tackles for a loss. With a struggling offensive line, Florida will have to get creative on offense and utilize quarterback Treon Harris’ legs to avoid the Alabama pass rush. Will the Gators hold up in the trenches long enough for Harris to stretch the field or for running back Kelvin Taylor to generate yards on early downs? Or will the Crimson Tide’s defense – led by lineman A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, along with linebacker Reggie Ragland – simply overwhelm and dominate this group? 


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 14


2. Alabama RB Derrick Henry

Alabama running back Derrick Henry has emerged as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy after a strong second-half performance this season. The junior is a physical specimen at 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds, possessing breakaway speed and the physical presence to run over or stiff arm defenders. The junior has rushed for 200 or more yards in four out of the last six games, including 271 yards in last week’s win over Auburn. Henry is also approaching 300 carries this year and posted a hefty total (46) against the Tigers last Saturday. Not only can Henry handle 30-35 carries a game, he’s tied with LSU’s Leonard Fournette with 15 rushing plays of 20 yards or more. Needless to say, Henry presents a tough challenge for Florida’s defense. The Gators rank second in the SEC by holding opponents to 111.3 rushing yards per game and have limited teams to just nine scores on the ground. However, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 183 against this defense last week. One problem for coordinator Geoff Collins in recent weeks has been injuries. Standout Jonathan Bullard has been banged up, and end Alex McCalister is not expected to play after sitting out the last two games due to injury. Will the Gators find a way to do what opposing defenses have yet to do this season – stop or find a way to slow down Henry? Additionally, this group needs to generate pressure on quarterback Jake Coker. Getting Alabama into third-and-long situations is a must for Florida’s defense.


3. Florida QB Treon Harris

Harris is the x-factor in this game. Since taking over the No. 1 spot on the depth chart following Will Grier’s suspension, Harris has experienced his share of ups and downs. The sophomore threw for 271 yards against LSU but completed only 8 of 17 passes for 122 yards against FAU. He also struggled in last week’s loss to Florida State, averaging 7.1 yards per completion. Harris doesn’t shoulder all of the blame for Florida’s offensive woes, as the offensive line, receiving corps and running backs could all provide more support. But for the Gators to surprise on Saturday, Harris will have to play one of the best games of his career. Limiting mistakes is his biggest priority, but the sophomore also has to create plays with his legs, connect on a few deep balls to receivers Antonio Callaway and Demarcus Robinson and avoid putting the offense into long-yardage situations. How will Harris perform against arguably the best defense in the nation? If Florida wants to pull off the upset, this sophomore has to deliver his best performance of the year.


Final Analysis


Alabama is 60 minutes away from a spot in the College Football Playoff and another SEC title under Nick Saban. It’s hard to envision the Crimson Tide stumbling here, especially against a Florida team that’s overmatched on paper. The Gators have the defense to hang around in the first half, but the offense just doesn’t have enough firepower to keep up with Alabama’s offense. Henry may not reach 200 yards against Florida’s solid front seven. However, the Crimson Tide won’t need another monster performance from their Heisman contender. Quarterback Jake Coker is efficient, Henry tops the century mark and the defense stuffs the Gators’ offense to comfortably seal the victory. The only question here should be margin of victory. Three out of the last five SEC Championship games had a winning margin of 29 points or more. Can Florida find a way to keep it close? The guess here is no. Alabama wins and builds momentum for the playoff.


Prediction: Alabama 34, Florida 10
SEC Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide 2015
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/acc-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-north-carolina-vs-clemson-2015

Is this a de-facto College Football Playoff quarterfinal matchup? Larry Fedora would like to think so.


In a Sunday press conference, the Tar Heels head coach said that he believes that No. 10 North Carolina should be one of the four teams selected for the Playoff should they beat undefeated, top-ranked Clemson. While that will be determined Sunday afternoon, it does provide an extra layer of intrigue as Saturday’s ACC Championship Game approaches.


Related: Stanford Still Hoping for Playoff, is North Carolina Hopeless?


The Tigers come in riding a 15-game winning streak that dates back to Nov. 15, 2014 when they lost to Georgia Tech. Clemson has rolled through most of its 2015 opponents, but archrival South Carolina gave the Tigers more of a game than anyone expected this past weekend.


South Carolina has played a large role in North Carolina’s season too. The Heels opened up their campaign by losing to the eventual 3-9 Gamecocks. Since that defeat, UNC has rattled off 11 consecutive victories and has gotten better as the season has progressed.


The last meeting between the two schools was Sept. 24, 2014 and Clemson came away with a 50-35 victory.


College Football Podcast: Championship Week Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


North Carolina vs. Clemson (Charlotte, N.C.)


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Clemson -6


Three Things to Watch


1. Clemson Turnovers

Clemson has been a pretty complete team this season and it is why the Tigers are currently No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings. However, they have had a turnover problem. They are minus-three (-3) in turnover margin and much of that is because they have given the ball away 24 times on the year. In recent weeks, the issue has gotten worse, as Clemson has 10 giveaways in the past three games. On the other side, North Carolina is plus-nine (+9) in turnover margin largely because the Tar Heels have 24 takeaways. Clemson survived its mistakes against Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina, but giving the North Carolina offense extra chances is something that should be avoided.


2. Defending the Quarterback Run

The two signal-callers have different physical builds, but they are similar in so many ways. They both can throw and they both can run. Completely stopping either player from passing will be a challenge, though the Heels and the Tigers both have pass defenses ranked in the top 20 in the country. But while each team focuses on containing the opposing aerial attack, the potential for big plays on the ground also exists for both quarterbacks. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson has rushed for 756 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. This past Saturday, the sophomore from Gainesville, Ga., ran for 114 yards and three scores. UNC’s Marquise Williams has put up similar numbers, rushing for 786 yards and 10 touchdowns. Both players also have 1,000-yard backs that they can hand off to and they are most dangerous when throwing to a number of different receivers. But if things break down, or the situation dictates, Watson and Williams can burn opponents on their own.


3. Limiting Big Plays

The Tar Heels and the Tigers both like to move fast and both can pick up big chunks of yards in a single play. North Carolina ranks fifth in the nation with 83 plays from scrimmage of 20-plus yards. Clemson is No. 15 in that category with 75. Many of North Carolina’s big chunk plays have come in the running game and Clemson has allowed eight running plays of 40 yards or longer, which ranks 109th in the country. The North Carolina defense is pretty consistent in limiting big plays, but Clemson has the capability of being able to strike at anytime against anyone.


Final Analysis


When the initial College Football Playoff rankings came out Nov. 3, Clemson was perched atop the list and, despite having a 7-1 record, North Carolina was nowhere to be found. Most expected this ACC Championship Game matchup to come to fruition, but at that time no one would have given the Tar Heels much of a chance. Things are a bit different now. North Carolina’s offense has scored more than 45 points in three of the last four games and there are some wondering if Clemson peaked around the end of October. Whether or not this is a Playoff play-in game for North Carolina can be debated, but that is exactly what it is for the Tigers. While the Gene Chizik-led Tar Heel defense has improved greatly from 2014, it is still a unit that gave up 34 points to NC State, 31 to Duke, and 27 to a Virginia Tech offense that struggled most of the year. Clemson has known for weeks that the biggest obstacle in its path to the Playoff is this game. The Tigers will be efficient on offense, taking care of the ball and converting their opportunities. It will be a war and Carolina will score points. The Tigers will just score more.


Prediction: Clemson 41, North Carolina 34


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

ACC Championship Game Preview and Prediction: North Carolina vs. Clemson
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-vs-detroit-lions-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Detroit Lions (4-7) come into Thursday’s matchup with the Green Bay Packers (7-4) playing their best stretch of football all season long after winning each of the last three contests. On Thanksgiving, the Lions carved up the Eagles' defense as if it were the turkey dinner, rolling up 445 yards en route to a 45-14 thrashing.


Green Bay, meanwhile, has lost four out of its last five games and has looked completely inept at times on offense during that span. How does that happen with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers you ask? Struggling wide receivers, an injured offensive line and inconsistent play at running back have contributed to the poor play of late, and the Packers can ill-afford to fall another game behind in the standings to a surging Vikings team.


Safe to say this is a big one for both sides.


Green Bay at Detroit

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV: CBS/NFL Network
Spread: Packers -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Playoffs?
Three weeks ago, the Lions were dead in the water. The team was sitting at 1-7 coming off of an embarrassing loss in London and people within the organization were being let go at a rapid rate. Fast-forward a month and the Lions are still in the cellar of the NFC North division, but in the midst of a very promising three-game winning streak that has featured much-improved play on both sides of the football. The defense has been reminiscent of the 2014 version that finished second in the NFL, giving up just 15 points per game over the last three weeks. On offense, quarterback Matthew Stafford has been a revelation with new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter calling the plays. During the three-game span, Stafford has a 106.5 QB rating, completing 65 percent of his passes and eight touchdowns compared to just one interception. The chances are slimmer than slim for the Lions to make a playoff run, but a win against the toughest remaining opponent on their schedule would go a long way.


2. Defense is the new offense
We are not used to thinking of the Green Bay Packers as a defensive juggernaut, but there is no debating that side of the ball has been the better of the two recently. With all of the attention being paid to the struggles on offense, the defense has been often overlooked, but is playing sound football despite the team’s recent losses. Over the last three games, the Packers have given up just 16 points per game and have been especially stout against the run. Green Bay held Adrian Peterson to just 45 yards on 13 carries in the 30-13 victory two weeks ago. With a Detroit offense that already struggles to run the football on a consistent basis, we could see Matthew Stafford throw 30-40 passes. That could also spell bad news for the Lions' offense as the Packers rank fifth in the league in sacks.


3. We meet again

The Lions pulled one of the biggest upsets of the NFL season, and possibly one of the most important victories (sadly) in the franchise’s history, in Week 10 when they snapped their 24-game road losing streak at Lambeau Field. What worked so well for the Lions in that rare road win against the Packers to make us think they could pull another upset of their division rival? Watch the matchup between the Packers’ receivers and the defensive backs for Detroit. The Lions played primarily press-man coverage the entire game, challenging the receivers at the line of scrimmage. Green Bay's wideouts were unsuccessful against this scheme, and looked frustrated throughout the entire game as they struggled to gain separation. Davante Adams, James Jones and Randall Cobb will have to win their individual one-on-one matchups for the Packers to sustain drives on offense.

Final Analysis


Both teams have plenty riding on Thursday’s contest which should make for a compelling matchup. The Packers are still very much in contention for their fifth straight NFC North title, but do not want to chance falling two games behind the Vikings in the standings with a second straight loss to a divisional foe. For the Lions, the playoff mentality started three weeks ago and the team knows it likely has to win out for even a chance at making a run at a wild card spot. If the Lions can get after the quarterback as they have done the previous three games – likely to happen with Green Bay’s offensive line injuries – their stifling defense should continue its impressive run of late and contain a struggling Packers offense from breaking out. 


Prediction: Lions 21, Packers 20


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

Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/betting-against-spread-nfl-picks-week-13

There are five weeks left in the NFL regular season. Funny how that statement will elicit different reactions depending on whom you say it to. Eagles fans will probably groan and mumble some sort of expletive under their breath about Chip Kelly. Raiders fans will probably show some sort of optimism considering their team is in the thick of a playoff race. Finally, say this statement to a Redskins fan and they will probably break into a cold sweat with the thought that they have to hold off the rest of the NFC East in order to make the playoffs.


I took a little break for Thanksgiving, but ready to get back into the swing of things and finish the season strong!


Record: 27-18-1 (4-1 two weeks ago)


Houston Texans (6-5) at Buffalo Bills (5-6)

Houston has won four straight entering this one in Buffalo. The Texans have done so with great defense, allowing just 35 points total over that span. Brian Hoyer is managing the game well and Alfred Blue et al are getting the job done in the backfield. It's concerning that Houston managed just 24 points at home against a porous New Orleans Saints defense. The Bills are just a bit better on that side of the ball. Buffalo's offense has been a bit inconsistent, which is probably status quo with Rex Ryan teams. The Bills have gone under in 12 of their last 19 home games and 24 of their last 43 overall. SELECTION: Under 41.5


Baltimore Ravens (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)

Baltimore is flying high after an improbable victory in Cleveland on Monday night. It's a quick turnaround for the Ravens, as they hit the road again this week to Miami. The Dolphins are wallowing once again, and fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor earlier this week. Miami has run the ball just 23 times in its last two contests, which is not a recipe for success. The Fins have talent, they just haven’t been able to put it together over any extended period of time. This really is a situational play because Baltimore's season is over and the Ravens expended a lot to win in Cleveland. SELECTION: Dolphins Moneyline


Arizona Cardinals (9-2) at St. Louis Rams (4-7)

The Rams’ offense is... well... quite offensive. St. Louis has scored just 51 points in its last four games as they begin a three-game home stand. The good thing for the Rams is that their defense has been playing well for the most part. They'll need to against a potent Arizona team that actually struggled at San Francisco. Arizona's streak of three straight games with 30 points or more ended with the 19-point effort on the road. Last year this game was a 12-6 contest. These two teams have played 18 unders in their last 32 meetings, including nine of 16 in St. Louis. SELECTION: Under 42.5


Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) at New England Patriots (10-1)

The Patriots are coming off their first loss of the season and are staring at an Eagles team that has been gashed by lesser offenses in Tampa Bay and Detroit. Danny Amendola could return from injury, which means Tom Brady has at least one weapon at his disposal. Philly may have Sam Bradford back, which means the offense could provide a couple of points in this one. The Pats have gone over in eight of their last 10 games against teams with a losing record. SELECTION: Over 49




- The Packers have lost four of their last five while the Lions have won three straight. Despite these recent results, I truly want to take the Packers. I understand that Detroit is hot and the Lions have turned it over just once during this streak, but it's Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay is a heavy lean, but I couldn't make it official. Maybe if it dips below three.


- This Vikings game is very intriguing as they see-saw ahead in the NFC Central standings. In comes a Seahawks team that got fat and happy during a three-game home stand. Upon closer inspection, their secondary was crushed by Arizona and Pittsburgh. The question for this one is if Teddy Bridgewater can make enough plays to win the game. I'd like to think Minnesota's defense makes enough plays to win, but who knows?


- Your spot play of the weekend is the San Diego Chargers. They welcome Denver to town after the Broncos won their home game against the Patriots. The last time Denver won a huge game was the Week 8 home contest versus the Packers after its bye week. The next week, Denver laid an egg and lost outright in Indianapolis. San Diego has no run game to speak of and a lack of good receiving options, but the Chargers may get an unfocused Broncos team.


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

Betting Against the Spread: NFL Picks For Week 13
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-kicker-rankings-week-13

While Stephen Gostkowski is still the top-ranked fantasy kicker for Week 13, Cairo Santos is a close second. Despite the weather and the tough matchup in Week 12, the Chiefs' kicker finished with the fourth-highest fantasy point total. He faces Oakland in Week 13, who allows the second-most fantasy points to opposing kickers. In daily leagues, Santos is likely going to be a solid play (in DFS leagues that use kickers).


Also, don't forget about Carolina's Graham Gano. The Panthers are the only remaining undefeated team and Gano has certainly done his part. He's second behind Santos is made field goals with 25 (out of 30 attempts), including 12-of-17 from 40 yards and beyond. He's second in the NFL in scoring, one point behind Gostkowski, and Carolina figures to score plenty of points this Sunday against New Orleans' porous defense.


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


Here are the rest of the Week 13 kicker rankings:


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 among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2015 Kicker Rankings: Week 13
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-13

Despite solid performances all year from both the Seahawks and the Broncos, neither ends up with the No. 1 spot among fantasy defense/special teams (DSTs) for Week 13. Rather, that honor goes to the Arizona Cardinals, who have consistently put up positive fantasy numbers, regardless of the matchup.


This week, the Cardinals face St. Louis. They played the Rams in Week 4, a game in which the Cardinals DST posted its lowest fantasy point output of the year. However, the Rams allow the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing DSTs. This has the makings of a low-scoring game, which only helps fantasy DSTs.


Another equally appealing option is the Bengals, who draw the anemic Browns. Cleveland is tied for last in the NFL in rushing and has scored just two TDs on the ground all season. To make this matchup even more appealing, the Browns will either have backup Austin Davis or the embattled Johnny Manziel at quarterback with Josh McCown (broken collarbone) out for the season.


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


Here are the Week 13 DST rankings:


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 among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2015 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 13
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-quarterback-rankings-week-13

Heading into Week 12, many fantasy owners were contemplating benching Tom Brady. He was without most of his weapons. The Broncos' defense was one of the best in the league. The game was in Denver. All of the reasons were valid. However, he ended the week with the seventh-highest fantasy points for quarterbacks.


Brady will be without Rob Gronkowski for Week 13 (most likely), but he faces the Philadelphia Eagles, who have given up 10 touchdown passes over the past two weeks to Jameis Winston and Matthew Stafford. Brady should follow in their footsteps.


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


Here are the rest of the Week 13 quarterback rankings:



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 among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2015 Quarterback Rankings: Week 13
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-wide-receiver-rankings-week-13

Well for many this is the final week of the fantasy regular season, while for others it may be the first week of the playoffs. High stress and anxiety levels abound when it comes to fantasy football. Wives and husbands, sons and daughters beware of a loved one potentially being devastated this coming Sunday/Monday night.


Or, on the flip side it may be a loved one who seems to be high on something if they prevail in a hard-fought battle to advance. Either way I know most of you will not be biting your fingernails or sweating through shirts this weekend because you have had the playoffs locked up for a while now right? After all you have been using our Athlon positional rankings.


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


Without further ado, here are the Week 13 rankings for the wide receivers. Good luck this week if you need it, and unless you are playing me.


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 Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2015 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 13
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-flex-rankings-week-13

You have made it this far so let's finish the fantasy season strong, or better yet dominate your league's playoffs and cap things off with a championship. Winning is everything, whether it is just your final game of a terrible fantasy season, or the last regular season game before heading to the playoffs. Strike fear in your opponents, make the right decisions and you will prevail.


The Flex position can be very a valuable one in a starting lineup, provided you make the right choice. There are no lack of options to choose from for that spot, but the key can be determining if it's better to ride a workhorse running back, a target-hogging wide receiver or the hot hand. Hopefully these Flex rankings will help you narrow down your options.


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


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 Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2015 Flex Rankings: Week 13
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-tight-end-rankings-week-13

The tight end position in fantasy is the epitome of uncertainty. You really never know what you’re going to get. That is especially the case for Week 13 with the news that Rob Gronkowski will miss a few games because of a bone bruise/sprain of his right knee.


With Gronkowksi sidelined, who will assume his throne as the No. 1 fantasy tight end? Will it be the touchdown machine Tyler Eifert? How about Mr. Consistent Greg Olsen? And where will Gronk’s replacement Scott Chandler be ranked? Let’s find out shall we?


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


1Greg OlsenCARat NO
2Tyler EifertCINat CLE
3Delanie WalkerTENvs. JAC
4Travis KelceKCat OAK
5Gary BarnidgeCLEvs. CIN
6Jordan ReedWASvs. DAL (Mon.)
7Scott ChandlerNEvs. PHI
8Julius ThomasJACat TEN
9Antonio GatesSDvs. DEN
10Ben WatsonNOvs. CAR
11Martellus BennettCHIvs. SF
12Charles ClayBUGvs. HOU
13Jason WittenDALat WAS (Mon.)
14Crockett GillmoreBALat MIA
15Luke WilsonSEAat MIN
16Jacob TammeATLat TB
17Vance McDonaldSFat CHI
18Richard RodgersGBat DET (Thurs.)
19Kyle RudolphMINvs. SEA
20Jordan CameronMIAvs. BAL
21Eric EbronDETvs. GB (Thurs.)
22Coby FleenerINDat PIT
23Will TyeNYGvs. NYJ
24Heath MillerPITvs. IND
25Jared CookSTLvs. ARI
26Owen DanielsDENat SD
27Zac ErtzPHIat NE
28Vernon DavisDENat SD
29Brent CelekPHIat NE
30Clive WalfordOAKvs. KC


— 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.

Fantasy Football 2015 Tight End Rankings: Week 13
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-running-back-rankings-week-13

Here we are just about to enter into Week 13 of the NFL and fantasy season, where has the time gone? Also, Week 13 happens to be the last chance a lot of you will have to make the fantasy playoffs (in most leagues).


If you absolutely need a win to make the playoffs, setting your best roster this week is of the utmost importance. That’s where these rankings can come in handy, so let’s get to it.


On paper, some matchups like DeAngelo Williams against Indianapolis and Darren McFadden against Washington should help some backs who have been struggling some of late get back on track. Devonta Freeman owners hope to have their workhorse back this week against Tampa Bay, but that doesn't mean Tevin Coleman won't get his opportunities either. And after showing good legs against Chicago Thanksgiving night, can Eddie Lacy keep things going against Detroit on Thursday?


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


1DeAngelo WilliamsPITvs. IND
2Devonta FreemanATLat TB
3Adrian PetersonMINvs. SEA
4Jonathan StewartCARat NO
5Doug MartinTBvs. ATL
6Darren McFaddenDALat WAS (Mon.)
7LeSean McCoyBUFvs. HOU
8Thomas RawlsSEAat MIN
9Mark IngramNOvs. CAR
10Javorius AllenBALat MIA
11David JohnsonARIat STL
12Todd GurleySTLvs. ARI
13Lamar MillerMIAvs. BAL
14LeGarrette BlountNEvs. PHI
15Matt ForteCHIvs. SF
16Eddie LacyGBat DET (Thurs.)
17C.J. AndersonDENat SD
18Shaun DraughnSFat CHI
19T.J. YeldonJACat TEN
20DeMarco MurrayPHIat NE
21Jeremy HillCINat CLE
22Charcandrick WestKCvs. OAK
23Chris IvoryNYJat NYG
24Latavius MurrayOAKat KC
25Jeremy LangfordCHIvs. SF
26C.J. AndersonDENat SD
27Giovani BernardCINat CLE
28Antonio AndrewsTENvs. JAC
29Frank ForeINDat PIT
30Ronnie HillmanDENat SD
31Spencer WareKCvs. OAK
32Duke JohnsonCLEvs. CIN
33Danny WoodheadSDvs. DEN
34Charles SimsTBvs. ATL
35Alfred MorrisWASvs. DAL (Mon.)
36Alfred BlueHOUat BUF
37Melvin GordonSDvs. DEN
38James StarksGBat DET (Thurs.)
39Ameer AbdullahDETvs. GB (Thurs.)
40Isaiah CrowellCLEvs. CIN
41Shane VereenNYGvs. NYJ
42Jay AjayiMIAvs. BAL
43Bilial PowellNYGat NYG
44Rashad JenningsNYGvs. NYJ
45Theo RiddickDETvs. GB (Thurs.)
46Matt JonesWASvs. DAL (Mon.)
47Darren SprolesSDvs. DEN
48C.J. SpillerNOvs. CAR
49James WhiteNEvs. PHI
50Robert TurbinDALat WAS (Mon.)


— 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.

Fantasy Football 2015 Running Back Rankings: Week 13
Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-cover-2-podcast-championship-week-preview

Hosts Mitch Light and Braden Gall preview Championship Week 2015.


What needs to happen for your team to get into the Playoff? We break down every possibly scenario in an effort to help Ohio State, Stanford and North Carolina fans. 


The we break down every major championship game. Can Florida's D-Line slow down Bama enough to keep it close? Will North Carolina have enough defense to stop DeShaun Watson? Will USC take advantage of Stanford's lack of big-play defense? And which ground and pound Big Ten team has the advantage?


Who wins the offense-defense matchup in Houston between the Cougars and the Owls? And we both love Western Kentucky vs. Southern Miss too.


Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


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

College Football Cover 2 Podcast: Championship Week Preview
Post date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 15:54
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-georgia-fans-will-be-happy-unhappy-about-kirby-smart-hire

I previously offered my opinion on what I thought Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity should do when it came to the hiring process for the Bulldogs' new head coach. Instead, he did exactly what most thought he would do. He had one guy on his list — Kirby Smart — and that was it.


I had faith that McGarity would do his due diligence and seek out the best candidate available for a top-6 coaching job in college football but he didn’t. It turns out that he had his guy the whole time and didn’t feel the need to talk to anyone else. Even though he said he would use a search firm to help find a coach for a position that, as McGarity said in a press conference just days ago, was “wide open.”


Wide open? Not really.


And just what did that search firm help McGarity figure out? I’m still waiting on that answer.


Just like that, news spread that Georgia had found its new coach in Smart, defensive coordinator at Alabama. Smart, who has been a part of Nick Saban’s staff since 2007, has excelled as a defensive coordinator since taking over that role in '08. Smart is a Georgia alum, where he played defensive back from 1995-98. He has won multiple awards while at Alabama, including AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year in 2012 and the Broyles Award in 2009, which goes to the best assistant coach in college football.


Below, I give five reasons why you should hate/love the hiring of Kirby Smart if you are a Georgia fan. Buckle up, some of this truth might not feel good for you Dawg fans.


Why I Like the Hire


1. The Saban coaching tree bears fruit

Saban has had some great coaches under him during his tenure as a head coach. A lot of success that a head coach has depends on the quality of assistants that you retain on a staff. Saban has three guys in particular who have had a lot of success as head coaches. Jimbo Fisher served as offensive coordinator for Saban at LSU and already has won a national championship at Florida State and guided the Seminoles to the College Football Playoff last season. Fisher has done very well in Tallahassee given the fact that he had huge shoes to fill after Bobby Bowden stepped down. Mark Dantonio served as a defensive assistant under Saban while he was the head coach at Michigan State. Dantonio has won the Big Ten title twice since 2007 and is playing for another conference championship on Saturday, along with a spot in the Playoff. Former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain left Saban in 2012 to become Colorado State's head coach. McElwain had two winning seasons in three years and was rewarded with the opportunity to take over at Florida where in his first year he led the Gators to an SEC East title.


2. This is Kirby Smart’s dream job

Dream job hires can go both ways but in the case of Smart “coming home” to Athens  you get a guy that will do whatever is necessary in order to win. Smart played at Georgia so he knows the landscape in front of him. Smart can walk onto his back porch in Georgia and get any recruit he wants, which is a huge plus for a guy in his first head coaching stint. Smart will bring in every coach he can to help win at Georgia and will spare no expense. Smart has waited on this job for years. He won’t go down without a fight.


3. The cupboard is certainly not bare

Mark Richt leaves the Georgia program in better shape than any open position I can think of in recent years. There is plenty of talent still on the roster and loads of talent coming into Athens in the 2016 recruiting class, a top-five class last time I checked. The Bulldogs have only finished with less than eight wins in one season under Richt. Couple that with the fact that the SEC East is there for the taking and Smart is not only walking into a dream job, but almost a perfect scenario. Smart is young and has plenty of talented assistants to choose from. This Bulldog team will be in contention for the SEC East title once again next year.


4. The athletic department is all in

With news on Tuesday breaking that the new indoor facility in Athens is set to begin construction later this month, it’s clear that the athletic department wanted the new coach to have the best money could buy when it came to new facilities. The $30 million facility is the university's way of saying we are all in. This is the shiny new toy that every coach wants and Smart will have his. Spare no expense in Athens. This program knows it is top notch. And the decision makers will do whatever Smart says he needs in order to win. Remember, this was McGarity’s only choice. As long as Smart wins, he will get whatever he asks for.


5. Kirby Smart is patient

Smart has had his named linked to open jobs since 2010. With head coaching money at an all-time high, he patiently waited for what he thought was his best opportunity. Most of us would have taken the money and ran with it the second a halfway decent job opened up. But Smart didn’t do that. He bided his time and continued to learn under one of the best coaches in college football. Honestly, what better place to be if you are being groomed as a head coach than under Nick Saban? Smart’s patience will be tested at Georgia but if he continues to be patient, he will do well.


Why I Don’t Like the Hire


1. The Saban coaching tree has bad fruit too

Where there are hits like Jimbo Fisher, Mark Dantonio and Jim McElwain, there are the misses like Derek Dooley, Will Muschamp and Pat Shurmur. Dooley had a losing record at Louisiana Tech before going to Knoxville and setting Tennessee's program back even further. Muschamp had one year of success at Florida before losing to Georgia Southern and getting run out of Gainesville. Muschamp is now at Auburn where reviews are mixed on how he did as defensive coordinator this year. Rumors are he might get another chance as a head coach at South Carolina or as DC for Smart. Shurmur became a head coach in the NFL in 2011 for the Cleveland Browns but I don’t have to tell you how that ended. Shurmur has been the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia since 2013 and has had success, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at this year.


2. Kirby Smart has ZERO head coaching experience

This was and is my biggest concern for a guy that is about to take over such a great program like Georgia. Smart has followed Saban around for years as an assistant when he should have taken a job somewhere to see just what it’s like to be the man in charge. Going from the defensive coordinator to a head coach is difficult on its own. But jumping into a major college football program is even harder. Smart will have to hit home runs at offensive coordinator and also bring in and/or develop a reliable, productive quarterback if he is going to have success. Don’t believe me? Just ask Muschamp.


3. There is little room for error with what Richt left behind

So not only are you taking over an SEC East team that contends every year, in a state that ranks in the top four in producing college football talent, but you also replace a coach that averages nine wins a season. Couple that with a new OC/DC and probably a freshman quarterback. On top of that, two of your division rivals, Florida and Tennessee, look to be getting better and the East will no longer be a cakewalk. Bulldog fans are already split on the decision to fire Richt and the athletic director named you and only you as his successor. Richt took over a program that was nowhere near the shape it is in now and won an SEC title in year two. The heat is on.


Yes, I just quoted a Glenn Frey song. You're welcome.


4. Greg McGarity is counting on you to save his job

McGarity isn’t the most popular person in Athens right now. Not only did he just fire Richt but he tried to make it look like it was a mutual agreement to part ways. He also said that the decision to fire Richt came after the Georgia Tech game. So you want me and the rest of the fans to believe this decision wasn’t made after another bad Florida loss? We aren’t that dumb, Greg. Then he said he was going to use a search firm to help find the new coach when everyone knew he had one guy in mind. And instead of making it look like he at least contacted a few guys to gauge their interest in the job, he allows the information to come out that Georgia will hire Smart only days after announcing all of the above. Either you’re a total genius or a complete idiot when it comes to this hire. Either way, McGarity has added even more pressure on a first-year head coach.


5. The NFL might become a factor

The NFL is always looking at college coaches to fill open vacancies. One guy who knows the NFL better than anyone had this to say about Kirby Smart:



Riddick is pretty plugged in when it comes to knowing the NFL and this tweet says a lot. Three things can happen. One, Smart gets off to a great start in Athens and the NFL comes calling. And as a college coach, if the NFL comes calling, you at least entertain the call. Two, Smart excels at Georgia and cares nothing for the NFL and chooses to stay at Georgia for as long as he wants. Three, Smart completely bombs at Georgia and we are right back to square A, only this time Georgia will be coming off multiple losing seasons and will need a new AD as well. The odds don’t favor Georgia in this scenario. But option two still has a great chance of playing itself out. I don’t know Smart or his intent going forward. But I know how coaches think and the NFL is intriguing to the best of them.


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


(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

5 Reasons Why Georgia Fans will be Happy/Unhappy About the Kirby Smart Hire
Post date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 15:45
Path: /college-football/south-carolinas-coaching-search-continues-who-are-top-remaining-candidates

South Carolina’s coaching search is ongoing, as the program looks for its replacement after Steve Spurrier retired in early October. Shawn Elliott worked as the team’s interim coach through the rest of the season, but the Gamecocks went 1-5 under his watch.


Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Houston coach Tom Herman were believed to be targets for South Carolina. However, Smart is going to be the next coach at Georgia, while Herman is staying at Houston for 2016.


While it’s not a huge surprise athletic director Ray Tanner has yet to find his next coach, the jobs are filling up and the candidate pool is getting a little thin. South Carolina is a good job in the SEC East, has plenty of fan support and also in a fertile area for recruiting.


Who is left on the board for South Carolina to target as its next head coach? Here are some names to watch as the coaching search continues.


Top Coaching Candidates for South Carolina to Pursue


Jeff Brohm, head coach, WKU

Brohm is one of college football’s top offensive minds and is 18-7 in two seasons at WKU. The Hilltoppers average 44.2 points per game this year and claimed the Conference USA East Division title.


Sonny Dykes, head coach, California

Dykes is 13-23 in three years at California but is coming off his best campaign (7-5). Prior to California, Dykes worked at Louisiana Tech and compiled a 22-15 record during three years in Ruston. Although Dykes has California trending in the right direction, his name has popped up in coaching searches this offseason. The Texas native is working under a new athletic director at California, does not have a long-term extension at the school and the academic restrictions have increased.


Shawn Elliott, interim South Carolina coach

Elliott was promoted to interim coach after Steve Spurrier resigned in early October. Elliott went 1-5 as South Carolina’s interim coach, which included a loss to FCS opponent Citadel. He's a longshot to get the full-time position. 


Larry Fedora, head coach, North Carolina

Fedora has North Carolina trending up after an 11-1 regular season and an appearance in the ACC title game this Saturday against Clemson. Additionally, the Tar Heels are 32-18 under Fedora’s watch. The Texas native has experience in the SEC as an assistant at Florida from 2002-04. Is there a big enough difference in job quality between North Carolina and South Carolina for Fedora to consider a jump?


Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State

Mullen’s name seems to pop up for a handful of jobs each offseason – that’s simply a credit to the job he’s done at Mississippi State. From 2009-15, Mullen is 54-35 with the Bulldogs, including a 10-3 mark in 2014. Mississippi State is one of the toughest jobs in the SEC, yet Mullen has guided the program to six (counting 2015) bowl trips. 


Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator, Auburn

Muschamp could be on the move again this offseason. The former Florida coach could be targeted by Kirby Smart at Georgia, and he’s reportedly in the mix to be South Carolina’s next coach. Muschamp went 28-21 at Florida over four years and had only one season of more than seven victories.


Mark Richt, former Georgia head coach

Richt’s 15-year run at Georgia ended on Sunday, but he may not be out of work for long. Richt is in the mix for the job at Miami – his alma mater – while Virginia is another potential landing spot. Richt may not be eager to jump back into the SEC after a 15-year grind within the league.


Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma

Riley is a rising star in the coaching ranks and was a key cog in Oklahoma’s Big 12 title this season. The Sooners averaged 45.8 points per game in Riley’s first season and ranked ninth nationally in yards per play (6.95). Prior to taking over the play-calling duties at Oklahoma, Riley worked as East Carolina’s coordinator from 2010-14 and also made a stop at Texas Tech under Mike Leach. The only downside to the 32-year-old’s resume – no head coaching experience.

South Carolina's Coaching Search Continues: Who Are the Top Remaining Candidates?
Post date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/mac-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-northern-illinois-vs-bowling-green-2015

Championship weekend gets underway with the MAC serving up a delicious appetizer. Bowling Green and Northern Illinois collide in the MAC Championship Game at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday and although there may not be a spot in the New Year's Six awaiting the winner, there should still be plenty of offensive fireworks to witness. 


Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois (Detroit)


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)


Spread: Bowling Green -12


Three Things to Watch


1. Here we go again!

For the third straight season, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois will do battle for the MAC championship. Bowling Green upset the Huskies and took them out of the BCS-busting mix two seasons ago with a 47-27 blowout victory. Northern Illinois struck back last season with a blowout of its own, as the Huskies demolished the Falcons 51-17 to win their third MAC championship in four years.


2. Matt Johnson's redemption

Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson saw his 2014 season come to an end after just one game, but he has more than made up for it this season by living up to expectations in a resounding way. Johnson has passed for a MAC-leading 4,465 yards and 41 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Johnson will be put to the test this weekend, because Northern Illinois leads the MAC with 19 interceptions.


3. Last call for Dino Babers?

As the coaching carousel continues to spin, Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers continues to be a popular name to track. It was thought he would be heading to UCF, but that position has been filled by Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost. Still, Babers likely will remain in the rumor mill discussion until he either moves to a new program or all vacancies are filled. A win in the MAC Championship Game could be the final game for Babers in Bowling Green


Final Analysis


Northern Illinois hit a hot streak during the regular season to grab the MAC West Division away from favorite Toledo along the way. But the Huskies stumbled in the regular season finale on the road against Ohio, when a win would have guaranteed and clinched the division. Instead, Northern Illinois had to wait to see Western Michigan take down Toledo to secure the MAC West. Bowling Green has been steamrolling through the season after a 1-2 start to the year. With Bowling Green's offense locked in, the Falcons should be able to capture their second MAC championship in three years.


Prediction: Bowling Green 42, Northern Illinois 33


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

MAC Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois
Post date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/predictions-every-college-football-game-week-14

Week 14 is the final weekend of college football's 2015 regular season. Bowl season is just around the corner, but several big matchups with playoff implications are slated for Saturday. Week 14 starts on Friday night in Detroit, as Bowling Green meets Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship. The Huskies knocked off the Falcons in this game last season, but coach Rod Carey’s team could be without starting quarterback Ryan Graham. Saturday’s slate features a handful of matchups from the Big 12 and Sun Belt, along with conference championship games in the Big Ten (Michigan State-Iowa), SEC (Florida-Alabama), American Athletic (Houston-Temple), Pac-12 (Stanford-USC), Mountain West (Air Force-San Diego State), ACC (Clemson-North Carolina) and Conference USA (WKU-Southern Miss). Clemson is in the driver’s seat to claim the No. 1 overall seed in the College Football Playoff, but coach Dabo Swinney’s team has to avoid an upset over a dangerous North Carolina squad. The Michigan State-Iowa showdown in Indianapolis is essentially an elimination game for the playoff picture. The winner is in the four-team playoff, while the loser of Saturday night’s game is out.


Related: Post-Week 13 Bowl Projections


Which teams will come out on top in every FBS game for Week 14? Athlon's editors predict the winners for every game this week:


College Football Week 14 Predictions











Bowling Green vs.

Northern Illinois

Georgia State vs.

Georgia Southern

Texas State at

Arkansas State

New Mexico State at


West Virginia at

Kansas State

Troy at 

UL Lafayette

Appalachian State at

South Alabama

Air Force at

San Diego State

Southern Miss at


Temple at


North Carolina vs.


Stanford vs.


Florida vs.


Texas at


Iowa vs.

Michigan State

Army vs.


(Dec. 12)


Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 14
Post date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/2005-coaching-carousel-revisited-big-winners-and-bigger-losers

The 2015-16 coaching carousel is just getting started, a scary thought with more than a dozen jobs opening up before Thanksgiving. That number is only going to balloon as coaches start to fill those positions and other coaches and schools wait until the end of the season to part ways.


Most new coaches bring with them a sense of optimism. In the winter and spring, every hire seems like a good one. The reality, of course, is different. Some hires work. Some don’t. Some hires work so well a coach is gone to a better opportunity in a short matter of years.


We decided we’d mark this year’s coaching carousel with a look back at the coaching moves from just a decade ago. This was the year Urban Meyer stepped into the SEC, Oklahoma State, BYU and Utah hired coaches who became campus institutions and Notre Dame, Stanford and Washington made disastrous moves.


Of the 23 hires in the 2005-06 cycle:


• Two coaches would win a national championship (Urban Meyer and Les Miles).

• Four are still coaching the team that hired them (Miles, Frank Solich, Kyle Whittingham and Mike Gundy). A fifth would retire midway through the season (Steve Spurrier).

• 11 coaches would be fired in five seasons or less. Of the 14 coaches fired out of this class, only two (Bill Cubit and Charlie Weis) would get another non-interim FBS coaching job.

• And, in a surprise, only two would use the school that hired him in 2005 as a stepping stone to another job. Skip Holtz moved from East Carolina to USF. Bronco Mendenhall, after 11 seasons at BYU, made a surprise move to Virginia.


Here’s a look back at all the coaching hires in 2005-06 along with how Athlon Sports evaluated each move in the pages of the 2006 college football preview annual.


Urban Meyer, Florida

What did Athlon say?

“Meyer should have the Gators in the hunt for the national title on a consistent basis.”

How did he do?

Exactly what he was projected to do. The Gators won the national championship in 2006 and 2008 and came within a game of the 2009 BCS title game before losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. He also coached Florida third Heisman winner, Tim Tebow, and proved that his version of the spread option offense — then a novel idea — could work in the SEC. Off-field issues and health problems contributed to an 8-5 season in 2010 and his abrupt departure. He and Nick Saban are 1a and 1b in terms of the best coaches in the game today.


Charlie Weis, Notre Dame

What did Athlon say?

“He must lead the Fighting Irish to a national championship and compete for a BCS bowl year in and year out.”

How did he do?

Weis started well enough, seemingly living up to his status as one “one of the most highly regarded coordinators in NFL history,” as Athlon put it. Remember, at the time he was hired at Notre Dame, Weis had three Super Bowl rings and was considered the mastermind behind the rise of Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense. At Notre Dame, he took underutilized talent by the previous staff and reached two BCS games in his first two seasons, losing both. He was far less adept at building his own program and installing a college system, going 16-21 in his last three seasons. His 3-9 season after Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija left was the worst for Notre Dame in 44 years. That, and his failed tenures as head coach at Kansas and offensive coordinator at Florida have effectively ruled his college coaching career a punchline.


Les Miles, LSU

What did Athlon say?

“Some Tiger faithful had hoped the program could have lured a bigger name to Baton Rouge, but Miles is a very good coach who succeeded at Oklahoma State during a time when Oklahoma emerged as one of the top two or three programs in the nation.”

How did he do?

It’s complicated. If Miles was an underwhelming hire at first — he had coached only four years at Okie State and never won more than nine games — he erased doubts early. LSU finished 11-2 and in the top six in his first season before winning a BCS title in 2006 despite two losses. LSU made a second title game appearance in 2011, but the loss to Alabama was a sign of things to come. Oddly enough, what distinguished Miles at Oklahoma State — competing with Oklahoma and Texas in a loaded division — put him in a tough spot at the end of the 2015 season. Miles was reported to be on thin ice due in part to losing five in a row to Alabama. After a win over Texas A&M in the last week of the regular season, Miles a victory lap in front of a supportive Tiger Stadium and was the LSU athletic department announced he'd be back for 2016.


Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

What did Athlon say?

“Perhaps no coach in the country was a better fit for South Carolina than Steve Spurrier.”

How did he do?

This wasn’t exactly Florida, Part II, but Spurrier may have exceeded even the expectations of South Carolina. South Carolina held its own with four bowl games in his first five seasons before a breakout in 2010 when the Gamecocks upset then-No. 1 Alabama 35-21. From 2011-13, Spurrier led South Carolina to three 11-win seasons and three top-10 seasons — neither of which had ever been achieved even once in South Carolina history. He retired abruptly in 2015 as one of four coaches as the all-time wins leader for two major college schools. Athlon predicted he’d last six or seven years before retiring. He stayed almost 11.


Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss

What did Athlon say?

“The Ole Miss administration turned to a Orgeron, a high-energy coach who will offer a significant change from the laid-back Cutcliffe. But bringing energy alone won’t satisfy Ole Miss.”

How did he do?

He followed through on the energy part, recruiting at a torrid pace and becoming either a caricature of himself or an SEC folk hero, depending your perspective. Gameday, though, was a disaster. His tenure was one of the worst in SEC history as Orgeron went 10-25 overall and 3-21 in the SEC. Orgeron won twice as many conference games as an interim coach in the Pac-12 than he won in three seasons at Ole Miss. He’s back in his comfort zone, professionally and geographically, as the defensive line coach at LSU.


Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

What did Athlon say?

“He is a solid hire, but he has a difficult job. Life in the Big 12 South can be overwhelming. With Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas Tech on the schedule every year, there is almost no margin for error.”

How did he do?

Gundy became Oklahoma State’s career wins leader in his sixth season at Oklahoma State, and that was a year before a 12–1 season and Big 12 title in 2011. Oklahoma State’s confidence in its former quarterback paid off — he was promoted the same day Les Miles left for LSU. Gundy raised eyebrows when he retained only one assistant from Miles’ staff, but his offensive coordinator post (Larry Fedora, Dana Holgorsen and Todd Monken) has become a stepping stone to head coaching jobs.


Dave Wannstedt, Pittsburgh

What did Athlon say?

“Wannstedt should have no problem keeping Pittsburgh near the top of the re-configured Big East.”

How did he do?

He did not keep Pitt near the top of the Big East. Instead of the traditional power Pitt leading the way in the Big East, it was Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers. The Panthers didn’t reach a bowl game until Wannstedt’s fourth season, and his most meaningful impact on the league was an upset of No. 2 West Virginia to knocking the Moutanineers out of the BCS title picture in 2007. Wannstedt returned to the NFL as an assistant in 2011 and later became a TV analyst on Fox Sports.


Walt Harris, Stanford

What did Athlon say?

“Harris might not be the most exciting hire of the offseason, but he will likely end up being one of the best.”

How did he do?

Terrible. Harris was hired at Stanford with the reputation of a quarterback guru and a perfect hire for the Cardinal. He was a Bay Area guy who cleaned up a mess at Pitt and was poised to do the same at Stanford. Instead, he had the Cardinal at new depths, going 1-11 in his second and final year. At least he set the stage for the arrival of Jim Harbaugh in 2007.


Bronco Mendenhall, BYU

What did Athlon say?

“He doesn’t make a big splash nationally as a big-name hire, but he his a well-respected defensive coach and a solid choice for a program that has struggled both on and off the field in recent years.”

How’d he do?

BYU made a run at alum Kyle Whittingham and didn’t get him, but the Cougars’ consolation prized ended up pretty good. Mendenhall restored BYU as a consistent program that has flirted with the top 25 most of his tenure. This may be hard to believe given today’s infatuation with young coaches, but Mendenhall was the second-youngest Division I-A coach at the time at the advanced age of 38. He’s led BYU to bowl games in all 11 seasons as head coach and a pair of Mountain West titles before the Cougars went independent in 2012. Mendenhall's move to Virginia after the 2015 season was one of the biggest surprises of this year's carousel.


Kyle Whittingham, Utah

What did Athlon say?

“It will be almost impossible to maintain the same level of success the program achieved under Meyer, especially considering the underclassmen who left for the NFL following Meyer’s departure.”

How did he do?

Whittingham not only maintained the same level of success under Meyer, he exceeded it. Whittingham won 24 games in his first three seasons when Meyer won 22 in his two years in Salt Lake. His third season, though, was a turning point as Utah went 13-0, upset Alabama, fresh of a BCS championship game elimination bout with Florida, in the Sugar Bowl. After 2008, Whittingham couldn’t topple TCU in the Mountain West and had two losing seasons in his first three in the Pac-12. His ability to adapt seems to have prevailed with an 11-7 record in the Pac-12 in 2014-15.


Tyrone Willingham, Washington

What did Athlon say?

“Willingham was a safe hire for a program that desperately needs some stability — and someone to stay clear of NCAA sanctions. He is a solid coach with a great reputation, but Willingham is far from a sure thing.”

How did he do?

The alarm bells from a lackluster tenure at Notre Dame rang true. Willingham avoided any NCAA entanglements but also any bowl entanglements. He went 11-37 in four seasons, bottoming out with a winless year in 2008. He’s now a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee.


Terry Hoeppner, Indiana

What did Athlon say?

“He was a safe hire — but safe might not be good enough or the struggling Hoosiers.”

How did he do?

Hoeppner was on his way to proving that he was no lukewarm hire. The Hoosiers went 4-7 and 5-7 in his two seasons, but they had clearly picked up momentum with three Big Ten wins in 2006 with an upset of No. 15 Iowa. Hoeppner’s infectious energy also sparked interest in the football program on the basketball-mad campus. Hoeppner never got a chance to finish the job, passing away in June 2007 due to complications from a brain tumor. A hint of where Hep could have led Indiana happened the following year when his former assistant Bill Lynch took IU to a bowl game in 2007, ending a 15-year drought.


Ron Zook, Illinois

What did Athlon say?

“Zook will bring some much-needed energy to the Illini program. Zook’s first order of business is to improve Illinois’ in-state recruiting.”

How did he do?

Zook brought energy to Illinois along with an influx of recruiting talent (Juice Williams, Arrelious Benn, Martez Wilson). His seven-year tenure had one banner year — an upset of Ohio State and a 9–4 campaign in 2007. That year, Illinois became one of the worst teams to play in a BCS game, losing 49-17 to USC in the Rose Bowl. Zook went 34-51 in seven season at Illinois before he was replaced by Tim Beckman. Now, Illinois is seeking a coach who will bring some much-needed energy to the Illini program and whose first order of business is to improve Illinois’ in-state recruiting.


Greg Robinson, Syracuse

What did Athlon say?

“Robinson is about as qualified as any non-head coach in the game.”

How did he do?

Maybe there was a reason Robinson never got his own program before 2005. He was a decorated assistant with Mack Brown and Terry Donahue in the college ranks and with Mike Shanahan and Dick Vermeil in the NFL, a stint in the NFL that included two Super Bowl rings. The Robinson era at Syracuse had fans pining for Paul Pasqualoni. Robinson went 10-37 in four seasons. He resurfaced as a midseason replacement at defensive coordinator for Texas in 2013 before landing as DC at San Jose State in 2014.


Skip Holtz, East Carolina

What did Athlon say?

“There is no reason Holtz can’t have this program among the elite in Conference USA.”

How did he do?

East Carolina needed someone to clean up a mess after John Thompson went 3-20 in two seasons. Holtz delivered and more. The Pirates went 5-6 in his first season before four consecutive winning seasons. Holtz can’t take credit for Chris Johnson, whom he inherited, but he did lead ECU to a pair of nine-win seasons and Conference USA titles in his last two years. Holtz flamed out at USF, but his turnaround in three seasons at Louisiana Tech shows that maybe Conference USA is his home.


Frank Solich, Ohio

What did Athlon say?

“With a few breaks, Ohio could make a move in the next few years.”

How did he do?

He’s the dean of MAC coaches by a long shot. His hire at Ohio was greeted with skepticism if only because Solich had never coached anywhere but Nebraska at the best time in program history and his five-year tenure with Huskers had the benefit of a running start at the end of the Tom Osborne era. He build a solid contender at a moribund Ohio program, reaching a bowl game every year from 2009-13. He’s had one losing season at Ohio but no MAC titles in three trips to the championship game.


Mark Snyder, Marshall

What did Athlon say?

“Bobby Pruett’s decision to retire in early March took everyone by surprise. Marshall didn’t panic, however. The school took its time to find the right fit for the program as it makes its move from the MAC to Conference USA.”

How did he do?

Marshall brought back an alum who was fresh off a national championship as a defensive coordinator at Ohio State, but he never took the Thundering Herd to the same heights Pruett did. Marshall went 22-37 seasons with one bowl appearance. Snyder served as defensive coordinator at USF and Texas A&M, and landed with another former Jim Tressel assistant, Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, after he was fired from Texas A&M.


Bill Cubit, Western Michigan

What did Athlon say?

“Cubit has had a difficult time staying on one place for very long.”

How did he do?

When he was hired, he had five jobs in seven years, but ended up staying for eight seasons in a transient league. Western Michigan was rarely bad, but the Broncos never won the MAC in Cubit’s 51-47 tenure. Cubit was fired at WMU an immediately scooped up as Illinois’ offensive coordinator. He revived the Illini’s offense, took over as interim coach in 2015 and was eventually promoted to full-time coach at the end of the season.


Shane Montgomery, Miami (Ohio)

What did Athlon say?

“Miami has a solid track record in the hiring process, and Montgomery should be next in a long line of successful RedHawk coaches.”

How did he do?

To the contrary of our assessment in 2005, Montgomery, who earned the job as Ben Roethlisberger’s quarterback coach, was the first in a line of failed coaches for Miami. He went 7-4 his first season, but went 2-10, 6-7 and 2-10 in three seasons since. The RedHawks have had one winning season (2010 under Mike Haywood) since Hoeppner was hired at Indiana. Montgomery is now the offensive coordinator under Bo Pelini at Youngstown State.


Hal Mumme, New Mexico State

What did Athlon say?

“Mumme brings some baggage to Las Cruces, but New Mexico State is a program that needs to take some risks.”

How did he do?

Mumme is the godfather of the modern-day Air Raid, but he’s also been one of the least successful head coaches to employ the offense — particularly taking into account a trail of NCAA violations at Kentucky. New Mexico State threw the ball around, but all it got the Aggies and Mumme was an 11-38 mark in four years. Mumme is at NAIA Belhaven where his team is 4-17 in two seasons.


Dick Tomey, San Jose State

What did Athlon say?

“His credentials are outstanding, but he will have a very difficult time succeeding at San Jose State.”

How did he do?

The architect of the Desert Swarm defense and all-time wins leader in Arizona history did not have a nice coda to his head coaching career. He started well enough, leading San Jose State to nine wins and a bowl in 2006, but the program fell apart to 2-10 in his final season in 2009. Tomey stepped away from football after a one-year stint as an assistant at Hawaii before resurfacing as an associate AD overseeing football at USF earlier this year.


Mike Sanford, UNLV

What did Athlon say?

“Sanford should do a solid job, and he should be able to recruit quality athletes to play in what should be an offense as exciting as the city itself.”

How did he do?

About the same as most head coaches at UNLV — without a bowl game and out in a few years. Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Utah improved from two wins in his first three seasons to five in his last two. The journeyman coach landed as an offensive coordinator at Louisville under Charlie Strong but was fired early in the 2011 season — sound familiar, Texas fans? He’s at Indiana State now where he’s 14-23 in three seasons. His son, Mike Sanford Jr., is offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and a potential head coaching candidate in his own right.


Brent Guy, Utah State

What did Athlon say?

“Guy should be given plenty of time to rebuild because Utah state will be playing more difficult competition over the next few years.”

How did he do?

A non-descript defensive coordinator ended up with, at best, a non-descript tenure. He went 9-38 in four seasons with one of college football’s worst — at the time — programs.

The 2005 Coaching Carousel Revisited: The Big Winners and Bigger Losers
Post date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 12:01
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-conference-championship-week-2015

What a long, strange trip this college football season has been — and it's not over yet. On Saturday, the best of the best from FBS conferences around the country will square of in their annual conference championship games (If a conference indeed has one). These are the last games (no disrespect to Army and Navy) that will shape the College Football Playoff as well as this season's bowl picture.


You and most of the talking heads around the country probably think these conference championship games are pretty cut and dry — along with the results and implications they yield. You are obviously not factoring in the outrageousness that's about to ensue.


Here are the outrageous predictions for conference championship week.


Iowa doesn't let Connor Cook throw a touchdown pass

The Hawkeyes have gotten increasingly better at keeping the passes of opposing quarterbacks out of the end zone as the season has gone on. Iowa allowed six touchdown passes by quarterbacks during their four-game non-conference schedule. During the eight-game Big Ten slate, the Hawkeyes yielded the same number (not counting the halfback pass allowed against Minnesota). Don't be shocked when Michigan State marches up and down the field on Iowa, only to see drives die at the hands of the Hawkeye secondary. When the Spartans score, it'll be off a short run or two — and it won't be enough to win the game.


North Carolina stuns Clemson, clinches a Playoff spot

The Tar Heels have only gotten better since the opening week loss at South Carolina. They rebounded by running the table, winning tough road games at Georgia Tech, Duke and Virginia Tech along the way. Clemson has quietly rode the success of the first eight games of the season and sort of tip-toed through the the last month, struggling with Syracuse and — low-and-behold — South Carolina. Look for North Carolina to control the tempo with a heavy dose of Elijah Hood, who may be running the ball better than anyone in the country right now. The Tar Heels pull of the upset and force the committee to bump them from No. 10 into the top four as a one-loss Power 5 conference champion.


Florida takes down Alabama, creating an SEC-free playoff

The Crimson Tide are the best team in the country at stopping the run. Offensively, running back Derrick Henry is their bread and butter. Seven spots behind Alabama in rushing defense nationally sit the Florida Gators at No. 8. That's even after what Dalvin Cook did to them last week. You know the Gators are going to focus on stopping Henry and making Jake Coker beat them. When Coker airs it out, he'll be tossing it into a secondary that only allows 172.3 yards per game through the air. Florida matches up much better with Alabama than many teams in the overrated SEC West did all season. That'll show on Saturday, when Alabama is dealt its second loss of 2015.


Ohio State slides into the College Football Playoff

Oklahoma is in. North Carolina gets in with the win over Clemson. Iowa gets in with the win over Michigan State. That leaves one spot. Who do you give it to? A two-loss Stanford? No chance. The committee members knows what they are doing, and they'll jump at the opportunity to put Ohio State (currently No. 6 in Playoff rankings) back in the mix as the defending champ. You'll have No. 1 Oklahoma taking on No. 4 North Carolina in one Playoff game, with No. 2 Iowa squaring off with No. 3 Ohio State in the other. The gods of Outrageousness will have spoken and the controversy that drives the sport of college football will continue.


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Outrageous College Football Predictions for Conference Championship Week
Post date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: AAC, ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC
Path: /college-football/10-head-coaching-moves-college-football-programs-would-forget

There are numerous college football head coaching vacancies this season that are likely keeping their respective athletic directors up at night. Some, like Virginia Tech’s Whit Babcock, have already filled their head coaching spot (Justin Fuente) and others, like LSU’s Joe Alleva, have chosen to stay with their guy (Les Miles).


A good head coaching hire can revitalize a program. A bad one can cause years of damage. Everything looks easy from a distance, but here are 10 decisions that stand out for various reasons.


10. Auburn 1975: Doug Barfield Replaces Shug Jordan

Ralph “Shug” Jordan was a legend at Auburn. Heck, the school’s stadium is even named after him. When he decided to retire in 1975, the university replaced him with offensive coordinator Doug Barfield. From 1976-80, Barfield went 29-25-1 and two of those victories were due to forfeitures by Mississippi State thanks to NCAA probation. Barfield was fired in 1980 and has been a fixture in Alabama high school football since then.  While his record at Auburn was not bad, it pales in comparison to his predecessor and successors.


9. Kansas 2011: Charlie Weis Replaces Turner Gill

The Jayhawks brought in Turner Gill from Buffalo after the 2009 season to replace Mark Mangino, who had resigned amid accusations of abusive coaching practices. Kansas gave Gill a five-year, $10 million contract and he proceeded to go 5-19 in his two seasons. Gill was fired at the end of the 2011 season, but his contract stipulated that he had to receive the remaining $6 million within 120 days of being fired. Kansas reached out to its top boosters to help cover that cost and then turned around and hired Charlie Weis to replace him. The ex-Notre Dame head coach went 6-22 and was fired after four games into the 2014 season. Kansas would have been better off just letting Gill finish out his contract.


8. Michigan State 1999: Bobby Williams Replaces Nick Saban

Nick Saban guided the Spartans to their best season in three decades before departing for LSU.  Then he had second thoughts. How likely it was that he would have stayed and how hard AD Clarence Underwood tried to keep him is the subject of debate, but in the end Saban went to Baton Rouge. Underwood replaced him with running backs coach Bobby Williams, who coached the team to victory in the Citrus Bowl.  Williams then went on to have one winning season in three years as head coach and his team was 3-6 in 2002 when he was fired.


7. Notre Dame 1980: Gerry Faust Replaces Dan Devine

Some would call this a terrible coaching move. Others, including Notre Dame athletic officials, called it “The Bold Experiment.” After Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine retired at the end of the 1980 season, he was replaced by Gerry Faust, who had coached for 19 seasons at Archbishop Moeller High School in the Cincinnati area and won five of the last six Ohio State Championships. Notre Dame officials knew it was a gamble, but Faust had an amazing record and had sent a lot of great players to Notre Dame, including Bob Crable and Tony Hunter (He also coached former Speaker of the House John Boehner.). Faust also was a devout Roman Catholic and Notre Dame was his dream job. The experiment ultimately failed. Faust went 5-6 in his first season and never matched the success of Devine. He resigned in 1985 in the midst of another 5-6 season and his final game was a nasty 58-7 blowout by Miami. Faust coached at Akron for the next nine seasons and – class act that he is – still attends Notre Dame games. While great coaches often get their start in high school, none since have ever gone straight from high school to leading a major program.


6. Arkansas 1989: Jack Crowe Replaces Ken Hatfield

Razorback head coach Ken Hatfield had won the Southwest Conference (SWC) in 1988 and ‘89, but had a tense relationship with AD Frank Broyles. When Hatfield bolted for Clemson after the 1989 season, Broyles asked Hatfield’s offensive coordinator, Jack Crowe, to stay and lead the program. Crowe went 9-14 in Arkansas’ last two seasons in the SWC. Then in 1992, the Razorbacks opened their first SEC season with a loss to The Citadel. Crowe was fired and defensive coordinator Joe Kines coached the team for the remainder of the season.


5. Alabama 2002: Mike Price Replaces Dennis Franchione

After Dennis Franchione surprised Alabama by leaving for Texas A&M at the end of a 10-3 season in 2002, AD Mal Moore then surprised fans by hiring Mike Price. In his 14 seasons at Washington State, Price had made the Rose Bowl twice. He also enjoyed the nightlife a little more than the Alabama officials preferred. His five months in Tuscaloosa included a reprimand for being seen out drinking into the early morning hours, but everything came to a head in April 2003. Price went to Pensacola for a golf tournament where he was seen at a strip club that ultimately resulted in a bawdy Sports Illustrated story (Price later sued SI and the lawsuit was settled.). Alabama President Robert Witt, who had promised to clean up the Crimson Tide’s image after NCAA sanctions, rescinded Price’s contract and hired Mike Shula. Price went to UTEP, where he and his family were beloved, and coached for nine seasons. Looking back, his actions seem pretty tame when compared to some of the coaching scandals that have occurred since then. 


4. Tennessee 2008: Lane Kiffin Replaces Phillip Fulmer

After firing Phillip Fulmer in 2008, AD Mike Hamilton hired Lane Kiffin, the former offensive coordinator at USC and the recently fired head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Hamilton gave Kiffin full control of the program and he proceeded to fire the entire staff, including graduate assistants and secretaries. After leading the team to a 7-6 record, he bolted in January 2010 to return to the Trojans as their head coach, leaving the Volunteers with no other options than Derek Dooley to lead their program. Kiffin has proved to be toxic wherever he has gone, but he did significant damage in his one season in Knoxville. It has taken Tennessee years to recover.


3. SMU 1981: Bobby Collins Replaces Ron Meyer

When head coach Ron Meyer left to coach the New England Patriots, SMU hired Bobby Collins, who had an impressive seven-year run as head coach of Southern Miss. Collins put together a 43-14-1 record and two Southwestern Conference championships while at SMU, but his tenure resulted in the program being given the “Death Penalty” in 1987. Many are to blame for this and Collins inherited a program that was already violating NCAA rules, but he still bears a lot of the responsibility as head coach. As the NCAA report on SMU’s probation noted, Collins had told the NCAA that, “all known violations had been disclosed and that every effort would be made to avoid violations in the future. Both assurances turned out to be false.” SMU has never fully rebounded from the severe NCAA sanctions.


2. Nebraska 2003: Bill Callahan Replaces Frank Solich

After an eight-win season and six straight bowl appearances, Nebraska AD Steve Pederson fired head coach Frank Solich. Granted, Solich’s success had not mirrored that of his predecessor Tom Osborne, whose final four years had included three national championships. The Huskers’ vaunted option offense also was losing its effectiveness. So in addition to firing Solich, Pederson decided to scrap it and bring in head coach Bill Callahan to install the West Coast offense. The decision did not work out and both Pederson and Callahan were fired in 2007.


1. Ole Miss 2004: Ed Orgeron Replaces David Cutcliffe

The success of USC under Pete Carroll caused ADs across the country to reevaluate the way they managed their football programs. It also caused some to lose their minds, the most egregious example being Ole Miss’ Pete Boone. After taking the reins in 1998, David Cutcliffe led the Rebels to five straight winning seasons, something no coach in Oxford had done since Johnny Vaught. After losing many key starters at the end of the 2003 season, including quarterback Eli Manning, Ole Miss went 4-7 in ‘04. Boone fired Cutcliffe and replaced him with Ed Orgeron, the assistant head coach and recruiting director for USC. It became apparent quickly that Boone should have stayed with Cutcliffe. Orgeron won 10 games in three seasons and was fired in 2007. Cutcliffe is now at Duke, where he has had three straight bowl appearances and at 7-5 this season, the Blue Devils will qualify for a fourth as well. And he is the last Ole Miss head coach to have five straight winning seasons (Current head coach Hugh Freeze has had four straight winning seasons.).


— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

10 Head Coaching Moves College Football Programs Would Like to Forget
Post date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 10:00