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All taxonomy terms: College Football, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC
Path: /college-football/western-carolina-catamounts-vs-tennessee-volunteers-preview-and-prediction-2015

On Saturday, the Tennessee Volunteers will welcome FCS challenger Western Carolina to Knoxville. Oddly enough, these two teams have a lot in common.  Like Tennessee, WCU entered the 2015 season projected as a team on the rise, returning most of their starters on both sides of the football. The Catamounts ranked 23rd in Athlon Sports’ pre-season FCS Top 25 Rankings, while the Vols came in at no. 22 in Athlon Sports’ FBS Top 25 rankings. They both run a similar up-tempo offense that likes to spread out opposing defenses. In addition, both schools enjoyed victories against lesser opponents in Week 1, and both are coming off of a tough loss at home.


Of course, that is where the comparisons end. Other than the aforementioned facts, the Volunteers and Catamounts could not be more different. A point that should quickly reveal itself when the two schools face off for the first time ever on Saturday night in Neyland Stadium.


Western Carolina at Tennessee


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. The Tennessee passing game

In spite of plenty of pre-season hype, Tennessee hasn’t exactly lit it up through the air so far this season. Highly touted quarterback Joshua Dobbs was solid in the passing game against Bowling Green, but struggled mightily against a much tougher Oklahoma defense last week. Dobbs completed less than 50 percent of his passes for just 125 yards against the Sooners. Dobbs, and his corps of talented receivers, have also struggled with the deep ball, completing just two passes for more than 20 yards in the first two contests, both coming against Bowling Green.


The Vols have proven that they can run the football with running back’s Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, but they must build confidence in the passing game if they want to compete in the SEC. The Western Carolina game provides a valuable opportunity to do just that. Look for the Vols to take some shots downfield on Saturday night.


2. Will the Volunteers have some new faces in the lineup?

Following Saturday’s debacle against Oklahoma, several players were criticized for poor individual performances. Most notably at the middle linebacker position and on the offensive line, Tennessee’s two biggest areas of concern heading into the season.


The matchup against the Catamounts should allow Tennessee to test some of the younger talent at those positions without risking much as a result. At the very least, you can probably expect to see more of freshman MLB Darrin Kirkland and freshmen offensive linemen Jack Jones and Chance Hall, as the Vols continue to experiment with their lineup before heading into SEC play.


3. Will Western Carolina be intimidated by Neyland Stadium?

There really isn’t anything a team can do to prepare for running out into a crowd of 100,000 plus rabid fans that all hate your guts and would love nothing more than to send you packing with a loss and a hearing problem. That being said, Western Carolina should be as prepared as anyone to take on the unfriendly confines of Neyland on Saturday night.


The Catamounts are no stranger to the big stage having faced off against some of the toughest teams in America, in some of the toughest environments college football has to offer. A trip to face Alabama in Tuscaloosa last season and trips to take on Virginia Tech and Auburn the previous year provide all the proof you need. Granted, WCU did not fare well in any of those match ups, but this is a veteran team that has been there and done that.


Final Analysis


The matchup against the Catamounts should provide the Volunteers with two things that they desperately need coming off of the heart breaking double overtime loss to Oklahoma. A chance to regain their confidence, and an opportunity to get some younger players valuable game experience before heading to Gainesville to face arch-rival Florida next week.


While WCU is not without talent, most notably All-SoCon performers WR Spearman Robinson, QB Troy Mitchell, and OL Jake Thornton, the FCS Catamounts simply cannot match a talented SEC roster on the road. Expect a lopsided victory in favor of an angry Tennessee football team at home.


Prediction: Tennessee 59, Western Carolina 7


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS

Western Carolina Catamounts vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 09:50
Path: /college-football/northwestern-state-demons-vs-mississippi-state-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2015

Mississippi State lost a hard-fought battle last week against LSU in Starkville. Trailing 21-3 in the second half, the Bulldogs stormed back behind the strong right arm of quarterback Dak Prescott. Unfortunately, Prescott and running back Ashton Shumpert couldn’t hook up on a fourth quarter two-point conversion and Devon Bell couldn’t connect on a 52-yard field goal attempt as time expired.


The 21-19 loss hurt, but the Bulldogs must regroup this week against FCS opponent Northwestern State. And, as Auburn found out last week and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz saw firsthand last year, FCS teams can be very dangerous.


Northwestern State at Mississippi State


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Mississippi State run the football?

One of the biggest concerns for Mississippi State entering the 2015 season was replacing the production of running back Josh Robinson. Through two games, there still isn’t a clear answer.


The Bulldogs averaged 233 rushing yards per game last season but this year State has just 248 rushing yards total. Part of the problem is that the Bulldogs have not committed to running the football, and instead have relied on the passing game. State has attempted 92 passes compared to 54 runs, and last week attempted 54 passes against LSU.


Brandon Holloway leads the team thus far with 88 yards on 12 carries — an impressive 7.3 yards per attempt — but top ball carriers Prescott and Shumpert both have just 18 carries through two games. Prescott, with two touchdowns, is the only player to score on the ground.


2. Northwestern State is no pushover
The Demons may be 0-2, with losses to Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana-Lafayette, but they are a dangerous squad capable of pulling an upset. Just ask Manny Diaz. Last season, Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator led the defense at Louisiana Tech, who despite winning Conference USA’s Western Division championship, lost to Northwestern State 30-27 early in the season. The Demons forced five turnovers in the game and kicked two field goals in the final 1:05 of the fourth quarter to steal the win.


3. The offensive line must protect Dak Prescott
Mississippi State may have only run the football 26 times last week, but they averaged only 1.7 yards per carry, which means the offensive line didn’t open very many holes for State running backs. But the offensive line struggled even more to protect Prescott, who was sacked three times for a loss of 28 yards. Prescott was on the run from LSU defenders all game, and the Tigers recorded eight official quarterback hurries. That means of the 57 times Prescott dropped back to pass, he was under heavy pressure 19.3 percent of the time.


Final Analysis


After the loss last week, Mississippi State has come up short in three of their last four games, and has four losses in their last six contests. The Bulldogs should get back in the win column this week because they are a bigger, stronger, faster and more talented team at nearly every position. If the offensive line shows improvement, State should win in impressive fashion.


Prediction: Mississippi State 41, Northwestern State 7


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

Northwestern State Demons vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 09:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, High School
Path: /high-school/high-school-players-john-jay-football-referee-gma-hit-target-coach

A Texas school district has been investigating the actions of two high school football players for targeting a referee during a game.


The John Jay football players are saying the orders to hit the referee came straight from the head coach. Allegedly the referee had been using racial slurs during the game and aimed them at certain players on the team. Although the official denies that claim, the two players say they heard it for themselves. When the orders came down from the coach, they were simply doing what they were told.


"You need to hit the ref, he needs to pay the price," was the order given to the players.


Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-ole-miss-rebels-preview-and-prediction-2015

Last season’s meeting between Ole Miss and Alabama was one of the top games from the SEC’s 2014 slate, and the 2015 version has the potential to be another thriller on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. Both teams opened the season with a 2-0 start, but the schedule will get tougher starting on Saturday. Ole Miss crushed UT Martin and Fresno State in easy fashion, while the Crimson Tide handled Wisconsin in Week 1, followed by a 27-point victory over MTSU in Week 2.


While both teams have impressed through the first two weeks, Saturday night’s showdown is a huge barometer game for both teams. Just how good is Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly? Alabama’s rugged defense should give the Rebels a good idea of where Kelly is in his development, as well improvement from the ground attack. For the Crimson Tide, quarterback Jake Coker remains a question mark two starts into 2015, but this team is loaded with one of the nation’s top running backs (Derrick Henry) and an elite defense.


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 3


The Crimson Tide owns a significant edge in the overall series against the Rebels. Ole Miss won the 2014 meeting in Oxford, but the last victory for the Rebels in Tuscaloosa was in 1988.


Ole Miss at Alabama


Kickoff: 9:15 p.m. ET, Saturday, Sept. 19

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Alabama -7


Three Things to Watch


1. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly

New Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly has lived up to the hype so far. After a short stint at Clemson and a stop at East Mississippi Community College, Kelly landed in Oxford prior to spring practice and edged DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan for the starting job. Through two weeks, Kelly leads the nation by averaging 13.9 yards per pass attempt, has completed 29 of 40 passes for 557 yards and six scores. The junior also has 46 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. While Kelly has been sharp in his first two outings, a road test at Alabama is a completely different animal than UT Martin or Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s front seven is arguably the nation’s best, and the secondary is loaded with top recruits. Will Kelly continue his hot start to the season? The junior’s supporting cast also has to step up, and the offensive line is not expected to have left tackle Laremy Tunsil back in the lineup due to an ongoing NCAA investigation. Additionally, the Rebels averaged only 3.9 yards per carry in SEC games last season. That won’t get it done on Saturday night. While Kelly’s play is critical, Ole Miss needs to have balance on offense.


Related: 3 Keys to an Ole Miss Upset Over Alabama


2. Derrick Henry vs. Ole Miss’ Run Defense

Alabama running back Derrick Henry is off to a fast start in 2015. Through two games, the junior has been one of the nation’s top players. Henry has 243 yards and six scores on 31 rushes, averaging a whopping 7.8 yards per carry. In last year’s meeting, Ole Miss limited Henry to just 37 yards. However, last year’s starter (T.J. Yeldon) had 123 yards on 20 attempts. Alabama’s offensive line hasn’t been perfect this season, but there’s no shortage of talent in this group. Anchored by junior Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss’ defensive front is one of the best in the SEC. This unit has allowed only 3.07 yards per carry this season and no player has reached paydirt against this unit on the ground. Considering the new players stepping into the starting lineup on offense, Alabama needs Henry to keep quarterback Jake Coker out of obvious passing situations, but coordinator Lane Kiffin may need Coker to have success through the air early to prevent the Rebels from stacking the box.


Related: SEC Week 3 Preview and Predictions


3. Alabama QB Jake Coker and New Wide Receivers

Alabama’s passing attack has its share of concerns entering this matchup. New starting quarterback Jake Coker is 30 of 47 for 427 yards and two touchdown passes this season and is completing 63.8 percent of his passes. Coker opened the year with a sharp performance against Wisconsin but wasn’t as crisp in the Week 2 victory over MTSU. How quick of a hook will Saban have in this game? Backup Cooper Bateman has played in both games so far this season and is 18 of 25 for 149 yards and a score. But the growth of the passing game isn’t solely on the quarterbacks. The Crimson Tide lost their top three receivers from last season, and after two games, this group is still unsettled. Running back Kenyan Drake and tight end O.J. Howard (seven catches for both players) lead the team in receiving yards. Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart are the team’s top receivers, but this group will face a tough assignment against an Ole Miss secondary limiting opponents to a 58.5 completion percentage. Coker doesn’t necessarily need a huge effort on Saturday night for Alabama to win. However, he needs to be efficient and limit the mistakes. This is his toughest test so far in 2015.


Final Analysis


This matchup in Tuscaloosa should be one of the weekend’s best games. Ole Miss has been very impressive through the first two weeks, but the competition level has been questionable. Just how good is Chad Kelly? We are about to find out. Kelly’s ability to attack downfield is a huge asset for the Rebels, as receiver Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram are big-time playmakers that can stretch the field. Has Alabama’s secondary improved since last year? Or will the Crimson Tide’s front seven generate enough pressure to limit the big plays downfield? When Alabama has the ball, keep an eye on the trenches. Running back Derrick Henry is off to a fast start, but the Rebels want to limit the ground attack and force Coker to win through the air. Ole Miss has its share of success on offense. However, Alabama’s defense makes enough plays in the second half to secure the victory.


Prediction: Alabama 27, Ole Miss 20
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Ole Miss Rebels Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-vs-lsu-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Auburn and LSU renew their annual rivalry in Death Valley on Saturday afternoon, as the Week 3 all-Tigers matchup is a crucial one in the rugged SEC West. LSU opened conference play with a 20-19 victory over Mississippi State last Saturday, while Auburn needed overtime to survive Jacksonville State. It’s only Week 3, but there’s plenty at stake in this matchup. While a loss here certainly doesn’t end the conference title hopes of either team, the SEC West is loaded with seven quality teams and there’s little margin for error.


While last week was certainly troubling for Auburn, coach Gus Malzahn’s team was shorthanded due to a few injuries on defense, and there was the look ahead factor to this matchup against LSU. For coach Les Miles’ Tigers, LSU’s passing game remains a question mark, but there’s no doubt this team can win a lot of games on the strength of running back Leonard Fournette and a strong defense.


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 3


LSU owns a 27-21-1 edge in the overall series and has won three out of the last four against Auburn. Coach Gus Malzahn’s team won last year’s meeting in convincing fashion (41-7). However, Auburn has not won in Baton Rouge since 1999.


Auburn at LSU


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: LSU -7


Three Things to Watch


1. Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson

Johnson was widely considered one of college football’s rising stars this preseason, and the junior was picked by most as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks for 2015. However, the hype hasn’t matched the production through two weeks. Johnson struggled in last week’s win over Jacksonville State and has passed for 373 yards and three passing scores in 2015. However, the junior also has five interceptions and is not the dynamic running threat his predecessor (Nick Marshall) was for the Auburn offense. Is this the game where Johnson starts to figure it out? LSU’s secondary is among the nation’s best, but top safety Jalen Mills is still sidelined with a leg injury. The Tigers allowed 335 passing yards in last week’s win over Mississippi State, with a good chunk of it coming in the second half. A strong performance by Johnson would significantly boost the odds of Auburn pulling off a road upset.


Related: SEC Week 3 Predictions


2. Stopping LSU RB Leonard Fournette

The success of LSU’s offense starts with Fournette. Despite question marks about the passing attack and going against extra defenders in the box, Fournette gashed Mississippi State for 159 yards and three scores. If Fournette continues that production, he will be among the leading candidates to win the Heisman Trophy in December. The sophomore faces a similar storyline on Saturday afternoon, as Auburn hopes to slow the ground attack and force LSU to win this one through the air. Auburn’s defense is allowing 199.5 rushing yards per game, but end Carl Lawson – if healthy – would be a big boost for this group. Auburn needs to win the battle on first and second downs to put LSU in long-yardage situations.


3. LSU QB Brandon Harris vs. Auburn’s Defense

The final stat line for Brandon Harris against Mississippi State – 9 of 14 for 71 yards – wasn’t overly impressive. However, Harris didn’t make a mistake (zero interceptions) and added 48 rushing yards. But most importantly for coach Les Miles and coordinator Cam Cameron – LSU got the victory. The Tigers don’t necessarily need Harris to throw for 300 yards a week, but he needs to make plays in the clutch and eliminate any turnovers. How much will Harris build off last week’s performance? Safety Tray Matthews is expected back after missing last Saturday’s game, and Auburn has allowed only one passing score so far. Can Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp bait Harris into a couple of mistakes?


Final Analysis


This is a tough one to predict. Auburn isn’t as bad as it played against Jacksonville State, but it needs a healthy Carl Lawson at end, as well as Johnson to play his best game of the year under center. LSU has its own share of question marks. Will the defense tighten up after struggling in the second half against Mississippi State? Leonard Fournette will get his share of carries, but is quarterback Brandon Harris ready to take another step forward in his development? It’s tempting to take Auburn, as Malzahn should have this team ready to play after last week’s sluggish performance. However, it’s tough to pick against LSU in Death Valley.


Prediction: LSU 27, Auburn 24
Auburn Tigers vs. LSU Tigers Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-red-raiders-vs-arkansas-razorbacks-preview-and-prediction-2015

Saturday’s Big 12 vs. SEC matchup pitting Texas Tech against Arkansas got a lot more interesting after the Razorbacks fell to Toledo 16-12 in Week 2 and the Red Raiders flew past UTEP 69-20.


In Week 3 of the 2014 season Arkansas traveled to Lubbock getting the coming out party they needed against a Power Five Conference team — racking up 499 yards of offense with 438 of those yards coming on the ground en route to a 49-28 victory. Life is dramatically different for the Razorbacks this time around after a painfully embarrassing defeat in Little Rock to unranked Toledo. Now the Hogs are struggling to find their running game and have seemingly overnight turned into a passing offense.


On the other side of the field, Texas Tech entered the season with 15 total starters back from a 4-8 team a year ago. On paper, not much has changed for the Red Raiders. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury still has one of the nation’s best passing attacks, but big question marks remain on the defensive side of the ball after allowing 637 yards of offense along with 45 points to Sam Houston State and 414 yards to UTEP with another 20 points.


Texas Tech at Arkansas


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

Network: ESPN2

Line: Arkansas -11.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Arkansas’s pass defense vs. Texas Tech’s passing offense

Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes seems custom-built for the Air Raid offense. In two games he has passed for 786 yards with eight touchdowns against one pick. He has also picked up another 71 yards on the ground off 11 carries with two additional scores. Mahomes' top receiver is senior slot receiver Jakeem Grant. The 5’7”, 169 pound receiver has a knack for finding holes in the opposition's defense and then turning on the speed for big yardage. Grant has 13 receptions for 212 yards with a score.


Over two games seven different receivers have caught a pass for Tech. Four of those receivers, including Grant, have already amassed over 100 yards receiving; Devin Lauderdale (197), Ian Sadler (122), and Reginald Davis (105). The Razorbacks, although not having played a true passing attack as lethal as Texas Tech, is allowing 192 yards per game in the air. The back seven will be tested time and time again putting a heavy emphasis on the front four to produce hurries and sacks to help out. Can this unit step up in a critical game this early in the season, especially with Texas A&M next week?


2. Arkansas’s rushing attack vs. Texas Tech’s rush defense

Before the season started if an Arkansas fan had been told the Hogs two games in would be the 89th ranked rushing attack in the nation, the first question asked would have been who all got injured?


The glaring injury is the loss of All-SEC running back Jonathan Williams, a 1,100-yard rusher last year. Even with another 1,100 rusher in Alex Collins back, the Hogs have fallen from 218 yards per game in 2014 to 143 yards per game, and against subpar teams.


For all of the good things Texas Tech can do in the passing game their defense is the exact opposite. The rush defense allows 272 yards per game. This is the type of game Arkansas needs to reestablish the foundation of their 7-6 team last season.


Can the Hogs get it going? Offensive line coach Sam Pittman is standing by his decision to put Denver Kirkland at left tackle after starting him at right guard last year. Pittman believes Kirkland is Arkansas’s best left tackle but he may be overlooking the fact that Kirkland is also the team’s best interior lineman — forfeiting being able to run between the tackles for an ideal left tackle. This points to a bigger problem, what is the team’s identity, a passing team or a running team?


3. Arkansas vs. Arkansas

There are so many holes up and down Arkansas’s roster filled with youth and inexperience, tinkering to find out what will work should still be in play. With youth and inexperience comes penalties. Arkansas had two touchdowns called back last week that could have been difference-makers in the final outcome. For the year the Razorbacks have been flagged 15 times, tied for 83rd in the nation, giving up an average of 76.5 penalty yards per game, tied for 98th in the nation.


One thing Bielema has done well since he has been at Arkansas is limiting penalties or coaching up his kids to play smart and with technique. A back to the basics approach all the way around, simplifying the game might be the easiest fix for the Hogs on offense and defense against Texas Tech.


Final Analysis


Texas Tech’s defense ranks No. 118 in the nation allowing 526 yards per contest. If Arkansas cannot take advantage of this defense Razorback Nation will be in for a long season.


If Arkansas tries to get into a shootout with Texas Tech, something Kliff Kingsbury wants, the Hogs might be able to hang for a little while, but the advantage over the long haul would go to the Red Raiders. If Arkansas cannot get an effective ground game together and falls behind by two scores, senior quarterback Brandon Allen might be able to up the Hogs’ passing attack from No. 12 in the nation into the Top 10, but will a win follow? That did not happen after throwing for 412 yards against Toledo.


Prediction: Arkansas 31, Texas Tech 21


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

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 09:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-3-picks

Week three of the college football season is upon us and we've seen some crazy results and near upsets. The SEC had about as good a week as I did this past Saturday. Auburn probably should have lost to Jacksonville State while Arkansas actually did fall to Toledo. I thought it was going to be an over, but was very surprised by the Rockets' performance in their first game of the year. It's still early to completely know what some teams bring to the table, but we're starting to get an idea on some squads. 


Record: 11-8 (4-4 last week)


Ball State (1-1) at Eastern Michigan (1-1)

MACtion on a Saturday as Eastern Michigan hosts Ball State. The Eagles are flying high after a road win at Wyoming last weekend. EMU has managed over 400 yards of offense in two games and should be able to hit that number against Ball State. The Cardinals were gashed by FCS opponent VMI in week one while Texas A&M scored 56 points in week two. It's hard to believe this is the same Eastern Michigan team that struggled last year to do anything right. The Eagles won on the road despite giving up 430 yards on the ground. Both of these teams have solid ground games and defenses allergic to stopping it. In 2013 this matchup was won 51-20 by Ball State while the 2014 game resulted in a 45-30 Cardinals win. The Eagles have gone over in eight of their last 11 home games and 17 of their last 24 Saturday matchups. Ball State trends to the over hitting in nine of its last 13 road tilts. SELECTION: Over 63


Kent State (1-1) at Minnesota (1-1)

For the second time this season, Kent State will get a taste of Big Ten football. The first time didn't go well, a 52-3 loss to Illinois in the season opener. This is a Golden Flashes team that has a solid defense and should be able to make things a little difficult for the Golden Gophers. Minnesota's offense has struggled with consistency, scoring a total of 40 points in games against TCU and Colorado State. Kent State's offense has been pretty bad against FBS teams. The Flashes will find it hard to move the ball on Minnesota, which has forced six turnovers and held the potent TCU offense to just 23 points. Minnesota has gone under in 15 of its last 28 games overall. SELECTION: Under 46


Central Michigan (1-1) at Syracuse (2-0)

The Orange are 2-0 with a freshman quarterback and a solid defense as they enter Saturday's game against Central Michigan. The Orange beat Wake Forest 30-17 last week in a game I figured would go under the total. They've forced seven turnovers in two games, which has helped an anemic offense get going. Central Michigan's loss came at home 24-13 to Oklahoma State. The Chippewas followed that up with a win over Monmouth 31-10. Quarterback Cooper Rush has played well so far, but he needs a little more from the ground game to keep defenses honest. Speaking of defense, CMU hasn't done too poorly and shouldn't struggle holding the Orange down. There won't be much in terms of home-field advantage in the stands, as Syracuse played in front of a poor crowd with a better opponent last week. Besides that, this team has a huge opportunity in week four with LSU coming to town. Revenge also is a factor as the Chips lost at home 40-3 to a better Syracuse team last year. As long as this thing hovers around 7 to 7.5, I'll take CMU. SELECTION: Central Michigan +7.5


East Carolina (1-1) at Navy (1-0)

Navy has dominated this series as of late winning two of the last three meetings since 2010. The Middies won 56-28 and 76-35 while losing the middle contest 38-35. Navy has had two weeks to prepare for this one after beating Colgate 48-10. The Midshipmen rushed for 371 yards and barely used quarterback Keenan Reynolds. East Carolina, meanwhile, is coming off a 31-24 loss at Florida meaning the Pirates have had just one week to prepare for the triple option. The Pirates' win was 28-20 over Towson in a game where they allowed the Tigers to rush for 179 yards. I'm just not impressed by ECU, which also has a home game against Virginia Tech looming, so the Pirates may get caught looking ahead a bit. Navy has covered 17 of its last 27 games. SELECTION: Navy ML (-180)


Virginia Tech (1-1) at Purdue (1-1)

Virginia Tech has its first road game and second contest against the Big Ten. The Hokies will have Brendan Motley under center, which means they will rely on the ground game a bit more. Purdue has struggled a bit against the run, allowing both opponents to put up over 160 yards on the ground. The problem is that outside of Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech's aerial attack isn't that great. What we can count on is Virginia Tech's defense. The numbers were ugly against Ohio State, but the Buckeyes' offensive talent is slightly better then the Boilermakers. Virginia Tech has gone under in five of its last six games as a road favorite and seven of its last 10 on the road overall. SELECTION: Under 47.5


SMU (1-1) at TCU (2-0)

The Iron Skillet is up for grabs as TCU hosts SMU. The Mustangs' first game against the Big 12 went poorly with them losing 56-21 at home to Baylor. TCU needs to put up big-time numbers to impress the College Football Playoff committee and separate themselves from Baylor, who may be competing with them for a spot in the four-team tournament. The Horned Frogs scored 70 points last time out and could do the same against the Mustangs' generous defense. SMU's offense has improved greatly under new head coach Chad Morris and may be able to put up some points on TCU, which allowed just seven to Stephen F. Austin and 17 to Minnesota. Last year this was a 56-0 TCU win while the year before belonged to the Horned Frogs 48-17. SMU has gone over in 15 of its last 26 games. SELECTION: Over 66.5


Rutgers (1-1) at Penn State (1-1)

What a week it has been for Rutgers, which will be playing without their best wide receiver in Leonte Carroo and their head coach Kyle Flood, who is suspended for three games. Now the Scarlet Knights head to hostile Happy Valley to take on Penn State, which is coming off a 27-14 win over Buffalo. The Nittany Lions should not allow much in the way of yards or points to a Rutgers offense that was stagnant in its first and only half without Carroo way back against Norfolk State. Penn State won this game 13-10 last year in New Jersey and has won five straight against its second-year Big Ten East Division foe. SELECTION: Penn State -10 and Under 46.5


SE Louisiana (2-0) at Ohio (2-0)

You knew we were going to have at least one FCS vs. FBS matchup and for that we head to Ohio. The Bobcats are coming off a real solid home win over Marshall and have a road game at Minnesota next weekend. Between the two contests is a matchup with SE Louisiana, which is ranked in the FCS top 25. The Lions are actually sitting their starting quarterback D'Shaie Landor for Donovan Isom. SE Louisiana has played good defense in two games this year and may have a little bit of an easier task if Ohio goes to its third-string QB. Both JD Sprague and Derrius Vick are injured and Greg Windham has been taking reps with the first team. Focus could be a bit of an issue for Ohio in this one. SELECTION: Under 48


Norfolk State (0-2) at Marshall (1-1)

Norfolk State starts its season with a third straight FBS opponent. The Spartans lost the opener 63-13 to Rutgers in a game that they were up 7-0 before Leonte Carroo returned from a first-half suspension and took over. Week two was a 24-10 loss to Old Dominion. Norfolk State features FAU transfer Greg Hankerson at quarterback as well as wideout Isaac White, who led the team with 48 catches last year. Marshall's offense sputtered at Ohio, but figures to get things going in this one. The Thundering Herd put up 41 points on Purdue in week one. The home team will employ two QBs as they try to jumpstart their offense. SELECTION: Over 54



- Temple is arguably one of the best stories in college football starting out with wins over Penn State and Cincinnati. The Owls are doing so with a solid defense led by linebacker Tyler Matakevich and a very nice ground game led by Jahad Thomas. Now the Owls hit the road for the second straight week to play UMass, which struggled in Colorado for its first game of the year last week. The Minutemen moved the ball vs. the Buffs, but turnovers did them in as well as allowing 390 yards on the ground. This is unchartered territory for the road team, which a favorite of 10.5 to 14 points for the second time since 1992. The Owls are the better team, but will they cover in this situation? It's not an official pick, but I'll consider the Minutemen plus the points. Blake Frohnapfel and Tajae Sharpe are a solid combo. 


- Charlotte is another good story as the 49ers start their first year in FBS football 2-0. They beat Georgia State on the road and Presbyterian at home so the level of competition hasn't been too steep. Now they travel to Middle Tennessee on Saturday and play a Blue Raiders team that has a bit of a turnover issue. MTSU has lost the ball six times with four of those coming last week against Alabama. Watch this game to see how Charlotte handles its first true test. One could make a case for the 49ers to cover the big number especially since this is a MTSU team that has been a favorite of around this much just two times the last three seasons. Charlotte's on my radar as a live dog in the future, but this game will show me what this fledgling program is made of. 


- I looked long and hard at the Duke/Northwestern game, which is underrated on the slate. Both teams are 2-0, but have gotten there in different ways. The Blue Devils beat up on Tulane and NC Central while the Wildcats got on the radar with their season-opening win over Stanford. The Cardinal were flying almost cross country for a noon kickoff which could partially explain the lackluster effort. To be honest, I don't think either is as good as their numbers show. I made a case to myself for the under with Duke struggling with Northwestern's defense. I also made a case for Duke to myself because the Blue Devils are home and the unranked home team as a favorite against the ranked team has been a solid situation. In the end, I couldn't make either official, but I lean to the under and Duke.


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

Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 3 Picks
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/louisiana-tech-bulldogs-vs-kansas-state-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2015

After a pair of tune-up games designed to help a new quarterback get comfortable and pile up some wins before the craziness of the Big 12 schedule commences, Kansas State steps up in class with a visit from Louisiana Tech and its potent offense. The Wildcats have looked sharp in dispatching South Dakota and Texas-San Antonio, but let’s face it — those teams aren’t quite Ohio State and Alabama.


Neither is Louisiana Tech, but the Bulldogs are a strong 1-1 team with real bowl aspirations and are a slow start last week against Western Kentucky away from being 2-0 themselves. Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel has proven himself to be quite dangerous, and his ability to get the ball downfield will test a Kansas State defense that has surrendered a total of three points and just 247.5 yards per game.


Louisiana Tech at Kansas State


Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: Fox Sports Network

Spread: Kansas State -9.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Joe Quarterback

Joe Hubener survived the three-way QB battle during the off-season and has led the Wildcats to two wins. But he hasn’t exactly been overwhelming. Kansas State likes dual-threat quarterbacks, and though Hubener has rushed for a team-high 96 yards, he has averaged just 3.7 yards/carry. And he has completed just 51.2 percent of his passes. With games against Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma to start the league slate, Hubener has to become more efficient and productive.


2. Production Line

The Bulldogs had a chance to establish themselves as the C-USA bully but fell behind early against Western Kentucky and couldn’t get a handle on the game after that. Their offense continues to crackle, thanks to Driskel and running back Kenneth Dixon, who already has 274 yards (8.8-yard average) and three touchdowns. With 583.5 total yards per game, the Bulldogs present quite a challenge for Kansas State.


“[Driskel] is getting ingrained in the system, and you can see him getting better and better in only two games, but you can see the improvements being made,” Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder said. “Their running back, Dixon, has a half a million yards or whatever it is. Obviously, he is a very, very fine player.”


3. Step Up in Class

Louisiana Tech has played Power 5 Conference teams before. In fact, it beat Illinois in a bowl game last year. But facing Kansas State on the road isn’t going to be easy. The Bulldogs must shake off last week’s tough conference loss and be ready to play physical football.


“Kansas State is a very good football team,” Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz said. “I have incredible respect for Coach [Bill] Snyder and the job he has done. He has won more Big 12 games than anyone. They have been incredibly successful. They beat Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and it shows you this is a very good football team. They have a lot of returning starters on this football team."


Final Analysis


The Bulldogs come to Manhattan with a strong offense and the ability to put pressure on a Kansas State D that has struggled against the pass this year, allowing enemy QBs to complete 61.2 percent of their throws. If Driskel gets it going downfield, and Dixon gets some room, Tech is going to score.


This needs to be Hubener’s breakout game. If he can’t get the offense to be more productive, the Wildcats could find themselves in a shootout they can’t win. Still, this is a physical Kansas State team playing at home, and it should prevail.


Prediction: Kansas State 31, Louisiana Tech 20


— 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.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Kansas State Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:55
Path: /college-football/tulsa-golden-hurricane-vs-oklahoma-sooners-preview-and-prediction-2015

Oklahoma and Tulsa tangle this weekend in a game that finds both teams riding high two weeks into the season.


The Sooners come into the contest fresh off a thrilling comeback win at Tennessee last weekend to run their record to 2-0. Meanwhile, the Golden Hurricane waxed New Mexico, giving Philip Montgomery two straight victories to open his tenure as TU head coach.


Vegas is projecting this as a walkover win for OU, installing the Sooners as 31-point favorites. Even if that turns out to be the case, TU will still have the opportunity to test its mettle in hostile territory against a nationally ranked squad.


Tulsa at Oklahoma


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Oklahoma -31


Three Things to Watch


1. OU’s Defensive Scheme

Montgomery came to Tulsa by way of Waco, Texas, where he called plays for four years as Baylor’s offensive coordinator. A year ago, the manner in which his Bears blasted OU’s defense left many in Sooner land wondering if OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had lost his touch. Montgomery has installed the Bears’ patented up-tempo offensive attack at TU. That means Saturday offers a potential preview of the adjustments OU has made in advance of the Sooners’ showdown with Baylor later this year.


2. Pressuring Baker Mayfield

Even in the win over Tennessee, the Sooners’ issues on the offensive line were exposed. Mayfield spent most of the evening running for his life as the Volunteers pass rushers treated his blockers like turnstiles. The ‘Cane should have opportunities to put some licks on OU’s quarterback and pressure him into mistakes, especially if OU center Ty Darlington can't go. If OU’s big uglies continue to struggle with giving Mayfield time, it doesn’t bode well for their hopes of competing for the Big 12 title this season.


3. OU’s Attitude

Between an early kickoff and last week’s emotional win, the Sooners have some major sleepwalking potential in this spot. Aside from the scoring margin, it likely won’t matter to the final outcome of the game if OU isn’t sharp. Chances are that it would matter to OU head coach Bob Stoops, though, who’s now working toward preparing his squad for conference play.


Final Analysis


Coming away from Owen Field with a win is a tall order for a mid-major program in transition like Tulsa. TU has beaten OU just one time in the last 36 years, a 31-24 upset in 1996. In their last five meetings, the Sooners have won by an average of about 40 points.


Look for OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to work more on the timing between Mayfield and the Sooners receivers in the passing game. Riley also may call on his QB to take multiple deep shots in an effort to build some confidence in the downfield passing game.


Montgomery likely will try to spread the field to isolate favorable matchups against OU’s defensive backs, who will get a good test from TU receivers Keyarris Garrett and Keevan Lucas. Unfortunately for TU’s coach, he’ll probably find that OU’s pass coverage has taken big steps forward from last season.


Ultimately, if the Golden Hurricane can stay competitive into the second half, TU fans should take it as a sign that the new regime has the rebuilding program on a good path.


Prediction: Oklahoma 49, Tulsa 20


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

Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. Oklahoma Sooners Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:50
Path: /college-football/connecticut-huskies-vs-missouri-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Connecticut and Missouri meet in a matchup of undefeated teams Saturday at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. The Huskies are coming off a 22-17 win against Army in Week 2. The Tigers survived a potential upset by defeating Arkansas State 27-20.


Which team will escape Saturday's game with its undefeated record still in tact?


Connecticut at Missouri


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Missouri -21.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Will Maty Mauk find consistency?

Maty Mauk's consistency has been a concern for Missouri dating back to last season. When the Tigers began SEC play, Mauk — who had previously thrown 14 touchdowns and four interceptions — threw for zero scores and five picks in his first three conference games.

On Saturday, Mauk threw for 148 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions on 16-of-37 passing. He is, however, leading Missouri with 83 rushing yards on 16 attempts.

Mauk entered 2014 with high expectations and failed to live up to the hype, despite his team's success. This season, the Tigers will need to win because of their quarterback rather than in spite of him.


2. Making do without Russell Hansbrough
As noted, Missouri's leading rusher has just 83 yards in two games. The reason? Russell Hansbrough's injury suffered in Week 1.

Hansbrough suffered a right leg injury during Week 1 and was limited to five carries last week against Arkansas State. Hansbrough is Missouri's best returning player from 2014 and a crucial part of the team's offensive success.

The Tigers need Hansbrough back at 100 percent before entering SEC play, which is probably why he's already been ruled out for this game. WIth Hansbrough sidelined, fellow backs Ish Witter (3.3 ypc)  and Tyler Hunt (3.4 ypc) will need to pick up the slack, as the leading rusher so far has been Mauk (5.2 ypc).


3. Connecticut's toughest test so far

Connecticut survived close games against FCS ranked Virginia and Army to open its season. But the Huskies now face the No. 20 team in the nation coming off back-to-back SEC East division titles.

Connecticut is 2-22 against AP Top 25 teams since joining the FBS in 2000. Its most recent victory against a ranked opponent came on Nov. 24, 2012 in a 23-20 road win over Louisville.

Since then, the Huskies have gone 0-15 against AP Top 25 teams, which many expect to continue given Missouri's projected 21.5-point advantage.


Final Analysis


Missouri is still in the process of figuring things out. Mauk needs to prove he's a consistent passer, Hansbrough needs to get healthy, the rest of the offense needs to battle through inexperience and the revamped defensive line must continue to prove its legitimacy.

This week's matchup provides the Tigers with the perfect opportunity to prepare for a tough SEC schedule. Missouri should enjoy a dominant victory against Connecticut on both sides of the football.

The Tigers should be a solid team in 2015. Once again, Missouri's early schedule should be a confidence booster — aside from the shocking Indiana loss in 2014 — before entering SEC play.


Prediction: Missouri 35, Connecticut 10


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

Connecticut Huskies vs. Missouri Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/illinois-fighting-illini-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2015

Sometimes, adversity can be a good thing. It can serve as a motivating force that can bring a team together. After the first two weeks, it looks like that may be happening at Illinois.


Tim Beckman was fired as Illinois' head coach due to allegations that he pressured the medical staff to get injured players back on the field. Whether the Fighting Illini rallied for their ex-coach or in celebration because he has gone, Illinois has shown life in beating Kent State and Western Illinois by a combined score of 96-3.


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North Carolina battled its own adversity after a gut-wrenching loss to South Carolina on the opening Thursday. The Heels came back with a 53-14 win over North Carolina A&T this past Saturday.


Illinois at North Carolina


Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: North Carolina -10


Three Things to Watch


1. Containing Wes Lunt

When the Illini quarterback was healthy in 2014, he put up some good numbers. He completed 63.5 percent of his passes last year for 1,763 yards and 17 touchdowns against just four interceptions. His problem was staying healthy. Lunt has started this year strong and has spread the ball around to several receivers, with Geronimo Allison emerging as his favorite target. UNC defensive coordinator Gene Chizik’s group has shown great improvement in pass defense, though it is still very early in the season. Defending Lunt will be the Tar Heels defense's biggest challenge to date.


2. Getting Josh Ferguson Involved

Despite facing very little resistance so far this year, Illinois has yet to really get the ground game going. The Illini are currently No. 92 in the nation in rushing offense at 140.5 yards per game. When a team rolls over weak opponents, you would expect higher rushing totals. Ferguson is the Illini’s lead running back and interim head coach Bill Cubit would like more from the senior. Freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn actually has more carries but that’s not surprising considering the nature of the first two games. If Ferguson can get rolling it will make life a lot easier for Lunt and the passing game.


3. The North Carolina Offensive Line

The offensive line was a question mark coming into the season and this group hasn’t really answered a whole lot of questions just yet. But Elijah Hood has had success running the football and the offensive line must get some of the credit. However, quarterback Marquise Williams was sacked four times in the South Carolina game. North Carolina A&T didn’t pressure Williams but that was to be expected. Illinois doesn’t have a very strong pass rush, but the Illini are stout up front on defense. If the Tar Heels win this game, odds are that the offensive line played well.


Final Analysis


This is a huge game for North Carolina. The Heels have already lost to South Carolina and need a win over a quality opponent. With another FCS school in Delaware up next week, a loss would mean that UNC would enter ACC play without a win over an FBS program. And the Tar Heels begin conference play on Oct. 3 at Georgia Tech. For Illinois, this is the first real test of the season. Watch for Illinois to throw the ball all over the lot with Lunt early on, hoping the pass can set up running lanes for Ferguson. UNC will look to create more of a balance right from the start. The line keeping Williams clean and paving the way for Hood will be keys to the Heels' success. This will be a tight contes'. But North Carolina has the more reliable kicker and is at home.


Prediction: North Carolina 27, Illinois 24


— 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.

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:40
Path: /college-football/kent-state-golden-flashes-vs-minnesota-golden-gophers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Jerry Kill and his Minnesota Golden Gophers had big plans heading into 2015. Two games into the season, the Gopher offense has emerged as an area of concern and a possible hurdle in the way of getting to where Kill wants those plans to take them.


Kent State comes to Minneapolis on the back of a 45-point performance against Delaware State — two weeks removed from a blowout loss at the hands of Illinois. Minnesota would certainly like to duplicate the effort put forth by the Illini in this one, especially with only two weeks separating them from a trip to Northwestern to kick off the conference season.


Kent State at Minnesota


Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Minnesota -23.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Minnesota establish an aerial attack?

Mitch Leidner has taken good care of the ball in the pocket, however, he has done very little in the way of making opposing defenses respect the Gopher passing attack. He has averaged just 215 yards through the first two games and tossed only three scores. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt was able to toss four touchdown strikes against Kent State off of short, turnover-originated drives. Kill would likely feel better going forward if he saw Leidner lead some long drives with his arm on Saturday.


2. Will Kent State be able to move the ball?

The Golden Flashes were only able to gain 245 yards against an Illinois defense that isn't exactly among the nation's elite. Enter Minnesota, with a defensive unit that many around the country do feel is elite — starting with their corners. Kent State isn't going to be able to push the Gophers around up front and establish a running game, so they'll likely need to attack Minnesota's secondary often to have any chance in this one.


3. Can the Gophers avoid a letdown?

This is the first of back-to-back games Minnesota will play against MAC teams. They'll be heavily favored in both, and there's not likely to be a lot of motivation for the players to not look past these games and ahead to Northwestern. As discussed, Minnesota's offense hasn't exactly put points on the scoreboard at will this season, so a slow start and early deficit could change the complexion of this game for its entirety.


Final Analysis


Despite a lackluster start to the season, the Gophers are still the class of the Big Ten West — even if the bulk of that can be attributed to the defense. Minnesota's personnel on both sides of the ball are going to be able to dominate every one-on-one matchup on the field, leading to a long day for the visitors. Jerry Kill will have his players focused and ready as always — likely using this game to improve some glaring weaknesses. You'll likely see some of the up-tempo attack you saw toward the end of the TCU game from Leidner, leading to more than enough points to secure a Minnesota victory early.


Prediction: Minnesota 31, Kent State 6


— 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.

Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:35
Path: /college-football/austin-peay-governors-vs-vanderbilt-commodores-preview-and-prediction-2015

In 2013, Vanderbilt beat Austin Peay 38-3. Since that time, the Governors have scored only one victory, a 20-13 home win over Murray State on Oct. 18 last year. Including two losses to start this season, Austin Peay is a whopping 1-25 since the start of the 2013 season. In fact, they haven't even had a winning record since going 7-4 in 2007.


Vanderbilt has gotten off to a tough start. They were edged out by Western Kentucky in week one, 14-12, and fell to Georgia last Saturday, 31-14. But despite averaging only 13 points per game through the first two weeks, the Commodores have been pretty effective in moving the ball. 


Quarterback Johnny McCrary has already thrown for over 500 yards, with 295 of those coming against a solid Georgia defense. Additionally, Ralph Webb is a pretty efficient running back. If the Commodores can mend their red zone problems and quit turning the ball over, they might be able to pull off an upset or two this year. 


So far, nobody has seen anything worth complaining about from Vandy's defense, led by head coach Derek Mason. They gave up only 31 points to an elite Georgia offense. This could be the week the Commodores break through against a struggling Ohio Valley Conference team. 


Austin Peay at Vanderbilt


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network Alternate

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Do the Governors have an answer for McCrary?

Throwing for nearly 300 yards against Georgia was an impressive feat for McCrary, especially considering how bad Vanderbilt's passing attack was last year. Over the past couple seasons, Austin Peay has had no answer in the secondary. Last week, they gave up 275 yards through the air to Southern Miss, a team that maintains a pretty average quarterback situation, to say the least. This game could be an opportunity for McCrary to show off his skills against a lesser opponent.  


2. How many yards will Ralph Webb run for?

As bad as the Governors have been at covering receivers, their ability to stop the run is nearly nonexistent. Southern Miss pounded Austin Peay last week for 239 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, but that isn't even the worst performance of the season. In week one, Mercer rushed for 261 yards in a 28-7 win. Vanderbilt will be the Governors' biggest test thus far in stopping the run. The Commodores' top offensive playmaker, Ralph Webb, could have a field day. 


3. Will Austin Peay score?

This is the biggest question mark. Will the Governors even muster a field goal? It sounds simple, but in two weeks they have scored only a total of 13 points. Of course, Vanderbilt isn't an offensive powerhouse either, but they are looking fairly decent on the other side of the ball. Vandy has to like the way things are looking defensively through the first two weeks, and they will only continue to get better. Austin Peay is going to have a difficult time moving the football in this game.


Final Analysis


While I picked Georgia to manhandle Vanderbilt last week, I said that I still believe they are going to improve throughout the season. They looked better last week than they did against Western Kentucky, despite a 17-point loss to the Bulldogs, so I wasn't particularly surprised that Georgia didn't run away. The Commodores are getting to the point where they can at least move the ball. They just need to quit giving it away. Austin Peay, honestly, is not a very good football team. Their record over the past few years proves it. Unless the Governors play a perfect game and Vanderbilt falls on their face, this game will be over by halftime. Really, Vandy won't screw this one up.


Prediction: Vanderbilt 41, Austin Peay 0


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

Austin Peay Governors vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/air-force-falcons-vs-michigan-state-spartans-preview-and-prediction-2015

Last week, the Spartans scored a victory in one of the most high-profile games in the history of Michigan State's football program. This week, the Spartans have an early kickoff versus a team outside of the Power 5. Could this serve as a stumbling block for a team still basking in the national adulation and enjoying a Top Four ranking in both major polls?


The Falcons will leave Colorado Springs for the first time this season. Air Force demolished Morgan State in the season opener. In Week 2, the Falcons outscored San Jose State 20-0 in the fourth quarter to run away with a Mountain West win. Can the Falcons garner some attention across the country by pulling an upset?


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These two programs will face each on the gridiron for the first time. Michigan State has only played any of the armed forces academies twice previously. Both were losses to Army, in 1931 and in 1984. Against opponents from the Mountain West Conference, the Spartans are 2-0 (Boise State in 2012, Wyoming in 2014).


Air Force has squared off against eight different members of the Big Ten. The Falcons' all-time record in those contests is 5-7-2.


Air Force at Michigan State


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Michigan State -26.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Air Force's offense vulnerable and exposed?

The Falcons employ a radically different offensive scheme from the spread offenses of the Spartans' first opponents. Air Force's attack could be weakened by the loss of its starting quarterback, Nate Romine, last week. The impact will be lessened due to his replacement, Karson Roberts, having some experience in the option-based system. For his career, this senior has over 200 yards in passing and in rushing as well as three touchdowns in both categories.


In the Spartans' favor, their defensive line coach, Ron Burton, filled the same role at the Air Force Academy from 2003 through 2012. His viewing of the Falcons' option plays run at practice for ten years will prove very valuable.


2. Not so special teams of Michigan State

The Spartans are still struggling in the kicking game. In the season opener at Western Michigan, they allowed an average of 41.8 yards on kickoff returns and a touchdown. Against Oregon, they permitted 23.5 yards per kickoff return along with 24.5 yards per punt return and a touchdown allowed. Michigan State must crack down on sloppy coverage before it makes the difference between a win and a loss.


The Falcons have yet to return a kickoff this season. However, they have averaged 33.3 yards per punt return. One punt was brought back for a touchdown. Can Air Force exploit the Spartans' liability in order to give their offense starting field position on Michigan State's side of the 50-yard line, if not actually score a touchdown?


3. Same old Spartans?

From 1990 through 2006, Michigan State defeated nine opponents who were ranked in the Top Ten. In the regular season games following those wins, the Spartans lost seven of those; five of the defeats occurred against unranked foes. Those stumbles gave rise to the term "same old Spartans", playing above their talent level versus highly rated teams only to choke in winnable games afterwards.


During the Dantonio era, the Spartans have beaten seven teams in the Top 25 during the regular season. They followed up those victories with another win in next game six times. Twice, Michigan State defeated a ranked opponent in the next game. Dantonio has instilled a strong focus on the next week to avoid letting a high-profile victory being soured by an inexplicable loss.


Final Analysis


Michigan State cannot let accolades distract them from preparing for a rarely seen type of offensive scheme. Undoubtedly, the atmosphere in Spartan Stadium will come nowhere close to the electricity in the air last Saturday evening. Air Force will remain competitive through most of the first half. The forecasted rain will likely slow down the speedy Air Force running backs on a sloppy turf. Gradually, the Spartans' advantage in size on the offensive line will wear down the Falcons front seven on defense.


Prediction: Michigan State 30, Air Force 13


— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Air Force Falcons vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:25
Path: /college-football/unlv-rebels-vs-michigan-wolverines-preview-and-prediction-2015

After a sluggish start last week against Oregon State, the Wolverines finally started to resemble a competent offense by rattling off 35 straight points en route to a 35-7 blowout victory over the Beavers. The Michigan defense also stepped up their game, limiting Oregon State to just two yards of total offense after the first quarter.


For UNLV, the major concern centers around starting quarterback Blake Decker who suffered an injury late last week in the 37-3 loss to UCLA. If Decker is unable to go, the Rebels will be headed into their first-ever trip to the Big House at 0-2 with a quarterback that has not started a collegiate game. Probably not the way head coach Tony Sanchez had it written up before the season.


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UNLV at Michigan​


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan -34


Three Things to Watch


1. Keep it Rolling
There is no need to get fancy here. Michigan controlled the match-up in the trenches against Oregon State, punishing the defense up the middle with a rushing attack that racked up over 225 yards. Junior De’Veon Smith established himself as the go-to rusher in the Wolverines backfield, rushing for a career-high 126 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The talent disparity will be far greater against UNLV, so there is absolutely no reason why Michigan should deviate from what worked so well in the second half last week. UNLV ranks in the bottom third in rush defense giving up over 229 yards a game through two games.


2. Uncertainty at QB for UNLV
As of Wednesday night, Rebels starting quarterback Blake Decker is listed as day-to-day with a hip injury, and remains questionable for Saturday. If Decker is unavailable, backup quarterback Kurt Palandech would likely get the nod for his first collegiate start. The sophomore has played in both games this season — primarily as the wildcat quarterback — but has only completed 31 percent of his passes for minimal yardage. True freshman Dalton Sneed could also get a look, but the coaching staff would rather not burn a redshirt possibility this early in the season. With Decker unlikely to be 100 percent even if under center, the Wolverines can scheme towards stopping the run and force UNLV to be one-dimensional on offense.


3. Winning the turnover margin
Despite giving up 37 points, the Rebels defense did force UCLA quarterbacks into three interceptions last week (only one against Josh Rosen). If UNLV is to keep the score respectable, the defense will have to force Michigan into a few turnovers and the Wolverines have been more than willing to provide said turnovers through the first two weeks. Starting quarterback Jake Rudock has already tossed four interceptions after throwing just five all of last season for Iowa. If Rudock continues to be inaccurate with his throws as he has been early on this season, the Rebels will need to take advantage.


Final Analysis


This game is likely to be over midway through the first quarter. UNLV’s slim hopes on springing the upset rely on a healthy Decker connecting on multiple deep shots to stud wide receiver Devonte Boyd. With Decker not at full strength, the Rebels will be forced to run the football against a Michigan defense that is allowing less than three yards a carry through the first two games. That is not a recipe for success. Expect the backups for Michigan to get plenty of reps early in the second half with the Wolverines up big the entire afternoon.


Prediction: Michigan 41, UNLV 6


— 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.

UNLV Rebels vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:20
Path: /college-football/south-florida-bulls-vs-maryland-terrapins-preview-prediction-2015

Bowling Green, fueled by 42 second-half points, overcame a 13-6 halftime deficit to defeat the Maryland Terrapins 48-27 in College Park, Md., Saturday. The win was Bowling Green's first against a Power Five conference team on the road since 2008.


Maryland, for the second consecutive week, failed to generate a productive passing attack and head coach Randy Edsall replaced starting quarterback Perry Hills with Caleb Rowe in the fourth quarter.  Hills finished Saturday’s contest 15-of-30 for 168 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Will Likely ripped off another punt return for a touchdown — this time an 85-yarder that tied a school record in that category — to put the Terrapins up 10-0 as the first quarter expired. But Maryland’s anemic, early-season offense couldn’t match scores with the high-powered Falcons from the MAC, giving the Terps their first loss of the season.


For a few brief moments last week,Florida State fans in Doak Campbell Stadium collectively held their breath as South Florida entered halftime tied 7-7 with the Seminoles. And although the Bulls failed to secure the upset, losing 34-14, Willie Taggert’s team showed that it is good enough to hang with and beat Power 5 conference member Maryland. In last year’s meeting between the two schools, Maryland overcame a seven-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win 24-17 in Tampa, Fla.


South Florida at Maryland


Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

Television: ESPNU

Spread: Maryland -7


Three Things to Watch


1. Musical Quarterbacks

This Tuesday, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall made the move most expected him to and demoted starting quarterback Perry Hills, who is 27-of-51 for 306 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions on the year. Caleb Rowe, who was the backup to the now-departed C.J. Brown one year ago, will make his fourth career start. In relief duty Saturday, Rowe threw two interceptions on three pass attempts. The Landrum, S.C., native has thrown for 1,785 yards and 12 touchdowns and interceptions since 2012. Rowe will be protected by a Maryland offensive lines that is just one of eight this season that has yet to yield a sack. Many expected Rowe to win the starting job prior to the start of the season.


2. Will Maryland’s Embattled Defense Recover?

Bowling Green's offense ran 105 plays Saturday and overwhelmed a fatigued Maryland defensive unit. Multiple Bowling Green offensive school records came close to falling as Falcon quarterback Matt Johnson’s six scoring passes tied a school record for most touchdown passes in a game, and his 491 passing yards ranked second all-time in the school’s history. And Bowling Green's 692 yards of total offense was 14 away from setting a school record in that category. Wide receivers Roger Lewis (200 yards) and Robbie Rhodes (108 yards) combined for 308 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Fred Coppet rushed 15 times for 109 yards. While USF isn’t the offensive juggernaut that Bowling Green is, one wonders if Maryland’s defense will be fully recovered from last Saturday’s track meet in time.


3. Will Likely

Will Likely, Maryland’s lethal punt return man and cornerback, attended Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Fla., and already has returned a NCAA-leading two punts for touchdowns this season and set a Big Ten record Week 1 against Richmond with 233 return yards on punts. He’s also been effective in the defensive backfield as he’s recorded four pass deflections, which ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth in the NCAA. Likely has been one of college football’s most exciting players and he could be the sparkplug the Terrapins need on defense to give them the win after a tough Week 2 loss.


Final Analysis


These teams know each other well and made for entertaining viewing last time out. Edsall gave Rowe the nod at quarterback to energize a sputtering passing offense, which Rowe should be able do. If he falters, Edsall will give Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman his opportunity to lead the Maryland offense. USF running back Marlon Mack rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in the Bulls’ season opener against Florida A&M, and for 83 yards against Florida State. As a freshman in 2014 he rushed for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. Mack and USF will make for a second straight challenge for the Terps, but Rowe and Maryland will ultimately edge them out in a close game.


Prediction: Maryland 24, South Florida 21


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

South Florida Bulls vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:15
Path: /college-football/nevada-wolf-pack-vs-texas-am-aggies-preview-and-prediction-2015

When Nevada (1-1) and Texas A&M (2-0) square off on Saturday, the old working relationship between Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin and Wolf Pack head coach Brian Polian will be quickly put to the test at Kyle Field. In 2012, Sumlin’s first year in College Station, his special teams coach was Polian. At the conclusion of an 11-win season Polian headed back west to helm Nevada, setting up a teacher vs. pupil showdown heavily favoring the Aggies.


Nevada entered the season with 11 starters returning, six on offense and five on defense, from a 7-6 team that was better than their final win-loss record indicated. Out of the Mountain West Conference, the Wolf Pack beat Washington State (24-13), hung with Arizona on the road (35-28), nearly upended Boise State (51-46), and gave a scare to Colorado State (31-24) before falling.


One carry over from the 2014 season Polian would like to see gone is the underperforming defense. In 2014 the Wolf Pack finished with the No. 100 total defense in the nation. In two games against UC Davis and Arizona, Nevada is on the same track with the No. 103-ranked squad allowing 449 yards per game.


A&M has the feel of a rising star taken for granted in preseason rankings. Everyone knew the Aggies offense would be electric but new defensive coordinator John Chavis has his unit ahead of schedule as the statistics currently rest with the nation’s No. 50 defense. The difference, even without the test of SEC action, is dramatically different. The Aggies allowed an average of 451 yards of offense a year ago and have managed to shrink the opposition’s output to an average of 326 yards.


Nevada at Texas A&M


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET

Network: SEC Network

Spread: Texas A&M -34


Three Things to Watch


1. Nevada’s defense vs. Texas A&M’s offense

Anytime a Kevin Sumlin team takes the field, the opposition will have to find a way to slow down the Aggies offense. Sumlin mixes up a no-huddle fast-paced offense spreading the opposition out looking for holes in the secondary to exploit.


Nevada allowed 570 yards of offense to Arizona last week, a unit that runs a similar type of approach. Easy to expect A&M will be able to achieve similar success with Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray under center. The Aggies have been somewhat balanced on offense, passing for 240 yards per game and totaling 464 yards of offense through two contests.


2. A&M’s defense vs. Nevada’s trio of offensive weapons

Wolf Pack senior running back Don Jackson is a legitimate FBS-caliber back, coming up just 43 yards shy of being a 1,000-yard rusher in 2014. In two games this season, Jackson has posted 215 yards rushing with two scores. On the outside starting quarterback Tyler Stewart has favorites Jerico Richardson and Hasaan Henderson. The tandem receivers have flip-flopped leading Nevada in receptions and receiving yards thus far. Neither is a big breakaway threat but both are reliable in helping move the chains.


Chavis has done a noted job getting his front four to put consistent pressure on the opposition’s quarterback and getting stops behind the line of scrimmage. To keep what could be a pesky matchup from being a close game, Chavis’ unit will have to contain Jackson and keep pressure on Stewart, keeping him from finding his top two targets throughout the game.


3. Nevada’s special teams coverage vs. true freshman return specialist Christian Kirk

Few true freshman have an impact on a team this quickly the way Christian Kirk has for the Aggies. He’s been explosive in the passing game leading A&M with 10 receptions for 149 yards with two scores, but has been equally as dangerous in the return game — taking a punt return back against Arizona State for a score and then setting up his team for a score against Ball State after a 56-yard return in the second quarter.


Can Nevada play keep away from Kirk on punts and limit his explosiveness when attempting to flip the field?


Final Analysis


If Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator, Jake Spavital, wanted to work on the team’s rushing attack, this would be a good week to pad the stats and get his linemen in a groove. Arizona’s Nick Wilson ran for 194 yards on 21 carries against Nevada last week. Perhaps Tra Carson can put together his first 100-yard game of the season in Week 3?


On paper this non-conference matchup seems heavily one-sided, allowing the Aggies to rest some starters for their Week 4 neutral-site showdown against Arkansas in Arlington, Texas.


Prediction: Texas A&M 41, Nevada 21


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

Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Texas A&M Aggies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:10
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-hokies-vs-purdue-boilermakers-game-preview-and-prediction-2015

Virginia Tech did what it needed to do last Saturday. Coming off Week 1 when the Hokies lost both the game to Ohio State and quarterback Michael Brewer to a shoulder injury, Virginia Tech defeated Furman 42-3 behind two touchdown passes from Brenden Motley.


Likewise, Purdue climbed to 1-1 by beating an FCS opponent as well. Quarterback Austin Appleby threw for 289 yards and four scores in the Boilermakers' 38-14 win over Indiana State.


Saturday’s clash will be the first-ever meeting between the Hokies and the Boilermakers.


Virginia Tech at Purdue


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Virginia Tech -6


Three Things to Watch


1. Brenden Motley again

Motley’s numbers ended up looking okay but it took a while to get going. Now he goes against a Big Ten team on the road. Purdue’s defense will be quicker than what he saw last week, meaning the throwing windows will be tighter. The good news for Motley is that Purdue’s defense won’t be quite as good as the last Big Ten defense he faced. Still, Motley will have his work cut out for him in his first road start.


2. Protecting Appleby

Appleby did not throw an interception last Saturday. In Purdue’s first game of the year, Marshall picked him off four times. Appleby has started nine games in his career, so Virginia Tech is not the first quality team he has faced. However, he threw 11 interceptions in seven games in 2014. The quick Virginia Tech defensive front will not only be looking to take down the Purdue quarterback, they also hope to force him into making bad decisions. Fortunately for Purdue, they have an experienced offensive line that will try to keep the Hokies front seven off of Appleby.


3. Which team can run the ball more effectively?

It’s cliché to say the team that is better at running the ball will win. But in this case it is probably true. For Virginia Tech, they’d prefer if the game was not completely in Motley’s hands. For Purdue, they’d rather not have Dadi Nicolas, Kendall Fuller, and company knowing that a pass is coming. Both teams have similar rushing stats so far this year, though playing Ohio State can skew a lot of statistics.


Final Analysis


Virginia Tech’s defense held Furman to 254 yards in total offense last week. It was a baby step following the loss to the Buckeyes, but it was a step. I’m not sure Purdue did the same in their victory over Indiana State. In the loss to Marshall, Purdue yielded 397 yards in total offense. Indiana State had 362 against the Boilermakers this past Saturday. Offensively, Purdue improved, primarily in ball security. But they do not have the weapons that will scare the nasty Virginia Tech defense. The Hokies may not put up a ton of points, but they will score enough to win easily.


Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Purdue 7  


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

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:05
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-big-12-basketball-coaches-2015-16

In Big 12 basketball, the more things change, the more things stay the same.


Missouri and Texas A&M left the league long ago (relatively speaking). Coaches Rich Barnes and Fred Hoiberg have gone to new places.


For more than a decade, a number of teams have taken their best shot at Kansas, but the Jayhawks have stayed on top every season since 2004-05.


The same goes for their coach, Bill Self. The Kansas coach is an easy vote for No. 1, and that is not necessarily an indictment of the rest of the coaches in the league.


Shaka Smart has been a hot candidate for many programs over the years, but Texas turned out to be his suitor. Bob Huggins is closing on 800 wins. Lon Kruger is a turnaround master. Tubby Smith has won a national championship.


Even in that group, Self is on top — until someone knocks him and his program from his perch.


The Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine is available now.


Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Ranking the Big 12 Basketball Coaches for 2015-16



1. Bill Self, Kansas

Record at Kansas: 352-78, 164-36 Big 12

NCAA record: 37-16, two Final Fours, one championship

Number to note: Some perspective for Self’s 11 consecutive Big 12 championships: John Wooden holds the record of consecutive league titles with 13 from 1967-79.

Why he’s ranked here: Fred Hoiberg and Frank Martin have come and gone. Kevin Durant couldn’t do it. Neither could Blake Griffin. Missouri isn’t even in the conference anymore. Nearly every Big 12 program over the last decade has had a shot an unseating Kansas at the top and ultimately failed to unseat Self.


2. Shaka Smart, Texas

Record at Texas: First season

NCAA record: 7-5, one Final Four

Number to note: VCU led the nation in defensive turnover rate on KenPom from 2012-14 and still finished 11th last season despite losing defensive stopper Briante Weber midway through the year.

Why he’s ranked here: The 2011 Final Four and the Havoc defense are the lead items in Smart’s career, but it’s worth noting VCU remained consistent despite moving from the Colonial to the more competitive Atlantic 10.


Related: Athlon Sports preseason college basketball top 25


3. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma

Record at Oklahoma: 82-49, 40-32 Big 12

NCAA record: 16-16, one Final Four

Number to note: Oklahoma’s 36 Big 12 wins in the last three seasons under Kruger are the most for the Sooners since 2001-03.

Why he’s ranked here: Kruger cleaned up the mess left by Kelvin Sampson and Jeff Capel, leading the Sooners to their first Sweet 16 since 2009. There should be more to come.


4. Bob Huggins, West Virginia

Record at West Virginia: 175-101, 80-64 Big East/Big 12

NCAA record: 26-21, two Final Fours

Number to note: Huggins is seven wins short of 700 in Division I (his official career record includes 71 wins at Walsh University).

Why he’s ranked here: Huggins led West Virginia to its best season in five years by radically changing his approach — in his 33rd year as a head coach. The Mountaineers became a full-court pressing team that was the best in the country at forcing turnovers and steals.


5. Scott Drew, Baylor

Record at Baylor: 230-160, 85-115 Big 12

NCAA record: 8-5

Number to note: Baylor has ranked in the top 20 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency in each of the last four seasons and seven of the last eight.

Why he’s ranked here: It’s not fashionable to talk about Drew as a great coach — especially after Baylor’s first-round loss to Georgia State last season — but Drew is responsible for seven of the 10 20-win seasons in Baylor history, including each of the last four.


6. Steve Prohm, Iowa State

Record at Iowa State: First season

NCAA record: 1-1

Number to note: In four seasons as a head coach, Prohm has two winning streaks of 23 games or more.

Why he’s ranked here: Prohm inherits a loaded roster in his first season at Iowa State. His four seasons with the Racers suggests he’ll know what to do with it.


7. Tubby Smith, Texas Tech

Record at Texas Tech: 27-37, 9-17 Big 12

NCAA record: 30-16, one Final Four, one championship

Number to note: Smith’s 3-15 league record last season and 6-12 record the year before are the worst conference seasons of Smith’s 23-year career.

Why he’s ranked here: Smith’s teams have played hard, and he might not be as bad as his recent record indicates. That said, he hasn’t posted a winning conference record since 2007 at Kentucky, and it doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.


8. Trent Johnson, TCU

Record at TCU: 38-58, 3-39 Big 12

NCAA record: 5-5

Number to note: TCU ranked No. 65 on last season, the Horned Frogs’ highest ranking since the service began. TCU’s only other top 100 finish was No. 94 in 2004-05.

Why he’s ranked here: TCU has a long way to go before contending in the Big 12, but wins over teams like Oklahoma State and Kansas State (twice) in an 18-15 campaign shows the Frogs going in the right direction.


9. Bruce Weber, Kansas State

Record at Kansas State: 62-38, 32-22 Big 12

NCAA record: 11-10, one Final Four

Number to note: Kansas State’s Big 12 record has declined from 14-4 to 10-8 to 8-10.

Why he’s ranked here: After last season’s debacle, Weber needs to reverse a trend that Illinois fans came to know all to well — the inevitable decline after a standout first season under Weber.


10. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State

Record at Oklahoma State: 143-91, 60-65 Big 12

NCAA record: 1-6

Number to note: Oklahoma State is 8-16 in February and March the last two seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: Oklahoma State is more or less stuck with Ford due to an onerous contract. His team perhaps overachieved last season, but the Pokes are still riding a 10-year Sweet 16 drought that predates Ford.

Ranking the Big 12 Basketball Coaches for 2015-16
Post date: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/fletcher-cleaves-it-can-wait-football-car-accident



Fletcher Cleaves was a promising football player.  


On September 9, 2009 everything changed. After a hard day of practice and dinner with a friend, Cleaves was driving home and got in an accident with an oncoming driver who had been distracted by a cell phone. They drifted head on into Cleaves' lane causing him to run off the road and flip his car. One quick glance changed the outcome of a player named as a starter for Lambuth University's football team earlier that day. Cleaves was paralyzed from the chest down.



Cleaves lost his scholarship, and missed his first year of college, but has made monumental strides in his recovery. Six years after the accident, he's a graduate of the University of Memphis, living on his own, and getting stronger every day.


AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign seeks to educate about the dangers of using your mobile device while driving and promote driving safety awareness. Cleaves’ story is far from isolated. According to the National Safety Council, texting drivers are involved in over 200,000 vehicle crashes each year, often causing injuries and death. And according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Research, texting while driving doubles the risk of a crash or near-crash


Let Fletcher Cleaves’ story serve as a reminder to keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone. No post, test, search, glance or email is worth a life.



Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 17:29
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-start-chris-ivory-and-other-startsit-fantasy-advice-week-2

Week 1 is in the books and with that the fantasy football season is officially under way! There were plenty of surprises in Week 1 and hopefully you took the smart approach and started Tyler Eifert, Carlos Hyde, Chris Ivory and Jordan Matthews — just to name a few.


Depending on your team and league, these guys were not guaranteed fantasy plays last week and had huge weeks that propelled many fantasy owners to victory.


This is where an article like this is so vital. It will act as your guide in making those tough decisions if you are trying to figure out who to start, especially if you have a flex.


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


If you still can’t decide — trust your gut. It’s always a better feeling knowing that you went with the guy you thought was going to have a huge game, than listen to someone else, and then regret that decision for days afterwards.


So let’s not waste any more time and get started, shall we?


Running Backs




Ameer Abdullah, DET (at MIN)

Did anyone come into this season with as much hype as Abdullah? There was so much insane hype, especially after his first preseason game, he was dangerously close to being the guy who was so underrated that he eventually became overrated. Thankfully the hype proved to be true, as the rookie totaled 94 total yards on only 11 touches and scored a touchdown. That’s incredible production on only 11 touches. Hopefully the Detroit Lions' coaching staff has finally clued in that Abdullah is the real deal and he gets about 20 touches in Week 2 against a Vikings defense that just let Carlos Hyde run for 168 yards on Monday night.


Chris Ivory, NYJ (at IND, Mon.)

This one is easy. The Colts can’t stop anyone and the Jets are going to need to run the ball to control the clock to keep Andrew Luck off the field. Ivory showed us what he is capable of in Week 1 when he finally gets an opportunity to be the lead running back. He ran over the Browns for 22 fantasy points and last week the Colts allowed 26.3 fantasy points to LeSean McCoy and other Bills running backs.


Lamar Miller, MIA (vs. JAC)

The Dolphins' offense didn’t look very sharp in Week 1 and Miller was one player who really struggled. He scored only seven fantasy points as he got just 13 carries (he did have one reception). Luckily for Miller he gets the Jaguars in Week 2 – a defense that ranked among the 10 worst against the run last year and didn't look much better last week against the Panthers. Miller will get more than 15 carries this week and you can also bet on him getting 3-5 receptions as well.




Bishop Sankey, TEN (at CLE)

Believe it or not Sankey played really well in Week 1. It was probably his best game as a pro. It also helps that Sankey looks to have an actual offensive line this year and a real NFL quarterback in Marcus Mariota. What makes starting Sankey intriguing is his matchup. He’s going up against a Browns defense that got torched by the New York Jets, who aren’t really known as a running powerhouse. The Browns gave up 154 total rushing yards to Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell in Week 1. Looks like Sankey should be in good shape for a 100-yard rushing day.




C.J. Anderson, DEN (at KC, Thurs.)

Anderson is coming off a Week 1 matchup against the Ravens where backup Ronnie Hillman looked like a way better fit for Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking running scheme. To make things worse, Anderson got a toe injury in that game and is now dealing with a very short week, as the Broncos play the Chiefs on Thursday night. Hopefully you drafted well enough that you can sub in a Danny Woodhead, Doug Martin or even Bishop Sankey – all of which will have a better week than Anderson.

Related: C.J. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas On Track To Play Thursday Night


Frank Gore, IND (vs. NYJ, Mon.)

Gore’s debut as a Colt was lackluster to say the least. He looked old and slow as he carried the ball just eight times for 31 yards and then left the game in the second half due to calf cramps. Yes, Gore was going up against the Bills' stout rush defense, but this week he is going up against one of the best front fours in all of football in the New York Jets. Gore will probably get more carries, but his yards per carry average isn’t going to get any better, so that means you need to look elsewhere this week.


T.J. Yeldon, JAC (at MIA)

Yeldon had a so-so rookie debut in Week 1. He only ran the ball 12 times, but he did average 4.2 yards per carry, but then again he only scored 6.7 fantasy points. Yeldon is a good runner and will produce solid double-digit fantasy weeks this season, but probably not on Sunday when he goes up against Ndamukong Suh and the Miami Dolphins.




Justin Forsett, BAL (at. OAK)

In most cases there is no way that you are going to sit Forsett. You probably drafted him in round 2 or 3, and he’s playing the Raiders this week. But in Week 1 rookie Javorius Allen looked like the better runner and started to take carries away from Forsett. Plus if Lorenzo Taliaferro plays, he will take all the goal-line carries. Forsett still has first crack and being the every-down back for the Ravens, but his grip as lead dog isn’t as tight as it appeared.


Wide Receivers




Demaryius Thomas, DEN (at KC, Thurs.)

Yes, Thomas is a stud and most likely was drafted in the first rounds of your fantasy draft, but after Peyton Manning’s Week 1 performance, a lot of people are second-guessing starting Thomas this week because the Broncos play on a short week and Thursday night isn’t usually a good night for impressive fantasy numbers. But keep in mind that even though Manning struggled mightily, Thomas was still a huge part of the Broncos' offense. He caught seven of 11 targets, but gained only 60 yards and failed to reach the end zone. The key takeaway here is that he had 11 targets and when a player as good as Thomas sees as many screens and short plays, he is bound to make something happen. Plus, the Chiefs' secondary looked awful last week against Brian Hoyer and the Houston Texans. The Broncos are just a little bit better than the Texans.


Brandin Cooks, NO (vs. TB)

Cooks is a popular breakout candidate for the 2015 season, but he sure didn’t look like it in Week 1, as he only scored 5.3 points in standard leagues. But there’s a positive here – he led all Saints receivers in targets with eight, so he clearly has the attention of Drew Brees. In Week 2, Brees and Cooks get to go up against a Tampa Bay secondary that allowed 25.6 fantasy points to a pair of Titans receivers who most people didn’t have on their fantasy roster. Cooks should have a field day at home on Sunday.


Pierre Garcon, WAS (vs. STL)

Just reading this might make you cringe, but Garcon is a huge start this week — especially in a PPR league. The Redskins lost their No. 1 wideout DeSean Jackson last week and that means that Garcon will step up and be the lead guy. The only season in Washington that Garcon played without Jackson he had 113 catches on 182 targets for 1,346 yards and 5 TDs, that’s not too shabby. Now he has Kirk Cousins throwing him the ball, so expectations should be tempered somewhat, but at least Cousins isn’t afraid to throw the ball deep or into traffic. The Redskins face a tough matchup going up against a stellar Rams defense that will stop Alfred Morris in his tracks, forcing Cousins to throw — right to Garcon.


Terrance Williams, DAL (at PHI)

Williams jumps into Dez Bryant’s spot in the Cowboys’ offense, which is a very productive spot to be in, just look at Dez’s numbers over the last few years. Okay, Williams is not Bryant, we know that, but Williams knows how to score touchdowns. He scored eight last year (yes that’s with Bryant giving him space by taking on double teams). Listen, it’s all about opportunity. Williams is now the default No. 1 in an offense that is going into a Week 2 matchup against the Eagles that should be an all-out barn burner. Williams is definitely worth a start.


Related: 5 WRs to Replace Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton in Fantasy Football




Donte Moncrief, IND (vs. NYJ, Mon.)

Moncrief was a very pleasant surprise in Week 1, too bad most people didn’t start him because he was most likely sitting on the waiver wire. So of course everyone scrambled to pick him up this week. Why? Because it’s all about opportunity for Moncrief, as T.Y. Hilton has a bruised knee, Andre Johnson looked like a dinosaur in Week 1 and Moncrief played much more than uber-hyped rookie Phillip Dorsett. The Colts go up against the Jets this week and it looks like Darrelle Revis will be on Johnson, so Moncrief will be available to gobble up all his targets. Remember, the Jets allowed somebody named Travis Benjamin for the Cleveland Browns to score 14 fantasy points last week.  




Amari Cooper, OAK (vs. BAL)

Cooper did manage to lead the Raiders in targets in Week 1 with nine, but he didn’t really make any significant contributions — only scoring 4.7 fantasy points. This week there are serious questions about his starting quarterback Derek Carr, and Cooper will be going up against a tough Ravens secondary and most likely be matched up against cornerback Jimmy Smith. Put this all together and Cooper is nothing more than a WR3 gamble in Week 2.


Andre Johnson, IND (vs. NYJ, Mon.)

Johnson is the exact opposite of Donte Moncrief. Johnson simply looked old and slow in Week 1 and while many experts are predicting a bounce-back week for Andrew Luck and the Colts offense, that doesn’t mean a big week for Johnson. He might lead all Colts receivers in targets, but he will be lining up against Darrelle Revis, which isn’t good for Johnson owners. Look for Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener (along with Moncrief of course) to step up this week, not Johnson.


Brandon Marshall, NYJ (at IND, Mon.)

Marshall had a decent start to the fantasy season last week, burning supposed star Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden for 62 yards on six catches, plus a touchdown. This week however is a different story. Marshall is going up against a legit shutdown corner in the Colts' Vontae Davis. Davis completely eliminated Sammy Watkins, the Bills' best playmaker, from the game in Week 1 and he will do the same thing to Marshall on Monday night.




James Jones, GB (vs. SEA)

Jones was probably the most added player off the waiver wire after Week 1, all because he scored two touchdowns, which is great, but he only saw four total targets. So the good news is that Aaron Rodgers obviously trusts Jones in the red zone. The bad news is that Rodgers prefers to throw most of time to Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Adams actually led the Packers in targets in Week 1. Of course one of the Packers' receivers is going to line up against Richard Sherman, but even if Jones never matches up against Sherman, it’s a safe bet that Jones won’t score two touchdowns this week. Actually he probably won’t score at all, so he isn’t worth starting.


Tight Ends




Tyler Eifert, CIN (vs. SD)

Eifert looked like a star in the making in Week 1 with five catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. But by far Eifert’s best stat was his team-leading 12 targets — that’s massive. The Bengals are a run-first team, so there are not that many targets to go around. Plus they have some guy named A.J. Green lined up on the outside, so for Eifert to get 12 targets means Andy Dalton is really comfortable throwing him the ball. Eifert will be hard-pressed to match his Week 1 numbers, but he’s going up against a Chargers defense that allowed Detroit’s Eric Ebron 53 yards on four catches, plus a touchdown. Eifert can do way better than that and will finish the week as a top-5 TE.


Dwayne Allen, IND (vs. NYJ, Mon.)

With T.Y. Hilton’s status up in the air thanks to a bruised knee, it appears that the Colts will go back to their two-tight end sets that were very effective last year. That does mean more of an opportunity for Coby Fleener, who should do better than his one catch for five yards in Week 1, but it’s Allen that has the bigger upside. Mainly because Allen has scored in nine of his past 14 games, including Week 1, so Andrew Luck clearly looks his way in the red zone.




Jordan Reed, WAS (vs. STL)

It’s true that Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham had a decent game against the Rams in Week 1. But get this — Graham is only the fifth tight end to score double-digit fantasy points against St. Louis in the past 49 games, according to CBS Sports. That’s crazy. But Reed will see an increased workload with DeSean Jackson out, and that equals every fantasy owners favorite word — opportunity. Reed had 63 yards and a score last week and should be able to match those numbers this week.




Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB (at NO)

This might come back to haunt me, and Jenkins is only a sit if Mike Evans plays in Week 2. If Evans doesn’t play, then ASJ is a must start, so monitor this situation closely. The reason to sit Seferian-Jenkins if Evans plays is simple — Evans will be Jameis Winston’s No. 1 target when he returns, no question. There are only so many balls to go around in a Buccaneers offense led by Jameis Winston, who is still learning the ropes as a starting NFL quarterback.


Owen Daniels, DEN (at KC, Thurs.)

Daniels is still a popular candidate to emerge as an every-week option for fantasy owners this year playing alongside Peyton Manning and head coach Gary Kubiak, who both have long track records of producing fantasy-relevant tight ends. However, Daniels was basically invisible in Week 1. A lot of that has to do with Manning struggling, but the QB didn’t really look Daniels' way at all. Look for that trend to continue in a tough Week 2 matchup against the Chiefs.


Zach Ertz, PHI (vs. DAL)

Ertz was highly touted coming into the 2015 season and he was heavily involved in the Eagles’ offense in Week 1, seeing eight targets. But he only caught three of them for 46 yards. It’s still too early to trust Ertz as a starting fantasy tight end. If the Eagles decide to pound the ball on the Cowboys this week, that means Brent Celek will see the field more than Ertz. Wait for Ertz to prove himself before throwing him in your lineup.




Jason Witten, DAL (at PHI)

Now most people would assume that Witten is a must start on a week-to-week basis and especially this week with Dez Bryant out, but hear me out. For whatever reason Witten just hasn't had much luck when he plays in Philadelphia. In 12 career games in Philly he has only scored twice and produced fewer than 80 yards in each of those 12 games. Of course you’re going to start Witten, but lower your expectations and don’t be surprised to see Cole Beasley outscore Witten this week.


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

Why You Must Start Chris Ivory and Other Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 17:00
Path: /college-football/new-mexico-lobos-vs-arizona-state-sun-devils-preview-and-prediction-2015

The fourth-quarter deluge that overwhelmed Arizona State in its season-opening loss to Texas A&M seemingly spilled over into Week 2.


The Sun Devils won a 35-21 decision over FCS opponent Cal Poly Saturday at home, though the final score isn’t necessarily indicative of Arizona State’s lackadaisical play. The visiting Mustangs were tied at 21 with the Sun Devils going into the fourth quarter.


Arizona State head coach Todd Graham seems externally unfazed.


“We've pretty much moved on to the next week,” Graham said in his weekly press conference, via “It goes down in the column as a win, and no one will ever talk about it after this week.”


Internally, however, expect the always-feisty Graham and his staff to use the sluggish performance of the past five quarters to push the Sun Devils in their nonconference finale Friday against former Western Athletic Conference rival New Mexico.


New Mexico at Arizona State


Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Friday)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Arizona State -28


Three Things to Watch


1. Offensive line play

Questions about the offensive line persisted prior to Arizona State’s season opener, and the unit’s play two games into the campaign do nothing to dispel any doubts.


Quarterback Mike Bercovici was under constant duress against Texas A&M, taking nine sacks. He was sacked again last week against Cal Poly.


Pass protection has been lackluster, and running lanes are not opening. Kalen Ballage’s absence from the backfield due to mono certainly limits how the Sun Devils can attack via the run, but their offense needs to produce more than just 3.95 yards per carry to be effective.


2. Defending the option

For the second consecutive week, the Arizona State defense is tasked with containing an option offense. Graham said Cal Poly’s version of the option was “a very difficult scheme to play.” Expect more of the same Friday from New Mexico.


Upon his arrival as New Mexico head coach, Bob Davie hired offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse away from FCS powerhouse Sam Houston State. DeBesse ran a spread hybrid that made Sam Houston State one of the most prolific offenses in the subdivision and powered the Bearkats to the national title game.


At New Mexico, he’s overseen a more traditional triple-option. The result is an offense that last year produced 310 yards per game, and this season has 563 yards in two games.


3. A change of perspective

Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell moved from the sideline to the booth for the Cal Poly game, a decision made partially in response to the Sun Devils’ uncharacteristically anemic showing against Texas A&M, and partially due to the abrupt departure of running backs coach Bo Graham before the season.  


Arizona State faces obvious adjustment with Graham gone and Norvell adapting to his new perspective on the offense. Up against a New Mexico defense that surrendered 321 yards through the air and almost 11 yards an attempt last week against Tulsa, expect Bercovici to get the green light to air it out more.


Final Analysis


The last five quarters are some of the worst football Arizona State has played in Graham’s tenure.


“Are we playing our best football? No, we're not,” he said. “We've got to get better.”


Even so, the Sun Devils should have no problem opening Pac-12 play next week against USC on the right side of .500. Davie has New Mexico moving in the right direction in his time there, but the Lobos are nowhere near built to contend with Arizona State over four quarters.


The key is for Arizona State to assert its dominance early. Force punts early into a few Lobo drives to keep the defense off the field, score on first-and-second quarter possessions, and remove all belief by halftime.


Prediction: Arizona State 38, New Mexico 17


— 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.


New Mexico Lobos vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 16:00
Path: /college-football/6-players-watch-nebraska-cornhuskers-miami-hurricanes-game

The Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Miami Hurricanes will meet for the 12th time on the football field on Saturday afternoon on ABC. The schools have met in five bowl games and have faced off in the national championship four times, with the Hurricanes winning three of those four national championship meetings. 


Related: Hurricane Warning: The Cornhuskers Are Coming


In the 2015 meeting between the two schools, there are a lot of skilled players each team needs to watch out for. Here are the six players to keep an eye on during the game.


Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

Ever since Brad Kaaya has lined up under center in his freshman year for Miami, all he has done is throw touchdowns. The sophomore currently has a consecutive touchdown streak of 15 games. 


Last week against FAU, Kaaya completed 21-of-32 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown pass. In Week 1, BYU was able to throw for 379 yards and two touchdowns against the Nebraska secondary. Look for Kaaya to try and open it up against the Nebraska defense.


Tommy Armstrong Jr., QB, Nebraska

Tommy Armstrong Jr. is off to a great start in 2015. In two games, the junior quarterback has thrown for 589 yards, five touchdowns and is completing 63.4 percent of his passes. That’s why Armstrong was named one of Athlon Sports' 10 quarterbacks looking to make a statement in Week 3.


College Football Podcast: Week 3 Preview with Dari Nowkhah

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Miami has only allowed one touchdown pass this season, so Armstrong will face a tougher opponent than last week when Nebraska played South Alabama. So far, Armstrong has played like one of the most improved quarterbacks in the nation. He will have a chance in front of a national television audience to put the world on notice. 


Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton, RBs, Miami

Early this season, both Miami running backs Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton have done an excellent job replacing the production left by last year’s star Duke Johnson. 


Last week against FAU, Yearby rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He also caught three passes for 97 yards and a touchdown reception. Walton was another key contributor as he finish with 62 yards of total offense and three rushing touchdowns. 


Miami head coach Al Golden knows how important both Yearby and Walton are to the Hurricanes offense. 


“They’re both unselfish guys, they’re both team players, they both love the University of Miami, they love the team,” said Golden. “And they’re both competing right now. They really are. Run after contact, second effort, spinning on contact, pass protection, catching the ball out of the backfield — we’re asking them to do a lot. They’re doing it. They kind of just feed off each other…when one looks tired, the other comes in.”


Michael Rose-Ivey, LB, Nebraska

Michael Rose-Ivey is one of the 13 players that have blackshirts on the Nebraska defense. He certainly earned it with his last performance against South Alabama.


The junior finished with a team-high 10 tackles against South Alabama and he was a problem for the Jaguars offensive line all day long. Miami has a very young and inexperienced offensive line. It will have to be a collective effort to prevent Rose-Ivey and the other Nebraska defenders from making plays in the backfield. 


Raphael Kirby, LB, Miami

Last week, Raphael Kirby recorded nine tackles and for his effort, he was named team defensive player of the week. While the FAU offense presented Kirby with only a little bit of a challenge, going against the Nebraska offense certainly won’t be easy. 


The Cornhuskers have averaged 503 yards per game in their first two games of the season. Not only has Armstrong been a big reason for the success of Nebraska’s offense, but so has their running game. 


Terrell Newby has rushed for 241 yards and three touchdowns this season. Miami missed a number of tackles last week against FAU. So the team will have to do a better job stopping the run and tackle against a high-powered Nebraska offense.


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

6 Players to Watch in the Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Miami Hurricanes Game
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-alabama-3-keys-rebels%E2%80%99-upset-victory

The Ole Miss Rebels scored one of the biggest wins in school history last season over Alabama – a 23-17 victory in Oxford that sent the fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium running and screaming to celebrate on the field. This year, the Rebels must travel to Tuscaloosa to face the second ranked Tide. There are three specific keys to scoring another huge upset win over Bama.


1. Contain Derrick Henry

Alabama running back Derrick Henry is one of the best players in college football. The 6-foot-1, 241-pound junior performed well as a backup during his first two seasons on campus (he actually led the Tide in rushing with 990 yards last season and scored 11 touchdowns), but with T.J. Yeldon off to the NFL, Henry is The Man in Tuscaloosa this season.


Through the first two games of 2015, Henry has gained 243 yards on just 31 carries (7.8 yards per attempt) and has already scored six touchdowns. Henry does it with a unique blend of power and speed that allows him to either run through defenders or run past them.


For Ole Miss to upset Alabama Saturday in Tuscaloosa, the Rebels must neutralize Henry. That means defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche must have a big game creating havoc at the line of scrimmage and drawing the attention of multiple blockers so others, such as linebackers Denzel Nkemdiche and C.J. Johnson and Huskie (hyrbid linebacker/safety) Tony Conner are free to make plays. The more penetration Nkemdiche and his fellow defensive linemen can get, the better chance the Rebels have of limiting Henry to modest gains and forcing quarterback Jake Coker to convert first downs with his arm.


College Football Podcast: Week 3 Preview with Dari Nowkhah

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


2. Chad Kelly’s Mobility

New Ole Miss starting quarterback Chad Kelly has been even better than advertised in his first two starts for the Rebels. First of all, the junior college transfer has helped Ole Miss jump out to an explosive, historic start to the season by scoring more than 73 points and amassing well over 600 total yards in each of the first two games. Ole Miss currently leads the nation with an average gain of 9.3 yards per play.


Kelly has done most of his damage through the air. The junior has thrown for 557 yards and six touchdowns with one interception on 29-for-40 passing (72.5 percent). Kelly currently leads the nation in QB rating (94.3) and yards per pass attempt (13.9). He hasn’t been asked to run much, but has gained 46 yards on six carries and has scored twice. And it’s that mobility that could play a huge role in Saturday’s game against Alabama.


Though the Crimson Tide usually boasts one of the toughest and most talented defenses in the nation, Alabama has a history of struggling against mobile quarterbacks. Cam Newton’s physical presence in the running game gave the Tide fits in 2010, as did Johnny Manziel’s scrambling in 2012. Last season, Nick Marshall helped Auburn score 44 points and total an roll up an eye-popping 630 yards of total offense, and Ohio State’s Cardale Jones had 43 yards rushing on 17 carries as part of 537 total yards for the Buckeyes in last year’s 42-35 Ohio State victory in the College Football Playoff.


Kelly may not be as physical as Jones or Newton, or as fast as Manziel or Marshall, but he is agile enough to elude pass rushers to buy extra time to throw (which is great because it’s unlikely he’ll have star left tackle Laremy Tunsil protecting his blind side), and when necessary Kelly is quick enough to pick up nice yardage and move the chains on designed quarterback runs.

Related: 10 College Football QBs Looking to Make a Statement in Week 3


3. Pressure Jake Coker

The final key for Ole Miss’ upset hopes this week is creating a consistent pass rush to pressure Alabama quarterback Jake Coker. Like Kelly, Coker is a new starter that won a preseason position battle with multiple challengers and has emerged well through the first two weeks of the season. To date, the senior has completed 30 of 47 passes (63.8 percent) for 427 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He’s also yet to take a sack.


The Alabama offensive line features two of the best in the nation at their respective positions: left tackle Cam Robinson and center Ryan Kelly. Of course, because it’s Alabama, the rest of the group is solid as well. However, Ole Miss has several elite defenders of their own capable of getting penetration and rushing the passer. The Rebels have the freedom to move Nkemdiche around, and Johnson (four sacks in 2014) and Marquis Haynes (7.5 sacks last season, 0.5 so far this year) are great pinning their ears back and chasing quarterbacks.


Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has shown a tendency to fall in love with the pass, which could happen again this week if the Rebels do a good job of containing Henry. Even if Henry has success running the football, the Tide will test the Landsharks in the secondary. 


Therefore, it’s important for Ole Miss to take advantage of obvious passing downs, force Coker to speed his decision-making and force him out of the pocket. Doing so will create opportunities for big plays — like the three interceptions the Landsharks have returned for touchdowns already this season — and give the Rebels the best chance to score a second straight upset victory over Alabama.


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

Ole Miss at Alabama: 3 Keys to a Rebels’ Upset Victory
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: New York Giants, Overtime
Path: /overtime/first-photos-jason-pierre-paul-unbandaged-hand-surfaces-new-york-giants-index-finger-fireworks

We now have an idea of just how may fingers are on Jason Pierre-Paul's hand after a fireworks incident.


A photo taken by NY Daily News shows the Giants star with no bandage on his hand and a clear shot of no index finger. The defensive end said recently that his index finger never helped him record a sack. It's a good thing, because he's clearly without one.


Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 14:39