Articles By All

Path: /college-football/sec-week-3-predictions-2015

After a strong performance in Week 1, the SEC took its share of hits in Week 2. Auburn needed overtime to defeat Jacksonville State, Arkansas lost to Toledo and Tennessee blew a 17-0 lead to Oklahoma in a 31-24 two-overtime loss. The focus in Week 3 shifts to conference play, as the top four matchups in the SEC this week feature games between league rivals. Ole Miss-Alabama is the top game for Week 3, but there’s no shortage of intrigue between Auburn-LSU, Florida-Kentucky and Georgia-South Carolina.


Athlon Sports offers its SEC Week 3 predictions from four editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)


SEC Week 3 Game Power Rankings & Predictions


1. Ole Miss at Alabama

Kickoff: 9:15 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

In what likely will be the first competitive game of the year for the Rebels, look for Alabama to put the pressure on quarterback Chad Kelly — particularly if he’s missing the protection of left tackle Laremy Tunsil for a third consecutive game.

Alabama 42–24


Braden Gall:

Both teams are loaded on defense. Both teams have some question marks under center. Both teams have playmakers on offense. But one team is at home and is likely taking the revenge angle personally after what happened between these two last season. Roll Tide.

Alabama, 34-24


Steven Lassan:

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly has been sharp through the first two games of the season, but this will be his toughest test so far. The Crimson Tide’s defense is allowing only 4.05 yards per play, and there are encouraging signs for the secondary, as this group has yet to allow a pass of 30 yards or more. Of course, those numbers will be tested against Kelly and receiver Laquon Treadwell. Stating the obvious here, but Ole Miss needs to stop running back Derrick Henry and force the Crimson Tide to win this one through the air. It’s a lot to ask the Rebels to go into Tuscaloosa and win.

Alabama 27-20


Mitch Light:

Chad Kelly, the Rebels’ new quarterback, and been incredibly efficient, completing 72.5 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and one interception while leading the nation with 13.9 yards per attempt. The opponent this week will offer far more resistance and the environment will be far more hostile, but Ole Miss is one of the few teams in the nation that features the top-end talent to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Ole Miss 31–27


College Football Podcast: Week 3 Preview with Dari Nowkhah

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

2. Auburn at LSU

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS


David Fox:

Auburn’s defense hasn’t played to its full potential, in part because of absences of Carl Lawson and Tray Matthews. More concerning are the five interceptions so far form Jeremy Johnson. LSU’s offense looked all too familiar — the Tigers accounted for only 71 passing yards on nine completions. On the bright side, Leonard Fournette was terrific, rushing for 159 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. He’ll be too tough for Auburn to slow down.

LSU 17–13


Braden Gall:

LSU is playing better football, is at home and is playing with revenge on their mind after a horrible showing on The Plains last fall. If Brandon Harris can offer some sort of balance, the cajun Tigers will top the BBQ Tigers.


Steven Lassan:

Plenty of intrigue here. Auburn has not played like a top-10 team this season and barely survived last week’s matchup against Jacksonville State. However, coach Gus Malzahn’s team was a little shorthanded, as end Carl Lawson and safety Tray Matthews did not play. The Tigers should be in better shape on defense for the trip to Death Valley - assuming Lawson and Matthews are able to go - but the offense still has its share of concerns, especially with quarterback Jeremy Johnson. LSU also has question marks about its passing game, but running back Leonard Fournette can carry this team to a win. This is a tough one to call.

LSU 24-20


Mitch Light:

We aren’t quite ready to jump off the Jeremy Johnson bandwagon, but maybe it’s time to admit that we shouldn’t have had the Tigers’ first-year starting quarterback No. 8 on our preseason Heisman list. 

LSU 21-16


3. Florida at Kentucky

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

UK’s run game has been outstanding so far at 6.0 yards per carry, but expect quarterback Patrick Towles to test a Florida secondary that could be without All-America cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

Kentucky 24–17


Braden Gall:

The whole world is picking the Cats to end their 29-year losing streak against Florida. So this is dangerous but Kentucky is improving as a team and is at home. Commonwealth will be rocking and Patrick Towles gives this team stability under center.

Kentucky, 31-30


Steven Lassan:

Kentucky has lost 28 consecutive matchups to Florida, but the Wildcats have a good shot at ending that streak in 2015. The Gators weren’t sharp in a win over East Carolina and needed a late interception to secure the victory. This one is a tossup, but I’ll take Florida’s defense to keep Kentucky running back Boom Williams in check, while the Gators’ offense takes advantage of a Wildcats’ defense giving up 6.01 yards per play.

Florida 27-24


Mitch Light:

Kentucky took a big step last weekend, snapping a 22-game road losing streak with its win at South Carolina. Can the Wildcats make it 2–0 in the SEC? The guess here is no. Florida’s defense — even if Vernon Hargreaves III doesn’t play — will be the difference.

Florida 21-17 


4. South Carolina at Georgia

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

Georgia is far from ready to contend for the SEC championship, particularly at quarterback where Greyson Lambert started 0-for-7 against Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs still have Nick Chubb. That should be the difference maker — provided this isn’t the kind of out-of-nowhere loss Georgia has suffered in recent years.

Georgia 31–14


Braden Gall:

Georgia is a much better team and South Carolina is dealing with some serious injuries, including starting quarterback Connor Mitch. But this game is always weird, low-scoring and close.

Georgia, 27-17


Steven Lassan:

The South Carolina-Georgia series has seen some strange matchups in recent years. But everything on Saturday night suggests an easy win for the Bulldogs. Sure, Georgia has its share of concerns at quarterback, but the defense and rushing attack will be too much for a South Carolina team starting a former walk-on (Perry Orth) at quarterback and ranks 13th in the SEC in rush defense.

Georgia 31-13


Mitch Light:

Greyson Lambert is 2–0 as a starter but has yet to quiet the concerns that Georgia will be good enough at the quarterback position to win an SEC championship. South Carolina isn’t thinking about winning a league title; the Gamecocks, fresh off of a loss at home to Kentucky, is simply trying to avoid an 0–2 start in the league.  

Georgia 28-10


5. Texas Tech at Arkansas

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2


David Fox:

Against Tech last year, Arkansas rushed for 438 yards and seven TDs while Brandon Allen attempted only 12 passes. For some reason, Arkansas has flipped the script and put more on Allen and the passing game in 2015. Will Bielema get back to basics against Texas Tech?

Arkansas 31–21


Braden Gall:

Tech is improved from last year but the defense still has major question marks. Arkansas is reeling after a bad home loss to Toledo but outgained the Rockets by almost 200 yards. Look for the physical play of the Hogs to prevail at home.

Arkansas, 38-31


Steven Lassan:

Arkansas’ ground attack pounded Texas Tech for 438 yards last season, but the Razorbacks have just 285 rushing yards through the first two games of 2015. And as if last week’s loss to Toledo wasn’t bad enough, top receiver Keon Hatcher is out indefinitely due to a foot injury. Arkansas needs to have a steady diet of Alex Collins on Saturday to keep Texas Tech’s high-powered attack on the sidelines. This one will be closer than it was last season.

Arkansas 38-27


Mitch Light:

Arkansas passed the ball on 53 of its 84 snaps in last week’s loss to Toledo. Expect the Hogs to get back to what they do best — run the ball — with Texas Tech coming to town. 

Arkansas 37-24


6. UConn at Missouri

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

If Missouri is going to stun the SEC again, Maty Mauk needs to be more consistent. In his last 12 games, Mauk has completed 49.6 percent of his passes and averaged 166.6 yards passing. Meanwhile, Mizzou’s run game is lost without Russell Hansbrough, who will miss this game with an ankle sprain.

Missouri 28–14


Braden Gall:

Maty Mauk and the SEC speed along both lines of scrimmage gives Mizzou the easy win.

Missouri 40-17


Steven Lassan:

UConn is making progress under coach Bob Diaco, and the Huskies are catching Missouri at a good time. The Tigers won’t have running back Russell Hansbrough available due to injury, and the offense averaged only 4.1 yards per play in last week’s win against Arkansas State. However, even though the Huskies are improved and Missouri is a little shorthanded, coach Gary Pinkel’s team finds a way to pull away in the second half for a comfortable victory.

Missouri 31-10


Mitch Light:

The good news: Connecticut is 2–0. The bad news: Those two wins have come against Villanova and Army West Point, both at home, by a total of 10 points. Missouri has struggled offensively en route to its 2–0 start, but the Tigers have been very strong on the defensive side of the ball. 

Missouri 28-10


7. Nevada at Texas A&M

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

The Aggies’ offense is rolling, which is not great news for a Nevada team that just gave up 570 yards and 7.4 yards per play to Arizona at home last week.

Texas A&M 49–17


Braden Gall:

Texas A&M is just tuning up for a nasty SEC schedule.

Texas A&M, 50-20


Steven Lassan:

A bad week for Nevada coach Brian Polian is only going to get worse on Saturday. Polian – who was on Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin’s first staff in College Station – was fined $10,000 by the school after two unsportsmanlike penalties in last week’s loss to Arizona. The Wolf Pack has some firepower on offense, but it’s asking a lot for this team to win at Kyle Field. Expect Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray to have their share of highlights in this one.

Texas A&M 48-13


Mitch Light:

Few teams have been as impressive through two weeks than the Aggies. Nevada, a solid team from a solid league, will provide a decent test, but A&M should win this game by at least two touchdowns. 

Texas A&M 41–23


8. Northwestern State at Mississippi State

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

This might be a good week for Mississippi State to figure out who can lead in the run game.

Mississippi State 42–14 


Braden Gall:


Mississippi State 45-10


Steven Lassan:

Mississippi State’s second-half rally fell short against LSU last Saturday. The Bulldogs shouldn’t need a comeback to win this one, as coach Dan Mullen’s team should cruise to an easy victory. But here’s the real challenge for Mississippi State: Back-to-back road dates await, starting with a trip to Auburn next Saturday, followed by a date at Texas A&M on Oct. 3.

Mississippi State 48-10


Mitch Light:

His supporting cast isn’t nearly as strong, but Dak Prescott is off to a strong start to his senior season. He will put up some big numbers against the Demons from Northwestern State. 

Mississippi State 41-13


9. Western Carolina at Tennessee

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU


David Fox:

The Vols shouldn’t have much trouble, but they need to bounce back from a double dose of bad news: the collapse against Oklahoma and losing star defender Curt Maggitt to a hip injury.

Tennessee 49–14


Braden Gall:

Tennessee needs to get lots of young bodies onto the field on both sides of the ball to be ready for Florida, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama — the next four following this one.

Tennessee 45-10


Steven Lassan:

Tennessee should be eager to erase the disappointment of last week’s collapse to Oklahoma. Western Carolina is the perfect opponent to work out the kinks before a road trip to Florida.

Tennessee 48-7


Mitch Light:

Tennessee is still recovering from last week’s emotional loss to Oklahoma. Good thing the Catamounts — who lost to The Citadel last week — are next on the docket.

Tennessee 47-6


10. Austin Peay at Vanderbilt

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

To his credit, Derek Mason is sticking with quarterback Johnny McCrary, who has thrown five interceptions. Austin Peay will help the sophomore build confidence.

Vanderbilt 35–10


Braden Gall:

Derek Mason is treating this as an SEC game... as he should. Because he needs every win he can get.

Vanderbilt, 34-7


Steven Lassan:

Vanderbilt has improved in coach Derek Mason’s second season, but wins will be tough to come by this year. This Saturday won’t be problem, as Austin Peay is the easiest opponent on the schedule for the Commodores in 2015.

Vanderbilt 45-3


Mitch Light:

Vanderbilt leads the SEC with 165 offensive plays through two games. The Commodores, however, are only averaging 4.76 yards per play — and that ranks last in the league. 

Vanderbilt 38-0

SEC Week 3 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /overtime/packers-seahawks-jimmy-fallon-superlatives-nfl-russell-wilson-aaron-rodgers

The latest teams to get the NFL Superlatives treatment are the Packers and Seahawks.


Ahead of their Sunday night matchup, the "Tonight Show" host took time to roast a few of the players, and he totally nails it.

Raise your hand if you'll never see Russell Wilson the same.

Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 09:48
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/betting-against-spread-nfl-picks-week-2

I started slow in the NFL just to get an early grasp on what went down in week one. The league had itself a crazy week one with various injuries and finishes that left fans wondering what just happened. That said, it's Week 2 and we have a small idea of some teams while others continue to be an enigma. You'll notice a little bit more in my writeups that we start looking at situational plays with certain things lining up in our favor. 


Record: 1-2


Denver Broncos (1-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) (Thursday)

It was an impressive performance by the Chiefs offense, even though the scoreless sreak for WRs continued, in the 27-20 win over the Texans. I envisioned a lower-scoring affair and the combination of Alex Smith to Travis Kelce helped put an end to that. The defense was beaten up a bit through the air although a lot of that came towards the end when the game was already decided. Now Kansas City welcomes Denver to town to kick off Week 2 Thuesday night after the Broncos had a horrible offensive showing against the Ravens. Denver had just 219 yards of total offense with Peyton Manning failing to stretch the field. Manning's got the advantage out wide as the Chiefs' secondary just isn't as good. The Broncos got the win on Sunday because of a strong defensive effort, holding the Ravens in check. This will be one of the best defenses in the league if everyone stays healthy. Last year this game was a 29-16 Denver win on Nov. 30 when the Broncos rushed for 214 yards. Their offensive line has taken a massive step back so that can't be expected on a short week. These two have gone under in three of their last four meetings. SELECTION: Under 42


Houston Texans (0-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)

Carolina comes home after a win at Jacksonville that I didn't expect to occur. The Panthers' offense wasn't that explosive, but the defense held the Jags in check. Cam Newton may struggle this season because of a lack of weapons, and that could occur against Houston. The Texans allowed 27 points in the loss to the Chiefs, but were not helped out much by the offense that had two bad turnovers. Brian Hoyer's interceptions gave the Chiefs some short fields and he may struggle again this week if he gets the start. Neither of these offenses has much substance to them. Houston has gone under in nine of its last 11 games as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 points. Carolina has gone under in 52 of its last 82 games as a favorite of 3.5 to 9.5 points. SELECTION: Under 40.5


St. Louis Rams (1-0) at Washington Redskins (0-1)

The Redskins didn't play too poorly in their 17-10 loss to the Dolphins at home. Washington ran the ball well, but struggled through the air. Their offensive line stood tall against the stout front line of the Dolphins. The question is whether Washington can do so against the Rams' front four, which is even stronger. The Rams put up 34 points against the Seahawks, but I don't see that happening again on Sunday. The Skins will have one of the best run defenses in the league. St. Louis has gone under in 24 of its last 36 road games with a total between 38.5 and 42. Desperation clicks in for Washington. SELECTION: Under 41.5 and Redskins +3


New York Jets (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1) (Monday)

The overreaction from week one will be the downgrading of the Colts. The Bills have made a lot better offenses look foolish before in Buffalo. Losing T.Y. Hilton will hurt, but Philip Dorsett and Donte Moncrief are more than able to do some work in his place. The Colts' defense isn't great, but neither is the Jets' offense. They scored 31 points, but were helped greatly by five Browns turnovers. Darrelle Revis will probably be matched up with Andre Johnson. I have more faith in the Colts' offensive potential, while the Jets are not as good offensively as they showed in Week 1. New York has gone under in 14 of its last 25 games against AFC opponents. With the line moving, I'll go... SELECTION: Under 47



- The sheer definition of a spot play applies to the Steelers on Sunday. Pittsburgh has had 10 days off to prepare for a 49ers team that will have to fly cross-country after a huge emotional "Monday Night Football" win. The Steelers didn't look that awful against the Patriots with Ben Roethlisberger moving the offense to the tune of 330 passing yards. They come home for the first time this season and will be juiced to be in front of the Terrible Towels. The reason why this isn't an official play is that the Steelers' defense is so bad that I don't know if they can be trusted in this prime spot. I certainly think that they'll score on a Niners defense that held Minnesota to three points. The over may be the better play, but if you need some teams to throw in a teaser, I'd put the Steelers in there and hope that jet lag slows down San Fran. 


- Another selection that came to close to becoming official was Cleveland. The Browns opened up as a favorite, but the Titans are now a slight fave. People have Marcus Mariota fever after he threw four touchdowns to beat Jameis Winston and the Bucs. It's the second straight road game for this young team and that's a lot to ask. Not a lot was expected from the Titans and things shouldn't change. The Browns were underwhelming against the Jets, which is another reason for the move. Tennessee has failed to cover in 14 of its last 24 games as an underdog. 


- I'll flat out say that I'm an Eagles fan, so any selections I make in games they play are clouded by that fact. Situationally I'd like to think they'd be the right play in this one as Dallas comes to Philly. The Cowboys were gifted a game on Sunday night and are now without Dez Bryant. The run game was nowhere near as productive as it was last year. One has to think the Eagles run DeMarco Murray more and pick up the victory on Sunday. The question is the margin and will they cover. Dallas has won two straight in Philly. Leg two of a teaser with the Steelers could be their Pennsylvania counterparts the Eagles.


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

Betting Against the Spread: NFL Picks For Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/acc-week-3-predictions-2015

The ACC still has its share of one-sided matchups on the slate for Week 3, but there’s a handful of contests with national appeal. Notre Dame begins life without Malik Zaire this Saturday, as DeShone Kizer makes his first start under center against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have been one of the nation’s most impressive teams through the first two weeks of 2015. Elsewhere in the ACC, Clemson travels to Louisville for a showdown on Thursday night, while Florida State travels to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College on Friday night. Miami hosts Nebraska in an intriguing non-conference affair that should see its share of points.


Athlon Sports offers its ACC Week 3 predictions from three editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615), and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)


ACC Week 3 Game Power Rankings & Predictions


1. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC


David Fox:

The Yellow Jackets’ offense is rolling, and Paul Johnson wouldn’t mind sticking it to Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder, who wasn’t keen on the option when he succeeded Johnson at Georgia Southern. That, and Notre Dame is down four starters with injuries since the preseason.

Georgia Tech 35–24


Braden Gall:

Tech is really, really good and Justin Thomas is the best quarterback Paul Johnson has ever had. Notre Dame will be extremely physical too but is relying on a new starter DeShone Kizer — who isn't nearly as mobile as Malik Zaire. This could be a playoff elimination game and I'm taking the road team.

Georgia Tech 34-30


Steven Lassan:

Georgia Tech hasn’t faced much competition through the first two weeks of the season, but the Yellow Jackets have been very impressive. Notre Dame is battle tested after games against Texas and Virginia. However, is this game where the injuries catch up to Brian Kelly’s team? Interested to see how DeShone Kizer performs in his first start, as well as the Fighting Irish’s defense against the Yellow Jackets’ option attack.

Georgia Tech 31-27


College Football Podcast: Week 3 Preview with Dari Nowkhah

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

2. Clemson at Louisville

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

The sense of optimism around the Cardinals has slowed. Louisville is giving up 100 more yards rushing per game than last season. That's before facing Clemson.

Clemson 38–20


Braden Gall:

Louisville hasn't gotten off to the start it has hoped for but the competition has excellent. Clemson hasn't been tested but has rolled big. The Cardinals play well at home on Thursday nights traditionally, but I'm taking the Tigers.

Clemson 38-24


Steven Lassan:

We should find out a little more about Clemson on Thursday night. The Tigers have been sharp in two games, but Louisville is the best team they will face so far. The Cardinals have already started two different quarterbacks and could turn to a third – Kyle Bolin – on Thursday night. However, the bigger question for both teams is how the offensive lines perform. The edge here goes to Clemson behind quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Clemson 27-24


3. Nebraska at Miami

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2


David Fox:

The Huskers are trying to find consistency on offense, but the emergence of Terrell Newby, who rushed for 198 yards and accounted for three touchdowns against South Alabama last week, is encouraging. Miami is also trying to figure out how to consistently move the ball. The team that avoids stalled drives will have the upper hand.

Nebraska 28–21


Braden Gall:

I have no good feel about this game but like the other Big Ten-ACC tilts this weekend, I like the home team. Joe Yearby and Brad Kaaya are forming a nice 1-2 offensive punch and Nebraska is still trying to find itself.

Miami 40-30


Steven Lassan:

Not sure what to expect in this game, as these two teams seem relatively even. Miami’s defense was shaky in the first half against FAU, but the Hurricanes allowed only three points in the final two quarters. Quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Joseph Yearby is an explosive combination for Miami’s offense. Nebraska’s secondary has allowed 300 yards passing in back-to-back games and will be tested once again on Saturday. The Cornhuskers are going to score their share of points behind quarterback Tommy Armstrong and running back Terrell Newby (198 yards last week). This one is a toss-up.

Miami 38-34


4. Florida State at Boston College

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

Boston College tends to play Florida State tough, and this is not the Jameis Winston Seminoles. BC will threaten to upset before FSU finishes the job.

Florida State 27–21


Braden Gall:

The Noles struggle consistently in Chestnut Hill, and Everett Golson hasn't been the playmaker Jimbo Fisher envisioned. Boston College has rolled to two easy wins but won't be able to stop Dalvin Cook.

Florida State 35-21


Steven Lassan:

The competition has been low, but Boston College’s defense has been dominant through the first two weeks of the season. The strength of the Eagles’ defense is up front, and this will be a tough matchup for Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. This game should be controlled by the defenses, leaving it up to whichever quarterback makes enough plays in the second half.

Florida State 24-20


5. Illinois at North Carolina

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPN2


David Fox:

Illinois has defeated two overmatched opponents by a combined score of 96–3. Time to find out if the Illini are legit. Illinois has played standout defense early this season. That unit will be tested on the road against North Carolina’s spread attack.

North Carolina 35–24


Braden Gall:

Illinois has been sneaky good behind the play of quarterback Wes Lunt (although, the ground game hasn't been great). North Carolina rebounded with an easy win over N.C. A&T. This is a great offensive matchup and I'll take the home team in a close one.

North Carolina 41-38


Steven Lassan:

Expect plenty of fireworks in this game. Both teams are averaging over 30 points per game and are led by solid quarterbacks in Wes Lunt (Illinois) and Marquise Williams (North Carolina). The Tar Heels have improved on defense under new coordinator Gene Chizik, and I think that’s the difference in this game. Lots of points, but North Carolina makes a critical stop or two in the second half.

North Carolina 38-31


6. Pittsburgh at Iowa

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network


David Fox:

Defensive end Drew Ott (arm) and running back LeShun Daniels Jr. (ankle) are iffy with “fairly significant injuries.” Iowa hopes both will be back Saturday. Pitt has its own injury concerns, with running back James Conner out for the season. Pitt plans on rotating its quarterbacks without the security of Conner running the ball.

Iowa 24–14


Braden Gall:

Iowa clearly made the right choice at quarterback with C.J. Beathard. This team has looked good in two easy wins — one on the road against an archrival. Pitt has two wins but isn't at full strength and is on the road.

Iowa 31-24


Steven Lassan:

Iowa has quietly impressed through the first two weeks of the season, but there’s two potential injury concerns – defensive end Drew Ott and running back LeShun Daniels – for this game. Even though Pittsburgh lost James Conner due to injury, the rushing attack remains strong with Qadree Ollison, Darrin Hall and Chris James. The bigger question for the Panthers – will it be Chad Voytik or Nathan Peterman under center?

Iowa 24-21


7. Northwestern at Duke

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3


David Fox:

Duke’s Thomas Sirk has been a true dual threat, completing 67.7 percent of his passes while leading the Blue Devils in rushing. Northwestern’s pass defense has been stifling, but the Wildcats haven’t faced a team willing to open up its offense.

Northwestern 31–28


Braden Gall:

Love this game. Northwestern's defense is really good and Duke is extremely well coached. I'll take the home team.

Duke 30-24


Steven Lassan:

Not only is this a quality under-the-radar matchup of the week between two academic powers, it’s also one of the toughest games to predict. Northwestern has a good win over Stanford, while Duke has dominated two overmatched opponents. The Wildcats have the edge on defense, but I think quarterback Thomas Sirk is a rising star for the Blue Devils, and his play in the second half will be the difference in a tight game.

Duke 27-24


8. Virginia Tech at Purdue

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU


David Fox:

Purdue’s Austin Appleby returned from his collapse against Marshall to go 20-of-34 for 289 yards with four TDs against Indiana State. Now, the hope is that facing the Hokies won’t set him back.

Virginia Tech 28–10


Braden Gall:

Purdue is better this year but still not good enough to win games like this. Even at home.

Virginia Tech 31-24


Steven Lassan:

I was surprised to see this spread at only six points. Purdue is improving, but I don’t think it has the necessary pieces to upset Virginia Tech on Saturday. New starter Brenden Motley played well (16 of 24, 233 yards) against Furman for the Hokies last week, and faces a Purdue defense giving up 161.5 rushing yards per game. Virginia Tech’s defense will be too much for the Boilermakers.

Virginia Tech 31-13


9. Central Michigan at Syracuse

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3


David Fox:

Turnovers helped ‘Cuse, down to a backup QB, get a lopsided win over Wake last week.

Syracuse 28–21


Braden Gall:

Cuse gets its third win in three tires over CMU, matching its season total last year.

Syracuse 31-24


Steven Lassan:

It’s early, but this is a must-win game for Syracuse’s bowl hopes. True freshman quarterback Eric Dungey has played well since replacing an injured Terrel Hunt under center. Central Michigan gave Oklahoma State trouble in the opener, but Syracuse avoids the upset here.

Syracuse 30-20


10. NC State at Old Dominion

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: American Sports Network


David Fox:

I’m not sure why NC State is playing AT Old Dominion or AT South Alabama next week. Anything to make this paltry September schedule seem interesting.

NC State 35–10


Braden Gall:

The nation's leading rusher (Ray Lawry) will battle with Jacoby Brissett and NC State at home — which is interesting but unlikely to be close.

NC State 45-24


Steven Lassan:

NC State has looked good through the first two weeks of the season, but the competition level has been questionable. The theme continues on Saturday. Old Dominion running back Ray Lawry leads the nation with an average of 219 rushing yards per game in 2015. However, the Wolfpack have one of the ACC’s top backfields and are getting Shadrach Thornton back from a two-game suspension.

NC State 40-17


11. Wake Forest at Army

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network


David Fox:

Wake’s run game is still a mess, averaging 1.4 yards per carry last week. Army ran only 41 plays last week against UConn.

Wake Forest 21–14


Braden Gall:

Wake Forest needs a rebound after a tough road conference loss to Cuse last week. Army is one game it should win.

Wake Forest 30-20


Steven Lassan:

Wake Forest had a 17-13 halftime lead over Syracuse last week, but the Demon Deacons couldn’t overcome three turnovers. Regardless, this is an improved team in coach Dave Clawson’s second year. Army’s triple option is tough to stop on a short week to prepare, but the strength of Wake Forest’s defense rests with its front seven.

Wake Forest 27-20


12. William & Mary at Virginia

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3


David Fox:

The Cavaliers’ brutal September schedule may get them only one win. This is it.

Virginia 31–14


Braden Gall:

Virginia's only break in the first month is a win. Finally.

Virginia 40-17


Steven Lassan:

Virginia has faced one of the toughest two-game stretches to start 2015. Things should be a little easier for the Cavaliers on Saturday.

Virginia 38-7

ACC Week 3 Predictions 2015
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/cj-anderson-demaryius-thomas-track-play-thursday-night

As we look to Week 2, it's important to know which players suffered injuries in Week 1. If their playing status is in doubt, you'll need to make sure you have replacements in your lineup. Hopefully your bench is deep enough to fill the void injuries left, but if not, it's time to turn to the waiver wire.


Before we jump to pick up whatever may be out there, let's take a look at players that have injury concerns heading into Week 2. First, let's look at the big names and the players affected for the Thursday night game between Denver and Kansas City.


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


Thursday night players


Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

Probable - Back

Perhaps to cover up a poor Week 1 performance, Manning was listed on the injury report with a back issue. However, he's practiced and has said he is fine. The injury should not deter you from starting Manning; his Week 1 performance might. He didn't throw any touchdowns and seemed to be adding to last season's string of bad games. The Chiefs' defense, especially with the Broncos playing in Kansas City on a short week, isn't exactly what Manning needs at this point. He's a low-end QB1.


Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

Probable - Hand

Thomas had a hand injury at the end of Sunday's game, but it does not appear this is an injury to monitor. He practiced in full this week and is a WR1 for Thursday night. The Chiefs' secondary is decent, but they did allow DeAndre Hopkins to put up 98 receiving yards and two touchdowns and Nate Washington to gain 105 receiving yards.


C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos

Questionable - Toe

Anderson was on the injury report with a toe issue after Sunday's game. The reports out of Denver are that he will play, and he did have two limited practices this week. After putting up only 29 rushing yards in Week 1, Anderson owners are likely getting nervous. He did have four receptions for 19 yards, but Ronnie Hillman looked better than he did. Anderson is a low-end RB1 for at least another week.


Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Probable - Hip

Kelce was in and out of the Week 1 game with a couple of injuries. It looked like he had the wind knocked out of him, and was good to go. He had an ankle injury heading into Week 1, and now is listed with the hip injury. No matter what, he put in full practices and is good to play on Thursday night. After putting up a 6/106/2 stat line in Week 1, he's a TE1 for Week 2.


Other Injuries


DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins (out, hamstring)

Out - Hamstring

After Jackson pulled up lame, fantasy owners knew it wasn't a good sign. He grabbed his hamstring and went to the sideline, leaving his owners with a zero for the day. After an MRI on Monday, it was revealed that Jackson would be out for 3-4 weeks. Pierre Garcon will step into his role and look for tight end Jordan Reed also to see more targets. Garcon is a WR3 and Reed is a TE2.


T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts

TBA - Knee

Hilton bruised his knee in Sunday's game and left the game and did not return. A MRI revealed no structural damage, which is good. However, he will need to wait for the swelling to go down and be able to run and cut before he can play. The problem with Hilton is that the Colts play on Monday night. Fantasy owners should plan on being without Hilton for Week 2.


Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals

TBA - Knee

Ellington suffered a knee injury in Week 1, however, an MRI revealed it was a PCL injury. Originally the timeline for Ellington was to be out was 2-3 weeks, but he did put in a very limited practice (with a knee brace) on Wednesday. Odds are that Ellington will sit out Week 2, but monitor what he does in practice on Friday to be sure. Chris Johnson and David Johnson will fill in at running back, with Chris Johnson designated as the starter. The former Titan and Jet is a low-end RB2 while the rookie Johnson is a RB3 assuming Ellington is out.


Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Out - Foot

In case you haven't heard Bryant fractured a bone in his foot and had surgery. The original timeline was 4-6 weeks, however, it may end up being even longer depending on the recovery. Plan to be without your WR1 for awhile. Terrance Williams moves up to the No. 1 WR role in Dallas in Bryant's absence.


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

C.J. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas On Track To Play Thursday Night
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 09:15
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-and-prediction-2015

Don’t try to tell anybody associated with the Chiefs or Broncos that their Thursday night game is not so meaningful, just because this is the second week of the NFL regular season. In an AFC West that looks to be as competitive as any division in the league — with the exception of Oakland — this game sets up as an early barometer of who deserves to be considered the favorite.


Kansas City looked pretty darn impressive in its 27-20 win over Team "Hard Knocks" in the opener. Alex Smith still hasn’t thrown a TD pass to a wide receiver in about nine years (actually, it’s January 2014), but the Chiefs took an early lead and held it by playing the kind of mistake-free ball that has come to characterize Andy Reid’s team.


Denver, meanwhile, was a curious winner over Baltimore, because the Broncos’ vaunted offense stalled against the Ravens. Peyton Manning didn’t even throw a touchdown pass, the first time that has happened in more than three seasons. No, it was the Denver D that did the job, and if it can continue to be stout, the Broncos will be lethal, since you know TV’s top pitchman isn’t going to struggle for long.


Denver at Kansas City


Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV: CBS, NFL Network

Spread: Kansas City -3


Three Things to Watch


1. For the Defense

It seems quite strange to write about a Denver victory that featured just 219 net yards for the Broncos. That used to be a good quarter for Peyton Manning alone. But Gary Kubiak’s team was extremely stingy against the Ravens, allowing 173 total yards and picking off Joe Flacco twice, one of which went for a TD. “That defense is fast and well-coached,” Reid said. “I think when it’s all said and done, they’ll be one of the better defenses in the National Football League when we get to the end of the year.”


2. Passing Fancy

Okay, so Smith didn’t connect with a wideout during the win over Houston, but he did throw three scoring passes, complete 66.7 percent of his throws and stay interception-free. And top free-agent acquisition Jeremy Maclin caught five passes and can still be considered one of the league’s top wide receivers, especially after his big 2014 campaign in Philadelphia. Expect Smith to continue to look for high-percentage opportunities and grow with Maclin as the season goes on. “We feel good about [Maclin] against anybody one on one, and with the guys we have on the inside, it creates a problem,” Smith said.


3. Old Timer

Manning did not look particularly sharp against the Ravens, completing only 24-of-40 passes for 175 yards and a pick-six. A lot of throws fluttered past open receivers, and he looked uncharacteristically awkward in the pocket. Granted, Baltimore’s defense is traditionally stout, but there is always the fear (among Denver fans) that the 39-year old QB, who struggled late last year, could be heading toward his professional sunset. Manning was a bit curt with the media after the game and was not pleased Tuesday when he appeared on the injury report with an alleged back issue. He’s also clear that Denver won its first game, no matter what his statistics are. “I guess we’re 1-0 is what we are,” he said. “I’m really trying to remind people it’s a Broncos unit. It’s not three separate teams.”


Final Analysis


This is a tough one to pick, because it’s impossible to tell whether Manning is going to explode Thursday night and throw for 400 yards and five scores. He has had good success against Kansas City in the past, so there is no reason to think he will stumble, especially in such a big game. He doesn’t have to be perfect, since it looks like the Denver defense is pretty darn good.


It will have to be, because if Smith continues to get comfortable with Maclin, and Jamaal Charles stays a threat in the backfield, then the Chiefs become one of the more balanced teams in the AFC. This is a test for Smith, who must prove he can win against top opponents, if Kansas City is going to make a run at the playoffs. This is the perfect opportunity for him to take a step forward, playing at home against a top rival.


Prediction: Broncos 24, Chiefs 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.

Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-quarterback-rankings-week-2

Week 1 of the NFL regular season is in the books, and the quarterback ranks now have at least one week of data to go on. Some poor performances (Peyton Manning) caused some players to drop a bit for Week 2.


Also, we learned that some defenses are pretty tough (Buffalo Bills, for example), which does affect the quarterback ranks (sorry Tom Brady) as well. While more time is needed to get a true picture of how the quarterbacks will shape up.




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


Here are the Week 2 quarterback rankings:

2015 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros


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

Fantasy Football 2015 Quarterback Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-kicker-rankings-week-2

While kickers still are underrated in terms of fantasy football, just note that most of the guys on this list scored more fantasy points than Calvin Johnson or Adrian Peterson last week.


Sure, that's not going to be the case every week, but if you get get solid production from your kicker, it certainly can help when one of your studs puts up a dud.



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


Let's take a look at the Week 2 kicker rankings:

2015 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros


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

Fantasy Football 2015 Kicker Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-2

A common strategy in fantasy football is to stream defenses. While only one week of data is hard to base a season-long ranking on, we can tell that some defenses are stronger than others.


In 2014, a popular streaming option is whichever team played against Jacksonville. This appears to be a trend that carries through to 2015, which is why the Dolphins DST checks in at No. 1.


While sometimes DSTs are hard to predict, try to pick a DST for the team that you think is going to win the game. Bonus points if you think the game will also be low-scoring.


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


Here are the Week 2 DST ranks:

2015 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros


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

Fantasy Football 2015 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-flex-rankings-week-2

Week 2 is once again upon us and with it comes the positional rankings, and flex rankings from the fantasy team at I am hoping all of our readers enjoyed success in Week 1, and with plenty of injuries, and some heavy waiver wire traffic likely happening this week flex rankings should be even more important.


Related: Fantasy Football 2015 Waiver Wire — Week 2


Should you start newly acquired James Jones over Melvin Gordon? How about Donte Moncrief who should see added targets for the Colts again with the loss of T.Y. Hilton this week?


All of these questions and more should be resolved. Positional rankings will certainly help with many, but for those tough start or sit questions involving running backs, or wide receiver and tight ends flex rankings are extremely valuable.


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


Hope these benefit you and bring you nothing but good fortune in fantasy Week 2!


Note: DST rankings are on the first tab, click on Flex to see those rankings.


Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros


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

Fantasy Football 2015 Flex Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-running-back-rankings-week-2

Week 1 of the NFL regular season and fantasy season and fantasy season is in the books and now that the dust has settled some interesting conclusions could be made...


Maybe Adrian Peterson is a little bit rusty after a year off (and maybe a little slower too?)


Alfred Morris isn’t going anywhere (sorry all you Matt Jones fanboys)


Bishop Sankey isn’t Bishop Stankey (at least for one week)


Jonathan Stewart didn’t get hurt (yet)


Carlos Hyde looked pretty good Monday night (can he keep it up?)


Doug Martin is still Doug Martin (enough said)


Let’s look ahead to this week and see who projects to be the best bet for your Week 2 lineups.


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


1Matt ForteCHIvs. ARI
2Marshawn LynchSEAat GB
3Jeremy HillCINvs SD
4Adrian PetersonMINvs. DET
5DeMarco MurrayPHIvs. DAL
6Carlos HydeSFat PIT
7Justin ForsettBALat OAK
8Jamal CharlesKCvs. DEN (Thurs.)
9Mark IngramNOvs. TB
10Chris IvoryNYJat IND (Mon.)
11Eddie LacyGBvs. SEA
12LeSean McCoyBUFvs. NE
13Lamar MillerMIAat JAC
14Jonathan StewartCARvs. HOU
15Ameer AbdullahDETat MIN
16Latavius MurrayOAKvs. BAL
17Doug MartinTBat NO
18C.J. AndersonDENat KC (Thurs.)
19Joseph RandleDALat PHI
20Rashad JenningsNYGvs. ATL
21Alfred MorrisWASvs. STL
22DeAngelo WilliamsPITvs. SF
23T.J. YeldonJAXvs. MIA
24Frank GoreINDvs. NYJ (Mon.)
25Tevin ColemanATLat NYG
26Chris JohnsonARIat CHI
27Danny WoodheadSDat CIN
28Bishop SankeyTENat CLE
29Melvin GordonSDat CIN
30Isaiah CrowellCLEvs. TEN
31LeGarrette BlountNEat BUF
32Giovani BernardCINvs. SD
33Benny CunninghamSTLat WAS
34C.J. SpillerNOvs . TB
35Shane VereenNYGvs. ATL
36David JohnsonARIat CHI
37Darren SprolesPHIvs. DAL
38Joique BellDETat MIN
39Ryan MatthewsPHIvs. DAL
40Dion LewisNEat BUF
41Ronnie HillmanDENat KC (Thurs.)
42Devonta FreemanATLat NYG
43Bilal PowellNYJat IND (Mon.)
44Duke JohnsonCLEvs. TEN)
45Javorius AllenBALat OAK
46Alfred BlueHOUat CAR
47Lance DunbarDALat PHI
48Khiry RobinsonNOvs. TB
49Tre MasonSTLat WAS
50Matt JonesWASvs. STL

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

Fantasy Football 2015 Running Back Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-tight-end-rankings-week-2

Thankfully the tight end position missed the injury bug that stung the wide receivers in Week 1, so all the big names are ready to go for your fantasy team in Week 2.


Last week Rob Gronkowski proved that once again he is head and shoulders above all other tight ends, but guys like Travis Kelce and Tyler Eifert finally lived up to their huge potential and had games that all their fantasy owners hope is only the beginning.


So where do Kelce and Eifert rank this week? And what about Greg Olsen, what happened to him?


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


Check out this week’s fantasy TE rankings below.


1Rob GronkowskiNEat BUF
2Jason WittenDALat PHI
3Travis KelceKCvs. DEN (Thurs.)
4Tyler EifertCINvs. SD
5Jordan CameronMIAat JAX
6Ladarius GreenSDat CIN
7Martellus BennettCHIvs. ARI
8Greg OlsenCARvs. HOU
9Jimmy GrahamSEAat GB
10Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBat NO
11Heath MillerPITvs. SF
12Jordan ReedWASvs. STL
13Kyle RudolphMINvs. DET
14Jared CookSTLat WAS
15Zac ErtzPHIvs. DAL
16Vernon DavisSFat PIT
17Darren FellsARIat CHI
18Larry Donnell NYGvs. ATL
19Charles ClayBUFvs. NE
20Eric EbronDETat MIN
21Richard RodgersGBvs. SEA
22Crockett GillmoreBALat OAK
23Dwayne AllenINDvs. NYJ (Mon.)
24Jacob TammeATLat NYG 
25Daniel FellsNYGvs. ATL
26Gary BarnidgeCLEvs. TEN
27Delaine WalkerTENat CLE
28Coby FleenerINDvs. NYJ (Mon.)
29Owen DanielsDENvs. KC (Thurs.)
30Ben WatsonNOvs. TB

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

Fantasy Football 2015 Tight End Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-week-2-wr-rankings

Julio Jones was going to be my favorite fantasy wide receiver for Week 2, but with the hamstring news that broke on Wednesday I am worried enough to knock him down the rankings a bit. That leaves the top spot open for Antonio Brown once again.


Otherwise the big name receivers are still top-tier options this week, and a few of them should be poised for a bounce-back week with Calvin Johnson and Odell Beckham Jr.


A few receivers moved in to the top 30 this week as well in James Jones and Terrance Williams, who are essentially playing in place of injured players.


Be sure to also check out the other positions and flex rankings for more guidance and help with start or sit scenarios for the week.


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


Good luck everyone!


Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros


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

Fantasy Football 2015 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/athlon-cover-catch-cory-ross-talks-omaha-beef-admiration-bill-callahan

In the years immediately after the 2002 national championship Rose Bowl and the departure of Heisman winner Eric Crouch, Nebraska was in a state of identity crisis. The Cornhuskers parted ways with longtime Tom Osborne assistant Frank Solich and attempted to modernize the program with an NFL approach by hiring Bill Callahan.


The program went 30-20 from 2002-05, but a bedrock during that time was running back Cory Ross. Ross became a running and receiving threat as a junior and senior, with more than 1,200 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns in each of his last two seasons. Ross still ranks ninth in all-purpose yards in Nebraska history.


An undrafted free agent, Ross enjoyed a brief pro career with the Baltimore Ravens, but when his playing days ended, he returned to where Nebraska coaches — including Callahan — made an impact on his life.


In this weeks’ Athlon Sports Cover Catch-up, we checked in with former Nebraska running back Cory Ross, who appeared on our 2005 Big 12 cover.


What have you done since leaving Nebraska?

After I left Nebraska, I played for the Baltimore Ravens for three years, got hurt and had to sit out a year. Then I played in the United Football League under coach Dennis Green for three year. Then I had a stint in Canada with the Edmonton Eskimos. Though all the injuries my body has taken, I called it quits. I ended up coming back to Lincoln and did a lot of radio appearances. I ended up meeting a couple of guys who were starting an Arena football team in Lincoln while I was here, and they asked me to come on staff. I really took a liking to it and fell into the head coaching gig with the Lincoln Haymakers. That ended up falling through, but the owner of the Omaha Beef, Rich Tokheim, wanted me to take over last January. That’s how it started. I just fell in love with it the last three years. I really want to get into the college level and let people I know I’m interested. I’m getting a feel of how it is to be a coach. I love coaching. I love teaching, I love being around football.


Did the coaching itch start when you finished playing or has this been a goal all along?

I had thought about it for a long time. When I was in high school, Eric Bieniemy (now the running backs coach with the Kansas City Chiefs) was the running backs coach when I was a senior. I wanted to follow in his style, his footsteps, because I saw the passion he had. My senior year, I knew that’s where I wanted to go. I started doing radio, but I was away from the game. I started at Lincoln High School coaching running backs three years ago. It became a magnet for me to be around coaching.


What level of football is the Omaha Beef? Is this a semi-pro team?

Yes. They get anywhere from $75-300 a game. That’s the max in the league they’re in (Champions Indoor Football). It depends on who you’re with and the owner of the team. But the Omaha Beef has been around for 17 years, so it’s stable. People in Omaha know who they are and what they do. It’s Arena football. Some of our guys have been able to go to NFL camps in May and things like that. There are small leagues like this everywhere, but the CIF is pretty good with teams that are stable and have been around. It’s an opportunity for guys to continue or try to get more film and show they’re playing against some talented guys. We have players from DI schools. If you’re the best in the league, people are going to look at you.


Are you getting mostly guys who are right out of college or more veteran players?

Pretty much right out of college. We have few guys who are 2-3 years out who are trying to chase that dream. A lot of them are fresh out of college. We had a guy who was with the Chiefs who was released and another guy who is doing it because he loves the game. He’s not looking for an opportunity to get to the next level even though he’s playing well. We have guys like that who just want to keep playing. And we have some young guys who are 20-21-years old from out of state who we house, take care of their food and stuff like that.


Do they need to have second jobs or a day job? How do they make ends meet?

Here they don’t have to. You get paid per game, every week, and your housing is taken care of and your food is taken care of. You really don’t have to have a job. A lot of the out-of-town guys want to come in and as long as we feed them and house them and give them a place to work out and they can get film, they can do that. A lot of guys are chasing a dream. When you get signed to Arena 1 football, that’s actually pretty good money. Canada teams are always looking at Arena and looking for players.


From a day-to-day standpoint, how is this different from other coaching jobs? Do you have GM or administrative duties? Is this a full-time job for coaches, too?

Some coaches in the league have to work other jobs. But I help out with sales to get sponsorships for our team and I watch film with my coaches. For me, it’s a full-time job. Some of my assistant coaches have side jobs and things like that. We get film (from prospective players) every day, so every player we sign I have to approve of.


I read that with the Lincoln Haymakers, you used Bill Callahan’s playbook. Is that still the case with Omaha?

Of course, man. I use Callahan’s playbook. The terminology is different and obviously it’s different with 11 (players on offense) and eight, but the concepts aren’t different at all. The concepts are universal. I fell in love with the West Coast offense. When he brought it to Nebraska, that was my first experience and I was dialed in. That was something I loved. When I was a free agent in the pros, I wanted to go to a West Coast-style team because I understood the concepts.


I bet if you polled Nebraska fans, Callahan would not be their favorite coach. You admire him quite a bit. Does it bother you that Nebraska fans don’t hold him in high esteem?

Sometimes it does. I was a captain the years he was here. I got to meet with him every week. I knew him personally, and I knew where his heart was and what he was trying to do. Some people just didn’t take it the right way. He brought in a system that was almost perfect for Nebraska. A lot of things that weren’t in the head coaches control, they blamed him for it. Everyone here knows I’m pro-Callahan on the radio because of what I’ve seen and what he’s done and what kind of players he was bringing in at Nebraska and changing it and making it fun offense to be a part of. Some guys really profited from it. Zac Taylor is working with the Miami Dolphins now (as quarterback coach). I thought he could be a pro quarterback. He took that offense and ran with it. Those coaches were why I really fell back in love with football. They made football even more fun. They made me realize there was more to it than the simple plays I had in high school. I came in and it was option left, option right and ISOs. I learned a lot more football and I understood what football had to offer and fell in love with that.


You went to high school in Denver and then you came back to Lincoln for your post-playing career and now in Omaha. Was the state of Nebraska a place you always wanted to return and considered your home?

I think I chose Nebraska even before I decided to be a coach here. After my first year with the Ravens and I came home that summer, I moved back to Lincoln. I fell in love with the people here. People who travel here to play us, they always say it’s great people around here and a nice atmosphere. I’m from the city. I’m from Denver, so I know how big cities are. I hate traffic. So I knew right after my rookie year that I’d come back here and find a place and call it home just because I fell in love with being here and wanting to raise a family.

Athlon Cover Catch-Up: Cory Ross Talks Omaha Beef, Admiration for Bill Callahan
Post date: Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/rutgers-coach-kyle-flood-suspended-three-games-and-fined-50000

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has been suspended three games and fined $50,000 after an investigation into academic rule violations. The news about Flood’s suspension was first reported by’s Keith Sargeant.


Flood will miss Saturday’s game against Penn State and will sit out the Scarlet Knights’ games against Kansas and Michigan State. Running backs coach Norries Wilson will serve as the interim coach for the next three games. Flood will return for Rutgers’ Oct. 17 matchup against Indiana.


An investigation into Flood began shortly before the season after reported the fourth-year coach sent an e-mail to a faculty member regarding the status of one his players – Nadir Barnwell. The cornerback’s status was in question for 2015 due to academics. The contents of the e-mail to the faculty member have not been released, but Flood was reportedly told to not contact academic support about the status of the player.


Flood was on the hot seat entering last season but guided Rutgers to an 8-5 record in its Big Ten debut. The Scarlet Knights are off to a 1-1 start in 2015.


Rutgers Coach Kyle Flood Suspended Three Games
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 15:51
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-vs-louisville-cardinals-preview-and-prediction-2015

Clemson and Louisville enter Thursday night’s critical early-season ACC showdown with a completely different outlook through the first two weeks of the season. The Tigers are off to a fast 2-0 start thanks to convincing wins over Wofford and Appalachian State, while the Cardinals are just one of four Power 5 teams without a win so far. Louisville has a significant edge in strength of schedule over Clemson, as there’s no shame in losing to Auburn and Houston.


While the first two weeks of the season has brought significantly different fortunes for these two programs, Thursday night is a new opportunity. Clemson is considered by some to be the frontrunner in the ACC, but Louisville is by far the toughest opponent coach Dabo Swinney’s team has played in 2015. On the other sideline, even though the Cardinals are 0-2, this is the ACC opener for both teams. A win against the Tigers would eliminate some of the bad feelings from the 0-2 start and keep Louisville in the mix to win the Atlantic Division.


College Football Podcast: Week 3 Preview with Dari Nowkhah

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Thursday night’s matchup is only the second meeting between these two teams. Last year’s game was the first contest between Clemson and Louisville on the gridiron.


Clemson at Louisville


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

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Clemson -6


Three Things to Watch


1. Louisville’s Quarterbacks

Two games, two different starters at quarterback for Louisville. Where will the quarterback carousel end on Thursday night? Could true freshman Lamar Jackson make his second start of the season? Will Reggie Bonnafon return to the starting role after not playing against Houston? Or is the third game Kyle Bolin’s opportunity to take the controls of Louisville’s offense? Or can Will Gardner – seven starts in 2014 – recover from a rib injury to start? Jackson is a dynamic dual-threat option, but he has three picks on 47 attempts and rushed for only 16 yards against Houston before Bolin was inserted into the lineup. In limited action against the Cougars, Bolin threw for 157 yards on 10 completions. Bolin’s experience isn’t limited to just this year, as he saw extensive action against Kentucky in 2014 and started the Belk Bowl against Georgia. Even if Bolin starts, could coach Bobby Petrino have a package of plays for Jackson?


2. Battle in the Trenches

Rebuilding the offensive line was a theme among contenders in the ACC this preseason. Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Miami all entered the opener with question marks about the offensive line. So far, both units for Clemson and Louisville have experienced their share of ups and downs, as the Tigers have allowed five sacks, while the Cardinals have surrendered six. And oddly enough, both teams are averaging 4.2 yards per carry. The similarities between these two teams in the trenches continues with freshmen starting at left tackle. For Louisville, Geron Christian protects the blindside, while Deshaun Watson has touted recruit Mitch Hyatt anchoring the left side. There are a lot of similarities between these two groups, and both units will be tested on Thursday night. Louisville’s front seven is among the best in the ACC, and Clemson is loaded with promising young talent in a rebuilding year. Can the Tigers protect Watson to give him time to throw to an explosive receiving corps? Will Louisville’s line clear the way for running back Brandon Radcliff to take some of the pressure off of the starter at quarterback? The play in the trenches should have a huge impact on which team emerges with the victory.


3. Clemson’s Rebuilt Defense

So far, so good for coordinator Brent Venables. Clemson’s defense returned only two starters from a defense that ranked first nationally by limiting opponents to just 4.03 yards per play in 2014. Through two games, the Tigers are holding opposing offenses to just 3.8 yards per play, have allowed only 20 points, forced four turnovers and generated 20 tackles for a loss. The pass rush – only two sacks so far – is a concern, but there’s plenty of room to improve this area as the year progresses with a handful of freshmen cracking the two-deep for this game. While Appalachian State’s offense is one of the best in the Sun Belt, Louisville should be a better gauge of where Clemson’s defense stands in 2015. Even with James Quick and Jamari Staples sidelined due to injury, the Cardinals have talented playmakers on the outside in Jaylen Smith, Ja’Quay Savage, Traveon Samuel and tight end Micky Crum. Additionally, running back Brandon Radcliff is averaging 4.4 yards per carry in 2015 after rushing for 737 yards in 2014. A road test against a Louisville offense coming off 24 points against Auburn and 31 against Houston should provide Venables with more insight on just how quickly this defense is rebuilding after losing several key players from the dominant 2014 group.


Final Analysis


It’s only Week 3, but this is a critical showdown in the ACC Atlantic. Additionally, this game will provide better insight into Clemson’s rebuilding effort, as well as Louisville’s quarterback situation. The home crowd and front seven on defense should help the Cardinals in their upset bid. However, Louisville won’t win this game if it continues to lose turnovers (six so far this year) and struggles to block Clemson’s defensive line. While the Tigers are also dealing with their share of new faces in the lineup, the difference in this game has to be sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson. This one won’t be decided until the fourth quarter, but Watson delivers with the game on the line to give Clemson a close victory.


Prediction: Clemson 27, Louisville 24
Clemson Tigers vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/bills-coach-rex-ryan-takes-shot-arkansas-coach-bret-bielema-over-scheduling

Last week was a tough one for Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. The Razorbacks’ coach took a shot at the lack of difficulty in Ohio State’s schedule after Week 1, and of course, fans had no trouble jumping on Bielema after Arkansas’ loss to Toledo on Saturday.


On Wednesday, Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan took a jab at Bielema over scheduling when asked if he wished the Patriots were in another division. 


Bills Coach Rex Ryan Takes a Jab at Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema Over Scheduling
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 12:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-cover-2-podcast-week-3-preview

Hosts Mitch Light and Braden Gall are joined by ESPN's Dari Nowkhah to break down a huge weekend of action in Week 3.


The ACC's big three go on the road while the rest of the league battles with the Big Ten. The SEC West has two massive showdowns while the East has some sneaky good action as well. What will happen with Texas hosting Cal after firing the A.D? Can USC and UCLA hold serve at home against Stanford and BYU respectively?


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





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

College Football Cover 2 Podcast: Week 3 Preview
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 11:34
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-week-3

College football is in full swing and we're already seeing pretenders fall and contenders rise. We've seen some fantastic individual performances, phenomenal finishes and unfortunately, some season-ending injuries. What we haven't seen this far, however, is anything really outrageous (unless you count Jacksonville State taking Auburn to overtime).


Sounds like a great time to make some outrageous college football predictions for Week 3.


Chad Kelly will emerge from the Ole Miss-Alabama game as the Heisman front-runner

I told you at the beginning of the season that Kelly would eventually win the award. This is the weekend he moves into the driver's seat. Look for him to top 300 yards and three touchdowns through the air and punch in another score on the ground in a big win over the Crimson Tide.


College Football Podcast: Week 3 Preview with Dari Nowkhah

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Boston College will knock off Florida State

The Seminoles are ripe for the picking after a sluggish start against South Florida. The Eagles are going to wear down Florida State's defense with a slow, methodical run game — opening the door for a big fourth quarter where Darius Wade seal the deal with two touchdown passes to pull away. On the other side of the ball, look for Boston College to pick off Everett Golson no less than two times in key situations.


Auburn upsets LSU at Death Valley

Truth be told, all we really know about LSU is that the Tigers pulled out a squeaker over a Mississippi State team that struggled with Southern Miss. Auburn on the other hand, was flat out embarrassed a week ago. Highlights of its overtime win at home against Jacksonville State seemed to play on loop on the major networks, and resulted in an early-season exit from the top 10 in the major polls. Look for Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson to correct his turnover issues and lead his Tigers to a win in a huge SEC West contest.


Notre Dame beats Georgia Tech by three scores

A lot of people are wanting to write the Irish off on the back of the injury to Malik Zaire. Pump the brakes! Notre Dame won't miss a beat on offense, starting this weekend against Georgia Tech. Look for DeShone Kizer to to put on an aerial clinic against the Yellow Jackets, supported by Notre Dame's best defensive performance of the season. This will be a true statement game for the Irish, as they announce to the rest of the nation that they're still contenders.


The BYU-UCLA winner will end up in the College Football Playoff

This shootout of star freshmen quarterbacks will have national title implications. A loss for BYU likely dooms its title hopes. A loss for UCLA makes the road to the College Football Playoff extremely difficult. The winner, regardless of which team, will be staring down a schedule where they may be the favorite to win every remaining game and run the table. Consider this the first Playoff elimination game of the season.


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

Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 3
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/hurricane-warning-cornhuskers-are-coming

Now that Nebraska’s in the Big Ten, rivalries are budding, but nothing like the respectful Oklahoma games or the building hatred of the Texas Longhorns have emerged.


Many accuse Husker fans of living in the past, but if there’s one element of it that still lives today, it’s that Nebraska doesn’t like the Miami Hurricanes and the feeling is mutual.


The series tie was broken last season during a 41-31 brawl that was as entertaining as it was billed to be and there was even some extracurricular activity.


Well no, street basketball is an extracurricular activity. They fought (repeatedly) and I even back up then-head coach Bo Pelini’s argument that there was no roughing of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, but that’s another story.


The Hurricanes were actually booed out of Memorial Stadium. Anyone who has ever been to Lincoln or heard of Nebraska fans’ hospitality knows that’s worth raising eyebrows over.


The forecast in Miami calls for temperatures near 90 and possible precipitation. While the Big Red needs to make sure handoffs are made properly and the football is secured, they must not channel the ghosts of the 1994 Orange Bowl or even last year.


Having the Hurricanes blow into Memorial Stadium was a fantasy matchup for both sides. Now Miami gets to return the favor of host as a flood of scarlet and cream prepares to fill Sun Life Stadium.


Attendance at Hurricane home games is often sparse, but a magnet of red and orange may clash in the stands a la the Red River Rivalry this Saturday.


Consider this an advisory to everyone wearing the Huskers’ colors on Saturday: If a Hurricane fan talks trash (or even worse), walk away. The authorities will always catch the person who retaliates.


Interestingly, I can see Mike Riley doing exactly what Tom Osborne did back during that 1994 Orange Bowl — giving that same “Turn the Other Cheek” talk, especially if ACC referees are present.


Be one with the football game, Huskers. BYU and Memphis already made headlines with a Miami Beach Brawl. There needn’t be a second involving the Sunshine State residents.


As ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “Silence is a source of great strength.”


Who knew he was a football fan?


— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.

Hurricane Warning: The Cornhuskers Are Coming
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/several-ap-voters-kept-auburn-their-top-ten-after-week-2

Week 2 of the 2015 college football season turned out to be a fairly exciting one. One of the bigger stories to come out of the weekend was Auburn needing overtime to defeat Jacksonville State in its home opener.


The Tigers began the season two weeks ago ranked No. 6 in the AP poll. After a seven-point win over an unranked Louisville team to open the year, the AP voters kept the Tigers at No. 6, which I suppose was understandable. Louisville, despite not being ranked, was probably perceived as a quality Power-5 opponent by the voters.


This last week was different. Jacksonville State was — for all intents and purposes — a schedule-filler who made the trip to Auburn basically for a paycheck. They were supposed to be that “cupcake” game that the traditional powers use to get right and put on a nice, low-stress exhibition for the fans. As we now know, that certainly was not the case on Saturday in Auburn.


The Tigers looked like anything but the national title contender so many people had them pegged as to start the year. In fact, when you compare their first two games of the season against the rest of the college football landscape, some (including myself) argue that they haven’t looked the part of a Top 25 team.


As you might expect, the Tigers took a tumble in the latest AP poll, falling from No. 6 all the way to No. 18. That’s a sizeable drop, but I was still curious as to why they were still ranked in the top 20. My interest was piqued enough to dig through every AP voter’s ballot and see where they had Auburn.


What I found shocked me a bit.


Eight AP voters — for whatever reason — still had Auburn in their top 10. Three had them at No. 10; two had them at No. 9, two had them at No. 7 and one voter kept them right at No. 6. It was these votes that kept the Tigers in the top 20, when they probably should be well outside of it.


On the one hand, we may be inclined to shrug off the AP poll. With the College Football Playoff committee in place, the poll theoretically means nothing. Realistically, however, the AP poll and rankings drive the narrative for the season. As I alluded to last week, the little numbers next to each team on the scoreboard are often how you and I determine quality wins or upsets. The Playoff committee members are only human. I have to think that, to some level, they are doing the same.


Having a vote for any award or poll is — in my opinion — a privilege that should not be abused. We should not accept anything less than due diligence from voters when it comes to making an informed decision. In the case of the AP Top 25, it really requires one of two things: watch the games or read the box scores. Your gut should not come into play. The AP poll is not supposed to be what a voter thinks should be the case, but rather their view on what actually is currently the case.


Right here at, I write a weekly column where I make “outrageous predictions.” Those are based on things that could possibly happen — and even that’s a reach. A college football poll of respected journalists, on the other hand, is supposed to be a collective interpretation of what has actually already happened. There’s no room for outrageousness in the rankings.


Any voter who has watched Auburn’s games — or even only read the box scores for that matter — and still thinks the Tigers are currently a top-10 college football team has no business voting in any national poll. That voter is either not paying attention to what’s going on or has an agenda.


Either way, there’s no place for those voters when it comes to a poll that helps drive the narrative and write the story of the college football season. College football fans deserve much better than someone who is just going through the motions or carrying out their own agenda.


— 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.

Several AP Voters Kept Auburn in Their Top Ten After Week 2
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC
Path: /college-football/its-now-or-never-georgia-quarterback-greyson-lambert

The Georgia Bulldogs have jumped out to a 2-0 start in 2015. Back-to-back wins against Louisiana-Monroe and Vanderbilt have given everyone a look at what we already thought about this year's team — the defense is good and the running game led by Nick Chubb is great.


The question that is on everyone’s mind is if newcomer Greyson Lambert can get the job done at quarterback. After a good warm up in game one, Lambert only managed to complete 52 percent of his passes (11 of 21) for 116 yards against Vanderbilt. With South Carolina coming to town Saturday and a home matchup against Alabama in two weeks, with a tune-up against Southern sandwiched in between, the Bulldogs and head coach Mark Richt have to figure out sooner rather than later if Lambert can carry this team through a very difficult SEC schedule.


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


The good news is that Chubb looks like he is in midseason form. But we’ve seen this story before. The one where the Bulldogs have a good defense and a solid running game but lackluster quarterback play keeps them from their season goals. Yeah, that was exactly the case last year. Yet in 2015, the Bulldogs may be falling into the same trap that cost them a trip to Atlanta in 2014.


Now I understand it’s only two games into a long season but South Carolina will be looking to bounce back after a loss to Kentucky and for some odd reason the Ol Ball Coach seems to have Mark Richt’s number. If Lambert is going to show that he gets this offense and can lead this team to the SEC Championship Game, a strong showing against South Carolina would certainly be a good start.


Lambert seemed to struggle to get anything going last week against a Vanderbilt defense that is improved from last year but let’s not give them too much credit. The Commodores did lose to Western Kentucky in week one. Lambert doesn’t need to be a Heisman finalist for Georgia to do well. But he does need to show that he is capable of moving this team down the field without turning around and handing it to a running back to do so. In fact, Lambert didn’t complete a pass in Saturday’s game until his fifth series and that includes a series that Brice Ramsey was under center in relief and completed a couple of passes. If you give a Steve Spurrier-coached team five series until your quarterback completes a pass, he’ll figure a way to make you pay. And let’s not even talk about what Nick Saban would do with a start like that.


Lambert has to show improvement this week. If he doesn’t, Richt will be forced to call on Ramsey, who couldn’t beat out Hutson Mason last year and couldn’t win the starting job in spring practice or fall camp either. Chubb can do a lot of things, but he can’t do everything. It’s impossible in today’s game to not pass the ball consistently and win a championship. If the Bulldogs find themselves in a state of flux at the quarterback position after this week, it could end up being a long season for Georgia fans.


Georgia hosts South Carolina on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET in a game that can be seen on ESPN.


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

It's Now or Never For Georgia Quarterback Greyson Lambert
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12
Path: /college-football/what-ad-steve-pattersons-dismissal-texas-means-head-coach-charlie-strong

Focused determination and an unbending spirit to conduct business a certain way over the course of nearly two years ended with Steve Patterson’s dismissal as Texas’ athletic director on Tuesday.


The writing on the wall was there for Patterson for several months with fans, alumni, and even coaches under his employment being vocal about how poorly the now former AD was running his department. Patterson’s highly publicized and equally criticized tenure as head of the largest and most profitable collegiate athletics program in the nation that began in November 2013 come to an unceremonious end 22 months later when University of Texas president Greg Fenves gave Patterson his walking papers.


No need to worry about the Longhorns or Patterson. Texas is college football’s wealthiest sports program and Patterson is sure to make out like a bandit with four years left on a contract valued at $1.4 million per year. If a Texas fan is concerned about anyone in Austin, football head coach Charlie Strong might be at the top of the list.


The banner seen flying around Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday during Texas’ 42-28 win over Rice reading “Patterson Must Go” could soon be replaced with “Strong Must Go” if progress is not seen on the field sooner than later.


Strong has more than paid his dues working his way up the coaching ladder after playing defensive back at Central Arkansas (1980-83). First starting as a graduate assistant at Florida (1983-84), Strong landed his first full-time assistant job as wide receivers coach at Southern Illinois (1986-87). After that he went to Florida as an outside linebackers coach. Strong then worked his way through the SEC and also did a stint at Notre Dame before getting the defensive coordinator job at South Carolina in 1999 working with Lou Holtz. Strong went back to the Gators in 2003 as their DC and while he was there he established himself as one of the most sought-after coaching commodities. He finally got his chance to run a program when Louisville hired him in 2010.


Once at Louisville it took the Cardinals two years to develop into a 10-win program, but Strong led his team to a bowl game all four years, going an impressive 3-1 in those contests. Fans in Texas may not be as patient waiting until year three to see the seeds of progress sprout in a similar fashion, especially considering the program’s historical standing.  


The Longhorns have as rich a football tradition as any other college program in the nation with four claimed national titles and 11 unclaimed, along with 32 conference titles. Throughout the decades Texas teams have slipped from greatness to a year or two of mediocrity but from 1998 through 2009 the Longhorns were among the best of the best, never having a losing season. At least not until everything came crashing down around Mack Brown in 2010 when Texas went an unfathomable 5-7. Even though Brown put up eight, nine and eight wins in his final three seasons in Austin, falling below double-digit wins was unacceptable and the same fate could be coming Strong’s way.


As college football expands in popularity, the “win at all costs” mentality at name-brand programs like Texas makes each and every head coaching job seat a proverbial hot seat. Strong finished the 2014 regular season 6-6 before falling to Arkansas 31-7 in the Texas Bowl. This season has gotten off to a horrible start, beginning with an embarrassing 38-3 road thumping by then-No. 11 Notre Dame, which got diehard Longhorns’ fans attention, and not in a good way.


Losing badly is one thing but how the Longhorns lost is the underlying problem. Texas looked out-coached on both sides of the ball, giving up 527 yards to the Fighting Irish while gaining just 163 on offense. Starting quarterback Tyrone Swoopes was ineffective, completing just 31 percent of his passes for 93 yards. Johnathan Gray was the leading rusher with only 40 yards on eight carries.


Last weekend’s win over Rice righted the won-loss record, but Texas’ road ahead is anything but easy. On Saturday, the Longhorns host Cal, an up-and-coming Pac-12 program, at home before facing three Big 12 teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 — No. 25 Oklahoma State, No. 3 TCU and No. 16 Oklahoma — in a row. After Oklahoma, depending on how Texas navigates these next four games, the Longhorns have five winnable conference matchups — vs. Kansas State, at Iowa State, vs. Kansas, at West Virginia, vs. Texas Tech — before finishing up on the road against No. 5 Baylor.


A split over the next four games would put Texas at 3-3 before the five winnable games. If Strong and company can reel off five consecutive wins to get them to 8-3 headed into the regular season finale in Waco, then the rough start would feel like ancient history to even the most hardline of detractors of the current coaching staff. Another 6-6 finish, or worse, could put Strong’s job in jeopardy.


Most athletic directors want “their” coaches in at key spots, as the conference titles and national championships, along with money brought in, are the main components of a successful resume for a program’s top executive. Whoever Texas hires to replace Patterson will be no different.


Strong signed a five-year deal that pays him $5 million annually when he left Louisville for arguably the one of the top coaching jobs in college football, if not collegiate sports as a whole. If Strong is fired, paying him the rest of the money he is owed or coming to agreement on terms of a buyout would not be an issue for the deep-pocketed Longhorns, especially if it’s the decision is made that the football program is not headed in the right direction on the field.


Strong’s resume and football acumen suggests the Texas program has the right leader in place and better times are ahead. But after Patterson’s firing, the question now becomes will Strong be around to potentially see his labor come to fruition on the field in 2016?


— 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.

What AD Steve Patterson’s Dismissal at Texas Means for Head Coach Charlie Strong
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/texas-president-hits-reset-button-athletics-department-firing-steve-patterson

Question: What do you do when you are playing your best friend in Madden NFL 16 and you realize this game has gotten away from you and you are getting your butt kicked in EVERY way?


Answer: Hit the reset button on the game console and start over, because you know this was a fluke and you are WAY better than that.


Today University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves hit the reset button for his athletics department by firing contentious AD Steve Patterson. The firing comes as a small shock, only in the timing of Patterson's dismissal. However, anyone familiar with the relationship that Patterson (above right, with football head coach Charlie Strong and former University of Texas president Bill Powers) had with the entire Texas Longhorns community and administrators knew that this was coming at some point. The real question to all of this however, is what does it really mean?


FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman is reporting that Mack Brown is getting a "big push" to become the next AD. If this is true, can you imagine a more awkward situation for football head coach Charlie Strong, than your new boss is the guy whose job you took? Strong is already standing on the field in the shadows of Brown's accomplishments. If Brown is hired to replace Patterson, then Strong will truly be standing in Brown's shadow. And the last thing this Longhorns football team needs is someone else visibly present who can second guess what happens on and off the field.


To be clear, none of what has happened is Strong's fault, just his burden. Strong inherited this problem by leaving a place where he ruled his football kingdom as a benevolent monarch in Louisville, to grab hold of the throne that Brown was forced to abdicate, thanks in large part to Patterson. When those sort of hostile takeovers occur, there is always an uneasiness and uncertainty of the future. But its even worse when the king you replace was adored by the kingdom (fans),  and the soldiers (administrators and boosters). Although they absolutely wanted change in the kingdom, it was not due to a complete dishonor of the past king, as evidenced by Brown's current role with the university as Brand Ambassador. They simply felt that there should be a new heir to usher in a new era. 


However, it was the disconnect of Patterson from the boosters and administrators that made the last 24 months such a trying experience. If Patterson had gotten "buy in" from all of the key boosters and administrators who helped build Texas football into the powerhouse it has become, then this transition would have worked, and Strong may not be getting some of the backlash he has been getting. Maybe, the Texas community would be celebrating Strong's bold stance on integrity, and his process of rebuilding with much more understanding instead of reluctance. Maybe, Strong would not have had to demote two coordinators only one game into the season just to appease the fan base and alumni, who want to see change and victory right now. 


Patterson made a hard situation worse by not including key players into the decision to hire Strong and new men's basketball coach Shaka Smart. Now to his credit, Smart has "played it smart" since being hired. Smart, who shares many of the same philosophies as his football counterpart, has embraced what it means to play basketball for the University of Texas. Smart has even tried to bridge the gap of disconnect between the program's past and its future, welcoming back veterans like former Milwaukee Buck T.J. Ford and current Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant, to name a few. Smart is preaching a new brand of basketball and encouraging the fans to be a part of this experience. Smart is endearing and fun, but he also is extremely young and it is this youth and inexperience (Smart has never coached in a Power 5 conference) that has people very concerned. It is not a bad hire to bring in Smart, who has been one of the hottest coaches in college basketball. But much like Strong it is a huge risk to bring in guys with limited experience and ties to and within the Lone Star State.


If Strong had shown significant progress between his hiring to now, then we would not be having this discussion. We are having this discussion because Patterson's decisions have ALL been questionable, up to and including the hiring of a coach who many think might be in over his integrity-filled head. The Longhorns' football season does not get any easier from this point on, and now with the covering and protection of Patterson being snatched away, it is obvious that Strong's team must string together a group of quality wins and competitive games for him to have ANY chance to secure his job for the future. Texas is not accustomed to being discussed as an after thought on the college football landscape, but that is precisely where this program is as of now. One would have to believe that after hitting the reset button on the athletic director two games into the football season, that Strong's job may be in serious jeopardy going forward. Smart should be able to at least get a pass this season, as his hiring was not quite as contentious as Strong's. But it may be safe to say that anyone connected to Patterson's tenure is probably on shaky ground now and winning is the only guaranteed way to fix that perception.


When it comes to video games like Madden NFL 16, the reset button is used when you feel as though a particular game can't be won. It gives you the opportunity to start over immediately in hopes of generating a different result.


Texas just hit the reset button on its athletics department. Now what's next?


— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s, and ESPN Louisville. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.

Texas President Hits Reset Button for Athletics Department with Firing of AD Steve Patterson
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-acc-basketball-coaches-2015-16

Not only did Mike Krzyzewski win his fifth career national championship last season, he further ensured the ACC cornered the market on national title-winning coaches.


The ACC is the home of four coaches who have won a national title: Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and Jim Boeheim. Those four coaches have won more combined national titles (10) than the rest of the active coaches in college basketball (seven).


Besides those four title-winning coaches, the ACC has a fifth who has reached the Final Four (Miami’s Jim Larranaga) and some of the top coaches who would be on the short list of best coaches without a Final Four appearance (Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams and Pitt’s Jamie Dixon).


While other leagues have accomplished coaches and perhaps more coaches who have reached the Final Four, none of the star power of the ACC.


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 ACC Basketball Coaches for 2015-16


1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

Record at Duke: 945-251, 378-152 ACC

NCAA Tournament: 88-26, 12 Final Fours, five championships

Number to note: Duke has produced six one-and-done players in the NBA Draft since 2011, second only to Kentucky’s 12.

Why he’s ranked here: At 68 years and 63 days, Krzyzewski became the second-oldest coach to win a national championship, and there’s no signs he’ll slow down. His team brings in four five-star prospects in 2015 to replace the three he lost from his fifth national championship team.


2. Rick Pitino, Louisville

Record at Louisville: 368-126, 164-76 C-USA/Big East/AAC/ACC

NCAA Tournament: 53-18, seven Final Fours, two championships

Number to note: Pitino’s teams have ranked in the top five in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency in each of the last five seasons and seven of the last eight.

Why he’s ranked here: Last year’s team was not one of Pitino’s best, losing to most of the top squads in the ACC, save for narrow home wins over Carolina and Virginia. The Cards were still an OT loss to Michigan State away from reaching the Final Four.


Related: Athlon Sports preseason college basketball top 25


3. Tony Bennett, Virginia

Record at Virginia: 136-64, 64-37 ACC

NCAA Tournament: 6-5

Number to note: Virginia’s record against the RPI top 50 has improved in each of the last five seasons from 0-6 to 2-6 to 4-3 to 5-4 to 8-3 in 2015.

Why he’s ranked here: The early NCAA Tournament exits in the last two seasons — both to Michigan State — will haunt Bennett, but the Cavaliers are coming off back-to-back 30-win seasons and ACC regular season titles despite lesser talent compared to teams like Duke, North Carolina and Louisville.


4. Roy Williams, North Carolina

Record at North Carolina: 332-101, 141-57 ACC

NCAA Tournament: 65-23, seven Final Fours, two championships

Number to note: North Carolina is 23-1 against Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Florida State the last three seasons and 13-17 against the rest of the ACC.

Why he’s ranked here: Legacy. Williams’ two titles at two schools and Hall of Fame status can’t be denied, but the last three years (75-33) have been trying. With a veteran team, the Heels are built for a Final Four run in 2015-16. It would be their first since 2009 and perhaps their last for a while.


5. Jim Boehiem, Syracuse

Record at Syracuse: 966-333, 446-203 Big East/ACC

NCAA Tournament: 53-30, four Final Fours, one championship

Number to note: Boeheim’s 18 wins in 2014-15 — aided by a voluntary postseason ban — was his fewest since going 15-13 in 1981-82.

Why he’s ranked here: Boeheim will never get to 1,000 wins according to the NCAA record book (with vacated wins, he stands at 858). In the unofficial record book, Boeheim has two seasons to get 44 wins. Syracuse is 21-19 in its last 40 games after going 55-10 in the 65 prior.


6. Mike Brey, Notre Dame

Record at Notre Dame: 332-165, 157-100 Big East/ACC

NCAA Tournament: 9-12

Number to note: Scoring down? Not for Notre Dame. Of Brey’s 15 teams in South Bend, 11 have averaged 70 points per game in conference play.

Why he’s ranked here: Last year’s trip to the Elite Eight was Notre Dame’s first time reaching the second weekend of the Tournament since 2003. Brey generally can be counted on for about 25 wins a year and pushing 30 wins every now and then.


7. Jim Larranaga, Miami

Record at Miami: 91-49, 41-29 ACC

NCAA Tournament: 7-6, one Final Four

Number to note: Miami is 7-2, 6-6 and 10-3 in the last three seasons on the road. The Hurricanes’ previous winning season on the road was in 1999-2000.

Why he’s ranked here: Larranaga might not match his banner year with Miami — a 29-win season and an ACC championship in 2013 — but last year’s 25 wins was still the second-most in school history. The ‘Canes will be in NCAA contention again this season.


8. Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech

Record at Virginia Tech: 11-22, 2-16 ACC

NCAA Tournament record: 8-5

Number to note: Williams’ Marquette teams were ranked in the top 30 of KenPom in five consecutive seasons — each one except for his last.

Why he’s ranked here: Virginia Tech has been ill-equipped to compete in the ACC, both before Williams arrived and during his first season. After gutting the roster, Williams is ready to begin anew.


9. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh

Record at Pittsburgh: 307-111, 134-74 Big East/ACC

NCAA Tournament record: 12-10

Number to note: Pitt is 19-17 as an ACC member, including 0-10 against Duke, Louisville, NC State and Virginia.

Why he’s ranked here: The last four seasons have been an enigma for Dixon, who once led one of the most steady programs in the country in his first eight seasons at Pitt. The Panthers have missed two of the last four NCAA Tournaments and last year alone beat North Carolina and Notre Dame but lost to lowly Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.


10. Mark Gottfried, NC State

Record at NC State: 92-52, 39-31 ACC

NCAA Tournament: 10-11

Number to note: Gottfried’s five NCAA wins in four years (including two Sweet 16 appearances) is the most at NC State since the Jim Valvano heyday.

Why he’s ranked here: NC State is consistent (between 22-24 wins and 9-11 ACC wins every year) under Gottfried but also a bit of a roller coaster. This is a team good enough to reach the Sweet 16 and beat a top ACC team, but has never won more than three ACC games in a row during the regular season.


11. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State

Record at Florida State: 285-173, 113-108 ACC

NCAA Tournament: 6-7

Number to note: During the last three seasons, Florida State is 1-19 against Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, NC State and Louisville and 25-9 against the rest of the league.

Why he’s ranked here: Hard to believe Hamilton is entering his 14th season at Florida State. He’s been able to get Florida State into NIT or NCAA Tournament in 10 of those seasons, including the 2011 Sweet 16. And that’s enough for Florida State.


12. Danny Manning, Wake Forest

Record at Wake Forest: 13-19, 5-13 ACC

NCAA Tournament: 0-1

Number to note: Wake Forest’s last three ACC wins came against teams that reached the postseason (NC State, Miami and Pittsburgh).

Why he’s ranked here: Manning’s first season was worse than Jeff Bzdelik’s last, but Manning is rebuilding confidence in Wake Forest. He’ll need another year or two.


13. Brad Brownell, Clemson

Record at Clemson: 90-73, 40-46 ACC

NCAA Tournament: 1-4

Number to note: Clemson has averaged fewer than 60 points per game in three consecutive seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: The Tigers can guard under Brownell but can’t score enough to finish better than 10-8 in the ACC or reach the NCAA Tournament since his first season.


14. Jim Christian, Boston College

Record at Boston College: 13-19, 4-14 ACC

NCAA Record: 0-2

Number to note: Christian averaged 23.3 wins per season as head coach at Kent State and Ohio, never winning fewer than 21 games in a season. Christian has averaged 13.8 wins per season at TCU and Boston College, never winning more than 18.

Why he’s ranked here: Boston College is arguably the toughest job in the ACC, and Christian is rebuilding with freshmen. The rebuild will be long … if it occurs at all.


15. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech

Record at Georgia Tech: 55-71, 19-51 ACC

NCAA record: 1-2

Number to note: Gregory has never lost fewer than 12 games in the ACC, bottoming out at 3-15 last season.

Why he’s ranked here: To say this trajectory is less than ideal would be an understatement. A fifth year of the Gregory era at Georgia Tech is a mild surprise.

Ranking the ACC Basketball Coaches for 2015-16
Post date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 08:00