Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/athlons-2015-college-football-predictions-what-we-got-right-what-we-got-wrong
Body:

The end of the year is a time of reflection, a time to make promises to ourselves to do better in the next year.

 

For us at Athlon Sports, we like to take stock of the predictions we made back in May and June to see how they panned out. Which teams did we get right? Which teams did we get wrong? Which teams repaid or betrayed our faith in them this season?

 

In looking at the results, we try to get better for future seasons and maybe find some warning signs or predictors for success. Did we not put enough stock in teams with returning linemen or more depth than we realized? Did we put too much trust in untested quarterbacks?

 

One tool we track closely is Stassen.com. The site is not only a wealth of historical information, but it also grades preseason accuracy. Stassen grades accuracy based on predictions within a conference or a division.

 

In this year’s Stassen evaluation, Athlon Sports ranked second among preseason magazines and tied for fourth among the 21 preseason rankings Stassen tracks. Here’s how Athlon ranked among preseason magazines:

 

Stassen's 2015 Preseason Accuracy Rankings
1. Phil Steele
2. Athlon Sports
T3. ESPN
T3. Sports Illustrated
5. Lindy's
6. Conference media polls
7. USA Today
8. The Sporting News

Beyond the conference picks, we also like to check in with the top 25. Of Athlon’s preseason top 14 teams, 11 were ranked in the final College Football Playoff top 25. Each of the semifinal teams was ranked in our top 17.

 

Clearly, there’s a flip side in all of this. Iowa, ranked 53rd, was our biggest top 25 miss, and our No. 4 team Auburn finished 6–6. If there’s any silver lining those rankings, everyone missed on Auburn and Iowa in one degree or another.

 

Athlon would never claim to have perfect rankings, though that’s certainly our goal. In fact, a season that lined up completely with our expectations would probably be pretty boring.

 

Nevertheless, it’s still fun to look back on all the picks that panned out and the ones that fizzled.

 

So let’s get this over with and start with the picks we got wrong, followed by the fun part of looking at the teams we got right:

 

Preseason picks Athlon (and everyone else) got wrong

 

Ohio State as the unanimous No. 1. The Buckeyes were No. 7 in the final CFP rankings but didn’t even make the Big Ten title game. This is perhaps the easiest mistake to make in the preseason rankings: A defending national champion with loads of returning starters (Ohio State returned 14).

 

We’d look like we’re making a statement if we didn’t put Ohio State at No. 1. Maybe one day we won’t fall in the trap of picking a repeat national champion. Unless it’s Alabama.

 

Auburn at No. 4. Every preseason magazine and both polls had Auburn in the top 10, so at least Athlon isn’t alone in buying the Tigers’ Kool-Aid. Heck, even coach Gus Malzahn sent his green starting quarterback, Jeremy Johnson, to represent Auburn at SEC Media Days. Let that be a lesson that defenses don’t get fixed overnight and we need to tread lightly around new starting quarterbacks.

 

Georgia at No. 10 and No. 1 in the SEC East. Another SEC pick everyone missed. The injury bug hit the running position back again. The defensive staff never seemed to be on the same page with the head coach. And a Virginia quarterback castoff didn’t turn into Matthew Stafford or Aaron Murray overnight.

 

Oklahoma winning the Big 12. Everyone loved either TCU or Baylor (mostly TCU) in the Big 12. OU was a preseason top 25 team — No. 17 in Athlon — but almost no one had the Sooners toppling last year’s Big 12 co-champs. OU was coming off its worst season since 1999 and lost in a bowl rout to Clemson. Clearly, we should have put more stock in the marriage of new coordinator Lincoln Riley and quarterback Baker Mayfield — both Air Raid guys — making over the OU offense.

 

The ACC Coastal race. The ACC Coastal was considered in the preseason to be one of the tightest division races in the country. Then how come everyone got it so wrong? Georgia Tech was a consensus top 25 team. Most everyone picked the Yellow Jackets or Virginia Tech to win the Coastal, which was eventually won by North Carolina. Georgia Tech (3–9) was out of the race by October and had its worst season since 1994. Oops.

 

Iowa, North Carolina and the rise of the American Athletic Conference. Iowa and North Carolina played for conference titles and perhaps spots in the College Football Playoff in the last week of the season. They were nowhere to be found in any preseason top 25. Neither was the American Athletic Conference, and yet by September and October, it was clear the AAC champ would grab a major bowl bid. Houston, Navy, Temple and Memphis all spent time in the top 25.

 

Most Underranked
TeamAthlon RankFinal CFP RankDifference
Iowa535-48
Northwestern5813-45
Houston5018-42
Temple6224-38
Navy5721-33
North Carolina4210-32
Most Overranked
TeamAthlon preseason rankFinal record
Auburn46-6, 2-6 SEC
Georgia Tech183-9, 1-7 ACC
Arizona State136-6. 4-5 Pac-12
Georgia109-3, 5-3 SEC
Arkansas167-5, 5-3 SEC
Missouri275-7, 1-7 SEC

 

Athlon rolled the dice… and was wrong

 

Clemson at No. 14. Consider this: At press time, Clemson returned only six starters, had a quarterback coming off an injury and had lost arguably the game’s top offensive coordinator to a head coaching job. A No. 14 ranking would seem generous for other teams. For this year's Clemson team, a No. 14 ranking and second-place finish in the ACC Atlantic was also quite wrong. Watson recovered just fine, and Clemson had built enough depth to absorb all those personnel losses.

 

Overall SEC strength. Athlon ranked the entire SEC West in the preseason, not to mention Georgia and Tennessee from the East. With all those SEC teams, we still missed Florida in the top 25 (in fairness, Florida was No. 26 and was in our top 25 until shortly before press time). Only No. 2 Alabama, No. 12 Ole Miss, No. 19 Florida and No. 22 Tennessee actually finished the season ranked. Athlon underestimated the quarterback woes in the league for teams like Auburn, Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU and overestimated the impact of new coordinators at Auburn and Texas A&M.

 

Oddly enough, the team that had the best coordinator hire in 2015 may have been the one that got the least traction: Dan Enos at Arkansas effectively turned a run-first and run-second offense into a unit with one of the top three passers in the league in Brandon Allen.

 

Stanford at No. 24 and No. 2 in the Pac-12 North. Few tabbed Stanford as a top 10 team, but Athlon was on the lower end of the spectrum for the Pac-12 champs. That’s partly because Oregon wasn’t nearly good as expected, especially when Vernon Adams was hurt. We didn’t put enough stock in Christian McCaffrey’s breakout season, Kevin Hogan’s improved play at the end of 2014 or the four returning offensive linemen.

 

Arizona State at No. 13. The Sun Devils finished 6-6. Why we didn’t consider that possibility when the Sun Devils lost every impact defensive player and a starting quarterback is a mystery.

 

Athlon rolled the dice … and was right

 

Alabama at No. 2. While we picked Auburn in our top four, we still picked Alabama at No. 2 and the champion of the West. No one else had Alabama this high in the preseason. The Tide have stacked top recruiting classes for years, and Lane Kiffin had worked wonders with Blake Sims last season. We expected the same with Jake Coker in 2015.

 

A Big 12 champion not named TCU. The Horned Frogs were a near-unanimous pick to win the Big 12 with Athlon as the only holdout. The Frogs also were ranked No. 2 in a number of preseason rankings. We were skeptical of TCU’s luck with turnovers in 2014 and the possibility that the rest of the Big 12 would catch up to the Frogs’ offense in 2015. Injuries limited TCU’s ceiling more than anything, but we’ll take the correct prediction anyway. We still picked TCU at No. 5 and second behind Baylor in the Big 12.

 

We were more skeptical of preseason No. 25 Boise State and No. 26 Missouri than others … but not skeptical enough, it seems.

 

We nailed Conference USA East. How about that?

 

If you're really interested how we did, here's how each of our preseason rankings lined up with the actual results.

 

*indicates conference champion/actual champion

 

ACC AtlanticACC Coastal
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Florida State*1. Clemson*1. Georgia Tech1. North Carolina
2. Clemson2. Florida State2. Virginia Tech2. Pittsburgh
3. Louisville3. Louisville3. Pittsburgh3. Miami
4. NC State4. NC State4. North CarolinaT4. Duke
5. Boston College5. Syracuse5. MiamiT4. Virginia Tech
6. Wake Forest6. Wake Forest6. Duke6. Virginia
7. Syracuse7. Boston College7. Virginia7. Georgia Tech
AAC EastAAC West
Athlon predictionActual finishAthlon predictionActual finish
1. Cincinnati*1. Temple1. HoustonT1. Houston*
2. Temple2. USF2. NavyT1. Navy
3. UCFT3. Cincinnati3. Memphis3. Memphis
4. East CarolinaT3. UConn4. SMU4. Tulsa
5. USF5. East Carolina5. TulaneT5. SMU
6. UConn6. UCF6. TulsaT5. Tulane
Big 12
Athlon predictionActual finish
1. Baylor*1. Oklahoma
2. TCUT2. Oklahoma State
3. OklahomaT2. TCU
4. Oklahoma State4. Baylor
5. TexasT5. Texas Tech
6. West VirginiaT5. West Virginia
7. Kansas StateT5. Texas
8. Texas Tech8. Kansas State
9. Iowa State9. Iowa State
10. Kansas10. Kansas
Big Ten EastBig Ten West
Athlon predictionActual finishAthlon predictionActual finish
1. Ohio State*T1. Michigan State*1. Wisconsin1. Iowa
2. Michigan StateT1. Ohio State2. NebraskaT2. Northwestern
3. Penn State3. Michigan3. MinnesotaT2. Wisconsin
4. Michigan4. Penn State4. Iowa4. Nebraska
5. Maryland5. Indiana5. NorthwesternT5. Illinois
6. IndianaT6. Maryland6. IllinoisT5. Minnesota
7. RutgersT6. Rutgers7. Purdue7. Purdue
C-USA EastC-USA West
Athlon predictionActual finishAthlon predictionActual finish
1. Western Kentucky*1. Western Kentucky*1. Louisiana Tech1. Southern Miss
2. MarshallT2. Marshall2. Rice2. Louisiana Tech
3. Middle TennesseeT2. Middle Tennessee3. UTEPT3. UTSA
4. FAUT4. FAU4. Southern MissT3. Rice
5. FIUT4. FIU5. North TexasT3. UTEP
6. Old DominionT4. Old Dominion6. UTSA6. North Texas
7. Charlotte7. Charlotte  
MAC EastMAC West
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Bowling Green1. Bowling Green*1. Toledo*T1. Northern Illinois
2. UMassT2. Ohio2. Northern IllinoisT1. Western Michigan
3. AkronT2. Akron3. Western MichiganT1. Toledo
4. Ohio4. Buffalo4. Ball StateT1. Central Michigan
5. BuffaloT5. Kent State5. Central Michigan5. Ball State
6. Kent StateT5. Miami6. Eastern Michigan6. Eastern Michigan
7. MiamiT5. UMass  
MW MountainMW West
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Boise State*1. Air Force1. San Diego State1. San Diego State*
2. Utah StateT2. New Mexico2. NevadaT2. Nevada
3. Colorado StateT2. Utah State3. Fresno StateT2. San Jose State
4. Air ForceT2. Boise State4. San Jose StateT4. Fresno State
5. WyomingT2. Colorado State5. HawaiiT4. UNLV
6. New Mexico6. Wyoming6. UNLV6. Hawaii
Pac-12 NorthPac-12 South
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Oregon1. Stanford*1. USC*T1. USC
2. Stanford2. Oregon2. Arizona StateT1. Utah
3. Washington3. Washington State3. UCLA3. UCLA
4. CalT4. Cal4. Arizona4. Arizona State
5. Washington StateT4. Washington5. Utah5. Arizona
6. Oregon State6. Oregon State6. Colorado6. Colorado
SEC EastSEC West
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Georgia1. Florida1. Alabama*1. Alabama*
2. TennesseeT2. Georgia2. Auburn2. Ole Miss
3. FloridaT2. Tennessee3. Ole MissT3. Arkansas
4. MissouriT4. Vanderbilt4. LSUT3. LSU
5. South CarolinaT4. Kentucky5. ArkansasT5. Texas A&M
6. KentuckyT6. Missouri6. Texas A&MT5. Mississippi State
7. VanderbiltT6. South Carolina7. Mississippi State7. Auburn
Sun Belt
Athlon predictionsActual finish
1. Arkansas State1. Arkansas State
2. Georgia Southern2. Appalachian State
3. UL Lafayette3. Georgia Southern
4. Appalachian State4. Georgia State
5. Texas StateT5. South Alabama
6. South AlabamaT5. Troy
7. ULMT5. New Mexico State
8. TroyT5. Idaho
9. New Mexico StateT5. UL Lafayette
10. Idaho10. Texas State
11. Georgia State11. ULM

 

Teaser:
Athlon's 2015 College Football Predictions: What We Got Right, What We Got Wrong
Post date: Friday, December 18, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Pick 6, Life
Path: /life/pick-6-our-favorite-things-december
Body:

Each month, we pick six of our favorite things and tell you about them. They may be books, automobiles, video games, sports gear, outdoor apparel or whatever happens to be awesome.

 

Bushnell Tour X Golf Laser RangefinderBushnell Tour X

If you're like us, you need every advantage you can get on the golf course. Say hello to golf's ultimate laser rangefinder. We especially love the slope compensation, which calculates and adjusts yardage depending on the degree of slope. Truthfully, they had us at "laser." $499 BushnellGolf.com

 

Above the Line

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer talks leadership and life in this insightful book subtitled "Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season."

 $27.95 Amazon.com

 

 

Mizuno Nighthawk Hybrid Bat 

Mizuno claims that this bat is "precisely engineered with patented 2-piece LINK construction that combines an innovative multi-thickness alloy barrel with a composite handle to create a massive sweet spot with significantly reduced vibration." All we know is that it we took it to a batting cage and hit balls like a beast. $300 MizunoUSA.com

 

 

Coleman Fold N Go Portable Grill  

This portable propane grill folds down smaller than a briefcase, but still offers 105 square inches of cooking space. It blasts 6,000 BTUs of power on a single burner, and the matchless start means you won’t have to bum a lighter. $63.99 Coleman.com

 

 

 

Chaheati Heated Add-On  

Being outdoors doesn’t mean you have to be cold. This portable, rechargeable heating unit rests snuggly on top of folding chairs, stadium seats, deer stands or wherever you need your backside warmed. $99.99 Chaheati.com

 

YETI Collegiate Cooler (Roadie 20)

Just like us, it's nearly indestructible and can comfortably accommodate 14 cans of beer with ice. $299 YetiCoolers.com

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 16:05
Path: /overtime/sports-illustrated-apologizes-misspelling-michigan-st-coach-mark-dantonios-name
Body:

Michigan State is often overlooked and under-appreciated. They don't deserve this kind of treatment.

 

On the College Football Playoff preview cover of Sports Illustrated, Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio's name was misspelled.  

 

 

Later when the sports entity released its mistake, they issued an apology to the Spartans fan base and said a new issue will be on newsstands soon.

 

 

Maybe the disrespect that Michigan State fans feel isn't made up after all. They'll have a chance to show the world just who they are in the College Football Playoff. 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 16:04
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/star-wars-and-college-football-enough-passion-fuel-two-empires
Body:

College football and "Star Wars" are American institutions. The passion existing within both fan bases could provide enough boost to kick the Millennium Falcon into overdrive or power the shield generators for the Death Star on the forest moons of Endor. These icons of Americana are as unique as they are global, swallowing up new worshipers at an early age and often through family insistence. Think about it: how many were introduced to either of these by a family member trying to pass on something they loved?

 

It isn’t terribly hard to apply to the philosophy of "Star Wars" to other arenas of life, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Tasked with leading a group of Rebel soldiers on a brave journey through the cosmos, I spent hours coming up with different ideas to tie in my love of this great film franchise with my love of sports. Several hours later, I had a ton of great ideas and no real place to start with any of them (except this one). Despite what AM/PM insist in their commercials, there is such a thing as “too much good stuff.”

 

I had friend after friend jumping at the chance to help me craft the perfect article, one that blended these two concepts together seamlessly and hilariously. There were some great ideas thrown my way. Whether it was imagining the Group of 5 trying to bust into the College Football Playoff through an opening no larger than the exhaust port on the Death Star or comparing power-running versus spread offenses to the Jedi’s long-standing war with the Sith, there were a million and a half things to write about and exactly one article to do it. That’s when I realized that the biggest common thread between these two things were the passion with which people discuss them.

 

It’s even easier to imagine a world where the NCAA is the Galactic Empire, led by a group of corrupt politicians with hidden agendas. The Playoff committee pick their phrase of the year and judge teams by that criteria, often repeating the phrase over and over again during the ranking explanation shows. In many ways, this is just like Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes (Mos Eisley Cantina band) playing the same song over and over again to the amusement of the crowd. From here, it’s not that difficult to imagine NCAA President Mark Emmert as Emperor Palpatine or Darth Sidious. In this situation, Jeff Long would be cast in the role of Grand Mof Tarkin — you know, the guy who blew up Alderaan to prove a point to Leia.


Related: What if College Football Coaches were Star Wars Characters?

 

It’s also not hard to picture the Group of 5 as an X-Wing fleet making a run on the Death Star’s exhaust port. In many ways, the Group of 5 need a little luck and outside help to complete their mission just like the Rebel leaders needed Han Solo showing up out of nowhere to help them pull off their miraculous run to end the Battle of Yavin. Even if mid-majors handle everything on their end and put in the preparation, there is no guarantee that their plan will pay off. They can go undefeated year after year, but it doesn’t guarantee a spot in the Playoff or an honest look at a Heisman trophy (Keenan Reynolds).

 

One of college football’s most storied programs, USC, is the birthplace of "Star Wars" and this is something that has worked its way back into the sport over the years. The 1997 Rose Bowl was grand marshalled by George Lucas and featured the 501st Legion marching in the Rose Parade. USC, Lucas’ alma mater, would go on to beat a favored Michigan squad, barely left out of the BCS National Championship Game, by two touchdowns. Even against the backdrop of a USC-Michigan Rose bowl, the parade before the game illustrated that "Star Wars" was a juggernaut in its own right, as it became a full-scale reminder of just how much each of these institutions mean to both communities.

 

 

The two also share a time-honored tradition of being passed down to those that we love. Many college football fans have fond memories of being brought to the stadium at an early age and introduced to the spectacle that was their parents’ favorite team. The bigger the spectacle, the more eager our parents were to share it with us. "Star Wars" wasn’t much different in that respect. A lot of people have stories that begin with some version of their parents sitting them down and saying “I watched this with my parents and now I’m going to share it with you.” Lifetime family bonds and timeless memories are borne out of these passions.

 

Oddly enough, the very nature of these passions being passed down from generation to generation has lead to a cultural divide in both worlds. Older generations of fans hate the new changes happening to both of them and wish that the powers-that-be would just leave them as they remembered. Whether it’s Hayden Christensen being digitally added to the end of "Return of the Jedi" or players receiving monthly stipend checks, a group of traditionalists are bound to have lengthy objections to both. The very public wars against the modernization of both is an endless internet debate. A debate that has no end in sight.

 

Whether you love or hate the new versions of "Star Wars" or college football is a matter of opinion, but one that most have formed. It’s one of life’s rare gems in that these opinions are rarely unpolished, most of them have been formed over the years and are ready to be worn upon discovery. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and ask the biggest college football fan you have in your friendship circle what they think of the Playoff in detail. Now go ask the biggest "Star Wars" geek you know what they think of the new trilogy or Disney’s ideas for a third trilogy. Just don’t do both in the same day because you might not have the time to get through both conversations in a 24-hour period.

 

Love it or hate it, they likely have an opinion and it’s probably a strong one. That’s what these two worlds do to do you if you allow yourself to get caught up in their traditions and lore. Both of them swallow people whole and spit them back out almost unrecognizable to their family and friends. Is there really a difference between painting your body half maize, half blue, and someone else building Stormtrooper uniforms from scratch? Have you read some of the fan theories on why programs escape punishments or are hit with sanctions? How is it any different than theories on whether Han or Greedo shot first?

 

Try having some of these passionate arguments with people who don’t watch or care about them. They look at you like you’re crazy and have too much time on your hands. You know that hour-long conversation you had with your buddy about the Playoff selections while your girlfriend was trying to hang out with you? Yeah, she felt the same way about conversation as the video store clerk did when you tried to explain why it was Boba Fett — not Stormtroopers — that killed Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle on Tatooine. That is to say, both of them were looking forward to the moment that conversation was over.

 

“May the Force Be With You,” and “War Eagle,” — it’s all the same. The same energy and passion have fueled both for generations. For many, they are lifelong journeys into a world different than our own. For many of us, that world is often more comfortable than the one in which we live. There will be one or two of you reading this article who are nodding your head in agreement at the thought of permanently living in a world where either is king. There will be many who see the next Comic-Con or tailgate as their home away from a home, a place to hang out with their “other family.”

 

There will be disappointment when children announce that they don’t share the same passion as their parents. When a child invariably announces that "Phantom Menace" is their favorite movie the same year they ask for a Stanford hoodie in a Cal house. Some parent will feel like they have been kicked in the gut. It’s not because they hate their kid’s choices, but because they hate their kid’s choices. If you're enough of a fan of either, this will make sense.

 

It’s passion personified. It’s nothing and it’s everything. Both bring us joy and both bring us sorrow. They’ve been the source of countless memories and many more to come. They are our past, our future, and part of our generation’s legacy. They will inspire the next generation and amaze those in the present. They are the building blocks of our personal philosophies and all that we embody as fans, in many ways they represent an ideal that we wish to become.


In the end, it’s less fandom and more a way of life.

 

— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
"Star Wars" and College Football: Enough Passion to Fuel Two Empires
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/new-orleans-bowl-preview-and-prediction-arkansas-state-vs-louisiana-tech-2015
Body:

Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State will help kick off the 2015-16 bowl season on Saturday from New Orleans in the 15th edition of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. And while both schools have histories that span two conferences — the Southland and Big West — they haven’t met since 1998, when Louisiana Tech steamrolled ASU 69-21. Saturday’s meeting will be the 38th encounter with Louisiana Tech holding a 25-12 advantage.

 

Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State surges into this game winners of eight in a row. The Red Wolves’ last loss came against Toledo on Sept. 26. Arkansas State dismantled Texas State 55-17 on Dec. 5 to claim the Sun Belt title in what was the team’s third consecutive 50-plus point effort. The win cemented an undefeated conference record for head coach Blake Anderson’s team. The Red Wolves were among those teams receiving votes in the Dec. 6 AP Top 25 Poll and also got six votes in the Week 15 USA Today Coaches Poll. Arkansas State is the only program in FBS with four conference titles in the past five seasons.

 

For the first time since 1977-78, Louisiana Tech is headed to consecutive bowl games. The Bulldogs land in New Orleans on the arm of senior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who has helped lead the team to an 8-4 record. Louisiana Tech ended its regular season with a 58-24 loss to rival Southern Miss and head coach Skip Holtz will look to end his third season leading the Bulldogs on a winning note.

 

Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Tech (New Orleans)

 

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Louisiana Tech -1

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Louisiana Tech Quarterback Jeff Driskel

Saturday marks the second time that Driskel will play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The first-year Bulldog quarterback and Florida transfer went head-to-head against current Minnesota Vikings and former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, in which the Cardinals beat the Gators 33-23.

 

Following a tumultuous career in Gainesville, Driskel has thrived as Louisiana Tech’s leading man. And after 12 games this season, he’s already eclipsed his career passing stats from his time as a Gator. The Oviedo, Fla., native has thrown for 3,575 yards and 24 touchdowns against eight picks this year. He’s connected on 61.9 percent of his passes and is averaging 8.7 yards per attempt.

 

The Senior Bowl invitee and 2015 Conference USA Newcomer of the Year also ranks second on the team in rushing with 307 yards and five touchdowns.

 

2. Arkansas State Quarterback Fredi Kinghten

Driskel won’t be the only quarterback in the spotlight on Saturday. Knighten, a second-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection is a perfect 7-0 since returning to the Red Wolves’ lineup in mid-October. Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator Blake Baker served as Arkansas State’s safeties coach in 2013, and he and his unit will be tasked with preventing Knighten from replicating his 2015 GoDaddy Bowl performance where he shelled Toledo’s defense for 403 yards and five touchdowns.

 

The Bulldogs rank 111th in passing defense, yielding 265.8 yards per game through the air. Knighten tossed back-to-back 300-yard games against ULM (Nov. 14) and New Mexico State (Nov. 28), and threw for 192 in the finale against Texas State.

 

Additionally, Knighten gives Arkansas State a true dual-threat option. Although he’s rushed for just 358 yards and four touchdowns this year, he scampered for 779 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014. If head coach Blake Anderson will give his senior quarterback the green light to run wild in the bowl game, the Louisiana Tech defense could be in for a long night. 

 

3. Arkansas State’s Disruptive Defense

Statistically, no defense in the nation is more opportunistic than Arkansas State’s. The Red Wolves enter the New Orleans Bowl having forced 34 turnovers — 26 interceptions and eight fumbles — through 12 games. San Diego State’s 31 turnovers rank second.

 

Red Wolves senior defensive back Rocky Hayes will give Driskel and Louisiana Tech’s passing attack a tough test, while sophomore Ja'Von Rolland-Jones will attempt to be a force at the line of scrimmage. Rolland-Jones, a first team All-Sun Belt Conference selection, leads the conference in sacks with nine, while his 0.8 sacks per game rank second in the nation among all active players.

 

Final Analysis

 

If there’s one thing this game is sure to produce, it is points. Louisiana Tech is among the top 20 teams nationally in scoring offense, while Arkansas State checks in at No. 10. The Red Wolves head into bowl season as one of the country’s hottest teams, winners of eight in a row, and have eclipsed the 500-yard mark six times this season.

 

Louisiana Tech, still reeling from its 58-24 Nov. 28 loss to Southern Miss, owns a nine-game winning streak against Sun Belt opponents. The Bulldogs have the firepower to make Arkansas State its 10th victim. Louisiana Tech has scored 441 points — already good for the fourth most in school history. Jeff Driskel’s 297.9 passing yards per game place him 15th nationally, while senior running back Kenneth Dixon has rushed for 968 yards and 17 touchdowns. Dixon will join Driskel in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl.

 

With usual New Orleans Bowl fixture Louisiana-Lafayette staying home for the holidays, a national audience will get the chance to look at two high-flying offenses that will make for exciting viewing. Arkansas State’s carnivorous defense should prove to be the difference and help the Red Wolves earn their second bowl win in three seasons.

 

Prediction: Arkansas State 34, Louisiana Tech 31

 

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

Teaser:
New Orleans Bowl Preview and Prediction: Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Tech
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-bowl-preview-part-1
Body:

Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox break down the latest news and notes from college football as well as Part 1 of our bowl preview.

 

Here is what we covered in this week's podcast:

 

- How many bowls is the right number of bowls?
 

- What is your perfect way to consume bowls?


- How do we feel about Playoff games on New Year's Eve? (And who's to be blamed?)


- What are the biggest concerns about the Mizzou law that failed?


- Why does the SEC love it's coaches so much that they keep recycling them?


- Where should BYU turn now that it's first choice stayed at Navy?


- What the hell is going on at Texas A&M and is Kevin Sumlin in trouble?

 

And in Part 1 of our bowl preview, we tell you what to watch for on every day of the first half of bowl season (Dec. 19 through Dec. 28).

 

 

 

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcastiTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Cover 2 College Football Podcast: News, Notes and Bowl Preview Part 1
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 13:34
Path: /college-football/camellia-bowl-preview-and-prediction-ohio-vs-appalachian-state-2015
Body:

Ohio and Appalachian State meet on Saturday for the second-ever Raycom Media Camellia Bowl from Montgomery, Ala. The 25,000-seat Cramton Bowl is the site for this Sun Belt vs. Mid-American Conference (MAC) matchup.

 

After going 10-2, FBS newcomer Appalachian State will make its first-ever bowl appearance. With a win, the Mountaineers would lay claim to a new Sun Belt record with 11 victories in a season. Appalachian State ended the regular season in dominant fashion, defeating UL Lafayette 28-7 in late November.

 

After a one-year absence from postseason play, Ohio returns and makes its sixth bowl appearance in seven seasons. The Bobcats turned in an impressive November in which they rolled up 604 yards of offense against Ball State, shutout Kent State and handed Northern Illinois its first November loss in 22 games.

 

Ohio vs. Appalachian State (Montgomery, Ala.)

 

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Appalachian State +9.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Appalachian State Running Back Marcus Cox

Simply put, if Ohio is to win on Saturday, it’s going to have to corral Cox. In Appalachian State's regular-season finale on Nov. 28, Cox rushed for 192 yards on 14 attempts. The Mountaineers boast a quick-strike offense, and Cox plays a large role in helping his team get out front early.

 

Cox’s 1,261 rushing yards this season ranks third in the Sun Belt and he is fourth all-time in career rushing touchdowns at Appalachian State with 42. It’s entirely conceivable that he could move to third on that list well before halftime in New Orleans.

 

2. Ohio QBs Derrius Vick and JD Sprague

Due to injuries, Ohio head coach Frank Solich has leaned on two quarterbacks this season. The move has served the Bobcats well and they’ll look to continue to use both Vick and Sprague in the bowl game.

 

Vick boasts a better passing resume with 1,809 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he’s also thrown six interceptions this season. Sprague has thrown for 785 yards and seven touchdowns and has impressed with his decision-making ability, as he’s tossed just one pick to this point.

 

Appalachian State’s pass defense is tops in the Sun Belt, as the Mountaineers allow just 184.4 passing yards per game.

 

3. Appalachian State's Defense

A large part of the Mountaineers’ immediate FBS success can be attributed to its stout defensive play this season. Head coach Scott Satterfield’s defense currently ranks 12th nationally in yards allowed, as this unit allows 4.73 yards per play and 318 yards per game. Appalachian State is listed at or near the top of nearly every defensive category in the conference rankings.

 

After posting 11 sacks against UL Lafayette and Idaho, the Mountaineers' defensive life established itself as the conference's best. But not only is Appalachian State defense aggressive at the line of scrimmage — it leads the Sun Belt in tackles for a loss — it also is quite opportunistic. The Mountaineers have four defensive touchdowns in 2015. Only six other FBS teams have produced more.

 

Final Analysis

 

While Ohio might be old money in the FBS compared to Appalachian State’s brief history as a member of the top level, the Bobcats will get all they can handle from one of the most recent schools to crash college football’s exclusive subdivision.

 

Appalachian State’s offense is just too efficient and dynamic to let the newcomer fall behind in this one. While Ohio’s defense has shined bright at times this season, its offense will have a difficult time moving the ball and putting enough points on the scoreboard to put the Bobcats in a position to emerge victorious.

 

After a close opening half, Appalachian State will take control late before ultimately cruising to the record-setting 11th win of its inaugural season in the FBS.

 

Prediction: Appalachian State 38, Ohio 27

 

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

Teaser:
Camellia Bowl Preview and Prediction: Ohio vs. Appalachian State
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: BYU Cougars, College Football, Utah Utes, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/las-vegas-bowl-preview-and-prediction-byu-vs-utah-2015
Body:

Don’t you love these made-for-TV events that we call the college football bowl season? Utah, a team that went 9-3 in a difficult Pac-12, falls to the sixth bowl selection and the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl to face rival BYU. I can already feel the nastiness in the air.

 

BYU and Utah is a rivalry that many outside of the Wasatch Front footprint might not understand how nasty this thing is between the two fan bases, even if it is called the “Holy War” by some. Utah fans were disappointed to play in the same bowl they did a year ago (defeated Colorado State) and they were upset to play a BYU team they will be facing again in week two of the 2016 season. Remember folks, there was a time when we all had Utah as a College Football Playoff team, and to end in Vegas was initially disappointing for the Utes.

 

BYU fans on the other hand are thrilled at the chance to snap the four-game rivalry skid to the Utes on a neutral field. But many wonder about the effort and the attitude amongst the team with Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall announcing this would be his final game as he and many of his staff are headed to Virginia to take over the Cavaliers program.

 

So to recap this game features: a Holy War in Sin City, Mendenhall’s final game, Utah shooting for five straight wins in the rivalry, and two passionate fan bases that hate each other. Put it all together and now you know why that outside of the Playoff and New Year’s Six this game has been one of the hottest tickets in the bowl season.

 

Related: Ranking All 41 College Football Bowls for 2015: From Must-See to Must-Miss

 

BYU vs. Utah (Las Vegas)

 

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: ABC

Spread: Utah -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Bronco vs. Whitt: The Final Chapter

In December 2004, after forcing Gary Crowton into resigning as head coach, BYU turned to former Cougar linebacker and Utah defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham to become the head coach at his alma mater. Whittingham turned down the offer and stayed at rival Utah following in the footsteps of Urban Meyer. Bronco Mendenhall -the third choice for BYU- ended up getting the job in Provo, which led to both fan bases measuring the two head coaches every step of the way.

 

Whittingham has the upper hand on Mendenhall, winning six of the nine Holy War meetings between the two.

 

With Mendenhall now leaving for Virginia, it’s an end of a storied rivalry chapter between these two schools. BYU players this week have been saying all the right things to give one final win to Mendenhall, and his 100th overall at BYU, before he goes off to Charlottesville. But no one has schemed better against the Cougars soon-to-be former head coach than Whittingham.

 

2. Will Britain Covey play?

Covey has been one of Utah’s best playmakers this season despite being a true freshman. Once you look past his tiny 5-foot-8 frame, Covey has been one of the more dynamic players in the Pac-12, and one of the best freshmen in a conference that boasts UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.

 

Covey’s playmaking abilities are in question however for Saturday’s Vegas Bowl as he suffered an ankle injury in a loss to UCLA a month ago. If this bowl game were played after Christmas, it would be nearly a guarantee that Covey would play. But with the early date, Covey’s status is up in the air. Covey is critical to this Utah offense, both as a wide receiver and a return specialist, which was stagnant the last few weeks of the regular season

 

There also is some strong emotion in this matchup for Covey, as he grew up in Provo in the shadows of BYU at Timpview High. BYU, the school that has seen many of Covey’s family members attend, didn’t offer the ex-high school quarterback until late in the recruiting process. Whittingham and the Utes offered early, and the rest is history.

 

3. BYU Wide Receivers vs. Utah Secondary

BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum has had a fantastic season, throwing for more than 3,000 yards in a year that he was expected to be the backup to do-it-all signal-caller Taysom Hill. Mangum has done a great job but Utah’s defense might be one of the toughest BYU’s offense has faced this season. But the Utes are running thin in the secondary with a laundry list worth of injuries. That’s good news for Mangum and his wide receiver corps.

 

BYU boasts five players who have recorded over 400-plus yards receiving -the first time in school history- and they are a talented group led by senior Mitch Mathews. It’s well documented the height BYU has in their receivers with Mathews (6-6), Terenn Houk (6-5), and Nick Kurtz (6-6). To counter the size look for Utah cornerback Brian Allen to get more snaps over Dominique Hatfield, who has struggled at times this season.

 

Final Analysis

 

Whenever you talk Holy War games between BYU and Utah, focus on two things: 1) line of scrimmage play and 2) turnovers. They are cliché keys to watch, but nothing holds truer to these two teams, which always have games that go down to the wire. In the last 21 years, 14 of these Holy War games have been decided by seven points or less. I’d expect nothing different in this one with Utah having the edge, as BYU has been minus-21 in the turnover department in its last four losses to the Utes. Utah wins a close one in the city of sin, and sends Bronco Mendenhall packing to Virginia as the first BYU head coach to lose five straight to the Utes since the early 1930s.

 

Prediction: Utah 27, BYU 20

 

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

Teaser:
Las Vegas Bowl Preview and Prediction: BYU vs. Utah
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/new-mexico-bowl-preview-and-prediction-arizona-vs-new-mexico-2015
Body:

Former conference partners, first in the Border Conference from 1931-51 and then the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) from 1962-78, will get reacquainted when Arizona and New Mexico meet in Saturday’s Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium in Albuquerque.

 

The Wildcats, who are limping into this game after losing four out their last five games to fall to 6-6, will look to salvage their season by finishing off a Lobos team that’s looking to win a bowl game in their own back yard. Arizona has struggled mightily at times this season after winning 10 games in 2014, and saw Rich Rodriguez turn down South Carolina’s overtures to become their next head coach, depending on who you ask.

 

Arizona has been marred by injuries all season, most notably those suffered by linebacker Scooby Wright, quarterback Anu Solomon, and running back Nick Wilson. A preseason All-America pick, Wright played in just two games before getting hurt. The good news is that Solomon and Wright are expected to return for the bowl game; a much-needed boost for a team looking to end this season on a winning note while also building some momentum for 2016.

 

Arizona vs. New Mexico (Albuquerque)

 

Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Arizona -9

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. New Mexico Running Game

The Lobos know how to run the football. In fact, they’re the ninth-best in the country at doing so, averaging just shy of 247 yards per game on the ground. Tailback Jhurell Pressley leads the team with 846 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Look for New Mexico to rely heavily on its ground game, though it could be the Lobos’ kryptonite, with Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats looking to keep New Mexico one-dimensional.

 

2. Anu Solomon

The Wildcats quarterback has been up and down after an impressive 2014 campaign, but some of his regression can be attributed to the injuries he has had to deal with. When Solomon is healthy, he runs Rodriguez’s spread offense extremely efficiently, especially as a passer. Solomon has 18 TD passes against just four interceptions on the season, the best TD-to-INT ratio in the Pac-12.

 

With Solomon healthy, the Wildcats have an strong upper hand against the Lobos, as their passing game has been inconsistent throughout the year.

 

3. Arizona on Third Down

One thing New Mexico struggles with, is getting opposing offenses off the field on third down. What’s even worse is that Solomon has been extremely efficient on third down. According to SBNation’s Bill Connelly, on third down and seven yards or more to go, Solomon is 25-of-37 for 408 yards and two touchdowns.

 

Look for the Wildcats to utilize Solomon’s success through the air on third down to keep crucial drives alive early and often.

 

Final Analysis

 

Though the Lobos are playing at home, this game doesn’t fare well in their favor against the Wildcats. Although Arizona has struggled this season, it’s been more due to health issues than talent concerns. Arizona should handle its business with ease and get back on track with the focus shifting towards a more successful 2016 campaign.

 

Prediction: Arizona 48, New Mexico 23

 

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

Teaser:
New Mexico Bowl Preview and Prediction: Arizona vs. New Mexico
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/cure-bowl-preview-and-prediction-georgia-state-vs-san-jose-state
Body:

The Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla. is one of two bowls making its debut in college football’s 41-game postseason slate, and the inaugural matchup features two teams – Georgia State and San Jose State – hungry to end the season on a high note. The Panthers made a surprising run to bowl eligibility with four consecutive wins to close the regular season, while the Spartans at 5-7 were able to reach the postseason thanks to their high APR.

 

Georgia State’s bowl appearance and a 6-6 record in 2015 cap a quick rise to the FBS ranks for this program. The Panthers transitioned to the FBS level in 2013 and finished 1-23 in their first two years. However, coach Trent Miles inherited a massive rebuilding project and has steadily upgraded the team’s depth and overall talent level, allowing Georgia State to finish 6-6 and earn the program’s first bowl trip. San Jose State is making its first postseason trip since 2012, and this game is an opportunity for coach Ron Caragher to build momentum for a critical 2016 season. The Spartans are 14-22 under Caragher’s direction but improved from 3-9 in 2014 to 5-7 in 2015. Caragher’s team was just a few plays away from a winning record, as San Jose State lost by one to BYU and by three at Nevada. 

 

This is the first meeting between Georgia State and San Jose State.

 

Cure Bowl: Georgia State (6-6) vs. San Jose State (5-7)
(Orlando, Fla.)

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: San Jose State -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Georgia State’s Passing Attack

Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle was underrated on the national scene, but the senior earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors and was named the conference’s student-athlete of the year. In 12 games this season, Arbuckle threw for 4,160 yards and 26 touchdowns and tossed only 11 picks on 457 pass attempts. The senior also has plenty of help at his disposal. Four players caught more than 35 passes, including freshman standout Penny Hart (70 catches), Robert Davis (60) and tight end Keith Rucker (13.4 ypc). The Panthers average only 103.1 rushing yards per game but showed better balance in the second half of the season. Coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski won’t be afraid to put the ball in the air, as Arbuckle has averaged 38 pass attempts a game this season and has eclipsed 300 or more yards in seven consecutive games. San Jose State’s secondary was projected to be one of the better groups in the Mountain West this season and ranked 38th nationally in pass efficiency defense. No opponent threw for more than 293 yards against this defense, with Jimmy Pruitt and Cleveland Wallace III anchoring the corner positions. Will Arbuckle pick up where he left off at the end of the regular season? San Jose State isn’t adept at getting to the quarterback (13 sacks in 2015), so there’s a lot of pressure on the cornerbacks to hold their coverage against a deadly passing attack.

 

Related: Predictions for Every Bowl Game in 2015-16

 

2. San Jose State RB Tyler Ervin

Ervin was one of the nation’s top all-purpose threats this season, averaging 200.8 total yards per game. The senior did most of his damage on the ground (1,469 yards) but was second on the team with 44 catches and averaged 23.9 yards per kickoff return. Can Georgia State find a way to slow down Ervin? The Panthers ranked fourth in the Sun Belt against the run, allowing 179.8 yards per game. This unit played better in the second half of the season and limited Georgia Southern (No. 1 nationally in rush offense) to 135 rushing yards in the season finale. Linebacker Joseph Peterson anchors the front seven for coordinator Jesse Minter and was active around the line of scrimmage (106 tackles and 7.5 tackles for a loss). Keep an eye on the 100-yard mark. In five out of San Jose State’s seven losses, Ervin was held under 100 yards and did not reach 100 yards in three out of the last four games.

 

3. San Jose State QB Kenny Potter

San Jose State quarterback Kenny Potter didn’t garner the postseason recognition that Arbuckle accumulated, but the junior college transfer was solid in his first year on campus. Potter threw for 1,895 yards and 14 touchdowns and finished the season with 346 rushing yards and six scores. Additionally, the junior ended the regular season with back-to-back 300-yard passing games. The San Jose State passing attack suffered a setback with receiver Tyler Winston suffering a season-ending injury in late October. Tight end Billy Freeman (47 catches) has been Potter’s go-to weapon, but receivers Hansell Wilson and Tim Crawley will test a Georgia State secondary that allowed 18 passing scores in the regular season. Avoiding turnovers will be critical for Potter after San Jose State finished with a minus-five ratio. The Panthers played better on defense in the second half of the year and only allowed 10 plays of 40 yards or more after giving up 18 in 2014. The extra practice time should be beneficial to Potter, but the Spartans also need a mistake-free game in a contest that’s expected to be close.

 

Final Analysis

 

This is a tough game to get a read on. Both teams average around 30 points a game and feature talented weapons on offense, so a low-scoring contest would be a surprise. Georgia State ended the year playing at its highest level of the season and the short layoff shouldn’t do too much to slow coach Trent Miles’ team. San Jose State’s balance on offense will be tough for the Panthers to contain, especially if running back Tyler Ervin gets on track in the first half. The good folks in Vegas like San Jose State as a slight favorite, but the guess here is Georgia State’s offense finds just enough room against the Spartans’ secondary to notch the wining score late in the fourth quarter.

 

Prediction: Georgia State 34, San Jose State 31
Teaser:
Cure Bowl Preview and Prediction: Georgia State vs. San Jose State
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-sit-odell-beckham-jr-and-other-wr-te-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-15
Body:

Week 14 saw the triumphant return of Rob Gronkowski, a monster Monday night game from Odell Beckham Jr. and several performances from other wide receivers and tight ends that left fantasy owners screaming “Why?” in anguish. So what did I get right and what did I get wrong as it relates to my Week 14 start/sit advice for WRs and TEs? I’m glad you asked.

 

Good Calls:

 

Start Brandon Marshall (18.5 fantasy points) – He’s caught a touchdown in six straight games.

 

Start Doug Baldwin (26.20 FP) – He’s the No. 1 fantasy WR over the last three weeks.

 

Start Sammy Watkins (14.2 FP) – Should have had a bigger day, but he’s now had three great games in a row.

 

Bad Calls:

 

Sit T.Y. Hilton (13.2 FP) – He went over 100 yards for the first time since Week 7.

 

Start Scott Chandler (0 FP) – In my defense, this was before I knew that Gronkowski was going to play. Hopefully you benched Chandler once you realized the same thing.

 

Start Austin Seferian-Jenkins (3.1 FP) – No one will ever know how it was possible for Jameis Winston to struggle so badly against the New Orleans Saints’ terrible secondary.

 

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

 

Wide Receivers

 

START THESE WRs...

 

Michael Floyd, ARI (at PHI)

Finally healthy, Floyd is taking over as the Cardinals’ No. 1 wide receiver. Of course Larry Fitzgerald is still playing at a high level, but he’s now the dink-and-dunk, short game receiver. Floyd is the one stretching the field and making big plays. Just look at last week when he posted 16.2 fantasy points thanks to 102 yards and a touchdown. This week the Cardinals travel to Philly to face an Eagles defense that has given up the most points to opposing WRs. Look for Floyd to have a field day out there.

 

Sammy Watkins, BUF (at WAS)

Anyone who traded away or gave up on Watkins in the middle of the season, sure is kicking themselves now. Watkins has scored four touchdowns in his last three games while averaging 18 fantasy points in those three games. He and QB Tyrod Taylor sure seem to finally be on the same page and their success should continue this week as the Bills travel to Washington to play a Redskins defense that has given up the eighth-most fantasy points to wideouts on the season. Washington will likely struggle to contain Watkins all game so look for another 100-plus yards and a score from the Bills’ No. 1 target.

 

Doug Baldwin, SEA (vs. CLE)

Baldwin has to slow down at some point right? After all, this is Baldwin we are talking about here; a guy who has spent most of the year on the waiver wire. But we all thought that he would slow down last weekend, and then he went out and scored another three touchdowns. He’s now scored eight in his last three games and with the way Russell Wilson is playing, you can imagine that this duo will keep it up. Another 100 yards with a touchdown game might be his floor this week against the Cleveland Browns and their defense that is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers on the season.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Golden Tate, DET (at NO, Mon.)

Calvin Johnson has been limited the last two games, which has led to Tate seeing 10 targets in each contest. Last week he caught nine of those targets for only 60 yards, but he did score two touchdowns. This week he has a dream matchup against the New Orleans Saints, who have given up the most fantasy points of any team this season. Look for Matthew Stafford to have a huge game, which should mean that Tate should end the night with well over 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown.

 

SIT THESE WRs...

 

Mike Evans, TB (vs. STL, Thurs.)

Playing on a short week is never a good thing for fantasy wide receivers and with a rookie quarterback throwing him the ball, Evans is going to struggle Thursday night. Winston struggled last week against the New Orleans Saints, which led to Evans only catching three passes for 39 yards. Unfortunately those might be the numbers that he gets this week as the Buccaneers are in St. Louis to face the Rams. The Rams have given up the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season and since Winston is bound to struggle, you know Evans will too.

 

T.Y. Hilton, IND (vs. HOU)

It appears that Hilton has a permanent seat as a must-sit. While Hilton did have a decent game last week, catching four balls for 132 yards, it was against the pitiful Jacksonville Jaguars. This week the Colts have a much tougher matchup against the Houston Texans and their defense that is allowing the 10th-fewest fantasy points to WRs on the year. To make matters worse, Hilton is either going to have Charlie Whitehurst or a banged-up Matt Hasselbeck throwing him the ball. That’s not very appetizing. Leave Hilton on your bench this week if you can.

 

Randall Cobb, GB (at OAK)

Cobb, listed as sit 'em last week, posted his best stat line since Week 9, and yet he still scored a very mediocre nine points. Eh. Next on the schedule is a date with the Raiders, who have been better than you think against wide receivers. In fact, Oakland has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the position since Week 11.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Odell Beckham Jr., NYG (vs. CAR)

The best matchup of the week might be on the field as Beckham Jr. takes on Carolina’s elite shutdown corner Josh Norman. Norman has gotten the job done against the league’s best receivers all season long and even though Beckham Jr. comes into this game on fire (20-plus fantasy points in three straight games), the Panthers know that if they can shut down ODB, the Giants have no chance to win the game. Beckham Jr. is too good and his ceiling is too high to sit, but don’t expect another 150-yard and two-touchdown game this week.

 

Tight Ends

 

START THESE TEs...

 

Jordan Reed, WAS (at BUF)

Reed’s production was looking like it was starting to dry up as Kirk Cousins wasn’t throwing his way as much as he had at the beginning of the season. That changed in a big way last week when Reed caught all nine of his targets for 120 yards and a touchdown. This week Reed looks poised for another big game against the Buffalo Bills who rank among the middle of the pack against tight ends, currently allowing 13th-fewest fantasy points to the position. Zach Ertz of the Eagles caught five balls for 98 yards against this defense, which is an encouraging sign for Reed owners.

 

Ben Watson, NO (vs. DET, Mon.)

In what could be the highest-scoring game of Week 15, Watson should be able to post big numbers Monday night against the Detroit Lions. Last week Watson was a key part of the Saints’ offense, seeing 11 targets. He caught seven for a respectable 70 yards. This week he gets a great matchup against a Lions defense that is currently allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends and you know Drew Brees is going to look his way in the red zone. Don’t be surprised to see Watson come close to his Week 8 numbers when he scored 20.7 fantasy points.

 

Zach Miller, CHI (at MIN)

It’s pretty obvious that Jay Cutler really likes throwing to Miller, who is a breath of fresh air in comparison to the way former starting tight end Martellus Bennett had been playing this year. In a tough loss to the Redskins, Miller managed 85 receiving yards and a touchdown. This week he has another tough matchup on paper, as the Vikings are currently allowing the 16th-most fantasy points to tight ends on the season. But that shouldn’t matter as long as Cutler continues to look Miller’s way in the red zone.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Zach Ertz, PHI (vs. ARI)

Ertz is coming off his best showing of the season, as he caught 5-of-7 targets for 98 yards. Ertz is slowly becoming Sam Bradford’s most reliable option and this week he could see a big jump in his production because the Eagles will probably be in a shootout as they host the Arizona Cardinals. If you stream tight ends, Ertz could be your guy this week as he should once again gain over 75 yards receiving and should continue to see some red zone looks.

 

SIT THESE TEs...

 

Gary Barnidge, CLE (at SEA)

It might seem crazy to sit Barnidge this week. But it’s extremely likely that Johnny Manziel gets eaten alive not only by the Seahawks defense, but by the 12s as well. Seattle does have an elite defense, but the unit’s one weakness is defending the tight end. The Seahawks are near the top (sixth) in terms of fantasy points allowed to the position. But that won’t matter this week as the Seahawks are going to make Manziel wish he never got on the plane to come to the Pacific Northwest.

 

Jason Witten, DAL (vs. NYJ, Sat.)

Witten put up his usual stat line for 2015 this past week, catching five of nine targets for 40 yards and no touchdowns. Poor Witten really misses Tony Romo. Witten hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since the first week of the season. In the season opener he caught two TDs, but both of those come with Romo at quarterback. This week the Cowboys play host to the New York Jets, who are allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends on the year. You can forget about Witten once again this week.

 

Travis Kelce, KC (at BAL)

It's tough to bench Kelce at a position that has no depth, so consider this more of a statistical warning. Over his last five games, he's scored one touchdown and has recorded fewer than five fantasy points four times. Couple that with a game against the Ravens this week, who have been tough on tight ends (allowing the third-fewest fantasy points), and there's some real cause for concern.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Delanie Walker, TEN (at NE)

Walker has been one of the most consistent fantasy tight ends this season. Not bad for a guy who really wasn’t on anyone’s radar heading into the season. The problem with Walker this week is his matchup against the New England Patriots, who will no doubt look to take Walker out of the game as he is really the only receiving threat that the Titans have. The Patriots are allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season and even though Walker should see his usual high volume of opportunities, don’t expect him to cash them in.

 

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

Teaser:
Why You Must Sit Odell Beckham Jr. and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-jeremy-hill-and-other-rb-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-15
Body:

Unfortunately, Week 14 was another rough one for fantasy running backs – both in terms of more injuries and disappointing showings from players owners have been relying on this season. And before we close the book on last week completely, let’s take a peek and see how my Week 14 start/sit fantasy advice panned out.

 

Good Calls:

 

Start Doug Martin (14.6 fantasy points) – Imagine what he could have done if he had more than 11 carries?

 

Start Lamar Miller (20.9 FP) – He scored two touchdowns on only 12 carries.

 

Sit Javorius Allen (3.8 FP) – Like the entire Ravens team, he was highly ineffective against the Legion of Boom.

 

Sit DeMarco Murray (3.7 FP) – Demoted to fourth-string RB before the game.

 

Bad Calls:

 

I warned you about starting Todd Gurley, but then he went out and promptly ran over (140 yds., 2 TDs) the Lions.

 

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

 

 

START THESE RBs...

 

Jeremy Hill, CIN (at SF)

Hill has been a complete bust all season long in both fantasy and real life football. He was held to 24 yards on nine touches in Week 14 against Pittsburgh, as Cincinnati had to play for behind all game with backup AJ McCarron at quarterback. So why would anyone consider starting Hill this week? Well because the Bengals will look to play a more conservative style of offense with McCarron now the starter for the foreseeable future. The matchup doesn’t hurt either, as the 9ers are allowing the most fantasy points to running backs on the season. Last week, San Francisco surrendered 213 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to the previously moribund Cleveland rushing attack. Look for Hill to have a big game.

 

Charcandrick West, KC (at BAL)

West was force to split carries and gave up the goal-line work to Spencer Ware last week against the Chargers, but he did manage 54 yards on only 10 carries. This week, however, should be a different story as it looks like Ware might not be able to play due to injury. That means West will be getting nearly 100 percent of the touches out of the backfield with the Chiefs headed to Baltimore this week. Even though the Ravens are giving up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs, this game looks like it could get out of hand early in the second half, meaning plenty of opportunities for West to run out the clock. West should be good for at least 100 yards and a touchdown on the ground in this one.

 

Lamar Miller, MIA (at SD)

It’s amazing what Miller can do when he actually is a focal point of the Dolphins’ offense. Last week against the Giants, he only carried the ball 12 times because the Dolphins were forced to play catch up, but Miller still managed 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns. You can bet that the good times will keep rolling this week as the Dolphins travel to San Diego to face a Chargers defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to RBs this season and might have already packed in it for the year. Don’t be surprised to see Miller score another 20 fantasy points this week.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Bryce Brown, SEA (vs. CLE)

Brown is more of a what the heck flex play this week, but so was Thomas Rawls when Marshawn Lynch went down and look what Rawls did. This week the Seahawks host Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns in a game that has blowout written all over it, especially with the way Russell Wilson is playing. You can imagine that Wilson will need to slow down in the second half when the Seahawks are up by 20, so Brown should get plenty of chance to show what he can do. He might just end up with more than 100 rushing yards and a touchdown.

 

SIT THESE RBs...

 

Devonta Freeman, ATL (vs. JAC)

Freeman blew the fantasy world out of the water from Weeks 3 to 6 when he averaged close to 30 fantasy points per game and scored eight touchdowns. He was one of the best late-round picks or waiver wire pickups of the season. But he’s been a below-average fantasy back since Week 8. A lot of Freeman’s struggles (and Julio Jones’ struggles too) can be solely attributed to how terrible Matt Ryan has played this year. Even in a home game this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are giving up the 14th-most fantasy points to running backs this season, you just cannot trust Freeman, especially if you are still in your fantasy playoffs.

 

Denver Broncos (at PIT)

The Broncos’ backfield is a mess, not only because you don’t know who is going to lead the team in carries, but also because Denver just can’t run the ball on offense. Last week Ronnie Hillman was the lead back, getting the ball 19 times, while Juwan Thompson handled the rock nine times. C.J. Anderson was active, but didn’t play. Anderson might be the best bet to produce out of all three this week against the Steelers, but Pittsburgh’s defense has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs on the year and you can’t be guaranteed that Anderson is going to get enough volume to produce. Stay away from the Bronco ball carriers this week.

 

DeMarco Murray, PHI (vs. ARI)

The unfortunate fall of Murray continued in Week 14, as he was moved down the Eagles’ depth chart and received a mere 11 carries in a win over Buffalo. Even if head coach Chip Kelly lets him out of the doghouse, how can you trust Murray with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles in the mix? Oh, the Cardinals pose a difficult matchup too.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Matt Forte, CHI (at MIN)

Forte is stuck in the dreaded running back by committee with Jeremy Langford. He handled 11 touches compared to Jeremy Langford's 14. Forte salvaged his fantasy day by punching in a seven-yard rushing score, but otherwise struggled to get much going against the Redskins. Forte looked to have regained RB1 value in a 26-touch Week 13 game against San Francisco but the Bears' backfield reverted to a timeshare against the Redskins, reducing Forte back to RB2 value ahead of a Week 15 date with Minnesota. The Vikings are allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs and Forte will probably struggle to get into double digits this week.

 

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

Teaser:
Why You Should Start Jeremy Hill and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice For Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-matthew-stafford-and-other-qb-dst-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-15
Body:

It’s Week 15 and the fantasy playoffs are in full effect! Before we dive into this week’s start/sit fantasy advice for quarterbacks and defense/special teams (DSTs), let’s take our customary look back at Week 14.

 

Good Calls:

 

Start Ryan Fitzpatrick (24.82 fantasy points) – He’s becoming one of the most consistent fantasy QBs out there.

 

Start Russell Wilson (32.28 FP) – Another five touchdown passes. Can he keep this up?

 

Sit Matt Ryan (5.86 FP) – The Falcons stink and Matt Ryan is the reason why.

 

Sit Derek Carr (13 FP) – By now you should know not to start any QB against the Broncos’ defense. Or should you? (see below)

 

Bad Calls:

 

Sit Marcus Mariota (22.36 FP) – Who knew he’d catch a 41-yard touchdown pass?

 

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

 

Quarterbacks

 

START THESE QBs...

 

Russell Wilson, SEA (vs. CLE)

Wilson remained red hot with five more TDs against the Ravens in Week 14 and has now thrown for three-plus in four straight games. In his last four games, Wilson has 16 TD passes and one rushing score. Of course you are going to start Wilson this week as not only can he single-handedly win you your fantasy football championship the way he is playing, he’s also back at home against the Cleveland Browns. Plus, Thomas Rawls is out for the season with a broken ankle and Marshawn Lynch still isn’t ready to return so that means the only running backs Seattle has left are Fred Jackson, the recently signed Bryce Brown and now Christine Michael, So you know that the Seahawks are going to let Wilson win them the game. Don’t be surprised to see Wilson score another 30 fantasy points on Sunday.

 

Drew Brees, NO (vs. DET, Mon.)

Brees played very well last week in Tampa considering it was on the road, outdoors and he barely had a running game. That’s back-to-back games of 20-plus fantasy points for Brees and you can count on him make it three such performances in a row as he returns home to face the Detroit Lions in the Monday night spotlight. The Lions are rather tough against the run and since Tim Hightower is the starting RB somewhat by default, it will be up to Brees to win the game. That shouldn’t be a problem against the Lions, who are currently among the top 10 most generous defenses (ninth) when it comes to fantasy points allowed to QBs.

 

Matthew Stafford, DET (vs. NO, Mon.)

If Drew Brees is going to have a big game against the Lions, you know that means that Stafford will probably do the same. This matchup has all the makings of another high-scoring affair like the one the Giants and Saints had back in Week 8. The Saints did manage to slow down Jameis Winston last week, but that’s more on Winston than the Saints’ defense. Plus since Detroit changed offensive coordinators, Stafford has been playing some of his best football, throwing for nine touchdowns in his last three games. The Saints still have the league’s worst pass defense and are allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks so you can bet that Stafford will have another 300-yard, three-TD showing.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (vs. DEN)

Most of the time you would sit any quarterback going up against the Broncos’ vaunted pass defense. However last week Derek Carr showed that there are some kinks in their armor and Roethlisberger is better and has considerably more experience than Carr. Plus Big Ben is playing at home and he has just too many weapons at his disposal for the Broncos to stop. Big Ben did kill a lot of fantasy teams last week with his performance, but he will bounce back this week because the Steelers need to win to catch the Bengals in the AFC North title race.

 

SIT THESE QBs...

 

Eli Manning, NYG (vs. CAR)

Manning is coming off a huge game Monday night where he scored 27.28 fantasy points, thanks to 337 yards and four touchdowns. It sure doesn’t hurt that he has Odell Beckham Jr. to throw the ball too. Even though the Giants are in a must-win situation this week to keep pace in a crowded NFC East, Manning has a terrible matchup as the Carolina Panthers come to town. The Panthers have one of the best defenses in the league with the best shutdown corner in Josh Norman. Norman will take Beckham Jr. out of the game causing Manning to struggle and to finish with fewer than 15 fantasy points.

 

Marcus Mariota, TEN (at NE)

Mariota is having a fine rookie season and each week he looks more and more like a real franchise quarterback. He’s scored 20 or more fantasy points in his last three games, but that is a little deceiving. Last week he didn’t throw a touchdown pass and would have had a terrible showing if it wasn’t for a gimmick 41-yard touchdown reception, that’s not going to happen every week. This week he and the Titans travel to New England to face the Patriots, who are giving up the ninth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and you can bet that Bill Belichick is going to come up with a game plan to shut Mariota down.

 

Sam Bradford, PHI (vs. ARI)

Bradford was supposed to be the missing link that took Chip Kelly’s high-octane Eagels offense to the next level. Instead, Bradford and the entire offense has been a major fantasy disappointment. Since returning from injury Bradford has been fantasy irrelevant, scoring 12.7 and 13.18 fantasy points in his past two games. This week the Eagles welcome Arizona to town. The Cardinals are tough on signal-callers, allowing just 18 touchdown passes and an average of fewer than 15 fantasy points per game to the position in 2015. Bradford is a must-sit this week.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (at DAL, Sat.)

If you omit Russell Wilson, Fitzpatrick has been the best fantasy quarterback over the last three weeks. In his last three games he’s scored 29.18, 25.8 and 24.82 fantasy points respectively thanks to nine touchdown passes in those three games. He also has Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker healthy and playing at their absolute best as well. The only reason that Fitzpatrick isn’t a must-start this week is the the Jets are traveling to Dallas play a Cowboys defense that has been keeping their team in games week in and week out. The Cowboys have given up the sxith-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks on the year and will look to slow the whole game down to a snail’s pace, which means fewer opportunities for Fitzpatrick to make plays to Decker and Marshall. Don’t be surprised to see Fitzpatrick finish with fewer than 15 fantasy points.

 

Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)

 

START THESE DSTs...

 

Kansas City Chiefs (at BAL)

Over the last four weeks, the Chiefs DST has scored a combined 56 fantasy points. There's no reason to think this type of production won't continue against the Ravens, who have been more than generous to fantasy DSTs. Whether it's Matt Schaub, Jimmy Clausen or Ryan Mallett under center, Kansas City should dominate.

 

New York Jets (at DAL, Sat.)

Matt Cassel is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, and that's been enough to make for a favorable defensive matchup in fantasy football. In fact, opposing DSTs have averaged 10.46 fantasy points per game when facing the Cowboys. That's enough reason to start the Jets, who are a streamable asset this week.

 

SIT THESE DSTs...

 

Philadelphia Eagles (vs. ARI)

The Eagles might field a top-10 fantasy DST, but this unit has scored six or fewer fantasy points in three of the last games including two performances with negative points. If that weren't enough to sit 'em, Philadelphia also faces a Cardinals offense that has not been very generous to opposing DSTs this season.

 

Minnesota Vikings (vs. CHI)

The Vikings DST has struggled to produce in recent weeks, due in part to injuries to some of the unit’s best players. So while a matchup against turnover-prone Jay Cutler seems to be favorable, it's tough to promote Minnesota's DST when it is at far less than 100 percent. There are better options to use.

 

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

Teaser:
Why You Should Start Matthew Stafford and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-postseason-awards-2015
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College football’s regular season concluded with Navy’s win over Army on Dec. 12, leaving 41 postseason games as all that’s left of the 2015 campaign. This year produced plenty of memorable endings and clutch performances, including Miami’s return for a game-winning score against Duke, Georgia Tech’s blocked field goal for a touchdown to beat Florida State, Michigan State’s fumble return as time expired to beat Notre Dame, and Arkansas’ fourth-and-25 conversion against Ole Miss.

 

While the bowl season is just days away, it’s time to take a look back at the regular season and a small peek at what’s ahead in 2016.

 

Athlon Sports concludes its slate of regular season honors with the 2015 national awards, as well as a look ahead at some of the rising stars, top coordinator hires, best freshmen and programs to watch in 2016:

 

2015 Awards and All-Conference Teams
ACCBig 12Big TenPac-12SECAll-America

 

College Football’s 2015 National Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Henry was the catalyst behind Alabama’s offense in 2015, rushing for 1,986 yards and 23 scores in 13 regular season games. The junior recorded at least 200 yards in four out of his final seven matchups, including 271 in a 29-13 victory over rival Auburn. Henry averaged a healthy 5.86 yards per carry and led the SEC with nine rushing plays of 30 yards or more.

 

2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

3. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

5. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

It’s a close call between Smith and Nassib for the defensive player of the year honor. The edge goes to Smith, as the junior recorded 113 tackles (nine for a loss), one sack, five pass breakups and one forced fumble. In addition to his lightning-quick athletic ability, Smith is instinctive and disruptive at the line of scrimmage.    

 

2. Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State

3. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

4. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

5. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

 

National Coach of the Year: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Kirk Ferentz version 3.0 was a huge hit in Iowa City. After a 19-19 record from 2012-14, Ferentz made a few tweaks and rallied the Hawkeyes to a 12-1 record and a Big Ten West Division title in 2015. Ferentz didn’t drastically alter his approach or make huge changes, but inserting C.J. Beathard as the full-time quarterback and being more aggressive with on-field calls were two changes that paid big dividends for Iowa. As a result, the Hawkeyes finished No. 5 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and are making their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1991.

 

2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

4. Tom Herman, Houston

5. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

 

Coordinator of the Year: Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

Riley was the perfect hire for an Oklahoma offense looking for a spark and a return to an Air Raid-style of attack. After a successful stint at East Carolina, Riley was hired by Bob Stoops after the 2014 season and guided the Sooners to an average of 47.2 points in Big 12-only matchups in 2015. Oklahoma averaged 6.95 yards per play and led the conference with nine plays of 60 yards or more.

 

2. Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina

3. Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

4. Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator, Boston College

5. Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson

 

Best All-Around in 2015: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey was the nation’s best all-purpose player in 2015. The sophomore led the Pac-12 with 1,847 rushing yards and recorded eight scores and caught 41 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns. McCaffrey showcased his big-play ability on special teams, averaging 28.9 yards per kickoff return and completed two of three pass attempts for 39 yards and two touchdowns this season. McCaffrey's 3,496 all-purpose yards set a new FBS single-season record.

 

2. Jabrill Peppers, DB/AP, Michigan

3. Adoree’ Jackson, DB/WR, USC

4. Charles Nelson, DB/WR, Oregon

5. Tanner McEvoy, DB/WR, Wisconsin

 

Best Freshman in 2015: Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan

Not only was Peppers a standout performer for Michigan’s defense, but the redshirt freshman also emerged as an all-purpose threat by the end of the season. Peppers recorded 45 tackles (5.5 for a loss) and finished second on the team with 10 pass breakups. He also accumulated 417 return yards, eight receptions for 79 yards and 72 rush yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Peppers will be an even bigger part of the gameplan for coach Jim Harbaugh in 2016.

 

2. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

3. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

4. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

5. Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh

6. Derwin James, S, Florida State

7. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

8. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

 

Best New Coach Hire for 2015: Tom Herman, Houston

Houston’s H-Town takeover is just beginning under Herman’s watch. The Cougars finished 12-1 with an American Athletic Conference title and earned the Group of 5 spot in the New Year’s Six bowl pairings. Additionally, Herman is putting the finishing touches on an outstanding recruiting class. Houston is a program on the rise and a team that should receive plenty of consideration to start 2016 in the preseason top 25.

 

2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

3. Jim McElwain, Florida

4. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh

5. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

 

Best Coordinator Hire for 2015: Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina

Since Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley is our coordinator of the year, let's spread the wealth and give this honor to Chizik. The former Auburn head coach brought immediate improvement to a defense that ranked near the bottom of the ACC in points and yards per play allowed in 2014. The Tar Heels limited opponents to just 22.6 points a contest and 5.3 yards per play this season. Additionally, this defense surrendered only 23 plays of 30 yards or more after giving up 41 in 2014.

 

2. Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

3. Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri

4. Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas

5. Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Florida

6. John Chavis, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

7. Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor

8. Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator, Washington State

9. Tom Allen, Defensive Coordinator, USF

10. Jeff Scott/Tony Elliott, Co-Offensive Coordinators, Clemson 

 

Five Coaches on the Rise

 

1. Tom Herman, Houston

Herman was one of the nation’s best assistant coaches during his tenure at Ohio State (2012-14) and is arguably the top coach in the Group of 5 ranks after just one season at Houston. The Cougars went 12-1 in 2015 and claimed the American Athletic Conference title and a trip to the Peach Bowl.

 

2. Matt Rhule, Temple

Rhule generated plenty of interest from Power 5 programs this offseason, but the former Penn State linebacker will return to Temple in 2016. The Owls have won 18 games over the last three seasons, including a 10-3 mark in 2015 with an American Athletic Conference East Division title.

 

3. Willie Fritz, Tulane

Tulane’s hire of Willie Fritz is one of the best coaching moves of the 2015-16 carousel. Fritz has a track record of success, including a 40-15 record at Sam Houston State and a 17-7 mark at Georgia Southern.

 

4. Jeff Brohm, WKU

Brohm is one of the top offensive-minded coaches in the Group of 5 ranks and led WKU to its best record (11-2 in 2015) since joining the FBS level. The Hilltoppers claimed the Conference USA title this season and ranked fourth nationally in scoring offense (44.2 ppg).

 

5. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan

Fleck has guided Western Michigan to a 15-10 mark over the last two seasons and back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history.

 

Five Players on the Rise for 2016

 

1. Derwin James, S, Florida State

James saw an increased role as the season progressed for Florida State’s defense and should be one of the top defensive backs in the ACC next season. In 12 games as a true freshman, James recorded 77 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

 

2. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

With Joey Bosa expected to leave for the NFL, the Buckeyes will be looking to reload on the edges. Hubbard recorded 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss in his redshirt freshman campaign.

 

3. LJ Scott, RB, Michigan State

The Spartans won’t have Connor Cook at quarterback next season, but the rushing attack is capable of carrying the offense for coach Mark Dantonio. Scott led the team with 691 yards and 11 touchdowns as a true freshman this season and scored the pivotal touchdown against Iowa to give Michigan State the Big Ten Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

 

4. Ronald Jones II, RB, USC

Talented true freshman led USC with 940 yards and eight rushing touchdowns in 2015. New coach Clay Helton wants to utilize the ground game more next season. Jones should benefit from Helton's tweaks on offense with a 1,000-yard season.

 

5. Blake Barnett, QB, Alabama

Barnett will have to win the job, but all signs point to this redshirt freshman as the next star for coach Nick Saban.

 

Three Programs on the Rise for 2016

 

1. Washington

Coach Chris Petersen has the Huskies trending up in 2016, as the offense should take a step forward with the sophomore duo of quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. The defense returns largely intact after holding opponents to just 17.8 points per game in 2015.

 

2. Michigan

The Wolverines have to play Ohio State and Michigan State on the road, but coach Jim Harbaugh’s team can challenge for the Big Ten East title and a New Year’s Six bowl if it can find a quarterback.

 

3. Miami

The Hurricanes upgraded with the hire of Mark Richt, and the former Georgia coach will have an opportunity to work with quarterback Brad Kaaya in 2016. The defense needs work, but there’s enough talent for Miami to take a step forward in Richt’s first season. 

Teaser:
College Football's Postseason Awards for 2015
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/nfl-logos-redesigned-donald-trump-cowboys-giants-bears-packers-jags-falcons
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Ever wonder what your favorite NFL team's logo would look like if it were redesigned as Donald Trump? Well thanks to the good folks at Uproxxx, we have an idea.

 

The following is both funny and horrifying at the same time.

 

Screen Shot 2015 12 17 at 8 50 48 AM

 

Screen Shot 2015 12 17 at 8 50 57 AM

 

Screen Shot 2015 12 17 at 8 51 21 AM
 

Screen Shot 2015 12 17 at 8 51 09 AM

Head over to Uproxxx to see the rest. 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 09:57
Path: /college-football/ranking-watchability-sec-bowl-games-2015
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Not all college football bowl games are created equal. Some bowls go down in history and some shape the future of a team. Others provide decent background noise for a late-December nap. Then there are those, let's face it, that shouldn't be played at all.

 

But when the SEC is involved, rest assured that the bowl games mean something. If nothing else, they allow SEC homers another year of bragging rights, or in last year's case, a bowl season of disappointment. 

 

Athlon ranks the SEC bowl games from must-see to avoidable. From No. 1 to No. 10, here's a look at which games will be watchable this holiday season.

 

Power 5 Conferences: ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Pac-12 I SEC

 

1. Cotton Bowl — Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1)

Dec. 31 - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

There are a lot of people out there who think this is a big-time mismatch for Michigan State. They think Sparty got a bad draw, having to play Alabama. But despite what Vegas thinks, it's tough to envision this one as a comfortable, 10-point Alabama win. This is the most physical matchup between two teams on the entire bowl slate, besides maybe Iowa and Stanford. These two teams will rely upon the ground game and stifling defense to wear each other out. It should be a lot of fun to watch, and it should be a low-scoring, four-quarter affair. The team with the most efficient quarterback will have an advantage, so Connor Cook's experience and health should be key factors here. Derrick Henry and Alabama's depth will probably prevail in the end, but don't be fooled. Sparty's tough.

 

2. Sugar Bowl — Ole Miss (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2)

Jan. 1 - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Cotton Bowl certainly isn't the only SEC bowl game with major implications. The Sugar Bowl, which is usually regarded as the ultimate destination for an SEC team not playing for a national championship, involves a pair of teams that are fairly proficient on offense. Both the Cowboys and Rebels average more than 40 points per game. Take the over, regardless of the number. Ole Miss' defense is billed as "good," but has given up 21 points or more in six games this year. The Rebels gave up 38 to Florida, 37 to Memphis, and 53 to Arkansas. Oklahoma State is more than capable of putting up those kind of numbers. The problem for the Pokes, of course, is the same one with most Big 12 teams. Will they play any defense? It will be a blast for college football fans to watch this shootout in New Orleans.  

 

3. Outback Bowl — Northwestern (10-2) vs. Tennessee (8-4)

Jan. 1 - Noon ET, ESPN2

Tennessee fans are having a blast referring to Northwestern as "Purple Vandy." This is an "insult" directed at Northwestern's prestigious standard of higher education in comparison to its lesser ability to play football. If I was a Northwestern fan, I wouldn't take it too rough. But what does make sense in the comparison, is like Vanderbilt and Missouri (two teams Tennessee handled in November), Northwestern plays good defense but has had little production on offense. That's why this appears to be such a good matchup for the Vols. Northwestern's defense, despite giving up only 16 points per game, is probably going to have its hands full with Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd. If the Wildcats can't score, it could get ugly. However, Northwestern shouldn't be taken lightly. The 'Cats have beaten Stanford, Duke, Penn Stat and Wisconsin. And both teams have won five straight. Something's gotta give.

 

4. TaxSlayer Bowl — Georgia (9-3) vs. Penn State (7-5)

Jan. 2 - Noon ET, ESPN

Well, Georgia fans got what they wanted. Mark Richt was canned and Kirby Smart has taken the reigns in Athens. Yet, with a win over Penn State, Georgia can get to double-digit wins for the fourth time in the last five years. This still puzzles me. Anyway, the 'Dawgs are rightfully the favorite headed into this one. Vegas gives them a 6.5-point edge over the Nittany Lions. Two things make this game interesting. The first is the coaching turnover, as Penn State fired its offensive coordinator, John Donovan, as well. So both teams will have a new look offensively. But the best thing about this matchup is that it will be James Franklin's first game against an SEC team since leaving Vanderbilt for Happy Valley. Franklin's Commodores beat Georgia in his final season in Nashville in 2013, 31-27. Look for a 17-14 kind of dogfight in Jacksonville.

 

5. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl — Michigan (9-3) vs. Florida (10-3)

Jan. 1 - 1 p.m. ET, ABC

Honestly, the only reason this game is even at No. 5 is because of the brands. It involves Michigan and Florida, so it's worth seeing to an adequate number of people. But again, in one guy's honest opinion, I'm not sure the game is going to be that exciting. Florida has proven down the stretch that it really isn't very good. The Gators looked like College Football Playoff contenders up until November. After punishing Georgia, Florida beat Vanderbilt 9-7, beat South Carolina 24-14, and went to overtime with FAU. To close out the season, the Gators lost decisively to Florida State (scoring only two points) and Alabama. Sure, Michigan didn't look great down the stretch either, but the Wolverines didn't go to overtime with a Conference USA member. They have a better coach and will get it done in Orlando.

 

6. Texas Bowl — Texas Tech (7-5) vs. LSU (8-3)

Dec. 29 - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

We were all fooled, thinking Les Miles would roam the sidelines for one final time against Texas A&M. But as mysterious as that whole week was, it turned out that the "Mad Hatter" had a little magic left. Now, his team can get to nine wins with a victory over the Red Raiders. If not for a canceled season opener against McNeese State, it could potentially be another 10-win season for the Bayou Bengals. The best thing about this game is the personalities of head coaches Miles and Kliff Kingsbury. Even though the Red Raiders are 7-5, they can score with about any team in the country. It's evident in their games against TCU and Oklahoma State. Texas Tech is putting up a whopping 46.6 points per game. Leonard Fournette looks poised to have a field day against the Red Raiders' defense, but don't forget, one SEC coach already got his tail kicked by Kingsbury this year. 

 

7. Belk Bowl — NC State (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)

Dec. 30 - 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Wolfpack have a quarterback in Jacoby Brissett who is no stranger to the SEC. Having once been in competition for the starting job at Florida, Brissett now finds himself leading the way at NC State. He has thrown for nearly 2,500 yards this season and will have plenty to prove against the Bulldogs, coached by another former Gator, Dan Mullen. Mississippi State's quarterback efficiency is no question. Dak Prescott is going to go down as one of the SEC's all-time greats when all is said and done. He hasn't had the same recognition as Tim Tebow or Cam Newton, but it's tough to argue his importance on the field for State. He has playmakers around him at wide receiver and that should be enough to get the Bulldogs to nine wins on the year.

 

8. Music City Bowl — Louisville (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)

Dec. 30 - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Again, offense is clearly the theme. Two of the best minds in the game, Kevin Sumlin and Bobby Petrino, will go head-to-head, matching wits for four quarters. The problem for both is that it hasn't exactly been a dominant year on that side of the ball for either team. Both the Aggies and Cardinals are averaging just over 28 points per game. That's not great. Adding to that dilemma, both teams are giving up tons of yardage. This explains the mediocre records. There's also the matter of Texas A&M's quarterback situation with Kyle Allen already announcing he is transferring and Kyler Murray reportedly intending to depart the program as well. Louisville's defense figures to have the advantage given how far down the depth chart the Aggies have to go to find their starting signal-caller.

 

9. Liberty Bowl — Arkansas (7-5) vs. Kansas State (6-6)

Jan. 2 - 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

This game is a story of ups and downs. Kansas State won its first three games of the year, then dropped six in a row, then closed it out with three wins. Talk about up and down. The thing is, Kansas State has done a really good job of taking advantage of the schedule. The Wildcats' wins have come against South Dakota, UTSA, Louisiana Tech, Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia. Their best win is against West Virginia. Arkansas, on the other hand, began the year with losses to Toledo and Texas Tech, but then picked up road wins against Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU. Neither team knows the definition of consistency, but there is a glaring talent disparity in this game. The Hogs should cruise in Memphis.

 

10. Birmingham Bowl — Memphis (9-3) vs. Auburn (6-6)

Dec. 30 - Noon ET, ESPN

Although this could be an intriguing matchup, the theme is disappointment, so we'll leave it at No. 10. Plus, the Birmingham Bowl isn't exactly the most attractive bowl destination if you're an SEC team. This year just hasn't gone Auburn's way. Maybe it's payback for 2013. The Tigers were picked to win the SEC and ended up last in the West. Memphis, a team that looked like a dark horse Playoff contender after beating Ole Miss, racked up three straight losses in November to Navy, Houston and Temple. It will be fun to watch Paxton Lynch dissect the Auburn defense in this one. He will probably be the difference in the game as Memphis pulls away in the fourth quarter.

 

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Watchability of the SEC's Bowl Games in 2015
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/10-best-big-12-college-football-games-2015
Body:

When it comes to the Big 12, offense is the name of the game. This season in the Big 12 was no exception to that rule as the conference packed plenty of offensive shootouts to enjoy from start to finish. Just because a game offered plenty of scoring does not mean there were not other noteworthy performances this season. The Big 12 enjoyed some success against SEC opponents on the road, and key Big 12 contests went down to the wire at times. Yes, the Big 12 had a little bit of everything to offer this season.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

Here are a few games that just missed the cut:

 

Oklahoma State 70, Texas Tech 53: The highest-scoring game in the Big 12 this season lived up to the hype. The Cowboys pulled away from Texas Tech to keep their Big 12 and possible College Football Playoff hopes alive.

 

California 45, Texas 44: Sure, it was a loss for the Big 12, but the early-season matchup between Cal and Texas provided quite a wild finish with the Longhorns seeing a fourth-quarter rally falling one point shy.

 

TCU 28, Baylor 21 (OT): The preseason game of the year was diminished in value due to injuries and prior losses, and the weather did neither team any favors. TCU picked up the overtime win to eliminate Baylor from Big 12 championship contention.

 

Oklahoma 58, Oklahoma State 23: This would have deserved top-10 consideration given the circumstances and stakes, but the Sooners turned what could have been the Big 12's game of the year into a rout in Stillwater.

 

Texas 23, Baylor 17: Baylor played without a quarterback for the majority of the game and still almost came up with a win.

 

Kansas State 24, West Virginia 23: Bill Snyder and the Wildcats became bowl eligible with a one-point victory over the Mountaineers in the final game of the season.

 

Oklahoma State's close calls

 

Special recognition for a handful of Oklahoma State victories is worth a brief section to its own. The Cowboys may have stumbled in their final two games of the season, but before that they went 10-0 with tight victories over Texas, Kansas State, West Virginia and Iowa State (we'll touch on that last one in a little bit). Oklahoma State needed overtime to get out of Morgantown with a win in mid-October and two fourth-quarter field goals to escape Austin with a win over the Longhorns. A late field goal against Kansas State came the week before topping West Virginia. Unlike Nebraska, Oklahoma State fans have experienced the thrill of close calls this season.

 

10. Texas 24, Oklahoma 17 — Oct. 10

With Texas scuffling to a 1-4 start to the season and Oklahoma ranked in the top 10, few expected the Longhorns to give the rival Sooners much of a fight in the annual Red River Rivalry game. Texas turned in a stellar defensive performance against Oklahoma, holding the Sooners to just 278 yards of offense. The Texas offense jumped out to a stunning 14-0 lead in the first quarter and then held on to a seven-point cushion in the fourth. A sack of Baker Mayfield for a loss of 17 yards on 3rd-and-14 on Oklahoma's final possession of the game led to the Sooners losing their first and only game of the 2015 season (thus far).

 

9. Oklahoma State 35, Iowa State 31 — Nov. 14

A few years after Oklahoma State saw a national championship dream bust at Iowa state, the Cowboys were determined not to allow history to repeat itself in mid-November. Down 24-7 in the second quarter, Oklahoma State roared back in the second half and scored twice in the fourth quarter to take its first lead of the game following J.W. Walsh's touchdown pass to Jeff Carr with three and a half minutes remaining. Oklahoma State's defense then forced a three-and-out and picked off a pass on Iowa State's last offensive play of the game to escape Ames with a much-desired victory.

 

8. Texas Tech 48, Texas 45 — Nov. 26

Texas Tech and Texas met on Thanksgiving night for the regular season finale for both, and it was packed with offense from start to finish. Texas Tech rolled up 665 yards of offense and the Longhorns totaled 467 yards in the shootout. It was a bit of a sloppy game as well though with six combined turnovers, four by Texas Tech. But it was the Red Raiders who dipped into the bag of tricks to get by the Longhorns. Texas Tech appeared to set up in a kneel-down formation with just under three minutes to play, but Jakeem Grant took the handoff then snuck to the outside for a 40-yard touchdown run that would prove to be the game-winning score. Texas scored two plays later, but Texas Tech held on for the win.
 

7. Texas Tech 35, Arkansas 24 — Sept. 19

It was a good year for the Big 12 in statement game opportunities against the SEC. Texas Tech joined in the early season fun of beating up on Arkansas, and Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury had no problem boasting about it and pouring some salt on the wounds of his counterpart, Bret Bielema. Patrick Mahomes scored three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) in the 35-24 victory over the Razorbacks and the Red Raider defense held Arkansas to just three points in the second half.

 

"He just got his (butt) kicked twice in a row and probably next week by (Texas) A&M as well," Kingsbury said after the game, referring to Bielema. "That did feel good." Arkansas did lose the following week, for what it is worth.

 

6. Oklahoma 31, Tennessee 24 (2OT) — Sept. 12

A week before Texas Tech would score a road victory in SEC territory, Oklahoma made a trip to Knoxville for a top-25 matchup with Tennessee. After digging a 17-0 hole in the first half, the Sooners chipped away at the Vols and scored a game-tying touchdown with just 40 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Baker Mayfield forced a second overtime with his short keeper on fourth down from the one-yard line and then gave the Sooners a lead with an 18-yard pass to Sterling Shepard, who danced around a couple of would-be tacklers as he reached for the end zone along the right sideline. Oklahoma's defense, which allowed just 254 yards through a double-overtime effort, prevented Tennessee from forcing a third overtime when Zack Sanchez picked off a pass from Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs on third down.

 

5. TCU 52, Kansas State 45 — Oct. 10

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin proved capable of carrying his team to victory with a huge fourth-quarter effort on the road against Kansas State. Boykin ran for a 14-yard and a 69-yard touchdown to dig TCU out of a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter and then tossed a 55-yard TD to Josh Doctson with a little over a minute to play to give the Horned Frogs a late 52-45 lead on the Wildcats. At the time, Boykin's effort helped keep No. 2 TCU in the thick of the Playoff picture midway through the season. Boykin also kept his name among the Heisman contenders with the effort, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 124 yards and two more scores to help the Frogs leave Manhattan with the wild win.

 

4. Oklahoma 44, Baylor 34 — Nov. 14

The outlook of the Big 12 changed when Oklahoma walked into Waco and handed Baylor its first loss of the season in mid-November. The win also catapulted Baker Mayfield into the Heisman Trophy discussion for a late push. Mayfield passed for three touchdowns and Samaje Perine rushed for 166 yards and two scores as the Sooners took control of the Big 12 following a back-and-forth evening. Oklahoma never trailed after taking a 7-6 lead in the first quarter following Perine's first touchdown run of the game. For Oklahoma, the win was the fifth straight since losing to Texas, and the offense continued to light up the scoreboard with five straight games of at least 40 points.

 

3. TCU 55, Texas Tech 52 — Sept. 26

Before Trevone Boykin got a chance to make his in-season Heisman case against Kansas State, he seemed to have an earlier Heisman moment against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders had plenty of offense to top the Horned Frogs, they just did not have enough time left on the clock. On fourth-and-goal from the Texas Tech four-yard line, Boykin completed a pass to Aaron Green, who hauled in a tipped pass intended for Josh Doctson, for a touchdown with 23 seconds remaining. Texas Tech made TCU sweat it out though with an insane final play that saw Patrick Mahomes complete a pass under pressure over the middle to DeAndre Washington for a 24-yard gain. Washington then lateralled to Le'Raven Clark, who lateralled to Devin Lauderdale, who lateralled to Jakeem Grant. The play that started at midfield advanced all the way to the TCU 10-yard line before being forced out of bounds as time expired.

 

2. Baylor 45, Oklahoma State 35 — Nov. 21

Baylor bounced back form its first loss of the season to Oklahoma in a big way on the road against Oklahoma State. The Bears got three total touchdowns from third-string quarterback Chris Johnson, who was replacing an injured Jarrett Stidham, giving the Cowboys their first loss of the season, thus keeping Baylor alive for the Big 12 championship and, perhaps, even the Playoff. Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon went off against Oklahoma State for 210 yards and two scores, including a 71-yard touchdown in the third quarter to help pull Baylor farther away from Oklahoma State on the scoreboard. Cannon had a 59-yard score in the first four minutes of the game as well, as Baylor jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in Stillwater. Baylor's three turnovers helped Oklahoma State stay within reach, but Baylor's offense was too much to handle this week.
 

1. Oklahoma 30, TCU 29 — Nov. 21

A week after topping Baylor in Waco, Oklahoma returned home and got off to a great start against TCU in Norman. The Sooners took a 23-7 lead in the first half with a pair of touchdown passes thrown by Baker Mayfield and Austin Seibert kicking three field goals. TCU was playing without quarterback Trevone Boykin and wide receiver Josh Doctson at this point, so the Horned Frogs could have rolled over and given up pretty easily. Of course, that would not be like a Gary Patterson-coached team. The Horned Frogs rallied with three touchdowns and a field goal after halftime. Oklahoma's only score of the second half came on a 72-yard touchdown run by Samaje Perine in the third quarter. TCU's rally was nearly completed with a Bram Kohlhausen touchdown pass to Emanuel Porter with 51 seconds to play. Rather than kick the extra point and roll the dice in overtime, Patterson opted to go for the two-point conversion and the lead. With Oklahoma playing without an injured Mayfield, that seemed like a good move for TCU as the Horned Frogs shut down Oklahoma in the second half. However, Kohlhausen's pass attempt on the conversion try was swatted down by Oklahoma's Steven Parker, and the Sooners survived for a key Big 12 victory that would lead to a conference championship in the final game of the season against Oklahoma State.
 

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

Teaser:
10 Best Big 12 College Football Games of 2015
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
Path: /nfl/tampa-bay-buccaneers-vs-st-louis-rams-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The St. Louis Rams (5-8) have not been mathematically eliminated from a playoff spot, but nothing short of a miracle scenario will allow them to get in at this point. That being said, a Week 14 victory over the Lions to end a five-game losing streak provides evidence that this team has not completely given up on the season. More importantly, in what could be the Rams' last game ever in the city of St. Louis, they have plenty of incentive to win tonight. Head coach Jeff Fisher should have an inspired Rams team for a prime-time matchup against the Buccaneers.

 

Last week's loss to the Saints at home put a serious damper on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' (6-7) postseason aspirations. While the Bucs are still "technically" alive for a playoff spot, their chances reside somewhere in the slim-to-none category. Head coach Lovie Smith may have the superior team, but the lack of momentum could hurt the Bucs on the road against a Rams team with no intention of losing their final home game.

 

Thursday night’s matchup will be the 23rd meeting all-time between the Rams and the Buccaneers in a series that dates back to 1977. St. Louis holds a solid edge in the all-time series with a record of 14-8. The Rams have also won the last three games in the series, including a hard-fought 19-17 victory last season in Tampa Bay.

 

Tampa Bay at St. Louis

 

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV: NFL Network

Spread: St. Louis -2

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. A heavy dose of Todd Gurley

When Rob Boras was promoted to Rams’ offensive coordinator just prior to Week 14, his first order of business was to get his star rookie running back the football early and often. Boras’ plan of attack paid off, as Gurley’s monster performance (140 yds., 2 TDs) led them to victory over the Lions. It only makes sense that Boras will attempt to employ a similar strategy tonight. Standing in the way will be a stout Tampa Bay run defense that will put great emphasis on stopping Gurley. After all, there isn’t much to worry about from the Rams' passing game.

 

Unfortunately for Gurley, shutting down opposing running backs also happens to be a specialty for the Buccaneer defense. Tampa Bay gives up just 3.4 yards per carry, which is second best in the NFL. The Bucs have also allowed only six rushing touchdowns on the season, the third fewest in the league. Gurley is fully capable of embarrassing any defense on any given day, but a greedy Buccaneer run defense will do everything in its power to make sure Gurley earns every yard in his first prime-time game in front of a national audience.

 

2. Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Passing Attack vs. the St. Louis Pass Defense
The No. 1 overall pick of the most recent draft is having a solid rookie campaign, but a mediocre performance last week against a terrible Saints defense was far from impressive. Winston will be in for an even bigger challenge against the Rams tonight. Only four teams in the NFL have allowed fewer TD passes than the Rams. St. Louis also boasts a stellar pass rush, led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald. It should be no surprise that big pass plays against this defense have been few and far between.

 

The absence of star wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who may miss the rest of the season with an MCL sprain, will only serve to make the challenge more difficult. Winston will have to rely on Mike Evans to pick up the slack, as he did earlier this season. That said, Evans has been inconsistent of late, and the Rams' secondary will make him a huge priority as the Bucs' only viable receiving threat. Rams shutdown cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, should also return from a concussion, which will further strengthen that effort. St. Louis held Calvin Johnson to just one catch for 16 yards last week, so you have to like this defense's chances against Evans. Other than Gurley and Tavon Austin, the Rams' greatest asset is their pass defense. That side of the ball is fully capable of making life difficult for Jameis Winston and the Buccaneer passing game.

 

3. More Doug Martin!

Despite just 11 carries in last week’s loss to New Orleans, Doug Martin had 81 rushing yards and a score. Tampa Bay was widely criticized for underutilizing Martin in the loss, and it has been argued that the Bucs would have won the game if Martin had been more involved. Tampa Bay is not likely to make that mistake two weeks in a row, and like the Rams with Gurley, you can probably expect an expanded workload for Martin tonight.

 

While St. Louis will make a special effort to limit Martin’s production, the matchup still bodes well for the NFL’s second-leading rusher. The Rams rank 21st against the run, giving up 116 yards per game. Martin provides the Buccaneers with their best chance for success on offense tonight.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Rams head into tonight’s game with some momentum and a huge incentive to win what could be their final game in St. Louis. They also have a budding superstar running back in Todd Gurley, a capable playmaker in Tavon Austin, and a pass defense that should give Jameis Winston fits. What the Rams sorely lack is a competent and consistent passing game. Case Keenum is clearly not the answer at quarterback. Gurley is an amazing talent, but he cannot be expected to carry the Rams offense all by himself week in and week out.

 

The Buccaneers have issues of their own, and it is always difficult to play on the road, especially playing in an atmosphere where emotions are likely to run high for the home team. Regardless, Tampa Bay has the better team overall. The Rams will have trouble containing Doug Martin, Winston should outperform Keenum in spite of the difficult matchup, and emotion will only carry the Rams so far. If the Tampa Bay defense can limit big plays and hold Gurley to a reasonable stat line, the Buccaneers should come out on top in a fairly low-scoring affair.

 

Prediction: Buccaneers 20, Rams 14

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.

Teaser:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. St. Louis Rams Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-running-back-rankings-week-15
Body:

It’s fantasy semifinals week! At least it is for most leagues unless you play in one of those leagues that all the way through Week 17. By now you should have a pretty good feel for what to do with your lineup. But in those cases where it’s basically a coin toss, hopefully you will consider using Athlon's positional rankings to make an informed and educated decision.

 

Along those lines, Week 14 was another tough one for the running backs. Between more injuries to guys like Thomas Rawls (ankle, done for the season), T.J. Yeldon (sprained knee, likely out at least Week 15) and LeGarrette Blount (hip, also done for season), while typical scoring options like Devonta Freeman, DeMarco Murray and Latavius Murray failed to produce, it's fair to assume many a matchup was won or lost last week because of the RB position.

 

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

 

So what does Week 15 hold? Here are this week's running back rankings.

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Adrian PetersonMINvs. CHI
2David JohnsonARIat PHI
3LeSean McCoyBUFat WAS
4Doug MartinTBat STL (Thurs.)
5DeAngelo WilliamsPITvs. DEN
6Todd GurleySTLvs. TB (Thurs.)
7Lamar MillerMIAat SD
8Jeremy HillCINat SF
9Denard RobinsonJACvs. ATL
10Charcandrick West KCat BAL
11Devonta FreemanATLat JAC
12Tim HightowerNOvs. DET (Mon.)
13Latavius MurrayOAKvs. GB
14Eddie LacyGBat OAK
15Javorius AllenBALvs. KC
16Darren McFaddenDALvs. NYJ (Sat.)
17Bryce BrownSEAvs. CLE
18Jonathan StewartCARat NYG
19Shaun DraughnSFvs. CIN
20Ryan MatthewsPHIvs. ARI
21Chris IvoryNYJat DAL (Sat.)
22Frank GoreINDvs. HOU
23Matt JonesWASvs. BUF
24Matt ForteCHIat MIN
25Melvin GordonSDvs. MIA
26Jeremy LangfordCHIat MIN
27James StarksGBat OAK
28Spencer WareKCat BAL
29James WhiteNEvs. TEN
30Giovani BernardCINat SF
31Danny WoodheadSDvs. MIA
32Theo RiddickDETat NO (Mon.)
33Ronnie HillmanDENat PIT
34Isaiah CrowellCLEat SEA
35Fred JacksonSEAvs. CLE
36Charles SimsTBat STL (Thurs.)
37Duke JohnsonCLEat SEA
38Ameer AbdullahDETat NO (Mon.)
39DeMarco MurrayPHIvs. ARI
40C.J. AndersonDENat OAK
41C.J. SpillerNOvs. DET (Mon.)
42Antonio AndrewsTENat NE
43Brandon BoldenNEvs. TEN
44Darren SprolesPHIvs. ARI
45Bilal PowellNYJat DAL (Sat.)
46Chris PolkHOUat IND
47Joique BellDETat NO (Mon.)
48Shane VereenNYGvs. CAR
49Jonathan GrimesHOUat NE
50Rashad JenningsNYGvs. CAR

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Running Back Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-tight-end-rankings-week-15
Body:

Rob Gronkowski reclaimed his throne on top of the fantasy tight end mountain after a one-week absence and there he shall sit until he gets injured again. But who is No. 2 for Week 15?

 

Last week was filled with some strong performances by Jordan Reed, Gary Barnidge and Zach Miller, as well as Gronk, while usual top guys like Tyler Eifert (left early with a concussion, watch practice reports closely this week), Greg Olsen (missed some time with a knee injury, but was able to return and finish), and Travis Kelce (1 rec., 15 yds.) didn't offer their fantasy owner much support.

 

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

 

Shifting our focus to Week 15, and as you can see there are some surprising names in the top 10. Let’s check them out.

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Rob GronkowskiNEvs. TEN
2Jordan ReedWASvs. BUF
3Zach MillerCHIat MIN
4Greg OlsenCARat NYG
5Delanie WalkerTENat NE
6Ben WatsonNOvs. DET (Mon.)
7Antonio GatesSDvs. MIA
8Travis KelceKCat BAL
9Julius ThomasJACvs. ATL
10Gary BarnidgeCLEat SEA
11Eric EbronDETat NO (Mon.)
12Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBat STL (Thurs.)
13Zach ErtzPHIvs. ARI
14Heath MillerPITvs. DEN
15Jason WittenDALvs. NYJ (Sat.)
16Charles ClayBUFat WAS
17Richard RodgersGBat OAK
18Jacob TammeATLat JAC
19Crockett GillmoreBALvs. KC
20Will TyeNYGvs. CAR
21Kyle RudolphMINvs. CHI
22Jordan CameronMIAat SD
23Vernon DavisDENat OAK
24Blake BellSFvs. CIN
25Ryan GriffinHOUat IND
26Jared CookSTLvs. TB (Thurs.)
27Coby FleenerINDvs. HOU
28Clive WalfordOAKvs. GB
29Luke WillsonSEAvs. CLE
30Ladarius GreenSDvs. MIA

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Tight End Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-quarterback-rankings-week-15
Body:

Welcome to Week 15, also known as the fantasy playoffs. If you've made it through a brutal Week 14 with injuries galore, you're in good shape. While fantasy owners likely lost Andy Dalton for the rest of their fantasy season, plenty of quarterbacks with good matchups remain.

 

The No. 1 QB for the second straight week is none other than Cam Newton. Through less than three quarters in Week 14, Newton threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns. He got a rest because the team was leading by so much. In Week 15, he faces the Giants, who just allowed over 200 yards and a touchdown to a struggling Ryan Tannehill. Newton should put on a show — again. He has already set a new career high in TD passes with 28 (and counting), and over the last four games he has accounted for a total of 14 scores (13 passing, 1 rushing) and one turnover (INT).

 

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

 

Here are the rest of the Week 15 QB ranks:

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Quarterback Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-15
Body:

Week 14 was brutal for fantasy owners in terms of injuries to position players (two more running backs hit the IR... and counting). However, most people don't have to worry as much about injuries when selecting a defense/special teams (DST).

 

In Week 14, Jacksonville and Carolina both had over 20 points in standard formats in terms of defensive scoring (however, by pitching a shutout, Carolina might have earned fantasy owners bonus points). While Seattle struggled (seventh-highest fantasy points for DSTs in Week 14), they still have double-digit fantasy points in four of the last five games. The Seahawks return home, where they typically play better, and Cleveland running back Isaiah Crowell isn't going to score two touchdowns again, is he?

 

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

 

Here are the rest of the Week 15 DST rankings:

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-kicker-rankings-week-15
Body:

Picking a kicker to round out your fantasy lineup has been frustrating this season. In Week 14, who predicted that Chris Boswell and Randy Bullock would be the two kickers with the most fantasy points? Sigh.

 

This is the time of year, however, to start looking at the weather and how it may affect your kicker. Cairo Santos, for example, (and Josh Lambo) had to kick in terrible, rainy weather in Week 14. This obviously affected their respective performances. As always, try to pick a kicker a team that will likely win (or a team that can't get the ball into the end zone and has to settle for field goals).

 

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

 

Here are the Week 15 kicker rankings:

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Kicker Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-wide-receiver-rankings-week-15
Body:

After a week hiatus due to illness I am back with my fantasy wide receiver rankings as well as my standard flex rankings for Week 15. It is playoff time so unless you use my rankings for DFS, which is perfectly fine and appreciated, tools like these and start/sit decisions are not only tougher than usual, they are more important they have been all season.

 

Although I tend to stand by the "use who got you there" motto, I also think rational needs to come in to play too. Players such as Larry Fitzgerald or James Jones may have been solidified starters at midseason. Yet can you trust them now? What about over up-and-coming targets? Who knows, all I am saying is if there is a player who has been red hot and/or has a great matchup you have to consider him, even if you have a more established, yet struggling, starter. This is to win the championship after all right?

 

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

 

Good luck this week 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 socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-flex-rankings-week-15
Body:

Fantasy playoffs are here, for most it is the second round and there is never a more critical and useful time for flex rankings, especially with all of the injuries flying around the past few weeks.

 

If you snagged one of the newly empowered running backs you may have questions on whether to start them over a consistent, but hit-or-miss wide receiver. That is where my rankings come in. I am warning you though. These are very early and will be tweaked often from here until Sunday. Stay tuned and feel free to double check on Saturday or Sunday morning for any new ranking changes.

 

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

 

Most importantly, Get a WIN this weekend!

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Flex Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 08:00

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