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Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-michigan-state-spartans-preview-and-prediction-2015

Oregon and Michigan State meet on Saturday night in one of college football’s most anticipated non-conference matchups of 2015. The Ducks and Spartans played last season in Eugene, with Oregon rallying from a 24-18 halftime deficit to win 46-27. The scene shifts to East Lansing this year, and both teams will look a little different at kickoff on Saturday night.


Oregon lost quarterback Marcus Mariota to the NFL, and the Ducks have a few new faces stepping into the lineup on the defensive side. Michigan State’s offense returned mostly intact, starting with quarterback Connor Cook and a stout offensive line. The defense suffered the biggest losses, as coordinator Pat Narduzzi left to be the head coach at Pittsburgh, and the secondary lost standout cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond.


Related: Picks for Every Week 2 College Football Game


While there’s plenty of time for playoff positioning, this game is critical in bolstering the resume for both teams. A loss certainly doesn’t end either Oregon or Michigan State’s playoff hopes, but a win could be a huge addition to the resume or serve as a potential tiebreaker for rankings in early December.


This will be the sixth all-time matchup between Michigan State and Oregon. The Ducks have a 3-2 edge in the series.


Oregon at Michigan State


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Michigan State -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Vernon Adams vs. Michigan State’s Defense

Vernon Adams inherited big shoes to fill when he transferred to Oregon from Eastern Washington to replace Marcus Mariota. And the pressure on the senior only increased after a late arrival to Eugene after finishing his last class in August. While there’s a significant difference between FCS defenses and Michigan State’s unit, Adams showcased his talent in last week’s win over the Eagles. The senior completed 19 of 25 passes for 246 yards and two scores and added 94 yards on the ground. However, the real test begins on Saturday night. Adams is taking on a Michigan State defense that surrendered 365 passing yards in the opener against Western Michigan, but this unit has ranked among the best in the nation in recent years. The Spartans have one of the best defensive lines in college football, headlined by end Shilique Calhoun and rising star tackle Malik McDowell. Oregon hopes to counter the strength in the trenches with Adams’ mobility and utilizing the playmakers in space. If Adams and a loaded Ducks’ receiving corps finds its rhythm early, that’s a bad sign for a Michigan State secondary after it allowed five passing plays of 20 yards or more against Western Michigan last Friday. Will Adams pass his first test? Or will the Spartans control the line of scrimmage and prevent the senior from making big plays downfield? Keep an eye on how much Adams uses his mobility early.


2. Connor Cook vs. Oregon’s Secondary

Oregon will land its share of big plays in the passing game, but the Ducks won’t win in East Lansing if the defense doesn’t play better than it did last week against Eastern Washington. Although the Eagles have a dynamic offense, Oregon’s pass defense was gashed for 438 yards and five scores and allowed four plays of 30 yards or more. Will the Ducks tighten their coverage this week? Michigan State senior quarterback Connor Cook is one of the nation’s best, but he misfired a few times in last Friday’s win over Western Michigan. Cook completed 15 of 31 passes for 256 yards and two scores. Contributing to Cook’s misfires in the opener is a receiving corps that had to replace two of its top targets from last season. The Spartans aren’t short on playmakers, as Aaron Burbridge, DeAnthony Arnett and Macgarrett Kings Jr. and tight end Josiah Price are talented options for Cook. Considering Oregon’s struggles against the pass last week, will the Ducks try to generate more pressure on Cook? That’s another challenging task against one of the best offensive lines in college football. Oregon may have to bend and give up its share of yards, while limiting Michigan State’s points in the redzone.  


3. The Other Playmakers

Both teams are loaded with playmakers outside of the quarterback position. Who steps up on Saturday night? While Adams and Cook will carry the offenses, keep an eye on the x-factors in this game. Oregon running back Royce Freeman posted 180 yards and three scores against Eastern Washington last Saturday. However, running room could be limited against Michigan State’s rugged front seven. If Freeman has success early, that’s a good sign for Oregon’s offense. And the Ducks are loaded with options at receiver, including Bralon Addison (three catches in his return from ACL surgery), Dwayne Stanford and Byron Marshall. The Spartans had to replace running back Jeremy Langford this offseason, but the rushing attack hasn’t missed a beat. LJ Scott led the team with 77 yards in the opener, while Madre London and Gerald Holmes each recorded at least 50 yards. All of the attention will be on Cook and Adams, but the other playmakers will factor prominently into the outcome of this top 10 matchup.


Final Analysis


Both offenses – especially the quarterbacks – will land their share of big plays in this game. Oregon’s secondary is a major concern after last week’s performance against Eastern Washington, and Michigan State features a balanced attack to keep the Ducks from focusing too much on the pass. A road start in East Lansing is a huge opportunity for Adams to showcase his talent on the national stage. The senior is a dynamic playmaker and should have his share of big plays against a revamped Michigan State secondary. However, this will be the best defense he has played in his collegiate career. The Spartans’ advantage in the trenches shows in the second half, as the Michigan State’s offense establishes the run and keeps Oregon’s offense on the sidelines. And the depth on the defensive line slows Adams just enough for the Spartans to get revenge for last year’s loss.


Prediction: Michigan State 38, Oregon 30
Oregon Ducks vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ball-state-cardinals-vs-texas-am-aggies-preview-and-prediction-2015

When Ball State takes the field against Texas A&M on Saturday, the pairing will not quite be David vs. Goliath but an upset would be hard for SEC lovers and Aggie fans to comprehend.


Texas A&M opened the season with an impressive 38-17 win over Pac-12 powerhouse Arizona State. The Sun Devils had trouble moving the ball on offense being held to 291 yards. ASU also had trouble stopping the Aggies on defense allowing 425 yards. The victory was a big win for the Aggies and the SEC against the Pac-12.


Ball State slipped past Virginia Military Institute in Week 1 winning 48-36. The Cardinals got a school-record four touchdowns out of Darian Green with three on the ground and one in the air. In total, Green had 73 yards rushing and 74 yards receiving providing the bulk of the offense.


Ball State at Texas A&M


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

Broadcast:  ESPN3

Spread: Texas A&M -30


Three Things to Watch


1. Ball State’s passing attack vs. Texas A&M’s defense

When Ball State reviewed the tape on the Aggies’ dismantling of Arizona State, one can safely assume there were very few smiling faces coming out of the film session other than a few rah-rah guys hooting and hollering. New A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis has made an instant impact, which should frighten not only the Cardinals but also the rest of the SEC. The No. 15-ranked Sun Devils were held to 291 yards of offense with just 92 on the ground and 199 in the air.


Ball State quarterback Jack Milas had a career-game in Week 1 against VMI passing for 338 yards on 34-of-52 attempts. Mike Bercovici was sacked nine times against the Aggies. Milas will have to have another career day if an upset is in the making.


2. Texas A&M’s rushing offense vs. Ball State’s rush defense

Being nitpicky, A&M had 425 yards of total offense against a Top 25 non-conference opponent in the season opener. Hard to be too critical but there is always room for improvement starting with the run game. The Aggies had 178 yards on the ground but the stat total is deceiving. Tra Carson had a nice stat line: 96 yards rushing with one touchdown. Reality is it took 29 carries to get to 96 and he still did not top 100 yards rushing. What will happen against SEC defenses?


The other problem is Kyler Murray was the second-leading rusher with 69 yards on six carries. On the surface this is fine but ideally offensive coordinator Jake Spavital would like to protect his quarterbacks from taking shots down field. James white had two carries for 12 yards in a backup tailback role. Someone has to emerge as a reliable back for 10-12 carries a game throughout the season or the Aggies offense, although dynamic, will stay one-dimensional making life slightly easier for SEC defensive coordinators in 2015 when playing A&M.


3. A&M’s offense vs. A&M’s offense

Ball security was a problem for the Aggies giving the pigskin back to ASU three times. Kyle Allen got a second half benching after losing a fumble and tossing a pick before being put back into the game late in the second half. Holding onto the ball and making smart decisions within the offense should be a fixture of head coach Kevin Sumlin’s crew on Saturday.


Final Analysis


Let’s be honest, A&M now has two games to tinker with its lineup (Game 3 vs. Nevada), which will include alternating sophomore Allen and freshman Murray under center. The 12th Man might be excited to see what the freshman brings to the table but too much playing around with the offense could upend any balance or team support for Allen going forward or Murray going forward.


Aggie fans have to hope Sumlin picks one quarterback, letting said player gel with the first-team and then let the backup gel with whoever is left on the field in mop-up duty against the Cardinals and next week versus Nevada. The bigger emphasis should be on establishing a consistent running attack. Chavis will have the defense ready.


Prediction: Texas A&M 56, Ball State 17


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

Ball State Cardinals vs. Texas A&M Aggies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:25
Path: /college-football/arizona-wildcats-vs-nevada-wolf-pack-preview-and-prediction-2015

Arizona and Nevada isn't what one would call a rivalry, but there according to Wolf Pack running back Don Jackson, there is a level of "animosity."


Saturday's matchup in Reno, Nevada, is the third between the two teams since December 2012. Arizona won both by a combined eight points, holding off Nevada last year in Tucson, 35-28, in a competitive, if not forgettable meeting. The 2012 encounter in the New Mexico Bowl, however, was anything but forgettable.


Just ask Nevada defensive end Lenny Jones. Jones was there for Arizona's raucous rally, which included a 21-point tear in the first half, and 14 points in the final 1:44 to complete the comeback.


Jones said Sept. 12 had the proverbial red circle on Nevada's calendar after the last couple near-misses.


Arizona endured a sluggish start to 2015, escaping 42-32 against UTSA. A similarly ploddingly effort Saturday against a motivated Nevada bunch ensures the Wildcats a loss. The Wildcats are also dealing with enough injuries to prompt head coach Rich Rodriguez to call his roster "a M*A*S*H unit."


A loss to the Wolf Pack would have the Wildcats hurting even more.


Arizona at Nevada


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Nevada +11.5


Three Things to Watch


1. No Star Scooby

Arizona lost Heisman Trophy-contending linebacker Scooby Wright very early into Thursday's win over UTSA. An Arizona defense with no star Scoob was quite a bit more vulnerable than one with @TwoStarScoob. The Wildcats surrendered more than 500 yards to the Roadrunners and allowed UTSA repeated scores to remain within striking distance.


With Wright out of the lineup for roughly a month, Arizona must find a way to compensate. Saturday, that means finding a way to slow Nevada's dangerous rushing attack. Head coach Brian Polian maintained the Pistol formation predecessor Chris Ault ran. Last year, it produced a robust 205.5 rushing yards per game, and a remarkable 6 yards per carry in the Wolf Pack's Week 1 win over UC Davis.


2. Establish The Run Early

Perhaps more shocking than Arizona's defensive struggles against UTSA was the Wildcats' inability to establish a consistent run early, which contributed to the Roadrunners' second-quarter rally.


The Wildcats finished the night with 163 yards, but were mustering just 2.7 yards per carry through the first two quarters. Sophomore Nick Wilson's first-half fumble relegated him to the sidelines for a spell, and veteran Jared Baker saw more touches.


Arizona needs Wilson to pull a loaded Nevada front back and give quarterback Anu Solomon room to operate. That means break off gains early and holding onto the ball.


3. Starting (and Staying) Fast

Arizona jumped to a 14-0 lead against UTSA, but had opportunities to slam the door on the Roadrunners. Its inability to do so kept UTSA around for the duration of Week 1.


Nevada's not a team Arizona can afford to let hang around. The Wolf Pack are talented on both sides of the ball and able to take advantage of mistakes. And Arizona definitely cannot afford to test the odds by attempting another multiple-score rally.

With its effective run game and quality defensive front, Nevada can take the air out of the ball should it build a lead. That's exactly what it did the last time a Pac-12 team visited Reno, jumping to a two-score lead on Washington State early and going on to beat the Cougars 24-13 last September.


Final Analysis


Losing Wright dealt Arizona's defense a major blow that won't be easily remedied. Nevada has the scheme and personnel to exploit a Wildcats unit missing its leading tackler, so don't be surprised if the Wolf Pack rack up plenty of rushing yards.


Conversely, Arizona is well-equipped to attack a Nevada secondary that's still a question mark. The Wolf Pack have a solid front seven, particularly on the line with Jones, Rykeem Yates and Ian Seau. However, Nevada allowed UC Davis to complete 68 percent of its pass attempts Saturday.


Unless the front seven can generate consistent pressure on Solomon, the Arizona quarterback will rack up big yards. The Wildcat receiving corps poses several mismatches, and Solomon showed an improved ability to spread the ball around last week with completions to seven targets.


Solomon will again lead the Wildcats to a win, but like past installments in this series, it won't come without a difficult fight.


Prediction: Arizona 38, Nevada 31


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

Arizona Wildcats vs. Nevada Wolf Pack Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:20
Path: /pittsburgh-panthers-vs-akron-zips-preview-and-prediction-2015

The first week of the college football season was not necessarily positive for either the Pittsburgh Panthers or the Akron Zips.


While Pitt won, beating an FCS opponent, even a good one like Youngstown State, by only eight points wasn’t what the Panthers had in mind in way of style points. Worse, they lost running back James Conner, one of the best running backs in all of college football, for the season with a knee injury.


Akron, meanwhile, was routed by Oklahoma, 41-3. While few would have predicted a victory against the 19th-ranked Sooners, the Zips were just 8-of-25 through the air and probably kept the score down with 44 rushing attempts, including 11 of 14 plays in the fourth quarter when the game was decided.


Surprisingly, even though Akron is only 110 miles from Pittsburgh and both programs started playing football in the 1890s, the Panthers and Zips have only met three times prior to this game, most memorably Akron’s 21-10 victory last season at Heinz Field.


This is the first time the Zips have hosted Pitt.


Pittsburgh at Akron


Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Pitt -13, O/U 49


Three Things to Watch


1. How will Pitt handle the Conner absence?

To many onlookers, the Panthers went from being a dark horse in the Atlantic Coast Conference race to a question mark to even make a bowl game with the loss of Conner, who rushed for more than 1,700 yards and set a Pitt record with 26 rushing touchdowns last season.


Still, despite the injuries to Conner and his top backup, Chris James, freshman Qadree Ollison rushed for more than 200 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown run, and carried a Panthers offense that often struggled through the air to three second half touchdowns.


James, who rushed for more than 400 yards as Conner’s backup last season, is expected to return on Saturday, though Ollison will start after his impressive debut. Former four-star running back Jameel Poteat was moved from linebacker to the backfield this week by Pitt head coach Pat Nardozzi, though bruising freshman Darrin Hall will likely get playing time ahead of Poteat.


The thing that will likely help Pitt’s running game the most, however, is the return of wide receiver Tyler Boyd after a one-game suspension for an offseason DUI. Boyd caught 78 passes last year for a team that could not find a single receiver in their 45-37 victory against Youngstown State more than twice.


2. Who will play quarterback for the Zips?

The Akron signal callers were dreadful last Saturday. Former Pitt Panther Tra’Von Chapman started against Oklahoma and rushed for a team-high 48 yards but failed to complete any of his eight passes, while Kyle Pohl was just 6 for 17 with 88 passing yards.


Zips head coach Terry Bowden even hinted if this trend continues, third-stringer Thomas Woodson could take over.


The top Akron receiver is a familiar name for Pitt fans — Jerome Lane Jr., the son of the former Panthers basketball star best known for demolishing a backboard on a dunk in the late 1980s. He switched from safety to become Akron’s leading receiver against the Sooners, catching three passes, including one for 42 yards.


3. What will the attendance be?

Last year the Zips finished dead last in Division I FBS football attendance, drawing just 9,170 fans a game. In 2012 Akron drew just 9,200 fans a season, and in 2010 the figure hovered just above 10,000.


Nobody is expecting the Zips to outdraw Ohio State, but in theory if this continues at InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field, Akron could be kicked out of the ranks of FBS if they do not draw more than 15,000 fans per game this season.


It’s unlikely the Mid-American Conference would allow that to happen, but this game presents an opportunity for Pitt fans to have an impact much the same way Steelers fans often do on the road. Panthers fans have often been criticized for showing up in less-than-impressive numbers, so this game may actually present something of a welcome switch for both teams with more than 20,000 advance tickets sold.


Final analysis


Last year Akron running back Conor Hundley rushed for 148 yards on just 19 carries to lead the Zips to their upset of Pitt. He was limited to less than 40 yards against Oklahoma last week.


Many fans were upset the Pitt defense allowed 30 points against YSU (the Penguins scored one touchdown on an interception return). Judge the improvement of Nardozzi’s defense by what Hundley does in this game.


Prediction: Pitt 31, Akron 17


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

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Akron Zips Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/which-big-ten-must-win-week-2

Week 1 in college football usually doesn’t mean much when it comes to a team’s chances of ultimate success down the road (well, maybe for Stanford).


The Big Ten took some lumps, but also shined in the spotlight. It’s time to run down the this week's tilts to find out which non-conference games the league must wrap up and those it can afford to take the hit on losing.


Related: Big Ten Week 2 Predictions


Must Win


Oregon State vs. Michigan After Jim Harbaugh dropped his first game to the Utes, the conference needs the Killer Khakis to get that first win. Knocking off a 1-0 Oregon State team isn’t uber-impressive, but it’s a start.


Miami (Ohio) vs. Wisconsin Nobody should shame the Badgers too badly for losing to Alabama. That said, they need to rebound against a RedHawks squad that shouldn’t be too much trouble to even up their overall record.


Hawaii vs. Ohio State — Because the Buckeyes are the conference’s best team. That’s really all I’ve got.


South Alabama vs. Nebraska — The Hail Mary loss to the Cougars was rough, but like Michigan and Wisconsin, the Huskers need a 1-1 record after Week 2. This game gives the Big Red a chance to work on what didn’t go right versus BYU, too.


It Would Be Nice


Oregon vs. Michigan State — Maybe the East Lansing crowd will help, but Mark Dantonio is going to have to come up with a doozy of a game plan to stop the Ducks. If MSU topples Pac-12 royalty, it’ll definitely be cause for celebration.


Iowa vs. Iowa State — A yearly treat, the CyHawk trophy is on the line in a game that could be won or lost using a 20-sided die. A victory would give the Hawkeyes badly-needed momentum heading into their game versus Pittsburgh.


Eastern Illinois vs. Northwestern — With the upset over Stanford, the Big Ten West suddenly looks like a competitive division and the Wildcats need to keep it that way. Considering the game is in Evanston and the Panthers were knocked around by Western Illinois to the tune of 33-5, the Big Ten Upset Special may very well sit at 2-0.


Minnesota vs. Colorado State — Goldy and the Gophers let an opportunity to knock off the No. 2 team in the country slip away. They travel to Fort Collins with a chance for redemption and, like the Wildcats, to show that the West division isn’t a one or two-horse race.


Buffalo vs. Penn State — Because you, Penn State, have to atone for your quarterback getting sacked on a two man rush. That’s why.


Bowling Green vs. Maryland — The Terrapins knocked out Richmond in easy fashion, but they welcome a salty South Florida squad in Week 3. Bowling Green doesn't play patty cake, so knocking off the Falcons would do the Terps well.


More or Less


Washington State vs. Rutgers — Regardless of the game’s outcome, the headline will be about Mike Leach. It may as well be in the Scarlet Knights’ favor.


FIU vs. Indiana — If the Hoosiers can knock off a squad of Golden Panthers that took down UCF, the momentum would greatly help them going into their game with Western Kentucky. However, Indiana is not UCF.


Indiana State vs. Purdue — Because the Boilermakers have to play Virginia Tech next week and can’t they have something nice just once?


Western Illinois vs. Illinois — The Illini slaughtered Kent State after the game was originally postponed and have an upcoming game against North Carolina. If you want to use this as a tune-up game that no one saw, Illini, do your thing.


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

Which Big Ten Team Must Win in Week 2?
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:12
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-at-aggies-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2015

Being part of the opening Thursday night game of the FBS season gives you two extra days to think about the result. For North Carolina, that was not a good thing.


The Tar Heels not only lost that game to South Carolina 17-13, they also failed to punch in a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter after a first-and-goal at the Gamecocks' 9-yard line. Questions about head coach Larry Fedora’s decision-making in that sequence ensued and Tar Heel fans were left wondering what could have been.


It is time to move on and the Heels must put things together before conference play begins. UNC comes back to Chapel Hill for a date with nearby North Carolina A&T. The Aggies started their season in a big way, smashing Division II Shaw University 61-7.


North Carolina A&T at North Carolina


Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: N/A


Three Things To Watch


1. Emotion

After such a deflating loss, it will be interesting to see how motivated the Tar Heels are in week two. It would actually be surprising if, after stewing on that loss for nine days, UNC doesn’t come out of the tunnel with their hair on fire. The question is, will the same desire be there five minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes into the game? Playing an FCS team certainly won’t help.


2. How Elijah Hood is Used

After the game, one of the main criticisms of Fedora was his use of the sophomore running back. With 138 yards on just 13 carries, many (including David Pollack, the ESPN analyst covering the game) were wondering why Hood didn’t get more touches. During the entire set of downs following the first and goal at the nine, Hood was on the bench, prompting an entirely new set of questions. Will Fedora lean on Hood more? Or will he be more focused on…


3. Getting Quarterback Marquise Williams Back on Track

19 of 32 for 232 yards and a touchdown are not bad. Three picks are not good. Three picks inside the opposing 25-yard line, with two in the end zone, are downright awful. Of all the players on the North Carolina team, Williams is the main one that has to get his mojo back. He plays the most important position and is a much better player than he showed last Thursday.


Final Analysis


North Carolina A&T was a 9-3 team last year and should be a MEAC contender. They have Tarik Cohen, one of the best running backs on the FCS level. But if they see a North Carolina team that is angry and eager to prove that last week was a mistake, it will be a long day for the Aggies. If they see a Tar Heels team that is down in the dumps and still feeling sorry after failing to complete the deal against South Carolina, A&T might be able to hang around for a while. I’m guessing a mad UNC emerges at Kenan Stadium and wins easily.


Prediction:  North Carolina 41, North Carolina A&T 13


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

North Carolina A&T Aggies vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:10
Path: /overtime/steelers-coach-mike-tomlin-irate-headset-steelers-patriots-belichick

There was plenty of talk about headset malfunctions during the first half of the Patriots 28-21 win over the Steelers. During Mike Tomlin's post game press conference, he confirmed that he and his crew were listening to a radio broadcast instead of themselves.


"We were listening to the Patriots' radio broadcast for the majority of the first half on our headsets," Tomlin said. He went on to say they always have headset trouble whenever they visit the Patriots.



Just one game into the season and the Patriots are on the defense again. 

Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:09
Path: /college-football/iowa-hawkeyes-vs-iowa-state-cyclones-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones renew their annual in-state Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk rivalry series this weekend as Iowa visits Jack Trice Stadium looking to remove the perpetual Cyclone thorn in head coach Kirk Ferentz's side. The Hawkeyes also will be playing in honor of former Hawkeye defensive standout Tyler Sash, who was found dead in his Oskaloosa, Iowa, home earlier in the week from undetermined causes. 


Putting both of those factors in play for the Hawkeyes could mean Iowa State is in for a world of hurt defensively, where the Hawkeyes pounded Illinois State last week en route to a 31-14 victory. Head coach Paul Rhoads and Iowa State also are coming off a fairly easy opening win against the Redbirds' fellow MVFC and FCS powerhouse Northern Iowa. 


With the Hawkeyes still feeling the burn of last season's 20-17 home loss to the Cyclones, it could get hot in Ames on Saturday night.


Iowa holds a 40-22 advantage in the series, dating back to 1894.


Iowa at Iowa State


Kickoff: 4:15 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Iowa -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Is the Hawkeye defense for real?

As expected in Week 1, Iowa Senior DE Drew Ott came out of the blocks on fire, recording two tackles for a loss in the first few minutes of play and igniting an overpowering Hawkeye defensive effort against the overmatched Redbirds, who were held to just 231 yards of total offense en route to the Hawkeye pounding that was delivered. Most of the Redbirds' offensive production came with under 5:34 to play, after the Hawkeyes had removed their first team unit from the field. Most impressively, the Hawkeyes held the much vaunted Illinois State duo of QB Tre Roberson and RB Marshaun Coprich and their offense scoreless for most of the game. If they can duplicate that effort against the Cyclones, it could be a very long day for Iowa State senior QB Sam Richardson and his offense.


2. Is Sam Richardson a Manning Award contender or pretender?

Last season saw Cyclones senior QB Sam Richardson struggle to find a consistent rhythm to allow the Iowa State offense to get into winning form. In spite of those struggles, in 2014 Richardson threw for 2,669 yards while completing 56.3 percent of his pass attempts. Which is probably why he enters the 2015 season on the Manning Award Watch List. In their opening day win against Northern Iowa, Richardson started out a bit wobbly and it looked as though last season was still on his mind.  It stayed that way for the first half, with the Cyclones clinging to a 10-7 lead entering the break. But in the second half Richardson and his offense did find their stride and he completed the game 21-of-29 passing for 233 yards and no interceptions in the Cyclones' first opening game win at Jack Trice since 2012. He'll need to be on his game from the opening snap against the Hawkeyes, whose defensive unit looked to have the potential for greatness against the Redbirds.


3. Which Kirk Ferentz comes to coach?

A quarterback draw. A fake field goal attempt. A 51-yard screen pass with under 30 seconds to play in the first half. Those are the decisions of what looked to be a decidedly different version of Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz in Week 1. Gone were the overly conservative, run-out-the-clock-type calls that have given Iowa fans reason to call for his job in the last several years. And even when his decisions didn't necessarily work, as it didn't in the fake field goal attempt, the fans were downright giddy at the aggressiveness of the play calling from Ferentz. With the transition currently in process to a new University of Iowa President, Ferentz is all too aware that the seat beneath him remains hot. How he responds against the team that has gotten his number repeatedly in this series will surely signal the direction of the entire season ahead.


Final Analysis


Look for the Hawkeyes offense to come out with its foot firmly on the gas once again this week. And don't be surprised to see a bit of the "old riverboat gambler" Hawkeyes fans remember in Hayden Fry, who was Ferentz's long-time mentor, as Ferentz loosens the reins on offensive coordinator Greg Davis. Iowa State's defensive unit showed some promise against the Panthers last week, but not enough. Iowa's backfield 1-2 punch of Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels combined with the arm of QB C.J. Beathard and the overpowering Iowa offensive line will wear out the Cyclones defense one down at a time, just like it did against the Redbirds. 


Prediction: Iowa 34, Iowa State 7


— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a native Iowan currently living in Los Angeles. A University of Iowa graduate, Boleyn is a Hawkeye fanatic and former contributing writing for The Daily Iowan. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Iowa State Cyclones Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:05
Path: /college-football/toledo-rockets-vs-arkansas-razorbacks-preview-and-prediction-2015

When Arkansas takes the field at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock against Toledo on Saturday, the Rockets will technically be playing their first game of the season hoping to live up to the hype of being a preseason media pick to win the Mid-American Conference's West Division.


The Rockets' season opener last Thursday against Stony Brook was cut short due to inclement weather. Two quarters were in the books but the game was called after a three-hour delay with the Rockets up 16-7.


Arkansas on the other hand got a full four quarters in against UTEP, winning 48-13 behind a somewhat surprising dominant passing attack and a defense that held the Miners to 204 total yards, but was far from midseason form. Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen completed 14-of-18 passes for a career-high 308 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions and running back Alex Collins had an easy day, carrying 12 times for 127 yards with a touchdown.


Toledo head coach Matt Campbell will not be playing with his full assortment of offensive weapons after running back Kareem Hunt was suspended for the first two games of the season. The junior tailback was one of the nation’s leading rushers in 2014 with 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns, while averaging 8.0 yards per carry. With Hunt out, Damion Jones-Moore had an impressive start to his season running for 70 yards on five carries in just two quarters.


Toledo vs. Arkansas (Little Rock, Ark.)


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET

Network: SEC Alternate

Line: Arkansas -21.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Arkansas’ run defense vs. Toledo’s rushing attack

Rockets starting quarterback Phillip Ely got very little work in under center last year, appearing in two games and completing 41-of-68 passes for 541 yards with four scores and a pick. Toledo’s top two receivers are back, Alonzo Russell and Corey Jones, but Ely struggled early against Stony Brook, connecting on just 8-of-17 for 81 yards with an interception.


If Ely cannot complete a few early passes against the Arkansas defense, this puts the weight of the offense on Jones-Moore to produce yards in Hunt's absence. Expect Arkansas to put seven or eight in the box, forcing Ely to beat the Razorbacks with his arm.


2. Toledo’s pass defense vs. Arkansas’ passing attack

New Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos has legitimate weapons on the outside to attack opposing secondaries with. Even though Allen has been known more as a game manager than a gunslinger who can beat you with his arm, it's hard to not be impressed by what he was able to do last week against UTEP. If Enos and company can produce similar results through the air against Toledo, it will make the Razorbacks' running that much more dangerous moving forward.


3. Will the real Arkansas defense please stand up?

The Hogs looked like a team playing their first game of the season last week against UTEP at different times. There were some missed assignments and a lot of missed tackles. On the plus side, the Arkansas defense, and special teams unit, forced three Miners turnovers and recorded 11 tackles for a loss with one sack.


Can Arkansas’ front seven gel a little more before getting a potentially bigger test in Week 3 against Texas Tech? Finding a consistent pass rush off the edges and especially with the front four without committing a player from the back seven, will be a challenge all season until this unit figures it out.


Final Analysis


The Razorbacks are loaded at key positions but still need to work second-team players into the mix so the staff knows who they can count on going into SEC action and which players may need a little more seasoning before being key contributors. Arkansas will mix the pass with the run but will look to get the inexperienced players in late in the third quarter and throughout the fourth if possible.


Toledo may makes some noise in the MAC this year, or even give Iowa State a run for its money next weekend at home with Hunt back, but that means nothing for Saturday's contest. The Rockets are heading into a buzz saw against a Hogs team that should have little trouble moving to 2-0.


Prediction: Arkansas 41, Toledo 10


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

Toledo Rockets vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/hawaii-rainbow-warriors-vs-ohio-state-buckeyes-preview-and-prediction-2015

Fresh off an impressive 42-24 road victory against Virginia Tech, the Ohio State Buckeyes return to the Horseshoe to take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii also began the 2015 season on a positive note, defeating Colorado 28-20 in Aloha Stadium. This game marks the first time Hawaii and Ohio State have ever played.


Ohio State welcomes back four players who served an opening game suspension in defensive end Joey Bosa and wide receivers/H-Backs Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, and Corey Smith. The return of these four players, combined with the debut of QB-turned-H-Back Braxton Miller, has Ohio State fans excited for what may lie ahead for the remainder of the 2015 season, with a squad operating at full strength.


Hawaii is in the fourth year under Norm Chow. Chow has built a reputation throughout college football as an outstanding offensive coordinator, with previous stops at Brigham Young and USC. Hawaii quarterback Max Wittek started his collegiate career with the Trojans, and will be targeting top receivers Marcus Kemp and Quinton Pedroza, as the Warriors will try and move the ball against the Buckeyes' defense.


Hawaii at Ohio State


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Ohio State -38


Three Things To Watch:


1. The Return Of Joey Bosa

Bosa is arguably the top defensive prospect in college football. After being suspended for the season opener at Virginia Tech, what kind of an impact will Bosa be able to make in his season debut? Will Hawaii double-team Bosa in an effort to allow Wittek time to throw?


2. The Ohio State Quarterback Position

Cardale Jones was named the starter at Virginia Tech, but J.T. Barrett also saw playing time late in the contest against the Hokies. How soon will head coach Urban Meyer give Barrett playing time versus the Warriors?


3. Hawaii's Defensive Strategy

Virginia Tech tried to disrupt Ohio State as much as possible, yet surrendered nearly 600 yards of offense in the loss. Will Hawaii try to copy what worked well for the Hokies, or will the Warriors go in a completely different direction?


Final Analysis


Ohio State is the defending national champion, and is coming off a short week with the game at Virginia Tech. Even with the short week, Hawaii is traveling across the mainland to face arguably the top team in college football. The oddsmakers have Hawaii as a decided underdog, and it is challenging to see how Hawaii will be able to keep pace with the Buckeyes on either side of the ball.


Prediction: Ohio State 63, Hawaii 10


— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-vs-vanderbilt-commodores-preview-and-prediction-2015

Georgia and Vanderbilt meet for the 76th time Saturday in Nashville. This also will serve as the first conference game for the SEC this season. The Bulldogs were impressive in their opener against Louisiana-Monroe, rushing for 243 yards and racking up 51 points before a lightning delay caused the game to be called off early. 


New quarterback Greyson Lambert made his first start against the Warhawks. Lambert threw for 141 yards and wasn't overly impressive, but he didn't do anything to play himself out of the starting spot either. The real story, as expected, was in the running game. Nick Chubb and Keith Marshall each ran for a pair of touchdowns. 


Vanderbilt wasn't as exciting to watch in week one. The Commodores fell 14-12 to Western Kentucky at home. The performance wasn't as abysmal as last year's 30-point home blowout loss to Temple, but Vandy still has a ton of work to do on offense. Their defense appears to be improved with head coach Derek Mason calling the shots. 


Hopefully for the Commodores, there has been a dramatic improvement offensively this week in practice because they will be in serious trouble if they can't put points on the board against Georgia. The 'Dawgs are explosive on offense. Georgia leads the series all-time against Vanderbilt 54-19-2 but the Commodores won the last meeting in Nashville.


Georgia at Vanderbilt


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Georgia -20.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Vanderbilt's offense muster enough points to keep up?

The biggest storyline for Vandy last season was their inability to get anything going on offense. So far, they haven't had much luck this year either. Georgia is going to put points up. Even with the Commodores' defense playing well thus far it will be an immense challenge for them to stop the 'Dawgs' running attack. To keep pace in the game, Vanderbilt must get the ball to Ralph Webb and rely on their offensive line to keep the ball away from Georgia. If the Commodores can score a couple early touchdowns it will boost their confidence against a tough opponent. 


2. Georgia's offensive line vs. Vanderbilt's defensive line

The Bulldogs possess one of the SEC's most experienced units up front. Aside from Arkansas, they probably have the most talented offensive line in the conference. But while Vanderbilt has a lot of problems with most of its position groups, the defensive line is solid. Caleb Azubike had three tackles in the loss to the Hilltoppers and Jay Woods, Nifae Lealao and Adam Butler are all as talented as any of the SEC's more well-known defensive linemen. If the Commodores have any edge in this game it will be on the line of scrimmage. 


3. How many yards will Chubb rush for?

Speaking of Georgia's offensive line, it must be comforting to know if you miss a block you have arguably the best running back in the country to make moves behind you. Chubb has rushed for over 100 yards in nine consecutive games. That is an astounding feat. It is no secret that Georgia may be one-dimensional on offense, but with Chubb in the backfield it is going to be hard for anyone in the SEC East to mount a lot of success on defense. The Commodores are improved defensively, without question, but can they stop Chubb?


Final Analysis


I'm a true believer that the Commodores are going to improve as the year goes along. They won't be as bad in year two under Mason, but this just isn't a good time of the year for them to get a shot at Georgia. The 'Dawgs are too good at running the football. Add in the fact that Vanderbilt still hasn't shown any signs of life on offense and they are going up against one of the SEC's most lethal defenses and you get the recipe for a blowout in Nashville.


Prediction: Georgia 49, Vanderbilt 7


— 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.

Georgia Bulldogs vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:50
Path: /college-football/liberty-flames-vs-west-virginia-mountaineers-preview-and-prediction-2015

The West Virginia Mountaineers enter Saturday with confidence after shutting out Georgia Southern a week before. The Liberty Flames will enter Morgantown with a victory over Delaware State and ranked No. 13 in the FCS Coaches Poll. Both offenses showed well last weekend with Liberty accumulating 417 total yards, while the Mountaineers plied up 544.


This will only be the second meeting between the two schools. The Mountaineers edged the Flames 33-20 to open the 2009 season.


Liberty at West Virginia

Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ROOT Sports Pittsburgh
Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Another FCS Top 25 vs. Big 12 Matchup
Week one saw two FCS Top 25 schools face Big 12 opponents in season openers. Current FCS No. 10 South Dakota State upset Kansas in Lawrence 41-38 while No. 4 Sam Houston State racked up 637 total yards in a losing effort to Texas Tech. Liberty will enter Morgantown Saturday afternoon ranked 13th in the FCS Coaches Poll, looking to improve upon that FCS record against the Big 12.


2. Will West Virginia Continue its Defensive Dominance?

The Mountaineers held Georgia Southern to just 224 total yards en route to a 44-0 shutout victory. The West Virginia defense forced five turnovers and only allowed 14 first downs the entire game.


While Liberty poses a different type of offensive threat the Mountaineer secondary is one of the strongest in the country. But Liberty senior quarterback Josh Woodrum is a four-year starter on pace to set every school passing record. The Flames also return junior running back D.J. Abnar, who rushed for 1,289 yards with 15 touchdowns last season.


The Mountaineers have never lost to a FCS opponent and has not lost a non-conference game at home since 2011. West Virginia also has a chance to make history it can keep Liberty off the scoreboard. Another shutout would mark the first time in history a Mountaineer team has opened the season with two such performances.

3. Can the Liberty Defense Hold Against the Mountaineers?

The most immediate threat for the Liberty defense is the Mountaineers' ability to get separation in coverage. Wide receivers Jovon Durante and Shelton Gibson are both extremely fast. Liberty had problems last season against the pass and although the Flames have experience at cornerback, they have yet to prove themselves against the talent level they will face Saturday.


Liberty has had to replace multiple starters on the line. But last week against Delaware State the Flames only allowed 42 yards rushing on 25 attempts, although two of those carries went for touchdowns. The Mountaineers accumulated 185 yards on the ground in their opener against Georgia Southern, doing so on 40 attempts (4.6 ypc). If Liberty's defensive line holds up against the run early, West Virginia may take to the air more.

Final Analysis


Liberty runs a very similar defense to that of Georgia Southern. With that said the Mountaineers should be able to take advantage of some mismatches offensively. In particular, the speed of Durante and Gibson should cause problems for the Flames.


Liberty does return seven starters on offense, including their record-setting quarterback and strong backfield. While Liberty should not be considered a pushover neither was Georgia Southern and that game ended in a blowout.


Liberty should be able to stay with West Virginia for at least a short period of time. However, the Mountaineer secondary and linebacker corps doesn’t bend and definitely doesn’t break. Outside speed at the wide receiver position will force the Flames to respect the pass, which will eventually open up the run game for Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood.


Prediction: West Virginia 45, Liberty 21


— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

Liberty Flames vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC
Path: /college-football/looks-deceiving-latest-ap-top-25-poll

By now you've heard and likely seen that the SEC put ten teams into the latest AP Top 25. As always, the SEC haters are going to hate. This time, however, there may be some legitimate questions surrounding not only the SEC, but a few other teams who rose, fell or didn't budge in the polls.


For starters, just like last season, Texas A&M got a huge bump by beating a ranked opponent. The Aggies — in just one week — went from being unranked to No. 16. That by itself is fine, except for the fact that the team the Aggies defeated, Arizona State, tumbled completely out of the polls.


This leaves us with a couple of questions. For one, is Texas A&M's jump a result of them being so good? If so, why would you punish Arizona State for losing to a team good enough to leapfrog nine spots into the Top 25? Or was Arizona State so bad, we just couldn't keep them in the Top 25? If that was the case, why was Texas A&M's win over them good enough to make such a jump?


Then you look at Arizona — sitting at No. 22 — the same spot they sat in one week earlier. They beat Texas San Antonio in a 42-32 game that was closer than the final score shows. I get that you don't want to punish a team for winning. That wouldn't make any sense. But that's what happened to TCU, after winning a tough game on the road against a tough Minnesota team. They won and got leapfrogged by Alabama.


Mississippi State earned their way into the Top 25 this week on the strength of a "quality" win over Southern Miss. In the meantime, Northwestern took down a Stanford team that some thought could contend for the Pac-12 title — keeping them out of the end zone and holding the previously 21st-ranked Cardinal to just 240 yards of offense. Northwestern remains unranked, while Stanford tumbled out of the polls, just like fellow Pac-12 member Arizona State.


BYU got a tough road win over Nebraska. They remain unranked, while Tennessee moved up two spots in the poll off of their 59-30 home win over Bowling Green.


Remember how we didn't want to punish teams when they won? Well, tell that to Georgia and Florida State, who each fell a spot after blowout wins over a couple of Group of Five schools. LSU, who sits right below them, didn't budge, regardless of the fact that they didn't even play. Maybe Georgia and Florida State would have been better off cancelling their games like LSU did. And who pushed Georgia and Florida State down the polls? Why, Notre Dame, on the back of their win over Texas. The Longhorns received three total votes in the preseason poll.


Back to the SEC, everyone must have thought Missouri's home win over Southeast Missouri State was pretty impressive, as they jumped Arizona, who as I previously mentioned also won.


Moving forward, this thing is set up pretty well for the SEC and maybe not quite as nice for the Pac-12. Four currently ranked SEC teams can now look forward to meeting a ranked Texas A&M team starting in two weeks, giving one of the teams a quality win in each matchup. In the meantime, Oregon, UCLA and USC are each staring down a schedule with two fewer ranked opponents than it had a week ago, which will eventually mean two fewer quality wins if they walk away from those games victorious.


It's a good thing we now have an unbiased, independent College Football Playoff committee who can see through all of this nonsense and use their own eyes, hearts and minds to rank the teams more accurately. Because of them, the AP Poll means nothing, because surely the committee members will ignore the little numbers next to each team's name on the scoreboard when they watch the games and weigh wins and losses.


Surely that'll be the case — right?


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

Looks Can be DeSECiving in the Latest AP Top 25
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/washington-state-cougars-vs-rutgers-scarlet-knights-preview-and-prediction-2015

Rutgers dominated their FCS opponent in Week 1, to the tune of 63-13. Washington State on the other hand? Well, that program has seen better days. The Cougars suffered a crushing 24-17 defeat, after being outscored 24-7 in the second half in arguably the worst loss in program history. 


Washington State head coach Mike Leach attempted to fuel the fire for this week's game when he criticized New Jersey football by saying "they have good players, but bad football" among other erroneous comments from the oft-outspoken coach. Awfully surprising of Leach to criticize bad football, considering his team just lost at home to an FCS program. 


The Scarlet Knights have announced their starting quarterback, sophomore Chris Laviano gets the nod over LSU transfer Hayden Rettig after going 4-of-4 for 138 yards and two scores. Laviano was suspended for the first half of the season opener for a team rules violation, but played in the second half after relieving Rettig who was 9-of-11 for 110 yards and a score. Laviano was named the starter on Monday during a press conference by head coach Kyle Flood. 


Leach and the Cougars are facing a crucial point in their young season after a mind-blowing upset to Portland State got their 2015 season off to a horrendous start. Quarterback Luke Falk threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns in an impressive offensive performance, but it was the Washington State defense that let the game slip through their fingers in the second half, getting outscored 24-7 after a 10-0 halftime lead. 


This Week 2 matchup is a rematch of the 41-38 Rutgers victory at CenturyLink Field from last season that saw receiver Leonte Carroo take a 78-yard catch to the end zone on Rutgers' very first play from scrimmage. 


Washington State at Rutgers


Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. EST (Saturday)

TV Station: ESPNU 

Odds: Rutgers -3, O/U 62.5 


Three Things To Watch For


1. Chris Laviano 

Laviano was cited for his "body of work" as the deciding factor in why Kyle Flood named him the starting quarterback moving forward, but has thrown all of 15 passes in his entire career, including his 4-for-4 performance last week. While team standouts Paul James and Leonte Carroo have publicly supported Hayden Rettig's progression during the offseason and last season as the scout team quarterback, Laviano has apparently proven to coaches that it's safer to go with what you know you have versus discovering what you could have in Rettig. Laviano is inexperienced and hasn't played a full game for the team yet, so this game is a good test for the unheralded signal caller. Expect Laviano to be backed by a potent rushing attack and solid defensive play that will prevent him from having to take over the game. Laviano is at his best when he's asked to manage the clock and not force throws. If he tries to make big plays early, it could get ugly in a hurry. 


2. Leonte Carroo 

Carroo had early success against Washington State last season, and looks to add to his riches against the Cougars on Saturday. Washington State only faced 12 passes against Portland State, but are expecting a heavy dose of Caroo early and often when the two teams face off. Carroo is looking to break team records as a receiver this season, and a big game against a team licking their chops is the perfect opportunity to do so. 


3. Hayden Rettig

It's not often a backup quarterback is mentioned as part of the keys to an upcoming game, but Rettig is in a position he arguably shouldn't be in: holding a clipboard. Regardless of Laviano's obvious connection to Flood, pure talent heavily favors Rettig as the better quarterback, who was without Carroo during his first half performance against Norfolk State last week, in which he earned a touchdown-saving tackle on a fumble recovery by the Spartans. Rettig is a good quarterback, with solid accuracy who can move the ball in big ways into the endzone. If Laviano struggles early, I'd expect Flood to go against his word and put Rettig in, in hopes he can move the ball down the field. 


Final Analysis


It's only Week 2, but both coaches are in positions to be fighting for their jobs. Leach has greatly under-performed as the head of the Cougars program, and Flood has been caught in the middle of an ugly and turbulent offseason involving player arrests, suspensions, and dismissals. Both Flood and Leach are going to coach every game as if it could be their last, because in fact it could be. This could be a high scoring game altogether, but expect Rutgers to handle Washington State without much resistance. 


Prediction: Rutgers 34, Washington State 24


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

Washington State Cougars vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:35
Path: /college-football/bowling-green-falcons-vs-maryland-terrapins-preview-and-prediction-2015

Moving forward, Maryland opponents would be wise to refrain from kicking to punt return man/cornerback William Likely. The junior tallied a Big Ten-record 233 punt return yards and a touchdown to help lead the Terrapins to a 50-21 win over the Spiders last Saturday.


Hailing from the Mid-American Conference (MAC), Bowling Green makes the trek to College Park, Md., in search of its first win of the season. The Falcons dropped a 59-30 contest to Tennessee last week in Nashville. Despite the loss, Bowling Green's quick-strike offense was able to generate 557 total yards against an SEC defense.


Saturday’s meeting will be the first between the two schools.


Bowling Green at Maryland


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Television: ESPNU

Spread: Maryland -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Bowling Green slow Maryland’s running game?

Likely wasn’t the only Terrapin to bust out Saturday afternoon. Maryland’s ground game, considered to be this year’s team’s strength on offense, was effective. Running back Brandon Ross paved the way, leading all Terrapins with 150 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries. Fellow backs Ty Johnson and Wes Brown ran for 83 and 74 yards, respectively, and both found the end zone once. On the other side, Bowling Green's defense failed miserably against the run, as Tennessee's Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara combined for 267 yards and five touchdowns. Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs added 89 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown of his own, with 205 yards passing and two scores. Maryland’s trio of running backs could be in store for a big afternoon.


2. The rest of the Maryland secondary

Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers is a member of the Art Briles coaching tree. Babers cut his teeth at Baylor in the late 2000s before taking the head coaching job at Eastern Illinois, where he coached current New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Babers’ offense typically nets 85-plus plays per game and can be overwhelming. Against Tennessee, Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson threw 49 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns. Maryland’s secondary will be tested early and often. Johnson hooked up with wide receiver Gehrig Dieter seven times for 133 yards and a touchdown. While the Terrapins did not allow a passing score against Richmond last week, the defense gave up 220 yards through the air. That could be problematic against Bowling Green’s pass-happy offense.


3. Perry Hills’ progression

Last Saturday’s start was Hills’ first in nearly three seasons, so it’s difficult to be too critical of his performance. But, simply put, he underwhelmed. The redshirt junior tossed two touchdowns and passed for 138 yards while going 12-of-21 on his attempts. But he was off on several passes that could have resulted in interceptions against stiffer competition. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall gave Hills the majority of the snaps under center, so his starting job for appears to be safe for the foreseeable future. If the Terrapins are to compete in the talent-heavy Big Ten East, they’re going to need solid, consistent play from their quarterback. It’s too early to panic, but fans should expect a more-polished performance from Hills on Saturday.


Final Analysis


Bowling Green is a good team that will give Maryland’s defense all it can handle. The Falcons hung with Tennessee before faltering, in large part, due to their lack of depth. This isn’t a game for Maryland to take lightly, as the Terrapins could find themselves on the wrong end if Babers’ Falcons jump out to a quick start, forcing Maryland to play catch up.


Prediction: Maryland 30, Bowling Green 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

Bowling Green Falcons vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /tulane-green-wave-vs-georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-preview-and-prediction-2015

Tulane and Georgia Tech will play once again in week two for the second straight season in Atlanta.  Georgia Tech defeated Alcorn State 69-6 last Thursday in the Yellow Jackets' season opener. Georgia Tech totaled 553 total yards against the Braves with 476 yards coming on 52 rushing attempts.


Tulane began their 2015 season with another ACC team in Duke. Although some thought the Blue Devils could be looking at an upset, Coach Cutcliffe had his team ready as they defeated the Green Wave handily 37-7. 


Last year, Tulane lead the Yellow Jackets at one point 21-14 before giving up 24 unanswered points. Tulane never recovered and lost 38-21.


Tulane at Georgia Tech


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Georgia Tech -29.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The new running back duo.

Most Yellow Jackets fans knew someone had to step in the running back if Georgia Tech had any chance of repeating last year’s success. Last week, most of the nation got a look at who that might be. Freshman Marcus Marshall and senior transfer Patrick Skov provided the Jackets offense with five touchdowns between the two of them. Marshall had eight carries for 184 yards and two touchdowns while Skov rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries and three touchdowns.


2. Plenty of carries to go around.

Speaking of running backs, the Yellow Jackets used 13 different ball carriers to rack up 476 yards and nine touchdowns last week. Even though Marshall and Skov got the bulk of the carries, head coach Paul Johnson will use every last asset that he has to win. This will allow more guys the opportunity to step up and show they can carry this offense as well.


3. Defensive improvements throughout the season.

The Jackets only gave up 272 total yards and forced 3 turnovers last week in game one. Last year, the Green Wave put up 21 points on the Yellow Jackets in less than a quarter and a half. Defensive improvements are the key to Georgia Tech getting back to the ACC championship game and that means getting better every week.


Final Analysis


Last year’s contest was a back and forth scoring fest in the first half before Georgia Tech stomped on the gas and ran away with the game. I don’t think we see a repeat of that this year. The Yellow Jackets won’t take Tulane for granted and will take care of business early. I thought the Green Wave offense would have a little more pep to it but only scoring seven points last week is probably not the best indicator for the season just yet. Tulane will come out with a little more fire this week but it still won’t be enough. I will look for Justin Thomas to get a little more involved this week with the Yellow Jackets offense as he only threw four passes and rushed twice. Georgia Tech has Notre Dame next week so they will need all cylinders running for that road trip.


Prediction: Georgia Tech 47, Tulane 7


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

— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails - See more at:
— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails - See more at:
Tulane Green Wave vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/houston-cougars-vs-louisville-cardinals-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Louisville Cardinals (0-1) went to Atlanta and sent a very clear message to the rest of the college football world. We are coming for you.


Louisville, in a mistake filled game, pushed Auburn to its very limits and almost pulled off what would have been one of the biggest upsets of the opening weekend. After a horrendous first half filled with miscue after miscue, true freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson led the young Cardinals in the second half, outscoring the Auburn Tigers 24-14 and almost pulling off the improbable comeback.


This week the Cardinals will head home to host the Houston Cougars (1-0) who are coming off a great opening win against Tennessee Tech at home. The Cougars dominated their opening game behind a more than solid performance from starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one in the win. 


This game promises to be a high-powered offensive showcase where both teams' potent attacks will be on full display. Louisville will try to slow Houston down and make the Cougars run the football. Georgia transfer Josh Harvey-Clemons looks to lead the Louisville defense and build on his two interceptions against Auburn.


Houston at Louisville


Kickoff: 11 a.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Louisville -12.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Lamar Jackson

Remember this name, because he is probably going to be the starting quarterback for Louisville for the remainder of the season. The true freshman did make the expected mistakes in his debut, going 9-of-20 for 100 yards and gaining 106 yards rushing on 16 attempts. However, he showed many signs of brilliance and versatility, and kept the Auburn defense at bay all second half — almost leading the young Cardinals to victory. He is a young player with tons of talent and seemingly no fear. He will get better each week with each start, and that may begin with Houston.


2. The Cougars Can Score

Houston has traditionally been an offensive powerhouse, but in recent years the Cougars seemed to have lost their offensive way. New head coach Tom Herman, who had been the offensive coordinator for national champion Ohio State, has come in and in Week 1 helped to restore the high-flying offense that Cougar fans have grown to love. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. went 21-28 for 275 yards and rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns in just three quarters. He will look to build on that Saturday.


3. Louisville's Defense is Good

Louisville's defense did an excellent job containing Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson, limiting him to 137 yards passing and picking him off three times. The Tigers' 327 yards of offense was one of the lowest totals in the Gus Malzahn era. If the defense can put together another performance similar to this or better, then Louisville should be pretty good this weekend.


Final Analysis


This will not be a walk in the park for Louisville, but more like a walk in the woods. There is enough firepower on the offensive side of the ball for Houston that this young Cardinals team could be tripped up again if they do not correct the little offensive mistakes that crippled them against Auburn. However, I see no reason that the Cardinals can't correct those mistakes. Jackson looks like the real deal at quarterback and could potentially be the ACC's next breakout star. The Cougars are good, but I don't think they have the firepower nor the offensive talent to keep up with the Cardinals. Expect a breakout performance from Jackson in front of the home crowd, now that he has been given the starting nod.


Prediction: Louisville 31, Houston 17


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

Houston Cougars vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/oregon-state-beavers-vs-michigan-wolverines-preview-and-prediction-2015

It was an ugly opening weekend for both Michigan and Oregon State, but with two very different outcomes. Oregon State toppled a far lesser opponent in Weber State 26-7 in the home opener, but was only able to accumulate 391 yards of total offense and had just six points in the first half. Not the kind of dominant performance one would expect against an FCS foe.


The Wolverines' opening game against Utah looked eerily familiar to how the last four seasons went under Brady Hoke. Lack of a rushing attack, missed tackles and turnovers were yet again the deciding factors that doomed Michigan in crunch time, leading to a 0-1 start in the Jim Harbaugh era.


Which team will bounce back with a more complete game in Week 2?


Oregon State at Michigan

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Michigan -15.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Ground and Pound
Both offenses center primarily around running the football, and who does that best on Saturday is likely to come away with a victory. Against a stout Utah front, Michigan struggled mightily to find running room and averaged a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. The Beavers do not possess the beef that Utah has in the middle, but running the football has been a lingering issue for years with Michigan, and last week did not provide any glimpses of hope. Getting a healthy Drake Johnson back would help immensely. For Oregon State, there are no concerns. Seth Collins and Storm Barrs-Woods form a dynamic backfield duo and could give the Wolverines fits with the read-option, which has plagued Michigan defenses in the past.


2. Seth Collins now the man at quarterback
Reading the tea leaves (aka the Week 2 depth chart), Collins is the guy moving forward for the Beavers. Unlike last week, there are no “ORs” listed between Collins and backup quarterback Marcus McMaryion as head coach Gary Andersen stated there will not be a two-quarterback system for the foreseeable future. Once Collins shook off the opening game jitters, the true freshman looked electric, throwing two second-half touchdowns that included a perfectly placed 44-yarder to receiver Jordan Villamin. Collins also led the team in rushing with 152 yards and dazzled the crowd with a hurdle over a defender. How he fares against stiffer competition should give us a more accurate barometer of how good Collins can be in his first season.


3. How long of a leash for Jake Rudock?
Coaches and teammates alike reiterated that confidence remains high in the graduate transfer quarterback following his three costly interceptions against Utah. Rudock was criticized at times during his career at Iowa, drawing ire from the fans for not taking enough shots downfield and playing too conservatively. Well, we saw what happened when Rudock takes said chances – interceptions and inaccuracy on the long ball. If Rudock has another poor start, does Harbaugh have a quick hook and turn to junior Shane Morris?


Final Analysis


While the freshman quarterback for the Beavers did show promise in the opening week, this is a much taller task going on the road to the Big House. The Wolverines will not be threatened by Collins’ arm and will likely load up the box with eight or nine defenders to stop the run. On the flip side, Rudock will make just enough plays with his arm, and more importantly, not turn the ball over three times as he did against the Utes. The game will be tight going into the fourth quarter, but a late score will seal it for Michigan.


Prediction: Michigan 20, Oregon State 10


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

Oregon State Beavers vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/appalachian-state-mountaineers-vs-clemson-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

There were plenty of positive signs in Clemson's 49-10 win over Wofford. Deshaun Watson, back from December ACL surgery, was on target and looked healthy. The offensive line pushed around the smaller Terriers in both the run game and in pass protection. The defensive front was stingy against Wofford's option attack. And freshmen contributed in many ways.


The only real negative was the injury to wide receiver Mike Williams. Fortunately, Dabo Swinney and company seem to have some answers to fill the void left by Williams.


The Tigers will now face off with Appalachian State. The Mountaineers piled up 663 yards of total offense in a 49-0 destruction of Howard. App State returns nearly everyone from last year’s team that went 7-5 in its first FBS season.


Appalachian State at Clemson


Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Clemson -17.5


Three Things To Watch


1. The Freshman Receivers

It is true that Charone Peake and Germone Hopper will play a considerable amount of time. But Clemson fans are extremely excited to see how freshmen Ray-Ray McCloud and Deon Cain develop as the season progresses. The two combined for 11 catches and 116 yards last week. Neither has the size and strength of the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Williams, with McCloud being tiny (5-10, 180) in comparison. But both of the newcomers have plenty of speed to complement star receiver Artavis Scott.


2. Offensive Line, Part Two

This unit performed very well against Wofford but the competition should be a little tougher in this game. The Mountaineers were No. 45 in the nation in rushing defense last year and held an obviously over-matched Howard squad to just 36 yards on the ground. Appalachian State does not have an ACC-caliber defensive front, but it does have solid veteran defenders that will provide a stiffer challenge than Wofford.


3. Pass Coverage... Finally

Because Wofford runs the triple option, the Clemson defensive backs were rarely tested in pass coverage. That will change this week. While the Mountaineers like to run more than they throw, they do have a viable aerial attack. Quarterback Taylor Lamb passed for 2,381 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. We saw a lot of Jayron Kearse, T.J. Green, and the other Clemson defensive backs last week in run support. This week we’ll see them defending passes as well.


Final Analysis


This coming Thursday night, Clemson opens the ACC schedule with a game at Louisville. In terms of being prepared for the Cardinals, playing Appalachian State is perfect. The Mountaineers will provide more push-back than Wofford could and it will force Clemson to work a little harder. However, with a big game on the road just five days later, it could be easy to overlook a team that is in its second FBS season. Clemson has to be wary of falling into that trap against a very experienced opponent. I think that there will be some sluggishness early on, perhaps even the entire first half. But Watson, Scott, and all that athleticism on both sides of the ball will be too much for the Mountaineers.


Prediction: Clemson 38, Appalachian State 17


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

Appalachian State Mountaineers vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:10
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-virginia-cavaliers-preview-and-prediction-2015

When Notre Dame travels to Charlottesville, Va., to play Virginia on Saturday, it will be the program’s first game played in the Old Dominion State. Both teams met at Giants Stadium in New Rutherford, N.J., in 1989 to start the season, with Notre Dame beating Virginia 36-13.


Notre Dame’s opening victory over Texas was overshadowed by a season-ending ACL injury to top running back Tarean Folston, who led the Fighting Irish in rushing last season. The loss didn’t hinder Notre Dame, as it went on to win 38-3 behind quarterback Malik Zaire’s career day in which he went 19-of-22 passing for 313 yards and three touchdowns.


Last week, Virginia traveled to the West Coast to play UCLA in the Rose Bowl. The Cavaliers kicked three first-half field goals to trail 17-9 heading into the third quarter, but managed to score just one more time – a fourth-quarter touchdown – before ultimately falling 34-16.


Notre Dame at Virginia


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

Television: ABC

Spread: Notre Dame -12.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Malik Zaire vs. the Virginia secondary

People knew that Zaire would eventually evolve into an elite quarterback, but many probably weren’t expecting him to post the numbers he did against Texas last Saturday. Zaire shredded the Longhorns defense for 313 yards and two touchdowns, misfiring on just three passes in the game. The Cavaliers' secondary could have déjà vu this Saturday, as UCLA freshman phenom quarterback Josh Rosen, in his collegiate debut, torched Virginia for 351 yards and three touchdowns. If the unit doesn’t shore up things in its coverage schemes and execution, the Cavs' defensive backfield could be in for another long day.


2. Can Virginia establish a ground game?

If there’s one positive takeaway for UVA fans from last Saturday’s game, it’s that the offense produced a 100-yard receiver. That player was starting running back Taquan Mizzell, who caught eight passes for 100 yards. His efforts on the ground, however, were less impressive. Running behind a patchwork offensive line, Mizzell rushed for 45 yards on 16 carries for a meager 2.8 yards per carry. The team’s rushing struggles aren’t anything new, as Virginia had just 1,653 yards on the ground as a team in 2014. Only Wake Forest (439 yards) fared worse in the ACC. The Cavaliers must establish an effective ground game if they’re to keep up with a fast-scoring Notre Dame offense.   


3. Notre Dame’s revamped backfield

It's not going to be easy for the Irish to replace Folston. He led the team in rushing yards (889) and was second with six rushing touchdowns in 2014. Converted wide receiver C.J. Prosise replaced Folston in the opener and finished with 98 yards on 20 carries. Freshmen running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams also will see an increased workload. Adams scored two rushing touchdowns and ran for 49 yards on five carries against Texas while Williams picked up 24 yards on seven carries. While Texas’ defense had its issues against the run, allowing 214 rushing yards to Notre Dame, Virginia’s fared marginally better against UCLA, as the Bruins had 152 yards on the ground.


Final Analysis

The atmosphere in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon is sure to be electric as Virginia welcomes one of college football’s most popular programs and one that always brings a crowd of supporters. But not even an amplified Scott Stadium will be enough to give the Cavaliers an advantage. Notre Dame, even without Folston, is an incredibly talented team that should walk away victorious from its first visit to the Old Dominion State.


Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Virginia 17


— 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

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Virginia Cavaliers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/usf-bulls-vs-florida-state-seminoles-preview-and-prediction-2015

South Florida and Florida State don’t have a long, deep-seeded rivalry, partially because the Bulls didn’t become an FBS program until 2000. In the schools' first meeting in 2009, the Bulls knocked off No. 18 Florida State in Tallahassee. Florida State got payback three years later with a 30-17 victory in Tampa.


While the teams have not met very often, the players know each other very well, many coming from the same areas in the Sunshine State. The Bulls players have something to prove when they take the four-hour drive up the Gulf Coast to the state capital.


Florida State is coming off a 59-16 win over Texas State while the Bulls defeated Florida A&M 51-3 in their season opener.


South Florida at Florida State


Kickoff: 11:30 a.m. ET  (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Florida State -28


Three Things to Watch


1. Florida State Pass Rush

South Florida didn’t have a great passing offense in 2014, but the quarterback combination of Quinton Flowers and Steven Bench combined for 20-of-26 passing for 281 yards with three touchdowns against one interception in week one. They were sacked just once by Florida A&M as well. The Bulls' line, though, is pretty inexperienced and presents a nice match up for the Seminoles. The FSU front seven would like to bring some serious pressure this week and finish it off with a few sacks.


2. USF’s Rushing Offense

Marlon Mack was a 1,000-yard rusher for South Florida in 2014 and he started this season with 131 yards against the Rattlers. The young Bulls offensive line will have its work cut out for it against a very athletic Seminoles defense. The only hope South Florida has is if Mack is able to run the ball effectively. Florida State gave up 132 yards on the ground to Texas State, but half of that total came on quarterback carries. Both Flowers and Bench can carry the ball, but stopping Mack is a top priority for the Noles.


3. Everett Golson and His Receivers

Golson was named ACC player of the week and with good reason. One of the most impressive things the quarterback did on Saturday night was spread the ball around. Travis Rudolph had the most catches with four. There were 25 completions between Golson and Sean Maguire and 13 different Seminoles caught a pass. Golson seems pretty comfortable with his targets and spreading things around again will do wonders for everyone’s confidence.

Related: College Football's Top 15 Quarterback Debuts of 2015


Final Analysis


Florida State’s offense probably won’t have quite the same success it had against Texas State, but it is hard to see USF slowing down the Seminoles that much. The formula should be similar: run Dalvin Cook and Mario Pender a lot, which will open things up for Golson in the passing game. When South Florida has the ball, the Seminoles' defense should pose all sorts of problems for USF's offensive line. The Noles should be able to handle Mack and the running game and will look to get a more consistent pass rush this week. Simply put, FSU should have little trouble with the Bulls.


Prediction: Florida State 45, South Florida 13


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

South Florida Bulls vs. Florida State Seminoles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/middle-tennessee-blue-raiders-vs-alabama-crimson-tide-preview-and-prediction-2015

Middle Tennessee travels to Tuscaloosa on Saturday for its third meeting with the Crimson Tide. Alabama currently leads the series 2-0, with its last win over the Blue Raiders coming in 2005.


Alabama rolls into this one a week after dispatching Wisconsin 35-17 before a crowd of 64,000 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Crimson Tide's vaunted defensive line held Wisconsin’s running game to just 40 yards while running back Derrick Henry ran through and over the Badgers en route to a 147-yard, three-touchdown performance.


Middle Tennessee is coming off a 70-14 win against Jackson State behind more than 600 yards of offense. The Blue Raiders also limited the Tigers to just 33 yards rushing.


Middle Tennessee at Alabama


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Alabama -34.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Will Cooper Bateman or other ‘Bama QBs see significant playing time?

For a while Saturday night, it looked like the question regarding ‘Bama’s highly publicized quarterback battle was finally answered. Fifth-year senior Jake Coker led the first team on Alabama’s opening series and finished the night 15-of-21 passing for 213 yards and a touchdown, before taking an early exit. The Mobile, Ala., native grew more confident as the game progressed and showcased his strong arm, which at times, was too strong, as he had a few overthrows to receivers downfield. Coker showed his ability to make the difficult NFL throws and he was generous with the ball, hitting six different receivers. With his team in control 28-10 in the third quarter, head coach Nick Saban turned to Cooper Bateman to close out the game. The redshirt sophomore hit on seven of his eight pass attempts for 51 yards. With what figures to be a relatively easy game for the Tide, look for Saban to give Bateman, or other quarterbacks, the opportunity for game experience.  


2. Will kicking issues be fixed?

If you were one of the many people who tuned into ESPN’s "College GameDay" last Saturday morning, then you likely saw the feel-good segment on Poland-born Alabama kicker Adam Griffith, who was adopted by a Georgia family in 2006. The former Polish orphan battled a back injury last season and had a shaky performance to start this one. Griffith, who missed seven field goals last season, missed two (from 39 and 44 yards) Saturday night against Wisconsin. Sophomore punter and 2014 Ray Guy Award finalist, JK Scott, battled a minor case of the yips as well, averaging just 36.8 yards on four punts. In 2014, his season average was 48 yards on 55 punts. Look for Griffith and Scott to fix whatever issues plagued them against Wisconsin.


3. MTSU QB Brent Stockstill vs. Alabama’s secondary

It’s no secret that the Crimson Tide in recent history has been susceptible to the vertical passing game. The Tide secondary limited Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave to 228 yards and two touchdowns, as Alabama corners Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cyrus Jones combined for five tackles and three pass deflections. Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill, son of head coach Rick Stockstill, went 23-of-29 for 336 yards with four touchdown tosses in his debut against Jackson State and will look to keep it rolling against Alabama. While Middle Tennessee’s talent level doesn’t match Wisconsin’s, ‘Bama’s secondary should get a decent test against Stockstill, just one week before hosting Ole Miss.


Final Analysis


In theory, this is your quintessential trap game. The Blue Raiders get the Crimson Tide one week after a primetime, top-25 matchup, and a week before SEC West foe Ole Miss comes to town. But this is a Saban-coached team and he is among the game’s best at keeping his teams focused. Coker is likely to see another early exit as Bateman should get plenty of live reps in front of a sold-out crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium. 


Prediction: Alabama 49, Middle Tennessee 17


— 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

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 08:55
Path: /college-football/miami-redhawks-vs-wisconsin-badgers-preview-prediction-2015

Paul Chryst returns to Madison for his first game as the head coach of Wisconsin. Unfortunately for Chryst and the Badgers, it's on the heels of a 35-17 loss to Alabama, where the Badgers rushed for an embarrassing 40 yards on 21 carries. 


After surrendering 502 yards of total offense to the Crimson Tide, the Badgers have shifted their focus to the RedHawks of Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks head into Madison fresh off a 26-7 victory that showed efficiency in the secondary and a solid running game. Some would consider this a mop-up game after earning their true battle scars in Week 1, but that's not necessarily the case. Last season, Miami was only down 14-10 to Michigan late in the second quarter before putrid turnovers shifted momentum right into the hands of the Wolverines in what ended up as a blowout loss. 


The offensive line and running game were nothing short of embarrassing against Alabama, which is the annual strength of the Badgers. Considering last season tailback Melvin Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards and finished second in the Heisman voting, the fact that it's now a combined weakness is a huge problem for the Badgers in their attempt to return to the Big Ten Championship Game. 


Corey Clement, who some considered a preseason Heisman favorite, rushed for just 16 yards on eight carries, the lowest of his career, who came into the Week 1 contest averaging 7.6 YPC in his career. It's going to be important to get Clement involved early and often to get the rust off his shoulders from the Alabama game. Expect to see his carries pile up early against Miami, and expect him to do some damage on his home field. 


Miami (Ohio) at Wisconsin 


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Odds: Wisconsin -32, O/U 52


Three Things To Watch For


1. Joel Stave

Stave was fairly impressive against Alabama, totaling 228 yards on 26-of-39 passing against a wildly talented Crimson Tide defense. Though his offensive line wasn't giving up the type of sacks Penn State's offensive line did against Temple, there were times he was put in position to make bad throws, and he survived them. The strength of the RedHawks defense is their secondary, so it will be interesting to see how Stave manages the passing game with the uncertainty of an efficient run game to keep the offense balanced. 


2. Corey Clement 

As mentioned before, Clement's Week 1 performance was damning in more ways than one. It certainly put a damper on any Heisman hopes he had heading into the season, totaling just 15 yards. Clement is a tremendous talent out of the backfield, and this being just his second game as a true starter, expect to see a completely different player than the one you saw under the national spotlight last week. Clement has phenomenal breakaway speed and great vision; both attributes are expected to be on full display during the Badgers' home opener this Saturday. 


3. The Wisconsin offensive line 

Wisconsin's offensive line was just flat-out bad last week. It didn't help that they were going up against one of the nation's most dominating run defenses, and a future Top-10 pick in A'Shawn Robinson. The good news for this young and fairly inexperienced unit is that the road ahead is much less daunting now that Alabama is in their rear-view mirror. Look for Chryst to test his offensive line early with a heavy package of run players and play-action. Nothing creates a strong offensive line like putting them directly in the line of fire. Miami has a weak front-seven, and it's expected that Chryst will attack that weakness early and often. 


Final Analysis


The Badgers are 32-point favorites in this game, and it shouldn't be close at the end. While I don't expect Miami to get shutout and absolutely dominated, I do see Wisconsin running away, literally, with this game during the second half. It wouldn't be surprising to see a close game heading into half time, but it also wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see an absolute rout by the Badgers, a team looking to improve quickly after a tough defeat to open their season — one that they hope ends in a championship. 


Prediction: Wisconsin 56, Miami 14 


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

Miami RedHawks vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview & Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 08:50
Path: /college-football/buffalo-bulls-vs-penn-state-nittany-lions-preview-and-prediction-2015

Penn State got off on the wrong foot in the 2015 season opener last week. On the road in Philadelphia against the Temple Owls, Penn State’s offensive line showed as many holes, if not more, than anybody wanted to see after the 2014 season. Penn State allowed quarterback Christian Hackenberg to be sacked 10 times by the feisty Owls defense. This week Penn State hopes a little home cooking does an offensive line well as the Nittany Lions look to even their record at 1-1 in Beaver Stadium against the visiting Buffalo Bulls of the MAC.


Buffalo at Penn State


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Penn State -21


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Penn State’s offensive line start plugging any holes?

No offensive line in the nation may have had as poor a season debut as Penn State’s. Giving up 10 sacks is embarrassing, and there is simply no other way to say it. Offensive line coach Herb Hand has his work cut out for him.


There are a couple of things to hang a hat on for Penn State though. Buffalo’s defense is not on the same level as Temple’s perhaps underrated defensive unit. Penn State may have a bit more of a physical edge against the Bulls compared to last week’s mismatch with Temple. Penn State’s offensive line actually showed some promise early on last week before everything started to crumble. Keeping the confidence going will be key for the coaching staff and team captains.


2. Will Jacob Martinez make any big plays on special teams for the Bulls?

Penn State may have some concerns to focus on, but the special teams coverage team should be aware of Buffalo’s return man Jacob Martinez. Martinez returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown last week for the Bulls in a blowout win over Albany. For his performance, Martinez earned MAC Special Teams Player of the Week in the East division.


3. Will Penn State mix things up on offense?

Penn State started off well on offense last week against Temple, but showed an inability to make adjustments once Temple started shutting down Penn State’s playbook. Offensive coordinator John Donovan will be looking to silence some critics he has had to face in the aftermath of last week’s performance (and a lousy 2014 season). Jet sweeps may have slightly more success this week against the Bulls, but Penn State’s offense cannot consistently rely on plays that put much trust in the offensive line to keep defenders from collapsing behind the line of scrimmage until proven otherwise.


Final Analysis


This should be a good opportunity for Penn State to bounce back and get in the win column for the first time this season.  Penn State’s offensive line clearly will be a work in progress, but we will see just how much can be improved from Week 1 to Week 2. Hackenberg needs to have time to breath if this offense is going to hit its stride. It should get better this week.


Prediction: Penn State 30, Buffalo 13


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

Buffalo Bulls vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 08:45
Path: /fresno-state-bulldogs-vs-ole-miss-rebels-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Ole Miss Rebels eased into 2015 with a dominant 76-3 victory over UT Martin in Week 1, and will host Fresno State Saturday in the final tune-up ahead of the Sept. 19 SEC opener against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.


While the Rebels looked great last weekend, Fresno should be a much tougher opponent. An annual contender in the Mountain West, the Bulldogs have represented the West in each of the first two conference championship games and have been to bowl games in seven of the last eight seasons.


Fresno State at Ole Miss


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Ole Miss -29


Three Things to Watch


1. Is the Ole Miss Offense Really This Good?

Ole Miss has been good on offense in recent seasons, but by scoring 76 points and rolling up 662 points in Week 1, there is some evidence that the Rebels could be great offensively in 2015.


Starting quarterback Chad Kelly looked even better than most thought he would. The junior threw for 211 yards, which included 56- and 57-yard touchdown passes, and he also used his legs for a 20-yard score on the ground. Eleven Rebels caught passes from Kelly and backups Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. On the ground, eight Ole Miss ball carriers combined to gain 338 rushing yards and five TDs on 36 carries (9.4 ypc). And that came without All-SEC left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who sat out against the Skyhawks.


Yes, it’s just one game, and yes, it came against a mediocre FCS opponent, but there were some very encouraging signs.


2. Can Fresno State Move the Football?
Fresno State has a rich history of offensive success, and the Bulldogs have been very potent since Tim DeRuyter took over as head coach prior to the 2012 season. In three full years with offensive coordinator David Schramm calling plays, Fresno has averaged 470.7 yards per game.


However, there was a sharp drop-off in 2014 without Derek Carr at quarterback. The Bulldogs gained just 406 yards per game (and only 314 against FBS non-conference opponents), and only 224 passing yards on average last season, which was a drop of 171 yards per game from 2013 with Carr. Worse, the Bulldogs saw their completion percentage drop from 68.1 percent to 56.4 from 2013 to '14 and sacks rose from 11 to an eye-popping 40 last year.


Last week against Abilene Christian, the Bulldogs had 442 yards, nearly split down the middle with 225 rushing and 217 passing. However, Bulldog quarterbacks completed just 22-of-45 passing attempts and tossed two interceptions.


If Fresno falls behind early, and is forced to go to the air, that spells big trouble. Ole Miss allowed just 290 yards of total offense last week, with 174 coming via the pass and safety Trae Elston intercepted a third quarter pass and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown.


3. What Will Robert Nkemdiche Do Next?
Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is already widely considered one of the best defensive players in college football. Nkemdiche often excels despite regularly dealing with double and triple teams from opposing offenses in an attempt to neutralize his disruptive presence as both a run stopper and pass rusher. But the 6-foot-4, 298-pound future first-round NFL Draft pick made bigger waves last week with a 31-yard touchdown reception and a blocked field goal.


Final Analysis


Because Fresno State struggles passing, it is very likely that the Bulldogs will try to dominate time of possession in the first half with the running game. Expect Marteze Waller, who ran for 1,368 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014 and had 154 yards on 22 attempts last week, to be featured early and often in an attempt to control the tempo of the game.


However, because Ole Miss has one of the stingiest defenses in the nation, the Bulldogs will have trouble consistently moving the chains. Therefore, as the game wears on and the Rebels wear down their opponent, expect Fresno State to reluctantly resort to its below average passing attack — and the Landsharks will feast in the second half.


Prediction: Ole Miss 38, Fresno State 10


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

Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Ole Miss Rebels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 11, 2015 - 08:40