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All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, NFC, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-vs-dallas-cowboys-preview-and-prediction-2015
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The good news is that Dez Bryant will return this week for the Dallas Cowboys. The bad news is it's against a hostile, desperate Seattle Seahawks team that badly needs a win.

 

The Dallas Cowboys (2-4) are sliding right now and need a bolt of energy. Enter Bryant. However, he does not re-enter at 100 percent, and that could be the difference between Dallas' fifth consecutive loss or its first victory in five games. The Cowboys' wide receiver has been missing since Week 1, and the offense has struggled to replace him. The Cowboys' offense has been pedestrian at best, first under the direction of I-am-just-happy-to-be-here Brandon Weeden, and now under the leadership of I-play-for-WHO-now Matt Cassel. Neither quarterback has done much holding the reins of the Cowboys' offense.

 

Weeden averaged only 169 yards passing over three ;games. Cassel came in and played slightly better, throwing for 227 yards, but unlike Weeden, Cassel threw three interceptions in his lone start so far. There is tremendous and growing concerns that neither of these quarterbacks can get the job done until Tony Romo returns, regardless of Bryant's presence and playmaking ability. In addition, the Cowboys have now lost Joseph Randle to "personal problems" and injury, leaving Darren McFadden, Christine Michael and Lucky Whitehead to carry the load in the backfield.

 

The Seattle Seahawks (3-4) have been "About That Life Boss" through three quarters. Now if they could just not surrender late touchdowns and field goals in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks, in all four losses this season, walked into the final 15 minutes with a lead and left the game with a loss. The vaunted defense headlined by the Legion of Boom secondary has& surrendered an average of nearly 29 points per game in the four losses. The challenge for the defense may not be as much about its own breakdowns as much as it is offensive ineptness. The Seattle offense is simply not consistently clicking. When it does, when everything is rolling, Seattle is still Seattle. 

 

Seattle at Dallas

 

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: FOX

Spread: Seattle   -5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Dez Bryant, X-Factor

Dez Bryant's return is more than just bringing back Dallas' No. 1 wide receiver. There is a real x-factor to his return. If Bryant is 100 percent healthy, which no one thinks that he is, his presence on the field can open up opportunities for other receivers, as well as the running backs. Bryant does not actually have to be the All-Pro receiver he has been. He just has to make Seattle BELIEVE he is a healthy All-Pro wide receiver. If he's nothing more than a possession pass catcher instead of a big-play threat, that could still be enough to open up the running game late, which could seal the deal for the Cowboys.

 

2. The Legion Must Go Boom!

The Legion of Boom has not been booming very much this season. In each of the four losses, the Seahawks have surrendered big play after big play in the fourth quarter. It is these late-game collapses that have everyone in Seattle concerned. The focus of the problem has bee on the oppositions success throwing the ball, but that may not be the real story.The real story may be the execution of the Seattle offense and its inability to control the clock. The real story also may be that Marshawn Lynch has not been able to truly get going as of yet, which has greatly impacted the ball control aspect of the Seahawks' offense that has been such a staple the past two seasons, as Seattle is used to running the football down its opponents' throats. Russell Wilson has seen more than share of carries, but the Seahawks need to get Lynch going to get back their offensive AND defensive confidence.

 

3. Jimmy Want Mo!

The way to open up the Seahawks' offense is very simple: get the ball to Jimmy Graham. Graham dominated in New Orleans, and Seattle was so impressed that they traded away Pro Bowl center Max Unger. It stands to reason, that if you are going to make a major organizational move like that, then you would utilize the weapon you have invested so much in. Graham is one of the hardest pass catchers to cover in the league and one that defenses must respect and pay attention to. If offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell can find a way to get Graham more involved, the attention he will draw from the defense should only help make things easier on Lynch, Fred Jackson, Thomas Rawls and even Wilson in the running game.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Cowboys are getting Dez Bryant back. That will help this offense, especially if Bryant is truly healthy. However, with no Tony Romo, the Cowboys may still struggle with the big plays that Bryant contributes best. If the Cowboys cannot take advantage of Bryant's big-play ability, then they have zero shot to win this game. And against a big-play defense like Seattle, that window is very small. Look for Seattle to make an example out of the Cowboys, especially with last season's loss at CenturyLink Field ;still fresh on the Seahawks' minds.

 

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Cowboys 13

 

— 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 Rivals.com, and ESPN Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.

Teaser:
Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, November 1, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/week-8-fantasy-football-injury-updates-ben-roethlisberger-josh-mccown-antonio-gates-marcus-mariota
Body:

While there are four teams on bye in Week 8, it’s still a surprisingly light week for injuries, which is good news for fantasy owners. Hopefully it's not the calm before the storm, however! In looking at quarterbacks and tight ends, it seems like most of these are clear-cut, with the exception of Antonio Gates again. However, at least this week the Chargers play at 1 p.m. ET.

 

Not included on this list is Travis Kelce, who is probable and put in full practices, so he'll be active on Sunday (early game, in London, for him). Be sure to also check out the latest on the injured running backs and wide receivers (group 1, group 2) too.

 

Note: All games are at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday unless otherwise noted.

 

Teams on bye: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Washington

 

Josh McCown, QB, Cleveland Browns vs Arizona Cardinals

Questionable – Shoulder
After a four-game streak of at least 200 yards and two touchdowns, McCown had a down week last Sunday with 270 yards, no touchdowns, but also no interceptions. However, the biggest takeaway from the game was that he hurt his shoulder. It appears that he will get the start and play on Sunday, but Johnny Manziel may also see some snaps. The matchup against the Cardinals is a tough one, as they have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. They have allowed touchdowns, but don't count on a banged-up McCown to help lead your fantasy team to victory this week. He's barely on the QB2 radar.

 

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Probable – Knee

After injuring his knee in Week 3, Roethlisberger is set to return this week against Cincinnati. He can be inserted into lineups as a QB1 and owners of Antonio Brown can breathe a sigh of relief. While Roethlisberger may be limited a bit in terms of mobility, he should be able to play well enough to reward fantasy owners that have held onto him over the past five weeks.

 

Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

Questionable – Knee

Dealing with a sprained MCL, Gates sat out last week. He still hasn’t been able to practice, so it’s highly likely he misses a second straight game. Ladarius Green will fill in as a TE1 in a great matchup. If Gates plays, he maintains TE1 status, but don’t count on him making an appearance. The typical timeline for a MCL injury is a few weeks, so fantasy owners should prepare to be without Gates in Week 8. See if he practices next week for his Week 9 status.

 

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

Doubtful – Shoulder

Seferian-Jenkins hasn't played in a game since Week 2, however, he did return to practice this week. With Vincent Jackson (knee) likely out, it was possible that Seferian-Jenkins could play today. The doubtful tag doesn’t offer a lot of hope though. However, ASJ will likely be back next week, so if he is available in your league, and you can afford the roster spot, he is worth adding.

 

Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Out – Knee

After missing Week 7, Mariota has already been ruled out for today’s game. Zach Mettenberger wasn't amazing in his start, but he was serviceable with 187 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The matchup against Houston is a great one, as the Texans have given up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. They've allowed at least one touchdown pass each week. Mettenberger is a QB2.

 

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

Teaser:
Week 8 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Ben Roethlisberger, Josh McCown, Antonio Gates, Marcus Mariota
Post date: Sunday, November 1, 2015 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-week-8-injury-updates-adrian-peterson-james-starks-carlos-hyde-joseph-randle
Body:

Somehow, in the middle of the football season, the Week 8 running back injury report is the shortest that it has been in a while, not that fantasy owners are complaining. Charcandrick West and Melvin Gordon aren't on this injury report because even though they have a probable tag, they practiced in full and will play on Sunday. Be sure to check out the wide receiver (part 1, part 2) and the quarterback/tight end injury report as well.

 

Note: All games are at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday unless otherwise noted.

 

Teams on bye: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Washington

 

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears

Probable – Hip

Peterson did miss practice Wednesday and Thursday, but these were likely rest days for the veteran. He practiced on Friday and the probable tag means he's nearly a sure thing for Sunday. He's a top-3 running back for a great matchup against Chicago. He only has two 100-yard rushing games this year and only three touchdowns. However, he should find the end zone against a terrible Chicago defense.

 

Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

Out – Foot

With a bye looming in Week 10, it is possible Hyde sits not just this week, but next week as well. He has a stress fracture in his foot, and the only way for that to heal is to rest. He did not practice this week, and was clearly playing through pain in Week 7. He only had 40 rushing yards, and for his own health, the 49ers will likely try to rest him as much as possible. Reggie Bush and Mike Davis will fill in for Hyde, but neither is an earth-shattering fantasy option. Bush is a RB3 with slightly more value in PPR leagues; Davis is a desperation fill-in.

 

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Questionable – Hip

After rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown in Week 6 before the bye, Starks now shows up on the injury report. It was looking like Starks might start over Eddie Lacy, but now it's unclear if Starks even plays. It's good news for Lacy owners, as Lacy becomes a RB2, and Starks should remain on fantasy benches. Between the tough matchup, the Sunday night game and the hip injury, Starks is too much of a risk this week.

 

Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Out – Back

With everything going on surrounding Randle, it's not surprising that he is ruled out for Week 8. Whether it is the oblique injury that is keeping him out or not, the bottom line is Darren McFadden has jumped ahead of him on the depth chart. At this point, Randle is worth holding onto until more information (regarding a possible suspension) is revealed. McFadden isn't exactly the picture of health, so Randle may have value in the future. For Week 8, consider McFadden a RB2.

 

Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs (9:30 a.m. ET, London)

Probable – Ankle

Bell will be active on Sunday, but at this point, the Lions’ backfield is a mess. Bell had five touches in Week 7 – three carries for 21 yards and two receptions for 14 yards. So, while he's active, he's not worth starting in most fantasy leagues. Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are also in the mix and they all detract from each other's value. Kansas City's run defense is stronger than its pass defense, so Bell is a desperation play only.

 

Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets at Oakland Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Out – Ankle

Powell being out again just opens the door for Chris Ivory to have a great game against a mediocre Raiders rushing defense with no one taking carries from him. While the Jets did activate Stevan Ridley, it is unlikely that he will see the field this week. Keep Ivory as a RB1. Powell can be dropped in most formats, and Ridley is worth an add as an Ivory handcuff.

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football Week 8 Injury Updates: Adrian Peterson, James Starks, Carlos Hyde, Joseph Randle
Post date: Sunday, November 1, 2015 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/week-8-fantasy-football-injury-updates-vincent-jackson-odell-beckham-jr-steve-smith-john-brown
Body:

While reading this injury report is great to help you determine your fantasy starting lineup, be sure to always check the inactive list before game time on Sunday morning. Last week, Jeremy Maclin was listed as questionable, but we all thought he would play. However, he was a surprise inactive, and many people were burned by taking a zero in his starting spot. This week, he is listed as probable and has practiced in full, so he should be active, but always double check.

 

Also be sure to get the complete Week 8 injury picture by reading up on the other wide receivers, as well as the key quarterbacks/tight ends and running backs.

 

Note: All games are at 1 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted.

 

Teams on bye: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Washington

 

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants at New Orleans Saints

Probable – Hamstring
Beckham will play this week, which is great news for fantasy owners. He was able to practice this week, so he may be getting healthier. While ODB hasn't been the top-3 WR that may fantasy owners hoped for this season, he has been a solid WR2 with WR1 upside. Against the Saints this week, ODB can be penciled in as a WR1. He has four touchdowns this season, and after this week, it should be more.

 

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

Doubtful – Knee

While the Buccaneers have refused to officially rule VJax out, he's not going to play on Sunday after injuring his knee and not practicing all week. While reports have varied from him being out for multiple weeks or being able to play next week, the reality is he's out today, and Mike Evans will be fed the ball as much as possible. Look for Doug Martin to also have an expanded role in the passing game, with Charles Sims jumping in as well. The receivers behind Jackson on the depth chart

(Donteea Dye as an example) are just desperation options.

 

Steve Smith Sr., WR, Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers

Probable – Knee

With three 100-yard games this season, Smith is easily on the WR2 radar this week. He will play on Sunday in a good matchup with San Diego. He has three touchdowns on the year as well and the knee injury isn't a concern for a guy that is playing with fractures in his back. He should be started this week and Kamar Aiken falls back to a bye-week fill-in.

 

John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns

Questionable – Hamstring

The good news for fantasy owners is that Brown is playing in an early game this week, as his status will likely come down to a game-time decision. Brown apparently has hamstring injuries in both legs, and Arizona does have a bye in Week 9. It wouldn't be surprising to see him sit this week and get healthy for Week 10 and beyond. However, if he is active, start him as a WR1.

 

Cecil Shorts, WR, Houston Texans vs Tennessee Titans

Out – Hamstring

When Shorts has been out, Nate Washington has stepped up (even though last week's 9/127/2 stat line was mostly fueled by garbage time). Shorts is out again this week, pushing Washington onto the WR3 radar. The matchup is a good one, although the Texans have struggled offensively when Arian Foster hasn't been leading the offense. While they struggle to replace Foster, shy away from the Texans’ offense (outside of DeAndre Hopkins) if possible.

 

Leonard Hankerson, WR, Atlanta Falcons vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Out – Hamstring

After pulling his hamstring in Week 7 (and leaving fantasy owners with a zero), Hankerson has been ruled out for Week 8. He has been disappointing following the first four games of the season, and can be dropped in 10-team leagues. Fantasy owners searching for a desperation option can look to Justin Hardy, a rookie who may have a role depending on his performance. Roddy White will be in the mix and Julio Jones gets a bigger boost than usual.

 

Harry Douglas, WR, Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Out – Ribs

Last week when Douglas was out, it looked like it could be an opportunity for Dorial Green-Beckham. The reality for those that started DGB: a zero. It's hard to trust any Titans wide receiver, although the matchup is good and Zach Mettenberger proved competent in Week 7. Justin Hunter is the flyer for fantasy owners that are desperate, but he’s the epitome of “boom or bust.”

 

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

Teaser:
Week 8 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Vincent Jackson, Odell Beckham Jr., Steve Smith, John Brown
Post date: Sunday, November 1, 2015 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-week-8-injury-updates-dez-bryant-emmanuel-sanders-eric-decker-anquan-boldin
Body:

Although there are fewer injured players for fantasy owners to deal with in Week 8, banged-up wide receivers still lead the way position-wise. Be sure to read up on the other group of wide receivers, but as far as the second wave goes all eyes on Dallas to see if the Cowboys will have their No. 1 target back on the field.

 

Don’t forget about the injured quarterbacks/tight ends and running backs before setting your starting lineup.

 

Note: All games are at 1 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted.

 

Teams on bye: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Washington

 

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos vs Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Probable – Shoulder

Sanders injured his shoulder at the end of Week 6, but he was able to practice in full and should be good to go. Before they bye, he had two 100-yard games. He has three touchdowns on the year, but Peyton Manning has only thrown seven touchdowns. It's a tough matchup and Manning has struggled, but the bye week may have been good for the entire Denver offense. Sanders is a WR2 this week.

 

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Questionable – Foot

Bryant hasn't played since Week 2, but after practicing the last two weeks, it seems possible that he may be active this week. However, he gets Richard Sherman and the Seattle defense, although the game is in Dallas. Bryant also will be catching passes from Matt Cassel and not Tony Romo, so keep that in mind too. While Bryant is a top-tier wide receiver when healthy, it's tough to trust him in his first game back this week. He's a low WR2.

 

Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets at Oakland Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Questionable – Knee

The reports from the Jets say that all signs point to Decker playing. He has had limited practices this week, but he should be active on Sunday. It's tough because it is a later game, but for now, assume that Decker will be active in a good matchup. Most likely, fantasy owners don't have better options, but if they do, consider them in case Decker does not play. If he is active, he's a WR3.

 

Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

Questionable – Hamstring

Boldin showed up on the injury report after tweaking his hamstring in practice on Thursday and then not practicing on Friday. He has told reporters that he is playing on Sunday, despite the questionable tag. Boldin has put together a very up-and-down season, mostly the result of his quarterback struggling. He has two games with 100 or more yards and four games with less than 40. It's a tough matchup and until Colin Kaepernick gets right, it's hard to trust any of his pass catchers. Boldin is a WR3 this week.

 

Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Probable – Ankle

After trying to play in Week 3, Adams has let his ankle heal, but he is ready to go in Week 8. He is the third receiver for the Packers in a tough matchup, so even if you've been hanging onto him, he is a WR4 with upside. James Jones steals the red zone work, and Randall Cobb is the No. 1 WR. However, Adams should find himself with a role in an offense that loves throwing the ball.

 

Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants at New Orleans Saints

Out – Calf

Cruz is still out and it isn't clear when he'll be back. He isn't practicing and with six teams on a bye next week, if you need to drop him for the roster spot, don't hesitate to do so. It's unclear how effective or what his role will be when (if) he does get back on the field this year.

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football Week 8 Injury Updates: Dez Bryant, Emmanuel Sanders, Eric Decker, Anquan Boldin
Post date: Sunday, November 1, 2015 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/miami-beats-duke-improbable-touchdown-final-play-game
Body:

Crazy. That’s about the best way to sum up the ending to Saturday night’s Miami-Duke game.

 

After the Blue Devils scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the final minute to take a 27-24 lead, Miami scored on an improbable kick return to win 30-27. The Hurricanes used eight laterals to move the ball around the field, with Corn Elder eventually breaking free for the touchdown.

 

However, the ending wasn’t without controversy. A lengthy review ensued as the officials checked whether or not a knee was down or if any of the laterals were a forward pass. Despite some evidence to suggest a knee was down, as well as a block in the back – was it reviewed or not and eventually removed? – the referees confirmed the Miami touchdown, giving interim coach Larry Scott the victory.

 

Another Saturday, another crazy finish. 

 

Teaser:
Miami Beats Duke on Improbable Touchdown on Final Play of Game
Post date: Saturday, October 31, 2015 - 23:18
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/rob-gronkowski-trick-or-treats-stephen-colbert-patriots
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Halloween is a special occasion for kids, and some adults.

 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski showed up at Stephen Colbert's doorstep in a pretty awesome costume. I expected him to get some candy and give it the good old Gronk spike.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, October 31, 2015 - 14:39
All taxonomy terms: Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, MLB
Path: /mlb/world-series-game-four-preview-kansas-city-royals-vs-new-york-mets-2015
Body:

David Wright is one heck of a ball player — always has been. It feels as if that has been forgotten over the course of the past five seasons. Wright has missed 268 games since the start of the 2011 season, including 124 games this season, thanks to a constant barrage of injuries. One DL stint after the other, it seems.

 

Wright, 32, is the Mets’ captain and long-time third baseman. He is truly one of the good guys of the game, always smiling, cordial, interacting with fans at the ballpark or on the New York City streets — one of the easiest players an opposing fan could ever root for. He is a career .298/.377/.462 hitter, a seven-time All-Star, and a two-time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winner, and at one time seemed like a sure-fire Hall of Famer. 

 

But last night was the moment that Wright and Mets fans had been waiting for, the moment that would erase all of those pesky injuries, the back issues, the time spent on the DL, the six straight losing seasons — even if just for that moment. And when that moment finally arrived, Wright delivered.

 

With Curtis Granderson on first and the Mets trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the first, Wright stepped in against Yordano Ventura. Wright turned on an 0-1, 96 MPH fastball from Ventura, sending it deep into the left-center field bleachers and transforming Citi Field into a New York ruckus. Wright knew it was gone as soon as hide hit lumber.

 

Wright wasn’t done. For an encore, he added two more RBIs in the bottom of the sixth inning with a bases loaded, one-out single, a line drive bullet to center, scoring Juan Uribe and Wilmer Flores, breaking the game wide open for the Mets as they took Game 3, 9-3.

 

Mets fans turned Citi Field into somewhat of a homecoming for Wright last night. It was a celebration for Wright as the player and as the Mets’ captain both on and off the field. I’ve never rooted for the Mets a day in my life, but as Wright rounded first base after his first inning home run, I couldn’t help but smile for him. 

 

Good for you David Wright. You deserve it.

 

World Series Game 4: Kansas City Royals at New York Mets

Time: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: FOX

Pitching Matchup: RH Chris Young (11-6, 3.06) vs. LH Steven Matz (4-0, 2.27)

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Mound Matchup

Royals manager Ned Yost will send veteran right-hander, Chris Young, to the mound tonight for Kansas City. Young’s start will be his second appearance in this series, as he pitched three sterling relief frames back in the Game 1 marathon, throwing 53 pitches and earning the win for the Royals in 14 innings. Young may resemble Randy Johnson because of his tall frame (6-10), but none of his pitches echo that of the Big Unit’s. Young uses his height more for deception, utilizing different arm angles to fool hitters with his off-speed pitches and breaking fastball that hardly ever tops 90 mph. Since Young did pitch in Game 1, surely Yost will be quick to go to his bullpen in the early innings if necessary.

 

Lefty Steven Matz is tasked with tying the series for the Mets. Matt grew up in the New York area and is a lifelong Mets fan, so this moment has to land somewhere near childhood fantasy territory. Matz threw just 35 2/3 innings in six regular season starts after a torn lat muscle sidelined the 24-year-old for a majority of the summer. In his first postseason appearance, Matz earned the loss in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, giving up three runs over six innings. He rebounded in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Cubs, surrendering just one run and four hits over 4 2/3 innings.

 

Matz will be commuting from his parents’ home in Long Island to Citi Field before his Game 4 start — a drive he will surely relish.

 

2. Managers' Bullpen Maneuvers

In Game 3, both Yost and the Mets’ Terry Collins used most of their best bullpen arms, and I can’t quite figure out why. Yost’s situation was a little more understandable. Entering the bottom of the sixth inning, the Royals were down 5-3. Franklin Morales had an inning he would rather forget, allowing four runs with a hit batter, two hits, and a mental breakdown that loaded the bases for David Wright with one out. We know how that turned out.

 

But after the Morales’ gaffe, Yost called upon Kelvin Herrera, one of the best relievers in baseball to get out of the jam — already down three. Herrera forfeited a hit and a run, but ultimately got out of the inning. In the seventh, Yost tabbed Ryan Madson to pitch — another one of the best relievers in baseball — down four. I understand that Yost wanted to keep the game close for his rather hot offense, but why would he throw two of his three best relievers knowing that Chris Young was taking the mound the next night on a short leash and short rest? Weird.

 

But Collins only increased the head scratching by using his three best bullpen arms in the final innings. Addison Reed pitched in the seventh, Tyler Clippard in the eighth, and Jeurys Familia in the ninth — all with a six-run lead. Some may argue that Collins was simply keeping his best bullpen arms fresh, and in the case of Familia, getting him additional work to move past the blown save from Game 1. But why would Familia lack for confidence? He's been the best closer in the game since July. Baffling.

 

Collins finds himself in the same position as Yost, as both have used their best bullpen pitchers the night before both starting pitchers are likely to be pulled early.

 

3. Can the Mets’ bats stay hot?

Game 3 was a Gotham City revival for the Mets. After the heartbreak of Game 1 and the beating in Game 2, the series could have gotten away from the Mets last night. The Mets battled back with a fantastic offensive showing that was desperately needed. Both Granderson and Wright went 2-for-5 with two-run home runs. Wright chipped in four RBIs while Granderson scores three times.

 

Granderson had quietly been the best hitter in the Mets’ lineup in the early goings of the series, but finally received the support New York desperately needed in Game 3. Assuming Granderson stays hot at the top of the lineup, who else can step up for the Mets? If it isn’t Wright or Yoenis Cespedes, it could be Lucas Duda. Duda is hitting .455 in the series thus far, but only has scored once with a single RBI and doesn't have an extra-base hit. The slugging first baseman would be a welcome addition to the recent Mets’ hit parade.

 

Final Analysis

 

I like the Mets to tie up the series tonight in Flushing, N.Y. Emotions are going to be riding high in the New York clubhouse after last night’s drubbing. The Mets are thinking they can jump all over the crafty Chris Young early tonight as they did Yordano Ventura last night. If Steven Matz can limit the Royals to only a few runs over the first four or five innings, the Mets have to like their chances.

 

Prediction: Mets 5, Royals 4

 

— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.

Teaser:
World Series Game 4 Preview: Kansas City Royals vs. New York Mets
Post date: Saturday, October 31, 2015 - 12:45
All taxonomy terms: Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, MLB
Path: /mlb/world-series-2015-game-3-recap-mets-bats-back-syndergaard-rout-royals
Body:

In order to save their season and this World Series from the brink of elimination, the New York Mets needed to jump on Kansas City Royals starter Yordano Ventura in the early innings and show some grit in the batter’s box. Mets’ starter Noah Syndergaard showed his own moxie with the very first pitch of the game, buzzing the tower of white-hot leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar, allowing Escobar to sit on his backside for a few moments before striking him out swinging.

 

The Royals' lineup that had been raking to start the series, struck first for the second time in three games, this time on an Eric Hosmer RBI groundout that scored Ben Zobrist. It seemed as if all series long the Royals have had the answer for the Mets' power arms and Syndergaard was simply the next victim.

 

But for everything that the Royals did offensively in the early innings, the Mets’ bats finally had an answer. Mets’ captain and third baseman David Wright responded by sending an 0-1 pitch to the left-center field bleachers for a two-out, two-run home run, giving the Mets a 2-1 lead and sending Citi Field into a deafening frenzy. 

 

The Royals came back with two more runs of their own in the top of the second, thanks to Alex Rios’ one-out, line-drive single to left field, scoring Salvador Perez. After a passed ball got by Mets’ catcher Travis d’Arnaud, Rios scored the go-ahead run, restoring the Royals' lead at 3-2 going into the bottom of the second. 

 

The Kansas City lead was to be short-lived. After Syndergaard singled to start off the bottom of the second, Mets leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson stepped into the batter’s box to face the flame-throwing Ventura. Granderson sent a 2-1 pitch from Ventura zooming into the Flushing night, as the ball just cleared the far right field fence, giving the Mets a 4-3 lead and Granderson his second hit of the night. 

 

Ventura’s night didn't get any better. Lucas Duda led off the bottom of the fourth with a single, followed by a double to left from d'Arnaud to put two runners into scoring position with no outs. Then rookie left fielder Michael Conforto hit a chopper to no man’s land between first and second base. Royals Gold Glove first baseman Eric Hosmer fielded it, ranging far away from the bag, leaving him with no play. Duda scored and after a pop up in foul territory from Mets shortstop and No. 8 hitter Wilmer Flores, Ventura's night was over, exiting the game trailing 5-3. His final line for the night was not pretty: (3 1/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, K, 2 HR). The Mets did exactly what they needed to do — striking early against Ventura.

 

On the other hand, after a rough first two innings, Syndergaard settled down with four straight scoreless frames, finishing the night with six innings pitched, giving up just three earned runs on seven hits, two walks while striking out six. 

 

After Ventura exited stage left, the Royals ran an assembly line of relievers to the mound over the next two innings including Danny Duffy, Luke Hochervar and Franklin Morales. The Mets were able to tag Morales in the bottom of the sixth, as a single, a hit by pitch and the another single by pinch-hitter Juan Uribe scored Juan Lagares. The next batter, Granderson, hit a high chopper back to Morales in front of the mound. Morales hesitated between throwing the ball to try to get one of the two runners already on base. Ultimately, Morales threw the ball well wide of second base, as all runners were safe on the fielder's choice. Morales' night was over just 22 pitches in. 

 

Kelvin Herrera replaced Morales, but the nightmare inning was only made worse when Wright knocked in two more runs with a one-out line drive into center field, scoring Uribe and Flores, Wright’s third and fourth RBIs on the night. The bottom of the sixth finally ended three batters, but not before Yoenis Cespedes’ sacrifice fly drove in Granderson, giving the Mets a 9-3 lead. 

 

Addison Reed took over the mound for the Mets in the seventh and sat down the Royals in short order, as did Tyler Clippard in the eighth and Jeurys Familia in the ninth to lock up New York's first win of the Series. Mets manager Terry Collins’ move to use his three best relief pitchers with a six-run lead was more than interesting — and quite frankly, perplexing. 

 

But the bottom line is that the Mets did exactly what they needed to do: put up runs against Ventura early and not allow the Royals to utilize their top-notch bullpen. The New York lineup, led by Wright and Granderson, finally delivered, scoring nine runs on 12 hits. The Mets showed the grit necessary to get back into this series, right from the first pitch.

 

Game 4 is tonight at Citi Field, with first pitch coming at 8:07 p.m. ET. The Royals will send their veteran hurler Chris Young to the mound against the Mets’ young lefty, Steven Matz.

 

— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.

Teaser:
World Series Game 3 Recap: Mets' Bats Back Syndergaard in 9-3 Rout of Royals
Post date: Saturday, October 31, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/espn-suspends-grantland-bill-simmons
Body:

Once Bill Simmons walked out of the doors of Grantland, people knew it would never be the same.

 

Now that many other staffers have left, some to follow Simmons and others to branch out, there was only one thing for ESPN to do (allegedly). They are suspending the publication, effective immediately. Five months after the depature of the site's creator, it is no more.

 

 

"After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise."

 

Simmons tweeted shortly after to give his thoughts.

 

 

This comes a huge blow to the loyal followers and staff of Grantland. Some had to find out on Twitter about the decision of ESPN.

 

 

One of Grantland's more-known writers, Zach Lowe, summed up the feelings of most. 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 14:21
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-vs-pittsburgh-steelers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

If the Cincinnati Bengals defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday they will almost assuredly win the AFC North. Standing 2 1/2 games ahead of the Steelers, the 6-0 Bengals have been so healthy they have yet to make a roster change.

 

Know those skeptics quarterback Andy Dalton has? He's the NFL's top-ranked passer. The Bengals' offensive line has allowed only six sacks, second best in the NFL. They've displayed innovation in practice, utilizing GPS technology and less physicality at week's end, and half their victories have been by more than one score.

 

Yet the Bengals are not gloating, instead showing the respect for the Steelers (4-3) that Pittsburgh has earned over the years. An impressive start means nothing without victory against the traditional division power.

 

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has come to a less-than-surprising conclusion. They're not going anywhere without Ben Roethlisberger. Know the fans who said they'd be happy with the Steelers going 2-2 with Big Ben out? That's what they've done, complete with losses to a pair of five-loss teams.

 

Does the AFC belong to Cincy, New England and Denver this year? Or can the Steelers enter into the mix? We'll likely know late Sunday afternoon.

 

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: CBS

Spread: Bengals -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. How will Roethlisberger Play?

The Steelers would have little chance of winning without Big Ben, but the question is if he will be rushed back from his knee injury. There have been times when Roethlisberger came back from injury and it revived the franchise, witness the 2005 Super Bowl season. Other times, such as 2006 and '11, he also was rushed back and the result was poor.

 

In 2006, Roethlisberger came back only one week after undergoing an appendectomy. In the ensuing 9-0 loss at Jacksonville Roethlisberger was physically weak. Furthermore, the game set the tone for the Steelers' 2-6 start in Bill Cowher's final season as Pittsburgh's head coach.

 

Five years later Roethlisberger was asked to play on a bum ankle at the end of the season, and not only did the Steelers' offense struggle down the stretch but he was sluggish in the playoffs, completing just 22 of 40 pass attempts and suffering five sacks in an overtime defeat to Tim Tebow's Denver Broncos.

 

The problem is that the Steelers don't have a Charlie Batch to pinch hit. Last week in a 23-13 loss at Kansas City, newly christened second-string quarterback Landry Jones committed three turnovers and many of his passes were underthrown.

 

Yes, he did have an impressive debut against Arizona the week before, but it likely came after the Cardinals' defense had prepared for Michael Vick, who was held to just six yards passing before leaving in the third quarter with a hamstring injury.

 

2. The running games

Le'Veon Bell kept the Steelers afloat during Roethlisberger's absence with his exceptional abilities. Against Kansas City there were times everyone knew Bell would get the ball, then grind out, say, a 12-yard gain off right tackle.

 

Roethlisberger and Bell have only played one full half together this season, but Bell has averaged more than 20 carries a game and would likely be the NFL's leading rusher if not for a two-game suspension to open the season.

 

So even with Roethlisberger back, doesn't it make sense the Steelers will be more inclined to run the ball on 3rd-and-2? Would you want your only hope at quarterback to drop back and throw any more than he has to in his first game back from injury with two starters out on the offensive line, especially with such a strong ground game? And if the Steelers go back to attempting 2-point conversions after touchdowns, could Bell become more of a factor than a rollout pass?

 

The interesting thing about Cincinnati's running game is its leading rusher, Giovani Bernard, is not the starter. That honor belongs to Jeremy Hill, who has roughly half the yards of Bernard but more than double the touchdowns (5 to 2).

 

Also of note is the presence of running back Ben Tate on the Bengals' roster. Tate started the Steelers' playoff loss against Baltimore last year.

 

3. Dalton against the Steelers' pass defense

The Steelers' defense has improved from last season, where the team was built to win 51-34 games, to this season, where they have triumphed by a 12-6 score. They've done it with a revived pass rush thanks to new defensive coordinator's Keith Butler's Bison Blitz, which has often asked players such as cornerback William Gay to come out of nowhere to rush the passer.

 

Yet they are still allowing 277 yards a game through the air. If this trend continues it would be the worst total in team history.

 

Such statistics can be misleading; the Steelers had the worst pass defense in the NFL in 1960, for instance, but since teams did not throw as much as they do now they did not give up as many yards. Colin Kaepernick threw for a lot of garbage time yards while losing 43-18 to the Steelers; Carson Palmer threw for 421 yards yet could only produce 13 points in another loss.

 

Still, there has been drama around the Steelers' secondary; will safety Will Allen return? Will Cortez Allen be missed? Why did they trade for Brandon Boykin if they aren't going to play him?

 

With the Bengals' pass protection so good, and the season Dalton is having, this may be the season's most significant opportunity for the Steelers to show just how talented their secondary is or is not.

 

Final Analysis

 

If all things are equal, the Steelers' offense is more diverse than the Bengals'. But all things are not equal.

 

Prediction: Bengals 25, Steelers 23

 

— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

Teaser:
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, NFC, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-vs-new-orleans-saints-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The Giants hold a one-game lead over Philadelphia and Washington for first place in the NFC East. Considering how tight the division race is, this game carries a lot of weight for New York. Despite playing an opponent outside of the division, it is still against a conference foe. This tight divisional race could end up being decided based on which team has the most victories within the NFC.

 

The Saints have rebounded from their 0-3 start by winning three of the last four games. If they have any hope of claiming one of the two wild card spots, a win this Sunday is a must. A head-to-head victory against a team with whom they might possibly be tied in the conference standings is essential.

 

New York leads the overall series record, 15-12. However, regarding games played in New Orleans, the Giants trail 3-8. They have not won in the Superdome since Dec. 20, 1993.

 

New York at New Orleans

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: FOX

Spread: Saints -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1.  Pressuring Eli Manning?   

With a secondary short on professional experience and overall quality, the Saints' front seven must put constant pressure on the opposing quarterback. On the season, New Orleans has sacked opposing quarterbacks 16 times. In New Orleans' three victories, the team is averaging four sacks per game.

 

In contrast, Manning has only been sacked nine times in seven games. Opponents have only managed to sack him as many as three times in a game just once thus far.

 

2.  Increasingly generous Giant defense giving away the game?

The Giants have allowed 401.7 yards per game.  In their three losses, they have given up at least that amount. When they have held an opponent under that average, they won all three games. When the Saints' offense has been held under that figure, New Orleans has gone just 1-3.

 

The Giants are allowing 113.4 rushing yards per game. However, they have only allowed three opponents to go over the century mark. Those have occurred in the last three games. Last week, the Cowboys gashed New York's defense for 233 yards on the ground. The Giants have allowed 16 rushing touchdowns, including four in each of their past two games. 

 

3. Saints' run versus pass balance

The Saints need to have a semblance of a running game to keep the Giants off-balance. If not, New York will blitz Drew Brees and drop its safeties into coverage on every play. The number of passing plays as opposed to running must be even or very close. When the Saints' number of passes has exceeded the number of rushing attempts by 10 or more the Saints are 1-3.  Of the four games when the Saints have not gained at least 100 yards on the ground, they have lost three of those.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Giants need to win to remain ahead of the Eagles and Redskins in a tight NFC East. The Saints need a victory to even their record at .500. These situations should spur both teams into a hard-fought contest. Viewers will see a game that remains a nail-biter until the final minute. Overtime will probably be needed to break a tie at the end of regulation. The Dome-field advantage will nudge this one into the win column for the Black and Gold.

 

Prediction: Saints 26, Giants 20

 

— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Teaser:
New York Giants vs. New Orleans Saints Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, NFL
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-vs-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Another riveting installment of the London series takes place Sunday morning as the (2-5) Kansas City Chiefs look to win their second consecutive game when they take on the Detroit Lions (1-6).

 

The last time the Lions were across the pond, they provided Londoners with one of the more exciting finishes you will see with a last-second field goal as time expired to beat the Atlanta Falcons. A win for Detroit this time around would do little in the standings, but is much-needed for a team that is tied for the worst record in the league.

 

This will be the Chiefs' debut appearance in London.

 

Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs (London)


Kickoff: 9:30 a.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Lions -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Coaching hot seat
In each of the past two seasons a head coach in the NFL has been fired after making the trip back following the London game. Last year it was Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and earlier this season Joe Philbin following the Dolphins' blowout loss to the Jets in Week 4. The Lions now make the trip overseas with head coach Jim Caldwell squarely on the hot seat after the team’s 1-6 start in 2015, and that seat will only grow warmer if Detroit puts up another embarrassing performance like they did against the Vikings a week ago. When a team has the talent as Detroit does to compete on a weekly basis, and it continues to lose in the fashion it has been, the blame falls squarely on coaching. Will the recent shakeup of the coaching staff finally light a fire under this team?

 

2. Chiefs head East with West
Charcandrick West became a household name amongst fantasy football owners three weeks ago after Jamaal Charles went down with a season-ending knee injury. That popularity dropped considerably after his first career start ended with just 33 yards rushing against the Vikings. West fared much better against the Steelers last week, topping 100 yards rushing and getting his first career touchdown in the win. Asked by reporters this week what is his goal against Detroit, West jokingly stated, “Two hundred yards and three touchdowns.” Against a reeling Lions defense, that is not out of the realm of possibilities.

 

3. Lions to stay in London?

The Detroit fan base has reached a new boiling point with the organization after another poor start that will likely result in yet another season of not making the playoffs. So bad in fact that some Detroit fans have started a petition to keep the team from returning to the U.S. following the game in London. As is stands on Thursday, there are currently 360 signatures and just under 100,000 are needed for this to actually happen. For those that don't know, yes, this is what is it has come to being a Lions fan.
 

Final Analysis

 

Good thing this game is on early in the morning, otherwise nobody on this side of the pond would be paying attention. The Chiefs had a nice win last week against a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers team, but hopes remain slim that this season can turn around in short order to make a run at a wild card berth. The outlook is even bleaker for a Lions team that may need a win just to be let back into their home country. Look for the Kansas City pass rush to tee off on quarterback Matthew Stafford and for the offense to put up just enough points to squeak out a victory in London.

 

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Lions 19

 

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com.

Teaser:
Detroit Lions vs. Kansas City Chiefs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-five-up-five-down-chris-johnson-doug-martin-martavis-bryant-jimmy-graham-week-8
Body:

As Week 8 of the NFL and fantasy season is upon us, we have more teams on bye, and more teams that are dealing with injuries. Some players are getting healthier, while others are playing through their injuries.

 

Trying to figure out who to sit and who to start each week gets increasingly tougher, but that's what we are here for. Let's take a look at five guys who, based on their previous performance and matchup, are up in the rankings this week, and five guys who are down.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Phildaelphia, Washington

 

Five Up

 

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Sure, Ryan hasn't been great this year. He has no 300-yard games, despite favorable matchups. He doesn't have a week with more than two passing touchdowns. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another great matchup. They are currently second in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Last week, the Bucs allowed Kirk Cousins to throw for 317 yards and three touchdowns. The week before, they allowed Blake Bortles to throw for 303 yards and four touchdowns. Ryan is a better quarterback than Cousins or Bortles. He has struggled, but this is his week to shine.

 

Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Do you know which team gives up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs? Hint: it's the team the Bucs face this week. Yes, the Atlanta Falcons, who have allowed the most touchdowns to opposing running backs, are on deck for Martin, who has looked good against much lesser opponents. He has three 100-yard games in as many contests with three rushing touchdowns in that span. He's also had at least three receptions in those games with at least 35 yards in each and one touchdown catch. With Vincent Jackson most likely out because of a knee injury, Mike Evans will see plenty of coverage, so look for Martin to be even more involved in the short passing game.

 

Related: Why You Should Start Doug Martin and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice For Week 8

 

Chris Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Originally it was start your tight ends against Oakland (thanks again, for ruining that streak Owen Daniels). Now, it's start your running backs against Cleveland. The Browns have given up the most rushing yards in the league, and it's not close (1,057 for Cleveland, 925 for the next-highest team). Johnson has the lead running back role in Arizona for some inexplicable reason. He's had three 100-yard games on the ground so far this season, and he should have another in Week 8. While the job is his, Johnson is a RB1.

 

Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets

Making his debut into the top 5 of the wide receiver rankings, Marshall comes in at No. 4 this week. Marshall had his four-game streak of 100-plus yard games broken last week, but he's set to start a new streak in Week 8 against Oakland. He has four touchdowns on the year, and while the Raiders are known for allowing touchdowns to tight ends, Marshall can certainly find his way into the end zone. Eric Decker is a little banged up (bruised knee), which may mean even more targets for Marshall.

 

Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

While the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is pretty terrible against tight ends (they have given up the third-most fantasy points), Eifert has been up and down this year. He has six touchdowns on the year and only one 100-yard game (Week 1). He's the fourth-ranked tight end this week, and he should have an "up" week because of Andy Dalton looking for him in the red zone.

 

Five Down

 

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

After injuring his knee in Week 3, it appears that Big Ben is set to make his return in Week 8 (to the relief of Antonio Brown owners). He's put in full practices this week, and unless something changes, he'll be back. While most fantasy owners are ready to plug him in as a QB1, the rankings have him as the 12th-ranked quarterback for Week 8. It's unclear how much the knee will hinder him in a game situation, and the matchup isn't a cakewalk. The Bengals, coming off a bye, have allowed the fourth-fewest passing touchdowns (eight) this year. They are middle of the road in terms of yards allowed. Roethlisberger should be ok for fantasy owners, but don't expect a monster performance.

 

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions

Remember when Abdullah was a fixture in starting lineups? He looked great in the preseason, but just hasn't been able to put it together in the regular season. His best game was Week 1, with 50 rushing yards and his only touchdown on the year. That week he also had the most receptions (four) of the year. With Joique Bell and Theo Riddick playing, Abdullah is barely a bye week fill-in at this point. Kansas City gives up the sixth-fewest points to opposing running backs, as most teams have had more success throwing on the Chiefs. If it's an option, leave him on fantasy benches.

 

Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Even with Roethlisberger’s likely return, Bryant is tough to trust this week as anything more than a WR3. Bryant and Roethlisberger haven't played in a game together yet this season, and it's hard to tell what the Steelers’ offense will look like with Big Ben less than 100 percent and Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Bryant all battling for touches. Bryant had success with Landry Jones, but will Roethlisberger be able to get the ball to his deep threat on a balky knee? The Bengals’ defense is tough, and Bryant is a big-play guy. He may end up with a 3/80/1 stat line, but he also may end up with a 1/10/0 stat line.

 

Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland Browns

Like Bryant, Benjamin has been a boom-or-bust receiver so far this year. He's had five games with 79 yards or more, including two 100-yard games, and he has two games with fewer than 50 yards. He started the season with four touchdowns in the first three games… and hasn't found the end zone since. This week, Benjamin faces Arizona, and he will likely see Patrick Peterson all day. Peterson has been playing much better defense this year, and with QB Josh McCown banged up as well, Benjamin is a low-end WR3 this week. It's going to be difficult for the Browns to move the ball through the air, and look for Benjamin to struggle in this matchup.

 

Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks

When Graham had eight receptions in Week 6, he had 140 yards. When he had seven receptions in Week 3, he had 83 yards and a touchdown. The rest of the season? A total of 16 receptions for 152 yards and one touchdown in five games. Graham is the 11th-ranked tight end this week against a Dallas team that has defended the position thus far.

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football Five Up, Five Down: Chris Johnson, Doug Martin Up; Martavis Bryant, Jimmy Graham Down For Week 8
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: A.J. Green, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, AFC East, AFC NFC, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, Alex Smith, Alfred Morris, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Antonio Brown, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger, Bishop Sankey, Buffalo Bills, Calvin Johnson, Cam Newton, Carlos Hyde, Carolina Panthers, Carson Palmer, Chicago Bears, Chris Ivory, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Colin Kaepernick, Dallas Cowboys, DeMarco Murray, Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, Derek Carr, Detroit Lions, Devante Adams, Dez Bryant, Dion Lewis, Doug Martin, Drew Brees, Eddie Lacy, Eli Manning, Giovani Bernard, Green Bay Packers, Heath Miller, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jamal Charles, Jameis Winston, Jason Witten, Jeremy Hill, Jimmy Graham, Johnny Manziel, Jonathan Stewart, Jordan Matthews, Jordan Reed, Jordy Nelson, Joseph Randle, Julien Edelman, Julio Jones, Kansas City Chiefs, Keenan Allen, Kendall Wright, Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, Lev’eon Bell, Louis Rams, Marcus Mariota, Mark Ingram, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West, Nick Foles, Oakland Raiders, Peyton Manning, Philadelphia Eagles, Philip Rivers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Randall Cobb, Rashad Jennings, Rob Gronkowski, Russel Wilson, Ryan Mallet, Ryan Tannehill, Sam Bradford, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St, T.Y. Hilton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Teddy Bridgewater, Tennessee Titans, Tevin Coleman, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert, Tyrod Taylor, Washington Redskins, Zac Ertz, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/week-8-bold-nfl-predictions
Body:

Anything can happen on any given Sunday, we all know that and the unpredictability of each game is what makes playing fantasy football so fun. But wouldn’t it be nice to look ahead and see what is going to happen in Week 8 of the NFL season?

 

Let’s dust off the magic crystal ball for this week and see what’s in store for Week 8.

 

Teams on bye: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Washington

 

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

 

Aaron Rodgers Struggles, Throws for Fewer Than 200 Yards

It is becoming more and more apparent that Rodgers and the entire Packers offense really miss Jordy Nelson and his ability to take the top off of defenses. Rodgers has been good, but nowhere near the true elite fantasy quarterback he’s been in the past. Just look at his last three games – Rodgers has scored 16.26, 17.54 and 19.60 fantasy points respectively. Those numbers aren’t bad, but they aren’t the elite numbers that we’re used to seeing from Rodgers and the Green Bay offense. This week Rodgers and company travel to Denver and are in for a real test against the Broncos and their No. 1-ranked defense. The Broncos have given up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and even though Aaron Rodgers is as good as they come, he is going to have a hard time finding an open target in this game.

 

Jeremy Hill Finally Has a Good Game with More Than 100 Yards Rushing and 2 TDs

Other than Eddie Lacy, has there been a bigger fantasy disappointment this season than Hill? He was being drafted at the tail end of the first or in the early second round of most fantasy drafts and all he’s done is play his way from the unquestioned No. 1 running back in Cincinnati, to a guy who now only sees about 40 percent of the carries. That will change this week, as the Bengals are coming off their bye week and know that moving forward they are going to have to get back to their downhill running scheme that fits Hill perfectly. Pittsburgh does have a good rushing defense, but the Steelers let Charcandarick West run all over them last week (110 yds., TD), proving that there’s holes in the Steel Curtain. Hill will bust out this week and remind everyone of how good he was over the second half of last season.

 

DeAndre Hopkins Has More Than 200 Yards Receiving Against the Titans

Arian Foster is done for the season with a torn Achilles injury. That means that the Texans now have to turn to a combination of Alfred Blue, Chris Polk and Jonathan Grimes to run the ball. That’s really not a murderer’s row of running backs. So if the Texans can’t run the ball, and they sure can’t stop opposing offenses from scoring, the only chance they have of winning is to let Brian Hoyer throw the ball 50-plus times a game. Luckily for the Texans and Hoyer, they just happen to have one of the best wide receivers in the game today in Hopkins. He already leads the league in targets and that’s not going to change this week.

 

Big Ben Returns and Throws for More Than 400 Yards and 3 TDs

Steelers fans have been waiting anxiously for Ben Roethlisberger to return and luckily for them, the Steelers are still 4-3 and very much alive in the AFC playoff race. This week against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals is a perfect time for Big Ben to make his triumphant return because a win in this game would be huge. Head coach Mike Tomlin has stated that Roethlisberger is going to play with no limitations and hopefully he can pick up where he left off, as he was off to a strong start before getting hurt. Keep in mind he didn’t have Le’Veon Bell or Martavis Bryant in either of the games he played. Also for you history buffs, Big Ben in his two matchups last year against the Bengals threw for 667 yards and five touchdowns. The Steelers need to win this game and they will win it on the arm of their franchise quarterback.

 

Devonta Freeman Collects 100 Yards Rushing and 100 Yards Receiving

Freeman has been the best surprise in fantasy football this season and if you were smart enough to draft him in the mid-to-late rounds of your draft, my guess would be you are probably sitting pretty at this point. Freeman has been a beast – he’s leading the league in rushing with 621 yards and he’s third in receiving yards (310) for running backs. Plus he’s scored 10 touchdowns already this season. He’s simply a fantasy monster. Many think that Freeman just isn’t this good and that at some point he’s going to basically fall of a cliff. That’s not going to happen this week, however, as Freeman gets to play against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that will be so worried about trying to stop Julio Jones, that Freeman will have space and opportunities to make plays all over the field. Freeman is in for a huge game on Sunday.

 

Teddy Bridgewater has Another 300-Yard Passing Game and Throws 3 TDs Too

The Vikings took the training wheels off Bridgewater last week, giving him the opportunity to throw downfield and make plays. Bridgewater sure didn’t disappoint. With his new favorite weapon in Stefon Diggs, Bridgewater had his best game of the year, scoring 18.74 fantasy points thanks to 316 yards passing and two touchdowns. This week he gets a juicy matchup against a Bears defense that has allowed 15 touchdown passes in the past six games, and has given up the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Look for that trend to continue this week, as Bridgewater continues his march towards fantasy QB1 status.

 

Related: Why You Should Start Teddy Bridgewater and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 8

 

Tyler Eifert has Another 100-Yard, 2-TD Game

We all know that Rob Gronkowski is the king of tight ends. That’s not up for debate. But what is up for debate is who is the NFL’s second-best tight end. It used to be Jimmy Graham, but he might not even be in the top 10 anymore the way Seattle is using him. Is it Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen? Perhaps it’s Gary Barnidge? How about Eifert? The Bengals’ tight end is tied with Gronkowski for the most touchdowns at the position with six and has become a focal point of a potent offensive attack. The Bengals play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers this week in a game that is sure to be a shootout. That’s good news for Eifert because the Steelers have been generous to opposing tight ends (third-most fantasy points allowed). If Pittsburgh doubles A.J. Green, the field will be wide open for Eifert and he’ll have no problem going over 100 yards. And since Andy Dalton loves throwing his way in the red zone, count on two touchdowns as well.

 

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

Teaser:
Bold Fantasy Predictions for Week 8 in the NFL
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-9-value-plays
Body:

The college fantasy football season is on the cusp of entering the home stretch. Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans CollegeFootballGeek.com to help you dominate in 2015!

 

Whether you play daily or season-long college fantasy football, CollegeFootballGeek.com (@CFFGeek) prepares you to win with the best advice, tools and customer service in the industry — they've been doing it since 2008. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to CFG for FREE.

 

DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for the week, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket. These are the guys poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week.

 

Below, you will find AthlonSports.com contributor and CFG writer Todd DeVries' top picks for Saturday. To see the full in-depth article, be sure to check out CollegeFootballGeek.com.

 

VALUE PLAYS SATURDAY EARLY SLATE

 

QUARTERBACK

 

Perry Hills, Maryland ($5900) vs. Iowa

Hills continues to shock DFS players with the numbers he is putting up against stout defenses. He is averaging 34.35 DK points per game over his last two games against Ohio State and Penn State. Given what he has done against those defenses, a matchup with Iowa should not scare DFS players away from Hills this week. This Terrapin could make more plays with his legs this week and easily reach value for a third straight game. Hills could provide some salary relief and allow DFS players to afford higher-priced players at other positions.

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

Akrum Wadley, Iowa ($5700) vs. Maryland

Wadley filled in for injured starter Jordan Canzeri in the Hawkeyes’ last game against Northwestern and rolled up 204 yards and four scores. Look for this youngster to run all over a Maryland rush defense that ranks 84th in the country and could yield some big plays this week. Wadley could go north of 150 yards rushing this week and add a score or two against the Terrapins. He could crush value this week and make for an excellent GPP option.

 

Soso Jamabo, UCLA ($5300) vs. Colorado

This stud freshman may get his chance to shine this week with Paul Perkins likely to miss the game with a knee injury. Jamabo had 98 total yards and a score last week against Cal after Perkins was injured and could trump those numbers versus Colorado Saturday. The matchup is especially enticing with the Buffaloes’ rush defense ranked 111th in the nation this season. This Bruin is a must-start at this price if Perkins sits out.

 

Xavier Jones, SMU ($4100) vs. Tulsa

This freshman is the leading rusher this season for SMU and has an awesome matchup this week against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes’ rush defense is flat-out terrible, allowing 250 yards per game and 21 rushing scores on the year. The SMU running game could be all revved up this week and Jones could top the 100-yard mark for the first time in his college career. This Mustang looks to be a solid punt play this week.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

Thomas Duarte, UCLA ($5700) vs. Colorado

Duarte has scored in four consecutive games and has gone over 100 yards receiving in two of those four games. He could be a good bet to find the end zone for the fifth consecutive game against a Colorado defense that struggles to stop anyone. Expect this Bruin to continue his hot streak this week and be an excellent GPP option against the Buffaloes. A Josh Rosen/Duarte stack could be the way to go here.

 

Alex Erickson, Wisconsin ($5200) vs. Rutgers

All this guy does is produce on a weekly basis and his price never seems to move much. He is averaging 24.33 DK points per game over the past three games and could have a big game against Rutgers this week. The Scarlet Knights’ pass defense is dreadful, ranking 124th in the nation this season. Erickson is targeted often and holds particular value on DK with the full point per reception scoring. Look for this Badger to easily exceed value this week and make a nice punt play at WR. He could go over the 100-yard mark and find his way into the end zone against Rutgers.

 

Courtland Sutton, SMU ($4900) vs. Tulsa

This freshman has become a touchdown machine with a score in six of seven games this season. There is a very good chance that Sutton will add to his touchdown total against Tulsa this week. Tulsa is an equal-opportunity, fantasy points-provider as the Hurricane cannot stop the run or the pass and rank 124th in total defense in 2015. Sutton comes in at a very attractive price considering his potential in this game that could easily see 80 total points. Look for this Mustang to burn Tulsa on more than one occasion this Saturday. 

 

Chris Godwin, Penn State ($4600) vs. Illinois

Godwin has gone over the 100-yard mark in each of the last two games and appears to have established himself as the top receiving option for Penn State. He could be a solid value play with a low price point against Illinois. This Nittany Lion could be a nice GPP option this week as he will likely be overlooked

 

VALUE PLAYS SATURDAY LATE SLATE

 

QUARTERBACK

 

Thomas Sirk, Duke ($6800) vs. Miami

Sirk went crazy last week against Virginia Tech. He threw four touchdown passes and also ran for 109 yards on 18 carries. He could run wild against a Miami defense that gave up 616 yards rushing and six touchdowns to Clemson last week. This Blue Devil could post a huge stat line this week and make for a sneaky GPP option. Look for Sirk to have his way with the Hurricanes and put up numbers of a much higher-priced player.

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

Jacobi Owens, Air Force ($4900) vs. Hawaii

Owens is coming off his best game of the year with 137 yards rushing and a score against Fresno. He could see plenty of carries this week with the other Air Force backs banged up and questionable to play. Owens could meet or exceed those numbers this week against a Hawaii rush defense that has struggled to stop opposing backs this season, ranking 116th in the country. Look for this Cadet to go over 100 yards rushing and add a score or two this week. He could be a nice value play on a slate with not many of those.

 

Johnathan Gray, Texas ($4700) vs. Iowa State

Gray ran for a season-best 103 yards last week against Kansas State and could hit that mark again this week versus Iowa State. He received 18 carries last week and could do some real damage this week against the Cyclones with a similar workload. The Iowa State rush defense has been a sieve this year, ranking 93rd in the country. It would be no surprise to see this Longhorn run all over the Cyclones. A 100-yard day with a score or two seems well within reach for Gray.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

Anthony Miller, Memphis ($5700) vs. Tulane

Miller has gone over 100 yards receiving and also scored a touchdown in three of the last four games and is averaging 28.80 DK points per game in those three contests. He could post another big game against a Tulane defense that is not very good against the pass. The Tigers’ passing game could go bonkers this week and Miller will likely be a big part of all the fantasy goodness. Expect Miller to top the 100-yard mark once again this week and likely find the end zone against the Green Wave.

 

Cayleb Jones, Arizona ($5100) vs. Washington

Don’t look now, but it appears that Jones is finally getting involved in the Arizona offense. He is averaging 23.25 DK points over the past two contests and is finally looking like the fantasy force that many expected to see this year. Jones could put up nice numbers this week against a soft Huskies pass defense that ranks 70th in the country this year. Expect this Wildcat to make a couple of big plays this week and possibly cross the goal line for the second straight game.

 

— Written by Todd DeVries, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A pioneer of online college fantasy football strategy and advice, DeVries is the founder of CollegeFootballGeek.com and founder and Director of Writer Development for Football Nation. Follow him on Twitter @CFFGeek.

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football Week 9 Value Plays
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-purdue-boilermakers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Ryker FyfeLast week’s loss to Northwestern was disappointing in so many ways and if Nebraska’s going to make a bowl game, it has all of four contests left to stamp a ticket. Plenty of 6-6 teams have to worry about being on a bubble, but a school that brings fans (and their cash) like Nebraska is hard for any bowl committee to turn down.

 

Not only that, but the getting the opportunity for more practice would be invaluable for the Big Red. It’s not going to be easy to get three wins out of the remaining games, but their mission to go at least 3-1 begins in West Lafayette.

 

Nebraska at Purdue

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Network: ESPNU
Spread: Nebraska -9

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Ryker Fyfe

Tommy Armstrong’s been walking around in a boot for most of practice this week which means No. 17 gets his first start as a Husker. During spring and fall practices, Fyfe was streaky, but he could hit short to intermediate passes. 

 

The long ball is an area of extreme struggle for Fyfe (not unlike Armstrong when his confidence is low). This is a game where he’s going to have to let his receivers help him move the ball via the passing game.

 

Depending on how he looks versus Purdue, talk of a quarterback controversy may pop up, especially if Nebraska wins big.

 

2. Offensive Play-Calling

Purdue is ranked No. 99 in rushing defense, giving up 198 yards on the ground; and the 229 yards surrendered through the air gives the Boilermakers a No. 77 ranking.

 

If Nebraska can manage even decent run blocking against Darrell Hazell’s team, the Big Red should be able to put a good number of points on the board. Perhaps we see the return of Devine Ozigbo this week.

 

Fyfe’s best work in the passing game has come on rollouts, so I’d expect to see plenty of that worked into the passing game and hopefully less of a determined effort to get the screen game going. This is a time where Danny Langsdorf simply must go with what he has seen work.

 

3. Apathy (or Lack Thereof)

If you need to see why apathy gets mentioned, have a look at my piece on a potential youth movement following this contest. The first video shows some of the worst run blocking I’ve seen.

 

Is the effort shown against Northwestern going to carry over against Purdue, or can this upperclassman offensive line play for pride (and more importantly the win)?

 

Final Analysis

 

If the Huskers are going to make that coveted bowl game, this is probably the last game close to a sure-win as any left on the schedule. They face Michigan State then travel to Rutgers and finally get their first bye week of the season before taking on a surging Iowa squad.

 

Forget the bowl game for a minute. For the sake of morale, this game needs to be won. Ideally the Huskers can do so by a nice margin, but at this juncture, even victory by a point is acceptable.

 

Prediction: Nebraska 24, Purdue 17

 

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

Teaser:
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-vs-kentucky-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

In what once was known as the "Battle for the Barrel," Tennessee and Kentucky have carried a bitter rivalry throughout the decades. This year's version features a couple teams battling for at least third place in the SEC East. The Wildcats enter the game 4-3 (2-3 SEC), while the Vols are 3-4 (1-3 SEC). 

 

Tennessee has suffered four losses by a combined 17 points this season. The Vols had 14-point leads against Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas but couldn't get the job done. Tennessee is coming off a tight 19-14 defeat in Tuscaloosa and is probably looking forward to five winnable games to close out the season.

 

This looks to be the year head coach Mark Stoops gets the Wildcats back to a bowl game. Kentucky needs only two more wins to reach bowl eligibility and still gets to play Vanderbilt and Charlotte. The 'Cats come into this bout with Tennessee having lost two in a row to SEC West competition, Auburn and Mississippi State.

 

Saturday marks the 111th meeting all-time between Tennessee and Kentucky. It is one of the oldest rivalries in college football, dating back to 1893. Kentucky won that first meeting 56-0, but since then the Vols have dominated the series, 77-24-9. Tennessee also has won 29 of its last 30 against the Wildcats with the Vols' lone loss coming in 2011.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 9 Preview Matt Stinchcomb



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Tennessee at Kentucky 

 

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: SEC Network

Spread: Tennessee -9

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. How many interceptions will Patrick Towles throw?

The Wildcats' quarterback has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns through his first seven games. Kentucky doesn't have very many productive options behind Towles on the bench, but nine interceptions is a lot. Towles tossed two last week against Mississippi State in a 42-16 loss. Towles brings a strong arm into the equation, however, and the Vols' secondary has been susceptible to giving up the deep ball. Towles will likely be able to take some shots, but his accuracy must improve or Tennessee could pick off some passes. 

 

2. Can Kentucky contain Joshua Dobbs?

Kentucky's defense has been ugly at times under Stoops, but it has improved tremendously in a year's time. The Vols were able to hang 50 points on the Wildcats last year in Knoxville, due in part to the performance of Dobbs, who threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns. This season, Dobbs has been effective throwing, for the most part, and lit up both Florida and Georgia on the ground. His ability to extend plays could cause problems for Kentucky's defense, especially if the Vols open up the passing game. 

 

3. Will the winner be in the driver's seat to finish second in the East?

This game could potentially mean a lot for these two teams. First of all, it would be a nice step forward in getting to bowl eligibility for both. But more so, it could determine which team ends up second in the division. If Florida beats Georgia Saturday, the Bulldogs will have three conference losses. The winner of this game also will have three conference losses. Tennessee has already beaten Georgia and Kentucky still has an opportunity to do so. This game could end up meaning quite a bit in the SEC East hierarchy.  

 

Final Analysis

 

The Volunteers and Wildcats are both coached by third-year coaches who have made meaningful strides in building their programs. Tennessee's Butch Jones is probably a few paces ahead of Stoops because of his success in recruiting. But both coaches are facing a ton of pressure to finish out the season strong. Kentucky is good enough offensively to hang around in this game, but the defense is going to have a difficult time slowing down the Vols' running game. Dobbs can scramble and Jalen Hurd is a bruiser. It has been said that Tennessee is the best 3-4 team in the country. The Vols will prove it in Lexington.

 

Prediction: Tennessee 34, Kentucky 20

 

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

Teaser:
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kentucky Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 10:05
Path: /college-football/arizona-wildcats-vs-washington-huskies-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Chris PetersenBoth Arizona and Washington stand at a crossroads ahead of their Week 9 meeting in Seattle. 

 

After scoring a signature win for second-year head coach Chris Petersen Oct. 8 at USC, Washington dropped back-to-back contests to Pac-12 North counterparts Oregon and Stanford. With the losses, the Huskies are 1-3 in conference play and 3-4 overall, with the very real threat of missing the postseason for the first time since 2009. 

 

A win over Arizona, which hasn't left Husky Stadium victorious since 2007, is crucial to Washington's bowl aspirations. 

 

Similarly, Arizona dug two separate, deep holes at home against Washington State before a late rally resulted in a three-point loss. Though the Wildcats are 5-3 on the season, a brutal November awaits Rich Rodriguez' team. With games at USC, vs. Utah and at Arizona State finishing out the Wildcats' regular season, sewing up bowl eligibility Saturday may be their best course of action.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 9 Preview Matt Stinchcomb



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Arizona at Washington

 

Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Spread: Washington -5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Quarterback Controversies 

It's somewhat rare for teams to have quarterback controversies this late into a season, but both Arizona and Washington face such situations in Week 9. 

 

Washington's is the result of freshman Jake Browning sustaining a shoulder injury late against Oregon, which forced K.J. Carta-Samuels into the starting lineup last week against Stanford. 

 

The controversy for Washington is less who is playing quarterback, but rather how effective the offense is in general. The Huskies are dead-last in the Pac-12 in both yards and points scored, struggling to find any kind of sustained rhythm with either quarterback. 

 

Arizona, on the other hand, has put up points in bunches. Lately, it's happened more frequently with reserve quarterback Jerrard Randall running the show than with last year's breakout star Anu Solomon. 

 

Randall came on to lead critical scoring drives in the win at Colorado, then engineered Arizona's second-half comeback a week ago against Washington State. 

 

Head coach Rich Rodriguez has been mum on the quarterback situation for Arizona heading into Washington, though the position appears to be fluid based on the last few weeks. 

 

2. Dictating an Early Tone

In Arizona's Pac-12 wins over Oregon State and Colorado, the Wildcats jumped ahead by multiple scores early. Against UCLA, Stanford and Washington, Arizona fell behind by two scores in the first quarter. 

 

While last year's Cardiac 'Cats made a habit of rallying and winning tight games, the 2015 Wildcats are simply not as well-equipped to come back from big deficits, primarily due to holes in the defense caused by injury. 

 

Washington isn't the type of team to jump out to a big lead early with offensive haymakers. Rather, the Huskies can impose their will physically with a hard-hitting defense. 

 

Washington scored its upset of USC by stymieing the Trojan offense from the outset, forcing USC to press each time it got the ball back. The hurry-up nature of Arizona's offense can be a detriment if points aren't coming, as it puts an already-thin defense on the field after shorter rests. 

 

As time of possession mounts, that's when the flood gates can open on the Wildcats. 

 

3. Arizona's Passing Efficiency 

The Arizona offense in 2014 flourished with a balance of run and pass, which is Rodriguez's goal when Solomon is lined up behind center. That's not quite as feasible with Randall at quarterback, despite the pop he brings to the Wildcats. 

 

Randall's passing is erratic, which can render Arizona one-dimensional. That one dimension is quite effective — the Wildcats ranks No. 9 nationally in rushing yards per game — but a run-based attack may struggle against Washington. 

 

With linebacker Travis Feeney leading the charge, the Huskies run defense holds opponents to just 3.2 yards per carry, exactly half of Arizona's average output per rush. 

 

Arizona must be able to spread the field with the threat of an effective pass, and not just on screen passes to Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant. 

 

Final Analysis

 

Arizona cannot stop anyone defensively, and Washington cannot score. It's an interesting juxtaposition that makes for an intriguing matchup of two teams desperate for a win. 

 

Arizona sports a three-game losing streak at Husky Stadium, which includes a 2009 contest decided on a Washington pick-six that bounced off Wildcat wide receiver Juron Criner's foot. 

 

Strange things happen when these teams meet in Seattle, and it goes both ways. Willie Tuitama threw for 510 yards and Arizona rallied in the fourth quarter to win there in 2007, 48-41, and Ortege Jenkins' front-flip touchdown in 1998 is perhaps the most iconic play in Arizona football history. 

 

With the clash of styles and unpredictable nature of both the Wildcats and Huskies this time around, expect another installment decided under unusual circumstances.

 

Prediction: Arizona 31, Washington 30

 

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

Teaser:
Arizona Wildcats vs. Washington Huskies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/stanford-cardinal-vs-washington-state-cougars-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Washington State has rebounded from an embarrassing loss at home to Portland State. The Cougars have risen to second place in the Pac-12's North Division. Very quietly, Wazzu has positioned itself to pounce and seize first place in the division.

 

Stanford is snowballing toward the Pac-12 Championship Game. However, the Cardinal need some style points to elevate themselves above the other teams with one loss. The College Football Playoff committee will be watching. The members are set to release their initial rankings next week.

 

Stanford leads the series between these two founding members of what is now the Pac-12 Conference. The total stands at 39-25-1. Their first contest against each other dates back to 1936. In Pullman, the Cardinal hold a 15-7 advantage. Stanford has won the seven most recent matches and nine of the last 11.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 9 Preview Matt Stinchcomb



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Stanford at Washington State

 

Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Stanford +12

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Cougar quarterback attacking the Cardinal secondary

Luke Falk, the man taking the snaps from center for Washington State, has thrown for an average of 412.1 yards per game. His lowest passing yardage in a game was 303. He has completed 26 touchdown passes. He leads the conference in both categories; his totals are also in the top four nationally.

 

Stanford's defense against the pass has been stout. Of its seven opponents, only three have racked up more than 200 yards through the air. Just one has managed to exceed 300 yards in passing.

 

The Cougars must be able to reach the 300-yard mark in passing in order to have a chance to compete.

 

2. Washington State defense against the run vs. Cardinal churning ground attack

The Cougars have allowed opponents 222.4 yards on average per game. Five opponents have gained more than 150 yards on the ground.

 

The Cardinal have averaged 221 yards per game in rushing. The men from Palo Alto have gained at least 130 yards on the ground in every game except one. That exception occurred at Northwestern, Stanford's sole loss this season.

 

If the Cardinal continue to pound out 200 yards or so, they will be very tough to defeat. The Cougars must find a way to slow down the Cardinal's running game and keep the yards allowed to 100 or less. If Stanford is allowed to play its preferred style of "ground and pound," the Cougars will not be able to stay close into the fourth quarter.

 

3. Scare up an upset?

How rowdy will the atmosphere be in Pullman for a late kickoff on Halloween? Considering Mike Leach's affinity for pirates, will this turn into a world record for the number of screamers with eye-patches, bandanas and peg legs in the same place? Could the home crowd serve as the deciding factor if the Cougars can hang close with the favored visitors?

 

Final Analysis

 

If Stanford wins, that will almost completely wrap up the Pac-12 North title. The Cardinal would have a two-game lead or greater over the rest of the division. They would be undefeated in conference games while everyone else in the division would have at least two losses.

 

If Washington State wins, the Cougars will immediately leap into the driver's seat in the division. They would only need to win their games in November to clinch the division. No help from anyone else would be required.

 

Washington State will test the Cardinal secondary. The Cougars will be able to move the ball and put some points on the board. However, they will not be able to put the ball in the end zone often enough to match Stanford's possessions. The Cardinal will slice and slash through the Cougars' defense in the style of an R-rated horror film. The Cougars will show some respectable effort but will fall in the end.

 

Prediction: Stanford 42, Washington State 27

 

Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Teaser:
Stanford Cardinal vs. Washington State Cougars Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-temple-owls-preview-and-prediction
Body:

When it comes to college football tradition, Notre Dame and Temple are on the opposite side of the tracks. Notre Dame boasts 11 national titles, seven Heisman Trophy winners, and the highest winning percentage amongst all Division One programs. Temple has a .434 winning percentage, has been to just four bowl games in its history, and has just one ten-win season.

 

But currently they are living in the same neighborhood. Notre Dame is 6-1 and ranked No. 9 in both polls. For the first time ever, Temple is 7-0 and is ranked No. 21 in the AP Poll and No. 22 in the Coaches Poll.

 

Temple survived a battle last Thursday night at East Carolina while Notre Dame had a week off following their victory over archrival USC. The Irish and the Owls have played just once before with ND winning 28-6 in the 2013 season opener.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 9 Preview Matt Stinchcomb



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Notre Dame at Temple

 

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Notre Dame -10

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Notre Dame's Team Speed

On Notre Dame’s first offensive play against USC, Philly-native Will Fuller ran right past the Trojans’ Adoree Jackson, one of the fastest men in college football, and hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer. Temple hasn’t seen that kind of speed and it is something that is hard to replicate in practice. Of course, Fuller is not the only fast guy on Notre Dame. Defensively, Jaylon Smith’s speed and athleticism is hard to match at linebacker. ND’s secondary can run like few teams on Temple’s schedule. Even Sheldon Day’s first-step quickness at defensive tackle is very impressive. Temple has fast players; their guys are just not Notre Dame fast.

 

2. Putting a Helmet on Tyler Matakevich

The senior middle linebacker is a one-man wrecking crew. He leads Temple with 65 tackles and four interceptions and is second on the team in tackles for lost yardage and sacks. The Owls have the nation’s sixth-ranked rushing defense and Matakevich is the main reason that they are so successful. The Irish know firsthand just how good the senior from Stratford, Conn., is. In the 2013 game in South Bend, Matakevich had 11 total tackles, seven solo, with two tackles for lost yardage. ND will have an eye on No. 8 all night long.

 

3. Giving Kizer Time to Throw

Temple is 11th in sacks with 23. But that isn’t really the whole story. They had 10 sacks in the season opener against Penn State, four against Tulane, and six in the most recent win over East Carolina. Doing the math, that’s just three sacks in the other four games. Gunner Kiel of Cincinnati threw the ball 52 times and was sacked just once while UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel was brought down just once on 56 drop backs. If Kizer has time to throw, the Notre Dame receivers are too talented for the Temple defenders to cover.

 

Final Analysis

 

Notre Dame Logo

With ESPN's "College GameDay" in Philadelphia on Saturday and the ABC prime time crew ready for the broadcast, this is the highest profile game in Temple football history. There will be energy at Lincoln Financial Field but with east coast Notre Dame fans gobbling up their share of tickets early on, it won’t just be Owl supporters making noise. Temple will try to run the ball with Jahad Thomas against the Irish’s 85th-ranked rush defense. Notre Dame’s defense has given up the big play, but Temple may not have the playmakers to take advantage of that Irish deficiency. Notre Dame will try to run as well, but don’t be surprised to see the Irish passing first to set up the run. Temple will have to prevent Notre Dame big plays, so passes underneath to Fuller, Chris Brown, and others should be open. With the excitement of the big game, Temple will hang around early. In the end, though, Notre Dame’s talent will win out.

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Temple 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.

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The Michigan Wolverines (5-2) and Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-3) will meet Saturday night in the 102nd meeting for the Little Brown Jug, currently held by the Gophers after a 30-14 blowout victory last season in the Big House.

 

While Michigan is looking to bounce back following a crushing loss at the hands of their in-state rivals two weeks ago, the Gophers will be looking to withstand the loss of their head coach, as Jerry Kill resigned early Wednesday morning due to lingering health concerns.

 

Both teams currently remain in fourth place in their respective divisions and are looking to secure a win to keep pace in the Big Ten standings.

 

Michigan at Minnesota


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Michigan -13.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Jerry Kill

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill announced Wednesday morning that he would be retiring due to continued health concerns as he deals with epilepsy. Kill said to the media that he had suffered two seizures earlier this week and that the toll put on his body of late was becoming too much to handle at this point in the season. With Kill stepping down, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will become the team’s interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Claeys has worked on Kill’s staff for the past 21 years and previously filled in for Kill back in 2013 for seven games, compiling a 4-3 record in that span.

 

Related: Jerry Kill May Have Been College Football's Last Pure Coach

 

Side note — Jerry Kill was gracious enough to sit down with me my senior year of college at NIU to discuss my aspirations of eventually working in football one day. I was stunned a Division I football coach would give me time out of their busy schedule, but Kill could not have been nicer when speaking with him. I wish him all the best in the future.

 

2. Chomping at the bit
Michigan players have had a prolonged time period to stew over the botched punt against the Spartans after a bye last week, and according to safety Dymonte Thomas, they are itching to hit the field. "We are really eager to get back out there," said Thomas to MLive.com. "We're not going to let one game define us, just like we didn't allow those three shutouts to define us." The Wolverines struggled against Michigan State, allowing 328 passing yards to quarterback Connor Cook the last time out, but more is expected out of the defense that still ranks as best in the nation, allowing just 210 total yards per game. Look for the Michigan defense to bounce back in a big way against a Minnesota offense that ranks dead last in the Big Ten in scoring.

 

3. Strength on strength

Expect this game to be played in a phone booth. Maybe one or two shots beyond, say 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, but that’s about it. Both Michigan and Minnesota rank in the top 20 nationally in passing defense and allow well under 200 yards per game. The two teams combined have allowed just 11 passing touchdowns on the season – 65 other teams in college football have allowed that number or more by themselves this season. Two potential All-Big Ten cornerbacks will be on display in Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and Minnesota’s Briean Boddy-Calhoun – both of whom have next-level potential.
 

Final Analysis

 

Both Michigan and Minnesota come into Saturday night’s matchup with plenty of motivation. Michigan is eager to rid itself of the sour taste from the heartbreaking loss to the Spartans, while Minnesota will be playing with heavy hearts in honor of Jerry Kill. With the motivational factor looking like a wash, it comes down to talent, and that is where the Wolverines have a distinct advantage. Michigan will dominate the trenches on both sides of the field to notch its sixth win of the season.

 

Prediction: Michigan 20, Minnesota 7

 

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

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Losing to USC is not the end of the world for Utah. The Utes still control their own destiny and retain a one game lead in the Pac-12 South after last week's 42-24 loss to the Trojans. Still, Kyle Whittingham's team cannot afford to absorb more losses and still keep alive hopes for winning the division and advancing to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

 

Playing Oregon State offers the Utes a perfect chance to regain positive momentum. The Beavers are the only Pac-12 team without a victory in conference play at this point in the season. Oregon State has struggled on both sides of the ball and has lost 16 of its last 18 games against Pac-12 opponents.

 

The Beavers lead the all-time series 11-7-1, but the teams have split the last six games dating back to 2007. Utah has won three of the last four games against Oregon State in Salt Lake City.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 9 Preview Matt Stinchcomb



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Oregon State at Utah

 

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: Utah -24

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Pick Lake City

Oregon State ranks last in the Pac-12 in pass offense, generating just 153.1 yards per game. Facing an opportunistic Utah secondary isn't going to make things any easier through the air. Utah leads the Pac-12 with 13 interceptions. The Utes also rank third in pass defense efficiency (119.1). Individually, Utah safety Marcus Williams leads the league with four interceptions, cornerback Dominique Hatfield is second with three picks, and nickelback Justin Thomas is tied for sixth among Pac-12 players with two interceptions.

 

2. Owning the trenches

Pita Taumoepenu is quietly putting together a dominant season in the trenches for Utah. Through seven games, Taumoepenu leads the Pac-12 with six sacks and 0.86 sacks per game. Sacks account for 75 percent of his total tackles. The junior isn't the only defensive lineman making life tough on opponents. Kylie Fitts ranks 10th in the league with 3.5 sacks and leads Utah with four pass breakups. Fitts, fellow defensive end Jason Fanaika and linebacker Gionni Paul are co-leaders on the team with two forced fumbles apiece.

 

3. Filling a void

Oregon State suffered a blow to its offensive line when junior left tackle Sean Harlow suffered a season ending ankle injury against Colorado. Harlow has started in 28 games since his freshman season for the Beavers. He was one of five players who returned with starting experience on the offensive line this season. Their presence has helped freshman quarterback Seth Collins tally 536 yards and five touchdowns on 99 carries to rank eighth in the Pac-12 in rushing. Sophomore Will Barton will step into Harlow's place this week after replacing him against the Buffaloes.

 

Final Analysis

 

Each of the last two seasons, Utah and Oregon State have battled to overtime — with the visiting team coming out on top in each game. It's safe to say this scenario isn't happening for a third straight year. The Utes have one of the best defenses in the Pac-12 and a powerful running back in Devontae Booker, while the Beavers have the league's least productive offense and a porous rush defense. Utah will get a Halloween night treat in the form of a bounce back victory.

 

Prediction: Utah 38, Oregon State 10

 

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

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On the surface, this game looks boring. Traditionally, Vanderbilt and Houston don't make a lot of headlines. But dig a little deeper and you will find a very interesting matchup Saturday. The Commodores come into the game at 3-4 off a big win against Missouri and Houston rolls in at 7-0, having hardly been tested this year.

 

Head coach Derek Mason secured his first SEC win as a head coach last week when Vanderbilt upset Missouri, 10-3. Not surprisingly, it took only one touchdown to win the game. Despite the fact Mizzou is gasping for air, the win brought some much-needed confidence for Vandy. But can the Commodores continue the momentum against a top-25 team?

 

Houston is unbeaten and its only real test came in week two at Louisville, a 34-31 win. Tulsa gave the Cougars a scare for a little while, but Houston prevailed by two scores in the end. The other five teams on Houston's schedule have been beaten easily and the Cougars' offense is playing superbly. 

 

Vanderbilt and Houston have only met on the field once, back in January 2014 in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Commodores prevailed, 41-24, in what turned out to be then-head coach James Franklin's final game at the helm. Unfortunately, this wasn't so long ago that it would be necessary to mention it as an historic event. But hey, it was a time before fresh pizza vending machines.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 9 Preview Matt Stinchcomb



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Vanderbilt at Houston

 

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Houston -12

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Can Houston keep up its rampant scoring against a stingy defense?

Most of the talk this week has been about Houston having the best offense Vanderbilt has seen thus far. Indeed, the Cougars are averaging 47.6 points per game and lighting up the scoreboard. Houston is extremely balanced, averaging over 560 yards per game. Those yards are split fairly evenly in passing and rushing. But on the flip side, Vanderbilt probably has the best defense the Cougars have seen this year. The Commodores are allowing only 16.3 points per game and are especially strong in stopping the run. Can Houston move the ball as well as it has in recent weeks?

 

2. Will Vanderbilt play well enough on offense to keep it close?

While Vandy's defense will likely be able to get some stops, its offense will be the key to whether the game is close. Freshman quarterback Kyle Shurmur played for the first time last week against Mizzou and accounted for only 89 yards on 20 attempts passing. Vanderbilt must throw well enough to open up the running game and allow Ralph Webb to gain yards on the ground. Webb rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown last week against a pretty good front seven. Houston is allowing only 19.7 points per game, but the competition level hasn't been stellar.

 

3. How does this game affect the perception of the SEC?

The SEC, which dominated college football from 2006-12, has taken some criticism lately for its bowl record and the fact it has missed out on the last two national championships. The American Athletic Conference (AAC) already got a major win over the SEC this season when Memphis beat Ole Miss. While Vanderbilt is not the class of the SEC, it has given Ole Miss and Georgia, two of the SEC's top programs, fits in games this year. If Houston comes out and pummels the Commodores, it will not look good for the conference as a whole.

 

Final Analysis

 

This is an interesting game because of the matchup between Houston's offense and Vanderbilt's defense. Most are expecting the Cougars to run away with this one, but Vandy has to be more confident after knocking off Mizzou last week. The Commodores' defense is going to be troublesome for Houston's offense at times, but Greg Ward Jr. is a prime threat both through the air and on the ground, giving the Cougars a considerable edge. Defensively, Houston is good enough to shut down Vanderbilt if Webb can't get it going on the ground. That recipe doesn't bode well for Vandy.

 

Prediction: Houston 27, Vanderbilt 10

 

— 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.

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Coach Mike MacIntyreUCLA rebounded from back-to-back losses nicely with a thoroughly dominant performance against Cal a week ago. The Bruins' win, combined with Utah's loss two days later on the other side of Los Angeles, put UCLA in shouting distance of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

 

The Bruins' roadmap to winning the South's berth into the league title game is pretty simple. Should they win out, they're in.

 

Colorado visits the Rose Bowl Saturday fresh off the program's first Pac-12 win in two years. Designs on the South division are probably unrealistic, but the Buffs are more than halfway to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007.

 

Though last week's win at Oregon State was a milestone for head coach Mike MacIntyre, Colorado will not see another team as beatable the rest of the season. The Buffs will need to score some upsets to reach the postseason.

 

Colorado at UCLA

 

Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: UCLA -21

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. A Game of Runs

UCLA and Colorado come into Saturday's contest sporting two of the nation's worst defenses against the run: UCLA at 203.9 yards per game (No. 105), and Colorado at 209.5 (No. 111).

 

The Bruins tightened up last week against Cal, limiting the Golden Bears to 3.7 yards per carry for 131 total — both season lows since Week 1.

 

They'll need to continue against a Colorado offense that has struck more of a balance in MacIntyre's third season. His 2013 and 2014 squads went pass-heavy, but a three-back look has given the Buffs balance.

 

Slowing the Buffs could prove challenging with the Bruins adding linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea to the long list of injured.

 

Likewise, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has employed a run-game look with three primary ball carriers shouldering the load: Paul Perkins, who averages better than 107 yards per game; Nate Starks, and Soso Jamabo.

 

However, Perkins sustained an injury last week, which opens the door for the freshman Jamabo to shoulder a bigger load Saturday.

 

2. Turnover Battle

Colorado's improved its ball control from a season ago and sits on the positive side of the season-long turnover margin, but when the Buffs lose the turnover battle, they're 0-3 on the season.

 

Turnovers have not been as detrimental for UCLA, which is on the negative end for the season. The Bruins are 2-1 when giving away more possessions than they take.

 

Nevertheless, the UCLA offense is obviously more effective when maintaining control, in large part because that means the Bruins are getting the productive version of freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. Rosen has three multiple-interception games on the season. The Bruins are 2-2 when he throws any picks, but undefeated when he puts together a clean sheet.

 

Rosen was at his absolute best a week ago, picking apart a Cal secondary that was among the nation's leaders in interceptions coming in to the tune of a UCLA program-record 34 completions.

 

3. The UCLA Pass Rush

Colorado ranks near the bottom of the conference in sacks allowed at 20, which has made quarterback Sefo Liufau's job difficult. The Buffs gave up 23 all of last season.

 

This could be a prime opportunity for defensive coordinator Tom Bradley to tee off with the blitz. UCLA has 14 as a team on the season, a pedestrian output given this was one of the nation's most aggressive, blitzing defenses just a few seasons ago.

 

Aaron Wallace had an outstanding showing against Cal. Expect him to get more opportunities to wreak havoc this week, which should open things up more for Deon Hollins. Hollins, the Bruins sack leader a season ago, has faced more double-teams in 2015.

 

Final Analysis

 

The song's been the same for Colorado much of the season. The Buffs are better, but not quite to the level of their Pac-12 South brethren.

 

They ran out of gas in the fourth quarter against Oregon and let a lead going into the final period lapse against Arizona. At Arizona State, Colorado dug an early hole it could never escape.

 

Saturday's visit to UCLA promises more of the same. The Bruins are not without flaws, evidenced in the home loss earlier this month to Arizona State and the blowout against Stanford, but every weakness Colorado has, UCLA checks off a worthy counter.

 

The Bruins can expect to strengthen their case for a final-month push at the Pac-12 Championship Game with a lopsided win to ring in Halloween.

 

 

Prediction: UCLA 45, Colorado 24

 

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

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