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Fresh off a #DarkNight 38-10 victory over Penn State, Ohio State travels to High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey, to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. This game will mark the first trip to High Point Solutions Stadium for the Buckeyes, as the teams played for the first time in 2014; Ohio State defeated Rutgers in Ohio Stadium 56-17.

 

New Jersey is one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country, and Ohio State is no exception to pulling talent from New Jersey. Among the players on Ohio State's roster that call New Jersey home are freshman offensive lineman Kevin Feder, sophomore wide receiver Noah Brown, sophomore cornerback Eli Apple, redshirt freshman defensive end Darius Slade, and senior placekicker Jack Willoughby. Of the players listed, Apple and Willoughby are certain to play against Rutgers; Brown is out for the season with an injury. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer expressed his affinity for the caliber of talent and coaching within New Jersey, among other things ~

 

 

Rutgers enters this game at 3-3, fresh off a comeback victory at Indiana (55-52). The victory over Indiana marked the first game back on the sidelines for embattled Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood. Flood had served a three-game suspension, following a university-led investigation into rules violations for inappropriate contact with a faculty member.

 

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Ohio State at Rutgers

 

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Ohio State -21

 

Three Things To Watch

 

1. Rutgers WR Leonte Caroo vs. Ohio State's Secondary

Caroo is averaging over 22 yards per reception and leads Rutgers with nine touchdown receptions. Fresh off a game at Indiana where Caroo had seven receptions for 157 yards and three touchdowns, look for Ohio State cornerbacks Eli Apple and Gareon Conley to share responsibility for covering Caroo, if Caroo plays. Caroo was listed as questionable for the Ohio State game at the beginning of the week.

 

2. J.T. Barrett's Time To Start, And Shine

Barrett was named Ohio State's starter by Meyer on the afternoon of Oct. 20, during The B1G coaches' teleconference. Barrett has been a spark for the Ohio State offense the last two games against Maryland and Penn State; how will Barrett perform as a starter for the first time in the 2015 season?

 

3. Ohio State's Rush Defense Against Rutgers' Running Game

Ohio State has been giving up substantial yardage on the ground, especially the last few games in wins over Maryland and Penn State. Rutgers brings in running backs Robert Martin and Josh Hicks, who both average over five yards a carry. Ohio State is also dealing with the loss of starter Tommy Schutt, who is out due to surgery. Ohio State will rotate other defensive linemen, such as Josh Hale, Michael Hill, and true freshman Robert Landers, to supplement Schutt's absence. Will Ohio State be able to shut down the Rutgers running game?

 

Final Analysis

 

Rutgers and its fans are gearing up for the first ever visit by the Buckeyes. Considering how much of a scare Rutgers was able to put into Michigan State when the Spartans visited, as well as a start by Barrett at quarterback, look for Ohio State to come out playing efficiently and effectively.

 

 

Prediction: Ohio State 49, Rutgers 21

 

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

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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 10:05
Path: /college-football/utah-utes-vs-usc-trojans-preview-and-prediction-2015
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The 2015 season is slowly getting away from USC in a big way. After losing by 10 points to rival Notre Dame, the Trojans return home to welcome the Pac-12 South leaders and the No. 3-ranked Utah Utes to the Coliseum. With a Halloween road game against the explosive Cal Bears next week, the Trojans could find themselves fighting to remain bowl eligible before too much longer.

 

Whether it was Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, Steve Sarkisian or Clay Helton, every USC coach since Pete Carroll has found a way to win the press conferences during the week. Okay, maybe not so much with Lane Kiffin but the others knew how to work a crowd. The problem came when the coaches were asked to win actual games. The platitudes are there during the week, but the performances to back them up are nowhere to be found come game time. 

 

After losing a very winnable game against Notre Dame in a disastrous fashion, interim head coach Helton will be under a microscope moving forward. A 2:1 pass-to-run ratio had the Trojans relying on quarterback Cody Kessler to win them the game late against Notre Dame. With 3:35 on the clock and down by 10, the Trojans began a drive at their own 1-yard line. The Trojans would finally cross the 50 with just under 50 seconds remaining in the game, they never even came close to scoring.

 

With a seven-point lead and significant advantage in total offensive yards and plays, the Trojans would post fewer than 90 yards in the quarter, turn the ball over twice, accumulate negative (-6) rushing yards, and bafflingly threw the ball on every, single first down play they had in the quarter. USC began the fourth quarter with a lead and 156 rushing yards. They ended the game with a loss and 150 rushing yards. Why Helton chose not to grind down the clock against a defense allowing 6.5 yards per carry is something he will have to explain if he has any real hope of landing the job on a more permanent basis.

 

With USC's College Football Playoff hopes dashed, a win over a Utah team that some experts feel are the No. 1 team in the country would go a long way toward building confidence in his ability to motivate this team moving forward. For all the bravado and player love shown toward Orgeron, the team's performances against Notre Dame and UCLA were less than impressive. Helton is already sitting behind the eight ball after Saturday, a loss to Utah could very well eliminate him from consideration before the season is over.

 

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Utah at USC

 

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

TV: FOX

Spread: USC -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. USC's ability to contain Britain Covey

The Trojans have been erratic on special teams in 2015. Several opponents have enjoyed prime field position to start drives and Notre Dame was no exception. The Irish's average starting field position against the Trojan defense was their own 37-yard line. For most of the game, the Irish started near midfield. If Utah kick returner Britain Covey is allowed to run wild in special teams and coverage, the Utes could put this game out of reach before USC's offense even has time to fail on its first third down of the game.

 

Covey has returned one punt for a touchdown already and he's No. 20 in the nation in yards per punt return. On offense, Covey is second on the team in receptions (22) and receiving yards (216). Given USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's tendency to surrender the middle of the field, Covey could enjoy the finest game of his young Ute career out of the slot. Expect the Utes to use running back Devontae Booker similar to how Notre Dame used C.J. Prosise, who had a field day against the Trojans' defense. 

 

Covey may not be the biggest or strongest guy on the field, but he's extremely quick, very intelligent, and has all of the tools to beat you from anywhere on the field. It would be the least surprising thing in the world to see him put up over 100 yards of offense against the Trojans.

 

2. Avoiding costly self-inflicted mistakes... maybe

This still isn't coming out of the "Things to Watch For" section until the Trojans prove that they're capable of limiting mistakes. Ten penalties against Notre Dame for a total of 105 yards moved the Trojans to No. 110 in the nation in penalty yards per game. The Trojans have 45 flags on the year, averaging 7.5 penalties per game. Their average penalty yardage per game has become more offensive as the year progresses, they're now spotting their opponents 72.8 free yards a game. At some point, this trend has to stop

 

USC's opponents have committed 17 fewer penalties and only average around 4.7 flags a game. They're also only giving up 46 yards a game via penalties, which means the Trojans are still consistently losing the discipline battle. They're No. 115 in the country in drawing penalties and No. 97 in the nation in committing them (per game), as undisciplined play has cost them in critical situations against Stanford, Washington, and Notre Dame. All of them ended up being losses. The Trojans excel at beating themselves and opposing coaches now notice. An opposing defensive coordinator can almost count on USC's offense bailing him out after his defense gives up a huge play. The frequency with which big plays are called back to the offensive line has gotten out of hand.

 

3. USC's ability to generate a pass rush

USC's opponents are averaging 6.8 yards per attempt when they drop back to pass and 11.8 yards per completion. Travis Wilson is averaging 7.15 yards per attempt and has completed 67.9 percent of his attempts. As a team, the Utes lead the Pac-12 in sacks allowed, giving up only 52 yards on seven sacks.

 

The Trojans are currently tied with Colorado in total sacks by a team. The Trojans' 86 total sack yards come 20 yards short of Washington State's 106 total yards. Yep, the Trojans are generating less of a presence in the backfield than the Cougars or the Buffaloes. With the Utes sitting at No. 2 in the conference in total time of possession and the Trojans sitting at No. 11, getting in Wilson's face will be key to any success on defense.

 

USC pundits and national experts have been extremely critical of the Trojan offensive line the past couple of games and Utah's defense is built to expose teams unable to generate a rush or defend the middle of the field. Of the five players on USC with the most sacks in '15, three of them do not play on the defensive line and one of them plays in the defensive backfield. Only about a third of USC's total sacks are coming from the defensive line and only about a quarter of their sack yardage comes from the defensive line.

 

The Trojans need their playmakers to come up big against the Utes. Turnovers, sacks, and quarterback hurries will come at a premium in this game. The Trojans are facing an uphill battle if they lose the majority of those battles. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is known for getting after opposing quarterbacks, forcing opponents into mistakes, and allowing teams to beat themselves. The Trojans will need to find a way to flip this script if they plan to bring Utah's title hopes crashing back down to earth.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Trojans' biggest weakness also is the reason they are going to lose this game big. Utah QB Travis Wilson excels when given time to choose his targets or pick up the first down with his legs. Last week, Wilson proved himself capable of running elements of the option. When you add in the fact that he was already a run-pass threat, intelligent option play just about makes him USC's worst nightmare. While it's unlikely that Utah suddenly switches to an option-based attack, Wilson's ability to run seemingly any offensive system gives him myriad methods of picking apart a very suspect USC defense under defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

 

The Trojans routinely beat themselves when they don't have to and the Utes are capable of punishing mistakes as well as anyone in the country. They average 3.2 turnovers per game, that's good enough for No. 4 in the country. Utah State lead the nation in turnovers per game at 3.2, so the state of Utah in general is enjoying a great season for punishing opponent's mistakes. Both the Utes and Trojans average about 1.2 turnovers per game, so it will come down to who can take protect the ball. That's been a problem for Kessler against top defenses.

 

Prediction: Utah 49, USC 17

 

— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Webb is a recruiting analyst for BarkBoard, Scout’s Fresno State affiliate. A contributor to USCFootball.com, Scout’s USC affiliate. He is also a regular guest and contributor for Reign Of Troy, USC’s FanSided affiliate. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.

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Utah Utes vs. USC Trojans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /college-football/juco-football-game-ends-after-brawl-erupts-east-mississippi-junior-community-college
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The East Mississippi Community College vs. Mississippi Delta Community College game couldn't even make it to halftime.

 

During the game Thursday night, a brawl erupted clearing both benches toward the end of the second quarter. EMCC had a 48-0 lead and players from both teams can be seen throwing punches and even trash cans as the officials try to separate the sides. The game was obviously called early due to "violent ejections."

 

 

 

 

Only at MDCC ...

Posted by Darius LaRentrez Scott on Thursday, October 22, 2015
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Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/kentucky-wildcats-vs-mississippi-state-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Mississippi State hosts Kentucky Saturday in an SEC cross-divisional battle of two teams both searching to become bowl eligible. A victory for the Bulldogs would extend the school record streak of bowl games to six, while a win for the Wildcats would put them one step closer to snapping a four-year stretch without a post-season appearance. Should UK find a way to upset Mississippi State, the Wildcats would also snap a six-game losing streak in the series, and would hand Dan Mullen his first career loss to Kentucky as a head coach since taking over in 2009.

 

Though the series has been one-sided in recent seasons, it is tied 21-21 all-time, and last year’s 45-31 shootout in Lexington was closer than the final score indicated. The No. 1 Bulldogs (playing the first game in program history as the nation’s top-ranked team) put the game away with a 61-yard onside kick return touchdown with 2:22 remaining in the contest.

 

Kentucky at Mississippi State

 

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Mississippi State -11

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. If Mississippi State Wins the First Half, the Bulldogs Will Win the Game

Last week, Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel completed two touchdown passes in the first quarter of last week’s game against Mississippi State that gave Tech a 14-0 lead. However, State responded with four scoring drives and pulled ahead on a two-yard TD run by quarterback Dak Prescott with 0:57 left to play in the second quarter, which gave MSU a 24-17 edge at halftime. It was the 47th time head coach Dan Mullen’s team had led at the half during his tenure, and the Bulldogs are 46-1 since 2009 when taking a lead into the locker room.

 

2. Patrick Towles is Heating Up

In last season’s meeting between Mississippi State and Kentucky in Lexington, Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles set a career-high with 390 passing yards during a 24-for-43 performance in which he threw two touchdowns. It was only the second time in his career that Towles had surpassed 300 passing yards in a game. Towles also set a career high with 76 rushing yards (and a personal-best 48-yarder), 23 carries and two rushing touchdowns.

 

After the Wildcats came up short against Mississippi State, Towles struggled and didn’t throw for 300 yards in a game until a 329-yard performance Oct. 3 against Eastern Kentucky in which he also tossed three touchdowns and two interceptions. The following week against Auburn, Towles completed 27 of 44 passes (which included several drops by receivers) for 359 yards and an interception, giving the junior 300-plus passing yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.

 

Over his last three games, including a 22-for-27, 249-yard, two-touchdown performance against Missouri Sept. 26, Towles has completed 78 of 113 passing attempts (69.0 percent) for 937 yards (312.3 per game) and five touchdowns with three interceptions.

 

3. Another Record-Setting Performance for Dak Prescott

Following a two-touchdown passing performance last week that pushed his seasons totals to 1,700 passing yards and 11 touchdowns on 148-for-225 passing, Dak Prescott put himself into elite company among SEC quarterbacks. The senior signal caller joined Tim Tebow (who was coached by Dan Mullen at Florida) and Johnny Manziel as the only QBs in league history to throw for 50 or more touchdowns and run for 30 or more TDs in a career.

 

Prescott also extended his school-record streak of consecutive passes without an interception (one of 23 school records Prescott currently owns, five of which were set earlier this season) to 274, which is the longest active streak in the nation and is 51 shy of former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson’s SEC record of 325.

 

Final Analysis

 

In three seasons since Mark Stoops was hired as the head coach at Kentucky, the Wildcats have improved the talent level on the roster, as well as production on the field, which has helped the team improve from 2-10 in 2013 to 5-7 last season and 4-2 this year. However, UK has yet to get over the hump and gain bowl eligibility.

 

With quarterback Patrick Towles leading the offense and Boom Williams offering explosive playmaking ability out of the backfield, the Wildcats can score against a Mississippi State defense that ranks No. 9 in the SEC and No. 47 in the country in total defense with an average of 368.4 yards per game.

 

However, Kentucky’s defense is a near mirror image at 374.8 yards allowed per contest, which ranks No. 10 in the conference and No. 54 nationally and the Bulldogs have more offensive weapons in record-setting quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receivers De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross. Therefore, expect MSU to outscore Kentucky and secure the sixth consecutive bowl bid for Mullen and the Bulldogs.

 

Prediction: Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 24

 

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

Teaser:
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/western-kentucky-hilltoppers-vs-lsu-tigers-game-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Key SEC teams have suffered true upset losses this college football season. Should Western Kentucky (6-1) pull off the unexpected upset over LSU (6-0) a major reshuffling of the College Football Playoff landscape would be in order.

 

The non-conference matchup between the Hilltoppers and the Tigers is a rare treat for college football fans, seeing two of the best offensive players at their given position display their skill sets against one another during a regular season game. All eyes will be on WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty and LSU running back Leonard Fournette when the game kicks off in Baton Rouge. 

 

The Hilltoppers have one of the most dynamic offenses in FBS thanks in large part to Doughty’s arm. Doughty (6-3, 220) has been on a roll since WKU’s season opener against Vanderbilt when he threw for just 209 yards with one score. Since then he has ripped off six consecutive games of at least 350 yards passing with four contests topping the 400-yard plateau.

 

On the other sidelines, LSU has jumped into the Playoff picture with a heavy dose of Fournette’s FBS-leading 1,202 rushing yards and a stout, and scary enough, improving defense. The Tigers are coming off a tough 35-28 home win over then-No. 8 Florida staring down a tough stretch of games that includes Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

 

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Western Kentucky at LSU

 

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Coverage: EPSNU

Line: LSU -16.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Brandon Doughty vs. LSU’s Defense

The Hilltopper offense runs directly through their senior quarterback. If Doughty gets time to pass and is allowed to get into a rhythm with his receivers this could be a scoring shootout. In WKU’s last contest against North Texas, the Hilltoppers poured it on the Mean Green racking up 683 total yards of offense with Doughty passing for 350 yards, four touchdowns, and one pick even after being taken out early in the second half.

 

The one area where LSU could be dinged this season is in the secondary. The pass rush is great and improving but the Tigers are tied for 46th in the nation in pass defense giving up 205 yards a game. In their last outing Treon Harris came off the bench to throw for 271 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

 

2. WKU’s Rushing Attack vs. LSU’s Defense

If Doughty gets hot the Hilltoppers have been blessed with tailbacks that have produced. Senior Leon Allen was injured in the second game of the year but redshirt freshman D’Andre Ferby and senior Anthony Wales have stepped up in his absence. Ferby has 317 rush yards on the season off 86 carries with a team-high six touchdowns but missed the North Texas game. Allen, who has appeared in three total games, has come on over the last two contests to post 313 yards rushing with 193 of those yards coming against the Mean Green. Ferby is expected back on the field against LSU after suffering a sprained ankle and an unclarified but presumed concussion.

 

LSU’s run defense is one of the best in the nation currently tied for eighth in FBS with Temple at 92 yards per game. The reality is WKU will be very lucky to pick up yards on the ground against the Tigers sans a breakaway run. The Hilltoppers are statistically one of the worst teams in the nation running the ball but if LSU sleeps on the run game and only focus on getting to Doughty then some key yardage or first downs could be had.

 

3. LSU’s Rushing Attack vs. WKU’s Rush Defense

Everything on offense for LSU begins and ends with Leonard Fournette. The Hilltoppers nearly allowed two North Texas 100-yard rushers with Damarcus Smith going for 122 and Jeffery Wilson stopped shy at 91 yards. In WKU’s lone loss of the season, a 38-35 thriller to Indiana, the Hoosiers had 639 yards of total offense covering 284 on the ground.

 

Florida entered the Week 7 contest against LSU with the nation’s No. 12-ranked run defense limiting teams to 99 yards a game. Fournette picked up 180 on 31 carries. Western Kentucky has the nation’s No. 76-ranked run defense allowing 173 yards a game.

 

Final Analysis

 

If Western Kentucky has hopes of defeating LSU two things need to happen: 1) Doughty lights it up for 400 yards with five touchdowns, and 2) the Tigers are caught looking ahead to their next game against Alabama. What makes this non-conference matchup interesting on a national scale is both keys to a WKU victory could happen.

 

Logic dictates that LSU is just too stacked on both sides of the ball for Western Kentucky. LSU’s offensive line is playing great, especially Ethan Pocic and Vadal Alexander. If Fournette’s touches are limited for one reason or another Derius Guice and Darrel Williams are both capable of controlling the game with the ball in their hands out of the backfield.

 

WKU typically scores quickly and their defense is used to being out on the field way too long game after game.

 

Unfortunately for Hilltopper fans, LSU’s offensive game plan is to wear out the opposing defensive front by controlling the game and clock with their ground attack. Look for the Hilltoppers to have their hands on their hips gasping for air early in the second quarter.

 

LSU is averaging nearly three sacks a game, can they get to Doughty early and often?

 

Prediction: LSU 48, WKU 28

 

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

Teaser:
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. LSU Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:50
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-vs-georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Florida State and Georgia Tech’s midseason matchup had so much more pizzazz at the beginning of the year. The Justin Thomas vs. Everett Golson talk would be in full swing and both would be leading their teams towards an ACC Championship Game berth.

 

Funny how things change so quickly in college football.

 

Georgia Tech is now coming off its fifth loss in a row. Count them, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and then Pittsburgh. The Yellow Jackets have no chance at repeating as ACC Coastal champions and the offense is averaging its lowest total rushing yards per game since Paul Johnson arrived in Atlanta. In case you forgot, Tech is a triple option team.

 

Meanwhile, Florida State is rolling through the competition with new quarterback Everett Golson who is still learning the offense. To date, Golson has 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions. Dalvin Cook is the best running back in the ACC and top five in the nation. The Seminoles' defense continues to be good at the right moments, as FSU is undefeated at the midway point.

 

This game is a rematch of last year’s ACC title game but lacks all of the juice it had coming into this year. Georgia Tech could save its season with a big win over Florida State while the Seminoles will try and continue their run to a return trip to the College Football Playoff.

 

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Florida State at Georgia Tech

 

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Florida State -6

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The Evolution of Everett Golson

Remember when everyone said Everett Golson wouldn’t do well because he is turnover prone and that he would struggle in a new offense? Well Golson has the exact opposite of all of that. Golson has 11 touchdowns to ZERO interceptions in 2015. Zero. This is coming from a guy that threw 14 a year ago. Jimbo Fisher continues to work wonders with quarterbacks. FSU doesn’t need Golson to be flashy, they just need him to play well. And he has done that so far this year. At some point Golson will have to make plays to win a game but he is playing within himself right now and that’s all Jimbo and the Seminoles need.

 

2. Dalvin Cook’s Heisman Resume

If you don’t think Dalvin Cook is a Heisman frontrunner, you haven’t watched enough football this year. Cook will enter Saturday’s game averaging 159 yards per game, 10 touchdowns and an impressive 8.68 yards per carry average. Even more impressive is the fact that Cook is averaging 4.5 yards per carry after contact, which leads the nation. Cook is explosive and will need to continue that trend if Florida State wants to make the playoffs.

 

3. Georgia Tech Needs to Show Life

You’ve lost five games in a row and have no shot of making it back to the ACC championship game or the playoffs. So what do you play for? Pride. And the fact that you can still knock a rival from the unbeaten stage on Saturday night. It hasn’t been pretty for Yellow Jacket fans this year but it happens. The Yellow Jackets have only endured one losing season since Johnson took over in 2008 so it’s not like this is a problem right now. But Johnson needs to show that he still has this team and they can still go out and compete.

 

Final Analysis

 

This game has all the makings for an upset. Florida State is undefeated and on the road. Georgia Tech is scrambling to win a game and their back is against the wall. Georgia Tech has an offense that FSU hasn’t played against this year. But when it comes down to the meat and bones of it all, Florida State is just a far superior team this year. Everett Golson and Dalvin Cook are playing on a high level and Jimbo Fisher continues to show people that he is an elite coach. I think Georgia Tech keeps the game close for a half but then Florida State’s talent and depth will eventually shine through.

 

Prediction: Florida State 34, Georgia Tech 21

 

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

Teaser:
Florida State Seminoles vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/washington-state-cougars-vs-arizona-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Since losing in Week 1 to FCS Portland State, few teams in the Pac-12 have been as hot as Washington State. The Cougars have won four of their last five, with the sole loss coming in a back-and-forth, one-score contest at nationally ranked Cal.

 

With its overtime defeat of Oregon, Washington State positioned itself as a possible X-factor in the Pac-12 North race. Maintaining that place is contingent on winning Saturday at Arizona.

 

The defending Pac-12 South champion Wildcats cling to the hope of repeating. Despite an 0-2 start to conference play, Arizona's not eliminated from contention. Both teams ahead of the Wildcats in the loss column, Arizona State and Utah, are on the November docket.

 

Arizona cannot endure another loss, however, and stopping the surging Cougars is a tall order.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 8 Preview



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Washington State at Arizona

 

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: Arizona -7.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Can Arizona Ground The Air Raid?
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk is hitting his stride in Pac-12 play. Thrust into the starting lineup last season after Connor Halliday's season-ending injury, Falk's experience has translated into a savvy command of head coach Mike Leach's offense.

 

Falk is second in the nation at 395.2 passing yards per game, is completing better than 72 percent of his attempts and has 21 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

 

Washington State's deep and diverse corps of receivers pose match-up problems for an Arizona secondary that's dealt with injuries all season. Converted wide receiver DaVonte' Neal thrived in his move to cornerback, but was dinged up for last week's win at Colorado.

 

Defending Washington State's receivers is a case of pick your poison, but a healthy Neal is vital, particularly in a matchup with dangerous Gabe Marks.

 

Arizona's No. 92-ranked passing defense is most susceptible to big plays. Look for Washington State to attack early with a vertical route to either Marks or Williams, likely in a situation wherein Cam Denson is isolated in coverage.

 

2. Arizona's Two-Quarterback Attack
Arizona came out clicking at Colorado last week, scoring 17 points on its first three possessions. The Wildcats then went stale, coughing up turnovers and failing to get into scoring range as the Buffs rallied to take the lead.

 

Head coach Rich Rodriguez shook things up by pulling quarterback Anu Solomon for dynamic ball carrier Jerrard Randall. Arizona sacrifices a dimension from the passing game with Randall, but his explosiveness out of the pocket put Colorado's defense back on its heels. The Wildcats rolled up 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to regain control for the win.

 

While two-quarterback systems are typically less than ideal, Rodriguez tapped into a quality last week that, at the very least, forces defensive coordinators to prepare for two distinctly different styles. Solomon is pass-first but will rush if the opening is there; Randall is a speedster who relies on quick, short routes through the air.

 

3. Winning The Long Game
Arizona and Washington State are two of the nation's very best in explosive plays; that is, plays from scrimmage going for at least 20 yards. The Wildcats rank No. 11 and the Cougars No. 17.


While Arizona's Solomon is capable of uncorking a deep pass, Wildcat ball-carriers are adept at finding gaps created by their version of the spread offense. Whether it's Randall, Jared Baker or Nick Wilson, Arizona can turn the tide of a game with a long touchdown run.

 

The difference in explosive plays Saturday is likely to spell the difference in final score.

 

Final Analysis

 

Arizona enjoyed a five-game win streak over Washington State from 2006 through 2010, but the series went on a two-year hiatus after the conference's expansion to 12 teams. Washington State ended the streak in impressive fashion in 2013, shutting down the Wildcats' explosive offense to win in Arizona Stadium for the first time since 2004.

 

With its margin for error in the Pac-12 virtually gone, Arizona must defend its home field this time around. The Wildcats are in a manageable stretch, with a road trip to Washington on Halloween before a three-game South run at USC, Utah and Arizona State.

 

Avoiding an offensive lull akin to the drought it suffered last week at Colorado, or in the first half of the home loss to UCLA, is vital. Washington State's explosive offense can pile on quickly if presented an opportunity — just ask Oregon, which had a two-score lead erased in the fourth quarter against the Cougars two weeks ago.

 

Wilson's return to the lineup after missing the Colorado game gives Arizona a boost, particularly with Baker playing well in the starter's absence. The Wildcats' ability to attack with a two-headed backfield — if not three-headed with Randall in the lineup — should buoy Arizona against a Washington State defense ranked No. 110 nationally.

 

Prediction: Arizona 42, Washington 35

 

— 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:
Washington State Cougars vs. Arizona Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/missouri-tigers-vs-vanderbilt-commodores-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Two of the SEC's most disappointed fan bases will likely gaze upon a defensive struggle when their teams collide Saturday. Really, the storyline in this one is bad offense. Missouri is averaging just 16.6 points per game, while Vanderbilt paces slightly ahead at 19.3.

 

Mizzou comes into the game with a decent record of 4-3 (1-3 SEC) but the Tigers are lacking any sort of momentum to carry them into the remainder of the season. That, of course, has not been the case over the last two years. The defense is playing well, but the Tigers can't seem to find the end zone.

 

On the other hand, Vanderbilt has done a fairly decent job of moving the football, but it also has done everything in its power to turn it over. The Commodores come into this one having relinquished the ball 16 times en route to a 2-4 record, still winless in the SEC.

 

Saturday will mark the eighth meeting all-time between Mizzou and Vandy on the gridiron. The Tigers hold a 4-2-1 edge in the series, having won the last two. The series would be tied if not for back-to-back Missouri victories in 1895 and '96. For what it's worth, Babe Ruth was born around this time and Henry Ford was getting ready to unveil his first automobile.

 

Missouri at Vanderbilt

 

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Missouri -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Will either team score a touchdown?

This is a basic starting question, but it's worth asking. Neither team has had any success finding pay dirt through the first half of the season. Mizzou has scored single digits in three of its last five games and has not scored a touchdown since the South Carolina game Oct. 3. Vandy is finding the end zone a bit more often, but usually no more than once or twice a game. The Tigers will possess one of the best defenses Vanderbilt has seen this season. On the flip side, Missouri could be in for a rough going against an improved Commodore front seven. 

 

2. Is anyone taking the over in this game?

Continuing that rhetoric, the way the offenses match up with the defenses in this game could be truly remarkable. It would not be surprising to see this one head to overtime tied at zero. In fact, the offenses are struggling so mightily that when the opening over/under came out for this game, it nearly set a record. At 34, the opening over/under line for this game was the lowest set for a college football game since 2004. The line has since moved to 35, but it begs the question: Can anyone envision even a 17-17 game?

 

3. Can Vanderbilt finally get over the hump?

Despite the lack of touchdowns, Vanderbilt has looked much better this year moving the ball. The same really can't be said for Missouri. If the Commodores can somehow find the end zone, maybe even once, they have a real shot at winning this game. Also, they must limit turnovers. Vanderbilt benefits from playing this one at home and second-year head coach Derek Mason is in desperate need of a signature win. This game against the Tigers is a grand opportunity for Mason and his team.

 

Final Analysis

 

It's going to be a struggle. I think we can all agree on that. The over/under is probably set so shockingly low for good reason. One more important aspect to note is that both teams are in the top four in the SEC in field goals made this season. There is a good chance the kickers will be called on in this one, so special teams could factor in heavily. Vanderbilt won't go down without a fight, but Mizzou is known for getting it done in sloppy fashion. Gary Pinkel's team will be far more prepared when the fourth quarter arrives and a stingy Tigers defense will be the difference in a close game.

 

Prediction: Missouri 16, 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.

Teaser:
Missouri Tigers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-vs-illinois-fighting-illini-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The Badgers head into Champaign on Saturday in an attempt to defeat the Fighting Illini for the sixth consecutive time. Wisconsin is fresh off a 24-7 victory over Purdue, holding the Boilermakers to just 192 total yards of offense, only solidifying their nationally-ranked third overall defensive unit.

 

The Badgers have won nine of the last 10 meetings against Illinois, the last three ending in blowout fashion with an average win margin of 17 points per contest.

 

Wisconsin is expected to get starting center Dan Voltz back, and could see the return of starting tailback Corey Clement, who's been sidelined since Week 3 with a sports hernia (groin) injury.

 

Wisconsin at Illinois

 

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

TV: Big Ten Network

Spread: Wisconsin -7

 

Three Things to watch For

 

1. Corey Clement

The Badgers' tailback had preseason Heisman expectations, but a sports hernia injury has derailed the junior to this point.

 

Wisconsin is hopeful Clement can play on Saturday, after suiting up and going through warm ups last week against Purdue before ultimately deciding not to force the issue.

 

With Clement, the Badgers expect to open up their offensive firepower, which has been somewhat vanilla so far this season.

 

2. Wisconsin offensive line

Wisconsin will see the return of starting senior center Dan Voltz, one of the few linemen on the roster with true experience.

 

Head Coach Gary Andersen said he expects Voltz to play and hopes that the offensive line can start to glue together down the stretch against tough conference opponents. It remains to be seen how much the offensive game plan changes with Voltz re-inserted back into the lineup.

 

3. Illinois RB Josh Ferguson

Ferguson has rushed for 381 yards so far this season, but sat out last week with a shoulder injury. His status is listed as "very questionable" by interim head coach Bill Cubit on Wednesday when speaking with reporters.

 

The Fighting Illini are going to need to attack Wisconsin effectively through the air and ground if they want any chance of defeating the Badgers, though unlikely.

 

Ferguson's presence in the backfield would be a huge plus for the Illini, as they continue to successfully overcome a late preseason fire of their former head coach.

 

Final Analysis

 

Wisconsin has been rolling, despite its home hiccup loss to Iowa. Expect the team to be even more efficient with the return of key offensive starters en route to another Big Ten victory on Saturday.

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Illinois 13

 

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

Teaser:
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-red-raiders-vs-oklahoma-sooners-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Texas Tech and Oklahoma enter their game Saturday coming off of starkly different performances. The Sooners could do no wrong in their 55-0 shellacking of Kansas State. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders squeaked by the worst Power 5 team in America, Kansas, in a showing that even head coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted was a “lucky” win.

 

Still, spirits in Lubbock have to be high following the Red Raiders’ 5-2 start. Tech already has more wins than it did last season and only needs one more to secure a bowl bid. The oddsmakers say it’s unlikely to come on Saturday, installing OU as a 14-point favorite.

 

The Sooners, however, have shown that they’re vulnerable to spread offenses in the mold of Texas Tech’s Air Raid scheme. Tulsa, for example, rolled up 600 yards of offense in a visit to Norman last month, averaging 6.6 yards per play.

 

If the Sooners can’t slow down Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, running back DeAndre Washington and the rest of the Red Raiders’ dangerous arsenal of offensive weapons, this could turn into an upset along the lines of Tech’s stunning win in Norman in 2011.

 

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Texas Tech at Oklahoma


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Oklahoma -14

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Le’Raven Clark’s health

In Clark, Tech has possibly the best offensive lineman in the entire Big 12 and a major contributor to the team’s prolific offense. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, an injury to the veteran tackle has left his status for Saturday’s contest up in the air. Tech needs Clark at somewhere close to full strength to stave off OU’s imposing pass rush.

 

2. Ball security

Tech ranks 17th nationally in turnover margin thanks in large part to defensive coordinator David Gibbs’ ballhawks. The Red Raiders have snagged eight interceptions and recovered seven of their opponents’ fumbles through seven games. If the dicey weather forecast for Saturday afternoon in Norman comes to pass, Tech will have an even better shot than usual to knock some balls loose.

 

3. OU’s secondary versus Tech’s receivers

Tulsa QB Dane Evans and his productive receiving corps strafed OU’s defense for 427 yards and four touchdowns through the air earlier this year. It provided a stark reminder for OU fans of all the big passing plays given up a year earlier. Otherwise, though, opponents have actually found flying the Sooner skies pretty unfriendly this year. Mahomes and his receivers will provide the toughest test yet in 2015 for OU’s secondary.

 

Final Analysis

 

OU’s pass defense has tightened up significantly since the Tulsa game, raising some legitimate doubts about the capability of Tech’s offense to score often enough to hang with the Sooners on their home turf. However, Mahomes has taken steps forward this year in terms of making better decisions, and he still has the same rocket arm and elusiveness in the backfield.

 

For the Red Raiders to have a crack at winning this game, Kingsbury needs to keep OU’s D honest by utilizing Washington on the ground and spreading the ball around the field with the pass. When Mahomes delivers the ball to his receivers, Tech will need greater consistency than it has been getting from the likes of Jakeem Grant and Devin Lauderdale when it comes to securing catches.

 

Ultimately, OU probably has too much offensive firepower for a Tech defense that is outgunned against Big 12 attacks. The Sooners’ offensive line showed signs of greater cohesion last week against Kansas State, which hints at the sputtering running game getting a jolt in the near future. This could be the week that Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon finally start fulfilling their potential out of the backfield.

 

Whatever the case may be, look for the Sooners to overwhelm a beleaguered Tech defense in the second half and pull away towards a comfortable win.

 

Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Texas Tech 28

 

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

Teaser:
Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Oklahoma Sooners Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/week-8-college-football-picks-against-spread
Body:

Last week was both unpredictable and bizarre.

 

Entering last weekend, there were the seven teams left in college football without a win against the spread all year. Five covered and UTEP didn't play, leaving the Miners and Old Dominion as the only teams in college football without a win against the spread.

 

Meanwhile, Central Michigan remained the lone unbeaten against the number (6-0-1) after drubbing Buffalo 51-14.

 

I'm still well into the black on the season but have been struggling the last two weekends. Time to bounce back (with some underdogs)!

 

Last Week: 3-4

Year-to-date: 25-18

 

Texas A&M (+6) at Ole Miss

The Rebels are reeling right now after two losses and lots of injuries. Texas A&M was much closer to Alabama than the score indicated last week and is desperate for a marquee win in the SEC West this fall. The Rebels' D-Line has been non-existent lately and Kyle Allen could light the Landsharks up. Prediction: Texas A&M +6

 

Utah (+3.5) at USC

Yes, somebody somewhere knows something and I’m not buying it. USC is more talented and more athletic but Utah has been beating teams like that all year long. Defense and special teams travel and the veteran quarterback knows how to handle this situation. Prediction: Utah +3.5 (There is a caveat, however, if the big money keeps rolling in on USC and the line gets bigger, something is up and you should take USC.)

 

Washington St (+7.5) at Arizona

The Wildcats' defense isn’t stopping anything and is banged up without Scooby Wright. The Cougars are arguably the best passing offense in the nation and could easily win this game outright after handling both Oregon schools. Prediction: Washington State +7.5

 

Indiana (+16.5) at Michigan State

Indiana has an offense (when healthy) that can score on any defense in the nation. Michigan State is coming off a physical and emotional win over Michigan. Look for Nate Sudfeld and the Hoosiers' spread offense to keep it close. The Spartans are also a nasty 1-6 against the number this year. Prediction: Indiana +16.5

 

Ohio St (-21) at Rutgers

Last weekend against Penn State will be the game the nation looks back at Ohio State and says, that looks familiar. J.T. Barrett is running the show now and Urban Meyer will want to get his new guy as much confidence as possible. Look for a huge showing from the Buckeyes. Prediction: Ohio State -21

 

Florida State (-6) at Georgia Tech

Just like the Buckeyes, the Noles are finding their stride at just the right time. Everett Golson is playing well, Dalvin Cook is unstoppable and the defense is playing really well. The betting public still doesn’t believe and that is the only reason this line is so low. Prediction: Florida State -6

 

Houston (-21) at UCF

I’m going back to this well. Houston is crushing teams and not only is UCF winless on the season but is 1-6 against the spread too. Look for the Cougars to continue to make statements. Prediction: Houston -21

 

Bowling Green (-14) at Kent St

The Falcons boast one of the highest-scoring offenses in college football and a 5-2 record against the spread. Kent State just gave up 38 to Toledo in a 31-point loss and has mustered just 22 points over the last two games (including a 15-10 win over a terrible UMass team last weekend). Prediction: Bowling Green -14

 

Best/Worst Records Against the Spread

 

Best TeamsRecordWorst TeamsRecord
C. Michigan6-0-1Old Dominion0-6
Notre Dame6-1UTEP0-5-1
So. Miss6-1Michigan St1-6
Stanford5-1UCF1-6
Toledo5-1Auburn1-5
Navy4-1North Texas1-5
USF4-1-1Oregon St1-5
  Colorado1-5-1
  Fresno St1-5-1
  Texas St1-4

 

Teaser:
Week 8 College Football Picks Against the Spread
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:17
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-vs-alabama-crimson-tide-prediction-and-preview-2015
Body:

When it comes to SEC rivalries, it doesn’t get much better than when Alabama plays Tennessee. The two teams have met 97 times since 1901. Alabama holds a 52-37-8 lead in the series and currently carries an eight-game win streak. The Crimson Tide defense held off a Tennessee rally led by then-backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs and current NFL receiver Amari Cooper shattered ‘Bama’s single-game receiving record with 224 yards on nine receptions, as the Crimson Tide cruised to a 34-20 win last year in Knoxville.

 

The Vols picked up their first conference win of the season on Oct. 10 against Georgia. Dobbs accounted for five touchdowns (3 passing, 2 rushing) in the contest, helping Tennessee overcome a 21-point deficit to give the Vols a 38-31 win ahead of the bye week. After a 3-3 season, morale in Knoxville is understandably low. But a win against a bitter rival could quickly turn that around. Tennessee last beat Alabama in 2006 and the Vols’ last win in Tuscaloosa came in '03.

 

The Tide return to Tuscaloosa one week after traveling to College Station, Texas, where it posted more than 40 points on Texas A&M for the second consecutive year. But unlike last season’s offensive explosion that netted 602 yards of total offense, the Tide defense this year did most of the heavy lifting, forcing four turnovers and scoring on three to win 41-23. Head coach Nick Saban will look for that momentum to spill over into Saturday's conference showdown.

 

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Tennessee at Alabama

 

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

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -14.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs

Many who follow college football know what Dobbs is capable of doing. He showcased his ability to the entire country in his team’s nationally televised win against Georgia. Behind Dobbs, who will make his 16th career start Saturday, the Tennessee offense ran 90 offensive plays. The aerospace engineering major threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, while adding another 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Dobbs is one of the SEC’s most effective signal-callers, as he is 8-4 since the end of 2013. A much-improved Alabama secondary was able to stifle Texas A&M’s high-octane offense last week, and it will be interesting to see if they can replicate that performance against one of the conference's best quarterbacks. While the unit's four forced turnovers were a source of pride, the 'Bama defensive front held Aggie rushers to a combined 32 yards.

 

2. Alabama running back Derrick Henry

If not for LSU phenom Leonard Fournette, Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry would likely be the conference’s most hyped back. Last week against Texas A&M Henry rushed for 236 yards — a career high — with two rushing touchdowns. The current SEC Offensive Player of the Week’s 55-yard, first-quarter touchdown extended his rushing scoring streak to an NCAA best 12 games. Only Fournette (1,202) has more yards than Henry’s 901 in the SEC, and Henry’s 12 rushing touchdowns also rank second in the conference to Fournette’s 14. The junior ranks eleventh in the nation in rushing yards per game (128.7). He has also broken the 100-yard rushing mark in four of the team’s seven games this year. The Volunteers’ rushing defense has shown itself to be porous this season as it currently ranks tenth in the conference in rushing yards and allows 170.5 per game. With running back Kenyan Drake nursing a thigh injury that he sustained last week in College Station, the Volunteers are in for a large helping of Henry. It isn’t unrealistic to expect him to power past 1,000 rushing yards on the season by game’s end.

 

3. Alabama’s health and stamina

Drake isn’t the only ‘Bama player nursing an injury. Starting center Ryan Kelly also left Saturday’s game early after suffering a concussion in the first half. Kelly has been held out of Alabama’s practices as he attempts to pass the mandatory concussion protocol. An embattled Alabama team has the misfortune of playing Tennessee on the heels of the Vols’ by week. Carrying arguably the nation’s toughest schedule, ‘Bama’s first half of the season has included physical matchups against Wisconsin, Ole Miss, Georgia, Arkansas and Texas A&M. While the the Crimson Tide will receive a much-needed bye week next week, it must first get past Tennessee.

 

Final Analysis

 

Even with three blemishes on its record, Tennessee isn’t to be taken lightly. The Vols are a formidable opponent with a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball. Although head coach Butch Jones is still in the process of resurrecting the program, this year’s team ranks among one of his most talented since his arrival in Knoxville three years ago. Players like running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, a former member of the Crimson Tide, and a number of talented youthful defenders will offer the Tide a challenging test. But stealing a road win in Bryant-Denny Stadium won't be an easy task. Simply put, Alabama just doesn’t lose to unranked opponents. And it most certainly doesn't lose at home. The Crimson Tide have won 19 of their last 20 home games, dating back to 2012. Even more staggering is that the Tide, since Saban's arrival, has rattled off 57 straight wins against unranked teams. Fans shouldn't expect a blowout Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, but rather a hard-fought, physical matchup. But Henry and Alabama's offensive line should ultimately send the Tide into the bye week on a winning note.

 

Prediction: Alabama 24, Tennessee 14

 

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

Teaser:
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Prediction and Preview
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/duke-blue-devils-vs-virginia-tech-hokies-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The ACC Coastal Division has been widely criticized as the weakest division among the Power 5 conferences. But halfway through the season, three teams remain unbeaten in the league and another has four overall victories.

 

Duke finds itself squarely in the mix at 2-0 in the ACC and 5-1 overall with their lone loss coming to Northwestern before the Wildcats were ravaged by injuries. David Cutcliffe's team features a very stingy defense, one that leads the nation by surrendering just 9.3 points per game.

 

Virginia Tech, on the other hand, finds itself faltering near the bottom of the Coastal standings. Injuries to key players, including quarterback Michael Brewer and cornerback Kendall Fuller, along with an inconsistent offensive line have been the main reasons for the Hokies’ struggles.

 

Virginia Tech has won 14 of the 22 meetings between the two schools.

 

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Duke at Virginia Tech

 

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Virginia Tech -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Michael Brewer Getting the Start

The senior quarterback returned to action in the second half against Miami. With the Hokies down 23-13, Brewer started out 3-for-3 and threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Ford to cut the Hurricanes' lead to three. He later threw an interception that ended any Hokie hopes, but he definitely added something to the passing game. Brenden Motley can make plays running the ball, but his three turnovers against Miami were disastrous and he is not the same passer as Brewer. The Hokies hope that the spark Brewer provided against Miami carries over to this Saturday.

 

2. Blocking the Duke Defensive Front

Brewer can only make a difference if the Virginia Tech offensive line, which has been a problem all season, can keep him on his feet and can open up holes for the Hokies running backs. Duke’s defense has not pressured the quarterback all that much this year, but that’s about all they don’t do. The defensive Devils allow just 121.67 yards rushing per game and 131.2 yards passing, and when you put those together you get FBS’ No. 4 total defense. Kyler Brown and the Duke defensive line are tough, but where they really excel is in providing space so that superstar safety Jeremy Cash and linebacker Dwayne Norman can make plays. Virginia Tech’s line showed some positive signs against Miami, but Duke’s defense is a lot stronger than the Hurricanes’.

 

3. Duke’s Running Game

The Blue Devils don’t have big offensive numbers, but their 181 rushing yards per game is more than respectable. Quarterback Thomas Sirk is the team’s leading rusher and Duke features a deep group of running backs that includes Shaquille Powell, Shaun Wilson and Jela Duncan. Bud Foster’s Hokie defense is still strong but they have been susceptible to effective ground games, ranking 84th in rushing defense. Duke will take a shot in the passing game only after the running game is established.

 

Final Analysis

 

Perhaps Brewer’s return can give the Hokies a lift. But that seems to be Virginia Tech’s only hope. They have been laboring while the Blue Devils are surging. The Hokies' shaky offensive line goes against one of the best defenses in the country. Duke should be able to pick up some yardage on the ground and they have one of the best kickers in the country in Ross Martin, who is 12-of-12 with a long of 53 yards. Duke probably won’t score a ton of points, but they won’t need to. The Devils go to 6-1 with a win in Blacksburg.

 

Prediction: Duke 20, Virginia Tech 13

 

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

Teaser:
Duke Blue Devils vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:10
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Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-midseason-breakout-players-2015
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With the first half of the 2015 college football season completed, it’s time to take a look back at the first seven weeks and examine some of the new stars across the nation. Breakout players are hard to predict in the preseason, but the emergence of new stars are a huge boost for a team’s win total or the opportunity to compete for a playoff spot.

 

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Houston quarterback Greg Ward are two of college football’s top breakout players from the first half of 2015, and both show no signs of slowing down. McCaffrey has elevated the Cardinal’s offense since the opening week loss to Northwestern, while Ward could help the Cougars earn the Group of 5 bowl spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowls.

 

Expect to see more stars and standouts emerge over the next seven weeks of action, but here’s a look at 10 breakout players from the first half of 2015.

 

College Football's Top 10 Breakout Players at Midseason

 

Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

It should be no surprise a Mike Leach-coached quarterback is posting huge passing totals. After starting the final three games last year, Falk stepped into the full-time role this spring and ranks as one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks midway through the 2015 season. The sophomore has completed 235 of 325 throws for 2,371 yards and 21 scores. Falk also recorded at least three games of 400 passing yards or more this season, while his 72.3 completion percentage ranks second nationally. 

 

Related: College Football 2015 Midseason Awards

 

Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

The rapid development of Harris is another example of why Missouri’s line coach Craig Kuligowski is one of the top defensive assistants in the nation. The Tigers entered 2015 looking to replace Shane Ray and Markus Golden at end, but Harris has eased any concerns this coaching staff had at defensive end. Through seven contests, Harris has recorded 29 tackles (12.5 for a loss), five sacks, four quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. 

 

Willie Henry, DT, Michigan

Henry is just one of a handful of players having a standout year for Michigan’s defense. The Wolverines are giving up only 9.3 points per game and rank second nationally by holding opponents to 3.45 yards per play. Henry accumulated 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss in his first two years of playing time in Ann Arbor and has already exceeded those totals seven games into 2015. The junior has 19 tackles (nine for a loss), six sacks and two pass breakups.

 

Related: Predictions for Every Week 8 Game

 

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Kirk is another dynamic addition to Texas A&M’s high-powered offense, and the Arizona native is arguably the nation’s top true freshman midway through the 2015 season. Kirk leads the team with 39 catches for 609 yards and four scores, while his per game average (101.5) is the best in the SEC. The freshman is also second in the conference with an average of 195 all-purpose yards per game.

 

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Stanford’s run of six consecutive 1,000-yard rushers ended last season, but the Cardinal will start a new streak in 2015 with the emergence of McCaffrey. The sophomore is one of the nation’s top all-purpose performers, averaging 253 total yards per game and 8.9 yards per touch. McCaffrey has 844 rushing yards and five scores through the first six games of 2015.

 

Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State

Despite the loss of Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan, the Penn State defensive staff felt confident in its defensive ends this offseason. So far, that prediction is holding true. Nassib is one of the nation’s top overall defensive performers in the first half of 2015, recording 35 tackles (15.5 for a loss), 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. The senior is a former walk-on and only had 19 career tackles entering the 2015 season.

 

Related: Top 15 Games for the Second Half of 2015

 

Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh

New coach Pat Narduzzi is already making an impact on Pittsburgh’s defense. The Panthers are holding opponents to 21.7 points per game, 5.04 yards per play and lead the ACC with 22 sacks. Headlining the rush off the edge at defensive end for Narduzzi is Price, who has registered 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss through the first six games. Additionally, Price has 13 tackles, one blocked kick and one forced fumble in 2015.

 

C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame

A season-ending knee injury to Tarean Folston in the opener against Texas pushed Prosise into the No. 1 role. The Virginia native converted from receiver to running back after the 2014 campaign and entered this fall with just 10 career rushing attempts. Through seven games, Prosise has ensured there was no drop in production from Folston. The junior has rushed for 922 yards and 11 scores and caught 18 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown. Prosise’s 11 rushing touchdowns is tied for sixth nationally. 

 

Greg Ward, QB, Houston

New Houston coach Tom Herman is widely regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football. Under Herman’s direction, Ohio State’s offense never missed a beat last season after injuries sidelined Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, forcing Cardale Jones to start the final three games of 2014. Ward showed promise last season, and the junior has thrived under Herman’s watch and developed into one of the top Group of 5 quarterbacks. Ward has passed for 1,524 yards and nine scores in 2015 and rushed for 631 yards and 14 touchdowns. The junior’s 359.2 total yards per game average ranks seventh nationally.

 

Marcus Williams, S, Utah

Williams had his share of ups and downs as a true freshman for the Utes last season, but the sophomore is on pace to finish 2015 as one of the top safeties in the Pac-12. After six games, Williams ranks fourth on the team with 29 tackles but leads the Utes with four interceptions. The sophomore also has five passes defended and one fumble recovery. Williams is a key cog in a Utah secondary that held Arizona State without a passing score in last week’s win and has limited the last four teams on its schedule to less than 55 percent completion percentage.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 10 Midseason Breakout Players for 2015
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:07
Path: /college-football/virginia-cavaliers-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Virginia’s Mike London entered the season on perhaps college football’s hottest seat. Many felt that if the Cavaliers did not pull off an upset over UCLA, Notre Dame or Boise State that London would be gone.

 

After losing all three of those games, including getting shellacked 56-14 by the Broncos, the biggest upset may be that London is still gainfully employed. But since the loss to Boise there have been little signs of progress. Virginia had the ball in Pittsburgh territory with just under a minute left and a chance to tie the game. And last week, the Cavs beat Syracuse in three overtimes.

 

This week Virginia heads to Chapel Hill to face the red-hot North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC got off to a bit of a slow start last week against Wake Forest, but once the ball got rolling, it picked up steam in a hurry as the Heels cruised to a 50-14 victory. North Carolina has won five in a row and is 2-0 in the ACC.

 

Virginia at North Carolina

 

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: RSN/ESPN3

Spread: North Carolina -17.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Marquise Williams vs. the Virginia Defense

The senior’s play has mirrored that of the entire North Carolina team. He had a rough outing in the season opening loss to South Carolina and he was pulled from the Delaware game after the team’s slow start. But in the two most recent wins over Georgia Tech and Wake, the Charlotte native has been sensational, going a combined 27-of-44 for 416 yards with three touchdowns passing and 207 yards with three scores rushing. Virginia gives up 252 yards passing per game and Eric Dungey of Syracuse gave Virginia problems running the ball last week. It could be a big game for Williams.

 

2. Virginia Finding Offensive Balance

Running the ball is not Virginia’s strong suit. The Cavaliers rank No. 119 in rushing offense with much of their yardage coming on jet sweeps. What offensive success they’ve had has come from Matt Johns throwing the ball. But Gene Chizik’s Tar Heel defense is one of the best in the country at defending the pass. However, they are 113th in run defense. Virginia needs Taquan Mizzell and Albert Reid to be able to run a little bit and keep the UNC offense on the bench.

 

3.  North Carolina Defensive Pressure

It is one of the most interesting aspects of this North Carolina team. They rank No. 4 in the nation in pass defense, yet they have just four sacks on the year, ranking 127th out of 128 FBS programs. The Heels have gotten the job done without pressure. I think this week that may change. With Virginia being so ground game-challenged, Chizik may want to send guys like Shakeel Rashad and Jeff Schoettmer from the second level. Interestingly, Johns has thrown some beautiful balls this year with guys in his face. Then again, he has eight interceptions so disrupting his timing in any way may lead to turnovers.

 

Final Analysis

 

North Carolina looks like they have things cranked up. Beating Wake Forest is not a cause for huge celebration, but it was the first time the Demon Deacons had been blown out this season. The only pause for concern is that the next three games following Virginia are against UNC’s chief rivals for the Coastal Division throne and they could be looking ahead. That shouldn’t matter, though. North Carolina’s defense will be a tough nut to crack for UVA’s limited offense and Williams will hurt the Cavs by throwing to Quinshad Davis and Bug Howard as well as by tucking the ball away and running. North Carolina wins big, to the point where it is possible that this is London’s last game with Virginia.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 38, Virginia 10

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Virginia Cavaliers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:05
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Texas A&M and Ole Miss both enter Saturday night’s matchup in Oxford hoping to get back on track after suffering a loss last week. Memphis defeated the Rebels 37-24 in Week 7, while the Aggies gave away four turnovers in a 41-23 loss in College Station against Alabama.

 

Both teams are still smarting from last Saturday’s performances, but a win on Saturday night would help keep pace with Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. Ole Miss has one loss in league play (Florida) and owns a potential key conference victory over Alabama. It’s a bit early to consider West Division scenarios, but if the Rebels win out, the September win over Alabama would be huge for tiebreaker purposes. Texas A&M’s only SEC loss in 2015 came against the Crimson Tide last Saturday. If the Aggies win in Oxford, the rest of the conference slate is manageable. Coach Kevin Sumlin’s team hosts South Carolina and Auburn before stepping out of conference to play Western Carolina on Nov. 14. After the matchup with the Catamounts, the Aggies play at Vanderbilt and then LSU to close out the regular season. Texas A&M should be favored in all but one of its remaining games (at LSU) after Saturday night. If the Aggies win in Oxford, the Nov. 28 game at LSU could decide the SEC West winner.

 

Related: SEC Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review

 

Ole Miss and Texas A&M have met three times as SEC foes. The Aggies own a 2-1 series edge in those matchups, but the Rebels won 35-20 in College Station last season.

 

Texas A&M at Ole Miss

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Ole Miss -6

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The Rushing Attack

It seems odd to focus on this area with all of the explosive and big-play threats at receiver in this game, and two talented quarterbacks in Ole Miss junior Chad Kelly and Texas A&M sophomore Kyle Allen. Even though both teams have explosive passing attacks, establishing the run and generating production from the ground game is critical to keep the offense out of third-and-long situations or to reduce the pressure on Kelly and Allen. A consistent ground attack has been a problem for both teams in conference play this year, as Texas A&M ranks 14th in the SEC (97 yards per game) and Ole Miss at 10th. Additionally, the Rebels average just 2.9 yards per carry in SEC games. Neither team has to run for 200 yards a contest to be successful, but more balance – especially on first and second downs – would allow both offenses to stay out of third-and-long and obvious passing down situations. Which team will find the right answers on Saturday? The Rebels have an advantage here, as Texas A&M allows 228.7 rushing yards per game in league play.

 

Related: Predictions for Every Game in Week 8

 

2. Turnovers

As referenced in the opening, a significant reason for Texas A&M’s loss to Alabama has to do with turnovers. The Aggies lost four in last week’s game after giving away just three in the prior five matchups. The Rebels are in a similar predicament, as coach Hugh Freeze’s team has lost at least two turnovers in each of the last four games, including six in losses against Memphis and Florida. The outcome of this matchup is more complicated than just the turnover margin. However, whichever team can finish on the positive side of this stat is probably going to win on Saturday night.

 

Related: SEC Week 8 Predictions

 

3. The Offensive Lines and Quarterbacks

Ole Miss is getting a huge addition to its offense this Saturday. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil was suspended for the first seven games but is slated to return for Week 8. Tunsil is one of the nation’s top linemen and will help to stabilize a line that lost Robert Conyers to a torn ACL against Memphis and allowed 13 sacks in 2015. Tunsil’s return is good news for Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly against a Texas A&M defensive front that is among the nation’s most active groups at the line of scrimmage. Sophomore end Myles Garrett was arguably the No. 1 defender in college football through the first half of 2015, but if he can’t get to Kelly, the Rebels will have opportunities for big plays downfield to receivers Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, and Quincy Adeboyejo. Ole Miss’ defensive line hasn’t been as stout as most predicted this offseason, but there was some good news for this unit announced on Thursday. Standout ackle Robert Nkemdiche will play against Texas A&M after suffering a concussion against Memphis. The Rebels rank ninth in the SEC with 11 sacks, and the secondary has allowed its share of big plays (eight plays of 30 yards or more in 2015). If Texas A&M’s line keeps the pass rush off quarterback Kyle Allen, the Aggies have plenty of options at receiver - standout true freshman Christian Kirk is the go-to target - to exploit the leaky pass defense.

 

Final Analysis

 

College football’s weekend slate is relatively light on must-see matchups, but this meeting between the Rebels and Aggies in Oxford has to be one of the better games for Week 8. Both teams need to win this game to stay alive in the SEC West title mix and keep within striking distance of LSU and Alabama. There should be no shortage of points scored on Saturday night. Which team makes a critical stop on defense or forces a timely turnover? Considering the yards and points expected between the two high-powered offenses, one stop on defense in the second half may decide this game.

 

Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Texas A&M 31
Teaser:
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Ole Miss Rebels Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:00
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Who will show up for this contest, the "same old Spartans" from the past or the recent "new and improved Spartans" of the previous eight seasons? From 1970 through 2006, after Michigan State defeated Michigan, the Spartans struggled to win the next game, going 4-4 in those following matches. During head coach Mark Dantonio's tenure, his teams have won five out of six times after having defeated their archrivals in the previous game.

 

In September, Indiana was rolling toward a bowl game. Once the Hoosiers started the Big Ten portion of their schedule started, they hit some obstacles. They followed up a gutsy loss at home against Ohio State by being dominated at Penn State. Last week, they built up a 52-33 lead on Rutgers in the third quarter only to let the game slip away in the fourth.

 

Michigan State leads the overall series 45-13-2. In East Lansing, the Spartans dominate the series 24-5-1. Michigan State has won 15 of the 17 most recent matches against Indiana.

 

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Indiana at Michigan State

 

Kickoff:  3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Indiana +16.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Which Indiana offense arrives in East Lansing?

In six out of seven games, the Hoosiers gained at least 400 yards on offense. They averaged 38.7 points in those games. Can they repeat that against the Spartan defense who has given up an average of 397.3 yards?

 

However, the week after Indiana lost a nail-biting heartbreaker at home versus the top-ranked Buckeyes, they sputtered, only managing to gain 234 yards and score seven points at Penn State. Was that one clunker in Happy Valley just an outlier? Will they struggle in similar fashion after last week's gut-wrenching loss at home then traveling for the following game?

 

2. Repeated Spartan gaffes versus solid Hoosier efforts in the kicking game

Michael Geiger has missed four of nine field goals, all of those less than 40 yards in distance, in addition to shanking an extra point. The coverage teams have allowed an average of 20.7 yards per kickoff and 16.1 yards per punt. Opponents have returned a kickoff and a punt return for touchdowns.

 

Of the three Hoosier kick returners who have at least six returns, they have averaged more than 17 yards per return. The only Hoosier who has returned punts, Mitchell Paige, has averaged 12.1 yards per return in addition to scoring a touchdown. Griffin Oakes has been nearly perfect, connecting all 29 extra points and ten out of eleven field goals.

 

3. Responses to highly emotional finishes last week

The Spartans snatched an inexplicable victory from the collective maw of the Wolverines. Michigan State won in Ann Arbor in a manner that no football fan should ever expect to see in a lifetime full of watching thousands of games. How long will the players and coaches need to calm down from the exhilaration to focus on the rest of season?

 

Like Michigan, Indiana also allowed its opponent to score the winning points as time expired last week. The game-winning field goal capped a string of 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for Rutgers. Indiana allowed three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes though the Hoosiers did manage to thwart a two-point conversion and block an extra point. Can the Hoosiers put that blown opportunity behind them in order to focus on the trip to East Lansing?

 

Final Analysis

 

Both teams' goals are still within their control. Michigan State can still win the Big Ten Eastern Division to head to the conference championship game with hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff after winning that. Indiana only needs two victories in its five remaining games to go to a bowl game.

 

Viewers should expect another uninspired and sloppy performance by the Spartans. The Hoosiers will play with a nothing-to-lose attitude. The guys in crimson will remain pesky far into the fourth quarter. The teams will trade scores. However, the Hoosiers settling for a few field goals will be their downfall.

 

Prediction: Michigan State 35, Indiana 31

 

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

Teaser:
Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:55
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-vs-maryland-terrapins-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Two weeks after making a coaching change, Maryland is back in action this week. Maryland begins the post-Randy Edsall era with a quasi-home game against Penn State. The two Big Ten East Division rivals will square off on the NFL field in Baltimore, and Penn State will be looking for some revenge.

 

Last season Maryland scored its second all-time victory against Penn State by coming to State College, getting in players' faces, refusing to shake hands and celebrating a victory afterward. It was a rather embarrassing result for Penn State, and they have had a year to let that stew. Now Penn State looks to reaffirm its dominance by taking it to Maryland in Baltimore.

 

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Penn State vs. Maryland (Baltimore)

 

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Penn State -6.5

 

Three Things To Watch

 

1. Saquon Barkley and William Likely each can make big things happen

Last week Penn State welcomed back freshman running back Saquon Barkley to the playing field against Ohio State, and the kid put on a show. He may not have reached the end zone (he did once, but it was called back for a holding penalty), but he did go for just under 200 yards on the ground against the Buckeyes. When healthy, Barkley will dazzle with his feet and be difficult to slow down once he gets going. Maryland will have to prevent him from getting too far beyond the line of scrimmage.

 

Maryland's big playmaker is junior defensive back and special teams artist William Likely. Likely has returned two punts for touchdowns. Last season Penn State prevented him from breaking any big special teams plays, tying him down for a loss of seven yards on four punt returns. Special teams were a huge factor in Pen State's game against Ohio State, and Likely will be an important key player in this matchup.

 

2. Maryland moves past Randy Edsall

In case you forgot, Maryland made a coaching change two weeks ago. The firing of Randy Edsall sort of got lost in the headlines as USC made another coaching change out on the west coast, but in steps Mike Locksley to serve as the interim head coach of the Terrapins. It appeared Edsall had lost his players, and now we get to see just how much this team is ready to release some stress in their first game back since the coaching change. Penn State is playing this one cautiously, knowing a team with an interim coach may be a bit more dangerous and carefree.

 

3. There will be handshakes

Last year's meeting in Beaver Stadium got off to a rocky start when Maryland captains refused to shake hands with Penn State captains before the coin flip, which occurred shortly after players from both teams got into a bit of a shouting match and had to be separated as the teams took the field. Tensions will always be high in a game between two states sharing a border, but do not expect the same lack of sportsmanship this season. This year's Maryland captains have already moved on and have said they will indeed shake hands with their counterparts from Penn State. What happens once the game starts though is a whole other ballgame.

 

Final Analysis

 

Penn State has found a way to run the football with Saquon Barkley and should let that lead the way on offense rather than trust Christian Hackenberg to thrive through the air. Maryland's rushing defense ranks 13th in the Big Ten, allowing nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. Penn State, even with a shaky offensive line, should be able to take advantage of that from the start.

 

Prediction: Penn State 32, Maryland 17

 

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

Teaser:
Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:50
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The Louisville Cardinals (2-4) came into the season with high expectations. They returned a highly talented quarterback, several highly recruited skill players on both sides of the ball, and a coaching staff with a reputation for maximizing talent and ability every year they work with their players. Head coach Bobby Petrino and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham have worked tirelessly to help this young Louisville team mature and grow. The expectation from Year One to Year Two was supposed to be quite significant, but it has been quite the challenge to get this team where it would like to be. The greatest challenge has been consistency and playmaking. Louisville has struggled to get their young players all on the same page, at the same time, week in and week out. 

 

Louisville wants to change this trend against the Boston College Eagles (3-4). Boston College is also an up-and-down team that is struggling to find some consistency. Since they entered ACC play, the Eagles have not been able to find the winning formula, mainly because they have not been able to find any offensive production or a consistent field general. Head coach Steve Addazio hasn't gotten good quarterback play following Darius Wade's season-ending broken ankle. Neither Jeff Smith nor Troy Flutie (who has the last name of another famous Boston College QB) has performed well enough for either freshman to lay claim to the starting position.

 

Louisville and Boston College will both try and find some momentum this week.

 

Boston College at Louisville

 

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3 or ACC Network (check listings)

Spread: Louisville -7.5

 

Three Things To Watch

 

1. Jackson + Quick = Victory

It seems like the formula for Louisville to win is simple. Lamar Jackson runs the ball. Jackson runs again. Now throw it to James Quick. The result? Hopefully either a first down or a touchdown. It doesn’t seem like the Louisville offense needs more than just to get the ball to their best playmakers. Quarterback Jackson and wide receiver Quick seem to be the keys to making the Louisville offense flow. The challenge for Louisville is to put these primary playmakers in diverse situations, so they can open up other parts of the offense. If they do that, they will certainly have the advantage.

 

2. First Team to 17 Wins

These are not the most prolific offenses in the ACC. Louisville is averaging 26.3 points per game, but only 19.3 points in conference play. Boston College is averaging 25.2 points for the season, but only 15 points per game in conference play. This has all the making of a very, very VERY, low-scoring game, especially against these defenses. Boston College only allows 11 points per game, while Louisville gives up 23 points a game. Two stingy defenses against two inept offenses probably equals a very unentertaining game.

 

3. A Game to Build the Future

This season for both Louisville and Boston College is more about where these two programs are headed than where they are now. Both these programs are trying to build recruiting and on the field momentum. Saturday’s game is about how to move these programs forward and to make them attractive to much needed recruits or transfers. If Louisville and Boston College can put together a decent-LOOKING game, it may go a long way towards reaching the players that both these programs are targeting in their recruiting efforts. It appears that both programs now have the coaching staffs and programs in place to sustain long-term success. Now it’s time to get the players needed to make it so.

 

Final Analysis

 

This will not be the most entertaining game in the history of college football, but it could be a game that has tremendous influence on the future of both of these two programs. Louisville seems to be further along than Boston College in the development of its program, and that is probably going to be the difference in this game. That subtle advantage at quarterback for Louisville will be the difference that should put the Cardinals over the top Saturday... barely.

 

Prediction: Louisville 24, Boston College 15

 

— 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. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.

Teaser:
Boston College Eagles vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-vs-texas-longhorns-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Texas did what no one thought they could. They saved their season, and probably saved their coach’s job.

 

The Longhorns (2-4) went all hands on deck in Dallas to pull out a surprising and shocking victory. Head coach Charlie Strong pulled out all the tricks to keep Oklahoma off balance all day. Texas has hit a much-needed reset button on a season that was quickly slipping away. The Longhorns sit at 2-4, with a remaining schedule of games that are very winnable (minus the closer at Baylor), starting with Kansas State this weekend.

 

Texas comes into its matchup with the Kansas State (3-3) riding an incredible wave of momentum and belief, and well rested from their bye week. The Longhorns will take on a scrappy Wildcats team that has not fared well in Big 12 play, coming up short against Oklahoma State and TCU and being blown out against Oklahoma last week. It’s been a tough start to league play for head coach Bill Snyder and the gang. Now the Wildcats will enter Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to face a Longhorns team that has possibly found its competitive identity and won back the confidence of its fan base.

 

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Kansas State at Texas

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: Texas -4.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Texas D

The Longhorns turned in their most impressive defensive performance of the season against Oklahoma, holding the Sooners to 67 total yards rushing and slowing down quarterback Baker Mayfield, and holding him to 20-of-28 passing and 211 yards. What was most impressive is that they actually LOOKED confident. There were not many mistakes made from this young team, and that is a scary thought for the rest of the Big 12. Kansas State does not have near the offensive prowess that Oklahoma has, and the Wildcats didn't score against them. If the Longhorns truly have found their defensive identity, then the Wildcats have no shot.

 

2. Swoopes and Heard

Swoopes and Heard is not a law firm, but it is the last names of the quarterback duo of the Texas Longhorns. Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard led a Texas rushing attack that the Sooners had no answer for all day. The Longhorns rushed for 313 total yards, combining for 25 carries for 129 yards and a TD. Swoopes and Heard also added two passing TDs as well. The combination seemed to keep the Sooners off balance all day, so expect to see more going forward.

 

3. Let Charlie Be Charlie

The biggest change that Texas made during the Red River Showdown seemed to be Strong finally trusting HIS instincts. He seemed to be very active in the decision-making during the game play-calling, and Texas took risks on offense and defense that paid big dividends. The risks seemed to be called at timely moments within the game. It seems clear going forward that Strong must trust his own instincts, and make the executive decisions when he feels the need. He is a historically great play-caller, and he understands defensive tendencies as well as anyone. Strong must help his defense to maintain their identity.

 

Final Analysis

 

Texas has found something on both sides of the ball. The formula they used against Oklahoma seems to be an interesting one, as long as they don’t have to pass the ball. That same formula should work against an inept Kansas State team, who struggles offensively. Texas should be able to run against the Wildcats and the Swoopes/Heard combination should be able to keep the Wildcats off balance all afternoon. Expect the Wildcats to play from behind for much of the game.

 

Prediction: Texas 31, Kansas State 10

 

— 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. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.

Teaser:
Kansas State Wildcats vs. Texas Longhorns Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:40
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With the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy safely tucked away following Nebraska’s dismissal of Minnesota, another game with plenty of pomp welcomes the Huskers as they return home. I speak of “The Battle for NU,” of course!

 

Not only did the Big Red pick up its first road win under Mike Riley, but it did so in style with a crisp and clean effort. If the Huskers can continue to play like they did in TCF Bank Stadium, there isn’t a team left on the schedule they don’t have a shot at beating.

 

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss the team classically known as the “Big Ten Upset Special” also known as Northwestern.

 

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Northwestern at Nebraska

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: ESPN2
Spread: Nebraska -7.5

 

Three Things to Watch For

 

1. The Teams’ Psyches

This game features two teams heading in opposite directions. Nebraska finally busted through and earned a Big Ten win. In the meantime, Northwestern was shut out against Michigan followed by a 40-10 defeat at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

 

Now the Wildcats have to march into Lincoln where the Cornhuskers will be honoring the 1995 national championship team and this year's squad gets to bust out its alternate duds. The home team has shown it has the ability to dazzle on offense and the visitors may curl up quickly if they can’t put points up in a hurry.

 

2. The Nebraska Offense

Last week, Danny Langsdorf called a game that resulted in the Big Red scoring 48 points which ties the most Nebraska has logged in a game since joining the Big Ten in 2011.

 

Quarterback Tommy Armstrong looks to still be playing with a few dings, but when he gets comfortable, he knows how to work within the system very well.

 

Langsdorf seems to have found a nice mix of how to work the backs in his running game. With De’Mornay Pierson-El on the field and learning more of the offense every week, the offensive coordinator’s options are multiplying and growing even more dangerous. 

 

3. Can Nebraska Hold Running Back Justin Jackson?

While the college football world is yucking it up at the Husker secondary’s expense, Nebraska’s rushing defense is ranked No. 7 in the country. Jackson has managed 691 yards on 180 carries, but he’s run into some issues lately.

 

Michigan and Iowa held him to a combined 55 yards on 22 attempts. They rank No. 2 and No. 4 in stuffing runners, respectively. No doubt the Blackshirt front four are salivating.

 

Final Analysis

 

It’s up to freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson to help get the Northwestern offense humming against a defense that still struggles against the pass, but appears to have found its footing up front. If Freedom Akinmoladun makes his return, Nebraska gains a strong pass rusher.

 

Mike Riley knows what this team has, and what it doesn’t have is the ability to look at any team like it’s not Alabama. I can already hear him continuing to preach clean play not only because it likely means a win, but because Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is one of the most respected in the business.

 

His teams didn’t become known for crushing others' dreams by accident.

 

Prediction: Nebraska 38, Northwestern 21

 

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

Teaser:
Northwestern Wildcats vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:35
Path: /college-football/iowa-state-cyclones-vs-baylor-bears-game-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Baylor has continued do what everyone expected, to put up massive numbers offensively and simply outscore everyone they play.

 

Iowa State has also been exactly who everyone thought they would be. They are winning the games they are expected to win. Sitting at 2-4 overall the Cyclones will need to upset some teams down the stretch to become bowl eligible. Unfortunately that doesn’t start this weekend against the Bears.

 

Iowa State at Baylor


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Baylor -37

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Iowa State’s Mike Warren

The Cyclones' freshman running back has been the bright stop in Ames this season. After playing sparingly in the first two games of the season, Warren has put up some impressive numbers, including a 245-yard rushing performance against Texas Tech. TCU shut him down last week, giving up just 88 yards on 22 carries, easily his worst game in the last month.

 

If the Cyclones want to keep the score down in this game they will have to control the ball. Warren will be the biggest part of that. Baylor will give up some rushing yards defensively. Warren may see the most carries he’s seen all season this Saturday.

 

2. Baylor’s Corey Coleman
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen called Coleman the “best player in college football” after his three-touchdown performance against the Mountaineers last week. All he has done is set the Bears' single-season touchdown record in only six games.

 

He has become Seth Russell’s go-to receiver and for good reason. Coleman has been getting better each game. His lowest receiving output of the season was 100 yards on six catches against Rice. He still managed three touchdowns in that game though.

 

3. Iowa State can move the ball

The Bears have given up at least 31 points in three of their first six games this season, the exceptions being Rice, SMU, and Kansas. Iowa State, although struggling to finish games, is just like every other Big 12 team, they can rack up the yards on offense.

 

Despite losing by 24 last week to TCU, the Cyclones were in that game much longer than many had expected. They ended the day with 461 total yards, and that was with a subpar performance by their star tailback.

 

I’m not saying the Cyclones will stay in this ballgame much past halftime but don’t expect them to be shut out either.
 

Final Analysis

 

Baylor is just too good. Despite the Bears' defensive tendencies to give up yards no one can keep up with their offense. The amount of firepower on the Baylor offense is impressive and that is probably an understatement.

 

Iowa State will look good early, much like they have in every game this season. Mike Warren will have a good game and Sam Richardson will be able to move the ball through the air. Unfortunately the Cyclones would have to put together the best offensive performance they’ve had in years to have a chance in this game.

 

You can’t stop the Bears; you can only hope to contain them. The problem is containing them for 4 quarters is next to impossible.

 

Prediction: Baylor 60, Iowa State 20

 

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

Teaser:
Iowa State Cyclones vs. Baylor Bears Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-vs-arkansas-razorbacks-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

When the Auburn Tigers (4-2, 1-2) head to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-4, 1-2) Saturday afternoon, a heavy shift in either SEC West team’s season will be underway after the clock reaches triple zeroes.

 

Momentum for the game is on Auburn’s side with the Tigers on a two-game winning streak after upending San Jose State 35-21 and notching their first conference win of the season, a 30-27 road win against Kentucky. Auburn arguably had its best all-around game of the season, rushing for 152 yards and passing for 255 with new starter Sean White in the pocket. The Tigers' defense used the bend-but-don’t-break mentality allowing 497 total yards to the Wildcats but stiffened up on third downs only allowing 5-of-13 attempts to be converted and 1-of-2 on fourth down.

 

The Razorbacks are coming into the game rested after a bye week but had an extra week to think about a 27-14 road loss to then-No. 8 Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s defense was unforgiving holding Arkansas to 220 yards of total offense and just 44 yards on the ground. The Hogs' defense played well against Bama’s line and top running backs but continued to give up big plays in the secondary.

 

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Auburn at Arkansas

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Coverage: SEC Network

Line: Arkansas -6

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Sean White vs. Arkansas' Pass Defense

No two ways around it, the Razorbacks are not a good defense on passing downs or in pass-coverage situations. The defensive front did a better job getting to Alabama quarterback Jake Coker, coming up with two sacks but are near the bottom of the FBS rankings (tied for 116th) in sacks per game. The Hogs' pass defense is ranked No. 101, allowing 258 yards per game.

 

The good news for Arkansas fans is Auburn has greatly disappointed throwing the ball in 2015 with the nation’s No. 110-ranked passing offense posting 171 yards a game. Sean White had 108 yards passing against San Jose State and 255 yards against Kentucky but has not thrown a touchdown pass yet this year. The good news for Auburn fans is White has an opportunity to get into a rhythm against the Hogs, potentially laying groundwork for a nice second half to the season.

 

2. Arkansas' Rush Offense vs. Auburn’s Rush Defense

Believe it or not, statistically, Auburn has the better rushing attack than Arkansas. The Hogs plummeted to No. 57 in the nation after being shut down against Alabama, now posting an average of 177 yards a game. Alex Collins was held to 26 yards on 12 carries with a long of five. Collins is the conference’s fourth-leading rusher with 682 yards, just 32 ahead of Auburn’s Peyton Barber.

 

Auburn does not stop the run well at all allowing 198 yards a game or the 100th in the nation out of 127 teams. When Arkansas collected its 24-20 road win against Tennessee, Collins and true freshman Rawleigh Williams each topped the 100-yard rushing mark with 154 and 100 respectively. The Tigers have to find a way to take the ball out of the running backs’ hands and put it into starting quarterback Brandon Allen’s hands.

 

3. Which Team Can Eliminate Mistakes

Mistakes on the football field can be a broad term. For Arkansas, fans have suffered through back-to-back games where bad special teams calls have been made, one against Alabama that helped flip the momentum of the game to the Crimson Tide. Another problem area for Arkansas is red zone offense. The Hogs are one of the worst in the nation at converting chances into points. The Hogs have reached the red zone 25 times this season but have walked away nine times without any points.

 

When Auburn’s defense is faced with stopping the opposition on third down, they are allowing teams to convert opportunities at a 46 percent rate (111th nationally); Arkansas is just a two spots ahead at No. 109. If Auburn can get Arkansas into third and long passing situations, the Hogs' passing offense can be disrupted especially on quick timing routes. The longer Allen has the football in his hand the more likely something good will happen for Auburn. The Tigers are also break-even on turnover margin with nine gained and nine given up. Giving the ball back to Arkansas when its ball control offense is working is a big mistake, especially if the running game is clicking.

 

Final Analysis

 

Neither team is bad per say, but then again neither team is great either. Another couple of shared commonalities — both teams have fallen short of preseason expectations and whichever one loses the game is in for a long ride over the second half of the season. The schedule for both teams is challenging and neither can afford a loss with bowl hopes on the line and so many recruits paying close attention.

 

If strength of schedule means anything, Arkansas has hovered around the top of the heap, hitting No. 1 but currently resting at No. 2. Auburn’s strength of schedule has gone as high as 35 and as low as 55 but is sitting at No. 39.

 

If Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema still has his team believing, the Hogs should be able to assert their will in the running attack shortening the game. Expect Auburn to pick on Arkansas’ pass defense early and often. If Auburn can get a couple of easy scores against the Hogs' pass defense, Arkansas will be in trouble. Problem is the Tigers are not great on defense either creating what should be an exciting SEC West showdown.

 

Arkansas’ running game and home field gets the advantage in the end.

 

Prediction: Arkansas 38, Auburn 28

 

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

Teaser:
Auburn Tigers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:25
Path: /college-football/pittsburgh-panthers-vs-syracuse-orange-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

For the first time in five years, the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-1) are nationally ranked following a school record 56-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter from Chris Blewitt to beat Georgia Tech last Saturday, 31-28.

 

Many are saying Pitt is the favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division.

 

Now, the Panthers face a familiar foe when they travel to Syracuse (3-3).

 

The Orange feasted on a weak schedule early on before losing their last three games. One highlight during this streak was a rather competitive game on Sept. 26 with eighth-ranked LSU, falling 34-24 at the Carrier Dome in a game Tigers running back Leonard Fournette was the difference, establishing himself as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner with 244 yards and two touchdowns.

 

But with North Carolina, whom the Panthers are tied in the loss column with atop the Coastal Division, coming to Pittsburgh next week, and Notre Dame and Duke after that, this game does have the feel of a let down written all over it.

 

Is Pitt a true contender, or can Syracuse get back into the bowl picture?

 

Pittsburgh at Syracuse

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: ESPNU

Spread: Pitt -6.5

 

Three things to watch

 

1. Can Syracuse stop the Pitt rushing attack?

The success of the Panthers has come despite the fact James Conner tore up his knee in the season's first game and was lost for the season. Still, head coach Pat Narduzzi has continued to see his ground game flourish behind Qadree Ollison, who in 95 carries has the same 5.9 yards per carry average Conner did last year in rushing for 1,765 yards.

 

Now comes the question — can Cuse can stop the Pitt running game? The Orange completely shut down the running games of their first three opponents before Fournette produced several long, dazzling runs.

 

Ollison isn't Fournette, but is he sophomore Marlon Mack, the South Florida running back who rushed for 186 yards against the Orange on Oct. 10?

 

Here's how it's going for the Orange this year. Their leading tackler is sophomore Parris Bennett, an up-and-coming star.

 

The second leading tackler is a safety.

 

2. Tyler Boyd, possession receiver or burner?

Scouts view Tyler Boyd as one of the top five receiving prospects in college football.

 

So how come he is averaging less than 10 yards a reception?

 

Perhaps it is because Boyd is still the Panthers' go-to receiver. He set the Pitt career receptions record against the Yellow Jackets last Saturday, and consistently throwing to a receiver will lower his average. Boyd, the only one of Pitt's preseason trio including Conner and Chad Voytik to still be playing regularly, is still productive having caught touchdown passes in the last two games to give him four scoring catches on the year.

 

Senior Julian Whigham will likely be covering Boyd in this game. If he can keep Boyd from splash plays then Cuse has a chance.

 

3. Can Pitt stop the revamped Syracuse offense?

Syracuse wasn't expected to be much of an offensive juggernaut this season, but they've scored at least 24 points in every game this year.

 

They've done it despite losing two quarterbacks this season. Starter Terrel Hunt was lost for the season with a torn right Achilles in the opener. Freshman Eric Dungey missed the LSU game after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit against Eastern Michigan, leaving Cuse to be led by walk-on Zach Mahoney and sophomore Austin Wilson at times this year.

 

Dungey is back now and had a highlight reel 26-yard run for a touchdown last Saturday in a 44-38 overtime loss to Virginia. He was efficient, not throwing an interception, but also not generally prolific, accounting for fewer than 250 yards despite his dual abilities.

 

Pitt likes to blitz, but like the Panthers, the Orange want to run with Jordan Fredricks more than throw. The Panthers were one of the stingiest defenses against the run in college football prior to the Georgia Tech game, but the Yellow Jackets' option always gives opponents trouble.

 

The stars of the Pitt defense, which is still ranked in the Top 20 overall nationally and is allowing fewer than 300 yards a game, are pass rusher Ejuan Price, middle linebacker Matt Galambos, and defensive tackle Tyrique Jarrett. Syracuse's ability to keep their offense in high gear may come down to whether or not Dungey can cross up the Panthers' pass rush with long scrambles.

 

We had to tell ya:

Blewitt's long game-winning field goal last week was not only the longest in Pitt history, but exceeded the Steelers' record by one yard. Gary Anderson kicked a 55-yarder in 1984, and Kris Brown tied that mark in 2001.

 

But those were not the longest field goals in Pittsburgh professional football history. Former Pitt kicker Eric Schubert kicked a 56-yarder in 1984 for the USFL Pittsburgh Maulers.

 

The Maulers were to be coached by Hank Bullough for the 1985 season, but the team wound up merging with the Baltimore Stars for the final USFL campaign. Bullough's son Chuck is now the defensive coordinator of Syracuse.   

 

Final Analysis

 

Syracuse is showing signs of making progress, but Pitt has too many weapons and is too strong defensively against a team without any true offensive stars. A let down is possible, but Pitt has taken 9 of 10 from the Orange.

 

Prediction: Pitt 29, Syracuse 22

 

— 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:
Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Syracuse Orange Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:20
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-vs-miami-hurricanes-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The last time the Miami Hurricanes hosted a top-10 opponent at Sun Life Stadium, things did not go according to plan. In 2014, after leading No. 3 Florida State 23-10 at halftime, the Hurricanes blew their lead and lost to the Seminoles 30-26. Miami hopes this weekend's matchup against the No. 6-ranked Clemson Tigers will end in a different result. 

 

Clemson will come into their matchup with Miami winning nine straight games dating back to last season. Their last loss came at the hands of Georgia Tech last November at Bobby Dodd Stadium. 

 

After last week’s 34-17 victory against Boston College, quarterback Deshaun Watson and offensive lineman Jay Guillermo were named ACC Player of the Week for their performances. Watson threw for 420 yards and four touchdowns. 

 

Miami quieted critics that said they would have a Florida State hangover by defeating the Virginia Tech Hokies 30-20 last Saturday. 

 

The Tigers and Hurricanes have not played each other since 2010 when Miami came up victorious 30-21 at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Miami has a 6-3 all-time record against Clemson, which includes a 3-2 mark at home. 

 

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Clemson at Miami

 

​Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Clemson -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Turnover margin

The number one factor that might determine the winner on Saturday could be the difference in turnovers. Miami leads the FBS in turnover margin as the team has a plus-13 margin. Clemson ranks 82nd in the nation in turnover margin with minus-one. 

 

Miami junior Artie Burns leads the ACC and is tied for third nationally with five interceptions this season. His two interceptions against Virginia Tech was the Hurricanes' first multi-interception game since Tracy Howard had two picks against North Carolina back in 2013. 

 

Rashawn Jenkins has also had an excellent season as the safety has recorded three interceptions this year. He and Burns are two of four players in the ACC to record at least three interceptions this season.

 

Clemson has turned the ball over a lot as they have 12 turnovers in their six games this season. They will need to take better care of the football against a Miami defense that’s very optimistic. 

 

2. Wayne Gallman and the Clemson rushing attack

The Hurricanes have had trouble stopping the run all season long. The team is ranked 65th in rushing defense as the Hurricanes have given up 167.3 rushing yards per game. If they are going to defeat Clemson on Saturday, their defense will have to contain Clemson running back Wayne Gallman. 

 

The redshirt sophomore has rushed for 584 and five touchdowns on 106 carries this season. Gallman’s tough running style could give the Hurricanes fits, especially since Miami has missed a number of tackles on defense this season. 

 

Miami will also need to worry about Clemson backup running back Zac Brooks, who is averaging 9.1 yards per carry in 2015. 

 

3. Corn Elder 

Cornerback Corn Elder has been a factor not only on the defensive side of the ball but on special teams. The junior ranks fifth in the ACC in punt return yards and 14th in FBS in punt return average with 14.2. 

 

Elder’s punt return average would be higher if two of his punt return touchdowns were not called back because of penalties this season. 

 

He is also second in the ACC and 22nd in the nation in passes defended. So Clemson will have to pay close attention to Elder as he could hurt the Tigers in a number of ways. 

 

Final Analysis 

 

While this isn’t an ACC divisional game, this is a huge game for the Hurricanes. Al Golden has yet to have a signature win during his tenure at Miami and this is his last scheduled opportunity to do so in 2015. 

 

If Miami has any chance of defeating Clemson, they will need to have a balanced attack on offense. Hurricanes running back Joe Yearby has rushed for 522 yards and five touchdowns this season, so the team will need a big performance out of him.

 

The Tigers are giving up 16.7 points per game on defense this season. Clemson is also allowing quarterbacks to complete only 43.8 percent of their passes this season. 

 

The Hurricanes played well against Florida State, but they couldn’t make the necessary stops when their defense needed to. Clemson’s offense is an upgrade from the Seminoles offense they faced two weeks ago. 

 

Miami has enough talent to keep this competitive until the fourth quarter, but Clemson should hold on for the win on the road.  

 

Prediction: Clemson 38, Miami 28

 

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

Teaser:
Clemson Tigers vs. Miami Hurricanes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:15

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