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Week 4 in fantasy football brought us more Devonta Freeman, Jeremy Hill's triumphant return, Arian Foster's season debut, and disappointing numbers from stud wide receivers Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr. Irregardless, this is a new week and there is more excitement to look forward to when setting your fantasy football lineups.

 

There are four teams on bye this week: Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers. There will be some bigger names out this week, and although many may not be critical to your squads besides Adrian Peterson and Cam Newton, their loss will certainly be felt. Chris Ivory, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Ryan Tannehill to name a few. Get ready to look to your bench for help, or even the waiver wire.

 

Related: Fantasy Football 2015 Waiver Wire - Week 5

 

Good luck this week everyone, and enjoy using this week's flex rankings to make those tough decisions once again. As always feel free to reach out to myself, or anyone on the Athlon team with questions, or other comments on Twitter. Thanks for reading.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, New York Jets

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Flex Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-wide-receiver-rankings-week-5
Body:

Last week left plenty to be desired by most of the top-tiered fantasy wide receivers. Antonio Brown without his starting quarterback looked pedestrian, Julio Jones wasn't needed in Atlanta, as Devonta Freeman opted to tear it up once again. Odell Beckham Jr. also was a minimal factor for the Giants in Week 4.

 

That was then and this is now. A new week is upon us and with it comes my Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 5. 

 

This week I like Beckham to do the most damage, but Julio Jones isn't far behind him and they could easily be interchanged. Be sure to use our other positional rankings as well the flex rankings before you set your starting lineup. Let's march to victory together.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, New York Jets

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-running-back-rankings-week-5
Body:

I think it’s safe to say that Le'Veon Bell is back and that he is going to be a permanent fixture in the top three of these fantasy running backs rankings for the foreseeable future. That’s even with Michael Vick as his quarterback and it won’t matter the matchup. The same can also be said for Jamaal Charles.

 

But what about guys that have struggled so far this year like DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Hill and C.J. Anderson? Where do they fit in the rankings?

 

Plus see who cracks the top 10 for this first time this year. (Hint – he’s a rookie).

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, New York Jets

 

And remember, no Adrian Peterson this week (or Lamar Miller, Chris Ivory or Jonathan Stewart). Here are your running back rankings for week 5.

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Le'Veon Bell PIT at SD (Mon.)
2Jamaal Charles KC vs. CHI
3Devonta Freeman ATL vs. WAS
4Matt Forte CHI at KC
5Eddie Lacy GB vs. STL
6Justin Forsett BAL vs. CLE
7Todd Gurley STL at GB
8Karlos Williams* BUF at TEN 
9Mark Ingram NO at PHI
10Arian Foster HOU vs. IND (Thurs.)
11Marshawn Lynch* SEA at CIN 
12Doug Martin TB vs. JAC
13Joseph Randle DAL vs. NE
14Frank Gore IND at HOU (Thurs.)
15T.J. Yeldon JAC at TB
16Carlos Hyde SF at NYG
17Latavius Murray OAK at DEN
18Dion Lewis NE at DAL
19DeMarco Murray PHI vs. NO
20Danny Woodhead SD at NO
21Giovani Bernard CIN vs. SEA
22Rashad Jennings NYG vs. SF
23Jeremy Hill CIN vs. SEA
24Darren Sproles PHI vs. NO
25Thomas Rawls SEA at CIN
26Ronnie Hillman DEN vs. OAK
27Isaiah Crowell CLE at BAL
28LeGarrette Blount NE at DAL
29Melvin Gordon SD vs. PIT (Mon.)
30Chris Johnson ARI at DET
31Alfred Morris WAS at STL
32C.J. Anderson DEN vs. OAK
33Duke Johnson CLE at BAL
34Antonio Andrews TEN vs. BUF
35Ameer Abdullah DET vs. ARI
36Matt Jones WAS at ATL
37Charles Sims TB vs. JAC
38Andre Williams NYG vs. SF
39C.J. Spiller NO at PHI
40Ryan Matthews PHI vs. NO
41Andre Ellington ARI at DET
42Chris Thompson WAS at ATL
43Christine Michael DAL vs. NE
44Theo Riddick DET vs. ARI
45Alfred Blue HOU vs. IND (Thurs.)
46Khiry Robinson NO at PHI
47Shane Vereen NYG vs. SF
48David Johnson ARI at DET
49Bishop Sankey TEN vs. BUF
50Lorenzo Taliaferro BAL vs. CLE

*If they play. Monitor practice and injury reports closely.

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Running Back Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-tight-end-rankings-week-5
Body:

So Rob Gronkowski is back this week and he takes his rightful place as the No. 1-ranked tight end. But the rest of the tight end rankings are really as clear as mud. Can you trust supposed studs like Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen on a week-to-week basis? Probably not but there really aren’t any better options out there.

 

Week 5 also marks the return of San Diego's Antonio Gates from suspension. Gates isn't getting any younger, but he's been as reliable as they come at the position, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has gotten off to a strong start throwing the ball, and Gates' fill-in, Ladarius Green has already suffered a couple of concussions. If you have held onto Gates this long, you may as well throw him out there and see what he does Monday night against Pittsburgh.

 

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


Teams on bye: Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, New York Jets

 

Here are the Week 5 tight end rankings:

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Rob Gronkowski NE at DAL
2Martellus Bennett CHI at KC
3Jason Witten DAL vs. NE
4Charles Clay BUF at TEN
5Antonio Gates SDvs. PIT (Mon.)
6Travis Kelce KC vs. CHI
7Tyler Eifert CIN vs. SEA
8Delaine Walker TEN vs. BUF
9Gary Barnidge CLE at BAL
10Jimmy Graham SEA at CIN
11Jared Cook STL at GB
12Larry Donnell NYG vs. SF
13Richard Rodgers GB vs. STL
14Coby Fleener IND at HOU (Thurs.)
15Eric Ebron* DET vs. ARI
16Owen Daniels DEN vs. OAK
17Ben Watson NO at PHI
18Maxx Williams BAL vs. CLE
19Heath Miller PIT at SD (Mon.)
20Vernon Davis* SF  NYG
21Zach Ertz PHI vs. NO
22Lance Kendricks STL at GB
23Derek Carrier WAS at ATL
24Brandon Myers TB vs. JAC
25Crockett Gillmore* BAL vs. CLE 
26Clay Harbor JAC at TB
27Scott Chandler NE at DAL
28Darren Fells ARI at DET
29Jacob Tamme ATL vs. WAS
30Garrett Celek SF at NYG

*If they play. Monitor practice and injury reports closely.

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Tight End Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/little-racing-luck-goes-long-way
Body:

Two middle-aged men will turn 40 by the end of the year, still in the midst of their NASCAR prime in a sport that rewards age and experience. Two drivers, who have combined for seven wins this season between them along with 2,500 laps led. Both could have laid claim to this year’s championship and no one would have batted an eyebrow.

 

Instead, only one man makes it out of round 1 in the second year of NASCAR’s “tournament style” Chase format. The other? Scratching his head and searching for some golden horseshoe the other one seems to have stolen away.

 

It was Kevin Harvick who once accused six-time champion Jimmie Johnson of having such a golden horseshoe stuck up... well, you know, some area underneath his back. For years, Harvick’s pain was Johnson’s gain; he was third in the Chase in both 2010 and ’13, watching bids for victory and more points go to waste while Johnson took the title both years. It seemed poor luck was destined to dog Harvick at Richard Childress Racing, bad pit strategy and faulty lugnuts leaving him on the outside looking in as the driver who just couldn’t get over the hump.

 

Heck, even finally winning a title, achieving the goal last year with new employer Stewart-Haas Racing did little to change Harvick’s luck. Ten runner-up finishes have littered a season filled with “might-have-beens,” culminating with perhaps the most disastrous two-week stretch of his career. This year’s first Chase race at Chicagoland ended with a hit to the outside wall, a tire rub turned treacherous after contact with Johnson on a restart. The next week, Harvick and Co. ran out of fuel unexpectedly while leading, letting a dominant car at New Hampshire go to waste. It was Harvick who entered Dover’s Monster Mile desperate, winless there at a place where Johnson has reset the entire record book.

 

Johnson, armed with a 27-point cushion was supposed to waltz into round 2 with a victory. Instead? Harvick pounded the competition to shreds, leading 355 of 400 laps and never leaving the outcome in doubt. It was Johnson reeling from the bad luck blues, a leaky $5 rear axle seal causing a part failure that left the No. 48 team sitting 20th. The shocking result came at a track where he’s dominated; instead, the “D” in Dover stood for “disaster.”

 

Amazing how one race can change the course of NASCAR history. Suddenly, Harvick’s goal of back-to-back titles gets revived, avoiding the dubious distinction of having the most disappointing “Chase elimination” in the brief history of the format. And for Johnson? He no longer can be considered the prohibitive favorite each year, sandbagging during the “regular season” only to sock it to any potential rival come Chase time. The No. 48 team has won just one title the last five years, suffering through mechanical failures twice that cost them along with ugly wrecks and uncharacteristic mistakes in the postseason. Johnson, nearing that age 40 mark knows his window is closing for title number seven and is realistic about his luck balancing out.

 

“I’ve had mechanicals take me out of championships growing up that led to success for myself and I'm sure helped me with a championship or two,” Johnson said Sunday. “It's just part of racing. You can't take anything for granted.”

 

That’s a lesson Harvick learned early in his career, Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s replacement that never fully realized his potential for over a decade while Johnson dominated. Now, the racing Gods are turning the tide, potentially at the expense of Johnson’s pursuit of a record eight titles.

 

What a difference a few broken parts can make. Through the Gears we go…

 

FIRST GEAR: Harvick’s Heroics Save The Season

 

Harvick’s Dover performance has reestablished his No. 4 team as title favorites. So far this Chase, he’s led 581 of 967 laps, been in position to win each week, and qualified on the front row twice in three weeks. Sunday’s race was never really in doubt, a sign of superior confidence within the team after two weeks of disappointment that would have broken the will of most inside the garage.

 

“It's just the nature of this team and what they do,” Harvick said shortly after the team chanted how they “believe” in Victory Lane. “The character of it is deep, and they all believe in each other.”

 

Looking ahead, Harvick has top-10 finishes at each of the next three races, a resume that should easily launch him into round 3. Then, we have Phoenix during that semifinal round, a place where Harvick hasn’t lost a race since 2013. A win there launches him into Homestead automatically, a race where he’s the defending champ. It’s hard to bet against the No. 4 team now; as long as they avoid beating themselves, they’ll be hard to conquer.

 

SECOND GEAR: What’s Up At Hendrick?

 

For the second straight year Hendrick Motorsports is floundering when it matters most. After a strong start to the season, Jimmie Johnson winning four times in the first dozen races, the No. 48 team is now on the outside looking in on the championship. Joining him is Kasey Kahne, part of a No. 5 group that has underachieved and never even qualified for this year’s playoff. Rumors abound new crew chief Keith Rodden is headed for a reshuffling there following the season.

 

More surprising has been the performance of Dale Earnhardt Jr., running out of fuel at New Hampshire with new crew chief Greg Ives. For much of Dover, Earnhardt was on the edge of making it inside the round of 12 and it took an aggressive move on the final restart to advance. Powering through on the outside, Earnhardt blasted past Jamie McMurray and finished one spot ahead of the No. 1 car, leaving the two tied for the final spot. Earnhardt may have advanced based on the tiebreaker but the up-and-down performance leaves many skeptical about his title chances despite a track, Talladega, coming up that should favor the No. 88.

 

“We lost a little speed over the summer,” he admitted. “We've just got to get a little bit of luck and not ruin it for ourselves.”

 

Only Jeff Gordon has paced himself correctly out of the Hendrick camp, avoiding any major mishaps and advancing despite not having strong speed (the No. 24 team has just three top-5 finishes all year). But if HMS doesn’t make major adjustments over the next three weeks the strength of the playoff field may leave both Gordon and Earnhardt out of the running, creating a shocking final eight without the organization that’s won six of the last nine NASCAR Cup titles.

 

THIRD GEAR: Joe Gibbs Racing Remains Big Winners

 

It wasn’t the best of days at Dover for Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin got busted for speeding on pit road twice, suffered through handling woes and was lucky simply to finish inside the lead lap. Matt Kenseth’s team made a gutsy call for the No. 20 car to stay out on old tires, briefly gaining him track position in the short run but killing his speed down the stretch.  Kyle Busch ran runner-up and still made the round of 12 by the skin of his teeth based on others’ strong performances.

 

All that being said, JGR still advanced all four of its Toyotas into the “Contender Round,” what NASCAR has labeled the next phase of its Chase format. With fourth driver Carl Edwards winning at Charlotte back in May, combined with the recent strength of Kenseth (he had the most points in round 1), chances for them to keep their perfect record remain high. Denny Hamlin, a winner at Loudon earlier in the postseason, has a Talladega victory from 2014 to hang his hat on. Add in Kansas, where Kyle Busch’s No. 18 showed winning speed from fill-in Erik Jones, and it seems like a Talladega wreck would be the only obstacle positioned to slow down this foursome from bulldozing all competition not named Harvick.

 

Of course, HMS had this same scenario and wound up advancing just one of its four drivers into the round of eight. Anything can still happen but JGR as a whole proved the last three weeks their summer was no fluke; they can now be labeled the strongest organization, top-to-bottom within the Cup Series right now.

 

FOURTH GEAR: Monster No More

 

Dover was once known as the Monster Mile for its penchant to turn racecars into mangled messes. So why the clean races nowadays? Only a handful of accidents littered this 400-mile event and just two drivers, rookies Brett Moffitt and Jeb Burton, failed to finish due to wrecks. Only one other, Landon Cassill DNF’d due to mechanical failure, a sign of durability this one-mile oval is suddenly powerless to stop.

 

What’s the problem? Drivers will tell you it’s a combination of speed, tires, and the current handling package. What we’ve seen in recent years is a one-groove racetrack, one that’s near-impossible to pass on yet a race where drivers have enough grip to keep from spinning out through Dover’s treacherous turns. A low-downforce, lower-speed version of the rules in 2016 could change that but it would also be in NASCAR’s interest to hold extensive tire testing here. Without the drama of the Chase, the race would easily rank as the worst all season and still resembled a single-file parade with little passing and major frustration brewing from top teams.

 

Why is that important? Dover, unlike most other tracks on the circuit is an independent without the deep pockets to keep races funded during a prolonged slump in competition (and fans in the stands). Losing a date here for NASCAR, still looking to make an impact in major markets throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, would be a blow during a time where its popularity nationally is dwindling. Once one of the sport’s unique tracks, changes need to be made to ensure Miles The Monster is roaring again.

 

OVERDRIVE

 

Sam Hornish Jr., a ho-hum 20th at Dover remains tight-lipped about his plans for 2016. A lack of sponsorship, forcing Richard Petty Motorsports co-owner Andy Murstein to spend millions out of his own pocket leaves Hornish in a precarious position despite showing small signs of improvement as of late... Aric Almirola has just three top-5 finishes all year. Two of them have now come at the Monster Mile (fifth Sunday)... Michael Waltrip Racing will partner with Premium Motorsports to run the 2016 Daytona 500 with owner/driver Michael Waltrip. It makes you wonder whether Waltrip will still find a way to keep MWR open in a limited fashion in 2016 and beyond, perhaps as a one-car operation until he wants to retire from Cup competition. Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 winner still runs the plate races in addition to his current role as a NASCAR analyst.

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

 

Photos by ASP Inc.

Teaser:
A Little Racing Luck Goes A Long Way
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/washington-huskies-vs-usc-trojans-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

After a calm bye week and some needed conference help, USC returns on action this week in a Thursday night showdown with the Washington Huskies, the team Trojan head coach Steve Sarkisian used to coach. Though the Trojans have had their issues on Thursday, Sarkisian believes the team is focused and mentally prepared.

 

"I thought the guys were really well focused and exactly where they need to be," Sarkisian said.

 

While the Trojans will be tested by the Huskies on the field, there are a number of Trojan players who will literally be tested off the field right before the game. Adding to the stress and distraction of preparing for a Chris Petersen team, Sarkisian said that there are actually a number of players who will be taking midterms right before the game is played. This has caused Sarkisian to change some things around to accommodate the difference in schedule.

 

"It being a Thursday night game, we've got some different things in our schedule that we work with," Sarkisian said. As far as tomorrow, we go in the A.M. instead of in the afternoon, which we normally would do. We've got guys in class throughout the evening tomorrow night, so we'll meet Thursday morning, as a team, at the hotel. I actually have a few guys taking midterms in the middle of the day. They'll be coming back to campus to take midterms before the game on Thursday. We'll handle it really well, we've got really good people in place to take care of our guys, to make sure they're getting everything done whether it's on the field or off the field."

 

With the formalities seemingly taken care of, the only thing the Trojans have left to do is prove that they can handle a Washington team with a hard-nosed defense, but a true freshman starter.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 6 Preview with Tom Dienhart



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Washington at USC

 

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV: ESPN

Spread: USC -17

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The Return of Kevon Seymour

After an injury kept him out against Stanford and Arizona State, USC cornerback Kevon Seymour returns to the team in time to balance the loss of defensive lineman Claude Pelon and wide receiver Darreus Rogers. Seymour has been an underrated performer for the Trojans over the past couple seasons and his veteran presence provides a major boost to a younger secondary.

 

The Trojans have been fairly fortunate when it comes to injuries, especially considering what's happened to the rest of the conference, but it is catching up to them a little this week and Seymour's return will help to offset the loss of a leader like Pelon on the defensive line. Seymour clearly cannot replace what Pelon gives the defensive line, but his ability to blanket a receiver ought to come in handy against a freshman quarterback with a better completion percentage and yards per attempt average than Josh Rosen.

 

The Huskies may not be putting up Baylor passing numbers, but Browning is extremely capable and Seymour has a great habit of taking away opposing quarterbacks' favorite targets.

 

2. Avoiding Costly Self-Inflicted Mistakes

This 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 Arizona State for a total of 91 yards moved the Trojans to No. 96 in the nation for penalties. The Trojans have 27 flags on the year, averaging 6.8 penalties per game. Their average penalty yardage per game isn't as offensive, but spotting your opponents 67.5 free yards a game is definitely a questionable practice.

 

USC's opponents have committed 10 fewer penalties and only average around 4.3 flags a game. They're also only giving up 44 yards a game via the penalty, which means the Trojans consistently lose the discipline battle. They're No. 107 in the country in drawing penalties and No. 96 in the nation in committing them, these types of behaviors have cost more than their fair share of teams in close games. One of the ways in which lesser-talented teams are able to upset teams like USC is by limiting mistakes and allowing your opponent to beat themselves. USC excels at beating itself and Petersen is smart enough to notice that trend.

 

3. Browning's Ability to Cope with USC's Pass Rush

As if USC needed any more encouragement from UCLA's loss to Arizona State this past weekend, the Sun Devils may have laid a great foundation for dealing with freshmen quarterbacks in the Pac-12.

 

By loading the box and blitzing with eight players on nearly every down, Arizona State was able to disrupt Josh Rosen, stop Paul Perkins, and limit UCLA's big play ability. This might be the key for the Trojans against a guy like Browning. The offenses are different, but the theory remains the same; if the Trojans can get in Browning's face the entire afternoon, they can reduce the Huskies' ability to hurt them on offense.

 

Steve Sarkisian stressed turnovers again this week, highlighting that the Trojans have a chance to be unique in the way that they create opportunity through turnovers and take away opportunity by taking care of the football on offense.

 

“I'm not backing off that either,” Sarkisian said. “I gave a big video presentation again this morning, ending with the Kam Chancellor play from last night, the Monday Night game and just what a classic example of punching the ball out and the play not ever being over. So, we're not gonna back off that. We think we can be unique that way creating turnovers. I know we had a little lull there for a couple games, but I just don't want to back off it. I want to make sure that we're attacking the football defensively and we're doing everything in our power to take care of it on offense and special teams. That's not gonna change.”

 

Final Analysis

 

USC has the horses to win this game and win it impressively. Washington is an impressive defensive team, but its offense has yet to match the point totals of the conference's elite. The Huskies are always a worthy opponent and Thursday should be no different. Ultimately, the difference in this game should be the two quarterbacks and these offenses.

 

The Trojans are one of the most efficient teams in the nation, a fact highlighted throughout the week by Petersen and media preparing for the first College Football Playoff rankings. An efficient and explosive offense are great for talk radio and highlight reels, but the Trojans need to begin assembling their resume for the Playoff and these are the types of games pundits mention when the season comes to a close. It's a game USC should win, are favored to win, and probably expect to win.

 

Of course, that's always been the problem with the Trojans, hasn't it?

 

Prediction: USC 41, Washington 23

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Washington Huskies vs. USC Trojans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/smu-mustangs-vs-houston-cougars-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Your Thursday night sports viewing may be a little crowded with playoff baseball, the start of the NHL season and some game going on in the NFL, but the American Athletic Conference has a game well worth keeping an eye on that night as well. Houston and SMU, home to two up-and-coming head coaches, get a share of the national spotlight Thursday as the Cougars look to remain a player in the evolving Group of 5 race to the New Year's Six.

 

Related: College Football's Top 10 Coaches on the Rise

 

Houston has not lost at home to SMU since 2005 (we'll give a pass for the 2013 game, played in Reliant Stadium while Houston played nearly the whole season away from its campus). Can the Cougars keep the good vibes going this weekend against an SMU team that is showing signs of life?

 

College Football Podcast: Week 6 Preview with Tom Dienhart



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

SMU at Houston

 

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Houston -21

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. SMU not about to back down against any opponent

Do not let the 1-4 record for SMU fool you too much into thinking this is the same old SMU that has struggled in recent years. These Mustangs are not about to roll over and let teams walk over them from the start. New head coach Chad Morris does have a lot of rebuilding to do with the program, but one noticeable difference with this year's team is the competitiveness has stepped up from a year ago. SMU's problem is keeping things going after a decent start.

 

SMU hung with Baylor for a half before the Bears took control in the second half of the season opener. A similar theme played out in the TCU game. Last week against East Carolina saw SMU jump out to a 23-7 lead before running into a wall and losing 49-23.

 

2. Tom Herman's latest QB masterpiece?

Anyone who has watched Ohio State this season can probably explain to others just how valuable a piece of the coaching staff former quarterbacks coach Tom Herman was in Columbus. Herman has moved on from his masterpiece in Columbus from lasts season's championship run and is now putting in some good work as Houston's new head coach with Greg Ward Jr.

 

The junior quarterback is averaging 264.5 yards per game and carries a passer rating of 164.94 into Thursday night. In guiding Houston's offense, Ward has thrown eight touchdowns with just one interception in four games. The only teams with fewer interceptions in the AAC this season are Memphis and Navy, but the Midshipmen hardly throw the ball, so does that really count? Ward is showing great improvement from last season, when he tossed 12 touchdowns and was intercepted seven times in 13 games. This season Ward has not been intercepted inside the opponent's 40-yard line.

 

3. Houston an emerging Group of 5 contender?

If you are not paying attention to what is happening in the Group of 5 picture beyond the typical Boise State developments, then you should start paying attention to the AAC West Division. Houston, Memphis and Navy are all off to solid starts and climbing the ladder in the Group of 5 race. Houston already has a win against a power conference opponent on the road (Louisville) and is set up to make a nice run in division play. Look to see if these Cougars can seize the opportunity to shine on national television and put together a solid, well-rounded effort to gain some respect from the voters and selection committee for down the road.

 

Final Analysis

 

Houston and SMU offer a great coaching match-up between two popular first-time head coaches. Chad Morris has much more work to do at SMU compared to Tom Herman's situation at Houston. As such, Herman and Houston appear to be the clear favorite in this year's matchup. Both offenses should put up some points early on, but SMU will once again struggle to keep up the pace against a Houston team that should thrive through the air. 

 

Prediction: Houston 46, SMU 28

 

— 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:
SMU Mustangs vs. Houston Cougars Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /mlb/alds-preview-and-prediction-texas-rangers-vs-toronto-blue-jays-2015
Body:

For both the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays this postseason run almost never happened. The Blue Jays were sinking, sitting eight games behind the New York Yankees on July 28. Then general manager Alex Anthopoulos, with perhaps his job on the line, made the move that has already defined his career, trading away the Blue Jays' best prospect and two other players to the Tigers for the lanky, left-handed ace David Price and then sending former All-Star Jose Reyes and prospects to the Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki. A lot, maybe most, trade deadline deals don't work out for the best, but sometimes they do exactly what you hoped they would. Anthopoulos’ risky moves did exactly what he hoped they would, and much more, as his Blue Jays hurdled the Yankees and won their first AL East crown in two decades. 

 

The Rangers weren’t supposed to be contenders in 2015, not after Yu Darvish was ruled out for the season after Tommy John surgery, Derek Holland missed half the season with a shoulder injury after just one start, and top prospect Jurickson Profar missed his second straight season with consecutive shoulder surgeries. The Rangers started the season 7-14 after April, hung tough and sat at 50-52 on trade deadline day when general manager Jon Daniels made the move to acquire ace Cole Hamels (and his massive contract) from the Phillies along with reliable relievers Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson. The Rangers won 36 games over the next two months, securing the second Wild Card spot in late August, and then passed the Astros in mid-September for the AL West lead, which they would not surrender.

 

Texas vs. Toronto

 

GameDayTime (ET)TVPitching Matchup
1Thursday, Oct. 83:37 p.m.FS1Yovani Gallardo vs. David Price
2Friday, Oct. 912:45 p.m.MLB NetworkCole Hamels vs. Marcus Stroman
3Sunday, Oct. 118:10 p.m.FS1Marco Estrada vs. Undecided
4*Monday, Oct. 12TBDFS1R.A. Dickey vs. Undecided
5*Wednesday, Oct. 14TBDFS1Undecided vs. David Price

*If necessary

 

Three Things to Watch 

 

1. Trade Deadline Lefties

Speaking of Cole Hamels and David Price, if this series goes to a decisive five games (we can hope), the two lefties could square off for the right to go to the ALCS. Sadly, we will not be privileged to see these two throw against one another in Game 1. Price will take the mound for the Jays on Thursday night against the Rangers’ Yovani Gallardo. 

 

Since joining the Blue Jays, Price has been a revelation. He has essentially put himself in the driver’s seat for his second AL Cy Young Award, as he leads the league in ERA (2.45) and given the Jays the moxie it lacked in the first half of the season. Price has gone 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 2.22 FIP, and a WHIP of 1.009 since moving north of the border. However, there is a downside. Price’s playoff performances haven’t been the highlight of his career. He is just 1-5 in 40 innings pitched with a 4.50 ERA in 10 postseason appearances.  

 

Hamels' situation is similar to that for Price. Since the trade to Texas, Hamels has been very, very good, with a 7-1 record and a 3.66 ERA. Hamels may not be the power pitcher that Price is, inducing more ground balls by percentage, but is just as effective. Where Hamels has the leg up on Price is in his postseason performance. In 13 starts, Hamels is 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.053 WHIP, and was both the 2008 NCLS and World Series MVP. If nothing else, it should be fun watching the lefty Hamels against the stacked right-handed Blue Jays lineup.

 

2. Rogers Centre Advantage

The Rogers Centre will be rocking on Thursday night as the Blue Jays host their first postseason game since Joe Carter touched ‘em all to walk off the 1993 World Series. Since the Price and Tulowitzki trades the Rogers Centre has been packed with crowds in the upper decks looking like they are within arms reach of the CN Tower. 

 

The way the Jays swing the bat, the CN Tower could be in play as a foul pole. The Blue Jays are tied with the Pirates and Astros for the best home record on the season at 53-28, second only to the Dodgers and Cardinals. At home the Jays are scoring almost twice as much as their opponents, plating 450 runs while only surrendering 292.

 

This Blue Jays team has captured the favor and imagination of a fan base longing for a competitive team to fill their ballpark to the max. This season, attendance has jumped 17.6 percent from 2014 as more than 2.7 million passed through the Rogers Centre gates in 2015. Expect all 49,282 seats to be filled by Blue Jay blue for Games 1 and 2, and hopefully beyond.

 

3. How many runs?

Everyone knows that the Blue Jays can swing the twig better than any other team in baseball. They lead the league in runs (891), doubles (308), home runs (232), total bases (2518), RBIs (852), on-base percentage (.340), slugging (.457), and OPS (.797). MVP front-runner Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have combined for 338 RBIs and 120 home runs this season, more than any teammate trio in baseball. Simply put, the Jays are a force at the plate. 

 

But don’t count out the Rangers' offense either. In the second half of the season Texas scored 381 runs, second to only Toronto. While the offensive numbers aren’t as gaudy, the Rangers can still be dangerous. Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland all tout an OPS over .800 and will be the key for the Rangers to keep up offensively.

 

Final Analysis

 

Simply put, the Jays just score too many runs. They scored 140 more runs this season than the Rangers, who were third in that category. Anything can happen in a five-game series, but I’m not sure the Rangers have the pitching, especially in the bullpen, to silence the Blue Jays big bats. 

 

Prediction: Blue Jays in 4

 

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

Teaser:
ALDS Preview and Prediction: Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-week-6
Body:

Welcome back to the roller coaster that is the 2015 college football season! Just went we think we've got it all figured out, Ole Miss, Notre Dame and UCLA lay eggs. Ohio State and Michigan State look beatable. TCU and Baylor leave their defenses at home. The door to the top floor of college football has been a revolving one so far. Don't look now, but there's some guy named Harbaugh trying tailgate through the door.

 

We've had our share of outrageous outcomes this season. Some I've predicted — some (more often that not) I never saw coming. I'm not giving up on trying to figure this thing out, especially this weekend. We've got a whole slate of games that will shape the College Football Playoff picture and set the stage for the outrageous to happen.

 

Here are my outrageous predictions for Week 6 of the college football season — one for each Power 5 conference.

 

The Hurricanes upset the Seminoles

Look for Miami to show some resiliency and bounce back after a tough loss on the road, knowing it's still in the hunt in the ACC. The Hurricanes have the athletes to hang with a Florida State team that, once again, is just getting by against teams that are arguably not as good as Al Golden's Miami squad. I like Brad Kaaya to expose a Florida State secondary that has not faced an elite passer yet this season.

 

Related: Al Golden Enters Showdown Against Florida State on Hot Seat, Facing Make-or-Break Stretch at Miami

 

Tennessee gives Georgia a losing streak

As I predicted, the Dawgs were brought crashing back to earth last weekend. A trip to Knoxville to swim in a Sea of Orange is not, in my opinion, the best way to get your mind right after a crushing loss. Tennessee, on the other hand, will be looking to end a two-game losing streak where the Volunteers came out on the short end of the stick by a combined five points in those contests. Look for the Vols to try and bully Georgia up front the same way Alabama did, pulling out to a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.


Related: This is the Last Time Mark Richt and Will Georgia Fool Me!

 

Kansas State upsets TCU

This will be the third time I've called for an upset of the Horned Frogs. I really like my chances this week. The Wildcats are coming off a shootout loss to Oklahoma State — a team that might be the most underrated in the country. I trust Bill Snyder to have something up his sleeve and have his team fired up to pull off the win under the lights in the Little Apple. I see this game much like TCU's season opener with Minnesota, but with a late turnover being the difference, sealing a Kansas State victory.

 

Cal over Utah BIG

Utah's best win to date is not the blowout win over what we now know is a mediocre Oregon team. Instead, it's the opener against Michigan that the Utes could have easily lost if not for some costly interceptions thrown by Wolverines quarterback Jake Rudock. I like Cal's Jared Goff to force the ball downfield all night, constantly pressuring the Ute secondary and eventually wearing the group down. A back and forth game early will turn into a second half rout for Cal and a reality check for Utah.

 

Rutgers shocks Michigan State

The Spartans haven't looked great for a couple of weeks now. Rutgers has issues, but is anyone willing to step up and say the Scarlet Knights aren't as talented as Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Purdue? All three of those teams gave the Spartans their share of troubles. Rutgers has had two weeks to get ready for this night game against one of the Big Ten's big dogs. Michigan State is already thinking about next week's game at Ann Arbor. This is the recipe for upsets. Rutgers shocks the world and Chop Nation tears down the goal posts.

 

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

Teaser:
Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 6
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 12:45
Path: /college-football/arkansas-takes-two-big-steps-forward-remain-one-step-back-win-over-tennessee
Body:

The Arkansas Razorbacks (2-3, 1-1) notched a big win on Saturday, topping the Tennessee Volunteers (2-3, 0-2) 24-20 on the road. The win was head coach Bret Bielema’s first SEC road victory since taking over the program in 2013. Above all else, the win keeps the Razorbacks in the conversation for a shot at a SEC West title, no matter how probable that goal may be, and a second consecutive bowl berth.

 

The Razorbacks did a lot of great things on the field from top to bottom against Tennessee. Besides netting the important victory, the Hogs stuck to the ground game, producing 275 yards rushing on their way to 494 yards of total offense. The other two things that cannot be understated is the team’s belief in one another along with the coaching staff. That belief showed through when down 14-0 midway through the first quarter the team did not give up and finally found a way to close out a tight game.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 5 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Prior to Saturday, Bielema's Arkansas teams were 0-9 in games decided by seven points or less. The Razorbacks entered this one riding a tough three-game losing streak, a streak in which all three contests could have easily gone the other way (Toledo 16-12, Texas Tech 35-24, and Texas A&M 28-21 in overtime). The road ahead does not get any easier with a Week 6 showdown against No. 8 Alabama, but these Razorbacks do appear to be gelling as a unit, which should help the team navigate the second half of its schedule after the trip to Tuscaloosa. Just one thing keeps holding Arkansas back, year after year.

 

With the positives like the ground attack shaping up, a reduction in costly penalties, and playing a clean game without any turnovers comes the negative. As has been the case over the last two seasons the special teams unit, more directly the kicking game, is not up to the level of a SEC-contending squad.

 

Arkansas’ special teams was dinged on the opening kickoff when Evan Berry returned it 96 yards to put Tennessee on top 7-0. Arkansas would add to its own misery in the third quarter when Cole Hedlund’s 22-yard field goal attempt was blocked. The missed field goal was attributed to Matt Emrich’s hold. Emrich has not had a mistake like that previously, but it always seems to be something with Arkansas’ special teams, and usually it's more negative than positive.

 

Perhaps the biggest head scratcher the Hogs pulled was a fourth quarter fake field goal attempt from the Tennessee 10-yard line. Arkansas was up 24-20 facing a fourth-and-goal. Instead of trusting its kicker to stretch the lead to seven in the event of another overtime game, the Hogs rolled the dice on putting six on the board, instead turning to last year’s primary field goal kicker, Adam McFain.

 

One could easily understand why Arkansas might switch field goal kickers, replacing Cole Hedlund with McFain. Hedlund after all is 5-for-8 on the season having missed a 41-yarder against Toledo, a 37-yarder against Texas Tech, and a 22-yard attempt earlier in this game. But to have McFain try and run it in for a touchdown?

 

McFain reportedly has a good 40-yard dash time running straight ahead without any collegiate defenders trying to stop him, but he clearly looked uncomfortable trying to put the ball into the end zone against Tennessee, as he seemed more interested in not getting hit rather than lowering his shoulder to try and get into the end zone.

 

Considering the circumstances — a three-game losing streak, being 0-for on the road in the SEC since coming to Arkansas, and 0-9 in games decided by seven points or fewer — why would Bielema even try a fake field goal with a guy uncomfortable with the ball in his hands instead of letting his first-team offense take a shot?

 

Pop culture from the '70s has led American music consumers to believe that “two out of three ain’t bad,” but two out of three ain’t going to win a SEC West title or contend for a national championship. Two of Arkansas’ three phases of the game were good against Tennessee but when will all three be good again?

 

In 2014, Arkansas, in part, lost a chance to defeat then-No. 6 Texas A&M after kicker John Henson missed a 44-yard attempt in regulation. The Hogs would go on to lose the game to the Aggies, 35-28 in overtime. Also in 2014, against then-No. 7 Alabama (a week later), a missed point after attempt cost Arkansas an opportunity to go into overtime for a chance to win another big game. Again in 2014, against No. 1 Mississippi State, McFain missed a 42-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter. The Hogs would go on to lose 17-10.

 

Did each missed kick directly affect the outcome of the game? Yes and no. Game decisions are made based off the points on the board, down and distance, and time remaining. The debate is there to be had without a clear winner but what would be even better for the media, the Arkansas players and staff, and Razorback Nation alike is making any discussion regarding these missed kicks moot by clearing up the poor special teams play.

 

The special teams coordinator for the Hogs is Jemal Singleton, who also is the running backs coach. One could argue why a running backs coach is in charge of telling field goal kickers and punters how to do their job. A greater emphasis on the third phase of the game is clearly needed at Arkansas but when will that be addressed, after a few more missed kicks that may cost Arkansas a chance at a bowl game in 2015?

 

— 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:
Arkansas Takes Two Big Steps Forward but Remain One Step Back in Win over Tennessee
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-cover-2-podcast-week-6-preview
Body:

Hosts Mitch Light and Braden Gall are joined by the Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart to preview a big weekend in college football.

 

Upset Alert is in full effect across the country, the Red River Shoo... Rivalry takes center stage in the Big 12, two unbeaten division leaders highlight the Pac-12 stage and, as usual, the SEC has critical games on both sides of the league, including a huge game between Georgia and Tennessee. The Big Ten, however, may make the most headlines in Week 6 and Dienhart previews every game in the Midwest.

 

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

 

 

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

Teaser:
College Football Cover 2 Podcast: Week 5 Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 12:06
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/after-breakout-performance-against-georgia-calvin-ridley-alabamas-next-big-play-wr
Body:

In Saturday's deluge in Athens, it looks like Alabama's offense found something. Or more, accurately, someone.

 

With no more Amari Cooper, Alabama has been in dire need of a new, big-play, deep-threat wide receiver this season. Somebody to help Jake Coker stretch the field and keep opposing defenses from stacking the box against Derrick Henry.


It hasn't been an easy search process.

 

Robert Foster did have lots of potential to be that guy, but he went down with a serious shoulder injury against Ole Miss and is likely done for the season. ArDarius Stewart has been serviceable through this first part of the season, but nothing extraordinary. Richard Mullaney has great hands and quickness, but he's more of an underneath, possession-type receiver. Cam Sims is working his way back after a spring knee injury.

 

Then there's Calvin Ridley.

 

The highly touted freshman out of Coconut Creek, Fla., began turning heads in Tuscaloosa during fall camp. He was targeted a few times in the first couple of games, but he was playing mostly behind Foster.

 

When Foster went down, Ridley was the guy next in line to fill the void. Maybe in the second half of the Ole Miss game and in the ULM game the following week Ridley was kind of feeling his way around, warming up to his new role. Sort of settling in. Against Georgia this past Saturday in Athens, Ridley was brilliant.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 5 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder was sure-handed, and he was explosive. And when he burned the Georgia secondary and hauled in a high-arcing, 45-yard touchdown pass from Coker on a deep post route in the second quarter, he looked oh so Amari-esque. Ditto on the nifty 50-yard catch-and-run he had in the first quarter that helped set up the game's first points — a 29-yard Adam Griffith field goal. Ridley's performance earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors.

 

"We hoped that (big-play receiver) role would happen with really three guys this year — Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley — and Ridley showed us enough early in camp and so forth that we thought he could emerge as being one of those guys," head coach Nick Saban said Monday. "With the circumstances as they are (Ridley) has gotten more opportunities, and he's responded very well to it." 

 

Yeah, maybe Bama has that missing piece of its offense now — a dangerous, big-play, wideout. Like Cooper used to be for the Tide. And Julio Jones before him. Ridley finished Saturday's game with five catches for a career-high 120 yards, becoming the first true freshman receiver to post a 100-yard receiving effort since, you guessed it, Cooper did it three years ago against Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.

 

The scary part for future Alabama opponents is that Ridley is probably just now scratching the surface of his vast potential. Remember, he is a true freshman. This time last year he and his Monarch High School teammates were prepping for Taravella High School.

 

For a little perspective, through his first five games of his true freshman season at Alabama in 2012, Cooper had 17 catches for 222 yards and three TDs. At the same point in his Alabama career right now, Ridley has more catches (22) than Cooper, more receiving yards (245) and just one less TD reception (2).

 

Alabama True Freshman WRs Through First Five Games

PlayerYearRec.Yds.TDs
Calvin Ridley2015222452
Amari Cooper2012172223
Julio Jones2008162264

Suffice it to say, No. 3 is well on pace to becoming something special at Alabama.

 

"He doesn't make a lot of mistakes," Saban said of Ridley following Saturday's game. "He made a really big play today and has played well all year. I know he dropped one last week, but you kind of live and learn. He's a very confident guy that I think is very focused and really prepares well and shows a lot of maturity for a freshman."

 

Saturday's Georgia game provided pretty good proof of that. With more proof likely to come.

 

— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.

 

(RIdley photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
After Breakout Performance Against Georgia, Ridley Looking Like Alabama's Next Big-Play WR
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/record-smashing-rb-kenneth-dixon-doing-unimaginable
Body:

The records he has already broken and those on which he is approaching are unimaginable to Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon.

 

“I never envisioned myself doing this,” he said. “I knew wherever I went I’d work hard and just continue to thank God for every chance that I’d get.”

 

Perhaps he should have seen all that’s unfolded in his college coming, given Dixon’s been setting records through his football career.

 

At Strong High School in Strong, Ark., — population, 653 — he set a state single-game record with 348 yards.

 

Perhaps more impressively, he did it in the Class 2A title game, a contest in which he rushed for five touchdowns and passed for a sixth.

 

The state championship win capped a record-setting 3,153-yard career. Then, just 12 months later at Louisiana Tech, he concluded his freshman season with a nation’s best 27 rushing touchdowns.

 

That mark set the NCAA record for a freshman, which still stands. It’s one in a laundry list of historic milestones for college football’s active career rushing leader, but the biggie Dixon’s closing in on is the career touchdowns from scrimmage mark.

 

His most recent, a six-yard run on Saturday in a 43-14 rout of in-state rival Louisiana-Lafayette, gives him 69 for his career.

 

He has seven opportunities in the regular season and, if all goes according to plan, a Conference USA Championship Game and bowl game, to break Montee Ball’s record of 83.

 

“[The record]’s in reach, so I’m pretty sure we’ll get it,” he said.

 

Wait — we?

 

Yes, Dixon considers the record a team honor; a testament to the performance of those around him. He specifically singled out the Bulldogs' offensive line.

 

“The offensive line is doing a great job up front with the blocking scheme,” he said.

 

Playing behind that offensive line, Dixon has already matched one NCAA record Ball set. Week 4 marked his 11th career game with at least three touchdowns.

 

 

 

Dixon’s record-setting career, he says, is a byproduct of the “week-in and week-out” pursuit of team success. And indeed, the Bulldogs have succeeded commensurate with Dixon’s individual stardom. They won nine games in 2012 and '14, and have opened a 2015 campaign in which they’re expected to repeat as C-USA West Division champions at 3-2.

 

Dixon is averaging 116 rushing yards per game to pace the offense. With 15 receptions for 148 yards, he has also been a primary pass catcher for quarterback Jeff Driskel, the fourth different Tech starter in Dixon’s time as a Bulldog.

 

From Colby Cameron in 2012, Ryan Higgins in '13, Cody Sokol last season and Driskel now, the Louisiana Tech offense has gone through regular change in Dixon’s tenure. Louisiana Tech also switched from the air raid offense, employed by previous head coach Sonny Dykes in 2012, to a more traditional approach under current head coach Skip Holtz’s staff.

 

The change did not come without some hiccups.

 

Sandwiched between two campaigns of 28 touchdowns from scrimmage is five-touchdown sophomore season, his first in offensive coordinator Tony Petersen’s pro-style scheme. Were it not for the dip, Dixon would likely have already broken Ball’s record.

 

But Dixon says he’s grateful for the transition, pointing to new responsibilities as a blocker in pass protection and a new-found understanding of schemes he believes will prepare him for the NFL.

 

Earning a spot on a professional roster is just one individual goal Dixon is pursuing — though his ambition off the field takes precedent over his performance on it.

 

“Me and [running backs] Coach [Jabbar] Juluke just talked about being great men,” Dixon said. “Everyone talks about the great football player Kenneth, but no one talks about the great man I’m trying to be. I feel like coach Juluke’s helped me come a long way from preparing myself not just on the football field, but in life.”

 

Part of Dixon’s effort to be a great man is leading Bulldog teammates in regular Bible study. He also says he’s striving to be a role model to his daughter.

 

Dixon became a father earlier this year, and now has a six-month-old superfan who, he said, just began saying “dada” in the past week.

 

She is at Joe Aillet Stadium for every Louisiana Tech home game, and could well be part of an audience that sees her father make college football history.

 

Dixon’s successes are of no surprise to Dykes, now at Cal.

 

 “He’s a great kid, first of all,” Dykes said. “I’m really proud of him.”

 

Dykes signed Dixon at Louisiana Tech from Strong in 2012. Recounting the running back’s recruitment, Dykes still sounds pleasantly surprised he mined the 3-star gem from The Natural State.

 

“He’s one of those kids [who], if he’d been in the [Dallas-Fort Worth] metroplex, would have been probably [ranked] one of the top 100 [recruits] in the country,” Dykes said. “We just felt like he was that good of a player. He played quarterback, basically carried the ball every play, and was the best defensive player on the field.”

 

Power-conference program recruiters can take solace in missing on Dixon. His recruitment primarily consisted of nearby Group of 5 and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs.

 

“I had a lot of offers, but some of the main people were Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech. I had [Central Arkansas],” he said. “Ole Miss and Arkansas came in on the last minute, but really wasn’t a big deal.”

 

Ole Miss’ late recruitment of Dixon makes sense, given the Rebels had just hired Hugh Freeze from Arkansas State days after Dixon’s eruption in the Arkansas 2A state championship game.

 

But Dixon honored the verbal commitment he made to Louisiana Tech in October 2011 all the way to national signing day 2012.

 

“I felt at home here,” he said. “Everybody’s like family. Everybody cares about each other, from the video staff all the way to the media [relations department]. I feel like me and [associate athletics communication director] Patrick [Walsh] are family.

 

“I just love it,” he added. “Glad I chose [Louisiana Tech]. I get emotional just talking about it.”

 

That connection Dixon feels to Louisiana Tech will be chronicled in the annals of college history when he leaves Ruston. Even if he falls short of Ball’s touchdowns from scrimmage record, the impact Dixon’s already made is indelible — unimaginable, even.  

 

— 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:
Record-Smashing RB Kenneth Dixon Doing the Unimaginable
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/quarter-pole-fantasy-mvps-2015-season
Body:

It’s almost depressing to think that in a blink of an eye a quarter of the NFL season has come and gone. The good thing is that after four weeks of hard-fought action we are starting to see who the contenders and pretenders are on the field and in fantasy football the studs are starting to separate themselves from the duds.

 

Related: Week 4 NFL Fantasy All-Dud Team

 

There have been some outstanding fantasy performance so far this season. If you drafted properly you might even be lucky enough to have two maybe three of these fantasy MVPs on your team.

 

If you do, good for you. You’re in excellent shape for the rest of the season. If not, there’s still hope — kind of.

 

So who are the fantasy MVPs at the quarter pole? Let’s find out.

 

Note: Standard scoring used to calculate fantasy points

 

Quarterback

 

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (96.5 fantasy points)

89-of-123, 72.4 percent, 995 passing yards, 11 TDs, 0 INTs, 105 rushing yards

 

No real surprise here. Tom Brady is a close second, but unfortunately because his bye week was so early (Week 4), he played one less game than Rodgers.

 

Rodgers has dominated in every facet of the game. He’s accumulated 96.5 fantasy points so far, which means that if he keeps this up he could challenge 400 total fantasy points on the season. That probably won’t happen because the Packers will probably keep winning and look to rest Rodgers a bit down the stretch, which makes him an interesting play come fantasy football playoff time.

 

Regardless, through the first four games of this season, he’s dismantled the Bears, Seahawks, Chiefs and the 49ers, while that’s not really murderer's row (except Seattle), at least he produced. That can’t be said for many other supposed stud QBs (cough, Andrew Luck, cough).  

 

There’s no doubting that Rodgers will continue his torrid pace and it should be very interesting to see if Rodgers can keep his fantasy MVP status or if he will be passed by Brady or someone else. Guess we’ll have to sit back and enjoy the ride and check back at the halfway point of the season.

 

Running Back

 

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (86.8 FP)

66 att., 252 rushing yards, 3.8 ypc, 7 TDs, 17 receptions, 196 receiving yards

 

Freeman is by far the biggest surprise of the NFL season so far, both in real life and in fantasy football. Think about it, Freeman leads all running backs in fantasy points and he wasn’t a first-round pick, nor a second- or third-round pick. Heck, his teammate, rookie running back Tevin Coleman was drafted before him in almost every fantasy draft.

 

Freeman was a flier pick or, for smart fantasy players, a Coleman handcuff. Believe it or not Freeman only scored 4.7 fantasy points in Week 1 and 11.9 Week 2. He got his opportunity in Week 3 when Coleman went down with a rib injury and he hasn’t looked back, scoring six touchdowns in the last two games.

 

The big question is whether or not Freeman can keep this up. While he probably won’t score 30 fantasy points per game for the rest of the season you can bet that the Falcons are going to keep giving Freeman the ball even when Coleman comes back.

 

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (71.7 FP)

59 att., 306 rushing yards, 5.2 ypc, 4 TDS, 20 receptions, 151 receiving yards, TD

 

Charles barely beats out Adrian Peterson for this spot and it is all thanks to his pass-catching ability out of the backfield. The other thing that makes Charles so good is that so far in 2015, he’s been one of the most consistent fantasy producers in all of football. He hasn’t scored less than 14 fantasy points in any game this season. That’s despite the fact that the Chiefs have primarily been playing from behind in every game, which has really limited Charles’ opportunity to run the ball.

 

However he’s still averaging 5.2 yards per carry and already accumulated over 450 total yards. Charles has a great schedule coming up before his bye week in Week 9, so you can expect many more great things from him moving forward.

 

Wide Receiver

 

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (71.8 FP)

38 receptions, 478 receiving yards, 12.6 ypr, 4 TDs

 

Jones is an absolute beast and has taken over as the best wide receiver in football — hands down. Jones is so good that he is still leading all wide receivers in fantasy points coming off a Week 4 game where he was basically a decoy and only caught four passes for 38 yards, that’s 3.8 fantasy points (in standard leagues).

 

Of course every player, even one as great and gifted as Jones, is going to have an off game. When you look at Jones’ stats what really stands out is the whopping 52 targets he has already accumulated. That's good for second in the NFL behind DeAndre Hopkins' 60 (22 of those coming in Week 4 alone). Matt Ryan loves throwing the ball Jones’ way and it really doesn’t matter if No. 11 is covered or not.

 

Jones should continue to dominate on the field and in fantasy football moving forward but you always have to wonder about his health, since he often shows up on the injury report and hasn’t played a full season since 2012. Then there’s Atlanta’s newfound running game with the aforementioned Freeman. How will that affect Jones’ numbers moving forward? Is he a sell-high candidate?

 

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (71.2 FP)

30 receptions, 432 receiving yards, 14.4 ypr, 5 TDs

 

Heading into the 2015 season many folks had written Fitzgerald off as past his prime. He’s old and slow they said. He’s going to be just the third-best wide receiver on the Cardinals they said. This led to many fantasy owners passing on Fitzgerald into the late rounds and, believe it or not, in many of my leagues Michael Floyd and John Brown were taken ahead of Fitzgerald.

 

Thanks to Carson Palmer’s return to full health, Fitzgerald has seen a career renaissance. He hasn’t caught less than six balls in or recorded less than 80 receiving yards in every game so far. He’s been even more valuable in PPR leagues.

 

Look for Fitzgerald to stay hot. He plays the Lions this week, Pittsburgh in Week 6, followed by Baltimore and Cleveland before the Cardinals have their bye in Week 9. You could even go as far to say that by the end of Week 8, Fitzgerald will be the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver. You heard it here first.

 

Tight End

 

Rob Gronkowski, New England (54.8 FP)

16 receptions, 308 receiving yards, 19.3 ypr, 4 TDs

 

Really big surprise here. Gronkowski has 13 more fantasy points than the next tight end (Travis Kelce) and Gronk has only played three games. In fact, it’s safe to say that Gronk would have closer to 60 fantasy points by now if he didn’t have a Week 4 bye. That would place him around the No. 6 fantasy wide receiver. That’s how good and valuable he is.

 

While many other first-round fantasy draft picks have massively disappointed, those who took Gronk early in their draft have been reaping the benefits. Having Tom Brady playing with a chip on his shoulder and at such a high level sure doesn’t hurt Gronk’s value either.

 

And there’s no reason to think that Brady or Gronk are going to slow down. The only thing that could stand in Gronk’s way of having one of the best, if not the best, seasons a tight end has ever had, is an injury. But hopefully his injury history is behind him because it sure is fun to watch him play.

 

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

Teaser:
Quarter Pole Fantasy MVPs for 2015 Season
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC
Path: /college-football/this-last-time-mark-richt-georgia-fool-me
Body:

Here is my confession. I bought in completely that Georgia had a shot of winning last week’s game against Alabama. I had the wool pulled over my eyes.

 

Georgia, you got me.

 

Georgia losing this game isn’t the story. I mean, it kind of is. How do you get beat like that (38-10)? Again? At home? But more importantly, it’s how the Bulldogs lost. It’s the way in which they lost. It’s not showing up for the game at all. I had every intention in writing an article validating my five reasons why I thought Georgia would win. Instead, here I am writing an article on how my prediction looked as bad as Georgia’s entire team did. I actually believed in Greyson Lambert. In Mark Richt. In Jeremy Pruitt. What was I thinking?

 

I Mark Richt’d that prediction. It may not be a thing yet. Give it time.

 

I got caught up in the moment. I have no shame in admitting that. I thought it would be close. I thought Georgia would make Alabama work for it. You know, it being a home game and all. With the remnants of 2008 looming large and Georgia actually having a chance to put Alabama out of College Football Playoff contention, I thought, finally this is the year Richt will get a signature win.

 

Boy was I wrong. 

 

College Football Podcast: Week 5 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Again, it’s not even the fact that they lost. The Georgia Bulldogs didn’t even show up. I thought Lambert was going to make big-time throws today and put Georgia in a position to win. And I thought Jake Coker would look rattled just like he did against ULM. I mean Coker has looked good in games against better competition in Wisconsin and Ole Miss but he has struggled in games he shouldn’t have. And then against Georgia all Coker did was go 11-for-16 with 190 yards and a touchdown. That may not look like gaudy numbers but he doesn’t need them when the other team doesn’t show up.

 

And then there was Lambert. “Put him with better talent” they said. Watch him do better in a better system” they said.

 

Nope. He went 10-for-24 for 86 yards and an interception and was pulled before halftime. Why was he pulled? Because he looked rattled. He couldn’t make a pass down the field after the Bulldogs' first drive and he had no command of the offense. Simply put, he was awful. After a couple of days to think about what I saw on Saturday, I can safely say that I will never fall for a Richt-led team again.

 

Ever.

 

Richt hasn’t won an SEC championship since 2005. He has found more ways to lose games than he has to win them. Is Richt a great guy? Yes. Is he a good coach? Yes. Will he ever be considered a great coach? Not a chance. Games like Saturday show you exactly why the Nick Sabans and Urban Meyers are so heavily regarded in today’s college football world. It’s because these types of games don’t smother out the talent that is so visible on each and every Saturday. Georgia’s season is certainly not over but it took a big hit on Saturday. Georgia could still get to the SEC Championship Game but you have to wonder, if THAT Georgia team shows up again, could it really beat anyone from the West? I doubt it.

 

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

Teaser:
This is the Last Time Mark Richt and Georgia Will Fool Me!
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-nebraska-should-be-patient-mike-riley-after-2-3-start
Body:

Just five games into his tenure, Nebraska coach Mike Riley is already getting a glimpse of what life is like in Lincoln. The first-year coach is already facing plenty of criticism after the Cornhuskers’ 2-3 start, especially after how Saturday’s Illinois-Nebraska game ended and the management of a third-down play late in the fourth quarter.

 

While 2-3 isn’t where Nebraska or Riley wants to be, this team isn’t far from a 4-1 record. The Cornhuskers lost on a Hail Mary touchdown pass to BYU, and who knows what happens if quarterback Tommy Armstrong simply tucks and runs the ball on third down against Illinois instead of attempting a pass?

 

Patience is difficult for any fanbase, but Riley is just five games into his tenure. Maybe he’s not the right coach, but it’s too early to know. Considering Nebraska’s three losses by five points or less, small improvement and better late-game management could easily swing close games into the win column this year.

 

Need reason to be optimistic for the rest of the season? Here’s five reasons Nebraska fans should be patient with new coach Mike Riley.

 

5 Reasons Nebraska Should be Patient With Mike Riley

 

1. Close Losses/Bad Luck Eventually Flips the Other Way

As mentioned above, the bounces go a different way in two games and Nebraska is 4-1 instead of 2-3. That type of luck won’t continue forever. The Cornhuskers could also help their win total by improving a turnover margin that’s currently minus-four after Week 5.

 

2. The Remaining Schedule

Of the seven remaining games on Nebraska’s schedule, five are against teams projected by Athlon Sports in the preseason to make a bowl. However, none of those games are guaranteed losses, with Michigan State on Nov. 7 standing out as the toughest remaining contest. Additionally, there’s only three matchups on the road the rest of the way, including trips to Purdue, Rutgers and Minnesota. Playing at Purdue and Rutgers isn’t exactly a daunting road game for Nebraska. It’s not easy, but the schedule is manageable.

 

Related: 10 College Football Coaches on the Rise

 

3. Health

Nebraska hasn’t had the best luck in terms of health to start the season. Depth was an issue at a few spots for this team in the preseason, and the linebacking corps has missed Michael Rose-Ivey and Josh Banderas, as both have played in only two games. Additionally, standout defensive tackle Vincent Valentine has played in just two contests. The bad news continued for coordinator Mark Banker this week, as defensive tackle Kevin Maurice was ruled out for at least four weeks due to a foot stress fracture. On the positive side for Banker, end Jack Gangwish returned against Illinois and should take on a larger role against Wisconsin. Additionally…

 

4. WR De’Mornay Pierson-El is Back

Pierson-El returned to the lineup after a preseason foot injury against Illinois. The dynamic junior caught just one pass for six yards and was in the mix for returns. Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf planned for Pierson-El to play a heavy role in the offense this season as one of the team’s top receivers, as well as a rushing threat from fly sweeps. Pierson-El was a critical piece of the passing attack last season by catching 23 passes for 321 yards and four scores, while also averaging 17.5 yards per punt return. With Pierson-El back in the mix, Nebraska’s offense and special teams now have one of the Big Ten’s top big-play threats at their disposal.

 

Related: Alex Lewis Becomes Anti-Captain in Matter of Moments

 

5. QB Tommy Armstrong and Transition

While some coaches have an immediate impact on their new team, most take a year or two in order to implement their systems and attract the necessary talent. Naturally, patience is required by the fans. However, while Nebraska adapts to its new schemes and coaching staff, it does have one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten in Tommy Armstrong. The junior leads all Big Ten quarterbacks by averaging 274.2 passing yards per game this season. Sure, Armstrong needs to play better than he did against Illinois. However, having a proven quarterback can make up for some of the deficiencies in other areas. While the Cornhuskers need time to transition on both sides of the ball, Armstrong’s development so far is a positive sign and should help this team improve over the next two months. 

Teaser:
5 Reasons Nebraska Should be Patient With Mike Riley After a 2-3 Start
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/al-golden-florida-state-hot-seat-facing-make-or-break-stretch-miami
Body:

Miami coach Al Golden entered 2015 on the hot seat, and the pressure hasn’t decreased on the fifth-year coach after a 3-1 start. While the Hurricanes have a winning record, the manner in which this program is winning games hasn’t been impressive. Miami was tied at 20 with FAU in the third quarter and blew a 33-10 second half lead against Nebraska. While the Hurricanes won both games, neither performance was enough to quiet Golden’s critics.

 

Additionally, Golden has been the target of banners flying over Sun Life Stadium and even in Cincinnati last Thursday, calling for the program to make a coaching change.

 

For a variety of reasons in recent seasons, Miami hasn’t been able to match the level of the success this program had from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. However, after Thursday night’s loss to Cincinnati, it’s pretty clear Golden is looking at a critical four-game stretch that could define his tenure at Miami.

 

Related: 10 Coaches on the Rise

 

The Hurricanes host rival Florida State on Saturday. While the buzz surrounding this matchup isn’t quite what it was previously, this is still a critical game within the ACC and for bragging rights within the state of Florida. Here’s the key stat to remember for Miami: The Hurricanes have lost five straight to the Seminoles and two of Golden’s defeats in this series came by 13 points or more.

 

Let’s say Miami loses to Florida State. That drops the Hurricanes to 0-1 in the ACC and 3-2 overall. The road won’t get any easier in the next few weeks. After taking on the Seminoles, Miami hosts Virginia Tech and Clemson, followed by a road trip to Duke on Oct. 31. The Tigers are the best team out of that trio, but the Blue Devils won the last meeting in Durham (2013). The Hokies are struggling with a 2-3 start but won four out of the last six in this series.

 

The November slate isn’t drastically easier for Miami, especially with road trips to North Carolina and Pittsburgh, along with a home date against Georgia Tech.

 

Cleaning up some of the mental errors and mistakes could go a long ways for Miami over the last eight games of the season.

 

Behind quarterback Brad Kaaya, Miami’s offense ranks fourth in the ACC with an average of 37 points per game and second in the conference with 6.5 yards per play.

 

Both of those numbers are good enough to win a lot of games in 2015. However, it’s the small things hurting the Hurricanes’ offense. This unit is last in the ACC by converting just 24.5 percent of its third downs. And Miami is also committing nearly eight penalties a game (7.75).

 

Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio was the subject of criticism throughout last season by Miami’s fanbase and this unit has struggled once again in 2015. The Hurricanes have surrendered 29 points a game in three contests against FBS teams this season, rank 12th in the ACC in third-down defense, surrendered nine plays of 30 yards or more and give up 5.4 yards per play.

 

Related: 10 Stats to Know from Week 5

 

Football Outsiders’ advanced statistics only reiterate Miami’s troubles on defense. This unit is No. 53 in defense S&P and No. 95 in defensive efficiency.

 

It’s no secret Miami has yet to play for the conference championship or win a Coastal Division title since joining the ACC in 2004. Combine that historical note with seven players selected in the 2015 NFL Draft after a 6-7 record, and it’s easy to see why most consider this program to be an underachiever.

 

Al Golden has recruited well. Miami inked the No. 27 signing class nationally in the 247Sports rankings last season, but prior to 2015, Golden signed three consecutive top 15 classes. Over the last five seasons, the Hurricanes average a 19.2 finish nationally in team recruiting rankings. That’s No. 3 in the ACC. Yet, Miami is just 16-16 over the last four years in conference play.

 

Is time running out on Golden at Miami? The next four games have to be considered a make-or-break stretch for this coaching staff. 

Teaser:
Al Golden Enters Week 6 on the Hot Seat, Facing Make-or-Break Stretch at Miami
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-top-five-waiver-wire-pickups-week-6
Body:

Week 5 is now in the books, and the college fantasy football season is kicking into high gear. Are you prepared?  

 

Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans CollegeFootballGeek.com to help you dominate in 2015! Over the course of the season, CFG will be providing insight into their weekly value plays, as well as helping you identify the top waiver wire candidates to bolster your lineups.

 

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

 

Below, you will find AthlonSports.com contributor and CFG writer Mike Bainbridge's five best waiver wire pickups for Week 6. To see the full in-depth article of over 50+ players, make sure to check out CollegeFootballGeek.com.

 

Mike Warren (RB, Iowa State)

An afterthought to begin the year, the Iowa State redshirt freshman running back now has 301 rushing yards the past two weeks, including a 175-yard performance against Kansas this past weekend. Warren opened the year as the backup to Tyler Brown, but the Iowa State rushing attack was ineffective with Brown as the lead back, gaining a combined 140 yards as a team. The past two weeks, Iowa State is averaging 225 yards rushing a game due in large part to the emergence of Warren. The Cyclones now get Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor in the next three games. Is there any doubt they will feed carries to Warren trying to keep those offenses off the field?

 

Chase Litton (QB, Marshall)

Since taking over for injured quarterback Michael Birdsong, all Chase Litton has done is lead the Thundering Herd to a 3-0 record while throwing eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. Not the Rakeem Cato-like numbers that we are used to seeing from a Marshall quarterback, but solid nonetheless for Litton's first three collegiate starts. Birdsong is reportedly getting close to 100 percent health, but if Marshall continues to win games with Litton under center, why disrupt the momentum? The freshman QB is a solid No. 2 option on your fantasy roster.

 

James Summers (QB, East Carolina)

Ruffin McNeil has a decision on his hands for which quarterback to go with this week against BYU, but in our minds, it is an easy one. The East Carolina head coach stated last week his intention on rotating both Summers and Blake Kemp moving forward, but for the second straight game, Summers came off the bench to lead the Pirates to another comeback in the win over SMU. The junior quarterback has seven touchdowns in the past two weeks, four of which have been on the ground, as Summers is a dynamic athlete in the pocket. It would be a major surprise if McNeil did not select Summers as his starter not only this week, but for the remainder of the year.

 

Trevon Brown (WR, East Carolina)

Brown was suspended for the first three games of the season due a violation of the school's student code. In the two weeks since his return to the lineup, Brown has caught eight passes for 129 yards and accounted for a touchdown in each game. The sophomore wideout is far and away the team’s biggest deep threat, as he averaged 19 yards per catch in 2014 before a knee injury cut his season short. Brown is off to a flying start once again this year and should see more passes in the upcoming weeks with some average AAC defenses on the horizon.  

 

Donovan Harden (WR, Georgia State)

Harden returned to the lineup this week for Georgia State after missing the first month with a broken bone in his foot that he suffered during fall practice. There was no rust whatsoever for the senior wideout, as Harden had 179 yards and a touchdown in his first game back. Georgia State now ranks 12th in the country in passing offense, averaging 345 yards per game. The Panthers pass it a ton, as they are likely to be trailing in almost every matchup they play in, meaning plenty of targets coming in Harden’s direction. The hope is fellow managers in your league forgot about Harden due to the injury, so make sure to jump on him now if he is still available.

 

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

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football Top Five Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 6
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-patience-panic-mike-evans-alfred-morris-lamar-miller-golden-tate
Body:

I am back with another Patience or Panic post. I did not write one last week because the players I mentioned in my initial post carried over into Week 4.

 

Last week I recommended cutting bait with Andre Johnson and Week 4 only validated the belief that Johnson is simply no longer an impact fantasy player. Definitely not one who should be rostered in leagues at this point.

 

This week I add some new names many are concerned about and help you distinguish whether you need to be patient or panic. I also added a new twist with a panic player, but who isn’t quite to the point of cutting yet.

 

Many of the players in Week 3’s post are still in the patience, but worrisome category. Players like C.J. Anderson plummeted even more after Week 4’s performance. He managed to get 7 fantasy points but there is clearly a time share, and Ronnie Hillman continues to make bigger plays.

 

Each week I will be naming some players who are struggling and whether fantasy owners should Panic or be Patient.

 

Related: Week 4 NFL Fantasy All-Dud Team

 

Good luck this week everyone, and be sure to keep checking AthlonSports.com for all the fantasy guidance, rankings, injury updates, DFS content and Start/Sit posts your little hearts desire.

 

Patience or Panic?

 

1. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Averaging 7.73 fantasy points per game)

Evans appeared to be on the upward trend in Week 3, hauling in seven passes for 101 yards. But along the lines of the goose egg he posted in his Week 2 season debut, he again plummeted back to disappointing levels in Week 4.

 

The question should not be whether Evans is a talented receiver as much as can he and quarterback Jameis Winston develop a special relationship in the passing game, and if Winston will continually improve over his rookie season.

 

The Verdict: Patience

If you drafted Evans you likely paid a steep price for him, or kept him as a keeper. As I mentioned above his talent should not be a question and he could just be off on a slow start because of his early injuries. You have to wait on him for two reasons, he can rebound in a big way, and most importantly you simply will not get a solid return for him at this point.

 

2. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington (7.43 FPPG)

Morris had a solid start in Week 1 with 121 yards on the ground, but then Matt Jones came in to the picture. Whether Morris' confidence was shook, or he simply isn’t playing with gusto he has been averaging a meager 5.9 fantasy points per week since the opener. Definitely not borderline RB1, or even RB2 numbers.

 

The Verdict: PANIC

This is definitely a panic situation, but not a cut bait-type of panic, at least yet. Morris does need to be benched, as it appears, barring an injury to Jones in the future, Morris is in a dreaded timeshare. Even worse he is not known for his pass-catching abilities so the likelihood of him playing on third downs is diminished as well.

 

 

3. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins (6.7 FPPG)

Jonas Gray has been eating in to Lamar Miller’s carries and overall touches, but the Dolphins also have been playing putrid football as of late. In fact their head coach was fired after another loss in Week 4, and many in the industry believe that will benefit Miller.

 

The Verdict: Patience

Miller showed what he can do as a feature back in 2014 and if given the opportunity again in 2015 he should be able to reproduce his numbers. He may not average the whopping five yards-plus a carry, but Miller seems to be a gameflow back. With opportunity comes production.

 

4. Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions (7.9 FPPG)

Tate hasn’t been terrible, but nowhere near the consistent double-digit-points fantasy asset he was last year. He has yet to record a touchdown in 2015, and needless to say he is bench-worthy at this point for most options. He also was drafted higher than he is producing, making him a wait-and-see player for now.


The Verdict: Patience

Tate is a reception fiend like his teammate Calvin Johnson. The Lions' offense may just be off to another slow start and should pick it up sooner than later. Tate had just three catches (on four targets) for 29 yards Monday night against Seattle, but hopefully better games are ahead. Keep in mind, however, that this week Detroit returns home to play Arizona, which has a very athletic and active secondary. The breakout Tate owners are looking for could still be another week or so away.

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Patience or Panic: Mike Evans, Alfred Morris, Lamar Miller, Golden Tate
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/college-basketballs-best-sophomores-2015-16
Body:

The NBA Draft, as usual, culled the freshman class of 2014.

 

The annual exodus of top prospects left only one of the top 10 and seven of the top 20 prospects from the 247Sports composite. The sophomore class, however, has its share of potential superstars.

 

Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis watched most of his teammates go to the draft, but he’ll still inherit the point guard position of a top team.

 

Maryland’s Melo Trimble didn’t arrive with the fanfare of other freshmen in 2014 — he ranked No. 31 in the class — but he may be the top candidate out of this class to be a National Player of the Year.

 

The following article and more can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine, available now.

 

Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

First-Team All-Sophomore

 

G Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

Kentucky’s best playmaker last season may have been coming off the bench. The 5-foot-9 Ulis managed to finish in the top 10 in the SEC in assists per game (3.6) despite averaging only 23.8 minutes.

 

G Melo Trimble, Maryland

Trimble is a big reason Maryland has its best team in more than a decade. He enters this season on a tear, averaging 18.2 points over the final 12 games last season.

 

G/F Daniel Hamilton, UConn

The talented wing should help UConn to a bounce-back season after averaging 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds as a freshman.

 

F Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga

The son of Arvydas Sabonis will threaten to average a double-double after recording 9.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 21.7 minutes last season.

 

C Jakob Poeltl, Utah

The 7-footer may have only scratched the surface of his potential at the end of last season. His return to school was one of the more surprising NBA Draft decisions.

 

Second-Team All-Sophomore

 

G Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State

G James Blackmon Jr., Indiana

G Grayson Allen, Duke

F Justin Jackson, North Carolina

F Angel Delgado, Seton Hall

Teaser:
College Basketball's Best Sophomores for 2015-16
Post date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/week-5-nfl-picks-challenge-athlon-sports-experts
Body:

The NFL is back, and the competition off the field is nearly as heated as the competition on game day.

 

The Athlon Sports Pro Football Experts Club presented by New Era gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.

 

Think you’re up for taking on our experts every week? Think you can beat the writers and editors each week? Join our weekly pick ‘em game and compete for tons of cool prizes.

 

Here are this week’s picks from Athlon Sports senior editor John Gworek:

 

 

Thursday’s Game

 

Indianapolis at Houston

As if Thursday night games aren’t sloppy enough, these two teams have combined to turn the ball over 20 times in four weeks.

Gworek's Pick: Colts, 19-17.

 

Sunday’s Games

 

Chicago at Kansas City

After a 1–3 start, the Bears hit the road for five of their next seven. The Chiefs need someone other than their kicker to score this week.

Gworek's Pick: Kansas City, 26–14.

 

Seattle at Cincinnati

The Bengals are averaging 30 points per game. Seattle’s defense has allowed three points in the last two games. Something has to give.

Gworek's Pick: Seattle, 20–16.

 

Washington at Atlanta

The Redskins are minus-4 in turnover differential. The Falcons are plus-6 and haven’t given the ball away since the season opener.

Gworek's Pick: Atlanta, 27–20.

 

Jacksonville at Tampa Bay

The three NFL teams in Florida are a combined 3–9 so far. Miami is off this week, but somebody has to win this one … right?

Gworek's Pick: Jacksonville, 16–14.

 

New Orleans at Philadelphia

The Saints saved their season with the OT win against Dallas last week. The winner of this one stays in the Wild Card race, the loser digs a big hole.

Gworek's Pick: New Orleans, 21–17.

 

Cleveland at Baltimore

For all the attention the Browns quarterback situation gets, the league’s worst defense is a bigger problem.

Gworek's Pick: Baltimore, 30–20.

 

St. Louis at Green Bay

The Packers are rolling but should beware: The Rams have played their best against the best, having beaten the Seahawks and Cardinals.

Gworek's Pick: Green Bay, 23–17.

 

Buffalo at Tennessee

Tennessee ranks in the top 10 in both offense and defense, but odds are Marcus Mariota will see some crazy things from Rex Ryan this week.

Gworek's Pick: Buffalo, 24–14.

 

Arizona at Detroit

The Lions can’t catch a break and now get the 3–1 Cardinals on a short week. Arizona plays three of its next four in the Eastern Time zone.

Gworek's Pick: Cardinals, 21–13.

 

New England at Dallas

The defense has let the Cowboys down since Tony Romo got hurt. It’s unlikely to get better against the rested Patriots this week.

Gworek's Pick: New England, 34–21.

 

Denver at Oakland

The Raiders were on the verge of a 3–1 start before blowing three separate leads in Chicago. The Broncos are doing it with defense.

Gworek's Pick: Denver, 27-10.

 

San Francisco at N.Y. Giants

About the only thing the 49ers have done well is run the ball. The Giants lead the NFL in rushing defense.

Gworek's Pick: N.Y. Giants, 20-14.

 

Monday’s Game

 

Pittsburgh at San Diego

The Steelers can blame Josh Scobee for the loss to Baltimore, but the offense has gone nowhere since Ben Roethlisberger went down.

Gworek's Pick: San Diego, 23-17.

 

Week 4 Record: 10–5

Overall Record: 41–22

Teaser:
Week 5 NFL Picks: Challenge Athlon Sports Experts!
Post date: Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 16:41
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, waiver wire, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-waiver-wire-week-5
Body:

Week 4 left fantasy owners with an encore performance from Devonta Freeman forcing himself into the front of the running back herd in literally two weeks. This week we start with a bang. There is a DFS scandal (If you want to call it that), which is shaking up the industry and causing online feuds, while seasonal fantasy players have more bye weeks to navigate.

 

Whether you have another injury to worry about, simply are giving up on a few players on your bench, or finding a bye week replacement, the waiver wire should once again be hot and active this week.

 

I will list as always a few more targets who are floating around in most leagues and who you should consider adding to your bench.

 

Good luck this week everyone. If you are having issues with who to drop, or hold from your fantasy teams, be on the lookout for my latest series called Patience or Panic where I will look at players who are under-performing and whether you need to cut bait or hold.


I will be here to guide you each and every week with some players who are owned less than 40 percent in ESPN.com leagues and could have an impact on your squad for this particular week or the rest of the season.

   

1. Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns (49.6 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)

Kind of cheating again this week but this percentage is still too low in the desolate waiver wire of running backs. Johnson showed Sunday how unique of a weapon he is as a pass catcher (9 rec., 85 yds., TD), and his playing time will only improve. If he is still available take a flyer. He should be worth it.

 

2. Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (11.6 percent owned)

Hurns has overshadowed Allen Robinson, who was supposed to be the focal point in the Jaguars' developing offense. Hurns is seeing plenty of targets and red-zone opportunities continue to fall his way too. Hurns is a surprising player so far, but there is no reason to see a decrease in production. Currently the 20th-ranked WR, this week will likely be your last chance to snag him.

 

3. Leonard Hankerson, WR, Atlanta (13.7 percent owned)

Hankerson had another fantastic showing in Week 4, in which, just like Week 2, he had a touchdown, six receptions and 75-plus yards. This is solid WR2, and most certainly flex-worthy production. The Falcons have a high-powered offense and with the meteoric rise of Devonta Freeman, opportunities should be there for Hankerson while secondaries try to contain Julio Jones. Roddy White is certainly the third option and no longer a threat to Hankerson. Get him while you can and enjoy your cheap production.

 

4. Boobie Dixon, RB, Buffalo Bills (1.1 percent owned)

Dixon has been a big name this morning when the news broke that Karlos Williams is dealing with a concussion. This elevates Dixon to a potential starter for Week 5, and even though the Bills signed former Colt Daniel Herron to provide depth, Dixon should see the lion's share of touches in Week 5. He is not explosive, but can do damage in the red-zone and can wear down defenses if needed.

  

5. Kamar Aiken, WR, Baltimore Ravens (0.8 percent owned)

Breshad Perriman was in my waiver wire post last week, but that was prior to the news coming out about him re-injuring his knee, which could keep him sidelined for the rest of the season. Steve Smith then injured his back on Thursday night, propelling the overlooked Aiken to the No. 1 status in Baltimore. Chris Givens was acquired via trade, and his speed could be utilized at some point, but Aiken is familiar with the offense and should be able to build a rapport with Joe Flacco. In Week 4 he ended up with a touchdown, and 77 yards receiving on five catches. Not too shabby.

  

DST Streamer(s) of the Week

 

I am a part of the streaming DST movement. I don’t typically waste a draft pick, unless I need to, in my drafts and instead cut someone and add a DST. Clearly the top defenses will be owned and not available, but streaming is always an option when it comes to DSTs. So each week I will be providing a DST that is owned in less than 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues and can be useful.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay (0.8 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)

The Jags face a turnover-plagued Tampa Bay team and I see no reason not to capitalize once again this week. A rookie quarterback who is coming off a four-interception performance and one that has already tossed seven picks is certainly appealing from a matchup standpoint. Like a shark sensing blood, you should be attacking this matchup in Week 5.

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Waiver Wire: Week 5
Post date: Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 16:00
Path: /baseball/nl-wild-card-game-preview-and-prediction-chicago-cubs-vs-pittsburgh-pirates-2015
Body:

It's a shame that the Cubs and Pirates are only playing a one game, winner-take-all Wild Card matchup instead of the seven-game series this NL Central rivalry deserves. But make no mistake, this game is going to be must-watch television. 

 

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs are simply the victims of being in the best division in baseball, probably ever. For the first time since divisions were created in 1969 the three best teams in MLB are all in the same division, the NL Central. Had the Pirates or Cubs been in any other division this season, each team would have bypassed the Wild Card game and held home-field advantage throughout the Division Series, at minimum. Alas, that is not the way the game is played in 2015, and sometimes baseball isn’t fair.

 

The Pirates' resurgence over the past three years has been something to behold. Pittsburgh went from being one of the worst franchises in sports over the past 20 years, to being a model for success the past several seasons. The Pirates have invested in their farm system and acquired reliable veterans to mix with their young core of talent and the results have been a fantastic baseball product. This marks the third straight year that the Pirates have hosted the NL Wild Card game. In 2013 they beat the Reds 6-2, and last year fell to Madison Bumgarner’s gem and the eventual World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants. 

 

The Cubs are the darlings of the baseball world. New manager Joe Maddon came to Chicago with a winning attitude, claiming that he was managing a Cubs team that he expected to compete for a postseason bid. Maddon and the Cubs delivered, and then some. The young Cubs, highlighted by a youth movement like baseball hasn't seen before, ended the regular season with 97 wins and the third-best record in baseball. Like the Pirates, the Cubs built their core through their farm system and a series of moves to acquire reliable veteran players who have been productive. The Cubs haven’t been to the postseason since being swept by the Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS, which followed getting swept by the Diamondbacks in the '07 NLDS. The Cubs have not won a playoff game since... dare I say it, The Bartman Game in the 2003 NLCS. 

 

Chicago at Pittsburgh

 

First Pitch: 8:08 p.m. ET (Wednesday)

TV: TBS

Matchup: RH Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA) vs. RH Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.60 ERA)

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Battles of the Aces

Don’t expect a lot of runs to be scored in this one. The Cubs’ Jake Arrieta very well could be this year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, and rightfully so. Arrieta leads baseball in wins (22), hits per nine innings (5.895 H/9) and batting average against (.188), and is second in ERA (1.77) and WHIP (0.86). Arrieta trails on Zack Greinke in the NL in WAR for pitchers (8.6, Baseball-Reference.com) and FIP (2.35). Arrieta has been essentially unhittable in the second half of the season, posting a 0.75 ERA since the All-Star break and a 0.39 ERA in the last month, which doesn't include his Aug. 30 no-hitter against the Dodgers. In five starts against the Pirates, Arrieta went 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA, along with a .151 batting average against and 33 strikeouts, while giving up just four runs over 36 innings. In his last start against the Bucs on Sept. 27, Arrieta threw a one-hit gem, with nine strikeouts, no walks and no runs over seven innings. 

 

Taking the mound for the Pirates is their 25-year- old ace, Gerrit Cole. Had it not been for Arrieta, Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw, Cole would be the front-runner for NL Cy Young. This season Cole has posted 19 wins, a 2.60 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP, not bad for a guy in just his third season in The Show. Even though the Cubs have won 11 of of the 19 games against the Pirates this season, Cole has fared well against the North Siders, posting a 2-1 record and a .225 batting average against, with 32 strikeouts while surrendering only eight runs (6 ER) in four starts. Cole had one of his best outings of the season when he faced the Cubs on Sept. 25 when he gave up just one run and four hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings. 

 

Wednesday night is shaping up to be a pitcher's duel for the ages. 

 

2. Joe Maddon’s Lineup Card

Maddon has a good, but big problem. The good is that Maddon has probably the best lineup depth in all of baseball. The problem is, how does he use that depth in the do-or-die Wild Card game? Maddon’s young Cubs have been selfless when it comes to playing time and position changes this season. Cubs rookies and veterans alike have played all over the field.

 

Kris Bryant has played most of his time at third, but also has seen a fair amount of time in all three outfield positions, and he even started a game at first base. Kyle Schwarber has played 41 games in left field, four games in right field, and caught 21 games. Addison Russell started the first half of the season at second base before winning the everyday shortstop spot from struggling former All-Star Starlin Castro. 

 

Castro could be the key to the Cubs' offensive success. The 25-year-old veteran is hitting .329/.368/.443 against the Pirates this season, better than any other Cub. After struggling mightily for most of the season, Castro has caught fire in the last two months. Since being removed as the everyday shortstop, Castro has taken his reduced role with great class and professionalism, and his play has improved dramatically. After hitting just .247/.288/.328 in the first half, Catro has hit .335/.362/.555 since Aug. 1 with 14 doubles, 25 RBIs, and an OPS of .917. 

 

In addition to Castro, who will likely start at second with Russell at short, is how and when Maddon will use Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Schwarber. Soler started in right field most of the season while veteran Chris Coghlan started in left field for 87 games. Schwarber has seen most of his playing time come in the outfield. Once Soler went on the DL after the All-Star break, Schwarber started 36 games in left field and 15 as a catcher.  

 

My guess is that Maddon will start with Baez, who can play any infield position well, and Soler on the bench, but use them situationally both offensively and defensively as the game progresses. Coghlan likely gets the start in right field with Schwarber in left, while Miguel Montero starts behind the plate, and Bryant at his regular position at third. But don’t be surprised if Maddon puts together a more abstract lineup to give opposing manager Clint Hurdle something to think about in this winner-take-all showdown.

 

3. Bullpen Poker

Since this is a one-game playoff, both managers must be willing to use their bullpens in unorthodox ways. Both teams will probably keep just one starter on the active roster, creating additional spots for bench players or additional arms. Each manager has to be expecting their respective starter to at least go seven innings in hopes that the back-end rotation guys can seal the deal. But if either team’s bats get hot early, do Maddon and Hurdle go to their traditional bullpen arms early, or do they call on their No. 2 starters in Jon Lester and Francisco Liriano?

 

The Cubs and Pirates have very similar bullpens, two of the best in the National League. But the Pirates have a slight edge when it comes to the back end with Tony Watson (1.91 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 41 holds) and closer Mark Melancon (2.23 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 51 saves). But the Cubs' bullpen, which was somewhat shaky early in the season, has become a strength for Maddon. Travis Wood and Justin Grimm have been as reliable as any middle relievers in the division this season, while Pedro Strop (2.91 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 28 holds) and Hector Rondon (1.67 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 30 saves) have been lights out in the second half.

 

Final Analysis

 

With both starting pitchers being top-notch all season long and runs surely to be scarce, one swing of the bat could make the difference. The Cubs' offense is loaded from top to bottom with potential power threats, so pitching around any one player could prove costly. 

 

Cole’s development as an ace has been a fantastic story this season, but Arrieta’s stuff right now is almost unfair to hitters, only giving up four earned runs since Aug. 1. As ESPN’s Buster Olney said, “It’s not a question if we can beat this pitcher, it literally is, can we score against this pitcher?”

 

Prediction: Cubs 3, Pirates 1

 

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

 

(Jake Arrieta photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
NL Wild Card Game Preview and Prediction: Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
Post date: Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/dear-fans-and-media-winning-college-football-games-hard
Body:

I’ve been noticing a growing trend as of late that has only become more prominent since the inception of the College Football Playoff. Fans and media alike are beginning to grill college football players and coaches after games that those players and coaches win.

 

I suppose it’s always been that way to a certain extent, but this past weekend, I saw it spill over to the front page — especially in the Big Ten.

 

Penn State head coach James Franklin felt the need to defend himself and his team this past Saturday after a close win over Army. His frustration appeared to be directed at those who focused on betting lines and spreads. He talked about how he doesn’t pay attention to lines and doesn’t know any coach who does.

 

I believe him. If there is a coach who does, that’s a problem.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 5 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Winning college football games is hard, especially at the FBS level. Yes, you have 128 teams, but all of those teams are loaded with scholarship athletes — the best amateur football players in the country. Some players are better than others, but when you are talking about a level of talent that allows you to go to school for free, the differences from player to player are, for the most part, negligible. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the SEC or the MAC.

 

For this reason, it seems like we see less blowouts every year. If and when they happen, they are usually the results of better coaching and a dramatic difference in depth in terms of those elite players who do stand out from the rest.

 

Coaches and players never prepare for games hoping to win by a certain amount. They prepare to win. Sometimes wins are ugly, but a win is still a win — and it’s not a loss. The nature of college football at the FBS level — with its “figure skating” mentality of deciding who is the better team based on how they look while performing — doesn’t allow us to simply appreciate wins.

 

Think about this for a moment: Boise State and the games the Broncos win are often discounted on a national scale due to the caliber of competition they face. People assume that winning games against (former) WAC and Mountain West teams is easy. It’s not like they are playing Power 5 squads every week. They SHOULD beat those teams, right?

 

Now think about this: Over the last 25 seasons, only seven teams from the Group of 5 (mid-majors) have finished with undefeated seasons. That’s thousands of rosters of players, taking the field over two and a half decades, trying to win every game — and only seven did so. Why?

 

Because winning college football games is hard.

 

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are currently 2-3. They are, by all accounts, having a tough season. Injuries, coaching miscues and yes, a Hail Mary, have all come into play. Regardless of who or what is responsible, Nebraska fans aren’t happy. They are just a few months removed from firing a coach who fell out of bed and won nine games each season. Many said they didn’t fire him because of the games he won (which makes sense), but instead due to his attitude and the games he didn’t win.

 

As it stands, the Huskers have a soft-spoken, polite coach with a positive attitude at the helm of their program. He has already lost one less game this season than his predecessor averaged each entire season during the course of seven years.

 

Does this mean he is a bad coach? Does this mean Nebraska is a bad football team? No and No.

 

What it means is that winning college football games is hard.

 

Again, 128 teams in FBS. Only one team can win the national championship. The odds are extremely stacked against your team being the one that raises the trophy at the end of the year.

 

Be upset about the losses. Cheer for your team and hope they do well. Want them to win. But don’t ever expect them to win by a certain amount in a certain way and call it a failure when they don’t. That makes it hard on you, the players, the coaches and the other fans.

 

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

Teaser:
Dear Fans and Media: Winning College Football Games is Hard
Post date: Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/five-thoughts-florida-state-following-win-over-wake-forest
Body:

In what has become a theme over the past season and a half, Florida State beat an inferior opponent in a not-so-impressive manner. This time it was Wake Forest that the Noles defeated, surviving by a score of 24-16.

 

With their in-state conference rival coming to Tallahassee next week, Jimbo Fisher and his staff would have liked to have seen a complete performance against the Demon Deacons. They also would have liked to come out of the game injury-free. Unfortunately for FSU, it got neither.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 5 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Here are my thoughts on the Seminoles after their fourth win of the season.

 

1. Dalvin Cook Better Get Healthy

With apologies to Reggie Jackson for stealing his famous line, Cook is definitely the straw that stirs the Florida State drink.  First touch, 94 yards for a touchdown. But after Cook left the game, it was a different story. Jonathan Vickers had a couple nice runs, but the running game for the most part was bottled up by a pretty good Wake Forest defense. Cook is currently listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Miami. Going forward, they need Cook back and at 100 percent because...

 

2. Where are the Offensive Playmakers?

Besides Cook, they seem to be lacking. Travis Rudolph, despite an early drop, had a nice game and is having a nice season. But at this point, FSU is looking for something a little more than nice. Jesus Wilson did have a 51-yard reception that could have been a score if quarterback Everett Golson had thrown it a bit further, but those have been few and far between. If the running game is stalled because of Cook’s absence, there need to be more big chunk plays in the passing game.

 

3. Again, Lack of Defensive Pressure

Fisher said in his halftime interview with ESPN that Wake Forest quarterback Kendall Hinton was too comfortable in the pocket. Indiana sacked Hinton six times last week and FSU only got him twice. The freshman also was very adept at running the spread option. So in both aspects of the game, Hinton was hardly uneasy. With the Hurricanes' Brad Kaaya up next week, the entire defensive unit must raise its level of play and the front must get make it harder on the quarterback.

 

4. The Other Injuries

Linebacker Terrance Smith and safety Nate Andrews were also injured in the first quarter of Saturday’s game. Neither injury appears to be too severe, but it was enough to keep them out of action for the rest of the game. Like Cook, their status for Saturday is uncertain. Despite the lack of a consistent pass rush, FSU has the nation’s No. 6 scoring defense. However, without Smith and Andrews, Wake Forest moved the ball better than expected. Getting Smith and Andrews back as soon as possible is important.

 

5. Eliminate the Mistakes

Both Rudolph and Wilson had a drop early, but it was the penalties that were most concerning. These were not a flurry of offsides and false start penalties either. Many were big defensive miscues that resulted in Wake Forest continuing drives. That is something that Fisher will want to clean up pronto.

 

— 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:
Five Thoughts on Florida State Following the Win Over Wake Forest
Post date: Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 11:30

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