Category Archives: The Pipeline

The Pipeline: From our Keyboard to Your Eyes

Welcome to the Pipeline

Welcome to the Pipeline from Campus Pressbox where we hope to give you all the news of college athletics you may have missed over the past few days. I’m Damien Bowman, executive editor of Campus Pressbox, and I’ll be presenting today. If you want to read this in a browser instead of your e-mail client, check here for the latest edition.

Photo courtesy: UTSA
Photo courtesy: UTSA

Just when we thought most of the coaching moves were done, Larry Coker resigns as coach at University of Texas-San Antonio. Coker, who won a national title at Miami in 2001, was hired by UTSA in 2009 to rebuild the program was only able sustain a 26-32 record and just 3-9 in 2015. That record is unacceptable anywhere and even more so if you’ve won a national championship. As Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News notes, Coker’s untimely departure presents problems because of the timing and the proximity to National Signing Day, which is February 3. Also: 10 factors UTSA head coaching candidates may want to keep in mind. [Chris Vannini/Coaching Search]

#AngryTom Herman has finally appeared. Tom Herman went on a Houston-area talk show to defend his ‘recruitment’ of transfer Kyle Allen. Herman is adamant that he never “met” with the former Texas A&M quarterback as that may have some NCAA recruitment violations attached to it. After the transfer, Allen won’t be eligible until 2017. The interview is 22-minutes long and is broken up over several pieces. [Joe Kinsey/Busted Coverage]

Why is everyone leaving Texas A&M? Also on the road is Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman, who just last week gave his vote of confidence to head coach Kevin Sumlin. It appears the exodus from A&M is in full force with everyone heading out the door except Kevin Sumlin. After the slew of firings in the National Football League, everyone wants to know if Sumlin is headed there or if maybe the movers and shakers in College Station are almost done with Kevin Sumlin and Hyman’s departure is a predictor of the very near future. Also out at Texas A&M: quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen; offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. [Dennis Dodds/CBS Sports] But things may be looking up for Texas A&M as Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight will transfer, and be immediately eligible, next season to Aggie program.

When Christian McCaffrey runs you out of town… Never in a million years did I think Barry J. Sanders (son of the other Barry Sanders) would be forced to leave Stanford, but I guess the writing is on the wall. Or rather, McCaffrey is on the field…everywhere. Barry J announced he’s been given his release by Stanford to go any non-Pac-12 school and it sounds like he may end up at Oklahoma State where his famous father ran all over the field. Sanders, who is a graduate transfer, will be able to play immediately wherever he lands.

When Gus (and money) Take you Home to Auburn. There’s no such thing as too much money, and it’s even better when going home means you can increase your retirement contributions and still make a pretty penny. Who am I talking about? Yes, Auburn’s new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele who was introduced as Auburn’s third coordinator in as many years. Steele served in the same position for one season at LSU under Les Miles and previously was on staff at Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Nebraska and Tennessee. Like the Beach Boys, Steele gets around. [James Crepea/AL.com]


 

On the Hardwood

Damon Del Rosario is back and as much as he appreciated the NCAA’s effort to improve college basketball this season, there’s one easy change he thinks would make the game instantly better. This basketball referee doesn’t completely disagree with part of his reasoning.

Courtney is excited about Big 12 basketball and has thoughts on No 1 vs. No 2 on Monday night. Welcome back to Big 12 basketball.

Boise State’s win streaks Overall: 8 games, t-6th longest active streak in country Home: 16 games, t-15th longest active streak in country [@BroncoSportsMBB]

LSU hammered No. 9 Kentucky 85-67 on Tuesday evening. I don’t know what’s going on at Kentucky, but I know that after a sub-par LSU non-conference schedule the Tigers are doing their best to make things right against one of the nation’s most storied franchises. A recap from Jeff Eisenberg at Yahoo! Sports.

What’s better than triple overtime No. 1 vs. No 2? Overtime Mid-American Conference action. Yes, Kent State went to Kalamazoo and defeated the Broncos of Western Michigan 87-84 on the opening night of conference play.

Ever seen a coach get ejected from a basketball game? Bobby Hurley is on his way to becoming the modern day Bobby Knight or Bob Huggins. Hurley was ejected Sunday in Arizona State’s game versus Arizona by veteran official John Higgins. Hurley says he wouldn’t change a thing, which is sort of asinine, but the expectations for him at Arizona State are HIGH as Michael Tulumello reports.


 

What we’re Talking About

SEC411_1400x1400edit.pngThe SEC 411 40: Bird LeCroy: AKA, Clay Travis Seth and Bird and Joined by Mike Loveall to discuss the bowl dominance of the SEC and preview Monday’s national championship game.

 

 

 

 

 

horizoneJimmy and Bob talk about Oakland’s Khalil Felder and how he is making his argument already to become Horizon League Player of the Year. Jimmy also talks about the strange relationship between Milwaukee and the other Wisconsin schools.

 

 

 

 

 

itunes_logoMaxwell Brusky joined by Campus Pressbox contributor Mark Hasty to review the 2015 Big Ten football season that was – what will be remembered 10-15 years from now about this season, what were some of the season’s biggest surprises, and what the underachieving bowl season means for the conference’s perception and image are some of the topics covered.

 

 

 

 


 

What’s on television

Thursday

  • Cincinnati at SMU [7p/ESPN]
  • Louisville at N.C. State [7p/ESPN]
  • Illinois at Michigan State [9p/ESPN]
  • Arizona at U.C.L.A. [9p/ESPN]

Sunday

  • Villanova at Butler [7:30p/FS1]

Monday

  • Alabama at Clemson (College Football Playoff Championship Game) [8:30p/ESPN]

 

What else we’re reading


The story behind the tent on Alabama’s football sideline [Dan Wolken/USA Today] The story behind Alabama’s massive sideline tent and how it, like Gatorade at Florida, could become a money-making venture for Alabama.

Has The Biz Of College Football Bowl Games Outgrown Itself? [Darren Heitner/Forbes]: Do we really have 40 bowl games? Yes, we do. Darren talks about how we got here, who’s to blame and what the overall risk for everyone is with this many bowl games. My take: cut this nonsense in half and give us better match-ups. There is such a thing as too much football and last December proved that notion.

How Texas recruiting is taking advantage of Texas A&M woes [Westcott Eberts/Burnt Orange Nation]

The Freshmen Who’ve Helped Carry Alabama, Clemson to National Title Game [Barrett Sallee/Bleacher Report]

Why the Redskins’ Players Are So Frugal [Kevin Clark/The Wall Street Journal]

How Tom Coughlin changed his ways and won over the Giants [Ian O’Connor/ESPN]

Before you look down on LeBron James’ response to the Tamir Rice case, look within [Chris Haynes/Cleveland Plain Dealer]

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Sun Devil Disappointment in 2015

As college football goes through its late-season matchups and rivalry games you would think that teams would have their offensive and defensive schemes down, continue working on being consistent on both sides of the ball, and start peaking as we get to bowl season. However, if you are Arizona State you have a different way of looking at things.

During the summer we were told that this Sun Devil team had all the potential to be a possible college football playoff team. Once that possibility was spoke of, it just may have been the kiss of death for Arizona State because they have not even come close to resembling that team that was talked about in July and August.
What have been the issues for the Sun Devils? Where do you want me to start?

First of all, the Sun Devils can’t get any consistency on the offensive side at all. The consistency part starts with the offensive play calling and that starts with Sun Devil offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. Norvell by all accounts is considered a head coach in waiting for some school in the future, but if this season is taken into account Norvell may not be getting any head coaching possibilities anytime soon.

Norvell’s play calling has been predictable, boring, and unimaginative. Do you want me to keep going? For an offense that tries to go up-tempo and move the ball quickly it has rarely got to that. Against Washington State, they had tempo going, they were running the ball effectively, but when they got inside the 20 Norvell decided to start throwing the ball. By doing this he halted any rhythm the offense had and took the ball out of Kalen Ballage’s hands. That was only one instance in a season full of them.

The other aspect of Norvell and his high-flying offense is that he has a quarterback that is more of a pro-style type than a spread quarterback. Mike Bercovici inability to run the zone read is making this offense stagnant. Teams are literally having their defensive ends come crashing down off the edge knowing full well that Bercovici is not going to keep the ball and run. Having Bercovici back there not only makes it stagnant, but it also makes the offense predictable.

Defensively, the Sun Devils can’t tackle to save their lives right now. Last Saturday afternoon against the Washington Huskies there was at least 10-12 missed tackles and it just about cost them the game that they won 27-17. The Sun Devil defense wants to make the shoulder tackle even more popular than it is in college football. The art of tackling has been lost on college football players. They don’t do it anymore. What they do is try to bring them down with their shoulder(s). Maybe it’s a skill they don’t practice as much or feel they don’t need to, but in reality, it certainly is a skill that needs to be practiced. The Huskies had multiple times when they should have been stopped for a loss, only to end up getting a positive gain out of it because of the lack of wrapping up by the Sun Devils.

The defensive backs are letting receivers get wide open and run away from them. Something has to be done with the scheme because whatever schemes they have been using are not working. More jam techniques need to be employed and not giving free releases to these Pac-12 receivers.

At the end of the day, the Sun Devils had all the potential in the world to be a phenomenal team and to really make some noise in the Pac-12, and even around the country this year. It’s been a season of could have, should have, would have for Arizona State and as a consequence they’ll be in a lower-tier bowl game, or maybe not even make it to a bowl game. The Sun Devils need to give something to their fans that allows them to get excited for 2016. That something starts now with their rivalry game against Arizona.

Gary Pinkel to Resign From Missouri at the End of 2015

UPDATED INFORMATION

My original article has been confirmed by multiple sources. Gary Pinkel is in fact retiring. Here is confirmation from Dave Matter:

Pinkel’s retirement is in fact related to health reasons.

And here is a link to the official press release.

Original Article Written Prior to Official Statement

I’m going to be crystal clear about this before laying it out for all to see. What I am about to say is based purely on message board and Twitter chatter. I will not be providing links to the message board or to Twitter in the interest of not outing someone who does not want to be outed. With that said, here you go:

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is expected to resign on Sunday with the resignation being effective at the end of the season.

Assuming this rumor is accurate, it should not come as a surprise to anybody who has followed the recent events at Mizzou. Pinkel did what he considered to be a noble thing and supported his players when they asked to participate in the activist protests. That wasn’t the issue. At least not in my opinion. The ultimate issue occurred when he went on the radio and stumbled through the interview.

You may ask yourself why he would announce a resignation on Sunday when it will be effective at the end of the season. My opinion is that there has been collateral damage that resulted from how he chose to handle questions from the media. In instances like this, collateral damage typically means the threat of donation dollars being withheld or reduced.

If his handling of the situation is leading to his resignation, I can’t say that i’m surprised. The decision to participate in the protest was Pinkel’s decision. It wasn’t necessarily a poor decision at the time. Now we see that the protest may have cost not only the university president and chancellor their jobs, but also Gary Pinkel’s.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.

Pac-12 Notebook: November Edition

When the calendar hits November everything in college football gets amped up a few notches in the minds of the players, coaches and certainly the fans. In the Pac-12, November means inter-division games that decide who gets to the conference championship game and possibly to the college football playoff. It also means rivalry games that mean just as much to fans no matter what the record of their particular school. With that said, what is going on around the Pac-12 right now?

USC

Remember when people had written the Trojans off? Well, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.” USC has put together some wins in the last few weeks that have people wondering if the Trojans will be the Pac-12 South division champion. They knocked Utah out of a top three ranking and made them look pedestrian. They handled Utah easily, intercepting Travis Wilson three times, all by the same Trojan linebacker. The Trojans then took out a California team that had some momentum and the best quarterback in the Pac-12 in Jared Goff. Next up on the hit list for the Trojans was Arizona. To defend Arizona a bit, they have been hit pretty hard with injuries to key players like Nick Wilson and Anu Solomon, but the Trojans didn’t care. They have had their own version of drama this year and have made a turn around, so the credit there goes to interim head coach Clay Helton.

Can the Trojans get this done? Absolutely they can because the amount of talent they have on the field. It is young talent, but talent that many other teams in the conference do not have. The Trojans are relevant for the division title as long as they keep winning. Friday night at Colorado will be another step in that direction. Do I expect them to beat the Buffaloes? Yes, I do, rather convincingly.

The Trojans are 3-0 against the South division, but overall record matters in terms of getting to the conference title game. USC needs Utah to lose one more time to help their cause and that may be a tough thing for the Trojans to get.

I am hoping for the Trojans to add a chaos to what has been a wild Pac-12 season. Fight On!

Oregon

The mighty Oregon Ducks have not been so mighty this year for a variety of factors, but they’ve recently been on the winning side of games since their deplorable performance against the Utah Utes.

With their upcoming game with Stanford, the Ducks have been labeled by many as a “spoiler” for the hopes and dreams of a playoff spot for the Cardinal. Oregon Head Coach, Mark Helfrich does not want anything to do with being a spoiler. To him, that means that your season is beyond saving. While the Duck season has not gone as planned, there is still a hope for them to win the North division in the conference.

“I haven’t heard or talked about any type of spoiler role,” said Mark Helfrich

“We’ve got a really good team to play on Saturday and we’re preparing as well as we can for that one.” Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost explained on Tuesday.

To get to the conference title game would require Stanford to lose against the Ducks and then against California because that would drop them into a tiebreaker with Oregon and Washington and if that happens, the Ducks win the tiebreaker. The players and the coaching staff have plenty in front of them and still have the ability to reach one of their team goals. It’s going to be a tough game this weekend down on The Farm, but not something that is completely out of reach for the Ducks.

For the Ducks to win on Saturday, they have to play a complete game. The offense has to be scoring quickly and often. The defense has to make stops. They have to stop Christian McCaffrey. And special teams can’t give up any big punt returns or kickoff returns. They have to get pressure on Kevin Hogan and keep that Cardinal grinding type of offense off the field so they can get as many possessions as possible.

Can the Ducks get it done? Not this time. To me Stanford is just playing too consistent and with a ton of confidence, plus they are at home. The home crowd will want blood and I believe Stanford will provide it.

Arizona

The Wildcats got out of the gates quick with a 3-0 record, but that record was misleading because of the quality of their opponents. Arizona comes into their game with Utah with questions about their consistency on the field and those questions are well founded.

Arizona gets manhandled by the Washington Huskies 49-3 one week and then almost pulls off an upset of USC last week. Which team shows up on Saturday night in Tucson against the Utes? Wildcat fans are hoping it’s the team that played USC.

The question I have for the Wildcats is their ability to stop Utah running back Devontae Booker. The Cats have been horrible at tackling this season and Booker is famous for running through would-be tacklers, so this doesn’t add up for the Arizona defense. Booker brings another aspect besides his phenomenal running ability and that’s his ability to catch a pass in space. If Booker is catching balls in space and is able to get moving quickly, he’s going to put pressure on that Wildcat defense to stop him.

The other part of Arizona that is being called into question this week and in past weeks is there injury issues. Nick Wilson, Scooby Wright, and Anu Solomon have all missed time and it’s hurt their ability to get any consistency going. For this week against the Utes, Nick Wilson, the often-injured running back for the Wildcats appears to be out and if that is the case then the chance for the Cats to have a balanced attack becomes very unlikely.

In the end, the Cats drop this game by a score of 35-17 because the Utes have more talent and have the ability to make more plays than the Wildcats.

As usual the Pac-12 football season has one of eating their own and this year it just may cost them a spot in the college football playoff. We still have a few weeks to see if that actually happens and hopefully we can squeeze into the playoff and get another shot at another national championship for the conference.

Let the MACtion Begin

As the calendar flips to its November page we start to realize some things.  Fall is in full-swing, the weather is chillier (supposedly), and college football is nearing the home stretch.  Thanks to the Mid-American Conference, November also means football every single day of the week.

No longer do we have to suffer through the mid-week blues that are caused by having no football to watch on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  The brilliant people of the MAC felt our pain and did something about it.

#MACtion officially began on Tuesday when the Northern Illinois Huskies went to Toledo for a showdown with the West division-leading Rockets.

Less than an hour before kickoff, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee awarded the undefeated Rockets with the twenty fourth spot in their first rankings of the season.  That ranking will go down as the shortest-lived in history.

Northern Illinois at #24 Toledo

(Photo: Jeremy Wadsworth / Toledo Blade)
(Photo: Jeremy Wadsworth / Toledo Blade)

This game was entertaining from the jump.  The Huskies fumbled on their third play from scrimmage and got bailed out by their defense forcing a turnover on downs.  After an NIU punt, the Rockets opened the scoring with a touchdown pass from Phillip Ely to Alonzo Russell who skied to make a great catch in the end zone.

The Huskies answered immediately as Tommylee Lewis flew by the Toledo secondary, caught an easy pass from Drew Hare and waltzed into the end zone untouched.  The game was tied at seven, midway through the first quarter.

Terry Swanson and Kareem Hunt took charge on the Rockets’ next drive.  The running back tandem accounted for all 83 yards on the drive, including a 58-yard dash from Swanson whose crisp spin move will end up on his career highlight reel.  (Speaking of crispy, how bout those all golds Toledo busted out for this one?)  Anyway, Hunt took over in the red zone and punched it in, recapturing the lead for the Rockets.

Then things got a bit sloppy.  Hidden in that sloppiness was an unlikely conversion on third and 39, after an errant snap had pushed the Huskies way behind the sticks.  Three field goals, three turnovers, and four punts later it was halftime, the score 17-16 in favor of Toledo.

Before halftime Northern Illinois suffered two strange and seemingly debilitating injuries to their offensive playmakers.  Quarterback Drew Hare and receiver Tommylee Lewis both went down with non-contact injuries that prevented them from returning.  The odds were stacked against the Huskies as the second half began.

Four consecutive punts opened the third quarter as both teams played conservatively coming out of the locker room.  Then Kareem Hunt took matters into his own hands again, leading the Rockets down the field with a long run and then adding another touchdown.

Each team kicked a field goal on their next possession, making it 27-19.

It’s unfortunate to have to say, but the officiating crew left their mark on this game.  A questionable personal foul call on Toledo extended Northern Illinois’ next drive.  The Huskies did what good teams do by taking advantage.

(Photo: Raj Mehta / USA Today Sports)
(Photo: Raj Mehta / USA Today Sports)

Kenny Golladay made an unbelievable one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone that should get some votes for play of the year in college football.  Down by two with less than 10 minutes to play Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey decided to go for the tie.  Toledo snuffed out the option attempt to preserve their narrow lead, 27-25.

After Toledo missed a field goal the Huskies had about five minutes left.  Their offense shifted into another gear.  Stepping up in the absence of Tommylee Lewis, Kenny Golladay made two crucial plays on the drive, one to convert on third down, and the other to get his team into the red zone.  Joel Bouagnon, who had been quiet for the majority of the game, took it from there and then gave the Huskies their first lead of the game with a tick under two minutes to play.

The Northern Illinois defense intercepted Phillip Ely’s first pass on the next drive to put the game on ice.

Toledo’s first loss of the season unseated them from the top of the West division.  That spot now belongs to Western Michigan who is 5-0 in conference play.

Ohio at Bowling Green

The MAC’s Wednesday night follow-up wasn’t nearly as tight as Tuesday’s premier.  Even so, it was nice to have a football game to watch on an otherwise boring Wednesday night.  Plus, it was good for people to see how potent this Bowling Green offense is.  The Falcons took full advantage of a banged up Ohio Bobcat defense that was simply overmatched.

The Falcons got off to a slow start and had to punt on their first drive of the game.  They punted just twice more the rest of the contest.  After the first one, they scored on their next four drives.

The first two scores came on runs from Travis Greene.  Ohio, however, had an answer for both touchdown drives and it was 14-all with ten minutes to play in the half.  Sebastian Smith provided the Bobcats’ highlights, pulling off an amazing leaping catch on the first scoring drive and a tremendous diving grab on the second.

(Photo: Lori King / Toledo Blade)
(Photo: Lori King / Toledo Blade)

Determined not to be outdone, Bowling Green’s Ronnie Moore caught a pass and turned it into a touchdown by looking like the only guy who knew what was going on.  The Falcons had taken the lead for good.

(Photo: Ruben Kappler / BGSU Athletics)
(Photo: Ruben Kappler / BGSU Athletics)

The Falcons’ special teams got in on the action too, blocking a punt on Ohio’s next drive.  That setup Bowling Green with a short field that they were able to take advantage of.  Quarterback Matt Johnson floated a ball into the corner of the end zone perfectly for Gehrig Dieter to run under it and reel it in.  It was 27-14 Falcons at the break.

The second half was all Bowling Green as they pulled away by outscoring Ohio 21-3 in the third frame.

It was one of those nights where everything the Falcons did seemed to be working well, as evidenced by Gehrig Dieter’s circus catch and second touchdown of the night.

Ohio backup quarterback JD Sprague, who had come into the game for the injured Derrius Vick, was not welcomed kindly by the Bowling Green defense.  Dernard Turner intercepted a pass that shouldn’t have been thrown and took it 85 yards the other way for a pick six.  The rout was officially on.

The Falcons’ next drive ended on an easy pitch-and-catch from Johnson to Roger Lewis, something you’ve seen frequently if you’ve watched any of their games this season.  Then, unsatisfied with just two rushing scores, Travis Greene added a third by blazing down the sideline to make it 55-17 midway through the fourth quarter.

On the ensuing possession Maleek Irons delivered punishing blows to multiple Bowling Green defenders on his to the end zone for six pride points.  You have to admire a guy who’s still out there playing like that in a game like this.

Even the Falcons’ backups had some fun.  James Knapke connected with Teo Redding on a screen pass with three and a half minutes to go, closing the scoring at 62-24.

So, what did we learn?  Well, you now know, if you didn’t already, that the MAC offers highly entertaining games in the middle of your dreary work week.

Be advised: the biggest games are yet to come.

Next week’s MACtion includes two games with serious conference championship implications.  Toledo hits the road to face Central Michigan on Tuesday as both try to keep pace in the West.  Then on Wednesday we get to see a possible MAC championship preview when Bowling Green heads to Western Michigan for a clash of undefeated teams.

Stay tuned down the stretch as we follow mid-week MACtion.

ACC Weekend Wrap Up 10/28

What a week in the ACC. Clemson defeated Miami 58-0, which brought them up to #3 in the country. Florida State lost to Georgia Tech just when it looked like Georgia Tech had nothing else to play for. Duke won a four-overtime thriller against Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh hit a late field goal to escape Syracuse, North Carolina handled business against Virginia, and Boston College’s defense still can’t score points for their offense.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from this weekend in the ACC:

 MIAMI FIRES AL GOLDEN

After suffering the worst defeat in Miami history, 58-0 to #3 Clemson, Miami decided to fire head coach Al Golden after four and a half seasons. We all knew that it wouldn’t take much for Miami to pull the plug on their coach, and a 58-0 loss to an ACC opponent was what finally did Al Golden in. Admittedly Golden was put into a tough spot having joined Miami during NCAA investigations, however no matter of circumstances will save a Miami coach who goes 17-18 in the ACC and 0-5 versus interstate rival Florida State. Perhaps the most disappointing part about the past couple seasons at Miami was the fact that Miami was able to produce good players that are in the NFL and will be in the future, Golden just could never get the best out of them on the field, culminating in a 32-25 record. Who the next coach at Miami will be is still very much up in the air at this point, but the season goes on. Miami faces a tough task in #23 Duke on the road this weekend.

 FLORIDA STATE LOSES

Florida State suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Georgia Tech after they blocked Florida State’s last-second field goal attempt, and returned it for a touchdown as time expired. The loss all but ends the Seminoles chances at returning to the college football playoff for the second straight year and puts them behind the eight ball in the ACC. This game always had the feel of a typical Seminole game where they would struggle during it’s entirety but pull the win out at the end, and that’s what looked like was about to happen when kicker Roberto Aguayo walked on the field to attempt a 56-yard field to take the lead. But a blocked kick, and a run to the end zone later and Florida State had suffered their first loss of the season.

 DUKE, PITT AND UNC AT PIVITOL POINT OF SCHEDULE

In the next three weeks, Duke, Pittsburgh and UNC will all play each other, in what will most likely decide who will come out of the Coastal division in the ACC. With all three of them sitting at 6-1, the head to head matchups will determine which of the three will emerge from the pack. The first of these matchups is Thursday night when UNC faces #23 Pittsburgh. UNC then faces #22 Duke in two weeks, with the final matchup of #23 Pittsburgh and #22 Duke occurring in three weeks. I’m not going to sit here and act like I have any idea who will ultimately come out of the division, as all three of these teams seem pretty even. All have a competent quarterback, a run game they can rely on and solid defenses. If I had to pick one though I’m going to say Duke emerges as the winner, as they seem to have better coaching over the past couple seasons. Nonetheless the games between these teams in the next few weeks will have a lot on the line.

Pac-12 Notebook: Mid-Term Report Card

We have made it to the point in the season where we, as college football fans, know what we have in terms of talented teams and not-so-talented teams. The Pac-12 Conference is certainly know for “eating their own” in terms of any team can beat any team on any given day. Just ask Oregon about the Washington State Cougars. Let’s take a look at what we have in the Pac-12 at the midway point in the season.

Oregon

The Ducks have fallen from the sky in rapid fashion. They are 4-3 at this point and just seeing that record next to the Ducks’ name is strange in itself. But let’s remember that Oregon had the luxury of having Marcus Mariota under center and having a multi-talented player like Mariota can possibly mask other issues that they may have had. Is Head Coach Mark Helfrich in trouble? I don’t think so at this point, but if the trend continues for next year then that seat gets considerably warmer for Helfrich. I think he’s a good coach, a good guy, but let’s face facts about things, he may fall victim to unrealistic expectations by a very rabid fan base in Eugene who still may think they are in the Chip Kelly era with all the winning they have been accustomed to. The talent level at Oregon is still pretty good, but they have not performed to the level that is expected of them. They have the talent at the skill positions, but as of right now, they are doing just enough to stay above .500 level. For Oregon in these current times, that is unacceptable.

The other aspect of Oregon that has plagued them is the Vernon Adams situation. He came to the program late in the summer due to a math class issue at Eastern Washington that caused him not to graduate on time. He’s also had an injured finger that has limited his time on the field and reps with the starting offense. This lack of time with his receivers and the rest of the offense has caused the Ducks to be in the predicament that they are in. It hasn’t worked the way it was supposed to for the Ducks, but nothing really does. Mid-term grade: D

Stanford

After week one everybody thought that the season was over for the Cardinal. It was only week one, but football, being the ultimate over reaction sport, thought that Stanford was dead in the water. They looked flat and uninspired against a Northwestern team that many thought the Cardinal would dominate. I spoke with noted sports writer Michael Weinreb last week, who lives in the Bay Area and has a pretty good feel for the Stanford program, he noted that “sometimes a team just comes out and lays an egg with a game.”

Since that game against Northwestern, Stanford has become a team that nobody wants to face at the moment. They went to USC and ground up the Trojans, dominated Oregon State, destroyed UCLA, ripped apart Central Florida, and pulverized the Arizona Wildcats. The Cardinal reminded all of us in the Pac-12 that they are not the typical conference team. They want to line it up and pound you into submission, wear you down, and to limit your offensive opportunities. I said this at the beginning of the year and I’ll say it now. If you don’t know who Christian McCaffrey is, then you are not paying close enough attention to things out West. McCaffrey is worth the price of admission and if he continues to do what he has been doing, he will garner some Heisman consideration. Mid-term grade: A-

Oregon State

Oh, those poor Beavers. It’s been a painful start to the 2015 season for Gary Andersen’s crew, but to say it wasn’t expected would be a gross understatement. Andersen inherited a veteran offensive line, Storm Woods, and a fan base that needed something to be excited about. So far, it’s been a struggle for Oregon State to do anything with any consistency.

They have a true freshman quarterback in Seth Collins, had to replace nine players on the defensive side of the ball, and are learning new offensive/defensive schemes with their new coach. When you combine all that together you get what Head Coach Gary Andersen has called “Tough sledding in the Pac-12.”

Collins has shown a propensity to extend and make plays with his feet. Right now, the freshman feels more comfortable doing that than throwing the ball downfield. The passing game for him is still a work in progress because he will miss guys downfield by a bunch and then throw a perfect strike to that same receiver a few plays later. It’s what you get with a young quarterback and everybody just has to accept that part of Seth Collins right now.

Defensively, it’s a mess. Teams are just going up and down the field on the Beavers and it’s to the point of when they get a three and out or a stop, you have to stop yourself and say “did I just see what I thought I saw?” Fans, including myself, will point to the youth and say we just have to deal with it for this season because next year or the year after is when it will click for the players. What if it doesn’t? What then?

I know Gary Andersen is very good coach, but his work is cut out for him in Corvallis right now. He has only had one recruiting season at Oregon State, so he doesn’t have his type of guys completely in the fold yet. Let’s hope that he gets that done this year and the year after that because the excitement needs to return to Reser Stadium. Mid-term grade: D-

Arizona State

A season of HIGH expectations has gotten lost in the tumbleweed down in the desert. The Sun Devils returned a starting quarterback, veteran skill players, veteran line, and everybody was back on the defense. To say that Arizona State fans didn’t have big plans about getting to the Pac-12 Championship game or even the college football playoff would be a lie. It hasn’t gone the way most people have thought.

The inconsistency on both sides of the ball has plagued ASU. The offense has had no rhythm to it, the defense has been allowing teams to “hang around” late in games, and the play calling has been questionable.

Mike Bercovici, the Sun Devil quarterback has not been the Mike Bercovici of 2014. He’s not throwing the ball down the field. He’s over throwing his receivers. And he’s being asked to run a zone read offense when that is not his forte. His inconsistent play has caused the offense to be out of sync, not the well-oiled machine many thought it would be back in the summer. He needs to be throwing the ball, not running the ball.

Defensively, ASU is not stepping on the throat of their opponent when needed. They are allowing teams like Cal-Poly and New Mexico to hang around and feel like they can pull off an upset. What is needed is that attitude that the Sun Devil defense had late in the year in 2014 when they were flying around the field and smacking teams in the mouth. Teams didn’t want to go up the middle or across the middle on pass routes because that was putting their players at risk of injury. The Devils don’t have that attitude right now and it’s costing them. The attitude has to return defensively, otherwise the season could be a total loss. Mid-term grade: C-

California

At the beginning of the year I thought California had potential to be something pretty good. So far, so good. The Golden Bears went down to Texas and came out with a closer victory than it should have been, but a win is a win is a win. What Sonny Dykes has done with this program is nothing short of fantastic. Now, they have hit the lottery in terms of having a local kid in Jared Goff become their quarterback, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Jared Goff is simply the best quarterback in the country right now. He did throw five interceptions against Utah, but he has a qualities about him that make him so polished. He doesn’t get rattled, he can make every throw, and he is a leader on and off the field. If he isn’t the first quarterback off the board during the NFL draft, then I don’t know what those teams are thinking.

The defense started out pretty well this year, but you have to remember that California was beating up on less talented teams like Grambling State and San Diego State. The first talented team that they played was Utah last week. The Bears had a difficult time stopping running back Devontae Booker, but there are many teams that have problems stopping him. That isn’t anything new.

In the end, the Golden Bears will go as far as Jared Goff will take them. I, for one, like seeing a strong program up at Berkeley because it adds to the overall strength of the Pac-12. Mid-term grade: B

With the Pac-12 Conference as balanced as it is, there isn’t a week that any of these teams can take off. Anybody can beat anybody on any given Saturday. I like the chaos that comes with this type of balance in a conference. It’s only going to get crazier as we creep closer to November.

ACC WRAP UP 10/21

The rich got richer in the ACC this weekend, with a couple of teams pulling away from the pack in division races. The Atlantic division is the two horse race that everyone thought it would be between #6 Clemson and #9 Florida State, but the Coastal division is as wide open as it gets. Three teams sit at 5-1 atop the Coastal division being #23 Duke, #25 Pittsburgh and North Carolina, with Miami looking up at 4-2.

Here’s what else we learned in the ACC this weekend:

PITTSBURGH IS REAL

Qadree Ollison has rushed for 559 yards in replacement of the injured James Conner
Qadree Ollison has rushed for 559 yards in replacement of the injured James Conner

 This Pittsburgh team is doing exactly what they weren’t doing last season; finishing close games. Their game this past weekend against Georgia Tech is the perfect example. With 8:13 remaining in a tie game, the Panthers took seven minutes off the clock, and hit a 56-yard field goal that ended up being the game winner. Pittsburgh is now 4-1 in one score games this season. Pittsburgh has a well-rounded offense between QB Nathan Peterman, RB Qadree Ollison and WR Tyler Boyd, and also have the tenth ranked defense in the nation in yards allowed. It’s unclear exactly how good this team is since they haven’t had a very hard schedule to date, but that will quickly change as they face UNC, #11 Notre Dame and #23 Duke in the next month.

MARQUISE WILLIAMS HAS BEEN PLAYING GREAT

Since North Carolina’s loss the first game of the season, quarterback Marquise Williams has responded with a 14:3 touchdown to turnover ratio, leading the team to five straight victories. This is the way that Tarheel fans were hoping Williams would be able to play and is exactly what the Tarheels need if they want to win the Coastal division. Although they haven’t had a very tough schedule, it is still nice to see Williams clicking on all cylinders as they head into the defining part of their schedule. Williams will look to prove he can keep this play going when it really matters with divisional matchups in each of the next five weeks.

 GOLSON GETTING COMFORTABLE IN FSU OFFENSE

As Florida State’s season has progressed, QB Everett Golson has noticeably been getting more and more comfortable in the Seminole offense with every week. Since their bye week three weeks ago Golson has completed 71/102 passes for 865 yards, 5 TD’s and 0 interceptions. Of course, everything that the Noles do on offense is reliant on RB Dalvin Cook’s success, but that doesn’t change the fact that Golson has played very well. Despite looking a bit shaky in the beginning of the year at times, he still hasn’t turned the ball over all season and now is starting to develop trust in his teammates and vice-versa, allowing him to just go out there and control the game. With a dynamic running back in Cook, the Seminoles don’t need Golson to single-handily beat opponents, they just need him to do what he has been doing which is spread the ball around enough to make defenses respect the pass, and not turn the ball over.

GT HAS HAD THE HARDEST SCHEDULE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Something that has been overlooked during Georgia Tech’s five game losing streak is the quality of their opponents. As the teams are currently ranked now, Georgia Tech’s past five games have been against #11 Notre Dame, #23 Duke, a 5-1 UNC team, #6 Clemson, and #25 Pittsburgh, with things not getting any easier as #9 FSU comes into town this weekend. Their schedule after this weekend gets much easier to round out the season, but unfortunately the Yellow Jacket’s season is beyond all repair, sitting at 2-5 for the season and 0-4 within the ACC.

 

ACC WRAP UP 10/14

Duke Ranked

Duke enters the rankings this week at #25 after defeating Army 44-3, and now sit at 4-1 and look like the favorite in the Coastal division in the ACC. Duke has been led by quarterback Thomas Sirk in the air and on the ground and has been a revelation for this team. With only a couple of quality teams remaining on Duke’s schedule, this team could finish the season undefeated with their only loss being to a good Northwestern team. Duke’s next game is on the 24th against Virginia Tech.

 FSU-MIAMI Game Results

Florida State defeated Miami this weekend in a thriller that ended with Miami’s failed 4th and 4 attempt with less than a minute left to give the Seminoles the victory. This game had a lot of implications for the ACC, the win gives Florida State the lead in the Atlantic division and the loss for Miami knocks them to 3-2 and puts them at the bottom of the Coastal division. With Miami enduring the toughest part of their schedule, this team could end up sitting at 4-4 after facing Virginia Tech, #5 Clemson and #25 Duke in the next couple weeks.

 All ACC Matchups

This weekend every team in the ACC faces another ACC team, and there are a lot of interesting story lines within the matchups. Pittsburgh plays Georgia Tech this weekend, with Tech having a miserable year and Pittsburgh having a surprising year. Before the season you would have said Georgia Tech would win, but not anymore. A win for Pittsburgh would send them to 5-1 and 3-0 in the ACC. Virginia Tech and Miami play each other in a game that will decide the direction of their season for each team. Perhaps the biggest ACC matchup of the week is between Boston College and Clemson, with Clemson facing one of the best defenses in the country in Boston College.

 Clemson vs. Boston College’s Defense

#5 Clemson faces Boston College this weekend in a game that has the potential to be a big upset. Boston College has one of the best defenses in college football and will give Clemson’s offense their toughest test of the season to this point. Clemson running back Wayne Gallman will need to have a good game on the ground if Clemson wants to win this game, as Boston College’s pass defense is elite and will surely give DeShaun Watson some headaches. Unfortunately for Boston College they will probably have to score a couple of points to beat Clemson, which has been a tough task for them. Their defense will keep them in any game and this one is no different. Clemson’s defense has been pretty good in their own right this season so I don’t expect Boston College to find much offense in this game, Clemson wins a close one.

ACC Wrapup 10/7

CLEMSON ATOP THE ACC

Clemson defeated Notre Dame 24-22 this weekend after stopping Notre Dame’s 2-point attempt to tie the game. This win was not only huge for Clemson, but also for the ACC. With this win, Clemson is now firmly in the national title conversation with only one ranked team remaining on their schedule, Florida State at home. This win was big for the ACC as there are now two top-flight teams between Clemson and FSU that are in the playoff picture. The strength of the ACC as a whole is gaining recognition for the number of quality teams. If only Georgia Tech had lived up to expectations.

GEORGIA TECH’S DISSAPOINTING THIS SEASON

Georgia Tech has been the biggest disappointment in the ACC so far this year, if not all of college football. Losing three straight games to Notre Dame, Duke and UNC leaves the team in a very unfamiliar position, as they have been a powerhouse in the conference in recent years. Their offense just hasn’t looked like the same offense that has been able to consistently run through teams. It seems as if their loss to Notre Dame three weeks ago provided a blue print on how to stop their triple-option attack.

FLORIDA STATE VS. MIAMI

The result of Saturday night’s game between Miami and Florida State will have a big impact on each of the team’s seasons. With a Florida State victory the team will continue to be on track for a huge matchup between them and Clemson in a couple weeks. With a loss FSU will be behind the eight ball in terms of the playoff picture and the Atlantic division within the ACC. With a Miami win, the team will be in the race to compete for the Coastal division and a victory will keep coach Al Golden from facing serious criticism from fans.

SYRACUSE IN UNFAMILIAR POSITION

Syracuse leaves their bye week at 3-1 with their next three opponents being USF, UVA, and PITT, all of which are very beatable for a surprising Syracuse team that could end up playing against Florida State with a 6-1 record. With their only loss being to a good LSU team, Syracuse is in good position to make a serious run up the rankings and in the Atlantic division, as long as they don’t get too far ahead of themselves and take it one game at a time. It isn’t out of the question for this team to be sitting at 7-1 with a high ranking in a few weeks.

DIVISION RACES HAVE TAKEN SHAPE

After five weeks, the division races within the ACC have started to become clearer. The Atlantic division is pretty much where everybody thought it would be, with Clemson and Florida State looking like the two best teams in the conference, let alone the division. The game between FSU and Clemson November 7th looks like it will decide who comes out of the division. The Coastal division has been a bit more surprising than the Atlantic. With Coastal division favorite Georgia Tech’s season falling apart, it now looks like a three horse race between North Carolina, Miami and Duke. With none of the three teams looking like they have the edge over the other, this division will be decided by the games between these three teams as UNC, Miami and Duke all play each other later in the season.