Tag Archives: Clemson

No Excuse For Meyer, Ohio State

Ohio State had over a month to prepare for the highly-anticipated CFP semifinal with Clemson in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl and head coach Urban Meyer managed to deliver a shutout.

Only it was the Buckeyes who were obliterated and embarrassed in 31-0 fashion by Clemson. The extra time to prepare clearly didn’t pay off and resulted in Ohio State’s first shutout since the Buckeyes were defeated 28-0 by that team up north in 1993.

Is anyone really shocked that Ohio State was unable to get the job done against a stacked Clemson team that was built for this season and appears will give Alabama all they can handle in a national title game rematch? No, at least they shouldn’t. Ohio State clearly peaked in September following the blowout of Oklahoma and offensively, has been in a steady decline ever since. Clemson was also primed to get back to the playoff for a second consecutive season and earn another shot at Alabama for all the marbles.

That they did. Hands down, Clemson was the better team however you slice it.

However, I don’t want to hear that Ohio State was “a year away” after all. I mean, clearly, after witnessing that performance Saturday night, it sure seemed more like two or three years away. But when Ohio State earned its way into the playoff, the Buckeyes were no longer a year away.

With that said, I don’t care if Ohio State came into this game as a three-point favorite or a four-touchdown underdog in the eyes of ESPN college football analyst and known Buckeye-hater Mark May, a top-tier program like Ohio State shouldn’t get shutout, ever. When the Buckeyes were blanked by Michigan in 1993, Ohio State was not a program that could be considered among the nation’s elite.

How was it that Ohio State’s offense couldn’t even muster garbage points against a Clemson defense that surrendered 10 points to Boston College? Pittsburgh hung 43 points on the Tigers defense in Death Valley and while Clemson’s defense is extremely talented, especially on the defensive line, it’s no Alabama front.

There is no way to describe Ohio State’s performance in the playoff as anything but pathetic and downright unacceptable. Awhile back, I placed Ohio State on a pedestal as Alabama’s potential replacement as the next college football dynasty. That may have been a reach, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Who knows? Maybe Meyer and the Buckeyes respond with a couple national titles and the Clemson debacle will be an afterthought down the road, but it’s wishful thinking.

A shutout in the biggest game of the year doesn’t change the fact that Meyer is still probably the second-best coach in the country, but if there are still any comparisons to Alabama’s Nick Saban, they need to come to a halt. Aside from possessing twice the amount of championship hardware, Saban is not going to get shutout in a playoff game. Instead, he fires offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin from a job he already quit in a 17-point victory en route to the national championship game.

Meyer would be the first one to admit that Ohio State’s performance was unacceptable and he will get this thing fixed, but he doesn’t get a pass on this. Meyer doesn’t lose often, but when he does, he takes losing to another level. Between Virginia Tech (2014), Michigan State (2015) and Clemson on Saturday, it couldn’t have been uglier.

We can blame quarterback J.T. Barrett for his inaccuracy, a struggling offensive line to put it mildly, a lack of separation by the receivers, running back Mike Weber’s butterfingers or even kicker Tyler Durbin, they all contributed to the loss. The shutout is all on Meyer and the offensive staff. Heck, even Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes managed 14 points in another Glendale fiasco, the 2006 national title game against Meyer and the Florida Gators.

For anyone insinuating that this is a “fire Urban” rant, it’s not and the thought of that is more ridiculous than the shutout itself. It’s simply an unacceptable showing that should not and will not be repeated. Meyer will make the necessary changes and adjustments and everything will be gravy next fall for another championship run.

Unexpectedly for some, 2016 was a year that saw Ohio State make the playoff, its second appearance in three seasons. Meyer and the Buckeyes proceeded to hit rock-bottom and for the majority of programs, it would still be a successful season. But this is Ohio State. The offense is Meyer’s baby and it’s time for him to clean up the mess.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo by Wikiwand

Clemson Overcomes Multiple Potentially Fatal Mistakes

Remember when Miami joined the ACC in 2005? The ACC brass had dreams of regular matchups between Florida St & Miami in the ACC championship game…so much so that the first 5 championship games were scheduled for Jacksonville & Tampa respectively. Imagine Floridians chagrin when Wake Forest & Georgia Tech showed up for the championship game in 2006 followed by Boston College & Virginia Tech the following 2 years. While the Championship game has moved to Charlotte where it belongs, the dream matchup the ACC anticipated is still just a dream. However, the 2015 game is pretty darned good contest between Clemson & North Carolina, rightly played in Charlotte’s Bank of America stadium so there is no danger of attendance looking like a regular season Miami Hurricane’s home game.

The 2015 edition of the ACC championship is an intriguing matchup between Clemson and North Carolina. Clemson was expected to be in this game as one of the two power teams in the Atlantic division. UNC on the other hand, emerged out of the annual jumble that is the Coastal division. Georgia Tech is the most recent pre-season favorite in the Coastal to confound prognosticators. Loaded with top-shelf talent as usual, Clemson finally met pre-season expectations, ran the table in the regular season, and sits atop the NCAA playoff rankings coming into the conference championship. On the other hand, UNC came out of nowhere to post an 11-1 regular season mark. After a dreadful performance against a dismal South Carolina team, UNC righted itself, dodged a few bullets the rest of the way and is riding an 11 game win streak. What a difference a defense makes. Like last year, Carolina has racked up yards & points on offense, but in 2014, the UNC defense was the worst in the ACC yielding 39mpoints per game and letting offensive powerhouses like Liberty University and San Diego St march up and down the field. Carolina has found defensive stability and righted the ship against its schedule of whacky-racers in the Coastal. Tonight Carolina gets a chance to see if they are ready to run with the big dogs against Clemson.

‘Bama punched their ticket to the NCAA playoffs, it’s time for the ACC Championship game. Let’s get to it!

While this game was billed as Clemson versus North Carolina, it really boiled down to Clemson versus Clemson. UNC was present, but this game was decided by Clemson’s ability to overcome their penchant for self-destruction, particularly in the first half but really throughout the game. From a near Steve Bartman moment when Clemson punter Andy Teasdall inexplicably called his own number on 4th & 15 from the Clemson 35, to 4 personal foul penalties, to multiple dropped passes on third down, Clemson outgained UNC by 3X in the first half, but only led by 5 at the break.

With some flashes of life in the second half fueled by more Clemson mistakes, Carolina admirably did not go down without a fight in their inaugural championship appearance. However the Heels simply were not good enough to win this game outright, on their own. Instead, the Tar Heels were good enough to take what Clemson gave them and the Tigers were truly feeling the generosity of the holiday season. The Clemson defense, when it wasn’t making silly penalties or falling asleep in coverage, by and large dominated the line of scrimmage and kept the UNC offense off balance. The Clemson offensive line, which was a massive rebuild to start the season, won the war of attrition and had the Carolina defense looking more like the 2014 edition than the much improved 2015 squad.

What was clear, no matter how many mistakes Clemson made, the best team in the Atlantic is a lot better than the best team in the Coastal. This was pretty clear midway through the first quarter and painfully obvious early in the second half when Clemson shoved a 97 yard drive down the Carolina’s throat. It was apparent there was little the Heels could do about it, other than hope for more Clemson mistakes.

Coming into this game the burning question in the ACC was “who was the better quarterback, Marquise Williams or Deshaun Watson?” I might have argued for Williams coming into this game. No more. After their performances in the biggest game on the ACC calendar, there is no question that Watson is the better quarterback and the best offensive player in the ACC. While neither was at his best, Watson was by far the better QB. Watson overcame early passing accuracy problems with effective running. Watson’s passing accuracy got better and better as the game progressed. Williams never got fully on track…by Williams standards. While many teams would have been happy to have tonight’s performance on any given night, by Marquise’ gaudy standards, this was a subpar performance when Carolina needed his best. As much as I love Williams running skills, how does a guy that athletic get hit so much? He needs to feel pressure better and take off sooner. His inability to use his running skills and tough stretch of inaccurate passes helped Clemson survive their litany of mistakes.

While the UNC faithful will gripe about the missed offsides call late in the 4th quarter, it’s hard to say that the gifts UNC received throughout the game where not more than any team can reasonable expect. Clemson was the better team that could overcome multiple, potentially suicidal mistakes.

There is no question that Carolina is still a basketball school. The football program hasn’t won an ACC championship since 1980. The basketball program has won 9 over that time. Unless UNC and their pals in the Coastal get a lot better in a hurry, it’s hard to see Clemson or Florida St coming out on the short end of this stick in the near future. Kudos to Carolina for fighting to the end, but in the end, Clemson was just too good, no matter how many stupid mistakes they made from whistle to whistle.

Ohio State Doesn’t Belong in College Football Playoff

The playoff picture is less than a week away from being formed.

Heading into the final weekend there are seven teams that are still alive.

Clemson and their opponent in the ACC Title Game, North Carolina, Alabama, Iowa and their opponent in the B1G Championship Game, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Oklahoma has all but assured themselves a spot in the final four to cap things off.

Of the seven teams listed, only six deserve to have the chance to play for the college football playoff.

The Ohio State Buckeyes do not belong in this conversation.

Yes, they are highly ranked, and yes they are very talented, there is no denying both of those two facts. What can be denied is that the Buckeyes have played well enough to deserve a spot playing in the semi-finals on New Year’s Eve.

Entering this season, Ohio State was voted unanimously number one by the AP. Voting them first overall seemed like the right move considering how many key players were returning to the Buckeyes from the previous season that saw them win the national championship.

While many of the key players returned, the team was nowhere near the caliber that the 2014 edition of the Buckeyes was.

Throughout this entire year, Ohio State has underachieved. The Buckeyes have had close calls against NIU at home, Indiana on the road and Minnesota at home as well before finally falling to Michigan State in the Horseshoe.

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The Spartans dominated the Buckeyes physically in their own house, out rushing them 203 to 86, and holding Heisman hopeful Ezekiel Elliot to only 33 yards on 12 carries.

Sure, the Buckeyes bounced back nicely and dominated Michigan at the Big House the following week, but does one good win really deserve to be rewarded with an opportunity to play for college football’s biggest prize?

Comparing Ohio State to the other one-loss teams shows the Buckeyes do not have anywhere near as impressive as Alabama, Oklahoma, and Michigan State.

The Crimson Tide’s seventh best win (Wisconsin) would be the second best win that Ohio State would be able to tout. Sure, both teams have a home loss, but is there any doubt as to which team has a better body of work? Absolutely not.

Heading out west, to Norman, OK, the Sooners also have a resume that trumps what the Buckeyes are able to present. Aside from the drubbing of rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater by a score of 58-23, the Sooners also have wins over Baylor, TCU, West Virginia, and in SEC Country at Tennessee. Comparing resumes, the Sooners have two wins that would be better than any win Ohio State has. Of course, Oklahoma did lose a neutral site rivalry contest with Texas, but overall the body of work simply outweighs what the B1G East Runner-Up Buckeyes have been able to put forth.

It is also worth noting that Oklahoma has won the Big 12, and Alabama has an opportunity to win their conference, the SEC, something Ohio State does not have a chance to do. They lost that opportunity when Michigan State smoked Penn State on the last Saturday of the B1G regular season.

Surely, no one is arguing that Alabama and Oklahoma don’t belong in over Ohio State. The argument that very few are talking about would come out of the ACC.

Simply put, if Clemson wins the ACC Championship, they’re in the playoff, no two ways around it. The argument would be if they lose to North Carolina in that game.

The Tar Heels have flown under the radar since their week one loss to the Old Ball Coach and South Carolina. Since that game, all Marquise Williams and the Tar Heels have done is win, and looked very impressive doing so.

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The Tar Heels have not played an overly grueling schedule considering they are still looking for a marquee win, one they have a chance to get against Clemson. The lack of a big win does hurt them, but the fashion in which they have taken care of the opponents on their schedule has been very impressive. Williams and company have topped the 50 point mark three times against FBS competition, and came within five points of doing so two additional times.

The Tar Heels, like the Buckeyes have only defeated one ranked team (@ Pitt), but they have looked much better than the Buckeyes have against very similar schedules.

Much is made of the “eye test” these days in the college football world. The test essentially is based upon how well a team plays week to week. Alabama and Oklahoma have each passed every week since their losses; Iowa has looked bad on an eye test level as well. The Buckeyes failed their eye test while the Tar Heels have passed theirs.

A win over Clemson would give North Carolina an A on their eye test, how could that be kept out in favor of an underachieving team?

It would be an absolute travesty to leave North Carolina out in favor of Ohio State if Clemson goes down this coming weekend.

Ohio State does not belong anywhere near the semi-finals, here’s to hoping the committee does the right thing.

Shattered Dreams and Iowa

The phrase “we need Iowa to go undefeated” is one that probably was not uttered by anyone other than Iowa alumni.  Coming into the season, there was a legitimate possibility that Kirk Ferentz was going to get the axe, but his contract, more specifically his buyout clause, was stopping that from happening.  Now, Iowa is undefeated, has a guaranteed spot in the Big Ten championship game, and looks to be the Big Ten’s best chance at being in the College Football Playoff as an undefeated team and eliminating the counter argument of “they just got in because they play in the Big Ten.”

The beauty of the college football playoff is how much scheduling plays a part.  Luckily for Iowa, very few thought that they would be legitimate contenders and did not schedule them into any true primetime, late season matchups. The Hawkeyes finish the season at Nebraska, the team that has managed to lose a surprising number of close games throughout the season and had a season-defining win in which they managed to ruin Michigan States’ title chances by handing them a late season loss.  While Nebraska will view the game against Iowa as their “championship” game, Iowa should be able to win and go into the Big Ten championship undefeated.

In comparison, the other teams around Iowa in the rankings have far tougher matchups.  Notre Dame finishes its year at Stanford without two of its best players, C.J. Prosise and KeiVarae Russel, while Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play one another in what should be a high scoring rivalry game that will determine who will be the Big 12’s playoff candidate.  Florida, the 8th ranked team in the Week 12 rankings, ends its year at Florida State.

My bound-to-be-wrong prediction for Iowa

Iowa wins at Nebraska convincingly, but not overwhelmingly with a 31-14 win.  In the Big Ten championship game, they play Michigan State.  The Spartans, coming off a huge win at Ohio State and a win over Penn State win a close, low scoring and what most of the country considers to be an “ugly” game.  In the process, the Big Ten manages to have three 1-loss teams.  Considering the huge media hype that constantly surrounds Notre Dame and the possibility of an undefeated Oklahoma State team, Iowa misses the playoffs and no Big Ten team gets to compete for the championship.

While having no team in the championship would be somewhat embarrassing for the Big Ten, it will not be as horrible as people make it out to be.  Clemson and Alabama are clearly the top teams this year and Iowa does not have the weapons or the personnel to keep pace with teams of that caliber.  Iowa getting into the playoff would probably look at lot like a bowl game featuring an automatic qualifier; it will be obvious from the start which team had a “miracle” year that is coming to an end and which team is entrenched as a top contender year after year.  As fun as it would be to have a team from the Big Ten in the playoff, it will probably be better to not have to endure a 60-minute beatdown at the hands of Clemson or Alabama that loses its suspense after the first quarter when Iowa is down by 21.

Seminole’s Lose Again

The Florida State Seminoles were defeated 23-13 by #1 Clemson, who clinched the Atlantic division title with the victory.

It was a tied game going into the fourth quarter, but ultimately the Clemson offense exposed the Seminoles defense late with a couple seam passes and screens, which proved to be too much for defense to handle. Combine that with poor quarterback play from Sean Maguire and you have a recipe for a loss. Besides a 75-yard touchdown from Dalvin Cook on the second play of the game, the ‘Noles offense only scored six points. The loss can’t be entirely blamed on the quarterback, but one has to wonder if starting Maguire was the correct decision by coach Jimbo Fisher.

The Seminoles had a couple chances to step on Clemson’s throat early and seize all of the momentum, but failed to rise to the occasion. The first mishap was the inexplicable interception by Maguire at the 5-yard-line, in which Maguire decided to throw the ball off his back foot up to 5’7” WR Kermit Whitfield, the interception kept the game from being potentially 14-0. Once the Tigers got the ball, the Seminoles would have forced a three and out, if not for a dumb late hit penalty from cornerback Jalen Ramsey that extended Clemson’s drive.

Surprisingly Clemson never pulled away in this game, as their quarterback Deshaun Watson missed a few throws and had a few costly errors of his own. The most obvious being him spiking the ball on third down inside the Seminoles’ 20-yard-line with thirty seconds left in the first half. The Seminoles’ defense played very well, but one of the biggest takeaways from this game might be that Clemson looked very beatable.

The pivotal point of the game was obviously Clemson turning the ‘Noles over on downs after two failed rushing attempts by Dalvin Cook to get a single yard. Clemson would go on to score the game-clinching touchdown seven plays later.

What it means:

The Seminoles are now 7-2, and National Title hopes are officially dead. The hopes were already clinging to life before the loss, but now there isn’t a possible way to get to the playoff. It’s still a good season by most standards, but after winning the National Championship and making the playoffs in the past two years, two losses in a season is unfamiliar ground in recent history for Seminole fans. The success of this season for ‘Noles fans will be decided on the last game of the season by the outcome of their game against the #11 Florida Gators. A win over a contending Florida team would help people forget about the tough losses as well as give Seminole fans bragging rights, while a loss would help declare the season a failure (any season with a loss to Florida is a failure for Seminole fans.)

The biggest question for the Seminoles is who will be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season. With an eye already looking towards next season, you would think that Fisher would opt towards Maguire starting the rest of the year, as he will be back on the team next season, and Golson won’t. Whoever ultimately does end up starting won’t really affect the team much, as both are mediocre, but I do think that Maguire starting would be most beneficial going forward because at least Maguire can open up the offense and help younger players grow in the system.

Here’s what else happened in the ACC:

CLEMSON IS ATLANTIC DIVISION CHAMPS

With Clemson’s victory over Florida State they have clinched the Atlantic division within the ACC and will set their sights on the ACC Championship. Clemson’s remaining opponents until then have a combined record of 9-18, with none seemingly having any chance of beating them. What a year for Clemson. Deshaun Watson has been everything Clemson fans could have hoped for, leading Clemson’s fifteenth ranked offense in points per game. Combine that with their fourth ranked defense in terms of yards, and it doesn’t seem like this team has a weakness. The only thing this team may have to worry about until bowl season is the underrated Tarheels who they are poised to play in the ACC Championship.

UNC CAN CLINCH COASTAL DIVISION

Can someone please tell me why everyone is overlooking the Tarheels? Since the first game of the season, a game they shouldn’t have lost, the Tarheels have won every game, culminating in their two best wins of the season in the past two weeks against Pittsburgh and Duke. At 8-1, UNC is only four games a way from a possible playoff birth, the fourth of which would assumedly be against a #1 Clemson team. Quarterback Marquise Williams has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country this season, making the Tarheel offense the sixth most efficient offense in the country. Granted they haven’t had a very tough schedule, but if they can close out the season, a matchup against #1 Clemson would allow North Carolina to make up for their lack of a tough schedule. North Carolina can clinch the Coastal division with a victory and a Pittsburgh loss this weekend.

DUKE AND PITT UNRAVEL

Pittsburgh and Duke both got shredded on defense this weekend giving up a combined 108 points to UNC and Notre Dame. Both teams have now lost two games in a row when they each had a chance to win the Coastal division. Duke’s past two games have been brutal between Miami’s illegal kick return and a 35-point loss to the Tarheels. Pittsburgh has to be wondering how their season would have went if they had a bit of an easier schedule. The Panthers have lost to #4 Notre Dame, #5 Iowa, and an under ranked #23 North Carolina. These are two teams that the ACC was hoping could step up and provide some depth in the ACC after Clemson, UNC and Florida State, but it hasn’t worked out that way. One of these teams will add another loss to their record when Duke hosts Pittsburgh this weekend at noon.

FSU’s QB Battle and ACC Wrap Up

Florida State’s 45-21 victory over Syracuse means a lot more than simply defeating an ACC opponent, the victory brings up questions at the most important position on offense, the quarterback.

With season long starter Everett Golson sitting out the game due to a concussion, backup Sean Maguire got the start and proceeded to pass for 348 yards, 3 touchdowns with no interceptions.

Maguire simply made the offense look the best it has all season. Most noticeably was his ability to throw down the field, which Golson has shown he isn’t consistently able to do. The plays that were being called for Maguire proved that there is more trust in his arm than Golson’s. The Seminoles haven’t been utilizing wide receiver Travis Rudolph’s speed downfield because Golson can’t be trusted to chuck it down the field. In comes Maguire, and two bombs to Rudolph later early in the game and he has two catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Travis Rudolph had his best game of the season with Maguire under center.
Travis Rudolph had his best game of the season with Maguire under center.

Being able to stretch the field is something that the Seminole offense has been lacking all season, with this, opposing defenses have been loading the box in order to contain running back Dalvin Cook, and Golson hasn’t given any team a reason not to because he hasn’t shown that he is capable of making the defenses pay.

All of this adds up to one big question for the Seminoles leading into the biggest game of their season against newly #1 Clemson; who should be the starting quarterback?

Normally a good game by the backup quarterback in replacement of the starter isn’t enough to supplant the starter, but this isn’t an ordinary situation. The first reason is that even though Golson transferred in during the offseason and subsequently won the starting job over Maguire, Golson hasn’t performed to the level that was expected and the level coaches were hoping. Secondly is that Maguire has proved that he can lead the team to victories, he is only 2-0, but one of them was against Clemson and their top five defense last season.

Who will start is a complete unknown at this point. Coach Jimbo Fisher has said everything from saying he’s going to wait and see throughout the week, to saying that he’s not eliminating the possibility of a two quarterback system. Regardless of who starts, the success of the Seminoles season will be determined by the outcome of their next game against Clemson. A win will help people forget about their loss to Georgia Tech, while also putting them in the driver’s seat of the Atlantic division of the ACC.

If you asked me, I think the nod will be given to Maguire. It is a tough decision, but Golson just hasn’t looked like he has been in control of the ‘Noles offense at any point of the season. At times he looks scared and opts to scramble, or he throws a short pass, the offense under Golson was more of a dink and dunk offense, compared to what Maguire showed us on Saturday. Maguire’s arm brought life to the offense, and he did so without Dalvin Cook.

The Seminoles face Clemson at 3:30 on Saturday.

Here’s what else happened in the ACC this weekend:

MIAMI’S KICKOFF RETURN VS DUKE

One of the biggest plays of the season happened last weekend when Miami miraculously returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Duke to win the game as time expired. Miami, in a last ditch effort to win the game lateralled the ball eight times and managed to get by the Duke coverage team to score the game-winning touchdown, but not really. One of the Miami runners who attempted to lateral the ball was clearly down upon watching the replay, and multiple block in the back calls were missed that should have been called. The ACC has thus suspended a couple of the ACC officials from the game, admitting that the referees erred on the play. So the play that won Miami the game, shouldn’t have been a touchdown, but it was. Why the ACC can’t overturn the play and give Duke the victory is beyond me, but as it stands Miami won the game, and now has an outside shot of winning the Coastal division. It really is a shame because Duke had a lot more on the line in this game than Miami did. With the loss, Duke now is a game back from UNC in the Coastal division of the ACC.

UNC LEADS THE COASTAL DIVISION

Because of the botched kickoff return, UNC is now sitting atop the Coastal division. With Pittsburgh and Duke both losing, #21 North Carolina is now quietly 7-1 and in position to face either Clemson or Florida State in the ACC championship. The divisional race is still far from over as UNC and Duke face each other this weekend, with Duke and Pitt facing each other in two weeks. Nonetheless it seems like this UNC team is being slept on. They have the 21st ranked offense in points per game in the NCAA, and the 15th best defense in terms of points allowed. People will point to their strength of schedule, but the win over #23 Pittsburgh helped put them on the map, and how they perform in their game against Duke this weekend will go a long ways to determining how good this team really is.

FRANK BEAMER RETIRES

Frank Beamer, the long-time coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies has decided to step down as head coach after the end of the 2015 season. This wasn’t a move that was completely unexpected, but it will mark the end of an era at Virginia Tech. Beamer began coaching for Virginia Tech in 1987, leading them to 22 straight bowl games. His teams have slipped a bit over the past few seasons, which along with his age, surely played a big part in his decision to step down. Beamer will be remembered as one of the most respected coaches in college football by coaches, and by his players who all credit Beamer to being one of the biggest influences in their careers. Beamer took Virginia Tech from an independent team in 1987, to the Big East in 1991, to where they are now in the ACC in 2004. Beamer led the Hokies to four ACC Championships, three Big East Championships, and six BCS bowl game appearances. Who will be the coach in 2016 is unclear, however Beamer has stated in the past that he hopes someone on his current staff will be named his successor.

Who Should Irish Fans Root For?

UPDATED 11/11

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s that time of year again.

Tuesday night the College Football Playoff Committee released their second Top 25 poll of the season. Now before you read any further, let me remind you that all of this is extremely fluid and is subject to change from week to week. For instance, Ohio State, last year’s eventual national champion was slotted at 16th in the opening poll of the season. Much can change between now and December 31st when the semi-final games are slated to be played.

With all of that said, Irish fans have to be extremely happy with the results that were revealed on November 10.

Notre Dame came in at fourth, the final spot of the playoff.

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The high ranking does hold some weight however. Common thought would be that if Notre Dame is able to win their remaining four games they will not be held out of the Final Four. This is due to the fact that Notre Dame has a resume building win remaining on the schedule at Stanford, and some of the other teams may take care of themselves.

Left in the season are a few elimination games, or at least games that have the potential to strongly affect the Final Four.

Among these are  many of the remaining Big 12 games, a possible matchup between an undefeated #3 Ohio State and an undefeated #5 Iowa in the B1G Championship Game, and Notre Dame’s late season trip to Palo Alto.

Last weekend, LSU was stomped in Tuscaloosa by the Crimson Tide. This caused LSU to fall out of the playoff picture for the time being, and Alabama sliding into the #2 spot that the Tigers briefly held. This, along with another Ole Miss loss, allows Alabama to control their own destiny on the way to an SEC Title Game.

 

Irish fans should root for:

Nov 8, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeAndrew White (2) catches a touchdown over LSU Tigers safety Jalen Mills (28) during the overtime of a game at Tiger Stadium. Alabama defeated LSU 20-13 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

 

With Alabama controlling their own destiny, and appearing to have a firm grip on a spot in the playoff, the best chance for a Crimson Tide loss would be this weekend in Starkville against Mississippi State, or in an eventual SEC Championship Game against the Florida Gators. Irish fans should be pulling for the Bulldogs and possibly the Gators as well. Although if Florida runs the table and wins the SEC, I would expect to see them garner a spot in the Final Four. As I said earlier I would be surprised if a two loss team would make the Final Four, but if it does happen, my money would be on it being Alabama.

The Big 12 is currently on the outside looking in as well. Baylor and Oklahoma State are both currently unbeaten, but find themselves sitting at six and eight, respectively. These two programs have played relatively weak schedules thus far, and also don’t play defense really well, if at all. The Cowboys do play much better defense than Baylor, but it is still nothing to write home about. That is just the way of life in the Big 12, and I think that the committee takes offense to that in their rankings. These two teams will square off on November 21st. It is very possible that Baylor could fall this week against the Oklahoma Sooners, a team that already has a loss. The Sooners lone hiccup is to Texas in the Red River Rivalry.

 

Irish fans should root for:

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Oklahoma to win out. This would leave Oklahoma as the one loss Big 12 champion. It just so happens that the Sooners loss would come to a team that Notre Dame beat by 35 points. If there would be an undefeated team left out, my money would be on it coming out of the Big 12.

The Big Ten, or B1G as the cool kids call it these days, has two teams in the top ten in Ohio State (3) and  Iowa (5). Yes, neither of them have been beaten thus far, but both have failed to notch an impressive win thus far.  The Buckeyes have looked extremely average in a few of their games, but they have looked like a top team in a few others. Iowa has played well, however their best win is due to a last second, 57-yard field goal over currently unranked Pitt. A good win, but not a marquee one per se.

 

Irish fans should root for:

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This scenario became a little clearer this past weekend with the loss of Michigan State to Nebraska. The hope is still for Michigan to win the conference, but now that is a little more likely to happen. If Ohio State can manage to defeat Illinois and Michigan State, and Michigan beats Indiana and Penn State, then that would set up a de facto B1G East Title Game on November 28 at the Big House between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. Irish fans would be pulling for Michigan to upset the Buckeyes and later defeat Iowa to win the B1G. I would be very surprised to see a two loss B1G team sneak into the Final Four.

Out west, teams in the Pac 12 have not done themselves many favors this season. Stanford is the highest ranked team in the conference at seven, up four spots from last week. They are followed by Utah at ten. Every team in the conference has at least one loss at this point in the season. The best chance for a Pac 12 representative in the Final Four would be Stanford winning out.

Irish fans should root for:

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Stanford to win the Pac 12 title, with a loss to Notre Dame along the way. Sounds simple enough, right? It also would not hurt if USC won out, coupled with a Utah loss to set up a Pac-12 title game between two teams that Notre Dame would have defeated, assuring a win over a Power 5 Champion.

In the ACC things are far less complicated for Notre Dame fans. Obviously, the lone Irish loss of the season came in Death Valley to the Clemson Tigers. The hope would be that Clemson is able to finish an undefeated regular season and win the ACC crown. This would ensure that the Tigers reach the Final Four, and likely give Notre Dame the best loss that anyone in the country has. I hate the term best loss, but it would be true in this case. Clemson has a key game against Florida State this weekend. It also wouldn’t hurt Notre Dame if Pitt wins the remainder of their games after their clash with Notre Dame.

 

Irish fans should root for:

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Clemson to win every game, and look good doing it, until a rematch in the semi-finals against the Irish.

Elsewhere, Notre Dame fans should also be rooting strongly for Navy and Temple to continue their winning ways and meet up in the AAC Title Game. Navy has SMU, Tulsa, and Houston left in AAC play, and then the traditional Army-Navy game would be played after a potential AAC Title Game. The Temple Owls have USF, Memphis, and UCONN left on their schedule. Each team should be ranked in each of their remaining games.

Ultimately, none of this matters if Notre Dame is not able to win their next three games. The remaining slate for Notre Dame is Wake Forest at home, Boston College at Fenway Park, and finally a trip to Palo Alto for a showdown with Stanford. If the Irish take care of business, they’ll be playing on New Year’s Eve.

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.

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.

Kelly’s Decision-Making Under Fire as Irish Fall

A perfect storm of errors helped end Notre Dame’s perfect season in Death Valley. 

Hurricane Joaquin scored an assist in contributing to Notre Dame’s 4 second-half turnovers as the Irish eventually fell to the Clemson Tigers 24-22 in a very soggy Death Valley on Saturday night. 

The Irish got off to one of their prototypical slow starts, which have become all-too-common under Brian Kelly, as Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson took a quarterback draw 38 yards into Notre Dame territory on the first play from scrimmage and eventually capped the drive with a 6 yard touchdown pass to Jordan Legget. After the Irish went 3-and-out on their first series, the Tigers took the ball and marched it into Notre Dame territory with ease, eventually scoring on 13-yard pass from Watson to Artavias Scott with 8:43 in the first quarter. 

One of the big storylines from the game was the Irish’s inability to run the ball against the Clemson defense. As the rain continued to fall, the Clemson defense continued to stack the box with 8 and 9 defenders, holding Irish running back CJ Prosise to 50 yards on 15 carries, after he had averaged 150 yards per game entering Saturday. Clemson dared the Irish to utilize the passing game, which was headed by their inexperienced redshirt freshman quarterback Deshone Kizer. Instead of airing it out and passing more, the Irish stubbornly stuck to the running game and often found themselves in 3rd and long situations because of it. 

Much was made of Kizer’s first career start outside of Notre Dame Stadium, but it wasn’t Kizer who let the Irish down on Saturday. Kizer was the victim of some timely drops: On a third down play in the 2nd quarter, Will Fuller dropped a pass which would have resulted in first-down yardage and Corey Robinson, who has yet to make an impact this season after a stellar 2014 campaign, couldn’t come up with a catchable ball on the goal line, after Kizer had unleashed a 40-yard bomb in the second quarter. 

All this aside, probably the most-talked-about point of Saturday’s game was the 4th-quarter decision-making of Irish Coach Brian Kelly. Trailing 21-3 in the 4th quarter, the Irish started their furious rally when Kizer hit Prosise with a 56 yard touchdown pass after Prosise snuck out of the Irish backfield and tiptoed the sideline to paydirt. After a review to see if Prosise did, indeed, stay in bounds, Kelly elected to go for 2 points, trying to cut Clemson’s lead to 10. Not all the Irish offense got the memo, however, and instead of just taking a delay of game and kicking the extra point, Kelly burned a timeout. When the Irish did go for 2, Kizer’s pass went right through the hands of Corey Robinson and the Irish came up empty. 

This decision loomed large later in the game. Trailing Clemson 24-16 late in the game, Kizer hit Chris Brown in the back right corner of the endzone with 7 seconds left, cutting the deficit to 24-22. Had Kelly kicked the extra point earlier in the 4th, Irish kicker Justin Yoon could have come on to tie the game, but instead, the Irish had to go for 2 in an attempt to tie the game. Kizer rolled right and elected to keep the ball and try to score on the ground and eventually was stopped well short of the goal line, putting an end to the Irish rally. 

Many wondered if Kelly’s job would be in jeopardy, should the Irish fail to reach the College Football Playoff. Games like this certainly don’t help Kelly’s resume. 

Under Kelly, Irish teams have gotten off to slow starts against both good and bad teams. Just last week, the Irish only lead UMass by 1 point with 3 minutes left in the first half before blowing out the Minutemen in the time that remained. Last season, against Arizona State, the Irish trailed 34-10 before mounting a furious rally to make the game 34-31, before the Sun Devils regrouped and won the game going away. Certainly this small sample of Irish slow starts in nowhere near exhaustive. 

For Irish fans, the narrative of getting off to a slow start and having to fight tooth and nail to come up just short in the final seconds is getting old. Before the 4th quarter in Saturday’s game, Kelly seemed to abandon the short passing game, electing to stick stubbornly to the run when Clemson stacked the box, or challenge the Tigers downfield, which was made more difficult by the soggy conditions. It was not until the 4th quarter that Notre Dame found something in the catch-and-run passing game. With the Tigers stacking the box all night, it’s hard to decipher why it took Kelly and the Irish 3 quarters to start playing the numbers game with receivers on the perimeter. 

In one game, the Irish trailed by 18 points and turned the ball over 4 times and still only lost the game with 2 points. With the amount of talent on this team, it is unacceptable for this to constantly be the result and someone needs to be held responsible.

Furthermore, Kelly’s decision to go for two was a very bad one. When asked about the decision, Kelly said that his aim was to bring his team within 10 points so that a touchdown and a field goal would tie it. That’s well and good, but when your team is down 18 points, two touchdowns (one with a two-point conversion) and a field goal would tie the game–it doesn’t matter what order they come in. Going for two that early in the fourth quarter goes against conventional game-management wisdom. Despite what Kelly says, it was a very poor decision that cost his team when all was said and done. 

One bright spot for the Irish—despite their loss at Clemson, if the Irish can run the table, which would require them to beat both USC and Stanford, it would be hard to keep the Irish out of the College Football Playoff, especially given the climate of the college football landscape this season. However, the Irish were firmly in control of their own destiny entering Saturday, and at the very least, whether or not they still are will be called in to question as the season continues.