Tag Archives: Deshaun Watson

Proof We Aren’t Always Right About College Football

At the end of any given football season, I always love going back through my articles and checking out all the brilliant things I said throughout the year. Then, when I come across all the completely dumb things I said, I enjoy that part even more. Laughter is good for the soul.

So, first of all, let me brag to you about the things I said that have turned out to be absolutely brilliant in retrospect. I don’t get to brag about being right about football too often, so let me have my moment.

April 2016:

“SEC East Sleeper: Remember the Gators” This was a title for one of my articles early in the year.

May 2016:

“This year, I am still cautious about all the optimism surrounding the Tennessee football program.” Good call here, even if my dad was convinced otherwise.

“With the return of Mike Williams from injury, Watson should have a great target downfield for those longer plays.” Deshaun Watson proved to be a huge asset in Clemson’s championship game, but so did Mike Williams.

“I would not be surprised to see a Heisman winner from an ACC football program this year.” It may not have been Deshaun Watson, but the Heisman winner was from the ACC.

August 2016:

“And as much as I ride for SEC football, I have to admit I do expect the Seminoles to come out victorious.” This was the one SEC game I really wanted to see during week one, even if I did expect Ole Miss to drop this game.

“Do I expect Ole Miss to get its third victory in a row in this series? No, but I do anticipate a very interesting football game.” This came from that same article and was referring to watching Alabama’s trip Ole Miss. I was right about this year, even though Ole Miss had given Alabama trouble lately.

“They’ve actually won eleven in a row in this rivalry…but who’s counting? This year I truly do expect that winning streak to come to an end.” This is yet another gem from that same article about watching only one SEC football game each week. Tennessee had been hitting a huge mental roadblock in the Florida game–until this year.

September 2016:

“ACC football is not to be taken lightly this season.” Early in the season, I warned everyone to give ACC football some respect this year. After the conference’s bowl season performance, it was definitely earned.

“To be totally honest, at this point the regular season is just Alabama getting warmed up for its playoff appearance.” This came from my Alabama-Ole Miss smackdown piece, but really was not an exaggeration at all.

“Florida’s offense is still nothing special.” Although this was from my smackdown piece before the Florida-Tennessee game, it turned out to be very true. No surprise there.

October 2016:

“I know the Auburn Tigers are ranked a little below the Arkansas Razorbacks, but they’re going to beat them anyways.” Yet another smackdown piece that proved to be correct.

December 2016:

“It will be funny to see Great Value DBU shut down the Heisman winner though. I must say…” This was a personal tweet referring to LSU shutting down Lamar Jackson, which did eventually happen.

So I was right, at least to some extent, pretty often. But what I hope you’ll find much more amusing is all those really stupid things I said. Maybe my sense of humor is strange, but I thought some of these were pretty hilarious.

May 2016:

“If Mark Richt can do that, they could have a very impressive non-conference win in his first season as head coach.” I really thought Miami’s trip to South Bend would be a noteworthy non-conference game this season. Unfortunately, beating Notre Dame wasn’t exactly an impressive feat.

August 2016:

“But if the Vols do get that win then it’s safe to say they are national contenders and Alabama better watch out for them in a couple weeks.” Remember when everyone thought the Vols were potential national contenders before the season even started? I bought into that hype when discussing how I wanted to watch the Vols play at Georgia in Week 5 of SEC football.

“I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to win at home over the Crimson Tide.” I wanted to watch the Alabama-Tennessee game in Week 7 if I could only watch one SEC game. Poor choice there.

September 2016:

“Labor Day is just a welcomed day off from both work and school for most people. But for Ole Miss this year, it’s the day [it takes] down the Florida State Seminoles.” From a Smackdown Friday piece so I didn’t really mean it. But still hilarious. Plus, that whole article was hilarious if you like hating on Florida State.

“…if I had money to bet I’d be putting it all on the Tennessee Vols to win the SEC East right now.” It’s a good thing I was broke. I would’ve wasted a lot of money thinking that the Vols were really going to win the SEC East.

“I hate to break it to Clemson fans, but Lamar Jackson is about the shatter your hopes and dreams.” This Smackdown was off. Lamar Jackson did take Deshaun Watson’s Heisman trophy. But Clemson still lived out its dream of winning a national championship again.

October 2016:

“Coastal Division Is Worse for ACC Football than East Is for SEC Football” Even just the title of this article is off. After bowl season, there’s not much that can be said for the SEC East, aside from Florida and Tennessee.

November 2016:

“It’s not that the Razorbacks can’t beat the Gators. It’s just that they won’t.” Another Smackdown Friday article gone wrong. The Razorbacks could and did beat the Gators–in convincing fashion.

E-mail Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

2016 ACC Football: Proof That They Aren’t Just Good at Basketball

Now is when I tell you about the good and the bad from this past season of ACC football. I’ve been brainstorming for this article since the day after Clemson won it all, but I’ve still run into a problem of sorts. All in all, there was just much more good in ACC football than there was bad this season.

That isn’t to say that there was no bad in ACC football. Trust me, there was. There is even one play from one particular ACC game this season that still bothers me. I’ll get to that later, though.

What all the good did do for the conference was offer evidence that maybe these schools are capable of being among the best in the country in more than just one sport. Without further ado, I present you with the proof.

The Best of ACC Football

Clemson won the College Football Playoff National Championship game. I am sure nothing else that any conference carried out can top that. But Clemson’s victory over mighty Alabama in that game wasn’t all the good they provided for ACC football this year. The Tigers were 14-1 by the end of it all, having lost that one game by a single point. They also shut out Ohio State in their first playoff game.

Deshaun Watson, our favorite (black) dual-threat quarterback, ended up accounting for a total of 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards between passing and rushing for Clemson. Running back Wayne Gallman contributed 17 more touchdowns this season. And there was wide receiver Mike Williams who came back from injury and ended up having quite the season as well, racking up 11 touchdowns.

The Clemson defense was also nothing to scoff at, allowing an average of 314 yards per game. Clemson was very good for the ACC.

Florida State, overall, was also pretty dang good for ACC football. There was some definite bad in that 63-20 loss to Louisville early in the season, but the Seminoles still managed to bounce back and have an impressive year. Star running back Dalvin Cook was essential to Florida State’s success, with 288 carries for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns. The fact that he was not a Heisman finalist still baffles me. But aside from Dalvin Cook’s success, the team was successful as well, finishing the year at 10-3. Not to mention, Florida State beat Michigan 33-32 in its bowl game when Michigan was arguably a playoff contender at the end of the season.

There’s also Virginia Tech and coach Justin Fuente on the “good” side of things. In his first season as head coach of the Hokies, Fuente took the team to the ACC Championship Game. And, the Hokies actually gave Clemson a good game. Fuente and the Hokies finished with a record of 9-4 and an impressive comeback win over Arkansas in their bowl game. This is why Fuente, in my mind, was clearly the best coaching hire from last year.

There’s one more name I’d be crazy for not mentioning, regardless of how his season ended. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson had an incredible year. It was so incredible that he won the Heisman trophy. With 51 touchdowns throughout the season, it’s safe to say that Jackson was the key to Louisville’s success. Jackson is also only a sophomore, which means he has at least one year left with the Cardinals. That’s very good for them.

I can think of one last name I should also mention when praising the good in ACC football. Pittsburgh running back James Conner returned this season after being diagnosed with and treated for cancer. He clearly didn’t let his cancer slow him down considering he had 16 rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns this year. Here’s to Conner, because he’s about as good as it gets–aside from Clemson’s championship.

The Worst of ACC Football

The few bad things I could come up with off the top of my head require much less explanation.

There are the only three teams from the ACC that did not play in bowl games: Virginia, Duke and Syracuse. Virginia and Duke both were 1-7 in conference play while Syracuse was 2-6. None of these teams won more than four games this season. When you’re a member of a Power Five conference, those kinds of records are beyond bad.

The other major “bad” that I saw in ACC football this year was Lamar Jackson’s supporting cast. Jackson did get some help from his teammates at times. But most the work rested on Jackson’s shoulders, and because of that the Cardinals had a hard time winning when their opponents could contain him.

This brings me to the one horrible play I mentioned above. The Louisville vs. Clemson game was one of the best games of the regular season. That game really did come down to the wire. And the Cardinals could’ve beaten the Tigers if it weren’t for a huge mistake James Quick made on a pass play from Jackson at the end of the game. Instead of getting the yardage necessary to get a first down, Quick went out of bounds to stop the clock only to realize he had done so on fourth down and had not gained enough to get the first down. And that was the end of the game. SO BAD!

One last fact worth mentioning when speaking of the bad in ACC football this season has to do with the North Carolina Tar Heels. They were actually a pretty good team this season with a top 20 defense. But somehow the Tar Heels managed to only grab one interception (as a team) during the entire season. For most of the season, it looked like they might make history and not end up with any interceptions at all. That one interception came against The Citadel, too, so it wasn’t even all that impressive. What gives, Tar Heels?

 

Even with these bad things I just mentioned, it stays clear that this was a mostly good season for ACC football. Only three teams in the entire conference weren’t bowl eligible. Then, the ACC won eight of its eleven bowl games, not including the National Championship Game. Dabo Swinney took down Nick Saban in that one. I’d say that’s good—especially for a basketball conference.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Photo from Flickr user Jason A G.

Do You Like a Hollywood Blockbuster? Alabama and Clemson Wrote Back-to-Back Scripts

It’s five past eight on Tuesday morning and I’m surprisingly not tired, considering I stayed up until 12:45 in the morning watching Clemson topple Alabama. I didn’t dare go to bed while that game went on. I couldn’t have slept knowing what I was missing.

Last night’s College Football Playoff National Championship rematch was even better than last year’s installment. This time last year, I was talking about how we had just witnessed a sensational football game. Well, I’m back to say the same thing about Monday night’s classic.

Last year’s game had just about everything – stars carrying their team (Derrick Henry and Deshaun Watson), surprising standout performances (O.J. Howard and Hunter Renfrow) and numerous dramatic momentum shifts. Monday night’s game wasn’t as wide-open, but the storylines were just as, if not more compelling.

Admittedly, I was searching for them but there really were a lot of similarities between the 2015 and 2016 versions of this game. I started noticing them in the second quarter as the Tide’s offensive line began to dominate the Tigers’ front seven. Then, my guy Bo Scarbrough scampered in from 37 yards out to score his second touchdown of the evening. A lot of people were ready to hand the Tide the title at that point. Aren’t we glad they didn’t?

Last season we saw improbable stars emerge in the form of Hunter Renfrow and O.J. Howard. Both of them were cast brilliantly in the sequel. Renfrow was again Watson’s most reliable target, reeling in 10 passes for 92 yards and two scores. Howard turned in more big plays when Alabama needed them most, racking up 106 yards and a touchdown on four grabs.

This game was the culmination of what truly could be made into a movie. It felt like fiction as it played out in front of us. The “underdog” won. You have the villain, Nick Saban, (or anti-hero, as I prefer to see him) trying to win his sixth national championship and remain perfect in the game itself. The zany Dabo Swinney can act as comic relief, if you’re into his whole act.

Deshaun Watson is clearly the main character and hero. His performance was both outstanding and inspiring. My favorite part was the way he handled it. He doesn’t seem like a spotlight guy, off the field. He can’t help but steal it on the field, though. He became a college football legend and unquestioned top-pick candidate without being annoying like a lot of guys tend to get now.

All the makings of a cheesy Hollywood blockbuster are there. The only difference is this was real life.

The most untouchable dynasty in the history of college football hit a big speed bump and got a flat tire. I’m not at all worried about Alabama not making it back to this stage. In fact, find any odds you can and I’ll take the Tide as 2017 champs.

That’s down the road though. For now, all we have to do is revel in the greatness that was Monday night’s game and give props where they are due.

Congratulations to Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers, 2016 College Football Playoff National Champions.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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College Football Playoff National Championship Preview

With the National Championship on Monday, I was tasked with writing a proper preview. The game is the first rematch in the D1 National Championship era. The respective beatings that Alabama and Clemson handed to Washington and Ohio State, two teams who were supposed to be amongst the top four in the country, left me unable to find the proper terms or analogies to show just how incredible the Crimson Tide and the Tigers have been over the course of the season. As I thought more about the matchup, I began to see Alabama and Clemson less as college football teams and more as legendary figures set to do battle. With that in mind, I set to find a chimerical battle that properly described the teams. At this point, I remembered the Greek myth of the fight between Heracles (known as Hercules to Romans and Disney fans) and the Hydra, two figures that I realized represented the teams in the National Championship perfectly. Don’t believe me? Let me explain.

From the depths of the Black Warrior River, the Tuscaloosan Hydra has vanquished any and all in its way this year. With college football stars like Jonathan Allen, Marlon Humphrey, Cam Robinson, Reuben Foster, Tim Williams, O.J. Howard, and Jalen Hurts headlining an elite roster, the Crimson Tide truly embody the mythological serpent’s ability to regenerate its decapitated heads. So many teams come into matchups attempting to best Alabama straight on, only to be swarmed by sheer magnitude of talent that the Crimson Tide possesses on its roster. Interestingly enough, this week it felt like Alabama cut off one of its own heads, as the Tide parted ways with Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin a mere week before the National Championship game. We don’t yet know how the offense will blend with new OC Steve Sarkisian, but the change could prove to be the biggest weakness in Alabama’s team all season.

Heracles here is none other than Deshaun Watson, the descendant of “Clemson football gods” Tajh Boyd and Steve Fuller. Like Heracles, Deshaun-cles has the combined strength, agility, willpower and intuition of his predecessors. Deshaun-cles, with some help from his foster father, general “Dabo” Amphitryon and his army of tigers, has completed all of his labours to this point. Deshaun-cles has already defeated the Louisville bronze-beaked man-eating birds, killed the fearsome Seminole giant Geryon Cook, captured the Palmetto Hind, and most recently, slain the Ohioan Lion. All that is left on Deshaun-cles’ list of labours is to kill the Tuscaloosan Hydra. Whether or not Deshaun-cles and the Tigers can sear Alabama’s wound closed and bury the head under a rock will be answered Monday night.

Okay, okay, let’s get serious and talk what is actually going to go down on Monday evening. Deshaun-cles Deshaun Watson and the Tiger offense are looking to score early and minimize the scoring ability of the Crimson Tide. I think the difference between the upcoming matchup and Washington’s effort in the Peach Bowl is that the Tigers, through their elite spread offensive approach, will be able to beat the Alabama defense early enough to have the points to counteract the massive retaliation that often occurs once an Alabama opponent scores. I think both Alabama and Clemson will get into the double digits by the mid-second quarter, but the game will then start to slow down. Both the Alabama and the Clemson defenses will take over for the middle two quarters of the contest. However, by the fourth, with the game tied, what I predict will be an incredibly physical matchup will begin to take its toll. Possibly some injuries, cramps or just exhaustion will start to take effect. The offenses, having been handicapped by the ferocious play of the respective defenses, will see an opportunity and kick back into high gear. Unfortunately for Clemson, Deshaun Watson, who has thrown numerous interceptions this season, will at some point have an Alabama defender jump a route, leading to a Crimson Tide touchdown. Alabama then kicks a field goal to go up by 10 late in the game. Clemson will score a last minute touchdown, but fail to recover the onside kick, finishing off Alabama’s victory in this year’s National Championship game, making the Tide back-to-back champions, and giving Nick Saban his sixth National Title.

Final Score: Alabama Crimson Tide 27, Clemson Tigers 24

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.
Image Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
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Thankful Ohio State Is In The College Football Playoff

After an epic 38-31 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, it was a foregone conclusion in my mind that the Penn State Nittany Lions were headed to the College Football Playoffs. After all, they were the only team to defeat Ohio State, fluke or not and just added a conference title so I was initially shocked when the playoff committee decided to choose the Buckeyes over Penn State. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked their selection of the Silver Bullets and as the title obviously suggests, I am thankful the committee put them in the field.

If you’re still saying, this is completely unfair, I hear you. I agree with my fellow colleague, Tim Bach, it’s  unfair in every way and I’d be pissed off if I was a Penn State fan.  As a Wisconsin fan, I hate the Buckeyes but I take pride in my conference and as a Big Ten fan, I admit that Ohio State gives us the best chance at a national title for the second time in three years.

Think about it. As hot as Penn State has been, is there anyone out there who believes the Nittany Lions can stand next to Alabama and knock them off? I certainly don’t believe so and I‘d be hard pressed to find anyone else who does. However, the Buckeyes are the team in my opinion that poses the biggest threat to the Crimson Tide.

Now I know what you might be saying. Hasn’t J.T. Barrett struggled as of late (86 yards versus Michigan State, 124 yards versus Michigan) and inconsistent passing been a problem this whole season? Shouldn’t an offensive line as talented as theirs be better in protection (59th, 25 sacks allowed) and be more disciplined (64th in fewest penalties allowed)? Didn’t this team lose to Penn State, barely beat the Spartans and need two overtimes to defeat Michigan? Isn’t this team very young and inexperienced?

I concede that all those points are accurate but you have to admit, though this team has faced adversity, they still have come out on top even when nothing has gone right. It’s dangerous to live on the edge but there is something to be said about a battle-tested team that can make crucial plays in crunch-time.

Remember in 2014, the Buckeyes had a very young roster with a loss to Virginia Tech but still crashed the College Football Playoff and came away with the title over the favored Crimson Tide.

Another point to keep in mind is unlike 2014, this isn’t uncharted territory for head coach Urban Meyer and it’s intimidating to think what kind of game plan he devises given nearly a month to prepare. Next to Nick Saban, he has one of the brightest minds in the game.

Before Alabama, however, the Buckeyes need to take care of business against a highly motivated Clemson team. Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson showed little signs of wear-and-tear from last season as his stats are practically identical but even so, only two quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions than his 15, which plays right into the strength of this Ohio State team. The stingy, ball-hawking secondary nabbed 19 interceptions and their pass efficiency defense (91.43 rating for opposing quarterbacks) leads the nation.

On the other hand, the way to hurt the Buckeyes is to pressure Barrett and Clemson features a fearsome defensive line led by Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, and ACC defensive rookie of the year Dexter Lawrence that can dominate Ohio State’s porous offensive line.

I believe it will be a closely contested game and both defenses will force each quarterback to throw the ball so it comes down to who’s more efficient and less turnover prone. In my mind, I’d have to lean towards the Buckeyes as they hold onto win 31-28.

So how does Ohio State defeat the Crimson Tide?

Besides the aforementioned prowess of Meyer and the strong defense, the Buckeyes have a dual-threat signal caller in Barrett and Alabama’s defense struggled against other mobile quarterbacks like Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Clemson’s Watson in 2015.

In addition, if Ohio State can limit its mistakes, apply pressure on true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, sustain long drives and score before the Crimson Tide can answer, they have a shot at dethroning the champions.

In the end, I think that Alabama still wins the national title in a surprisingly close game, 30-23. Remember I didn’t say Ohio State would win but gave our conference the best chance and I’d rather lose by seven points than get blown out and humiliated.

Yes, it’s unfair but the committee did our conference a huge favor and for that I’m thankful.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Lamar Jackson Will Show Clemson What a Real Dual-Threat Quarterback Looks Like

To be honest, the title pretty much says everything I need to say about this week’s huge matchup between #3 Louisville and #5 Clemson. This game is really just about two of college football’s most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks. And I know which quarterback I have more faith in this season. Lamar Jackson is the truth.

Lamar Jackson wasn’t anyone super special last year. Now he’s the most special player we’ve seen perform this season. And anybody who doubts this fact is doomed to make terrible miscalculations about his team’s possible successes. Trust me, it’s been done here at Campus Pressbox.

Now let’s go back to talking about just how special Jackson is as a dual-threat quarterback. No, I’m not calling him that just because he’s black.

In the four games that Louisville has played so far this season, Jackson has been responsible for 25 touchdowns. No, I’m not messing with you. I couldn’t even make this up if I tried. That means Jackson has accounted for more touchdowns by himself than the overwhelming majority of FBS teams so far this season. No to mention, it took Deshaun Watson a little over eight games to rack up 25 touchdowns last season. Jackson has done it in four.

To be specific, he has 1330 passing yards, with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. On top of that, Jackson has rushed for 526 yards and 12 more touchdowns. He is, without a doubt, the clear front-runner in the race for the Heisman. And believe me, I jumped on his Heisman campaign after Week 1.

Clemson fans will sit there saying they have something special in Watson. And all things considered, they do. But Watson’s stats this season look scoff-worthy compared to Jackson’s.

Again, let me give you the specifics. Watson has 996 passing yards, with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. As far as rushing goes, he has 120 yards and no touchdowns.

He has much less impressive numbers so far and he hasn’t even faced any truly tough defenses. On the other hand, Jackson absolutely demolished Florida State’s defense a couple weekends ago. And doesn’t FSU claim to be DBU? HA!

Now if you’re a Clemson fan trying to convince yourself they still have a chance, you’re probably hating on Louisville’s defense. That’s all fine and well but isn’t that what Florida State fans were doing before their team was held to 20 points as Jackson helped rack up 63 points for Louisville? No, I’m not letting that game go. Not yet.

Louisville, per ESPN, has a defensive efficiency of 90.3, coming in at sixth in the nation. Clemson comes in at third with a rating of 94.2. But what will offset that four-point difference is Louisville’s near 34-point advantage in offensive efficiency. I wonder why the Cardinals have such an advantage over the Tigers offensively… Maybe it has something to do with that Lamar Jackson guy I keep mentioning.

Apparently, Clemson safety Jadar Johnson decided to get cute about Jackson. Not only did he only refer to him by his jersey number, but he also said he’ll “body slam him” if Jackson tries to hurdle him. Yeah, okay. We’ll see about that. Not to mention he also said “I don’t really see any worries with him,” in reference to limiting Jackson. Again… Yeah, okay.

And let me close this by going back to last year’s game between these two teams in Louisville. Deshaun Watson had a subpar game, Lamar Jackson only attempted one pass, and Clemson still only won by three points.

This year, Clemson looks the same as they did last year. Honestly, with the way Watson has been playing, they look a little worse. Louisville, on the other hand, looks exponentially better this year. Lamar Jackson is racking up offense and the Cardinals defense is older and better.

I hate to break it to Clemson fans, but Lamar Jackson is about to shatter your hopes and dreams. And I’m going to enjoy it. In fact, maybe I’ll even order myself a Papa John’s pizza to better enjoy this show.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo by Flickr user Jason A G.

Campus Pressbox 58: Lamar Jackson for Heisman

Kristen Botica (@OGKristenB) and Damon Del Rosario (@DamoKnowsSports) revisit some of the action from last weekend’s games, discussing what surprised them most during the first weekend of college football. They also discuss some of the early Heisman candidates after getting a taste for what this season may hold for the best athletes. And looking ahead to this weekend with less marquis matchups, they discuss a few of the games that are most intriguing to them.

Put Everyone on Alert: ACC Football Deserves Some Respect

The title says it all. I think it’s finally time to show ACC football some respect. Listen, I know it’s a bit early in the season to make a statement as bold as this one, but I have my reasons.

At the end of last season, I could’ve argued the same thing. If it weren’t for Florida State’s bowl loss to the Houston Cougars, I probably would’ve argued the same thing actually. About eight months later I’m finally ready to convince people that the ACC may be more than just a basketball conference now.

Let’s start with its overall record during the opening weekend of this college football season, 11-3. That looks really impressive at first glance, but we do still have to keep in mind that the opposition they faced was nothing worth celebrating.

ACC teams played Charlotte, Tulane, William & Mary, Colgate, Liberty, Villanova, Richmond, Georgia, NC Central, Florida A&M, Auburn, and Ole Miss. They lost two of these games and there was also one conference matchup. Surprisingly, the two games lost were not both against SEC teams. While North Carolina did lose to Georgia in Atlanta, Virginia managed to lose to Richmond in Charlottesville.

The ACC went 2-1 against the SEC in Week 1. Yes, Clemson was favored over Auburn and FSU was favored over Ole Miss, but both of those still count as big wins for ACC football in my book. So how did they fare so well in the first weekend?

Well, I know they say that defense wins championships, but the ACC has something else that also proves to be instrumental in winning football games. The ACC easily has the best quarterbacks in college football right now. The Clemson Tigers have Deshaun Watson; the Florida State Seminoles have Deondre Francois. The Louisville Cardinals have Lamar Jackson; the Miami Hurricanes have Brad Kaaya. I rest my case.

Okay, I don’t rest my case. Some people probably don’t get just how good these quarterbacks I listed really are. Let me give you a crash course in the nation’s best quarterbacks.

On Thursday night, Lamar Jackson led the Louisville Cardinals to a 70-14 victory over Charlotte. In that game, Jackson accounted for eight touchdowns and 405 yards of offense. He was unstoppable. Now we have to wait and see if he will be just as unstoppable against more formidable opponents.

On Saturday night, Brad Kaaya led the Miami Hurricanes as they demolished the Florida A&M Rattlers 70-3. Kaaya didn’t have the same stat lines as Jackson, but he did have four touchdowns and did complete two-thirds of his passes. Miami won’t really be tested until October. We already know from last season that Kaaya is a solid quarterback.

Also on Saturday night, Deshaun Watson led his team to victory over the Tigers at Auburn, 19-13. Auburn’s defense did a good job containing Watson, but he still completed over half his passes, threw for 248 yards, and had a touchdown pass. That may not sound particularly impressive, but we already know what a great dual-threat quarterback Watson is.

On Monday night, Deondre Francois helped the Florida State Seminoles dig out of a 22-point hole to beat the Ole Miss Rebels, 45-34. Francois completed 33 of 52 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 59 yards on the ground. And unlike Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly, he didn’t throw any costly interceptions. That’s not bad for his first start in this offense against a swarming Ole Miss defense.

There are plenty of other bright spots around ACC football if you’re willing to look for them. At this point, most of us aren’t willing to look for them because the ACC has been mostly irrelevant to college football over the past decade. I’m not going to jump to crazy conclusions after one week and say this is their year…but this might be the ACC’s year.

Clemson is still Clemson, even if they did struggle against Auburn. Florida State is still Florida State, even if they did have to overcome a huge deficit to beat Ole Miss. And as for the rest of the teams, many are on their way up. Louisville moved up in the Top 25 after a strong showing against Charlotte. Miami made it into the AP Top 25 this week, as expectations soar for Mark Richt and Brad Kaaya. And even though North Carolina dropped in the polls, they put up a good fight against Georgia. Not to mention this is a Georgia team that might have the eventual Heisman trophy winner in running back Nick Chubb.

I know it’s early, but it isn’t too early to put everyone on alert. ACC football is not to be taken lightly this season. Its quarterbacks are some of the best in the country and its programs are on the rise. I admittedly haven’t always been the biggest ACC football fan, but it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

Email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia user Perthsider.

College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 1

After an amazing opening weekend of college football, it is really interesting to see how the current top contenders stand in terms of the College Football Playoff. Below, I have ranked my current top 10 teams, which is loosely based off the preseason AP poll (this weeks AP poll is nuts, check it out). This is a feature that I will release every week this season on Tuesday, so be sure to be on the lookout for next week’s rankings.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide

The Crimson Tide had probably the most impressive start among the week 1 top ten teams. It’s deconstruction of the ranked USC squad (to the degree where ‘Bama straight up added another former USC head coach to its staff) tells the whole story. Going into this season, Alabama’s one major question was the quarterback position. To say that the question was answered Saturday night would be an understatement. Jalen Hurts, and to a lesser degree Blake Barnett, removed Bama’s only weakness, and now, especially with the struggles of Tennessee and LSU, the Crimson Tide seem poised to take the West, win the SEC Championship, and make it to the College Football Playoff.

  1. Florida State Seminoles

Florida State’s matchup with Ole Miss on Monday was, as we have become used to with Jimbo Fisher football (who is now 6-1 since 2013 when trailing by 7 or more at the half), a tale of two halves. As long as Francois keeps up his play and the Seminoles find a way to play multiples halves of football in a single game, the Seminoles will be an obvious CFP contenders, pending a huge throw down with Clemson at home, which could very well decide which ACC school makes it to the Playoff.

  1. Clemson Tigers

Speaking of the Tigers, the team that I picked to win the College Football title this year struggled more with a mediocre Auburn squad than most of us thought it would. For that reason, it is much less of a sure thing in my mind that the Tigers beat FSU in Tallahassee. However, this is only week one, and with Heisman hopeful Deshaun Watson at the helm, Clemson should still be expected to be a top tier team with obvious CFP hopes.

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Speaking of Heisman, my pick for the award this year, Mr. J.T. Barrett, had himself a day. He had seven total touchdowns, with six through the air. We won’t get to see what the Buckeyes really look like until it squares off against Oklahoma, but when your QB has seven scores, it tends to be a good sign. The Buckeyes have a lot on its plate the rest of the year, but if Ohio State play like it did on Saturday, it is definitely a CFP frontrunner.

  1. Michigan Wolverines

The Big Ten pretty much let its top teams hammer some cupcake squads in week one, and that was very apparent in Michigan’s matchup against the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii. Much like Ohio State, Michigan just swept the floor with its opponent. An impressive win, yes, but much like the Buckeyes, we won’t see the Wolverines’ true abilities until it faces off against a squad more its speed. However, its now 100 percent true that the Wolverines are officially back.

  1. Houston Cougars

The shocker of the weekend for most (for some odd reason, considering how good the Cougars were last year) was Houston’s win over the Oklahoma Sooners. This, in my rankings, rocket propelled UH up nine spots, as not only did Houston win, it beat Oklahoma into the ground. All of a sudden, Houston looks like a possible Group of Five CFP team, as the rest of its schedule is fairly mild. As long as the Cougars can hold off Louisville, and avoid other major upsets, Houston could very well end the season undefeated and crash the party of Power Five teams in the CFP.

  1. Stanford Cardinal

In a victory that was fairly mild, the Stanford Cardinal beat K-State by 13. The rest of the season is fairly simple, as the Pac-12 isn’t what it was a few years ago. Two of Stanford’s toughest opponents, UCLA and Notre Dame, both dropped their Week 1 matchups. The toughest game left for Christian McCaffrey (a clear Heisman candidate) and the Cardinal is the matchup at Washington. The game, which will most likely decide the fate of the Pac-12 North, will be Stanford’s make or break matchup in terms of College Football Playoff hopes.

  1. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU, much like many other teams on this list, played a team well below its own caliber in Week 1. The Horned Frogs, however, struggled heavily, especially on the defensive side, against South Dakota State. Giving up 41 points to a non-FBS school is never a great motivator, and while TCU’s College Football Playoff hopes may be small, the Horned Frogs certainly have a great chance to win the Big 12 with what seems like an Oklahoma team that could struggle throughout the year. TCU will need to watch out for Baylor and Texas as well, but for now, Texas Christian seems like the Big 12 frontrunner.

  1. Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers almost blew its opening matchup to Appalachian State. The team looked horrendous for a large part of the game, with particular struggles coming from the Tennessee O-Line. Josh Dobbs struggled mightily as well, and Tennessee needs him to play better if it is to have any hopes of beating Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama in four consecutive weeks. To me, at this point, unless Mighty Mouse becomes as good on the field as he is at blocking twitter accounts, it seems like Tennessee making the College Football Playoff is a long shot.

  1. Michigan State Spartans

The third Big Ten team on this list also had a cupcake matchup in Week 1. However, unlike the Wolverines and Buckeyes, MSU struggled with Furman, a FCS squad. Honestly, the only reason the Spartans make this list after it’s week one struggle is due to all the teams in front of it that lost. MSU has a lot of work to do if it wants to prove that it deserves to make the CFP. Heck, with a crowded Big Ten East division, the Spartans have a lot of work to do to make it to the conference championship.

Honorable Mentions: Washington, Georgia, Iowa, and Wisconsin

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Smackdown Fridays: Houston Dooms Oklahoma’s Playoff Run Far Sooner than Expected

In the course of human events, when it becomes necessary for one Group of 5 team to assert its dominance over a Power 5 foe, rest assured that team will probably be the Houston Cougars. It’s the circle of life. It’s bound to happen sooner or later.

After Houston’s comfortable 38-24 victory over #12 Florida State in last season’s Peach Bowl, who’s to say the Cougars can’t hang with the big boys? Critics may cherry-pick their easy schedule or a narrow victory here and there to excuse the program’s 2015 success, but Houston has a prime opportunity to prove those critics wrong. To open the season, the Cougars face Oklahoma.

I have some news for you: Oklahoma is overrated as hell.

Don’t worry, it isn’t just Oklahoma. It’s the entire Big 12. After the conference faithful finally finished whining about being (rightfully) excluded from the College Football Playoff, it seems it’s destined to happen again. The Sooners seem to be the conference’s best bet to clinch a berth, but I have serious concerns.  This Saturday, expect those concerns to become realities. Oklahoma is begging for an upset.

Assuredly, there are Sooner die-hards and Big 12 buffs reading this and foaming at the mouth, fuming over my casual dismissal of one of college football’s premier conferences. Well, the truth is, your conference can’t be premier if the Kansas Jayhawks are in it.

The Big 12 hasn’t claimed a national championship since Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns in 2005. These days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vince Young waiting on my table at Sizzler. For their part, Oklahoma hasn’t won a national championship since 2000. That was way back when the BCS was actually hip and cool. My point? Picking against the Big 12- or Oklahoma- doesn’t scare me in the slightest.

So I’m taking the Houston Cougars to upset the Oklahoma Sooners this Saturday. And I’m doing so with gusto.

I’ll come out and say something nobody else will say: Tom Herman is currently a better football coach than Bob Stoops. Stoops has seventeen years of head coaching experience and one national championship to show for it. Meanwhile, Herman has been a head coach for all of one season.

Can anybody forget the Ohio State’s offense crumbling after Herman’s departure last season? Second to Urban Meyer, there was nobody more integral to that national championship. Stoops won his championship outright, Herman won his by proxy. Herman also managed to make Braxton Miller, then J.T. Barrett, then Cardale Jones, and now Greg Ward Jr. into Heisman-caliber signal callers. He’s legit. I expect Herman to flash his legit-ness and win the coaching battle in this interstate showdown.

By now, Oklahoma fans are likely loading their muskets and readying their covered wagons to come burn me at the stake, so I’ll go one step further. Greg Ward Jr. will perform better this Saturday than Baker Mayfield. Last season, only two quarterbacks rushed for 1,000 yards and passed for 2,000 yards. One was Greg Ward Jr. The other was Deshaun Watson. You know, the same Deshaun Watson that torched the Sooners 37-17 in the Orange Bowl.

The Sooners will struggle with containing Ward Jr. just as they struggled with containing Watson. The Sooners allowed a ho-hum 161.7 rushing yards per game last season, including 312 yards in the contest against the Tigers. Ward Jr. will be able to make enough big plays to keep momentum in Houston’s favor and the chips in Herman’s hand.

See, Baker Mayfield could throw for 350 yards on the Cougars. And guess what? It wouldn’t matter. Mayfield posted an impressive outing in the Orange Bowl, but even he couldn’t overcome the Sooners’ meager 67 rushing yards. With Houston’s eighth ranked rushing defense returning in full force, don’t expect the Sooners to do much better this time around. Forcing Baker Mayfield to throw might be a major gamble, so they’ll need a fresh secondary to earn their stripes on the largest of stages. Houston proved their resilience thirteen times last season. They can do it again.

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard- the Big 12 is probably expanding. Add yet another chip to the underdog’s shoulder. If Houston wins this game, no further proof of their worthiness should be necessary.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean they’ll get in.

You know what? Let Big 12 heavyweights like the Sooners sit back and play politics with the futures of schools like the University of Houston.  Saturday night, Houston has an opportunity to score a larger victory far from the board room: complicate Oklahoma’s playoff bid far Sooner than expected.

E-mail Cole at cole [dot] hankins [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins

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