Tag Archives: East Carolina Pirates

Felton’s Debut Season at Cleveland State Will Be Grueling

For as many basketball pundits who have already predicted that Cleveland State, under Dennis Felton, will finish at the bottom of the Horizon League rankings, the Vikings’ new head coach didn’t seem deterred by loading up the non-conference schedule with some tough contests.

Cleveland State will, for its opening months, be facing the likes of Rutgers, Michigan State and Cincinnati. As expected, The Spartans and the Bearcat will provide the Vikings with, quite bluntly, nearly impossible odds of winning, especially given the recent changes in the Cleveland State roster and coaching staff.

Ironically, though, the CSU-Cincinnati game on December 21st will be played at the home of one of Cleveland State’s conference foes, Northern Kentucky. The Bearcats, while their permanent home is being renovated, will take up temporary residence at BB&T Arena, which the Vikings will see one more time later in the season when they face the Norse in Horizon League play.

As for the Scarlet Knights, second-year head coach Steve Pikiell may find some challenges in Cleveland State, which travels to New Jersey as part of the Phil Sellers Showcase, though Rutgers has made some significant improvements to its roster since last year. This showcase will also find the Vikings hosting Coppin State on November 17th, which will be Felton’s home debut, and Central Connecticut State, with a road trip to East Carolina in between.

For the third year, Cleveland State, along with Akron, Kent State and conference foe Youngstown State, will gather for the annual Northeast Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. This season, the classic will be held in Akron, with the host Zips facing off against the Vikings on November 14th.

Akron will be one of four MAC teams that Cleveland State will face. Toledo will come to the Wolstein Center for CSU’s annual pre-Christmas match on December 23rd, while the Vikings will make the road trip to Kent State (12/2) and Western Michigan (12/6).

In what seems to be a given with Cleveland State and every other mid-major, there will be a non-Division I team on the home slate. This year, it will be Notre Dame College on December 10th. The Vikings will play a second non-D1 team, Cedarville, but this will be a November 2nd exhibition game.

Cleveland State will, in addition to its conference slate, play 14 games in the confines of the Wolstein Center. The Vikings will play host to Arkansas State on November 29th, a return matchup from the trip CSU took to Jonesboro last season.

Of course, the most anticipated game on the schedule may very well be on New Year’s Day, when the Vikings open the year, and the Horizon League, with a home contest against Youngstown State. The duel between new coaches Felton and YSU’s Jerrod Calhoun is probably marked on a few people’s calendars, though it’s a safe bet many of those folks are wearing red and white.

The competition that Cleveland State will face in 2017-18 is some of the stiffest that the Vikings have seen in some time, and you’d be forgiven if you’re not sure what to make of it. With three high-major road trips and an ever-improving Horizon League (IUIPUI notwithstanding), it seems as if CSU will not spend Felton’s opening year trying to ring up wins against low-majors to inflate its record.

At the same time, a slow burn may hinder Felton’s effort to rebuild the fan base. Whether the scheduling will serve as a benefit or deterrent to the Vikings when January 1st rolls around remains to be seen.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Vanderbilt and Virginia Experience Shocking Ends to Season

Vanderbilt and Virginia, finalists in the past two College World Series, won’t be making it a three-peat after a regional weekend both teams wish had never happened.

Life and its random cruelty interjected itself into Vanderbilt’s season on Thursday. Freshman and 2015 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year Donny Everett drowned in the presence of two of his teammates while fishing with them at Normandy Lake about an hour from Vanderbilt’s Nashville campus. Though his contributions to the team as a freshman were modest–a 0-1 record in 12 innings–he brought to the team an infectious personality and the promise of a much bigger role in the coming seasons.

Rated the 21st-best player in the country following his senior year of high school, there was talk that Everett would be a first-rounder in last summer’s Major League draft. However, he made it clear that he intended to honor the commitment he made to Vanderbilt as a sophomore, stating that “the family here is just something that you cannot pass up. The life lessons that Coach Corbin can teach me, I will always remember. The education is great and will help my life after baseball.”

Shocks like the sudden loss of a teammate sometimes can be galvanizing. That’s what the team hoped when it made the decision to press on with its Friday night game against Xavier, a game that ultimately was postponed by weather until Saturday. The baseball field offered the team a chance for refuge against the despair that hung over the program. It’s been said a thousand times by a thousand athletes in every imaginable sport. The game and its routine offers the despondent athlete the chance to get away, for a few hour at least, the grief or the guilt or the shame of personal circumstance.

“It made sense. That’s their safe haven. The field was their safe haven. Just to get some type of routine and continue to do what they do, it’s almost like a rehabilitation process for them, ” said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin of his team’s desire to play on.

Unfortunately, the team could not gather itself sufficiently for Saturday’s game and Xavier delivered what I am sure was a regrettable 15-1 thrashing of the Commodores. In the elimination game that followed, Washington ended Vanderbilt’s season by scoring seven runs in the last three innings to complete a 9-8 comeback win.

In Charlottesville, the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers were three outs from the driver’s seat in the regional it was hosting. Leading East Carolina University 6-3 heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, the Hoos were poised to advance to the winner’s bracket. Virginia’s closer Tommy Doyle had been rock solid since inheriting the closer’s role in a mid-season pitching shakeup and had looked good in striking out two of the three batters he had faced after entering the game in the 8th inning.

The Pirates had been knocking on Virginia’s door all day longhowever, having left 12 men on base prior to the ninth inning. In their last at bat, ECU finally broke through, scoring five runs off Doyle, the last three coming via a game-winning three-run homer by catcher Travis Watkins. The shocking end to a game in which it appeared that Virginia was going to prevail prompted Virginia skipper Brian O’Connor to comment that this “certainly is as difficult as any loss we have had in the NCAA Tournament.” Indeed.

Facing elimination, the Cavs on Sunday took the field against a William & Mary team it had knuckledusted 17-4 two days earlier and had beaten eleven consecutive times. The Tribe however, going back to its conference tournament, had won five consecutive elimination games. Against Virginia, it was the Hoos’ bullpen that blinked, surrendering a late lead and allowing the Tribe to put an arrow through Virginia’s season with a 5-4 victory.

Pitching and defense are the foundations upon which O’Connor has built this Virginia program into perhaps the nation’s finest during his 13-year tenure . The Cavaliers came into this season with lots of pitching questions and, aside from a late-season respite, those questions never really were answered. The Hoos had a dominant starter in junior Connor Jones, but struggled with second and third options until Adam Haseley found his groove late. Replacing last year’s dominant closer, Josh Sborz, proved to be impossible and Virginia’s bullpen in 2016 was decidedly sub-par by UVA standards. The result was that this Virginia team won “only” 38 games, a low under O’Connor and a testament to just how far this program has come since its days as an ACC doormat.

“They needed to walk off this field with their chins up and proud of what’s on the front of their jersey. When you have success like we have in this program, you have to step back and understand sometimes you’ve got to take the bad with the good. It stings. Nobody likes losing. You feel like you can continue to play forever, but we’ve had a lot of success in this program and we’re very proud of that and I’m very proud of this team,” said O’Connor as he attempted to put the 2016 season in perspective.

Vanderbilt’s players will grieve for their lost teammate and, with time, perhaps use that loss to propel them to greater heights next year. Virginia will lament a shocking end to its title defense. Both teams will send players on to the next level and both teams will once again be among the nation’s elite in 2017. Baseball is routine and the routine is the best medicine for disappointment. And tragedy.

E-mail Seward at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SewardTotty.

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

ACC Weekend Wrap Up 9/22

Coastal

Miami – Miami managed to escape Nebraska this weekend with an interception in overtime that essentially ended the game. Miami looked like they had the game wrapped up with a 23-point lead in the 4th quarter, when Nebraska rallied to force overtime. Losing a 23-point lead is never a good thing, but as QB Brad Kaaya said, “We won the game, that’s all that matters.” Miami heads into their bye week at 3-0.

Georgia Tech – Georgia Tech suffered a tough 30-22 defeat to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Even though they ended up losing by eight points, the score doesn’t really reflect the outcome of the game. Notre Dame and their front-seven controlled Georgia Tech’s triple-option run game for the whole game, and Notre Dame’s new quarterback played a pretty good game against the Yellow Jackets. This game represented something that is the downfall of a run based team, once you get down early it is hard to comeback. Georgia Tech faces Duke on the road this weekend.

Duke – Duke lost 19-10 in their first real test this year against a surprisingly good Northwestern team. This game was decided by a couple long touchdowns for Northwestern that Duke could never overcome as they only scored 10 points in the contest. Now 2-1, Duke has a big test in Georgia Tech coming into town. With a victory Duke is right back in conference contention, a loss could be detrimental to the team’s season outlook.

North Carolina – QB Marquise Williams led the Tarheels to victory behind his 3 touchdown passes and 100 rushing yards, beating Illinois handily 48-14. A lot of the Tarheels success this season will depend on how well Williams plays, and if he plays as well as he did this weekend the future is bright for this team. North Carloina faces Delaware this weekend with a tough matchup against Georgia Tech looming in two weeks.

Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Iowa Hawkeyes. After a game-tying touchdown with 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Iowa traveled down the field and scored on a 57-yard field goal as time expired. After going down 10-0 to start the game, Pittsburgh came back to tie the game after a five minute 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended up not being enough for the Panthers. Heading into their bye week 2-1, the team looks to rebound before they travel to Virginia Tech next weekend.

Virginia Tech – Virginia Tech pulled away from Purdue in the second half, ultimately cruising to a 51-24 victory. Brenden Motley played well for the Hokies passing for 220 yards and 2 TD’s while also having a rushing TD and no turnovers. Hokie fans hope Motley can continue his play from this game into the future after replacing the injured Michael Brewer. Virginia Tech plays against East Carolina on the road this Saturday.

Virginia – Virginia won their first game of the season after a brutal schedule to start, defeating William and Mary 35-29. Heading into the fourth leading 35-20, Virginia was unable to score again as William and Mary mounted their comeback. William and Mary got to Virginia’s 30 yard line with a minute left, but turned the ball over on downs to give Virginia their first win. Virginia plays another tough opponent in Boise State this weekend.

Atlantic

Clemson – Clemson managed to hold onto a game that they probably should have lost last Thursday. Louisville failed to score at the end of the fourth after Clemson allowed them a couple of chances to grab the lead. At 3-0, Clemson heads into their bye week getting ready for their tough test against the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a game that features #11 Clemson and #6 Notre Dame.

Florida State – Florida State shutout Boston College 14-0, relying on their defense the whole game. With the Seminoles’ offense sputtering and only scoring seven points, defensive standout Jalen Ramsey picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown that ended up sealing the game. Running back Dalvin Cook was injured in the game, but says that he is fine going forward. The Seminoles head into their by week 3-0, with their next game being Wake Forest on the road.

Syracuse – Syracuse defeated Central Michigan in overtime 30-27 with Jordan Frederick’s touchdown to seal it. At 3-0 Syracuse is in control of their destiny in the Atlantic division. Syracuse faces Leonard Fournette and #8 LSU at home this weekend.

NC State – NC State cruised to a 38-14 victory over Old Dominion and are now sitting at 3-0 after a pretty easy schedule to start the season. Jacoby Brissett has started the season without a turnover, and running back Matthew Dayes has had three straight 100-yard rushing games to start the season. NC State faces Southern Alabama before their first real test against Louisville in two weeks.

Boston College – Boston College lost 14-0 to the Seminoles in a game where their starting quarterback Darius Wade broke his ankle, forcing him out for the remainder of the season. This is a tough blow for the Eagles as they had a team that could surprise a few people, centered around their tough defense. It is uncertain who will be the starter for Boston College when they take on a Northern Illinois team that took Ohio State to the finish last weekend.

Wake Forest – Wake Forest defeated Army with a 47-yard field goal as the game expired. Wake Forest scored all of their points in the second half behind quarterback Kendall Hinton’s two rushing touchdowns. It wasn’t a good game for Hinton passing the ball as he threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, but he made up for it with his 101 yards on the ground. Wake Forest takes on Indiana this weekend leading up to their matchup against #10 FSU in two weeks.

Louisville – Louisville lost a tough game against Clemson after having a few chances in the fourth to tie the game. Louisville missed a game-tying field goal with two minutes left and threw an interception with time expiring. At 0-3, it has been a tough start to the season for Louisville, losing all of their games by only one score. They look to get their first victory at home against Samford this weekend.

“Guys, that was embarrassing”: Week 2 in SEC Football

“Guys, that was embarrassing…”

Those words have been torn apart by Florida Gator fans and sports journalists for the past few days. I stand with Florida Coach Jim McElwain on this one; Florida may have won, but that was an “embarrassing” effort by the Gators. Unfortunately, this same embarrassment seemed to be prominent in about half of the games that SEC football teams played in last weekend. Some of the winners put forth an “embarrassing” effort, even though they did manage to secure a win. And obviously the big losers just put forth an outright shameful performance on Saturday.

GUYS, THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. This mortifying weekend for SEC football came right after a record-setting poll vote last week. The SEC entered the weekend with ten ranked teams. They exited the weekend with only seven ranked teams. It’s awful for me to have to relive this weekend of SEC football, but I’ll be glad to put all the underperforming teams on blast for your enjoyment. Maybe I’ll even get a kick out of it too.

The Losers

The worst loss suffered by an SEC football team this weekend belongs to Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas somehow managed to lose to Toledo…in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m still not 100% sure how this even happened. Even looking at the statistics for the game, it just seems incredible that Arkansas found a way to lose this game. The Toledo Rockets came into this game as 21-point underdogs and left this game victorious. Performances like this one from Arkansas are the reason people are saying the entire SEC is overrated this year. Arkansas was one of those ten ranked teams from the SEC, but now they’ve become the laughing stock of SEC critics everywhere. Thanks, Arkansas. I’m sure Toledo enjoyed their “borderline erotic” win against and overrated SEC football team.

This second loss is actually painful for me to write about. I watched as the Vols jumped out to an early 17-0 lead over the Oklahoma Sooners. I watched that lead turn into a 17-3 lead, but still wasn’t concerned. I saw the Oklahoma offense really start to warm up in the fourth quarter, and then I was nervous. Somehow the Vols managed to let a 17-point lead turn into a game that was tied at the end of regulation. In the first overtime period, both teams scored touchdowns. But in the second overtime period, Oklahoma’s offense moved the ball and Tennessee’s gave up the ball. What was once an impressive 17-point lead at home had become a gut-wrenching double overtime loss. What does this mean for Tennessee heading into the rest of the season? I have no clue. Maybe they just had an “off” half. Clearly they are capable of dominating a strong opponent for one half. But it takes two good halves of football to win the game, not just one. So can the Vols finally get it done this season? After Saturday, I really don’t know.

The Winners That Also Lost

Auburn…what was that? I really am at a loss for words about Auburn’s home game against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. I’m starting to think Will Muschamp just tries to lose to FCS opponents. The offense struggled behind QB Jeremy Johnson and his two interceptions. Johnson was supposed to be a Heisman Trophy candidate but now he’s literally throwing away his chances of receiving that honor. On top of a weak offense, the Tigers gave up 438 yards on defense…to an FCS team. I just don’t get it. If the Tigers hadn’t pulled together for that last-minute score, then they would’ve never taken the game to overtime. But even winning in overtime is embarrassing against a team like Jacksonville State. I don’t know what’s going on, but please just get it together Auburn…please.

Missouri also had a scare against Sun Belt opponent Arkansas State, a team that had just been absolutely crushed by the USC Trojans during the opening weekend of college football. If it weren’t for Maty Mauk and Kentrell Brothers, the Missouri Tigers definitely would’ve suffered an embarrassing loss to the Arkansas State Red Wolves. The Tigers actually went into the second half down 17-10 and somehow managed to fight back and win 27-20. How did they do it? In the second half Missouri’s defense, led by Kentrell Brothers, only allowed 37 yards and 3 points for the Red Wolves offense. Meanwhile, QB Maty Mauk put the team on his back and ended the game with 3 passing TDs as well as 75 rushing yards. Heading into conference play, the Tigers need more players than just Mauk and Brothers to actually show up to the games. SEC opponents aren’t quite as forgiving as Sun Belt opponents.

And now we finally get to look at the game that gave me this week’s article title. The Florida Gators played a humiliating game at home against the East Carolina Pirates. Just like last season, Florida’s kicker Austin Hardin proved to be anything but clutch, missing two field goal attempts that were both under 40 yards. QB Will Grier still looked like the Will Grier Florida fans were so excited about recruiting, but his rhythm was interrupted as he still shared playing time with Treon Harris. And even though the Gators held the Pirates to negative rushing yards (I know, shocking), they were unable to stop their passing game AT ALL. Not to mention, the Gators also racked up all sorts of penalties throughout the game. It went down to the wire, but Florida managed to get a crucial fumble recovery to seal their victory. Coach Jim McElwain was anything but impressed by this lackluster performance and had some choice words for his team throughout the night. At the end of the day, yes…Florida did win. But McElwain was definitely correct when he highlighted selfish mistakes and called their overall performance “embarrassing.”

“You guys should be embarrassed having to write about it!”

I am embarrassed…thanks for validating that Coach McElwain. I actually almost feel like this was a therapy session, during which I could air my grievances with SEC football teams. That’s how bad last week was for SEC football. Hopefully throughout the coming weeks, these teams can get their acts together and start playing like they belong in the best conference in college football. I’m just so tired of hearing all the doubters say the SEC isn’t the best conference anymore. But after last week even I am starting to think the doubters may be right. By the way, does anybody know if Georgia left their passing game in Athens last week? I couldn’t find it when they were in Nashville.

Sometimes I tweet about football…follow @OGKristenB!

Analyzing the Initial Playoff Rankings

Tuesday night we got our first glimpse into the minds of playoff committee members. Did you like what you saw? The general consensus seems to be that it was refreshing not to just be a re-hashed version of the Coaches and Media polls. The first thing that stood out was the number of SEC teams. This wasn’t a huge surprise considering the attention the SEC West has gotten thus far, but it’s still a bit of a shock seeing 3 of the top 4 and 4 of the top 6 from the SEC. Whether that strength of the SEC West is real or merely perceived is yet to be determined, but throw that in with every conference besides perhaps the Big 12 being down and I think the committee’s rankings are more or less justified.
What is more surprising is there seems to be a relative lack of uproar at the SEC love in these rankings, at least compared to what I had expected. I may be missing it, or fans just might be getting smarter. Sure it might be frustrating if you’re one of those one loss teams in the Top 10 sitting behind several SEC one loss teams. In the end however, you realize all those SEC teams will play each other and if your team takes care of business it will be in good shape.
So who are some teams that are in a good position? Three teams that are in a better position than I thought they would be are Auburn, Oregon, and Michigan State. I expected Auburn to be in the 5-7 range so to see them at 3 ahead of Ole Miss and Alabama is a bit of a surprise. Part of this is probably because the committee clearly thinks higher of Kansas State (ranked 9th) than most people. Kansas State winning the Big 12 would definitely be a boost to Auburn’s resume and would give them an outside shot at making the playoff even with two losses. Oregon at 5 was also a bit of a surprise. After their loss to Arizona it seemed like they were already being written off as far as a playoff berth was concerned. To see them at 5 has to have Ducks fans thrilled. They don’t have a margin for error but as high as they are, if they win out they’ll make the playoff. And the team I was happiest to see where it was ranked was Michigan State at 8. I’m probably higher on the Spartans than anybody. Not that my opinion means any more than the next person’s, but we all like to be right. I thought the Spartans might get the treatment teams like Baylor and Ohio State got, maybe 10 or outside the Top 10 with a laundry list of things needing to go their way. Sitting at 8 isn’t bad though. Their loss is to the number 5 team on the road and if they win out they just have to hope the committee would rather choose a conference champion than a team that didn’t win its division.
And then there are the teams on the short end of the stick. The Fighting Irish, Bears, and Buckeyes of the world who probably aren’t feeling great right about now. Many thought the Irish were still sitting pretty having lost a close one in Tallahassee to the defending champs. Their best win being against Stanford really hurts them, and they really only have one more game to make a huge statement at Arizona State on November 8th. The Buckeyes don’t have a signature win either, but they have the opposite problem as the Irish. Their lone loss was at the opposite end of the spectrum as Notre Dame. It will be hard to overcome that loss to Virginia Tech. On the flip side, they do have a game looming at Michigan State and a potential Big 10 championship game to make their case. It seemed like they had some momentum after the last few weeks so it was a little surprising to see them this low. A huge surprise is what it was to see Baylor down at 13. If the committee can clearly forgive Alabama for struggling against West Virginia on a neutral field, how can they drop Baylor so low when Baylor has a much better win than Alabama? Baylor beat TCU who the committee has 7, and Alabama’s best win is against #20 West Virginia.
One thing we can gather from these rankings is that the little guy has no shot. East Carolina comes in at 23 and undefeated Marshall is nowhere to be found. Teams like Louisville and TCU have joined Power 5 conferences in the last half decade or so, not just lowering the number of more dominant non-Power 5 teams, but diminishing those conferences as well. Even if a team like Boise State regained its tenuous Top 10 status from a few years ago, their conference would be so weak that it would be almost impossible to make the playoff. As we see with some major conference teams already, one big-time win isn’t going to cut it.
Overall, it was refreshing to see a playoff committee coming out with rankings. Not some BCS system that used five hundred eighty seven variables that no one understood. Not a BCS system that was easily predictable and had a much higher chance of leaving deserving teams out. But a group of people watching games and trying to use reason to decide what teams are the best. Questions still remain. Like would the committee keep a two-loss SEC team in ahead of a one-loss Oregon/TCU/Michigan State? We may not like what we see now, but there are multiple games to be played between those top four SEC teams and rarely do things finish with the worst case scenario (like a 3-way tie atop the Big 12). One thing I do know is that whether there are four conference champions or four SEC teams in the playoff, I, like most college football fans, am going to have my eyes glued to the TV come New Year’s Day.

Mississippi is Football Country-For Now

Another week down and another Mississippi fairy tale chapter is written. The two Mississippi teams in the top 3, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, have now both started 6-0 after wins this week against Texas A&M and Auburn, respectively. As of today, Mississippi State has jumped Florida State in the rankings to move to number 1 after defeating (2) Auburn, 38-23. Dak Prescott continues to look like a Heisman candidate, and finished this game with 3 total touchdowns, including two on the ground. Prescott did throw two picks on the night, and so did Marshall for Auburn as the defenses frustrated both teams at some point in the game.

Ole Miss continues to surprise everybody, and as it says, "Never Quit".
Ole Miss continues to surprise everybody, and as it says, “Never Quit”.

A)Ole Miss went to College Station and knocked off (14) Texas A&M, 35-20. Bo Wallace played his best football yet for the Rebels, going 13-19 for 178 yards and a touchdown, also adding 50 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Kenny Hill looked human once again for the Aggies, although he finished with 400 yards and two touchdowns, as well as two picks. Texas A&M is improving, but the next few weeks they face Alabama, Auburn, and Missouri.
Dak Prescott adds to his Heisman resume and have now made the Bulldogs the number 1 team in the country.
Dak Prescott adds to his Heisman resume and have now made the Bulldogs the number 1 team in the country.

B)Florida State won and dropped in the rankings, somehow. Jameis Winston played mistake-free football and posted an impressive stat line of 30-36 with 317 yards and 3 touchdowns as they beat Syracuse on the road, 38-20.
C)The most interesting game of the night was in the Big 12. (5) Baylor hosted (9) TCU, and the Bears came away with this win. Bryce Petty finished with 510 yards passing and 6 touchdowns, and Boykin posted an impressive stat line for the Horned Frogs throwing for 287 yards and a touchdowns. TCU was in control for most of this game, but Baylor finished the game with 24 unanswered points, all in the fourth quarter. Baylor is now ranked fourth and in the thick of the Playoff talk.
Bryce Petty led his team to a huge victory over TCU.
Bryce Petty led his team to a huge victory over TCU.

D)Elsewhere in the Big 12, Oklahoma bounced back after a tough loss to TCU, and beat Texas 31-26. Trevor Knight and the Sooners did just enough to win, but Charlie Strong has these Longhorns playing solid football now. Oklahoma has a tough test next week against Kansas State. Also in the Big 12, Oklahoma State defeated Kansas on the road, 27-20.
E) Georgia responded unbelievably well after the loss of Todd Gurley, who is suspended indefinitely for an NCAA rules violation. The Bulldogs blanked Missouri, on the road, 34-0. The youngster Nick Chubb finished with 38 carries for 143 yards and a touchdowns on the ground, who started for Gurley. Maty Mauk and the Tigers struggled offensively and defensively in this one, and Mauk finished with a dismal 97 yards passing and 4 interceptions. Georgia has combined to number 10 this week and even without Todd Gurley look like a dangerous team.
F) The PAC 12 keeps getting more and more confusong after each week, mainly because everyone keeps beating each other. (25) Stanford defeated Washington State, 34-17 in Palo Alto. Meanwhile, USC went and upset (10) Arizona
in a nailbiter, 28-26. Javorius Allen had a monstrous game for the Trojans, rushing 26 times for 205 yards and 3 touchdowns. Arizona did play well, and scored a touchdown with one minute left in the game but failed on the two point conversion. Anu Solomom threw for 395 yards and one touchdown yesterday for the Wildcats, who dropped down to 16 while USC came back in the Top 25 after dropping out last week.
Allen played a huge game for the Trojans in their upset against Arizona.
Allen played a huge game for the Trojans in their upset against Arizona.

G) Oregon defetaed UCLA in another top 25 matchup, with a final of 42-30. Mariota responded well for the Ducks and finished with 4 total touchdowns. Brett Hundley played decnt in this one too but the high-powered Oregon Offense was too much for this Bruins defense. Oregon has now moved up to 9 and UCLA has fallen out of the rankings with back-to-back losses.
H) Alabama struggled against the Razorbacks on the road, but came out with the victory 14-13. Arkansas continues to impress especially on the defensive side of the ball, and this Alabama offense is a little concerning now. Blake Sims played another solid game and the Crimson Tide always finds ways to win.
I) Michigan State knocked off Purdue, 45-31. Connor Cook impressed again for Mark D’Antonio’s team, finishing this one with 237 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Spartans are sleepers for the Playoff and need help from other teams ahead of them. Their time will come.
cook
J) East Carolina defeated South Florida on the road 28-17, although they trailed big early on in this one. Georgia Tech was upset at home by Duke, 31-25 and the ACC continues to disappoint, aside from the Seminoles.
K) Notre Dame won a shootout against North Carolina, 50-43. Both teams had huge offensive performances by their quarterbacks. Marquise Williams finished with 3 total touchdowns, including 130 yards rushing and Evert Golson finished with 300 yard and three touchdowns. Both quarterbacks threw one pick, but the Irish found a way to win and have moved into the top 5 thanks to Auburn losing.
golson
As far as the playoff goes, this is all so crazy and unpredictable. The two Mississippi schools still have some tiugh SEC games left, and it might come down to the last game of the season when the Rebels host Mississippi State on November 29. However, Alabama is still a contender and with some help can instantly shoot right back into the conversation. As of today by top 4 have to be the top 4 in rhe rankins. However, I feel the playoff will be this: Florida State, Mississippi State, Baylor, and Notre Dame. This is all depending on next’s week game, as the Irish take on the Seminoles in a huge match up. Golson and the Fighting Irish could be poised for a huge uoset win, but the Seminoles are liking on all cylinders right now. Baylor has some tough Big 12 games and have looked vulnerable, but have also looked unstoppable. And of course one of the Mississippi schools will be here, whether its State or Ole Miss, it has to be one of them, right? The SEC will sort itself out in one way or another, and so will the Playoff.
playoff
Only time will tell.

ACC Coastal: Looming Chaos?

The fourth week of the season did little to provide clarity about the pecking order of the ACC Coastal division. If anything, it looks like the coastal crown might turn into a game of “hot potato”.
GT vs. VT. I expected Virginia Tech to win this game in a romp. Georgia Tech came to Lane Stadium undefeated but with a resume of underwhelming performances against an even more underwhelming slate of opponents. The Jackets left Blacksburg with a signature win and the Hokies scratching their heads trying to figure out what went wrong. Virginia Tech is a team with a lot of talent. How that talent lost to Georgia Tech is a classic example of the old adage that games are played on the field, not on paper. Georgia Tech was tenacious, never gave up, and made big plays when it counted. Virginia Tech on the other hand made silly mistakes that resulted in untimely penalties and followed those up with poor decisions and blown assignments. The harsh reality for Virginia Tech fans is that if Georgia Tech had even a mediocre passing game they would have won this game by more than two touchdowns. Georgia Tech failed to convert two wide-open touchdown passes that the average Pop Warner team completes on a weekly basis.
Virginia Tech has a lot of soul searching to do this week and Frank Beamer has to decide if Michael Brewer is the quarterback to lead this team. There is no question that Brewer has the arm to make every throw in the Hokie playbook. He has shown himself to be a tough quarterback who hustles on every play – as evidenced by his fumble recovery for a go-ahead touchdown this weekend. However Brewer is also a quarterback who makes some terrible decisions and can single handedly keep both teams in the game. Michael Brewer didn’t lose this game for the Hokies, but he made it a heck of a lot easier for the Yellow Jackets to win.
Were I Frank Beamer this week, I would first thank my lucky stars that I have Western Michigan this coming to Blacksburg on Saturday. Second, I would tell Michael Brewer he has the first half to put the Western Michigan game away. I would also tell Mark Leal that he will play the entire second half and has a chance to be the Hokies’ starting QB when they travel to Chapel Hill. I might have similar conversations with the starters across the offensive line as well. With the bright glow of a big win in Columbus fading to flicker, a talented Hokie team finds itself at an unexpected crossroads early in the season.
UNC vs. ECU: I thought the VT/GT game would be the biggest surprise of the weekend. I was wrong. East Carolina thumped UNC 70-41. This game was not close to being close. What struck me about UNC was that their defense never lost its swagger. A defense that gave up 70 points and almost 800 yards to ECU after giving up over 500 yards and 29 points to an unimpressive San Diego St team a week earlier continued to strut and preen as if they were playing shutdown defense instead of giving up an average of over 8 yards a play. On offense, the UNC QB shuffle was a mystery to me. Marquise Williams, while inconsistent to date, has tremendous upside and elite potential. He pressed and made mistakes re-entering the game after watching teammate Mitch Trubisky sputter the offense which did nothing to help the UNC cause.
I recall last year Carolina fans were worried about Larry Fedora and the lure of a big contract from a big-time program. I think the Heels can relax, because Coach Fedora will likely be in Chapel Hill as long as they can stand him.

ECU. Gettin’ it done.

UVa vs. BYU: Virginia already had one moral victory this season. They didn’t need another one. Once again, a quick review of the box score suggests a UVa victory over BYU and once again that suggestion would be wrong. No other team in the country has played 3 ranked teams in their first 4 games. UVa has played well enough to be at worst 3-1. Instead, they are 2-2 and must win their next two games to remain relevant in the ACC coastal and give Mike London a chance to keep his job. The time has come for UVa to turn its improved play into real victories instead of moral victories. ‘Nuff said.
Pitt vs. Iowa: This was a great game with two teams that had to look across the field and think they were looking in the mirror. Pitt and Iowa are not teams that will beat you with overwhelming speed. They are both physical, straight- ahead, smash mouth teams. Running back James Connor and wide Receiver Tyler Boyd are all-ACC talents who had tremendous games on Saturday. Chad Voytik continued to show that he is a very solid QB who can make tough throws under pressure. Unfortunately for Pitt, when a team that looks like it is playing Big10 football encounters an opponent that lives and breathes Big10 football, the imposter usually comes up on the short end of the stick.  Pitt gets a week hone its game against the Akron Zips before a showdown under the lights in Charlottesville.
Miami vs. Nebraska: When Nebraska rushes for over 300 yards, they usually win. Saturday against Miami was no exception. Running the ball is Nebraska football. An inability to stop good running teams is quickly becoming part of Miami football. Miami was unable to stop the Nebraska ground game and squandered an impressive passing performance from freshman QB Brad Kaaya, coming up short against the ‘Huskers in Lincoln. After 4 games, Miami has two wins against overmatched opponents and two losses to very strong opponents. While Miami has an abundance of talent and an excellent head coach in Al Golden, the ‘Canes have yet to put forth an impressive 4 quarters of football 4 weeks into the season.
Duke: Duke played its fourth game in a row against an opponent that had no chance to win.
 
 

Pirates Shoot Down the Hokies

Wait, your school doesn't have one of these? You're doing it wrong. Photo: Wikipedia
 
I am not surprised that East Carolina beat Virginia Tech; I predicted a Pirate victory.  The surprising is how East Carolina won. The amazing thing about this victory is the Pirate’s leading receiver, Justin Hardy, was held to four receptions for forty-seven yards; East Carolina was inside the Virginia Tech 20 three times with 0 points to show for the effort and Virginia Tech scored 21 points and despite all that, the Pirates won.
The Pirates have matured and won because they are a solid balanced team. The offense is comprised of more than a Shane Carden pass to Justin Hardy. Virginia Tech limited Hardy to forty-seven yards, but Cam Worthy stepped up with six receptions for 224 yards. Jimmy Williams also had a solid performance with four catches four catches for seventy-seven yards. Trevon Brown, Bryce Williams and Isaiah Jones all caught a touchdown pass. Breon Allen rushed for 54 yards on 8 carries. That is 6.75 yards per carry. Despite giving up four sacks, the offensive line is due accolades. They gave Carden the time to hook up with Worthy on the longer passes. Scoring 28 points on a Virginia Tech defense is a big deal and only happens if everybody steps up and does their job.
The defense did their job. Terry Williams return  to  the defensive line was big. That gave the Pirates the heft to stop the run and collapse the Virginia Tech offensive line in on the quarterback when he tried to pass on key downs. The defensive secondary held Tech in check for most of the game. Josh Hawkins’ three interceptions were a big factor in ECU’s success against Virginia Tech.
This game was a solid win and a team effort. The Pirates did not play a flawless game, but they had the athleticism and determination to overcome their mistakes. Against South Carolina, the Pirates played toe to toe with a national power and came up a little short. This week, they played a nationally ranked team and used their toes to kick Virginia Tech’s butt.
Next week UNC comes to Dowdy-Ficklen. No doubt UNC has circled September 20 in their calendar for revenge due to the lopsided victory that ECU had over the Tar Heels last year. Moreover, UNC had an open date on September 13 and should be well rested and well prepared for the Pirates on September 20. However, East Carolina will lay another solid whipping on UNC for three reasons. One, East Carolina is simply a better team. The second reason, the game will be played in Dowdy-Ficklen; the ECU fans will be loud and proud. Third; the Pirates are a better disciplined football team. UNC will score to two or three touchdowns; I expect UNC will get an easy touchdown over the top of the Pirate defense.
However, UNC fell behind to Liberty and San Diego State in their first two games due to turnovers and sloppy play. This is a result of a lack of discipline and focus. Just as the off-field problems faced by the UNC football team are due to an institutional lack of discipline and commitment to doing things the right way, that attitude appears to have filtered down to the football team. However, ACC refs will be calling the game, and UNC will get some questionable calls and non-calls to go their way, but Saturday in Blacksburg the Pirates demonstrated they can survive bad calls, self-inflicted wounds and still do what is necessary to win.
The UNC game is a must win for the Pirates. The Pirates are now competing for a national ranking and exposure. The Tar Heels have some talented individuals, and the Pirates cannot take them for granted. However, all East Carolina has to do is play Pirate football to come away with a win. The Pirates take this game by ten points are better and then get a well deserved rest the next week before starting AAC play in Greenville on October 4 against the SMU.

East Carolina Preseason Predictions

During the weeks leading up to the opening game, I will make my preseason predictions for East Carolina football in weekly installments. This week, the first four games are covered, North Carolina Central University, University of South Carolina, Virginia Tech and UNC.
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North Carolina Central University at East Carolina (Greenville NC) Saturday August 30.
East Carolina opens the season with a home game against the North Carolina Central University Eagles. The Pirates will take this game, but it will be closer than anticipated for two reasons. First, something in the DNA of ECU football requires games to be closer than a cold analysis of the game indicates it should be. A typical ECU football team will scrap, claw and hang in against a top 10 team and the next week, will fail to put away a much weaker team and have to engage in fourth quarter heroics to pull out a win. The second reason it will be a closer game than anticipated, NCCU has talent. Adrian Wilkins was selected as a preseason All-American punt returner by Athlon Sports. Nathan Scruggs was placed on the watch-list of tight ends by the CFPA. The Eagles’ quarterback, Quinn Billerman, is a transfer from the New Mexico Military Institute. While at NMM, he passed for over 2962 yards and 34 touchdowns in the 2013 season. The Eagles also have some tough defensive secondary players returning.
ECU takes NCCU. However, for this game to be a success, ECU needs to execute with precision. The danger for ECU is the Pirates play sloppy ball and win because the Pirates have superior athletic talent and depth. Then, the sloppy habits carry over to the next week at Columbia when the Pirates play the South Carolina Gamecocks.
East Carolina at South Carolina Williams (Columbia S.C.) Saturday September 6
Upset special. East Carolina wins this game. Shane Carden and Justin Hardy are not about throwing and catching the football; they are about winning. Both have shown they are unselfish team first, tough guys. Everyone knows about Justin Hardy’s virtuoso receiving skills, but he is so much more than just a great receiver. He is dedicated to doing what is needed for the team to win. He so emphatically demonstrated that attribute at the 2013 UNC game. Hardy destroyed the UNC defensive back Malik Simmons with a bone jarring block to spring quarterback Shane Carden for a first down run. As for Shane Carden, he was born to play football. He can pass, but he can also pick up the important three yards on the ground to get a first down or a touchdown.
The Gamecocks have lost a ton of talent from their 2013 team. First,  Jadeveon Clowney is gone. Alone, Jadeveon Clowney’s move to the NFL constitutes a major loss of talent for South Carolina. Also Connor Shaw, the starting quarterback from 2011 to 2013,  is gone.
However, the cupboard is not bare. Dylan Thompson will prove to be an able replacement at the quarterback position. He started against ECU in the 2012 game and completed 21 of 37 passes for 330 yards. However, passing for 330 yards against the 2012 Pirate defense was not a big feat. The 2014 ECU defense should be better than the 2012 defense. But of course, Thompson should be better in 2014 than he was in 2012.
The schedule is favorable to East Carolina. The Pirates open at home against North Carolina Central University. South Carolina opens on the road against Texas A &M, but will have a nine day recuperation period before they play the Pirates. Also, the week after playing the Pirates, the Gamecocks play a key conference game against Georgia. It is possible that the Gamecocks will be focusing on the Bulldogs and forget about the Pirates, to the determent of the Gamecocks.
The strength of the East Carolina defense is upfront. Terry Williams, Zeek Bigger (Can there be a better name than Zeek Bigger for a linebacker?) Montrose Overton and their teammates should make it tough for opposing teams to run on the Pirates.
As good as Carden, Hardy and the team as a whole were in 2013; they all have something to prove. The Pirates were a good team in 2012, a better team in 2013, but still, just a good team. This will be Carden and Hardy’s last year in the purple and gold. Good will not be good enough. A win at South Carolina helps to separate the 2014 Pirates from the good teams and will be big step toward the 2014 Pirates being a great team.  East Carolina wins in a shoot-out.
East Carolina  at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA) Saturday September 13
The loss of  Logan Thomas , starting quarterback from 2011 to 2013, should cause a decline in Virginia Tech offensive production.  However traditionallyoffense at Virginia Tech is a take it or leave it option. Virginia Tech is about defense. If the sun rises during the 2014 football season, Virginia Tech will have a strong defense.
In 2013, Virginia Tech beat East Carolina 15 to 10. To beat Virginia Tech, East Carolina needs to take it up a notch, which is easier said than done. However, East Carolina should have a better offense in 2014 than it had in 2013. Carden has one more year of experience. Freshman receivers from 2013, such as Isaiah Jones and Devon Grayson, have gained crucial experience from 2013. East Carolina wins, but in a relatively low scoring game.
North Carolina at East Carolina (Greenville) Saturday September 20
The line from UNC last year was that they overlooked ECU, did not take the Pirates serious. Bull, East Carolina just flat out had a better team and will this year in Greenville. East Carolina has a real shot at being 3 and O when UNC comes to Greenville. If East Carolina is 3-0, Dowdy Ficklen will be rocking and rolling when the Pirates play the Tar Hells. If East Carolina has lost a game, the Pirates will be even more dangerous. It will be on the Pirate coaching staff to get the team focused on the fundamentals of Pirate football.
UNC has a mobile quarterback, Marquise Williams. East Carolina’s defensive front  should stymie the UNC ground attack. Some damage will be inflicted to East Carolina through the air with deep passes.
The UNC defense could not stop the ECU offense in 2013; they will not be able to stop the Pirates this year. The Pirates win.