Tag Archives: Miami Hurricanes

The Unfortunate Return of “The U”

Like Jason in the “Friday the 13th” Movies, “The U” appears to be back.

I know “everyone” (defined as the college football media and the FCS-sized Miami fan base) seems to be excited about the reemergence of “The U”. I’m not going to lie, I kind of liked Miami more when they were “The Who?” based on their pedestrian performance since joining the ACC in 2004.

Let’s be honest about Miami, they don’t represent the best that college sports have to offer America’s youth, even when they aren’t very good. What does Miami have in common with classic NFL warriors like Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Heath Miller, & Mike Singletary? I’d say the answer is nothing.

Unfortunately, Virginia gave the ‘Canes the opportunity to sport their ridiculous turnover chain 3 times on Saturday. Virginia played a spirited game against Miami on Saturday. Virginia fans might complain that this was a winnable, signature game that got away. Virginia has rallied well many times this season when they took a punch from their opponents and turned tough games into wins. Miami’s punches didn’t crush Virginia on Saturday, rather Virginia punching itself undid its aspirations for an unlikely win. For all the things Virginia did well against the Canes, to beat the #3 team in the country on the road takes a near flawless performance. For all of the positive plays Virginia made, there were too many field-position mistakes that allowed Miami’s offense to start with short fields well inside Virginia territory.

The bottom line on the game? Miami has more better players than Virginia, an outstanding head coach, and played in front of a crowd that exceeded Miami’s normal FCS standards. Virginia made a few critical mistakes that hurt their cause. If one is a conspiracy theorist, the fix was in from on high from the ACC or the NCAA as officiating was below Pop Warner quality, with the worst calls all going against Virginia.

The worst part of Virginia’s loss to Miami was not the loss itself, but rather that it tossed fuel on the fire for the resurrection of “The U” and all that it entails. Some things are best left in the trash bin of American culture. Breakdancing, Pet Rocks, The Bee Gees, and the unfortunate antics of “The U” are things we all could have done without in perpetuity.

“The U” joined the ACC in 2004 along with Virginia Tech. There is no doubt ACC leadership had dreams of regular FSU/Miami championship games with packed stadiums and signed contracts for the first 5 ACC title games to be played in Florida. When Wake Forest showed up to play Georgia Tech in 2006, and Boston College played Virginia Tech the following 2 years, things were not exactly going according to plan.

Miami is finally going to make it to the ACC title game this year, albeit 12 years late. The worst thing that could happen for the ACC, college athletics, and the future of American culture would be for Miami to win this game. While the antics of “The U” are not yet down to the standards of the past, I loathe the thought of what could pass, should Miami beat Clemson in 2 weeks.

When I think about the epics struggles in American athletics over the years and the societal good that so many have delivered to American culture, I wonder what true legends like Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Hank Aaron would have to say about the turnover chain and the bravado of “The U”. I suspect they might wonder what it was they suffered and fought for if this was the end result.

Let’s hope for a Clemson victory in the ACC championship game and for a modicum of restraint if the unthinkable happens.

Will ACC Football Continue Its Roll After Last Season?

Will ACC football do it again? I could answer this question in a couple sentences, but that wouldn’t be any fun for anyone.

ACC football was on a roll at the end of the year last year, with ACC teams winning the overwhelming majority of the bowl games in which they played. Not to mention, Clemson eventually won the National Championship Game.

With a new season less than a few weeks away, now is definitely the time to ponder whether the ACC can (and will) do it again. For me, it depends on what exactly “it” is. If the ACC must win the title and win the same number of bowl games, I just don’t see that happening again. If the ACC simply must have a playoff participant and win most of its bowl games, then maybe “it” can be done.

The playoff participant I’d expect to emerge from the ACC this season would not be the Clemson Tigers, though. If anything, I expect the Florida State Seminoles to earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs this postseason and be the ACC team mostly likely to win the title. Vegas says I’m not alone in this expectation.

Florida State may have lost running back Dalvin Cook, but it looks ready to reload and move forward this season. Cam Akers is expected to pick up where Cook left off, so Seminole fans need not worry about that loss. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois also has an entire season of experience now, which should help him better lead the Florida State offense. The Seminole defense returns countless starters and will have Derwin James back this season (if he can stay healthy). This combination of offensive and defensive power is what makes Vegas (and me) hot on Florida State this year.

On the other hand, Clemson is in for a rebuilding year after losing its dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson to the NFL. The Tigers lost multiple other starters that leave a few big holes on both sides of the ball. Two major departures that come to mind are Ben Boulware (defense) and Mike Williams (offense). Clemson fans might place their confidence in Dorian O’Daniel and Hunter Renfrow to step up to replace those two, but I don’t have that same confidence—yet.

As far as the non-conference games during the season and the bowl games during the postseason go, there are countless other ACC football teams that look ready to take on formidable opponents. I’ll be brief, but here are a few teams worth giving some attention.

Virginia Tech had a great first season under one of my favorite head coaches, Justin Fuente. If the Hokies can improve their ball security, they may even finish above that 9-3 mark from last season.

Miami had a solid season under Mark Richt as well. Hurricane fans remain confident as ever, but I’m not entirely sure what to make of this team now that quarterback Brad Kaaya is gone. He may not have been elite, but he was an important part of Richt’s offense.

Louisville was flying high behind Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson early last season, but fell from grace by the end of the year. After watching that collapse, the Cardinals are another team that I really don’t know what to think about yet.

Georgia Tech had an interesting season last year, finishing 8-4 in the regular season and beating two SEC teams during that time. The Yellow Jackets beat the Vanderbilt Commodores and the in-state rival Georgia Bulldogs during the regular season. Georgia Tech also went on to beat Kentucky in its bowl game. This season, Georgia Tech gets a chance to prove itself early against another SEC foe—the Tennessee Volunteers. Let it be known right now that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yellow Jackets take down the Vols in this season opener.

The Pittsburgh Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels, and NC State Wolfpack are a few other teams to keep on the radar in the ACC this season.

To wrap things up I’m also going to give you my prediction for the end-of-year standings in the ACC.

ACC Atlantic Division:
  1. Florida State
  2. Clemson
  3. Louisville
  4. NC State
  5. Syracuse
  6. Wake Forest
  7. Boston College
ACC Coastal Division:
  1. Virginia Tech
  2. Miami
  3. Georgia Tech
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. North Carolina
  6. Duke
  7. Virginia

With those being my standings, I would expect Florida State to beat Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game and secure a spot in the College Football Playoffs.

While the ACC may not be quite as good as last year, I do still expect a championship contender from the conference and a strong record in non-conference games.

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

Featured photo courtesy of Ashley Romanosky.

The Real Madness of March

Every year, I spend far more time and energy than I should filling out my NCAA Tournament March Madness bracket.  I debate whether chalk or Cinderella’s will prevail.  I agonize over which 12-5 upsets are ripe for the picking.  I look at strength of schedule and see who beat who, as if that matters.  Then, I spend the entire tournament second guessing myself.

Inevitably, I get caught in between rooting for my bracket and cheering for those Cinderella’s that capture our hearts.  It ends up being a very stressful month and at the end, I never feel like I have fully enjoyed what is truly an amazing sporting event.

I like to act as if I know what I’m talking about when predicting these games.  Really, I don’t.  None of us do.  Why bother pretending?  It’s not like I’m a big college basketball fan anyway.  I mean, sure, I watch the tournament religiously.  The first Thursday and Friday of games are days that I believe should be national holidays.  Why play the charade of going to work and acting like I’m not watching online?  I am.  #SorryNotSorry (I am, however, sorry I just used that expression. #NeverAgain)

Anyway, when it comes to regular season college basketball, I never watch many games.  This season though, that’s never been truer.  Confession: I watched a grand total of three full college basketball games this winter.  The complete list: Mt. St. Mary’s vs. Michigan (I was actually in attendance), Xavier vs. Cincinnati (Go Bearcats! #BeatX), and Tulsa vs. Cincinnati (Again, I was in attendance).

So, yeah, I don’t really have any idea what went on this college basketball season.  (Though, I hear tripping people has become a hot button issue.)  What I do know, from hardly following along, is that there was a lot of movement in the Top 25.  It seems to me that this is one of those years where there are a ton of good teams in the field, but not many great ones.  Is that a fair assessment?  Honestly, I’m asking.

Let’s highlight some things as I take my first look at the bracket.  (That’s right; I didn’t watch the selection show either.)

East

Hey!  Mt. St. Mary’s made the field… sorta.  The only first round upsets I have here are Marquette over South Carolina and New Mexico State over that Baptist school in Waco, Texas.  Give me Virginia over Florida in the second round.  Other than that, there’s nothing too exciting.  Looks like an easy path to the Final Four for defending champion Villanova.

Midwest

Woo, lots going on here.  First, Michigan State got lucky.  The Spartans are bad but the Hurricanes sound beatable.  The rest of the first round seems pedestrian but man, look at these possible second round matchups.  Kansas vs. Michigan State is enough said.  Iowa State meets Purdue in a battle of teams with high hopes.  Creighton vs. Oregon will be fun.  And Michigan gets a shot at revenge against Louisville.  I’m still upset about 2013 and, as a result, I’m going into full homer mode.  The Wolverines beat the Cardinals, the Ducks, and the Jayhawks on their way to Phoenix.  (#SorryNotSorry… Damnit, that didn’t last long.)

West

Smart guy alert in the 8-9 matchup as Northwestern and Vanderbilt get together.  Wait, the Northwestern Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament!  Congrats to them.  I’ll even pencil in an opening round win for them before getting smacked by Gonzaga.  Give me the other smart guys at Princeton to pull the upset on Notre Dame.  On the bottom half, I’m going a little upset crazy.  Florida Gulf Coast makes another run to the second weekend with wins over Florida State and Maryland.  And St. Mary’s finds its way to the Elite Eight for a fourth try at besting West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga.  You know what they say, “it’s tough to beat a team twice, thrice, four times in the same season.”  Well, Gonzaga will.

South

I’ve got Seton Hall beating Arkansas for the same reasons I have Marquette beating South Carolina.  I’m Catholic and the SEC is still a terrible basketball conference, until proven otherwise.  Middle Tennessee State earns its second tourney win over a Big Ten opponent in as many years, my second 12 over 5.  Cincinnati will beat UCLA with a superior defense the likes of which the Bruins have never come up against.  Unfortunately for my adopted school, the Kentucky Wildcats will be waiting in the Sweet Sixteen.  North Carolina will be able to handle Coach Cal’s bunch en route to yet another Final Four.

Final Four

Last year’s championship game was so phenomenal, why not have a rematch?  Michigan and Gonzaga fall victim to destiny.  This time around, Villanova won’t need a buzzer beater.  The Wildcats will repeat, beating North Carolina quite easily.

There you have it.  Now all that’s left to do is wait until Thursday so I can hide my internet browser behind some important-looking work stuff and enjoy this damn thing for once.

I recommend you do the same, but don’t expect many of you to.  That chance at glory is too tantalizing to pass up, isn’t it?  Yes, you’d rather drive yourself crazy trying to arrive at the perfect bracket that you’ll literally never achieve.

And to you all I say have fun losing your group for the umpteenth time to your aunt who bases her picks on the team mascots.  After all, this is the real madness of March.

E-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll send you back an invite to my bracket group.  Should be easy to beat me since I’m not trying, right?

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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.

Bowl Season’s Biggest Winner: ACC Football

If you’ve read my articles here before, then you know I am admittedly a huge SEC homer. I was raised on SEC football and would not feel the way I do about the sport of football as a whole if it weren’t for the SEC.

Last year, the SEC did pretty well overall in bowl play. I would’ve given them props for that. In fact, I probably did. This year, it was a mixed bag for the conference I love.

But, there was a conference that really did shine in the most unimportant games of the season. That conference, to most people’s surprise, was the ACC.

Earlier this year I wrote an article trying to tell people to show ACC football some respect. After all, you don’t have to like the ACC to respect it. And now those of you that did read that article back then will see that sometimes I’m right. (I’m also wrong sometimes, too.)

But instead of just bragging about being right about that call, I will walk you through exactly how the ACC proved that I was right this bowl season. As I said above, bowl games are largely unimportant. That being said, they do come with bragging rights for the teams and conferences that fare well.

So, here’s to the ACC. Enjoy your bragging rights for the next eight months, and we’ll see what happens next year.

The ACC did take 3 L’s in bowl play. One of those really wasn’t that bad, in my opinion. But Louisville’s (vs. LSU) loss and Pittsburgh’s (vs. Northwestern) loss were both inexcusable. In a somewhat comical manner, I did manage to call the outcome of that LSU game on Twitter though. #SorryNotSorry

Let’s face it: Lamar Jackson had to carry Louisville this season, and if he was shut down then the team was hopeless. LSU shut him down and the Cardinals were hopeless.

And as for Pitt, I really didn’t see that loss coming. I guess that’s what happens when you cough up the ball four times. Northwestern wasn’t bad this year, but it also wasn’t good. Even with four turnovers, I’m still surprised Pitt dropped this game.

The other ACC bowl loss, the one that I don’t think was all that bad, was North Carolina’s loss to Stanford. North Carolina had some great moments this season, including victories over both Miami and Florida State. The Stanford Cardinal had a more solid season overall so I wouldn’t have expected a win from North Carolina in this one. Keeping the game as close as the Tar Heels did was actually pretty impressive. Here’s to moral victories!

Now, let’s discuss the ACC’s wins. And as I write this, there are eight of them. There could potentially be nine after the College Football Championship game. But I won’t get into that. My SEC bias might start showing again.

Boston College beat Maryland. But who really cares? Maryland is only recognizable in the college football world because of its hideous uniforms. Not to mention, Maryland left the ACC. The joke’s on them now.

Going into the bowl game with Wake Forest, Temple had actually put together a pretty good season. The Owls finished out the season with a convincing win over Navy, which was actually doing pretty well this year. The Demon Deacons jumped out to an early lead over the Owls and managed to hold onto that lead for the remainder of the game. They also had cool shiny helmets, so that’s a win too.

I never thought I would say beating Kentucky in football is a good win, but I’m saying it now. Georgia Tech’s win over Kentucky may not be as impressive as the win over Georgia during rivalry week. But now the Yellow Jackets are on a roll against the SEC East, having won their last three games against teams in the division. As we all know, the SEC East is not exactly full of formidable opponents. It’ll be interesting to see how the Yellow Jackets fare against one of the SEC East’s better teams, the Tennessee Volunteers.

Speaking of SEC East opponents that aren’t formidable, N.C. State dominated Vanderbilt in a game that was never close. N.C. State wasn’t exactly impressive during regular season play either but it did finish the season on a high note with a big rivalry win over North Carolina on the road. With that win and this dominant performance against Vanderbilt, it seems that the Wolfpack may be gaining momentum.

Arkansas may not be in the SEC East, but the ACC did notch another win over the SEC as a whole when Virginia Tech topped Arkansas in comeback fashion. Arkansas has always been confusing under Bret Bielema, and you never know what to expect from the team. Virginia Tech under Justin Fuente has been incredibly impressive, and the win over Arkansas just solidified that.

I don’t like West Virginia and I never have, but watching Miami get a relatively easy victory over the Mountaineers wasn’t any fun for me as a Gator fan. Mark Richt has done pretty well in his first season with the Hurricanes, and topping that off with a bowl win over a ranked opponent was a great sign for Miami fans. Maybe they’ll finally be able to forget the dark days of Al Golden.

Floridians can be proud of the college teams in their state because Florida State also managed to get an impressive win over Michigan. Michigan was supposedly a playoff contender but after an embarrassing first half in this game, Florida State made the Wolverines look like pretenders. As much as I may dislike both teams, I have to admit that this was a great win for the Seminoles and for the ACC.

Last but not least, there’s Clemson’s College Football Playoff beatdown of Ohio State. This was a glorious moment for me as an Ohio State/Urban Meyer hater. The one team from the Big Ten that did make it to the Playoff wasn’t even able to score a single point against Clemson. Talk about pretenders! I truly have a huge smile on my face as I write this. Clemson absolutely destroyed Ohio State, just showing the rest of us how overrated the Buckeyes (and the Big Ten teams) were this season.

Here it is: Yes, the ACC had a couple bad losses and one loss that was a moral victory so to speak. Still, the ACC had numerous good wins and a few great wins this bowl season. Like I said before, maybe it’s time to finally give credit where credit is due.

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

Photo courtesy of Ken Lund.

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The Sunday Morning Notebook: Afternoon Edition

Please pardon my tardiness and please enjoy this week’s notebook.

 

Clemson Escapes Tallahassee

Deandre Francois did exactly what a quarterback can’t do on a fourth down with the game on the line – he took a sack.  That turnover on downs secured a 37-34 victory for Clemson to help the Tigers stay undefeated on the season.

Week-by-week, Deshaun Watson’s Heisman hopes continue to waiver.  His performances have been excellent, but his solid and consistent numbers are not staggering enough to earn him consideration for the award.

Last week, Watson’s performance was only average by Heisman standards (378 yards, two touchdowns, an interception, 35 rushing yards and a touchdown).  Yesterday, Watson completed 27 of 43 passes for 378 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.  He also rushed for 52 yards.

Watson still doesn’t stack up to Lamar Jackson. Jackson has thrown for more yards and a higher passer rating. They’ve also thrown the same amount of touchdowns.
We can officially count Watson out for the trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony.

Notes:

  • Florida State’s final drive was possibly the worst final, comeback-attempt drive a top 25 team has ever had.
    • The drive started on FSU 21-yard line.
    • The first two plays each resulted in a first down.  A third-down holding penalty on the fifth play of the drive created a third and 23 from FSU’s 40 yard-line, but Francois completed a 26-yard pass to Travis Rudolph for the first down on the Clemson 34, which should have set up a game-tying field goal.
    • However, two different FSU linemen moved early on consecutive plays, pushing the Seminoles back ten yards and out of field goal range.  Francois threw consecutive incompletions, then took a sack on 3rd and 20.  After an FSU timeout, Francois took another sack on 4th and 32.
    • To recap: Florida State committed three penalties for -20 yards and gave up two sacks for -33 yards, including one on fourth down that ended their attempt to tie or win the game.
  • Dalvin Cook has been outstanding.  Cook rushed 19 times for 169 yards and a season-high four touchdowns, including this 70 yard TD run.  After three sub-100 yard games to start the season, Cook has averaged 168.2 rushing yards and nearly two rushing touchdowns per game. He’s 5th in the nation in rushing yards and 10th in touchdowns.
  • Clemson should cruise through the rest of its regular season schedule with matchups against Syracuse, Pitt, Wake Forest and South Carolina remaining.

 

Washington Remains Unbeaten

Washington may be the most balanced team in the country.  Jake Browning is a solid passer/decision maker and Myles Gaskin is electric (he averages 6.5 yards per carry).  At the same time, the Huskies’ defense has been stout, helping the team win games by an average of 30.4 points per game.

Browning passed for 186 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, and Gaskin rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Utah’s effort should not go unnoticed, however.  Quarterback Troy Williams threw for 163 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.  Joe Williams carried the ball 35 times for 17 yards and a touchdown.  24 points are the second most points any team has scored on Washington all season.

Utah’s defense also held the Huskies’ offense to its fewest point total of the season.

Notes:

  • It’s very likely that the Utes and Huskies meet each other again in the Pac-12 championship game.  Utah is currently second, behind Colorado, in the Pac-12 South.  The two will meet in the last week of the season, which will likely decide the South champion.
  • Washington is tied with Washington State for first place in the North.  Washington will play Cal, USC, and Arizona State before a match-up with Washington State during the last week of the season, which could very well decide the North champion.

 

Cornhuskers Can’t Complete Comeback 

Many would consider Nebraska and Wisconsin to be the Big Ten’s third and fourth best teams. They surely played like it yesterday, as Wisconsin staved off a Nebraska comeback to beat the ‘Huskers 23-17 in overtime.

This was a defensive battle as neither team was able to get much going on the offensive end.  The only impressive offensive performance of the day came from Wisconsin’s Dare Ogunbowale.  Ogunbowale rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries (10.9 YPC).

Notes:

  • Nebraska still controls its own destiny in the Big Ten west.  It is currently ahead of Wisconsin with a 4-1 mark in the conference, but the Cornhuskers still have Ohio State to get through.  Wisconsin has a much more favorable remaining schedule (Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota).

 

Other Notes:

-Jimbo Fisher wasn’t happy with the referees.

-Les Miles really wants a new job.

-Boise State lost to the only team that can pull off a brown and yellow uniform combo.

Evan Berry is very fast

-Texas probably has no idea what to do with Charlie Strong. Just when it seems Strong will be axed, he wins a game like yesterday’s upset of Baylor.

-Notre Dame upset Miami but somehow still looked bad.

 

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @skilliter.

Photo: Flickr, Phil Roeder

Coastal Division Is Worse for ACC Football than East Is for SEC Football

One thing I always seem to hear from those who don’t support the SEC the way I do is “Well, the East is garbage.” Garbage? With two teams still in the top 25, I wouldn’t call the SEC East garbage. The SEC West may be better, but the SEC East isn’t that bad. If you want to know about garbage, look no further than the Coastal Division of ACC football. Not only is the Coastal Division worse than the Atlantic, it also isn’t much good compared with any other division out there.

I wrote an article earlier this season about ACC football finally deserving some respect. Now, I want to amend my statement. The ACC Atlantic Division still deserves respect, but the Coastal Division has quickly fallen from grace.

Of course, the three main teams that have been carrying ACC football this season are Clemson, Louisville and, at times,  Florida State. But you know what those three teams have in common? They’re all part of the Atlantic Division.

You see, the Atlantic Division is home to the number #4 Tigers, the #7 Cardinals and the number #13 Seminoles. The Coastal Division’s highest-ranked team, on the other hand, is the #22 Tar Heels.

While the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Tech Hokies may have looked good a few weeks ago, neither team is impressing anyone now. So when I say that the Coastal Division is garbage, I mean it. Yes, they’re closer to garbage than the SEC East is. If I were the Atlantic Division of ACC Football, I would definitely want to disown them.

North Carolina, the best part of the division, is 5-2 so far this season. One of those losses was to the Georgia Bulldogs and one was to division opponent Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels did manage to get a win at Florida State, though, and this is likely why they’re still in the top 25. How long the Tar Heels will remain in the top 25 depends on the rest of the country’s teams. At this point there are no more impressive opponents left on the schedule for the Tar Heels, so anything but wins will not be acceptable.

As I said, one of North Carolina’s losses was to the Virginia Tech Hokies, who were briefly in the top 25. After a two-touchdown loss to Syracuse, the Hokies are no longer part of that club. The most difficult teams remaining on the Hokies’ schedule are the Miami Hurricanes and Notre Dame. Unfortunately, the Fighting Irish have proven to not have all that much fight in them this season. The Miami Hurricanes may be better than they were last year, but “The U” is still not back.

Let’s talk about those Hurricanes, though. In their first season under Mark Richt, the Hurricanes got off to a 4-0 start. Since then, the Hurricanes have lost two games. While the loss to Florida State is somewhat excusable, the loss to North Carolina is not quite the same. The Florida State loss came on a missed extra point during what was otherwise a pretty close game. The North Carolina loss wasn’t quite the same, with the Canes losing to a lower-ranked team in their own less powerful half of the conference. Not to mention, they didn’t lose by one point; they lost by one touchdown.

The Coastal Division of ACC football also includes the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2, 2-1), the Virginia Cavaliers (2-4, 1-1), the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-3, 1-3) and the Duke Blue Devils (3-4, 0-3).

Just for laughs, let me go ahead and end this article by equating each ACC Coastal team to their SEC East counterpart. North Carolina is like Tennessee, near (or at) the top of the division, with the hardest games already behind it. Virginia Tech is like Florida, near (or at) the top of the division, with a top ten defense. Miami is like Georgia (and not just because of the Mark Richt factor). Pittsburgh is like Kentucky. Virginia is like Vanderbilt. Georgia Tech is like South Carolina. Duke is like Missouri. Poor Duke…

I’m sorry, ACC Coastal fans. Well, not really. It’s about time somebody makes the SEC East look okay. But hey, look on the bright side! At least basketball season is well on its way.

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

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, by Brian Allen.

College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 6

Welcome back to the sixth installment of Campus Pressbox’s weekly College Football Playoff rankings. As always,  rankings from the previous weeks can be found here.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

Alabama had a nice, quality 19-point win over Arkansas to start the Crimson Tide’s “October of Hell”. Still on the slate for ‘Bama this month is Tennessee, Texas A&M, and LSU. The Arkansas game should be a foreshadowing of how the rest of the month plays out, but if the Crimson Tide play less than stellar for one minute this month, anyone of those three teams could easily steal a game. The real question is which one of them will. Alabama remains the top pick in just about everyone’s book for the College Football Playoff.

  1. The Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

The Buckeyes handled themselves well in what many, including myself, considered a trap game against the Indiana Hoosiers. The schedule will continue to get more difficult as the Buckeyes move deeper into their Big Ten conference schedule.  Madison, Wisconsin awaits this weekend, in what could be the first true test for Ohio State following the blow out in Norman, Oklahoma in week three. Really, it will provide the Buckeyes’ offense a chance to face off against one of the top defenses in the country. The Buckeyes are on the right path for the CFP.

  1. Clemson Tigers (3)

Clemson’s Friday night dismantling of Boston College was missed by most, but the 46-point win was impressive nonetheless. The Eagles simply stood no chance against a team that truly proved itself the week prior against Louisville. And though Dabo Swinney still has some qualms about the Louisville game, the fact of the matter is that Clemson is in the driver’s seat now.  If Clemson can get through the Florida State game in two weeks, there may be no stopping the Tigers from walking away with an undefeated record for the second consecutive year.

  1. Washington Huskies (4)

Washington surprised most when beating Stanford by a wide margin, but the surprise was dulled this week as the Huskies put up 70 points against Oregon. None of the games left on Washington’s schedule are push overs, but none of them are necessarily challenges either. And the fact of the matter is that Houston’s loss over the weekend helped solidify the Huskies’ Playoff spot. As long as the Huskies can manage to walk away from the season with one loss or less, they will occupy the final spot in this year’s Playoff.

  1. Michigan Wolverines (5)

Do you like cheap, high quality steak? Because the Wolverines sure do. Michigan beat Rutgers 78-0. Frankly that score tells it all. Everyone has the right to feel bad for Illinois, the next team in the way of the bulldozing Wolverines. Michigan players and fans still only have November 26 circled on their calendars, however. In terms of Playoff hopes, the Ohio State game is all that matters.

  1. Texas A&M Aggies (7)

Despite the fact that the Aggies tried to choke the game away near the end, Texas A&M still wound up beating Tennessee in double overtime. Though many attribute the game to the Volunteers mistakes, the Aggies consistent, solid play should not be overlooked. In terms of Playoff hopes, next weekend’s game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa is an obvious must win for A&M.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (8)

Louisville was off this weekend, but moved up due to Houston being eliminated from the Playoff by Navy. Duke shouldn’t provide the Cardinals too much of a challenge Friday night, but it certainly is a trap game. As for now, unless things change pretty drastically, the Louisville Cardinals are outsiders and need a lot to change to achieve a Playoff berth.

  1. Wisconsin Badgers

Literally so many teams lost this past weekend that Wisconsin, on a bye, immediately following a loss to Michigan, snuck its way back into the top 10 behind Louisville. I say snuck in, but there are two more teams below the Badgers, emphasizing how weird this past weekend was. Wisconsin probably will follow last week’s pattern and be the next No. 8 team to fall out of the top 10, as the Badgers have to beat Ohio State to stay in any type of Playoff contention. Frankly, what the Badgers truly need, more than anything else right now, is some offense. Without it, they may get trampled on Saturday.

  1. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska, without any impressive wins, is a top 10 team. The Cornhuskers beat Oregon by three points. Yes, the same Oregon squad that Washington beat by 49 points. That really emphasizes the difference in abilities of the teams at the top of this list opposed to the teams at the bottom. Nebraska really needs to ramp up its play to have any chance against teams like Ohio State. Any hope that Nebraska has at a Playoff berth will surely be squashed on the Cornhuskers’ trip to Columbus, Ohio to take on the Buckeyes the first weekend of November, if not before.

  1. Baylor Bears

Baylor, just like Nebraska, has had no “impressive” victories this season. Despite that fact, the Bears are the current favorite to win the Big 12. However, the coaching staff’s current behavior could widen the gap between the administration and the team, potentially causing some locker room incidents. If it manages to win the conference with 1 loss or less, Baylor could be a factor in the Playoff race.

Dropouts and Honorable Mentions

Houston, following its loss to Navy, has officially been eliminated from the Playoff. Unless something drastic happens, the Cougars’ place on the list (or even the honorable mentions) will not exist. Tennessee and Miami both dropped from the top 10 following losses, but both are still worthy of honorable mentions this week. The final honorable mention this week goes to the undefeated Boise St. Broncos.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected]

Photo: wikipedia

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College Football Midterms

In college football, you either win or lose.  There are no letter grades.  You can try to put degrees on performances, but when it comes down to it, you pass or you fail.  This past weekend marked the halfway point for most teams as they played their sixth game of the season.

Let’s see who passed the test and who still has some studying to do.

Pass

Alabama – We don’t make a big deal about the Tide’s more impressive wins because we’re so used to them by now.   Until proven otherwise, this is still the best team going.  Saban’s big, bad Bama boys showed us why with a three-score road win over a ranked conference opponent.

Ohio State – The Buckeyes also earned a three-score victory over a conference opponent.  Indiana certainly isn’t on Arkansas’ level, but Ohio State doesn’t really need good wins.  At this point, just keep winning and you’ll be where you want to be.  The Buckeyes are.

Clemson – After a huge win like the one over Louisville two weeks ago, you need to avoid that hangover loss we often see from top teams.  The Tigers quickly shutdown any chance of that happening Friday night in Boston.

Michigan – I don’t care who you are.  I don’t care who the other team is.  Scoring 11 touchdowns on a conference opponent in their own barn is commendable.  Oh, and the Wolverines pitched a shutout, too.

Washington – Saturday night was duck season and it got quite ugly for those defenseless “Web Foots.”  In the last two weeks, the Huskies have embarrassed the two teams that have been dominating the Pac-12 North division for years.  Quickly, a team we didn’t know much about has legitimized its claim as a Playoff contender.

Texas A&M – A 21-point fourth quarter from Tennessee forced overtime, but finally the magic ran out.  Kevin Sumlin’s team now has three wins over ranked opponents.  Next is a date at Alabama, with A&M idle this week.

Fail

Houston – It’s tough to play with a target on your back, especially when you’re used to being the hunter, not the hunted.  The Cougars learned that by falling to the Navy Midshipmen, effectively ending their possible run to the Playoff.  Suddenly, Houston is in a position where it needs help just to have a shot at winning its division.

Tennessee – Let’s be honest.  It was a bit of a mini-miracle that the Vols had remained undefeated for as long as they did.  The furious comeback wasn’t quite enough and now the battle for the SEC East gets interesting.

Miami – As far as the most excruciating ways to lose a football game are concerned, this has to rank quite high.  I have been saying Mark Richt needs some time with his Hurricanes before they become real players in the ACC.  This loss proves my point.  They’re just not ready to be that good yet.

Stanford – Yikes.  Getting stomped by Washington on the road is one thing.  Getting rolled by Washington State at home is another entirely.  Clearly, the Cardinal is done-zo.

Failing the midterm exam doesn’t necessarily kill your semester, but it sure does make the latter half less fun.  Passing, on the other hand, allows you to focus on just taking care of your business, letting everything else take care of itself.  Such is now the task for the Tide, Buckeyes, Tigers, Wolverines, Huskies and Aggies.

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

Photo: Wikipedia

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The Sunday Morning Notebook – Tennessee Has Run Out of Magic

Another great week of college football is in the books, with the exception of Georgia-South Carolina and Florida-LSU.

Enjoy a recap of some of the big games and great moments. 

Comeback Number Five, Loss Number One

Tennessee has played five games this season. In four of them, it has trailed at some point by double-digits. Yesterday, Texas A&M became the first team to beat the Volunteers this season. However, the Aggies didn’t hold the lead, which reached 21 points in the third quarter. It even took two overtimes to put an end to Tennessee’s unbelievable streak of luck.

Just like last week, it took some late magic to help Tennessee push the game into overtime.  Perhaps it was less magic and more luck.  Either way, it was a wild evening in College Station, TX.

Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight, arguably one of the most electric players in the nation, put the Aggies ahead, 35-21, with 3:22 left in the game on a 62- yard touchdown run. The term generally used to describe a score like that, in that particular situation, is “nail in the coffin”.

Not so fast, my friend

On the ensuing possession, Vols’ quarterback Josh Dobbs led Tennessee down the field and into the end zone in just a minute and 15 seconds to get within a touchdown.

15 seconds had run off the clock before Aggies’ RB Trayveon Williams delivered a play that should have warranted another cliché.  This time “that’s a dagger” comes to mind. Williams sped through the defense and down the field for 72-and-a-half yards, but UT’s Malik Foreman caught him from behind and knocked the ball loose and into the end zone for a touchback.  Vols’ ball, 1:49 left to play.

With that kind of momentum on its side, there was no way Tennessee wasn’t going to tie the game, and it did just that on Alvin Kamara’s third touchdown of the game.

What’s more, the A&M kicker missed a 38-yard game-winning field goal attempt with eight seconds left in the game.

It took two overtimes before Dobbs threw an interception (Tennessee’s seventh turnover of the game) that ended Tennessee’s magical journey through the first six weeks of the season.

Notes:

  • Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara rushed for 127 yards and caught eight passes for 161 more. That was huge for Tennessee as it was missing top rusher Jalen Hurd.
  • Dobbs threw two interceptions this week. He leads the SEC in interceptions this season.
  • Knight rushed for over 100 yards for the second time this season.  He’s currently one of the top-10 rushers in the SEC. The last SEC quarterback to finish as a top-10 rusher was Dak Prescott in 2014.

A Shootout, Indeed

Rivalry games are fun. Especially the Red River Shootout, which takes place every year in the midst of the Texas State Fair.

This particular Shootout had massive implications.  Whispers regarding the future of both head coaches, Charlie Strong for Texas and Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, could be heard throughout many circles during the last few weeks.

The result all but guarantees Strong’s departure at the end of the season, as Oklahoma held on for a 45-40 victory at the Cotton Bowl.  However, we can save the coaching discussion for another time.

The story of the game was Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook. Before yesterday, Texas hadn’t given up 100 yards to a single receiver all season, despite giving up the third-most passing yards per game in the Big 12. Westbrook ended the night with 10 catches for 232 yards and three touchdowns in one of the best receiving performances in college football this season.

Notes:

  • Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine had quite a day, racking up 214 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the Sooners. 232 yards is the third-highest total of Perine’s career and the most since the famous Kansas game in 2014.
  • It’s not likely that Oklahoma makes the College Football Playoff, but the Sooners should still be the favorite to win the Big 12 championship.  All eyes will be on the Baylor game on November 12.

Hurricane Jimbo

Jimbo Fisher has never lost to Miami as the head coach of the Florida State Seminoles. Last night may have been the closest and lowest scoring game they’ve played against each other in ten years, but thanks to DeMarcus Walker’s blocked extra point with 1:38 left, the Seminoles notched their seventh win in a row over their in-state rival, 20-19.

Notes:

  • Deondre Francois looked terrific. The true freshman passed for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Francois has been solid all season, passing for nine touchdowns and only two interceptions so far.
  • Heisman hopeful Dalvin Cook moved his consecutive 100-yard game streak to three. Cook rushed for 150 yards but no touchdowns.
  • There are only three weeks until Florida State hosts Clemson.  Florida State is really the only tough matchup left on Clemson’s schedule before the ACC Championship game.

 

Quick Notes:

-Houston will not make the Playoff after losing to Navy 46-40. I’d also be surprised if it beats Louisville.

-Stanford is not a top-25 team.

-As a former offensive lineman, this play makes me happy. Watch how fast that guy is.

-Ohio State is the best team in the country.

-Washington is really, really good.

-In case you missed it, Rutgers only amassed 39 total yards of offense against Michigan.

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @skilliter.

Photo: StuSeeger, Flickr