Tag Archives: Michael Brewer

2016 ACC Football: The Struggle is Real

Last week I took a look at the 2015 year that was in the ACC, some good and bad for each school. This week we’re going to put the past behind us and take a look at what 2016 may hold for ACC football.

Boston College

What needs to get better – The passing game and 3rd down conversions. The two go a bit hand in hand. BC had one of the worst passing games in the nation, ranking 125th in yards per game. None of their quarterbacks threw for more than 464 yards on the season. Yes, you read that correctly. The quarterbacks combined to complete 44.6% of their passes. This all lead to an offense that was 126th out of 127 in 3rd down conversion rate, getting a first down on just 26.7% of their third down attempts. If the offense wants improvement in 2016, it’ll need to start here.

What will go well – The run game. Part of the inability to throw the ball has been due to the dual-threat nature of the quarterbacks that the Eagles trot out there. This obviously helps the ground game. After five games of not getting double digit carries, junior RB Tyler Rouse had 24 for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the final game against Syracuse. Hopefully that leads to a big senior year for him. Helping will be the offensive line, which returns three starters that were only underclassmen last year.

What will be a struggle – Passing game. Once again. There really isn’t much hope here. Even if there is moderate improvement it’s hard to see a team jumping from the bottom five in the country to anywhere near average. Last year BC’s leading receiver had 17 catches for 233 yards. If someone approaches 500 yards in 2016 it would be a miracle.

Clemson

What needs to get better – Big plays allowed. Clemson had a great season, but they gave up some big plays in the ACC Championship to North Carolina which allowed the Tar Heels to hang around and stay in the game. Those big plays basically cost them the title, with multiple breakdowns in the secondary resulting in long touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

What will go well – The offense. I know, I’m a such a genius, but this is about as obvious as it gets. Deshaun Watson was coming off a knee injury and still was a Heisman finalist this season. Now he’ll be further removed from that injury and back with him will play explosive playmakers Wayne Gallman, Artavis Scott, and Mike Williams, who would have been the Tigers’ best WR but was lost for the year in the season opener.

What will be a struggle – The defense. Clemson is going to be in a lot of shootouts in 2016. Brent Venables was able to rebound from losses to the NFL draft going into 2015 to lead one of the nation’s best defenses yet again. It’s hard to overcome that multiple years in a row however, just ask LSU. This time the Tigers lose both starting DEs (who just happened to be numbers 1 and 2 in the country in tackles for loss) as well as 3/4ths of the secondary. They lose seven defensive starters in total, an astonishing five of them early entrants to the NFL draft.

Duke

What needs to get better – The defense. It gave up almost 31 points per game, including 40+ to the explosive offenses that were Virginia and Virginia Tech. They pass defense in particular was a sieve, finishing 73rd in yards allowed, but there is hope. All five secondary starters return in their 4-2-5 alignment.

What will go well – The running game. Duke’s ground attack was pretty versatile in 2015, led by QB Thomas Sirk. Sirk led the team with 803 yards rushing, but they also had three different running backs all rush for over 400. In total the Blue Devils ran for over 2500 yards on the season on almost five yards per rush.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. It’s not all Sirk’s fault, he just doesn’t have much to work with. A measley 6.15 yards per attempt won’t put fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators, and Duke will not see much improvement unless someone steps up and produces some of the play-making that vanished when Jamison Crowder took his talents to the NFL after the 2014 season.

Florida State

What needs to get better – The passing game. You couldn’t expect FSU’s passing to be as good when Jameis Winston left for the NFL. Outside of a couple nice efforts, the it couldn’t be counted on consistently, and certainly not against the better teams on the schedule. Whether Sean Maguire retains the starting job going into 2016 or a younger, more talented signal caller takes the spot, there’s no reason for this area not to improve with the talent the Seminoles have at receiver.

What will go well – Handing the ball off. FSU could probably just do that every play in 2016 and win double digit games. Dalvin Cook averaged 7.4 ypc last year and he’ll be back. He’ll also be running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. I already feel bad for the rest of the ACC.

What will be a struggle – Kicking game. The Seminoles have been spoiled the last few years with Roberto Aguayo, one of the best college kickers in years. Aguayo never missed an extra point and was almost as automatic on field goals, converting over 90% of them (64-70) from under 50 yards. With Aguayo off to the pros, Seminoles fans will have to hope their kicking situation doesn’t turn into the one present in Gainesville.

Georgia Tech

What needs to get better – Ball security. It might be expected that a team that runs the triple option would have more chances at fumbling. But you’d also think that they’d preach protecting the ball even more. Whatever they do didn’t work in 2015 as the Yellow Jackets lost 14 fumbles (only three teams lost more). Navy, another triple option team, only lost six. Add the Yellow Jackets’ 10 interceptions, another astonishing number considering how little they throw it, and the result is finishing 105th in turnover margin.

What will go well – The run game. Georgia Tech wasn’t able to stay in games with their rush attack like in previous years, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism. The line was extremely young (they had a freshman at center and both tackles spots by the end of the year) so it should improve. Add that to QB Justin Thomas and their stable of running backs returning and the offense should rebound.

What will be a struggle – Pass defense. It wasn’t bad in 2015, ranking 37th in pass yards allowed, but the Yellow Jackets were also 120th in sacks. They now lose all four starters from the secondary. If the front seven can’t find a way to put pressure on the opposing quarterback, the defense could get burnt through the air with a less experienced defensive back corps.

Louisville

What needs to get better – The offense. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Bobby Petrino team but the offense was pretty disappointing. The quarterbacks were average, finishing 61st in QBR. That is a little more understandable with Lamar Jackson getting so much playing time, but with a dual-threat guy like himself, the Cardinals should have been able to finish better than 81st in rushing.

What will go well – Defense. The Cardinals defense could be one of the best in the country in 2016. They were T-10th in sacks last year and return stud Devonte Fields who was T-10th in individual sacks. As if a ferocious pass rush wasn’t enough, the ‘Ville will also get all their secondary starters back, including NFL prospects Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. Bobby Petrino can work whatever magic and QB voodoo he wants, I just don’t think he’s going to be able to do what he traditionally has with Lamar Jackson. It doesn’t mean Jackson won’t improve, I just don’t think there will be any game to game consistency, which will frustrate the coaching staff as well as Cardinals fans.

Miami

What needs to get better – 3rd downs. I talked about how bad Boston College was on third downs, but that’s a little more understandable considering their quarterback situation and well, because of the fact that they’re Boston College. But Miami was almost as bad, finishing 107th at 35%. Considering the talent at the skill positions and at quarterback, there’s no excuse for that and Miami needs to see drastic improvement in this area if they want any shot at competing for the division in 2016.

What will go well – Pass attack. The offensive line was extremely young last year, with four underclassmen starters at year’s end. With improvement Kaaya should have time to throw. With talent at WR in Stacy Coley and Braxton Berrios and at TE in Standish Dobard and David Njoku, Kaaya will have plenty of options at his disposal.

What will be a struggle – Pass defense. Miami was 70th last year in sacks, and they have had a non-existent pass rush for years. Last year the pass defense was able to survive because of how good the secondary was. That won’t be the case this year. Miami loses both starting safeties as well as CB Artie Burns, who led the ACC with six interceptions. In 2016, no lead will be safe.

NC State

What needs to get better – Explosive passing plays. Jacoby Brissett had a mediocre yards per attempt, and it showed when you look at the receivers. The Wolfpack’s leading WR averaged under 10 ypc (9.2). That’s embarrassing. And their second leading receiver had just 34 catches. Not the ideal way to keep a defense honest.

What will go well – Run game. At least NC State has this going for them. They have their top three running backs return, and all three averaged over six yards per rush in 2015. But the biggest reason will be the return of Matthew Dayes. Dayes was averaging over 100 yards per game on 6.5 ypc and had 12 touchdowns through just 7+ games. He ended up missing the last five games due to a foot injury but will be back next season.

What will be a struggle – Passing attack. NC State might be able to get some plays off play-action thanks to their run game, but a standard passing game will not be forte. They have limited wide receivers and with Jacoby Brissett no longer around, will have a new starting quarterback as well.

North Carolina

What needs to get better – The defense. It was abysmal the second half of the year. They gave up at least 31 points in 4 of 6 games. The two that they didn’t were against Miami and Virginia Tech, not exactly the Marcus Mariota-led Oregon Ducks.

What will go well – Offense. The Tar Heels’ offense was explosive in 2015 and have most of it returning in tact for next year. 4/5 offensive linemen return along with the top two receivers and stud running back Elijah Hood. While starting quarterback Marquise Williams departs, he’ll be replaced by Mitch Trubisky, who fans have been high on.

What will be a struggle – The defense. It’s hard to see much improvement from a unit that allowed over 400 yards per game. It was 110th in run defense, stamped off by their embarrassing showing in the bowl game when the allowed a bowl record 645 rushing yards to Baylor. Now they lose a DT and MLB who were defensive captains.

Pittsburgh

What needs to get better – Their “passing attack”. It wasn’t Boston College level putrid, but it left a lot to be desired. Pitt can run the ball, so mild improvement in the passing game is all they need to have a competitive offense.

What will go well – The run game. James Conner was an ACC player of the year candidate before missing basically the whole season. In his place was Qadree Ollison who ran his way to a nice little 1,100 yard, 11 touchdown season in Conner’s place. Both will be back in 2016 to run behind an offensive line that returns 4/5 starters.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. The Panthers need their passing game to be competent, but I don’t see how it improves from last year. It wasn’t good to begin with and now the Panthers are losing WR Tyler Boyd early to the NFL draft. Boyd accounted for 91 of the team’s 212 receptions in 2015.

Syracuse

What needs to get better – The whole offense. They were 119th in yards per game. Brutal to watch and not able to move the ball consistently as evidenced by their 100 ranking in red zone opportunities. But the Orangemen were actually pretty good once they got there, ranking 8th in red zone scoring percentage. If the offense can move the ball a little more, they can put their red zone efficiency to better use.

What will go well – Defense. It wasn’t exactly good this past year, but it was young. They return seven starters so with the experience they should be better just from that. Additionally, the defense played better at home in 2015, not surprising for a young unit. A year older and they should be able to carry some of that success on the road more frequently.

What will be a struggle – Getting to a bowl game. It’s hard as a fan to go into a year knowing your team probably won’t make a bowl. What’s more difficult is seeing how Syracuse gets to one. Along with divisional home games against FSU and Louisville, they have to go on the road in conference to play BC, Pitt and Clemson. Add in non-conference games at Connecticut and with Notre Dame and this year will be about building for 2017.

Virginia

What needs to get better – Performance in close games. Virginia had their chances last year. They had a halftime lead against Notre Dame and a second half lead against Miami, neither of which they could hold. They were also tied at half with North Carolina and tied in the 4th quarter with Louisville. An ability to finish games and the Cavaliers may have not been looking for a new coach.

What will go well – Off-season. If nothing else there will be positive vibes around the Cavaliers before the season starts. Tiquan Mizzell is a player fans can be excited about watching. There’s always hope when a new head coach comes in, which is what Virginia has in Bronco Mendenhall. Throw that in with a senior quarterback and fans may talk themselves into a sneaky good season.

What will be a struggle – The offense. An experienced quarterback returns, yes, but also a limited one. He’ll be looking for new targets as well since the offenses loses its top two receivers from last year. Just like 2015, it appears 2016 will be the Mizzell show.

Virginia Tech

What needs to get better – The running game. As bad as Virginia Tech’s offense has been, you could usually count on a decent running game if nothing else. Last year the Hokies didn’t even have that, ranking 112th in yards per carry. If you’re going to win games by keeping them close and playing good defense, you need a good running game to take pressure off the quarterback.

What will go well – Pass defense. This is one thing you can count on with the Hokies. They were 17th in passing yards allowed per game and return everyone in the secondary besides Kendall Fuller. He can be adequately replaced by Brandon Facyson, the next in line for NFL-caliber Hokie corners.

What will be a struggle – The passing offense. It’s going to be a shock for new coach Justin Fuente going from possible 1st rounder Paxton Lynch to new Hokies starter Brenden Motley. Motley got his feet wet last year when Michael Brewer got hurt and I don’t think fans liked what they saw. He had success in his first couple starts against against Furman and Purdue (congratulations), but the rest of the way was mostly a disaster.

Wake Forest

What needs to get better – Pass protection. Wake Forest is Wake Forest, so they’re going to be playing from behind a lot. Because of this it would be nice if the quarterback wasn’t running for his life every other play. That’s probably what it felt like for Demon Deacons quarterbacks last year, when they were sacked on 8.94% of drop-backs, 113th in the country.

What will go well – “Offensive fireworks”. OK fireworks might be a strong word. But Wake’s offensive should be vastly improved from a unit that was almost last (125th) in scoring at 17.4 ppg. The offense only loses two seniors, one at WR and one at guard, and 7/11 starters last year were freshmen or sophomores. On top of that, QB John Wolford improved his accuracy from 58.3% to 60.9% while also increasing his yards per attempt by over two full yards (5.55 to 7.69). Why do I feel like I’m talking myself into Wake Forest? I can’t wait to look back on this in November when Wake is eliminated from bowl contention and the offense is still a disaster.

What will be a struggle – Speaking of bowl games, making one will be tough for Wake Forest next year. The first month of the season is manageable but with a road slate that includes games against Florida State, Louisville, NC State, and Duke, it’s going to be a nail-biter for fans the second half of the season.

E-mail Jason at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JLindy87.

Featured image courtesy of Thomson20192

Legacy Lines – 10/30/15: College Football Should Never Change

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

It’s finally Friday again. The weekend has arrived again only to bring joy back into our living rooms as we watch our favorite teams fight for power in their conferences. Throughout the college football season thus far, we have seen pure elation and powerful sadness. It is an endless, repeating cycle, with some teams on the winning side and others going back home disappointed. While college football is largely about the wins and losses, it’s also about the passion, rivalries and moments you make on the field.

Of course when it comes to rivalries, during the game, the stands are full of hate for the opposing team, but once the final whistle blows things are normal again. That’s the beauty of college football. Every football fan out there has a team they pull for on Saturday, and sometimes, that team can make or break your year. It is truly intriguing that something so simple as a sport can transform a nation, but yet here we are.

Now, to focus us in on this weekend’s Legacy Teams, we must look at a few important games coming up on Saturday. Tennessee will face the Kentucky Wildcats in what could be a trap game for the Vols. The Vols are coming off of a tough matchup against Alabama (bye this week), and we all want to know if Tennessee is real and get a win. On the other coast, UCLA is taking on Colorado in a Pac-12 bout. Finally, Penn State must face Illinois on Saturday. Penn State will come out on top, but I have a feeling that Illinois is going to give them some fits.

Our Legacy Line game of the week is Virginia Tech vs. Boston College. Game time is set for 11:30 Saturday morning. This game does not have any playoff implications, but a win could turn around both teams’ seasons. These teams are a lackluster 3-5, and the road won’t get easier for either of them going forward. The best chance for one of these teams to make a bowl game would be to win this weekend, giving them only two more games to clinch bowl eligibility. Now, Boston College might have a little more on the line, as they desperately need their first conference win of the season. At the same time, Frank Beamer must get a win for a program that has gone from prominence to off the map. This matchup is poised to be a fun one.

Like we do every week, it is time to give some background on this fairly new rivalry that has transformed into a dogfight more recently. At first glance, you wouldn’t think that these two teams are rivals, but they have been since 1993 when they played their first game against each other. Even though Boston College won the first one, Virginia Tech has dominated the series, winning almost double what BC has. However, the last couple of years, Boston College has gotten the upper hand on the Hokies.

LINK – http://hamptonroads.com/2015/10/breaking-down-virginia-techboston-college-matchup

I believe this game will come down to quarterback play, which both of these programs know something about. It would be a travesty if I didn’t mention Doug Flutie’s miracle against Miami in the same thought as good quarterback play, because the future NFL quarterback was a monster during his time at BC. While Flutie was amazing, two greats of my generation, Michael Vick and Matt Ryan played for VT and BC, respectively. Although they didn’t play against each other, they led their teams to win after win on the gridiron. Michael Vick will go down as the best scrambling quarterback in history as well as a great overall field general. Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan will always be known as a clutch qb that could take his team down the field to win the game whenever he wanted. Even though these great players have moved on, their competitive character lives on in this VT vs. BC rivalry.

LINK – http://www.bcinterruption.com/boston-college-vs-virginia-tech-2015/2015/10/30/9640114/boston-college-vs-virginia-tech-film-study

This year both teams have had problems with their starting quarterbacks. Boston College has one out for the season and another with a concussion. They don’t have a starter as of now, but they are going to choose between two of their young guys. Troy Flutie, (yes, Doug’s son) who has been less than stellar this year, could get the start, but it is just as likely that the freshman walk-on John Fadule gets the nod. On the other sideline, Virginia Tech has had their own quarterback moments. The first game of the season, VT’s starting qb Michael Brewer, suffered a broken collarbone and was out for multiple games. Even though he is back, he still isn’t at full strength and will have a tough test on the road, in a tough environment.

LINK – http://espn.go.com/blog/acc/post/_/id/87525/boston-college-could-start-a-freshman-walk-on-quarterback-against-virginia-tech

As I said before, the road to victory will run through one of these quarterbacks. If Boston College can get up early through their passing game, then they have a great shot at the win because VT has been struggling offensively all season. Boston College has had their own serious issues offensively, but I think they can rally to have some sort of passing game against a depleted Virginia Tech secondary. As for Virginia Tech, with Michael Brewer on the field, they should move the ball early and often. VT will win this game if their offense can score. BC won’t be able to keep up with the offense and the only way BC wins is through defense, late.

LINK – http://nesn.com/2015/10/boston-college-home-underdog-against-struggling-virginia-tech-in-acc-clash/

Although these teams could end up scoring a bunch, I don’t see it actually happening this weekend. Instead, I picture a low scoring, defensive battle. In the end, Virginia Tech comes out on top, but it goes down to the wire.

Virginia Tech 20 Boston College 17

Legacy Lines – 10/9/15: Old Series, New Conference Rivalry

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

Let’s all take a moment to recognize that the college football season is already five games in, and most teams are playing their sixth game this weekend. After all the waiting we all did over the spring and summer, the sport we love most is about half way over, and that sucks. However, as the air starts to turn cold and dry, football is just heating up. Our Legacy programs continue to hit their conference schedules running, and there is still a ton of football left to watch.

With rivalries such as Tennessee vs. Georgia and Alabama vs. Arkansas highlighting the SEC weekend and Penn State vs. Indiana, Texas vs. Oklahoma and UCLA vs. Stanford also on the schedule, look for some close, gritty wins out of our Legacy Programs’.

Headlining the Legacy Line game of the week is NC State vs. Virginia Tech. Be careful though, because this game kicks off at 8 p.m. tonight, FRIDAY. At first glance, this ACC battle wouldn’t be on the monitor of most college football fans, mainly because these two teams haven’t played much recently. The Wolfpack and the Hokies’ have only faced each other four times since NC State joined the ACC about a decade ago. However, the series between these two schools goes all the way back to 1900, which was a Hokie road win.

These two teams have squared off 48 times, and the Hokies have the edge by several games. Not only do the Hokies have the upper hand in the series, but Frank Beamer has only lost to the Wolfpack twice in his almost 30 year tenure as the head coach in Blacksburg.

The last time that these two teams played was in 2010, in Raleigh. If this tells you anything about how long ago it was, the starting quarterbacks for VT and NC State were Tyrod Taylor and Russell Wilson, respectively. While I’m sure that the schools would like to have some extra eligibility for those two, now pro quarterbacks, they will have to work with what they have. This game is a big game for both of these teams, and the winner will get to .500 in conference play while the losing team will be struggling at 0-2 in the ACC. Although these two teams haven’t looked especially strong so far, a win here would go a long way for both teams.

Even though each of these teams suffered an ugly loss in conference play last weekend, VT’s loss to Pitt was extremely more painful, as the Hokies could barely get 100 yards of total offense. In this day and age, you have to move the ball better if you hope to win. This game will come down to which offense can exploit the others’ defense. Yes, that may sound a tad obvious, but with Virginia Tech’s depleted secondary, NC State sees an opportunity to take advantage of the deep passing game. If Jacoby Brissett can make it his goal to attack the secondary and make them stay honest, then Matt Dayes will be there to take a HB draw to the house when Virginia Tech’s secondary backs off. On the opposite sideline, Virginia Tech needs their quarterback back, badly. Michael Brewer, after an early season injury, has been cleared to play, but is still questionable for the game Saturday. If the Hokies can get Brewer on the field, they will have a much greater chance at success simply because Brewer is a passing threat. Otherwise, NC State will just load the box and stop the run. The key to victory for Virginia Tech’s defense is to disrupt Jacoby Brissett in the pocket. If they can get in some awkward positions or back foot throws, then VT could end up with a couple short fields.

This game is hard to gauge, but I think Beamer ball ends up with a big win due to solid quarterback play. I’ll take the Hokies 27-24 in a close one.

Legacy Links – 10/6/15: Conference Play Sets Tone

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

Alabama Crimson Tide

The Tide Rolled over Georgia last weekend, and in his press conference yesterday, Nick Saban became fed up with the narrative that the media have forced upon the team and their fans. In what will go down as a classic Saban rant, Nick responded to a media members’ question by going on about the fact that the Alabama players don’t play for the media, but instead, should be playing for themselves and each other. If you haven’t heard some of the quotes, they are well worth your while and might make you crack a smile, as long as you aren’t a Tide fan.

LINK – http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2015/10/heated_nick_saban_to_media_if.html

Throughout the natural course of a football season, everybody gets caught up in wins and losses on the field, while other, more important stories become pushed to the wayside. Here is a story about a young Alabama defensive back named Minkah Fitzpatrick who has been through more than most people could even imagine. From not having enough money to eat lunch at school to Hurricane Irene, this kid and his family have been through a lot. He is a humble, hard worker who has become a vital part of the Tide’s secondary. This is a must read.

LINK – http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2015/10/from_the_peanut_butter_room_to.html

Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State thought they would have a breakout season this year. Struggles on both sides of the ball, as well as injuries have plagued this team and pushed them off course. With their top two running backs out for last week’s game and possibly more time, James Franklin has to rely on his young players to get him through the season.

LINK – http://www.collegian.psu.edu/football/article_d22be4b0-6af7-11e5-aeef-b75fc17e684d.html

Everyone loves a heartwarming story, and Immanuel Iyke is happy to oblige. Iyke recently walked-on to the Penn State program, but the circumstances in which he did so are the real story. Iyke is a 27-year-old former U.S. Marine who served five tours of duty overseas, and now, he is playing defensive tackle for the Nittany Lions.

LINK – http://onwardstate.com/2015/10/06/former-u-s-marine-runs-on-to-penn-state-football-roster-2/

Tennessee Volunteers

After a disappointing start to the season to say the least, the Volunteer fan base is looking to all the coaches for answers. Although the Vols still have a lot of football to play, the fans are livid and jumping ship left and right. At a local, frequent event, position coach Willie Martinez said that the team must rely on the foundation they built and the competition of the players to keep this season afloat. Things are going downhill in Knoxville fast, and coaches are going into damage control mode.

LINK – http://www.knoxnews.com/govolsxtra/football/willie-martinez-says-culture-will-rescue-struggling-vols_15618088

If any of you were following college football in the late 80’s and early 90’s, then you most likely have heard the names Phillip Fulmer and Johnny Majors. Both former coaches in Knoxville, Fulmer succeeded Majors as head football coach of the Vols after questions that Majors could continue coaching the Vols hit center stage. Ever since the coaching change, Majors and Fulmer have disliked each other so much that they couldn’t even be in the same room together or on campus together. Late last week, a picture of the two shaking hands on campus went viral. Many Vol fans thought that a “curse” had been lifted, but as we saw against Arkansas, the Vols are still the Vols.

LINK – https://www.seccountry.com/tennessee/two-former-tennessee-coaches-bury-the-hatchet

Texas Longhorns

The Longhorns have been flat out unwatchable this year, and that is something that shouldn’t happen to Texas football. The current caretaker of Texas football is Charlie Strong. Strong has not had an ideal tenure so far as the Longhorn coach, and everyone thinks that they see Strong getting pushed out soon. Well, according to the Texas boosters, Charlie Strong’s job as head coach is secure right now. Take this piece for what it’s worth though, because you can never trust what the boosters or officials come out and publicly say.

LINK – http://www.si.com/college-football/2015/10/05/texas-longhorns-charlie-strong-job-security-boosters

After a Texas player retweeted a tweet during the TCU blowout Saturday that was directed towards him transferring to A&M, the Texas team has resorted to attacking each other on Twitter. The Twitter trouble continued to plague the team over the weekend and it is clear that neither the upperclassmen nor Charlie Strong have this locker room under control. Will things get better in Austin?

LINK – http://www.usnews.com/news/sports/articles/2015/10/05/at-1-4-texas-players-now-pointing-fingers

UCLA Bruins

Following a season ending injury to Myles Jack, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden sent the young man an encouraging letter and well wishes on his recovery. Haden talks about his admiration for Jack’s play in the letter. It sure is nice to have something positive to talk about when the bad news is what usually gets put in the forefront of everyone’s mind.

LINK – http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/eye-on-college-football/25328848/look-usc-ad-sends-uclas-myles-jack-a-letter-following-knee-injury

UCLA was taken down last weekend, and it simply took the air out of the sails of this team. Once seen as a solid playoff contender, the Bruins have played their way to the bottom of the polls, and the future looks bleak if they can’t get the ship righted soon. The Bruins failed to play the mistake free football that they had so far this season, and because of it, they are watching their season slip away. Hopefully they can get things together and play well throughout the rest of conference play.

LINK – http://www.bruinsnation.com/2015/10/3/9447675/bruins-fall-flat-again

Virginia Tech Hokies

For the first time since 09’, the NC State Wolfpack is traveling to Blacksburg to face off with the Virginia Tech Hokies. With conference play in full force right now, this ACC matchup means a bunch to both teams. The Hokies have been decimated by injuries, but are hopeful they can do enough to win the ball game when it matters.

LINK – http://www.hokiesports.com/football/recaps/20151005aaa.html

The Virginia Tech football team got some great news this week prior to their game with NC State. Their starting quarterback, Michael Brewer has been cleared to play after an injury he suffered during the first game of the season against Ohio State. There is still a decision to make as to if Brewer will get to play, but it’s positive that he can play after some tough weeks without him. On the other side of the coin however, Marshawn Williams is out for the season after the team found out that he needs even more surgery to repair his knee.

LINK – http://www.dailypress.com/sports/virginia-tech/dp-spt-virginia-tech-football-game-week-presser-1006-20151005-story.html

 

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.

College Football: Week 1 Features Ohio State’s Embarrassment of Riches

It only took five days, but our first weekend of College Football is in the books. We had a lot of chalk and some disappointment, but it was the “Wow!” moments that really jumped off the page. The bar was really set high for the individuals that the consensus expects to be in the running for that big heavy trophy, and for the schools interested in playing in that little tournament, well, they just had to win.

From the home of the Belk Bowl to the campus of the last program to slay the dragon that Urban Meyer built in Central Ohio, it was an extended weekend of debuts, vengeance, and perhaps an introduction to some new contenders. We’ll start in Blacksburg, where the first unanimous Preseason AP #1 team in the country took on Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies, seeking their pound of flesh for what took place in Columbus a year ago.

Ohio State 42 Virginia Tech 24

The story has been told, time and time again. Cardale Jones has never started a game in his own stadium for Ohio State, and on Monday night, he earned his first regular season victory, so it’s long past the time we stop referring to him as the Buckeye’s 3rd-string quarterback. In case you felt his previous three performances were some type of sorcery on the part of Meyer last December and January, the junior from Cleveland showed the magic is still there on Ohio State’s first possession, hitting Curtis Samuel on the money with a throw off of his back foot, good for a 24-yard touchdown. The next time the Buckeyes snapped the ball, Ezekiel Elliott went 80 yards to make it 14-0 in favor of the defending champs, perhaps making fans in Tuscaloosa feel better about things, but likely not.

It appeared the Buckeyes were going to roll, but misfortune, the type that goes beyond taking the field at Lane Stadium without Joey Bosa or Jalin Marshall on the field, struck, and the Hokies ripped off 17 unanswered, taking a 17-14 lead into the break. A missed Ohio State field goal gave the home team some momentum towards the end of the first quarter, but all of the credit in the world goes to Virginia Tech for designing a wheel route to full back Sam Rogers, who was all by himself on the left sideline. The big man had to hustle, but Eli Apple stood between him and the goal line and he shook the Buckeyes’ the third-year corner out of his shoes to cut the early advantage in half. Without the services of Marshall, Meyer had Elliott back returning punts, and call it inexperience or whatever, but the All-World running back struggled to field AJ Hughes second punt of the night, and four plays later, another nicely designed throwback to Ryan Malleck on third down gave the Hokies the lead.

Anyone remember Braxton Miller, the forgotten head on the three-headed monster of Ohio State’s open competition for the starting role last spring? They gave him a new number and a new position, and it only took him about a half of football to get his sea-legs beneath him. He did have a couple of rushing attempts and a nice diving 24-yard catch in the first half, which I think showed us he’s still a legitimate player, even when not behind center. On the third play of the second half, he took a pass from Jones and tip-toed by the Hokie defender, down the right sideline for 54 yards and the score. On the Bucks next offensive play from scrimmage, he gave the Scarlet and Gray their first Wow Moment of the season with a spin move that you can, yeah, only do on video games. From there, the rout was on.

https://vine.co/v/etJnO1lvnKm

Give Beamer and company some credit; they nearly made Mark May look smart. While the final score really was indicative of the game we watched, they did some really good things to take the straight-up running game away from Ohio State, despite big plays from Elliott and Miller, and they found enough vulnerabilities in the defense to put some points on the board and make this prime time affair interesting into the late night hours of Labor Day. The game really didn’t get out of hand until Brenden Motley had to spell starting quarterback Michael Brewer.

Unfortunately for Brewer, we live in a world where what you say with a certain expectation of privacy is subject to “going viral”. He was caught on camera, and yes, it’s likely he knew it was in his face, spouting off some one-liner about how it’s going to take a lot more than a fairly brutal hit he took on the Hokies last drive of the half to knock him out of the game. You can’t blame the kid; he was talking to his teammates in the locker room, more so than the national television audience through the lens of ESPN’s camera, but people are going to talk about karma. To that, I say “whatever”.

It’s widely believed that this is Ohio State’s last real test before Michigan State visits Columbus in November, and it’s hard to disagree. Up next, the Buckeyes get Hawaii, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan at home, and then a relatively simple conference slate, though I’m not ready to overlook Minnesota’s visit to the ‘Shoe on November 7th. For the Hokies, don’t expect the season to instantly go down the toilet after this acceptable performance. Last year, East Carolina beat Virginia Tech on their home field a week after they stunned Ohio State. Don’t expect Furman to follow suit; in fact, I’d say you can expect the Hokies to get their own pound of flesh from ECU on the road in a couple of weeks, and for them to be competitive in the ACC.

Marshall 41 Purdue 31

It was tough sledding for Darrell Hazell and Purdue in the only game on the slate for this pre-NFL Sunday. If Hazell and his signal-caller Austin Appleby never see Tiquan Lang again, it will be too soon for the both of them. Though, I’m very open to the possibility that Appleby never saw Lang at all, yeilding two pick-sixes to the Thundering Herd’s junior safety, which were good for the first and last scores of the game.

On the game’s very first play from scrimmage, Lang stepped in front of the intended receiver, and went 30 yards untouched to give Marshall the early lead, but there was still a good 59 minutes and change of football to be played. Purdue was able to recover on a DJ Knox touchdown run, on his way too a 100-yard day on the ground, but the game went back and forth all afternoon. The visiting Boilermakers led for most of the first half, until Devon Johnson put Marshall back up 34-31 with a 6-yard score, but Appleby had one more chance. After timeouts by both teams, it appeared the Purdue junior had too much time to think about it once again. And once again, an ill-fated pass attempt fell into the hands of Lang, who had to work harder on his second return, cutting across the field for a 55-yard score to put it to bed.

Given their early success in making the jump from Division I to Division I-AA with Chad Pennington and Randy Moss nearly twenty years ago, it’s difficult to believe Sunday’s win, in front of a home crowd of nearly 39,000 in Huntington, was the school’s first win over a Big Ten program, but the Boilermakers seem to be giving a few mid-Majors that milestone in recent years.

Alabama 35 Wisconsin 17

Hey Badger fans, I think Derrick Henry just scored again! Okay, maybe not, but the Alabama junior running back averaged 11.3 yards per carry, en route to three touchdowns on the ground at “The House That Jerry Built” in North Texas on Saturday. It probably would have been more, but the end zone kept stopping him. If there’s honestly a debate about the quarterback position at Alabama, and I don’t think there is, we gained no clarity about it on Saturday night. My gut tells me Nick Saban will let Jake Coker assume the role, unless his poor play forces his hand or Cooper Bateman takes things to a new level in the time he’s getting.

So, I know Gene Chizik was 5-19 at Iowa State before being awarded the Auburn job, where he landed the services of Cam Newton and won a title in his second season, so maybe I don’t read too much into Paul Chryst’s 19-19 mark at Pittsburgh. Seriously though, in Chryst’s debut with the Badgers, he wasn’t just behind the curve with the X’s and O’s, that Big Ten size and strength, which is supposed to be their finest asset in Madison, it’s not there. I’ve long thought that Barry Alvarez was the reason Gary Andersen chose a new gig in Corvalis over what he’s built in Madison, but he might have just seen the writing on the wall with what he wasn’t able to recruit. Sorry, but 16 yards on 8 carries for Corey Clement just isn’t getting it done; Melvin Gordon III isn’t walking back through that door and head coaches will dare Joel Stave to beat them all season.

Texas A&M 38 Arizona State 17

Is it possible to lose a game by more than just the numbers on the scoreboard? In being picked apart by Scottsdale, Arizona’s Kyle Allen and Christian Kirk, the very successful head coach of the Sun Devils, Todd Graham, was exposed for losses to the state of Texas in the recruiting game. Allen, the sophomore quarterback fighting off highly touted freshman Kyler Murray, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, but Kirk was the star of the show. You get sick of hearing about video games when you’re discussing actual human athletes, but between his 79-yard punt return that put the Aggies up 14-0 early and his 66-yard touchdown catch and run, that status quo had cheat codes on their mind. I’d reference the Game Genie here, but it would be lost on everyone not born between 1975 and 1985.

After A&M’s season went downhill after their big win in the opener against South Carolina a year ago, Aggie fans can only be cautiously optimistic about Kevin Sumlin’s squad’s chances in the SEC. On the other hand, after watching how hapless the ASU offense was in Houston, there has to be some concern about senior quarterback Mike Berovici, a guy that wasn’t spectacular in his understudy role in 2014, despite the team’s success in games he started.

This neutral site game was the only game of any sort on the 2015 schedule that paired a Pac-12 school against a team from the Southeastern Conference. If you’re an SEC honk, you want the Sun Devils to dominate their conference. If you support a Pac-12 contender that isn’t Arizona State, you’re probably hoping your program isn’t basically a coin flip for that fourth playoff spot with a member of the SEC in December.

Northwestern 16 Stanford 6

We should probably acknowledge this battle of Academia that took place in Evanston, the most watchable matinee of the day on Saturday. Was this more about Kevin Hogan and Stanford being inept on offense, or does Pat Fitzgerald have a great defense at Northwestern? I fear David Shaw may be on the decline, the more we see time separate this program from the days of Jim Harbaugh.

One thing I’m hearing and I don’t agree with is that Stanford is suddenly too slow. Sure Hogan isn’t a runner on the level that Andrew Luck was, and Ty Montgomery is gone from the offense and special teams, but Michael Rector isn’t slow and we should see more of Christian McCaffrey in both the running and passing games. My guess is the offense works it out, but I don’t know if the glass is less than half-full when I look at that defense. The departing talent hasn’t been replaced, or the newbies haven’t been developed, but Northwestern owned the line of scrimmage when they had the ball. That’s going to be a problem for the Cardinal all year.

The victory in the trenches translated to a good game for running back Justin Jackson, who ran for 134 yards. However, it was quarterback Clayton Thorson’s 42 yard run, on what looked like a designed draw play, that represented the only touchdown of the day. The Wildcats will host an FCS team next week, and visit Duke in a few weeks, but expect them to finish non-conference play 4-0, setting up a big match up with Minnesota, on October 2nd at Ryan Field.

Ole Miss 76 Tennessee-Martin 3

Yuck, just yuck. Hugh Freeze, you’re in the SEC, and I know you want the home game at whatever price, but playing FCS foes is totally beneath you. Indiana got lucky doing this, but Wyoming, Washington State, and Kansas were not. Shame on everyone who partakes in this practice, even you Arizona State, where I’ll watch you rebound against cal-Poly, but still, Yuck!

Michigan State 37 Western Michigan 24

Kudos to the AD’s in East Lansing and Kalamazoo for making this happen, with the mid-major hosting the high major. PJ Fleck, your Western Michigan program isn’t quite there yet, but they didn’t look out of their element with a big boy from the Big Ten in town.

Michigan State might want to work on kick coverage this week, while the Broncos shouldn’t change a thing. Row your boat, fellas.

Charlotte 23 Georgia State 20

This game kicked off at 12:30 PM, during my work day on Friday. I caught the end on the ESPN app in my office. It was fourth College Football game I’d watched with some interest in a 24-hour span; yeah, I need help.

For the 49ers, it was their first game as an FBS program, and obviously also their first victory, but the Panthers of Georgia State made it interesting in the end.

TCU 23 Minnesota 17

I don’t know if I just don’t like the idea of B being a Heisman candidate, or if I have the bar set too high for him and, really, the rest of the Horned Frogs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think TCU is phenomenal when they have the ball, and that’s where the expectation comes from, but they just didn’t seem to have it, despite a nice victory over an underlooked Minnesota team on Thursday night at TCF Stadium.

He’s got weapons all around him, most notably Josh Doctson, and 246 passing on a day he rushed for 92 is far from underwhelming, but in real-time, I didn’t think he was anything special. That just tells me we haven’t seen anything yet from the offense. Based on what SMU was able to do to Baylor for 30 minutes on Friday, they might make for an interesting opponent for Gary Patterson’s defense, still a question mark for me after Minnesota had many opportunities Thursday.

Jerry Kill has a nice little team in Minnesota. They hung around the entire game, even if TCU did adjust better at the half. Rodney Smith seems like a good find; the freshman had 88 yards on 16 carries, but a lot of it that offensive line. Junior quarterback Mitch Leidner needs to be more efficient or throw the ball less, but I don’t know how much less he can throw it, considering he was sacked 20 times a year ago.

That Ref Deserves a Hug

Sometimes, I just can’t get over how the universe can even itself out. Two years ago, going left to right across the Big Red “N” at midfield in Lincoln, a backup quarterback heaves up a prayer. You know the rest, Jordan Westerkamp is on the receiving end for the touchdown and the win against Nebraska. Redemption is spelled R-O-N (Kellog).

Fast forward to Saturday, BYU down 28-27, 1 tick on the clock for Tanner Magnum, on in relief of the injured Taysom Hill. Mitch Matthews hauls it in for the win, but #11 Terenn Houk is the star of this Vine.

https://vine.co/v/eTVKrzL5T0E

…and the rest.

These are all of the items that are too short for a capsule of their own.

  • Penn State, I’m glad you went to Philly to play Temple, but how did you lose that game?
  • Michigan, you can’t run the ball and don’t have a real answer at quarterback. Jim Harbaugh isn’t saving you right away.
  • Between the Cactus Bowl and Friday’s somewhat awkward return to Boise for Chris Petersen, I’ve now bailed on Washington at halftime in consecutive games, only to learn the second half was interesting, the next day. Show up in the first half, Huskies.
  • Nicely done, Josh Rosen.   What a performance for the true freshman; he came with a lot of hype, but lived up to it.  UCLA wasn’t playing an FCS school on Saturday, they were hosting a Power 5.  It was Virginia, but still.
  • Northern Illinois, that’s two years in a row that you’ve dominated UNLV, but let them hang around. A MAC rival will take advantage at some point, just watch.
    We’re so spoiled with digital options for viewing, that it was aggravating that CBS Sports didn’t have an option and I’m told didn’t regionally switch to the UNLV-NIU game in DeKalb, while overtime was played in Tulsa.
  • By the way, way to finish your win over Florida Atlantic, Tulsa.
  • So, Auburn is pretty good.  Louisville might be too, but not based on their play Saturday.  Either way, good to see Verne and Gary on CBS in Week 1. (They called Ohio State-Navy for CBS Sports Network to open the 2014 season)
  • Play-by-play announcers and color analysts, it’s okay to punt in College Football. Not every opponent is Oregon, and not every situation near or behind midfield equals four-down territory. Our game is about field position, and you win it by punting when appropriate.
  • Adults that paint their bodies and dedicate their lives to “me time” on camera for their favorite College Football team don’t deserve the air time.
  • I’d rather get neutral site games than no game at all, but there’s something about the games being played on campus. Steve Spurrier, that atmosphere sucked with all of the empty seats in Charlotte. Go to Chapel Hill or have Larry Fedora bring his team to Columbia, and stop trying to do too much.
  • Nice touchdown reception, Robert Nkemdiche.  We’ll talk more about the two-way play of the Ole Miss pass-rusher, when they play an FBS foe.

Lastly, I think I underestimated how cool Scott Van Pelt’s midnight Sportscenter would be, because I was mostly upset about losing his radio show on my mid-day drives. I’d planned on getting straight to my writing room when the game ended, but I stuck around. It’s a shame the technical stuff had to be difficult in Virginia, I really would have loved to see him interview Braxton Miller.

Back on Sunday to discuss Week 2…61 hours until Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky kickoff.

Predictions, the Bragging Rights Edition

Rivalry weekend. The biggest weekend of the year. Normally there might be four teams still vying for a BCS championship spot at this time but with the inaugural playoff that number has doubled. On the flip side, you have eight opponents trying to end their rival’s championship dreams. Plus we have games today, tomorrow, and a Saturday slate with important games from the initial 11:00 am central kick all the way through midnight. It really doesn’t get better. So who’s going to stay in the race? What championship contenders will be victims of an upset? I take a stab at predicting 14 of the weekend’s biggest games and what rivals will have bragging rights for the next year.

TCU @ Texas
Texas is coming into this game with some momentum, having won three straight and becoming bowl-eligible. Those three wins have been the result of a dominating defense, but QB Tyrone Swoopes has played better as well. TCU on the other hand has been walking a tight-rope. In their three conference road games TCU has lost to Baylor, snuck by West Virginia by 1, and needed a comeback to win by 4 at Kansas. I have a feeling the Big 12 will work itself out over the last two weeks. My belief is it will work itself out via a Texas pass defense that is one of the best in the nation. One that will limit Trevone Boykin and the TCU offense, leading the Longhorns to a 30-27 upset.

LSU @ Texas A&M
Before the year started not many would have guessed that this matchup would be near the bottom ten best games of this weekend. Both teams have struggled recently for different reasons. LSU is only a 3 point favorite but they’ll win this game because they match up well with A&M. LSU’s strength on offense is running the ball, and the Aggies are 106th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game. On the flip side, Texas A&M’s offense is predicated on throwing the ball, which will be difficult against an LSU secondary that ranks 6th in the country in pass defense. Add in a true freshman QB going against those Tigers defensive backs and it sounds like a recipe for disaster. LSU 34-20

Arkansas at Missouri
Arkansas comes into this game with all the hype, playing well recently after winning its first couple conference games. However Missouri is the team playing for a chance at making the conference championship game and still feels like it isn’t being respected. Neither of these offenses wows you and both of their strengths are running the ball. But Arkansas (20th) and Missouri (23rd) both have strong rush defenses which will make this a low scoring affair. The difference here will be in the passing attacks. Missouri’s defense has 40 sacks on the year whereas Arkansas’ only has 19. This will allow Maty Mauk to make a couple plays with extra time that won’t be afforded to Razorback QB Brandon Allen. Missouri wins 17-13

Arizona State at Arizona
These are rivals who are two fairly similar teams statistically this year. Both have good offenses but mediocre defenses. While a Pac-12 championship berth may evaporate with a UCLA win, the winner of this game will have a decent shot at a major bowl berth. I’m more impressed with Arizona’s resume and they are the home team, but Anu Solomon’s health is a major factor. If he were healthy I’d go with the Wildcats, but he may not even play so I’ll take the Sun Devils 33-24

Virginia at Virginia Tech
Why would anyone outside of the state of Virginia want to watch this game? Because it could be the first time in history a team goes to overtime in back to back weeks with the score 0-0. I don’t actually know if that’s never happened, I’m just assuming so. But this game could be the same kind of ugly last week’s VA Tech-Wake Forest “contest” was. Virginia and Virginia Tech are 83rd and 103rd respectively in total offense. Their defenses on the other hand rank 26th and 22nd. Maybe the media should be pumping this game up as a classic defensive battle that could rival Alabama-LSU. Ok maybe not. The only excitement from this game is the winning team being bowl-eligible, if you can call that exciting. Virginia QB Greyson Lambert has thrown at least one interception in every game except versus Richmond. Hokies QB Michael Brewer hasn’t exactly lit up the ACC but he has only thrown two interceptions in the last five games. That will be the difference. Virginia Tech 16-13

Michigan at Ohio State
This won’t be one of the classic Wolverines-Buckeyes games you’ll tell to your kids. Michigan and Ohio State are relatively equal in defensive efficiency but the Buckeyes are light years ahead on offense. Ohio State also knows they need to pour on the points and impress voters to ensure a chance at rising in the playoff rankings. Buckeyes cruise, 41-17

South Carolina at Clemson
This game has been a nightmare for the Tigers in recent years. Will this year be any different? If it is, it will likely be because of defense. Clemson’s defense is #1 in the country while South Carolina’s comes in at 89. Since the Gamecock’s 3-1 start they are 3-4 with wins against Furman, South Alabama, and a Florida team they probably should’ve lost to. Clemson’s offense has struggled lately, but their defense will lock down South Carolina. I’d feel better if I knew DeShaun Watson was playing, but I’ll still take Clemson to end their losing streak in the series, 27-17

Georgia Tech at Georgia
Both teams come into this game at 9-2, but could the Yellow Jackets be looking ahead to their game with FSU next week? Georgia still has an outside shot at a playoff spot if Missouri loses Friday, so I think they’ll be focused on this game either way. In the back of my mind I can see Georgia Tech running all over the Bulldogs’ 54th ranked rush defense the way Florida did. But GA Tech doesn’t exactly have the defense the Gators do. The Yellow Jackets are 71st in rushing yards allowed per game and 110th in sacks. With that I still give the edge to Georgia and in the end I’ll take the 9-2 SEC team over the 9-2 ACC team, especially one at home. Georgia wins 31-24

Mississippi State at Ole Miss
This game has lost more than a little luster in the last month, but it’s still one of the biggest Egg Bowls in recent memory. Both teams have good defenses with the one weakness being Mississippi State’s pass defense. However I don’t think Bo Wallace will be able to take advantage of that. I normally don’t take teams’ motivation into account, but Mississippi State still has a really good shot at making the playoff, and Ole Miss seems deflated in the last few weeks. Bulldogs take it 17-13

Florida at Florida State
Will Florida State finally stop playing close games? Is this the week they finally lose? Florida has the defense to keep them in the game, ranking in the Top 15 versus the run and the pass. They also have Vernon Hargreaves III, one of the best corners in the country who can limit Seminoles wideout Rashad Greene. When Florida is on offense, they’ll have to rely on the run the way they did against Georgia and hope they can wear down a Seminoles rush defense that is only 43rd in the nation. When (if?) Florida does pass, Treon Harris shouldn’t be pressured often since Florida State is 102nd in sacks. Jameis Winston and the Seminoles offense have struggled this year against far worse defenses and the Gators basically had a bye week last week to prepare for this game. Before the year started, I picked Florida State to go 12-1 with this game being their only loss. I see no reason to change that now. Florida wins 23-20

Minnesota at Wisconsin
Minnesota comes in having had unexpected success this year, culminating to this point with a win at Nebraska last week. But there’s plenty going against them this Saturday. They are 53rd against the run, not exactly helpful when facing Melvin Gordon. On the flip side, the Badgers should be able to limit the Gophers on offense with their defense which is second nationally. Wisconsin is 31-3 in the last five years (including this year) at home and Minnesota hasn’t won there since 1994. I don’t see that changing. Badgers keep the axe, 41-20

Notre Dame at USC
I don’t know what a Jeweled Shillelagh is, but it’s got one of the coolest names for a rivalry trophy. It’ll be on the line Saturday in what should be a high scoring affair. Both teams can put up points and neither team is very good at stopping opposing offenses from doing the same. USC will be able to run a little more on the Irish D than vice versa. That and turnovers will be the difference. Cody Kessler has only thrown four interceptions on the year as opposed to the 13 Everett Golson has tossed. Assuming my trusty sources are correct (aka the internet) the Shillelagh, some kind of Irish club, and not the fun dancing kind, will go to the Trojans. USC 38-33

Auburn at Alabama
I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to top the Iron Bowl from last year. Basically for eternity. But this game still has conference and national title implications. Auburn hasn’t had the same magic as last year. Their offense isn’t quite the same but it’s still one that tends to give Alabama trouble and though the Tigers have had a disappointing year, they can still save their season by ending Alabama’s for a second year in a row. It’s not going to happen. Alabama is about 50 spots better in total defense (5-53) and Auburn doesn’t get pressure on the QB this year (90th in sacks). Additionally, you know Nick Saban has been waiting a year to avenge last year’s loss when he could’ve just taken the game to overtime. Alabama’s average margin of victory at home this year is 33.3 and it isn’t just inflated versus FCS opponents. Their three conference home games have resulted in victories of 42-21 against Florida, 59-0 against Texas A&M, and 25-21 against previously #1 Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide march on to the SEC Championship 37-23

Oregon at Oregon State
The Civil War. Can Oregon avoid that one loss that has knocked them from championship consideration in past years? They’ll be threatened by a Beaver passing attack that should have success, led by Sean Mannion, against the Ducks 117th ranked pass defense. Some of that is surely the result of being up big most games, but they shouldn’t be that bad. Unfortunately for Oregon State, their defense is a sieve as well and is 91st in points allowed. I don’t know how they beat Arizona State because their only other conference win is against Colorado. The Beavers will keep it close for a half, but Oregon overpowers them on their way to a rematch with UCLA. Ducks 47, Beavers 27

ACC Coastal – Ready to Rumble

While we are only 5 weeks into the season, a couple of questions are starting to sort themselves out and as we might expect, many remain unanswered. Two frequently asked questions at the start of the season that are becoming clearer with each week: Is Virginia really going to be that bad again? Is North Carolina really a top-25 team? Clearly Virginia is nowhere near as bad as last year and may end up being pretty darned good. Just as clearly UNC is not a top-25 team and could end up being pretty darned mediocre. Other teams this week advanced, dropped, and held steady in their quest for a Coastal crown.
For the second week in a row, the ever-confident UNC defense gave up at least 50 points and over 500 yards of total offense. At least this week’s beneficiary of Carolina’s poor tackling and blown secondary assignments was an ACC opponent. I suppose the upside for Carolina is…if we are grading on improvement, 535 yards and 50 points against Clemson is better than 789 yards and 70 points against ECU. The bottom line however, is that this is a bad defense playing well below its talent level. The Carolina offense, when led by a settled Marquise Williams is quite capable and certainly above average in the Coastal division. However, the woeful play of the Carolina defense is placing an undue burden on an offense that is talented, but struggling a bit to find its identity. The result after 5 weeks is a very tepid 2-2 in which Carolina has played worse than their record and well below expectations.
Virginia on the other hand has proven itself worthy against 3 of the nation’s top 25 teams and sports a 3-2 record that could just as easily be a 4-1 mark. Virginia’s problem has been one of single play breakdowns combined with a bit of bad luck that have resulted in two very tough losses. Virginia’s most important objective after dreadful seasons in 2012 and 2013 is to learn how to win. The second half of the Kent St game this weekend may have been a step towards that objective. After a lackluster first half performance in which Kent St made some nice plays and Virginia made some bad ones, Virginia led the lowly Golden Flashes by a mere 4 points. The second half was a different team and a different story. Virginia imposed its will upon Kent St. Virginia moved the ball and scored consistently while stuffing the Flashes regularly, and frankly there was nothing Kent St could do about it. For the game, Virginia forced 5 turnovers and scored 21 points off of turnovers, eclipsing last season’s total again in a single game. In a must-succeed season when Virginia needs to make a bowl game to save Mike London’s job, each game is a must-win situation. This week’s game against Pitt looms as the newest “most important game of the season.” Virginia is good enough to win, but the question is have they learned how to win?
Miami home games against anyone other than Florida St often draw about as many fans as a regional spelling bee – so crowd noise can’t be the excuse for Duke’s undoing on Saturday. Rather I believe the confectioner’s jubilee Duke feasted upon the first four games of the season came back to haunt them against Miami. After smashing Elon, Troy, Tulane, and Kansas in their first 4 games, 22-10 does not fully reflect how ineffective Duke was and how Miami dominated the game. This game was close to “Miami of old” versus “Duke of old.” Miami had better players who made better plays for 60 minutes. I suppose dominating the Elon running game probably wasn’t great preparation for Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby who combined for 216 yards rushing. Freshman QB Brad Kaaya continued his impressive play and had little trouble unraveling the Duke defense. Miami heads to Georgia Tech on Saturday to contend with the triple option while Duke is off, which one could argue makes five weekends out of their first six.
Sometimes cute puppies bite you. Sometimes games against MAC opponents intended to pad the schedule go horribly awry. The Akron Zips came to Pitt Saturday and dropped an embarrassing 21-10 loss on the Panthers who may have been reeling from a tough home loss against Iowa while looking ahead to a critical road match against Virginia. The bottom line was the Zips played a better game and deserved to win. While Akron failed to shut down Pitt’s offensive juggernauts James Connor and Tyler Boyd, they contained them and dared the remaining Pitt offensive playmakers to beat them. None stepped up and the Zips came away with an impressive road win. This was no fluke. Pitt didn’t commit 6 fluky turnovers or 15 penalties. Akron played the better game and won. This could either start a death spiral or inspire a turnaround for Pitt’s season. We will see a strong indication of which it is Saturday night in Charlottesville.
Virginia Tech played well enough to post a convincing win against Western Michigan in Blacksburg. There was nothing particularly notable, good or bad, about the Hokie’s performance. They were by far the better team and despite a scrappy effort from WMU, came away with a confidence-building win. The biggest concern for Hokie fans has to be the continued inconsistent play of Michael Brewer. All-American one play and FCS bench-warmer the next, Brewer put in a solid performance, but still tossed two interceptions to raise his 5 game total to a troubling 11. The good news for Brewer and the Hokie offense is that they go to Chapel Hill this Saturday to face the ACC’s most generous defense which currently ranks 120 out of 125 FBS programs. The bad news for Virginia Tech is they will be without promising freshman running back Shai McKenzie. Trey Edmunds is getting healthier each week which is good news and can mitigate the McKenzie loss. Running game aside, the key for the Hokies on Saturday will be getting their playmakers in space against Carolina’s inept secondary.
Pitt vs. Virginia, VT vs. UNC, and Miami vs. GT. Next week will we may start to answer some of the remaining questions in the Coastal. Can UNC hold an FBS offense under 500 yards for the first time this year? Can Virginia win a big one at home? Can GT open an early and unexpected lead in the Coastal race? Stay tuned. This is going to be fun.

Cupcakes For Most in ACC Coastal

When you serve cupcakes for desert, you generally get a lot of fluff and sugar. When the 5 of the 7 teams in the ACC Coastal begin their seasons with FCS schools, there aren’t going to be a lot of surprises. The first week of the season in the ACC Coastal didn’t raise many questions, but it did begin the conversation towards answering a couple. What did we learn in week #1? We certainly learned that ACC Coastal teams can dominate the FCS.
The Pitt Panthers absolutely drilled a Delaware program that has been down the last couple of years. Pitt dominated on both sides of the ball and led 42-0 at halftime. Pitt or any other team in the ACC coastal should have a big day playing Delaware, but this was off the charts. Pitt held Delaware held under 100 total yards on offense and gained over 500 yards against the Blue Hens’ defense. Is this a function of a resurgent Pitt program or a subpar Delaware team that mailed it in when the roof caved in? 61-0 is a big win no matter who you play. We likely won’t know if Pitt is a force in the Coastal until they host Iowa in week 4.
Virginia Tech struggled early in a tune up for their trip to Columbus next week. Little is expected from William & Mary in the CAA this year, but they gave the Hokies a good fight for a half. The Hokies look like they found a quarterback in Michael Brewer who had a very solid, workman-like outing. Freshmen Shai McKenzie and Isaiah Ford looked flashy in their debuts, but I suspect the Buckeyes will be a better gauge of Brewer’s effectiveness and the freshmen will see a defense much bigger, faster, and stronger than the Tribe. If there was a surprise in this game it’s that the Virginia Tech lead was only 17-6 at halftime, but a highly touted VT defense delivered as expected keeping the Tribe out of the endzone in what may be the on-going story for the coming Hokie season.
Duke hammered a badly overmatched Elon team in what was one of the bigger mismatches on paper that yielded the expected results on the field.
The biggest surprise of the cupcake games was likely Georgia Tech vs. Wofford. The Jackets never ran away from what should have been a terribly overmatched Wofford team. In a bigger surprise the Jackets threw for 2 touchdowns. However, it’s not time to declare that Georgia Tech is going “West Coast.” Maybe GT just used the Wofford game to practice a diversified attack for 2014.
North Carolina probably played the toughest of the FCS games against a scrappy Liberty team. As is the case with many FBS vs. FCS games, Liberty was competitive for a half before succumbing to a more talented UNC team. Marquise Williams and Elijah Hood were exciting players before the Liberty game and they did nothing to quell the high expectations for 2014. A capable Liberty offense was surprisingly able to score 29 points against a UNC defense that will need to improve if the Tar Heels are going to live up to their pre-season expectations.
The Coastal teams that did not dine on cupcakes this past weekend were Virginia and Miami. Both teams may wish they played FCS teams to open their seasons with wins, but they didn’t and both stand at 0-1 after one week of play. While Miami played a solid but rebuilding Louisville team, Virginia opened with the #7 ranked ULCA Bruins.
Miami demonstrated that Al Golden still has a lot of work ahead to bring college football glory back to south Florida. Miami hasn’t played in the championship since they joined the ACC. If the Miami defense does not improve dramatically and quickly, 2014 won’t break the championship drought. Miami also showed that winning with a true freshman QB is a tall order. While clearly very talented, Brad Kaaya frequently looked overwhelmed and posted modest results as the ‘Canes fell hard to a better Louisville team.
Virginia UCLA
Virginia provided the most intriguing results of the weekend and may have begun the answer to the burning question of whether or not Mike London can win enough games to return in 2015. While Virginia fell to UCLA 28-20, the Cavaliers outplayed the Bruins for the better part of the game. Frankly, this was a game that Virginia played well enough to win and score a national upset. The Virginia defense led by ACC linebacker of the week Henry Coley held Brett Hundley in check as the potent Bruin offense scored but one touchdown all day. Virginia held UCLA to 7 for18 on 3rd down conversions and 0 for2 on fourth down. One game does not a dominant defense make, but the UCLA game began the conversation about how good the UVa defense can be. If Cavalier the defense continues to play this well, they can keep Virginia in every game on the schedule with the exception of  an away game with Florida State. The offense on the other hand surrendered 21 points and lost the game for the Cavaliers. As bad as that sounds, all was not lost for the UVa offense. The Cavaliers outgained the Bruins in both rushing and passing by small margins and an overhauled offensive line did not yield a sack to a fast and experienced UCLA defense. A flukey scoop and score and bad break on tipped pass were Virginia’s undoing in this game. Is Virginia going to challenge for the coastal crown in 2014? We don’t know. Until the Cavaliers learn to convert well played games into wins, smart money says they will not. However smart money might not bet on the Cavs to finish last either.