Tag Archives: NC State

Way-Too-Early Schedule Game: Notre Dame Edition

Well, it’s that time of the year. Summer is upon us and it’s almost okay to start dreaming of the college football season. Yes, it is only June, and still way too early for a legitimate top 25 and too early to count anyone out – or in, for that matter – of the national championship race.

Where does that leave us, you ask? I think it puts us in the perfect place to play everyone’s favorite game, the schedule game.

Over the course of this column I’m going to take a look at each of the 12 opponents Notre Dame will be facing during the 2016 regular season, give a quick breakdown and background information, and make a “way-too-early” pick on the game. Sound simple enough? Good!

Week 1 at Texas – Sunday, September 4 – Austin, TX

In a rematch of last season’s opener, Notre Dame will travel to the University of Texas to take on the Longhorns to begin the season. Last year, the Irish smoked Charlie Strong’s squad 38-3 in South Bend. Just as there was last year for Texas, there is a quarterback competition heading into camp. The difference between Notre Dame’s QB battle and Texas’ is the talent level. The pressure is building on Strong at Texas, and I don’t expect the Notre Dame game to help ease any of it.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 35 – Texas 17

Week 2 vs Nevada – Saturday, September 10 – South Bend, IN

Unlike last year, the Irish won’t open up the home portion of their schedule with a marquee opponent. While that isn’t meant to be a knock on the Wolf Pack, it’s the truth. Nevada projects to be a borderline bowl team this season and Notre Dame has higher aspirations than that level. The strength of the Wolf Pack will be their offense, specifically the backfield made up of Penn State transfer Akeel Lynch and James Butler. Nevada very may well have a nice season, but I doubt that this game is one of their highlights.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 42 – Nevada 20

Week 3 vs Michigan State – Saturday, September 17 – South Bend, IN

The third week of the season may be Notre Dame’s first real test. Michigan State is coming off of a College Football Playoff appearance and the Spartans have won two out of the last three Big Ten titles. Yes, last year took a lucky bounce at the Big House and a sick Zeke Elliott at The Shoe to get their two biggest wins, they were wins nonetheless. Sparty should be heading into 2016 ranked in the top 25. It will certainly be interesting to see who replaces Connor Cook under center for the Spartans. MSU will open the season with Furman at home followed by a bye week before their trip to South Bend. A night game at Notre Dame Stadium will be the first real test for this young team.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 27 – Michigan State 20

Week 4 vs Duke – Saturday, September 24 – South Bend, IN

While the Blue Devils are traditionally known for their success on the hardwood, they have been much improved on the gridiron lately as well. The Blue Devils are coming off a win in last year’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl, however their team is not without its share of question marks. The biggest one of these may be the quarterback position. Last year the offense was driven by Thomas Sirk. Sirk was due to return to the helm this season, however he ruptured his Achilles for the second time during offseason conditioning drills in February. It is unknown if Sirk will be back and how effective he will be. If he is unable to play look for Parker Boehme to fill in. Just like their brothers on the hardwood, I think the Blue Devils will struggle with Notre Dame on the gridiron.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 38 – Duke 17

Week 5 at Syracuse – Saturday, October 1 – East Rutherford, NJ (MetLife Stadium)

Syracuse is entering a new era with Dino Babers taking over as head coach of the Orangemen. This season looks as if it is going to be a rebuilding year for Cuse, and a win against Notre Dame is highly unlikely. It would be surprising to see Syracuse in a bowl game, with many schedule predictions having them at or around four total wins. Notre Dame certainly shouldn’t be one of them.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 35 – Syracuse 3

Week 6 at North Carolina State – Saturday, October 8 – Raleigh, NC

For the second time in the first six weeks the Irish will be taking on the Wolfpack, although this breed is based in Raleigh, NC. NC State has the task of replacing Jacoby Brissett who graduated last year. Last season, the Wolfpack scored 33.2 points per game with Brissett in control. I would look for that number to drop a little bit, although I do think new offensive coordinatior Eliah Drinkwitz will do a good job keeping that number around 30. This is a tough spot for Notre Dame. The Irish haven’t recently played that well on the road (cough Virginia 2015 cough) and the Irish could be caught looking ahead to Stanford. I think this game is much closer and tougher than people think.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 31 – NC State 28

Week 7 vs Stanford – Saturday, October 15 – South Bend, IN

Stanford-Notre Dame has quickly become one of my favorite rivalry games in college football. Since the rain-soaked overtime classic in 2012 this series has produced some extremely memorable games, including last year’s Stanford victory at the end of the regular season on a last second field goal. I think this game could certainly be another classic in this rivalry. If Stanford figures out how to replace departed QB Kevin Hogan in the first six weeks, then I see no reason why this shouldn’t be a great game.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 21 – Stanford 17

Week 8 – BYE

They won’t win, they won’t lose. Not much to see here.

Week 9 vs Miami – Saturday, October 29 – South Bend, IN

This game hasn’t gotten much run yet, but I definitely think that this will be one of the best games on Notre Dame’s schedule. I think Miami is set to return to a product similar to their glory years, with Mark Richt at the helm. This is a tremendous opportunity to not only kick-start that resurgence for the Canes, but also to reignite the rivalry between Notre Dame and The U. Junior QB Brad Kaaya is one of the more underrated signal callers in the country. This is a game Notre Dame very well could lose. The biggest thing I think they have in their favor is that they are coming off the bye week. Truthfully, I think this one could go either way, and is a start to bringing back one of college football’s most missed rivalries.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 21 – Miami 20

Week 10 at Navy – Saturday, November 5 – Jacksonville, FL (EverBank Field)

Going from one rivalry that college football misses to one of my absolute favorites. Obviously the reasoning for this rivalry are more for off-the-field traditions rather than the competitive play on the field, but the respect shown between Notre Dame and Navy is one of my favorite things to witness. This year the game shouldn’t be as close as it has been in recent years. Navy lost Keenan Reynolds to graduation and he will arguably be the program’s biggest loss since Roger Staubach. Notre Dame shouldn’t have any problem with the Midshipmen.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 34 – Navy 14

Week 11 vs Army – Saturday, November 12 – San Antonio, TX (Alamodome) SHAMROCK SERIES

I don’t think that this game will be very competitive. Truthfully, I think that the most interesting part of this will be seeing how Notre Dame looks in their yet-to-be-released alternate uniforms. The Irish have yet to lose a Shamrock Series game, and I would be stunned if this is the first.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 41 – Army 9

Week 12 vs Virginia Tech – Saturday, November 19 – South Bend, IN

What does life after Frank Beamer look like for the Hokies? By this point in the season we will know the answer to that. Justin Fuente is in to replace Beamer as head coach. Fresh off coaching first round NFL draft pick Paxton Lynch at Memphis, Fuente will have his work cut out for him in deciding between Brenden Motley, Jerod Evans, and Dwayne Lawson to run the offense. Evans is a junior college transfer and many expect him to win the job. I think this is a game that Notre Dame should win, but it is one I could see them looking past with the date with USC the following week.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 28 – VT 27

Week 13 at Southern Cal – Saturday, November 26 – Los Angeles, CA

If all goes according to my predictions (it likely won’t), Notre Dame will be entering this showdown in LA unbeaten, just like in 2012. That being said, I don’t think that this matchup turns out the same as it did in Brian Kelly’s third year on campus. In my opinion, USC is one of the most underrated teams in the country and this game will ultimately decide which of these teams heads to the final four and which doesn’t. I give a slight edge to Southern Cal at home, but I feel as if this one truly is a toss up.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Southern Cal 24 – Notre Dame 21

I think Notre Dame will be very good this year and on the cusp of playoff contention once again. There are obviously a few games I think could be trap games as well as a few games I think are going to be toss ups. I could be right, I could be wrong, I guess we will find out in November how I did.

NCAA Tournament: East Region, Day 2

The Beast Of the East turned out to be not so beastly. Villanova seemed to have everyone’s love and then they ran into 8 seed NC State. I had a front row seat on the Nova bandwagon and was just kind of “meh” with NC State. Nova was a team that I considered to be one of the most offensively versatile in the tournament and NC State had to dig out of a hole against LSU. You know the saying, Any Given Sunday. Nova ran into Any Given Saturday.

Michigan St should be expected to be in any game played in March as long as Izzo is their coach. Their game against Virginia was not the exception. Virginia had a great season, but they never truly impressed me. My thought going into the tournament was that they were the second most vulnerable 2 seed behind Kansas. And then they ran into Izzo in March. This Spartan team is poised for at least an Elite 8 run at this point.

Kudos to both Louisville and Oklahoma for taking care of business. Dayton was poised to be this year’s Cinderella and Oklahoma made sure that their clock struck midnight. Lon Kruger has made a Sweet 16 with four different programs. Coaching plus talent is always a deadly combination. Louisville took out a hard nosed Northern Iowa team. Teams that sleep on Missouri Valley teams (ahem…Kansas) tend to regret it. Coach Pitino had his team ready to go and Louisville lives to see another day.

The East Region teams that move to the Sweet 16 are NC State, Louisville , Oklahoma and Michigan St.

Don't Need NO *!$# Committee

shane-carden
In reference to the current playoff system; it’s not right, it’s not right, it’s not right. The outcome of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish-Florida State Seminoles’ game and current speculation that Notre Dame is out of serious consideration for a slot in the play-offs is enough to scrap the system in year one. The Fighting Irish played the Seminoles in Tallahassee with an ACC crew calling the game and lost by four points.
In the current AP Poll, FSU is ranked #2; Notre Dame is #7. In the Coaches’ Poll, FSU is #2 and Notre Dame is #8. If the game is played at Notre Dame with neutral officials, a different result would probably have occurred.
This raises two points; first, champions in football should not be determined by voters, nor should the primary method for gaining admission to the play-offs be determined by a committee’s vote. If you like voting for the champions, watch ice skating. Second, one game in the regular season should not determine who is in and who is out when both teams have a successful season and do not play a similar schedule.
The solution is easy. Give every conference champion a seat at the table. Currently there are ten conferences that compete in the FBS. Every conference champion should be in the play-offs. To make the math work, six teams could be given at large berths. A sixteen team field works out so that no team gets a bye. Moreover, a sixteen team field allows teams that are not in a conference fair consideration.
Also, the venue of where the games would be played and how the teams would be paired should be determined by geographic proximity instead of having a panel rank and seed the teams. This serves two functions; first, the less established bowls can be used to host the early rounds of the playoffs. For example, if Florida State Seminoles win the ACC and the Alabama Crimson Tide win the SEC; then the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl could host the playoff game between FSU and Alabama. Similarly, if the East Carolina Pirates win the AAC and the Virginia Tech Hokies wins the ACC; the Belk Bowl could host a play-off game. By having the games hosted in local venues, more fans can attend the games. This benefits the fans and the bowls that currently do not have great attendance. Everybody wins.
Also, think of the classroom time that is wasted when the basketball seeding committee sends a North Carolina team to California to play in the western regionals. Some twelve year old boy that pays more attention to basketball than his studies argues with his teacher that North Carolina must be located in the western United States because the NC State Wolfpack are playing in the western regionals. I wonder, is that why US students do so poorly on geography tests?
The opponents of a true play-off system will point out that contracts are currently in place. Granted, the current system cannot be changed by next year. However, it can be changed. Contracts are not an immutable law of nature.
At this point in the season we pretty much know the selection committee will place Florida State, Alabama, Mississippi State and or Mississippi in the play-off bowls. I agree; these are probably the strongest teams. Just like the Baltimore Colts were strong than the NY Jets in Super Bowl III: just like the University of Houston Cougars were stronger than the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the 1983 NCAA basketball championship, just like the Appalachian State Mountaineer football team did not stand a chance against Michigan Wolverines in 2007. Of course, when the aforementioned contests were actually played, the Jets beat the Colts, NC State beat Houston and Appalachian beat Michigan.
Picking the champion, or even the contenders, by a selection committee refutes the fundamental values of the game. Sports are about competition. it’s about the little guy believing he can beat the bigger guy, and frequently he does. Sports are also about settling the argument about who is best on the field or the court, not by the vote of a selection committee.
This year the East Carolina Pirates, even if they win the balance of their games and the AAC Championship, the Marshall Thundering Herd, even if they are undefeated at the end of the season and other deserving teams will not be given a chance to compete for the national championship. The “championship” field will be winnowed down to four teams by a selection committee. The teams that receive enough of VOTES to get into the play-off will then have a leg-up on recruiting for the next year. Pretty soon we assume that certain teams are just better, and they do not have to prove anything.
Frankly, most objective sports minded people do not think East Carolina or Marshall can beat Alabama or Florida State this year. However, most objective football minded scouts did not think that Shane Carden, East Carolina’s quarterback, could play football on the FBS level. Shane just did not know any better and now he owns most passing records at ECU, the same records that were once held by David Garrard and Jeff Blake. Justin Hardy, the Pirates’ leading receiver, did not receive a single scholarship offer from an FBS school. His only offer was from the Fayetteville State Broncos. He walked-on at East Carolina because the objective minded scouts did not think he was good enough for college football and did not offer him a scholarship. Justin did not know any better; he now owns all of the major receiving records at East Carolina.
Before you say it is only East Carolina records, Shane Carden, Justin Hardy and their teammates showed the UNC Tarheels, the Virginia Tech Hokies and many other teams a trick or two.
Now, the experts say ECU cannot run with the Seminoles, Ole Miss Rebles, Mississippi State Bulldogs or Crimson Tide, etc. However, I bet that Shane Carden, Justin Hardy, Coach McNeill, and the rest of the Pirates do not know any better. Open up the play-offs on neutral fields and have a true champion.

Proposal For a New Conference

traditionConference realignment, you thought that discussion was over for a while. Well, rumors are circulating that the Big 12 is looking to expand. More specifically, they are looking eastward and that East Carolina is in the mix. I have no insight or information that the rumors are true, only that they are out there.
However, the rumors give me an open door for why there should be conference realignment, but not one where ECU goes to the Big 12. Conferences should be geographically compact, on an equal footing in the strength of their teams and have similar athletic goals and traditions. As far as East Carolina, the conference would consist of East Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Marshall, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and Pitt.
This is an improvement for all of the schools in terms of travel. The AAC spans from Texas, Louisiana and Florida to Connecticut. The ACC has Miami and Boston in its fold. West Virginia is a Big 12 member and travels to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa for its conference games. Those are long road trips for Mountaineer fans.
East Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Marshall, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and Pitt are football schools. Basketball, for the most part, is something you do because it is too cold to play football. All of the schools have a passionate fan base. Admittedly, West Virginia might have a bigger stadium than Marshall, but their little brother is growing up and deserves a chance to compete on an even level. Arguably, East Carolina could not have beaten Clemson, West Virginia, or Georgia Tech on a regular basis in the past, but a new day has arrived in Greenville. The Pirates’ success this year is only part of a continued pattern of growth that has been occurring since the 1970’s. Pat Dye, Ed Emory, Bill Lewis, Steve Logan, Skip Holtz and now Ruffin McNeill have all lead ECU to a new level in football.
A fair question is why would North Carolina State, Clemson, West Virginia and Georgia Tech leave established conferences with lucrative television deals to start a new conference. There are three reasons. First, the conference would be more geographically compact. Second, other than the SEC, the new conference would be best college football played in the east, other than the Southeastern Conference. Third, the schools in the new conference are without major scandals. It is my contention, that college football must bring order to its house and the aforementioned schools are not front page violators.
There is a basis for a North Carolina centric conference since there are six FBS schools within the borders of North Carolina, yet only ECU and NC State are a fit for the new conference with the other schools that I would place in the conference.
Appalachian is only in its first year of competition in the FBS, but does have a strong tradition in football. They are not ready competitively, but the question can be revisited in the coming years.
Wake Forest and Duke are basketball schools and do not have a history of continued success in football. David Cutcliffe, Duke’s head coach, is an outstanding coach and got Duke to the ACC Championship game in 2013. However, Cutcliffe is the exception at Duke, and even he has not been able to build strong fan support based on attendance at Duke’s home games. This year the average attendance at Duke’s home games is only 25,537. When Cutcliffe leaves, so will Duke’s football success.
Wake Forest has similar issues. They had an excellent coach in Jim Grobe and some success. However, Grobe could only use chicken wire and duct-tape for so long before the Wake Forest program descended in the number of wins they produced. I do not mean to disparage Duke or Wake; but they simply have not produced a winning tradition in football.
Then there is UNC. I remember as a child in the 1960’s coming to understand that football at UNC was mediocre. However, that was okay because UNC, and the ACC, were about academics and integrity. If maintaining standards meant a so-so football team, then it meant a so-so football team.
Unfortunately, UNC is now about no show classes, drug dealers providing cars for a UNC athlete and inappropriate contact with sports agents and much more. However, the football is still mediocre.
On a side note, as a proud North Carolinian, I wish leadership that was provided by people like William Friday in the 1950’s and 60’s was still present at UNC. Friday was the President of UNC when a cheating scandal arose at the popular Dixie Classic Basketball Tournament; he cancelled the tournament. William Friday’s name was synonymous with integrity and education.
I am an ECU fan and to borrow the cliché, “I bleed purple and gold”. However, as a North Carolinian, I am pulling for UNC to make the in-depth reforms that are needed so that the university can return to its once honored position in college athletics and as a worthy opponent. I think we all know what William Friday would do; the question remains, does the current leadership at UNC have the courage to do what is needed. The death penalty was imposed on SMU athletics by the NCAA. Perhaps, UNC should examine the record and do what William Friday had the courage to do and not wait for the NCAA.
I am ready for a conference that plays quality football and still understands college football is not a business. It has to be responsible and pay its bills, but consistently shipping kids across the country to play a game is of questionable financial value, and it is not good for the academic success of the athletes. Also, college football has to stand for something more than money and the win-loss record.

ACC Year-In-Review

What in the name of Joseph Smith does Provo, Utah have to do with the Atlantic Coast? Well, it means nothing to the coast itself, but for some reason, it’s where we begin our Year-In-Review of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The made a trip east to Virgina, like Oregon, but unlike the Ducks, the Cougars flew back west with a loss to the Cavaliers in their back pockets. Five weeks later, the Atlantic Coast, the conference that is, came to them in Provo, but it was Georgia Tech taking the “L”, thus proving there’s nothing to the transitive property things. College Football is still an Any Given Saturday type of deal, once you look past the top of a top-heavy conference.

http://s3.amazonaws.com/byutv/content/Images/BYUQG/BYUQG-2013-3_Large.jpg

That’s not the type of non-conference play that gets everyone’s attention. No, the headlines are reserved for North Carolina’s season-opening loss at South Carolina or Clemson’s big win over Georgia; we knew so little back then. Big East refugees Pittsburgh and Syracuse were welcomed to the conference by its top dogs, and were rudely introduced to ACC Football by Florida State and Clemson. Miami and Virginia Tech, Big East refugees of yesteryear, pulled the wool over our eyes for a good chunk of the season, before revealing who they really were. And, they would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling Duke Blue Devils. Duke was a surprise, to be sure, but not enough of a surprise, as evidenced by their performance in the post-season to join the ranks of the top in this top-heavy conference.

That’s not to say that National Coach of the Year David Cudcliffe’s team wasn’t worthy of attention and praise for the rise of their program, but it would have been nice for the conference to see the Blue Devils notch the “W” in the Chick-fil-a Bowl over Texas A&M. The conference had to settle for a National Championship and a clean sweep of the BCS bowls that invited their teams. Clemson knocked off an Ohio State team that was arguably desinted for the National Championship before being tripped in the Big Ten Championship, and then Florida State beat an Auburn team that actually qualified for the National Championship. Of course, we tend to notice the games at the end, but a season is not made by one or two games in January. Here are ten games that shaped the ACC in 2013.

North Carolina at Georgia Tech

http://gamedayr.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Georgia-tech-Football-Break-tackle.jpg
SEPTEMBER 21 The Tar Heels went to Atlanta with a 1-1 record, and no one was really sure what to think of North Carolina at that point. They lost that opener at South Carolina, but many figured that the Gamecocks were a pretty solid team, even without Jadaveon Clowney playing an integral role in their 27-10 victory over UNC. A win over Middle Tennessee at home in Week 2 was to be expected, but a game at Georgia Tech would prove to be a legitimate litmus test. As for the Yellow Jackets, they were 2-0 with wins over Elon and Duke; back in September, Duke was only a slightly better opponent on paper than the Elon Phoenix, so Paul Johnson’s team had a thing or two to prove as well.

Seeking their first win at Georgia Tech since 1997, the Tar Heels got out to a 13-0 lead on tight end Eric Ebron’s 19-yard touchdown reception from Bryn Renner at the end of the first quarter. Ebron would lead all receivers in the game with 6 catches for 108 yards. Renner, who threw for 218 yards, found Sean Tapley from 24 yards out in the second quarter to give the visiting Tar Heels a 20-7 lead, but that would be it for Larry Fedora’s team on this day.

Despite their struggles to hold on to the football in the rain, Georgia Tech was able to rally back, starting with Vad Lee’s 21-yard scoring strike as time was running out in the first half, which made it a 20-14 game. As with most Georgia Tech games since Paul Johnson brought his triple-option offense to Atlanta, it was all about rushing yards and the Yellow Jackets had 324 of them. Robert Godhigh had 100 of them on 9 carries, one better than David Sims, who did score Tech’s first and last points of the game. Quarterback Vad Lee, who completed only seven passes, ran for 55 yards on the day, but it was a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that put his team up for good.

The win would be their third in a row, but they’d lose their next three games, before winning the next three after that, demonstrating how streaky and enigmatic they were in 2013.

Final:Georgia Tech 28 North Carolina 20

North Carolina State at Wake Forest

http://bostonherald.com/sites/default/files/styles/full/public/media/ap/dc4fba87e9aa4410a53d8786b38de0c2.jpg?c=73d21295dc2d5d550496e33c505beb8d
OCTOBER 5 There’s no shame in losing to Clemson, right? For first-year head coach Dave Doeren, it was the only blemish on North Carolina State’s abbreviated resume, but Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe might have asked you how ashamed to be about the Clemson defeat, bundled with losses to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe. Doeren, the Northern Illinois defector, was looking for his first ACC win in Winston-Salem, where the Wolf Pack had not won in about 12 years.

It appeared he might have been on his way to breaking the school’s losing streak at Wake and picking up that first conference win when Pete Thomas hit Quintin Payton for six, capping off a 10-play, 66-yard drive with 39 seconds left in the first half, which gave NC State a 10-7 lead. However, the Demon Deacons weren’t content to sit on the ball at their own 25 after the kickoff. Wake quarterback Tanner Price hit Spencer Bishop for 54 yards, putting the ball on the NC State 10, and three plays later, Price found Michael Campanaro for the score and the lead with 6 seconds left in the first half.

NC State was held to a single field goal in the second half, and Campanaro’s second touchdown catch of the day, from 27 yards out with 10 minutes to play, capped the scoring. Campanaro ended the day with 12 catches for 153 yards, aiding Price to a 268-yard, 3 touchdown day in the air.

The wins were few and far between for Wake Forest in 2013, but this one looked better than their prior wins over Presbyterian and Army. They actually picked up their second and final conference win a week later against Maryland, but it went downhill after that, though they managed to play both Duke and Vanderbilt tough after suffering a 59-3 home loss to Florida State. Grobe stepped down as Wake’s head coach after the season, and it will be Dave Clawson, formerly of Bowling Green taking over in Winston-Salem. As for Doeren, a MAC champ himself, and that first ACC win, he’s going to have to hope it comes in 2014, as the Wolf Pack lost all but one of their remaining games by double-digits to go 0-8 in conference play.

Final:Wake Forest 28 North Carolina State 13

Virginia at Maryland

OCTOBER 12 Well, a 19-16 win over BYU in the opener suggested that it might not be more of the same for Virginia’s fourth-year head coach Mike London, coming a 4-8 effort in 2012, but an expected pounding from the Oregon Ducks at home and an expected cruise to victory over the VMI meant we’d learn about about the Cavaliers, beginning in late September.  A pathetic showing at Pittsburgh and another shellacking at home, this time with Ball State being rude guest, left Virginia in desperate need of a good showing against Maryland at College Park.  A week earlier, the Terps were undefeated and ranked #25 in the country, but were seriously exposed by Florida State in Tallahassee; a 63-0 defeat will make voters regret ever casting your name, I don’t care who you lose to.

Virginia leaned heavily on Alec Vozenilek, their kicker in the first half, and his three field goals, the last coming with 19 seconds left in the first half, gave the Cavaliers a 16-14 lead at the break.  The problem for London’s squad was Maryland countering their field goals with touchdowns.  Maryland running back Brandon Ross, who ran 14 times for 88 yards on the day, scored both of his touchdowns in the first half, the second one put the home team up 14-6, but Virginia was able to close the gap to one point on a 4-yard touchdown pass from David Watford to Jake McGee.  Khalek Shepherd’s 44-yard run put the visitors in a position for the score that made it 14-13 game, in favor of Maryland.

In the third quarter, it was Maryland’s turn to settle for field goals.  Brad Craddock hit two, but they were enough to give Randy Edsall’s team a 20-16 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.  Virginia responded with 10 straight points in the final quarter, the second coming on a Vozenilek’s fourth of the day from 26 yards out, which put them up 26-20.  However, in the end it was Caleb Rowe, the Terrapins backup quarterback who threw for 332 yards in relief of the concussed CJ Brown on this day, that found the endzone for the first time with about five minutes left in the game.  His 12-yard completion to tight end David Stinebaugh gave Maryland a one-point lead on Braddock’s PAT, but this one went to the wire.

http://binaryapi.ap.org/0b663a5cacab4e5e9f0d2ae951df4476/460x.jpg

Vozenilek had a chance at five field goals, after attempts from 28, 18, 27, and 26 were all true, but his 42-yard attempt sailed wide right as time ran out.  The win was a nice rebound for Edsall and company, making them 5-1 on the season, and hey, no shame in losing to the National Champ, not that we knew that yet.  It was, however, short-lived; Maryland proved to be very average down the stretch, dropping their bowl game to Marshall and finishing 7-6.  As for Virginia, this was their best shot at a conference win, as they didn’t come within ten points of any opponent the rest of the way, finishing 2-10 and somehow retaining London for 2014.

Final: Maryland 27 Virginia 26

Boston College at Clemson

OCTOBER 12 Down the Atlantic Coast a ways, you had a #3 Clemson team trying not to look ahead of Boston College, with undefeated Florida State on their way to town.  On the other hand, Boston College was a very good football team in 2013, even if it didn’t exactly translate into the win column for them.  Unfortunately, no one was ready to hand the Eagles any trophies for wins over Villanova, Wake Forest and Army.  I know it sounds like a broken record by now, but no shame in losing to Florida State, especially in the manner which took them down; Florida State needed to some work in the fourth quarter to secure the 48-34 win in Chestnut Hill on September 28th.  However, it was their other loss, a 35-7 no-show by BC at USC earlier in the month that came to the forefront when those same Trojans lost their game and later their head coach after a humiliating loss in Tempe on that same night.

Despite getting very little out of their superstar running back Andre Williams, 24 carries for 70 yards, Steve Addazio’s team nearly shocked the #3 Tigers in their own place.  Myles Willis, BC’s other back, scored the only touchdown of the first half and the Eagles took a 7-3 lead into the break.  Clemson finally answered in the middle of the third quarter, when the always reliable tandem of Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins connected for 48 yards and the score, to put Dabo Swinney’s team up 14-10, a lead they held for 20 seconds.

On their very next play from scrimmage, BC got it back, when Chase Rettig hit Alex Amidon for 69 yards, and BC regained the lead.  Boyd, who threw for 334 yards, gave the Tigers the lead back with his legs, scoring from six yards out in the fourth quarter, putting Clemson up 17-14, but the tension remained high in Death Valley until Tony Steward hit Rettig, who only completed 13 passes, and the nation’s sack leader did the scoop and score, putting the game away.

Boston College fell to 3-3 with the loss, and things didn’t get better after by week, when they lost 34-10 at North Carolina on October 26th.  Things settled down a bit after that, when the Eagles reeled off four consecutive wins.  They dropped their regular season finale to Syracuse in heartbreaking fashion without the services of Williams, who ran for 2177 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season, then were soundly beaten by Rich Rodriguez’s Arizona Wildcats in the Advocare V100 Bowl to finish the year 7-6.  One thing is for sure, this Boston College team should have been better than 7-6.

Final: Clemson 24 Boston College 14

Miami (FL) at North Carolina

OCTOBER 17 The biggest thing about this game between the undefeated Canes and 1-4 Heels was its time-slot, a Thursday night game on ESPN.  They’d shown promise in close losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, and you might even commend their effort against a much better South Carolina team on Opening Night, but there’s a reality to the fact that they couldn’t beat anyone other than Middle Tennessee on their early slate of games.  Miami, on the other hand, was a setting themselves up to be a quiet giant with big wins early on, most especially their 21-16 win over a Florida team that we all gave too much credit to early.  

This was no walk in the park for Al Golden’s bunch, who needed to battle every step of the way.  They were the walking wounded in this game, losing star running back Duke Johnson after just 8 carries (for 83 yards), but Dallas Crawford was prepared to be the capable understudy.  Their starting receiver was on crutches by halftime, and even if Stephen Morris’s ankle had healed, his four interceptions in Chapel Hill left him better off claiming lingering pain.

They were licking their wounds on the other sideline in this one as well, though it was mostly just mental anguish after watching a 23-13 lead slip away.  After Ladarius Gunter blocked a Tar Heel field goal try and ran it back 67 yards to put The U up 13-7, North Carolina ran off 16 unanswered points, but were held to three field goals, keeping Miami in the game.  Crawford’s two fourth quarter rushing touchdowns, the second coming with 16 ticks on the clock, kept the Hurricanes perfect in the loss column.

Final: Miami 27 North Carolina 23

Florida State at Clemson

OCTOBER 19  This was Judgement Night in the ACC; despite Miami being undefeated, the consensus had either Clemson or Florida State representing the conference in the BCS, with some prospects of a National Title to the winner of this one.  Clemson was the home team, and the higher ranked one, but many of the experts had Florida State winning this one on paper.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston noted that they were playing Clemson and not the noise.  If the noise bothered them, they did a poor job showing it, dashing out to a 10-0 lead, which grew to 17-0 when Mario Edwards did the scoop & score on a Tajh Boyd fumble.  The rout was on, 12 minutes into this one.  Winston threw for 444 yards, and looked more like a Heisman candidate than ever.  Boyd was held to 156 yards, and it was safe to say his campaign for the big heavy trophy was over.

Sammy Watkins was held to eight catches and a score for Clemson, but with the aid of Winston, the Seminoles trio of receivers Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene, and Kenny Shaw combined for 16 catches for 272 yards in the biggest game in ACC history.  Even FSU tight end Nick O’Leary had his share of fun, catching 5 passes for 161 yards.

Final: Florida State 51 Clemson 14

Duke at Virginia Tech


OCTOBER 26 Why even talk about Duke before the start of basketball season, right? Well, for some reason, we talk about Virginia Tech every year, because Frank Beamer was able to recruit Michael Vick to Blacksburg fifteen years ago, and if you can give me a reason to believe in anything about the Hokies after that time, I’m all-ears.

So, here they are, a ranked team in October because they only had one loss to-date, a 35-10 snoozer at a neutral site, where nobody was sold on Alabama’s 25-point victory.  But hey, they do have Logan Thomas, the prototype quarterback once believed to be the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, in one of those way-too-early projections.  And on the other side, you had Duke, the basketball school that had to come back from 22 down to beat the hapless Virginia Cavaliers football team a week earlier, but these Blue Devils were 5-2.

The stat sheet doesn’t tell the tale in this one at all.  Time of possession was all Virginia Tech, by almost a 2-to-1 margin.  The Hokies had almost 400 yards of total offense, compared to 198 for Duke, who turned the ball over 4 times in this one.  Duke quarterback Anthony Boone got something of a reprieve, since Thomas threw four of his own, the last one, with about four minutes left gave Duke their first win over Virginia Tech since 1981.  Boone’s third quarter touchdown run put David Cudcliffe’s squad up 13-0, after the game went to intermission without a touchdown.  Much credit due to Duke kicker Ross Martin, who had kicks of 51 and 53 to give his team the early 6-0 advantage.

Final: Duke 13 Virginia Tech 10

Miami (FL) at Florida State

NOVEMBER 2 This particular battle of the unbeatens came with far less fanfare than the ‘Noles game in Death Valley the month before, and left you to remember how hyped up this intra-state rivalry was when Jimmy Johnson and Bobby Bowden walked the sidelines.  This game had the fights, but lacked the wide-rights.

A couple of Davonta Freeman touchdowns, one on the ground and another by way of the pass, gave Florida State a 21-7 lead late in the first half, but Miami countered with Allen Hurns second scoring reception of the half, and it was 21-14, still a game at the break.  If at any point the result of this one was in doubt, James Wilder Jr and Freeman eliminated all question with third quarter touchdown runs, and Miami had no response, just a fresh number 1 in the loss column.

Final: Florida State 41 Miami 14

Pittsburgh at Syracuse

http://media.syracuse.com/post-standard/photo/2013/11/13828890-standard.jpg

NOVEMBER 23 There is something to be said for the play of Special Teams, and though it seemed like there was plenty of time for the Orange to overcome Aaron Donald’s first quarter block of an extra point that kept Syracuse’s early lead over the Panthers at 6-0, it ended up being the difference in a 1-point game.  Pittsburgh would eventually take a 10-6 lead on a short Tom Savage touchdown pass, but only after their first points of the game came in the fashion of a 43-yard field goal after a 19-play drive stalled. Syracuse kicker Ryan Norton did manage to put one through the goal posts with 10 seconds left in the first half , and these former Big East rivals went to the half with Pitt on top, 10-9.

Terel Hunt hit Alvin Cornelius for a 42-yard touchdown, giving ‘Cuse the lead back for the first time since leading 6-3 in the first half, but Pittsburgh was able to counter with a touchdown of their own on the final play of the third quarter.  The conversion gave them a 17-16 lead, which would hold up until the final gun, making Pittsburgh bowl-eligible.  On the other hand, Syracuse was 5-6, needing a win over Boston College in their final regular season game to go “bowling”.

Duke vs Florida State (ACC Championship)


DECEMBER 7
First, the obvious; this was a de facto National Semi-Final game for Florida State, win and they’re in, but let’s give Duke some credit.  This was, without question, their finest season of football in a very long time.  They were 10-2, which was good enough for a Coastal Division title and a chance to play in a game with Dr Pepper sponsoring it.

When the ball was kicked off in this one, all bets were off.  A small sign of hope was installed for Duke when Devonta Freeman gave them the ball at their own 3 after a 22-yard run, but it was to no avail.  The first quarter ended the way it started, with no score.  Florida State got things going with red-zone touchdowns from Kelvin Benjamin and Karlos Williams, and then added a field goal to up their lead to 17-0 at the half.

They never looked back; it was 38-0 at the end of third quarter, and it was time to start carving Jameis Winston’s name into the heavy statue that he’d pick up in New York a week later.  Winston hit Kenny Shaw and Benjamin for scores with his arm, and ran 17 yards to paydirt, on a day that he threw for 330 yards and ran for another 59.  It was Florida State’s 13th consecutive game of scoring 35 points or more, but more importantly, the win essentially guaranteed them a spot in the title game against the SEC Champion, which would be the final game in the 16-year history of the Bowl Championship Series.  At this point, FSU has not trailed in a game since around the 2-minute mark of the Boston College game on September 28th, spanning over 500 minutes of clock.

Final: Florida State 45 Duke 7

 

Rivalry Week: A Personal Account: Florida State – Florida

Gene Deckerhoff’s voice is permanently implanted in my brain. When I close my eyes I remember the play like it was yesterday. “Ward takes the snap, play action, drops, looks, popped out of the pocket, looks to his left, throws it down field, and it’s caught by Dunn! He’s got the first down to the 40, down to the 50, down the sideline to the 40, down to the 30, he separates, he’s to the 20, to the 10, to the 5, touchdown Florida State! Warrick Dunn!”. November 27, 1993 is when my love for Florida State became official and I truly began to understand the meaning of a rivalry.

At the time I was 10 years old and didn’t completely understand the impact of the play, all that was at stake, and what exactly a rivalry was, but one thing was for sure: I was hooked, and my drug of choice were the Florida State Seminoles. They had me fiending for more of whatever just happened and from that day on I was a Seminole.

The impact of the play: Charlie Ward and Warrick Dunn permanently etched their names in the history books and the rivalry as they positioned the Seminoles for a chance to play for the university’s first National Championship in school history.

What was at stake: Pride, history, young men becoming gods, Charlie Ward sealing up the Heisman, the legend of a coach reaching heights unimaginable, and even more important; cementing my life as a Seminole.

Understanding a Rivalry: I had been following the Seminoles for a few seasons, as much as any child can, but never truly understood what a rivalry was. What makes this game more important than any other game on the schedule?  This was something way over my head as a 10 year old, but I knew I hated anything in orange and blue, and Steve Spurrier looked like the grumpy uncle that nobody talked to at family events.

Fast forward 9 years after that life changing game, there I am, a freshman in Tallahassee, Florida preparing for my first ever UF game as a student. My destiny realized.  All those years growing up in Northeastern Ohio, telling folks I’m an FSU fan, being berated for not following the Buckeyes like most of my other friends has finally came to fruition.

I remember trying to secure student tickets to this game was one of the greatest rat races I have ever participated in, but we were not to be denied. Me and my new found best friends from the dorms at Osceola Hall partied all day, sang the Warchant until our lungs exploded, and let every Gator fan we saw know they were not welcome in our town. It was my first time as an actual Seminole, taking part in what in my mind is the greatest rivalry in all of sports.  Florida State entered the game as underdogs at home. The season hadn’t gone as planned with losses to Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami, and NC State. This game was the season. This game would define my freshmen year, and so it did. Florida State handled the Gators of Gainesville with ease as my friends and I partied and made memories that will last a lifetime on that picture perfect fall evening in the South, the heartland of college football.

 

Yes, that's a tongue ring. We all make mistakes.
Yes, that’s a tongue ring. We all make mistakes.

My second opportunity to take part in the Florida State-Florida rivalry would take me to the dreaded Hogland during my sophomore year.  We were all reluctant to make the trip to Gainesville as we’ve heard horror stories of the locals and the infamous Alachua County Residents (ACR’s as they are known to the locals).  Unfortunately, they lived up to every stereotype we had been told. Simple trash talking and some profanity laced banter is expected.  What was not expected were UF “fans” storming our tailgate, stealing our 10 foot Seminole feather, throwing it in traffic and stomping on it before being arrested by Gainesville Police.  This was our real introduction to the University of Florida and their fans.  At this moment the rivalry now became very real.

To make the day even more challenging, I lost my ticket to the game while tailgating.  a 19 year old student, on a roadtrip, with zero cash to his name, and I was defeated.  Than I got my first introduction into what it means to be a Seminole.  My friends rallied their resources, located a generous FSU alum, and a new ticket was in my possession.  In these few hours of tailgating in Gainesville I had seen the worst of the enemy and best of my brothers.  I learned on that day what it means to call yourself a Seminole, and why we pride ourselves on that name.

Finally, we were in the stadium.  Our seats were right next to god and it seemed if you leaned just the least bit forward you would enjoy a couple minute free fall to the field.  It was a game of extreme ups and downs, turnovers, and some helpful officiating from the ACC refs.  Then one of the greatest moments in my life as a fan happened.  Another historic moment in the rivalry etched in the books with the narration of the greatest play-by-play man in the business.  I had my own personal Ward-Dunn moment, only this time it were two less heralded stars, but they gave us the “Rix to P.K. Sam“. Words that will bring an instant grin to every Nole fan.  Somedays I still contemplate getting an “I see ya P.K. Sam!!” tattooed on my body, that’s how magical of a moment it was for me and my friends in that stadium.

As we began our victory walk out of the stadium, we started to see the ugly side of a rivalry.  Instead of a tip of the cap, or a simple “Hell of a game” from Gator fans we were greeted with beer bottles thrown at the back of our heads, UF fans pushing and shoving and hoping to win a fight against us because their team lost.  We had planned to spend the evening revelling in the afterglow of a rivalry win, but instead we hightailed it back to Tallahassee and partied with our tribe.  That was my first and last trip ever to Gainesville. No game can ever top what we experienced there, and the next time I have to step on that campus and experience those people will be too soon.

When I think about this rivalry and what it means to me, the first thoughts are those of belting out the Warchant, singing the fight song, planting of the spear, the Tomahawk Chop, the Gator Chomp, Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn, The Choke at Doak, Rix to P.K. Sam, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Bowden just to name a few.  Then my attention shifts to the memories and relationships that began and were made stronger through these games.  I made friends that will last a lifetime. Even more, it brought my family closer than I ever thought possible.

While I was at FSU my younger brother, Alex, was in his senior year of high school and deciding what he was going to do next after graduation.  Following one trip to Tallahassee he too decided to become a Seminole.  After that our youngest brother, Joey, never had a choice.  Now we are a family of Seminoles.  As strong of a tie you can have to something.  Our blood is in that university now.  From until the end of time we will always be brothers and Seminoles. Becoming Seminoles made us better friends, but it made us even better brothers, and there is nothing like a rivalry game against UF to bring us together.

The Brothers on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium
The Brothers on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium

So when all is said and done, as much as this rivalry is about touchdowns, traditions, bragging rights, championships, and recruits.  What it really means to me is family, friends, and memories.

It's a Family Affair
It’s a Family Affair – 2010 UF v FSU

 

 

Nothing Too Fancy – ACC Week 3 Review

You ever have one of those weeks that just was?  Nothing too exciting, nothing too challenging.  Just another week among the other 51 of the year.  Well it was that kind of week for the ACC.  With Clemson and Miami having a bye week, the only marquee name to take the field on Saturday were the Florida State Seminoles.  The Seminoles struggled to find their groove against Nevada after having last week off.  The Noles stumbled to a 17-7 lead at halftime, but once the 3rd quarter kicked off there was no looking back at they scored 45 unanswered points on there way to 62-7 thumping.  Led yet again by redshirt freshmen sensation, Jameis Winston.

The only other matchup featuring an ACC squad that had the potential for much media hubub was Boston College making the voyage across the nation to take on the USC Trojans, who were trying to recover from a major setback against Washington State.  Unfortunately, the Eagles of Chestnut Hill seemed to be suffering from extreme jet lag as USC cruised to a much needed 35-7 victory. Thankfully for Lane Kiffin, Mack Brown has continued to completely nose dive towards earth and shift a little more of the attention towards Austin, Texas, at least for a week.

What could be seen as a black-eye for the ACC was Wake Forest’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe. A program that once showed a flash of brilliance and potential to be a constant thorn in the side of many of the top ACC teams, Wake Forest has slowly slipped back into football obscurity, where it shall settle for the foreseeable future.  Other games of note were Georgia Tech over Duke 38-14, PITT over New Mexico 49-27, and VT continuing to show they are nowhere near the program they once were as they slipped past East Carolina 15-10.

Week 4 continues the trend of a lot of nothing as teams continue to pack in the lesser opponents before the conference schedules look to heat up in the heart of the season.  One game that poses the possibility to turn necks happens Thursday evening as Clemson crosses the Carolina border to take on the pesky(at least to FSU fans) NC State Wolfpack.  There’s just something about the ACC Thursday night games, and highly ranked teams that produce the same results as a gas can and matches, everyone is left standing around asking themselves “What in the hell just happened?”.  Technically it is way too early in the season for a true Clemsoning, but with the hype surrounding the Tiger program, I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility an early season spontaneous combustion in Clemson, South Carolina.