Tag Archives: North Carolina

NCAA Pulls Events From North Carolina, Leaves Collateral Damage

The NCAA has spoken, and it is not happy with the state of North Carolina. For reasons clearly stated in a September 12 press release, seven NCAA championship events will be relocated away from previously designated venues in Cary, Greensboro, and Greenville, North Carolina. This action will affect seven men’s and women’s sports across all three divisions of the NCAA, but the opening weekend’s games of next year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament not being played in Greensboro will grab the headlines.

It’s not that you need the NCAA involved to draw headlines towards North Carolina’s now infamous bathroom bill. The National Basketball Association has pivoted its big neutral-site game, the Association’s All-Star Game, from Charlotte, where it was scheduled next winter, to New Orleans. Businesses, most notably PayPal, have halted planned growth in the state. Concerts have been canceled and a number of local governments have restricted business travel to the state, all voicing frustration with the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.

With me, I’ve never actually paid that much attention to the company I keep in a public restroom. Get in, take care of what you went in there to do, and get out. It feels simpler than it seems to be, and I feel common sense is at play, but I’m not in public office. Maybe every fourth or fifth law passed over there has to be about something that really isn’t an issue, or wasn’t an issue. It is certainly buzzworthy now.

We’ve punished a lot of the wrong people in North Carolina, to date. To be fair, this punitive action towards the citizens of North Carolina is about removing anti-discriminatory language from law. It’s been a while since my last math class, but if I recall how to handle a double negative, it equals ‘adding discriminatory language’, correct? That’s how I’m rolling, here.

The hospitality industry has lower numbers to be hospitable towards, thus fewer hours will be given to those employees. Construction workers aren’t laying the groundwork for new commercial properties. With the absence of those buildings, goes the many entry-level jobs no longer available to the many students hoping to graduate into the workforce.

Some of those recent graduates will be the NCAA’s former student-athletes, some forced so far from home their families won’t see them play on the biggest stage of their careers. On the off chance, Mount Olive returns to the Division II Championship Baseball tournament, the know they won’t be hosting the finals in Cary, even though that was the plan. There are athletes that play golf, soccer, lacrosse, and tennis that might have similar sob stories.  You could call if unfair, but that really only amounts to a minor inconvenience.

Something like that only pales in comparison with the dilemma a NCAA Tournament Committee might face, when it would have had to (maybe) keep public schools from Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont out of one of the 8 slots in Greensboro next March. There would be more noise about losing a Sweet Sixteen, let alone a Final Four, but we’ll hear plenty, given the 18 Division I Hoops programs in the basketball-crazy state of North Carolina.

Quick to weigh in with endorsements of the NCAA’s decision were the athletic directors from the state’s name brand athletic programs, Duke and North Carolina. Duke’s Kevin White stated that they agree with the NCAA’s decision and that they “will always be committed to diversity and inclusion, and applaud any efforts to ensure that those values are protected and enacted at all times, and in places in the state of North Carolina.”

North Carolina’s Bubba Cunningham discussed his school’s commitment to fairness and also expressed his disappointment on behalf of people of the state and the communities “that are scheduled to play host to these championship events and to the students who may be denied the opportunity to compete for championships in their home state.” What happens to the student-athletes is admittedly trivial, but they are collateral damage, playing the role of pawns in this political chess game.

Ask Governor Pat McCrory or the sponsor of HB2, Representative Dan Bishop, how much they weep for those student-athletes, those hospitality workers, or those young North Carolina-educated professionals, all missing out on opportunity and prosperity. Does the message get to them, to spark change? I don’t think it does.

It doesn’t actually matter. The NCAA is bound by its constitution to not stand idly by. The schools are bound by their own commitment to decency, if not their reputations, to follow suit. The idea here is a unified front against discrimination. It isn’t the NCAA’s directive to get complicated and detailed with this. They needed the North Carolina government to do better, and the North Carolina government failed them.

The longer this goes on, the more collateral damage we’ll see in the form of real people in the Tar Heel State. For the student-athletes, they’re best served to take the sacrifices they may be forced to make with a grain of salt.

Maybe they can send a postcard from Pensacola or wherever.

E-mail Jeff at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @byJeffRich.
Featured photo Jarrett Campbell via Wiki

NCAA Tournament Preview: East Region

The East region bracket looks like it could be one of the tougher regions in the tournament It will be interesting who comes out of the East on top and makes it to the Final Four.

North Carolina vs. Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast and North Carolina face each other on Thursday March 17th in Raleigh. Florida Gulf Coast is good, but not good enough to be North Carolina. North Carolina’s losses were by a combined 22 points. The Tarheels have held 23 consecutive opponents under 45 percent shooting. A number one team and it doesn’t look like it will happen with these two teams.

http://sportschatplace.com/college-basketball-picks/2016/03/17/north-carolina-tar-heels-vs-florida-gulf-coast-eagles-3/17/16-college-basketball-ncaa-tournament-pick-odds-and-prediction

USC vs. Providence

The USC Trojans and Providence Friars will play on Thursday March 17th in Raleigh. Both of these teams went through losing streaks this season. USC lost six of eight games in a stretch late in the season. They had a solid victory over UCLA in the first round of the Pac 12 Conference Tournament to make a solid statement fir the NCAA Tournament. Providence lost six out of eight games midseason. The Friars won four games in a row before losing to Nova in the Big East Conference Tournament. USC should win this game, but it will be close.

http://sportzedge.com/2016/03/13/ncaa-tournament-predictions-usc-vs-providence/

Indiana vs. Chattanooga

The Indiana Hoosiers and Chattanooga Mocs play on Thursday March 17th in Des Moines. Indiana started off their season not looking very good. When they got into conference play turned it on and went 15-3 through their Big 10 Schedule. Indiana captured their first regular season Big Ten Title since 2013. Indiana is a very good offensive team that can make a run into the tournament as long as their defense can step up. Chattanooga has an incredible coach that has done incredible things for the team this season.  Chattanooga won a school record 29 games and swept the Southern Conference regular season and tournament. Chattanooga has a ton of depth, but probably won’t be enough to stop the high powered Indiana offense. Indiana should win, but it will be a very close game.

http://sportzedge.com/2016/03/13/ncaa-tournament-predictions-indiana-vs-chattanooga/

Kentucky vs. Stony Brook

The Kentucky Wildcats will play the Stony Brook Seawolves on March 17th in Des Moines. Kentucky is nowhere close to where they were last year, but they have a lot of talent and will make a run in the tournament. The Stony Brook Seawolves wil appear in their first NCAA Tournament in school history. The Seawolves had major help all-season from Jameel Warney who had 43 points on 18-23 shooting in the Championship game. It is sad that Stony Brook has to face Kentucky in the first round. They probably would have surprised some people if they faced another opponent.

http://winnersandwhiners.com/games/ncaab/3-17-2016/stony-brook-vs-kentucky-31716-expert-prediction/

Notre Dame vs. Michigan

Notre Dame and Michigan will play each other on Friday March 18th in Brooklyn. Notre Dame stumbled late this season, but were good enough in ACC play to earn a bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish beat Duke twice and North Carolina at home to boost their resume. They should be able to beat Michigan when they face them on Friday. Zak Ervin led the charge for the Wolverines to beat Tulsa by five and get them out of the play in game and onto the bracket.
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/recap?gameId=400871283

Wisconsin vs. Pittsburgh

The Wisconsin Badgers and Pittsburgh Panthers will play each other on Friday march 18th in St. Louis. Wisconsin had a shock in December when their coach Bo Ryan stepped down. New head coach Greg Gard had a lot of work to do to even make it to the NCAA Tournament let alone a 7 seed. They aren’t as good as the Badger team from last year, but they still have a chance to win one or two games at least. The Pittsburgh Panthers have been up and down this season. The Panthers defend and rebound well and they rank 14th in assists. I still don’t think it will be enough to beat the Badgers though.

http://sportzedge.com/2016/03/14/ncaa-tournament-predictions-wisconsin-vs-pittsburgh/

West Virginia vs. Stephen F. Austin

The West Virginia Mountaineers will play the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks on March 18th in Brooklyn. Stephen F. Austin had a down year this year, if you can call it that. They are on a twenty game win streak, instead of their twenty seven or twenty eight game win streak like they have had in the past. The Lumberjacks are a small team, but are one of the most effective offensive teams in the nation. They rank 21st in scoring and 2nd in assists. An upset against West Virginia isn’t very likely with the Mountaineers press, but you never know. This is the NCAA Tournament after all.

http://winnersandwhiners.com/games/ncaab/3-18-2016/stephen-f-austin-vs-west-virginia-31816-prediction/

Xavier vs. Weber State

The Xavier Musketeers will play the Weber State Wildcats on Friday March 18th in St. Louis. Weber State finished their season by winning the last seven out of eight games and won the Big Sky Tournament. Jeremy Senglin and Joel Bolomboy are the two best shooters for the Wildcats. Xavier lost in the semi-final of the Big East Tournament, but they finished their season by winning 5 of the last 6 games. Xavier has had a very good season and it doesn’t look very good for Weber State.

http://winnersandwhiners.com/games/ncaab/3-18-2016/weber-state-vs-xavier-31816-expert-prediction/

Clemson Overcomes Multiple Potentially Fatal Mistakes

Remember when Miami joined the ACC in 2005? The ACC brass had dreams of regular matchups between Florida St & Miami in the ACC championship game…so much so that the first 5 championship games were scheduled for Jacksonville & Tampa respectively. Imagine Floridians chagrin when Wake Forest & Georgia Tech showed up for the championship game in 2006 followed by Boston College & Virginia Tech the following 2 years. While the Championship game has moved to Charlotte where it belongs, the dream matchup the ACC anticipated is still just a dream. However, the 2015 game is pretty darned good contest between Clemson & North Carolina, rightly played in Charlotte’s Bank of America stadium so there is no danger of attendance looking like a regular season Miami Hurricane’s home game.

The 2015 edition of the ACC championship is an intriguing matchup between Clemson and North Carolina. Clemson was expected to be in this game as one of the two power teams in the Atlantic division. UNC on the other hand, emerged out of the annual jumble that is the Coastal division. Georgia Tech is the most recent pre-season favorite in the Coastal to confound prognosticators. Loaded with top-shelf talent as usual, Clemson finally met pre-season expectations, ran the table in the regular season, and sits atop the NCAA playoff rankings coming into the conference championship. On the other hand, UNC came out of nowhere to post an 11-1 regular season mark. After a dreadful performance against a dismal South Carolina team, UNC righted itself, dodged a few bullets the rest of the way and is riding an 11 game win streak. What a difference a defense makes. Like last year, Carolina has racked up yards & points on offense, but in 2014, the UNC defense was the worst in the ACC yielding 39mpoints per game and letting offensive powerhouses like Liberty University and San Diego St march up and down the field. Carolina has found defensive stability and righted the ship against its schedule of whacky-racers in the Coastal. Tonight Carolina gets a chance to see if they are ready to run with the big dogs against Clemson.

‘Bama punched their ticket to the NCAA playoffs, it’s time for the ACC Championship game. Let’s get to it!

While this game was billed as Clemson versus North Carolina, it really boiled down to Clemson versus Clemson. UNC was present, but this game was decided by Clemson’s ability to overcome their penchant for self-destruction, particularly in the first half but really throughout the game. From a near Steve Bartman moment when Clemson punter Andy Teasdall inexplicably called his own number on 4th & 15 from the Clemson 35, to 4 personal foul penalties, to multiple dropped passes on third down, Clemson outgained UNC by 3X in the first half, but only led by 5 at the break.

With some flashes of life in the second half fueled by more Clemson mistakes, Carolina admirably did not go down without a fight in their inaugural championship appearance. However the Heels simply were not good enough to win this game outright, on their own. Instead, the Tar Heels were good enough to take what Clemson gave them and the Tigers were truly feeling the generosity of the holiday season. The Clemson defense, when it wasn’t making silly penalties or falling asleep in coverage, by and large dominated the line of scrimmage and kept the UNC offense off balance. The Clemson offensive line, which was a massive rebuild to start the season, won the war of attrition and had the Carolina defense looking more like the 2014 edition than the much improved 2015 squad.

What was clear, no matter how many mistakes Clemson made, the best team in the Atlantic is a lot better than the best team in the Coastal. This was pretty clear midway through the first quarter and painfully obvious early in the second half when Clemson shoved a 97 yard drive down the Carolina’s throat. It was apparent there was little the Heels could do about it, other than hope for more Clemson mistakes.

Coming into this game the burning question in the ACC was “who was the better quarterback, Marquise Williams or Deshaun Watson?” I might have argued for Williams coming into this game. No more. After their performances in the biggest game on the ACC calendar, there is no question that Watson is the better quarterback and the best offensive player in the ACC. While neither was at his best, Watson was by far the better QB. Watson overcame early passing accuracy problems with effective running. Watson’s passing accuracy got better and better as the game progressed. Williams never got fully on track…by Williams standards. While many teams would have been happy to have tonight’s performance on any given night, by Marquise’ gaudy standards, this was a subpar performance when Carolina needed his best. As much as I love Williams running skills, how does a guy that athletic get hit so much? He needs to feel pressure better and take off sooner. His inability to use his running skills and tough stretch of inaccurate passes helped Clemson survive their litany of mistakes.

While the UNC faithful will gripe about the missed offsides call late in the 4th quarter, it’s hard to say that the gifts UNC received throughout the game where not more than any team can reasonable expect. Clemson was the better team that could overcome multiple, potentially suicidal mistakes.

There is no question that Carolina is still a basketball school. The football program hasn’t won an ACC championship since 1980. The basketball program has won 9 over that time. Unless UNC and their pals in the Coastal get a lot better in a hurry, it’s hard to see Clemson or Florida St coming out on the short end of this stick in the near future. Kudos to Carolina for fighting to the end, but in the end, Clemson was just too good, no matter how many stupid mistakes they made from whistle to whistle.

Ohio State Doesn’t Belong in College Football Playoff

The playoff picture is less than a week away from being formed.

Heading into the final weekend there are seven teams that are still alive.

Clemson and their opponent in the ACC Title Game, North Carolina, Alabama, Iowa and their opponent in the B1G Championship Game, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Oklahoma has all but assured themselves a spot in the final four to cap things off.

Of the seven teams listed, only six deserve to have the chance to play for the college football playoff.

The Ohio State Buckeyes do not belong in this conversation.

Yes, they are highly ranked, and yes they are very talented, there is no denying both of those two facts. What can be denied is that the Buckeyes have played well enough to deserve a spot playing in the semi-finals on New Year’s Eve.

Entering this season, Ohio State was voted unanimously number one by the AP. Voting them first overall seemed like the right move considering how many key players were returning to the Buckeyes from the previous season that saw them win the national championship.

While many of the key players returned, the team was nowhere near the caliber that the 2014 edition of the Buckeyes was.

Throughout this entire year, Ohio State has underachieved. The Buckeyes have had close calls against NIU at home, Indiana on the road and Minnesota at home as well before finally falling to Michigan State in the Horseshoe.

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The Spartans dominated the Buckeyes physically in their own house, out rushing them 203 to 86, and holding Heisman hopeful Ezekiel Elliot to only 33 yards on 12 carries.

Sure, the Buckeyes bounced back nicely and dominated Michigan at the Big House the following week, but does one good win really deserve to be rewarded with an opportunity to play for college football’s biggest prize?

Comparing Ohio State to the other one-loss teams shows the Buckeyes do not have anywhere near as impressive as Alabama, Oklahoma, and Michigan State.

The Crimson Tide’s seventh best win (Wisconsin) would be the second best win that Ohio State would be able to tout. Sure, both teams have a home loss, but is there any doubt as to which team has a better body of work? Absolutely not.

Heading out west, to Norman, OK, the Sooners also have a resume that trumps what the Buckeyes are able to present. Aside from the drubbing of rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater by a score of 58-23, the Sooners also have wins over Baylor, TCU, West Virginia, and in SEC Country at Tennessee. Comparing resumes, the Sooners have two wins that would be better than any win Ohio State has. Of course, Oklahoma did lose a neutral site rivalry contest with Texas, but overall the body of work simply outweighs what the B1G East Runner-Up Buckeyes have been able to put forth.

It is also worth noting that Oklahoma has won the Big 12, and Alabama has an opportunity to win their conference, the SEC, something Ohio State does not have a chance to do. They lost that opportunity when Michigan State smoked Penn State on the last Saturday of the B1G regular season.

Surely, no one is arguing that Alabama and Oklahoma don’t belong in over Ohio State. The argument that very few are talking about would come out of the ACC.

Simply put, if Clemson wins the ACC Championship, they’re in the playoff, no two ways around it. The argument would be if they lose to North Carolina in that game.

The Tar Heels have flown under the radar since their week one loss to the Old Ball Coach and South Carolina. Since that game, all Marquise Williams and the Tar Heels have done is win, and looked very impressive doing so.

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The Tar Heels have not played an overly grueling schedule considering they are still looking for a marquee win, one they have a chance to get against Clemson. The lack of a big win does hurt them, but the fashion in which they have taken care of the opponents on their schedule has been very impressive. Williams and company have topped the 50 point mark three times against FBS competition, and came within five points of doing so two additional times.

The Tar Heels, like the Buckeyes have only defeated one ranked team (@ Pitt), but they have looked much better than the Buckeyes have against very similar schedules.

Much is made of the “eye test” these days in the college football world. The test essentially is based upon how well a team plays week to week. Alabama and Oklahoma have each passed every week since their losses; Iowa has looked bad on an eye test level as well. The Buckeyes failed their eye test while the Tar Heels have passed theirs.

A win over Clemson would give North Carolina an A on their eye test, how could that be kept out in favor of an underachieving team?

It would be an absolute travesty to leave North Carolina out in favor of Ohio State if Clemson goes down this coming weekend.

Ohio State does not belong anywhere near the semi-finals, here’s to hoping the committee does the right thing.

Mock College Football Playoff, Week 12

Every Monday we’ll publish our top 10 based on a group vote. We’ll continue to refine this process as the season goes on. Find all mock playoff selection committee results here.

The committee:

Ben Belden (@BBeldenCLE)
Kristen Botica (@OGKristenB)
Damien Bowman (@damienbowman)
Jason Lindekugel (@Jlindy87)
Seth Merenbloom (@SMerenbloom)
Mike Wilson (@pigskinopinion)

Maxwell Brusky (@LibertyBowlMax), Co-Host – Buck Around
Jack Follman (@JackFollman), Editor – Pacific Takes
Mark Hasty (@MarkHasty), Writer – Midwest Sports Fans
Jeff Rich (@ByJeffRich), Publisher – More Than a Fan
Sharp Williams (@SharpTusk), Publisher – Hog Database

Steve Botica
Mike Knight
Tom Suppa (@TomSportsInc)
Josh Wallace (@jdubya3)

The rules:

Each week, committee members will submit their top 10 teams and each team will receive points based on their position. The team’s will be ranked 1-10 based on which has the most points. Ties will be broken by which team has the highest votes in a specific position.

Points are assigned as follow: first place – 10, second place – 9, third place – 8, fourth place – 7, fifth place – 6, sixth place – 5, seventh place – 4, eighth place – 3, ninth place – 2, tenth place – 1.

Week 12 Results:

Place Team Points First Place Votes
1 Clemson 143 8
2 Alabama 142 4
3 Ohio State 117 3
4 Oklahoma State 104
5 Iowa 79
6 Notre Dame 78
7 Oklahoma 58
8 Florida 50
9 Michigan State 25
10 Baylor 13
Additional Votes: Houston 6
TCU 5
Stanford 2
North Carolina 2
Navy 1

Playoff:

Bowl Teams
Orange No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Oklahoma State
Cotton No 2. Alabama vs. No. 3 Ohio State

 

New Year’s Six:

Bowl Teams Tie In
Fiesta At-large
Rose Iowa vs. Stanford Big Ten #1 vs Pac-12 #1
Sugar Oklahoma vs. Florida Big 12 #1 vs SEC #1
Peach At-large

Our work:

Because we’re as transparent as possible, here is how each member of the committee voted:

2015-Mock-Week-12

Seminole’s Lose Again

The Florida State Seminoles were defeated 23-13 by #1 Clemson, who clinched the Atlantic division title with the victory.

It was a tied game going into the fourth quarter, but ultimately the Clemson offense exposed the Seminoles defense late with a couple seam passes and screens, which proved to be too much for defense to handle. Combine that with poor quarterback play from Sean Maguire and you have a recipe for a loss. Besides a 75-yard touchdown from Dalvin Cook on the second play of the game, the ‘Noles offense only scored six points. The loss can’t be entirely blamed on the quarterback, but one has to wonder if starting Maguire was the correct decision by coach Jimbo Fisher.

The Seminoles had a couple chances to step on Clemson’s throat early and seize all of the momentum, but failed to rise to the occasion. The first mishap was the inexplicable interception by Maguire at the 5-yard-line, in which Maguire decided to throw the ball off his back foot up to 5’7” WR Kermit Whitfield, the interception kept the game from being potentially 14-0. Once the Tigers got the ball, the Seminoles would have forced a three and out, if not for a dumb late hit penalty from cornerback Jalen Ramsey that extended Clemson’s drive.

Surprisingly Clemson never pulled away in this game, as their quarterback Deshaun Watson missed a few throws and had a few costly errors of his own. The most obvious being him spiking the ball on third down inside the Seminoles’ 20-yard-line with thirty seconds left in the first half. The Seminoles’ defense played very well, but one of the biggest takeaways from this game might be that Clemson looked very beatable.

The pivotal point of the game was obviously Clemson turning the ‘Noles over on downs after two failed rushing attempts by Dalvin Cook to get a single yard. Clemson would go on to score the game-clinching touchdown seven plays later.

What it means:

The Seminoles are now 7-2, and National Title hopes are officially dead. The hopes were already clinging to life before the loss, but now there isn’t a possible way to get to the playoff. It’s still a good season by most standards, but after winning the National Championship and making the playoffs in the past two years, two losses in a season is unfamiliar ground in recent history for Seminole fans. The success of this season for ‘Noles fans will be decided on the last game of the season by the outcome of their game against the #11 Florida Gators. A win over a contending Florida team would help people forget about the tough losses as well as give Seminole fans bragging rights, while a loss would help declare the season a failure (any season with a loss to Florida is a failure for Seminole fans.)

The biggest question for the Seminoles is who will be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season. With an eye already looking towards next season, you would think that Fisher would opt towards Maguire starting the rest of the year, as he will be back on the team next season, and Golson won’t. Whoever ultimately does end up starting won’t really affect the team much, as both are mediocre, but I do think that Maguire starting would be most beneficial going forward because at least Maguire can open up the offense and help younger players grow in the system.

Here’s what else happened in the ACC:

CLEMSON IS ATLANTIC DIVISION CHAMPS

With Clemson’s victory over Florida State they have clinched the Atlantic division within the ACC and will set their sights on the ACC Championship. Clemson’s remaining opponents until then have a combined record of 9-18, with none seemingly having any chance of beating them. What a year for Clemson. Deshaun Watson has been everything Clemson fans could have hoped for, leading Clemson’s fifteenth ranked offense in points per game. Combine that with their fourth ranked defense in terms of yards, and it doesn’t seem like this team has a weakness. The only thing this team may have to worry about until bowl season is the underrated Tarheels who they are poised to play in the ACC Championship.

UNC CAN CLINCH COASTAL DIVISION

Can someone please tell me why everyone is overlooking the Tarheels? Since the first game of the season, a game they shouldn’t have lost, the Tarheels have won every game, culminating in their two best wins of the season in the past two weeks against Pittsburgh and Duke. At 8-1, UNC is only four games a way from a possible playoff birth, the fourth of which would assumedly be against a #1 Clemson team. Quarterback Marquise Williams has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country this season, making the Tarheel offense the sixth most efficient offense in the country. Granted they haven’t had a very tough schedule, but if they can close out the season, a matchup against #1 Clemson would allow North Carolina to make up for their lack of a tough schedule. North Carolina can clinch the Coastal division with a victory and a Pittsburgh loss this weekend.

DUKE AND PITT UNRAVEL

Pittsburgh and Duke both got shredded on defense this weekend giving up a combined 108 points to UNC and Notre Dame. Both teams have now lost two games in a row when they each had a chance to win the Coastal division. Duke’s past two games have been brutal between Miami’s illegal kick return and a 35-point loss to the Tarheels. Pittsburgh has to be wondering how their season would have went if they had a bit of an easier schedule. The Panthers have lost to #4 Notre Dame, #5 Iowa, and an under ranked #23 North Carolina. These are two teams that the ACC was hoping could step up and provide some depth in the ACC after Clemson, UNC and Florida State, but it hasn’t worked out that way. One of these teams will add another loss to their record when Duke hosts Pittsburgh this weekend at noon.

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.

Virginia Needs Touchdowns

fieldgoal
UVA needs more touchdowns and fewer field goals.

Struggling programs don’t get well overnight. Progress is never a straight line. No one predicted that Virginia would win the ACC’s Coastal division after a winless conference campaign last year. In fact, Virginia already has exceeded the very modest expectations that most had for this year’s team. Virgina had a chance at Duke last Saturday to run its division record to 3-0 and seize control of the chaotic Coastal Division. That didn’t happen, proving once again that progress comes in fits and starts. Virginia lost 20-13 to a Duke team that seemingly now has mind control over the Cavaliers.
Despite Duke’s status as defending Coastal division champions and winner of five of the last six meeting between the two teams, Virginia had some swagger coming into this game. Duke’s turnaround under coach David Cutcliffe has been nothing short of remarkable but you have to wonder if the league’s players and football-watching public still views Duke football as…well Duke football. Perceptions can be difficult to change but Duke is a winner and demands winner’s respect. Given UVA’s futility in recent years and the importance of this game, I have to believe that Duke had Virginia’s full attention, especially given that the Hoos had two weeks to prepare.
For whatever reason, it didn’t happen for Hoos. The common theme in Virginia’s three losses this year is that the Cavaliers have won the statistical battle but lost the game. Against UCLA in the season-opener, Virginia eked out more yards and one more first down but did lose the turnover war. In the BYU game at Provo, UVA racked up a whopping (relatively speaking) 519 yards of offense and notched 35 first downs to 332/16 for the Cougars. Last weekend at Duke, Virginia went for 465 and 23 to Duke’s 334/19. Virginia’s problem is that these statistical triumphs have not translated into touchdowns. Virginia has made 29 trips into the red zone this year and has come away with points 25 times. That conversion rate is good for 47th nationally. Unfortunately, the touchdown percentage stands at just 51.72%. Virginia has scored just 15 touchdowns on those 29 trips. The Cavaliers stand 68th nationally in total offense at 407.3 yards per game and 70th in points at 29.0. These are marked improvements from recent years but if Virginia is to become a contender it needs to turn these statistical gains into points or, more specifically, touchdowns.
Having let the Duke opportunity slip from its grasp, Virginia now needs to hold serve at home this weekend against a mercurial UNC team that will present Virginia with a serious challenge. On paper, the Tarheels are Virginia’s evil twin. Virginia plays stout defense. UNC seemingly plays no defense. UNC scores in bunches. Virginia struggles to ring the bell. Virginia’s defense will be hard-pressed to keep UNC off the board, meaning that the offense is going to have to cash in on its red zone trips on Saturday.
Perhaps part of Virginia’s problem is the once-again unsettled situation at quarterback. Greyson Lambert came out of spring practice solidly entrenched as the starter. In a testament to his leadership, he was named a team captain despite being only a sophomore. His backup, Matt Johns, performed admirably in relief of Lambert early in the season and stepped into the starter’s role when Lambert sprained his ankle against BYU. Coach Mike London has stated that his policy is that no starter loses his job to injury so it was somewhat surprising when Johns got the nod last weekend after Lambert practiced all week. Either Lambert’s injury is more serious than previously thought or London has waffled. Lambert clearly proved himself in the spring but his development has been hampered by the ankle injury. Johns, despite throwing for 300 yards last weekend, lacked touch on the deep ball. He overthrew receivers on plays that would have resulted in easy touchdowns had the balls been catchable. Virginia desperately needs some continuity at quarterback. Johns has been a godsend but critics have noted that his mechanics and game management still need work. This perhaps is why Lambert was named the starter early in spring practice.
UVA fans are a downtrodden lot and the collective mindset of the fan base after last weekend’s loss is that the Duke game was an unclaimed golden ticket. The team’s execution was reminiscent of the effort put forth in the two previous seasons when Virginia won a total of six games and Mike London’s coaching skills were called into question. In a make-or-break season for London, the Cavaliers do not have much of an error margin. The UNC contest this weekend is UVA’s next-to-last home game. For Virginia to gain bowl eligibility it needs to beat UNC this weekend and Miami on November 22. That would get the team to six wins, a bowl game, and give Mike London another year at the helm. Supposedly.
Progress is not a straight line endeavor. Virginia stumbled last weekend in a game in which it was not favored but believed it could win anyway. The press noted that the players were irate in postgame interviews, no doubt frustrated by the fact that effort, desire, and preparation do not always produce the desired result. For the program to take the next step, Virginia has got to ramp up the offensive efficiency. Virginia will need better execution this weekend. Virginia needs touchdowns.

A Darkhorse Heisman: Can anyone catch Marcus Mariota?

As the first third of the college football season comes to a close, most of the focus has been on which teams are in the best position to make the playoff. And rightfully so, as it is the most exciting thing about this young season. But in every other year, more talk would have focused on which players are off to great starts and can use their early season momentum into a Heisman campaign. The Heisman talk has taken somewhat of a backseat to the playoff discussion. This year, like all others, we are already seeing a few players separate themselves from the rest of the pack as favorites to be invited to the ceremony.
I won’t spend much time on the current favorites since they’re pretty obvious and universal at this point. Marcus Mariota was on his way to a possible trophy last year before a mid-season injury, and has picked up right where he left off. Combined with the potential for an undefeated season, he is the clear front runner having accounted for 16 touchdowns and 0 interceptions so far this year. In either order close behind him are Todd Gurley and Amari Cooper. Gurley is averaging on astonishing 9.8 ypc up to this point and has dominated in Georgia’s two biggest games of the year, versus Clemson and South Carolina. Meanwhile Amari Cooper is merely leading the nation in receptions and receiving yards for a Top 5 Alabama team. Both players will put up ridiculous stats this year, but it will still be difficult for them to bring home the award since neither are a quarterback.
Currently rounding out my Top 5 are Dak Prescott and Ameer Abdullah. I’m not sure why Prescott isn’t getting more love. He has as impressive of stats as the other “non-Top 3” Top Heisman contenders on ESPN’s Heisman Watch and led his team to the best win out of those players (with the possible exception of Kenny Hill vs. South Carolina). He’s only completing 60% of his passes, but has thrown for 11 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions and has added 378 yards and 3 scores on the ground. He’ll get more chances to prove himself in the next couple weeks with visits from Texas A&M and Auburn. If he plays well, Prescott will remain in the Heisman conversation for most of the year as long as Mississippi State is able to go 1-1 in those games. Abdullah hasn’t led Nebraska to a huge win yet, but he has been racking up the rushing yards and had his best game in his team’s biggest game of the season so far against Miami (Fl.) last week. He also already has his Heisman moment with his incredible touchdown reception to save the day against McNeese St.
There are some fairly common other players being mentioned just on the fringe of the Heisman discussion, but I’m going to skip past them and look at some long-shots. There are a few players who have played really well, and even though most people know who they are, they haven’t really been mentioned in Heisman talks for one reason or another. These are my Top 5 sleeper picks to make it to the Heisman ceremony.
1. Blake Sims – QB Alabama

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The first few weeks made us wonder if the quarterback position would hold Alabama back from being a true national title contender. This was understandable considering the relative lack of passing game the Tide showed in the first few weeks. But Blake Sims was unleashed last week against Florida, and proved he is capable of making big plays in the passing game. Because of the conservative nature of the offense the first few games, the counting stats aren’t there yet for Sims. But he’s completing just fewer than 70% of his passes and last week showed he can rack up the yards and touchdowns if OC Lane Kiffin continues to air it out. He’ll need to finish with at least 35 touchdowns, but as the QB for one of the nation’s top teams, he has the stage and talent around him to make it happen.
2. DJ Foster – RB Arizona State
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

DJ Foster is an explosive RB in the Reggie Bush mold. The Sun Devils have only played three games so far, but Foster has already rang up 649 yards from scrimmage to go with 6 touchdowns, all while averaging 9.4 ypc. Though they haven’t played much quality opposition, Foster’s worst game of the year so far is 173 yards and 3 touchdowns. The opposition will get tougher now that Pac-12 play is starting, and Foster gets the chance to make a huge statement tonight. With starting quarterback Taylor Kelly out due to injury, if Foster has a huge game and leads Arizona State to an upset win at home over UCLA, Foster will start to gain momentum in the Heisman race.
3. James Conner – RB Pittsburgh
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Conner, the 250 pound running back for the Pittsburgh Panthers, is tallying impressive rushing totals. He has 699 yards and 9 touchdowns already on 6.4 ypc. He also doesn’t have a game with less than 5.3 ypc. The competition may have not been the greatest, but that’s something that isn’t going to change. The Panthers play a weak schedule even by ACC standards, avoiding Florida State and Clemson. Last year Andre Williams finished 4th in the Heisman voting for a 7-5 Boston College team simply because his stats were so impressive. With Pittsburgh’s dedication to the run game (or unwillingness to risk throwing), I see no reason Conner doesn’t have a good chance at putting up a stat line that gets him close to New York.
4. Shane Carden – QB East Carolina

shane-carden

Carden’s candidacy is based both on putting up stats and quality wins. Playing in the American Conference he will certainly not have the big stage other contenders do so he will have to total astonishing stats. That is something he is on pace to do, currently totaling 1,469 yards through the air with 11 passing touchdowns to go along with 3 on the ground. He led East Carolina to a close defeat at South Carolina and followed that up by toasting Virginia Tech and North Carolina to the tune of 865 yards with 10 touchdowns and only 1 interception in the next two games. While he doesn’t have any marquee games left, if he could light up those ACC schools just imagine what he’ll do in American Conference play. They’ll have to win out and go 11-1, but a 4,500 yard season with 40+ touchdowns isn’t out of the question; those are stats that would keep him in the discussion.

5. Dylan Thompson – QB South Carolina

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dylan Thompson is another case where his team will need to win out for him to have a chance. But if the Gamecocks can rattle off 12 straight wins after an opening loss and win the SEC, Thompson is the quarterback for what would be a Top 3 team. He has completed 66.7% of his passes since the opener and even in that opening game loss he threw 4 touchdowns. In South Carolina’s last two games, which came against SEC opponents, Thompson threw 8 touchdowns and only 1 interception. A lot would need to go right, but if Thompson can keep up that kind of efficiency throughout conference play, seeing him finish in the Top 5 wouldn’t be all that far-fetched.

Statement, Redemption, Questions, and a Joke

Week #2 in the ACC Coastal was a week for redemption, continuing questions, and one big statement.
Virginia Tech headlined week 2 in the ACC coastal with a road win at Ohio St. There are a several conclusions we can draw from this game. First, Bud Foster remains a most capable defensive coordinator whose defenses are the foundation of Virginia Tech success. Virginia Tech’s defense was expected to be the key to success in 2014 and the Ohio St game did nothing to alter that expectation. The Hokie defense played fast and smart for 4 quarters with few breakdowns. Second, it is also clear from the Ohio St game that Kendall Fuller will be a multi-year, 1st team all-ACC performer before he graduates. On the offensive side of the ball, it looks like the Hokies will finally have a consistent passing attack led by gutty transfer QB Michael Brewer. However, before we crown Virginia Tech the champs of the coastal, a couple of other things were also clear from Saturday’s game. After struggling to put away Navy last week and losing at home this week, there is little doubt that Ohio St is not a top 10 team with or without Braxton Miller. Also, while Big 10 programs are working desperately to upgrade their team speed to compete on the national stage, it was evident that Ohio St does not have top 10 speed on either side of the ball. When the brute force offense of Ohio St matched up against the fast and well schemed defense of Virginia Tech, the result was a big statement win for the Hokies, an embarrassing home loss for Ohio St, and the 3rd high profile loss of the day for the Big10.
Following the trend of teams that appear to be on an upswing, Pitt followed a ridiculous drubbing of Delaware with a solid road win against Boston College. No one will ever confuse the BC home field advantage with Death Valley or The Swamp, but a road win against a potentially solid Boston College team was a confirming win for a Pitt program striving to establish an identity in the ACC. James Connor and Tyler Boyd made statements against the Eagles that they are top tier offensive threats who can carry the Pitt offense and create matchup headaches for the most adroit defensive coordinators. Quarterback Chad Voytic was an efficient game manager against better competition this week and showed flashes of upside throughout the game.  The Pitt defense was impressive as it held Boston College under 300 total yards for the game. After what should be a tune-up against Florida International next week, Pitt can make a statement that they are Coastal contenders in week 4 when they host Iowa.
 
pittsburgh-panters-bryce-jones-ncaa-football-pittsburgh-boston-college-850x560
North Carolina’s performance against San Diego St was a confirmation win as well. The Tar Heels confirmed that their pre-season expectations may have been a tad aggressive. The Aztecs gained over 500 yards against a UNC defense that was equally unimpressive last week against FCS Liberty. Were it not for a late 4th quarter, game-saving interception in the end-zone, Carolina would have entered their early season bye-week with a 1-1 record.
Virginia followed up a strong performance in a losing effort against UCLA with a convincing win over a well coached but over-matched Richmond team. While Virginia fans were pleased with a second week of strong defensive production (7 turnovers and 4 sacks) the Wahoos are going to have to deliver more consistent production on offense to contend for the division crown. In what may be a blessing as well as a curse, both quarterbacks Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns played well for the Cavaliers and a QB rotation may be in the offing for a critical matchup with Louisville this weekend.
For the second week in a row Georgia Tech was underwhelming in victory. This week’s struggle against Tulane was little solace to the GT faithful looking for improved play after a lackluster win against Wofford.
Miami took care of business as expected against Florida A&M dominating all phases of the game. Al Golden’s Hurricane’s did exactly what they needed to do against  a struggling FAMU team. Miami needed a convincing win to rediscover a bit of the Miami swagger which they delivered in spades. A week four matchup against Nebraska in Lincoln will give Miami a chance to make a statement for the 2014 season.
It is hard to make any credible commentary about the 2014 Duke football team. Unfortunately that will continue to be the case for the next two weeks. Head Coach David Cutcliffe’s results at Duke are nothing short of miraculous. However, the 2014 Duke schedule is laughable and sinks the concept of scheduling for success to new depths. The first four opponents for the defending coastal champions are Elon, Troy, Kansas, and Tulane. Every program feasts on cupcakes early in the season, but this cornucopia would give Augustus Gloop a stomachache. The reality is that Duke will be 4-0 after it’s first 4 games yet we will have no idea what kind of football team they have. Maybe next year Duke can save some travel money and schedule all of their out-of-conference games against Southern Conference opponents.
With the exception of Virginia, which plays host to Louisville in what may be the most important game on their schedule, next week’s ACC coastal schedule compares favorably with a yawning festival. We look forward to weeks hence when coastal versus coastal matchups will begin to shake out the division hierarchy for 2014.