Articles By Steven Lassan
True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether it's a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the ACC to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference in Week 13.
Stats to Know from the ACC
0: Amount of times Duke has finished a season with double-digit wins
Duke’s annual matchup against North Carolina is usually one of the most-anticipated games on the hardwood, but this year’s meeting has extra importance on the gridiron. With a win over the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils will clinch a spot in the ACC Championship and earn their first season of double-digit wins in school history. Duke won nine games in 1993, 1936, 1938 and 1941 under Wallace Wade. However, the Blue Devils have never managed to crack the 10-win mark. If Duke doesn’t win this week, it will have another shot at 10 victories in a bowl.
41.5: Clemson QB Tajh Boyd’s completion percentage in two starts against South Carolina
If the Tigers are going to snap a four-game losing streak to rival South Carolina, quarterback Tajh Boyd and the offensive line has to step up this Saturday. In two starts against the Gamecocks, Boyd has completed 22 of 53 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. In last year’s meeting, the senior was sacked six times and harassed all game by the South Carolina defensive line.
17-9: Frank Beamer’s record against Virginia
The Hokies are in the midst of a semi-disappointing season, but with a little bit of help, can still reach the ACC Championship. However, Virginia Tech has to beat rival Virginia to have any hope of playing for the conference title. Hokies’ coach Frank Beamer has owned the Cavaliers in recent years, winning nine in a row and 13 out of the last 14. Beamer’s all-time record against Virginia is 17-9, with the Cavaliers’ last victory in Blacksburg coming in 1998.
Oct. 19: The last time Georgia Tech threw a touchdown pass
Considering Georgia Tech has a run-first offense, it’s no surprise it has only nine passing scores all year. However, it’s a bit surprising the Yellow Jackets have gone four games without a touchdown toss. Even in the Nov. 14 loss to Clemson, Georgia Tech did not record a touchdown pass despite hoisting a season-high 26 attempts. It’s not critical for the Yellow Jackets to throw for a score against Georgia this week, but Georgia Tech will need to throw to take some attention away from the line of scrimmage.
44: Average points per game by North Carolina with Marquise Williams starting at QB
Williams has four starts under his belt this year – Virginia Tech, Virginia, Pittsburgh and Old Dominion – and the Tar Heels are averaging 44 points a game in those contests. The 80 points scored against Old Dominion slightly skews that total, but even if you remove the game against the Monarchs, Williams is still averaging 31.7 points in the other three starts. With Williams only getting better, along with a strong core of skill players returning next season, the Tar Heels should be in the mix to win the Coastal in 2014.
16: Yards gained by Pittsburgh on six non-scoring drives in the second half against Syracuse
Timely offense or good defense? That’s about the only way to describe Pittsburgh’s second-half offense against Syracuse on Saturday. The Panthers managed only 16 yards on six non-scoring second-half drives but recorded 88 on nine plays to score the game-winning touchdown late in the third quarter. The Orange’s offense wasn’t much more effective in the second half, recording six drives of 27 or fewer yards. Syracuse scored on a five-play 62-yard drive early in the third quarter. A big reason for the offensive struggles for Pittsburgh was a lackluster rushing game, which managed only 21 yards on 27 attempts.
247: Rushing yards averaged by Boston College’s Andre Williams over last five games
Williams continued his torrid pace with 263 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts in Boston College’s 29-26 victory over Maryland. Over the last three games, Williams has averaged at least eight yards per carry and has scored two times in every game. The senior has 2,073 yards this year, which is a single-season school record. But Williams has his sights set even higher, as Barry Sanders’ single-season record (2,628 yards) is within reach with two games remaining. The senior will have a chance to add to his total this week, as Boston College travels to take on Syracuse. The Orange has held three of their last four opponents under 2.2 yards per carry, but that total will be challenged by Williams. The senior also needs just 86 yards to own the school record for most rushing yards in a career.
16: Florida State defensive players with interceptions this season
Under the direction of first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Florida State’s defense leads the nation with 23 interceptions. To indicate how deep the talent pool is on defense in 2013, the Seminoles have 16 players with interceptions this season. Freshman Nate Andrews leads the team with four, while senior linebacker Telvin Smith leads a group of four players tied with two. Five of Florida State’s 16 interceptions have been returned for touchdowns, including two by Smith and one by Andrews.
94: Rushing yards per game averaged by Wake Forest – worst of the Jim Grobe era
Losing receiver Michael Campanaro was a huge setback for Wake Forest’s offense this year, but a bigger problem for the Demon Deacons has been the inability to run the ball. Through 11 games, Wake Forest is averaging just 94 yards per contest – easily the worst of the Jim Grobe era. The Demon Deacons averaged only 100.5 rushing yards per game last season, but 2013 is the first time under triple digits since 1998. Wake Forest’s season rushing average has also declined in each of the last three years.
211-194-4: Maryland’s ACC record with one conference game remaining
Maryland travels to NC State this Saturday for the final ACC game in school history. The Terrapins have made gains in reach of Randy Edsall’s three seasons in College Park and should play in a bowl this year. Maryland’s all-time record in ACC play is 211-194-4, with the last winning record in conference games occurring in 2010. The Terrapins are just 11-28 in ACC games over the last five years.
74: Rushing yards Kevin Parks needs to reach 1,000
Virginia’s offense has struggled mightily at times this year. The Cavaliers rank ninth in the ACC (conference-only games) in total offense, averaging just 4.4 yards per play. The rushing attack has been one of the few bright spots, with running back Kevin Parks averaging 84.2 yards per game. Parks also has 11 touchdowns this year. If Parks rushes for 74 yards against Virginia Tech, the junior will become the first Virginia rusher since Alvin Pearman in 2004 to reach 1,000 yards.
18.7: Yards per touch by Miami receiver Stacy Coley against Virginia
Allen Hurns is Miami’s go-to receiver this season, but Coley has provided plenty of big plays in his first season. Against the Cavaliers, Coley recorded 50 yards on two kickoff returns and caught five passes for 81 yards and one touchdown. The freshman scored Miami’s first offensive touchdown against Virginia, catching a 62-yard scoring pass from quarterback Stephen Morris. Coley has 27 receptions for 486 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Wyoming and Utah State are set to play this Saturday in a key Mountain West game. The Aggies need to win to get to the conference championship, while the Cowboys need a victory to get bowl eligible.
However, both teams will have a little extra incentive this week, as the schools announced a new rivalry trophy. The winner will claim a rifle after the game, which is a tribute to Jim Bridger – a famous mountain man and explorer. This rivalry will be known as “Bridger’s Battle.”
We're excited to announce a new rivalry series with Wyoming that includes a new traveling trophy... The very... http://t.co/lZwFe6VlIz— Utah State Football (@USUFootball) November 25, 2013
Army-Navy is arguably the top rivalry in college football. These two programs have met 113 times, with Navy owning a 57-49-7 edge.
These two teams will meet on Dec. 14 this year, and both will wear alternate uniforms.
Here’s a look at the alternate uniforms for the annual Navy-Army game:
Army and Navy will play each other on Dec. 14 and somehow manage not to wear camouflage: pic.twitter.com/A4SDa0go9b— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 25, 2013
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is a hot topic in the SEC this season. Mullen has led the Bulldogs to three consecutive bowl games, and with a win over rival Ole Miss, can extend that streak to four.
Even though Mullen has Mississippi State on the edge of a fourth consecutive bowl appearance, there’s some grumblings in the SEC and around Mississippi about his job status. No, Mullen isn’t going to lose his job this year, but there’s plenty of talk around in the SEC about the fifth-year coach moving onto the hot seat.
Even if Mississippi State falls short of a winning record, Mullen has done enough in five years to warrant more time to build this program.
Analyzing Dan Mullen's Tenure at Mississippi State
To understand where Dan Mullen is at during his tenure at Mississippi State, it’s important to examine the history of former coaches in Starkville.
|Coach||Years at Miss. State||Overall Record||SEC Record|
Need evidence of just how difficult it is to win at Mississippi State?
5. Texas A&M
8. South Carolina
10. Ole Miss
13. Mississippi State
In terms of job hierarchy, Mississippi State is near the bottom of the SEC. Attracting top talent and overall program resources just aren’t the same as what coaches can get at Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU.
In USA Today’s 2012 athletic department revenue study, Mississippi State ranked 11th in the SEC, just ahead of Ole Miss and Missouri (Vanderbilt did not disclose its revenue).
While athletic revenue isn’t necessarily a true indicator of success, it’s important to note when considering where Mississippi State is on the food chain in the SEC. The Bulldogs’ 2012 revenue of $69.8 million was considerably off SEC West rivals Arkansas ($99.7 million), Auburn ($105.9 million), Alabama ($124.9 million), LSU ($114.8 million) and Texas A&M ($119.7 million).
Without the necessary dollars and fertile location for recruiting, Mississippi State is at a sizeable disadvantage to its SEC West opponents.
Dan Mullen's Win/Loss Record
|2009||5-7||3-5||T-4th SEC West|
|2010||9-4||4-4||5th SEC West|
|2011||7-6||2-6||5th SEC West|
|2012||8-5||4-4||4th SEC West|
|2013||5-6||2-5||5th SEC West|
If Mississippi State beats Ole Miss on Thursday night, the Bulldogs will earn a school-record fourth consecutive bowl appearance. Mullen’s 24 wins from 2010-12 are the most for Mississippi State since Jackie Sherrill won 26 from 1998-2000.
Of Mississippi State’s 15 SEC wins, none have occurred against Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M. However, the Bulldogs lost by only 13 against the Crimson Tide this season, which was Alabama’s second-closest loss in 2013.
Five of Mullen’s SEC victories have been against Kentucky, two against Arkansas, one against Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt and three against rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs also have a win over Georgia and a victory at Florida under Mullen’s watch.
Recruiting information by 247Sports
|Year||National Rank||Conference Rank||5* Signed||4* Signed|
Recruiting Within Mississippi - Top 25 Recruits
|Year||Mississippi State||Ole Miss|
Considering where Mississippi State is on the SEC’s totem poll, back-to-back top-25 recruiting classes is a solid step for this program. And it’s too early to judge the 2014 class, especially since the Bulldogs have only 19 commitments. Without a huge group of departing seniors, Mississippi State isn’t going to sign a monster class this year, so it’s likely the Bulldogs rank outside of the top 25.
In the three years prior to Mullen’s arrival, Mississippi State did not rank in the top 35 nationally in signing classes. In all five of Mullen’s classes, the Bulldogs have reached that plateau, including the No. 19 overall class in 2009.
Within the state of Mississippi, the balance of power seems to have shifted back to Ole Miss. The Rebels signed seven of the state’s top prospects in 2013 after inking three in 2012. And with a few months to go in the recruiting cycle, Ole Miss has a nine to five edge in top-25 recruits.
It’s not a sizeable difference in the last two years, but Mississippi State has to continue to hold its own within the state.
Mississippi State's Offense Under Mullen
* Conference-only stats
|Year||Rush||Pass||Total||Scoring||Yards Per Play|
|2009||222.0 (1)||120.9 (11)||342.9 (9)||22.5 (T-7th)||5.1|
|2010||186.9 (2)||148.3 (11)||335.1 (11)||18.9 (11)||4.9|
|2011||131.1 (9)||155.1 (8)||286.3 (9)||18.1 (9)||4.4|
|2012||111.3 (13)||266.1 (5)||377.4 (7)||25.3 (8)||5.7|
|2013||180.4 (6)||241.9 (7)||422.3 (7)||23.1 (10)||5.9|
With a background on offense, Mississippi State’s performance on this side of the ball should factor into the evaluation of Mullen.
The Bulldogs have not ranked higher than seventh in total offense, but their scoring average and yards per play have increased in each of the last two seasons. The SEC has lost some key defensive talent in recent years, and there’s a trend to more offense, but Mississippi State has made gains on offense under Mullen’s watch.
One positive sign: Dak Prescott showed flashes of potential in limited action this season. If the sophomore quarterback can build on that success, Mississippi State’s offense could show solid growth in 2014.
“You always just have to completely block that out. Like one question, are you on the hot seat? Well, I hate to break it to you, if you’re coaching in the Southeastern Conference, I've been on the hot seat here for five years now."- Dan Mullen
Judging or ranking coaches isn’t an easy task. But just relying on wins and losses to judge a successful tenure isn’t the way to go. Program hierarchy plays a large role in how teams and coaches should be judged. Is a national title possible at Mississippi State? Sure. But is it likely? It’s a tough assignment for any coach. Coaching in Starkville without the tradition of success or recruiting ability of Alabama or Florida makes the Mississippi State job one of the toughest in the SEC.
Could another coach perform better than Mullen? Sure. But let’s swap Mullen with Les Miles or Kevin Sumlin tomorrow. Will either perform drastically better at Mississippi State? Probably not.
At a program like Mississippi State, it’s reasonable to expect finishes in the top 25, bowl games every year and an upset here and there against the best in the SEC.
According to Mississippi State’s game notes, the Bulldogs have only six seniors as starters. The two-deep depth chart also features 13 freshmen. This is clearly not a team built to win in 2013. With most of the core returning in 2014, combined with improvement on the recruiting trail, the Bulldogs should be in better shape to make a move in the SEC West. And with LSU, Texas A&M and Alabama losing key personnel, Mississippi State will have an opportunity to win eight games in 2014.
Considering how difficult and loaded the SEC West has developed into over the last few seasons, the Bulldogs (already at a program disadvantage to the rest of the division) are already fighting an uphill battle.
If Mullen regresses to multiple years with a losing record, then it’s time for Mississippi State to make a coaching change. But for now, Mullen is on pace to exceed the previous tenures in Starkville. And with improving facilities, Mullen has more ammunition to work on closing the gap in the SEC West.
Mississippi State is a tough job, but Mullen has made progress. If the Bulldogs regress in 2014, then it’s time to put Mullen on the hot seat.
As long as the Bulldogs make bowl games and continue to narrow the gap with the top teams in the SEC West, Mullen should be employed in Starkville.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray suffered a torn ACL in Saturday’s win over Kentucky and will miss the remainder of the 2013 season.
Prior to his injury, Murray completed 18 of 23 passes for 183 yards and four touchdowns against the Wildcats.
Hutson Mason is Murray’s backup and completed 13 of 19 throws for 189 yards and one touchdown in relief.
Murray finishes his Georgia career with 13,166 yards and 121 touchdowns. Murray also threw for at least 3,000 yards in all four of his seasons in Athens.
The ACC didn’t have a matchup with national interest in Week 13, but there were plenty of key developments from the few conference games.
Boston College running back Andre Williams continued his ridiculous season with a huge outing against Maryland. The Eagles improved to 7-4 with a win over the Terrapins, which should help Boston College’s bowl positioning in the ACC.
Pittsburgh earned bowl eligibility with a 17-16 win at Syracuse, while Florida State and Clemson cruised against overmatched opponents.
North Carolina scored 80 points in a rout over Old Dominion, and Duke moved one step closer to a Coastal Division title with a 28-21 victory over Wake Forest.
The struggles of NC State and Virginia continued, as both teams dropped games in Week 13.
ACC Week 13 Awards and Recap
Offensive Player of the Week: Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
Another week, another huge outing for Williams. The senior gashed Maryland’s defense for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts. Williams made a couple of key plays in the fourth quarter that propelled Boston College to the victory, including a 72-yard touchdown run with just over 10 minutes remaining. The senior also had a 36-yard rush, which put the Eagles into position for the game-winning field goal. Williams now has three consecutive 200-yard efforts, has eight touchdowns over his last four games, while averaging at least eight yards per carry in each of his last three contests. Considering Williams’ performance in recent weeks, the senior should be mentioned more in the Heisman discussion.
Defensive Player of the Week: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
There were a handful of standout defensive performances in the ACC in Week 13, with Donald narrowly beating Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan and North Carolina’s Kareem Martin for this week’s honor. With bowl eligibility on the line, Donald and Pittsburgh’s defense held Syracuse to 16 points and 307 yards on 67 plays. The Orange recorded 148 rushing yards, which was 73 below their weekly average. Donald once again wrecked havoc against the offensive line, recording nine tackles (3.5 tackles for a loss) and two quarterback hurries. Donald also blocked an extra point after Syracuse’s first touchdown.
Team of the Week: Boston College
The Eagles continued their impressive turnaround under first-year coach Steve Addazio, recording a 29-26 road win against Maryland. The victory over the Terrapins gave Boston College seven this year, which is more than the program had from the 2011-12 seasons combined. Running back Andre Williams continues to carry the offense, rushing for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts. Quarterback Chase Rettig completed only six passes, but the senior made a key 74-yard touchdown toss to Alex Amidon to give Boston College at 26-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles’ defense held Maryland to just 4.3 yards per play and sacked quarterback C.J. Brown four times.
Coordinator of the Week: Blake Anderson, North Carolina
Old Dominion wasn’t the best defense North Carolina has played this year, but let’s give Anderson some credit for the performance of the Tar Heels’ offense. North Carolina recorded a school-record 80 points against the Monarchs, averaged 10.6 yards per play and punted only twice. Quarterback Marquise Williams continues to impress, completing 20 of 27 passes for 409 yards and five touchdowns against Old Dominion. The Tar Heels also received plenty of help from the ground attack, as freshman T.J. Logan led the way with 137 yards and three touchdowns on 14 attempts. Under Anderson’s direction, North Carolina has now scored at least 30 points in four out of its last five games.
Freshman of the Week: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Another week, another freshman honor for Winston. Against an overmatched Idaho team, Winston was steady as usual, completing 14 of 25 passes for 225 yards and four touchdowns. The freshman’s pass protection was shaky at times, but Winston still managed to average 16.1 yards per completion and guided the Seminoles to a 49-7 lead before departing early in the third quarter. With Johnny Manziel struggling against LSU, Winston’s performance should be enough for the freshman to extend his lead in the Heisman race.
ACC Post-Week 13 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||LW||Record||This Week||Next Week|
|1||1||11-0, 8-0||W, Idaho 80-14||at Florida|
|2||2||10-1, 7-1||W, The Citadel, 52-6||at South Carolina|
|3||3||9-2, 5-2||W, Wake Forest 28-21||at North Carolina|
|4||4||7-4, 4-3||Bye Week||at Virginia|
|5||5||8-4, 4-3||W, Virginia 45-26||at Pittsburgh|
|6||6||7-4, 5-3||W, Alabama A&M 66-7||Georgia|
|7||7||6-5, 4-3||W, Old Dominion 80-20||Duke|
|8||8||7-4, 4-3||W, Maryland 29-26||at Syracuse|
|9||9||6-5, 3-4||W, Syracuse 17-16||Miami|
|10||10||5-6, 3-4||L, Pittsburgh 17-16||Boston College|
|11||11||6-5, 2-5||L, Boston College 29-26||at NC State|
|12||12||4-7, 2-6||L, Duke 28-21||at Vanderbilt|
|13||13||3-8, 0-7||L, East Carolina 42-28||Maryland|
|14||14||2-9, 0-7||L, Miami 45-26||Virginia Tech|
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota entered Saturday’s game against Arizona with a streak of 353 passes without an interception. However, on his first pass against the Wildcats, Mariota was picked off, which was the start of a bad day for the Ducks.
Mariota’s pass was deflected off the receiver’s hands, which was knocked back into the field of play by Shaquille Richardson. After Richardson knocked the ball back into the field, linebacker Scooby Wright made the catch to give Arizona possession.
Boston College running back Andre Williams continued his stellar 2013 season with 263 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts against Maryland.
The senior made a key run in the fourth quarter to put the Eagles in position to kick the game-winning field goal. However, his play of the day might have been a mean stiff arm that clobbered Maryland defensive back Will Likely:
Just how big is next week’s Iron Bowl? Auburn already has RVs lining up to get tailgate spots for next Saturday’s game.
Don’t believe us? Check out these photos from Auburn:
After East Carolina’s 42-28 victory over NC State, a billboard popped up in North Carolina celebrating the Pirates’ 2013 season.
East Carolina has bragging rights over its in-state foes, as the Pirates beat North Carolina and NC State this season.
The Pirates will have a chance to win Conference USA’s East Division next week against Marshall.
Texas A&M has a key SEC game on Saturday against LSU, and the Aggies have unveiled an alternate uniform for the matchup against the Tigers.
According to the school's twitter feed, these are the "Dark Onyx" uniforms:
Texas A&M works with Adidas & calls last minute audible on unis vs LSU pic.twitter.com/vfK2jtkNBn— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) November 23, 2013
Texas A&M helmets for LSU game pic.twitter.com/bTdBDbY4A7— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) November 23, 2013
The Pac-12 South title could be on the line when Arizona State travels to UCLA on Saturday night.
Arizona State sits atop the Pac-12 South standings going into Week 13, but UCLA is just a game behind. The Bruins and Sun Devils aren’t alone in chasing the division crown, as USC is still alive at 5-2 in conference play. The Trojans lost to Arizona State earlier this year and play UCLA next week.
The Sun Devils have lost only one Pac-12 contest this season, a 42-28 matchup at Stanford in late September. Since losing to the Cardinal, Arizona State has reeled off five consecutive conference victories, including a 62-41 blowout win over USC.
UCLA started 5-0 but stumbled in back-to-back games against Stanford and Oregon. Although the Bruins dropped those two matchups, Stanford and Oregon are the top-two teams in the Pac-12, so there’s no question Jim Mora’s team is battle-tested.
Close games have defined this series in the last two years. UCLA won by two points last year and claimed a one-point victory in 2011. The Bruins own an 18-10-1 series edge over the Sun Devils, with Arizona State’s last victory against UCLA coming in 2010. The Bruins have won two in a row over the Sun Devils in the Rose Bowl.
Arizona State at UCLA
Kickoff: 7 ET
TV Channel: Fox
Spread: Arizona State -2.5
Three Things to Watch
Arizona State’s defensive line vs. UCLA’s offensive line
It’s a strength versus weakness matchup in the trenches on Saturday night. Arizona State’s defensive line is among the best in the nation, anchored by senior tackle Will Sutton. Sophomore Jaxon Hood and senior Gannon Conway round out the likely starting defensive line for the Sun Devils, and this unit helps to key an aggressive front seven. Linebacker/end Carl Bradford is the team’s top pass rusher, recording 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles this year. UCLA’s offensive line features three freshmen and depth is a concern due to injuries. The Bruins haven’t been terrible in pass protection (18 sacks in seven Pac-12 games), but this unit allowed seven of those in UCLA’s two losses. Arizona State’s defense has 23 sacks in Pac-12 action, so expect the Bruins’ young offensive line to have their hands full. UCLA needs to give quarterback Brett Hundley a clean pocket, but the sophomore is also capable of making plays with his legs when necessary.
UCLA’s rushing attack
UCLA ranks seventh in Pac-12-only games in rushing offense. The Bruins are averaging 166.7 yards per game, but the ground game has received a spark in the last two games from linebacker Myles Jack. Yes, that’s right, a linebacker. Jack is an athletic freak and has 179 yards on just 19 attempts. The coaching staff doesn’t want to overuse Jack on offense, especially with a high-powered Arizona State offense on the other side. But Jack should expect to play some on offense, especially if Jordon James is less than full strength due to an ankle injury. James has played in only five games this year and has missed five out of the last six contests. The Sun Devils struggled against the run last season but rank second in the Pac-12 in 2013. Opponents are averaging just 111.3 yards per game on the ground against Arizona State this year. The Sun Devils held three of their last four opponents to 70 or fewer yards on the ground. UCLA has to be careful not to overwork Jack, but the freshman has been this team’s best option recently. Will James be at full strength on Saturday night? If he is, the Bruins should be able to depend on him for 20 carries. However, expect to see Paul Perkins and quarterback Brett Hundley contribute to the ground game as well.
Stopping Marion Grice
Arizona State running back Marion Grice leads all Pac-12 players by averaging 12 points a game this year. The senior has 20 touchdowns through 10 games and needs 99 yards to reach 1,000 on the season. UCLA’s rush defense ranks eighth in Pac-12 only games and has allowed 11 touchdowns in conference play. The Bruins held Grice to 48 yards last year, but Arizona State managed 220 overall yards on the ground. The Sun Devils are relatively balanced in their play-calling, and it’s difficult to keep this offense in check. UCLA has an active and speedy front seven, which figures to create some problems for Grice and the Arizona State offensive line. If Grice can get on track, it will help take some of the pressure off quarterback Taylor Kelly. However, if the Bruins slow down Grice, the Bruins’ defense should get the upper hand in the matchup against Arizona State’s offense.
Key Player: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
Since throwing for 275 yards and five touchdowns against Washington State, Kelly hasn’t had his best efforts in Arizona State’s last two games. The junior has just 327 yards over the last two weeks and has tossed two picks to one touchdown. The Bruins rank sixth in the Pac-12 in pass defense, but opponents are completing 63.1 percent of their throws. Even though Kelly is a sharp passer (62.4), he’s also got plenty of mobility (3.4 ypc) for UCLA to account for him in the run game. After two sluggish performances, will Kelly bounce back and lead Arizona State to a South Division title?
If you like offense, this game is must-see television on Saturday night. There’s very little separating these two teams, so homefield advantage for UCLA could swing this in its favor. And both teams are +9 in turnover margin in Pac-12 play, so every mistake will be magnified. Arizona State has lost its last two games to UCLA by just three combined points. If the Sun Devils keep linebacker Anthony Barr away from quarterback Taylor Kelly, their offense should have an edge against UCLA’s defense. When the Bruins have the ball, it’s all about protecting quarterback Brett Hundley against an experienced, aggressive front seven for Arizona State. It’s tough to pick against the Bruins in the Rose Bowl, but it’s time for the Sun Devils to break through.
Prediction: Arizona State 34, UCLA 31
Texas A&M and LSU are out of the SEC West title picture, but Saturday’s matchup between these two teams could be one of Week 13’s most entertaining games.
Both teams should be rested after bye weeks last Saturday, and there’s added importance due to bowl positioning.
At 8-2, Texas A&M is still alive for a BCS bowl. If the Aggies win out, they will likely play in the Sugar Bowl as the replacement for the SEC champion. Winning the final two games of the year isn’t a guarantee for Texas A&M, especially with back-to-back road trips.
LSU is likely out of the mix for a BCS bowl, but the Tigers have a chance to finish 2013 on a high note. And most importantly, with wins against Texas A&M and Arkansas, LSU will earn its fifth straight season of at least nine victories.
LSU leads the overall series 28-20-3. The Tigers have won the last two meetings against Texas A&M, with the Aggies’ last victory over LSU coming in 1995. This is only the second meeting between LSU and Texas A&M as SEC foes. This emerging rivalry will get some extra attention in 2014, as these programs are scheduled to play on Thanksgiving night in College Station.
Texas A&M at LSU
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: LSU -4.5
Three Things to Watch
Johnny Manziel vs. LSU’s defense
LSU’s defense managed to solve Texas A&M’s high-powered offense last year. The Tigers held the Aggies to just 19 points (second-lowest total of the season), while quarterback Johnny Manziel recorded only 303 total yards and no touchdowns. LSU sacked Manziel three times and recorded eight tackles for a loss on the Aggies’ offense. While the Tigers kept Texas A&M’s offense in check last year, this unit is undergoing some major renovations. Through 10 games, LSU’s defense is having an uncharacteristic season, ranking ninth in the SEC against the run and recording only 12 sacks in conference play. The Tigers’ secondary has fared better than the rush defense, ranking sixth in the SEC in pass defense, but this unit has allowed 10 passing scores in six conference games. Manziel is still a dangerous runner (5.6 ypc), but the sophomore has made strides as a passer and is more patient in the pocket in 2013. LSU’s defense was able to use its speed and athleticism on the line to keep Manziel in the pocket last year and limit his rushing attempts. With all of the personnel losses in the front seven, can the Tigers replicate the same gameplan? Or will an improved passing game from Manziel result in more big plays to receiver Mike Evans?
Texas A&M’s run defense vs. Jeremy Hill
Texas A&M’s rush defense has been gashed by opposing teams all season. Will that change on Saturday? The Aggies are allowing 223.5 rushing yards per game in SEC play. Auburn rushed for 379 yards against Texas A&M on Oct. 19, and only one opponent in conference action has been held under 100 yards by the Aggies (Vanderbilt). LSU goes four-deep at running back, and J.C. Copeland is one of the best fullbacks in the nation. Sophomore Jeremy Hill leads the team with 964 yards and 13 scores, but Terrence Magee (407 yards) and Kenny Hilliard (271 yards) should expect to see snaps on Saturday. Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder has a tough choice. Does he load the box to slow down LSU’s rushing attack? If the Aggies devote more attention to stop the run, the secondary will be vulnerable against the Tigers’ receiving corps.
LSU’s wide receivers versus Texas A&M’s secondary
These two teams aren’t short on potential All-SEC talent, but Texas A&M’s defense against LSU’s offense is a mismatch. New coordinator Cam Cameron has made a big difference in improving the Tigers’ offense, which includes the development of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The senior has five of his seven interceptions in two out of his last three games. However, Mettenberger wasn’t awful against Alabama (16 of 23, 241 yards) and was outstanding in a 44-41 loss against Georgia in September (23 of 37, 372 yards, three touchdowns). In addition to Cameron’s play-calling and Mettenberger’s development, another key reason for the improvement in LSU’s passing attack is the one-two punch at receiver in Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. This duo has combined for 114 catches for 2,023 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Texas A&M’s secondary has struggled just as much as the run defense, ranking last in SEC-only games in pass yards allowed per game (278.7). Can cornerbacks De’Vante Harris and Deshazor Everett matchup with Beckham and Landry? And their job could be even tougher if the pass rush doesn’t get pressure on Mettenberger.
Key Players: Isaiah Golden, NG/Darian Claiborne, LB, Texas A&M
This true freshman duo on Texas A&M’s defense will eventually contend for All-SEC honors. However, in 2013, this inexperienced duo is what the Aggies have to rely on to slow opposing ground attacks. Golden and Claiborne have held their own this season, with Claiborne ranking second on the team with 69 tackles. Stopping LSU’s rushing attack starts up front with Golden and continues with Claiborne in the middle. If Golden can get a good push, the Aggies can slow down the Tigers’ ground game. It’s a tough assignment, but Golden and Claiborne could hold the key to a Texas A&M victory.
Behind quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans, Texas A&M is going to score. The Aggies have scored 50 points in three consecutive games and should push 40 this Saturday. However, with Texas A&M’s struggling defense, Manziel essentially has to play a mistake-free game and score every time the offense has the ball. LSU will move the ball easily on the Aggies, but the difference in the game is the Tigers’ defense. This isn’t a vintage LSU defense. However, there’s still some talent, which earns just enough stops for the Tigers to win on Saturday.
Prediction: LSU 38, Texas A&M 34
Penn State and Nebraska are in the midst of semi-disappointing seasons, so it’s appropriate both teams meet in late November looking to get back on track.
The Cornhuskers lost 41-28 to Michigan State last week, which essentially clinched the Legends Division for the Spartans. In the loss, Nebraska outgained Michigan State 392 to 361 but committed five turnovers.
The Nittany Lions lost 24-10 to Minnesota in Week 11 but rebounded by beating Purdue 45-21. Penn State went 8-4 in Bill O’Brien’s first season and could finish with that mark once again, provided the Nittany Lions beat Nebraska and win at Wisconsin on Nov. 30. While finishing 8-4 once again is a difficult assignment, Penn State had to replace a handful of key players from its 2012 squad, and true freshman Christian Hackenberg is still learning the ropes at quarterback.
Nebraska owns an 8-7 edge in the overall series against Penn State. The Cornhuskers have claimed the last three games against the Nittany Lions, including a 17-14 victory in Happy Valley in 2011. Nebraska won 32-23 in Lincoln last year.
Penn State vs. Nebraska
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State -2
Penn State’s Key to Victory: Mistake-free game from QB Christian Hackenberg
In last week’s loss against Michigan State, Nebraska committed five turnovers and lost 41-28. But that’s not the biggest concern for coach Bo Pelini. The Cornhuskers have lost the turnover margin in each of their last five games, which was also a significant factor in a loss to Minnesota. In Penn State’s last two losses (Minnesota, Ohio State), Bill O’Brien’s team had a negative turnover margin. In their last two wins, the Nittany Lions were a +1 in turnover margin. Both teams have a freshman quarterback, and both plan to give a heavy dose of the rushing attack on offense. But it’s no secret there’s not much separating these teams. With that in mind, a turnover or two could swing this game in favor of one side.
Nebraska’s Key to Victory: Establish Ameer Abdullah
Penn State had to replace four starters in its front seven this preseason, and at times, this unit has struggled to stop the run. After six Big Ten games, Penn State ranks seventh in the conference in run defense, allowing 172.2 yards per game. Due to allowing 408 rushing yards against Ohio State, the Nittany Lions’ defensive numbers are slightly skewed, but the front seven was gashed by UCF for 219 yards, 150 against Indiana and 195 versus Minnesota. Michigan State’s front seven is arguably the best in the Big Ten, and Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah managed 123 yards on 22 attempts. With freshman Tommy Armstrong starting once again this Saturday, Abdullah needs to carry the offense. If the junior has a strong performance, it will help relieve some of the pressure on Nebraska’s young quarterback.
Key Player: Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
As a freshman, it’s no surprise Armstrong has experienced his share of ups and downs. Through seven games, he is completing 53 percent of his passes, while tossing seven picks and seven scores. Armstrong struggled in last week’s loss to Michigan State (9 of 21), but the Cornhuskers won’t have to rely solely on his arm to win, especially with Abdullah performing at a high level. Keep an eye on Armstrong’s mobility this Saturday. The freshman rushed for 69 yards in a win over Northwestern, and after Penn State allowed Minnesota’s Philip Nelson to run for 40 yards and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller to run for 68, Armstrong should have opportunities to make plays with his legs.
Expect a close one between these two teams on Saturday afternoon. Nebraska’s offense is limited with quarterback Tommy Armstrong still learning on the job, and Penn State’s defense ranks ninth in Big Ten-only games. Whichever team can get its rushing game on track, while limiting turnovers will have a slight edge. The Nittany Lions are 3-0 at home in Big Ten play this year, but an improving Cornhusker defense is just enough to give Bo Pelini’s team a slight edge.
Prediction: Nebraska 27, Penn State 24
West Virginia and TCU are arguably the biggest disappointments in the Big 12 this year.
Losing to Kansas will prevent West Virginia from playing in a bowl for the first time since 2001, and the Mountaineers need to beat Iowa State in the season finale to avoid a 4-8 mark.
TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12.
However, the Horned Frogs are 4-7 headed into their season finale against Baylor next week.
Both programs have a difficult transition to the Big 12, so it will take time to recruit and build the program to compete consistently for conference titles.
West Virginia or TCU: Which programs decline in 2013 has been more surprising?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’ve been more surprised with TCU’s decline this season. This was expected to be a rebuilding year for West Virginia, and that’s exactly what has played out in Morgantown. Dana Holgorsen is feeling a lot of pressure, but I think it’s too early to put the third-year coach on the hot seat. The Mountaineers had to move to a tougher conference, and only 11 starters are back from last season. West Virginia has lost three conference games by 10 points or less and most of this team returns in 2014, so there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic in Morgantown. TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12. But the Horned Frogs have dropped four out of their last five games, with Iowa State and Kansas representing the only conference wins for Gary Patterson’s team. Much like West Virginia, TCU has been dealing with a handful of injuries and much of this team’s core returns for 2014. Maybe the preseason expectations were too high for the Horned Frogs, but it seems this team has too much talent to be finishing 4-8. I expect both teams to rebound next year. However, it will be a long offseason for both coaches and programs.
To me it's TCU. I didn't have high expectations for West Virginia to begin with because this was a team that lost a ton of offensive talent to the NFL and needed every bit of it last season just to finish 7-6. TCU, on the other hand, was returning most of its starting defense, a unit that finished among the top 30 teams in the nation in 2012 in three (total, scoring, rushing) of the four major categories. I thought the Horned Frogs were a darkhorse Big 12 contender this fall, but Gary Patterson's team just hasn't been able to put it all together. TCU isn't a bad team by any stretch, with just three double-digit losses and none by more than 14 points. But four losses in its last five games, two of them by a combined five points, means no bowl for the Horned Frogs for the first time in nine seasons. Patterson knew things would be tougher for his team when TCU joined the Big 12 last season. I just don't think even he expected this season to play out like this, not with all of the experience that was returning. There's enough talent on the roster for TCU to rebound in 2014. But while Horned Frogs fans are hoping that the third time around the Big 12 is the charm for their team, it's no stretch to say that the challenge that awaits for Patterson and his coaching staff is something entirely new.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Both team's seasons are surprising, though both have dealt with plenty of roster tumult. TCU has had Casey Pachall in and out of the lineup, defensive end Devonte Fields essentially has been a nonfactor, and linebacker Joel Hasley left the team before the season. West Virginia has dealt with similar injuries all season, particularly to veterans on the defense. If this makes sense, I’d say TCU’s 2013 season is the bigger surprise, but the trajectory for West Virginia is the bigger disappointment. TCU was bound to stumble moving into the Big 12, though I thought the offense would do just enough to keep the Horned Frogs competitive. It’s certainly better with Pachall back, but 4-7 is an awfully big fall. Pachall returned and the Horned Frogs offense put 27 on West Virginia, 21 on Iowa State and 31 on Kansas State. That’s enough to prove that had everyone stayed healthy, TCU’s probably looking at seven or eight wins. But West Virginia’s fall has been more dramatic. This was once one of the most consistent programs in the country, but the Mountaineers have gone 6-13 since Oct. 13, 2012. The program needed to flee the Big East, but it was clearly ill-equipped for the Big 12. This decline in 2013, though, makes me wonder if West Virginia will ever get back to where it was under Rich Rodriguez. Momentum is gone. The team has no identity. And recruiting is going to have some major hurdles. West Virginia is too far from Texas and doesn’t play in the Southeast, particularly Florida where the Mountaineers have had success. Rebuilding is going to be tough.
With just two weeks of regular season action left, the 2013 college football season is quickly coming to a close. There’s plenty of marquee games remaining, but it’s crunch time for teams to get bowl eligible, along with ones chasing a conference title.
Week 13 has plenty of intrigue, starting in the Big 12 with Baylor-Oklahoma State and continuing in the SEC with Texas A&M-Missouri and LSU-Texas A&M.
In the Pac-12, USC hopes to continue to bolster the case of Ed Orgeron for the full-time job, while Arizona State-UCLA should decide the South Division title.
Athlon’s editors are back with another edition of the upset picks, and there are plenty of teams on alert this week.
The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on AthlonSports.com, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.
College Football Week 13 Upset Predictions
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Ole Miss (+2.5) over Missouri
Missouri needs to win its final two games to reach the SEC Championship, but the Tigers have a tough remaining schedule, with a road trip to Ole Miss this Saturday, followed by a home game against Texas A&M on Nov. 30. Missouri is getting quarterback James Franklin back after missing four starts due to injury. But even with Franklin back in the lineup, I think this is a tough matchup for the Tigers. Ole Miss’ passing attack ranks second in SEC games (averaging 314.7 yards per game), with a plethora of weapons at the disposal of quarterback Bo Wallace. Missouri’s defensive line should have an edge against the Rebels’ offensive front, but Ole Miss can counter with quick passes against a secondary that ranks last in the SEC against the pass. The Rebels have won four in a row and lost by eight points to Auburn and three to Texas A&M. Hugh Freeze’s team had to deal with a handful of injuries on both sides of the ball earlier in the year, but Ole Miss is getting healthy and will upset Missouri on Saturday night.
Mark Ross: Oklahoma (+3.5) over Kansas State
Bob Stoops and Bill Snyder know each other very well, with Stoops having played for and coached under Snyder for more than 15 years. Now, as head coaches in the Big 12, this represents the 10th head-to-head meeting between the two, with Stoops holding a 7-2 edge. Kansas State won last season's meeting, snapping a five-game losing streak to Oklahoma in the process. Now the Wildcats are looking to end a four-game skid against the Sooners in Manhattan, a streak that goes back to 1996. The home team is favored, but Oklahoma is ranked and rebounded nicely from its disappointing showing against undefeated Baylor. These teams are similar in many ways, not surprising considering the coaching ties, but I think the Sooners are just a little bit better on the defensive end and that will be enough to allow the pupil to claim victory over his mentor.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Oklahoma State (+9.5) over Baylor
If there is a team and a situation that will give Baylor issues it is this season it is Oklahoma State in Stillwater. With potentially bad weather coming late Friday night, this game could be played more in the trenches than the Bears may want. Baylor isn't a finesse team by any stretch as both lines of scrimmage are strong at the point of attack. But a sloppy, slow, grind-it-out pace is the only chance anyone has at stopping Art Briles' explosive offense. With a power running game, maturing quarterback and solid defense, the Pokes have a real shot at slowing the tempo and throwing enough body blows to win. Yes, that's right, Mike Gundy may be looking to slow the game down this weekend. If the projected snow sticks Friday night (unlikely), all the better for Okie State.
David Fox (@DavidFox615): Purdue (+7) over Illinois
I picked one of the other worst teams in a major conference to get its first league win with the Kansas upset of West Virginia. I’m going to go to the dregs of the Big Ten to pick Purdue to pick up Darrell Hazel’s first league win. Illinois’ offense is dangerous, but this is a team with little left to play for. Narrowing the gap against Ohio State on multiple occasions still ended with a 60-35 loss an infighting on the coaching staff on the sideline. Purdue is awful, too, but the offense is slowly getting better. Freshman quarterback Danny Etling completed a season-high 63.6 percent of his passes for 223 yards on the road at Penn State last week. The Boilermakers haven’t rushed for 100 yards since Sept. 28, but Illinois’ defense isn’t holding anyone back.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Oklahoma State (+10) over Baylor
The Bears average an NCAA-best 61 points and 685 yards per game, boasting the nation's third-best passing offense and the ninth-ranked rushing offense. Bryce Petty averages 19 yards per completion, as he leads the country in passing efficiency with 24 touchdowns to just one interception. Given those stats, how could anyone pick against Baylor? Let's remember that this game is at the hostile venue of Boone Pickens Stadium, where the Bears are 0-9 since joining the Big 12. In fact, Baylor hasn't won in Stillwater in 70 years. I believe this streak will continue thanks to Oklahoma State's strength on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys pair an offense that averages 40 points per game with a defense that leads the country with 19 interceptions. In addition to their talents at creating turnovers, Mike Gundy's defense is adept on third downs and in the red zone. Their defense in 12th in the nation on third-downs, allowing conversions only 32 percent of the time. They are ninth in the NCAA in red-zone defense, giving up just 15 touchdowns in 34 red zone drives. While Baylor has converted 52.4 percent of third downs this year, they have converted just 41 percent the last two games against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Injuries will really hamper the Bears in this game. They are without WR Tevin Reese and starting LT Spencer Drango, while running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin are questionable after missing last week against Texas Tech. Over the last two weeks, Bryce Petty has posted his two worst completion percentages of the season. Things won't get any easier for the 4th-ranked Bears under the lights in Stillwater.
The ACC features only four matchups with teams in conference play this Saturday, while Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and North Carolina step out of the ACC for a non-conference affair.
With the Atlantic Division title settled, the focus of the next two Saturdays in the ACC turns to the Coastal. Duke holds the edge over Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami, but the Blue Devils still have two tough games remaining. Duke travels to Wake Forest this Saturday, followed by a game against rival North Carolina next week.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse square off on Saturday, with the winner earning bowl eligibility. Miami hopes to snap a three-game losing streak with Virginia visiting Sun Life Stadium, and Boston College travels to Maryland.
It’s a light slate of action, but the ACC should have a little more clarity to its conference title and bowl picture by Sunday.
ACC Week 13 Game Power Rankings
1. Pittsburgh (-1) at Syracuse (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
It’s odd the game of the week features two 5-5 teams. But this game has plenty at stake for both programs, as the winner of this one will get bowl eligible. Pittsburgh has won seven out of the last eight matchups with Syracuse. However, the Orange won 14-13 at home last year. This season’s meeting could be another low-scoring affair, with both teams ranked near the bottom of the ACC in scoring offense. Pittsburgh is averaging 21.8 points a game in conference play, while Syracuse is last at 12.3. Protecting quarterback Tom Savage is the top priority for the Panthers, especially against a Syracuse defense that has generated 30 sacks this year. If Savage has time to throw, big plays should be there for receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street. The Orange are averaging only 174.9 passing yards a game this year, and it’s critical for the rushing attack to get on track. In Syracuse’s five wins, it is averaging 245.6 rushing yards a contest. Pittsburgh ranks ninth in the ACC against the run, but tackle Aaron Donald is one of the league’s best and will be a tough matchup for the Orange’s offensive line.
2. Duke (-5.5) at Wake Forest (Noon ET, ESPN2)
Duke is just two wins away from playing in its first ACC Championship. But the Blue Devils won’t have an easy path to a Coastal Division title, as rival North Carolina awaits next Saturday, while Winston-Salem has been a challenging place for this program in recent years. Wake Forest has won 12 out of the last 13 meetings against Duke, but the Blue Devils won 34-27 in Winston-Salem last year. The Demon Deacons are still without receiver Michael Campanaro, who suffered a collarbone injury in the loss against Syracuse. Without Campanaro, Wake Forest scored only three points in a 59-3 loss to Florida State. Duke’s defense isn’t as dominant as the Seminoles, but this unit has stepped up in the second half of games, holding Miami to just seven points last week and 10 to NC State in a 38-20 victory on Nov. 9. The Blue Devils would like to get quarterback Anthony Boone back on track this Saturday, as the junior has seven interceptions and zero touchdowns over his last three games.
3. Boston College (+1) at Maryland (3:30 ET, RSN)
Both teams picked up the all-important sixth win last week, and with the ACC likely to have more bowl-eligible teams than available spots, the last two games of the year for Boston College and Maryland are all about improving their bowl position. The Eagles have won three in a row, largely due to the play of running back Andre Williams. The senior gashed NC State for 339 yards and two touchdowns and has at least 166 yards in each of his last four games. Maryland ranks ninth in ACC-only games against the run, and two out of their last three opponents have rushed for at least 242 yards. The Terrapins snapped a three-game losing streak last week, defeating Virginia Tech 27-24 in Blacksburg. Quarterback C.J. Brown carried the offense for Maryland last Saturday, recording 257 of the team’s 319 yards. Boston College ranks last in the ACC against the pass, so there will be opportunities for Brown to make plays through the air. With both teams limited on offense, the turnover battle will be crucial. The Terrapins rank last in the ACC in turnover margin (-2.0 per game), while the Eagles are +4 this season.
4. Virginia (+20) at Miami (Noon ET, ESPNU)
After a 7-0 start, Miami has been trending in the wrong direction with three consecutive losses. The Hurricanes are likely out of the Coastal Division title picture, but winning their last two games can help improve their bowl position. Virginia also enters this matchup looking for something positive, as the Cavaliers have dropped seven consecutive games. Miami’s defense has allowed 40 points in three-straight contests, but Virginia’s offense is averaging just 16.7 points a game. The strength of the Cavaliers’ offense resides with running back Kevin Parks (4.3 ypc, 10 TDs), while quarterback David Watford has to pickup his play to have any shot at the upset. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris has thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games, and even with receiver Phillip Dorsett once again this week, the senior passer could reach that mark against a Virginia secondary ranked 10th in the ACC. Although Miami is a 20-point favorite this week, the Cavaliers have won three in a row in this series, including a 41-40 shootout in Charlottesville last season.
5. Old Dominion (+17.5) at North Carolina (Noon ET, RSN)
The Tar Heels hope to continue their late-season surge against a dangerous non-conference matchup in Old Dominion. The Monarchs are transitioning to the FBS and lost 35-24 at Pittsburgh earlier this year. Old Dominion’s offense is led by junior quarterback Taylor Heinicke – who has thrown for 3,892 yards and 32 touchdowns this season – and four players with at least 40 receptions. North Carolina’s secondary ranks fourth in ACC games against the pass, holding three of its last four opponents under 205 passing yards. Getting pressure on Heinicke will be critical, and senior end Kareem Martin is coming off one of the best defensive performances of his career (8 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 FF). Even if the Tar Heels struggle to keep Heinicke in check for all four quarters, the offense should have no trouble moving the ball on Old Dominion. The Monarchs are allowing 427.7 yards per game this season, and five opponents have scored at least 30 points. With a win over ODU, North Carolina will earn bowl eligibility, along with its first five-game winning streak since 2001.
6. East Carolina (-6.5) at NC State (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
The Wolfpack step out of conference play this Saturday, hoping to break a six-game losing streak with a matchup against in-state foe East Carolina. Under first-year coach Dave Doeren, NC State has struggled at times on both sides of the ball, and the defense is reeling after allowing 420 rushing yards to Boston College last Saturday. The Pirates will present a different challenge, as quarterback Shane Carden will test a Wolfpack secondary ranked third in the ACC against the pass. Carden has 29 touchdown tosses this year and is completing 72.5 percent of his throws. The senior is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including receiver Justin Hardy (87 catches) and running back Vintavious Cooper (754 yards). If East Carolina can jump out to an early lead, it could spell trouble for NC State. The Wolfpack has struggled to get consistent quarterback play, and the Pirates are limiting opponents to three yards per carry. With Brandon Mitchell questionable to play once again, Pete Thomas is expected to start under center. However, NC State will likely focus its offensive attack around running back Shadrach Thornton (606 yards, four touchdowns), while mobile quarterback Bryant Shirreffs should also see time under center. East Carolina already knocked off one ACC team (North Carolina) and lost by five against Virginia Tech. Can the Pirates go 2-1 against the ACC this year?
7. Idaho (+57) at Florida State (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
The Seminoles have three remaining obstacles to play for the national championship, and Jimbo Fisher’s team shouldn’t have little trouble with Idaho this Saturday. The Vandals were left without a conference home in 2013, forcing a brutal schedule as an Independent. Idaho’s only victory was a two-point win over Temple and lost its two games against BCS opponents this season by a combined score of 101-14. The Vandals also have seven losses by at least 20 points. Florida State’s priorities this week should be pretty simple: Get out of this game healthy and get the backups – especially Sean Maguire at quarterback – valuable reps.
8. The Citadel (+40) vs. Clemson (12:00 ET, ESPN3)
This is the first meeting between The Citadel and Clemson since 2008, but this matchup will turn out like most of the previous games in this series – a Clemson blowout. The Tigers have outscored the Bulldogs 83-17 in their last two meetings, and The Citadel is 0-16 against ranked FBS teams. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd injured his collarbone against Georgia Tech last week, but the senior is expected to play on Saturday. This will be Boyd’s final home game, and the senior has helped to lead this program to 30 wins over the last three years. Receiver Sammy Watkins still has one more year of eligibility left, but he is expected to enter the NFL Draft. Boyd and Watkins won’t play too long, while both players should put up big numbers in their final Death Valley appearance.
9. Alabama A&M (+51.5) at Georgia Tech (1:30 ET, ESPN3)
Georgia Tech is smarting just a bit after a 55-31 loss to Clemson, but the Yellow Jackets should easily rebound with Alabama A&M coming to Atlanta on Saturday. With a win over the Bulldogs, Georgia Tech will earn its fifth season of at least seven victories under coach Paul Johnson. And while this game means nothing to the ACC title picture, there could be some scoreboard watching on Saturday, as the Yellow Jackets need Wake Forest to beat Duke to stay alive for the Coastal title. Alabama A&M is 4-7 this year, and its last matchup against a FBS team was in 2012, losing 51-7 at Auburn.
ACC Week 13 Pivotal Players
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox preview Week 13 in this edition of Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Duke is on the doorstep of its first Coastal Division title. The Blue Devils need to win their last two games to reach Charlotte, which certainly won’t be easy with matchups against Wake Forest and North Carolina up next. Even though Duke has won six in a row, its passing attack has struggled recently. Boone has tossed seven picks in his last three games and has not topped 139 passing yards in each contest during that span. Backup Brandon Connette has accounted for five touchdowns in his last two games, and the junior will share snaps on Saturday. Boone is the better passer between the two quarterbacks, and it’s important for the junior to get back on track after a subpar three-game stretch. Wake Forest’s secondary is holding opponents to 214.8 yards per game but has allowed 16 passing touchdowns.
Cole Farrand, LB, Maryland
Maryland’s defense has allowed two out of its last three opponents to rush for at least 242 yards. And there’s an even bigger threat on the ground looming this Saturday, as Boston College running back Andre Williams visits College Park off a 339-yard performance against NC State. Farrand and nose tackle Darius Kilgo have to win the battle at the point of attack if the Terrapins want to slow down the Eagles’ ground game. Farrand leads the team with 75 tackles, while Kilgo has five tackles for a loss and two sacks this year. If Maryland’s front seven struggles, Williams is in for another huge day on the ground.
Macky MacPherson, C, Syracuse
MacPherson and guards Rob Trudo and Nick Robinson have a tough assignment this Saturday. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been one of the ACC’s top defenders this season, and the senior has dominated opposing offensive lines for 42 tackles (22.5 for a loss) and 10 sacks. Donald also has four forced fumbles in 2013. MacPherson is one of the ACC’s top centers, with 35 starts under his belt the last three years. Syracuse’s offense is dependent on getting its rushing game on track, which requires MacPherson to keep Donald under wraps.
Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia
Can the Cavaliers stop a seven-game losing streak this Saturday? It’s unlikely Virginia can win at Miami, but recent series history favors the Cavaliers in this matchup. The Hurricanes allowed 358 rushing yards in last week’s loss to Duke, while giving up 13 scores on the ground in their last three games. With the Cavaliers struggling to establish a consistent passing attack, it’s critical for Parks to have a huge performance. The junior rushed for 100 yards in a 45-14 loss to North Carolina and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season.
Jack Tocho, CB, NC State
If NC State is going to stop a six-game losing streak, it has to find a way to slow down East Carolina’s passing attack. The Pirates have thrown for 30 touchdowns this year and average 341.2 yards per game through the air. Shane Carden is one of the top non-BCS passers in college football, and receiver Justin Hardy is a handful for opposing defensive backs (87 catches). Tocho has started the last five games and has 22 tackles and two interceptions this season. The true freshman needs to hold his own on Saturday, as he will picked on by Carden and the East Carolina receivers.
ACC Week 13 Predictions
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Citadel (+40) at Clemson||Clemson 56-7||Clemson 45-10||Clemson 55-7||Clemson 51-3|
|Old Dominion (+17.5) at UNC||UNC 28-17||UNC 38-17||UNC 45-20||UNC 38-24|
|Duke (-5.5) at Wake Forest||Duke 35-14||Duke 34-21||Duke 27-20||Duke 28-20|
|Virginia (+20) at Miami||Miami 28-7||Miami 31-20||Miami 38-17||Miami 38-17|
|Pittsburgh (-1) at Syracuse||Pitt 28-24||Syracuse 30-28||Pitt 27-24||Pitt 31-24|
|East Carolina (-6.5) at NC State||ECU 35-28||ECU 35-21||ECU 34-27||ECU 34-21|
|Alabama A&M (+51.5) at Ga. Tech||Ga. Tech 56-10||Ga. Tech 42-10||Ga. Tech 58-7||Ga. Tech 56-0|
|Boston College (+1) at Maryland||BC 28-24||BC 27-24||BC 24-20||Maryland 21-17|
|Idaho (+57) at Florida State||FSU 63-10||FSU 34-3||FSU 65-3||FSU 51-0|
With just three weeks left in the regular season, the SEC has nine bowl-eligible teams. And the conference could add to that total if Tennessee wins its final two games, and if Florida or Mississippi State can get to six victories.
Florida has been one of the biggest disappointments in the SEC this year. The Gators have been dealing with a rash of injuries, but this program recruits at a high level and a 5-7 mark should never happen in Gainesville.
Mississippi State is one of the SEC’s toughest jobs, but coach Dan Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to three consecutive bowl games.
However, with two games remaining, Mississippi State’s postseason streak is in jeopardy. The Bulldogs are favored to beat Arkansas but have to play rival Ole Miss in the season finale.
Will Florida and Mississippi State get bowl eligible in 2013?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
No, I don’t think either team will get bowl eligible. It seems odd to have this conversation about Florida, especially at the level that this program recruits. However, the Gators have experienced a rash of injuries this year, and rival Florida State is clearly one of the top-two teams in the nation. Florida will get by Georgia Southern, but it will take a miracle to beat the Seminoles. Mississippi State has a better chance to reach the six-win mark than Florida. The Bulldogs are a slight favorite over Arkansas and host rival Ole Miss in the finale. Mississippi State has won four in a row at home against the Rebels, but I think Ole Miss will break that streak this season. The Bulldogs have a better chance than Florida to get to the six-win mark. However, I think both teams come up short this season.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
To quote a great movie, I will say "erroneous, on both counts." The Gators argument is easy — Florida has to beat No. 2 Florida State. And unless Jameis Winston — and every member of the starting defense — gets suspended, that won't happen. The Seminoles are in no danger of losing in Gainesville and therefore the Gators finish 5-7 and out of the postseason. The Bulldogs of Starkville are in a slightly better situation as Arkansas in Little Rock and Mississippi at home are both winnable games for Dan Mullen. State, generally under Mullen, has won games they are supposed to and lost games across the board as underdogs. Anything can happen in a historic rivalry like the Egg Bowl, especially at home for MSU, but Ole Miss will be a solid favorite to win that game. A split to finish the year doesn't get Hail State into the postseason, so I will say no on both counts.
If either has a shot, it's Mississippi State, but I'm not convinced it's going to happen. Both teams are 4-6 with two games left, meaning six wins is a possibility, but not a reality, certainly for the Gators. Let's face it, if Florida loses Saturday at home to Georgia Southern then Will Muschamp may as well just go ahead and pack up his office belongings as soon as the game is over. Either way, I have a hard time seeing this Gators team beating Florida State the following week, as the Seminoles have their eyes firmly fixed on getting to the BCS National Championship Game and have Idaho (1-9) as a warm up. That leaves us with Mississippi State. The Bulldogs should get their fifth win with relative ease, even on the road at Arkansas, meaning their postseason fate will come down to the Egg Bowl. The game's in Starkville, but Ole Miss is a top-25 team (at least this week) and has three more wins than the Rebels. Hugh Freeze beat Dan Mullen in their first head-to-head meeting last season and unfortunately, I see a similar result coming next week. Sorry Mississippi State fans, I don't see a bowl bid being part of your Thanksgiving feast this season.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
No and no. The only question will be the kind of pressure both coaches will be under if and when both teams miss a bowl. Despite the close game with South Carolina, Florida losing to Georgia Southern is a more likely outcome than the Gators reaching a bowl game. At least Mississippi State faces the worst team in the SEC (Arkansas) and then gets its top rival at home. The finale against Ole Miss is going to be huge for Mississippi State and not just because of bowl implications. Dan Mullen still has never won a game against a major opponent, and I think we can call Ole Miss, with seven wins and all the program momentum, a major opponent for Mullen. I understand Mississippi State wants more out of its football program, but going to bowls every year is good for Mississippi State, especially in the gauntlet of the SEC West these days. If Mullen stops making bowl games, he’s going to be in trouble.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
I’ll start with Florida. The answer there is a quick no. Florida should take care of business against Georgia Southern on Saturday, but Florida State is a different animal. The Seminoles will be too much for Florida even with the game being played in Gainesville. Florida State has too much talent and depth for Florida to be able to pull off the upset, which will leave Florida with its first losing record since 1979. Mississippi State has a realistic opportunity to reach the postseason. The Bulldogs are a slight favorite to beat Arkansas this week, although it won’t be easy to do in Little Rock. The Ole Miss game will be the biggest test for Mississippi State. Ole Miss handled Mississippi State 41-24 in Oxford last year. Can the Bulldogs get revenge this season? In the end, I’ll say no. Both teams should be able to score on each other. I’ll take Hugh Freeze’s group at Ole Miss to put up more points than Mississippi State and keep the Bulldogs out of the postseason for only the second time under Dan Mullen.
Midweek MAC games in November are must-see television for starving college football fans.
However, midweek games can be tough on attendance, but that’s the trade-off for the added exposure on television.
The crowd for Tuesday night’s Miami (Ohio)-Buffalo game was incredibly small, which is no surprise considering how bad the RedHawks have been this year (0-11).
Here are a few crowd shots from last night’s game:
Texas Tech is set to close out its regular season schedule with a trip to Texas on Thanksgiving night. And the Red Raiders will break out an alternate uniform against the Longhorns, unveiling a “Lone Star” look for next Thursday’s game.
Here’s a look at Texas Tech’s uniforms for the Nov. 28 game:
See more photos of Texas Tech's Lone Star uniforms here.
Ohio State-Michigan is one of the top rivalry games in college football each season, and the Buckeyes plan to wear an alternate uniform for this year’s meeting.
Ohio State will wear all white uniforms, which are a tribute to the 1950 “snow bowl” game played between the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
Here are the Ohio State rivalry uniforms for next week’s game versus Michigan:
With 12 weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is starting to come into focus.
Alabama and Florida State are headed for an intriguing national championship in Pasadena - provided both teams finish the season without a loss. The Crimson Tide still has to play Auburn, while the Seminoles’ toughest game is a desperate Florida team in the Swamp or the ACC Championship.
With Stanford’s loss to USC, Oregon jumps back to projected Pac-12 champion. The Ducks are projected to play Ohio State, while Wisconsin earns a second spot for the Big Ten in our BCS picks.
Washington State’s upset win over Arizona means the Cougars are just one win away from bowl eligibility. If Mike Leach’s team can knock off Utah this week, Washington State should find a home as an at-large selection. The Pac-12 will likely have more teams bowl eligible than available spots. However, with an opening in the Poinsettia and potentially the Hawaii Bowl, the Pac-12 should be able to find spots for its bowl-eligible teams.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but with less than one month to go in the season, it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like.
The post-Week 12 bowl projections are a mixture between projections for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first 12 weeks of action. Expect more changes over the next few weeks. With several teams projected to be right around the six-win mark, more at-large spots in bowls should open in the next month.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including Syracuse and Utah from BCS conferences. And Texas State, Arkansas State, Ohio, FAU, ULM and Troy from the non-BCS ranks.
College Football's Post-Week 12 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Colo. State vs. Oregon State|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||UNLV vs. Bowling Green|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Boise State vs. USC|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Toledo* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||SJSU vs. Rice|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. Maryland*|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Utah State vs. Buffalo*|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||E. Carolina vs. Boston College|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||K-State vs. Iowa|
|Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. Washington|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Houston vs. North Carolina|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Louisville vs. Miami|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Texas vs. Michigan|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Navy vs. SDSU|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Georgia vs. Pittsburgh|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Oklahoma vs. Stanford|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Arizona State vs. Texas Tech|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Georgia Tech vs. Arizona*|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||UCLA vs. Virginia Tech|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Tennessee vs. Marshall|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||South Carolina vs. Duke|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Ole Miss vs. Minnesota|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||North Texas vs. Washington State*|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Missouri vs. Nebraska|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Michigan State vs. Texas A&M|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Ohio State vs. Oregon|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Baylor|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Auburn vs. UCF|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Oklahoma State|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. Wisconsin|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Vanderbilt vs. Rutgers|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Ball State vs. Western Kentucky|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Florida State|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
Bold indicates team has accepted bid to bowl.
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Big 12 Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Big Ten Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Pac-12 Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
SEC Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Stats to Know from Week 12
With three weeks left in the 2013 season, college football’s coaching carousel is set to begin. There were no coaching changes over the last week, but with the end of the year coming for a few teams, expect to see more movement over the next three weekends.
Texas’ Mack Brown and Nebraska’s Bo Pelini have moved up and down the hot seat watch this season, and both are back in the top 10 after losses in Week 12. The Longhorns were easily handled by Oklahoma State, while the Cornhuskers committed five turnovers in a loss to Michigan State.
Virginia’s Mike London, Hawaii’s Norm Chow and Illinois’ Tim Beckman take the top three spots in this week’s coach on the hot seat watch. However, all three are likely to return in 2014. London has two of the nation’s top recruits headed to Virginia, and athletic director Craig Littlepage continues to give the embattled coach a vote of confidence. The Fighting Illini has made a little progress this year, but Beckman cannot afford a loss to Purdue in Week 13.
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top-10 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Indiana’s Kevin Wilson and Maryland’s Randy Edsall – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Mike London||2-8||All signs point to London returning for 2014.|
|2||Norm Chow||0-10||Hawaii's worst season since 1998 (0-12).|
|3||Tim Beckman||3-7||Beckman under pressure but should return for 2014.|
|5||Dave Christensen||4-6||Cowboys have lost four in a row.|
|6||Dana Holgorsen||4-7||Will miss out on bowl for the first time since 2001.|
|7||Bo Pelini||7-3||Is Pelini coaching for his job in the last two games?|
|9||Garrick McGee||2-8||Blazers have lost 119-28 in last two games.|
|10||Mack Brown||7-3||Longhorns likely out of the Big 12 title picture.|
|11||Bobby Hauck||5-5||Rebels have two winnable games remaining.|
|12||Kevin Wilson||4-6||Hoosiers need to find some answers on defense.|
|14||Will Muschamp||4-6||Will need upset over FSU to make bowl.|
|15||Charlie Weis||3-7||Win over WVU snapped 27-game Big 12 losing streak.|
|17||Dan Enos||4-6||Weak November schedule should get CMU to 6-6.|
|19||Dan Mullen||4-6||Bulldogs battled against Alabama.|
|20||Randy Edsall||6-4||Win over Va. Tech should get Terps in bowl.|
|21||June Jones||4-6||QB Garrett Gilbert quietly having good season.|
|22||Kyle Flood||5-4||Lost 3 out of last 4; Recruiting class falling apart.|
|26||Paul Petrino||1-9||Vandals play at Florida State this week.|
|31||Jim Grobe||4-6||Demon Deacons can play spoiler against Duke.|
|34||Bob Davie||3-7||Lobos could be without RB Kasey Carrier rest of year.|
|35||Dave Doeren||3-7||Wolfpack has one more chance to avoid winless ACC record.|
|37||Tony Levine||7-3||Levine having a solid second season in Houston.|
|43||Ron Caragher||5-5||Spartans need to beat Navy or Fresno to make bowl.|
|47||Steve Sarkisian||6-4||Huskies headed for another 7-6 season?|
|50||Rocky Long||6-4||Aztecs have won six out of last seven games.|
|53||Matt Rhule||1-9||Back-to-back three-point losses for Temple.|
|54||Terry Bowden||4-7||Zips have won more games in 2013 than 2010-12.|
|57||Mike Leach||5-5||Cougars picked up impressive road win over Arizona.|
|59||Frank Solich||6-4||Bobcats outscored 79-3 in last two games.|
|60||Larry Fedora||5-5||Future looks bright for Tar Heels.|
|62||Jim McElwain||6-5||Rams have won four out of last five games.|
|68||Bryan Harsin||6-4||ASU is bowl eligible for third year in a row.|
|78||Dabo Swinney||9-1||Tigers in good shape to play in BCS bowl.|
|100||James Franklin||6-4||Commodores bowl eligible for third year in a row.|
|101||Mark Dantonio||9-1||Spartans in driver's seat for Legends Division title.|
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Big 12 Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Big Ten Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Pac-12 Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
SEC Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Stats to Know from Week 12
Fresno State and Northern Illinois are a combined 19-0 heading into Week 13. The Bulldogs rank No. 15 in the latest release of the BCS standings, while the Huskies check in at No. 16.
With both programs in the top 16 of the BCS standings, the opportunity is there for a bid to one of college football’s premier bowl games.
Northern Illinois played Florida State in the Orange Bowl last year and lost 31-10. Fresno State has never played in a BCS bowl.
Both teams will be favored in their remaining games, but the path isn’t completely clear. Northern Illinois has to play at Toledo, and assuming the Huskies win the division, will play Buffalo or Bowling Green in the MAC title game. Fresno State plays at San Jose State in the regular-season finale, followed by a potential rematch against Boise State in the Mountain West title game.
Fresno State and Northern Illinois: Does either team deserve a spot in a BCS bowl?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Tough to say. For the most part, Northern Illinois and Fresno State have dominated within their conferences. The Huskies handled a solid Ball State team 48-27 last week and defeated Eastern Michigan and UMass by a combined score of 122-39. The Bulldogs had to withstand a late rally to beat Hawaii, but Tim DeRuyter’s team has only two other conference games decided by a touchdown or less. What’s lacking on both resumes is a marquee non-conference win. Yes, Northern Illinois beat Iowa and Fresno State beat Rutgers, but both of those BCS teams are hovering around .500. Looking at the BCS standings, Arizona State, Wisconsin, LSU and Louisville are all ranked behind Fresno State and Northern Illinois. I think all four of those teams are better than the Bulldogs or Huskies, but that’s not what the BCS is designed to take into account. With the limitations on how many teams per conference, and Louisville and UCF – the frontrunners to win the American Athletic title – behind both teams, Northern Illinois and Fresno State have done all that has been asked of them to make a BCS game. I don’t think either team is one of the top 10-15 in the nation. But in this setup, if Northern Illinois and Fresno State win out, one will be in a BCS bowl.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The answer I suppose is supposed to be no. Whether Fresno State or Northern Illinois reaches the BCS, that team will be one of the worst non-major conference teams to play in the BCS, joining 2012 Northern Illinois and 2007 Hawaii. Neither Fresno State nor Northern Illinois are nearly as good as the Boise State, TCU or Utah teams that reached the BCS in years past. Still, I’ve always been a proponent of seeing non-AQs in major bowl games. We’re supposed to believe a bowl game is a reward, and an undefeated season deserve a reward even if it occurs in the MAC or Mountain West. I know many people yawn at non-traditional powers in the BCS, but I like seeing an undefeated non-AQ team get its shot against one of the big boys — even if some of them in routs.
As two of the remaining undefeated teams left standing in college football, the Bulldogs and Huskies are both having impressive seasons. Each has a legitimate shot of running the table, including a win in their respective conference championship games. From a resume standpoint, neither Fresno State nor Northern Illinois has really beaten anyone of significance this season. The Bulldogs have a non-conference win over Rutgers, who is just 5-4 and fighting for bowl eligibility, and have already beaten Boise State once. The Bulldogs could play the Broncos again for the Mountain West Conference title, but even two victories over Boise doesn't look as impressive as it would in years past. The Huskies have run roughshod over their Mid-American Conference competition to this point, but their other wins have come against Iowa and Purdue, who are a combined 7-13 overall and 3-9 in the Big Ten, and 1-9 Idaho.
However, this may not matter, as long as either the Bulldogs or Huskies ends up running the table and finishes in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings or in the top 16 and ahead of a conference champion from one of the automatic qualifying (AQ) conferences — AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. The former is very unlikely to happen, but don't count out the latter as UCF is in the driver's seat to win the AAC. The Knights currently sit 18th in the BCS Standings and are behind both Fresno State (15th) and Northern Illinois (16th). So does either team "deserve" a spot in a BCS bowl? Honestly, no, but because of the BCS system and the numerous twists and turns that have already shaped this season, the path for either the Bulldogs or Huskies to get one of the 10 highly covered, not to mention profitable, BCS bowl spots is clearly laid out. It also appears to be realistic goal for Fresno State or Northern Illinois to attain, and in the end that's all that matters to either "mid-major" program.
USC knocked off Stanford 20-17 on Saturday, improving to 5-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron.
The Trojans’ only loss under Orgeron’s watch was a 14-10 defeat at Notre Dame.
It’s clear USC is playing with a renewed sense of energy and optimism under Orgeron, which has only complicated athletic director Pat Haden’s decision.
Orgeron replaced Lane Kiffin after USC’s 62-41 defeat against Arizona State, and USC has responded well to the coaching change.
Haden has the necessary resources to pay big for USC’s next coach, and there will be plenty of candidates interested in moving to the West Coast.
But considering Orgeron’s success this year, should he get more consideration for the full-time spot?
Should USC Hire Ed Orgeron as its Next Head Coach?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
No, I don’t think Orgeron should be hired as USC’s next head coach. Anytime an interim coach takes over, it seems most teams get an extra boost in terms of energy and emotion, but that’s tough to capture the next season. That’s exactly what USC is going through now. This level of performance is what is expected out of the Trojans each year, as despite the NCAA sanctions, there’s no shortage of talent on the roster. Orgeron deserves credit for what he’s done this year, and there’s no question he’s learned a thing or two from his time at Ole Miss. However, USC can pay big and will have plenty of interested candidates at the end of the year. Maybe Orgeron can stay on staff and help bridge the transition. The next head coach at USC should be someone that’s currently coaching elsewhere - and should be someone other than Jack Del Rio.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is the only interim coach from a fired head coach I can remember that has had any success after he was promoted. I can safely say this: There aren’t many like Dabo. Perhaps in many ways Orgeron is like Dabo. He’s clearly an emotional leader, and his recruiting track record precedes him. But USC should fight the emotions of the moment and look beyond Coach O. Orgeron was one of the worst hires in recent SEC history. Even counting his 5-0 record in the Pac-12 as USC’s coach, Orgeron still has an 8-21 record in conference games in his career. The Trojans must aim higher. That said, if I’m an athletic director at a Conference USA, Mountain West or Sun Belt school, I’m reconsidering Orgeron as a head coach. That, in itself, is an amazing statement. In September, the ceiling for Orgeron seemed to be recruiting ace and defensive assistant. He should be a head coach again if he wants to be. Just not at USC.
Orgeron's doing what Lane Kiffin couldn't — get the most out of this scholarship-strapped team — and suddenly finds himself with an outside shot at a Pac-12 South title. That's quite remarkable considering where this program was back in late September when Kiffin was fired following a 62-41 loss to Arizona State. Fast forward to the present and USC is 8-3 after a last-minute upset of then-No. 4 Stanford, something that no doubt thrilled the home crowd at the Coliseum. I've always been a believer in that you shouldn't fire someone if you don't have the next guy lined up and who knows, maybe athletic director Pat Haden had this succession plan in mind after all? Orgeron has been a head coach before (10-25 at Ole Miss from 2005-07) and as Kiffin's recruiting coordinator at both Tennessee and USC, he's largely responsible for the players he's now leading. With USC still dealing with NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions, maximizing the talent on the roster is critical as it relates to the Trojans' success moving forward. Orgeron has done just that since becoming the interim head coach. Why not drop the "interim" tag and see what he can do with a little more security? Besides, who else would be perfect for coaching in Los Angeles than a guy who has already proven his acting chops? After all it was Orgeron, not Nick Saban, who got more screen time in "The Bilnd Side." That's got to count for something, right?