Articles By Steven Lassan
A light week in the ACC didn’t produce many highlights, but Thursday night’s Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech showdown was huge for positioning in the Coastal Division.
The Hokies didn’t have a huge night on offense, quarterback Logan Thomas was efficient and carried the rushing attack. And Virginia Tech’s defense did a good job of slowing the Yellow Jackets’ option attack.
Pittsburgh, Florida State and Clemson scored conference wins in Week 5, while Miami, Duke and NC State picked up victories in non-conference play.
North Carolina was the most disappointing team of Week 5, as the Tar Heels lost 55-31 to East Carolina.
ACC Week 5 Awards and Recap
Offensive Player of the Week: Brandon Connette, QB, Duke
This award could easily go to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd or Florida State’s Jameis Winston, but let’s give a little credit to Connette. With starter Anthony Boone sidelined, Connette has been pressed into action. In Saturday’s 38-31 win over Troy, he threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 55 yards and two scores. The junior has back-to-back 300-yard games and has completed at least 60 percent of his throws in four out of his five appearances in 2013. With Duke’s defense allowing 400 yards per game, Connette (until Boone returns) and his receivers will be asked to carry the Blue Devils in ACC play.
Defensive Player of the Week: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Virginia’s offense is struggling, but the Panthers’ defense turned in their best effort of the season on Saturday. Donald wrecked havoc on the Cavaliers’ offensive line, recording three tackles (two for a loss), two sacks and one forced fumble. The senior’s performance was a big reason why Virginia managed only 188 total yards and 65 on the ground.
Coordinator of the Week: Bud Foster, Virginia Tech
Despite having a short week to prepare against a tough offense, Virginia Tech and coordinator Bud Foster turned in one of the best efforts by a defense in Week 5. Georgia Tech entered Thursday night’s contest averaging 431.8 yards and 36.5 points a game, but the Hokies held the Yellow Jackets to 273 yards and just 10 points on 66 plays. Georgia Tech also managed only 4.1 yards per play, which was its lowest output since averaging just 3.3 yards per snap against BYU last year. In Virginia Tech’s last two matchups against the Yellow Jackets, Foster’s defense held Georgia Tech to just 280.5 yards and 13.5 points a game.
Team of the Week: Virginia Tech
The Hokies have experienced an up and down start to the season, but coach Frank Beamer’s team reminded the rest of the ACC on Thursday night that this team is still a contender for the conference title. Virginia Tech lost to Alabama 35-10 in the opener and has rebounded with four consecutive victories. After barely escaping against East Carolina and Marshall, Virginia Tech scored a huge road win against Georgia Tech. The Hokies’ offense is still a work in progress, but quarterback Logan Thomas delivered a huge performance against the Yellow Jackets, accounting for 279 total yards and two scores. Virginia Tech’s defense did its part, holding Georgia Tech to 273 yards, forcing three turnovers and recording seven tackles for a loss. The Hokies should be favored in their next four games, with a date at Miami on Nov. 9 looming large for the Coastal Division title.
Freshman of the Week: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Florida State got off to a slow start against Boston College, but the Seminoles rallied behind Winston for a 48-34 victory. Winston completed 17 of 27 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns and added 67 yards on the ground. The redshirt freshman added another play to his highlight reel, as he escaped Boston College’s pass rush on the final play of the first half and hit Kenny Shaw for a 55-yard touchdown. Winston has thrown for 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions on 91 attempts this year.
• Miami had three players record at least 10 carries against South Florida. Duke Johnson led the team with 14 carries, Gus Edwards recorded 10 touches, while Dallas Crawford had 10. Freshman receiver Stacy Coley continues to emerge as another weapon for quarterback Stephen Morris, catching four passes for 96 yards and two scores against USF.
• Pittsburgh freshman receiver Tyler Boyd caught seven passes for 111 yards against Virginia, which was his third consecutive 100-yard game in 2013.
• Virginia freshman linebacker Max Valles recorded 2.5 sacks against Pittsburgh.
Boston College running back Andre Williams has three 100-yard efforts through the first four games of 2013.
• Virginia Tech freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson had a standout performance against Georgia Tech, recording three tackles, one forced fumble, an interception and a fumble recovery.
• The Hokies also got a huge performance on Thursday night from defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins, who dominated the interior of Georgia Tech’s offensive line
• Clemson WR Daniel Rodriguez – a United States Army veteran – caught three passes for 10 yards against Wake Forest.
After Saturday night’s loss at Arizona State, USC decided to fire coach Lane Kiffin.
In his fourth season at USC, Kiffin had a record of 28-15, including a 10-2 mark in 2011. However, the 10-2 year was flanked by a disappointing 8-5 record in 2010 and a 7-6 mark in 2012.
USC is one of the premier jobs in college football, but the job may not be as attractive this coaching cycle, as sanctions have limited the Trojans on scholarships.
However, firing Kiffin now allows USC to get a head start on its coaching search. And there should be plenty of high-profile names interested in the job.
USC is on bye until Oct. 10, when it will host Arizona.
Athlon Sports will have more about potential Kiffin replacements in the coming days.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley gashed LSU for 73 yards on eight carries in the first half, but the sophomore running back left the game early due to an ankle injury.
Gurley is not expected to return against the Tigers.
Backup Keith Marshall is one of the SEC’s best running backs, but the loss of Gurley is huge for Georgia. The sophomore brings more of a physical presence on the ground and is one of the best running backs in the nation.
It’s uncertain how long Gurley will be out, but reports during the CBS broadcast indicated the injury did not appear to be a long-term issue.
Todd Gurley is in a walking boot, looks like he's done for today.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) September 28, 2013
It seems every week Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston makes a play worthy of highlight reel status on Saturday night.
This week was no different, as Winston connected with receiver Kenny Shaw on a 55-yard touchdown to end the first half. Shaw’s catch was solid, but Winston’s escape of the Boston College pass rush was quite an effort.
Check out Winston’s Hail Mary touchdown pass:
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw suffered a sprained shoulder in the first half of Saturday’s game against UCF and won’t return to action.
Prior to his injury, Shaw completed 1 of 2 passes for four yards, while rushing for 30 yards on four carries.
Shaw will be missed, but South Carolina has a capable backup in Dylan Thompson.
After the game, coach Steve Spurrier indicated Shaw would be out at least two or three weeks due to the shoudler injury. South Carolina host Kentucky next Saturday and plays at Arkansas on Oct. 12.
Just announced that Connor Shaw is officially out with a "right shoulder sprain"— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) September 28, 2013
Alabama has won three out of the last five SEC West titles and back-to-back national championships. Ole Miss is still searching for its first West Division title, but the Rebels are making gains on Alabama and LSU under second-year coach Hugh Freeze.
This game isn’t necessarily an indictment of where things stand in the SEC West, but it’s clear Ole Miss is improving, and the road to the SEC Championship still runs through Tuscaloosa.
If Ole Miss wants to muscle its way to the top of the West, beating Alabama is a must. The Rebels defeated only two FBS teams with a winning record from 2010-12 but started 2013 with victories over Vanderbilt and Texas – two likely bowl teams in 2013.
Alabama already has a huge conference victory against Texas A&M and defeated Virginia Tech in a neutral site matchup to open the year. However, the Crimson Tide has looked more vulnerable in 2013 than they did in 2011 or 2012.
Alabama has dominated the overall series, recording a 49-9-2 record against Ole Miss. The Rebels last victory against the Crimson Tide came in 2003. Ole Miss has struggled in Tuscaloosa, with its last and only victory coming on the road in this series in 1988.
Ole Miss at Alabama
Kickoff: 6:30 ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Alabama -14.5
Three Things to Watch
Alabama’s Offensive Line
With the loss of three All-American starters, Alabama’s offensive line was expected to take a step back in 2013. So far, those predictions have come to fruition, but the Crimson Tide’s front five has struggled more than some may have expected. Against a solid Virginia Tech defensive line, Alabama’s rushing attack managed just 96 yards. After gashing Texas A&M for 234 yards on Sept. 14, the Crimson Tide recorded only 66 yards against Colorado State – with 38 coming on one play. So which Alabama offensive line will show up this Saturday? The Crimson Tide should perform at a higher level than they did against the Rams, but Ole Miss’ defensive line is among the best in the SEC. Freshman Robert Nkemdiche has 10 tackles – four going for a loss – in three games, while linemen Channing Ward, Carlos Thompson and Issac Gross combined for three sacks. The Rebels are holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry, but Alabama’s offense will be the best unit they will have faced in 2013. The Crimson Tide’s offensive line was criticized after their performance against Virginia Tech and responded with a standout effort against Texas A&M. Will we see that same storyline play out on Saturday?
Ole Miss Wide Receivers vs. Alabama’s Secondary
Earlier this week, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace set the bar high for his offense on Saturday. “I think we have better receivers than A&M,” Wallace said. The junior isn’t necessarily wrong with his statement either, as Donte Moncrief is an All-SEC performer, and freshman Laquon Treadwell is already on his way to having a standout freshman season. Tight end Evan Engram has 11 receptions through three weeks, and Vince Sanders (39 catches in 2012) is back in the lineup after suffering a collarbone injury in fall camp. While Ole Miss doesn’t have a 6-foot-5 target like Mike Evans, the Rebels are loaded with plenty of capable options at receiver. Alabama’s secondary led the SEC in pass defense from 2011-12, but this unit has taken a step back in 2013, ranking 11th in the SEC through three games. The Crimson Tide’s numbers on defense are skewed slightly by the Texas A&M game, but Nick Saban’s defense isn’t quite as dominant in the secondary this year. Senior Deion Belue is the team’s top cornerback, but the other spot is up for grabs. Senior John Fulton was torched against Texas A&M, and the coaching staff could look to sophomores Geno Smith, Cyrus Jones or Bradley Sylve or freshman Maurice Smith to claim the spot opposite of Belue. One factor that could help Alabama’s secondary: A pass rush. It has been virtually non-existent for the Crimson Tide so far, as they have just three sacks in 2013.
Alabama QB AJ McCarron vs. Ole Miss’ Secondary
Although Ole Miss is solid on the defensive line and at linebacker, the secondary has been a concern in 2013. The Rebels ranked 11th in the SEC against the pass last year, and so far, the results haven’t been much different. Ole Miss ranks 12th in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and opposing quarterbacks are completing 63.5 percent of their passes against this secondary. McCarron has been steady through the first three games, completing 64.1 percent of his throws and six touchdowns on 78 attempts. The senior also has the best receiving corps of his Alabama tenure, with Amari Cooper, Christion Jones, DeAndrew White and tight end O.J. Howard all capable options. McCarron has been sacked six times this year and did not have a clean pocket for most of the game against Virginia Tech. To protect its secondary, Ole Miss needs help from Nkemdiche and fellow end C.J. Johnson in getting pressure on McCarron.
Key Player: Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss
Nkemdiche recorded five tackles in the opener against Vanderbilt but has not played in Ole Miss’ last two games due to injury. The Georgia native earned several freshman All-American awards last season and recorded 82 stops in 13 games. Nkemdiche is expected to return to the lineup – along with receiver Vince Sanders – which will give Ole Miss a boost on both sides of the ball. The sophomore linebacker’s return should help the Rebels’ stop Alabama’s rushing attack, while helping in pass coverage over the middle of the field.
Ole Miss gave Alabama a battle last season, losing 33-14 in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels trailed only 27-14 going into the fourth quarter and held the Crimson Tide to just 305 yards on 64 plays.
This year’s Ole Miss team is improved, the depth and talent are on the rise, and quarterback Bo Wallace has another year of experience under his belt.
However, Alabama still has the edge in talent. Quarterback AJ McCarron will deliver with a solid performance, while running back T.J. Yeldon will find just enough room on the ground to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss should be able to hit a few big plays in the passing game, but the Crimson Tide is a better team and finds a way to pull away late in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Alabama 34, Ole Miss 24
Ohio State and Wisconsin have won or shared the last eight Big Ten titles. And the winner of Saturday’s matchup will take a huge step to playing for the conference championship in December, as the Buckeyes and Badgers are clearly the class of the Leaders Division. Both teams have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, which makes this game even more important for positioning within the division.
Feasting off an easy schedule, Ohio State has opened 4-0. All four of the Buckeyes’ wins have been by at least 18 points, including a 76-0 blowout win over Florida A&M. Under second-year coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State is 16-0.
Wisconsin is 3-1, but the Badgers record should come with an asterisk due to the ending against Arizona State. New coach Gary Andersen was expected by most to be a perfect fit Madison, and so far, Wisconsin hasn’t a missed a beat. In their three victories this year, the Badgers have outscored their opponents 134-10.
Ohio State has dominated this series recently, winning five out of the last six matchups. The Buckeyes have won three in a row against the Badgers in Columbus, while Wisconsin’s last victory in this series came in 2010. The last two meetings between these two teams were decided by a touchdown or less.
Wisconsin at Ohio State
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Ohio State -7
Three Things to Watch
Ohio State’s defensive line vs. Wisconsin’s rushing attack
The Buckeyes had to revamp their defensive line this offseason, as all four starters from 2012 had to be replaced. So far, the new starting group has played well. Ohio State ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rush defense, holding opponents to just 2.6 yards per carry. However, the Buckeyes haven’t played a rushing offense like Wisconsin, so this will be a major challenge for coach Urban Meyer’s defense. The Badgers rank third nationally in rush offense this season, averaging eight yards per carry and 348.8 yards per game. Junior Melvin Gordon and senior James White have combined for 4,356 yards in their career and stopping both backs will be a huge test for Ohio State. Considering Wisconsin doesn’t have a plethora of options at receiver, the Buckeyes could commit extra defenders to the box to stop White and Gordon. Ohio State will have some additional help in the trenches this Saturday, as end Adolphus Washington is back after missing two games with a groin injury.
After a two-game absence, all signs point to Miller returning to the starting lineup on Saturday. Before his knee injury, Miller completed 17 of 24 passes for 208 yards and two scores and rushed for 82 yards on 18 attempts. Although the junior is back under center, he hasn’t played since Sept. 7, and rust could be an issue. Also, is Miller 100 percent and capable of using his mobility to escape Wisconsin’s pass rush? There’s no doubt Miller is one of college football’s best quarterbacks, and assuming he is 100 percent, he will have an opportunity to take advantage of a Wisconsin secondary that features a true freshman at cornerback and two sophomores in key roles.
Wisconsin’s passing attack
The Badgers don’t hide their intentions on offense. With a big offensive line and one of the nation’s top backfields, Wisconsin loves to run the ball. However, the passing attack is a work in progress, averaging just 198 yards per game. Quarterback Joel Stave is efficient, completing 60.7 percent of his passes in his career and throwing 12 touchdowns on 130 completions. Receiver Jared Abbrederis is one of the Big Ten’s best, and tight end Jacob Pedersen is another steady option, but the Badgers lack depth and big-play threats in the receiving corps. Ohio State’s secondary is one of the best in the nation, and cornerback Bradley Roby was a preseason All-American. If Abbrederis is contained by the Buckeyes’ secondary, will Jordan Fredrick or Alex Erickson give Stave another target? Pedersen is a threat over the middle, but he is nursing a knee injury and could be less than 100 percent.
Key Player: Joel Stave, QB, Wisconsin
Ohio State’s rush defense has held up well through the first four weeks, but the line will be challenged by Wisconsin’s backfield. The Badgers want to control the tempo and eat up the clock, but even if the ground attack has success, Stave will need to hit a few big plays. The sophomore completed 15 of 30 passes for 187 yards and one score in the 32-30 loss to Arizona State. Wisconsin may need Stave to throw at least 35 passes on Saturday.
There’s plenty of familiarity between Meyer and Andersen, which has added another layer of intrigue to one of the Big Ten’s top games for 2013. Wisconsin will have success on the ground early, which is essential to slowing down Ohio State’s offense. However, the Buckeyes simply have too much firepower. Miller won’t have to win this game on his own, especially with a deep backfield – led by Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde – and emerging options at receiver. Considering Wisconsin’s offense is limited with the passing game, if Ohio State gets ahead, it could be a long night for the Badgers.
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Wisconsin 27
The epicenter of college football’s Week 5 schedule is once again in the SEC, as Georgia hosts LSU in a battle of two top-10 teams. With a loss to Clemson in Week 1, the Bulldogs have to win this game to stay alive in the national title conversation. The Tigers could still play for the BCS Championship with one loss, but Les Miles’ team has a tough remaining schedule, including games at Ole Miss and Alabama.
The Bulldogs already scored a huge victory in SEC play, defeating South Carolina 41-30 in Week 2. With a win over LSU, Georgia can take a commanding lead in the East Division, especially with a favorable schedule the rest of the way.
LSU won its only SEC contest this year, defeating Auburn 35-21 last Saturday. The Tigers also scored a solid non-conference victory by beating TCU in Arlington, Texas in Week 1.
This is the first regular season meeting between these two teams since 2009, but the Bulldogs and Tigers have met in the SEC title game three times since 2003.
LSU has owned a slight advantage over Georgia recently, winning the last two matchups, including a 20-13 thriller in 2009. Although the 2009 matchup was decided by a touchdown, it’s the only game between these two teams decided by seven points or less in the last six meetings.
LSU vs. Georgia
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Georgia -3
Three Things to Watch
Georgia’s rush defense vs. Jeremy Hill
With only three returning starters from last year, Georgia’s defense is a work in progress. The Bulldogs are allowing 143.3 rushing yards per game and 4.0 yards per attempt, and Clemson (197 yards) and South Carolina (226 yards) had plenty of success against this defense. LSU is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and running back Jeremy Hill is coming off a career-best performance, rushing for 184 yards and three scores against Auburn. With the emergence of quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the Tigers offense has more balance than it had in recent years. However, there’s no doubt LSU wants to establish its ground attack. Georgia has struggled to stop the run against BCS opponents this year and will have its hands full against Hill, along with a Tigers’ offensive line that averages 314.8 pounds among its starting five.
Can Georgia protect quarterback Aaron Murray?
Even with five returning starters, Georgia’s offensive line entered 2013 under heavy scrutiny. This unit was average last year, allowing 27 sacks in 14 games. The Bulldogs have solid depth in the trenches and plan to rotate eight or nine players into the game to keep the starters fresh for the fourth quarter. LSU’s defensive line lost a handful of key players from last season’s unit, including ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, along with tackles Bennie Logan and Josh Downs. Although four new starters stepped into the lineup, this group might be more athletic and explosive than last year’s front four. Ends Jermauria Rasco and Jordan Allen have combined for 3.5 sacks in 2013, while tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are a big reason why opponents are managing just 4.7 yards per play. After Georgia’s offensive line struggled in its first two games of the year, LSU’s defensive line will be another tough matchup for quarterback Aaron Murray.
Will Zach Mettenberger continue his hot start to the season?
The arrival of Cam Cameron as LSU’s offensive coordinator has transformed Mettenberger into one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC this year. In four games, Mettenberger has thrown for 1,026 yards and 10 scores and just one interception. In 13 contests last year, Mettenberger threw just 12 touchdowns and completed 58.8 percent of his throws. Georgia’s defense is talented, but the Bulldogs also have a handful of young players contributing significant snaps. In the opener against Clemson, Georgia’s secondary allowed quarterback Tajh Boyd to throw for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Boyd was sacked only one time, which Georgia has to reverse in order to beat LSU. Mettenberger is completing 64.8 percent of his throws, but the Bulldogs need to pressure him and not allow the senior to get comfortable in the pocket. If Georgia’s front seven can generate pressure, it will help the cornerbacks match up against receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, who have combined to catch 44 of the Tigers’ 60 completions in 2013.
Key Player: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Gurley has delivered in both of Georgia’s big games this season. The sophomore rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson and gashed South Carolina for 132 yards and one score. LSU’s rush defense ranks seventh in the SEC but is allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. The Tigers have yet to be tested by a running back of Gurley’s caliber, so this will be a good barometer test for both teams. Gurley is among the top-10 Heisman contenders after four weeks and a good showing against LSU will only increase his stock.
On paper, it seems LSU has the advantage. The Tigers have the edge in the trenches, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger has added some much-needed balance to the offense.
However, Georgia is already battle-tested with wins over Clemson and South Carolina, and has won 14 in a row at home.
The Bulldogs’ defense is a huge concern, but with two top-10 contests under their belt, this unit should be ready to turn a corner.
Despite eight new starters, LSU’s defense is already one of the best in the SEC. But the Tigers will be tested by Georgia’s balance, especially if the pass rush is unable to get to Aaron Murray. LSU has not played an offense of the Bulldogs' caliber, with Auburn and TCU combining for 48 points against the Tigers this season.
Expect this game to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. LSU and Georgia will trade the lead a couple of times in the fourth quarter, but the homefield advantage pays off for the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Georgia 34, LSU 30
West Virginia will start its third quarterback of 2013 on Saturday, as Ford Childress is out due to injury, and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett will take the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Childress is out indefinitely with a torn pectoral muscle.
Trickett has played in only one game this season and is 0-2 in passing attempts.
Paul Millard will serve as the backup, and he started the first two games of the year, throwing 455 yards and one touchdown on 40 completions.
This is not the same West Virginia offense that was lighting up scoreboards in the first half of last season. The Mountaineers have too many new pieces on offense this year, especially with receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and quarterback Geno Smith now playing in the NFL.
With the newcomers in the receiving corps and a solid corps of running backs, West Virginia should lean on its rushing attack more against Oklahoma State. Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood are each averaging over five yards per carry this year.
If Trickett struggles, coach Dana Holgorsen does have an experienced option in Millard waiting in the wings.
However, whether it’s Trickett, Millard or Childress, West Virginia needs more from its quarterback position in the next few weeks.
Ford Childress has a torn muscle in his arm and will be replaced by Clint Trickett as starting QB, per Dana Holgorsen on @WVUIMGSports.— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) September 26, 2013
Maryland, Texas Tech and Minnesota are three of the biggest surprises after four weeks of the 2013 college football season.
The Terrapins dominated West Virginia last week, crushing the Mountaineers 37-0 in Baltimore. After struggling with quarterback injuries last season, Maryland clearly as a No. 1 option in C.J. Brown. The Terrapins won six games in coach Randy Edsall’s first two years in College Park, and Maryland could easily surpass that total in 2013.
The Red Raiders are coming off a 33-7 victory over Texas State, and both sides of the ball have displayed promise in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb have experienced their ups and downs as true freshmen quarterbacks, but the defense is holding opponents to just 13.3 points a game.
Minnesota has played a relatively soft schedule prior to Week 4, but the win over a solid San Jose State team was impressive. The Golden Gophers are leaning heavily on their ground attack, averaging 282.3 yards per game. This week’s game against Iowa should give the rest of the Big Ten a good idea of where Minnesota stacks up in the conference title picture.
Texas Tech, Maryland or Minnesota: Which 4-0 team should we buy into?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’ll take Maryland. We took some preseason heat for having the Terrapins finishing with seven victories in 2013, but after four weeks, that projection might be too low. Outside of games at Florida State, Virginia Tech and a home date against Clemson, Maryland should be favored in the rest of its schedule. A big reason for the Terrapins’ turnaround in 2013 has been quarterback C.J. Brown. The junior leads the ACC with an average of 331.5 total yards per game, and has a talented duo of receivers at his disposal in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Despite losing a couple of key players, Maryland’s defense is holding opponents to just 4.0 yards per play and leads the ACC with 17 sacks generated. The Terrapins have the best balance on offense and the best defense out of this trio of teams. Maryland is clearly the No. 3 team in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this team finish in the top 25 of the final rankings in January.
Of these three, I'll take Maryland because I think the Terrapins have the best shot at a top-three finish in their division/conference. The reality is that other than Texas Tech's win over a ranked TCU none of these teams have really faced any quality competition. Even though this will change (although not this Saturday), I believe Maryland has a clear edge when it comes to each team's remaining schedule. Randy Edsall's team still has to play Clemson and Florida State, but the rest of the Terps' schedule is very manageable. On the other hand, Texas Tech has to navigate the rest of its Big 12 slate, including the gauntlet of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor in a four-week stretch, while Minnesota has Michigan, Northwestern and Nebraska in a row and also gets Wisconsin and Michigan State back-to-back to end the season. So if anything, it looks like Maryland is well-positioned to benefit from playing in the "weaker" ACC, for at least one more season anyways.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Maryland. The Terps have the most talented roster, the most established coach, play in the ACC and have the best defense of the group. The Terps defense has been extremely salty this season, allowing just 4.0 yards per play and 266.0 yards per game. I like both Kilff Kingsbury and Jerry Kill, but Edsall has been doing this head coaching thing for much longer and his quarterback appears to be healthy. While both Texas Tech and Minnesota have dealt with injuries at QB, the Terrapins have an emerging superstar in C.J. Brown (331.5 total yards per game). Packaged with developing star power on offense, Edsall has himself as complete a football team as Maryland has had in years. The Terps also miss Miami and Georgia Tech in crossover play to top it all off.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I think I’m buying Maryland’s 4-0 more than the others, though Minnesota is an interesting case. Maryland probably would have been a bowl team last season if not for an incredible run of quarterback injuries. Randy Edsall’s a pretty good coach, but he’s not the kind of guy who turns things on a dime. Now that his system is in place, and his team isn’t facing injuries and transfers left and right, the Terrapins are proving to be a solid team on both sides of the ball. Are the Terps better than Florida State and Clemson? Probably not, but the Terps are just as good as any team in the ACC Coastal. Like Maryland, Minnesota’s emergence has been a few years in the making. The Gophers might not win eight or nine games, but they play defense and they’ll stay competitive in the Big Ten.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
Give me the Terps and those beautiful Maryland Pride 2.0 uniforms. Maryland’s defense forced six turnovers of the Mountaineers en route to a 37-0 romp over West Virginia. The Terps actually lead the country in turnovers with 13 through just four games. Brian Stewart’s unit has been exceptional this year, allowing just 10.3 points per game, ninth fewest in the nation. The offense has performed near perfectly as well. Quarterback C.J. Brown has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,043 yards for seven touchdowns and just one interception. In addition, Brown is averaging 6.3 yards per rush and has scored six touchdowns on the ground. Stefon Diggs has proven himself worthy of his No. 2 wide receiver ranking in last year’s recruiting class, as the 2012 ACC Freshman of the Year runner-up recorded 387 yards and three touchdown in his first three games of the season. Coach Randy Edsall appears to have taken himself off of the hot seat, as Maryland has already matched its win total from all of last year, but I predict the Terrapins will double their wins from last year. Maryland is simply a more complete team than either Texas A&M (no rushing game) or Minnesota (no passing game).
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The final weekend of college football action in September once again features several non-conference matchups, but more competitive games are coming soon.
Conference play for nearly all 10 leagues is starting to pop up more on the schedule each Saturday, with the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 featuring a handful of key games in Week 5.
Wisconsin-Ohio State, Ole Miss-Alabama, LSU-Georgia, Notre Dame-Oklahoma and Arizona State-USC are just a few of the key games on the schedule this Saturday. This weekend’s slate is a huge improvement over Week 4’s schedule, which was very light in terms of quality games.
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 5 Upset Predictions
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Buffalo (+1) over Connecticut
I realize this isn’t much of an upset, but I’m also not seeing many games the underdog will win on Saturday. Connecticut played Michigan tough last week, but the Huskies gained only 206 yards, and quarterback Chandler Whitmer was sacked four times. Buffalo’s defense features one of the nation’s most underrated players in linebacker Khalil Mack, and six other starters from a unit that held opponents to 363.7 yards per game last year. The Bulls’ rank last in the MAC in total defense this season, but the competition played so far – Ohio State and Baylor – have a lot to do with that number. Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni desperately needs a win to cool some of the hot seat talk in Storrs. However, Buffalo’s defense, and running back Branden Oliver prevent the Huskies from getting a much-needed victory.
David Fox (@DavidFox615): Colorado (-11) over Oregon State
The Buffaloes are a much improved team. I don’t expect them to go to a bowl, but this team went from absolutely dreadful to 2-0. In this game, Oregon State’s defense will give the Buffs a chance. Oregon State needed late surges to beat San Diego State and Utah. I wonder how much the Beavers will be able to hold up. Colorado can move the ball thanks to Connor Wood completing passes to the nation’s most underrated receiver Paul Richardson (though the Beavers’ Brandin Cooks is in the same class). With the way Oregon State’s D has been playing, it’s tough to envision the Beavers as an 11-point favorite over anyone.
Mark Ross: Western Kentucky (+3) over Navy
Navy is leading the nation in rushing at nearly 400 yards per game and already has a win over a Big Ten team (Indiana) on its resume. However, Western Kentucky can match up with the Midshipmen when it comes to running the ball, as the Hilltoppers are gaining nearly 230 yards on the ground per contest themselves. New WKU coach Bobby Petrino has this offense clicking, and I think the combination of all-purpose threat Antonio Andrews (222.2 total yards per game) and the passing ability of Brandon Doughty will be too much for the Mids to overcome in Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Don't be surprised if this game features close to 600 yards rushing and more than 80 points combined.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): USC (+7) at Arizona State
This is a huge game for both teams as the loser will be sitting at 0-2 in the Pac-12 after just one month of play. USC's defense is the real deal, and Arizona State has struggled in a big way along the line of scrimmage against Stanford. Historically, the Trojans have owned the Sun Devils, winning 12 of the last 13 meetings. Lane Kiffin will take the air out of the football by running Tre Madden and playing great defense. Don't be surprised if the desperate Men of Troy return to Los Angeles with a big leg up in the South Division.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Virginia (+5) over Pittsburgh
Mike London knows the key to taking down the Panthers is limiting the big play. Last week, 17 of Pittsburgh's plays accounted for 423 yards of their 598 total yards. The Panthers do an excellent job of running the ball to open up their play action passing game, in order to take advantage of their two top-notch receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. Despite this, I like Virginia’s new aggressive approach under defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. While they struggled against Oregon (who doesn’t?), the Cavaliers defense looked dominant in wins over BYU and VMI. In fact, Virginia registered six sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss and five turnovers in the two games. They have held all three of their opponents under their season scoring average. I like what the Cavaliers rushing attacks will be able to do against a Panthers defense that allows an average of 443 yards and 41 points per game, ranking 120th in the FBS. The Panthers have allowed their last two opponents, New Mexico and Duke, to each rush for 213 yards. Look for a big game from Cavaliers RB Kevin Parks, who rushed for a career-high 135 yards last week. I like the Cavaliers defense and running game over the high-flying Pittsburgh offense in this one.
Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley suffered a torn ACL in practice this week and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Easley’s torn ACL is the second major injury suffered by Florida in the last few days, as quarterback Jeff Driskel is also out for the year after a leg injury against Tennessee.
In three games this year, Easley had five tackles (two for a loss) and four quarterback hurries.
Although his stat line wasn’t overwhelming, Easley is one of the top defensive tackles in the nation, and his presence on the interior helps to open up opportunities for Dante Fowler, Ronald Powell and Jonathan Bullard off the edge.
The Gators will miss Easley's presence on the interior, but juniors Darious Cummings and Leon Orr, along with senior Damien Jacobs should be able to keep the rush defense performing at a high level.
This is the second ACL tear in Easley’s career, and the senior is eligible for a medical redshirt. However, considering he was a potential first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Easley may decide to pass on a redshirt and start his career at the next level.
It’s another light slate of games in the ACC for Week 5.
Six of the seven Saturday games in the conference feature a team favored by at least 10 points, with Virginia-Pittsburgh the only matchup in single digits.
The spotlight for Week 5 in the ACC will be on Thursday night. Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech is one of the key matchups every year in the Coastal Division, and this season’s game should have ACC title implications.
Outside of Thursday night’s game, it’s up to heavy underdogs like Boston College and Wake Forest to make this an interesting weekend in the conference.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions: Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Week 5 Game Power Rankings
1. Virginia Tech (+7) at Georgia Tech (Thursday, 7:30 ET, ESPN)
Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are the only two teams to represent the Coastal Division in the eight-year history of the ACC Championship. The winner of Thursday night’s game will have plenty of hurdles still to navigate in the next two months, but either the Yellow Jackets or Hokies will take an early lead for the Coastal title. The Yellow Jackets are already 2-0 in ACC play, scoring a key victory over North Carolina last week. Georgia Tech always has a solid rushing attack under coach Paul Johnson, but the defense and passing game have made progress this year. The Yellow Jackets are holding opponents to 11.3 points a game, while quarterback Vad Lee is tied for third in the ACC with seven touchdown tosses. Although Georgia Tech’s offense is generating 484.7 yards per game, Virginia Tech will be its toughest challenge. The Hokies are allowing just 3.6 yards per play and are limiting opponents to 233.3 yards per game. Virginia Tech’s defense might be the best in the ACC, but its offense continues to struggle. The Hokies are averaging only 4.7 yards per play and are scoring just 18 points a game against FBS competition. Quarterback Logan Thomas is off to a slow start, completing just 48.5 percent of his throws and tossing six picks. However, the Hokies have struggled to find the right mix on the offensive line and lack a No. 1 receiver.
2. Virginia (+6) at Pittsburgh (12:30 ET, Root Sports)
This game might not draw much interest nationally, but there’s some intrigue around the ACC on what happens Saturday in the Steel City. Pittsburgh lost its opener to Florida State but has rebounded with solid showings against Duke and New Mexico. Virginia played one of the toughest two-game stretches in the nation to start the year (BYU, Oregon) and easily handled VMI last Saturday. Neither team is expected to win the ACC, but this is an important game for positioning in the middle of the division. And it's a relatively even contest, as both teams matchup well in terms of strengths and weaknesses. The Panthers’ passing attack leads the ACC with an average of 289.7 yards per game, while Virginia’s secondary is holding opponents to 140 yards a contest. Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled in all three matchups this year, and the Cavaliers will hope to take the pressure off of quarterback David Watford with a strong effort on the ground. Despite just over 300 miles separating these two campuses, Pittsburgh and Virginia have played only five times, with the last matchup occurring in 2007.
3. East Carolina (+12) at North Carolina (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
In a bit of a surprise, North Carolina’s offense is off to a slow start this year. The Tar Heels averaged 485.6 yards per game in 2012 but rank 10th in the ACC in total offense after three games. Personnel losses on the offensive line and the departure of running back Giovani Bernard to the NFL have slowed the progress of this unit in 2013. Getting the offense back on track is the top priority for coach Larry Fedora this Saturday. The Tar Heels play at Virginia Tech next week, and after losing to Georgia Tech last Saturday, Fedora’s team needs to win to stay alive in the Coastal title picture. Even though the Pirates rank third in Conference USA in total defense, FAU and Virginia Tech’s offenses have struggled, and nose tackle Terry Williams has been suspended for this game. East Carolina gave Virginia Tech all it could handle two weeks ago, and the Pirates’ passing offense (269 ypg) will test a North Carolina secondary that is allowing 12.2 yards per completion. Quarterback Shane Carden is completing 74.5 percent of his throws, and running back Vintavious Cooper gives the offense some balance, averaging four yards per carry on 40 attempts this year. East Carolina should move the ball, but North Carolina has too much firepower on offense.
4. Florida State (-21.5) at Boston College (3:30 ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Since Boston College’s 28-21 victory in 2009, Florida State has won three in a row in this series by a combined score of 113-33. Despite improvement under first-year coach Steve Addazio, the Eagles will be challenged to keep Saturday’s game competitive. Behind redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles are averaging 52.3 points a game and defeated Pittsburgh by 28 points in the opener. Winston is completing 78.1 percent of his throws and should be able to take advantage of a Boston College secondary that ranks 10th in the ACC against the pass. The Eagles rank last in the ACC in total offense (5.1 yards per play) but are helped by an aggressive defense that has forced seven turnovers and eight sacks in three games. In order for Boston College to keep this one close into the fourth quarter, running back Andre Williams needs to have a big day against a Florida State run defense that ranks seventh in the ACC (3.4 yards per carry). Even if Williams has success, the Eagles need a perfect effort on both sides of the ball to knock off the Seminoles.
5. Wake Forest (+29) at Clemson (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
If the Demon Deacons can’t find a spark on offense, this matchup against Clemson could get ugly in a hurry. Wake Forest is averaging just 18 points a game against FBS opponents, largely due to an offensive line that has struggled to find continuity over the last two years. To help with the struggles up front, the Demon Deacons have implemented more option looks, but the rushing attack is still managing only 3.2 yards per carry. The Tigers were held to 26 points against NC State last Thursday, which was their fewest in an ACC contest since Nov. 19, 2011. The Demon Deacons are holding opponents to 15.8 points a game this season and rank second in the ACC with 11 forced turnovers. Clemson’s offense is too explosive to keep in check for all four quarters, but Wake Forest’s defense can help a struggling offense by continuing with its success forcing turnovers, as well as generating pressure on quarterback Tajh Boyd.
6. Miami (-19) at South Florida (12 ET, ESPNU)
In the first year under coach Willie Taggart, South Florida is off to a disappointing 0-3 start. The Bulls lost to FCS opponent McNeese State in the opener and have managed only 16 points in their last two games. Although South Florida is off to a rough start, the Bulls will be motivated to play their in-state rival. In last week’s scrimmage against Savannah State, the Hurricanes cruised to an easy 77-7 win, but quarterback Stephen Morris suffered an ankle injury and has been limited in practice. Morris is expected to play on Saturday. However, Miami may not need a huge performance from Morris, especially with USF allowing 160.3 yards per game on the ground. The Bulls have struggled on offense, committing eight turnovers and averaging only 12.3 points per game. If the Hurricanes can get ahead early, it should allow coach Al Golden to rest Morris and running back Duke Johnson, especially with back-to-back ACC showdowns against Georgia Tech and North Carolina up next.
7. Troy (+10.5) at Duke (3 ET, ESPN3)
It’s only Week 5, but Duke’s bowl hopes have faded after back-to-back losses. The Blue Devils don’t have many guaranteed victories on the remaining schedule, which makes Saturday’s non-conference affair against Troy a must-win situation. The Trojans will be a pesky opponent for coach David Cutcliffe’s team, as Troy averages 457 yards per game on offense and ranks 20th nationally with 310.5 passing yards per game. The Blue Devils are allowing 200 passing yards per game, but opponents are averaging 7.6 yards per pass and have scored 10 touchdowns against this secondary. The Trojans employ a two-quarterback system, which features Corey Robinson (the passer), and Deon Anthony (a runner). Troy has enough weapons to keep this game close, but its defense has to find a way to slow down Duke’s offense. The Trojans are allowing 421 yards per game and gave up 62 points in a loss to Mississippi State last Saturday. Duke quarterback Brandon Connette has filled in admirably for Anthony Boone, but he threw four picks in last week’s game against Pittsburgh. Troy’s struggling defense should help Connette get back on track.
8. Central Michigan (+23.5) at NC State (3:30 ET, ESPN3)
Saturday’s game against Central Michigan will be NC State’s fourth consecutive home contest to start the season. The Wolfpack hung tough against Clemson last Thursday but lacked the offensive firepower to pull off the upset. The Chippewas could be the perfect medicine for NC State’s offense, as they are allowing 37.2 points a game and 6.1 yards per play. The Wolfpack won’t have Brandon Mitchell back under center this week, and the matchup with Central Michigan should give quarterbacks Pete Thomas and Bryant Shirreffs a chance to build some confidence before next week’s ACC road test at Wake Forest. These two teams have met only once, with NC State winning 38-24 in 2011.
ACC Week 5 Pivotal Players
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Panthers held opponents to only 136.4 rushing yards per game last season, but this unit has struggled in 2013. After three opponents, Pittsburgh ranks 13th in the ACC against the run, allowing 194 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Virginia’s offense relies heavily on its rushing attack, which will test the Panthers’ front seven on Saturday. Donald is one of college football’s top defensive tackles, and he needs to dominate the line of scrimmage against the Cavaliers.
Steven Chase/Dylan Intemann, OT, Wake Forest
It’s a tall order to ask Wake Forest’s defense to keep Clemson in check for all four quarters. The Demon Deacons will have to play their best game of the season to knock off the Tigers, which means the offense has to step up after generating only 54 points in three games against FBS competition. Clemson’s front four has been active this year, ranking third in the ACC with 12 sacks. Wake Forest’s line has allowed nine through four games. In order for the Demon Deacons to move the ball on offense, Chase and Intemann have to keep Clemson defensive ends Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford away from quarterback Tanner Price.
Vad Lee, QB, Georgia Tech
The success of Georgia Tech’s offense rests heavily on Lee’s shoulders. In his first year as a starter, the sophomore has rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns, while passing for seven touchdowns and 418 yards. Virginia Tech owns one of the top defenses in the nation, forcing 10 turnovers and 16 sacks through the first four weeks. The Yellow Jackets won’t have much margin for error against this defense, and Lee needs to get the option offense on track, while not turning the ball over to an opportunistic Hokie defense.
Jack Tyler, LB, Virginia Tech
In last year’s meeting between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, Tyler was all over the field, recording 17 tackles, with one going for a loss. His performance was a big reason why the Yellow Jackets managed only 192 rushing yards and mustered only 17 points. The senior is one of the ACC’s top linebackers and whether he’s spying Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee or stuffing the inside running plays against David Sims or Zach Laskey, Tyler will play a key role in Virginia Tech’s defensive gameplan on Thursday night.
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
If Boston College has any hope of beating Florida State, Williams needs to have a big game. The senior leads the ACC with an average of 118.7 rushing yards per game. Florida State ranks seventh in the ACC against the run, with opponents managing 3.4 yards per rush. Nevada and Pittsburgh had some success early on the ground against the Seminoles, and the Eagles need at least 120 yards from Williams on Saturday.
ACC Week 5 Predictions
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Va. Tech (+7) at Ga. Tech||Ga. Tech 28-14||Ga. Tech 27-13||Ga. Tech 24-20||Ga. Tech 31-21|
|Miami (-19) at South Florida||Miami 35-7||Miami 31-13||Miami 38-10||Miami 41-17|
|Virginia (+6) at Pittsburgh||Pitt 28-10||Pitt 34-24||Pitt 31-24||Pitt 28-20|
|East Carolina (+12) at North Carolina||UNC 35-24||UNC 40-24||UNC 38-24||UNC 29-13|
|Troy (+10.5) at Duke||Duke 35-14||Duke 31-24||Duke 41-27||Duke 37-20|
|Florida State (-21.5) at Boston College||FSU 42-10||FSU 45-17||FSU 41-13||FSU 31-7|
|Wake Forest (+29) at Clemson||Clemson 38-10||Clemson 38-13||Clemson 45-17||Clemson 38-14|
|Central Michigan (+23.5) at NC State||NC State 35-13||NC State 30-10||NC State 34-13||NC State 41-10|
One more day until Week 5 starts.
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, September 25th
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is off to a fast start this year - and there was no guarantee he would be the starter after fall practice.
Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage gets highlighted for his Week 4 performance against Duke.
This story isn't college football related, but check out Lost Lettermen's story of an Auburn lacrosse player who reenacted Grand Theft Auto.
Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche could return to the lineup against Alabama.
Alabama's secondary remains a work in progress.
Florida State safety Tyler Hunter suffered a neck injury against Bethune-Cookman.
Here are five tough questions and five answers for Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.
Ole Miss is expected to pickup a transfer from UCLA.
Is Zach Mettenberger or Aaron Murray a better pro prospect?
Minnesota is not expected to have quarterback Philip Nelson back from injury this Saturday.
Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum is close to returning.
USC coach Lane Kiffin expects quarterback Cody Kessler and receiver Marqise Lee to play on Saturday, after both players suffered injuries in Week 4.
TCU coach Gary Patterson has made a few moves to spark the offense.
Even though FIU coach Ron Turner is struggling, it doesn't appear the first-year coach is in any danger.
Kent State running back Dri Archer is expected to return to action against Western Michigan.
UCLA is ready to begin fundraising for a new football facility.
Even though Virginia Tech has been one of the ACC’s most consistent programs over the last 10 years, there’s some uneasiness surrounding Frank Beamer’s team in 2013.
The Hokies finished 7-6 last season, which was the program’s first year under eight wins since 1997. Under Beamer, Virginia Tech has recorded a winning record in every season since 1993. Prior to 1993, the Hokies were just 24-40-2 under Beamer’s watch.
Virginia Tech has played in 26 bowl games during its program history, with 20 coming during Beamer’s tenure. Of course, there are more bowl games in 2013 than there were in 1993, but that statistic shows how much of an impact Beamer has had for Virginia Tech.
Is this program in decline or was 2012 just a one-year blip? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Analyzing Frank Beamer's Tenure at Virginia Tech
Win/Loss Record over the last 11 seasons
|2002||10-4||3-4||4th Big East|
|2003||8-5||4-3||4th Big East|
Virginia Tech’s win-loss record over the last 10 years has been solid. The Hokies have just two seasons under 10 wins during that span and played in five BCS bowls.
Virginia Tech also has finished in the top 25 of the Associated Press poll eight out of the last nine years, including a 10th place finish in 2009.
Something else to consider during Virginia Tech’s run in the Coastal: Miami. The Hurricanes have yet to win the Coastal Division and have not won more than nine games since 2003. Miami has significantly underachieved based on its program potential, which has helped the Hokies dominate the Coastal in recent years.
There’s room for both programs at the top of the Coastal, but Miami’s recent improvement under third-year coach Al Golden will have an impact on the rest of the teams in the division.
The win total history shows the program is trending down slightly, as the 7-6 mark featured three victories in overtime.
* Ranks using 247sports.com
|Year||National Rank||Conference Rank||5* Signed||4* Signed|
|2014||21st (as of Sept. 24)||5th||0||3|
So far, Virginia Tech’s 7-6 record isn’t having a huge impact on recruiting. Of course, it’s only September, so it’s hard to judge where the Hokies will finish by signing day. However, the program’s recruiting classes ranked 21st in 2012 and '13, which was the second-highest ranking in the last seven years.
The amount of five-star and four-star prospects signed by Beamer and his staff has stayed about the same, as Virginia Tech has reeled in two five-star prospects in 2012-13, compared to one from 2009-11.
Has Virginia and fourth-year coach Mike London had any impact on Virginia Tech’s recruiting? In terms of top-10 prospects in the state of Virginia, the Hokies signed three in the 2010, '12 and '13 class. In that span, the Cavaliers signed five in 2011, four in '12 and two in '13. Virginia has a slight edge within the state’s top-10 prospects, but the bigger issue for Virginia Tech is the 2011 class, which included zero of the state’s top-10 prospects.
What to make of the recruiting data? Virginia Tech hasn’t slipped in the national ranks and has finished in the top four or five of the ACC in five out of the last six years. The Hokies aren’t bringing in elite talent, but Beamer and his staff continue to maintain a solid pace on the recruiting trail.
Performance on Offense
|Year||Rush||Pass||Total||Scoring||Yards Per Play|
The offensive numbers for Virginia Tech are not particularly impressive. The Hokies finished 35th nationally in total offense in 2011 but have regressed to 82nd in '12 and 102nd so far in '13. The offense has also watched its yards per play decline for three straight years, including a 4.7 mark thus far in 2013.
The rushing attack has been up and down, but nowhere near as bad as the passing offense. Virginia Tech has not finished higher than 64th nationally in passing offense since 2001, and the Hokies have five finishes of 90th or worse.
Offensive style is a big part of Virginia Tech’s statistics, but it’s clear this offense needs to be more aggressive and can use more help from its passing attack.
Beamer has tried to jumpstart the offense by changing coordinators, but Bryan Stinespring and Mike O’Cain had similar success. And new play-caller Scot Loeffler? Needless to say, that hire didn’t inspire much confidence the offense can turn things around in 2013.
Virginia Tech isn’t the best job in the ACC, but it’s among the top 25-30 in the nation. The Hokies have experienced a tremendous amount of success under Beamer, and the program is only one season removed from a BCS bowl.
As long as Beamer is on the sidelines at Virginia Tech, the formula for success will rely heavily on a strong defense, while the offense does just enough to win games. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is one of the best in the nation, and the Hokies have one of the best defenses in the ACC in 2013.
However, a struggling offense isn’t getting much better, and the Coastal Division is improving. Miami is back in the top 25, and North Carolina seems to be trending in the right direction under Larry Fedora. The addition of Pittsburgh only adds to the competition in the Coastal.
While the stats don’t clearly show a decline, it’s clear Virginia Tech is not the same program that went 22-6 from 2010-11.
Beamer isn’t in any danger of being on the hot seat, but the 2013 and '14 seasons will be critical. Can Virginia Tech return to being an ACC power? Or are the Hokies in danger of slipping like Florida State did in the 2000s or what Texas is going through now?
The NCAA’s Executive Committee has decided to reduce the scholarship sanctions on Penn State, giving the football program five more scholarships for the 2014-15 academic year. The announcement was made after George Mitchell, former U.S. Senator and independent Athletics Integrity Montior for Penn State, indicated Penn State was making progress in implementing the Athletics Integrity Agreement.
And in another bit of good news for Penn State, there’s a possibility these sanctions can be reduced even more in the future.
The postseason ban will remain in place for now, and coach Bill O’Brien is still dealing with a limited roster for the next few years.
However, Penn State can now offer 20 scholarships for the 2014-15 year, with that number set to increase to 25 by 2015-16. The Nittany Lions will also have a full allotment of scholarship players (85) by 2016-17.
Check out the full release from the NCAA.
Michigan is one of the toughest teams to gauge after four weeks of the college football season. The Wolverines have a good win over Notre Dame but barely beat Akron and Connecticut. Turnovers have been an issue for quarterback Devin Gardner, but the defense is allowing just 311 yards per game. Although Michigan hasn’t looked like a Big Ten title contender the last two weeks, the Wolverines still make the BCS projections after Week 4. Michigan’s schedule is manageable until November, and coach Brady Hoke’s team is still Athlon’s pick to win the Big Ten Legends Division. So while things aren’t particularly well in Ann Arbor, finishing 10-2 or even 11-1 in the regular season isn’t out of the question.
The rest of our BCS projections after Week 4 are similar to the first few weeks, as there have been few changes at the top of the rankings. Alabama-Ohio State is remains Athlon’s pick to play for the national title, while Clemson, Louisville, Oklahoma State and Oregon are projected to win their conferences.
College football's bowl season is still a few months away, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. With only four weeks of results in the books, it's hard to make long-term projections about teams, especially with several teams still playing overmatched non-conference games. But with conference play right around the corner, we should be able to get a better grasp on what teams will be able to reach the six-win mark.
With little data to work with, the post-Week 4 bowl projections are a mixture between preseason projections, how things would look if the season ended today, and a small dose of the results so far this year. Expect more changes over the next few weeks, especially as we see how teams perform in conference games.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including Boston College, Virginia, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Illinois from BCS conferences. And Ohio, Arkansas State and Toledo from the non-BCS ranks.
As the season progresses, it will be easier to project which teams will get to the six-win mark or finish below.
College Football's Post-Week 4 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Oregon State vs. Wyoming|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Ball State vs. Nevada|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Arizona vs. Fresno State|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Rice|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Cincinnati vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||San Jose State vs. Utah*|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||Northern Illinois vs. Indiana|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Wash. State* vs. Boise State|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||East Carolina vs. Pittsburgh|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Kansas State vs. Iowa|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. USC|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Notre Dame* vs. TCU|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Rutgers vs. North Carolina|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||UCF vs. Georgia Tech|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Texas vs. Nebraska|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Utah State vs. Navy|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Maryland vs. Auburn|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Oklahoma vs. UCLA|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Washington vs. Texas Tech|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||NC State vs. Tennessee|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||Arizona State vs. Va. Tech|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Missouri vs. Marshall|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Texas A&M vs. Miami|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Ole Miss vs. Michigan State|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||Minnesota vs. Tulsa|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Florida vs. Northwestern|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||South Carolina vs. Wisconsin|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Oregon vs. Michigan|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Stanford vs. Oklahoma State|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Georgia vs. Florida State|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Baylor|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. Louisville|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Vanderbilt vs. Houston|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Bowling Green vs. W. Kentucky|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Ohio State|
* Indicates we do not expect a conference to fill its tie-ins. An at-large team will be selected for conferences that do not meet their required teams for bowl eligibility.
Related College Football Content
Week 4 College Football Recap
Stats to Know From Week 4
Week 4 National Awards
Post-Week 4 ACC Power Rankings
Post-Week 4 Big 12 Power Rankings
Post-Week 4 Big Ten Power Rankings
Post-Week 4 Pac-12 Power Rankings
Post-Week 4 SEC Power Rankings
Texas’ coach Mack Brown is still on the hot seat, but the Longhorns snapped a two-game losing streak with a 31-21 victory over Kansas State on Saturday. The win over the Wildcats won’t do much to quiet the cries for change in Austin. However, Texas still has a chance to win the Big 12 title and should be 2-0 in conference play before the huge Oct. 12 showdown against Oklahoma.
Connecticut nearly upset Michigan, but Paul Pasqualoni climbs back to the No. 1 spot in the hot seat rankings. The Huskies’ offense continues to struggle, managing only 3.6 yards per play against the Wolverines on Saturday. Connecticut’s schedule won’t get any easier this week, as a road date at Buffalo will be a challenge, and the Huskies must play Cincinnati and UCF in October.
USC’s Lane Kiffin has led his team to back-to-back wins after a loss to Washington State, but the Trojans remain a work in progress on offense. Kiffin could help cool his seat with a win at Arizona State this Saturday.
Outside of the top 10, the biggest riser in this week’s rankings is West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers were handled by Maryland in a 37-0 loss, dropping West Virginia to 2-2 overall. The schedule will only get tougher from here, and the Mountaineers could miss out on a bowl in 2013.
An important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top 20-30 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Indiana’s Kevin Wilson – 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||Paul Pasqualoni||0-3||UConn gave Michigan all it could handle.|
|2||Mack Brown||2-2||Texas still has a chance to turn season around.|
|3||Dan Enos||1-3||CMU allowing 37.2 points a game.|
|4||Lane Kiffin||3-1||USC's offense still a work in progress.|
|5||Don Treadwell||0-3||RedHawks hung around against Cincinnati.|
|6||Ron English||1-3||EMU one of the toughest jobs in the nation.|
|7||Ron Turner||0-4||Performance against Louisville was embarrassing|
|8||Bobby Hauck||2-2||Back-to-back wins for UNLV first time since '08.|
|9||Norm Chow||0-3||Hawaii could be headed for a winless year.|
|10||Bo Pelini||3-1||Huskers should be 6-1 going into November.|
|11||Doc Holliday||2-2||Nearly upset Va. Tech in Blacksburg.|
|13||Jim Grobe||2-2||Win over Army snapped two-game losing streak.|
|14||Charley Molnar||0-4||Minutemen played Vanderbilt tough.|
|15||Dana Holgorsen||2-2||Mountaineers could miss out on bowl this year.|
|16||Skip Holtz||1-3||La. Tech fumbled away win on Saturday.|
|19||Charlie Weis||2-1||Win on Saturday was first vs. FBS since Sept. 10, 2011|
|21||Tony Levine||3-0||Changes on staff paying off for Levine.|
|22||Kirk Ferentz||3-1||Iowa's offense has run the most plays in Big Ten.|
|23||Dan Mullen||2-2||Dak Prescott has impressed as starter.|
|24||Gary Pinkel||3-0||Pinkel tied for 2nd most wins in school history.|
|28||P.J. Fleck||0-4||Rough first year for Fleck.|
|29||June Jones||1-2||Four-year bowl streak could be in jeopardy.|
|32||Randy Edsall||4-0||Terrapins 4-0 for the first time since 2001.|
|33||Rocky Long||0-3||Aztecs lost heartbreaker against Oregon State.|
|36||Sean Kugler||1-2||Miners 1-2 in Kugler's debut season.|
|37||Frank Beamer||3-1||Offense not looking much better.|
|38||Dan McCarney||2-2||UNT on the right track.|
|39||Dave Christensen||3-1||QB Brett Smith leading MWC in total offense.|
|42||Scott Shafer||2-2||Syracuse has won two in a row.|
|45||Jim McElwain||1-3||Rams gave Alabama a good battle.|
|49||Kyle Whittingham||3-1||Utah has won four in a row over BYU.|
|51||Rod Carey||3-0||NIU avoided loss to FCS team in Week 4.|
|55||Bill Blankenship||1-2||Can Tulsa still win C-USA?|
|56||Willie Taggart||0-3||USF needs to find some offense.|
|58||Brian Polian||2-2||Nevada won with 3rd string QB in Week 4.|
|68||Troy Calhoun||1-3||AFA's defense struggling.|
|76||Trent Miles||0-4||Georgia State a difficult job.|
|89||Paul Johnson||3-0||GT off to 2-0 start in ACC play.|
|100||Tim DeRuyter||3-0||DeRuyter will be in mix for big jobs this December.|
|105||Larry Coker||2-2||UTSA quietly off to good start.|
|109||James Franklin||2-2||Sluggish performance against UMass.|
|111||Mark Hudspeth||2-2||Ragin' Cajuns have won two in a row.|
|114||Mike Gundy||3-0||OSU still the favorite in Big 12?|
|115||Gary Patterson||1-2||Can TCU find a spark on offense?|
|117||Chris Petersen||2-2||Boise not out of MWC title picture.|
|119||Charlie Strong||4-0||Cardinals cruising to unbeaten season.|
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Alternate helmets and jerseys are popping up everywhere in college football, but Virginia Tech takes the award for one of the most interesting looks over the last few years.
On Thursday night against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech will unveil these “Hokie Stone” helmets.
So what exactly is this helmet symbolizing?
Here’s what coach Frank Beamer had to say in a release from the school:
“When you look at this helmet, it’s not flashy, but it means a tremendous amount to this University. The outside world may have to do a double-take, but the Hokie Nation will know exactly what it is: Hokie Stone! And it’s something we’re proud of. The reason I like it, is because it represents what this program and this University are built on. Each piece, in its place, serving its purpose, doing its job, and when it’s all working together, it’s rock solid and it’s something special. That Hokie Stone … represents what we’re all about, a foundation that we’re proud of, built on brotherhood, loyalty, leadership, Ut Prosim, sacrifice, service, honor, and duty. And I hope you saw all of that on display this past Saturday in our game with a very talented and determined Marshall team. Not just from the players, but from the fans as well, who withstood a driving rain and stuck in there with us through it all!
"So, on Thursday night, some may see it as stone on our helmets. We know it’s SO much more!"
The top of the ACC power rankings hasn’t changed much this season. The top four teams in the conference seem to be Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami. However, Maryland has been impressive in its 4-0 start, and Virginia Tech has one of the conference’s best defenses.
The Terrapins and Yellow Jackets scored the ACC’s most-impressive wins of Week 4, as Maryland shutout West Virginia 37-0, while Georgia Tech beat North Carolina 28-20.
North Carolina is 1-2, but the Tar Heels have dropped games against South Carolina and Georgia Tech. Although coach Larry Fedora’s team is off to a slow start, North Carolina shouldn’t be counted out of the Coastal Division title picture.
Pittsburgh’s offense has been impressive in three games, but the Panthers rank last in the ACC in total defense.
Syracuse and Wake Forest picked up much-needed victories in Week 4.
ACC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
|1||1||Clemson (3-0, 1-0): The Tigers started slow but eventually overpowered NC State for a solid 26-14 victory. Clemson’s trailed 7-6 late into the second quarter, but quarterback Tajh Boyd made some key plays, while the defense stepped up in the second half to limit the Wolfpack to just seven points in the final two quarters. Boyd didn’t have a huge performance but finished with 244 yards and three scores. Defensive end Vic Beasley wrecked havoc on NC State’s offensive line, recording five tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble. Clemson has a favorable schedule the next few weeks, with all eyes focused on the upcoming Oct. 19 showdown against Florida State. Next Week: Wake Forest|
|2||2||Florida State (3-0, 1-0): As expected, the Seminoles had little trouble with Bethune-Cookman, cruising to a 54-6 victory. Florida State’s offense was efficient, averaging 8.1 yards per play and punted only three times. Running back Devonta Freeman topped 100 yards for the second consecutive game, but converted defensive back Karlos Williams continued to turn heads, rushing for 83 yards and two scores on nine attempts. Even with linebacker Christian Jones suspended, Florida State’s defense held Bethune-Cookman to 242 yards and recorded three sacks and seven tackles for a loss. The Seminoles have a few areas to patch during practice this week, but coach Jimbo Fisher should be feeling confident about his team. Next Week: at Boston College|
|3||3||Miami (3-0, 0-0): Considering Savannah State is one of the worst FCS teams, it’s hard to learn too much about Miami. The Hurricanes thoroughly dominated the Tigers, recording 77 points, 637 yards and 27 first downs – and those numbers were largely done without quarterback Stephen Morris. The senior suffered an ankle injury but is expected to play next Saturday. Miami’s defense also feasted on an overmatched opponent, registering four sacks and six tackles for a loss. The Hurricanes have one more opportunity to fine-tune both sides of the ball before playing two huge ACC contests in early October. Next Week: at South Florida|
|4||4||Georgia Tech (3-0, 2-0): The Yellow Jackets passed the first test in a difficult stretch of games, rallying to defeat North Carolina 28-20. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 20-7 lead, but Georgia Tech’s defense and rushing attack controlled the game in the second half. Coach Paul Johnson’s decision to hire Ted Roof as the defensive coordinator has already paid dividends, as the Yellow Jackets rank fourth in the ACC in yards allowed and are holding opponents to 11.3 points per game. Georgia Tech is the only 2-0 team in ACC play, but key Coastal games against Virginia Tech and Miami are up next. Next Week: Virginia Tech|
|5||7||Maryland (4-0, 0-0): West Virginia is in rebuild mode, but Maryland’s 37-0 victory over the Mountaineers was one of the most-impressive wins by an ACC team in Week 4. A rainy day in Baltimore prevented the Terrapins from reaching 500 total yards for a fourth consecutive game, but quarterback C.J. Brown finished with 243 overall yards and two scores. The defense held West Virginia to 175 total yards and recorded eight tackles for a loss. Maryland’s win over the Mountaineers on Saturday was its first in this series since the 2004 Gator Bowl. Next Week: Bye|
|6||5||Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-0): Another week, another close call for the Hokies against a Conference USA team. A touchdown toss from quarterback Logan Thomas to receiver Willie Byrn tied the game at 21 with just over three minutes to play to send the game into overtime. Special teams had an up-and-down performance for coach Frank Beamer, as Virginia Tech blocked a field goal and punt. However, with kicker Cody Journell suspended, field goals were an issue, as Ethan Keyserling missed all three of his attempts. There’s no question the Hokies have a defense capable of winning the Coastal Division, but the offense is still a question mark. Virginia Tech went 2 of 16 on third-down attempts, and Thomas finished 18 of 34 for 181 yards and two picks. Next Week: at Georgia Tech (Thursday)|
|7||6||North Carolina (1-2, 0-1): The Tar Heels did a better job defending Georgia Tech’s offense after giving up 68 points last season, but it wasn’t enough for North Carolina to earn the victory. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 20-7 lead before halftime, however, the offense had only one drive of longer than 10 yards in the second half. North Carolina’s defense was on the field for 40:38 and allowed 324 rushing yards to the Yellow Jackets. With a tight division race expected in the Coastal, losing to Georgia Tech is an early setback for North Carolina. However, upcoming games against Virginia Tech and Miami will give Larry Fedora’s team a chance to make a statement. Next Week: East Carolina|
|8||10||Pittsburgh (2-1, 1-1): The Panthers earned their first victory in the ACC, outscoring Duke in a 58-55 shootout. Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled this year, but the offense ranks fourth in the conference in yards per game, averaging 7.7 yards per play. Quarterback Tom Savage tossed six touchdown passes against the Blue Devils, while true freshmen James Conner and Tyler Boyd combined for 327 yards and four scores. An oddity about Pittsburgh’s upcoming schedule: The next three opponents are all from Virginia. Next Week: Virginia|
|9||9||Virginia (2-1, 0-0): The Cavaliers easily handled VMI on Saturday, recording a 49-0 win over the Keydets. The shutout was the first for Virginia since 2008. The Cavaliers recorded 357 rushing yards, including 136 from walk-on freshman Daniel Hamm. Quarterback David Watford threw for two touchdowns, but the sophomore tossed two picks, giving him six interceptions in 2013. The victory over VMI was a good rebound for Virginia, especially after losing to Oregon in Week 2. The Cavaliers are on the road in two out of the next three weeks. Next Week: at Pittsburgh|
|10||8||NC State (2-1, 0-1): The Wolfpack gave Clemson a battle, but coach Dave Doeren simply doesn’t have the offensive firepower with quarterback Brandon Mitchell sidelined. Pete Thomas threw for 213 yards against the Tigers, but NC State’s offense misses Mitchell’s dual-threat ability. One bright spot in the Thursday night loss was the play of the defensive line. The Wolfpack recorded 12 tackles for a loss and two sacks. NC State has a favorable schedule the next three weeks and could be 5-1 going into a road test against Florida State on Oct. 26. Next Week: Central Michigan|
|11||11||Boston College (2-1, 1-0): The Eagles were the only ACC team out of action in Week 4. But an early bye week for a team with a new coaching staff and schemes on both sides of the ball isn’t necessarily a bad thing with the heart of ACC play upcoming. How much has Boston College improved since last year? With matchups against Florida State and Clemson in two of the next three games, the Eagles should have a good idea if they have been able to close the gap with the best of the Atlantic. Next Week: Florida State|
|12||13||Syracuse (2-2, 0-0): The Orange had a rough start to the season, but Scott Shafer’s team has rebounded with back-to-back wins. The competition hasn’t been outstanding, but the offense has scored 106 points in the last two games. Quarterback Terrel Hunt has led the turnaround, throwing for seven touchdowns and zero picks during that span. The sophomore is clearly the No. 1 quarterback over Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen. Syracuse’s defense has work to do during the bye week, especially the secondary with a matchup against Clemson coming on Oct. 5. Next Week: Bye Week|
|13||12||Duke (2-2, 0-2): After starting 2-0, the Blue Devils have dropped back-to-back games. Duke scored 55 points against Pittsburgh, but the defense simply had no answer for Pittsburgh. The Panthers recorded 598 yards, averaging 7.6 yards per play, and quarterback Tom Savage torched the Blue Devils for 424 yards and six scores through the air. Duke’s offense recorded 532 overall yards, but four interceptions from quarterback Brandon Connette proved to be costly in a three-point game. Although it’s only Week 4, the Blue Devils’ bowl hopes took a hit with the loss to Pittsburgh, and there’s not much margin for error the rest of the way. Next Week: Troy|
|14||14||Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1): After back-to-back losses, the Demon Deacons desperately needed a win against Army. Thanks to 96 yards from running back Josh Harris, Wake Forest showed a few signs of breaking out of an offensive funk, while earning a hard-fought 25-11 victory over the Black Knights. The Demon Deacons averaged a season-best 5.8 yards per play in Saturday’s win, and a struggling offensive line allowed only one sack. Coach Jim Grobe can’t be pleased with his offense, but Saturday’s performance was a step in the right direction. Next Week: at Clemson|
ACC Week 4 Awards and Recap
Offensive Player of the Week: Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
Through three games, Savage doesn’t look like a player who didn’t throw a pass on the FBS level from 2011-12. The senior turned in his best passing effort of 2013 against Duke on Saturday, completing 23 of 33 passes for 424 yards and six touchdowns. Savage’s six touchdown passes were the most by a Pittsburgh quarterback since Pete Gonzalez tossed seven against Rutgers in 1997, while also tying an ACC single-game record. After three games, Savage has thrown nine touchdown tosses to four interceptions and has topped 200 passing yards in each start.
Defensive Player of the Week: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
We need to give a tip of the cap to Maryland safety A.J. Hendy after he recorded one interception and recovered two fumbles against West Virginia, but Beasley earns our ACC Defensive Player of the Week honor. Beasley dominated NC State’s offensive line on Thursday night, recording five tackles (with three going for a loss) and three sacks. The junior also forced a fumble and broke up two passes. Clemson’s held NC State to 378 overall yards, with one of its two touchdowns coming when the game was out of reach.
Coordinator of the Week: Ted Roof, Georgia Tech
The defense hasn’t been always strength for coach Paul Johnson during his tenure at Georgia Tech, but that could be changing in 2013. After giving up 20 points to North Carolina in the first 22 minutes, the Yellow Jackets held the Tar Heels without a score the rest of the way. North Carolina’s offense also went 0-4 on third-down attempts in the second half and only one Tar Heel drive in the final two quarters went longer than 10 yards. Georgia Tech’s defense allowed North Carolina to average six yards per play and registered only one sack, but the Yellow Jackets stepped up in the second half with the game on the line.
Team of the Week: Georgia Tech
After a 68-50 shootout between Georgia Tech and North Carolina last season, another high-scoring affair was expected on Saturday. However, weather and defense won out this year, as the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets combined for 48 points. Georgia Tech fell behind 13-0 but rallied behind a solid defensive effort and quarterback Vad Lee. The Yellow Jackets did not allow a point in the second half, and Lee was responsible for two touchdowns and 159 overall yards. Georgia Tech is 2-0 in ACC play, but the schedule won’t get any easier the next two weeks, as a Thursday home date against Virginia Tech is up next, followed by a road game at Miami on Oct. 5.
Freshmen of the Week: James Conner, RB/Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
We usually give this award to just one freshman each week, but it’s impossible to leave off Boyd or Conner after their performances against Duke. Conner gashed the Blue Devils’ defense for 173 yards and one touchdown, averaging 6.7 per attempt on 26 carries. Boyd continued his hot start to the season, catching eight passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Boyd’s total could have been even higher, but he suffered a thigh injury in the fourth quarter and was forced to miss some action. With Boyd and Conner playing at a high level just three games into their career, the future looks bright for Pittsburgh in the ACC.
• In his last two games, Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt has completed 31 of 39 passes for 446 yards and seven touchdowns.
• Duke receiver Jamison Crowder recorded 279 all-purpose yards in Saturday’s 58-55 loss to Pittsburgh.
• After recording back-to-back games of 100 receiving yards, Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs caught only two passes for 13 yards against West Virginia.
• Miami freshman running back Gus Edwards rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns on 12 attempts.
• Miami quarterback Stephen Morris left Saturday’s game against Savannah State with an ankle injury, but X-rays revealed only a sprain.
• Linebacker Stephone Anthony led all Clemson defenders with 14 stops on Thursday night against NC State.
Ohio State is 4-0 and one of the top contenders to play for the national championship. However, do the Buckeyes have a quarterback battle on their hands?
Braxton Miller began 2013 as one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman, but he suffered a MCL injury against San Diego State and did not start against California and Florida A&M.
Prior to his injury, Miller threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns, along with rushing for 82 yards on 18 attempts.
When Miller went out, Kenny Guiton assumed the starting role and has played two nearly perfect games. Guiton has thrown for 664 yards and 13 touchdowns and two interceptions through the first four contests of 2013.
Even though Miller was the starter, has Guiton deserved an extended look?
Should Ohio State Start Kenny Guiton or Braxton Miller?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though Guiton has played well over the last two weeks, Ohio State has to go back to Miller. After all, Miller was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation last season and was off to a good start before his injury. The junior was completing 70.8 percent of his throws and was averaging a healthy 4.6 yards per carry through the first two weeks. Miller also has experience going through a full year of Big Ten action and should be better now that he had another offseason to work with coach Urban Meyer and coordinator Tom Herman. If anything, Guiton’s emergence has allowed Ohio State to be more aggressive with Miller. Surrounding the quarterback with a better, more explosive supporting cast was a priority for Meyer this offseason, and there’s no question the Buckeyes have a deeper group of weapons. Miller is one of the nation’s best quarterbacks when healthy, but Guiton has proved he is more than capable of leading this team if injury strikes again.
Who knew that Ohio State's deepest position would end up being quarterback? That's what happens when Braxton Miller goes down early to injury and Kenny Guiton steps in and sets records. Guiton has thrown 13 touchdown passes with just two interceptions and is averaging better than seven yards per carry as the Buckeyes' offense hasn't missed a beat since he replaced Miller as the starter. While no one can certainly fault Urban Meyer for going back to Miller, believed by many to be the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy entering this season, at the same you can't help but ask if it isn't broke why fix it? Wisconsin is Ohio State's first true test of the season, so perhaps the better question would be this: if Miller struggles early against the Badgers will Meyer pull him and put Guiton back in? With expectations as high as they are in Columbus, it's not out of the question that the Buckeyes will have to deal with a budding quarterback controversy in addition to the rest of their Big Ten slate.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
If Braxton Miller is healthy, he should be the starter at Ohio State. Period, end of discussion. Kenny Guiton is a really nice player who has performed extremely well in his place but Miller is the star. He is more talented, more explosive and more dynamic. In fact, Guiton's play actually should give Urban Meyer more confidence in starting Miller. Should anything happen to No. 5, he knows he has an extremely productive and proven backup plan already in pace. The game with Wisconsin might be the biggest game of the year for Ohio State not named Michigan, and all hands will need to be on deck for the Buckeyes to win.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Braxton Miller should remain the starter at Ohio State. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Kenny Guiton has been fantastic, and there’s little reason yet to believe that Ohio State’s record could be any worse with him at quarterback. But we’ve only seen Guiton against Buffalo, Cal and Florida A&M. His only crunch time experience was against Purdue last season. That said, Urban Meyer surely recognizes what he has in both of them. Although he’s said there aren’t any plans to get both on the field, I can’t believe that’s true. This is the same guy who won a national championship with Tim Tebow spelling Chris Leak in 2006. Imagine putting both out there for a double pass or some other trick play? Or just a decoy? Meyer loves his trick plays, and he’ll use them. Just a question of when.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
If Braxton Miller is healthy, then he should be the starter. This isn’t exactly the no-brainer most people claim it to be, however, as Guiton has proven his superior pocket passing skills. Granted, Guiton played against very weak competition, yet the Ohio State passing game hasn’t looked this dangerous since the Heisman year of Troy Smith. Coach Urban Meyer must make sure he uses the fact that he has two reliable quarterbacks as an advantage and not a potential problem. We could see some of both signal callers during games throughout the season, but Miller finished fifth in the Heisman voting just a season ago and is still one of the most dynamic players in the entire country. He will be and should be the clear starter moving forward.
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Missouri is the last unbeaten team in the SEC East. The Tigers haven’t played a tough schedule, but coach Gary Pinkel’s team has won all three of its games by at least 15 points.
Missouri has one more non-conference game remaining, which is a home date against Sun Belt foe Arkansas State.
After Saturday’s game, the Tigers have eight consecutive games of SEC play, starting with an Oct. 5 date at Vanderbilt.
Is Missouri improved after going 5-7 last year or are the Tigers a product of their easy schedule?
Should we buy into Missouri's 3-0 start?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Yes, I am buying into Missouri’s 3-0 start. No, I’m not ready to anoint the Tigers as a contender in the SEC East, but I do think this team is improved from its 5-7 record last year. Missouri’s offense is averaging 6.6 yards per play and ranks third in the conference with 567 yards per game. The level of competition has played a role in the offensive numbers, but quarterback James Franklin looks sharper after a full offseason to recover from a shoulder injury, and the rushing attack has three players who can contribute significant carries. The Tigers may have to win a few shootouts this year, as the defense is a question mark. The secondary ranks last in the SEC in pass yards allowed, and Missouri has generated only three sacks. Do I think Missouri will win the East? No. But I do think this team will make a bowl and wouldn’t be shocked if the Tigers find a way to upset Florida or South Carolina this year.
Give credit to head coach Gary Pinkel and quarterback James Franklin for turning things around. Missouri's offense is clicking on all cylinders as the Tigers are scoring points (47 ppg) in bunches. However, before anyone starts printing those SEC East champion T-shirts let's see how Mizzou fares against some, well, SEC-caliber competition shall we? Yes, offense was certainly an issue for this team last season (11th in SEC in both total and scoring offense), but it's not like the defense shut the opposition down either (10th total, 11th scoring). Missouri will face considerably tougher defenses in conference play, starting with Vanderbilt in two weeks, and I want to see how this Tigers team responds when the offense is unable to just march up and down the field. It clearly is a good start for Missouri, but don't forget the Tigers went 2-6 in the SEC in 2012 and the only difference between that SEC slate and this season's is that Alabama has been replaced by Ole Miss. With how well the Rebels have played thus far, there's very little drop-off there, if any. Welcome to life in the SEC Mizzou.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I buy that Missouri will get back to a bowl game. I don't buy that Missouri is an SEC contender. James Franklin appears to be healthy again and churning out yards, trailing only Johnny Manziel in total offense per game in the SEC. But the Tigers haven't played a legitimate defense yet this season. Mizzou is obviously better on offense and improved from a year ago, but the defense lacks star power and it will need that side of the ball to pull an upset against, say, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, Ole Miss or South Carolina. Otherwise, there are winnable games with Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky that could provide a trip to the postseason. A trip to a bowl game should keep Gary Pinkel employed, right?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I still need to see a little bit more to fully buy into Missouri. The Oct. 5 trip to Vanderbilt will be the key. The Tigers may need to win that game to salvage anything out of an SEC schedule that includes Ole Miss and Texas A&M from the West division. I was skeptical of how the Tigers’ defense would perform this season without Sheldon Richardson, a first-round draft pick. Missouri acquitted itself against Indiana on the road, especially with the way Kony Ealy was able to disrupt the passing game at the line. But what works against Indiana might not work against Georgia and Ole Miss on the road, or South Carolina’s physical game and certainly not Johnny Manziel.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
Yes, go ahead and buy into Missouri’s 3-0 start. The Tigers entered the season with low expectations, which was understandable following last year’s disappointing finish. But this team is improved, especially on offense. Quarterback James Franklin looks closer to his 2011 self, having already produced more than 1,000 yards of total offense in three games. The emergence of sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has been huge. Green-Beckham, Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington make up a dangerous receiving corps.
Missouri still has to face its toughest part of the schedule – the SEC – but its start is promising. The Tigers were picked to finish sixth in the SEC East by the media. That could still happen, but games against Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt will all be winnable. Missouri isn’t close to winning the division, but its 3-0 start has shown the Tigers might be on their way to competing at a more respectable level in the conference.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
As happy as I am to see quarterback James Franklin regain his form from a promising 2011 season, Missouri is surely in for trouble once conference play starts. Franklin has been excellent in his first three games. In fact, he's averaging 291 passing yards and 60.7 rushing yards per contest. He has thrown six touchdown passes and has nearly 200 yards rushing yards with another score. To be fair, the Tigers have hardly been challenged with games against Murray State, Toledo and Indiana. This week they play host to an Arkansas State team that was held to just seven points by Memphis. Despite this offensive success, the Tigers real concerns are on the defensive side of the ball. In three games, Missouri is allowing an average of nearly 400 yards of total offense. Expect this to be even more against some of the excellent quarterbacks in the SEC right now. After they surely improve to 4-0 this week, the schedule becomes a veritable murderer’s row. The Tigers will have a month straight of four of the SEC’s toughest teams with road trips to Vanderbilt and Georgia, along with home games against Florida and South Carolina. The end of the season won’t be kind either, as they finish up with Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Don’t expect the Tigers’ defense to be able to stop the likes of Connor Shaw, Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray or even Bo Wallace. I have Gary Pinkel’s squad finishing 6-6 (2-6).
Ole Miss is off to its first 3-0 start since 1989. Coach Hugh Freeze clearly has the program moving in the right direction, and the momentum continues to build after signing a top-10 recruiting class in February.
Beating Vanderbilt and Texas this year is another good sign for a program that went 6-18 in Houston Nutt’s final two seasons.
Ole Miss has a bye before playing Alabama on Sept. 28, which is the start of another difficult stretch on the schedule. After playing the Crimson Tide, the Rebels travel to Auburn on Oct. 5, then return home for matchups against Texas A&M (Oct. 12) and LSU (Oct. 19).
It’s only Week 3, but the Rebels have opened plenty of eyes around the SEC. Are the Rebels ready to challenge Alabama or LSU in the West? Or is Ole Miss still the fourth-best team in the division behind Texas A&M?
Is Ole Miss Ready to Challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC West?
Coach Pat Dye, former head coach of East Carolina, Wyoming and Auburn, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
It is too early to tell. Ole Miss had to come from behind to beat Vandy. The victory they had this past weekend was against a Texas team in total disarray. Although they were good wins, I think they are going to have to play some better competition before we would know how good this Ole Miss team is this year. One thing that has been a nice surprise for Ole Miss has been the play from their quarterback. He has been outstanding so far this season.
Alabama, I think has the edge on LSU early in the season. LSU beat TCU. However, TCU doesn't look to be nearly as good as they have been in the past several years. It is a long season in front of those teams in the SEC West. We are going to have to wait and see if Ole Miss is able to take the next step against the tougher teams.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I still think the SEC West is Alabama and LSU’s division to lose this year. But let’s not forget about Texas A&M or overlook Ole Miss. The Rebels are 3-0 for the first time since 1989, scoring solid road victories over Vanderbilt and Texas. The offense is one of the nation’s most-balanced attacks, averaging 250 yards per game on the ground and 240 yards a contest through the air. Ole Miss is also averaging 6.2 yards per play and is third in the SEC in total defense. The Rebels aren’t as deep as Alabama or LSU, but the talent from the top-10 recruiting class is making a big contribution this year. Ole Miss is closing the gap on the rest of the SEC West and has a chance to score some solid victories the rest of the season with a road contest against Alabama and home games against Texas A&M and LSU still to come. I think the Rebels lose to the Crimson Tide and beat the Tigers, with Texas A&M in the tossup category. Ole Miss is a year or two away from winning the West, but let’s give coach Hugh Freeze a lot of credit for getting this team in contention in just his second year in Oxford.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
What do we really know about Ole Miss? The Rebels won a hard-fought game on the road against a Vanderbilt team that is now 0-2 in the SEC. They toyed with Southeast Missouri State in a closer-than-expected 31-13 win in Week 2. And they crushed what could be the worst Texas team since 1956. Ole Miss is really talented and capable of winning eight or nine games, but the point is, what do we really know about Ole Miss? The next four weeks will tell us as the Rebels face Alabama and Auburn on the road before hosting Texas A&M and LSU. The Rebels haven't been close to the Crimson Tide of late but played well against both the Aggies and Bayou Bengals on the road last year. The issue is attrition and running the SEC West gaunlet. With key injuries already along the offensive line and at linebacker, a 2-2 split over the next four would have to be considered a huge success. So, I guess my answer is no, but they are getting closer.
The cop-out answer would be we'll find out in two Saturdays when the Rebels travel to Alabama. As far as my current answer goes, I fall into the "wait and see" camp. First, let's give credit to Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, who has done a masterful job of rebuilding this program rather quickly. It started last season with seven victories and a bowl win over Pittsburgh and the momentum carried over to National Signing Day. The Rebels have continued to win games — five in a row dating back to last season — and have looked pretty good in the process.
However, Ole Miss has already gotten a few breaks along the way too, starting with its last-second, come-from-behind win at Vanderbilt to open the season and then catching a downtrodden Texas team at the best time possible. Again, the Rebels deserve plenty of credit for taking care of business and doing what needed to be done to win those two road games, but the true test for this team is coming up with Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU the next four opponents. If Ole Miss can continue to run the ball like it has (250.0 ypg, 3rd in SEC) and limit the opposition's ground game (114.3 ypg allowed, 4th in SEC), then it will have a chance, even against the likes of Alabama and LSU. Because in the end, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is one of the keys to being successful in the nation's toughest conference.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Ole Miss is having a much more successful start to the season than most of us imagined. In our preseason game picks for Ole Miss, four of the six on Athlon’s panel projected the Rebels to start 1-2, but here they are at 3-0. Granted, they needed heroics to beat Vanderbilt, and Texas is not nearly as good as we thought the Longhorns would be at the start of the season. Eight or nine wins is achievable this season, but the ability to challenge for the West may have to wait until 2014 or 2015. Alabama’s not going anywhere, neither are LSU and Texas A&M. This is still a young Ole Miss team that needs to be ready to compete with Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU consistently — and in the case of this season, in the span of less than a month. That’s a lot to ask at this point.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
Ole Miss is close, but I don’t see the Rebels challenging to win the SEC West this year. Ole Miss is off to a great start and is clearly on the rise under coach Hugh Freeze. Remember the preseason concern over Ole Miss’ daunting schedule? The Rebels have quieted that talk. Still, it’s difficult to believe Ole Miss will have a legitimate shot of winning its division this year with Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M all remaining on the schedule. I think third place in the West is Ole Miss’ best-case finish this season.
Next year is the year to watch for Ole Miss. The Rebels’ talented freshmen will have a year of experience and quarterback Bo Wallace should be back for his senior year. Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M will all likely be breaking in new starting quarterbacks, which could help Ole Miss jump the Big Three while each school transitions. One thing is clear: Ole Miss fans have plenty to be excited about under Freeze.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
Not yet. Let the bandwagon keep chugging along because I’m not ready to jump on yet. Are the Rebels an improved team? Yes, absolutely. But we aren’t talking about the Pac-12 South here. This is the most challenging division in the most difficult conference in the nation. And quite simply, the Rebels aren’t ready. Let’s review their 3-0 start. A last-second win at Vanderbilt, who was without a major weapon in wide receiver Chris Boyd amidst the rape scandal. Followed by a win over an FCS opponent in SE Missouri State and a victory at Texas over a miserably disappointing Longhorns squad. The wins at Vandy and Texas are solid wins, but let’s not mistake the performances needed to win these games with those needs to take down the likes of Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. Austyn Carta-Samuels and Case McCoy aren’t AJ McCarron, Johnny Manziel or even Zach Mettenberger. Add in road trips to Auburn and arch-rival Mississippi State and the tune on Ole Miss could change very quickly come November.
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Is nine or ten wins a year enough for a coach to keep his job? That’s the big question facing Nebraska when it comes to coach Bo Pelini?
Under Pelini, the Cornhuskers are 51-21 and played in the Big Ten Championship last season.
However, Nebraska expects championships, and Pelini has failed to deliver. In last year’s Big Ten title game, the Cornhuskers were dominated by Wisconsin 70-31 and were defeated 45-31 by Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.
The Cornhuskers have struggled on defense, and their recruiting hasn’t improved over the last five years. Nebraska has finished 40th or worse nationally in points allowed in three out of Pelini’s five seasons and ranked 90th against the run last year.
Although the audio tapes of Pelini’s rant are making the rounds this week, it’s not a huge factor in terms of job status. The embattled coach needs to be judged on the on-field results and trajectory of the program.
Is it Time for Nebraska to Part With Bo Pelini?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Nebraska has a difficult decision to make with Bo Pelini. And this has nothing to do with the audio tapes released this week, as the decision about his future needs to be about what happens on the field. The Cornhuskers have won at least nine games in each of his five full seasons and played for the Big Ten title in 2012. However, the defense – Pelini’s specialty – has struggled, and recruiting isn’t getting any better. Is Nebraska as good of a job as it was in the 1990s? That’s certainly debatable. However, there are high expectations in Lincoln, and Pelini does not have a conference title. Looking ahead to 2014, Nebraska will be in an easier division, but quarterback Taylor Martinez is gone. Even though Pelini hasn’t been hitting nine or ten wins every year, if Nebraska doesn’t win the division title, I think the Cornhuskers will have a new coach roaming the sidelines next year.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a loaded question due to bad timing and the many different angles to consider. First, Bo Pelini has led his team to three division titles and three conference championship games in six years. But he is abrasive and has treated a lot of people with disrespect (not unlike most head coaches). But the release of this inappropriately recorded post-game rant — following a win, mind you — reeks of resentment and petty immaturity. So if you are basing your opinions on Pelini's long-term future on some two-minute sound bite that took place two years ago, you are no more mature and out-of-context than the jilted fan who leaked the tape. If you think Pelini shouldn't be the head coach at Nebraska because he team choked away a 21-3 home lead against UCLA, his defense is horrendous, and he's lost at least four games in every season, then I'm listening. He has done good things with the talent he is bringing in but he also needs to take the blame for not bringing in top-25 talent. An amicable divorce and fresh start for both might be what's best for all parties involved.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
If it’s Nebraska’s choice, the Cornhuskers shouldn’t make a coaching change. Bo Pelini isn’t the world’s biggest charmer during the season, but not many coaches are. Still, he’s been around long enough to know better than to be dismissive of Tommie Frazier, and the leaked audio from two years ago is ugly. But both should be non-factors. As for on the field, the knee-jerk reaction to the UCLA game is as hotheaded as anything Pelini has ever done. Only nine teams in the country have won more games since Pelini took over in 2008. Only 16 teams have a better win percentage. On both of those lists, Nebraska is ahead of Florida State, Georgia, South Carolina and Wisconsin. The Cornhuskers have reached a conference championship game three times in five seasons. Nebraska hasn’t won any of them, and Pelini is short on statement wins. That’s reason to be disappointed, but hardly a reason to ditch a coach. Nebraska wasn’t satisfied with Frank Solich, either, and things so bad under Bill Callahan the Huskers needed to hire Pelini in the first place. However, if Pelini is really miserable at Nebraska, I wouldn’t blame him from trying his hand at a new stop. I’m sure a handful of programs would be glad to have him.
Bo Pelini is 51-21 as Nebraska's head coach and despite winning consistently (at least nine wins in each of his first five seasons), he has seemed to worn out his welcome in Lincoln. While Pelini has certainly stuck his foot in his mouth or let his emotions get the best of him on more than one occasion, it's not like the bottom has dropped out for this Cornhuskers team either. Nebraska is 2-1 after three games, the exact same record it had at this point last season, with both losses coming to UCLA. The 2012 team went on to win 10 games and play for the Big Ten championship, goals that are still well within reach for this season. Pelini is 29-11 in Big Ten play in his tenure, so in my opinion now is not the time to consider a coaching change. Conference play opens for Big Red in October against Illinois. If the defense continues to struggle and the other issues persist into next month, then perhaps it's time to take a long look at where this program is headed.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
No. I know the UCLA loss and audio recording hurts Cornhusker fans, but be careful with this one. While I understand the expectations that come with coaching at Nebraska, a program that didn’t finish a single season out of the AP Top 25 from 1969-2001 and made 33 straight bowl appearances, I believe Pelini needs to be given a few more years as the program has been trending upward. Those calling for Pelini’s ouster are fair to point out his subpar recruiting classes, a lack of statement wins and disappointing defenses. While such points are valid, I would caution those at Nebraska charged with this decision to consider the simple truth that things could be much worse. Look at the slides experienced by other perennial top 25 powers like Texas, USC, Miami (Fla.), Auburn and Tennessee. Nebraska fans know better than anyone how quickly a program can go downhill. Pelini has brought the Cornhuskers out of the dark days of the Bill Callahan years, with five consecutive bowl appearances. While the past five years have been a far cry from the Osborne years, Nebraska has consistently been a top-20 program. Let’s see if he can win a quality bowl game this year and revisit the issue in January.
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Nebraska’s Bo Pelini has reached a defining point of his tenure in Lincoln.
After a bad performance against UCLA, audio tapes surfaced of Pelini calling out the Cornhuskers’ fans and media members after a 2011 victory against Ohio State. The tapes, which are filled with expletives, aren’t sitting well with the athletic department.
Although the audio tapes are a bad look for Pelini, they should have no impact on his job status. The real evaluation on Pelini needs to come on the field.
The Cornhuskers are 51-21 under Pelini, but is that enough to keep his job?
Nebraska is considered one of the top-20 coaching jobs and has a strong tradition of success. The facilities are also among the best nationally.
The only downside to coaching at Nebraska is the lack of a local recruiting base.
Expectations are always difficult to gauge for each program. But at Nebraska, you are expected to win big.
Analyzing Bo Pelini's Tenure at Nebraska
|2008||9-4||5-3||T-1st Big 12 North|
|2009||10-4||6-2||1st Big 12 North|
|2010||10-4||6-2||T-1st Big 12 North|
|2011||9-4||5-3||3rd Big Ten Legends|
|2012||10-4||7-1||1st Big Ten Legends|
Pelini has been pretty consistent in his tenure. Nebraska has won at least nine games in each of the last five seasons but has also lost two or three conference contests in four of those years. The Cornhuskers’ 10-4 mark (7-1 in Big Ten play) resulted in an appearance in the Big Ten title game. However, Nebraska was handled by Wisconsin and lost to Georgia 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl. It's fair to wonder if program expectations are too high, but the Cornhuskers are still searching for a breakthrough under Pelini.
Although Pelini deserves credit for consistency, the program seems stagnant. Winning nine or ten games a year is good for some programs, but not at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers expect championships and BCS bowls. Pelini has not delivered.
* Ranks using 247sports.com
|Year||National Rank||Conference Rank||5* Signed||4* Signed|
|2008||29th||6th in Big 12||0||3|
|2009||39th||4th in Big 12||0||2|
|2010||26th||5th in Big 12||0||4|
|2011||17th||2nd in Big Ten||0||9|
|2012||31st||3rd in Big Ten||0||8|
|2013||22nd||3rd in Big Ten||0||7|
|2014||46th (as of Sept. 17)||7th in Big Ten||0||0|
In the two classes prior to Pelini’s arrival, Nebraska’s signing class ranked No. 38 in 2006 and No. 43 in 2007. While there has been some slight improvement under Pelini, the recruiting hasn’t gotten significantly better. The Cornhuskers have not signed a five-star prospect under his watch, and the four-star recruits have decreased since signing nine in 2011.
Performance on Defense
Pelini was regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the nation prior to his arrival at Nebraska. But his results on defense haven’t matched his pedigree. The above numbers are especially puzzling when you consider Nebraska’s move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. The Big 12 is a better overall conference when it comes to offense, so shouldn’t the numbers look better in the Big Ten?
There are some bright spots for Nebraska in these numbers, as the Cornhuskers finished fourth nationally in pass defense in 2012 and first in scoring defense in 2009. However, more was expected out of Pelini’s defenses, and Nebraska is clearly struggling on that side of the ball in 2013.
Performance Against Top 25 Teams
In order to get a better judge on Pelini’s performance against top 25 teams, we would need to look at all 125 coaches and compare. However, his tenure is trending down, as Nebraska is just 3-5 in its last eight games against top-25 teams. Nebraska also has some puzzling losses under Pelini’s watch, losing to unranked teams in 2009 (Texas Tech, 31-10), 2010 (Texas 20-13), 2011 (Northwestern 28-25) and 2012 (UCLA 36-30 and Wisconsin 70-31).
Winning 51 games isn’t an awful tenure, but it’s easy to see why Pelini hasn’t taken this program to the next level. Nebraska’s recruiting isn’t getting better, and the defense has been inconsistent. The Cornhuskers 10-4 record with an appearance in the Big Ten title game was a step in the right direction, but the defense has been torched in four out of its last five games.
Forget the audio tapes. Pelini’s tenure should be judged on the data above. Is 51-21 good enough for Nebraska? It's fair to wonder if the expectations are too high in Lincoln, but the Cornhuskers are a top-20 program. Does Pelini deserve some credit for consistency? Sure. But is nine wins good enough at Nebraska? The answer here is pretty easy: No.