Articles By Steven Lassan
Catching up on the news from around the nation....
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College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, November 13th
Lost Lettermen wonders: Does Mack Brown have a deal with the devil?
Who are college football's most overpaid coaches?
How much will it cost Florida State to extend Jimbo Fisher's contract?
A couple of Boston College defenders were highlighted for their performance against Virginia Tech.
Will Nebraska have quarterback Taylor Martinez back in the lineup this year?
UConn is making a change at quarterback after losing to Louisville last Friday.
Is Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell to blame for the offensive issues in Norman?
Virginia Tech will have a new athletic director in 2014.
Some theories as to why Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin won't completely squash any rumors about interest in other jobs.
Why is Virginia football struggling?
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is definitely playing this week against Utah.
Good takes on Florida coach Will Muschamp here and here.
A film study on South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney with a look to the NFL.
Arkansas and Kentucky are the only winless teams in SEC play, combining for an 0-11 mark through Week 11. Both programs are in the midst of a rebuild project behind first-year coaches.
Bret Bielema went 68-24 in seven seasons at Wisconsin, leading the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances at the end of his tenure in Madison.
But Bielema has found life in the SEC more difficult than the week-to-week grind in the Big Ten.
Arkansas is 3-7 and has a seven-game losing streak entering next week’s game against Mississippi State.
Kentucky is in a similar situation under first-year coach Mark Stoops. The Wildcats won two non-conference games but lost to Western Kentucky and Louisville in games outside of the SEC.
Kentucky has been more competitive in conference games this season, but with Vanderbilt, Georgia and Tennessee remaining, it’s hard to see the Wildcats earning a victory in SEC play.
Arkansas or Kentucky: Which program has a tougher rebuilding project ahead?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
This is a tough call, as both programs and new coaches have a significant rebuilding effort ahead in 2014 and beyond. The balance of power in the SEC has shifted from the East to the West. With Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Auburn all likely to be picked among the top 15-20 teams in the nation next year, the Razorbacks will have a tough time getting bowl eligible. The schedule for Arkansas is just brutal, which features road trips to Auburn, Texas Tech, Mississippi State and Missouri. One positive for coach Bret Bielema is the emergence of a couple of key freshmen, including running back Alex Collins, defensive tackle Darius Philon and offensive linemen Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland. Kentucky is playing better under new coach Mark Stoops, but the Wildcats are likely to go winless in SEC play for the second consecutive season. Stoops is recruiting at a high level, which should allow Kentucky to close the gap in the SEC East. Considering the current climate of the SEC, it’s hard to envision either program taking a huge step forward in 2014. However, I would give Kentucky a slight edge to turn things around faster, especially since the West appears to be the tougher division for the next couple of years.
Both teams are currently languishing in the basement of their respective divisions in the nation's toughest conference. Neither job is going to be easy, but for me the difference comes down to three words - location, location, location. Arkansas is the tougher rebuilding job in the SEC because the Hogs are in the same division as the two-time defending national champions, as well as LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Auburn. Those five teams are bigger brands than Arkansas and appear to have more momentum than the Hogs right now, whether that be related to on the field success or off of it, or a combination of the two. Even Mississippi State is capable of making some noise in one area or the other in any given year.
As far as the East is concerned, I see a much clearer path for Kentucky to work its way up the food chain, if you will, as Georgia and South Carolina are by far the most solid and established programs at the moment, although Florida is capable of righting the ship fairly quickly. Otherwise, the Wildcats have to contend with a rebuilding Tennessee program that's lost plenty of its luster in recent years, the new kids on the SEC block in Missouri and a Vanderbilt team that has made some strides in recent years, but still has a long ways to go and some natural obstacles (such as facilities, academics, tradition, etc.) it will always have to overcome. Kentucky may be at the bottom right now, but I think it's path of resistance isn't anywhere near as clogged as Arkansas' appears to be. Bret Bielema took a solid Wisconsin program and helped it reach the next level during his tenure in Madison. He's starting over in Fayetteville with far less in the cupboard and an even bigger hill to climb in the SEC West than what he faced on a yearly basis in the Big Ten.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
My first instinct is that Kentucky is always the tougher rebuilding job, but I’m not so sure in this landscape. First, “rebuilding” is different at Kentucky than it is at Arkansas. Rich Brooks is beloved at UK after winning seven games every year and going to bowls. Arkansas believes it should compete for national championships every year, whether or not that’s realistic. Kentucky is following a clear recruiting blueprint of going into Ohio and grabbing players who Ohio State didn’t want or those who’d rather play in the SEC for Kentucky than play for a second-tier team in the Big Ten. That’s a formula proven to work at Kentucky, even if it might tougher with Louisville in the ACC. Arkansas, though, has to recruit Texas and the Southeast. The best Texas kids are going to go to Texas or Oklahoma, and if they want to play in the SEC, they can go to Texas A&M. Evaluation is going to be paramount for Arkansas, especially as teams like Auburn and Ole Miss are on the rebound in the West.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com and Crystal Ball Run
Rebuilding at Kentucky is always going to be the biggest project to take on. While things look bleak for Arkansas right now, the Razorbacks are in a position where football comes first and there is a history of actual success on the football field to build off of. Arkansas does seem to have some bigger challenges in terms of recruiting by sharing the same division as Alabama, LSU and now Texas A&M but sometimes that can be a positive as well. All Arkansas needs is the right coach, and it is premature to suggest Bret Bielema is not that guy. The Razorbacks have the facilities and the fan base to help support the program and it should be an easier program to bring in recruits capable of turning things around in a relatively short period of time.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
Arkansas is by far the better program; however, many point to the rigors of the West as a big reason why Bret Bielema will be unable to turn things around in Fayetteville. Let's not act like the SEC East is a cakewalk. With stable programs like Florida, Georgia and South Carolina along with improving programs in Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, Mark Stoops doesn't have any easy wins on the schedule. Sure Stoops is recruiting better at the moment, but I think the lack of true interest and support behind football at Kentucky will eventually hurt recruiting during his tenure. Kentucky has always been basketball first and will always be that way. Make no bones about it, Arkansas is all about their football team. In the coming years, the Razorbacks should be able to move ahead of teams like Mississippi State and Ole Miss and remain on the level of an Auburn on a consistent basis. And who knows what happens to Texas A&M after Johnny Manziel leaves or Alabama if Saban bolts to Texas. I think Kentucky will still be relegated to the last two or three teams in the East, while I see more potential for the Razorbacks to finish in the middle of the pack in the West.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
The answer most often is Kentucky. But right now, I think Arkansas is the tougher rebuilding job. The Razorbacks play in a division that features Alabama and LSU at the top and has Auburn and Texas A&M climbing the ranks of the most powerful in the conference. Ole Miss is in great shape and appears to be improving under head coach Hugh Freeze. That leaves Arkansas and Mississippi State to battle it out for the last spot in the West. Arkansas does have a proven head coach in Bret Bielema and talent-rich states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas nearby to recruit. But it’s a bad time to be rebuilding considering the state of the other programs inside Arkansas’ division. Kentucky’s road isn’t much easier, but there are spots up for grabs in the SEC East. If quarterback commitment Drew Barker pans out for Kentucky, the Wildcats could be a tough out in the next few years.
Alabama and Florida State are in the driver’s seat to play for the national title, but there’s a spirited debate to find the top one-loss team in college football.
Is it Stanford? The Cardinal rank as the highest one-loss team in the BCS (No. 4), and David Shaw’s team is coming off a huge win on Thursday night against Oregon. Stanford’s only loss in 2013 was at Utah.
After Stanford, Oregon, Auburn, Clemson and Missouri are all in the mix. Auburn might be playing as well as anyone outside of Alabama, Florida State and Baylor right now, but the Tigers rank No. 7 in the BCS.
Who is College Football's Best One-Loss Team in 2013?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Could go a couple of different directions in this answer, but on a neutral field, I would take Stanford as the best one-loss team in the nation. The Cardinal convincingly beat Oregon last Thursday and rank as the highest one-loss team in the BCS standings at No. 4. Stanford’s passing attack doesn’t scare most opposing defenses (averaging only 177.4 ypg in Pac-12 play), but the Cardinal boast one of the nation’s best defenses, holding the last 18 opponents under 30 points. The offensive line also has an argument as one of the best in college football, and running back Tyler Gaffney is averaging 116.4 yards per game in conference play. Stanford isn’t necessarily going to win any style points most weeks or impress anyone with flash, but the bottom line with David Shaw’s teams is they are stout on defense and find just enough offense to win.
My choice comes with a caveat. With a healthy Marcus Mariota, I believe Oregon is the best one-loss team in the nation. Yes, I know that Stanford beat Mariota and the Ducks last Thursday, somewhat convincingly at that, but the Heisman Trophy contender wasn't at 100 percent and Oregon still had a chance to win a game in which they were thoroughly dominated for three quarters. Even with a loss, which could end up ruining the Ducks' national title hopes, I still think Oregon is one of the nation's top teams. It's certainly one of the most talented teams, one that is capable of getting the job done on either side of the ball. However, taking into consideration Mariota's knee injury, I would lean towards Clemson over Stanford as the best one-loss team. Clemson's lone defeat was against Florida State, a team that is seemingly headed to the BCS National Championship Game, as it has pretty much dominated the rest of its opponents. While the Seminoles absolutely manhandled the Tigers on their own home field, I like Clemson's offense, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and feels its defense is not getting the credit it deserves. I know that Stanford arguably "earned" this title by virtue of its victory over Oregon, but the Tigers get my paw, er stamp, of approval when it comes to this debate.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
To me, it’s pretty clear that’s Stanford. I’m not sure if I would’ve said that a week ago before the Cardinal defeated Oregon. Sometimes teams like Oregon, Florida State and Alabama spoil us. Even Baylor is doing the same. They’re making it look too easy to pile up points quickly. Stanford’s not built the same way, and sometimes it’s easy to overlook Stanford that way. Stanford is as brutally efficient and overpowering as Alabama. Stanford is more of a classic SEC team on the field than most of the SEC this season. And the SEC-like quality of the schedule is why Stanford needs to be taken most seriously. According to Jeff Sagarin’s ratings, Stanford is 4-1 against top-30 teams right now. Part of that is because Sagarin is far higher on Arizona State and Washington than the rest of the BCS or the pollsters. Granted, there’s little excuse for Stanford to have lost to Utah, but anyone paying close attention knows how difficult Utah is in Salt Lake City.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com and Crystal Ball Run
Stanford has exactly the kind of overall team that can cause problems for everybody in the country. They may not be a team capable of beating a team like Alabama or a Florida State, but as we saw against Oregon Stanford has proven they have a very good defense capable of shutting down even the most explosive offenses. Auburn’s running game is phenomenal but what will happen when a team shuts that down? I also can’t trust their defense too much against better competition. Missouri is a bit of a wild card for me but I’m paying attention to them. For now, I feel comfortable counting on Stanford to come out on top if paired up against any other one-loss team, including Clemson.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
Despite their loss to Stanford last week, I'm still going to say Oregon is the best one-loss team. The Cardinal match up very well against Oregon, but on a neutral field I would put my money on Mark Helfrich's squad as the better overall team. In fact, I think this is actually the best team Oregon has had in the last decade. Marcus Mariota has had a Heisman-caliber season, but he just wasn't 100 percent last week and, as a result, the Ducks seemed off rhythm all game. Despite this, they still almost beat Stanford. If I look at Oregon compared to the other one-loss teams I think the only one they would have trouble with is Stanford, while I think the Cardinal would struggle against Missouri, Clemson and Auburn.
Northwestern running back Venric Mark was expected to be one of the top playmakers in the Big Ten this season. Unfortunately for Mark, injuries have limited the standout running back to just three games and 31 carries. The senior has 97 rushing yards and five receptions for 48 yards.
On Monday, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald announced Mark would miss the rest of the 2013 with a broken ankle. Mark suffered the injury against Wisconsin and was unable to recover in time to return this year.
If there’s any bright spot for Northwestern, it appears the senior will be able to get a medical redshirt and return in 2014. The Wildcats have been one of the nation’s most disappointing teams in 2013 but having Mark return next season will help this team rebound in the Big Ten.
A handful of college football teams have worn patriotic helmets and uniforms in recent weeks (largely in support of Veterans Day), and South Florida will continue that trend on Saturday.
The Bulls unveiled this helmet to wear against Memphis on Nov. 16:
USC and Texas were two of the biggest disappointments after the first month of the college football season.
USC started 3-2, with wins over Hawaii, Boston College and Utah State. The Trojans had a disappointing 10-7 home loss to Washington State and were dominated in a 62-41 defeat at Arizona State.
After the loss to Arizona State, Lane Kiffin was fired and Ed Orgeron was promoted to head coach.
Under Orgeron’s watch, USC is 4-1 and is back in the Pac-12 South title picture.
Texas started 1-2, losing by at least 19 points to both BYU and Ole Miss.
Coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and promoted Greg Robinson to call the defensive signals. The Longhorns enter Week 12 on a six-game winning streak, but the toughest portion of their schedule is still to come.
Texas or USC: Which turnaround has been more impressive in 2013?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
This one is a tossup, but I give a slight edge to USC. When Ed Orgeron took over for Lane Kiffin in late September, the Trojans were 0-2 in conference play, injuries and scholarship issues were starting to show in the lineup, and most figured it would be a struggle for USC just to get bowl eligible. Since Orgeron’s promotion, USC almost looks like what we expect from this program on a yearly basis. The Trojans have won four out of their last five, with the only defeat coming in South Bend against Notre Dame – a game USC could have easily won. With Stanford and UCLA remaining on the schedule, the Trojans aren’t out of the Pac-12 South title picture and could work their way into one of the conference’s top bowl games. Both sides of the ball have been impressive under Orgeron, as the offense has scored at least 30 points in three out of the last five games, and the defense held three opponents under 14 points or less. Texas’ turnaround has been impressive, but even after a 1-2 start, this team had yet to play a Big 12 game and still had a favorable schedule upcoming. Credit to both Orgeron and Texas coach Mack Brown for pushing the right buttons since the slow starts, but USC’s turnaround has been more impressive.
Credit to Ed Orgeron for rescuing the sinking ship that was USC, and with a limited crew no less, but as the saying goes, "everything is bigger in Texas" and it's no different when it comes to turnarounds. Back in September, the cries were loud and clear that it was time for Mack Brown to head out to pasture, as his Longhorns were coming off of back-to-back drubbings to BYU and Ole Miss. Since then, Brown's herd has reeled off six straight victories, none bigger than the 36-20 win over Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry that pretty much no one saw coming. Now while the games haven't always been pretty, such as a one-point win over lowly Iowa State and an overtime road victory against West Virginia on Saturday, Texas has taken care of business and as a result controls its own destiny in the Big 12. The Longhorns have three big games remaining, starting with Saturday's home date with Oklahoma State and culminating with the regular-season finale at Baylor, but the path is clear — win out and Texas claims the conference title and automatic BCS bowl bid. From the hot seat to the driver's seat in two months is pretty impressive, especially in the football-crazed hotbed that is the Lone Star State.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I have to give the credit to Texas on this one. The expectations on USC were pretty low entering the season, especially on offense. The assumption for Texas, however, was that the Longhorns had the talent to make a run at the Big 12 title even after they underachieved last season. That looked ridiculous after the BYU and Ole Miss gashed the Texas defense early this season. The Longhorns also lost linebacker Jordan Hicks again to injury, a player who was described as they key cog to their run defense. Of course, both programs brought in a failed head coach to take the reins, Ed Orgeron at USC and Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator at Texas. Both are major surprises, but Texas really could have given up on the season, but now we’re looking at the Longhorns as a potential Big 12 champion. Crazy as it sounds, but Mack Brown might deserve league coach of the year for that.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com and Crystal Ball Run
While it has been remarkable for the ways both USC and Texas have seemed to save their seasons, I think what the Trojans have done is slightly more impressive. Both teams got off to a rough start and made changes on the staff, but USC went so far as to fire their head coach while Texas changed defensive coordinators. I had no idea if USC would be able to turn things around under Ed Orgeron, but he has certainly found a way to give everyone associated with the Trojans a new outlook on what they are doing, and it shows. USC has regained its swagger, they are playing to their strengths as they get healthier on offense, and the defense has regained their footing as well. USC still has a good way to go and they may not be a Pac 12 contender at this point, but they are one of the teams nobody will want to be paired up with any week from this point out.
True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether it's a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the ACC to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference in Week 11.
ACC Stats to Know from Week 11
296: Florida State’s total offense against Wake Forest
With a final score of 59-3, it was a bit of a surprise to see Florida State’s offense only record 296 yards against Wake Forest. However, the Seminoles played a chunk of the game with backups and eight drives started in Demon Deacon territory. With its first-team offense, Florida State scored on its opening possession by going 80 yards in 13 plays. The 296 yards of total offense were the lowest of 2013 and the first time under 300 since recording 290 in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl victory over Notre Dame. The overall yardage isn’t something to be concerned about, but this total illustrates just how dominant the Seminoles can be in all three phases of the game.
256: Yards needed by Boston College RB Andre Williams for a school single-season record
Boston College’s passing offense ranks 12th in ACC-only games with an average of 132.8 yards per game, but there’s not much of a need to throw the ball with Williams carrying the load. The senior has benefited from the coaching change to Steve Addazio, setting a career high of 1,471 yards on 246 attempts this year. Williams has three consecutive games of at least 160 yards and has three 200-yard games in 2013. Mike Cloud set the single-season school record with 1,726 yards in 1998. With three regular season games (and likely a bowl) remaining in 2013, Williams should record 256 yards to break Cloud’s record.
1994: Before 2013, 1994 was Duke’s last season with a winning record
Saturday’s 38-20 win over NC State assured Duke of its first winning record since 1994. The Blue Devils could add to their win total, as games against Miami, Wake Forest and North Carolina are very winnable. Duke has not won nine games since 1941 and does not have a season of double-digit wins in school history. The Blue Devils have 13 wins over the last two years, which is the same amount the program recorded from 1999-2007.
5-11: Miami’s record versus Florida State and Virginia Tech since 2005
In terms of job hierarchy, Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech are three of the top four programs in the ACC. The Hurricanes have never played for the ACC Championship since joining the league in 2004 and have struggled to beat Florida State and Virginia Tech on a consistent basis. Miami is just 5-11 against both schools since 2005, with the last victory against the Seminoles coming in 2009. The Hurricanes defeated Virginia Tech in 2012 but have lost four out of the last five meetings. If Miami is going to rejoin college football’s elite, it has to start beating Florida State and Virginia Tech on a more consistent basis.
2.2: Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald leads the nation in tackles for a loss per game
Donald has dominated the line of scrimmage and wrecked havoc on opposing offensive lines all year. The senior has 19.5 tackles for a loss through nine games and is averaging 2.2 per contest. Donald recorded six in a loss against Georgia Tech and four in a win against New Mexico.
244.4: Syracuse’s rushing average in five wins
With a first-year quarterback (Terrel Hunt) under center, it’s clear Syracuse’s offensive gameplan has to rest on the ground game. In five victories, the Orange is averaging 244.4 rushing yards per game. In Syracuse’s four losses, it is averaging just 150.5 yards per content, with that number skewed slightly by 323 yards against Clemson. The Orange is four-deep at running back, with three out of the four options averaging at least five yards a carry. The only rusher averaging less than that mark is starter Jerome Smith (4.9 ypc).
0-16: Maryland’s record after Oct. 13 under Randy Edsall
Edsall is just 11-22 in his Maryland tenure, but games after Oct. 13 have been especially problematic. The Terrapins have suffered a rash of injuries over the last two years, which has played a huge role in the team’s late-season struggles. However, 10 of the 16 losses suffered after Oct. 13 has been by 15 points or more.
8: Losses by Virginia in a season in three out of four years under Mike London
After an 8-5 mark in 2011, the arrow seemed to be pointing up for London’s tenure at Virginia. However, the Cavaliers have regressed the last two years, recording a 6-16 mark in that span. Virginia’s win over BYU in Week 1 is one of the more puzzling results of 2013, especially with the Cavaliers’ performance in ACC play. Virginia has lost at least seven games in six out of the last seven years. London got a vote of confidence from athletic director Craig Littlepage earlier this year, but is a 2-10 finish too much to overcome?
6: Touchdowns scored by freshmen or sophomores for North Carolina against Virginia
In North Carolina’s 45-14 win over Virginia, most of the damage was done by a promising core of young players for coach Larry Fedora. With Bryn Renner out for the year with a shoulder injury, sophomore Marquise Williams stepped into the lineup at quarterback, and the offense didn’t miss a beat. Williams threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 46 yards and one score. Williams also caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from receiver Quinshad Davis. Freshman running back Khris Francis caught a touchdown pass, and freshman receiver Ryan Switzer returned a punt 85 yards for a score. Freshman safety Dominique Green returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
6: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins has six 100-yard games in 2013
Watkins has been the preferred target for Clemson, catching 66 of the quarterback’s 244 completions in 2013. The junior has six 100-yard games in 2013 and has at least 163 receiving yards in back-to-back games. The six 100-yard games in 2013 is a career-best for Watkins.
1984: The last time NC State won fewer than two games in conference play
With two conference games remaining, NC State is a disappointing 0-6 in ACC play. The Wolfpack are in transition under new coach Dave Doeren, and quarterback play has been a problem with an early injury to Brandon Mitchell. However, this wasn’t the season most expected from NC State, especially with a favorable schedule. The Wolfpack play at Boston College this Saturday and close the regular season with a home game against Maryland. NC State’s last winless season conference play occurred in 1959.
5-2: Georgia Tech’s record against Clemson in the last seven matchups
The Tigers have won two out of the last three meetings in this series, but Georgia Tech has a 5-2 edge in the last seven matchups. The Yellow Jackets defeated Clemson in the ACC Championship in 2009 but have not won in Death Valley since 2008. These two teams have met for some entertaining affairs, but the last three matchups were decided by at least 14 points.
2: Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas has back-to-back 300-yard games
For the first time in his career, Thomas has thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games. The senior threw for 391 yards in a loss to Boston College but rebounded with 366 yards and two scores in a win over Miami. Thomas’ solid performance against the Hurricanes was a key cog in the Virginia Tech victory, which put Frank Beamer’s team back in the mix for the Coastal Division title.
With 11 weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is starting to come into focus.
The fourth release of the BCS standings saw another change at the top. With Stanford’s victory over Oregon on Thursday night, Florida State is in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 spot and a shot at Alabama in the national championship. With a schedule that features games against Idaho, Syracuse and Florida in the regular season, it’s hard to find a loss on the Seminoles’ schedule. The ACC Championship should be the toughest remaining game, but Florida State will be favored by at least two touchdowns over every possible opponent.
Losing to Stanford knocked Oregon out of the national title picture, but the Ducks are still in good shape for a BCS bowl – if they win out. Although there’s a lot of football left this year, Clemson and Oregon could meet in the Orange Bowl, which could be one of the more intriguing BCS bowl matchups in recent years.
The SEC continues to be the toughest conference to sort out for bowl bids. Auburn gets a slight edge over South Carolina, Missouri and Texas A&M for the second BCS bowl spot. But this order is likely to change in the next few weeks, especially since Texas A&M still has to play Missouri and LSU, while South Carolina hosts in-state rival Clemson in the regular season finale. With Vanderbilt's win over Florida, the Commodores are one win away from bowl eligibility and still have Kentucky and Wake Forest on the schedule.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but with less than one month to go in the season, it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like.
The post-Week 11 bowl projections are a mixture between projections for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first 11 weeks of action. Expect more changes over the next few weeks. With several teams projected to be right around the six-win mark, more at-large spots in bowls should open in the next month.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including Maryland and Utah from BCS conferences. And Texas State, UTSA, Ohio, Bowling Green, Troy and Arkansas State from the non-BCS ranks.
College Football's Post-Week 11 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Colo. State vs. Oregon State|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||UNLV vs. Buffalo|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Utah State vs. Arizona|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Toledo* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||SJSU vs. Rice|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. Syracuse*|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Boise State vs. Notre Dame*|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||E. Carolina vs. Boston College|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||K-State vs. Minnesota|
|Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. USC|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Rutgers vs. West Virginia|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Houston vs. Duke|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Louisville vs. Miami|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Texas vs. Nebraska|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Navy vs. SDSU|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Ga. Tech vs. Ole Miss|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Oklahoma vs. UCLA|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Arizona State vs. Texas Tech|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Pittsburgh vs. ULM*|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||North Carolina vs. Washington|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Tennessee vs. Marshall|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Virginia Tech vs. Missouri|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Georgia vs. Michigan|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||North Texas vs. Iowa|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Michigan State vs. South Carolina|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Wisconsin vs. Texas A&M|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Ohio State vs. Stanford|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Baylor|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Auburn vs. UCF|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Oklahoma State|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. Oregon|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Ball State vs. Western Kentucky|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Florida State|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
Bold indicates team has accepted bid to bowl.
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9 Stats to Know from Week 11
Another week, another college football coach fired. Ron English was dismissed a day before Eastern Michigan was set to take on Western Michigan last week. Eastern Michigan is one of the toughest jobs in the nation, but English’s teams showed little progress, and language used in an audio recording during a meeting was the final straw in his tenure in Ypsilanti.
With English’s dismissal, Virginia’s Mike London moves to the top of the hot seat watch. London has lost eight games for the third time in his tenure. The Cavaliers are likely headed for a 2-10, as they will be underdogs against Miami and Virginia Tech. London and his assistants have a significant buyout, so the former ACC Coach of the Year is likely to return for 2014.
Nebraska’s Bo Pelini and Texas’ Mack Brown have ranked near the top of the hot seat watch all year, but both teams have moved down after recent victories. The Cornhuskers won at Michigan in Week 11, which keeps Pelini’s team alive in the Legends Division. The Longhorns survived a trip to West Virginia with an overtime win, but running back Johnathan Gray and defensive tackle Chris Whaley were lost for the year. The schedule is about to get tougher for Texas, so Brown will have his work cut out for him in the final few weeks of 2013.
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top 10-15 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||Mike London||2-8||UVA has lost 8 games in 4 out of last 5 years.|
|2||Charlie Weis||2-7||Freshman QB Montell Cozart has potential.|
|3||Norm Chow||0-9||Warriors look to avoid first winless season since '98.|
|4||Ron Turner||1-8||FIU has not scored in three games this year.|
|6||Tim Beckman||3-6||Illini has lost 19 straight Big Ten games.|
|7||Will Muschamp||4-5||Gators headed for first losing season since 1979.|
|8||Dave Christensen||4-5||Wyoming just 8-13 since playing in bowl in 2011.|
|9||Dana Holgorsen||4-6||Mountaineers showing signs of improvement.|
|10||Garrick McGee||2-7||UAB's last winning record was in 2004.|
|11||Bobby Hauck||5-5||Rebels still need a win to get bowl eligible.|
|12||Randy Edsall||5-4||Terrapins have lost 4 out of last 5 games.|
|14||Bo Pelini||7-2||Still alive in the Legends Division title mix.|
|16||Bill Blankenship||2-7||Headed for worst finish since 1-11 mark in 2002.|
|17||Kevin Wilson||4-5||Hoosiers' bowl hopes require big upset.|
|23||Doug Martin||1-9||Aggies gave Boston College all it could handle.|
|24||Skip Holtz||4-5||Bulldogs have won three out of last four.|
|27||Jim Grobe||4-6||Demon Deacons simply overmatched against FSU.|
|28||Troy Calhoun||2-8||AFA has not won fewer than 4 games since 1980.|
|29||Mack Brown||7-2||Injuries starting to pile up in Austin.|
|31||Brian Polian||3-7||Wolf Pack will miss bowl for the first time since 2004.|
|37||Tony Levine||7-2||Cougars much-improved in Levine's second year.|
|39||Kirk Ferentz||6-4||Good rebound season for Ferentz.|
|44||Jeff Quinn||7-2||Bulls in driver's seat for MAC East title.|
|46||Rocky Long||5-4||Aztecs won five out of last six games.|
|52||Brady Hoke||6-3||Wolverines continue to struggle up front.|
|55||Kyle Whittingham||4-5||Utes need to win at Wazzu to have a shot at bowl.|
|57||Scott Shafer||5-4||Orange has allowed just 3 points in last two games.|
|64||Larry Fedora||4-5||Tar Heels have won three in a row.|
|69||Frank Beamer||7-3||Hokies back in the Coastal Division title mix.|
|71||Curtis Johnson||6-4||Green Wave has lost two in a row.|
|78||Bob Stoops||7-2||Does OU have an offensive identity?|
|82||Mark Helfrich||8-1||Ducks still alive for a BCS bowl.|
|84||Larry Coker||5-5||Roadrunners quietly impressive.|
|91||Dan McCarney||7-3||McCarney should be in National COY discussion.|
|NR||Stan Parrish||1-0||Parrish went 2-30-1 as K-State's coach from 1986-89.|
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 11 Awards and Power Rankings
Big 12 Week 11 Awards and Power Rankings
Big Ten Week 11 Awards and Power Rankings
Pac-12 Week 11 Awards and Power Rankings
SEC Week 11 Awards and Power Rankings
9 Stats to Know from Week 11
Texas’ Big 12 title hopes took a hit on Saturday night, as running back Johnathan Gray was lost for the season with an Achilles injury. Gray rushed for 780 yards and four touchdowns on 159 attempts in 2013.
With Gray sidelined, the Longhorns will lean more on Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Although Gray is the team’s best back, Brown and Bergeron are more than capable of leading the Texas’ ground attack.
Gray’s injury wasn’t the only setback Texas suffered against West Virginia. Defensive tackle Chris Whaley was also lost for the year.
The injuries come at the worst time of the year for Texas. The Longhorns have three tough games remaining: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor.
Texas RB Johnathan Gray (Achilles) and DT Chris Whaley (knee) both ruled out for the season.— ESPN Texas (@ESPNTexas) November 10, 2013
Marshall plays at Tulsa on Thursday night, which is the 33rd anniversary of the plane crash that killed 75 people returning from a game against East Carolina in 1970.
To honor the 75 victims, Marshall will wear a special “75” decal on its helmets for Thursday night's game against Tulsa:
With Oregon’s loss to Stanford on Thursday night, Florida State is officially in the driver’s seat to play for the national title. And the Seminoles continued to win in impressive fashion, handling Wake Forest 59-3.
North Carolina and Syracuse picked up key wins for bowl eligibility on Saturday, while Boston College survived a strange late-season road trip to New Mexico State.
Virginia Tech knocked off Miami 42-24 to add another twist in the race to win the Coastal Division. The Hokies need some help from the Hurricanes in Week 12, as they travel to Durham to take on a Duke team that controls its destiny in the Coastal Division.
Pittsburgh picked up a 28-21 upset win over Notre Dame, which moved the Panthers one step closer to bowl eligibility.
ACC Week 11 Awards and Recap
Offensive Player of the Week: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Thomas was on the hot seat after subpar performances against Duke and Boston College. However, with a Coastal Division title potentially on the line at Miami, the senior delivered one of his best performances of 2013. Thomas threw for 366 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 42 yards on the ground against the Hurricanes. Thomas completed 80.6 percent of his throws on Saturday night, which is the second highest mark in his career, ranking just behind a 23 of 25 performance against Miami in 2011. While the 408 total yards was impressive, Thomas’ biggest contribution to the victory was a zero in the interception column.
Defensive Player of the Week: Ray Vinopal, S, Pittsburgh
Vinopal was a key cog in Pittsburgh’s upset victory over Notre Dame. The junior tied for the team lead with seven tackles, forced one fumble and picked off two passes. Vinopal’s interceptions came at key moments for Pittsburgh’s defense, with the first pick coming while Notre Dame was in the redzone, and the second led to the winning score for the Panthers.
Team of the Week: Virginia Tech
This award could go to a couple of different teams, but Virginia Tech gets the honor for Week 11. The Hokies rebounded after back-to-back losses with a 42-24 victory at Miami to stay alive in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech forced two fumbles on special teams, which resulted in two scores and a 28-14 lead by halftime. The offense struggled in losses to Duke and Boston College, but quarterback Logan Thomas completed 25 of 31 throws for 366 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Trey Edmunds also had a solid performance, recording 74 yards and four scores on 14 rushing attempts. The Hokies’ defense limited Miami to only 28 rushing yards and sacked quarterback Stephen Morris three times. Virginia Tech needs some help to win the Coastal, but with games against Maryland and Virginia, a 9-3 final record is likely.
Coordinator of the Week: Jeremy Pruitt, Florida State
The Seminoles have a clear edge in talent against Wake Forest. However, even with a significant edge, it’s hard to ignore the performance of Florida State’s defense on Saturday. The Seminoles simply suffocated the Demon Deacons, allowing only 166 yards on 65 plays. Wake Forest averaged just 2.6 yards per play and lost seven turnovers. Quarterbacks Tyler Cameron and Tanner Price combined to throw six interceptions and only one drive for the Demon Deacons traveled into the redzone. With Florida State’s huge lead, Pruitt was able to empty the bench and gain valuable reps for some of the younger players, including linebackers Reggie Northrup and E.J. Levenberry. Since allowing 34 points to Boston College on Sept. 28, the Seminoles have allowed just 58 over their last five games. And with Pruitt and this defense getting more comfortable with each snap, Florida State can only get better on defense the rest of the season.
Freshman of the Week: DeVon Edwards, S, Duke
With Duke struggling to get its offense on track, the defense had to deliver a few big plays to seal the victory against NC State. And with the Blue Devils holding a slim 24-20 lead late in the fourth quarter, Edwards made two key plays that kept Duke alive in the Coastal Division title picture. The redshirt freshman picked off a Brandon Mitchell pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown, giving Duke a 31-20 lead. But that wasn’t Edwards’ last trip to the endzone, as he intercepted NC State quarterback Pete Thomas on the next offensive play and returned the pick 45 yards for a score. Edwards also scored on a 100-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. The freshman became the first FBS player to score three non-offensive touchdowns in 10 years.
ACC Post-Week 11 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||LW||Record||This Week||Next Week|
|1||1||9-0, 7-0||W, Wake Forest 59-3||Syracuse|
|2||2||8-1, 6-1||Bye||Ga. Tech (Thursday)|
|3||4||7-2, 3-2||W, NC State 38-20||Miami|
|4||3||6-3, 5-2||Bye||at Clemson (Thursday)|
|5||7||7-3, 4-2||W, Miami 42-24||Maryland|
|6||3||7-2, 3-2||L, Va. Tech 42-24||at Duke|
|7||9||5-4, 2-3||W, Notre Dame 28-21||North Carolina|
|8||8||4-5, 3-3||W, Virginia 45-14||at Pittsburgh|
|9||6||5-4, 2-3||W, NMSU 48-34||NC State|
|10||10||5-4, 3-2||W, Maryland 20-3||at Florida State|
|11||11||4-6, 2-5||L, Florida State 59-3||Bye Week|
|12||12||5-4, 1-4||L, Syracuse 20-3||at Virginia Tech|
|13||13||3-6, 0-6||L, Duke 38-20||at Boston College|
|14||14||2-8, 0-6||L, N. Carolina 45-14||Bye Week|
It’s been a disappointing year in Gainesville, as Florida’s 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt likely means the Gators will be home for the bowl season. And barring an upset against South Carolina or Florida State, Florida is headed for a losing record.
However, if there was a bright spot during Saturday’s loss, freshman receiver Ahmad Fulwood made an impressive catch in the fourth quarter. Fulwood caught a deflected pass off a Vanderbilt defensive back’s foot, and the freshman got his feet down in the endzone just in time for the touchdown catch.
Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough made one of the top plays of Week 11, hurdling a Kentucky defender on a fourth-down run in the first half.
Hansbrough ended up with a 15-yard gain on the play, which was one of a few highlight reel plays by Missouri in the 48-17 victory over the Wildcats.
Minnesota is one of the best storylines of the 2013 season. The Golden Gophers improved to 8-2 with a 24-10 win over Penn State on Saturday, and coach Jerry Kill celebrated with the team in the locker room by showcasing a few dance moves.
Since returning to the team after a short medical leave, Kill has been coaching from the press box for the last few games. However, the formula continues to work, as Minnesota has won four consecutive contests:
Miami has a huge Coastal Division showdown against Virginia Tech on Saturday night, and the Hurricanes unveiled a new alternate uniform for the showdown:
Here's a closeup of the new helmet. pic.twitter.com/eMuCchcNHN— Miami Hurricanes (@hurricanesports) November 9, 2013
Eastern Michigan fired coach Ron English a day before the program’s matchup against Western Michigan. English was 11-46 in his tenure with the Eagles.
Although English’s record was 11-46, Eastern Michigan is arguably the toughest job in the nation. The Eagles went 6-6 in 2011, which was the program’s non-losing season since 1995.
English’s win/loss record certainly factored into his dismissal. However, audio from a recent team meeting was the final straw in his tenure.
Here’s the statement from the school:
There's also audio of English's rant that prompted his dismissal (contains some inappropriate language)
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota entered Thursday night’s game against Stanford as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. However, the sophomore left Stanford with a major dent in his resume.
Mariota completed 20 of 34 passes for 250 yards and two scores. However, most of his damage came after the result was no longer in doubt.
The sophomore did not throw an interception, which extended his mistake-free streak in 2013 to 259 passes.
However, a big problem for Mariota was his mobility against Stanford’s aggressive defense. Mariota rushed for -16 yards and never seemed comfortable when trying to escape the pressure.
Was Mariota dealing with a knee injury? It seems that was the case, as reports before the game indicated the sophomore has a partial sprain of his MCL.
Source with knowledge of situation tells me Marcus Mariota has a partial sprain of his MCL #GoDucks— Collin Harmon (@Collin_Harmon) November 8, 2013
With over a week to heal before a home game against Utah, Mariota should be fine for next Saturday’s game against Utah.
Assuming Mariota is 100 percent, Oregon should finish 11-1 and play in a BCS bowl.
SEC heavyweights Alabama and LSU will collide on Saturday night with conference and national title implications. The 2013 meeting between the Crimson Tide and Tigers will be the fifth straight matchup where both programs rank among the top 15 teams in the Associated Press poll.
Even though Alabama has managed to lose twice in November and win the national title in back-to-back seasons, the Crimson Tide’s margin of error is a little smaller this year. Florida State and Ohio State are unlikely to lose a game in the regular season, while Baylor crossed one hurdle in its quest to finish 12-0 by beating Oklahoma on Thursday night.
With two losses, LSU has a chance to play spoiler on Saturday night. The Tigers are out of the BCS title picture and need a lot of help just to get back into the SEC Championship discussion. The pressure to win is clearly with Alabama, while LSU can play with nothing to lose.
Since 2010, Alabama has lost only five games. However, two of those defeats came at the hands of LSU. The Tigers won 24-21 in Baton Rouge in 2010 and 9-6 in Tuscaloosa in 2011. Alabama coach Nick Saban is 4-3 against LSU during his tenure in Tuscaloosa.
In the overall series, Alabama holds a 47-25-5 edge over LSU.
LSU at Alabama
Kickoff: 8 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Alabama – 12.5
Three Things to Watch
LSU’s wide receivers vs. Alabama’s secondary
Alabama’s secondary had to replace two key players coming into 2013 (safety Robert Lester and cornerback Dee Milliner), but this unit is still holding opponents to 197 passing yards per game in SEC contests. The Crimson Tide allowed 464 passing yards and five touchdown tosses to Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. However, Alabama has allowed just one other touchdown pass in SEC play this season. Coach Nick Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart are still trying to find the right mix at cornerback, as sophomore Bradley Sylve is dealing with a high ankle sprain and may not play against LSU. If Sylve is out, Eddie Jackson and Cyrus Jones will fight to start opposite of senior Deion Belue. This will be the biggest challenge for Alabama’s secondary since the Texas A&M matchup. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham form one of the nation’s best receiver duos, catching 106 passes for 1,891 yards and 16 touchdowns this year. Just how valuable are Landry and Beckham? LSU quarterbacks have completed 153 passes this year. Landry and Beckham have caught 106 of their passes. If LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has time to throw, Landry and Beckham should be able to make plays against Alabama’s secondary.
LSU’s rush defense
It’s a bit uncharacteristic to see LSU ranked No. 8 in the SEC (conference-only games) against the run. However, that’s what happens when ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo and tackle Bennie Logan leave early for the NFL, and seniors Lavar Edwards, Josh Downs and Chancey Aghayere expire their eligibility. The Tigers essentially have a new two-deep on the defensive line this year, and there’s not a senior in the rotation. Opponents are averaging 4.4 yards per carry against LSU this season, but this line has held offenses to just seven rushing scores. Alabama’s offensive line has started to jell over the last few games, and the Crimson Tide average 6.9 yards per carry in SEC-only games. Running back T.J. Yeldon is the workhorse, but Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry and Jalston Fowler could all see time on Saturday night. Winning the battle at the line of scrimmage is always crucial when these two teams meet. Can LSU’s defense match Alabama’s strength at the point of attack?
LSU RB Jeremy Hill vs. Alabama’s rush defense
Alabama’s rush defense has been nearly impenetrable once again in 2013. The Crimson Tide are holding opponents to just 3.8 yards per carry and have allowed just two rushing touchdowns in SEC games. LSU’s offensive line is solid but has room to improve. The Tigers have allowed 12 sacks in SEC games, and the line has paved the way for rushers to average 4.2 yards per carry in conference-only matchups. Hill is the team’s leading rusher (922 yards), and it’s critical for the sophomore to help LSU’s offense stay out of long-distance situations on second or third down. If Hill is contained, the Tigers will have their hands full trying to move the ball on Alabama.
Key Player: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Mettenberger is one of the nation’s most-improved quarterbacks this season. After throwing for 2,609 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, the senior is completing 65.4 percent of his passes and already has 19 passing scores. Mettenberger has just seven interceptions in 2013 but five picks have come in the last two games. In last year’s matchup, the senior threw for 298 yards and one touchdown. Can Mettenberger repeat that performance in 2013? LSU needs a similar output this year to have a shot at the upset.
Most of this preview has focused on LSU for one reason: the Tigers need a near-perfect effort to pull off the upset. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron should be able to take advantage of the Tigers secondary, which ranks ninth in SEC games by allowing 250.4 yards per game. With McCarron playing at a high level, and the Crimson Tide owning an edge in the trenches, LSU’s defense will have its hands full on Saturday night. The Tigers battle and trade a few punches with Alabama for a half. However, the Crimson Tide is the better team and pulls away in the second half.
Prediction: Alabama 31, LSU 20
Virginia Tech and Miami meet on Saturday night hoping to bounce back after disappointing results last week. The Hurricanes lost 41-14 to rival Florida State, and the Hokies lost 34-27 at Boston College. Despite both teams losing, the Coastal Division title outlook didn’t change much. Duke and Georgia Tech are within striking distance, but Miami can take command of the division with a win on Saturday.
Virginia Tech started the season with a loss to Alabama in Atlanta, but the Hokies rebounded with six consecutive victories. However, since beating Pittsburgh 19-9, Virginia Tech has lost its last two games. Turnovers have been a huge problem the last two weeks for the Hokies, but they will be taking on a Miami team shorthanded on offense with the loss of running back Duke Johnson. The sophomore suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Florida State last week and was on pace to easily rush for more than 1,000 yards in 2013.
For the first time since 1993-94, these two teams will meet in Miami for consecutive seasons. Virginia Tech lost 30-12 at Miami last year, but the Hokies have claimed five out of the last seven in this series.
Virginia Tech at Miami
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Miami -6.5
Three Things to Watch
Miami’s passing offense vs. Virginia Tech’s secondary
Through five ACC games, Virginia Tech’s secondary has been outstanding. The Hokies are allowing just 161.6 yards per game through the air, and opposing quarterbacks are completing just 47.7 percent of their throws. With Duke Johnson sidelined, the Hurricanes will ask more of quarterback Stephen Morris on Saturday night. The senior suffered an ankle injury early in the season, but he appears to be 100 percent after throwing for 192 yards and two scores against Florida State. In last year’s meeting, Morris threw for 170 yards and two touchdowns but completed only 46.4 percent of his passes. The Hokies are overflowing with depth in the secondary, especially with the return of senior Antone Exum from a knee injury. With Exum, Kyle Fuller and freshmen Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson, Virginia Tech has four cornerbacks that could start for a majority of the top 25 teams in the latest release of the BCS standings. Safeties Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett are steady performers and have four interceptions this year. Morris has been inconsistent at times in 2013, and he won’t have receiver Phillip Dorsett back from injury. Even though Dallas Crawford is a capable replacement for Duke Johnson, it’s fair to wonder if Morris might press a little with the absence of Miami’s top back. In a game with very little separating these two teams, any turnover from Morris will be costly.
Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas
Which Thomas will Virginia Tech have on Saturday night? Is it the version that tossed a combined six picks against Duke and Boston College? Or is it the quarterback that threw five touchdowns to zero interceptions in a three-game conference stretch earlier this year? Although Thomas has to play better, the senior needs more from his supporting cast. The Hokies are averaging only 2.3 yards per carry in ACC games, with Trey Edmunds leading the team with 447 yards in nine games. Receivers Demitri Knowles and Willie Byrn lead the team in receptions, but neither is averaging more than 13 yards per catch. Miami’s defense isn’t among the best in the ACC. However, this unit has improved since last season and has forced 21 turnovers this year. If the Hurricanes can force a couple of turnovers and put Thomas into third-and-long situations, it could be another long night for Virginia Tech’s offense.
Turnovers and special teams
With Virginia Tech’s struggles on offense, and Miami playing without running back Duke Johnson, both teams won’t have much margin for error. The Hurricanes rank second in the ACC with 21 forced turnovers, while the Hokies have lost 15 turnovers. Both starting quarterbacks have struggled at times with interceptions, and any mistakes by either could be costly. Johnson’s absence will also be felt on special teams, as the sophomore averaged 28.3 yards per return this year. Freshmen Stacy Coley and Artie Burns could fill Johnson’s role on kickoffs. Both teams have been inconsistent on field goals, as Matt Goudis has connected on 6 of 10 attempts for Miami this year, while Virginia Tech’s Cody Journell is 10 of 16. Don’t be surprised if a key play on special teams or late turnover decides this game.
Key Player: Dallas Crawford, RB, Miami
With Duke Johnson sidelined, Crawford will assume the No. 1 role in the Miami backfield. Crawford has been solid this year, averaging 4.4 yards per carry on 67 attempts. The sophomore faces a Virginia Tech defense allowing just 102.7 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Stephen Morris is solid, but the Hurricanes need balance on offense. Crawford won’t find a ton of running room against Virginia Tech. But the sophomore has to record at least 75 yards and needs to convert on any third-and-short situations for Miami’s offense.
The mission for Miami is simple: Win out and get a rematch with Florida State in the ACC Championship. The Hurricanes would be a significant underdog to the Seminoles in a rematch, but Miami has yet to play for the ACC Championship. It’s time for the program to take that step. Virginia Tech’s defense will keep this game close, but the Hokies’ offense sputters in the second half, allowing the Hurricanes to do just enough to score a key conference win.
Prediction: Miami 24, Virginia Tech 20
Ohio State was a heavy favorite to win the Big Ten in the preseason, and the Buckeyes are the only team from the conference ranked among the top 15 in the nation. The Big Ten is struggling nationally with only three ranked teams, and Michigan did not take the step forward some expected this year, while Northwestern has been a disappointment at 4-5 overall.
Michigan State and Wisconsin are vying to be the No. 2 team in the Big Ten this year, and there’s little separating the Badgers and Spartans.
Michigan State is 8-1, with its only loss coming at Notre Dame. Wisconsin has two setbacks, “losing” by two points to Arizona State and a seven-point defeat at Ohio State.
If both teams continue to win out, there’s a good chance the Big Ten will get a second team into the BCS bowls.
Ohio State is clearly the top team in the Big Ten. But after the Buckeyes, are the Spartans or the Badgers at No. 2?
Wisconsin or Michigan State: Who is the No. 2 team in the Big Ten Behind Ohio State?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Close call, but I will take Michigan State over Wisconsin for the No. 2 spot in the Big Ten. The Badgers have played a tougher schedule and impressed in a seven-point loss to Ohio State. But the Spartans own the Big Ten’s No. 1 defense, holding opponents to just 3.4 yards per play. Michigan State has allowed just 12 touchdowns all season, with Wisconsin one behind at 13. The Spartans have the edge on defense, while the Badgers get a slight nod on offense. Running backs Melvin Gordon and James White form an effective one-two punch, and quarterback Joel Stave is efficient (150.4 quarterback rating). After struggling early in the year, Michigan State’s offense is starting to find its rhythm, scoring at least 26 points in four out of the last five games. Quarterback Connor Cook only has three interceptions on 230 passes, and he’s surrounded by a solid supporting cast, including running back Jeremy Langford and receiver Bennie Fowler. Even though Wisconsin has a statistical edge on Michigan State’s offense, the Spartans have improved as the season progressed and significantly narrowed the gap in recent weeks. There’s not much separating these two teams, but I would give Michigan State a slight advantage.
While it's actually closer than I initially thought, I am still siding with Michigan State on this one. Wisconsin hung tough with Ohio State in The Shoe in late September and is getting it done on both sides of the ball, but I like Michigan State's defense just a little better. The Spartans are No. 1 in the nation in yards allowed at 210.2 per game. The Badgers aren't too far behind at sixth, but they are giving up 285.5 yards per contest, that's a difference of more than 75 yards per game. MSU has been next-to-impossible to run on, surrendering a paltry 43.4 yards rushing per game and just 1.6 yards per carry. When it comes to beating Ohio State, one of the keys will be slowing down the Buckeyes on the ground, both the running backs and dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller. I think Michigan State's defense is more than capable of doing just that. Even with their offensive issues and lack of explosive playmakers, I think the Spartans' defense will allow Mark Dantonio's squad to hang with pretty much any team in the country. To be honest, it's a shame we probably won't get to see Michigan State and Wisconsin play each other this season. Hopefully that won't be the case for a Spartans-Buckeyes matchup, which is what it looks like we are headed towards for the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.
Coach Bill Mallory, former head coach of Miami (Ohio), Colorado, Northern Illinois, Indiana and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
I think Michigan State is a better team than Wisconsin at this point in the season. Michigan State has made tremendous strides offensively since the season began. Their defense has been dominant the entire season. I think that is where they are better than Wisconsin, and now that their offense is playing well, I would have to choose Michigan State over Wisconsin to be the No. 2 team behind Ohio State.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Michigan State. Wisconsin has played a slightly tougher schedule with Arizona State and Ohio State, but the Badgers lost both of those games. The Spartans boast the nation's best defense — one that is achieving at historic levels. But it's the development of the Spartans' offense that makes this team the second-best in the Big Ten. Sparty is averaging over 30 points per game in the Big Ten because of the play of quarterback Connor Cook, and the emergence of tailback Jeremy Langford. Wisconsin is an excellent team with excellent balance on both sides of the ball, but on a neutral field in a cornfield, I am taking the Spartans to win.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Easy call on that one: Michigan State. And the only reason Michigan State is No. 2 to Ohio State is because the offense isn’t quite as dynamic as others in the league. That said, Michigan State is greatly improved on that side of the ball since the start of conference play. The Spartans are averaging 5.6 yards per play in conference games, a yard more than in the non-conference season. That’s mainly due to improvement in the passing game, but the defense is so good Michigan State can afford to have the seventh-best offense in Big Ten games. You want some perspective on Michigan State’s defense? The Spartans allow 210.3 total yards per game. Most teams allow more than that in just one phase of the game: 98 teams allow more passing yards per game alone; 19 teams, including three in the Big Ten, allow more than 210 yards per game rushing. Because of the defense, Michigan State is the clear No. 2 right now and the only team with a shot of knocking off Ohio State.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com and Crystal Ball Run
Michigan State seems to have found their offensive identity in recent weeks, which may put them over the edge right now in the battle for number two in the Big Ten. There is a lot to like about Wisconsin with their running game and their underrated defense, but right now the Spartans are the more complete package. No team in the Big Ten plays as good a defense as the Spartans. Michigan State has allowed just 12 touchdowns this season and they have forced 16 turnovers. When you have more turnovers than touchdowns allowed, that sort of speaks for itself at this point in the season, although the Badgers are not that far off (13 TDs allowed, 12 turnovers forced). Michigan State struggled on offense early on but now that they seem to be playing better on that side of the football, with Jeremy Langford leading the ground game and Connor Cook stabilizing the passing game recently, the Spartans are now the biggest threat to Ohio State’s undefeated championship plans.
Week 11 of the 2013 college football season should play a huge role in shaping the national title picture. With Oregon-Stanford and Oklahoma-Baylor on Thursday, and LSU-Alabama on Saturday, the top 10 could look quite a bit different on Sunday morning.
Even if there are no upsets in the big games this weekend, expect plenty of surprise outcomes from around the nation on Saturday.
Athlon’s editors are back with another edition of the upset picks, and there are plenty of teams on alert this week.
The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on AthlonSports.com, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.
College Football Week 11 Upset Predictions
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Nevada (+9.5) over Colorado State
There are few upset picks that I like this week, but the 9.5 spread caught my attention in this game. Nevada is struggling in the first year under coach Brian Polian, but is Colorado State really 10 points better? The Rams rank last in the Mountain West in pass defense, allowing 309.6 yards per game. Nevada should be able to take advantage of Colorado State’s secondary, especially with quarterback Cody Fajardo and a receiving corps that has three players over 39 catches. Nevada’s defense isn’t much better than Colorado State, as the Wolf Pack rank last in the Mountain West in total yards allowed. The Rams’ rushing offense will test Nevada’s front seven, which has been gashed for 6.4 yards per carry this year. Nevada has never won in Fort Collins, but with both teams averaging over 30 points a game in Mountain West play, this one should be much closer than the spread indicates. And I’ll give the Wolf Pack a slight edge, as Fajardo scores late for the victory.
Mark Ross: Oklahoma (+15) over Baylor
Baylor fans certainly can't say their team isn't getting any respect. A 15-point favorite over the No. 10 team in the nation? If anything, I am taking this one somewhat on principle, as I just don't see the Bears beating the Sooners by more than two touchdowns. While that doesn't mean I don't think Baylor can't beat OU, especially at home, I am going to take the Sooners here because of their defense. Oklahoma is 10th in the country in total defense and has had just one really bad game, the loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Yes, Baylor is putting up ridiculous numbers on offense (first in the nation in yards, points and passing) and doing a very good job on defense (15.9 ppg), but the Bears haven't really played anyone either.
Baylor's toughest game so far was at Kansas State, which the Bears won by just 10 points. Including the Wildcats, Baylor's schedule has featured six FBS teams that have a collective average of 64.2 in terms of total offense national rankings. Contrast that to Oklahoma, who has played eight FBS teams that have a collective national offensive ranking of 39.9. Both teams have played and beaten Kansas, Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia. Baylor's other wins are against Buffalo, Iowa State and Kansas State, while Oklahoma claims victories over Tulsa, Notre Dame (on the road), TCU and Texas Tech. Baylor has yet to play the toughest part of its schedule and by the end of Thursday night, I think there will be one fewer undefeated team in college football.
David Fox (@DavidFox615): BYU (+7.5) over Wisconsin
Wow, this is an odd game. A big-time nonconference opponent heading into Big Ten territory in early November. In many ways, this is a game the Badgers don’t need right now. Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and linebacker Chris Borland are banged up. Running back Melvin Gordon is coming off a season-low 62 yards against Iowa, a game the Badgers didn’t really pull away to win until Hawkeyes starting quarterback Jake Rudock was hurt. Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen is plenty familiar with BYU, but only to a degree (also, he’s 1-3 against Bronco Mendenhall). BYU has installed one of the fastest offenses in the country this season that’s just hitting its stride. The Cougars amassed 681 yards on 115 plays against Houston and 568 yards on 91 plays against Houston. Throw-in Kyle Van Noy on defense, and this is an awfully tough matchup on both sides of the ball for Wisconsin, possibly the toughest matchup since a loss to Ohio State.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Virginia Tech (+6.5) over Miami
The Hurricanes just lost their best offensive weapon in RB Duke Johnson for the season last week against Florida State. That will be disastrous for an offense that revolves around the No. 2 rusher in the ACC. Johnson has racked up 920 yards and six touchdowns on the season. While Dallas Crawford is a good replacement, he lacks the electric explosiveness of Johnson. The Hokies have lost two straight, but still boast a very good defense that is ninth in the country in points allowed at 16.9. Miami really doesn't enjoy a standard college homefield advantage, thus I don't expect the crowd noise to be a factor. Logan Thomas has been inconsistent this year, but he has played well against the Hurricanes in his career as he threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in the Hokies' 2011 win and rushed for over 100 yards last year. This is a huge game in the Coastal Division of the ACC and will likely determine who will play Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. I like Beamer Ball to come out on top in this one.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): BYU (+7.5) at Wisconsin
The Badgers consistently struggled with talented and dual-threat quarterbacks. And BYU's Taysom Hill is right next to Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel in terms of raw physical ability. Wisconsin is welcoming back star linebacker Chris Borland but his nagging hamstring injury will be challenged by Hill's ability to run and throw. Additionally, coaches Bronco Mendenhall and Gary Andersen know each very well having coached against each other four times. BYU and Mendenhall won three of those. The Cougars have been challenged all season while the Badgers have played only a couple of tough games — both losses. And the crowd in Madison won't respect BYU like it should and could arrive late and find itself a non-factor.
It’s rare to see a Thursday night game with national title implications, but that’s the case this week, as Oregon travels to Stanford for a Pac-12 North showdown. The Ducks rank No. 3 in the latest BCS standings, and a win over the Cardinal could be enough to push Oregon back to No. 2. With Florida State looking more and more impressive, there’s some pressure on the Ducks to win impressively.
However, Stanford certainly isn’t going to go quietly, as the Cardinal is still trying to keep their faint BCS title hopes alive. With one loss, Stanford has no room for error the rest of the way.
Although the national title is the No. 1 goal for both teams, the winner of this game should lock up a spot in the Pac-12 title game.
These two teams met last season, with Stanford winning 17-14 in Eugene. The loss knocked the Ducks out of the national title picture and allowed the Cardinal to play (and win) the Pac-12 Championship in late November.
Stanford owns a 45-30-1 series edge over Oregon. The Ducks and Cardinal have each claimed two out of the last four meetings. However, Oregon has won nine out of the last 11 matchups, including two by a combined score of 105-61 from 2010-11.
Oregon vs. Stanford
Kickoff: 9 ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Oregon -10
Three Things to Watch
Controlling the tempo
The Ducks want to play fast, while the Cardinal want to slow things down. Which tempo will win out on Thursday night? In last year’s meeting, Stanford dominated the time of possession (37:05 to 22:55). Controlling the clock isn’t a necessity, but the Cardinal gained at least 30 yards in each of their final three possessions last season. Did Stanford wear down a defense that was depleted by injuries in the trenches? Oregon is in better shape in the injury department this season, and through five conference games is holding opponents to 131.6 yards per game. The Ducks are limiting rushers to just 3.4 yards per carry in Pac-12 action, and opponents have managed just four rushing scores. In order to Stanford to win, it has to establish the run and keep Oregon’s offense off the field. Running back Tyler Gaffney has three consecutive 100-yard efforts and averaged 7.8 yards per carry against the Ducks in 2011. Gaffney isn’t the only capable rusher for Stanford, as Anthony Wilkerson has 207 yards this year, and quarterback Kevin Hogan is a dual-threat option. Shortening the game by establishing the run is a huge key to Stanford’s win chances on Thursday night.
Oregon’s passing attack vs. Stanford’s secondary
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has been nearly flawless in 2013. The sophomore is considered by most to be the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy and has thrown for 2,281 yards and 20 touchdowns in eight games. Mariota has fumbled twice this year but has yet to throw an interception. The sophomore’s last interception came 293 attempts ago against Stanford last season. The Cardinal rank ninth in the Pac-12 (conference-only games) against the pass, but this unit has picked off eight passes and will present a challenge for Mariota and his receivers. Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards form one of the nation’s best safety duos, while cornerback Alex Carter is a budding star. The Ducks have six players with at least 11 receptions, with Josh Huff and Bralon Addison each averaging at least 16 yards per catch. And those totals don’t include running back De’Anthony Thomas, who has only six catches due to injury. Mariota is one of the nation’s most efficient passers, but this matchup will be his toughest test of the year. Stanford’s pass rush (27 sacks) will be disruptive, and top-notch secondary won’t allow Addison and Huff to run free.
Stanford’s defensive line
Disrupting Oregon’s offense starts at the line of scrimmage. The Cardinal are allowing only 85.3 rushing yards per game in Pac-12 action this season, but the Ducks’ bring an experienced (and talented) offensive line to the Farm on Thursday night. Stanford’s line depth took a hit with a season-ending arm injury to end Ben Gardner, but this unit should get senior Henry Anderson back in the mix. With Anderson, Josh Mauro and David Parry in the starting lineup, Stanford has more than enough talent to win the battle up front. However, depth is a concern here, and Oregon’s up-tempo attack can take a toll on opposing defenses. The Ducks average 317.2 rushing yards per game, and three running backs – De’Anthony Thomas, Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall – will see time on Thursday night. Will Stanford’s defensive line win the line of scrimmage battle? Or will the Ducks’ rushing attack get on track after running backs Kenjon Barner and Thomas recorded only 109 yards in last year’s matchup?
Key Player: Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
It’s easy to list the quarterback as a key player, but Stanford needs Hogan to be at his best on Saturday night. In last year’s matchup, he threw for 211 yards on 25 completions and ran for 37 yards. The Cardinal doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards, but Hogan has to eliminate any mistakes and needs to make a few plays with his legs. The sophomore didn’t play particularly well against Oregon State (88 yards), and a similar performance could spell trouble for Stanford. Receiver Ty Montgomery is a gamebreaker, but the Cardinal should regain the services of Devon Cajuste, who did not play against Oregon State due to injury. Having Cajuste back in the lineup will only help Hogan in the passing game.
Top-10 matchups (see Florida State-Miami) don’t always live up to the hype. But this showdown between Oregon and Stanford should be a good one. The Ducks have revenge on their mind from last season and have to win to keep pace with Florida State in the national title picture. Stanford’s offense will control the tempo early on, but Mariota makes a couple of key plays in the fourth quarter that propels the Ducks to a huge road victory.
Prediction: Oregon 31, Stanford 24
Some conference title races are almost decided, but the battle to claim the Big 12 championship is just getting started. Baylor hosts Oklahoma on Thursday night in a crucial conference matchup, with the Bears also needing to impress to have any shot at playing for the national title. Baylor ranks No. 6 in the latest release of the BCS standings, so style points and winning big certainly wouldn’t hurt as coach Art Briles’ team attempts to close the gap on the top five.
Baylor has been on a steady climb under Briles, while Oklahoma has been one of the more consistent teams in the nation. The Sooners have at least 10 wins in six out of the last seven seasons and are 32-8 over the last three years.
This game doesn’t necessarily represent a changing of the guard in the Big 12, but Oklahoma has a 21-1 series edge against Baylor. The Bears have never won in Norman but claimed the 2011 matchup between these two teams. For the most part, the Sooners easily handled Baylor in the early 2000s. However, the last two meetings have been decided by eight points or less. Again, it’s unfair to say there’s a changing of the guard in the Big 12, but it’s clear Baylor is closing the gap on Oklahoma and Texas, and a win on Thursday night would be another huge moment in Briles’ tenure in Waco.
Just how excited are the fans in Waco? The tarp in the south endzone of Floyd Casey Stadium is gone, allowing around 3,500 more fans to attend Thursday night’s matchup. Considering Baylor had some of the worst teams of the BCS era under former coach Kevin Steele, a sold out stadium on a Thursday night with national title implications is a good indicator of how far this program has developed under Briles.
Oklahoma vs. Baylor
Kickoff: 7:30 ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Baylor -15
Three Things to Watch
Baylor’s rushing attack vs. Oklahoma’s rush defense
Injuries hit Oklahoma’s defense hard earlier this season, as defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and linebacker Corey Nelson were lost for the year. Losing Nelson and Phillips hurt Oklahoma’s ability to stop the run in Big 12 games, as Texas recorded 255 yards on Oct. 12 and Kansas rushed for 185 yards on Oct. 19. After having their share of struggles on the ground in Big 12 play, the Sooners will have their toughest assignment of the season against Baylor. The Bears average 6.0 yards per carry in conference-only games and lead the Big 12 with an average of 294.8 yards per game on the ground. Running back Lache Seastrunk is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball (9.1 ypc, 11 TDs), but the Bears can also use Shock Linwood (8.1 ypc) and 230-pound battering ram Glasco Martin. Expect Baylor to attack the interior of Oklahoma’s rush defense, especially with an offensive line that averages 314 pounds per play. Guard Cyril Richardson is one of the best in the nation, and he will be clearing the way for Seastrunk and Martin to attack Oklahoma’s suspect run defense.
Oklahoma’s offense and controlling the clock
The Sooners are in transition on offense this season. Although former quarterback Landry Jones had his share of ups and downs, the passing attack just isn’t the same with Blake Bell at the helm. Bell seems to be getting more comfortable in Oklahoma’s offense with each start, but the junior has thrown just four touchdowns to three interceptions in Big 12 games. Baylor wants to get Oklahoma into a shootout, which clearly favors the high-scoring Bears’ offense. The Sooners will try to counter with a ball control approach that dominates the time of possession. In Big 12 games, Oklahoma ranks third in the conference in time of possession by averaging 31 minutes a game. Running backs Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch will test Baylor’s defense, which is allowing 160 yards per game on the ground. The Bears struggled to stop Kansas State earlier this year, which used a similar blueprint on offense.
Oklahoma’s secondary vs. Baylor’s receiving corps
While the Sooners have displayed a few leaks against the run, the secondary ranks No. 10 nationally against the pass. Oklahoma is allowing only 179.5 yards per game through the air, and Big 12 opponents have managed only six passing scores. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have played TCU, Texas and Kansas so far, but Oklahoma’s secondary gave Baylor fits last season. The Bears were held to 172 yards through the air, and quarterback Nick Florence completed only 12 of his 33 passes. New starter Bryce Petty doesn’t have Florence’s experience but is an upgrade in terms of talent. The junior is completing 69.3 percent of his throws and has only one interception on 176 attempts. Petty leads all FBS quarterbacks with 10 passing plays of 50 yards or more in 2013. And Baylor isn’t just Petty’s show, as receivers Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese are each averaging over 20 yards per catch. This matchup will be the toughest one-on-one battle for Oklahoma’s secondary all year, with cornerbacks Zack Sanchez and Aaron Colvin under the microscope on Thursday night.
Key Players: Chuka Ndulue/Jordan Wade, DT, Oklahoma
If Oklahoma doesn’t win the battle at the point of attack, this one could get ugly. The Sooners don’t have to get pressure on Petty on every down, but the defense needs to prevent a repeat of what happened against Texas. Once the Longhorns were able to pound the rock, play-action passes opened up on the outside. Ndulue and Wade will have their hands full against a massive and effective Baylor offensive line. This duo has to keep Seastrunk in check, while disrupting Petty’s pocket when he drops back to pass.
Baylor is off to an easy 7-0 start, but the competition is about to increase. The Bears have yet to play a Big 12 team with a winning record, and Oklahoma had 10 days to prepare for Baylor’s high-powered offense. Will it make a difference? The Bears are better on defense this season, but the Sooners should be able to get their ground game on track. If Oklahoma dominates the line of scrimmage and controls the clock, the Sooners will be in good shape to leave Waco with a win. However, Baylor simply has too much firepower, and the defense – just like it did against Kansas State – makes enough timely plays to pull out the victory.
Prediction: Baylor 45, Oklahoma 34
The ACC dominated the college football spotlight last Saturday, as Florida State-Miami took center stage as a top-10 matchup. The Seminoles handled the Hurricanes with ease, essentially locking up the Atlantic Division.
Miami’s Coastal Division title hopes are still alive, with a key matchup against Virginia Tech ahead this Saturday. The Hurricanes won’t have running back Duke Johnson due to injury, which means the offense needs more from quarterback Stephen Morris. The Hokies have lost back-to-back games, and the offense has struggled to get consistent play from quarterback Logan Thomas.
Elsewhere in the ACC, Pittsburgh hosts Notre Dame in a key game for the Panthers’ bowl hopes. Duke needs a win over NC State to have a shot in the Coastal Division, while Syracuse-Maryland is crucial for both teams to reach the postseason.
Florida State should roll over Wake Forest, and Boston College will have little trouble with New Mexico State.
ACC Week 11 Game Power Rankings
1. Virginia Tech (+6.5) at Miami (7 ET, ESPN)
Despite Miami’s loss to Florida State, and Virginia Tech’s recent setbacks against Boston College and Duke, this matchup is still the game of the year in the Coastal Division. And for the second year in a row, the Hurricanes host the Hokies in Miami, but Virginia Tech has claimed three out of the last four in this series. With the Hurricanes losing running back Duke Johnson to an ankle injury for the rest of the year, and Virginia Tech struggling on offense, points could be at a premium on Saturday night. With Johnson sidelined, Miami will turn to capable backup Dallas Crawford (4.4 ypc) to lead the way on the ground. Quarterback Stephen Morris will also shoulder more of the workload, but the senior will be going against one of the top defensive backfields in the nation. Virginia Tech is holding opponents to just 161.6 yards per game through the air, and the secondary could get a boost with the return of Kyle Fuller from a groin injury. Crawford has played well in limited action, but the Hokies are holding opponents to just 3.4 yards per carry. Virginia Tech’s offense has scored over 20 points in just three out of the last seven games. Quarterback Logan Thomas has six interceptions in his last two starts, but the senior doesn’t have a strong supporting cast. Miami’s defense is allowing 5.9 yards per play against ACC teams, so there will be opportunities to make plays for Thomas. With both teams dealing with concerns on offense, this one could come down to which team wins the turnover battle or makes a key play on special teams.
2. Notre Dame (-4.5) at Pittsburgh (8 ET, ABC)
Close games have defined the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh series, with each of the last five meetings decided by five points or less. A similar result is expected on Saturday night, as the Panthers need a win to stay alive for the postseason, while the Fighting Irish have to win out to keep their BCS bowl hopes intact. Since losing to Oklahoma on Sept. 28, Notre Dame has won four in a row, including games over Michigan State and Oklahoma. The Fighting Irish aren’t as dominant on defense as they were in 2012, and this unit is dealing with a handful of injuries this week. Linebacker Ben Councell is out for the year with a knee injury, while linemen Sheldon Day and Louis Nix III are questionable, and Kona Schwenke is out with an ankle sprain. With a banged up defense, Pittsburgh will try to get its rushing game back on track. The Panthers were held to -5 yards against Georgia Tech, and freshman running back James Conner has only 32 yards in his last three games. The Fighting Irish are allowing 164.9 yards per game on the ground, but those numbers are skewed slightly by playing Air Force and Navy in back-to-back weeks. If Pittsburgh gets its ground game going, it should help take some of the pressure off of quarterback Tom Savage. The senior has been sacked 29 times this year and does not have a completion longer than 28 yards in his last three games. Notre Dame’s offense has scored 37 points or more in three out of the last four games, with balance a key part of the attack. Quarterback Tommy Rees is completing only 55.6 percent of his passes, but the senior has 22 touchdown tosses. The Fighting Irish have four players with at least 193 rushing yards, including freshman Tarean Folston who led the team with 140 yards last week. Considering the series trend, another nail-biter should be expected in the Steel City.
3. NC State (+9.5) at Duke (4 ET, ESPNU)
The Blue Devils are riding a four-game winning streak and have momentum from the Oct. 26 victory at Virginia Tech. With Miami losing to Florida State, Duke actually controls its destiny in the Coastal Division. The Hurricanes and Blue Devils meet in Durham next Saturday, but Duke still has one obstacle to clear before turning its focus to the Hurricanes. NC State is a team desperately looking for a win in ACC play. The Wolfpack are 0-5 in the conference in coach Dave Doeren’s first season. Quarterback Brandon Mitchell missed five games due to a foot injury, and the senior made his return to the lineup against Florida State. Mitchell rushed for 105 yards against North Carolina last week, but he has yet to throw for more than 130 yards in his last two starts and tossed four picks during that span. Junior Pete Thomas replaced Mitchell late in last week’s loss and may split time under center on Saturday. Duke’s defense doesn’t look particularly solid on the stat sheet (12th in the ACC in total defense), but this unit has allowed only 10 points in the second half in the last three games. With NC State’s struggles through the air, the Blue Devils should prepare to be tested on the ground. Duke’s offense has scored at least 30 points in four out of the last five games, and its balanced attack is a tough matchup for a Wolfpack defense allowing 30.8 points a game in ACC play. These two teams haven’t met since 2009, but NC State has won 11 out of the last 12 games in this series.
4. Syracuse (+6) at Maryland (3:30 ET, RSN)
With Syracuse at 4-4 and Maryland at 5-3, Saturday’s game is crucial to both team’s bowl hopes. The Orange scored a key win against Wake Forest last Saturday, while the Terrapins have lost three out of their last four games. Syracuse’s defense rebounded after a bad showing against Georgia Tech (56 points) to shut out the Demon Deacons. But Maryland should present a tougher challenge. The Terrapins should regain the services of quarterback C.J. Brown, who had a bye to heal from injuries that forced the senior to miss the 40-27 loss to Clemson. Brown started the year by throwing seven touchdowns in his first four games but has yet to score in an ACC game this year. With receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long sidelined for the season, Brown will be throwing to an inexperienced group of weapons. But opportunities for plays in the passing game should be available, especially with a Syracuse secondary allowing 233.4 yards per game. When the Orange has the ball, expect a run-first attack. Syracuse averages 235.8 rushing yards per game in conference play and will test a Maryland defense hit hard by injuries. The Terrapins rank 10th in ACC-only games against the run, which should allow running backs Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley plenty of room to maneuver. Quarterback Terrel Hunt is also a threat on the ground, but the sophomore has to avoid mistakes through the air (six interceptions in 131 attempts). These two schools have a connection, as Maryland coach Randy Edsall played at Syracuse and coached there as an assistant. This is also the first meeting between these two teams since 1994.
5. Florida State (-35) at Wake Forest (Noon, ABC)
After handling Miami 41-14 last Saturday, the Seminoles jumped to No. 2 in the BCS standings. But Florida State’s stay there could be brief if Oregon beats Stanford on Thursday night. Regardless of what happens around the nation, the Seminoles need to win impressively the rest of the way. And even though Wake Forest has won four out of the last seven games in this series, Florida State should have little trouble with the Demon Deacons on Saturday. Wake Forest’s offense has struggled throughout 2013, and top receiver Michael Campanaro is likely out for the rest of the year. Just how valuable was Campanaro? The Demon Deacons had 184 completions through nine games, and Campanaro had 67 catches and six of the 13 touchdown receptions. With Campanaro sidelined, quarterback Tanner Price needs more help from receivers Matt James, Tyree Harris Jonathan Williams, Sherman Ragland III and Jared Crump. For Wake Forest to have any shot at the upset, the offense has to play keep away and limit Florida State’s possessions. However, the Seminoles are averaging eight yards a play, and even if the Demon Deacons have any success with their quick, short-yardage passing attack, it’s hard to see quarterback Jameis Winston and one of the nation’s best supporting casts have much trouble scoring points on Wake Forest’s defense.
6. Virginia (+13.5) at North Carolina (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
The Oldest Rivalry in the South has seen better days. Virginia limps into this game at 2-7 with a six-game losing streak, and North Carolina is fighting to get bowl eligible. The Tar Heels will have to play the rest of the season without quarterback Bryn Renner, who suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s win against NC State. However, backup Marquise Williams is a good fit for coach Larry Fedora’s spread attack and has one start (Virginia Tech) this year. Williams has led North Carolina’s offense in rushing in the last two games, but freshman back T.J. Logan averaged 8.6 yards per carry last week and should have a bigger role in the offense moving forward. Finding a spark on offense has been a season-long experiment for the Cavaliers. Quarterback David Watford completed just 16 of 35 throws last week and has tossed 10 picks to just seven scores. Watford will have a chance to rebound against North Carolina’s defense, which is allowing 423 yards per game. But the Tar Heels have showed signs of life on defense the last two weeks, holding Boston College to 10 points on Oct. 26 and NC State to 19 last week. North Carolina has claimed the last three meetings in this series by a combined score of 109-40.
7. Boston College (-24) at New Mexico State (3:30 ET, ESPN3)
In one of the strangest road trips of 2013, Boston College has to make a lengthy trek to Las Cruces, N.M. this weekend for a late-season non-conference game. This will be the first meeting between these two schools, which are separated by just over 2,300 miles. However, there is a connection for the two programs, as New Mexico State coach Doug Martin served as Boston College’s offensive coordinator in 2012. Even though this is an extended road trip for the Eagles, the Aggies shouldn’t put up much of a fight. New Mexico State is 1-8, with its only win coming against Abilene Christian. The Aggies are struggling on the stat sheet, ranking 85th nationally in total offense and 123rd nationally in scoring defense. Boston College running back Andre Williams has at least 149 yards in four out of his last five games and should have no trouble finding running room against a New Mexico State defense allowing 312.1 rushing yards per game.
ACC Week 11 Pivotal Players
Kelby Brown, LB, Duke
NC State’s passing attack has struggled the last two weeks, but quarterback Brandon Mitchell is capable of rushing for 100 yards. Mitchell could share time with Pete Thomas on Saturday, but the senior will still be utilized on the ground. In addition to Mitchell, running back Shadrach Thornton has rushed for at least 60 yards in each of NC State’s last three games. Duke’s defense ranks 12th in ACC-only games against the run, allowing 197.8 yards per game, but opponents have managed only five rushing scores. Considering the Wolfpack’s struggles with their passing game, the Blue Devils need to shut down the rushing attack and force Mitchell or Thomas to win this game through the air. Brown and linebacker mate David Helton were outstanding in the win over Virginia Tech and need another standout performance on Saturday.
Trey Edmunds, RB, Virginia Tech
Quarterback Logan Thomas has struggled with turnovers in each of his last two games, and the senior passer needs more help from his supporting cast. Edmunds is the top running back for Virginia Tech but has only 447 yards and five scores through nine games. Miami’s rush defense allowed 192 yards to Florida State last week, and ACC opponents are averaging 4.1 yards per carry against this unit in 2013. Edmunds has not recorded more than 14 carries in an ACC game this year. With Thomas coming off back-to-back sluggish performances, Edmunds needs to step up and give Virginia Tech’s offense a little balance.
Cory King, OG/Artie Rowell, C, Pittsburgh
The Panthers have struggled to get consistent production from their offensive line this year. Quarterback Tom Savage has been sacked 29 times this year, and Notre Dame’s defensive line could have reinforcements back this week, as Louis Nix III could return from a knee injury. Teammate Sheldon Day is questionable with an ankle injury, which makes Nix III and end Stephon Tuitt’s performance even more critical to Notre Dame’s defensive success on Saturday night. Pittsburgh’s line could hold the key to a victory, especially if the front five can get a good push on the Fighting Irish and open rushing lanes for running backs James Conner and Isaac Bennett.
Stephen Morris, QB, Miami
With running back Duke Johnson sidelined for the rest of the year due to an ankle injury, the Hurricanes will probably ask Morris to shoulder more of the offensive workload. The senior completed 16 of 28 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State last week but also threw two interceptions. After struggling with an ankle injury earlier in the year, Morris looked closer to 100 percent in last week’s game. However, Morris has another tough assignment ahead this week, as Virginia Tech’s secondary ranks as one of the best in the nation. The Hokies are led by seniors in Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum at cornerback, but freshmen Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller have combined for nine picks this year. With Phillip Dorsett sidelined, Morris and receiver Allen Hurns should be the go-to combination against Virginia Tech’s suffocating secondary.
Sherman Ragland III, WR, Wake Forest
With Michael Campanaro out for the season with a collarbone injury, Ragland III and injured freshman receiver Tyree Harris have to pickup the slack in the passing game. Ragland III led the team with 10 receptions for 91 yards in last week’s game against Syracuse and should be the No. 1 option on Saturday. Florida State’s secondary is arguably the best in the nation, so Ragland III and quarterback Tanner Price won’t have much room for error. But if the Demon Deacons have any hope of scoring the upset, the passing attack has to keep the chains moving, especially with a lackluster rushing game.
ACC Week 11 Predictions
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|FSU (-35) at Wake||FSU 38-14||FSU 45-17||FSU 51-10||FSU 41-7|
|Virginia (+13.5) at UNC||UNC 28-21||UNC 31-17||UNC 31-20||UNC 23-10|
|Boston College (-24) at NMSU||BC 35-10||BC 31-10||BC 41-17||BC 41-7|
|Syracuse (+6) at Maryland||Maryland 21-14||Maryland 31-28||Maryland 27-24||Maryland 24-20|
|NC State (+9.5) at Duke||Duke 31-13||Duke 34-24||Duke 31-24||Duke 30-24|
|Virginia Tech (+6.5) at Miami||Va. Tech 24-17||Miami 24-20||Miami 24-20||Miami 21-10|
|Notre Dame (-4.5) at Pittsburgh||ND 35-14||ND 34-24||ND 27-24||ND 30-21|