Articles By Steven Lassan
Florida-Florida State is usually one of the most-anticipated matchups in the Sunshine State each year. But the luster and interest has clearly eroded away from this season’s meeting.
Florida State needs two wins to play for the national championship, while Florida is in the midst of the school’s worst season since a 0-10-1 record in 1979.
The Seminoles have one of the deepest rosters in the nation, led by Heisman Trophy frontrunner in quarterback Jameis Winston, as well as a defense that continues to get better with each snap. Florida State has scored 40 points in every game this year, and the defense has allowed just 125 points in 11 contests.
Injuries have played a role in Florida’s struggles this year, as the Gators have lost a handful of players – including quarterback Jeff Driskel, defensive tackle Dominique Easley, running back Matt Jones and linebacker Antonio Morrison – to season-ending injuries. Although injuries are to blame, Will Muschamp and the coaching staff deserves criticism for the poor performance of this team. Florida recruits as well as any team in the nation, and even with some critical injuries, losing to a FCS team should never happen in Gainesville.
The Seminoles are a heavy favorite, and the outcome of this year’s meeting isn’t really in question. However, an in-state rivalry always brings out the best in the underdog, and the Gators would like nothing more than to spoil Florida State’s national championship hopes.
Florida State has won two out of the last three meetings against Florida. However, the Gators won 37-26 over the Seminoles in Tallahassee last season.
Florida has won seven out of the last nine meetings against Florida State.
Florida State at Florida
Kickoff: Noon ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Florida State –27
Florida’s Key to Victory: Establish the run and control the clock
Florida’s quarterback situation is up in the air for Saturday’s game. Tyler Murphy stepped into the starting lineup after Jeff Driskel was lost for the season against Tennessee. Murphy threw for 1,216 yards and six touchdowns in his nine appearances this year, while third-stringer Skyler Mornhinweg has made two starts in a row while Murphy sat out with an injured shoulder. Mornhinweg has thrown for 229 yards on 24 completions this year but averaged only 8.7 yards per completion in last week’s loss to Georgia Southern. Time of possession can be an overrated statistic in college football. However, Florida leads the SEC by averaging 34:16 in time of possession each week. Controlling the clock and limiting the possessions of Florida State’s offense would seem to be the only hope the Gators have of winning. Running back Kelvin Taylor has been a bright spot for this offense, rushing for 483 yards on 105 attempts. The Seminoles struggled at times to stop the run earlier this year, but this unit has not allowed a team to rush for more than 150 yards in each of the last four games. And Florida State has not allowed a rushing touchdown since a 49-17 victory over NC State on Oct. 26. It’s not an easy assignment against an aggressive defense, but the Gators have to plan for a run-heavy approach on Saturday.
Florida State’s Key to Victory: Win the turnover battle
It’s a simple key to the game, but it matters more when playing on the road against a wounded underdog. Florida doesn’t have the horses to hang with Florida State in this matchup, and the Seminoles can't give the Gators any opportunity to hang around. The Gators’ offense has not scored more than 20 points in each of their last six games and is averaging just 4.7 yards per play. The only way for Florida to win this game is if Florida State commits a few turnovers, which allows the Gators to convert those into easy points. If the Seminoles have a clean performance with few mistakes, the outcome won’t be in question by the fourth quarter.
Key Player: Skyler Mornhinweg, QB, Florida
There’s a huge gap in terms of production from the two starting quarterbacks on Saturday. For Florida State, Jameis Winston is the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy and has thrown for 3,163 yards and 32 touchdowns in 11 starts. Mornhinweg started the season as Florida’s No. 3 quarterback and has thrown for 229 yards in two starts. The freshman has a difficult assignment this Saturday against Florida State’s defense, which leads the nation in interceptions. Even though the Gators need production from Mornhinweg, the freshman can’t force any throws or make any mistakes. Florida’s margin for error is small, and a bad performance from Mornhinweg will only make the Gators’ upset hopes even smaller.
With nothing to lose, Florida should empty the playbook, use any trick plays it has in the bag and use everything it has to pull off the upset. However, that’s easier said than done. The edge in talent is clearly on the Florida State sideline, and the Seminoles appear to be on a mission to get to Pasadena. While rivalry games often bring out the best in an underdog, Florida doesn’t have the firepower to stick around for all four quarters. The Gators’ best hope at an upset is to shorten the game with a strong rushing attack, which would limit the possessions for Florida State’s offense. Florida hangs around for a half, but the Seminoles pull away in the third quarter.
Prediction: Florida State 45, Florida 10
Missouri and Texas A&M are old Big 12 rivals, but these two teams are set to meet in a critical SEC contest on Saturday night.
Texas A&M’s loss to LSU was a huge setback to the Aggies’ BCS bowl hopes, but a win over Missouri would put Kevin Sumlin’s team back in contention for one of college football’s premier postseason destinations.
Missouri has been one of the most-improved teams in the nation this year. Coach Gary Pinkel was on the hot seat after a 5-7 mark last season, but the Tigers have rebounded with a 10-1 record and are one win away from playing for the SEC Championship.
These two teams have met 13 times, with one appearance as SEC opponents. Texas A&M holds an 8-5 series edge over the Tigers. Missouri’s last victory against the Aggies occurred in 2011. The last three meetings in this series were in College Station, and the Tigers won the last matchup in Columbia (2007).
Texas A&M at Missouri
Kickoff: 7:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Missouri -4.5
Missouri’s Key to Victory: Contain Johnny Manziel
Despite LSU’s success last week, stopping Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is no easy task. The Tigers held Manziel to 224 passing yards and limited the sophomore to just 54 yards on the ground. Manziel has made significant progress as a passer this season, as the sophomore is completing 69.1 percent of his throws and has tossed 32 touchdowns (up from 26 last year). Manziel torched Missouri’s defense for 372 passing yards and three scores last season, while recording 67 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Can the Tigers replicate LSU’s gameplan and contain Manziel? Missouri has the defensive line to match what LSU has been able to do over the last two years, but the secondary isn’t quite on the same level. And after a subpar performance last week, Manziel and Texas A&M will be motivated to rebound. Missouri’s secondary has allowed only eight passing scores in SEC play this year, but Georgia’s Aaron Murray and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw produced solid outings against this defense. Keeping Manziel in the pocket and limiting the big plays – especially to receiver Mike Evans – will be one of the keys for coordinator Dave Steckel.
Texas A&M’s Key to Victory: Stop Missouri’s rushing attack
Stopping the run has been a season-long issue for Texas A&M. The Aggies allowed 324 rushing yards in last week’s loss to LSU, and two other opponents topped the 300-yard mark against this defense in 2013. The season totals don’t paint a better picture for coach Kevin Sumlin, as Texas A&M is last in the SEC against the run, allowing an average of 5.3 yards per carry. The Aggies have some youth and inexperience in the front seven, so this unit is in transition in 2013. However, until Texas A&M can get stops, opposing teams will continue to exploit the front seven. Missouri averages 238 rushing yards per game, with three players recording over 500 yards this year. Henry Josey leads the team with 855 yards, but Russell Hansbrough (6.3 ypc) and Marcus Murphy (7.0 ypc) will contribute. Even though Texas A&M’s offense is among the best in the nation, winning on Saturday night will be a challenge if the defense fails to slow down Missouri’s ground attack. If the Tigers hit their season average on the ground, Missouri will be headed to Atlanta to play for the SEC Championship next week.
Key Player: Missouri CB E.J. Gaines
Gaines and fellow cornerback Randy Ponder likely won’t matchup against Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans for the full game, but the Aggies have plenty of other weapons that allow Manziel to spread the ball around. Gaines is an underrated defender in the SEC, as the senior had 34 starts under his belt and has seven career interceptions. Even if Missouri’s defensive line succeeds in keeping Manziel in the pocket, the sophomore is capable of picking apart the Tigers’ secondary. Gaines and the rest of the defensive backfield may give up a few big plays, but this group has to limit the damage – and force a turnover or two.
What a difference a year makes. Coming into 2013, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was on the hot seat, and there were plenty of doubters about whether or not this program was ready to compete for a SEC title. A year later, the Tigers are just one win away from a trip to Atlanta. Texas A&M won 59-29 over Missouri last season, but this is a much-improved team. The Tigers use their ground attack to control the clock, while the defense makes just enough timely plays to clinch the SEC East title.
Prediction: Missouri 34, Texas A&M 31
LSU was a huge favorite for Saturday’s game against Arkansas, but the Tigers needed a late fourth-quarter score to beat the Razorbacks.
Trailing 27-21 late in the fourth quarter, receiver Jarvis Landry caught a 32-yard pass from quarterback Zach Mettenberger, which set up a 37-yard field goal by kicker Colby Delahoussaye.
Landry’s 32-yard catch was crucial to getting the field goal, but the junior’s ridiculous grab might be one of the best of the year:
The SEC West title is on the line this Saturday when Alabama and Auburn meet in the 78th Iron Bowl. While the immediate prize for the winner on Saturday is a trip to Atlanta, this game also has major national title implications.
Alabama is in the driver’s seat to finish No. 1 in the BCS standings with wins over Auburn and the SEC East champion. The Tigers need a lot of help to get into the national championship, but a win over Alabama would position Auburn ahead of any other one-loss team if losses knock Ohio State or Florida State out of the top three spots.
How high have the stakes been in this rivalry in recent years? The winner of the last four Iron Bowls went on to win the national championship. The Crimson Tide has won three out of the last four BCS titles, with Auburn’s championship coming in 2010.
While Alabama has been the standard in college football over the last six seasons, Auburn has only one year (2010) of more than nine victories in that span. Behind first-year coach Gus Malzahn, the Tigers are one of the most-improved teams in the nation. Former coach Gene Chizik recruited plenty of talent to Auburn, but Malzahn and his staff have done a better job of developing and maximizing the talent on the roster in 2013.
Alabama has claimed wins in four out of the last five meetings with Auburn. The Crimson Tide has won two in a row at Auburn, including a 42-14 victory in 2011. Alabama has dominated the Tigers over the last two years, winning the two meetings by a combined score of 91-14.
Auburn’s last victory over Alabama came in 2010, as Cam Newton guided the Tigers to a 28-27 win in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama owns a 42-34-1 series edge over Auburn.
Alabama at Auburn
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Alabama -10.5
Three Things to Watch
Auburn QB Nick Marshall
In his first season as Auburn’s starting quarterback, Marshall hasn’t necessarily been the most prolific passer in the SEC, but he’s been the perfect fit to run Gus Malzahn’s offense. Marshall has not attempted more than 25 passes in five out of the last six games. The junior has tossed only five interceptions on 185 attempts and is completing 58.4 percent of his throws. While Marshall has proven he can deliver through the air with the game on the line (Mississippi State and Georgia), the junior is at his best when he can use his mobility. Marshall has rushed for 823 yards (6.7 ypc) on 123 attempts this season. The junior has executed Malzahn’s spread attack nearly to perfection this year, and his speed and mobility will be a challenge for Alabama’s defense. Under Nick Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart, mobile quarterbacks have provided the most headaches for the Crimson Tide. Earlier this season, Johnny Manziel led a Texas A&M offense that averaged 8.9 yards per play against Alabama’s defense. Can Auburn use a similar approach on Saturday? Marshall isn’t as dynamic as Manziel, but the junior is averaging 6.7 yards per carry this season.
Alabama’s run defense
As mentioned in the previous section, Marshall’s ability to execute Auburn’s spread offense and zone read plays are critical to the Tigers’ upset hopes. But perhaps an even bigger obstacle is Alabama’s run defense. The Crimson Tide rank fourth nationally against the run, limiting opponents to just three yards a carry. Alabama has held its last three opponents to 93 or less rushing yards, while Tennessee (28 attempts) is the last team to gain 100 rushing yards against Nick Saban’s defense. Establishing the run sets the table for Auburn’s offense. In the last two meetings against the Crimson Tide, the Tigers have rushed for only 170 yards and no touchdowns on 67 attempts. Not only is Marshall crucial to the outcome of this game, but Tre Mason also needs a big performance. Mason is averaging 104.8 yards per game this year and has four 100-yard performances out of his last five games. Alabama will likely stack the line of scrimmage and force Marshall to throw to win. If the Crimson Tide continues to stuff the run like they have all season, Auburn’s offense will have a tough time maintaining drives on Saturday afternoon.
Auburn’s defense vs. Alabama’s offense
Alabama’s offense doesn’t get the national recognition that its defense does, but the Crimson Tide average 7.3 yards per play and rank second in SEC by averaging 490.9 yards per game. Auburn’s defense has made strides under new coordinator Ellis Johnson, but the Tigers rank 13th in the SEC against the pass, eighth against the run and six SEC opponents have scored at least 20 points this year. Alabama’s offense is one of the nation’s most-balanced attacks in the nation, averaging 233.3 yards per game through the air and 211.5 a contest on the ground. Quarterback AJ McCarron rarely throws interceptions (five in 2013), and the senior is completing 68.6 percent of his throws. Auburn’s secondary has allowed 10 passing plays of 40 yards or more, which ranks last in the SEC. Considering the Tigers have allowed their last two opponents to complete at least 64 percent of their passes, getting pressure on McCarron is critical to stopping Alabama’s offense. But a pass rush isn’t going to be enough, as Auburn has to match the Crimson Tide’s physical approach in the trenches. Alabama’s running backs – led by T.J. Yeldon – are arguably the best group in the nation. If Yeldon and backup Kenyan Drake get on track, McCarron’s play-action passes to receivers Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White, Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones will provide big plays for the Crimson Tide’s offense.
Key Player: Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn
We devoted an entire section of this game preview to Marshall, and the junior is getting another mention in the key player tag. It’s not easy to pin the hopes of winning on one player, but Marshall is the x-factor. If the junior is able to have success on Auburn’s designed runs, the Tigers can keep Alabama’s defense off balance. However, if the Tigers’ rushing attack is contained, Marshall will have to throw 30-40 times to win. Although Marshall has made plays in the passing game all year, Auburn would clearly prefer not to have the junior quarterback throw more than 20-25 times on Saturday.
With both teams ranked in the top five of the BCS standings, this season’s meeting is arguably one of the biggest in this rivalry’s history. There’s no shortage of storylines and national implications, as the winner of this game is headed to Atlanta to play for the SEC Championship. Not only is the SEC West title on the line, the Crimson Tide needs to win to stay atop the BCS standings. Auburn’s 2013 season is no fluke. The Tigers are a much-improved team and will give Alabama’s defense all it can handle. However, the Crimson Tide makes the necessary adjustments at halftime, which contains the Tigers’ offense in the second half. Home field advantage helps Auburn trade punches with Alabama through the first three quarters. But Alabama finds a way to pull away in the fourth quarter, sending the Crimson Tide to Atlanta for the fourth time in six seasons.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Auburn 20
Catching up on the news from around the nation....
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, November 27th
It seems every coach celebrates a win by dancing in the locker room these days. Lost Lettermen ranked the best dancing moves from head coaches.
Voting is open to honor the best college player in South Carolina this year. And 13 players have also been announced as finalists for the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame.
Washington State athletic director Bill Moos hasn't forgotten about the nasty e-mails he received.
Duke athletic director Kevin White is pushing for the ACC to have its own television channel by 2016.
Iowa and Iowa State have announced an extension to their annual rivalry.
LSU could be losing another group of underclassmen to the NFL Draft this offseason.
The staff at Nunes Magician previews Syracuse's game against Boston College. Can the Orange stop Andre Williams?
A good wrapup of California coach Sonny Dykes' postseason press conference.
Running back David Fluellen's career at Toledo is likely finished due to a leg injury.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray suffered a torn ACL against Kentucky, but the senior tried to play through the injury.
Big changes appear to be coming for Florida's coaching staff this offseason.
Oklahoma running back Damien Williams has been dismissed from the team.
Notre Dame offensive lineman Nick Martin will miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury.
Bad news for SMU's bowl hopes: Quarterback Garrett Gilbert is out against Houston due to a knee injury.
UCLA offensive lineman Simon Goines is out for the rest of the season due to a leg injury.
Week 14 is the final full week of college football regular season action. Next week’s slate is an abbreviated one, focused on the conference championships and a handful of other games.
There’s no shortage of intrigue around the nation this Saturday, as the Heisman hangs in the balance, and it’s rivalry week.
Florida State-Florida, South Carolina-Clemson, Alabama-Auburn and Michigan-Ohio State are just a few of the top rivalries on tap this weekend.
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 14 Upset Predictions
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): NC State (+2.5) over Maryland
On paper, I think it’s a light week for upset possibilities. But then again, this is rivalry week and anything can happen. NC State’s first season under new coach Dave Doeren has been a disappointment, but the future in Raleigh looks bright, especially with Jacoby Brissett eligible to start at quarterback in 2014. Even though the Wolfpack has lost six of their seven ACC games by 10 points or more, I think they knock off Maryland on Saturday. This is Maryland’s final ACC game, as a move to the Big Ten is in order next season. The Terrapins are dealing with a plethora of injuries on both sides of the ball and rank 11th in the ACC in total offense. It was no surprise Maryland's defense struggled to stop Boston College's Andre Williams last week, but the Wolfpack can test the Terrapins again with the run, as Shadrach Thornton is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has two 100-yard efforts in ACC play. NC State’s offense found a spark late in the fourth quarter against East Carolina, and I think the Wolfpack carry that into this week’s game to send the Terrapins back to College Park with a loss in their final ACC game.
Mark Ross: East Carolina (+3) over Marshall
The Conference USA East Division crown is on the line in Huntington, West Va., Friday afternoon when Marshall (8-3) hosts East Carolina (9-2). The two are tied at 6-1 in conference play and boast not only the conference's top two offenses, but two of the most productive in the entire nation. The Thundering Herd is eighth in scoring nationally at 43.3 points per game while the Pirates are 11th at 41.5. That doesn't mean either doesn't play defense however, as ECU and Marshall are second and third, respectively, in C-USA in yards allowed. The Pirates' two losses this season are by five points to Virginia Tech and a three-point overtime setback to Tulane on the road. The Herd's three defeats have come by a total of 13 points, the biggest being a 29-21 three-overtime loss in Blacksburg, Va., to the aforementioned Hokies. What tips the scales in ECU's favor, however, is that the Pirates have gone 2-0 in their home state, having beaten both North Carolina and NC State on the road. It's been a season to remember for the Tar Heel State's unheralded football programs with Duke grabbing most of the headlines, but I also think ECU's impressive 2013 campaign will continue with a 10th win and a C-USA East Division title on Friday.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Clemson (+5) over South Carolina
Tajh Boyd is perhaps the most accomplished quarterback in Clemson history. The only thing that eludes him is a win over in-state rival South Carolina, as he's 0-3 against the Gamecocks. Boyd sits just a single win behind Rodney Williams, the program's all-time winningest quarterback. Unfortunately for Boyd, he's been caught in the wake of the machine that is Steve Spurrier. The Ole Ball Coach has owned the Tigers as of late, registering four straight wins in The Battle of the Palmetto State. However, Spurrier hasn't been nearly as dominant in this rivalry as many believe, owning just a 5-3 record against Clemson in his eight years in Columbia. Despite the disappointing results for Dabo Swinney, this is the most talented team Clemson has put together in recent memory. Despite playing in the ACC, Clemson has played two top teams in Georgia (while they were healthy) and Florida State. South Carolina, on the other hand, has played an extremely weak schedule, albeit an SEC schedule. Because the Tigers' rushing attack will be nearly non-existent, the offensive line must give Boyd time to get the ball to his playmakers downfield. A major problem that Clemson must fix is all the turnover issues that have been so devastating in these games. During their four-game losing streak, Clemson lost the turnover battle with nine giveaways and only three takeaways. I think a mature Boyd, knowing what this game means to his legacy, will be able to buy himself the necessary time and make smart decisions with the football.
National respect, BCS bowls and the Coastal Division title are all up for grabs in the ACC this Saturday.
With four games against the SEC, the ACC has a chance to earn some national respect, especially if Clemson can go on the road and beat South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won four in a row in this series, but the Tigers’ explosive offense will be tough to contain.
Florida State looks to add to Florida’s miserable season with a win in the Swamp, while moving one step closer to the national championship.
Georgia Tech won’t have to face Aaron Murray, but the Bulldogs still have plenty of talent on the roster. The Yellow Jackets have not defeated their in-state rivals since 2008.
Duke travels to Chapel Hill in need of a victory to clinch a spot in the ACC Championship. With a win over their in-state rival, the Blue Devils will claim the Coastal Division title. However, if Duke stumbles, Virginia Tech has a chance to claim the division crown with a victory against Virginia.
ACC Week 14 Game Power Rankings
1. Clemson (+5) at South Carolina (7:00 ET, ESPN2)
The Iron Bowl is stealing the headlines — and rightfully so — but the annual battle for bragging rights in the Palmetto State should be just as intense. For the first time ever, these two teams will meet with both schools ranked in the top 10. Clemson, at 10–1, is on the fringe of the national title chase, but the Tigers can put themselves in position to earn an at-large invite to a BCS bowl with a win over South Carolina. The Gamecocks will no doubt be focused on winning this game, but they will also have an eye on the scoreboard. If Missouri loses at home to Texas A&M — in a game that kicks off 45 minutes later — South Carolina will represent the East in the SEC title game. Diving into the matchup in Columbia, you might be surprised to learn that South Carolina has been the more efficient team on offense on a per-play basis (6.6 for the Gamecocks to 6.3 for the Tigers) and Clemson has been better on defense (5.1 to 5.4). The schedules haven’t been the same — South Carolina’s has been more difficult — but these stats seem to contradict the national perception of both teams.
2. Duke (+5) at North Carolina (Noon ET, ESPN2)
Excitement over a Duke-North Carolina game is usually reserved for the hardwood, but this season’s game has major implications on the ACC and national level. The Tar Heels have won five in a row and can spoil the Blue Devils’ Coastal Division title hopes with a victory. Not only is Duke a win away from playing in the conference championship, it needs a victory to set a school record for most wins in a season. North Carolina’s offense has been on a tear over the last five games, averaging 44 points per contest in that span. Quarterback play is crucial for both teams on Saturday, as Marquise Williams stepped into the starting lineup for an injured Bryn Renner, and North Carolina’s offense hasn’t missed a beat. Duke’s Anthony Boone struggled in wins over Virginia Tech and NC State but rebounded with a strong performance against Wake Forest last week (24 of 29, 256 yards, three touchdowns). The Blue Devils won 33-30 in Durham last season, but the Tar Heels have claimed eight out of the last nine meetings. Duke’s last win in Chapel Hill came in 2003.
3. Georgia (+3) at Georgia Tech (3:30 ET, ABC)
For the first time since December 2009, someone other than Aaron Murray will be starting at quarterback for Georgia. Murray, one of the top quarterbacks in SEC history, is sidelined with a torn ACL suffered in Georgia’s win over Kentucky last Saturday. In steps Hutson Mason, a junior who has thrown a combined 82 passes in his three seasons. Mason’s task will be simple this week: Don’t make many mistakes and hand the ball off to Todd Gurley on a frequent basis. Todd Grantham has had his struggles as the defensive coordinator at Georgia, but his defenses have done a solid job against Georgia Tech’s option attack in his three seasons. Georgia has won all three by an average score of 38–20.
4. Florida State (+27) at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)
The annual meeting for bragging rights in the Sunshine State is usually one of the most-anticipated matchups of rivalry week. However, the 2013 matchup has a feeling of two teams headed in opposite directions. Florida State is two wins away from playing for the national championship, while Florida is having its worst season since a 0-10-1 record in 1979. The Gators enter Saturday’s contest on a six-game losing streak, including a 26-20 defeat to FCS opponent Georgia Southern last week. Injuries have hampered Florida’s season, and quarterback Tyler Murphy is questionable to play with a shoulder problem. Backup Skyler Mornhinweg has struggled in his two starts and faces a Florida State defense that leads the nation with 23 interceptions. Florida ranks second in the SEC in total defense, but the Seminoles average 7.9 yards per play and have scored at least 40 points in every game this year.
5. Miami (-2.5) at Pittsburgh (Friday, 3:30 ET, ABC)
Miami and Pittsburgh are former Big East rivals, but these two teams meet for the first time as ACC foes on Friday. The Hurricanes own a sizeable 22-9-1 series edge over the Panthers and claimed a 31-3 win over the Panthers in 2010. Miami still has an outside shot at playing for the ACC Championship, but Al Golden’s team needs a lot to go its way. The Panthers are trying to improve their bowl position, as well as win more than six games for the first time since 2010. Miami’s defense snapped a three-game streak of allowing 40 points or more by holding Virginia to 26 points last week. But the Hurricanes are shorthanded at cornerback due to injuries and have generated only 11 sacks in ACC games. Pittsburgh has struggled to protect quarterback Tom Savage, but the receiving tandem of Tyler Boyd and Devin Street has combined for 78 catches (eight touchdowns) this season. Miami’s offense ranks second in the ACC by averaging 6.8 yards per play, but turnovers (21) and inconsistent play have hindered this group’s production. Both teams are struggling to establish the run in recent weeks, which puts even more pressure on Savage and Miami quarterback Stephen Morris to produce.
6. Boston College (-2) at Syracuse (3:30 ET, RSN)
Syracuse needs one win to become bowl eligible, but the Orange has a tough assignment to earn win No. 6 on Saturday. Led by senior running back Andre Williams, Boston College has a four-game winning streak. Williams has 2,073 yards on 320 carries this season and has at least 263 yards in each of his last three games. Syracuse ranks sixth in ACC-only games against the run, allowing 149.7 yards per game. But a deeper look into the numbers shows the Orange has been vulnerable on the ground, as Georgia Tech gashed Syracuse for 394 yards and Florida State rushed for 225 yards on 19 attempts. Williams could find running room limited against the middle of the Orange’s defense, which is anchored by senior tackle Jay Bromley. Syracuse’s offense plans to have a similar blueprint of attack, relying on Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley to anchor a rushing game that averages 210.9 yards per game. Both teams should have no trouble establishing the run, so this game could be decided by whichever quarterback – Chase Rettig, Boston College or Terrel Hunt, Syracuse – is more efficient and makes plays with the game on the line.
7. Virginia Tech (-13) at Virginia (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
The Commonwealth Cup and bragging rights in the state of Virginia are on the line when the Hokies and Cavaliers meet on Saturday. While Virginia Tech has to be focused on winning this game, the Hokies have to keep an eye on the scoreboard, as a North Carolina win over Duke would send Frank Beamer’s team to the ACC Championship. While there are reasons to be excited in Blacksburg, Virginia is looking for answers after a 2-9 start. The Cavaliers have lost eight consecutive games, with a struggling offense (4.4 yards per play) the primary culprit. Virginia Tech’s offense has faced its share of struggles on offense, but quarterback Logan Thomas has been solid in the Hokies' last two games. Thomas doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards each week, especially with a defense that holds conference opponents under 300 yards per game (268.2), has generated 34 sacks and forced 24 turnovers. If Virginia can force a couple of turnovers, the Cavaliers will have a chance to snap a nine-game losing streak to their in-state rivals. But if Virginia Tech controls the turnover margin, its defense is capable of pitching a shutout against Virginia.
8. Maryland (-2.5) at NC State (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
Saturday’s road trip to Raleigh will be the final game for Maryland as an ACC member. The Terrapins are off to the Big Ten next season, but there’s more at stake than just another conference game. Maryland is on the bowl bubble in the ACC, and a win over NC State would help the Terrapins land in the postseason. The Wolfpack is still searching for their first conference win, and first-year coach Dave Doeren hopes to snap a seven-game losing streak to build momentum for spring practice. NC State’s offense showed some signs of life in the fourth quarter against East Carolina, but the Wolfpack is averaging only 16.3 points in ACC games this season. Maryland’s offense has been hit hard by injuries at receiver, while turnovers (18) have also slowed this unit’s production. The Terrapins have lost three out of the last four against NC State, with their last win in Raleigh coming in 2007.
9. Wake Forest (+14) at Vanderbilt (12:21 ET, SEC TV)
Vanderbilt returns home after its thrilling win in Knoxville with a chance to win eight games in the regular season for the second straight season — something that hasn’t been done since 1927-28. Here’s an interesting stat: Vanderbilt has averaged 289.4 yards in its last five games, but the Commodores are 4–1 during that stretch with wins over Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Wake Forest has shown sings of life in the last month — they lost by three at Miami and by seven to Duke — but the Deacons have lost four straight and will miss a bowl game for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Vanderbilt has won two straight over Wake by a combined score of 96–28.
ACC Week 14 Pivotal Players
Anthony Boone, QB, Duke
Boone didn’t play particularly well in a recent three-game stretch, tossing seven picks to no touchdowns. But the junior had a solid performance against Wake Forest, completing 24 of 29 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Boone will be matched against a North Carolina secondary allowing 210.6 yards per game, and this unit has held four out of its last five opponents to 204 passing yards or less. Duke’s defense has showed improvement after last season, but the Blue Devils will have trouble containing North Carolina’s offense. There should be no shortage of points scored in this game, and with the Tar Heels catching fire over the last few games, Boone may need a huge day through the air to keep up with North Carolina.
Jay Bromley, DT, Syracuse
No team has held Boston College running back Andre Williams under 263 yards in his last three games. Will Syracuse have more success than New Mexico State, NC State and Maryland? Statistically, the Orange has been relatively solid against the run (149.7 ypg). However, the Orange has been gashed at times, including 225 yards to Florida State and 394 to Georgia Tech. Bromley is one of the ACC’s best defensive tackles and needs to be disruptive at the line of scrimmage for Syracuse to slow down Williams.
Anthony Chickillo, DE, Miami
Protecting quarterback Tom Savage has been a huge problem for Pittsburgh this year. The Panthers have allowed an ACC-worst 40 sacks in 11 games. Chickillo is Miami’s best defensive end and has generated 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2013. If Savage has time to throw, he will have chances to take advantage of an injured Hurricane secondary. With concerns in the defensive backfield, ends Chickillo and Shayon Green need to get pressure on Savage and not allow the senior to hit on big plays downfield to receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd.
Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
The Seminoles are heavy favorites over their in-state rival but playing in the Swamp in a rivalry game is never an easy assignment. Florida State receiver Rashad Greene has been the go-to target for quarterback Jameis Winston, catching 57 passes for 889 yards and nine scores. Florida has arguably the best secondary the Seminoles will play all year, which includes standouts Loucheiz Purifoy and Vernon Hargreaves III. If Florida State wants to score 40 points for the 12th consecutive game, Greene and fellow receivers Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin need to win one-on-one battles against the Florida defensive backs on Saturday.
Brandon Thomas/Isaiah Battle, OT, Clemson
In last year’s loss to South Carolina, Clemson allowed four sacks and seven tackles for a loss. End Jadeveon Clowney had his way with the Tigers’ line, and even though the junior is having a disappointing season, he's capable of dominating the line of scrimmage once again. Thomas and Battle are expected to start at tackle, and this pair will be challenged to stop Clowney and senior Chaz Sutton. For Clemson to stop South Carolina’s four game winning-streak in this series, Thomas and Battle have to keep the Gamecocks’ ends away from quarterback Tajh Boyd.
ACC Week 14 Predictions
|Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Miami (-2.5) at Pittsburgh||Pitt 24-21||Miami 34-30||Miami 31-27||Miami 27-24|
|Duke (+5) at North Carolina||Duke 35-28||UNC 38-31||UNC 34-31||UNC 34-24|
|Florida State (NL) at Florida||FSU 63-7||FSU 52-13||FSU 45-10||FSU 34-0|
|Wake Forest (+14) at Vanderbilt||Vandy 21-14||Vandy 38-28||Vandy 34-13||Vandy 28-13|
|Maryland (-2.5) at NC State||Maryland 28-17||NC State 27-25||NC State 27-24||Maryland 17-14|
|Georgia (-3) at Georgia Tech||Ga. Tech 35-21||Georgia 34-31||Georgia 34-27||Georgia 34-27|
|Boston College (-2) at Syracuse||BC 28-21||BC 31-27||BC 27-24||BC 27-20|
|Virginia Tech (-13) at Virginia||Va. Tech 27-17||Va. Tech 24-10||Va. Tech 34-10||Va. Tech 30-7|
|Clemson (+5) at South Carolina||So. Carolina 31-21||So. Carolina 38-34||So. Carolina 30-24||Clemson 30-20|
The Egg Bowl rivalry between Mississippi State and Ole Miss is usually one of the highlights of SEC play during the last week of regular season action.
The Bulldogs need a win to keep their bowl hopes alive, and Dan Mullen’s team will be wearing a shiny new (and very gold) helmet for their Thursday night rivalry matchup:
With 13 weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is starting to come into focus.
The post-Week 13 BCS standings featured some movement at the top, but the biggest surprise was Northern Illinois jumping Fresno State. The Huskies are in position to return to the BCS, but the Bulldogs could pass Northern Illinois in next week’s standings. Fresno State plays San Jose State, while the Huskies host Western Michigan. The small boost in strength of schedule could help the Bulldogs just enough to pass the Huskies. For now, Fresno State gets the nod over Northern Illinois in our BCS projections. But this is one battle that could change hands a couple of times over the next two weeks.
With Oregon’s loss to Arizona, Stanford is back in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 and play in the Rose Bowl. The Cardinal finished their Pac-12 slate with a blowout win over California last Saturday and host Notre Dame this week. The Ducks are still alive for an at-large BCS bowl spot. However, Mark Helfrich’s team needs a lot to go their way in order to play in a BCS bowl.
Outside of Stanford, the other change in our BCS projections is Oklahoma State. After beating Baylor, the Cowboys are projected to win the Big 12 and should play in the Fiesta Bowl against Fresno State or Northern Illinois.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but with just two weeks to go in the regular season, it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like.
The post-Week 13 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 13 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 after Saturday's games.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including Syracuse, Central Michigan, Texas State, FAU and Ohio.
College Football's Post-Week 13 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Colo. State vs. Arizona|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Ball State vs. Washington State*|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Boise State vs. USC|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Toledo* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||UNLV vs. Rice|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. Arkansas State*|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Utah State vs. Buffalo*|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||E. Carolina vs. Boston College|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Texas Tech vs. Michigan|
|Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. Washington|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Houston vs. North Carolina|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Louisville vs. Miami|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Texas vs. Iowa|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Navy vs. SDSU|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Georgia vs. Pittsburgh|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Oklahoma vs. Oregon|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Arizona State vs. Kansas State|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Georgia Tech vs. Oregon State*|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||UCLA vs. Virginia Tech|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Vanderbilt vs. Marshall|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||South Carolina vs. Duke|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Ole Miss vs. Minnesota|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||North Texas vs. Maryland*|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Missouri vs. Nebraska|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Michigan State vs. Texas A&M|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Stanford vs. Ohio State|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Oklahoma State|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Auburn vs. UCF|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Baylor|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. Wisconsin|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Troy* vs. Rutgers|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Bowling Green vs. Western Kentucky|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Florida State|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
Bold indicates team has accepted bid to bowl.
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
Big 12 Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
Big Ten Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
Pac-12 Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
SEC Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
Stats to Know from Week 13
With two weeks left in the 2013 season, college football’s coaching carousel is about to get interesting. And after this Saturday’s slate of games, several teams will close the book on their 2013 schedule. With the season over for many teams, expect to see a lot of changes starting on Sunday.
Florida’s Will Muschamp takes the top spot in this week’s hot seat watch. The Gators have been hit hard by injuries, but there’s simply no excuse for losing to a FCS team. Not only did Georgia Southern win in the Swamp, but the Eagles also dominated the line of scrimmage against a team that recruits among the best nationally. Barring a change of opinion by athletic director Jeremy Foley after playing Florida State this Saturday, Muschamp is expected to return for 2014.
Virginia’s Mike London is in a similar position to Muschamp. London is on the hot seat after a 2-9 mark, but he is expected to return for 2014. The Cavaliers have a solid recruiting class on the way, which should help London restock the roster. However, London likely needs to make a bowl game to save his job.
Is Thursday night’s game against Texas Tech the final home game for Mack Brown? The Longhorns are 7-3 and host the Red Raiders on Thanksgiving night, before playing at Baylor on Dec. 7. Brown could return for 2014, but with a new athletic director, his future in Austin is uncertain.
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top-10 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen or Maryland’s Randy Edsall – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Will Muschamp||4-7||Loss to Ga. Southern could be worst in program history.|
|2||Mike London||2-9||Expected to return for 2014.|
|3||Norm Chow||0-11||Warriors could break into the win column this week.|
|4||Ron Turner||1-10||Lost four consecutive games by at least 20 points.|
|5||Tim Beckman||4-7||Not pretty, but Illini snap 20-game Big Ten losing streak.|
|6||Dave Christensen||5-6||Cowboys beat Hawaii to keep bowl hopes alive.|
|7||Mack Brown||7-3||Is Thursday night the final home game for Brown?|
|9||Kevin Wilson||4-7||Wilson needs to find answers on defense this offseason.|
|12||Charlie Weis||3-7||Jayhawks unable to build momentum from win over WVU.|
|13||Randy Edsall||6-5||Terps play final game as ACC member this Saturday.|
|14||Kyle Flood||5-5||Scarlet Knights have lost four out of last five.|
|15||Todd Monken||0-11||One more chance to snap losing streak (23 games).|
|18||Bo Pelini||8-3||All signs point to Pelini returning for 2014.|
|21||Sonny Dykes||1-11||Dykes needs to find answers on defense this offseason.|
|27||Dan Enos||5-6||Chippewas using easy schedule to climb to .500 mark.|
|29||June Jones||5-6||Mustangs need healthy Garrett Gilbert to get to six wins.|
|33||Bobby Hauck||6-5||Win over AFA likely secures bowl bid for Rebels.|
|34||Dan Mullen||5-6||Breakdown of Mullen's coaching tenure.|
|35||Paul Haynes||4-8||Golden Flashes closed out 2013 with two wins in a row.|
|36||Ron Caragher||5-6||SJSU needs to beat Fresno State to get to a bowl.|
|39||Tony Levine||7-4||Cougars have lost three in a row after 7-1 start.|
|44||Trent Miles||0-11||Georgia State showing progress in Miles' first season.|
|47||Scott Shafer||5-6||Orange still have one more shot at getting bowl eligible.|
|49||Kirk Ferentz||7-4||Good rebound season for Ferentz.|
|51||Jeff Quinn||8-3||Bulls win MAC East with victory over Bowling Green.|
|62||Justin Fuente||3-7||Tigers clearly making progress under Fuente.|
|70||Rocky Long||7-4||Aztecs have won seven out of last eight games.|
|71||Matt Wells||7-4||Win over Wyoming sends USU to MW title game.|
|78||Dave Clawson||8-3||Showdown with Buffalo this Friday to win MAC East.|
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
Big 12 Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
Big Ten Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
Pac-12 Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
SEC Week 13 Awards and Power Rankings
Stats to Know from Week 13
True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether it's a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the ACC to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference in Week 13.
Stats to Know from the ACC
0: Amount of times Duke has finished a season with double-digit wins
Duke’s annual matchup against North Carolina is usually one of the most-anticipated games on the hardwood, but this year’s meeting has extra importance on the gridiron. With a win over the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils will clinch a spot in the ACC Championship and earn their first season of double-digit wins in school history. Duke won nine games in 1993, 1936, 1938 and 1941 under Wallace Wade. However, the Blue Devils have never managed to crack the 10-win mark. If Duke doesn’t win this week, it will have another shot at 10 victories in a bowl.
41.5: Clemson QB Tajh Boyd’s completion percentage in two starts against South Carolina
If the Tigers are going to snap a four-game losing streak to rival South Carolina, quarterback Tajh Boyd and the offensive line has to step up this Saturday. In two starts against the Gamecocks, Boyd has completed 22 of 53 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. In last year’s meeting, the senior was sacked six times and harassed all game by the South Carolina defensive line.
17-9: Frank Beamer’s record against Virginia
The Hokies are in the midst of a semi-disappointing season, but with a little bit of help, can still reach the ACC Championship. However, Virginia Tech has to beat rival Virginia to have any hope of playing for the conference title. Hokies’ coach Frank Beamer has owned the Cavaliers in recent years, winning nine in a row and 13 out of the last 14. Beamer’s all-time record against Virginia is 17-9, with the Cavaliers’ last victory in Blacksburg coming in 1998.
Oct. 19: The last time Georgia Tech threw a touchdown pass
Considering Georgia Tech has a run-first offense, it’s no surprise it has only nine passing scores all year. However, it’s a bit surprising the Yellow Jackets have gone four games without a touchdown toss. Even in the Nov. 14 loss to Clemson, Georgia Tech did not record a touchdown pass despite hoisting a season-high 26 attempts. It’s not critical for the Yellow Jackets to throw for a score against Georgia this week, but Georgia Tech will need to throw to take some attention away from the line of scrimmage.
44: Average points per game by North Carolina with Marquise Williams starting at QB
Williams has four starts under his belt this year – Virginia Tech, Virginia, Pittsburgh and Old Dominion – and the Tar Heels are averaging 44 points a game in those contests. The 80 points scored against Old Dominion slightly skews that total, but even if you remove the game against the Monarchs, Williams is still averaging 31.7 points in the other three starts. With Williams only getting better, along with a strong core of skill players returning next season, the Tar Heels should be in the mix to win the Coastal in 2014.
16: Yards gained by Pittsburgh on six non-scoring drives in the second half against Syracuse
Timely offense or good defense? That’s about the only way to describe Pittsburgh’s second-half offense against Syracuse on Saturday. The Panthers managed only 16 yards on six non-scoring second-half drives but recorded 88 on nine plays to score the game-winning touchdown late in the third quarter. The Orange’s offense wasn’t much more effective in the second half, recording six drives of 27 or fewer yards. Syracuse scored on a five-play 62-yard drive early in the third quarter. A big reason for the offensive struggles for Pittsburgh was a lackluster rushing game, which managed only 21 yards on 27 attempts.
247: Rushing yards averaged by Boston College’s Andre Williams over last five games
Williams continued his torrid pace with 263 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts in Boston College’s 29-26 victory over Maryland. Over the last three games, Williams has averaged at least eight yards per carry and has scored two times in every game. The senior has 2,073 yards this year, which is a single-season school record. But Williams has his sights set even higher, as Barry Sanders’ single-season record (2,628 yards) is within reach with two games remaining. The senior will have a chance to add to his total this week, as Boston College travels to take on Syracuse. The Orange has held three of their last four opponents under 2.2 yards per carry, but that total will be challenged by Williams. The senior also needs just 86 yards to own the school record for most rushing yards in a career.
16: Florida State defensive players with interceptions this season
Under the direction of first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Florida State’s defense leads the nation with 23 interceptions. To indicate how deep the talent pool is on defense in 2013, the Seminoles have 16 players with interceptions this season. Freshman Nate Andrews leads the team with four, while senior linebacker Telvin Smith leads a group of four players tied with two. Five of Florida State’s 16 interceptions have been returned for touchdowns, including two by Smith and one by Andrews.
94: Rushing yards per game averaged by Wake Forest – worst of the Jim Grobe era
Losing receiver Michael Campanaro was a huge setback for Wake Forest’s offense this year, but a bigger problem for the Demon Deacons has been the inability to run the ball. Through 11 games, Wake Forest is averaging just 94 yards per contest – easily the worst of the Jim Grobe era. The Demon Deacons averaged only 100.5 rushing yards per game last season, but 2013 is the first time under triple digits since 1998. Wake Forest’s season rushing average has also declined in each of the last three years.
211-194-4: Maryland’s ACC record with one conference game remaining
Maryland travels to NC State this Saturday for the final ACC game in school history. The Terrapins have made gains in reach of Randy Edsall’s three seasons in College Park and should play in a bowl this year. Maryland’s all-time record in ACC play is 211-194-4, with the last winning record in conference games occurring in 2010. The Terrapins are just 11-28 in ACC games over the last five years.
74: Rushing yards Kevin Parks needs to reach 1,000
Virginia’s offense has struggled mightily at times this year. The Cavaliers rank ninth in the ACC (conference-only games) in total offense, averaging just 4.4 yards per play. The rushing attack has been one of the few bright spots, with running back Kevin Parks averaging 84.2 yards per game. Parks also has 11 touchdowns this year. If Parks rushes for 74 yards against Virginia Tech, the junior will become the first Virginia rusher since Alvin Pearman in 2004 to reach 1,000 yards.
18.7: Yards per touch by Miami receiver Stacy Coley against Virginia
Allen Hurns is Miami’s go-to receiver this season, but Coley has provided plenty of big plays in his first season. Against the Cavaliers, Coley recorded 50 yards on two kickoff returns and caught five passes for 81 yards and one touchdown. The freshman scored Miami’s first offensive touchdown against Virginia, catching a 62-yard scoring pass from quarterback Stephen Morris. Coley has 27 receptions for 486 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Wyoming and Utah State are set to play this Saturday in a key Mountain West game. The Aggies need to win to get to the conference championship, while the Cowboys need a victory to get bowl eligible.
However, both teams will have a little extra incentive this week, as the schools announced a new rivalry trophy. The winner will claim a rifle after the game, which is a tribute to Jim Bridger – a famous mountain man and explorer. This rivalry will be known as “Bridger’s Battle.”
We're excited to announce a new rivalry series with Wyoming that includes a new traveling trophy... The very... http://t.co/lZwFe6VlIz— Utah State Football (@USUFootball) November 25, 2013
Army-Navy is arguably the top rivalry in college football. These two programs have met 113 times, with Navy owning a 57-49-7 edge.
These two teams will meet on Dec. 14 this year, and both will wear alternate uniforms.
Here’s a look at the alternate uniforms for the annual Navy-Army game:
Army and Navy will play each other on Dec. 14 and somehow manage not to wear camouflage: pic.twitter.com/A4SDa0go9b— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 25, 2013
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is a hot topic in the SEC this season. Mullen has led the Bulldogs to three consecutive bowl games, and with a win over rival Ole Miss, can extend that streak to four.
Even though Mullen has Mississippi State on the edge of a fourth consecutive bowl appearance, there’s some grumblings in the SEC and around Mississippi about his job status. No, Mullen isn’t going to lose his job this year, but there’s plenty of talk around in the SEC about the fifth-year coach moving onto the hot seat.
Even if Mississippi State falls short of a winning record, Mullen has done enough in five years to warrant more time to build this program.
Analyzing Dan Mullen's Tenure at Mississippi State
To understand where Dan Mullen is at during his tenure at Mississippi State, it’s important to examine the history of former coaches in Starkville.
|Coach||Years at Miss. State||Overall Record||SEC Record|
Need evidence of just how difficult it is to win at Mississippi State?
5. Texas A&M
8. South Carolina
10. Ole Miss
13. Mississippi State
In terms of job hierarchy, Mississippi State is near the bottom of the SEC. Attracting top talent and overall program resources just aren’t the same as what coaches can get at Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU.
In USA Today’s 2012 athletic department revenue study, Mississippi State ranked 11th in the SEC, just ahead of Ole Miss and Missouri (Vanderbilt did not disclose its revenue).
While athletic revenue isn’t necessarily a true indicator of success, it’s important to note when considering where Mississippi State is on the food chain in the SEC. The Bulldogs’ 2012 revenue of $69.8 million was considerably off SEC West rivals Arkansas ($99.7 million), Auburn ($105.9 million), Alabama ($124.9 million), LSU ($114.8 million) and Texas A&M ($119.7 million).
Without the necessary dollars and fertile location for recruiting, Mississippi State is at a sizeable disadvantage to its SEC West opponents.
Dan Mullen's Win/Loss Record
|2009||5-7||3-5||T-4th SEC West|
|2010||9-4||4-4||5th SEC West|
|2011||7-6||2-6||5th SEC West|
|2012||8-5||4-4||4th SEC West|
|2013||5-6||2-5||5th SEC West|
If Mississippi State beats Ole Miss on Thursday night, the Bulldogs will earn a school-record fourth consecutive bowl appearance. Mullen’s 24 wins from 2010-12 are the most for Mississippi State since Jackie Sherrill won 26 from 1998-2000.
Of Mississippi State’s 15 SEC wins, none have occurred against Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M. However, the Bulldogs lost by only 13 against the Crimson Tide this season, which was Alabama’s second-closest loss in 2013.
Five of Mullen’s SEC victories have been against Kentucky, two against Arkansas, one against Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt and three against rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs also have a win over Georgia and a victory at Florida under Mullen’s watch.
Recruiting information by 247Sports
|Year||National Rank||Conference Rank||5* Signed||4* Signed|
Recruiting Within Mississippi - Top 25 Recruits
|Year||Mississippi State||Ole Miss|
Considering where Mississippi State is on the SEC’s totem poll, back-to-back top-25 recruiting classes is a solid step for this program. And it’s too early to judge the 2014 class, especially since the Bulldogs have only 19 commitments. Without a huge group of departing seniors, Mississippi State isn’t going to sign a monster class this year, so it’s likely the Bulldogs rank outside of the top 25.
In the three years prior to Mullen’s arrival, Mississippi State did not rank in the top 35 nationally in signing classes. In all five of Mullen’s classes, the Bulldogs have reached that plateau, including the No. 19 overall class in 2009.
Within the state of Mississippi, the balance of power seems to have shifted back to Ole Miss. The Rebels signed seven of the state’s top prospects in 2013 after inking three in 2012. And with a few months to go in the recruiting cycle, Ole Miss has a nine to five edge in top-25 recruits.
It’s not a sizeable difference in the last two years, but Mississippi State has to continue to hold its own within the state.
Mississippi State's Offense Under Mullen
* Conference-only stats
|Year||Rush||Pass||Total||Scoring||Yards Per Play|
|2009||222.0 (1)||120.9 (11)||342.9 (9)||22.5 (T-7th)||5.1|
|2010||186.9 (2)||148.3 (11)||335.1 (11)||18.9 (11)||4.9|
|2011||131.1 (9)||155.1 (8)||286.3 (9)||18.1 (9)||4.4|
|2012||111.3 (13)||266.1 (5)||377.4 (7)||25.3 (8)||5.7|
|2013||180.4 (6)||241.9 (7)||422.3 (7)||23.1 (10)||5.9|
With a background on offense, Mississippi State’s performance on this side of the ball should factor into the evaluation of Mullen.
The Bulldogs have not ranked higher than seventh in total offense, but their scoring average and yards per play have increased in each of the last two seasons. The SEC has lost some key defensive talent in recent years, and there’s a trend to more offense, but Mississippi State has made gains on offense under Mullen’s watch.
One positive sign: Dak Prescott showed flashes of potential in limited action this season. If the sophomore quarterback can build on that success, Mississippi State’s offense could show solid growth in 2014.
“You always just have to completely block that out. Like one question, are you on the hot seat? Well, I hate to break it to you, if you’re coaching in the Southeastern Conference, I've been on the hot seat here for five years now."- Dan Mullen
Judging or ranking coaches isn’t an easy task. But just relying on wins and losses to judge a successful tenure isn’t the way to go. Program hierarchy plays a large role in how teams and coaches should be judged. Is a national title possible at Mississippi State? Sure. But is it likely? It’s a tough assignment for any coach. Coaching in Starkville without the tradition of success or recruiting ability of Alabama or Florida makes the Mississippi State job one of the toughest in the SEC.
Could another coach perform better than Mullen? Sure. But let’s swap Mullen with Les Miles or Kevin Sumlin tomorrow. Will either perform drastically better at Mississippi State? Probably not.
At a program like Mississippi State, it’s reasonable to expect finishes in the top 25, bowl games every year and an upset here and there against the best in the SEC.
According to Mississippi State’s game notes, the Bulldogs have only six seniors as starters. The two-deep depth chart also features 13 freshmen. This is clearly not a team built to win in 2013. With most of the core returning in 2014, combined with improvement on the recruiting trail, the Bulldogs should be in better shape to make a move in the SEC West. And with LSU, Texas A&M and Alabama losing key personnel, Mississippi State will have an opportunity to win eight games in 2014.
Considering how difficult and loaded the SEC West has developed into over the last few seasons, the Bulldogs (already at a program disadvantage to the rest of the division) are already fighting an uphill battle.
If Mullen regresses to multiple years with a losing record, then it’s time for Mississippi State to make a coaching change. But for now, Mullen is on pace to exceed the previous tenures in Starkville. And with improving facilities, Mullen has more ammunition to work on closing the gap in the SEC West.
Mississippi State is a tough job, but Mullen has made progress. If the Bulldogs regress in 2014, then it’s time to put Mullen on the hot seat.
As long as the Bulldogs make bowl games and continue to narrow the gap with the top teams in the SEC West, Mullen should be employed in Starkville.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray suffered a torn ACL in Saturday’s win over Kentucky and will miss the remainder of the 2013 season.
Prior to his injury, Murray completed 18 of 23 passes for 183 yards and four touchdowns against the Wildcats.
Hutson Mason is Murray’s backup and completed 13 of 19 throws for 189 yards and one touchdown in relief.
Murray finishes his Georgia career with 13,166 yards and 121 touchdowns. Murray also threw for at least 3,000 yards in all four of his seasons in Athens.
The ACC didn’t have a matchup with national interest in Week 13, but there were plenty of key developments from the few conference games.
Boston College running back Andre Williams continued his ridiculous season with a huge outing against Maryland. The Eagles improved to 7-4 with a win over the Terrapins, which should help Boston College’s bowl positioning in the ACC.
Pittsburgh earned bowl eligibility with a 17-16 win at Syracuse, while Florida State and Clemson cruised against overmatched opponents.
North Carolina scored 80 points in a rout over Old Dominion, and Duke moved one step closer to a Coastal Division title with a 28-21 victory over Wake Forest.
The struggles of NC State and Virginia continued, as both teams dropped games in Week 13.
ACC Week 13 Awards and Recap
Offensive Player of the Week: Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
Another week, another huge outing for Williams. The senior gashed Maryland’s defense for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts. Williams made a couple of key plays in the fourth quarter that propelled Boston College to the victory, including a 72-yard touchdown run with just over 10 minutes remaining. The senior also had a 36-yard rush, which put the Eagles into position for the game-winning field goal. Williams now has three consecutive 200-yard efforts, has eight touchdowns over his last four games, while averaging at least eight yards per carry in each of his last three contests. Considering Williams’ performance in recent weeks, the senior should be mentioned more in the Heisman discussion.
Defensive Player of the Week: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
There were a handful of standout defensive performances in the ACC in Week 13, with Donald narrowly beating Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan and North Carolina’s Kareem Martin for this week’s honor. With bowl eligibility on the line, Donald and Pittsburgh’s defense held Syracuse to 16 points and 307 yards on 67 plays. The Orange recorded 148 rushing yards, which was 73 below their weekly average. Donald once again wrecked havoc against the offensive line, recording nine tackles (3.5 tackles for a loss) and two quarterback hurries. Donald also blocked an extra point after Syracuse’s first touchdown.
Team of the Week: Boston College
The Eagles continued their impressive turnaround under first-year coach Steve Addazio, recording a 29-26 road win against Maryland. The victory over the Terrapins gave Boston College seven this year, which is more than the program had from the 2011-12 seasons combined. Running back Andre Williams continues to carry the offense, rushing for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts. Quarterback Chase Rettig completed only six passes, but the senior made a key 74-yard touchdown toss to Alex Amidon to give Boston College at 26-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles’ defense held Maryland to just 4.3 yards per play and sacked quarterback C.J. Brown four times.
Coordinator of the Week: Blake Anderson, North Carolina
Old Dominion wasn’t the best defense North Carolina has played this year, but let’s give Anderson some credit for the performance of the Tar Heels’ offense. North Carolina recorded a school-record 80 points against the Monarchs, averaged 10.6 yards per play and punted only twice. Quarterback Marquise Williams continues to impress, completing 20 of 27 passes for 409 yards and five touchdowns against Old Dominion. The Tar Heels also received plenty of help from the ground attack, as freshman T.J. Logan led the way with 137 yards and three touchdowns on 14 attempts. Under Anderson’s direction, North Carolina has now scored at least 30 points in four out of its last five games.
Freshman of the Week: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Another week, another freshman honor for Winston. Against an overmatched Idaho team, Winston was steady as usual, completing 14 of 25 passes for 225 yards and four touchdowns. The freshman’s pass protection was shaky at times, but Winston still managed to average 16.1 yards per completion and guided the Seminoles to a 49-7 lead before departing early in the third quarter. With Johnny Manziel struggling against LSU, Winston’s performance should be enough for the freshman to extend his lead in the Heisman race.
ACC Post-Week 13 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||LW||Record||This Week||Next Week|
|1||1||11-0, 8-0||W, Idaho 80-14||at Florida|
|2||2||10-1, 7-1||W, The Citadel, 52-6||at South Carolina|
|3||3||9-2, 5-2||W, Wake Forest 28-21||at North Carolina|
|4||4||7-4, 4-3||Bye Week||at Virginia|
|5||5||8-4, 4-3||W, Virginia 45-26||at Pittsburgh|
|6||6||7-4, 5-3||W, Alabama A&M 66-7||Georgia|
|7||7||6-5, 4-3||W, Old Dominion 80-20||Duke|
|8||8||7-4, 4-3||W, Maryland 29-26||at Syracuse|
|9||9||6-5, 3-4||W, Syracuse 17-16||Miami|
|10||10||5-6, 3-4||L, Pittsburgh 17-16||Boston College|
|11||11||6-5, 2-5||L, Boston College 29-26||at NC State|
|12||12||4-7, 2-6||L, Duke 28-21||at Vanderbilt|
|13||13||3-8, 0-7||L, East Carolina 42-28||Maryland|
|14||14||2-9, 0-7||L, Miami 45-26||Virginia Tech|
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota entered Saturday’s game against Arizona with a streak of 353 passes without an interception. However, on his first pass against the Wildcats, Mariota was picked off, which was the start of a bad day for the Ducks.
Mariota’s pass was deflected off the receiver’s hands, which was knocked back into the field of play by Shaquille Richardson. After Richardson knocked the ball back into the field, linebacker Scooby Wright made the catch to give Arizona possession.
Boston College running back Andre Williams continued his stellar 2013 season with 263 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts against Maryland.
The senior made a key run in the fourth quarter to put the Eagles in position to kick the game-winning field goal. However, his play of the day might have been a mean stiff arm that clobbered Maryland defensive back Will Likely:
Just how big is next week’s Iron Bowl? Auburn already has RVs lining up to get tailgate spots for next Saturday’s game.
Don’t believe us? Check out these photos from Auburn:
After East Carolina’s 42-28 victory over NC State, a billboard popped up in North Carolina celebrating the Pirates’ 2013 season.
East Carolina has bragging rights over its in-state foes, as the Pirates beat North Carolina and NC State this season.
The Pirates will have a chance to win Conference USA’s East Division next week against Marshall.
Texas A&M has a key SEC game on Saturday against LSU, and the Aggies have unveiled an alternate uniform for the matchup against the Tigers.
According to the school's twitter feed, these are the "Dark Onyx" uniforms:
Texas A&M works with Adidas & calls last minute audible on unis vs LSU pic.twitter.com/vfK2jtkNBn— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) November 23, 2013
Texas A&M helmets for LSU game pic.twitter.com/bTdBDbY4A7— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) November 23, 2013
The Pac-12 South title could be on the line when Arizona State travels to UCLA on Saturday night.
Arizona State sits atop the Pac-12 South standings going into Week 13, but UCLA is just a game behind. The Bruins and Sun Devils aren’t alone in chasing the division crown, as USC is still alive at 5-2 in conference play. The Trojans lost to Arizona State earlier this year and play UCLA next week.
The Sun Devils have lost only one Pac-12 contest this season, a 42-28 matchup at Stanford in late September. Since losing to the Cardinal, Arizona State has reeled off five consecutive conference victories, including a 62-41 blowout win over USC.
UCLA started 5-0 but stumbled in back-to-back games against Stanford and Oregon. Although the Bruins dropped those two matchups, Stanford and Oregon are the top-two teams in the Pac-12, so there’s no question Jim Mora’s team is battle-tested.
Close games have defined this series in the last two years. UCLA won by two points last year and claimed a one-point victory in 2011. The Bruins own an 18-10-1 series edge over the Sun Devils, with Arizona State’s last victory against UCLA coming in 2010. The Bruins have won two in a row over the Sun Devils in the Rose Bowl.
Arizona State at UCLA
Kickoff: 7 ET
TV Channel: Fox
Spread: Arizona State -2.5
Three Things to Watch
Arizona State’s defensive line vs. UCLA’s offensive line
It’s a strength versus weakness matchup in the trenches on Saturday night. Arizona State’s defensive line is among the best in the nation, anchored by senior tackle Will Sutton. Sophomore Jaxon Hood and senior Gannon Conway round out the likely starting defensive line for the Sun Devils, and this unit helps to key an aggressive front seven. Linebacker/end Carl Bradford is the team’s top pass rusher, recording 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles this year. UCLA’s offensive line features three freshmen and depth is a concern due to injuries. The Bruins haven’t been terrible in pass protection (18 sacks in seven Pac-12 games), but this unit allowed seven of those in UCLA’s two losses. Arizona State’s defense has 23 sacks in Pac-12 action, so expect the Bruins’ young offensive line to have their hands full. UCLA needs to give quarterback Brett Hundley a clean pocket, but the sophomore is also capable of making plays with his legs when necessary.
UCLA’s rushing attack
UCLA ranks seventh in Pac-12-only games in rushing offense. The Bruins are averaging 166.7 yards per game, but the ground game has received a spark in the last two games from linebacker Myles Jack. Yes, that’s right, a linebacker. Jack is an athletic freak and has 179 yards on just 19 attempts. The coaching staff doesn’t want to overuse Jack on offense, especially with a high-powered Arizona State offense on the other side. But Jack should expect to play some on offense, especially if Jordon James is less than full strength due to an ankle injury. James has played in only five games this year and has missed five out of the last six contests. The Sun Devils struggled against the run last season but rank second in the Pac-12 in 2013. Opponents are averaging just 111.3 yards per game on the ground against Arizona State this year. The Sun Devils held three of their last four opponents to 70 or fewer yards on the ground. UCLA has to be careful not to overwork Jack, but the freshman has been this team’s best option recently. Will James be at full strength on Saturday night? If he is, the Bruins should be able to depend on him for 20 carries. However, expect to see Paul Perkins and quarterback Brett Hundley contribute to the ground game as well.
Stopping Marion Grice
Arizona State running back Marion Grice leads all Pac-12 players by averaging 12 points a game this year. The senior has 20 touchdowns through 10 games and needs 99 yards to reach 1,000 on the season. UCLA’s rush defense ranks eighth in Pac-12 only games and has allowed 11 touchdowns in conference play. The Bruins held Grice to 48 yards last year, but Arizona State managed 220 overall yards on the ground. The Sun Devils are relatively balanced in their play-calling, and it’s difficult to keep this offense in check. UCLA has an active and speedy front seven, which figures to create some problems for Grice and the Arizona State offensive line. If Grice can get on track, it will help take some of the pressure off quarterback Taylor Kelly. However, if the Bruins slow down Grice, the Bruins’ defense should get the upper hand in the matchup against Arizona State’s offense.
Key Player: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
Since throwing for 275 yards and five touchdowns against Washington State, Kelly hasn’t had his best efforts in Arizona State’s last two games. The junior has just 327 yards over the last two weeks and has tossed two picks to one touchdown. The Bruins rank sixth in the Pac-12 in pass defense, but opponents are completing 63.1 percent of their throws. Even though Kelly is a sharp passer (62.4), he’s also got plenty of mobility (3.4 ypc) for UCLA to account for him in the run game. After two sluggish performances, will Kelly bounce back and lead Arizona State to a South Division title?
If you like offense, this game is must-see television on Saturday night. There’s very little separating these two teams, so homefield advantage for UCLA could swing this in its favor. And both teams are +9 in turnover margin in Pac-12 play, so every mistake will be magnified. Arizona State has lost its last two games to UCLA by just three combined points. If the Sun Devils keep linebacker Anthony Barr away from quarterback Taylor Kelly, their offense should have an edge against UCLA’s defense. When the Bruins have the ball, it’s all about protecting quarterback Brett Hundley against an experienced, aggressive front seven for Arizona State. It’s tough to pick against the Bruins in the Rose Bowl, but it’s time for the Sun Devils to break through.
Prediction: Arizona State 34, UCLA 31
Texas A&M and LSU are out of the SEC West title picture, but Saturday’s matchup between these two teams could be one of Week 13’s most entertaining games.
Both teams should be rested after bye weeks last Saturday, and there’s added importance due to bowl positioning.
At 8-2, Texas A&M is still alive for a BCS bowl. If the Aggies win out, they will likely play in the Sugar Bowl as the replacement for the SEC champion. Winning the final two games of the year isn’t a guarantee for Texas A&M, especially with back-to-back road trips.
LSU is likely out of the mix for a BCS bowl, but the Tigers have a chance to finish 2013 on a high note. And most importantly, with wins against Texas A&M and Arkansas, LSU will earn its fifth straight season of at least nine victories.
LSU leads the overall series 28-20-3. The Tigers have won the last two meetings against Texas A&M, with the Aggies’ last victory over LSU coming in 1995. This is only the second meeting between LSU and Texas A&M as SEC foes. This emerging rivalry will get some extra attention in 2014, as these programs are scheduled to play on Thanksgiving night in College Station.
Texas A&M at LSU
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: LSU -4.5
Three Things to Watch
Johnny Manziel vs. LSU’s defense
LSU’s defense managed to solve Texas A&M’s high-powered offense last year. The Tigers held the Aggies to just 19 points (second-lowest total of the season), while quarterback Johnny Manziel recorded only 303 total yards and no touchdowns. LSU sacked Manziel three times and recorded eight tackles for a loss on the Aggies’ offense. While the Tigers kept Texas A&M’s offense in check last year, this unit is undergoing some major renovations. Through 10 games, LSU’s defense is having an uncharacteristic season, ranking ninth in the SEC against the run and recording only 12 sacks in conference play. The Tigers’ secondary has fared better than the rush defense, ranking sixth in the SEC in pass defense, but this unit has allowed 10 passing scores in six conference games. Manziel is still a dangerous runner (5.6 ypc), but the sophomore has made strides as a passer and is more patient in the pocket in 2013. LSU’s defense was able to use its speed and athleticism on the line to keep Manziel in the pocket last year and limit his rushing attempts. With all of the personnel losses in the front seven, can the Tigers replicate the same gameplan? Or will an improved passing game from Manziel result in more big plays to receiver Mike Evans?
Texas A&M’s run defense vs. Jeremy Hill
Texas A&M’s rush defense has been gashed by opposing teams all season. Will that change on Saturday? The Aggies are allowing 223.5 rushing yards per game in SEC play. Auburn rushed for 379 yards against Texas A&M on Oct. 19, and only one opponent in conference action has been held under 100 yards by the Aggies (Vanderbilt). LSU goes four-deep at running back, and J.C. Copeland is one of the best fullbacks in the nation. Sophomore Jeremy Hill leads the team with 964 yards and 13 scores, but Terrence Magee (407 yards) and Kenny Hilliard (271 yards) should expect to see snaps on Saturday. Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder has a tough choice. Does he load the box to slow down LSU’s rushing attack? If the Aggies devote more attention to stop the run, the secondary will be vulnerable against the Tigers’ receiving corps.
LSU’s wide receivers versus Texas A&M’s secondary
These two teams aren’t short on potential All-SEC talent, but Texas A&M’s defense against LSU’s offense is a mismatch. New coordinator Cam Cameron has made a big difference in improving the Tigers’ offense, which includes the development of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The senior has five of his seven interceptions in two out of his last three games. However, Mettenberger wasn’t awful against Alabama (16 of 23, 241 yards) and was outstanding in a 44-41 loss against Georgia in September (23 of 37, 372 yards, three touchdowns). In addition to Cameron’s play-calling and Mettenberger’s development, another key reason for the improvement in LSU’s passing attack is the one-two punch at receiver in Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. This duo has combined for 114 catches for 2,023 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Texas A&M’s secondary has struggled just as much as the run defense, ranking last in SEC-only games in pass yards allowed per game (278.7). Can cornerbacks De’Vante Harris and Deshazor Everett matchup with Beckham and Landry? And their job could be even tougher if the pass rush doesn’t get pressure on Mettenberger.
Key Players: Isaiah Golden, NG/Darian Claiborne, LB, Texas A&M
This true freshman duo on Texas A&M’s defense will eventually contend for All-SEC honors. However, in 2013, this inexperienced duo is what the Aggies have to rely on to slow opposing ground attacks. Golden and Claiborne have held their own this season, with Claiborne ranking second on the team with 69 tackles. Stopping LSU’s rushing attack starts up front with Golden and continues with Claiborne in the middle. If Golden can get a good push, the Aggies can slow down the Tigers’ ground game. It’s a tough assignment, but Golden and Claiborne could hold the key to a Texas A&M victory.
Behind quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans, Texas A&M is going to score. The Aggies have scored 50 points in three consecutive games and should push 40 this Saturday. However, with Texas A&M’s struggling defense, Manziel essentially has to play a mistake-free game and score every time the offense has the ball. LSU will move the ball easily on the Aggies, but the difference in the game is the Tigers’ defense. This isn’t a vintage LSU defense. However, there’s still some talent, which earns just enough stops for the Tigers to win on Saturday.
Prediction: LSU 38, Texas A&M 34
Penn State and Nebraska are in the midst of semi-disappointing seasons, so it’s appropriate both teams meet in late November looking to get back on track.
The Cornhuskers lost 41-28 to Michigan State last week, which essentially clinched the Legends Division for the Spartans. In the loss, Nebraska outgained Michigan State 392 to 361 but committed five turnovers.
The Nittany Lions lost 24-10 to Minnesota in Week 11 but rebounded by beating Purdue 45-21. Penn State went 8-4 in Bill O’Brien’s first season and could finish with that mark once again, provided the Nittany Lions beat Nebraska and win at Wisconsin on Nov. 30. While finishing 8-4 once again is a difficult assignment, Penn State had to replace a handful of key players from its 2012 squad, and true freshman Christian Hackenberg is still learning the ropes at quarterback.
Nebraska owns an 8-7 edge in the overall series against Penn State. The Cornhuskers have claimed the last three games against the Nittany Lions, including a 17-14 victory in Happy Valley in 2011. Nebraska won 32-23 in Lincoln last year.
Penn State vs. Nebraska
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State -2
Penn State’s Key to Victory: Mistake-free game from QB Christian Hackenberg
In last week’s loss against Michigan State, Nebraska committed five turnovers and lost 41-28. But that’s not the biggest concern for coach Bo Pelini. The Cornhuskers have lost the turnover margin in each of their last five games, which was also a significant factor in a loss to Minnesota. In Penn State’s last two losses (Minnesota, Ohio State), Bill O’Brien’s team had a negative turnover margin. In their last two wins, the Nittany Lions were a +1 in turnover margin. Both teams have a freshman quarterback, and both plan to give a heavy dose of the rushing attack on offense. But it’s no secret there’s not much separating these teams. With that in mind, a turnover or two could swing this game in favor of one side.
Nebraska’s Key to Victory: Establish Ameer Abdullah
Penn State had to replace four starters in its front seven this preseason, and at times, this unit has struggled to stop the run. After six Big Ten games, Penn State ranks seventh in the conference in run defense, allowing 172.2 yards per game. Due to allowing 408 rushing yards against Ohio State, the Nittany Lions’ defensive numbers are slightly skewed, but the front seven was gashed by UCF for 219 yards, 150 against Indiana and 195 versus Minnesota. Michigan State’s front seven is arguably the best in the Big Ten, and Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah managed 123 yards on 22 attempts. With freshman Tommy Armstrong starting once again this Saturday, Abdullah needs to carry the offense. If the junior has a strong performance, it will help relieve some of the pressure on Nebraska’s young quarterback.
Key Player: Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
As a freshman, it’s no surprise Armstrong has experienced his share of ups and downs. Through seven games, he is completing 53 percent of his passes, while tossing seven picks and seven scores. Armstrong struggled in last week’s loss to Michigan State (9 of 21), but the Cornhuskers won’t have to rely solely on his arm to win, especially with Abdullah performing at a high level. Keep an eye on Armstrong’s mobility this Saturday. The freshman rushed for 69 yards in a win over Northwestern, and after Penn State allowed Minnesota’s Philip Nelson to run for 40 yards and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller to run for 68, Armstrong should have opportunities to make plays with his legs.
Expect a close one between these two teams on Saturday afternoon. Nebraska’s offense is limited with quarterback Tommy Armstrong still learning on the job, and Penn State’s defense ranks ninth in Big Ten-only games. Whichever team can get its rushing game on track, while limiting turnovers will have a slight edge. The Nittany Lions are 3-0 at home in Big Ten play this year, but an improving Cornhusker defense is just enough to give Bo Pelini’s team a slight edge.
Prediction: Nebraska 27, Penn State 24
West Virginia and TCU are arguably the biggest disappointments in the Big 12 this year.
Losing to Kansas will prevent West Virginia from playing in a bowl for the first time since 2001, and the Mountaineers need to beat Iowa State in the season finale to avoid a 4-8 mark.
TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12.
However, the Horned Frogs are 4-7 headed into their season finale against Baylor next week.
Both programs have a difficult transition to the Big 12, so it will take time to recruit and build the program to compete consistently for conference titles.
West Virginia or TCU: Which programs decline in 2013 has been more surprising?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’ve been more surprised with TCU’s decline this season. This was expected to be a rebuilding year for West Virginia, and that’s exactly what has played out in Morgantown. Dana Holgorsen is feeling a lot of pressure, but I think it’s too early to put the third-year coach on the hot seat. The Mountaineers had to move to a tougher conference, and only 11 starters are back from last season. West Virginia has lost three conference games by 10 points or less and most of this team returns in 2014, so there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic in Morgantown. TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12. But the Horned Frogs have dropped four out of their last five games, with Iowa State and Kansas representing the only conference wins for Gary Patterson’s team. Much like West Virginia, TCU has been dealing with a handful of injuries and much of this team’s core returns for 2014. Maybe the preseason expectations were too high for the Horned Frogs, but it seems this team has too much talent to be finishing 4-8. I expect both teams to rebound next year. However, it will be a long offseason for both coaches and programs.
To me it's TCU. I didn't have high expectations for West Virginia to begin with because this was a team that lost a ton of offensive talent to the NFL and needed every bit of it last season just to finish 7-6. TCU, on the other hand, was returning most of its starting defense, a unit that finished among the top 30 teams in the nation in 2012 in three (total, scoring, rushing) of the four major categories. I thought the Horned Frogs were a darkhorse Big 12 contender this fall, but Gary Patterson's team just hasn't been able to put it all together. TCU isn't a bad team by any stretch, with just three double-digit losses and none by more than 14 points. But four losses in its last five games, two of them by a combined five points, means no bowl for the Horned Frogs for the first time in nine seasons. Patterson knew things would be tougher for his team when TCU joined the Big 12 last season. I just don't think even he expected this season to play out like this, not with all of the experience that was returning. There's enough talent on the roster for TCU to rebound in 2014. But while Horned Frogs fans are hoping that the third time around the Big 12 is the charm for their team, it's no stretch to say that the challenge that awaits for Patterson and his coaching staff is something entirely new.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Both team's seasons are surprising, though both have dealt with plenty of roster tumult. TCU has had Casey Pachall in and out of the lineup, defensive end Devonte Fields essentially has been a nonfactor, and linebacker Joel Hasley left the team before the season. West Virginia has dealt with similar injuries all season, particularly to veterans on the defense. If this makes sense, I’d say TCU’s 2013 season is the bigger surprise, but the trajectory for West Virginia is the bigger disappointment. TCU was bound to stumble moving into the Big 12, though I thought the offense would do just enough to keep the Horned Frogs competitive. It’s certainly better with Pachall back, but 4-7 is an awfully big fall. Pachall returned and the Horned Frogs offense put 27 on West Virginia, 21 on Iowa State and 31 on Kansas State. That’s enough to prove that had everyone stayed healthy, TCU’s probably looking at seven or eight wins. But West Virginia’s fall has been more dramatic. This was once one of the most consistent programs in the country, but the Mountaineers have gone 6-13 since Oct. 13, 2012. The program needed to flee the Big East, but it was clearly ill-equipped for the Big 12. This decline in 2013, though, makes me wonder if West Virginia will ever get back to where it was under Rich Rodriguez. Momentum is gone. The team has no identity. And recruiting is going to have some major hurdles. West Virginia is too far from Texas and doesn’t play in the Southeast, particularly Florida where the Mountaineers have had success. Rebuilding is going to be tough.