Articles By Steven Lassan
Texas and USC are two of college football’s premier jobs, and by December, both programs are expected to be looking for a head coach. USC already fired coach Lane Kiffin, and Mack Brown’s future at Texas is iffy, which means there will be plenty of coaches lining up to interview at both schools.
When it comes to building a list of best jobs in college football, the list usually starts with Texas, and USC, Florida, Ohio State and Alabama aren’t far behind.
However, is USC a better job than Texas? It’s hard to complain about weather in Los Angeles, but some coaches wouldn’t want to put up with the extra media attention. Texas also has a similar situation with the Longhorn Network, but being able to have your pick of the elite recruits in Texas is never a bad thing.
Both schools have plenty of built-in advantages when it comes to recruiting and location. And oddly enough, both programs have struggled to establish consistent success.
Assuming both Texas and USC will be hiring a new coach in December, which job is more desirable?
USC or Texas: Which is a Better Job for College Football Coaches?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Texas and USC have stumbled in recent years, but let’s not forget these two programs won BCS championships and competed for the 2005 title in Pasadena, Calif. Even with a 5-4 combined record this season, there’s no doubt Texas and USC are two of the best jobs in college football, with Florida, Ohio State and Alabama rounding out the top five. I’d give Texas an edge over USC in this debate, as its prime location allows its pick of the elite recruits each year, and there’s no shortage of tradition and money flowing through the athletic department. With the Big 12 sticking with 10 teams for now, one could argue it’s easier to play for a national title in the Big 12 over the Pac-12. And in the current climate of the Pac-12 South, UCLA is on the upswing, and Arizona State and Arizona are improving. The Longhorn Network may scare a coach or two away from Austin, but Texas is clearly the best job in college football and will have its pick of elite coaches whenever Mack Brown decides to step aside.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
First, these are two of the top 5-8 jobs in the nation based on natural built-in advantages, financial power and championship upside. But Texas is the answer. The differences are subtle but extremely important aside from one being a public institution and one private. The development of high school football players in the state of Texas dwarfs all other states in the nation — including both Florida and California. The commitment and passion of the fans and administration is greater by a wide margin for the Longhorns and it's what makes Texas the most powerful athletic department in the nation. In Los Angeles, the Trojans must compete for attention with everything from Kobe Bryant to sushi restaurants to the beach in the most saturated college market in the country. The bottom line is that football is king in Texas and it's an afterthought in Hollywood. Would anyone actually CHOOSE to live in L.A. over Austin?
Although everything is bigger in Texas, including expectations, I'll lean towards the Longhorns' job on this one. Both schools have won national championships during the BCS era and have seen sustained periods of substantial success. Resources and recruiting aren't really issues either, as each is one of the main national brands when it comes to the college football landscape. Texas still comes out as the winner of this two-horse race for me because while the pressure to win and win big in Austin is both prevalent and evident, the potential rewards when you do outweigh those at USC. By that I mean national championship-winning head coaches at Texas are beloved, even if they go through rough patches, and I just don't get that vibe from the Trojans' fan base. To put it another way: football is king in Austin, while there's a lot more competition for fame and notoriety in Los Angeles. Why would I want to compete with the movie stars and professional athletes when I could potentially be THE star in a state that eats, drinks and sleeps football?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Perhaps a few years ago, I may have said USC is the better job as the Trojans still basked in glitz of their run of Heisman winners and top-five finishes. I’m not convinced anymore. Pete Carroll remains the only USC coach to lead the Trojans to a top-five finish since 1976. The talent base is there, the tradition is there, the facilities and support are there, but for whatever reason Carroll is the only one since the 70s to fully capitalize on all those advantages. Perhaps we could say the same of Texas, with Mack Brown elevating the Longhorns out of the John Mackovic/David McWilliams era. But Texas has perhaps more talent in state and has had the better run of quarterbacks of late, not to mention all the resources that come with being the Longhorns coach. The Longhorn Network and other glad-handing obligations that come with being the UT coach may be a hassle, but it ensures constant support and interest. A wine-and-cheese crowd is still a crowd. I’d pick Texas, but is parsing between two luxury sports cars.
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Oregon will be without its biggest offensive threat on Saturday as they travel to Boulder to take on Pac-12 foe Colorado. The Ducks will be very careful with Thomas and see no need to rush him back against a Colorado team that got blown out 44-17 against Oregon State last week. Head coach Mark Helfrich would like to get Thomas healthy for their trip to Washington in two weeks. Thomas will be replaced in the lineup by sophomore Byron Marshall, who ran for a career-high 130 yards and two touchdowns last week.
De'Anthony Thomas out for this week at Colorado. Not shocking.— Aaron J. Fentress (@AaronJFentress) October 1, 2013
De'Anthony Thomas practiced today but not 100 percent. Indications are that he is out for Colorado. pic.twitter.com/4b4QeCvPeg— Aaron J. Fentress (@AaronJFentress) October 1, 2013
Before sitting out last Saturday's game against South Dakota State, Taylor Martinez made 32 consecutive starts. The streak, dating back to his freshman season, was ended due to a nagging turf toe injury. Martinez was replaced by the combination of redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong and senior Ron Kellogg III. The two led the Cornhuskers to more than 300 yards rushing and 300 passing for the first time in school history. Armstrong started the game and completed 12 of his 15 throws for 169 yards, while Kellogg connected on eight of nine passes for 136 yards. The Cornhuskers will certainly miss the FBS' second-leading active rusher; however, word is that Nebraska will bring Martinez along slowly. In fact, it appears Nebraska won't even let him practice until he is 100 percent healthy.
Taylor Martinez's status for Saturday's game is "to be determined," according to Bo Pelini at his weekly news conference. #Huskers— Steven M. Sipple (@HuskerExtraSip) September 30, 2013
College football’s coaching carousel is already spinning at warp speed, as USC fired Lane Kiffin on Sunday after losing to Arizona State, and UConn canned Paul Pasqualoni on Monday.
Needless to say, the dominoes in what could be a very busy coaching cycle are beginning to fall.
According to Orangebloods.com, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds is expected to retire on Tuesday.
Dodds retirement could be the start of a busy couple of months at Texas. Coach Mack Brown is on the hot seat, and Dodds is one of his biggest supporters.
However, with Dodds stepping aside and a new athletic director coming in, Brown may be coaching his final season in Austin.
Of course, the next eight games will have a large role in determining Brown’s future. However, a 2-2 start certainly hasn’t helped his job status and finishing 8-4 would be a disappointment for a team that has arguably the most talent in the Big 12.
Is Brown the next domino to fall? Keep an eye on the Oct. 12 date against Oklahoma. The Sooners have dominated the Longhorns in back-to-back years and another blowout loss would not sit well in Austin.
After losing to Buffalo 41-12 on Saturday, UConn has fired coach Paul Pasqualoni. In three years with the Huskies, Pasqualoni was 10-18 and never reached a bowl.
Pasqualoni was an odd hire from the start and was never popular with fans.
Offensive line coach George DeLeone was also fired on Monday.
The Huskies had one of the best defenses in the Big East in 2011 and 2012, but the offense never managed to get on track.
UConn is 0-4 and still has to play Cincinnati, Louisville, UCF and Rutgers this year.
Who’s next? Even though the first month of the season just ended, college football’s coaching carousel is already in full effect.
USC pulled the plug on Lane Kiffin after Saturday’s loss to Arizona State, and UConn fired Paul Pasqualoni on Monday.
And USC and UConn could be the tip of the iceberg in terms of coaching changes, as Mack Brown is on the hot seat at Texas, which could create a domino effect when it comes to other coaches and job openings this offseason.
Outside of the BCS, Central Michigan’s Dan Enos, Miami (Ohio)’s Don Treadwell and Eastern Michigan’s Ron English are three coaches who could be out of a job by season’s end.
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 20-30 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Indiana’s Kevin Wilson – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Mack Brown||2-2||DeLoss Dodds steps down - is Brown next?|
|2||Dan Enos||1-4||CMU not competitive against BCS teams this year.|
|3||Don Treadwell||0-4||RedHawks averaging only 174.5 ypg on offense.|
|6||Norm Chow||0-4||Warriors showed signs of life against Fresno State.|
|7||Bo Pelini||3-1||Schedule very favorable until November.|
|8||Jim Grobe||2-3||Demon Deacons struggling mightily on offense.|
|9||Bobby Hauck||3-2||UNLV snapped 23-game road losing streak.|
|11||Skip Holtz||1-4||Bulldogs struggling in Holtz's first year.|
|14||Jeff Quinn||2-2||Added job security with win over UConn.|
|16||Matt Rhule||0-4||Will Temple win a game?|
|18||Dana Holgorsen||3-2||Big win for WVU on Saturday.|
|19||Tim Beckman||3-1||Fighting Illini already surpassed last year's win total.|
|20||P.J. Fleck||0-5||Still searching for first win.|
|22||Tony Levine||4-0||Cougars making progress in Levine's second year.|
|23||Kirk Ferentz||4-1||Hawkeyes have won four in a row.|
|24||Gary Pinkel||4-0||Good start - but SEC play begins on Saturday.|
|25||June Jones||1-3||Schedule will get easier.|
|33||Joey Jones||2-2||USA gave Tennessee a battle.|
|39||Frank Beamer||4-1||Don't count out Hokies in Coastal Division.|
|43||Bill Blankenship||1-3||Is Tulsa trending in the wrong direction?|
|44||Jim McElwain||2-3||Already halfway to 2012 win total.|
|46||Ron Caragher||1-3||Lost 3 games by 19 points or more.|
|50||Rod Carey||4-0||NIU 2-0 against Big Ten teams this year.|
|52||Curtis Johnson||3-2||Green Wave on the right track.|
|55||Willie Taggart||0-4||Taggart inherited a mess.|
|57||Larry Fedora||1-3||UNC off to disappointing start.|
|60||Ruffin McNeill||3-1||Huge win against UNC in Week 5.|
|62||Troy Calhoun||1-4||AFA down to third QB.|
|63||Doug Martin||0-5||NMSU not an easy job.|
|65||Mike Riley||4-1||OSU has rebounded since loss to EWU.|
|68||Dennis Franchoine||3-1||Texas State quietly 3-1.|
|77||Paul Petrino||1-4||Got first win on Saturday.|
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West Virginia’s upset win over Oklahoma State on Saturday shook up the Big 12 power rankings, and also gave the Mountaineers a good chance to get bowl eligible. West Virginia doesn’t have a favorable schedule the rest of the way but still has to play Kansas and Iowa State – two games it should be favored in.
As West Virginia’s win over Oklahoma State illustrates, there’s a small margin of error when it comes to reaching six victories for some programs.
Another result from Week 5 that could have significant bowl implications was Notre Dame’s loss to Oklahoma. The Fighting Irish do not have a bowl tie-in for this season and were projected by most to reach a BCS game in 2013. However, with two losses, Notre Dame is unlikely to reach a BCS bowl. The Fighting Irish will find a spot as an at-large team, but they need some help from other conferences not filling all of their tie-ins.
College football's bowl season is still a few months away, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. With only five weeks of results in the books, it's hard to make long-term projections about teams, especially with several teams still playing overmatched non-conference games. But with conference play right around the corner, we should be able to get a better grasp on what teams will be able to reach the six-win mark.
With little data to work with, the post-Week 5 bowl projections are a mixture between preseason projections, how things would look if the season ended today, and a small dose of the results so far this year. Expect more changes over the next few weeks, especially as we see how teams perform in conference games.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including Boston College, Virginia, Mississippi State, Washington State, Arkansas and Illinois from BCS conferences. And Texas State, Arkansas State and Toledo from the non-BCS ranks.
As the season progresses, it will be easier to project which teams will get to the six-win mark or finish below.
College Football's Post-Week 5 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Utah vs. Wyoming|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Ball State vs. Nevada|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Oregon State vs. Fresno St|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Ohio* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||San Jose State vs. Rice|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||N Illinois vs. Minnesota|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Notre Dame* vs. Boise St|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||Marshall vs. N Carolina|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||TCU vs. Iowa|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. Arizona|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Cincy vs. West Va.|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Rutgers vs. Ga Tech|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||UCF vs. Va Tech|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Texas vs. Nebraska|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Utah State vs. Navy|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Pittsburgh vs. Auburn|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Okla. State vs. UCLA|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Wash vs. Texas Tech|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||NC State vs. Tennessee|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||Arizona St vs. Maryland|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Missouri vs. E Carolina|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Miami vs. Ole Miss|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Florida vs. Michigan St|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||Kansas State vs. Tulsa|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||S Carolina vs. Wisconsin|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||N'western vs. A&M|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Oregon vs. Michigan|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Stanford vs. Oklahoma|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Georgia vs. Florida State|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Baylor|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. Louisville|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Vanderbilt vs. Houston|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||BGSU vs. Western Ky|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Ohio State|
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SEC Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
Arizona State takes on Notre Dame in a huge non-conference showdown this Saturday, and the Sun Devils unveiled a new helmet for their Week 6 contest.
Whether you love or hate this look, you have to say this is one of the more interesting designs released in recent years.
The pitchfork is still there, but Arizona State has added a few flames to go with its helmet this weekend.
Check out the Sun Devils’ new helmet:
Up close. No two helmets are alike. pic.twitter.com/e6Wl4IdMvR— Devils Digest (@DevilsDigest) September 30, 2013
UConn became the second BCS school with a job opening this year, as coach Paul Pasqualoni was fired after an 0-4 start to the 2013 season.
The Huskies are off to an 0-4 start and was soundly defeated 41-12 by Buffalo in Week 5.
Despite his successful record at Syracuse (1991-2004, 107-59-1) Pasqualoni wasn’t a popular hire at UConn, especially since he was out of the college game for six years.
UConn is a solid job that should attract plenty of attention from candidates.
The Huskies were left behind in realignment but have the resources necessary to consistently compete for the American Athletic title.
Who will replace Pasqualoni at UConn? Here are 10 candidates, along with a few longshots to watch over the next few months.
10 Coaches to Replace Paul Pasqualoni at UConn
Rob Ambrose, head coach, Towson
Ambrose is a familiar name to UConn, as he served as the Huskies’ offensive coordinator from 2002-08 under Randy Edsall. Prior to his stint at UConn, Ambrose worked at Catholic for one season and served as Towson’s wide receiver coach from 1993-00. Ambrose took over as Towson’s head coach in 2009 and went 3-19 in his first two years. However, the Tigers are 21-7 in the last three seasons and won at UConn earlier this year. Towson is also ranked No. 3 in the FCS Top 25 after Week 5.
Don Brown, defensive coordinator, Boston College
Whether he’s been a coordinator or head coach, Brown has had plenty of success in his coaching career. The Massachusetts native began his career at Dartmouth in 1982 and spent one season with the Big Green, before working as a defensive coordinator at Mansfield (1983), then Dartmouth again from 1984-86, followed by a stop at Yale from 1987-92. Brown’s first head coaching gig was with Plymouth State, and he recorded a 25-6 mark from 1993-95. After serving as an assistant with Brown and UMass, Brown was hired as Northeastern’s head coach in 2000, recording a 27-20 mark in four seasons. In 2004, Brown was hired at UMass and went 43-19 and led the Minutemen to a FCS title appearance in 2006. The 57-year-old coach worked under Paul Pasqualoni from 2011-12 as UConn’s defensive coordinator.
Dave Clawson, head coach, Bowling Green
Clawson gets a bad rap for his one season as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, but the New York native has been a successful head coach at three different stops. After starting 3-19 at Fordham, Clawson recorded three consecutive winning seasons and led the Rams to a playoff berth in 2002. Clawson was 29-20 in four seasons at Richmond and is 26-29 with two bowl appearances at Bowling Green. Clawson also has a background on offense, which should be attractive for UConn considering its recent struggles on that side of the ball.
Mario Cristobal, offensive line coach, Alabama
Cristobal was surprisingly fired at FIU after last season, but the Miami native should be a head coach again in the near future. In six years with the Panthers, Cristobal inherited an academic disaster and turned FIU into a Sun Belt contender, which included two bowl appearances. Even though Cristobal has spent most of his career in Miami, he worked at Rutgers from 2001-03 as an assistant under Greg Schiano. Despite his record at FIU, Cristobal is a good coach and is regarded as a strong recruiter.
Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame
Diaco was one of the key masterminds behind Notre Dame’s run to the national championship game last season, as the Fighting Irish’s defense allowed only 12.8 points a game. For his work with the Notre Dame defense in 2012, Diaco earned the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach. The New Jersey native played at Iowa from 1992-95 and in addition to his tenure in South Bend, has stops as an assistant at Western Illinois, Iowa, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Virginia and Cincinnati. Diaco has no head coaching experience.
Turner Gill, head coach, Liberty
Gill didn’t work out at Kansas (5-19 from 2010-11), but he was regarded for his tenure at Buffalo, which included a MAC title in 2008. Gill’s final record with the Bulls was just 20-30 in four seasons, but the 8-6 mark in 2008 was Buffalo’s only winning year since 1997. Gill is 9-7 in two years with Liberty and the Flames nearly beat Kent State in the opener this season. The former Nebraska quarterback has ties to UConn, as athletic director Warde Manuel hired Gill at Buffalo.
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State
Lembo has been a successful head coach at three different stops and is due for a promotion to a BCS job. In five years at Lehigh, Lembo went 44-14 and had two playoff appearances. Lembo left for Elon in 2006 and guided the Phoenix to a 35-22 mark, with one playoff appearance in 2009. In three years with Ball State, Lembo is 19-11 and led the Cardinals to a bowl game last season. Is UConn a big enough jump for Lembo? Or will he hold out for a spot in the Big Ten?
Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State
Narduzzi is one of the early favorites to succeed Pasqualoni. The 47-year-old coach is a Connecticut native and is ready for a chance to run his own program. Narduzzi spent part of his playing career at Rhode Island and coached as an assistant with the Rams from 1993-99. Narduzzi has worked as a defensive coordinator since 2003, making stops with Miami (Ohio), Cincinnati and Michigan State. Under his watch, the Spartans have been one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. Narduzzi has no prior head coaching experience, but his ties to the area and resume make him a strong candidate.
Bob Shoop, defensive coordinator, Vanderbilt
Shoop wouldn’t be a big-name hire, but the Pennsylvania native is a name to watch in UConn’s coaching search. Shoop has spent most of his career in the Northeast, starting at Yale in 1989 and continuing with stops as an assistant at Virginia, Northeastern, Villanova, Army, Boston College, UMass and William & Mary. Shoop was Columbia’s head coach – a program without a winning record since 1996 – from 2003-05 and went 7-23 in three seasons. Under Shoop, Vanderbilt’s defenses have been among the best in the SEC, finishing fifth in the conference in yards allowed in 2012 and sixth in 2011.
Bobby Wilder, head coach, Old Dominion
Wilder hasn’t gotten enough credit for his work at Old Dominion, but he could be a name that pops up for job openings this offseason. The Monarchs restarted football after a 69-year absence in 2009, and Wilder was picked as the program’s coach. Under his watch, Old Dominion is 40-12 and made back-to-back playoff appearances from 2011-12. The Monarchs are transitioning to the FBS level and will join Conference USA in 2014. Prior to his tenure at Old Dominion, Wilder worked as an assistant at Maine from 1990-2006. Considering UConn’s recent offensive struggles, Wilder has to be an intriguing candidate if he’s interested. The Monarchs have averaged over 30 points a game in each of Wilder’s four seasons and led the FCS with an average of 45.2 points a contest last year.
Joe Moorhead, head coach, Fordham
Moorhead is unlikely to get a call from UConn, but he has done a good job in two years at Fordham. The Rams were 6-16 in the two years prior to his arrival and are 10-5 under Moorhead’s watch. Fordham won at Temple earlier this season.
Tim Murphy, head coach, Harvard
Murphy’s name came up in connection with the Penn State job two years ago, and more FBS programs should take notice of the job he’s done at Harvard. The Crimson is 130-61 under Murphy’s watch and finished in the final FCS Top 25 poll five times. Before taking over at Harvard, Murphy was a head coach at Maine and Cincinnati.
Danny Rocco, head coach, Richmond
Rocco is an under-the-radar name to watch. From 2006-11, he guided Liberty to a 47-20 record and is 10-6 in two years with Richmond. The Spiders finished 18th in last year’s FCS poll and nearly upset NC State earlier this season. Rocco also has experience from stops as an assistant at Colorado, Tulsa, Boston College, Texas, Maryland and Virginia.
Greg Schiano, head coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Schiano is on the hot seat in Tampa Bay and may not return for a third season in 2014. If he doesn’t return to the Buccaneers, Schiano should get a look for college openings. From 2001-2011, Rutgers went 68-67 and recorded six bowl appearances under Schiano’s watch.
The weather wrecked havoc in a couple of college football games on Saturday, and rain was prominent throughout the Arkansas-Texas A&M matchup.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema found out the hard way about the wet conditions on Saturday, as the first-year coach slipped and fell during the pregame walk.
However, Bielema rallied and quickly regained his stride as he headed to the stadium.
Boise State has pulled off some impressive trick plays in recent years, and Saturday’s fumblerooski against Southern Miss was another highlight.
The Broncos were tied with the Golden Eagles in the first quarter but scored on this 10-yard touchdown run by receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes.
Quarterback Joe Southwick calmly handed the ball to Williams-Rhodes while the rest of the offense gave the appearance of still trying to get its alignment set for the play.
The Lane Kiffin era is over at USC. Kiffin was fired after the Trojans’ 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night.
Kiffin finished his tenure at USC with a 28-15 record, including a 10-8 mark over the last two years. The Trojans had a 10-2 record in 2011 but were never able to match the high expectations that surrounded this team going into 2012.
Although it’s early to make a coaching move, USC is making a good decision to change coaches.
With other high-profile searches expected to take place this offseason, the Trojans are getting a head start on the rest of college football.
10 Possible Replacements for Lane Kiffin at USC
Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator, Denver Broncos
Could USC follow a similar path to UCLA by hiring a former NFL coach? It’s possible. Del Rio compiled a 68-71 record nine years as Jacksonville’s head coach and led the Jaguars to the playoffs twice. Although Del Rio had some success, he had only three winning seasons and was fired after a 3-8 start in 2011. Del Rio wouldn’t be a high-profile hire, but he’s an alum, and USC could surround him with a strong staff of assistants to help with recruiting and ease the transition back to the college game.
Tim DeRuyter, head coach, Fresno State
DeRuyter is a California native and is due for a promotion after his work with Fresno State. In two years with the Bulldogs, DeRuyter is 12-4 and has positioned Fresno State for a run at a BCS bowl this year. Prior to taking over at Fresno State, DeRuyter was an assistant at Air Force, Ohio, Navy, Nevada and Texas A&M. There’s no question DeRuyter is one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks. However, is he a big enough name for USC?
Jeff Fisher, head coach, St. Louis Rams
As a USC alum, Fisher could be a target for athletic director Pat Haden. Fisher has not coached on the college level, but he has been a NFL head coach at two different stops. From 1994-2010 with the Titans, Fisher compiled a 142-120 record. In two years with the Rams, he is 8-11. Fisher’s lack of college experience is a concern, but similar to Jack Del Rio, USC could pay big to surround him with an excellent staff of assistants to ease the transition back to college.
James Franklin, head coach, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is the toughest job in the SEC, but Franklin has led the Commodores to back-to-back bowl games. The Pennsylvania native is an offensive-minded coach, which would fit well at USC and in the Pac-12. Franklin is also an excellent recruiter and would energize a fanbase that was turned off by Kiffin. Prior to taking over at Vanderbilt, Franklin worked as an assistant at Maryland, Washington State and Kansas State and spent one year in the NFL with the Packers.
Al Golden, head coach, Miami
Golden inherited a mess at Miami with the ongoing NCAA investigation, but the Hurricanes are 17-11 under his watch and are back in the top 25 this season. Prior to coming to Miami, Golden transformed Temple from one of the worst programs in college football to a respectable team, as the Owls went 17-8 in his final two years. Golden is an East Coast guy, and it’s hard to envision him taking over a program short on scholarships after dealing with the situation at Miami.
Hue Jackson, running backs coach, Cincinnati Bengals
Jackson was surprisingly fired after just one season as the Raiders’ head coach in 2011. The California native has a wealth of experience as an assistant, including stops in college with Pacific, Cal State-Fullerton, Arizona State, California, USC. In the NFL, Jackson has coached with the Raiders, Bengals, Falcons, Redskins and Ravens. Jackson wouldn’t be a big-name hire, but he has NFL and collegiate experience and brings an offensive background to the table.
Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State
Petersen’s name always comes up with high-profile jobs every offseason. However, no program has managed to lure him away from Boise State. Will USC entice him this December? Petersen is a California native, but the extra attention and scrutiny at USC is a drawback. In eight years at Boise State, Petersen is 87-10 and led the Broncos to BCS bowls in 2006 and 2009. Petersen is one of college football’s top-10 coaches. It’s unlikely Petersen will leave Boise State, but USC has to try to lure him to Los Angeles.
Mike Riley, head coach, Oregon State
Riley is the anti-Kiffin and would be a good fit at USC. However, Riley isn’t eager to leave Oregon State and would be a longshot to be the Trojans’ next coach. Riley was USC’s offensive coordinator from 1993-96 and was a head coach in the NFL with the Chargers from 1999-2001. In two stints with the Beavers, Riley has a record of 85-68. If he wants to leave Oregon State, USC should be interested. However, most believe the 60-year-old coach isn’t looking to depart Corvallis anytime soon.
Steve Sarkisian, head coach, Washington
Sarkisian is a former USC assistant and made Washington a factor in the Pac-12 once again. The Huskies were 4-21 in the two seasons prior to his arrival, and after going 5-7 in 2009, Washington has won seven games in each of the last three years. The Huskies are off to a 4-0 start in 2013 and ranked in the top-15 of the Associated Press poll after Week 5. As a California native and a former USC assistant, Sarkisian would be a great fit for the Trojans. However, he’s building a solid program in Washington and would he want to deal with another rebuilding project at USC? Sarkisian’s profile could get even higher if the Huskies finish with an 8-4 or 9-3 record in 2013.
Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Texas A&M
Let’s get this out of the way: It’s unlikely Sumlin leaves Texas A&M. However, USC – much like when it comes to Chris Petersen – has to at least inquire. Sumlin is 50-20 in his coaching career (Houston and Texas A&M) and has stops as an assistant at Minnesota, Washington State, Purdue and Oklahoma. Sumlin led the Aggies to a top-five finish in the final polls last season and has Texas A&M on the rise in the SEC West. Even though Sumlin seems content in College Station, it’s hard to make progress with Alabama and LSU in the same division. Could Sumlin be enticed by arguably an easier path to a national title? Unlikely, but again, USC has to try.
Pat Fitzgerald, head coach, Northwestern
Fitzgerald is a Northwestern alum and the Wildcats have improved under his watch. However, Northwestern is not an easy place to win. If Fitzgerald wants to win a national title, USC is arguably one of the top-five jobs in college football. It’s unlikely Fitzgerald leaves, but the Trojans would be wise to inquire.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson
Morris is considered one of college football’s top assistants and is due for a shot to run a program. Even though Morris is an excellent offensive coordinator, he has no collegiate head coaching experience, and it’s unlikely USC would hire an unproven commodity as its next coach.
Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU
Patterson is 118-38 in his tenure at TCU and guided the Horned Frogs through a conference transition from the Mountain West to the Big 12. Don’t expect Patterson to leave, but his name will come up. If there’s a job that could entice Patterson, it could be Texas.
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
Much like Chad Morris, Roman is due for a chance to run his own program. The New Jersey native has interviewed for college head coaching jobs in recent years but has remained a coordinator. Most of Roman’s experience has been in the NFL, starting with the Panthers in 1995, continuing with the Texans in 2002, the Ravens in 2006 and the 49ers in 2011. Roman worked with Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2009-10. Roman will be a head coach, but it’s unlikely USC will hire an assistant with no experience at the top spot.
A light week in the ACC didn’t produce many highlights, but Thursday night’s Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech showdown was huge for positioning in the Coastal Division.
The Hokies didn’t have a huge night on offense, quarterback Logan Thomas was efficient and carried the rushing attack. And Virginia Tech’s defense did a good job of slowing the Yellow Jackets’ option attack.
Pittsburgh, Florida State and Clemson scored conference wins in Week 5, while Miami, Duke and NC State picked up victories in non-conference play.
North Carolina was the most disappointing team of Week 5, as the Tar Heels lost 55-31 to East Carolina.
ACC Week 5 Awards and Recap
Offensive Player of the Week: Brandon Connette, QB, Duke
This award could easily go to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd or Florida State’s Jameis Winston, but let’s give a little credit to Connette. With starter Anthony Boone sidelined, Connette has been pressed into action. In Saturday’s 38-31 win over Troy, he threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 55 yards and two scores. The junior has back-to-back 300-yard games and has completed at least 60 percent of his throws in four out of his five appearances in 2013. With Duke’s defense allowing 400 yards per game, Connette (until Boone returns) and his receivers will be asked to carry the Blue Devils in ACC play.
Defensive Player of the Week: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Virginia’s offense is struggling, but the Panthers’ defense turned in their best effort of the season on Saturday. Donald wrecked havoc on the Cavaliers’ offensive line, recording three tackles (two for a loss), two sacks and one forced fumble. The senior’s performance was a big reason why Virginia managed only 188 total yards and 65 on the ground.
Coordinator of the Week: Bud Foster, Virginia Tech
Despite having a short week to prepare against a tough offense, Virginia Tech and coordinator Bud Foster turned in one of the best efforts by a defense in Week 5. Georgia Tech entered Thursday night’s contest averaging 431.8 yards and 36.5 points a game, but the Hokies held the Yellow Jackets to 273 yards and just 10 points on 66 plays. Georgia Tech also managed only 4.1 yards per play, which was its lowest output since averaging just 3.3 yards per snap against BYU last year. In Virginia Tech’s last two matchups against the Yellow Jackets, Foster’s defense held Georgia Tech to just 280.5 yards and 13.5 points a game.
Team of the Week: Virginia Tech
The Hokies have experienced an up and down start to the season, but coach Frank Beamer’s team reminded the rest of the ACC on Thursday night that this team is still a contender for the conference title. Virginia Tech lost to Alabama 35-10 in the opener and has rebounded with four consecutive victories. After barely escaping against East Carolina and Marshall, Virginia Tech scored a huge road win against Georgia Tech. The Hokies’ offense is still a work in progress, but quarterback Logan Thomas delivered a huge performance against the Yellow Jackets, accounting for 279 total yards and two scores. Virginia Tech’s defense did its part, holding Georgia Tech to 273 yards, forcing three turnovers and recording seven tackles for a loss. The Hokies should be favored in their next four games, with a date at Miami on Nov. 9 looming large for the Coastal Division title.
Freshman of the Week: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Florida State got off to a slow start against Boston College, but the Seminoles rallied behind Winston for a 48-34 victory. Winston completed 17 of 27 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns and added 67 yards on the ground. The redshirt freshman added another play to his highlight reel, as he escaped Boston College’s pass rush on the final play of the first half and hit Kenny Shaw for a 55-yard touchdown. Winston has thrown for 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions on 91 attempts this year.
• Miami had three players record at least 10 carries against South Florida. Duke Johnson led the team with 14 carries, Gus Edwards recorded 10 touches, while Dallas Crawford had 10. Freshman receiver Stacy Coley continues to emerge as another weapon for quarterback Stephen Morris, catching four passes for 96 yards and two scores against USF.
• Pittsburgh freshman receiver Tyler Boyd caught seven passes for 111 yards against Virginia, which was his third consecutive 100-yard game in 2013.
• Virginia freshman linebacker Max Valles recorded 2.5 sacks against Pittsburgh.
Boston College running back Andre Williams has three 100-yard efforts through the first four games of 2013.
• Virginia Tech freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson had a standout performance against Georgia Tech, recording three tackles, one forced fumble, an interception and a fumble recovery.
• The Hokies also got a huge performance on Thursday night from defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins, who dominated the interior of Georgia Tech’s offensive line
• Clemson WR Daniel Rodriguez – a United States Army veteran – caught three passes for 10 yards against Wake Forest.
After Saturday night’s loss at Arizona State, USC decided to fire coach Lane Kiffin.
In his fourth season at USC, Kiffin had a record of 28-15, including a 10-2 mark in 2011. However, the 10-2 year was flanked by a disappointing 8-5 record in 2010 and a 7-6 mark in 2012.
USC is one of the premier jobs in college football, but the job may not be as attractive this coaching cycle, as sanctions have limited the Trojans on scholarships.
However, firing Kiffin now allows USC to get a head start on its coaching search. And there should be plenty of high-profile names interested in the job.
USC is on bye until Oct. 10, when it will host Arizona.
Athlon Sports will have more about potential Kiffin replacements in the coming days.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley gashed LSU for 73 yards on eight carries in the first half, but the sophomore running back left the game early due to an ankle injury.
Gurley is not expected to return against the Tigers.
Backup Keith Marshall is one of the SEC’s best running backs, but the loss of Gurley is huge for Georgia. The sophomore brings more of a physical presence on the ground and is one of the best running backs in the nation.
It’s uncertain how long Gurley will be out, but reports during the CBS broadcast indicated the injury did not appear to be a long-term issue.
Todd Gurley is in a walking boot, looks like he's done for today.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) September 28, 2013
It seems every week Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston makes a play worthy of highlight reel status on Saturday night.
This week was no different, as Winston connected with receiver Kenny Shaw on a 55-yard touchdown to end the first half. Shaw’s catch was solid, but Winston’s escape of the Boston College pass rush was quite an effort.
Check out Winston’s Hail Mary touchdown pass:
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw suffered a sprained shoulder in the first half of Saturday’s game against UCF and won’t return to action.
Prior to his injury, Shaw completed 1 of 2 passes for four yards, while rushing for 30 yards on four carries.
Shaw will be missed, but South Carolina has a capable backup in Dylan Thompson.
After the game, coach Steve Spurrier indicated Shaw would be out at least two or three weeks due to the shoudler injury. South Carolina host Kentucky next Saturday and plays at Arkansas on Oct. 12.
Just announced that Connor Shaw is officially out with a "right shoulder sprain"— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) September 28, 2013
Alabama has won three out of the last five SEC West titles and back-to-back national championships. Ole Miss is still searching for its first West Division title, but the Rebels are making gains on Alabama and LSU under second-year coach Hugh Freeze.
This game isn’t necessarily an indictment of where things stand in the SEC West, but it’s clear Ole Miss is improving, and the road to the SEC Championship still runs through Tuscaloosa.
If Ole Miss wants to muscle its way to the top of the West, beating Alabama is a must. The Rebels defeated only two FBS teams with a winning record from 2010-12 but started 2013 with victories over Vanderbilt and Texas – two likely bowl teams in 2013.
Alabama already has a huge conference victory against Texas A&M and defeated Virginia Tech in a neutral site matchup to open the year. However, the Crimson Tide has looked more vulnerable in 2013 than they did in 2011 or 2012.
Alabama has dominated the overall series, recording a 49-9-2 record against Ole Miss. The Rebels last victory against the Crimson Tide came in 2003. Ole Miss has struggled in Tuscaloosa, with its last and only victory coming on the road in this series in 1988.
Ole Miss at Alabama
Kickoff: 6:30 ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Alabama -14.5
Three Things to Watch
Alabama’s Offensive Line
With the loss of three All-American starters, Alabama’s offensive line was expected to take a step back in 2013. So far, those predictions have come to fruition, but the Crimson Tide’s front five has struggled more than some may have expected. Against a solid Virginia Tech defensive line, Alabama’s rushing attack managed just 96 yards. After gashing Texas A&M for 234 yards on Sept. 14, the Crimson Tide recorded only 66 yards against Colorado State – with 38 coming on one play. So which Alabama offensive line will show up this Saturday? The Crimson Tide should perform at a higher level than they did against the Rams, but Ole Miss’ defensive line is among the best in the SEC. Freshman Robert Nkemdiche has 10 tackles – four going for a loss – in three games, while linemen Channing Ward, Carlos Thompson and Issac Gross combined for three sacks. The Rebels are holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry, but Alabama’s offense will be the best unit they will have faced in 2013. The Crimson Tide’s offensive line was criticized after their performance against Virginia Tech and responded with a standout effort against Texas A&M. Will we see that same storyline play out on Saturday?
Ole Miss Wide Receivers vs. Alabama’s Secondary
Earlier this week, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace set the bar high for his offense on Saturday. “I think we have better receivers than A&M,” Wallace said. The junior isn’t necessarily wrong with his statement either, as Donte Moncrief is an All-SEC performer, and freshman Laquon Treadwell is already on his way to having a standout freshman season. Tight end Evan Engram has 11 receptions through three weeks, and Vince Sanders (39 catches in 2012) is back in the lineup after suffering a collarbone injury in fall camp. While Ole Miss doesn’t have a 6-foot-5 target like Mike Evans, the Rebels are loaded with plenty of capable options at receiver. Alabama’s secondary led the SEC in pass defense from 2011-12, but this unit has taken a step back in 2013, ranking 11th in the SEC through three games. The Crimson Tide’s numbers on defense are skewed slightly by the Texas A&M game, but Nick Saban’s defense isn’t quite as dominant in the secondary this year. Senior Deion Belue is the team’s top cornerback, but the other spot is up for grabs. Senior John Fulton was torched against Texas A&M, and the coaching staff could look to sophomores Geno Smith, Cyrus Jones or Bradley Sylve or freshman Maurice Smith to claim the spot opposite of Belue. One factor that could help Alabama’s secondary: A pass rush. It has been virtually non-existent for the Crimson Tide so far, as they have just three sacks in 2013.
Alabama QB AJ McCarron vs. Ole Miss’ Secondary
Although Ole Miss is solid on the defensive line and at linebacker, the secondary has been a concern in 2013. The Rebels ranked 11th in the SEC against the pass last year, and so far, the results haven’t been much different. Ole Miss ranks 12th in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and opposing quarterbacks are completing 63.5 percent of their passes against this secondary. McCarron has been steady through the first three games, completing 64.1 percent of his throws and six touchdowns on 78 attempts. The senior also has the best receiving corps of his Alabama tenure, with Amari Cooper, Christion Jones, DeAndrew White and tight end O.J. Howard all capable options. McCarron has been sacked six times this year and did not have a clean pocket for most of the game against Virginia Tech. To protect its secondary, Ole Miss needs help from Nkemdiche and fellow end C.J. Johnson in getting pressure on McCarron.
Key Player: Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss
Nkemdiche recorded five tackles in the opener against Vanderbilt but has not played in Ole Miss’ last two games due to injury. The Georgia native earned several freshman All-American awards last season and recorded 82 stops in 13 games. Nkemdiche is expected to return to the lineup – along with receiver Vince Sanders – which will give Ole Miss a boost on both sides of the ball. The sophomore linebacker’s return should help the Rebels’ stop Alabama’s rushing attack, while helping in pass coverage over the middle of the field.
Ole Miss gave Alabama a battle last season, losing 33-14 in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels trailed only 27-14 going into the fourth quarter and held the Crimson Tide to just 305 yards on 64 plays.
This year’s Ole Miss team is improved, the depth and talent are on the rise, and quarterback Bo Wallace has another year of experience under his belt.
However, Alabama still has the edge in talent. Quarterback AJ McCarron will deliver with a solid performance, while running back T.J. Yeldon will find just enough room on the ground to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss should be able to hit a few big plays in the passing game, but the Crimson Tide is a better team and finds a way to pull away late in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Alabama 34, Ole Miss 24
Ohio State and Wisconsin have won or shared the last eight Big Ten titles. And the winner of Saturday’s matchup will take a huge step to playing for the conference championship in December, as the Buckeyes and Badgers are clearly the class of the Leaders Division. Both teams have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, which makes this game even more important for positioning within the division.
Feasting off an easy schedule, Ohio State has opened 4-0. All four of the Buckeyes’ wins have been by at least 18 points, including a 76-0 blowout win over Florida A&M. Under second-year coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State is 16-0.
Wisconsin is 3-1, but the Badgers record should come with an asterisk due to the ending against Arizona State. New coach Gary Andersen was expected by most to be a perfect fit Madison, and so far, Wisconsin hasn’t a missed a beat. In their three victories this year, the Badgers have outscored their opponents 134-10.
Ohio State has dominated this series recently, winning five out of the last six matchups. The Buckeyes have won three in a row against the Badgers in Columbus, while Wisconsin’s last victory in this series came in 2010. The last two meetings between these two teams were decided by a touchdown or less.
Wisconsin at Ohio State
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Ohio State -7
Three Things to Watch
Ohio State’s defensive line vs. Wisconsin’s rushing attack
The Buckeyes had to revamp their defensive line this offseason, as all four starters from 2012 had to be replaced. So far, the new starting group has played well. Ohio State ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rush defense, holding opponents to just 2.6 yards per carry. However, the Buckeyes haven’t played a rushing offense like Wisconsin, so this will be a major challenge for coach Urban Meyer’s defense. The Badgers rank third nationally in rush offense this season, averaging eight yards per carry and 348.8 yards per game. Junior Melvin Gordon and senior James White have combined for 4,356 yards in their career and stopping both backs will be a huge test for Ohio State. Considering Wisconsin doesn’t have a plethora of options at receiver, the Buckeyes could commit extra defenders to the box to stop White and Gordon. Ohio State will have some additional help in the trenches this Saturday, as end Adolphus Washington is back after missing two games with a groin injury.
After a two-game absence, all signs point to Miller returning to the starting lineup on Saturday. Before his knee injury, Miller completed 17 of 24 passes for 208 yards and two scores and rushed for 82 yards on 18 attempts. Although the junior is back under center, he hasn’t played since Sept. 7, and rust could be an issue. Also, is Miller 100 percent and capable of using his mobility to escape Wisconsin’s pass rush? There’s no doubt Miller is one of college football’s best quarterbacks, and assuming he is 100 percent, he will have an opportunity to take advantage of a Wisconsin secondary that features a true freshman at cornerback and two sophomores in key roles.
Wisconsin’s passing attack
The Badgers don’t hide their intentions on offense. With a big offensive line and one of the nation’s top backfields, Wisconsin loves to run the ball. However, the passing attack is a work in progress, averaging just 198 yards per game. Quarterback Joel Stave is efficient, completing 60.7 percent of his passes in his career and throwing 12 touchdowns on 130 completions. Receiver Jared Abbrederis is one of the Big Ten’s best, and tight end Jacob Pedersen is another steady option, but the Badgers lack depth and big-play threats in the receiving corps. Ohio State’s secondary is one of the best in the nation, and cornerback Bradley Roby was a preseason All-American. If Abbrederis is contained by the Buckeyes’ secondary, will Jordan Fredrick or Alex Erickson give Stave another target? Pedersen is a threat over the middle, but he is nursing a knee injury and could be less than 100 percent.
Key Player: Joel Stave, QB, Wisconsin
Ohio State’s rush defense has held up well through the first four weeks, but the line will be challenged by Wisconsin’s backfield. The Badgers want to control the tempo and eat up the clock, but even if the ground attack has success, Stave will need to hit a few big plays. The sophomore completed 15 of 30 passes for 187 yards and one score in the 32-30 loss to Arizona State. Wisconsin may need Stave to throw at least 35 passes on Saturday.
There’s plenty of familiarity between Meyer and Andersen, which has added another layer of intrigue to one of the Big Ten’s top games for 2013. Wisconsin will have success on the ground early, which is essential to slowing down Ohio State’s offense. However, the Buckeyes simply have too much firepower. Miller won’t have to win this game on his own, especially with a deep backfield – led by Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde – and emerging options at receiver. Considering Wisconsin’s offense is limited with the passing game, if Ohio State gets ahead, it could be a long night for the Badgers.
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Wisconsin 27
The epicenter of college football’s Week 5 schedule is once again in the SEC, as Georgia hosts LSU in a battle of two top-10 teams. With a loss to Clemson in Week 1, the Bulldogs have to win this game to stay alive in the national title conversation. The Tigers could still play for the BCS Championship with one loss, but Les Miles’ team has a tough remaining schedule, including games at Ole Miss and Alabama.
The Bulldogs already scored a huge victory in SEC play, defeating South Carolina 41-30 in Week 2. With a win over LSU, Georgia can take a commanding lead in the East Division, especially with a favorable schedule the rest of the way.
LSU won its only SEC contest this year, defeating Auburn 35-21 last Saturday. The Tigers also scored a solid non-conference victory by beating TCU in Arlington, Texas in Week 1.
This is the first regular season meeting between these two teams since 2009, but the Bulldogs and Tigers have met in the SEC title game three times since 2003.
LSU has owned a slight advantage over Georgia recently, winning the last two matchups, including a 20-13 thriller in 2009. Although the 2009 matchup was decided by a touchdown, it’s the only game between these two teams decided by seven points or less in the last six meetings.
LSU vs. Georgia
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Georgia -3
Three Things to Watch
Georgia’s rush defense vs. Jeremy Hill
With only three returning starters from last year, Georgia’s defense is a work in progress. The Bulldogs are allowing 143.3 rushing yards per game and 4.0 yards per attempt, and Clemson (197 yards) and South Carolina (226 yards) had plenty of success against this defense. LSU is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and running back Jeremy Hill is coming off a career-best performance, rushing for 184 yards and three scores against Auburn. With the emergence of quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the Tigers offense has more balance than it had in recent years. However, there’s no doubt LSU wants to establish its ground attack. Georgia has struggled to stop the run against BCS opponents this year and will have its hands full against Hill, along with a Tigers’ offensive line that averages 314.8 pounds among its starting five.
Can Georgia protect quarterback Aaron Murray?
Even with five returning starters, Georgia’s offensive line entered 2013 under heavy scrutiny. This unit was average last year, allowing 27 sacks in 14 games. The Bulldogs have solid depth in the trenches and plan to rotate eight or nine players into the game to keep the starters fresh for the fourth quarter. LSU’s defensive line lost a handful of key players from last season’s unit, including ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, along with tackles Bennie Logan and Josh Downs. Although four new starters stepped into the lineup, this group might be more athletic and explosive than last year’s front four. Ends Jermauria Rasco and Jordan Allen have combined for 3.5 sacks in 2013, while tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are a big reason why opponents are managing just 4.7 yards per play. After Georgia’s offensive line struggled in its first two games of the year, LSU’s defensive line will be another tough matchup for quarterback Aaron Murray.
Will Zach Mettenberger continue his hot start to the season?
The arrival of Cam Cameron as LSU’s offensive coordinator has transformed Mettenberger into one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC this year. In four games, Mettenberger has thrown for 1,026 yards and 10 scores and just one interception. In 13 contests last year, Mettenberger threw just 12 touchdowns and completed 58.8 percent of his throws. Georgia’s defense is talented, but the Bulldogs also have a handful of young players contributing significant snaps. In the opener against Clemson, Georgia’s secondary allowed quarterback Tajh Boyd to throw for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Boyd was sacked only one time, which Georgia has to reverse in order to beat LSU. Mettenberger is completing 64.8 percent of his throws, but the Bulldogs need to pressure him and not allow the senior to get comfortable in the pocket. If Georgia’s front seven can generate pressure, it will help the cornerbacks match up against receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, who have combined to catch 44 of the Tigers’ 60 completions in 2013.
Key Player: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Gurley has delivered in both of Georgia’s big games this season. The sophomore rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson and gashed South Carolina for 132 yards and one score. LSU’s rush defense ranks seventh in the SEC but is allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. The Tigers have yet to be tested by a running back of Gurley’s caliber, so this will be a good barometer test for both teams. Gurley is among the top-10 Heisman contenders after four weeks and a good showing against LSU will only increase his stock.
On paper, it seems LSU has the advantage. The Tigers have the edge in the trenches, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger has added some much-needed balance to the offense.
However, Georgia is already battle-tested with wins over Clemson and South Carolina, and has won 14 in a row at home.
The Bulldogs’ defense is a huge concern, but with two top-10 contests under their belt, this unit should be ready to turn a corner.
Despite eight new starters, LSU’s defense is already one of the best in the SEC. But the Tigers will be tested by Georgia’s balance, especially if the pass rush is unable to get to Aaron Murray. LSU has not played an offense of the Bulldogs' caliber, with Auburn and TCU combining for 48 points against the Tigers this season.
Expect this game to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. LSU and Georgia will trade the lead a couple of times in the fourth quarter, but the homefield advantage pays off for the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Georgia 34, LSU 30
West Virginia will start its third quarterback of 2013 on Saturday, as Ford Childress is out due to injury, and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett will take the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Childress is out indefinitely with a torn pectoral muscle.
Trickett has played in only one game this season and is 0-2 in passing attempts.
Paul Millard will serve as the backup, and he started the first two games of the year, throwing 455 yards and one touchdown on 40 completions.
This is not the same West Virginia offense that was lighting up scoreboards in the first half of last season. The Mountaineers have too many new pieces on offense this year, especially with receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and quarterback Geno Smith now playing in the NFL.
With the newcomers in the receiving corps and a solid corps of running backs, West Virginia should lean on its rushing attack more against Oklahoma State. Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood are each averaging over five yards per carry this year.
If Trickett struggles, coach Dana Holgorsen does have an experienced option in Millard waiting in the wings.
However, whether it’s Trickett, Millard or Childress, West Virginia needs more from its quarterback position in the next few weeks.
Ford Childress has a torn muscle in his arm and will be replaced by Clint Trickett as starting QB, per Dana Holgorsen on @WVUIMGSports.— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) September 26, 2013
Maryland, Texas Tech and Minnesota are three of the biggest surprises after four weeks of the 2013 college football season.
The Terrapins dominated West Virginia last week, crushing the Mountaineers 37-0 in Baltimore. After struggling with quarterback injuries last season, Maryland clearly as a No. 1 option in C.J. Brown. The Terrapins won six games in coach Randy Edsall’s first two years in College Park, and Maryland could easily surpass that total in 2013.
The Red Raiders are coming off a 33-7 victory over Texas State, and both sides of the ball have displayed promise in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb have experienced their ups and downs as true freshmen quarterbacks, but the defense is holding opponents to just 13.3 points a game.
Minnesota has played a relatively soft schedule prior to Week 4, but the win over a solid San Jose State team was impressive. The Golden Gophers are leaning heavily on their ground attack, averaging 282.3 yards per game. This week’s game against Iowa should give the rest of the Big Ten a good idea of where Minnesota stacks up in the conference title picture.
Texas Tech, Maryland or Minnesota: Which 4-0 team should we buy into?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’ll take Maryland. We took some preseason heat for having the Terrapins finishing with seven victories in 2013, but after four weeks, that projection might be too low. Outside of games at Florida State, Virginia Tech and a home date against Clemson, Maryland should be favored in the rest of its schedule. A big reason for the Terrapins’ turnaround in 2013 has been quarterback C.J. Brown. The junior leads the ACC with an average of 331.5 total yards per game, and has a talented duo of receivers at his disposal in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Despite losing a couple of key players, Maryland’s defense is holding opponents to just 4.0 yards per play and leads the ACC with 17 sacks generated. The Terrapins have the best balance on offense and the best defense out of this trio of teams. Maryland is clearly the No. 3 team in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this team finish in the top 25 of the final rankings in January.
Of these three, I'll take Maryland because I think the Terrapins have the best shot at a top-three finish in their division/conference. The reality is that other than Texas Tech's win over a ranked TCU none of these teams have really faced any quality competition. Even though this will change (although not this Saturday), I believe Maryland has a clear edge when it comes to each team's remaining schedule. Randy Edsall's team still has to play Clemson and Florida State, but the rest of the Terps' schedule is very manageable. On the other hand, Texas Tech has to navigate the rest of its Big 12 slate, including the gauntlet of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor in a four-week stretch, while Minnesota has Michigan, Northwestern and Nebraska in a row and also gets Wisconsin and Michigan State back-to-back to end the season. So if anything, it looks like Maryland is well-positioned to benefit from playing in the "weaker" ACC, for at least one more season anyways.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Maryland. The Terps have the most talented roster, the most established coach, play in the ACC and have the best defense of the group. The Terps defense has been extremely salty this season, allowing just 4.0 yards per play and 266.0 yards per game. I like both Kilff Kingsbury and Jerry Kill, but Edsall has been doing this head coaching thing for much longer and his quarterback appears to be healthy. While both Texas Tech and Minnesota have dealt with injuries at QB, the Terrapins have an emerging superstar in C.J. Brown (331.5 total yards per game). Packaged with developing star power on offense, Edsall has himself as complete a football team as Maryland has had in years. The Terps also miss Miami and Georgia Tech in crossover play to top it all off.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I think I’m buying Maryland’s 4-0 more than the others, though Minnesota is an interesting case. Maryland probably would have been a bowl team last season if not for an incredible run of quarterback injuries. Randy Edsall’s a pretty good coach, but he’s not the kind of guy who turns things on a dime. Now that his system is in place, and his team isn’t facing injuries and transfers left and right, the Terrapins are proving to be a solid team on both sides of the ball. Are the Terps better than Florida State and Clemson? Probably not, but the Terps are just as good as any team in the ACC Coastal. Like Maryland, Minnesota’s emergence has been a few years in the making. The Gophers might not win eight or nine games, but they play defense and they’ll stay competitive in the Big Ten.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
Give me the Terps and those beautiful Maryland Pride 2.0 uniforms. Maryland’s defense forced six turnovers of the Mountaineers en route to a 37-0 romp over West Virginia. The Terps actually lead the country in turnovers with 13 through just four games. Brian Stewart’s unit has been exceptional this year, allowing just 10.3 points per game, ninth fewest in the nation. The offense has performed near perfectly as well. Quarterback C.J. Brown has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,043 yards for seven touchdowns and just one interception. In addition, Brown is averaging 6.3 yards per rush and has scored six touchdowns on the ground. Stefon Diggs has proven himself worthy of his No. 2 wide receiver ranking in last year’s recruiting class, as the 2012 ACC Freshman of the Year runner-up recorded 387 yards and three touchdown in his first three games of the season. Coach Randy Edsall appears to have taken himself off of the hot seat, as Maryland has already matched its win total from all of last year, but I predict the Terrapins will double their wins from last year. Maryland is simply a more complete team than either Texas A&M (no rushing game) or Minnesota (no passing game).
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The final weekend of college football action in September once again features several non-conference matchups, but more competitive games are coming soon.
Conference play for nearly all 10 leagues is starting to pop up more on the schedule each Saturday, with the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 featuring a handful of key games in Week 5.
Wisconsin-Ohio State, Ole Miss-Alabama, LSU-Georgia, Notre Dame-Oklahoma and Arizona State-USC are just a few of the key games on the schedule this Saturday. This weekend’s slate is a huge improvement over Week 4’s schedule, which was very light in terms of quality games.
The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on AthlonSports.com, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.
College Football Week 5 Upset Predictions
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Buffalo (+1) over Connecticut
I realize this isn’t much of an upset, but I’m also not seeing many games the underdog will win on Saturday. Connecticut played Michigan tough last week, but the Huskies gained only 206 yards, and quarterback Chandler Whitmer was sacked four times. Buffalo’s defense features one of the nation’s most underrated players in linebacker Khalil Mack, and six other starters from a unit that held opponents to 363.7 yards per game last year. The Bulls’ rank last in the MAC in total defense this season, but the competition played so far – Ohio State and Baylor – have a lot to do with that number. Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni desperately needs a win to cool some of the hot seat talk in Storrs. However, Buffalo’s defense, and running back Branden Oliver prevent the Huskies from getting a much-needed victory.
David Fox (@DavidFox615): Colorado (-11) over Oregon State
The Buffaloes are a much improved team. I don’t expect them to go to a bowl, but this team went from absolutely dreadful to 2-0. In this game, Oregon State’s defense will give the Buffs a chance. Oregon State needed late surges to beat San Diego State and Utah. I wonder how much the Beavers will be able to hold up. Colorado can move the ball thanks to Connor Wood completing passes to the nation’s most underrated receiver Paul Richardson (though the Beavers’ Brandin Cooks is in the same class). With the way Oregon State’s D has been playing, it’s tough to envision the Beavers as an 11-point favorite over anyone.
Mark Ross: Western Kentucky (+3) over Navy
Navy is leading the nation in rushing at nearly 400 yards per game and already has a win over a Big Ten team (Indiana) on its resume. However, Western Kentucky can match up with the Midshipmen when it comes to running the ball, as the Hilltoppers are gaining nearly 230 yards on the ground per contest themselves. New WKU coach Bobby Petrino has this offense clicking, and I think the combination of all-purpose threat Antonio Andrews (222.2 total yards per game) and the passing ability of Brandon Doughty will be too much for the Mids to overcome in Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Don't be surprised if this game features close to 600 yards rushing and more than 80 points combined.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): USC (+7) at Arizona State
This is a huge game for both teams as the loser will be sitting at 0-2 in the Pac-12 after just one month of play. USC's defense is the real deal, and Arizona State has struggled in a big way along the line of scrimmage against Stanford. Historically, the Trojans have owned the Sun Devils, winning 12 of the last 13 meetings. Lane Kiffin will take the air out of the football by running Tre Madden and playing great defense. Don't be surprised if the desperate Men of Troy return to Los Angeles with a big leg up in the South Division.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Virginia (+5) over Pittsburgh
Mike London knows the key to taking down the Panthers is limiting the big play. Last week, 17 of Pittsburgh's plays accounted for 423 yards of their 598 total yards. The Panthers do an excellent job of running the ball to open up their play action passing game, in order to take advantage of their two top-notch receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. Despite this, I like Virginia’s new aggressive approach under defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. While they struggled against Oregon (who doesn’t?), the Cavaliers defense looked dominant in wins over BYU and VMI. In fact, Virginia registered six sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss and five turnovers in the two games. They have held all three of their opponents under their season scoring average. I like what the Cavaliers rushing attacks will be able to do against a Panthers defense that allows an average of 443 yards and 41 points per game, ranking 120th in the FBS. The Panthers have allowed their last two opponents, New Mexico and Duke, to each rush for 213 yards. Look for a big game from Cavaliers RB Kevin Parks, who rushed for a career-high 135 yards last week. I like the Cavaliers defense and running game over the high-flying Pittsburgh offense in this one.
Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley suffered a torn ACL in practice this week and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Easley’s torn ACL is the second major injury suffered by Florida in the last few days, as quarterback Jeff Driskel is also out for the year after a leg injury against Tennessee.
In three games this year, Easley had five tackles (two for a loss) and four quarterback hurries.
Although his stat line wasn’t overwhelming, Easley is one of the top defensive tackles in the nation, and his presence on the interior helps to open up opportunities for Dante Fowler, Ronald Powell and Jonathan Bullard off the edge.
The Gators will miss Easley's presence on the interior, but juniors Darious Cummings and Leon Orr, along with senior Damien Jacobs should be able to keep the rush defense performing at a high level.
This is the second ACL tear in Easley’s career, and the senior is eligible for a medical redshirt. However, considering he was a potential first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Easley may decide to pass on a redshirt and start his career at the next level.
It’s another light slate of games in the ACC for Week 5.
Six of the seven Saturday games in the conference feature a team favored by at least 10 points, with Virginia-Pittsburgh the only matchup in single digits.
The spotlight for Week 5 in the ACC will be on Thursday night. Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech is one of the key matchups every year in the Coastal Division, and this season’s game should have ACC title implications.
Outside of Thursday night’s game, it’s up to heavy underdogs like Boston College and Wake Forest to make this an interesting weekend in the conference.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions: Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Week 5 Game Power Rankings
1. Virginia Tech (+7) at Georgia Tech (Thursday, 7:30 ET, ESPN)
Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are the only two teams to represent the Coastal Division in the eight-year history of the ACC Championship. The winner of Thursday night’s game will have plenty of hurdles still to navigate in the next two months, but either the Yellow Jackets or Hokies will take an early lead for the Coastal title. The Yellow Jackets are already 2-0 in ACC play, scoring a key victory over North Carolina last week. Georgia Tech always has a solid rushing attack under coach Paul Johnson, but the defense and passing game have made progress this year. The Yellow Jackets are holding opponents to 11.3 points a game, while quarterback Vad Lee is tied for third in the ACC with seven touchdown tosses. Although Georgia Tech’s offense is generating 484.7 yards per game, Virginia Tech will be its toughest challenge. The Hokies are allowing just 3.6 yards per play and are limiting opponents to 233.3 yards per game. Virginia Tech’s defense might be the best in the ACC, but its offense continues to struggle. The Hokies are averaging only 4.7 yards per play and are scoring just 18 points a game against FBS competition. Quarterback Logan Thomas is off to a slow start, completing just 48.5 percent of his throws and tossing six picks. However, the Hokies have struggled to find the right mix on the offensive line and lack a No. 1 receiver.
2. Virginia (+6) at Pittsburgh (12:30 ET, Root Sports)
This game might not draw much interest nationally, but there’s some intrigue around the ACC on what happens Saturday in the Steel City. Pittsburgh lost its opener to Florida State but has rebounded with solid showings against Duke and New Mexico. Virginia played one of the toughest two-game stretches in the nation to start the year (BYU, Oregon) and easily handled VMI last Saturday. Neither team is expected to win the ACC, but this is an important game for positioning in the middle of the division. And it's a relatively even contest, as both teams matchup well in terms of strengths and weaknesses. The Panthers’ passing attack leads the ACC with an average of 289.7 yards per game, while Virginia’s secondary is holding opponents to 140 yards a contest. Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled in all three matchups this year, and the Cavaliers will hope to take the pressure off of quarterback David Watford with a strong effort on the ground. Despite just over 300 miles separating these two campuses, Pittsburgh and Virginia have played only five times, with the last matchup occurring in 2007.
3. East Carolina (+12) at North Carolina (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
In a bit of a surprise, North Carolina’s offense is off to a slow start this year. The Tar Heels averaged 485.6 yards per game in 2012 but rank 10th in the ACC in total offense after three games. Personnel losses on the offensive line and the departure of running back Giovani Bernard to the NFL have slowed the progress of this unit in 2013. Getting the offense back on track is the top priority for coach Larry Fedora this Saturday. The Tar Heels play at Virginia Tech next week, and after losing to Georgia Tech last Saturday, Fedora’s team needs to win to stay alive in the Coastal title picture. Even though the Pirates rank third in Conference USA in total defense, FAU and Virginia Tech’s offenses have struggled, and nose tackle Terry Williams has been suspended for this game. East Carolina gave Virginia Tech all it could handle two weeks ago, and the Pirates’ passing offense (269 ypg) will test a North Carolina secondary that is allowing 12.2 yards per completion. Quarterback Shane Carden is completing 74.5 percent of his throws, and running back Vintavious Cooper gives the offense some balance, averaging four yards per carry on 40 attempts this year. East Carolina should move the ball, but North Carolina has too much firepower on offense.
4. Florida State (-21.5) at Boston College (3:30 ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Since Boston College’s 28-21 victory in 2009, Florida State has won three in a row in this series by a combined score of 113-33. Despite improvement under first-year coach Steve Addazio, the Eagles will be challenged to keep Saturday’s game competitive. Behind redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles are averaging 52.3 points a game and defeated Pittsburgh by 28 points in the opener. Winston is completing 78.1 percent of his throws and should be able to take advantage of a Boston College secondary that ranks 10th in the ACC against the pass. The Eagles rank last in the ACC in total offense (5.1 yards per play) but are helped by an aggressive defense that has forced seven turnovers and eight sacks in three games. In order for Boston College to keep this one close into the fourth quarter, running back Andre Williams needs to have a big day against a Florida State run defense that ranks seventh in the ACC (3.4 yards per carry). Even if Williams has success, the Eagles need a perfect effort on both sides of the ball to knock off the Seminoles.
5. Wake Forest (+29) at Clemson (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
If the Demon Deacons can’t find a spark on offense, this matchup against Clemson could get ugly in a hurry. Wake Forest is averaging just 18 points a game against FBS opponents, largely due to an offensive line that has struggled to find continuity over the last two years. To help with the struggles up front, the Demon Deacons have implemented more option looks, but the rushing attack is still managing only 3.2 yards per carry. The Tigers were held to 26 points against NC State last Thursday, which was their fewest in an ACC contest since Nov. 19, 2011. The Demon Deacons are holding opponents to 15.8 points a game this season and rank second in the ACC with 11 forced turnovers. Clemson’s offense is too explosive to keep in check for all four quarters, but Wake Forest’s defense can help a struggling offense by continuing with its success forcing turnovers, as well as generating pressure on quarterback Tajh Boyd.
6. Miami (-19) at South Florida (12 ET, ESPNU)
In the first year under coach Willie Taggart, South Florida is off to a disappointing 0-3 start. The Bulls lost to FCS opponent McNeese State in the opener and have managed only 16 points in their last two games. Although South Florida is off to a rough start, the Bulls will be motivated to play their in-state rival. In last week’s scrimmage against Savannah State, the Hurricanes cruised to an easy 77-7 win, but quarterback Stephen Morris suffered an ankle injury and has been limited in practice. Morris is expected to play on Saturday. However, Miami may not need a huge performance from Morris, especially with USF allowing 160.3 yards per game on the ground. The Bulls have struggled on offense, committing eight turnovers and averaging only 12.3 points per game. If the Hurricanes can get ahead early, it should allow coach Al Golden to rest Morris and running back Duke Johnson, especially with back-to-back ACC showdowns against Georgia Tech and North Carolina up next.
7. Troy (+10.5) at Duke (3 ET, ESPN3)
It’s only Week 5, but Duke’s bowl hopes have faded after back-to-back losses. The Blue Devils don’t have many guaranteed victories on the remaining schedule, which makes Saturday’s non-conference affair against Troy a must-win situation. The Trojans will be a pesky opponent for coach David Cutcliffe’s team, as Troy averages 457 yards per game on offense and ranks 20th nationally with 310.5 passing yards per game. The Blue Devils are allowing 200 passing yards per game, but opponents are averaging 7.6 yards per pass and have scored 10 touchdowns against this secondary. The Trojans employ a two-quarterback system, which features Corey Robinson (the passer), and Deon Anthony (a runner). Troy has enough weapons to keep this game close, but its defense has to find a way to slow down Duke’s offense. The Trojans are allowing 421 yards per game and gave up 62 points in a loss to Mississippi State last Saturday. Duke quarterback Brandon Connette has filled in admirably for Anthony Boone, but he threw four picks in last week’s game against Pittsburgh. Troy’s struggling defense should help Connette get back on track.
8. Central Michigan (+23.5) at NC State (3:30 ET, ESPN3)
Saturday’s game against Central Michigan will be NC State’s fourth consecutive home contest to start the season. The Wolfpack hung tough against Clemson last Thursday but lacked the offensive firepower to pull off the upset. The Chippewas could be the perfect medicine for NC State’s offense, as they are allowing 37.2 points a game and 6.1 yards per play. The Wolfpack won’t have Brandon Mitchell back under center this week, and the matchup with Central Michigan should give quarterbacks Pete Thomas and Bryant Shirreffs a chance to build some confidence before next week’s ACC road test at Wake Forest. These two teams have met only once, with NC State winning 38-24 in 2011.
ACC Week 5 Pivotal Players
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Panthers held opponents to only 136.4 rushing yards per game last season, but this unit has struggled in 2013. After three opponents, Pittsburgh ranks 13th in the ACC against the run, allowing 194 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Virginia’s offense relies heavily on its rushing attack, which will test the Panthers’ front seven on Saturday. Donald is one of college football’s top defensive tackles, and he needs to dominate the line of scrimmage against the Cavaliers.
Steven Chase/Dylan Intemann, OT, Wake Forest
It’s a tall order to ask Wake Forest’s defense to keep Clemson in check for all four quarters. The Demon Deacons will have to play their best game of the season to knock off the Tigers, which means the offense has to step up after generating only 54 points in three games against FBS competition. Clemson’s front four has been active this year, ranking third in the ACC with 12 sacks. Wake Forest’s line has allowed nine through four games. In order for the Demon Deacons to move the ball on offense, Chase and Intemann have to keep Clemson defensive ends Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford away from quarterback Tanner Price.
Vad Lee, QB, Georgia Tech
The success of Georgia Tech’s offense rests heavily on Lee’s shoulders. In his first year as a starter, the sophomore has rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns, while passing for seven touchdowns and 418 yards. Virginia Tech owns one of the top defenses in the nation, forcing 10 turnovers and 16 sacks through the first four weeks. The Yellow Jackets won’t have much margin for error against this defense, and Lee needs to get the option offense on track, while not turning the ball over to an opportunistic Hokie defense.
Jack Tyler, LB, Virginia Tech
In last year’s meeting between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, Tyler was all over the field, recording 17 tackles, with one going for a loss. His performance was a big reason why the Yellow Jackets managed only 192 rushing yards and mustered only 17 points. The senior is one of the ACC’s top linebackers and whether he’s spying Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee or stuffing the inside running plays against David Sims or Zach Laskey, Tyler will play a key role in Virginia Tech’s defensive gameplan on Thursday night.
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
If Boston College has any hope of beating Florida State, Williams needs to have a big game. The senior leads the ACC with an average of 118.7 rushing yards per game. Florida State ranks seventh in the ACC against the run, with opponents managing 3.4 yards per rush. Nevada and Pittsburgh had some success early on the ground against the Seminoles, and the Eagles need at least 120 yards from Williams on Saturday.
ACC Week 5 Predictions
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Va. Tech (+7) at Ga. Tech||Ga. Tech 28-14||Ga. Tech 27-13||Ga. Tech 24-20||Ga. Tech 31-21|
|Miami (-19) at South Florida||Miami 35-7||Miami 31-13||Miami 38-10||Miami 41-17|
|Virginia (+6) at Pittsburgh||Pitt 28-10||Pitt 34-24||Pitt 31-24||Pitt 28-20|
|East Carolina (+12) at North Carolina||UNC 35-24||UNC 40-24||UNC 38-24||UNC 29-13|
|Troy (+10.5) at Duke||Duke 35-14||Duke 31-24||Duke 41-27||Duke 37-20|
|Florida State (-21.5) at Boston College||FSU 42-10||FSU 45-17||FSU 41-13||FSU 31-7|
|Wake Forest (+29) at Clemson||Clemson 38-10||Clemson 38-13||Clemson 45-17||Clemson 38-14|
|Central Michigan (+23.5) at NC State||NC State 35-13||NC State 30-10||NC State 34-13||NC State 41-10|