Trending Isn’t Always a Good Thing,
Now Schedule Some Real Games!
I’m not a social media guru and I only have Twitter. What’s trending there, I really don’t care but it is the disgrace of College Sports that has me upset this morning. Today, I will be tackling the weekend slate!
What has happened with Louisville and their athletic programs? One of the coaches I like the least was probably the best coach that Louisville has had. While Charlie Strong has never been (in my eyes) a winner, he has at least, lead his teams in a moral way. Louisville has continued to make poor decisions and I questioned the rehire of Bobby Petrino in 2014. Petrino was caught in a scandal with a former Volleyball Coach who he had (more than likely) hired illegally as an assistant to the football team. Petrino wrecked his motorcycle and the news of the affair poured out faster than a BP oil spill. Petrino has on several occasions been caught in several lies dating back to the very beginning of his coaching career. Petrino played a double agent when coaching at Auburn by accepting the job as Head Coach at Louisville and then interviewing for the same position at Auburn. To stick with his band of lies, Petrino then moved on to sign an extension with Louisville and continued interviewing for other positions. Seven months after signing that extension, Petrino left to be the OC of the Atlanta Falcons. Why would anyone want to hire this guy? There is definitely something fishy about this.
It’s not just Petrino. Maybe it is in the name, or maybe not, but Rick Pitino has left Louisville in a very precarious situation. The famed Basketball Head Coach has left the public in dismay and the Cardinals Basketball Program in disarray. His troubles date all the back to 1977. He was first accused of what the NCAA would call “impermissible benefits”. As a Celtic’s fan, what he did to Red was inexcusable. Who the hell did he think he was? Apparently, he thought he was an immortal. He proved to us by his actions that he was merely immoral. In 2009, Pitino was accused of Rape. Now, the accuser was charged for lying to authorities but did we as the public find out the real story? Pitino did admit to having an affair with the accuser but only after everything had died down. Cowardly move, if you ask me. Just two years ago, a scandal emerged alleging that the Louisville Basketball Program had provided escorts and money for recruits on their visits. A former assistant with the program even went as far as to provide sex for these underage athletes. And now, we are hearing again that Louisville is in the heart of another scandal. Charged with corruption and fraud, Louisville had no choice but to place Pitino and AD Jurich on suspension pending a meeting in October. However, we all expect both Pitino and Jurich to be let go prior to that time.
While Louisville isn’t the only school targeted in the Corruption and Fraud Investigation, the Cardinals have made it known throughout their history that decision making isn’t a strong suit. I don’t believe that a University should receive the “Death Penalty” but the Show Cause for the entire Athletics Department has put me between a rock and a hard place. At this time, the NCAA needs to make an example of the Cardinals and unfortunately, the only way to do so would be to cripple Louisville. I believe the NCAA should remove Louisville from participating in all College Athletics for a period of no less than 2 years. All athletes should remain on scholarship and be allowed to continue their education for free (regardless of their involvement). Those who would like to transfer and continue their careers elsewhere should be granted immediate release to any institution of their choosing. Pitino should serve some sort of sentence and those involved should join him.
You are very lucky right now. Your time is coming but the NCAA & FBI have bigger fish to fry but your day in court will come soon enough. Unfortunately for you, the NCAA might be a little more than perturbed at the ongoing shenanigans of its members and you may get an even uglier sentence than you expect.
#2 Clemson @ #12 Virginia Tech
8:00PM on ABC (Clemson -7.5)
Wasn’t this supposed to be a season where these two teams took a step back in their respective divisions? Sporting News had both teams predicted to finish second in their divisions while USA Today had Clemson going 10-2 and Virginia Tech 9-3. While those predictions aren’t exactly terrible, the surprise stability from the Tigers and Hokies can be attributed to two things, Coaching and Recruiting.
Bud Foster has been at Virginia Tech since 1987 and has been the Defensive Coordinator since 1995. Since Gary Campbell left Oregon this past season, that makes Foster the longest tenured assistant for active coaches. Need a little perspective? Ronald Reagan was the President of the United States when Foster started coaching at Virginia Tech. Dabo Swinney was still in High School. Bud Foster has had his defenses ready almost every single year during his tenure. His hard nose approached has landed VT with a Top 10 Defense 11 out of 20 seasons and only 2 of his defenses have finished outside the top 50 (#51 & #52).
Speaking of Swinney, the Clemson Coach has been around Death Valley going on 14 years. Swinney became the Wide Receiver’s Coach in 2003. Dabo earned his reputation through recruiting and sticking true to his beliefs. While some people (including myself) see Dabo as more of a CEO than a Head Coach, I compare him to Chick-Fil-A. When you approach things the right way, demand the best from your staff and never falter in your morals, you will find the right people to build an organization around. That is exactly what Swinney has done. I don’t know what Dabo does behind the scenes and he may be an amazing coach but what he has done with the program is truly amazing.
Newcomers Make It Exciting
While the coaching makes a difference, the newcomers provide the spark. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter what coaches do if players don’t show up. This season, several players on each team are making an impact.
For the Hokies, first-year starter QB Josh Jackson has been outstanding. He has compiled 11 touchdowns through the air while only throwing one interception. His arm talent was on display against ECU in a 64-17 thumping. Jackson is completing 66% of his passes and has a QB Rating of 177. Through four games he has amassed over 1100 yards passing and almost 150 yards rushing. He isn’t a fluid runner but his legs will get the job done if needed. Behind every great QB, there is usually a very good RB or WR. For the Hokies, they have both. Cam Phillips is having a monstrous start. The wideout has 34 catches for almost half of the total passing yards (553) and has hauled in 5 of Jackson’s 11 passing touchdowns. Phillips uses a combination of speed and excellent route running to get behind defenders and makes them pay more often than not. Something that Sean Payton (HC of the New Orleans Saints) should pay attention to is how balanced the rushing attack is from a personnel standpoint. In Blacksburg, Coach Fuente has a stable of capable backs (nowhere near the talent of New Orleans) and uses them in a way that would make Adrian Peterson jealous. Through the first third of the season, three running backs have between 31 and 36 carries. Each of those backs have at least 133 yards but no more than 162. Add in Jackson’s 32 carries for 144 yards and you have four people in the backfield capable of running the ball.
Like its counterpart, Clemson has enjoyed the same kind of success. Kelly Bryant is also a first-year starter. While the numbers aren’t eye popping for Bryant, it’s the management of the offense that has him wowing coaches and fans. Bryant has tallied only two passing touchdowns with three interceptions but has completed 74 of his 109 attempts. What Bryant doesn’t do with his mind or arm, he does with his feet. Unlike Jackson or even Watson, Bryant runs the ball like a gazelle. Through four, Bryant has 66 carries for 261 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Jackson didn’t have to replace Watson but neither did Bryant. Bryant has come in and done what he was supposed to and has Clemson in a seemingly familiar spot with a chance to lead the Tigers to another playoff appearance. Of course, Bryant has his help too. When Mr. Touchdown (Hunter Renfrow) is on your team, you can bet success will come. Unlike the Hokies though, it isn’t a one receiver show. The Tigers also have Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud. The trio of Tigers have caught 50 of the 85 receptions and tallied 570 of the 953 receiving yards. Renfrow has been the third down target while McCloud and Cain are the homerun threats. I think the biggest surprise (while not surprising if you watched his High School film) is Travis Etienne. The kid is in beast mode 24/7. As a freshman, Etienne leads the Tigers with 292 rushing yards on only 23 carries. Let that sink in a minute. The kid is averaging 12.7 yards per carry. That is insane. While he isn’t Saquon Barkley (yet), he is doing something that is unheard of. When you pair him with Feaster, the combination reminds you of C.J Spiller and James Davis. The difference, there’s a lot more speed here. Clemson has four running backs with more than 20 carries and I don’t see the philosophy of rotating backs changing anytime soon. Clemson ranks 13th in rushing offense this season and is averaging 272 yards on the ground per game.
Scheduling. While the Hokies are 4-0, those wins have come against competition that well, leaves a lot to be desired. Virginia Tech started out the season against WVU. While several media pundits had WVU challenging for the Big12 Conference Championship, I was never sold. The coach burners Morgantown have played Delaware State, ECU, and Kansas since losing to the Hokies. ECU ranks last in Total Defense and Kansas is 117th of 129 schools. That doesn’t look good for the Hokies considering the Mountaineers rank 106th in Total Defense. Virginia Tech’s other FBS opponent Old Dominion, ranks 97th in Total Defense. For the first time this season, the Hokies will be challenged by a team with a pulse.
Clemson on the other hand has played two Top-15 teams in its four games and faced a Heisman Trophy Winner. The Tigers have also had their fair share of easy opponents (Kent State and Boston College) and even struggled a bit with one of them. During the game against BC, the Tigers managed only one score through the game’s first three quarters. Like Foster will do on Saturday, Boston College threw the kitchen sink at the Clemson Offense. It worked. Kelly Bryant looked confused at times. Boston College ranks 104th in Total Defense. What worked for Clemson in that game, the Defense. Clemson ranks 3rd in Total Defense allowing only 227 yards per game. Clemson also has the advantage in playing a true road game and already experiencing College Gameday.
Unlike most, I don’t think this game will be close by the start of the 4th quarter. Clemson has a habit over the last few years of playing their best games when people start to doubt their abilities. As only a 7.5-point favorite on the road (10.5 if you adjust for “home field advantage”), Clemson should assert themselves in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The defense for the Hokies will keep them in through two and a half quarters but midway through the third, the Tigers depth on both sides of the ball will frustrate and tire Virginia Tech. I expect a score near 21-14 at halftime and then a near second half shutout by Clemson with an offensive explosion. Clemson will walk away with this one 38-17 and the AP will be forced to recognize the Tigers as the clear #1 team in the country.
The Game Nobody is Talking About
I think this is a travesty. We all know the SEC West belongs to Alabama and the SEC East should be Georgia’s to lose. After UGA beat-down their Bulldog counterparts from the west, the SEC has been left to fend for the scraps of media attention. It’s about time! When your conference isn’t doing anything, why should it garner recognition. I think this is the first time in years that even SEC Pundits are seeing the “Ride of the Tide’s Coattails”.
This game can prove one of three things to College Football Nation. Mississippi State can prove to us that they are a lot better than their performance against UGA. To do so, MSST would need to beat Auburn decisively. By doing so, it would also prove that Georgia is a legitimate threat to Alabama and the rest of College Football. We would need to see a complete game from the Bulldogs, domination on both lines of scrimmage and a 3-4 score differential.
Auburn can also prove they are a threat to Alabama but it will take a lot more to convince me here. Auburn played Clemson close but it never felt like they were going to win. They have played a Jekyll and Hyde season so far. They blew out Georgia Southern and Missouri but struggled against Mercer. Their defense has played well all year and rank 4th in Total Defense and 7th in Scoring Defense. Auburn will need a flawless performance from its offense and a shutout will go a long way. Because the Bulldogs floundered against UGA, I just don’t know how impressive the win could be.
This game could also prove to be very costly for both teams, the SEC and UGA’s strength of schedule. If this becomes a physical battle (which I believe it will) and neither offense is capable of moving the ball, the bandwagon SEC fans will be forced to abandon ship. Neither team can afford for their offenses to sputter. Alabama needs one of these two teams to dominate the other, Auburn (because of the close loss to Clemson) more so than Mississippi State. If Auburn does so and remains undefeated until the Iron Bowl, the Tide would have every right to the top spot in the playoff (assuming the Tide go undefeated). UGA would suffer the greatest loss if both teams play terribly. The SEC East is already a joke and the Bulldogs don’t have a tough game left on their schedule besides Auburn. For the Bulldogs to make the playoffs, they will need Auburn to win this game big and then beat them handedly (and be undefeated). The Bulldogs will then have a chance to take on the Tide in the SEC Championship Game.
(#13) Auburn 27 – (#24) Mississippi St 31
The Game That Only Matters to .01% of the Country
Unfortunately, until the NCAA forces teams to play real games early in the season, we are stuck talking about USC West again.
Luke Falk has been phenomenal since being benched against Boise St. Honestly, Falk wasn’t playing that bad against the Broncos. The offense just wasn’t helping him out. Boise State’s defense had a lot to do with it as well. The Broncos played inspired for 60+ minutes and it took the Cougars three overtimes to dispatch them. Regardless, Falk has put up Big12 numbers in the Pac12 Conference. With 14 touchdowns through the air and only one interception, the kid is doing his best Pat Mahomes impression. Falk has racked up almost 1400 yards and has completed 77% of his passes as well. Unfortunately, it probably won’t matter.
Honestly, the Trojans aren’t that bad, they just remind me of that nagging little sister who deep down inside you love to pieces but bugs the living crap out of you. Darnold, isn’t a Heisman contender but he is still a good QB with the potential to be great.
The biggest problem that the Trojans will present to the Cougars is the ground game. Washington State has allowed an average of 120 yards per game this season. With their biggest competition thus far coming from Boise State, the Cougars will have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. USC has two running backs capable of taking it to the house at any given time. Jones and Carr are averaging 5.5 and 6.3 yards per carry respectively and the Cougars are giving up 3.61 yards. First down will be the key for both teams. If USC can average 4.5 yards in the running game on first down, this game will be over quickly. If WSU makes the Trojans throw the ball, the Cougars could stay in this one for a while.
What to Expect?
While the Cougars aren’t ready for the spotlight just yet, they will present several issues for the Trojans and the defense for USC will come under fire again. Look, Luke Falk is going to make a lot of people feel a bit silly. He will find holes when you make a mistake. Early on, I expect this to be a back and forth affair. At halftime (28-20 USC), the Trojans will make the better adjustments. Conditioning will have a lot to do with this game and the running backs will have a big second half. Look for a final score of 48-30.
Games That Are Meaningless but Fun:
#7 UGA @ Tenn
NIU @ #19 SDSU
#14 Miami @ Duke
Northwestern @ #10 Wisconsin
#15 Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech
#18 USF @ ECU
Murray State @ #17 Louisville
#6 Washington @ Oregon State
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