What’s more excited than Christmas and Wedding Season combined? College football bowl season! Whether you’re traveling to cheer your team on in person, hosting a viewing party, or watching at a bar you want to look your best as you support your team. Here are the games we’re most excited about:
The Big Ones
- College Football Playoffs, January 1: Georgia vs Oklahoma and Alabama vs Clemson
- Cotton Bowl, Dec 29: Ohio State vs USC- We have a sneaky feeling people will say Ohio St should be in a different game, but vs a potential #1 pick is a good consolation prize.
- Fiesta Bowl, Dec 30: No. 11 Washington vs. No. 9 Penn State
- Orange Bowl, Dec 30: No. 10 Miami vs. No. 6 Wisconsin- A few games falling differently during the fall and this is a playoff game.
Early Bowls with Two Ranked Teams
- Camping World Bowl, Dec 28: No. 22 Virginia Tech vs. No. 19 Oklahoma State
- Valero Alamo Bowl, Dec 28: No. 13 Stanford vs. No. 15 TCU- There aren’t enough Horned Frogs in the world.
The New Year’s Day Great Game Marathon
- Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 12 UCF vs. No. 7 Auburn followed by Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 LSU
Bowls with Fun Names
- TaxSlayer Bowl, Dec 30: Louisville vs. No. 23 Mississippi State
- New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec 27: Iowa vs. Boston College- If for no other reason than to see football played in the Bronx.
- Music City Bowl, Dec 29: Kentucky vs. No. 21 Northwestern- If you’re a Kentucky fan and you’re more excited about basketball season, we understand.
- Belk Bowl, Dec 29: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M- Almost a home game for the Demon Deacons.
Virginia Tech vs Virginia
If you were planning to watch the Hokies and Cavaliers face off in an exciting, offensive game on Saturday then you surely felt disappointed and cheated. But if you enjoy watching two defenses battle it out in the trenches, this game was the perfect matchup. Regardless of which side of the football you favor, I think we can all agree that the battle for the Virginia State Championship was pretty boring. Who really wants to watch a game where one touchdown is scored between the two competitors?
That’s exactly what happened in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon, as the Virginia Tech Hokies defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 10-0 to solidify their standing as the premier football school in Virginia (though they really didn’t need the trophy to convince college football fans of that). The Cavaliers defense only gave up 10 points, which in most cases would result in a victory. However, while Virginia’s defense was good, Virginia Tech’s was flat out dominant. The Cavaliers managed only 191 total yards of offense, while only mustering 5 total rushing yards. 5. In the entire game. It really doesn’t matter how good your defense is. If you can only produce 5 total yards of rushing there is likely no chance for you to come out on top. It wasn’t hard for the Hokies to predict what plays were coming because they knew the Cavaliers had to throw the ball. And it’s hard to beat a team that is always one step ahead of you.
Virginia fans must be tired of facing their in-state rivals, as the loss on Saturday was the team’s 14th straight to the Hokies. I like to compare the Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry to recent episodes of the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry. Like South Carolina, Virginia has a solid team, a historic program, and tons of optimism and motivation when squaring off against their rivals. However, similar to Clemson, Virginia Tech just has higher levels of talent. You truly never know what’s going to happen when two rivals meet, but 9 times out of 10, the more talented team is going to win.
The win pushes Virginia Tech’s record to 9-3 and the Hokies will now have to await their bowl destination. It will be Tech’s 25th consecutive bowl berth, an impressive streak that ranks 1st in the country. The Hokies have had an up and down season all year, but coming off of a challenging shutout victory against their rivals should give them a boost heading into bowl season. Virginia will also await their bowl destination, but unlike the Hokies, this will be Virginia’s first bowl appearance since 2011. It’s hard to know what to expect from the Cavaliers in the postseason, but fans should just be excited they get to watch their team play a 13th game. It doesn’t happen often, so when it does, Virginia fans ought to be grateful.
Clemson vs South Carolina
“Never again”; the motto adopted by the South Carolina Gamecocks after their 2016 blowout loss to in-state rival Clemson 56-7. Never again would their program be utterly embarrassed and outplayed by a better team. Never again would Clemson take home another state championship. Never again would the Gamecocks allow the Tigers to continue being their big brother. Never again…until this past weekend.
Clemson continued its recent run of dominance over the Gamecocks in Columbia on Saturday, beating USC 34-10 to keep their hopes of a third consecutive playoff berth alive. The Clemson victory marked its fourth straight against their historic and most hated rivals and surely made Tiger fans across the nation ecstatic. Nobody really understands the true turmoil and hostility on display when these two teams meet until they experience it for themselves. It is widely viewed as one of the best, most historic rivalries in college football.
However, there is a line between passion and savagery that should never be crossed, even in a rivalry between two proud schools such as these. That line was crossed on Saturday night in Williams Brice Stadium, but only by one fan base…the home fan base. Down 20 and well on their way to suffering yet another loss to, yes, their big brother, South Carolina fans elected to start throwing trash and food not only on the field, but at Clemson players and coaches. Numerous times the debris came close to hitting Clemson players and, understandably, head coach Dabo Swinney was upset and protective of his players. At one point Dabo got in an official’s face and could be heard yelling that he wanted South Carolina to be penalized and that they had to get ahold of the situation. The official then reached down, grabbed the yellow flag, and threw it. But the penalty was on Dabo for leaving the coach’s box and using inappropriate language. Sure, makes perfect sense. Penalize the coach trying to protect his players from the animals in the stands, not the team who calls Williams Brice home and those students their peers.
Dabo and his Tigers kept their composure and got the last laugh as they easily rolled to victory. The game was never close and Clemson again proved why they are the best football school in the state (if not the country). They will have a tough task on their hands next weekend as they travel to Charlotte to take on Miami in the ACC Championship in a “win or go home” matchup. Meanwhile, South Carolina will have to await the selection of their bowl destination. Until then, Will Muschamp may want to reconsider his team’s motto. Actually, on second thought, I think “Never again” kind of works for the Gamecocks football program, except it should apply to the likelihood that they ever beat Clemson again.
Alabama vs Auburn
Year after year, the Iron Bowl is one of the most highly anticipated rivalry games between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers. This year’s matchup was especially intriguing due to the current state of both of the programs and the SEC as a whole. Unlike past years, Alabama has not looked as dominant as they and college football fans are used to. We are used to seeing a team that runs through its competition to get to the postseason and one that rarely shows signs of mortality. This year, however, Saban’s Tide have been good, but far from dominant. Auburn, on the other hand, entered the matchup with two losses and was a team with a seemingly slim chance of making it into the College Football Playoff even with a previous win over the top-ranked bulldogs of Georgia. That all changed on Saturday.
Auburn won the Iron Bowl 26-14 and set themselves up perfectly to make the playoff in January. The Tigers now have two wins over the top team in the nation and are proving that even after suffering two close losses (to two very good teams in Clemson and LSU) they ought to be considered one of the toughest teams in the country. Alabama certainly hasn’t been the same team as years past, but any team that can defeat Nick Saban, especially by double digits, deserves a lot of credit. And Gus Malzahn is getting it. It is widely anticipated that the Tigers will find themselves in the top 4 when the playoff committee finalizes their top 25 on Tuesday night.
While Auburn deserves a lot of credit for their defensive fortitude and ability to hold the top team in the nation to just two touchdowns, but the excitement surrounding the Tigers and the idea that they are the best team in the nation ought to be reconsidered. Many people now have Auburn in the top 2, which is fine…except when their ranking is higher than Clemson’s. People need to remember that while this Auburn team is highly motivated and is playing lights out football, they still have proven to be vulnerable. So much so that they have the number 2 in the loss column, something no other team in the top 4 has. So the Tigers should be content with being near the top 4, not arguing to be #1. Auburn will face the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship in a rematch of its 40-17 blowout victory earlier in the month. Like many, if the other conference championships, it appears to be a “win or go home” contest.
Any Saturday when Alabama loses is a good Saturday. The loss will more than likely push the Tide to the outside of the top 4 and they will have to hope that other teams in front of them lose to get in. It is unfamiliar territory for the Crimson Tide who are used to leading the pack but now have to wait until another team makes a costly mistake. Unless you are an Alabama fan, nothing would make college football fans happier than seeing a College Football Playoff that did not include Alabama. It is time for another team to step up and emerge as the premier football program in the nation. Alabama has had its time, now it is time for someone else. Alabama will now await their bowl destination.
Texas A&M vs Ole Miss
Kevin Sumlin isn’t used to winning November Southeastern Conference games but lucky for him and his Aggies, Texas A&M got their freshman quarterback back on the field Saturday. Nick Starkel, the impressive young player from Texas, led his team to a 31-24 comeback victory against the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford to push Texas A&M’s record to a respectable 7-4 mark on the year.
Starkel was good, but the Aggie defense was even better. Down 24-21 at the half, the Aggies came out strong on defense and did not give up a single point in the second half to help their offense complete the comeback. Though it is easy to give credit to the Aggies for their dominant defensive play on Saturday, the lack of offense from the Ole Miss Rebels cannot be overlooked. Yes the Aggies were helped out by turnovers that their defense created, but the fact that Ole Miss managed a meager 66 total yards of offense in the second half is laughable. I understand having a hard time moving the ball against a good team like the Aggies, but there is no way that a team with as much firepower as Ole Miss should manage less than 100 yards in a half of football. It’s not like the Rebels were lining up against the Clemson Tigers’ defense.
Ole Miss could not protect their quarterback all night and while Jordan Ta’amu didn’t help himself out by turning over the ball, it was an undoubtedly frustrating performance from the offensive line (and the rest of the offense for that matter). However, Ole Miss cannot dwell on this tough loss as they have to travel to Mississippi State to take on their rivals in the annual Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night. There is nothing like sitting on the couch to watch football after a big Thanksgiving meal, so college football fans ought to hope that Ole Miss figures out an offensive strategy soon. Mississippi State is far superior to the Texas A&M Aggies and without proper preparation, that game will be over pretty quick on Thursday night for the Rebels.
Meanwhile, the Aggies will travel to Louisiana to take on LSU next week in a game that could prove pretty tough for the Tigers. LSU has a very good team who has found itself in the Top 25 all year, but with a loss on Saturday to Texas A&M, the Tigers will have the same record (and conference record) as the Aggies, proving that A&M really is having a solid year. After giving Alabama a run for their money (and then losing, of course), it would not be surprising to see the Aggies come out firing on all cylinders. The SEC needs a little more intrigue anyways, down with Alabama and down with Georgia!
TCU vs Texas Tech
Gary Patterson has been the head coach of TCU football for 17 seasons. But in those 17 seasons, TCU has never had a true freshman start at quarterback. History changed on Saturday when true freshman Shawn Robinson called the plays for #11 TCU and Robinson did not disappoint.
TCU convincingly beat Texas Tech 27-3 and inched even closer to a spot in the Big 12 Championship game. Robinson only managed to throw for 85 yards in the afternoon, but his touchdown completion to teammate Jalen Reagor came late in the third quarter and all but solidified the win for the Horned Frogs, who now have an impressive 9-2 record. If they are able to make the conference championship game, they would be set for a rematch against the 3rd ranked Oklahoma Sooners in a game that would likely be an offensive battle and a massive defensive struggle.
The one issue with Big 12 football is the lack of defense. It seems that any quarterback in the conference has the ability to throw for an absurd amount of yards and can never be kept from getting in the end zone. With games that feature two 40-point teams being played every weekend, it is nice to see TCU hold the Raiders of Texas Tech to just 3 points. Sorry, Texas Tech, I know it sucks to have people bask in your failure, but for college football fans it is nice to see glimpses of defense. It doesn’t happen very often so when it does, we have to enjoy it. The Raiders’ year has been over for a while anyway and maybe being held to 3 points will give them some motivation heading into next year. We all know they need it.
TCU will have to win their last game of the year to earn a matchup with the Sooners, but luckily for Paterson and his Frogs, they will have to take on the lowly Baylor Bears to get there. Baylor is a laughable 1-10 on the year (with their only win coming against Kansas who is also 1-10) and TCU should have no problem running over them. It is funny to look at the bottom of the conference and see teams like Baylor and Kansas with 1-10 records and you wonder how a team could be so bad. Then remember it is the Big 12 and defense is nonexistent. Yeah, something tells me Baylor and Kansas would probably have trouble against the Heisman front-running Baker Mayfield. To say the Big 12 is top-heavy is an understatement. Maybe one day they’ll learn that defense wins championships (or for teams like Kansas and Baylor, just games).
- Colin Jones
Florida State vs Clemson
The Clemson Tigers are officially heading to Charlotte to compete in their third straight ACC Championship after defeating the Florida State Seminoles in Death Valley on Saturday afternoon. Dabo Swinney has created a winning culture in Clemson and it showed again on Saturday in the 31-14 victory which helped Swinney secure his fifth ACC Atlantic title in his nine full seasons as Clemson’s head coach. Everyone knows that Alabama has a dominant head coach in Nick Saban and while Dabo has a long way to go before he can be compared to someone like Saban, he has certainly made his case as one of the best and most respected coaches in college football.
Clemson continues on its path towards another spot in the College Football Playoff with their win over the Seminoles, but to do so they will have to make some adjustments on the offensive side of the ball. While nobody expected junior quarterback Kelly Bryant to do exactly what Deshaun Watson did for the Clemson program, Bryant has had his ups and downs this year. Bryant is a physical quarterback with incredible speed, but has struggled all year on the long passes that Clemson fans got used to seeing from Watson before he moved on to the NFL. Maybe Bryant just isn’t that type of player, and with players like freshman running back Travis Etienne maybe he doesn’t have to be. Etienne has helped the Tigers win all year long and did so again on Saturday, scoring two touchdowns that ultimately ended up being the difference in the game. But if the Tigers want to have any success in the postseason, they will have to find ways to get Bryant to succeed on longer passes. That being said, it is extremely impressive that the Tigers found a way to pull out the victory with key defensive players Dexter Lawrence and Kendall Joseph sidelined with injuries, or maybe Florida State is just that bad (or a combination of both??).
Three straight ACC Atlantic titles are nice, but three straight berths in the College Football Playoff would be even better. The Tigers have every right to celebrate after Saturday’s home victory, but they ought to realize that their work is nowhere near done. This is hopefully just the beginning of yet another special end-of-the-year run for Swinney and the Tigers. They have dominated the ACC in recent history, and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Florida State, on the other hand, is on a downward spiral after losing their 6th game of the year and putting themselves in danger of missing their first bowl game in 36 attempts. After losing starting quarterback Deondre Francois, it was pretty clear that Florida State would have a tough year, but to imagine a Jimbo Fisher team miss the bowl season seemed outlandish. It now appears to be on the brink of reality, and after their game against the Tigers this past weekend nothing would make me happier than to see them miss postseason football. FSU linebacker Emmett Rice was ejected from the game for a targeting call that knocked Clemson’s Ryan Carter out of the game. After leaving the field, Rice taunted the fan base and even took to social media to favorite Tweets that talked about his hit. If Fisher isn’t going to instill class and sportsmanship in his players, then I hope they lose their last three games and have no shot at a bowl game. The best programs learn how to lose with class, something the Seminoles clearly haven’t figured out yet.
Florida vs South Carolina
The SEC has been a major disappointment this year. There, I said it. Okay maybe not a major disappointment but it certainly hasn’t been as dominant as it should be or has been in recent years. Georgia finally climbed their way to the top, only to lose at the hands of Auburn, who lost to Clemson earlier this year. Alabama, while finding themselves with a 10-0 record, have been nowhere near the most overpowering team in football, which they have been in the past few years. It seems that the SEC is filled with good, yet underwhelming teams. But amongst all of the mediocrity the South Carolina Gamecocks have emerged as a legitimate team who has the potential to shake things up down the stretch.
The Gamecocks improved to an improbable 7-3 record on Saturday after defeating the Florida Gators 28-20 in a game that South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp undoubtedly wanted to win, as Muschamp was fired by Florida in 2014 after a seven game losing streak. Maybe Muschamp wasn’t the problem after all, as the Gators currently find themselves stuck in a 5 game losing streak. It appears there may be a deeper issue plaguing the Florida Gators program. And while the Gamecocks have no shot at competing in the SEC title game this year, they will finish with just their 8th winning SEC record in 26 seasons in the league. They have a LONG way to go before they can even think about being considered the top college football program in the state of South Carolina (Clemson is far superior), but Muschamp and the Gamecocks deserve a lot of credit for what they have been able to accomplish this year. Muschamp credits his team’s success to a “So What? Now What?” mentality and his players seem to all embrace the coach’s philosophy. Quarterback Jake Bentley certainly did on Saturday, as he overcame 3 interceptions to lead his team to a huge victory.
Florida could really use a motto like “So What? Now What?” after falling to 3-6 on the year. In fact, it seems they have gotten worse and worse as the year has progressed. They haven’t won a game since September 30th and will be lucky to reach the 5-win mark. They play UAB next week in a game they need to win to save some pride because they likely won’t save any in their matchup against rival Florida State in the last week of the season. Granted, Florida currently has 25 players out with either injuries or suspensions, so some decline in prowess is expected. But this is no decline in prowess; this is a team in disarray who cannot wait to move on to the 2018 campaign. Maybe a better mantra for the Gators would be “Now What?”
Alabama vs Mississippi State
For millions of college football fans who want only one thing for Christmas, an Alabama loss, the holiday almost came early on Saturday. The Tide were fortunate to escape Starkville with a victory over Mississippi State after defeating the Bulldogs 31-24 in what was one of the better SEC matchups of the year. With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts picked apart the Bulldogs defense to lead his team to their 10th victory and seemingly (for now) secure their spot in the College Football Playoff. After the game, Hurts said, “We did enough” and while Nick Saban’s team did in fact do enough to knock off the 16th ranked Bulldogs, it showed that the Crimson Tide are human after all.
While Alabama has been ranked in the top 2 all year long, it has seemed they have had more difficulties this year than they are used to under Saban’s leadership. They are used to dominating their opponents and have easily been the best program in college football for years, but maybe schools are finally coming up with ways to give the Tide a run for their money. Mississippi State did everything they could to hand Alabama its first loss of the year but in the end, they failed to do one thing right; win the game, something Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has struggled to achieve against the Tide his whole career. After Saturday’s devastating loss, Mullen is now 0-9 against the Tide and will have to continue searching for ways to solve Saban’s program. Maybe Mullen should consult Clemson coach Dabo Swinney for some advice after Swinney did what Mississippi State needed to do this past weekend; finish the game.
Alabama will host Mercer next week in what may end up being the most lopsided affair in all of college football this year. It seems unfair to give Alabama such an easy opponent and I feel terrible for the 5-5 Bears, who have to head into Tuscaloosa with a 0.3% chance to beat Alabama (according to ESPN’s Football Power Index). If the 16th ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs couldn’t honor our Christmas lists (yes, ours) then Mercer certainly won’t be the ones to make it a holiday to remember. That being said, Alabama will have to travel to Auburn the following week to take on a team who just defeated the top ranked UGA Bulldogs in a display of pure skill and dominance. You escaped this time Nick, but don’t think you’re going to finish in the top 4 without a little pushback from an outstanding Auburn Tigers team. You hate to overlook a team like Mercer, but the reality is Auburn is our last chance to see an Alabama loss before the postseason. Keep those Christmas lists nearby.
- Colin Jones
In the evening of early Fall 2016, I was driving from Gainesville to Fort Lauderdale, FL to visit family. About thirty minutes into the four-hour drive, I heard a loud noise coming from the right front side of my car. I pulled off the road and upon inspection found that my fender had become dislodged and bent and that a large piece of it was rubbing up against my tire. Realizing that my car was not going to make the 315-mile trip, distressed and not knowing where to turn I stood there frazzled and uncertain what to do.
Shortly thereafter, a truck pulled up and a man wearing a knee brace emerged from the vehicle, leaving his wife and young children to patiently standby. My life was about to change. This man selflessly asked his family, who were about to grab ice cream, to sit and wait while he offered his help. I could hardly believe how fortunate and how grateful I was for his, and his family’s kindness. He pulled out tools from his truck, began working on my car and we began a conversation that would enormously enhance my appreciation of our military personnel forever.
His name was Clinton Sparkman and he had served in the Marine Corps for seven years as a Military Police Occupational Specialist (MOS 5811), serving 3 tours in Iraq. During his 3rd tour and after hundreds of runs he was hit by an IED and temporarily lost his hearing. Two runs later he was hit by another IED in which he was thrown 100 feet. Clinton, not realizing how seriously he was hurt, rushed to assist his fellow marines and not until his whole platoon was picked up by medevac did he recognize the severity of his injuries. That IED killed two marines and he and injured seven others. Although Clinton’s injuries were extensive and required surgery off base, he would not leave and tend to his injuries until after he had attended memorial services for the two fallen Marines from his platoon. After the services, he was transported to Baghdad and then to Germany, where he underwent two surgeries. Post-op, the doctor’s determined that with Clinton’s injuries he needed to be sent back to the States for care. Clinton spent two weeks in the Naval Health Clinic at Patuxent River, Maryland where they stabilized his knee. In addition to his knee, they tended to the other injuries that he had sustained including a severe Traumatic Brain Injury, shoulder, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries as well as Neuropathy, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and 85% loss of his hearing. These injuries would bring an end to Clintons Marine Corp calling. Some of his injuries have worsened with time but he remains positive and grateful that he has great support from his wife, Beth, who is now a nurse at the Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL.
This chance encounter was one of the most enlightening days of my life. This unselfish act of Clinton and his family brought to me the reality of the potential harm that of all the selfless men and women who have fought and are fighting for our freedom risk.
To all of the service men and women who have served bravely, who are serving gallantly, and to the families that have lost their loved ones fighting nobly for our country’s freedom, with my entire heart I THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
In honor of Clinton and his two fallen marines, Cpl. Carl Lex Raines II and Lcpl. Daniel McVicker, Pennington and Bailes will be donating 10% of proceeds on all sales made from Thursday, November 9 to Sunday, November 12 to the Purple Heart Foundation.
Clemson vs NC State
After Saturday’s contest with NC State, Clemson may have punched their ticket to yet another ACC Championship. Facing a tough veteran team in NC State and having to deal with a loud and hostile crowd, the Tigers banded together and pulled out one of their grittiest wins of the year. Although Clemson trailed Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack throughout the majority of the afternoon, Clemson’s young players were able to find a way to prevail, winning the ACC matchup 38-31. Clemson sophomore running back Tavien Feaster gave the Tigers the spark they needed, rushing for 105 yards, including an 89-yard touchdown run to end the third quarter and put Clemson up 31-21. The 89-yard run was Clemson’s longest offensive play from scrimmage of the season and gave Clemson fans a glimpse at the amazing potential the young running back from Spartanburg, SC really has. Utility man Ray-Ray McCloud also showed fans that he has the ability to make a huge impact on important games after returning a punt for 77 yards and a touchdown.
The loss was frustrating for NC State and that frustration certainly showed in the post game interviews of Wolfpack players and head coach Dave Doeren. Following another tough loss to the Tigers (the Wolfpack lost in Clemson last year in overtime), Dave Doeren took the stand in front of the media and, unprompted, requested that an investigation into a laptop on Clemson’s sidelines be launched. There are two problems with Doeren’s outlandish requests. First, it came on the heels of a loss to their ACC opponent and appeared to be an excuse for falling short yet again. It is okay to be frustrated, especially because the Wolfpack have had such a promising year and beating Clemson would have put them in the driver’s seat of the ACC Atlantic Division instead of the Tigers. But for Dave Doeren to fail to give credit to Dabo Swinney’s Tigers or admit where his team failed to do the little things right and immediately accuse Clemson of cheating is pathetic and uncalled for. Secondly, it was confirmed after the game that the laptop belonged to a student who helps run the social media account for Clemson. Sorry Dave Doeren, I guess I didn’t realize that a college student’s contribution to the school’s impressive social media platform caused your team to lose. Maybe Clemson just outplayed you?
Or maybe poor officiating handed Clemson the win. According to NC State’s senior tight end Jaylen Samuels, poor officiating was the reason they were not able to pull out the victory. When asked to extrapolate on his complaints about the referees in the game, Samuels said that he knew the officials would be on the side of the defending national champions. The Wolfpack were penalized 6 times for 69 yards. However, similar to his coach’s claims about the “suspicious” laptop, the claims Samuels made just seem like another excuse for not being able to take down Clemson on their home turf. In fact, NC State was penalized 12 times for 89 yards the week before against Notre Dame. 12. It seems, then, that perhaps there is a larger issue plaguing the Wolfpack. Since NC State clearly hasn’t learned how to defeat Clemson, regardless of location, hopefully they’ve begun to learn how to better handle defeat. What is worse, losing or not being able to admit your shortcomings? NC State seems to be struggling with both.
Next up for Clemson is a home matchup against the Florida State Seminoles in what once had the feeling of a pivotal contest in the ACC Atlantic race. However, after losing their starting quarterback to a season-ending knee injury and compiling an underwhelming 3-5 record heading into week 11, it feels like a game Clemson should have no problems winning, especially not in front of the ravenous Clemson fan base. Meanwhile, NC State will head north to take on Boston College in a game that will be extremely tough for the Wolfpack. The Eagles have won 3 of the last 4 meetings against NC State and will be looking to improve to an impressive and improbable 6-4 record. Dave Doeren and his players proved they can’t handle losing, but they may need to learn quickly before heading to Boston.
LSU vs Alabama
In a sport where there is little room for error and every week matters, a win is a win, even for prestigious programs like Alabama. After falling to #2 in the Playoff committee’s initial rankings (UGA took over as the best team in the nation), the Crimson Tide had a tough home matchup against the 19th ranked LSU Tigers. Even though it wasn’t the Tide’s most impressive win on the 2017 campaign, with the offense only producing 299 total yards against the Tiger defense, Alabama was able to prevail and take down LSU 24-10. Nick Saban is fortunate to have one of the best defenses in the country to pick up the offense when it produces its second-lowest amount of yards of the season, as it did on Saturday. Going into Saturday’s game against LSU, the Alabama defense had recorded at least one turnover in 35 consecutive games. Junior safety Ronnie Harrison kept that streak alive after he intercepted LSU quarterback Danny Etling in the closing seconds of the first quarter. The win propelled the Tide back into the top spot of the AP poll and, as always, just seems like another stop on their way back to the College Football Playoff.
The Crimson Tide are scary good and with all of the drama that has surrounded college football this season, people seem to be forgetting about them. Perhaps it is because Georgia has stolen the spotlight as the most exciting SEC team in the country. Or maybe people are choosing not to pay attention to the Tide because they are tired of seeing them run through their competition year after year. Whatever, the case, this Alabama team deserves recognition and is a serious threat to make it to a third straight national championship. Alabama’s offense is good, but their defense is outstanding. The Tide were able to hold a solid LSU offense to 10 points even with a slew of injuries to key players. If Alabama is able to dominate defensively with some of their most influential players sidelined, one can only imagine how difficult it might be to defeat them when they are fully healthy. While as a college football fan I hope Alabama is able to get healthy and return all of their starters to the field, it has certainly been refreshing to see another SEC team like Georgia enter the conversation as the best team in the nation. Alabama is to the NCAA what the New England Patriots are to the NFL: a consistent shoe-in for the playoffs and likely the championship. It would be nice to see a team end the run of Crimson Tide dominance. Alabama’s first loss of the season is not likely to take place next week, however, as the Tide travel to Mississippi to take on Mississippi State in Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs really stand no chance against Alabama, especially not after struggling to defeat the lowly UMASS Minutemen at home this past weekend. It appears (unfortunately) as though Alabama’s place in the list of top 2 FBS programs will continue for at least another two weeks.
LSU will return home to Baton Rouge to take on an Arkansas Razorbacks team that has struggled mightily this year, putting together a disappointing 4-5 record thus far. LSU has no shot at competing in the SEC Championship and will have to look ahead to next year to figure out how to take on the top teams in the conference. However, they still have a chance to end what has already been a solid season with three games against unranked opponents. They should have no problems taking down the Razorbacks and putting another tough loss to Alabama in their rearview.
Georgia Tech vs UVA
Take a bow, Bronco Mendenhall, for you have successfully turned your Virginia Cavaliers into a respectable team again. UVA has not been a bowl eligible team since 2011 and after consecutive lopsided losses to Pittsburgh and Boston College, it appeared as if the Cavaliers might miss out on postseason football for a sixth straight year. However, Mendenhall addressed his team’s ability to become bowl eligible for the first time this week leading up to their matchup with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and told his players that the only way to get there was to get back to doing the little things right. The Cavaliers certainly did the little things right on Saturday as they took down Georgia Tech 40-36 on their home turf in Charlottesville to earn their sixth win of the season.
Senior quarterback and East Carolina transfer Kurt Benkert struggled at times for the Cavaliers, missing his open receivers on plays a senior quarterback ought to make. To be fair, a steady rain fell in Virginia all night, which undoubtedly had an impact on the offense’s ability to successfully move the ball. However, when Bronco Mendenhall and the rest of the Cavaliers team needed him most, Benkert rose to the occasion and did what he had to do to propel his team to victory. With the rain still falling and the game in his hands, Benkert led his offense 64 yards down the field, culminating in his 27-yard touchdown pass with just 1:22 remaining to hand the Yellow Jackets their second straight loss. Benkert finished the game with 260 passing yards to go along with 3 passing touchdowns. The Cavaliers needed the leadership of their veteran quarterback to win the game, and Benkert accepted the challenge.
Georgia Tech continues to struggle and after what was once the start to a promising season after beginning the campaign 4-2, the Yellow Jackets have now lost two in a row and are in danger of not being bowl eligible come December. In order make a bowl they will have to win two of their final three games, even though two of their final three games are against some of the top teams in the nation in Virginia Tech and the top ranked UGA Bulldogs. Luckily for Paul Johnson and his Yellow Jackets, both of these challenging contests will be held in their home stadium Bobby Dodd Stadium, but having home field advantage will not be enough for the Yellow Jackets to salvage their season. Georgia Tech fans can (and should) start looking ahead towards next year and hope that it will bring better fortune, as it is extremely unlikely that the Yellow Jackets will be involved in any bowl game this year. The triple option works, but only if you know how to use it and the Yellow Jackets have proven that they do not. Next week Georgia Tech will host another Institute of Technology in Virginia Tech in a game I expect the Hokies will have no problem taking care business in. In fact, don’t be surprised to see the Jackets get blown out of their own stadium.
Who would have thought that with just three games remaining in the regular season the Virginia Cavaliers would have a shot at the ACC Coastal title? The Cavaliers do have a shot, albeit very slim, to surpass both Virginia Tech and Miami to play in the ACC Championship because they will have to play both of the ranked teams to end their year. As I said, there is but a slim chance that UVA can pull off the miracle, due to the fact that Miami seems to be well on their way to an undefeated regular season. But the fact that the Cavaliers are in the position they are in now should give fans a reason to be excited and should give the University of Virginia reasons to trust in Bronco Mendenhall moving forward. The success UVA has experienced this year is nothing short of amazing. For once, UVA and its fans have a reason to attend football games and be excited about the direction of their team. Next up for Mendenhall and his Cavaliers is a tough road test against the former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in Louisville. Do I expect UVA to go into Kentucky and emerge with a seventh victory? No. But did I expect the Cavaliers to be bowl eligible for the first time since 2011? Did anyone?
- Colin Jones
PSU vs OSU
In the midst of another crazy and unpredictable college football season, Ohio State reminded the nation that they are still serious contenders. And on the weekend before the release of the initial Playoff rankings (which come out on Tuesday evening), they reminded the selection committee that they too belong in the Playoff come January. The Buckeyes defeated their Big Ten rival Penn State on Saturday 39-38 in a thriller to stay in the conversation as one of the nation’s most complete teams. It wasn’t easy for Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes, however, as OSU’s special teams gave up an opening kickoff return for a touchdown to perhaps the country’s most explosive player, Saquon Barkley. After scoring another quick touchdown to go up 14-0, it looked as if the Nittany Lions were going to dominate in Columbus and silence all of the critics who had doubts about them being the second best team in College Football.
The opinions of those critical of Penn State’s team were undoubtedly validated on Saturday as Penn State, at two separate points in the matchup, found themselves ahead of the Buckeyes by 18 points. However, what separates Penn State from the real contenders is their inability to close out a game that they had controlled throughout the entire contest. In fact, the Lions were up by 11 points with just under 6 minutes remaining in the entire game. But unlike a team who actually belongs in the top 2, Penn State could not stave off a furious comeback by J.T. Barrett and his Buckeyes. Barrett, OSU’s prized senior quarterback, took his team down the field twice for two touchdowns in the closing minutes to cap off a stunning come-from-behind victory.
If College Football fans learned anything from this Big Ten classic, it is that the most complete teams are going to be victorious. Yes, Penn State has Saquon Barkley who is an extremely dynamic and talented running back. In fact, Barkley has a legitimate shot at winning the Heisman Trophy this year. And because Penn State has Saquon Barkley, many people picked them to roll to victory on Saturday, stating that the team with the best player would likely win. Saquon Barkley was absolutely the best player on the field in Columbus, but the Buckeyes were the best team. A year after suffering a terrible loss to the Nittany Lions which kept them out of the Big Ten conference title game, Ohio State got its revenge and now may be the Big Ten’s best hope at making a Playoff spot before the conclusion of the year. Now Penn State, like last year’s Buckeye team, finds themselves on the outside looking in and needing upsets to get back into the conversation. Revenge is sweet, especially in a rivalry as historic as Ohio State, Penn State. Ohio State will head to Iowa next week in a game they should win, but ought to be cautious about. Iowa is extremely tough at home and the crowd will be fired up. The Hawkeyes have one goal: to ruin the chance of a Buckeye playoff. Meanwhile, Penn State will have to face a third straight ranked opponent when they travel to Michigan State to take on the 16th ranked Spartans. If Penn State wants to prove they still belong in the race, they will have to prove it in a convincing win in Lansing, MI next week. They will have Saquon Barkley, but they need the rest of their team to show up as well.
UGA vs Florida
I would like to wish Jim McElwain the best of luck in turning the Florida Gators program around next year after a challenging and disappointing 2017 campaign, but unfortunately, there will be no next year for McElwain…at least not with the University of Florida. The Gators lost to the Georgia Bulldogs at home on Saturday 42-7, which was Florida’s most lopsided loss to their SEC rival since 1982. The Bulldogs didn’t just beat Florida, they dominated them.
Why was Jim McElwain fired you ask? After all, he is 22-12 in 3 seasons with the Gators and has an abundance of experience coaching college football players. But after Georgia, who is now 8-0 and perhaps the 2nd best team in the nation behind Alabama, entered the fourth quarter up 35-0, it was clear that this was a game that was over when the first second ticked off the clock and that this was not a good Florida Gators team. After creating a firestorm after making claims that he and his players had been receiving death threats throughout the week due to the team’s struggles, McElwain was heavily criticized for being “uncooperative” when Athletic Director Scott Stricklin attempted to gain more information. It has been a wild and disappointing season for the Gators, and getting rid of McElwain could prove to be just what the university needs to prove that they aren’t as bad as they have looked all year. They have now lost three games in a row and have looked like a team with absolutely no pride or resiliency. The Gators are in danger of not even being bowl-eligible, but maybe getting rid of McElwain will be the first step in righting the ship. It really can’t get much worse from here for the Gators, so I guess they have reason to be optimistic. I, like a lot of people around the country, am skeptical of the Florida Gators and think they ought to start looking ahead to their recruiting class and hoping they will have better luck next year.
UGA, on the other hand, is rolling. The Bulldogs find themselves ranked 2nd behind Alabama in the AP Poll after their dominating win in Gainesville and are proving to everyone that they very well may be the most talented team in the country. The Bulldogs are now 8-0 on the season and with just one more game against a ranked opponent (#16 Auburn), Georgia has a real shot at finishing the year a perfect 12-0 and making it to the College Football Playoff. According to ESPN’s FPI calculations, the Bulldogs have a 12% chance to win out, and while Auburn will prove to be a tough test for them, UGA will have to take care of business down the stretch if they want to deserve the high praise they are currently receiving. Could we see two SEC teams in the Playoff?? Hopefully not, but Alabama and Georgia are certainly making it possible.- Colin Jones
Michigan vs PSU
There’s just something about a whiteout at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley. It’s hard not to just step back and appreciate the more than 100,000 fans all dressed in white foaming at the mouth in anticipation of watching another opponent try to come in and take down the Nittany Lions. The Michigan Wolverines were unable to do so on Saturday night.
Michigan vs Penn State was ESPN’s choice for College Gameday given the historic rivalry between the two Big Ten schools and while Desmond Howards was hoping his alma mater could pull off the upset, Lee Corso wisely and correctly picked the Lions to take down the Wolverines. Second ranked PSU defeated #19 Michigan handily 42-13. All eyes were on Heisman Trophy candidate Saquon Barkley on Saturday night to see if the young star could be successful against a stingy Michigan defense. He proved his incredible skill the first time he touched the ball, taking a direct snap and rushing 69 yards for the game’s first score. The Nittany Lions, who suffered a devastating loss to Michigan in the regular season last year (by a similar score of 49-10), never looked back. Barkley finished the night with 161 yards of total offense and could be well on his way to winning the prestigious Heisman Trophy.
As for Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh, Saturday’s loss not only completely removed them from any chances of making a late season push for the playoffs, but it also knocked the Wolverines out of the nation’s top-25. For a team as prideful as Michigan and a coach as respected as Harbaugh, this has to be discouraging. Unfortunately, the ceiling for a team with the quarterback issues that Michigan currently has is very low. John O’Korn went just 16 for 28 for 166 yards, was sacked 7 times, and lost a fumble in the second half. With the lack of an explosive offense, the Wolverines must rely on a running game and their defense to win, neither of which are good enough to compete with an opponent like Penn State. Luckily for Michigan, next week offers a chance to rebound as the Wolverines will host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. This feels like a game Michigan needs to win. And it should be one they win for that matter. Penn State travels to Ohio next week for another tough Big Ten matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Tennessee vs Alabama
Will somebody, anybody, please beat Alabama?? It seems like an impossible feat at this point, as Tennessee found out the hard way on Saturday. The Vols put up little fight against the top ranked team in the nation, losing 45-7 and showing virtually no signs of life. To say the Crimson Tide dominated Tenn. head coach Butch Jones and his Volunteers would be an understatement. The game was never close as Alabama took an early lead and went into halftime already up 21-0. Oddly enough, Nick Saban actually was not pleased with his team at halftime, saying that they did not play their best football. Leave it up to grumpy ‘ol Nick Saban to turn a 21-0 lead into a teaching opportunity for how to play better. Whatever he said to his players must have worked though because the Crimson Tide came back out for the second half and put the finishing touches on a worn down Tennessee team. Even after Saban called off the dogs and put his reserves in for a large chunk of the second half, his team still outgained Tennessee 604-108 in total yards throughout the night. Not a good look for Butch Jones and his slumping Volunteers.
The Tennessee program had high hopes coming into this year, initially finding themselves included in the nation’s best 25 teams. Unfortunately, things have just gone from bad to worse for the Vols., having lost three games in a row and only managing 16 points in the span of those three games. But hey, you have to look for small victories and the silver lining of any bad situation such as this and for the Volunteers it was scoring their first touchdown in over 12 quarters of play. Well done Butch Jones, make sure you remember to congratulate your team because there hasn’t been much to celebrate thus far.
Tennessee travels to Kentucky next week to take on the Wildcats and while this feels like a game Tennessee needs to win (and Butch Jones might have to win to keep his job as head coach), the Volunteers ought to be on their A game, as the Kentucky Wildcats find themselves in the middle of a resurgence year, going 5-2 to this point in the schedule. Let’s see if the Volunteers have any fight or pride left in them to close out the season. Alabama, on the other hand, will use a bye week to prepare for a “tough” matchup against LSU, the word tough being put in quotes because there doesn’t seem to be a tough matchup for the Tide if it isn’t in the National Championship.
Auburn vs Arkansas
The 21st ranked Auburn Tigers reminded the nation just how good they were on Saturday, traveling to Arkansas and defeating the Razorbacks on their home turf 52-20 behind running back Kamryn Pettway’s 90 yard and 3 touchdown performance. The junior running back has been all but forgotten due to not only the emergence of his dominant teammate Kerryon Johnson but also a series of lingering leg and ankle injuries. But on Saturday, Pettway proved he was still explosive and skillful as ever.
To say that Auburn has had Arkansas’s number would be an understatement. After Saturday’s dominant performance, the Tigers have now outscored the Razorbacks 108-26 over the last two seasons. 108-26!!! Talk about two programs trending in very different directions. Head coach Gus Malzahn has done a phenomenal job with his Auburn Tigers this season, rebounding from an early loss to the (at the time) third ranked Clemson Tigers and an even tougher 4-point loss to LSU to push their record to an impressive 6-2. Auburn is now ranked #19 on the year and has a real chance to crack back into the Top 10 before the end of the year if they continue to play like they did on Saturday. Their road ahead will certainly bring tougher opponents than the lowly Arkansas Razorbacks, but Gus Malzahn and his tough team are doing what they need to do to succeed in a tough SEC conference. Auburn will travel to Texas next weekend to take on the Aggies from A&M who should put up more of a fight than the Razorbacks.
Arkansas on the other hand cannot wait for the 2017 campaign to be over. Can you really blame them? They are now 2-5 (0-4 in conference play) on the year and find themselves at the very bottom of the conference tied with Missouri as the worst team. With a tough matchup next week at Ole Miss and two more tough matchups ahead, Arkansas ought to just start looking ahead to next year. Maybe if they get a head start and begin planning now they can avoid being the embarrassment to the SEC that they are. That being said, they will get a chance to battle it out with Missouri on November 24th to solidify who really is the worst team in the SEC. If you enjoy watching two teams battle it out just to not be last, then you might want to mark that one down on your calendar. Arkansas, it’s not personal, but it’s time to chalk this season up as a true and total failure.
- Colin Jones
(20) NC State Wolfpack vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
After the 2nd ranked Clemson Tigers suffered a devastating and shocking loss to Syracuse in New York on Friday night, NC State head coach Dave Doeren gathered his team in the locker room to discuss the opportunity they had moving forward. A win against the lowly Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday afternoon would put the Wolfpack in control of an incredibly tough Atlantic Division in the ACC. NC State’s players and coaches realized the opportunity and they made sure not to squander it, defeating Pitt 35-17 and moving up to #16 in the AP Top 25 poll heading into week 8.
With the game tied 14-14 at half, the NC State offense came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, outgaining Pitt by almost 100 yards and outscoring them 21-3 after halftime. Junior running back Nyheim Hines led the way offensively for the Wolfpack, putting together an 83-yard touchdown run and a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown en route to 249 yards of total offense. The Pittsburgh defense had absolutely no answer for the young running back from Garner, NC. In fact, head coach Pat Narduzzi and his Panthers really haven’t had many answers for any opponents thus far this year. After losing to NC State on Saturday, the Panthers find themselves with an abysmal 2-5 record (0-3 in the ACC) and with little reason for optimism going forward. Even though the season is already approaching week 8, Pittsburgh is still searching for a quarterback that the team trusts. In each of their first seven games of the year, Pitt has played two quarterbacks in an attempt to find the best fit for the team. Pittsburgh fans have every right to be frustrated with their team, especially after hearing head coach Pat Narduzzi admit that their system won’t make anybody happy. I think it is pretty clear that the overall frustration and discontent of the Pitt fan base has put Narduzzi on the hot seat. He better figure out a way to win football games soon or else he will find himself looking for a new job by the end of the season.
NC State, on the other hand, is rolling. After starting the season 0-1 with a loss to the Gamecocks from South Carolina, the Wolfpack picked up their sixth consecutive win on Saturday, which is the team’s longest winning streak since 2002 when Phillip Rivers was the quarterback. It’s safe to say that the vibe right now in Raleigh, NC is extremely positive and exciting, as it should be with a team playing as well as the Wolfpack are. However, even though NC State is exceeding many of the expectations people had for them coming into the season, the team is not perfect and will undoubtedly have to make some improvements if they have any shot of making a prestigious bowl game. Their kicking game, for example, is atrocious. Senior placekicker Carson Wise cannot seem to force the ball through the uprights, especially when the field goal attempt is 30 yards or longer. After missing a 37-yard kick in the second quarter against Pitt, Wise is just 3 of 7 from beyond 30 yards this season. In a conference like the ACC where every game has the potential to come down to the last second, kicking is extremely important. And for Carson wise and Dave Doeren, the issue of the inability to make kicks from 30 yards out (which really isn’t that long) needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Up next for NC State is a much needed bye week, followed by a date with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Raleigh on October 28th. The Wolfpack will try to improve to 3-0 all time against the Irish and attempt to continue their upward progression in the list of the nation’s top 25 teams. Pittsburgh visits Duke University next Saturday and while the Blue Devils are not currently ranked, they are 4-3 and should be taken very seriously, especially by a team as bad as Pitt. Out of the remaining five games the Panthers have on their schedule, they will have to play two top-15 teams in addition to the Blue Devils, so don’t be surprised if they end the season with a 4-8 record or worse. Panthers are supposed to be ferocious, even feared; but this year, the Panthers from Pittsburgh are nothing but pathetic.
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. (1) Alabama Crimson Tide
It is a very popular opinion amongst college football fans throughout the nation that the Alabama Crimson Tide are the most dominant team and the team with the best chance to make it to the National Championship (which would be 3 straight appearances). And just 15 seconds into the contest with Arkansas on Saturday, the Tide certainly asserted themselves as the premier team in the country. Junior running back Damien Harris took the ball on the very first offensive play of the game and rushed it for a 75-yard touchdown run, setting the tone for a dominant performance from the Tide.
Coming off of a tightly contested game against the Texas A&M Aggies last week and after witnessing 3 top ten teams get upset, the Tide were determined to show the Razorbacks that they had every intention of controlling the football game. Arkansas failed to score a single point in the first half of play and were held to only 9 points throughout the afternoon, with the scoreboard showing a final score of 41-9 in favor of Alabama after the last seconds ticked off the clock. Despite being such a powerful team, head coach Nick Saban admitted that he was not sure how his team would respond after their game against Texas A&M. Saban, who is now 11-0 against Arkansas since becoming the head coach in Alabama, credited a tougher week of practice as the leading force to the overwhelming victory on Saturday. In reality, Arkansas never stood a chance. Coming into the game, the Razorbacks were given just a 2% chance to take down Alabama, according to ESPN’s FPI ranking, which as the final score proved, was very generous.
I find it hard to picture a national championship without the Alabama Crimson Tide in it and it appears they are well on their way to a long postseason. They have two more “tough” games on their schedule in Auburn and LSU and have a very good chance of being the only team in college football to enter the bowl season without a loss. Up next for the Tide is a matchup against Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, who will be looking to salvage their season (and perhaps save their coach’s job) with a win over Alabama. Don’t expect the upset to happen though, because as dislikable as the Tide are, you can’t diminish their accomplishments and absurd amount of talent. They’re just too good.
Arkansas’s season, on the other hand, might as well be over. The Razorbacks now find themselves with a 2-4 record and in last place of the West division of the SEC. Luckily for Arkansas, they still have yet to play the worst team in the SEC in Missouri as well as a 1-5 Coastal Carolina team that any team in the SEC should handle with ease, but those two games may be the only additional ones that will appear in the win column by the end of the season. Next week Arkansas takes on 21st ranked Auburn at home in a game that may look very similar to the one against Alabama. Auburn’s run game is electric and will prove too much for a terrible Arkansas team to handle.
- Colin Jones
LSU vs. Florida
Things were not good in Baton Rouge after LSU’s devastating loss to the Troy Trojans last week in Death Valley. Throughout the week, the Tigers held tougher, more intense practices and multiple team meetings to try to figure out what went wrong against the unranked Trojans. Danny Etling, LSU’s senior quarterback, attributed last week’s loss to a lack of energy and “pride” and addressing this issue was at the forefront of the team meetings throughout the week. Clearly, whatever the players and coaches talked about worked as the Tigers took down the Florida Gators this past weekend in Gainesville, winning 17-16 over their SEC opponents. After last week, it was a must-win for LSU and the Tigers delivered. It wasn’t easy, however, as the Tigers saw their commanding 17-3 lead slip away after Florida answered with two consecutive touchdowns. After scoring the second touchdown and pulling within 1 point, Florida kicker Eddy Pineiro shanked the would-be tying extra point and sent the ball to the left of the goal post, destroying Florida’s chances of pulling even with the Tigers. They say doing the little things wins football games but as Pineiro demonstrated, failing to do the little things also loses games.
Kickers have one job, and for Eddy Pineiro, there really is no excuse for missing an extra point. Unlike other offensive and defensive players on a football team, kickers literally practice the same thing over and over again. And while successfully making field goals, especially long ones, is certainly harder than it looks, missing an extra point is inexcusable. In a conference as tough and competitive as the SEC, every win matters and every loss matters even more. When asked how the loss resonated with the team, Florida head coach Jim McElwain responded, “It hurts and they should hurt. That’s the nature of the beast…that’s life in the SEC”. The importance of conference matchups is amplified in a conference like the SEC and this is one McElwain and the Gators wish they could get back.
The Gators have more to worry about than their kicker, however, as their lack of faith in freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks showed in the offensive scheme on Saturday. Florida running backs Malik Davis and Lamical Perine carried most of the load on offense, while Franks completed just 10 of 16 passes for a meager 108 total yards. Even worse for the Gators, their freshman quarterback was sacked 5 times throughout the night. Clearly, McElwain needs to address his team’s poor offensive showing as he leads his 3-2 team against a tough Texas A&M team next week. Given the current state of the Florida offense, a lack of confidence in their quarterback and “leader” and their kicker, and the competitive tendencies of the SEC conference, it is safe to say that the Florida Gators and their fan base have little to be excited about going forward. It would not be surprising to see the Gators finish the season towards the bottom of a conference with plenty of talented teams. LSU, on the other hand, may have found the confidence they need to succeed throughout the rest of the season, which they will certainly need if they have any chance of taking down the 10th ranked Auburn Tigers next week. Surprisingly, the LSU Tigers find themselves outside of the AP Top 25 for the second week in a row even after an impressive road win over a ranked opponent and improving to 4-2 on the season. LSU has a chance to take down Auburn at home on Saturday, but Orgeron and his team will have to play a nearly perfect game to do so. Auburn is a far superior team with an incredible defense that will prove too suffocating for Etling and the LSU offense, putting a stop to any momentum LSU might have after this past weekend’s win.
Louisville vs. NC State
Last year, quarterback Lamar Jackson gave the Louisville program and its fans plenty to be excited about. Even though the Cardinals ended the 2016 campaign on a 3-game losing streak and failed to reach 10 wins, Jackson provided optimism to the Cardinal fan base after being named the “best” player in college football and bringing the prestigious Heisman Trophy to Kentucky. However, Jackson can only do so much to help his team succeed. And quite frankly, the rest of the Cardinals team, specifically the defense, is letting their quarterback down.
The Louisville Cardinals lost to the NC State Wolfpack on Thursday night in Raleigh 39-25, falling to 4-2 on the season. Lamar Jackson led the way offensively for the Cardinals, piling up 427 total yards of offense and 3 touchdowns, but it was not nearly enough. Louisville’s defense on Thursday night can be summed up using one word: atrocious. The defensive squad surrendered 520 total yards of offense to the Wolfpack, something not even the best quarterback in the world can come back from.
Louisville’s defense is a huge concern moving forward. The Cardinals find themselves near the bottom of the incredibly challenging Atlantic Coast Conference and with teams like Clemson and now NC State, who both have perfect conference records, leading the way, Louisville really stands no chance of coming close to the ACC Championship. The current situation that the Cardinals find themselves in should be very discouraging for Louisville fans given the pre-season excitement and anticipation that their team had the abilities to make a run for the College Football Playoff. Enjoy that Heisman Trophy, Lamar, because it is the only trophy you’ll be receiving in your college career.
NC State, on the other hand, is on a roll. The Wolfpack improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the ACC and are making a serious case as one of the toughest teams in the country. They were able to crack the top 25 last week and at the time of their contest with Louisville they were deemed the 24th best team in the country. However, after taking down the Heisman winner and exploding for 520 yards of offense, Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack find themselves ranked #20 heading into a matchup against Pittsburgh. They should have absolutely no issues taking down the Panthers in Pittsburgh next week, but the Wolfpack ought to be concerned with the two games they have after Pitt, one against the 16th ranked Fighting Irish and the other against the 2nd ranked Clemson Tigers. Yes, NC State’s team and the current situation in the ACC is impressive and they deserve to be considered a top-20 team. However, they still have a massive uphill battle in their remaining schedule. NC State is undoubtedly in a better position than their ACC opponent Louisville, but to say they stand a chance in the ACC with Clemson looming above them would only lead to disappointment. Though the Wolfpack program should be very optimistic about their football team, the class of the ACC continues to be the Clemson Tigers.
- Colin Jones