ACC, Big East looking to salvage some respect… again

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Last night’s match-up between Miami and Pittsburgh was clearly the most anticipatedACC vs. Big East game of the week, but it may turn out to be the most revolting. As Ben so eloquently put it, the game was mustn’t see television.

But let’s not give up on the two conferences! A team does not need a two digit numberless than 26 next to its name in order to provide good football. Hell, in 2007 Boston Collegestarted 2-0 unranked and was one point No. 2 in the nation. Anything can happen this week,folks.

But if you are into “sexy” football, we do have a game for you. No. 22 West Virginia is headingover to No. 15 LSU tomorrow night in a game many people believe will make-or-breakMountaineer Noel Devine‘s Heisman campaign.

Virginia Tech at Boston College (12:00 ET)

THE LINE: Virginia Tech -4

THE PLOT: When was the last time neither team was ranked in this rivalry? I could notlocate the answer to that question, despite roaming through records dating back to 1992. (If youcan find it, share the information!)

This ACC matchup between former conference forerunners will play a huge role in determiningthe outcome of both teams for the remainder of the year. Virginia Tech has to answer to criticsafter a few real bad games. The Hokies also need to win out, or get to and win a bowl game inorder to continue their 10-win season streak alive; they currently sit at six seasons, which issecond behind Texas’ nine.

Boston College is 2-0 on the young season, but both wins have been unimpressive and overlower tier teams, Weber State and Kent State. The quarterback play of Dave Shinskiefor the Eagles will be just as important as BC’s defensive play. The only thing the Eagles trulyhave going for them is that this game is in Chestnut Hill.

THE PICK: In 2007 and 2008, Boston College and Virginia Tech met four total times;once during the year and again during the ACC title game. The same scenario played out bothtimes with the Eagles winning the regular season matchup and the Hokies taking the moreimportant game to reach a BCS bowl. At the rate both teams are playing now, neither team willreach the conference title game, so they better play hard this game, because it will likely be theonly meeting between the two until next season.

Virginia Tech has a more balanced team. I know the Hokies lost to James Madison, but theweather was crummy, the players were still reeling from the gigantic Boise State loss and it’s notimpossible to believe that the Hokies expected to walk over the Dukes.

I think the Hokies take this game in Massachusetts to set the tone for the rest of their ACC slate.The play of Ryan Williams? Nah, they won’t need it.

THE SCORE: Virginia Tech 24, Boston College 10

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North Carolina at Rutgers (3:30 ET)

THE LINE: North Carolina -2

THE PLOT: The Tar Heels have played four games with Rutgers, losing three. Theywon the most recent though, in 2008 in New Brunswick, a 44-12 victory.

North Carolina has played two games this season, both six-point losses to goodteams. They did this despite missing twelve players. The Tar Heels will not have any of those ineligible players back for this matchup (other thanShaun Draughn), which leaves them susceptible to being taken advantage of late in thegame due to a lack of depth.

Rutgers enters the game with a 2-0 record, with wins over Norfolk State andFlorida International. Quarterback Tom Savage played amiserable game two weeks ago in a 19-14 win down in Miami, but he vowed himself to getbetter from that point.

North Carolina’s Butch Davis is 8-9 coming off a loss, and Rutgers’ GregSchiano isn’t much better coming off a bye week with a 13-10 record.

THE PICK: I know Rutgers has played rather tough within the Big East this decade,but their defense is not the same as it was in 2006, coincidentally the same year that Rutgers lastbeat UNC. The Scarlet Knights’ offense has also declined in yards per game each of the past twoseasons–once Ray Rice left.

As for the Tar Heels, they have still played great football without their best playmakers.Quarterback TJ Yates has really improved his draft stock with his tough–andproductive–play against two good defenses in LSU and Georgia Tech.

I expect UNC to play lights out defense and Yates to lead the Tar Heels on several scoring drivesin a low-scoring battle.

THE SCORE: North Carolina 17, Rutgers 9

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No. 8 Oklahoma at Cincinnati (6:00 ET)

THE LINE: Oklahoma -13.5

THE PLOT: The Sooners have played really good football so far this year. They got thejitterbugs out early against Utah State and a mobile quarterback in Diondre Borel. Theyembarrassed and dismantled Christian Ponder and then-No. 17 Florida State. And lastweek, they squared off against the nation’s leading rushing team in Air Force. What can we pickup from these results? That Oklahoma’s rush defense hasn’t been that great this year.

Cincinnati, on the other hand, hasn’t been great this year at…well, anything. The Big East teamhas lost twice as many games through three bouts this year as they did all of last season. Thepreseason favorite to run the Big East conference has only one impressive offensive performanceso far, and that was against Indiana State.

THE PICK: This matchup is a home game for Cincinnati, seeing as it is being played15 minutes from the Bearcats’ campus at Paul Brown Stadium.

Oklahoma has not been on the road yet this year, so there is certainly the possibility of an upsethere. In fact, for those who care, Bob Stoops is 2-4 in non-conference regular seasonaway games against BCS foes.

I think if Cincinnati can score early, they might look cute for a little bit, but it will not take longfor Oklahoma to suffocate them. FSU’s Christian Ponder was picked apart on a big stage,so playing the Bearcats’ Zach Collaros should not present too much of a problem.

THE SCORE: Oklahoma 30, Cincinnati 16

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No. 22 West Virginia at No. 15 LSU (9:00 ET)

THE LINE: LSU -10

THE PLOT: This is the biggest non-conference game for the Mountaineers since 2005when West Virginia hosted No. 3 Virginia Tech. That game didn’t end well for the team fromMorgantown, but it was their only loss as WVU went on to win the Sugar Bowl against No. 8Georgia.

This year is completely different. The Mountaineers do not have Pat White, but possess ayoung and inexperienced quarterback in Geno Smith. To be fair, Smith has played aswell as anyone could ask, scoring seven touchdowns and limiting himself to one turnover. TheMountaineers have not seen a consistent passing quarterback in nearly a decade, but Smith istaking on that role.

Speaking of a passing quarterback, that is about the last thing Louisiana State would like to seetomorrow night. The Tigers surrendered 412 yards to North Carolina’s Yates during week one.Yates is the only passing quarterback that LSU has faced all year, so this week’s opponent inWest Virginia may by problematic.

THE PICK: Bill Stewart has a winning record against Top 25 teams, as wellas against BCS teams, but is 4-6 away from Morgantown. His three road games against non-conference BCS opponents have all culminated in
losses.

LSU possesses
the talent advantage, the coaching advantage, and home field advantage. WestVirginia will need as much out of Noel Devine and Geno Smith as they possibly can get.

THE SCORE: Louisiana State 33, West Virginia 21

(Odds courtesy of SportsBook.com by way of our friends at NBCSports.com.)

Report: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel undergoes surgery, out as long as a month

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Sojourn Shelton #8 of the Wisconsin Badgers, Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers, T.J. Edwards #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a interception during the second half of a game against the USC Trojans in the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.

Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.

“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”

No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.

Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.

If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Duke Catalon #2 of the Houston Cougars runs against Brandon McDowell #6 of the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez wants changes to Big Ten scheduling

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Acting head coach Barry Alvarez of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on from the bench before the start of the Outback Bowl against the Auburn Tigers on January 1, 2015 during  at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Wisconsin has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin the 2016 season but a lot of folks are not counting on the Badgers to remain in the top 10 of the polls after one of the most brutal schedules in the month of October you can find.

Having already played (and beat) defending conference champion Michigan State last week, Wisconsin travels to No. 4 Michigan, has a bye week, then hosts No. 2 Ohio State. They’re not done after that though, traveling to Iowa and then hosting No. 15 Nebraska in a stretch that should determine the West division champion before the month is up.

Longtime head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is well aware of what awaits his team and is no fan of such an unbalanced schedule.

“I remember when that schedule came out (in 2013) and I thought, ‘How the hell did you kick out something looking like that?” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “I think you could take a look at the general strength of some programs and split them up. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State have been good for a long time. Penn State Nittany Lions normally is in that group. Just make sure someone doesn’t get all three year in a year. That’s hard to do. That’s something the ADs are going to have to talk about some day.”

The Big Ten recently moved to a nine game conference slate which means an additional crossover game between divisions. Wisconsin has been the beneficiary of some weaker schedules in the past (Rutgers/Maryland in 2014/15) but seem to be the poster child this year for drawing all of the major powers from the East division.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned against reading too much into the Badgers’ schedule in 2016 and wants to see how the current format works out — but didn’t rule out any future changes.

“If I was an AD, I would probably be saying the same thing (as Alvarez),” Delany said. “If I was a football coach, I know I would.”

The conference has released the league schedule through 2019 but you can bet the next set of Big Ten games will likely break up some of the more historically successful programs a little more when it comes to division crossover games. Until then though, ‘On Wisconsin’ will have to be more than the school motto in October for Alvarez and his Badgers.