Setting the weekend tables for the ACC, Big East

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The Big East, as a conference, is taking a break this week. Therefore, I thankfully will not haveto write how the Big East needs to step up its game.

Cincinnati, Syracuse and West Virginia are all on bye weeks, with three other schools playingSun Belt opponents and Rutgers taking on Tulane. Connecticut, however, is playing a BCSopponent in Vanderbilt in what should be a well-matched game.

Over in the ACC, we have an in-state matchup with North Carolina and East Carolina, a fewtough conference games and a Notre Dame sighting. I thought the Irish were supposed to playBig Ten teams? Wait, Notre Dame isn’t in the Big Ten?

No. 16 Miami (FL) at Clemson (12:00 ET)

THE LINE: Miami -3.5

THE PLOT: Both teams had bye weeks after crushing losses to ranked teams.The ‘Canes won at Heinz Field 31-3 over Pittsburgh after its bye, and this week it is Clemson’sturn to rebound after the bye.

This game brings with it huge ACC implications. Though there are seven teams without an in-conference loss thus far, the winner of this game–or quite possibly both teams–will most likelyend up in the ACC title match.

In terms of matchups, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney mentioned that the line playwill be huge in this game. “They’re second in the nation in sacks andwe’re not giving up many sacks.”

Clemson is coping much better with injuries than Miami, despite a small scare with quarterback Kyle Parker.

THE PICK: Obviously both teams can put on an offensive performance, even againstgood defenses–see Miami vs. Ohio State, and Clemson vs. Auburn. This game will pit a goodTiger defense against a scrappy, speedy and deeply talented Miami offense. Both coaches arerelatively new to the ACC and have yet to supplant a name for themselves within the conference.

I believe this game will end up being a lot bigger than it seems at face value. Playing in Clemsonis nuts, and if the Tiger faithful can get to Jacory Harris like the Buckeye fans didon September 11th, then Clemson walks away with a win. But Miami demoralized what wassupposed to be the Big East’s best team last weekend.

THE SCORE: Miami 30, Clemson 28

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Vanderbilt at Connecticut (12:00 ET)

THE LINE: Connecticut -7.5

THE PLOT: In their respective histories, neither team has been outstanding against theopposing conference. The Commodores are just 10-7-1 against the Big East, while the Huskiesare only 1-2 against the SEC.

The only previous meeting between the two schools was former Vanderbilt head coachBobby Johnson‘s first win over a FBS Division 1A school in 2002.Connecticut’s only win over a SEC school came last year in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.

Vanderbilt has lost both home games this season against Northwestern and No. 19 LSU, but wontheir only road game at Ole Miss. Saturday’s matchup with the Huskies is in Storrs.

As for the Huskies, both home games have resulted in wins by an average margin of nearly sixtouchdowns. Both road games have resulted in losses, 20-points at Michigan and 14-points atTemple.

THE PICK: To be fair, the Huskies have had quarterback problems. To beunfair, they have had quarterback problems for the past five years, averaging around 166 passingyards per game over that span.

And if you will believe me, Vanderbilt has a worse passing game this year than Connecticut.Through its first three games, the Commodores have recorded just 383 passing yards. An anemicpassing offense is tolerable, I guess, if you can run the football. But the Commodores donot have a single rusher who averages more than 75 rushing yards per game. The Huskies? Theyhave Jordan Todman.

Todman is fifth in the nation in rushing yards per game behind–brace yourself–DenardRobinson, LaMichael James, Daniel Thomas and Mark Ingram.Todman is going to elevate Connecticut past Vanderbilt at home and put the Huskies over .500for the first time this year.

THE SCORE: Connecticut 23, Vanderbilt 16

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Virginia Tech at No. 23 North Carolina State (12:00 ET)

THE LINE: Virginia Tech -4.0

THE PLOT: Here it is folks. This is the game that will put Virginia Tech back on themap a la 2007 Michigan. Losses to Boise State and James Madison to start the year killed themoral of Hokie nation. I would even argue that the loss to Boise State set the Hokies up for itsloss to James Madison on a crummy and rainy day.

N.C. State comes into the game at 4-0 sporting a legitimate Heisman contender in RussellWilson. To put the Wolfpack’s start into perspective, the last time they were 4-0 they hadPhilip Rivers in his prime. There is a lot of hoopla surrounding N.C. State with theirunexpected start, which can only be cause for distraction.

THE PICK: If you don’t think Frank Beamer is treating this game as if it werethe last game of his career, you’re mistaken. All Beamer does is win ACC Championships. Heunderstands that an ACC match is much more valuable of a win than a game against either JamesMadison or East Carolina.

What did the Hokies do last week at Boston College? Virginia Tech shut out the Eaglesin the first ACC game of the year.

This Saturday, N.C. State walks into a slightly adapted trap game as Virginia Tech regains ACCdominance, despite Ryan Williams second straight absence.

THE SCORE: Virginia Tech 31, N.C. State 23

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Notre Dame at Boston College (8:00 ET)

THE LINE: Notre Dame -3.0

THE PLOT: This game will be very evenly matched, in my opinion. Since Notre Damelost Brady Quinn, the Irish have really played at the level of their opponent, be it up ordown. Coincidentally, Boston College also plays at the level of their opponent. The only majorbetween the two schools right now, besides history, is recruiting.

The Eagles won six straight against the Irish until last year when Notre Dame took away a 20-16win at home. That was the Eagles worst turnover performance, a -5 turnover margin.

A win for either team could really help. Boston College is unproven really, and could use anemergence at quarterback to set the tone for the remainder of the year. Notre Dame could simplyuse a win, because a 1-3 record to start the year with your lone win coming against a RobertMarve-led Purdue squad in South Bend surely is not cutting it.

THE PICK: While Notre Dame has some great playmakers on offense, they will reallyneed the defense to step up. Through four games, the Irish have surrendered nearly 30 points pergame. Boston College’s defense is good enough to hold the Irish under 30 points, so whomevercan score more points will win the game–Yes, I reread that last sentence.

That being said, this mini-rivalry has been awfully low scoring. The past eight games have seenan average combined 37 points per game. I think I’ll keep with that trend. Boston College nudgesout the win in Chestnut Hill.

THE SCORE: Boston College 20, Notre Dame 17

LAST WEEKStraight up: 4-0Vs. spread: 2-2

OVERALLStraight up: 11-1Vs. spread: 5-7

(I failed to predict scores before Week On
e, but if you would like to
count my predictions onWeek One from an outside source, you can add the following: Straight up 2-1, Vs. spread 0-3)

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

Cincinnati, Western Michigan ink home-and-home series

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Cincinnati and Western Michigan have agreed to a 2-game home-and-home series, it was announced Monday.

The Bearcats will host WMU on Sept. 12, 2020, and Western Michigan will host Cincinnati on Sept. 10, 2022.

The programs have met three times prior. Cincinnati and Western Michigan also played a home-and-home in 1949-50; the Bearcats won both games by scores of 27-6. Cincinnati also won their meeting in the 2007 International Bowl in Toronto,  a 27-24 triumph.

Cincinnati already has road games lined up with Miami (Ohio) and Nebraska in 2020, with a Sept. 5 opener still to fill. Considering the Bearcats already have two MAC opponents and a Big Ten trip lined up, that game will almost certainly be a home game and likely against an FCS opponent. In 2022, Cincinnati will host Indiana and play Miami (Ohio) at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, with their Sept. 3 opener still unfilled.

Western Michigan also has a road trip to Notre Dame on the schedule for Sept. 19, 2020, and does not have any other games slated for 2022.

USC AD Lynn Swann explains wins still trump strength of schedule

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For a long time, college football programs on the west coast have battled to overcome an east coast bias. USC athletics director Lynn Swann says that is still a hurdle USC faces to this day, which is why the Trojans go about trying to build as competitive football schedule as they can.

“Because of time zones, people on the East Coast aren’t really seeing us,” Swann said in a Q&A with The Orange County Register. “We have to play a tougher schedule. If the voters are going to look at four teams to be in the top four, the Pac-12 playing the Pac-12 won’t get it by itself.”

That comment alone could be received as a veiled (or not-so-veiled) shot at the rest of the Pac-12, but it is a fair comment to say, especially after the postseason the Pac-12 as a whole just had this past bowl season (it was… not very good). Swann’s comment though backs up the overall philosophy power conferences and programs within them have taken to heart since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, where strength of schedule is held in high regard and placed on a pedestal above most other factors to determine a playoff contender and separate them from playoff pretenders.

“We have to schedule teams and we have to have that very competitive schedule to be able to get that look,” Swann said. “And we’ve got to win those games. So it’s important to have Texas on the schedule. It’s important that Notre Dame is playing well and we play them and we beat them along the way.”

Scheduling attractive games is great, and it allows for a slightly wider margin for error, but recent history has shown that the strength of schedule does not act alone in getting a team into the playoff as much as actually winning games. The last two seasons have seen one-loss teams without a division championship invited to the College Football Playoff (Ohio State in 2016, Alabama last year). Last year, USC lost two games but won the Pac-12 championship but was largely left out of the conversation that involved Alabama and Ohio State.

“The committee who’s going to vote on this is going to look at strength of schedule. They’re going to look at how you win games,” Swann explained. “They’re going to look at a lot of factors. They’re going to look at the competition inside your conference, outside your conference, all those kind of things. It won’t ever be just one thing.”

USC has yet to play in a College Football Playoff and the 2018 season could be an uphill climb to get there with so many key losses from last season. Regardless, the Trojans continue to be improving with depth and scoring big wins to return to work their way back to the big championship stage.

Florida is opening spring practices to fans

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What’s one easy way to get fans on board with a new head coach? Invite them to practice.

Florida head coach Dan Mullen wants the doors to be open to fans to come watch the Gators practice during the first two spring practices the Gators will conduct next month. Seats will be limited at the practice field, of course, but Mullen seems optimistic this will help get the energy going for the program from the jump this spring, and that could potentially lead to a good crowd at Florida’s spring game to wrap up the spring practice schedule.

Florida is scheduled to begin their spring football practices on March 16. That practice and the next day will be open to fans to attend practice, which likely will lead to some personal interactions with coaches and players for any fans who take Mullen up on his offer. Florida’s spring game is scheduled for April 14.

Florida fans may be getting a chance to see a hard-working bunch of Gators. Early indications are Florida players are already claiming to be working harder than they have in years in the offseason workout routine.

But it won’t be just the fans that will be given some exclusive first-hand looks at the Gators this spring. Mullen will also look to extend an open invitation to Florida faculty and staff to some spring practices. Those dates are yet to be determined.

Helmet sticker to SEC Country.

Clemson commit wins free Chick-fil-A for a year

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Who doesn’t love a good meal from Chick-fil-A? Hopefully Clemson commit BT Potter does because he just won free Chick-fil-A for an entire year.

Potter was voted the Chandler Catanzaro Kicker of the Year, and to the victor go the waffle fries. In addition to a $1,000 scholarship, Potter will have a one-year supply of Chick-fil-A meals on the house. That could add up to a lot of chicken sandwiches for the second-ranked kicker in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals.

This wasn’t a contest won by asking for retweets on Twitter, but Potter did have Clemson fans come to his support by stuffing an online ballot box. Maybe Potter can use his Chick-fil-A year-long supply to hand out some milkshakes.

The best part about all this? There doesn’t seem to be any way for the NCAA to come in and ruin the fun, as there are no NCAA violations in play here. Score one for the good guys.

Potter, a native of South Carolina, committed to the Tigers back in June 2017.