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.)

Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.

Texas A&M suspends DT Zaycoven Henderson amid felony gun charges

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Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson was suspended amid multiple felony charges on Saturday.

As detailed by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News, witnesses say Henderson pointed a rifle at one person outside College Station’s Campus Village Apartments and threatened to kill two others and allegedly threw the gun out of a fleeing car as police arrived on the scene. The car was later tracked down by College Station officers, who discovered marijuana in the car.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and marijuana possession. The first charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in a prison. The second is a third-degree felony and the third is a misdemeanor.

He was booked into the Brazos County (Texas) jail at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas A&M has suspended Henderson indefinitely, which really only lasts one game as the senior from Longview, Texas, was set to close his Aggies career in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Henderson made 35 tackles with five TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts this season. He was honored as a member of Texas A&M’s senior class at the annual team banquet earlier this weekend.

UCLA reportedly hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach

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Chip Kelly has reportedly hired one of the most respected men in the business to his staff. According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, Paul Rhoads is on his way to Westwood to coach UCLA’s defensive backs.

Rhoads spent the past two seasons at Arkansas, the first as defensive backs coach and the second as defensive coordinator in addition to his duties with the secondary. He’s best known, of course, for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, where he took the Cyclones to three bowl games and created this viral moment before any of us knew what “going viral” went.

In addition to Arkansas, Rhoads also owns defensive experience at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Pacific, Ohio State and Utah State.

UCLA finished last season ranked 74th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 57.1 percent completion rate for 7.3 yards per attempt with seven interceptions against 18 touchdowns.