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.)

Big 12 reportedly prefers expansion to be settled before start of season

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Unlike most goings-on in the conference, it doesn’t appear the Big 12 is going to drag its feet on the biggest issue it’s currently facing.

The Big 12 announced earlier this month that the conference will expand, whether by two teams or four.  Regardless of the final number, CBSSports.com‘s Dennis Dodd, citing three individuals with knowledge of the ongoing process, reported Thursday, the conference “would prefer to wrap up the expansion process before the start of the 2016 football season.” The reasoning for an expedited timeline is simple: the powers-that-be in the league do not want expansion talk and speculation to overshadow actual football.

Such a timeline would also be beneficial for any incoming teams.

If the expansion teams are indeed announced before the season, that conceivably would give the new schools a chance to begin playing in the conference in 2017. For now, the league is in the process of contemplating how it will decide participants for its championship game that has been reinstated for 2017.

“I have not made any comment on time frame and do not plan any such statement,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Dodd in a statement.

It’s believed that any new members for the Big 12 will come from a group that includes teams from both the AAC (Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, UCF, USF) and Mountain West (Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State) as well as football-independent BYU.  More specifically, BYU, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn are considered by some/most observers as the front-runners, with some throwing Cincinnati in as well.

The AAC kicks off its Media Days Monday, and expansion will no doubt dominate the conversation during the two-day event.

FSU, Boise in talks to move 2019 opener to Jacksonville

10 Nov 2001:  The Florida State Seminoles mascot walks down the field during the game against the North Carolina Wolfpack at the Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. The Wolfpack defeated the Seminoles 34-28.Mandatory Credit:  Andy Lyons /Allsport
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One thing is certain, Florida State loves themselves some neutral-site openers.

Florida State and Boise State are scheduled to open the 2019 season at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.  However, FirstCoastNews.com first reported, the two football programs are actively engaged in ongoing negotiations about moving that game to Jacksonville’s EverBank Field.

“A deal has not been reached but ‘positive discussions continue,” an unnamed official told the website.

FSU has a return game to Boise scheduled for 2020; as of now, the Tallahassee Democrat reports in confirming the initial news, FSU has no intentions of canceling that game.

If the game is moved to Jacksonville, it would give FSU neutral-site openers in four of the next five seasons.  They are already scheduled to open the 2016 season against Ole Miss in Orlando and the 2017 season against Alabama in Atlanta.  Additionally, reports surfaced earlier this week that FSU is closing in on an agreement to open the 2020 season in Atlanta against West Virginia.

FSU would reportedly make in excess of $8 million combined for the 2016 and 2017 openers.  The financial particulars for the 2019 and 2020 openers are unknown at this point.

One potential benefit of this spate of neutral-field games, the Democrat writes, is that it would “give FSU the opportunity to continue renovation efforts of Doak Campbell Stadium while boosting its strength of schedule against non-conference opponents.”

Steve Spurrier named ambassador, consultant for Florida athletics

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Not surprisingly, the Ol’ Ball Coach is coming home again.

Last month, Florida announced that it would be naming the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in honor of Steve Spurrier, something the coach considered “to be the biggest, most special honor I have ever received.”  Friday morning, UF announced that Spurrier’s name would continue on in another official capacity, revealing that Spurrier has been named “Ambassador and Consultant for the Florida Gators Athletic Department.”

There’s no official word on his specific duties, although I’m certain being shirtless and holding a Coors and cutting a rug are among them.

Spurrier played at Florida from 1963-66, becoming the first player in Gators history to win the Heisman Trophy. He returned to Gainesville as the Head Ball Coach in 1990, going 122-27-1 in his 12 seasons with eight SEC East titles, six SEC championships, 10 top-10 finishes and a national championship in 1996.

He abruptly retired as the head coach at South Carolina in early October of 2015, finishing his coaching career with a record of 228-89-2 (.718).  In February of this year, it was announced that Spurrier would serve as a special assistant for South Carolina president Harris Pastides and athletic director Ray Tanner.

Below are the pertinent quotes surrounding his latest appointment:

UF ATHLETIC DIRECTOR JEREMY FOLEY
“It’s a great day for the Gator Nation to be able to welcome Coach Spurrier back home. He has served as a tremendous ambassador to the University and the athletic department for 50-plus years and it’s only fitting that at this point in his career, he is back in Gainesville. Being a Gator has always meant so much to Coach Spurrier, but it means just as much to us have him come home.”

UF HEAD COACH JIM MCELWAIN
“I look forward to visiting with him on a lot of occasions and picking his brain on a number of issues. It’s a credit to Jeremy to get him back home where he belongs. More than anything I look forward to actually talking to him and being around him rather than just saying hello to his statue on my way to work every day.”

STEVE SPURRIER
“My wife, Jerri, and I are extremely thrilled to be returning home to our alma mater, and to Gainesville where we met on campus over 50 years ago. I’m very appreciative to Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, Head Coach Jim McElwain and Phil Pharr of Gator Boosters for their role in making this happen.

“I also want to say thanks to the University of South Carolina for allowing me to be their coach from 2005 to 2015. Also a special thanks to all of the Gamecock players, coaches and fans that allowed our teams to set so many school records. I will now pull for South Carolina to win every game but one, just as I did when I pulled for Florida to win every game but one as the Gamecock coach. I will try my best to promote and assist in any way I can to help the Gators to continue to be one of the very best athletic programs in America. I admire what Coach McElwain and his staff accomplished last year. I’m anxious to watch the Gator football team as they strive to be the best in the SEC and the nation in the years ahead.”

UPDATED 11:58 a.m. ET: Both USC and Spurrier have confirmed that the OBC will give up his position as special assistant at the school.

At least one poll ‘means more… maybe, than anything’ to Bob Stoops

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners is soaked with a water cooler by Nila Kasitati #54 of the Oklahoma Sooners after the Sooners beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 58-23 at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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I don’t care where your allegiances lie, this is a pretty damn cool story.

Earlier this week, ESPN‘s Chris Low took a poll of Big 12 and SEC head coaches, 23 in all, and asked them the following question: If you had a son who was an elite football prospect and could play for any coach in America other than yourself, who would be your first choice?

The usual suspects were mentioned, among them: Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Miami’s Mark Richt, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. That venerable list received one vote apiece. Then there was Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald with two votes apiece, and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Stanford’s David Shaw with three each.

The top vote-getter? Bob Stoops of Oklahoma with five.

In an interview with Guerin Emig of Tulsa World in part regarding this poll specifically, Stoops relayed just how much it meant to him to be that respected by his counterparts.

It means more to me, maybe, than anything,” he said Thursday.

“That my peers, coaches, feel I treat kids the right way,” he said, “I don’t know, hopefully a good role model and mentor to them and coach, as well. It means a great deal to me.”

“I have such respect for all the coaches out there at all levels,” Stoops said. “So yeah, there’s no doubt that that’s very flattering. I’m honored they feel that way.

It’s one thing for a parent outside your profession to say they’d want you to coach/mentor/instruct/oversee/supervise your child. When it’s members of your own profession? As evidenced by the OU coach’s response, it doesn’t get any better or more humbling than that.