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.)

Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis potentially out for spring

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Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was optimistic about wide receiver Kyle Davis returning to the team at some point this spring, but the tune has changed regarding his future. Malzahn is now saying Davis may be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices due to personal reasons.

“Kyle Davis is still taking care of some personal business,” Malzahn said, according to SEC Country. “I’m not for sure if he’s going to be back before the end of the spring. He will be back for the fall, just taking a little bit longer than we initially thought.”

It was just a few weeks ago Malzahn said Davis was going to be out for the start of spring practices, which are now close to half over. For now, the plan is simply to have him return over the summer in preparation for the fall.

In the meantime, Malzahn confirmed John Franklin III is working primarily as a wide receiver, which had previously been suspected to be the case.

Penn State announces three captains for 2017 season

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With Penn State just about to get started with spring football practices, head coach James Franklin wasted no time in naming his captains for the 2017 season. Quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda, and safety Nick Scott have been voted captains by their peers on the team.

“These three young men have been leaders in our program, on and off the field,” Franklin said in a released statement. “They live our four core values and act with the program’s best interest in mind. Our team is in good hands with these guys!”

McSorley took over the offense as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2016. A bit of a mystery to most entering the season after being the backup to Christian Hackenberg, McSorley ended his 2016 season with a Big Ten-leading 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes with eight interceptions and played a key role in guiding Penn State to a late run to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. He enters the 2017 season as one of the top quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten, along with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

Cabinda, an All-Big Ten third team player in 2016, was Penn State’s third-leading tackler last season with 81 tackles. He accumulated that many tackles despite missing five games due to injury. He is slated to be the leader in the middle of the Penn State defense with a starting role already locked down and will look to help guide some younger linebackers stepping into key roles in the defense this upcoming season, such as Manny Bowen and Koa Farmer.

Scott has been a special teams leader for Penn State and is expected to continue to lead the special teams effort once again this season.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.

Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.