ACC in survival mode, Big East teams jockey for second place

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Please excuse me while I continue to play this broken record. The ACC and Big East teams have not been what you would call “quality” conferences this year. Not one of the six computers have the ACC ranked higher than fifth, or the Big East higher than seventh out of the 11 conferences and group of Independents. Currently, just three ACC teams are ranked in the BCS Top 25.

Not much can be said for these two groups of schools, other than they need to play better on the field. With that said, the races for the respective conference titles are extremely close.

No. 16 Florida State (4-0) currently leads the ACC Atlantic division, but has yet to play the three teams that are directly on its heels–North Carolina State (2-1), Maryland (2-1), and Clemson (2-2). A slip up against one of those teams paired with said team winning out would send it to the conference title. Over in the Coastal division, No. 23 Virginia Tech (4-0) is the leader with No. 22 Miami (FL) (3-1) right behind it. Georgia Tech (3-2) would need to win out to take the division, meaning it would need to defeat Virginia Tech next Thursday, followed by wins over Miami and Duke. It certainly would not be an understatement to say that the majority of the ACC teams are in survival mode right now.

The Big East teams currently find themselves in a similar boat, but to be fair there is a lot more football to be played amongst them. Pittsburgh (2-0) is presently wearing the conference crown, but five teams are behind the Panthers with a lone loss, most notably Syracuse (5-2, 2-1). While this weekend’s slate of games may not make you smile or get you excited, they will certainly clear up the BCS picture for the time being.

Clemson at Boston College (12:00 ET)

THE LINE: Clemson -7

THE PLOT: Oh, the tale of two stories. These two teams have brought us a lot of great games the last few years. While an exciting game may still be within the realm of possibility, it is unlikely.

Boston College is riding its worse losing streak since 1998, having lost its past five games since opening 2-0 with wins over Weber State and Kent State. The Eagle offense will likely be dismal on Saturday, seeing as it’s currently 112th in the nation right now. If Boston College wants to win this game, it will need the nation’s fourth ranked rush defense to pressure Tiger quarterback Kyle Parker to make every play…

…which will probably not be enough. Clemson has played tremendous football and may be one of the nation’s more underrated teams. The Tigers lost by just three points to the No. 1 team in the country back in Week Three in an overtime thriller. The other two losses for Clemson came from No. 22 Miami (FL) and at North Carolina by 14 total points.

THE PICK: I fully expect Clemson to reciprocate what it did last weekend against Georgia Tech: shut down the run completely, limit scoring opportunities, and make the opposing quarterback pass the football —Josh Nesbitt had 19 pass attempts last week for the Yellow Jackets, marking that his fourth highest total in 28 career games. Boston College cannot throw the football, so running it will be the Eagles sole option, which they aren’t great at either.

With the emergence of Andre Ellington, Parker may not need to be Clemson’s top player on Saturday. The Tigers get their first road win this weekend.

THE SCORE: Clemson 24, Boston College 13

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No. 22 Miami (FL) at Virginia (12:00 ET)

THE LINE: Miami (FL) -15

THE PLOT: Other than the ‘Canes’ two big losses, Miami has played perfect football. Randy Shannon has his squad lined to be in its first ACC title game ever.

The Cavaliers are 1-4 against FBS opponents this year with its best game being a 48-21 win over Eastern Michigan 14-17 loss at USC. Virginia is 0-3 in ACC play, losing the three games by an average of 22 points.

THE PICK: Miami’s next big game is a November 20th home game against Virginia Tech. It’s way too early for the ‘Canes to be looking ahead and get caught in a trap game. Miami takes this one easily and Jacory Harris regains the attention of a few analysts.

THE SCORE: Miami 38, Virginia 7

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Louisville at Pittsburgh (12:00 ET)

THE LINE: Pittsburgh -9

THE PLOT: Pittsburgh’s play the past two weekends has been impressive. The Panthers outscored their first two Big East opponents–which entered their game with Pittsburgh with a combined record of 8-3–by a combined score of 86-35. Dave Wannstedt has people in Pennsylvania forgetting all about the first three weeks of Pittsburgh’s season; something that seems to have been mastered by the Wannstache.

Louisville, on the other hand, has been rather consistent all season. The Cardinals are sitting at 4-3 with a 1-1 conference record, but could easily be undefeated. First-year coach Charlie Strong‘s efforts have been magnificent, considering the Cardinals have won just 15 total games the past three years. Louisville’s three losses have been a seven-point drop to Kentucky to open the year, a seven-point margin at No. 25 Oregon State, and an eight-point loss to Cincinnati two weeks ago.

THE PICK: This game will be the closest since 2007, with the team playing the best football coming out on top. That team is Pittsburgh.

THE SCORE: Pittsburgh 24, Louisville 20

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Syracuse at Cincinnati (12:00 ET)

THE LINE: N/A

THE PLOT: This Big East matchup features two teams that have literally switched spots in the conference standings since last year. I must have said that a few times now, so why don’t I trade mark it?

Cincinnati fans and team members alike have got to be disappointed with its season this year. Watching Brian Kelly bolt for Notre Dame was not terrifying. The Bearcats still had Zach Collaros…Now Cincinnati sits at 3-4 with a 1-1 conference record.

Syracuse may be the best story in college football this year–sorry Auburn. The Orange are second in the Big East standings at 2-1, and 5-2 overall. Doug Marrone has put together Syracuse’s best season since 2004 in just his second year. The Orange’s great season was highlighted with a 19-14 win over then-No. 20 West Virginia last weekend. With a win like that on its resume, Syracuse proved it can win any of the games left on its schedule, especially following a 45-14 beat down.

THE PICK: I like Syracuse a lot, and I do think they can win a few more games this year. I cannot argue that the Orange have played a better season of football than Cincinnati thus far, but for some reason I cannot give this one to Marrone’s group.

Cincinnati still possesses one of the better dual threat quarterbacks in the country. The one question will then be, “What is the status of Collaros since his injury against South Florida?” If he is healthy and plays, I think the Bearcats win this one. If Collaros i
s a no-go
, then Syracuse
might steal its second consecutive tough road win, but that’s still a tall order.

THE SCORE (With/without Collaros): Cincinnati 31/20, Syracuse 14

LAST WEEK Straight up: 1-2Vs. spread: 1-2

OVERALLStraight up: 21-7  Vs. spread: 11-16-1

(I failed to predict scores before Week One, but if you would like to count my predictions on Week 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.)

Second-half dominance powers No. 10 A&M past No. 17 Arkansas, 45-24

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Trevor Knight #8 of the Texas A&M Aggies runs for a touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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No. 10 Texas A&M grabbed a late touchdown run from quarterback Trevor Knight in the first half and shut down No. 17 Arkansas in the second half of a 45-24 victory in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Aggies shut down the Razorbacks in the second half and scored 28 points on offense to improve to 4-0 and head into October thinking about making a run at the SEC West title (and potentially for real this time).

With the game tied at 17-17, Arkansas put together a draining 89-yard drive on 19 plays, but it was the Texas A&M defense that held strong down by the goal line. Just as they had done twice in the first half, Texas A&M prevented Arkansas from punching the football across the goal line, this time with a fourth-down stand. Two plays later, Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight unloaded a deep ball to Josh Reynolds racing down the right sideline. The ball was placed perfectly for Reynolds and he let his speed take care of the rest on a 92-yard touchdown drive. It was quite the momentum swing and the Aggies did not look back.

Texas A&M scored a touchdown after forcing Arkansas to punt on the ensuing possession and took advantage of a short field from the 15-yard line after an Arkansas fumble. Trayveon Williams did the honors on the first touchdown with a 33-yard scamper and Christian Kirk got his hands on a pass from Knight after the Razorbacks’ fumble.

Four games into the season and there appears to be enough evidence to suggest this Texas A&M defense has improved, and that helps make Texas A&M a formidable player in the SEC West moving forward. Is it ready to take down Alabama? Probably not, but the Aggies have the look of the second-best team in the SEC behind the defending national champions. Arkansas still has the potential to play spoiler with anyone on their schedule though, including Alabama.

Knight was a machine for the Aggies, ending his night with 225 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, a game-high 157 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Arkansas quarterback passed for 371 yards and two scores, but took a beating all night.

Texas A&M is 4-0 for the third straight season under Kevin Sumlin. The last time Texas A&M went 4-0 in three straight seasons was 1939-1941. It is also the third straight undefeated September for Texas A&M, which was last achieved from 1997 through 1999. The hot seat talk has been nowhere to be heard in College Station this season.

Arkansas gets a likely breather next week when they return home to host Alcorn State. A home game against Alabama looms after that. Texas A&M will stay in SEC play next week when they head to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are coming off a 17-10 loss at Kentucky.

Seth Russell’s 4 TD night vs. Oklahoma State helps No. 16 Baylor remain undefeated

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Seth Russell #17 of the Baylor Bears looks for an open receiver against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first quarter at McLane Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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In a game that was delayed over an hour by weather, featured a bizarre coaching decision and over 1,000 yards of combined offense, No. 16 Baylor (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) managed to pull away and remain one of two remaining undefeated teams in the Big 12 with a 35-24 victory at home over Oklahoma State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12). West Virgina is also undefeated after beating BYU earlier in the day.

Baylor quarterback Seth Russell passed for 387 yards and four touchdowns in the win, and he also led the ground attack with 65 rushing yards on 10 carries. Ishmael Zamora, in his first game back from a three-game suspension for beating his dog, caught eight of the passes from Russell for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Platt also hauled in a 100-yard day with a pair of touchdowns.

While the winning formula for Baylor typically revolves around the offense, Oklahoma State coughed the ball up four times, although they did pick up 30 first downs and run 100 plays of offense as well. It was far from pretty for Baylor, with seven penalties and giving up 28 first downs, but the Bears will take it and enjoy the undefeated start to the season regardless.

Baylor head coach Jim Grobe did make one puzzling coaching decision late in the third quarter when he kept the offense on the field to try to pick up a first down on fourth and one from Baylor’s 24-yard line. You read that correctly. They went for it from the Baylor 24-yard line, with a lead mind you, in the third quarter. Oklahoma State stuffed the play for no gain and the offense was unable to capitalize. That may have cost Oklahoma State, and it bailed Grobe out for an absolute bonehead coaching decision.

But the defensive stop was just the start. Oklahoma State’s defense could not hold Baylor down and the Bears put together a 99-yard touchdown drive, with Seth Russell finding Chris Platt from 15 yards out on third and goal. It served as the knockout blow from the Bears offense, who had four touchdown drives of at least 73 yards on the night.

Baylor will be on the road next week for more Big 12 competition. The Bears hit the road to take on Iowa State for an early kickoff next Saturday. Oklahoma State will be home next week for a meeting with the Texas Longhorns. Texas will be coming off a bye week after losing on the road at Cal last weekend.

With seven more, Lamar Jackson has more TDs than all but ONE FBS team

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) awaits the snap during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Huntington, W. Va., Saturday Sept. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Walter Scriptunas II)
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With the final games of the first month of the 2016 season being quickly put to bed, we can officially hand the September Heisman Trophy to Lamar Jackson.  In an utter and absolute landslide.

The Louisville quarterback’s ridiculous, video game-like month has officially come to an end, with Jackson accounting for seven touchdowns in a 59-28 win over Marshall in Huntington.  The true sophomore threw for five touchdowns and ran for another two in a performance that did nothing but show how remarkably easy the game is for Jackson right now even as he “struggled” early on.

With this showing, Jackson has now accounted for 25 touchdowns on the season — 13 passing, 12 rushing.

Remarkably, Jackson now has more touchdowns individually than all but one team — aside from his own — playing at the FBS level.  That one team?  Michigan, with 28.  USF, with 25 as a team that played this week, is tied with Jackson as an individual.

I guess you could technically add an asterisk to the “one team” theme as Texas Tech (25), Ohio State (23) and Miami (21) were all on byes this weekend.  And I’m also going under the assumption that Washington (19 entering Week 4) won’t get beyond 25, even as they are currently tied 14-14 with Arizona at halftime.

Still, the numbers Jackson is putting up are historic and epic, and that was even before he added Nos. 6 and 7.

I have no clue how Jackson will close out the season, but I do know that, at the moment, there’s the Cardinals’ signal-caller and then there’s everybody else when it comes to the 2016 Heisman race.  Just as it was exactly a week ago.

Thrilling comeback gives No. 7 Stanford a wild win over UCLA

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Francis Owusu #6 of the Stanford Cardinal fumbles after a hit from Tahaan Goodman #21 and Adarius Pickett #6 of the UCLA Bruins during the second quarter at Rose Bowl on September 24, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Death. Taxes. Stanford over UCLA.

Cardinal head coach David Shaw ran his record to a perfect 7-0 against the Bruins in thrilling fashion on Saturday night thanks to a 22-13 comeback victory at the Rose Bowl.

Trailing 13-9 with just two minutes left in the game, the Cardinal marched 70 yards in 101 seconds to take an improbable lead after failing to score a touchdown until their final drive.

Quarterback Ryan Burns was behind most of the yardage on what would be the game-winning drive, going 5-of-8 to finish off the Bruins by lofting a perfectly thrown fade into the hands of 6-foot-3 receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside near the corner of the end zone. Burns finished with just 137 yards through the air on the night and tossed an interception in a middling performance but came up clutch for the first moment of his career.

Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey had an unusually effective but quiet night a few months after setting a few records at the same venue in January. He had a healthy 5.3 yards per carry for the game and led the team with  165 all-purpose yards but only had one play over 10 yards all night.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen on the other hand, was the offense for the Bruins considering they could only muster 2.3 yards a carry on the ground. The sophomore signal-caller finished with 248 yards and a touchdown but couldn’t quite pull off the win over the one team that has become a bit of a nemesis to Jim Mora and company in Westwood.

Perhaps fittingly — as if to almost twist the knife into another excruciating loss to their Bay Area rivals — Rosen was sacked on the final play of the game and fumbled, which was then returned by linebacker Joey Alfieri for a touchdown that was of plenty of interest to certain folks up the highway in Las Vegas.

The improbable victory for Stanford keeps alive their College Football Playoff hopes for another week and sets up a huge showdown next Friday at Washington in what looks like the Pac-12 game of the year.