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

——————–

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

——————–

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.)

Wazzu statement: ‘The tragic news today surrounding Tyler Hilinksi is devastating to all’

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Tuesday night, the Pullman Police Department confirmed that 21-year-old Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead in his apartment of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  Very early Wednesday morning, the football program and athletic department released statements addressing the devastating developments.

HEAD FOOTBALL COACH MIKE LEACH
We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Tyler’s passing. He was an incredible young man and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was better for it. The entire WSU community mourns as thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

INTERIM ATHLETIC DIRECTOR John Johnson
The tragic news today surrounding Tyler Hilinski is devastating to all. Tyler was a tremendous individual, great friend and teammate, and he will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.

Earlier tonight, the football team was brought together and informed of the tragedy. There, they were met by campus and department counseling and psychological services, including athletics’ on-staff clinical psychologist and a licensed mental health counselor, along with WSU Athletics medical team. The university will continue to coordinate and provide ongoing counseling care for all student-athletes as long as needed.

Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski found dead in apparent suicide

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There is utterly tragic and horrific news coming out of Pullman Tuesday night.

According to the Pullman Police Department, Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead at his apartment late Tuesday afternoon of what was described as an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. “A rifle was discovered next to Hilinski and a suicide note was found,” the police stated in a release.

Police officers were called to the residence at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:40 p.m. local time) for a wellness check after the redshirt sophomore failed to show up for a team activity earlier in the day.

Hilinski was just 21 years old.

As of this posting, there’s been no official response from the football program regarding the passing of Hilinski.  Wednesday, the university had been expected to announce the new athletic director replacing Bill Moos, Florida Atlantic’s Pat Chun; because of the football player’s death, that press conference will be rescheduled for a later date.

In place of Luke Falk, Hilinski started Wazzu’s Holiday Bowl loss to Michigan State.  With Falk off to the NFL, Hilinski was expected to be the Cougars’ starting quarterback in 2018.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Hilinski’s way-too-early passing.

Former Nebraska OL coach Mike Cavanaugh hired by Syracuse

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Dino Babers has added a very experienced trenchman to his Syracuse coaching staff.

The school confirmed Tuesday that Babers has hired Mike Cavanaugh as his next offensive line coach. In a coaching career that spans 32 seasons, Cavanaugh has been a line coach in some form or fashion for 31 of them.

“Mike has an outstanding track record of teaching and developing quality offensive linemen,” Babers said in a statement. “He’s done it successfully at every level in college as well as the pros. This was an opportunity to add someone whose knowledge and experience will greatly enhance our staff and benefit our players.”

The past three seasons, Cavanaugh was the line coach at Nebraska. At the FBS level, he’s also served as a line coach at Oregon State (2005-14) and Hawaii (1999-2004).

From 1997-98, Cavanaugh was the assistant offensive line coach for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.

“I’d like to thank Coach Babers for this opportunity and for welcoming me into the Syracuse family,” Cavanaugh said. “He and his staff have coached some of the most prolific offenses in college football. I’m excited to learn from them and to be part of the championship-caliber program they are building at Syracuse.”

The 2018 season will mark the first time since 2004 Cavanaugh is not a part of a Mike Riley-coached staff.

Kevin Stepherson one of four dismissed by Notre Dame

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At least in South Bend, Kevin Stepherson‘s freefall is complete.

According to 247Sports.com, Stepherson, along with three other Notre Dame football players — sophomore running backs CJ Holmes and Deon McIntosh as well as junior defensive tackle Brandon Tiassum — have been dismissed from the Fighting Irish program.  No specific reason or reasons for the dismissals were given.

Stepherson was one of four Irish players who were suspended for the team’s Citrus Bowl matchup with LSU, with the wide receiver’s suspension stemming from a handful of off-field issues.

Dec. 15, Stepherson was arrested for shoplifting.  The day before that arrest, Stepherson was pulled over on a traffic stop and charged with marijuana possession, driving without a valid license and speeding (he was clocked doing 80 in a 60 mph zone). To make matters worse, at the time of his twin arrests the receiver was already on probation for a marijuana-related arrest in August of 2016.

Adding to the off-field issues, Stepherson was suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season for reasons unrelated to the arrest in August of 2016.

At the time of the second suspension, Stepherson led the Fighting Irish in receiving touchdowns with five and yards per catch at 18.9 despite missing one-third of the regular season because of the first suspension.  His 19 receptions and 359 receiving yards were both good for third on the team.

Another of the players who were dismissed, Holmes, was arrested along with Stepherson in the shoplifting incident.  Holmes ran for 32 yards on eight carries this season.

McIntosh was the fourth of the four players suspended for the bowl game.  At the time of his suspension, McIntosh was third on the team in rushing with 368 yards and five touchdowns.

Tiassum played very sparsely this past season, and wasn’t looking at much more playing time in 2018.