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

——————–

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 hires Jeff Phelps to coach D-line

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks up at the video screen during the third quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Washington State has hired Jeff Phelps to coach its defensive line, the program announced late Friday night.

Phelps arrives from Minnesota, where he spent the past six seasons in the same capacity. Ironically, Phelps’s final game as a Gopher came against… Washington State. His defensive line finished the 2016 season ranking 12th nationally in tackles for loss, 14th in rushing defense and 22nd in sacks.

“Jeff is a passionate football coach and a true technician of the game,” Wazzu head coach Mike Leach said in a statement. “He coaches with great energy, is a strong recruiter and brings with him a track record of being a part of great defenses.”

Phelps takes over for Joe Salave’a, who reportedly signed a new deal with the Cougars in December before leaving for Oregon earlier this month. 

Washington State finished last season ranked 29th nationally in rushing defense (up from 95th in 2015), but 103rd in sacks and tied for 67th in tackles for loss.

Auburn hires former Gus Malzahn assistant Chip Lindsey as offensive coordinator

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  A member of Auburn Tigers cheer team waves a flag during their game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Well, so much for all that.

Amid reports of a tug-of-war between Gus Malzahn and the Auburn administration, it appears the coach has got his man.

Auburn will hire Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to the same post, the Tigers announced Saturday.

“I’m excited to welcome Chip Lindsey to the Auburn family,” Malzahn said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in his ability to lead our offense and his strength in developing quarterbacks makes him the perfect fit. Chip is a man of integrity and character who will fit well within our staff. He has great knowledge and enthusiasm for the game and is a rising star in this profession.”

Like Malzahn, Lindsey is a longtime high school coach. His break came when Malzahn hired him to his original staff as an analyst; the Tigers’ improbable worst-to-first run to the SEC championship and BCS national title game spring-boarded Lindsey to the offensive coordinator post at Southern Miss, where he helped the Eagles jump from 102nd nationally in yards per play in Lindsey’s first season to sixth in his second and final season in Hattiesburg.

Lindsey spent but one season at Arizona State, where the Sun Devils finished 103rd in yards per play.

He’ll take over a jekyll-and-hyde offense that ranked 87th in yards per play in September and 83rd in November, but placed sixth in October. The Tigers have added a high-wattage transfer in former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

“My family and I are very excited to return to Auburn and our home state,” Lindsey said. “Both are very special places to us. I looking forward to reuniting with Coach Malzahn and his staff. They are great coaches and great people. I look forward to being part of something special and helping Auburn win championships.”

Nebraska won a bidding war with Arkansas to hire Bob Diaco

PROVO, UT - OCTOBER 2: Head coach Bob Diaco of the Connecticut Huskies watches his team practice before they play the Brigham Young Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium on October 2, 2015 in Provo Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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Nebraska and Arkansas have met just once on the field, in the 1965 Cotton Bowl. But the Huskers and Hogs have now met twice in the only college athletics competition more cutthroat than the actual games — hiring coaches.

Arkansas famously held off Nebraska for Houston Nutt‘s services in 2004 (before you scoff, Nutt led the Hogs to the 2006 SEC West title, and Nebraska wound up hiring Bill Callahan) and now the Cornhuskers have returned the favor.

Nebraska hired Bob Diaco as its defensive coordinator this week, nabbing the former Connecticut head coach and Notre Dame defensive coordinator after he’d finished an interview with Arkansas. Sean Callahan of Husker Online explains from here:

Head coach Mike Riley said they stopped Diaco’s plane in the air on his way back from Arkansas and got him to fly to Lincoln last Thursday from Chicago. Riley said from there, they weren’t letting Diaco leave Lincoln until he accepted the job.

The money didn’t hurt. Nebraska handed Diaco a 2-year contract worth $1.7 million in total, making him the highest-paid assistant in program history.

Report: Auburn offensive coordinator search getting thorny

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 08:  Head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers reacts during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Auburn does not have an offensive coordinator yet, which is odd. The Tigers have an explosive offense with a lot of returning parts. They have Jarrett Stidham coming in to play quarterback. They have a boatload of money. And they have a boatload of money.

According to a report from James Crepea of AL.com, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and “people with influence over the program” can’t agree on who should replace Rhett Lashlee.

Malzahn is said to prefer Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and NC State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz. Lindsey and Drinkwitz worked for Malzahn previously, and Malzahn has built a working relationship with the Briles family — Stidham and running back Kam Martin transferred from Waco to Auburn, and Art Briles visited a Tigers practice this season.

But Auburn donors, Crepea writes, have nixed those choices, saying Briles is too inexperienced and Lindsey and Drinkwitz are too close to Malzahn.

Instead, donors preferred Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone (who has already been crossed off the list) or Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich (ditto). Mark Helfrich does not seem like a viable option at this time.

With less than two weeks until National Signing Day, the urgency to bring someone to the South Plains only grows stronger.