CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 25 Virginia

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2011 record: 8-5 overall, 5-3 in ACC (2nd-tie Coastal)

2011 postseason: Chick-fil-A Bowl (43-24 loss to Auburn)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked

Head coach: Mike London (36-18 overall, 12-13 in two seasons at Virginia)

Offensive coordinator: Bill Lazor (third season at Virginia, third as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 52nd rushing offense (162.1 ypg); 56th passing offense (238 ypg); 46th total offense (399.8 ypg); 86th scoring offense (23.2 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: six

Defensive coordinator: Jim Reid (third season at Virginia, third as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 48th rushing defense (139.5 ypg); 45th passing defense (212.2 ypg); 40th total defense (351.7 ypg); 46th scoring defense (23.8 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: five

Location: Charlottesville, Va.

Stadium: Scott Stadium (61,500; grass)

Last league title: 1989 (co-champs with Duke)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Winning five of six conference game had the Hoos eyeing a spot in the ACC title game heading into a home date with in-state rival Virginia Tech, although a 38-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Hokies ended any and all thoughts of a Coastal crown. The experience gleaned through that eight-win season, however, should serve Mike London and his players well as they look to build on that late-season conference momentum. The quarterback position seems in solid if unspectacular hands with the return of Michael Rocco. The backfield is also chock full of experienced backs, with three players capable of carrying the load at any given time.

The Bad
The conference road schedule, with trips to Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech on the slate. The non-conference schedule is no bargain, either, with a home date against Penn State and a road game at TCU in early-season offing. Add in a very suspect defense, and the Cavaliers could be traversing a rough road in matching last year’s win total.

The Unknown
As much as we love what London is doing in Charlottesville, we have to wonder if 2011 was a perfect storm that will be very difficult to repeat despite some significant inroads made on the recruiting trail. Of the Cavaliers’ eight wins, five of them came by a combined total of 15 points. Will the same breaks be caught this season? Given the schedule, the Magic 8-ball response at the moment would be a resounding “Reply hazy, try again.”

Make-or-break game: at Virginia Tech, Nov. 24
It’s been eight seasons and nearly nine years — Nov. 29, 2003, to be precise — since Virginia was able to beat its in-state rivals. As previously noted, all the Cavaliers needed to do to be the Coastal’s representative in the ACC title game last year was beat the Hokies the last weekend of November. That didn’t happen, of course, and now Virginia will be forced to travel to Blacksburg in its attempt to win just its second game in 14 attempts in a rivalry that dates back to the late 1800’s.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Michael Rocco
OK, this is a stretch. A significant stretch. But, if the defense is as suspect as we, well, suspect, the Cavaliers will be forced to score a lot of points just to stay in games let alone win ’em. And the triggerman of what’s expected to be a vastly improved offense is Rocco, who threw for nearly 2,700 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He must improve in the turnover arena — 12 picks in just 366 attempts — but, based on his work in the spring, should show improvements in all aspects of the position.

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Late heroics save No. 9 Oklahoma on the road at Kansas State after wild second half

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Just before the end of the first half, everybody was wondering if Baker Mayfield was 100 percent healthy. Just before the end of the second half, it became pretty clear he was doing just fine. The Sooners’ star quarterback was dazzling once again to power a last minute comeback on the road, leading No. 9 Oklahoma to a 42-35 win against a pesky Kansas State squad that was looking to pull an upset before some late heroics on the final drive.

The signal-caller appeared to get injured during a scramble late in the second quarter and was taken out in the red zone on the ensuing possession, used only as a decoy on a few wildcat snaps. As it turned out, that seemed to be a coaching strategy as OU rotated in backup Kyler Murray several times on ensuing possessions. Mayfield eventually wound up with an efficient 32-of-41 for 410 yards and two touchdowns passing while rushing for two scores and 69 yards as well.

Most importantly, he also got the win after perfectly executing a two minute drive that led to tailback Rodney Anderson (147 yards, two scores) hitting the corner for the game-winning touchdown.

That was all despite the best efforts of his counterpart Alex Delton, who was making just his second start behind center for the Wildcats. While he was solid as a passer (144 yards, one TD, one interception), the dual-threat was incredible on the ground and ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns. That led to quite the combination in the backfield as Alex Barnes managed 108 yards — 75 of which came on a touchdown run on the second snap of the game.

The close victory on the road keeps Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff race, even if the effort was less than impressive given the early struggles. The meeting between the youngest and oldest coaches in FBS proved to be quite the thriller in the end too, as Lincoln Riley claimed the ‘W’ over the Wizard himself Bill Snyder in what will surely be a memorable game for both sides.

WATCH: ‘Bama ‘bros brawl in stands during woodshedding of Tennessee

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Tennessee didn’t put up much of a fight on the field Saturday in Tuscaloosa, so a couple of fans decided to make up for it in the stands.

Alabama entered Saturday’s game against as a 36.5 point favorite over “rival” Tennessee.  When the dust had settled, the top-ranked Tide left with a 45-7 woodshedding that featured one Vols player showing the UA student section exactly how many wins his team has over FBS opponents more than midway through the 2017 season.

Also in the stands, there were these two knucklehead ‘Bama fans who decided to “throw down” for whatever reason.

The mixture of pregame alcohol (presumably) and in-game testosterone (undoubtedly) is indeed a potent mixture.

No. 8 Miami escapes at home vs. tough and gritty Syracuse

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Even the best teams in college football have to gut out a close call along the way to a possible conference championship. For No. 8 Miami (6-0, 4-0 ACC), today may have been that day. A week after Syracuse (4-4, 2-2 ACC) knocked Clemson from the ranks of the unbeatens, the Orange made Miami work for a 27-19 victory in Florida on Saturday afternoon that was much tighter than even that final score may indicate. Struggling to deliver a knockout blow, Miami finally got the decisive blow with a  33-yard touchdown run by Travis Homer to push the Hurricanes closer to victory.

Miami quarterback Malik Rosier passed for 344 yards and two touchdowns. Ahmonn Richards and Christopher Herndon IV each came close to 100-yard games, and Travis Homer rushed for 95 yards with the decisive touchdown run late in the game.

Syracuse never backed down against Miami and still managed to make a game of it despite having four interceptions thrown by Orange quarterback Eric Dungey. It was a poor day through the air for Dungey and the Orange (Dungey was 13-of-41 for 137 yards and four interceptions), but Syracuse made up for it on the ground by working their up-tempo style. Dungey rushed 20 times for 100 yards and was beat up throughout the night. After the game, Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz made it a point to seek out Dungey on the sideline to seemingly offer his respect for an incredible effort.

For another week, Miami is undefeated and remains in good position to potentially reach the ACC championship game for the first time in school history.

With the win, Miami retains their spot atop the ACC Coastal Division with a 4-0 record in conference play. The Hurricanes and NC State are the only teams without a conference loss so far. Next up for the Hurricanes will be a road trip to Chapel Hill next week against a struggling North Carolina team that was getting blasted on the road by Virginia Tech. The way things are unfolding in the ACC, Miami’s conference championship hopes may come down to the game against Virginia Tech on November 4, at home. If Miami can stay undefeated after the Virginia Tech game, they’ll host Notre Dame on November 11 with the possibility of perhaps thinking a bit more than just an ACC title run.

As for Syracuse, Dungey and the Orange get a well-deserved week off before getting back on the field. When they return to the field, they will do so in the state of Florida once more for a game against Florida State. As it turns out, bowl hopes could be on the line for each after Florida State dropped another game earlier in the day to fall to 2-4.

No. 1 Alabama matches series record with 11th straight win over Tennessee

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Tennessee wasn’t beaten by a cavalcade of big plays, special teams touchdowns and turnovers. Instead it was just a play-after-play-after-play destruction by the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide, resulting in a 45-7 Alabama win that wasn’t as close as the final score.

The Tide jumped to a 21-0 halftime lead thanks to a pair of 1-yard leaps by Bo Scarborough and an 11-yard dash by Damien Harris, and Jalen Hurts got in on the action with a 14-yard strike to Irv Smith, Jr., swelling the lead to 28-0 to open the second half.

Tennessee got on the board shortly thereafter, when Daniel Bituli stepped in front of a Tua Tagovailoa pass and raced it 97 yards for a touchdown. In typical Tennessee fashion, though, the score was immediately tainted by this:

Tagovailoa atoned for his pick-six with a 23-yard scoring dash at the 12:59 mark of the fourth quarter.

Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC) moved in position to record its first offensive touchdown of the game — scratch that, its first offensive touchdown in a month — with a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, but a run to the 1-yard line was negated by a false start penalty and Jarrett Guarantano was intercepted by Mack Wilson, who returned the ball to the Alabama 23-yard line. The interception extended Alabama’s streak of consecutive games with at least one takeaway to 35. Tennessee’s last offensive touchdown came with 25 seconds left in the second quarter of the Vols’ 17-13 defeat of Massachusetts on Sept. 23.

Tagovailoa capitalized on the turnover with a 60-yard snatch-and-dash connection to fellow freshman Henry Ruggs III at the 4:49 mark of the fourth quarter.

In a game that amounted to a televised practice for Alabama, the Tide used two quarterbacks, seven ball-carriers and eight pass-catchers. Hurts was 13-of-21 for 198 yards and a touchdown, and Tagovailoa hit 9-of-12 throws for 134 yards with a score and a pick. Harris led all runners with 13 carries for 72 yards, and Calvin Ridley hauled in eight grabs for a game-high 82 yards. Overall, Alabama ran the ball 53 times for 272 yards and four touchdowns, gained 35 first downs and averaged 7.02 yards on its 86 snaps.

Guarantano’s second start was one to forget. Immediately. He completed 9-of-16 passes for 44 yards with an interception and was credited with minus-12 rushing yards on 11 carries. As a team, Tennessee amassed 108 yards of total offense with seven first downs and converted 1-of-12 third down opportunities. The Vols ran only 46 offensive plays and averaged 2.35 yards on those plays.

The result marked Alabama’s 11th straight win in the series — beginning with Nick Saban‘s first season — and matched the record winning streak in a rivalry that dates back to 1901, matching Alabama’s 11 straight victories from 1971-81. Alabama is 32-14-1 against Tennessee since 1971.

Speaking of streaks, the win pushed Alabama to 8-0 on the year and 5-0 in the SEC, giving the Tide 31 straight regular-season wins and 22 consecutive victories against the SEC.