Dave Doeren

NC State embraces prime time opportunity


North Carolina State has been here before. Last season the Wolfpack hosted No. 3 Florida State on a Thursday night and pulled a major upset within ACC play by battling back from a 16-3 deficit to upset the Seminoles. The loss took Florida State out of the BCS championship picture (Florida State would lose again to Florida with the BCS Championship well out of reach) but NC State went up an down the rest of the way to a 7-6 record. On thursday night NC State looks to pull another Thursday night upset of the ACC’s top BCS contender, No. 3 Clemson.

“Obviously we’re excited for the opportunity to coach and play against a great team like Clemson on a national stage, and these are the kind of games that players and coaches alike all joined up to do these things because of this kind of opportunity,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren said during the ACC coaches teleconference Wednesday.

Doeren is no stranger to weekday games of course, having coached in the MAC the last two seasons at Northern Illinois. Despite having coached a handful of games during the week before, even Doeren is anticipating an electric atmosphere in Raleigh Thursday night.

“I haven’t been here for a Thursday night game, but from what I understand the people really pack it in,” Doeren said. “Everyone has been talking about it in town here for the last 10 days, so I know the people are excited to be here and support the team.”

NC State is off to a 2-0 start this season and can take advantage of the national spotlight Thursday night. Other than the NFL game in Philadelphia between the Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs (you may have heard a bit about this one), the ACC game between Clemson and NC State is the only game on the football calendar. If the Wolfpack were to score the upset, it could benefit the program when it comes time for pollsters to cast their weekly ballots. The last time NC State was ranked in the AP Top 25 was the final week of the 2010 season. A loss to Maryland knocked the Wolfpack out before a bowl game against West Virginia and they have yet to return to the polls since. This was a team that had Russell Wilson playing quarterback. He has payed for two different teams since then, Wisconsin and the Seattle Seahawks.

Doeren has told his players this is an opportunity to do something special.

“I told our players yesterday, how many times do you get to play where you’re one of the only games on TV in front of a sold-out crowd against a top ten team,” Doeren explained Wednesday. “I mean, just relish the moment, enjoy the moment, and really understand how lucky you are to be in that situation and go out there and give everything you have.”

How lucky will NC State have to be to beat Clemson?

No suspensions for Georgia linebackers Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12:  Darrius Sims #6 of the Vanderbilt Commodores is tackled by Johnathan Abram #25, Natrez Patrick #6, and Roquan Smith #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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After having a bit of a cloud of uncertainty floating above them the past few days, Georgia linebackers Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith will not face any discipline from the university and football program. Georgia announced that decision on Monday, saying the legal manner has been resolved from an on-campus dorm search by campus police.

“After receiving an incident report last week, we determined that neither Roquan Smith nor Natrez Patrick had violated any Athletic Association rules that would require suspension,”Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said in a released statement. “This included drug testing, which was negative for both student-athletes.”

Campus police were called to Patrick’s dorm room on October 15 to investigate a potential marijuana smell. No substances were discovered and no arrests were made.

Not losing Patrick and Smith is good news for the Bulldogs, as the two are the leading tacklers on Georgia’s defense, with 42 and 39 tackles, respectively. Each player released a brief statement in addition to McGarity’s statement.

“Since November 2015, I have dedicated myself to moving forward,” Patrick said in a released statement. “I’m blessed to have done that despite hurdles I’ve had to clear. This incident was simply another hurdle and I was confident I would successfully clear it. I’ll continue to move forward and I’m anxious to play on Saturday.”

“As a student at the University of Georgia and a member of the football team, I take this opportunity very seriously,” Smith said in his statement. “I have followed the rules of the Athletic Association and I am happy this situation has been rightfully resolved. I look forward to representing my school and my team on Saturday in Jacksonville.”

Northwestern CB Matt Harris retiring due to concussions

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 15:  A general view of the stadium as the crowd of 40,681 watches the game between Michigan and Northwestern on November 15, 2003 at Ryan Field at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan defeated Northwestern 41-10. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/ Getty Images)
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Northwestern cornerback Matt Harris is retiring from football after a series of concussions have put his health at risk.

“This is an incredibly difficult decision to reach, but it is the right one for me and for my future,” Harris said in a released statement. “There are few things I love more than playing the game of football and the game has provided me with so many opportunities, including the chance to attend this University. It has been a blessing to be a part of this community and learn so many lessons. Northwestern has given me so much, I look forward to taking full advantage of my chance to give back to the world around me in the future.”

Harris, a team captain in 2016, earned All-Big Ten honors in 2015 and has been named a two-time Academic All-Big Ten player during his time at Northwestern. Harris will retire having notched 161 tackles, six interceptions and three forced fumbles on the football field.

Harris is another name added to the growing list of football players making the decision to retire at such a young age. As time goes by, we learn more and more about the possible long-term effects of head injuries seen in sports, particularly in football. As a result, we are seeing players more frequently decide to step away from the sport in order to preserve their long-term health in the years to come. It is an unfortunate reality of the sport of football today, and one that continues to be addressed  at all levels.

Wisconsin LB Jack Cichy lost for the season (torn pectoral)

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Jack Cichy #48 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates with fans after defeating the LSU Tigers 16-14 at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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One of Wisconsin’s top defensive players will miss the remainder of the season. Linebacker Jack Cichy, despite saying after Saturday’s win against Iowa he was determined to play this weekend against Nebraska, will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral.

Cichy led the Badgers in tackles this season with 60, 45 of which have been solo tackles. What makes the injury extra frustrating for the Badgers is the team just welcomed back Vince Biegel from an injury. Biegel and Cichy made for a very talented linebacking duo in Madison, but that will be lost for the rest of Wisconsin’s Big Ten West Division championship hunt. The Badgers lost another linebacker for the season in the first game of the season when Chris Orr went down.

South Carolina turns QB show over to freshmen

STARKVILLE, MS - SEPTEMBER 10:  Brandon Mcilwain #11 of the South Carolina Gamecocks runs the ball during a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Starkville, Mississippi.  The Bulldogs defeated the Gamecocks 27-14.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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So long for having a veteran option to rely on at South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ are moving forward giving a pair of freshmen the chance to lead the offense for the remainder of the season. Jake Bentley and Brandon McIlwain will continue to take first-team reps with the offense

“I just feel like right now, just from an ability standpoint, those two guys give us the best opportunity,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said during his Sunday teleconference, according to The Post and Courier. “And they’re just going to keep getting better. Both of them do things equally well, and we’ll continue to rep that way.”

Bentley made his season debut over the weekend, completing 17 of 26 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns against UMass. McIlwain has appeared in six games this season, completing 56-of-106 passes for 567 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. At 3-4, the Gamecocks can still make a run to a postseason bowl berth, but having a quarterback capable of lighting a spark on offense is essential. Bentley did that against UMAss, but games against Tennessee, Florida and Clemson in the second half of the season will prove to be more difficult.

Regardless, this means we may have seen the last of Perry Orth at quarterback for the Gamecocks. Orth will step aside as South Carolina’s leading passer with 661 passing yards and a completion percentage of 63.3 without a touchdown and two interceptions. The senior, a former walk-on, will remain influential on the sideline, however.

“Perry’s been great in terms of supporting our guys and talking to them on the sideline,” Muschamp said. “He’s been a great teammate, he’s a great young man, and he’s a guy who certainly is a valuable member of our organization, and a guy I’ve got the utmost respect for.”