Weekend Preview: Noles look to continue roll, B1G match-up

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Oh, you think this is a down weekend for college football? Well, yeah, you may be right, but this week marks the first weekend of November and that means things are starting to heat up in the conference championship hunts. There is a reason November is the best month for college football. Trust me on this, once we get through this weekend thing will pick up in a hurry with next week. But before you write off this week, keep in mind that crazy things can happen when you least expect them too. Could we be lining up for a crazy weekend in college football nobody saw coming?

Getting back to the glory days: Florida State-Miami getting there

No. 3 Florida State (7-0, 5-0 ACC) and No. 7 Miami (7-0, 3-0 ACC) used to be something special in college football. It was appointment viewing in its heyday, and it may be getting to that point once again with both programs seeming to trend upward. The problem this week though is even though both are starring in the ACC’s second national spotlight of the season, only one seems to fit the part at this time. Florida State is there, and Miami is getting there. Al Golden‘s Hurricanes just aren’t quite there yet.

Florida State has shredded ACC opponents the last few weeks, including that blowout at Clemson two weeks ago. Miami is a top ten team, but they have struggled to climb the rankings while taking advantage of others stumbling along the way. Florida State is a huge favorite in this match-up of top ten teams, and if the Seminoles play the way they have been playing they will have an easy time creating a cushion against the Hurricanes as well.

A win will keep Florida State in the top three, and maybe even help boost them past Oregon, but this game may serve as a preview of this year’s ACC Championship Game as well. For Miami, take notes this weekend because a second game against Jameis Winston could be looming.

What about Alabama and Oregon?

No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) and No. 11 LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC) play each other next weekend, and they each get a week off to prepare for the usually physically demanding SEC West battle. The game will once again have a huge influence on what happens in the SEC West race to Atlanta, but Alabama is also hoping to get back to Pasadena to play for another BCS championship. This weekend will also be without No. 2 Oregon (8-0 5-0 Pac 12) and No. No. 6 Stanford (7-1, 5-1). The two Pac 12 North powers collide next Thursday night, and they are getting a bye week to prep for the game as well. Both the Cardinal and Ducks are battling for control in the Pac 12 North, which will likely lead to home field advantage in the Pac 12 championship game at the end of the regular season. The winner will also remain in the BCS Championship hunt as well. Oregon enters this weekend ranked second in the BCS standings, but Stanford is the highest ranked one-loss team, which puts them in prime position if some other teams take a fall in November.

Who’s the real B1G brother?

No. 23 Michigan (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) defeated No. 24 Michigan State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) last season but the Spartans have won four of the past five meetings and look to add one more this weekend. Michigan State owns the best defense in the Big Ten and Michigan has struggled on the road this season (UConn, Penn State), so it would appear Michigan State has the edge this weekend in East Lansing. The game actually is one of the more important ones in the Big Ten this month, with the winner will take control in the Big Ten Legends Division with the schedule winding down. The Spartans are 4-0 in Big Ten play with two road games coming up the next two weeks at Nebraska and Northwestern. If the Spartans have figured out their offense, which it seems they have the last few weeks, then Michigan could be in for a rough time against their “little brother.”

Baylor will not score this weekend

The only thing that may be able to prevent No. 5 Baylor’s (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) offense is the schedule. Baylor’s high-powered offense will get a chance to recharge their batteries this week as they get a bye. Baylor will return to action next Thursday when they host No. 13 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) in a huge Big 12 match-up. While Baylor may be off, there should still be some fireworks in the conference this weekend. No. 15 Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) and No. 18 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1) will meet in Lubbock in a top 20 match-up and each should have some offense to unleash in a wild shootout. This will be a good test for Texas Tech, who looks to bounce back after being defeated by Oklahoma last week. Each team has one loss in Big 12 play and trails Baylor by one game in the loss column. Needless to say, whichever team wins will remain in the Big 12 conversation with games against Baylor still to come on each team’s schedule.

Mismatch of the Week

No. 21 Northern Illinois (8-0, 4-0 MAC) remain undefeated with an 8-0 record and the Huskies are beginning to sniff around for a second straight BCS berth. This weekend Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois are on the road against one of the worst teams in the FBS, UMass (1-7, 1-3 MAC). The Minutemen are just 1-7 this season with their lone win coming against a Miami Ohio team still searching for their first win of the season. Northern Illinois should have an easy time keeping their BCS dreams alive and could rack up some style points in a hurry.

Show Me Something

No. 17 UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac 12) hung tight with Oregon for three quarters last week, a week after getting shut down by Stanford. The Bruins may still be a pretty good team but it has become clear they are not quite up to par with the top of the Pac 12 just yet. This week UCLA returns home to take on woeful Colorado (3-4, 0-4 Pac 12). Expect the Bruins to bounce back in a big way. Right now, No. 25 Arizona State (6-2, 4-1 Pac 12) looks like the team to beat in the Pac 12 North, but UCLA is right there. Circle the date now, UCLA hosts Arizona State on November 23.

The Streaks Continue

No. 4 Ohio State’s (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) winning streak extended to 20 games with last weekend’s 63-14 blowout of Penn State. As has been noted a few times by now, a 25-0 mark under Urban Meer will get Ohio State to Pasadena, but we just don’t know if it will be for the Rose Bowl or the BCS Championship. Ohio State’s winning streak is the nation’s longest active winning streak.

On the flip side, Southern Mississippi’s (0-7, 0-3 Conference USA)losing streak has hit a dismal 19 straight games. Southern Miss plays their next two game son the road, including this weekend’s trip to Marshall (4-3, 2-1). The best chance to snap the losing streak may not come until a few more weeks when Southern Miss hosts Florida Atlantic.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.