Florida State v Clemson

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


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.

Restraining orders will keep three more Gophers from playing Saturday

Minnesota defensive back KiAnte Hardin (3) intercepts a pass intended for Iowa wide receiver Jerminic Smith (9) during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
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An ongoing situation at Minnesota has ensnared three more Gopher football players.

Thursday, a report surfaced that two Gopher players, freshman defensive end Tamarion Johnson and sophomore running back Carlton Djam, had a temporary restraining order filed against them by a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted back in September.  Friday, the attorney for those two, Lee Hutton, confirmed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that three other clients, cornerbacks KiAnte Hardin and Ray Buford and safety Dior Johnson, have been served the same restraining order in connection to the same allegations.

Because the woman who received the order is a student who works at TCF Bank Stadium on football game days, none of the five players will be permitted to play in Saturday’s homecoming game against Rutgers or even be in the stadium. The Star Tribune writes that the stadium’s “address is listed as one of two restricted addresses in the restraining orders.”

In mid-September, Hardin, Buford and both Johnsons were suspended in the midst of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault earlier in the month.  Citing insufficient evidence in the case, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced in early October that no charges would be filed and the players were reinstated.

Djam’s connection to the alleged incident is unknown.

According to Hutton, there is a hearing scheduled for next Tuesday morning in which he hopes to have all five orders overturned.

“What we are going to do is aggressively defend this action,” Hutton told the paper. “We are going to go on the offensive to show she only used the courts to destroy my clients’ lives.”

“It would not be appropriate for the University to comment on this matter to the extent it relates to University students,” a Thursday statement from the school on the restraining orders began. “The University reaffirms, however, that it will honor and comply with court orders.”

Hardin, a true sophomore, played in 13 games last season.  This season, he started the opener and, after sitting three games because of the suspension, had started the last two.  He’s also listed as the team’s starting kick returner.

None of the other four players are listed on the team’s most recent two-deep chart.

Buford has played in two games this season after taking a redshirt for his true freshman season last year.  The sophomore Djam has run for 33 yards on nine carries this season. A freshman, Tamarion Johnson was a likely candidate for a redshirt.

Auburn horticulture professor offers dire update on torched Toomer’s Corner oak

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Fans of the Auburn Tigers roll trees at Toomer's Corner after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 51-14.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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It appears that, once again, one of the oaks at famed Toomer’s Corner in Auburn will likely need to be replaced because of the actions of a lone dolt.

Following the win over LSU in late September, students and fans, as they have done for decades, rolled the oaks with toilet paper, only to watch as one of the trees go up in flames. A 29-year-old Auburn “man,” Jochen Weist, was identified on video using a lighter to set the toilet paper on fire and arrested.

Nearly four weeks later, it’s not looking good for the tree’s survival.

“Our message to the Auburn Family about the Magnolia Avenue tree remains the same as from the outset, that it is severely damaged from the Sept. 25 fire,” AU professor of horticulture Dr. Gary Keever said in a statement according to al.com. “We have conducted three assessments of its health, the most recent one showing 60-70 percent of the tree’s canopy is dead. A few new leaves have formed on some of the live branches, however, this does not indicate additional growth will occur or that those branches will be alive in the spring.

“Although the outlook is not promising, Auburn is doing everything possible to save the tree. We will continue to monitor the tree and provide updates as they become available.”

Weist was originally taken into custody on a charge of public intoxication. Additional charges of first-degree criminal mischief, a felony, and desecration of a venerable object were later added.

The case has been sent to a grand jury.

University officials have asked that the fire-damaged tree not be rolled. That tradition had just been revived this season following a three-year absence as a result of an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks.

Notre Dame AD: Brian Kelly ‘will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year’

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 01:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and his team wait to head on to the field for the start of the game against the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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For those looking — or hoping — for Brian Kelly to be on the coaching hot seat, it appears you’ll have to wait another year or more.

Kelly’s Notre Dame squad, which began 2016 ranked 10th in the Associated Press Top 25, has had its fair share of issues on the field, stumbling to a 2-5 start that’s the program’s worst since 2007.  There have also been issues off the field related to those on-field struggles, with Kelly firing his defensive coordinator and throwing his players under the bus for good measure.  Former Irish football players have sounded off and taken aim as well.

Add it all up, and it had some thinking that Kelly might not be long for South Bend.  At least publicly, Kelly’s boss is emphatically putting the kibosh on such talk.

“Brian will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told ESPN.com earlier today. “I can tell you I continue to have complete confidence in Brian. … I get to see the program day in and day out and I continue to have great confidence in Brian and confidence in our future as a program.”

Kelly is in the midst of his seventh season at the school.  In the previous six, he’d led the Irish to a 55-23 mark.  Included in that total are a pair of 10-plus win seasons as well as an appearance in the BCS title game following the 2012 regular season.

In late January of this year, Kelly and the university reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension that runs through the 2021 season.

When did Nick Saban realize he missed college football? His ‘first press conference’ in Miami

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban watches play   against the   Carolina Panthers   September 25, 2005 in Miami.  The Dolphins defeated the Panthers 27  to 24.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Yeah, he’s playing to, using the vernacular of the political season, his very fervent base, but it’s still not the least bit surprising.

When Nick Saban left LSU for the job with the Miami Dolphins in 2004, there were more than a couple of observers who were surprised the coach would leave the college game to get back into the NFL. When Saban, after infamously denying it, left the Dolphins to take the job at Alabama after just two seasons, there were more than a couple of observers who were not surprised the coach made such a decision.

Why? Because Saban just seemed like a coach who could relate better to — some would say control more — college players than those in the NFL. With Verne Lundquist serving as a guest on Saban’s weekly radio show Thursday night, the retiring college football broadcaster asked the Alabama head coach, al.com writes, “when in his Miami Dolphins tenure he realized he missed coaching college football?”

Saban’s answer was illuminating…

“Well, the day I landed in Miami and went to the first press conference,” Saban said. “I started to realize the difference between the NFL then and what the NFL was like before when I was in it with Bill Belichick from 1991-94 in Cleveland, before we had free agency, before the media had infiltrated sorta everything that was happening. I guess right then.”

… but not as illuminating as the coach, once again, addressing his version of the Drew Brees situation as it relates to the level control, or lack thereof, in the NFL compared to what he has in Tuscaloosa.

“When [the Brees situation] happened, I said I can’t control my destiny here,” Saban said. “I can’t control my destiny here. There’s too many things that, no matter how hard I work or no matter what I do, I can control my destiny better in college by working hard and making good choices and decisions and creating a good program for players. I think that happening made me lean back to coming back to college.”

Yes, Saban may have, in the eyes of some, unfinished business in the NFL. At 64 years old — he’ll be 65 Oct. 31 — don’t expect him, though, to at any point in the near or distant future to rectify that “hole” in his coaching résumé.