Duke takes lead in race to Charlotte with win over Miami

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Duke (8-2, 4-2 ACC) is one step closer to an ACC Championship… Game appearance. Yes, Duke football is now in a favorable position to get to the ACC Championship Game to face Florida State thanks to a 48-30 victory over Miami (7-3, 3-3 ACC) on Saturday in Durham. Duke scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to push a one-point lead to a 18-point victory and with some help around the conference on Saturday the Blue Devils are now in a great position in the ACC Coastal Division.

Because Georgia Tech (6-4, 5-3 ACC) lost Thursday and Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3 ACC) lost earlier in the day, Duke can clinch the ACC Coastal Division by winning their final two games of the season without the need to rely on tie breakers.Duke’s final two games of the regular season will be played on the road, at Wake Forest and at North Carolina. If Duke loses one of those final two games the Coastal Division will have to be settled by tiebreakers dependent on how many teams are tied for the division lead. Still, Duke’s head-to-head winning percentage against teams likely to be in that scenario should give Duke an edge.

This Duke team, and the rest of the ACC, may be on a level clearly below Florida State, but what the Blue Devils have done over the last season and a half is worthy of plenty of praise. On Saturday Duke put together over 500 yards of offense against Miami and hammered out key fourth downs on the ground, including a dagger by way of a 33-yard touchdown run by Shaquielle Powell on a fourth and one play in the fourth quarter. Although Miami put together a big offensive day with over 500 yards of offense and 30 points, the defense came through late in the game to hold off Miami.

Duke’s Josh Snead had nine carries for 138 yards and Jela Duncan came close to a 100-yard day as well. Brandon Connette scored four rushing touchdowns and passed for one more to fuel the offense. Connette became the school’s all-time leading touchdown rusher in the victory as well.

The win was Duke’s eight of the season, giving the Blue Devils their most wins in a single season since 1994. The last time Duke won nine games in a season was 1941. Duke has only won nine games in a season four times in program history.

Now, what about Miami?

The Hurricanes have lost three straight games and they have been plunging since facing Florida State as a top ten team. Injuries have cost Miami of course, but the Hurricanes need to stop the bleeding quickly. Miami will still be going to a bowl game but now the Hurricanes are in fourth place in the ACC Coastal Division and losing bowl standing. Miami takes on Virginia (2-8, 0-6 ACC) at home next week and should be able to get back in the win column. It is not too late to end the season on a high note.

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.