It is well beyond time to start recognizing the good work being done this season by the North Carolina Tar Heels (8-1, 5-0 ACC). After picking up two pivotal wins against Pittsburgh last week and Duke this week, UNC is now in the pole position in the ACC Coastal with a chance to play in its first ACC Championship Game at the end of the season. That has become the reality of the situation after UNC pounded rival Duke 66-31 today on Chapel Hill.
This was a total beatdown from start to finish by UNC, a week after Duke was snakebitten by Miami (and the ACC officials). The Tar Heels clobbered Duke in the first quarter (21-3), outscored them in the second (17-7) and edged them in the third (21-14). UNC quarterback Marquise Williams completed 23 of his 35 pass attempts for 494 yards and four touchdowns before getting an early rest in the second half. Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer each went for at least 100 yards and four different Tar Heels players caught a touchdown pass. There was simply no slowing down UNC’s offense for Duke’s defense. Duke’s offense did itself no favors either with three turnovers in the game.
UNC has now won eight straight games, with the lone loss coming in the season opener against South Carolina. In that game, Williams was picked off twice in the end zone. Since then, Williams and UNC have been on a roll. UNC has scored at least 40 points in five games in this eight-game winning streak and each win has come by a double-digit margin all but twice. IF UNC manages to get to the ACC Championship Game, they could be talented enough to give Clemson or Florida State a good scare if they keep playing this way down the stretch.
The final games of the season are none to take for granted for UNC of course. Next week Miami comes to town, which is followed by a road trip to Virginia Tech and a regular season finale at home against North cArolina State. There is still work to be done, but right now it is all in front of them, along with some serious momentum.
Well, that didn’t take very long at all. Or, for some Arkansas fans, maybe it took too long.
Arkansas has officially parted ways with Bret Bielema as head coach of the Razorbacks. The official announcement was made minutes after Arkansas ended their regular season with a home loss to Missouri, with a press conference scheduled for Friday evening.
Bielema came to Arkansas with as solid reputation as you could find at the time at the end of the 2012 season. After guiding Wisconsin to a third-straight Rose Bowl appearance (Bielema left Wisconsin prior to coaching the third Rose Bowl in that run), Bielema was expected to be able to bring a model of consistent winning to the Arkansas program. Bielema claimed he made the decision to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas because he would have a better chance to compete for a national championship with the Razorbacks, but the wins never piled up the way he and Arkansas leaders and fans envisioned.
In five years at Arkansas, Bielema was 29-24 with an even more lopsided result in SEC play over the years. In 2017, Arkansas finished the year with a second losing season under Bielema, and late in the season the school also fired the man who originally hired Bielema, former athletics director Jeff Long.
Arkansas joins Florida, Tennessee, and Ole Miss among SEC schools now looking for a new head coach.
The Bret Bielema era at Arkansas has officially come to an end, but at least Arkansas went down fighting. Arkansas (4-8, 1-7 SEC) came up just short at home against Missouri (7-5, 4-4 SEC) in the regular season finale as a late go-ahead field goal lifted the Tigers to a 48-45 victory. Arkansas announced a press conference for later in the evening to officially address the dismissal of Bielema.
The win clinched a winning season for Missouri, which is an incredible feat given how this season started out. The Tigers were really struggling in the first half of the season after suffering blowout losses at home to South Carolina, Purdue, and Auburn and on the road against Georgia. During that rough stretch, head coach Barry Odom came off sounding like he was under extreme pressure when he passionately defending himself as being the right coach for the job. Turns out, he was right. Missouri ended the season on a six-game winning streak as they now prepare to go to a bowl game few would have seen coming back in October.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock passed for 448 yards and five touchdowns in the game as the Tigers managed to dig out of an early hole and then come up with just a few more plays than the Razorbacks. Missouri racked up 696 yards of offense and 35 first downs. And it didn’t hurt when Bielema made some bizarre coaching decisions in the fourth quarter.
As Missouri goes on to prepare for whatever bowl game may be coming their way, Arkansas has some work to do with its football program. This is the second losing season under Bielema for Arkansas, with the first being in his first season on the job since leaving Wisconsin and the Big Ten. In five seasons at Arkansas, Bielema was 29-34.
San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny became the 22nd player in FBS history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season when he rattled off a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a game against New Mexico.
Penny eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark a season after former Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey accomplished the same feat. That also made some history, with San Diego State becoming the first school in FBS history to have two different players run for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
We may not be quite done with the 2,000-yard rushers this season either. Stanford running back Bryce Love begins the week with 1,723 rushing yards this season. This week, Stanford faces a Notre Dame team that has allowed 200+ rushing yards each of the past three weeks. There is also the possibility Love gets to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game for another opportunity to tack on the yardage. Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor is also in striking distance with 1,657 yards this season, and he is guaranteed a chance in the Big Ten championship game.
Penny had been on the Heisman Trophy radar earlier in the season, and some will argue he is worthy of a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation as much as any other players who may be heading there. Penny was not named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back. Love, Taylor and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley were named finalists for the award earlier this week.
The preseason favorite to win the MAC is now one step closer to coming through on that expectation. Toledo (10-2, 7-1 MAC) clinched the MAC West Division on Friday afternoon by defeating the defending MAC champ, Western Michigan (6-6, 4-4 MAC), by a score of 37-10.
Toledo will play Akron, the East Division champion, in the MAC Championship Game on Dec. 2 at Ford Field in Detroit. Toledo will be playing in the MAC Championship Game for the fifth time, but this will be their first trip since 2004. Akron is also ending a championship game drought by making their second appearance and their first since 2005. The two schools have not faced each other in the MAC Championship Game until this season.
Western Michigan represented the MAC in the New Years Six bowl lineup a year ago after going undefeated in the regular season and being the highest-ranked conference champion among the Group of Five conferences. The stakes will not be that high this season for Toledo or Akron. With two ranked teams in the American Athletic Conference expected to play for the AAC championship (UCF and Memphis are currently ranked, but USF would likely be ranked with a win over UCF), and Boise state floating in the bottom of the top 25 from the selection committee, even a Toledo blowout of the Zips would not likely be enough to make a push in the final week.
Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Rockets were 7-of-14 on third down conversions in the game. The Rockets are expected to be a sizable favorite against Akron next week.
At 6-6, Western Michigan is bowl eligible.