No. 23 North Carolina crushes Miami, moves one win closer to first ACC title game

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Let’s get the negative out of the way first: North Carolina has next to zero non-conference resume. The Heels beat FCS North Carolina A&T, FCS Delaware and 5-5 Illinois, then lost to 3-7 South Carolina on opening night in what will go down as perhaps the 2015 season’s most bizarre result. So if UNC wins out but finds itself on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday, that’s why.

And now the positive: this team is really good, and getting better by the week.

The 23rd-ranked Heels unloaded on Miami Saturday in Chapel Hill, scoring the game’s first 45 points en route to a 59-21 shellacking.

As is customary of 38-point detonations, Carolina out-played Miami on offense, defense and special teams. Marquise Williams completed 11-0f-16 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown while rushing 12 times for 101 yards and three scores. Elijah Hood added 17 rushes for 132 yards and a one-yard paydirt plunge that opened the scoring late in the first quarter.

As a team, North Carolina rushed 46 times for 298 yards and six touchdowns while liming the Hurricanes to only 99 yards on 32 carries. Most of the yards Miami did gain came well after the game was decided; the Hurricanes netted only seven yards on 18 first-half rushes.

Completing the trifecta, Ryan Switzer returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown, pushing the score to 31-0 and putting the game all but out of reach with 40 seconds remaining in the first half.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya netted 326 passing yards, but needed 43 attempts to get there. The sophomore tossed one touchdown, nudging the score to 45-7 at the 6:30 mark of the third quarter, but threw one interception (which Jeff Schoettmer returned 60 yards to the Miami 14, Williams scored one play later) and lost a fumble when the Hurricanes had a chance to chip into a 31-0 deficit just before the half.

The loss dropped Miami to 6-4 (3-3 ACC) with two games remaining in an already lost season.

North Carolina, though, moved to 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the ACC, needing only a win at Virginia Tech next Saturday or at N.C. State on Nov. 28 or one Pittsburgh loss in its two remaining games to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and a spot opposite No. 1 Clemson in their first ACC Championship.

We probably won’t see these Heels in this year’s College Football Playoff. But Clemson certainly isn’t looking forward to seeing them in Charlotte on Championship Saturday.

Alabama and Clemson remain top two national title favorites according to Bovada

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Alabama and Clemson appear to be on a collision course for a third straight meeting in the College Football Playoff national championship, and the Crimson Tide and defending national champion Tigers remain the top two favorites to win the national championship this season, according to the latest updated odds from Bovada.

Alabama’s odds have moved to 19/10 after being 2/1 last week. Right behind Alabama is Clemson at 9/2 a week after having 11/2 odds. Despite having one loss on their record already, the Ohio State Buckeyes remain in the thick of the race as well with the third-best national title odds after four weeks of play. Ohio State is listed at 7/1 by Bovada, staying ahead of USC (15/2) and Oklahoma (8/1) despite a head-to-head loss to the Sooners in Columbus in Week 2.

Penn State comes in at 10/1, followed by Michigan at 12/1. Georgia is on the rise as well with 14/1 odds to stay ahead of Washington (16/1). The biggest drop of the week was by Oklahoma State, who fell from 9/1 to 20/1 after a home loss to TCU. The Horned Frogs jumped up from 75/1 to 33/1 this week.

Bovada also updated their Heisman Trophy odds, with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley moving to the top of the board.

Saquon Barkley ascends to top of Bovada’s Heisman Trophy board

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Coming off a monster performance against Iowa, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is now the new leader in the clubhouse for the Heisman Trophy, according to Bovada at least.

Bovada’s weekly updated Heisman odds put Barkley atop the Heisman board with 7/4 odds. He moves ahead of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, USC quarterback Sam Darnold, and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville, and separates himself from Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Barkley has rushed for 518 yards with four rushing touchdowns in the first four weeks of the season. That alone would not be worthy of such high Heisman praise, of course, but Barkley has shown how good he is by contributing to the Penn State passing game. Barkley currently leads the Big Ten with 23 receptions and a conference-leading 335 receiving yards. Barkley has also added some yards on special teams returns, although he has not broken loose for a significant kickoff return just yet.

Barkley is not the only running back moving up Bovada’s board, however. Stanford running back Bryce Love went from 66/1 up to 33/1 following a big performance against UCLA. LOve is currently the nation’s leading rusher.

Two players were dropped from the Bovada board this week. Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins went from having 25/1 odds last week to off the board this week. I’m not entirely sure why Dobbins fell off the map so quickly, but he’ll have a chance to pop back on the board in the coming weeks. LSU running back Derrius Guice also fell off the board this week after having 50/1 odds last week.

Rutgers loses CB Blessuan Austin to season-ending ACL injury

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Rutgers cornerback Blessuan Austin will miss the remainder of the 2017 season after suffering a season-ending ACL injury on the road at Nebraska this past weekend. Rutgers head coach Chris Ash confirmed the unfortunate news for the Scarlet Knights at a press conference Monday morning.

“As most of you know, Blessuan Austin came out of that game,” Ash said, per NJ.com. “It was confirmed yesterday with an MRI that he has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season.”

With Austin now gone for the rest of the season just as Big Ten play opened up, Rutgers will bump Damon Hayes into the spot as a starter in the secondary.

“He played in place of Blessuan and did some good things. He has to continue to improve and develop,” Ash explained. “But I really like Damon and excited for him to go out and have this opportunity and be a full-time starter.”

Rutgers is currently ranked fifth in the Big Ten in passing defense with an average of 179.5 passing yards allowed per game, with five touchdowns allowed and five interceptions. Austin, a junior, had recorded one of those interceptions.

Luke Del Rio back in the saddle as Florida’s starting QB

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Before the headlines in Gainesville took a rough turn for the worst off the field, Florida head coach Jim McElwain created some news with addressing the offense. This week, Luke Del Rio will be the starting quarterback for the Gators.

This comes as little surprise for a team that has been struggling on offense for the majority of the season. Despite a miracle finish against Tennessee two weeks ago, Feleipe Franks struggled on the road against Kentucky, forcing McElwain to make a switch to get Del Rio back in the fold on the field. As a result, whether coincidence or not, Del Rio led the Gators to avoid the school’s first loss to Kentucky in over three decades.

First up for Del Rio as the Florida starter will be Vanderbilt, who comes off a drubbing at the hands of Alabama. Before the Crimson Tide came to Nashville, the Commodores were hailed as having one of the top defenses in the SEC outside of Tuscaloosa. This will be no easy task for Del Rio and the Gators against Vanderbilt because they still do not have the kind of offense that can overpower their opponent the way Alabama can.

Florida has a long way to go, but we’ll see if Del Rio can keep any momentum on their side for more than one week.