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Florida State may still gain ACC Atlantic edge in three-way tie-breaking scenario

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Florida State was on the receiving end of one of the season’s most lopsided losses for a power conference team in the early going of the 2016 season, courtesy of Louisville and Lamar Jackson. While the Seminoles took a setback in their first ACC game of the season, there is still just over three-quarters of the season left to play and there is still hope for the folks in Tallahassee to play for an ACC title. Writing off a team after just one week in September is never wise, of course, although a loss to Louisville poses as a tricky hurdle for Florida State. Florida State still has a chance to bounce back and make a run in the ACC, although they will clearly need some help from an unlikely ally; Clemson. And Houston?

In order for Florida State to play for an ACC title, the Seminoles very likely have to win their seven remaining ACC conference games. That would include a home win against Deshaun Watson and Clemson in November. Florida State loses a head-to-head tiebreaker with Louisville fo course, so the Seminoles need the Cardinals to lose twice to jump ahead of them in the ACC Atlantic Division. Louisville plays at Clemson in two weeks, so FSU fans will be rooting for the Tigers. But who else in the ACC is going to give Louisville a run? Take a look at Louisville’s ACC schedule and tell me how confident you are the Cardinals get tripped up, outside of Clemson;

  • Oct. 1 at Clemson
  • Oct. 14 vs. Duke
  • Oct. 22 vs. NC State
  • Oct. 29 @ Virginia
  • Nov. 5 @ Boston College
  • Nov. 12 vs. Wake Forest

The Clemson game may be a toss-up, but that is one favorable ACC schedule the rest of the way for the Cardinals. If Louisville wins at Clemson, they might as well book their rooms for wherever the ACC places its conference championship game right after the game, because that division will belong to them. But what if Clemson beats Louisville and Florida State beats Clemson and all three win their remaining ACC contests? What happens then? That may depend on what happens in the Louisville-Houston game and perhaps the Florida State-Florida game.

Sorting through the ACC’s division tiebreaker procedures, the ACC could feasibly have to go down the list until it gets to the tiebreaker that relies on the College Football Playoff rankings (a silly tiebreaker, but whatever). Here is the seventh tiebreaker, which is the one that could benefit FSU at the end of the year if it gets the help it needs;

The tied team with the highest ranking in the full [College Football Playoff] Standings following the conclusion of regular season games, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the two-team tiebreaking procedure shall be applied between the top two ranked tied teams.

How could this benefit Florida State? First, Florida State needs to win out the rest of the way, which would include a win over Clemson and a win over a potentially well-respected Florida (SEC East Division leader?) Assuming that happens, it would be expected Florida State would claw their way back up whatever ranking system you prefer to use. 11-1 Florida State would likely grab a spot in the top 10, even with a blowout loss at Louisville. Meanwhile, Clemson’s late-season loss at Florida State could be enough to drop the Tigers behind the Noles, but FSU may still be trying to catch Louisville, because a hypothetical loss at Clemson may not drop the Cardinals far enough down for FSU to catch-up for a while. Enter the Houston Cougars.

Louisville travels to Houston on November 17 for a game that already has college football fans getting excited. The way these two are playing, we could have a very significant showdown in order. Forget about what the game could potentially mean for the larger picture. If Louisville stumbles at Houston, the question of how far they could drop comes into play. With FSU theoretically on the rise in November, would a road loss to Houston be enough to allow FSU a chance to skip past the Cardinals? IT’s not entirely out of the question.

It still looks to be a pretty steep mountain for Florida State to climb, but the season is never defined solely by what happens in the first three weeks of a season. If it were, Ohio State would not have won a national championship two seasons ago and Texas A&M would have a couple more Heisman Trophy winners since Johnny Manziel. For Florida State, the Seminoles can only focus on what is in front of them now and see where things fall later on. The margin for error is thin for the Seminoles, but the door to an ACC title has not been slammed shut just yet.

Unless Louisville beats Clemson. Then the door will be padlocked for good in 2016.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

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We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.