Wake Forest Demon Deacons

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper is seen at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Power Five conference races beginning to come into focus

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As we get set to embark on Week 8 of the 2016 college football season, we’re officially beyond the halfway point and closer to championship weekend than we are to opening weekend. And, with that, the Power Five conference races are starting to come into focus — but are far from finished.

This weekend, though, there are a handful of key matchups that could offer further clarity across the major conferences, although most, if not all, are still weeks away from being decided.

That said, here’s a look at where the Power Five conferences and, in four of the five cases, how their respective divisions stand before the eighth weekend of the regular season kicks off.

At 4-0, Clemson currently controls its own destiny in the division courtesy of the Oct. 1 win over 3-1 Louisville.  The U of L will be desperately rooting for Florida State, at 2-2 with one of those league losses coming at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in the middle of last month, to knock off Clemson next Saturday as well as the Tigers tripping up in one of their other three remaining conference games (Syracuse, Pitt, at Wake Forest) while also holding serve through the remainder of their slate.  FSU, with league losses to the U of L and North Carolina, will need a minor miracle to get back to the conference championship game.

Technically, 2-2 Wake Forest remains in contention, and still has games against Clemson and Louisville.  Then again, they’re Wake.

In all likelihood, the Coastal will come down to a three-team race: 3-1 North Carolina, 3-1 Virginia Tech and 2-1 Pittsburgh.  Tech has already beaten UNC, and will face Pitt next weekend.  The Tar Heels, meanwhile, own a win over the Panthers to go along with the loss to the Hokies.  Simply put, if Tech wins out (at Pitt, at Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia), they will claim the division and represent the Coastal against their Atlantic counterparts.

As you know, though, this division very rarely plays to the form it presents halfway through the conference season.

With all due respect to 2-1 Penn State, 3-0 Michigan and 3-0 Ohio State are on a collision course for an epic edition of the greatest rivalry in all of college football that will likely not only impact the division and the conference race but the College Football Playoff as well.  PSU could make me eat my words almost immediately as they play host to OSU in the always-dangerous white-out game later tonight; that said, if the Buckeyes can get past the Nittany Lions, they’ll have to traverse home games against Northwestern and Nebraska as well as road trips to Maryland and an abruptly vulnerable Michigan State before hosting UM.  The Wolverines get to host Illinois, Maryland and Indiana along with visits to rival Michigan State and Iowa before The Game.

Like the ACC Coastal, this division’s winner will very (?) likely come from a trio of teams: 3-0 Nebraska, 3-1 Iowa, 2-1 Northwestern.  The Cornhuskers already have a win over the Wildcats, while the Wildcats beat the Hawkeyes on the road the first weekend of this month.  Nebraska will close out the season against Iowa, while the latter has one sizable advantage over the other two as they avoid Ohio State completely while the others will face the Buckeyes in Weeks 9 (Wildcats) and 10 (Cornhuskers).  Both of those games, incidentally, are in Columbus.

There’s a potential wrench that could be tossed into the race, it should be noted, as 1-2 Wisconsin still has games remaining against all three of the West teams mentioned above.  Sweep those and get a little additional help, and the Badgers could be right back in the discussion by the end of the regular season.

BIG 12
Next season, this conference’s champion will be decided by a league title game.  This season, the standard round-robin format will determine the champion, and, because of that and the way the schedule is constructed, this league is as convoluted as any in the sport.

Three members are undefeated at the moment in Baylor and Oklahoma at 3-0, West Virginia at 2-0.  Two others are 2-1 — Oklahoma State and TCU.  How convoluted is the current state of the Big 12 race?  Just two games have been played between those five teams thus far: Baylor beating Oklahoma State and Oklahoma beating TCU.  A third will be played this weekend as the Horned Frogs will travel to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers in a contest that will allow a little — little — clarity when it comes to the conference race.

This could be the most simplistic of all the P5 divisions: barring something extraordinary taking place, the winner of this division will be decided in the Apple Cup between a 3-0 Washington and a 3-0 Washington State.  Or, at the very least, the winner will play in that rivalry game.  And, of all the developments thus far this season, that may be the most stunning.  To put a finer point on this divisional race, the team currently in third place at 2-2, 2015 Pac-12 champion Stanford, lost to both UW and Wazzu by a combined score of 86-22.

Utah and Colorado are tied atop this division at 3-1, with 3-2 USC still in the same neighborhood.  The Utes own a win over the Trojans, while the Trojans own one over the Buffs.  Utah and USC still have Washington on their schedule, while Colorado, which avoids UW, has to play a Washington State team that won’t face either of the other.  One date to circle on the calendar: Nov. 26, with the Utes traveling to Boulder to square off with the Buffs in the regular season finale.

A lot like the Big 12, this race likely won’t be decided until we get deep into November.

Despite its loss to 2-2 Tennessee, 3-1 Florida controls its own destiny in this division.  Win out, and the Gators will earn their second consecutive berth in the SEC championship game.  Their remaining league schedule?  The annual World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party grudge match with Georgia in Jacksonville, and road trips to No. 17 Arkansas and No. 25 LSU sandwiched around a home game against South Carolina.  UT, though, could easily win out as their lone remaining games consist of South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt.  While the Gators are currently in control, their path to Atlanta is much steeper than that of the Vols despite currently sitting in the driver’s seat — and knowing full well that that come-from-ahead loss to UT is riding shotgun.

This might be the most fun division in all of college football.  Again.  Alabama and Texas A&M both sit at 4-0, while Auburn and LSU are at 2-1.  The really, really fun part?  Only A&M and Auburn have met already this year, a Sept. 17 win for the Aggies on The Plains.  The Tide and Aggies meet in a critical matchup this afternoon, but several more critical contests await the division in the coming weeks.

In other words, grab your popcorn.  This thing is far from decided — a sentiment that’s far from the exclusive property of this division.

Entering Week 7, 10 teams vying to become bowl-eligible

WINSTON SALEM, NC - OCTOBER 30:  A general view of the outside of the stadium before the game between the Louisville Cardinals and Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field on October 30, 2015 in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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When the games with the late-night start times are finally put to bed early Sunday morning, we’ll officially have reached the halfway point of the 2016 regular season.  And, with that, we can also officially start looking at the postseason and the plethora of bowl games that will ensue.

Entering Week 7, there are already six teams that have reached the six-win threshold for bowl eligibility: Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Texas A&M, Washington and turnover-free Western Michigan.  A handful of teams — 10 to be exact — have the chance to join those half-dozen teams in becoming eligible to compete in the postseason.

Below are those 10 teams, their opponent this weekend, the last season in which they played in a bowl game and their current bowl streak:

Arizona State at Colorado (4-2), 2015, five straight
Baylor vs. Kansas (1-4), 2015, six
Boise State vs. Colorado State (3-3), 2015, 14
Houston vs. Tulsa (4-1), 2015, three
Nebraska at Indiana (3-2), 2015, eight
Ohio State at Wisconsin (4-1), 2015, three
Tennessee vs. Alabama (6-0), 2015, two
USF vs UConn (3-3), 2015, one
Utah at Oregon State (2-3), 2015, two
Wake Forest at Florida State (4-2), 2011, zero

Wake Forest football to honor The King, Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer, honorary captain for Wake Forest, salutes the crowd during pre-game ceremonies on January 2, 2007 at  the 73rd annual FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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To most people, myself included, Arnold Palmer was a larger-than-life figure who hard-charged his way into golfing lore with a swashbuckling style that will never, ever be matched. What some forget sometimes is that a path to national prominence that began in Latrobe continued on at Wake Forest.

Most certainly, The King’s alma mater hasn’t forgotten.

Palmer, a champion golfer for the Demon Deacons before ultimately turning pro, passed away late last month at the age of 87.  Thursday, Wake announced that all of the university’s athletic playing facilities, including BB&T Stadium, the football home of the Demon Deacons, “will have Palmer’s distinctive multi-color umbrella logo on or near the playing surface.”

The football team will wear a patch on its jerseys and sticker on its helmets to honor Palmer for the remainder of the year, as well as carry a Palmer umbrella flag as they take the field for every remaining home game.  Additionally, the team will honor Palmer with a special ceremony prior to this Saturday’s game against Syracuse.

While Palmer is gone, not only will one of golf’s finest ambassadors be remembered in the coming months at his alma mater, the Wake campus will continue to be littered with reminders of the legend:

Palmer received much recognition on campus during his life. There is one statue on campus and it is of Palmer and is located at the Arnold Palmer Golf Complex. There is an Arnold Palmer Dormitory on campus. Annually, Wake Forest’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year is recognized with the Arnold Palmer Award. And the University’s Traditions Council annually sponsors Arnold Palmer Day on Thursday of Masters Week where the student body is served complimentary Arnold Palmer beverages.

Status quo: ACC officially sticking with eight-game league slate

Associated Press

Monday, we asked the question, “Is a nine-game conference schedule coming to the ACC?”  Two days later, we all have our answer.

Following a vote of its athletic directors, the ACC announced Wednesday that the conference will continue to play an eight-game league schedule in football.  As of yet, there’s no word as to how the voting shook out, although the fact that Notre Dame has a football scheduling agreement with the league along with a handful of annual rivalry games with SEC teams likely made it at least an 8-6 split against going to nine league games.

The conference will continue to require its members to schedule at least one game per year against another Power Five conference member.

The Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten currently play nine-game league slates, with the SEC joining the ACC as the Power Five holdouts on that front. The Big Ten and SEC also have the Power Five requirement for at least one non-conference game per season.

Additionally, the Big Ten is the lone Power Five league to ban its teams from scheduling future games against FCS opponents.

Checking in on the nation’s longest winning & losing streaks

Alabama's head coach Saban instructs his players as they take on the LSU Tigers during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge
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Unbelievably, at the end of today, we’ll be more than one-third of the way through the 2016 regular season as the calendar flips from September to October. And, not surprisingly, some teams are faring better than others — and some, suffice to say, are not.

In “water’s wet, sky’s blue” news, defending national champions and undefeated top-ranked Alabama holds the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 in a row. ‘Bama’s last loss came Sept. 19 a year ago against Ole Miss. In fact, the Tide hasn’t really come close to seeing that streak end since as just two of their last 16 games have been decided by 10-plus points, with the lone exceptions being a 19-14 win over Tennessee in October of last year and 43-37 over Ole Miss just two weeks ago.

What might surprise you, though, is the second-longest streak behind ‘Bama. The holder of that honor? San Diego State, which has peeled off 13 wins in a row entering Week 5. Tennessee is the only other team in double digits, with 10 wins in a row dating back to last season.  The Vols’ last loss?  To the Tide, of course, a defeat that UT will get to avenge two weeks from today in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium.

A total of nine teams will also take the field Saturday with a winning streak of at least five in a row:

7 — Houston, Washington
6 — Louisville, Utah, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
5 — Boise State, Navy, Ohio State

Clemson could join some combination of the above at that five-game winning-streak plateau Saturday, but to get there they’ll have to beat… Louisville.

On the other side of the won-loss ledger, the “proud” owner of the nation’s longest losing streak entering the 2016 season was Kansas* at 15 straight, followed by UCF (13), Charlotte (10), Eastern Michigan (10), Oregon State (nine) and Boston College (eight).

All six of those teams have seen those losing streaks come to a merciful end, with EMU actually off to a 3-1 start to the year. The team that was just behind BC, Wake Forest, carried a six-game losing streak into 2016 before surprisingly (stunningly?) winning their first four games of the season.

So, with all of that winning from last year’s biggest losers, who’s the current “top” loser? That title now belongs to the Northern Illinois Huskies, the winners of the last six MAC West championships — and three of the last six conference titles — who have started this season with four straight losses to stretch their ignominious streak to a nation’s best/worst seven in a row. Just three other teams have a streak that began during the 2015 season: Florida International, which has lost six in a row and already fired their head coach; Arkansas State, which lost its first four of this season to push its streak to five in a row; and Georgia State, 0-3 on the season to add to a loss in the 2015 Cure Bowl for a four-game losing streak.

Two additional teams are winless on the season after winning their last game of 2015: Miami of Ohio and Rice, which are each 0-4 in 2016.

(*While Kansas’ overall losing streak came to an end, they’ve still lost 17 in a row against FBS opponents, with the last one of those coming in early November of 2015 against Iowa State.)