Spurrier sings praises of East Carolina at Big Ten’s expense

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The SEC will soon require all members of the conference to schedule at least one school from another power conference the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 – each season. The ACC has a similar requirement and the Big Ten is moving in that direction as well. For some schools in the SEC and ACC, that requirement is filled with annual rivalries against a school form the other conference (Florida vs. Florida State, for example). South Carolina also gets that requirement filled with a rivalry game against Clemson, but Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier was still questioned about another opponent on the schedule this fall, East Carolina.

“Playing East Carolina is maybe a little bit better than playing one of those bottom-tier Big Ten teams,” Spurrier said (via 247 Sports). Leave it to Spurrier to offer a compliment that ultimately comes off as a dig at another school or conference.

In his defense, Spurrier’s Gamecocks will be taking on an East Carolina team that would probably be considered a favorite against Purdue or Illinois. In fact, East Carolina may have the best path to a big bowl game in the new College Football Playoff format than North Carolina, Duke, NC State or Wake Forest may have. The highest ranked conference champion from the “Group of Five” conferences (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt) will be given a guaranteed spot in the big revenue bowl line-up determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Was Spurrier out of line? As some have already noted, Ohio State and Michigan could say something similar about playing Kentucky or Vanderbilt most years. Take your pick of Colorado or Utah in the Pac-12, or Kansas in the Big 12 or Wake Forest or Duke in the ACC.

South Carolina hosts East Carolina on September 6, between home games with Texas A&M and Georgia. Each of the last three seasons for South Carolina has ended with a bowl victory over a team from the Big Ten.

For what it is worth, East Carolina is 0-4 all-time against the Big Ten, with all four losses coming against Illinois by an average margin of defeat of 13.5 points.

All-American Ed Oliver to miss fourth straight game for Houston

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At least this week there won’t be any pre-kickoff drama.

Because of an injury suffered to his right knee in the Week 8 win over Navy, Ed Oliver has missed the past three games as he works through the issue.  With a key AAC West matchup with Tulane looming Thursday night, head coach Major Applewhite confirmed Tuesday that the standout defensive lineman will be sidelined for the Green Wave game because of the same injury issue.

Double-teamed most times — and even triple-teamed on occasion — Oliver was held sack-less through the first six games of this season.  The last two in which he played, however, he was credited with three — two against East Carolina, one against Navy.

In March of this year, Oliver announced that the 2018 season would be his last at the collegiate level as he will leave the Cougars early and make himself available for the 2019 NFL draft, where he is widely projected to be a Top Five selection at worst.

After a consensus Freshman All-American season that saw him land on numerous first-team All-American squads, Oliver was a consensus All-American in a 2017 season that saw him become the first underclassman to win the Outland Trophy in the 70-year history of the award.

In his first two seasons with the Cougars, the 6-3, 290-pound Oliver had totaled 39.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.  In addition to the three sacks, Oliver has 13.5 tackles for loss this season; his 1.9 tackles for loss were tied for third nationally prior to his injury.

At 4-2, Houston is currently tied for first place in the AAC West with SMU and Tulane.  Houston has already lost to SMU this season, while they’ll face Memphis in the regular-season finale.  Whether Oliver will (or should) play in that game, or any other for the Cougars for that matter, remains to be seen.

Michigan State staying mum on starting QB

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Brian Lewerke or Rocky Lombardi? Stay tuned to find out.

Lewerke, the starter for most of the last two seasons, has been working his way through an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder. His streak of 20 straight starts was snapped last month because of the injury as Lombardi took over in the win over Purdue, although Lewerke returned to start the last two games.

In that last game, a loss to Ohio State, Lewerke struggled mightily (again), leading to questions as to just who will get the starting nod this Saturday against Nebraska. Posed that very question, Mark Dantonio declined to give any indication as to which direction he may be leaning.

“We make decisions and as we go forward those decisions become complicated at times, but we do the very best we can and everybody’s involved,” the head coach said by way of mlive.com. “I don’t really think it’s in this team’s best interest to air those decisions prior to football games. I think that’s something that needs to be kept in-house for everybody’s best benefits.”

Prior to suffering the injury in the Oct. 13 win over Penn State, Lewerke was completing 60 percent of his passes. Since then, he’s completing just 35 percent.

In his lone start, Lombardi went 26-of-46 for 318 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Duke loses DT Ben Frye to ACL tear

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Duke’s season of injuries continues unabated, with the Blue Devils’ defensive line the latest to suffer a hit.

Tuesday, Duke announced that Ben Frye has been diagnosed with a torn ACL and will, obviously, miss the remainder of the 2018 season. Per the school, the defensive tackle sustained the injury during practice last Wednesday.

The redshirt freshman has been credited with 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack in six games this season. Frye was a three-star member of Duke’s 2017 recruiting class.

This season alone, the Blue Devils have seen a dozen players with starting experience miss at least one game because of injury. Included in that group are defensive tackle Edgar Cerenord and defensive end Drew Jordan.

Top 10 stands pat in third edition of CFP rankings

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The third edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were unveiled Tuesday night and the top ten remained exactly the same from a week ago. Such a holding pattern was expected after the entire top 10 won a week ago.

It is the first time in the history of the CFP rankings the top 10 has remained the same from one week to the next.

Most notably, Oklahoma did not fall from No. 6 after being pushed to the limit by 5-4 Oklahoma State at home.

Kentucky was the highest-ranked team to lose, a 24-7 loss at Tennessee, and the Cats fell from No. 11 to No. 17.

UCF moved up to No. 11 and Syracuse to No. 12 ahead of their showdown with the Irish. UCF’s No. 11 ranking is the highest a Group of 5 team has ever appeared in 28 sets of CFP rankings.

Mississippi State remained the highest-ranked 4-loss team, edging out Northwestern at No. 21. Utah State, Cincinnati and Boise State joined the rankings in the final three spots.

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Georgia
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Washington State
9. West Virginia
10. Ohio State
11. UCF
12. Syracuse
13. Florida
14. Penn State
15. Texas
16. Iowa State
17. Kentucky
18. Washington
19. Utah
20. Boston College
21. Mississippi State
22. Northwestern
23. Utah State
24. Cincinnati
25. Boise State