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Wake Forest takes ACC reunion over North Carolina

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Wake Forest started fast, then hung on for dear life to score a 24-18 win over North Carolina on Friday night, an important win over an ACC opponent for the Deacons as they prepare for their conference schedule, in the ACC.

If that doesn’t make sense, it shouldn’t. These Tar Heel State neighbors and ACC bunk mates, who played on an annual basis from 1919 through 2004, scheduled a non-conference series for tonight and 2021 in Chapel Hill to circumvent a bloated ACC schedule that saw them play just twice between 2015 and 2024 and only six times in the 20 seasons between 2005 and ’24.

As for the actual game, it started slow for both squads and even slower for UNC.

After seven punts to open the game, North Carolina (2-1, 0-0 ACC) saw its first successful offensive play of the game — a 17-yard Javonte Williams run — end in disaster, as he fumbled it away at his own 20, setting up a 2-play touchdown drive for the Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest (3-0, 0-0 ACC) didn’t need UNC’s help adding to the lead. The Deacons went 78 yards in five plays to push the lead to 14-0 to open the second quarter on Deacons quarterback Jamie Newman‘s second rushing touchdown, then increased the margin to 21 points through a 5-play, 85-yard march punctuated by a 51-yard bomb from Newman to Sage Surratt.

The lead could have been 28-0 or 24-0 at the half but, facing a 4th-and-1 from the UNC 6 with 5:56 left in the first half, Dave Clawson elected to go for it and paid the price when Kenneth Walker III was stuffed for no gain.

North Carolina finally got off the mat midway through the third quarter, converting its first third down on its 12th try, but its 56-yard march was halted when Sam Howell, who threw for 15 yards in the first half and was temporarily pulled for back up Jace Ruder in the second quarter, took a third down sack and the Tar Heels were forced to settle for a 49-yard Noah Ruggles boot.

Howell, pulled for a drive in the second quarter, dusted off that drive-killing sack and started to heat up for the Heels, finding Dyami Brown for 55 yards, taking the ball from the UNC 33 to the Wake 14. An 11-yard swing pass to Michael Carter put North Carolina in the end zone for the first time of the game at the 9:21 mark of the fourth quarter and put UNC officially on the comeback trail for the third time in as many games.

Needing a drive for the first time in the second half, a dormant Wake Forest offense could not deliver; the Deacons got an 11-yard run from Walker on the first snap, but then went three-and-out after. After the punt, a red-hot UNC offense needed only five plays to go 80 yards, most of them coming on a 50-yard Carter run. Howell, by this point fully channeling the fourth quarter energy he used to lead comebacks over South Carolina and Miami, fired a 17-yard touchdown pass to Brown, then hit tight end Garrett Walston for a 2-point conversion to pull the Tar Heels within 21-18 with 6:09 remaining.

Now desperately needing offense, this time Wake got it. Newman and running back Christian Beal-Smith carried the offense down the field for a 12-play, 61-yard drive that culminated in a 34-yard Nick Sciba field goal and killed all but the final 69 seconds.

North Carolina started its potential game-winning drive with a 10-yard completion to the sideline, but then the fourth quarter magic ran out for the Tar Heels. Out of timeouts after trying to stop Wake Forest’s previous drive, Howell used 30 seconds on a 6-yard run to the UNC 42 then, with the clock running, threw a 3-yard completion to himself on a deflected pass that saw him tackled in bounds and short of the sticks with the clock running at 15 seconds and, crucially, with the sticks showing 4th-and-1. Unable to spike it, Howell handed off to Carter, who failed to get out of bounds before the clock expired, ending the game.

The win is Wake Forest’s first over the Tar Heels since 2012, but its third straight over UNC in Winston-Salem.

Mike Aresco confirms AAC has received waiver to hold title game with 11 conference members

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Counting in college football is hard but at least the NCAA makes it easy to obtain a waiver to deal with such issues.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco confirmed to reporters during a break in SMU’s victory over Temple on Saturday that the league has received the necessary waiver for the 2020 season to hold a conference title game despite having 11 members.

“It’s really a relief that this got done,” Aresco said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The conference championship is so important to the league.”

The reason the AAC is in the position of needing to get a waiver is, of course, the result of UConn’s decision to re-join the Big East in most sports and try their hand at football independence starting next season. The conference has so far declined to pursue a new member to replace the Huskies, resulting in 11 football programs going forward unless they make significant changes this offseason.

NCAA rules dictate that conferences must have either 12 teams in multiple divisions or require a round-robin schedule in order to hold a league title game. The waiver allows the American to bypass the requirements and keep their existing contracts with ESPN in place going forward for such a game, resulting in a nice little windfall in addition to their standard broadcast contract with the world wide leader.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Aresco also confirmed that the league will abandon it’s two division format starting next season and that the top two teams in the conference will meet in the title game in a manner similar to the Big 12 — albeit with 11 teams instead of 10.

Like we said, it can be hard to count in college football but thankfully, there’s always a waiver from the folks in Indianapolis for that.

Ohio State knocks Clemson to No. 4 in latest AP Poll, SMU highest ranked Group of Five team

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Dabo Swinney remarked earlier this season that Clemson was back on the ROY (rest of you) bus… and perhaps there’s something to that for the defending champions.

Despite blowing out Louisville on Saturday, the Tigers actually dropped a spot to No. 4 in the latest AP Poll, getting pipped by new No. 3 Ohio State after the Buckeyes own blowout of a bad Northwestern team on Friday night.

That wasn’t the only notable change in the top 10 as Wisconsin predictably fell from No. 6 to No. 13 after their loss at lowly Illinois on Saturday afternoon, bumping nearly everybody else up in the pecking order and allowing Penn State to take their old spot just behind No. 5 Oklahoma.

Elsewhere in the poll, there’s a new highest ranked Group of Five team as No. 16 SMU supplants Boise State after the Broncos lost at BYU. BSU actually is behind No. 18 Cincinnati and No. 21 Appalachian State as well.

No. 23 Iowa State and No. 25 Wake Forest both returned to the top 25 this week after wins to supplant Washington and Missouri.

The full AP Poll heading into Week 9:

  1. Alabama
  2. LSU
  3. Ohio State
  4. Clemson
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Penn State
  7. Florida
  8. Notre Dame
  9. Auburn
  10. Georgia
  11. Oregon
  12. Utah
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Baylor
  15. Texas
  16. SMU
  17. Minnesota
  18. Cincinnati
  19. Michigan
  20. Iowa
  21. Appalachian State
  22. Boise State
  23. Iowa State
  24. Arizona State
  25. Wake Forest

Wisconsin, Boise State drop like a rock in latest Coaches Poll, Penn State moves into top six

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A weekend in college football that was filled with upsets of ranked teams predictably caused a bit of chaos in the latest edition of the polls on Sunday.

The biggest shuffling was left to the victim of the biggest upset of the still young 2019 season as Wisconsin fell like a rock seven spots to No. 13 in the latest Coaches Poll after the Badgers inexplicable loss to Illinois. Their vacation from the top 10 allowed pretty much everybody in front of them to move up a spot in the order, with Penn State the new No. 6 team in the country after beating new No. 20 Michigan.

Though UW tanked in the poll, they weren’t the biggest free fallers as that was reserved for Boise State, which fell eight spots to No. 21 after losing on the road to unranked BYU. The Broncos did start their backup QB in the game but voters likely only paid attention to the final score, which allowed new No. 17 SMU to become the highest ranked Group of Five team.

Washington and Temple both dropped out of the top 25 following losses, replaced by No. 23 Wake Forest and No. 25 Memphis.

The full Coaches Poll heading into Week 9:

  1. Alabama (44 first-place votes)
  2. Clemson (10)
  3. LSU (3)
  4. Ohio State (8)
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Penn State
  7. Notre Dame
  8. Florida
  9. Georgia
  10. Auburn
  11. Oregon
  12. Utah
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Baylor
  15. Texas
  16. Minnesota
  17. SMU
  18. Cincinnati
  19. Iowa
  20. Michigan
  21. Boise State
  22. Appalachian State
  23. Wake Forest
  24. Arizona State
  25. Memphis

Tennessee QB Brian Maurer suffers concussion against Alabama, his second in two games

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Jarrett Guarantano might be Tennessee’s quarterback a little longer than fans would like following the team’s loss at Alabama on Saturday.

According to head coach Jeremy Pruitt in his postgame press conference, Vols starting quarterback Brian Maurer was confirmed to have suffered a concussion against the Crimson Tide and that he is being placed under the standard evaluation protocol.

Complicating matters for UT and their freshman signal-caller is that this is not just a one-off injury but his second concussion in as many games. He was taken out of the first half in the team’s win against Mississippi State and then missed the final three quarters against Alabama after taking a hard hit that wasn’t flagged, much to the chagrin of the coaching staff.

Maurer was 5-of-7 passing for 62 yards (one interception) prior to exiting with the injury.

The Vols host South Carolina next weekend and then have UAB come to Neyland Stadium the week after, both contests that seem unlikely to feature Maurer as he recovers from such a concerning trend the past two games.