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Tag:T.J. Graham
Posted on: December 28, 2011 12:07 am
 

QUICK HITS: N.C. State 31, Louisville 24

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

N.C. STATE WON: 
The Belk Bowl wasn't supposed to have a lot of fireworks and explosive plays, but no one told the Wolfpack. Mike Glennon hit a pair of long touchdown passes -- including a 67-yarder to the electric T.J. Graham -- on his way to a 265-yard, 3-TD night, All-American safety David Amerson collected his ACC record-breaking 12th interception in 65-yard pick-six style, and NCSU rode those big plays to a 31-10 second-half lead. Though Charlie Strong pulled out as many stops as he had to make the comeback -- a fake punt, surprise onsides, throwback passes, and more -- the Wolfpack defense never looked like they'd yield that kind of lead, and finished the game having allowed the Cards just two touchdown drives longer than five yards.

WHY N.C. STATE WON: The final yardage totals: Wolfpack 351, Cardinals 391. So in a game as statistically even as this one (an unsurprising development, given their relative similarities, records, etc.), you'd expect it to turn on a handful of huge plays. And not only was that the case, but it was the NCSU defense that stepped up and made them. Amerson's thrilling interception return was one, but the Wolfpack also made a pair of huge fourth-down stops to deny the Cards what should have been multiple serious scoring opportunities. The first came late in the second quarter, with Dominique Brown stuffed on a 4th-and-1 at the NCSU 31; the second came in the fourth, with Louisville down 14 and desperate, when Victor Anderson went nowhere on 4th-and-1 at the Wolfpack 34.

Combine those two stops with the Cards' three turnovers, and it added up to just too many missed opportunities for a Cardinal offense not exactly known for its point-scoring prowess in the first place.

WHEN N.C. STATE WON: Not until a 4th-and-23 midfield heave from Teddy Bridgewater on the Cards' final drive was picked by Amerson -- extending his ACC record to 13 -- with under 40 seconds remaining.

WHAT N.C. STATE WON: In the grand scheme of things, not that much; moving from 7 to 8 wins after the roller coaster of the Wolfpack's season (lose to Boston College, annihilate Clemson) won't change the overall picture of the program's 2011. But it does offer some maor optimism going forward for the Glennon era, particularly with talents like Amerson around, too.

WHAT LOUISVILLE LOST: On the other side of the coin, one bowl loss doesn't change the general upward trend of the Cardinals under Strong, but it does show that -- considering the ACC also-ran Wolfpack weren't exactly heavyweights -- there's still a good ways to go before the 'Ville enters the ranks of the national elite.

FINAL GRADE: As with the Little Caesar's Bowl earlier in the evening, it's not accurate to say that the Belk Bowl was the best-played game we've seen this bowl season. But what it might have lacked in crisp execution and disciplined performances, it made up for with the high-wire theatrics of Graham, Amerson, and the dynamic Bridgewater, not to mention the Cardinals' dramatic-but-doomed late-game rally. We'll admit it; this game was far, far more entertaining than we expected. B+.

Posted on: December 7, 2011 6:49 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 7:05 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-ACC First Team

Posted by Chip Patterson

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the ACC.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

David Wilson, running back, Virginia Tech

Throughout the regular season, no player was more consistent than Virginia Tech running back David Wilson. Championship game performance aside, Wilson was the answer every single time the Hokies needed a jolt for their occasionally-sputtering offense. As Logan Thomas grew into the starting quarterback position, Wilson was there as a crutch to help draw the attention of the opposing defense and deliver that home run play to seal a victory. He led the conference in rushing, totaled over 2,000 all-purpose yards, and was one of major reasons Virginia Tech made the ACC Championship Game for the fifth time in seven years.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Luke Kuechly, linebacker, Boston College

Arguably one of the best linebackers in Boston College history capped off his junior year by leading the nation in tackles for the second year in a row, and the . Kuechly sense for where the play is going is uncanny, and his physical abilities on the field make him deserving of his nickname: Superman. Off the field he'd remind you more of Clark Kent, but Kuechly credits that intense film study as a primary reason for his success. He averaged over 15 tackles per game in 2011, and added three interceptions including one pick-six. This is likely it for Kuechly, who is eligible for the NFL draft, but it has been a privilege to watch him dominate the position for the last three seasons.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Clemson

The thing that makes Watkins a nightmare for opposing teams is the different ways he can have an effect on the game. Any time the explosive wide receiver has the ball in his hands, he is a threat to break loose and reach the end zone. Watkins lines up at wideout, slot receiver, H-back, runs end-arounds, and is both a kick and punt returner. On defense you have to be aware of where #2 is at all times, and in the special teams you have to decide whether you want to put the ball in his hands. Watkins also totaled over 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2011, something that has only been done six times in ACC history.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Mike London, Virginia

London's second season at Virginia was supposed to be another building block for the promising young coach back in his home state. After pulling in a top-ranked recruiting class in February, you could see the momentum moving towards Virginia becoming a player in the ACC once again. But with a roster of Al Groh's leftovers, the media picked the Cavaliers to finish only ahead of Duke in the ACC's Coastal Division. Virginia head very few stars, but London had them playing tough and physical football late in the season as they tore through the conference schedule and came within a game of clinching the school's first share of the ACC Coastal Division title.

All-ACC Offense

QUARTERBACK

Tajh Boyd, Clemson

Throwing for over 3000 yards with 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions is not simply the product of a "system." Boyd struggled some down the stretch - possibly the result of injuries along the offensive line - but when he was rolling no quarterback was better than the Tigers' redshirt sophomore. Boyd was given an arsenal of weapons at the skill positions, and he excelled at spreading the ball around to keep defenses on their toes. What's really scary is that Boyd and most of his comrades will be back to defend Clemson's title in 2012.

RUNNING BACKS

David Wilson, Virginia Tech and Lamar Miller, Miami

Like Wilson, Lamar Miller was a steady producer in an unsteady offense. The Miami offensive line dealt with injuries and position shifting all season, but Miller showed the ability to adapt on the fly and finished the season with over 1200 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Also like Wilson, Miller is nearly uncatchable if he can hit the sideline in space and will be a very high prospect if he decides to make the jump to the league after this season.

WIDE RECEIVERS


Dwight Jones
, North Carolina and Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Jones and Watkins each had over 75 receptions, 1100 yards, and exactly 11 touchdowns in 2011. Only Wake Forest's Chris Givens was better in any statistical category (1.276 yards) and no wide receiver meant more to their team than the senior leader and the freshman phenom. They make an odd pair, but they were the two most consistent performers on the outside all season in the ACC.

TIGHT END

Dwayne Allen, Clemson

Allen's size and speed make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, and only a case of turf toe slowed him from taking over a few games down the stretch. There was no tight end in the conference that jumped out quite like Allen, who was a red zone monster with eight touchdowns on the season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Phillip Price, Clemson; Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina; Joe Looney, Wake Forest; Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech; and Jay Finch, Georgia Tech

The value of many of these offensive linemen was seen this season not just by what they did on the field but by how much their team was hurt when they were off the field. Significant drop-offs for these units that were otherwise rock solid showed the value of lineman like Phillip Price and Jay Finch, while others like Joe Looney stacked pancakes like an IHOP.

All-ACC Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

Andre Branch, Clemson; Quinton Coples, North Carolina; Joe Vellano, Maryland; Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Clemson's dominant defensive linemen were given a green light to create havoc in the trenches all season, and that's exactly what they did. Vellano totaled 94 tackles on the season, but it was his 20 tackle performance in a 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech that stood out when very little for the Terps was working. Coples received extra attention and double-team treatment all season, yet still finished second in the ACC with 7.5 sacks.

LINEBACKERS

Sean Spence, Miami; Luke Kuechly, Boston College; Zach Brown, North Carolina

The linebacker position was LOADED in the ACC. Terrell Manning from NC State, Bruce Taylor from Virginia Tech, Jeremiah Attaochu from Georgia Tech all could have been on this list, but these three players meant the most to their team at the position. Kuechly's accolades are well documented, but Spence and Brown took leadership of their group and led by example as playmakers all over the field.

SECONDARY

David Amerson, NC State; Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech; Matt Daniels, Duke; Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

Amerson came one interception away from breaking the ACC single-season record set by Dre Bly in 1997, and was an unsuspected star in a unit that was considered a weakness coming into the season. The secondaries in the ACC were also strong for the most part, but Hosley, Daniels, and Fuller got the nod for their flexibility to move positions/responsibilities yet still have a dramatic impact on the game. Fuller actually ranked 15th in the ACC in sacks with 4.5, just a half-sack behind teammate Bruce Taylor.

SPECIALISTS

PK Cody Journell, Virginia Tech; P Shaun Powell, Florida State; KR/PR T.J. Graham, NC State

T.J. Graham and Sammy Watkins could have tied for the specialist honor, but I gave Graham the nod for his contributions across his career and the aforementioned Watkins praise currently covering this post. The placekicking was pretty dismal in the ACC, but Journell was one of the few consistent-ish kickers in the league. Powell is arguably one of the best punters in the nation, and similarly stood out after a season of questionable punting.

Think anyone got snubbed from the All-ACC list? Brag, boast or complain at our new Eye On College Football Facebook page.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as Saturday's classic battle between Stanford and USC was about Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes and the Cardinal's national title dreams, it was hugely important for the man pacing the home sideline with a laminated playcard.

Yes, USC lost, there's no denying what really matters and what the game will represent in the media guide years for now. But, when combined with the way the Trojans beat Notre Dame last week and their inspired-but-not-quite-good-enough play against Stanford, I think we can finally come to one conclusion about Lane Kiffin that we couldn't beforehand: he can coach. We're still not sure if he can win quite yet, but the question marks about his coaching abilities have been answered.

Given his record, 12-21 with the Oakland Raiders and at Tennessee, it was easy to be skeptical about Kiffin. His resume had an impressive collection of jobs before he turned 34 but he still couldn't shake the label that he was riding on the coattails of his father Monte and Pete Carroll. The NCAA violations and brash nature while with the Vols only enhanced negativity. Last season's 8-5, 5-4 in the Pac-10, record didn't answer any questions. He was blown out by Oregon at home and lost to a lowly Oregon State team in Corvallis on top of three losses by seven points. His offensive unit was good but struggled at times. Jokes about him firing his father for the Trojans' defensive woes had some truth behind them.

2011 wasn't a make or break year but it was important to Kiffin and the USC program as a whole to take another step back to where they were under Carroll despite being under the cloud of NCAA sanctions. The disrespect was evident when the Trojans were a nine point underdog in South Bend despite the Irish's penchant for turning the ball over in big games.

As celebrated as Brian Kelly was in his first season, he came into the game with a 12-7 record while Kiffin was one game better at 13-6 at USC. The tone was set early last week with an impressive opening drive to quiet the Notre Dame crowd and the Irish were never really back in the game after that.

Afterward, Kiffin was elated in the locker room and was extra happy to ruin a game Kelly had built up to be the Super Bowl for his team. He acknowledged it was the biggest win since he arrived in Los Angeles and he was right, in his second season he finally had a marquee victory.

Coaches and players vehemently dislike the term 'moral victory' because they understand the bottom line: you still lost. Still, there are plenty of positives in defeat and we learned a few about USC this week after the three overtime loss to Luck and the Cardinal.

The defense is not terrible like we thought it was. It's not great by any stretch but the defensive line can put pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers are quick enough to make plays in space and the secondary is young but rounding into form. On offense, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods have something special going on, the offensive line has exceeded expectations and the running game has come into its own the past few weeks.

USC didn't win on Saturday but they came close and that counts for something against a team that had reeled off 10 straight wins by 25 or more points. Luck, the best quarterback in the country by far, looked human at times and the USC offense looked like it was on the cusp of being great.

Lane Kiffin will still be thought of negatively, especially in the South, but he's answered a few of his critics' questions this season. He can coach and he can coach offenses that put up points. Now is the time to win the big, big game that his predecessor was known for. Kiffin's insistence after the game about calling out the referees for the final play of regulation - "They lied to me," he said Sunday - knowing that a reprimand from the Pac-12 was coming was taken by some to be whiny but I saw what some of his players did - that he'd fight for them until the battle could no longer be won, and even a little more. Even in retrospect, his play call of a tunnel screen to Woods doesn't look as terrible as it was when you consider he had two timeouts and the play was designed to go up field.

The last time USC lost a triple overtime game to a Bay area team they went on a historic run. No one is saying the same will happen under Kiffin, especially as the program begins scholarship reductions this season, but it's a good omen.

Last Saturday the Coliseum was rocking, the team was playing well and the coach wasn't a question mark. Kiffin can coach, now it's time to see if he can win big games.

Stat of the week

Via the Associated Press, Texas Tech is second team since 1989 (when the AP Poll expanded to 25), to go from no votes to ranked to no votes in three weeks. The other was Washington after they beat USC in 2009.

Stats of the week

- Five Big 12 teams are ranked 90th or worse in total defense, complete with Kansas being the worst in the country giving up 555 yards and 49.5 points per game. That might explain why three of the top five passers in the country are from the conference. The Jayhawks also only had 46 yards of total offense this week.

- Two candidates for most disappointing team of they year, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, are 110th and 118th respectively in turnover margin.

- Despite running so much, Georgia Tech is a third-down machine. They have the fifth-most third down attempts in the country yet are converting on 57.6% of them, best mark in the country by nearly 2%.

- The much maligned Michigan defense has taken a leap in several categories under Greg Matison but perhaps the most important: they lead the country in red zone defense. The Wolverines have only allowed 13 scores all year from inside the 20.

- If you had to guess who leads the country in time of possession, you'd probably start with a Georgia Tech or an Army. It's actually Texas, who holds onto the ball for over 35 minutes per game.

- After facing Oklahoma State, Baylor's defense dropped from 97th in total defense and 101st in scoring defense to 108th and 115th. Missouri went from 29th and 25th in the two categories to 51st and 46th. Texas went from 24th and 47th to 30th and 56th. Bottom line, your defense won't look too good in the stats after facing the Cowboys.

- Auburn is 289-4 all time when scoring 30-plus points. One reason why Gus Malzahn is being paid $1.3 million a year.

- This is the first time Georgia has beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same year since 1988. There are only three players on the Bulldogs' roster that were born before then. The Gators' four game skid is the first of any kind at the school since 1988 and first in the SEC since 1979, when head coach Will Muschamp was eight.

Yard-by-yard

- It was only a matter of time before the Manhattan Miracle came to an end. Oklahoma had been shocked the week before by Texas Tech and Kansas State was the unwitting opponent they took it out on. Landry Jones threw for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns, impressive considering the quarterbacks that have been churned out under Bob Stoops recently. His favorite target, Ryan Broyles, also moved into first place on the Big 12 career receiving list. Not all was crimson Saturday however, as running back Dominique Whaley fractured his ankle on the very first play of the game. Though overwhelmingly a passing team, the balance that the running game had with Whaley will be missed unless the Sooners find someone to step up. Kansas State will have to regroup after the Big 12's previously top-ranked defense was shredded by Jones. They rallied in the second quarter but that was about the only time the Wildcats could get something going.

- Say what you want about Oklahoma State's 111th ranked defense but they bottled up Robert Griffin III, shutting Baylor out in the first half and allowing just one score in the red zone all game. The 622 yards allowed is concerning but they allowed a good chuck of the yards when the game was well out of hand. It seemed like the Cowboys were going to be locked in a tough one once the Bears drove down to the one-yard line on their first drive but the defense held and the offense drove 99-yards for a touchdown to set the tone early. After that, it was like Mike Gundy's squad was shot out of a cannon. Particularly impressive was running back Joseph Randle, who had 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead a rushing attack that rolled up over 300 yards for the first time in over two years. It's hard to look at the Cowboys and see anybody but Oklahoma stopping them from booking a trip to New Orleans.

- It seems to happen every game but it does seem concerning that Oregon led Washington State by only five points before taking care of business in the second half in a 43-28 win. The big news was the return of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, who both started. James ran for 53 yards and wore a brace after dislocating his elbow a few weeks ago. Thomas was a little shakier, tossing two interceptions before being pulled for backup Bryan Bennett. Was it rust? Hard to say but you can't say it wasn't a factor after being limited in practices the week before. There's likely not much of a quarterback controversy but there's no question the Ducks need Thomas at 100% if they want to beat Washington, Stanford or USC. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas was a bright spot, perhaps extra bright in Oregon's yellow "bumblebee" uniforms, taking a kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown and scoring on a 45-yard pass.

- People joke about Case Keenum putting up video game numbers in Houston's offense but that's exactly what he did Thursday, throwing NINE touchdown passes as the Cougars routed Rice 73-34 despite the rainy conditions. It wasn't the start Keenum and the offense wanted, with an interception and having a fumble returned for a touchdown to put themselves in an early hole. But then the rain seemed to lighten up and the record-setting quarterback took over from there. His fifth touchdown toss moved him past former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell to set the FBS-record for career TD passes and he proceeded to throw four more just for good measure. "Those are video game numbers, something we couldn't get stopped," Rice linebacker Justin Allen said. "The rain slowed down a little bit ... I wished it would have rained all game. It stopped, and they got things cranked up. There was no looking back for them." Keenum should set another record next week with 267 yards to become the FBS leader in career passing yards. Undefeated and somewhat untested, it looks like Houston is on their way to a special season. They have serious issues on defense but the offense will continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

- Tom O'Brien's hot seat status is fiery hot right now after losing to Florida State 34-0. The Wolfpack managed only 166 yards on offense and were shutout for the first time in three years. They weren't just beat by FSU, they were pushed around like they were Duke. T.J. Graham, one of the few bright spots for N.C. State this year, was bottled up and held to just 116 all-purpose yards. Given the way he handled the Russell Wilson situation and the way the season has gone, don't be surprised when there's a second coaching search going on in the triangle during the offseason (UNC being the other).

- It's time to give JoePa props for coaching Penn State to an 8-1 record. The defense, of course, is the story and the backbone of the team, shutting out Illinois for three quarters but the Nittany Lions had just enough on offense to get by with a 10-7 win. It was a sloppy affair for both teams but Joe Paterno picked up win No. 409 to move become the winningest coach in Division I. They are the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team right now.

- Is there a team more bipolar than Syracuse? A week after throttling West Virginia at home, the Orangemen looked terrible against Louisville, losing 27-10. They beat Toledo thanks to an officiating error, barely lost to Rutgers and barely beat Tulane, then have alternated between great and horrible the last two weeks. They certainly look like they're going to another bowl game this year but if you're Doug Marrone, you have to be concerned with the lack of consistency. On the other side, Louisville posted back-to-back Big East wins for the first time since 2006 and are still in the thick of things in the muddled conference race. Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress and this young team is making steady progress.

- As a few people joked on Twitter, Missouri proved that an SEC East team can beat an SEC West team with the Tigers 38-31 overtime win against Texas A&M. Any joy Aggie fans have over the move to a new conference is being ruined by their team's play on the field, blowing a 14 point lead at home this time around after doing the same against Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Missouri is better than their .500 record suggests and Henry Josey has been a revelation at the running back spot - so much so that he looks like the all-Big 12 pick at his position. James Franklin still makes a bone-headed play from time to time but the offense is still better than expected with the first-time starter running the show. Still, what once was a season of promise for Texas A&M has been anything but and doesn't get better with a trip to Norman.

- Impressive game by the Blackshirts as Nebraska muzzled Michigan State's offense in a 24-3 win in Lincoln. NU defensive backs turned in their best game of the season, being physical off of the line and forcing Kirk Cousins into missing all but four of his first 16 passes. He finished the day with just 86 yards a week after a 290 yard, three TD performance. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead paced the Cornhuskers' offense and looked like they are finally earning their ranking with a dominating win.

- Iowa, really? Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the country and you lose 22-21? There's not much to explain really. The same goes for Texas Tech, getting trounced at home by Iowa State. CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman was in a state of disbelief everytime he checked the score of either game and that pretty much sums up what everybody else was thinking.

- Late in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which the politically correct will know is Georgia-Florida), SI.com's Andy Staples and I both turned to each other and said that the Bulldog's four point lead would be insurmountable for the Gators offense to overcome. Special teams was another story but the offense? It just couldn't move the ball for their life. The personnel just isn't there to give them any schematic advantage. Hats off to Mark Richt though, who has won six straight and certainly helped his cause.

- Was shocked to see that Texas ended a FIVE game losing streak at home against Kansas this week. It's not saying much against that Jayhawks defense but the Longhorns still rushed for an impressive 441 yards in a game that few people saw on the Longhorn Network.

- Welcome to the Pac-12 win column Utah, who beat Oregon State at home 27-8.

- Clemson finally pulled a Clemson against Georgia Tech. Tevin Washington, after a string of bad games, rushed for 176 yards and was the triggerman for the option offense that jumped out to a 24-3 lead thanks to several Tigers turnovers. It was an impressive showing by Georgia Tech's defense against the explosive Clemson offense, which had come into the game scoring points at will. Considering how shaky the Yellow Jackets had looked on that side of the ball coming in, only a few believed they could pull off the upset which ended any hope of the ACC putting a team in the BCS championship game.

- Go ahead Braxton Miller, take a bow. The true freshman sparked a last-second win that gives Ohio State some life after upsetting Wisconsin. According to reporters after the game, Miller apparently winked at head coach Luke Fickell before the final drive and said "We're all right." That's special. Coming out of high school, Miller showed he had enough talent and moxie that many people compared him to former Heisman winner Troy Smith. The 40 yard pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left had to be the play of the year for a Buckeyes team that had been through so much. One has to wonder if they had held on against Nebraska what our view of this team would be.

Tweet of the week

"How impressive was Texas vs. KU? UT had more total yards (590) than current subscribers to Longhorn Network."

- CBSSports.com Senior Writer Brett McMurphy.

More on College Football
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Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
Sooners kick it into high gear a week too late.
Read >>
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Awaiting the LSU-Alabama showdown, Clemson and Kansas State drop out of the top 10. Read >
Bruce Feldman Bruce Feldman
The Big Picture: Luck doing nothing to diminish legend. Read >>
Related links
Video
Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. Boise State

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Clemson

9. Arkansas

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

Brett McMurphy will be in Stillwater to see BCS contender Oklahoma State host previously undefeated Kansas State. Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman will both be in Tuscaloosa for the game of the season, LSU-Alabama.

Leaning this way

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

It's almost unfair for one of the great stories in the first half of the season, Bill Snyder's Wildcats, to face the Big 12's two best teams on back-to-back weeks so all we'll say is good luck trying to stop the Cowboys offense. We have a feeling that Kansas State, which dropped 31 spots in total defense after facing Oklahoma, will struggle unless the offense plays keep away and doesn't turn the ball over.

South Carolina at Arkansas

On paper this is a top 10 match up but in reality both teams a bit overrated. Arkansas' defensive issues, especially in the first half, have contributed to closer than expected wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina has a good defense but the offense has struggled to score for six week outside of the Kentucky game. It's at home so the edge goes to the Hogs unless Alshon Jeffrey (finally) has a breakout game.

LSU at Alabama (CBS, 8 PM ET)

The showdown of the season is what everybody will have their eyes on Saturday night. The strength of both teams is clearly their defenses so this will come down to who can break open a big play on offense or special teams. There are more home run threats on the Tide and it's in Tuscaloosa but anybody picking against LSU has to know that doing so means going against Les Miles. Should be a great one.

Posted on: September 23, 2011 4:36 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 4:42 pm
 

PODCAST: ACC, Big East, and other comedy

Posted by Chip Patterson

Adam Aizer and I watched several comedies on Thursday night. One was a football game, the others were on primetime television. We break down several aspects of Cincinnati's 44-14 route of N.C. State, on and off the field. We also preview some of the ACC's biggest matchups in Week 4, including North Carolina trying to slow down Georgia Tech, and a banged up Florida State team trying to bounce back against Clemson in Death Valley.

We also answer questions raised in one of the better listener emails this week, as it pertains to Saturday night's showcase of LSU and West Virginia under the lights in Morgantown.

If you would like to submit a question or feedback for next week's podcast, send it to cbsipodcastfeedback [at] cbs [dot] com

Listen below, download the MP3, or you can click here to open up the pop-out player and keep browsing. Don't forget to subscribe to the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast on iTunes



Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 22, 2011 11:36 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Cincinnati 44, N.C. State 14

Posted by Chip Patterson

CINCINNATI WON. A year after getting burned 30-19 in Raleigh, the Bearcats exacted their revenge with a 44-14 route of N.C. State on national television Thursday night. Senior quarterback Zach Collaros threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns while adding 52 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The Bearcats dominated this game from the beginning, only allowing themselves to burned by two huge T.J. Graham touchdowns.

HOW CINCINNATI WON: The Bearcats entered Thursday's showdown against the Wolfpack charged up and simply more ready to play. They were more physical on the line of scrimmage, blocking on the perimeter, and swarming to the ball on defense. The result was plenty of room for running back Isaiah Pead to rack up 167 yards on 27 carries, and lots of time for Zach Collaros to dice up the N.C. State secondary.

WHEN CINCINNATI WON: In the first 20 minutes of game time, the Bearcats' defense had forced the Wolfpack to punt twice and quarterback Mike Glennon had thrown two interceptions. In response, the Cincinnati offense had scored three touchdowns. At 21-0 with more than 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter, this game felt like it was already over.

WHAT CINCINNATI WON: If the Bearcats can take care of business against Miami (OH) next week, they will have equalled their win total from 2010 by the time conference play begins. That alone is a huge boost for Butch Jones, who was already starting to hear it from the Bearcat faithful after the eight-win drop-off in his first season as head coach.

WHAT NC STATE LOST: Losing defensive tackle Brian Slay to an ankle injury is a huge blow to an already depleted defensive line. The Wolfpack are so depleted up front, there was one point where they had a walk-on offensive guard playing defensive tackle. If the team is having some confidence issues, Thursday night's beatdown did not help. This team needs a leader, and that leader needs to step up with the long prep week for Georgia Tech.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Despite the embarrassing loss, N.C. State does walk out of Nippert Stadium with a clear-cut idea of their best offense: give the ball to T.J. Graham in space. The wide receiver turned seven catches into 176 yards and the Wolfpack's only touchdowns, giving him five all-purpose scores on the season.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: June 27, 2011 1:59 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 2:50 pm
 

Roundtable: Russell Wilson impact

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Occasionally the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:

So Russell Wilson is transferring to Wisconsin. What does his decision mean for the Badgers? For the Big Ten race? For the Auburn team he spurned? Could it have an impact on the national title picture?

Tom Fornelli: I think it puts Wisconsin right there with Nebraska in the role of Big Ten favorite, and considering the uncertainty surrounding T-Magic in Lincoln and the quarterback position there, Wisconsin may in fact be the favorite. We already know they can run the ball, and now they added a new dynamic to the offense they've never had before.

Adam Jacobi: I'd like to caution everyone from going overboard here. This will be Wilson's first year in the Wisconsin offense, and while Paul Chryst (pictured bottom right) is a solid enough coordinator to craft his offense around its strengths year to year, there's just naturally going to be an adjustment period.

Further, at what point, has Russell Wilson ever been a great quarterback? Sure, he threw the ball a lot at N.C. State, but he wasn't great at it; his passing efficiency last season ranked 62nd in the nation, right above Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz (who looked promising last year, sure, but no one's arguing he's "there" yet).

I'm willing to grant that Wilson is an upgrade over Wisconsin's returning quarterbacks, and that he makes the Badgers better than they were before. I just don't think setting high expectations on Wilson has ever been a recipe for success beyond eight or nine wins.

Chip Patterson: When Wilson exploded on the scene as a freshman in 2007, it was his playmaking ability and natural athleticism that caught his opponents off-guard and led to Wilson being named the ACC Rookie of the Year. But in 2010, it was a change in his game that helped the Wolfpack finish with their first nine-win season since 2002. Instead of scrambling to the sidelines, Wilson improved his pocket presence. He started stepping up in the pocket and hurting teams with his legs up the middle. Wisconsin doesn't need a dual-threat quarterback; it needs a competent one who will take what the defense gives the Badgers.

As Adam said, Wilson is not the most efficient passer. He also benefited last season from having a receiving corps made up mostly of tall pass catchers who could "go up and get it" when Wilson got in trouble (T.J. Graham was the only receiver on the two-deep last season under 6-foot-3). But there will be many upgrades that Wilson will get offensively in the move to Madison, most notably the availability of a dominant run game. Since his arrival at N.C. State, the Wolfpack have ranked in the bottom half of the ACC in rushing offense every single season. In 2010 Wisconsin's rushing offense ranked 12th nationally.

Wilson's addition answers perhaps the biggest question mark in Wisconsin's 2011 outlook. But his arrival also brings about new concerns, such as how his late addition might affect team chemistry or how quickly he can adjust to Paul Chryst's offense. The Badgers now become a favorite for the Leaders division, but there are still plenty of adjustments to be made before penciling them in for a return to Pasadena.

Jerry Hinnen: Well, no, it's too early to project the Badgers for a return trip to the Rose Bowl. But as I think Wilson's arrival puts Wisconsin firmly in that mix, I don't think we should undersell the importance of this decision, either. I don't know about "great" (to respond to Adam's question), and yes, he took a step back last year even as his team was taking a step forward. But in 2008 and 2009 Wilson was pretty damn good all the same: a combined touchdown-to-interception ratio of 48 to 12, a healthy 7.6 yards-per-attempt in that span, 640-plus rushing yards for good measure, All-ACC honors.

Much of Wilson's decline in efficiency can be attributed to N.C. State asking him to do too much, something we all know Wisconsin is most assuredly not going to do. The Badgers have already made the likes of Scott Tolzien and John Stocco into hyper-efficient stars, something Wilson's already proved himself more than capable of being with the Wolfpack. With the assets surrounding Wilson in Madison and the entire summer to bone up on Chryst's playbook now that he's already left his minor league baseball team, the Badger offense could be nearly as dynamic as it was in 2010.

And look at the Wisconsin schedule: no true road games until back-to-back dates at Michigan State and Ohio State in late October, and key dates with Nebraska and Penn State at home. If the Badgers can get past the Huskers and split the two October roadies, 11-1 and a second-straight BCS berth is right back in play. That's just not the case with Jon Budmayr under center, so, yeah, I think we're talking about a potentially major, national-sized impact -- maybe not crystal football major, but the next best thing.

(And as for the team on the other side of it, yes, Auburn could have used a player of Wilson's physical gifts during what looks like a rebuilding year. But as long as the Tigers have got Gus Malzahn (and two quarterbacks in Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley in their third year of his system to boot), there's only so far their quarterback play can slip; Wilson or no Wilson, they'll have bigger questions to answer than who's under center.)

Bryan Fischer: Going off what Chip said, Wilson's numbers are not the most efficient ones out there. He had to throw the ball 527 times last year, thanks in part to an inconsistent run game that had a few young running backs who tended to have trouble holding onto the ball. Toss in some wideouts that struggled and you get part of the reason he managed to only complete 58 percent of his passes last year. Still, you saw flashes of why he can be a threat with his arm and legs regardless of what talent is around him.

I still think it will take Wilson awhile to get adjusted to 1, playing football again after playing minor league baseball; and 2, Wisconsin's offense. With a big offensive line and very good running game, the Badgers won't need him to make plays right away but rather just be consistent with his play. He does hold the NCAA record for most pass attempts without an interception, and if he can take that part of his game to Camp Randall, I don't see why the Badgers won't be thinking about the Big Ten title game. I'm not ready to anoint them with Wilson coming in, but they certainly have a lot going for them now with an experienced signal-caller.


Posted on: May 2, 2011 6:13 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 6:19 pm
 

What I learned this spring: ACC Atlantic

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the ACC Atlantic Division.

BOSTON COLLEGE: One of the things that became increasingly evident this spring was how much the Eagles have riding on running back Montel Harris going into the 2011 season. Harris tore his lateral meniscus in Boston College's ACC finale against Virginia and missed the rest of the season after undergoing surgery. Even missing the last game, Harris finished second in the ACC with 1,242 yards. After one carry in Boston College's spring game (which really is more of an offense-defense scrimmage), Harris was taken out for "precautionary measures."

All spring, the Eagles' foremost concern has been the health of their prized running back, as it should be. Boston College's muddled quarterback situation does not provide a whole lot of confidence in the passing game. Chase Rettig has likely emerged spring as the starter, taking significantly more reps near the end of the practice than Dave Shinskie, and Mike Marscovetra. Rettig emerged as a freshman in 2010 and finished the season as the starter. But his 6 touchdowns to 9 interceptions on the season hardly secured him the gig for 2011. But after completing 20-of-29 passes for 182 yards in the spring game, popular belief is that Rettig will be the starter in the fall. Boston College's greatest asset still is their defense, which will be highlighted once again by Kevin Pierre Louis and Luke Kuechly, who was recently got named to the Lott Trophy Watch list.

CLEMSON: With Kyle Parker off with the Colorado Rockies for good, this spring was the time for former backup Tajh Boyd to take command of this team. The obstacle he faced heading into practice was doing it with a brand new offensive coordinator. Since taking over under Todd Morris' new system Boyd has been consistent in his effort and leadership, just inconsistent on performance. In the Tigers' spring game Boyd looked out of rhythm with his receivers, completing only 8 of 24 passes for 114 yards. Head coach Dabo Swinney hopes that Boyd will be pushed by backup quarterback Cole Stoudt, but Boyd has been the man in charge of Morris' new offense - which is reportedly only about 60% installed.

The new up-tempo offense could benefit the Tigers in the ACC, particularly with the athletes they have at the skill positions. If the spring game was any measure, Clemson should see a significant increase in their play count per game. The scheme has proven to put up big numbers, but it relies about as evenly on the run game as the passing game. Luckily the Tigers are well equipped at running back. Andre Ellington returns after collecting 686 yards and 10 touchdowns in just eight games of action before suffering a season-ending toe injury. Sitting out of spring drills, Clemson fans got a good look at his backups and - what should be - a very deep running back position. Demont Buice (18 carries, 102 yards), Roderick McDowell (12 carries, 100 yards), and D.J. Howard (11 carries, 97 yards) all had strong showings in the spring game and should make for an interesting competition once camp opens in the fall. Defensively one big surprise was the emergence of Corey Crawford. The 6-5, 275-pound early enrollee has raised eyebrows all spring, and figures to already be a part of the defensive end rotation in the fall. Wearing Da'Quan Bowers' No. 93, Crawford appears to be taking the responsibility of upholding the legacy of Bowers and the late Gaines Adams.

FLORIDA STATE: Without a doubt, the Seminoles exit the spring as a favorite to repeat as Atlantic Division Champions in 2011. With the talent returning from last year's squad and the rise of junior quarterback E.J. Manuel, head coach Jimbo Fisher has Tallahassee buzzing once again about brining the ACC title home to where it started. Florida State won in the inaugural ACC title game in 2005, and the closest they have come since then was last year's 44-33 defeat to Virginia Tech.

The hype set the bar high, but spring practice posed a different set of challenges for Fisher and his staff. The Seminoles had seven starters miss practice due to injury, so the coaches used much of the spring to sort out depth issues. The offensive line is a bit of a concern for Fisher, as they have had to do some shuffling in order to fill out the line and establish some depth. The coaches were pleased with Manuel's spring as a whole, but the junior quarterback struggled in Florida State's well-attended spring game. Fisher has said that he is mostly concerned with Manuel's development as a leader at this point, and did not seem to think much of his spring game outing.

"He was frustrated but I got more out of him today because we struggled and he didn't have a good day," Fisher said following the game. "At the end of the day we had a chance to make plays and we made a few plays."

Many of the injuries were on the defensive end, but with all of those players getting back to 100% before training camp it should not play a major factor in the Seminoles' readiness for the season. If there is any "red-flag" from spring practice it would be a fear of complacency. There were several early practices that led Fisher to criticize his team's speed and toughness. Florida State cannot afford to be slow-starting in 2011 if they truly plan on competing for a National Championship. With Oklahoma visiting Tallahassee on Sept. 13, the Seminoles need to be competing in midseason form from the first day of camp. If Florida State is "going through the motions" at the beginning of the season, the Sooners will be a rude wake-up call after Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern.
 
MARYLAND:
There will be no surprises this year with sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien. After being named the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year, O'Brien's development has not been slowed due to the coaching changes at Maryland. In fact, the new system installed by former LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton has the players feeling like there could be even more passing in 2011. O'Brien took advantage of the vanilla scrimmage coverages in the spring game, completing 16 of 23 passes for 199 yards and a pair of touchdowns. New head coach Randy Edsall is very excited about the rotation of wide receivers taking shape, with Ronnie Tyler, Kevin Dorsey, and Quintin McCree all having strong springs.

With defensive coordinator Don Brown leaving to take the position at Connecticut, Maryland's defense has spent most of the spring trying to learn a new system. Edsall promoted assistant coach Todd Bradford to the position in mid-February, and the newness of the change seems to still be setting in for the players. Brown's system carried lots of blitzing packages and multiple looks, the players say Bradford's relies more on coverage responsibility. Maryland's defense is experienced, but they are still a little slow getting on the same page at this point.
 
NC STATE:
What I learned this spring is that head coach Tom O'Brien's word at N.C. State is firm and unwavering. O'Brien told Russell Wilson that if he wanted to be the starting quarterback in 2011 he needed to stay with the team instead of playing minor league baseball in the offseason. Even when Wilson, an All-ACC quarterback and 2010 Champs Sports Bowl MVP, asked O'Brien if he could return in August - O'Brien said no. So now the reigns are officially in the hands of Mike Glennon, the highly-recruited younger brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon. Glennon, a redshirt junior, checks out on paper as a strong candidate for the Wolfpack starting job. The only thing that he lacks is actual game experience. The problem is that with Wilson's departure to continue football elsewhere (as opposed to sticking with professional baseball) will have an effect on the fan base's expectations from Glennon. Glennon did not have a great outing in N.C. State's shortened spring game (inclement weather), and it will be important for his confidence to get some early wins in the fall.

N.C. State lost leading rusher Mustafa Greene to injury during spring practice, but he is expected to be back in time for fall practice. Greene emerged as the answer to one of the big question marks in 2010, and he will be leaned on to help Glennon get comfortable in the starting position. This year it has been the wide receiver position that was not addressed this spring, as T.J. Graham leads a crop of wideouts that lack experience in game situations. Wolfpack fans are hoping for another Greene-type situation out of the position next fall. The linebacking corps will be strong point once again for N.C. State, led by Terrell Manning and Audi Cole. Cole moves over to Nate Irving's position of middle linebacker, and while the transition has not been easy the coaching staff seems pleased with his progress and potential heading into the new season.
 
WAKE FOREST:
We knew that Wake Forest had a long way to go to improve on last year's frustrating 3-9 season. With spring practice in the books, the Demon Deacons still are a ways away from the squad that was competing among the ACC elite a half-decade ago. Head coach Jim Grobe often mentioned how inexperience played a factor in 2010's struggles, with the Deacons having to start several freshman (especially on the defensive end) throughout the season.

"I think last year we were a soft group of freshmen, and now we're just a crusty group of sophomores,"Grobe told the Winston-Salem Journal. "I know coaches are worried about playing too many sophomores but for me, we're light years ahead of where we were last year with these guys."

Offensively, the Deacons will hope to get running back Josh Harris going behind a more experienced offensive line. The talented sophomore broke out against Virginia Tech (20 carries, 241 yards, two touchdowns) and in the season finale against Vanderbilt (18 carries, 138 yards, one touchdown). But inconsistent production during the regular season have left Wake Forest fans looking for more out of the running back from Duncanville, TX. Harris led all rushers in the spring game with 85 yards, but missed many of the workouts due to injury. If Harris can't get the ground game going there will be a lot of pressure on quarterback Tanner Price to make plays with his wide receivers, which doesn't appear very threatening at this point.
 
 
 
 
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