Tag:Sammy Watkins
Posted on: December 3, 2011 11:38 pm
 

Clemson claims ACC Championship with 38-10 win



Posted by Chip Patterson


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Streaks, trends, and traditions. These things did not matter to a young Clemson team as they rode an explosive third quarter to a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech for their first ACC Championship since 1991.

After both teams finished an evenly played first half, the Tigers that emerged from the locker room after the break looked much more like the Tigers that knocked off three straight ranked opponents and was considered outside contenders for a BCS title.

Clemson's BCS dreams were crushed by losing three of their final four games in the regular season, but head coach Dabo Swinney will find plenty of consolation in the first conference title in 20 years and his first BCS bowl berth as a head coach. The experts had the Tigers as underdogs against the defending champions, who entered the game in a very different manner riding a seven-game winning streak.

Tajh Boyd shook off the "phantom pressure" from the last month and hung in the pocket to complete 20 of 29 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, the Clemson offensive line only allowed Boyd to be sacked once. But Boyd wasn't the only the star shining bright in front of a sold-out crowd at Bank of America Stadium. Andre Ellington and Sammy Watkins, both limited during Clemson's slump with nagging injuries, looked explosive as ever against Virginia Tech's defense. Ellington ran 20 times for 125 yards and a touchdown while Watkins added 54-yard touchdown reception of his own as part of his 155 all-purpose yards..

For Clemson - a team that plays at least 20 true or redshirt freshman on a weekly basis - Saturday's win didn't just end the school's conference title drought, it fired a warning shot across the bow of the Frank Beamer ACC Dynasty. The Hokies have appeared in five ACC Championship Games since the conference began holding the event in 2005. A Virginia Tech win would have been their fourth in five years, and third time defeating an opponent from earlier in the season.

But Saturday didn't feel like 2007, 2008, or 2010 for Virginia Tech fans. It felt like 2005. Florida State entered that inaugural championship on a three-game losing streak, and all the momentum was thought to be with the one-loss Hokies who had just arrived to crash the ACC's party. But after entering halftime tied, the Seminoles outscored Clemson 24-0 in the third quarter on the way to a decisive 27-22 victory. This time it was another longtime ACC member, Clemson, who started the second half with three straight scores on offense and three straight three-and-outs on defense. But the Tigers never let the Hokies get back into the game, and kept the pressure coming until the Oranges came raining down from the Orange-clad Tigers fans who stayed to savor every last moment.

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Posted on: December 2, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 4:33 pm
 

ACC Championship Game News & Notes

Posted by Chip Patterson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Greetings from Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers and tomorrow home of the 2011 ACC Championship Game. Both coaches met the media on Friday, and each time was given time for one last walk through before Saturday night's title game. The afternoon began with Commissioner John Swofford's announcement that Charlotte will continue to host the ACC Championship Game through the 2012 and 2013 season.

"The Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game has seen tremendous success in Charlotte, and we're pleased to announce they will serve as the host city for 2012 and 2013," Swofford said. "The City of Charlotte has done a terrific job over the past two years and we continue to be appreciative of the enthusiasm and support."

Both coaches echoed Swofford's sentiments, and Saturday night's sellout was mentioned frequently throughout the afternoon. The 2012 ACC Championship Game has been set for Saturday, Dec. 1, and the 2013 title game will be held Saturday, Dec. 7.

More news and notes from Friday:

CLEMSON

- Offensive lineman Phillip Price is listed as probable for Saturday, and head coach Dabo Swinney makes it sound like the senior left tackle will get a chance to earn his time on the field. Price started against South Carolina, but was pulled from the game after position coach Robbie Caldwell "didn't feel good about the way he was reacting."

"[Price] has come back this week and he's had a really good week, and he's gone full speed pass rush and inside and all that kind of stuff," Swinney explained on Friday. "I feel much better about him, but he's got to go and compete and play four quarters tomorrow night."

- Of course Dabo Swinney could not escape Friday's media availability without addressing his response to the alleged comments from Steve Spurrier. Having found out the comments were from a radio broadcaster, not Spurrier himself, Swinney changed his tone significantly.

"I heard today that [Spurrier's comments regarding Clemson] wasn't said, and that's great. It's awful convenient on Thursday. I know this, that if my media put something out that I said and if it was nationally perceived that I said it, I promise you I would correct it.

"I said that last night," Swinney concluded. "I don't know if [Spurrier] said it or not, but there hasn't been any rebuttal. But that's it on that. We'll talk about the ballgame."

- One of the key players in Saturday's game will be Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen. The redshirt junior is one of 19 Tigers to be playing in their second ACC Championship Game, and his presence in the passing game will be needed to keep the Virginia Tech defense spread out and honest.

"Dwayne is a matchup-problem for people. I mean, he's a guy that you've got to know where he is from a defensive standpoint. He's almost 6-foot-4, 255 pounds and can run and jump and handle the ball like a wideout."

VIRGINIA TECH

- Facing an opponent from earlier in the season is not new for Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech. In 2007 and 2008 the Hokies lost to Boston College in the regular season and then defeated the Eagles in the ACC Championship Game. Virginia Tech fans are hoping the trend will continue, but Beamer knows there are no guarantees of avenging the 23-3 home loss from earlier this season.

"I hope we're a better football team," Beamer said. "But again, you know, it's happened to us twice, but that's no sign its going to happen three times in a row. I think we've got to play well. I guarantee they've got the ability to be really good and have been really good at times and just got on the wrong side of that momentum deal."

- Virginia Tech looked much looser in their walk-thru than Clemson. Though that should not come as any surprise. Most of the Hokies' roster was right here in Bank of America Stadium last season preparing to take on Florida State. Clemson's approach and tone was much more serious, as Swinney and the staff are trying to refocus this young team after losing two in a row and three of their last four.

- PREGAME PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 28, Clemson 24

For more analysis on Saturday night's matchup, check out my Keys to the Game

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Posted on: December 1, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 14



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

This is it, the final week of MWM in the 2011 season, and it pretty much couldn't have gone worse for me. You see, heading into last week it was a two-horse race, and I was on the verge of losing a picks competition against my girlfriend. Well, then the Machine had to go 8-2 last week while both Woman and I struggled, and guess who is now in second place?

That's right, at the moment, I trail not only my girlfriend but my Playstation as well. Pretty much as embarrassing as embarrassing can be.

On the bright side, the race is closer than ever before, which is pretty much the ideal situation heading into the final week of any competition. Yes, I'm in last place, but I'm only two games behind Woman. Machine is a game behind. So any of us can win, which makes this week the single most important week of the MWM season.

Feel free to read our final picks of the season while I pool some money together and get to work bribing teams to help me out this weekend.

South Florida (Pick 'em) vs. West Virginia - Thursday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - I was originally leaning toward South Florida because they're at home, and it's the Big East, so since you have no idea what's going to happen, leaning toward the home side is usually the best bet. But then the news that B.J. Daniels probably won't be playing came along, and, well, that changes things. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "I want to pick the Bulls  - mostly so I can watch coach Dana Holgorsen figure out a way to blame West Virginia fans for the loss (start at minute 1:10 here to see his previous efforts) - but they're too banged up, so the mundane Mountaineers will squeak by." Pick: West Virginia

Machine - West Virginia keeps its slim BCS hopes alive with a rather easy 37-20 win over the Bulls. Pick: West Virginia

Oregon (-30 1/2) vs. UCLA - Friday, 8pm

Man - That is a very big spread. One that's big enough to make me think that maybe UCLA isn't a horrible pick because once Oregon gets up by a lot, it really has no reason to pile on, the Rose Bowl is its only possible destination. But then I realized I'd be putting my faith in Rick Neuheisel, and last game or not, no thanks. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "My prediction: At the start of his final game, fired UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel will rip off his shirt to reveal his 1984 SAN ANTONIO GUNSLINGERS JERSEY, SPRINT OUT ONTO THE FIELD AND, UNFAZED BY THE BAD BURRITO HE ATE FROM A TACO STAND ON LA CIENEGA, TAKE OVER AS QUARTERBACK, THROWING TO HIMSELF FOR TOUCHDOWN AFTER TOUCHDOWN UNTIL THE UCLA BOARD OF REGENTS REALIZES ITS GRIEVOUS ERROR, RUSHES TO THE SIDELINES AND ASKS, NAY, BEGS HIM TO STAY." Pick: Oregon

Machine - The Machine sees this one as a game that might be competitive-ish for a while on Friday night. It seems to think that the Bruins will experience some kind of Rick Neuheisel bump. They still lose, but only 41-28. Pick: UCLA

Houston (-14 1/2) vs. Southern Miss - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This game is odd for so many reasons, one being that both head coaches are being mentioned as candidates at other schools, which can be quite a distraction. I want to pick Houston because they're undefeated and torched a good Tulsa team last week, but then I started thinking about the BCS. Wouldn't it just make sense that in the final weekend of the season the undefeated team from the non-BCS conference fell due to some kind of BCS conspiracy? I'm pretty sure Bill Hancock is a Freemason....ahh, screw it. Pick: Houston

Woman - "Picking blind here cuz the only Southern miss I know got wasted on SigEp punch and woke up on the 50 yard line the next morning. Wait. That was me." Pick: Houston

Machine - The Machine sees Case Keenum putting the final stamp on a terrific regular season, as he throws for 414 yards and 5 touchdowns as Houston wins 45-28. Pick: Houston

Pitt (-10 1/2) vs. Syracuse - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Man, I seriously have no idea. Maybe it's the pressure of the situation I'm in getting to me, but I stare at this spread and it may as well be the equation on the chalkboard in Good Will Hunting. It's just a bunch of numbers and letters to me. Whatever, give me the Panthers. Pick: Pitt

Woman - "Syracuse is god awful but if there's one thing I learned watching last week's Backyard Brawl it's that every Orange defenseman should just yell "Boo!" while running towards Panthers QB Tino Sunseri, then wait for him drop to the ground and start weeping. That should keep the results within the spread, at least." Pick: Syracuse

Machine - The Machine nearly blew up after being forced to simulate two Big East games in the same week. Pitt wins 24-10. Pick: Pitt

Kansas State (-11 1/2) vs. Iowa State - Saturday, 12:30pm

Man - I think Iowa State has already had its big upset bid of the season, and I don't see them being able to stop Kansas State on the road this weekend. Plus, the Cyclones offense just did not look very good at all last week. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "Game's not being played in Oklahoma? Check. Not against a team from Oklahoma? Check." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Can't decide if this is good or bad news for Kansas State, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time all year that The Machine has picked the Wildcats. KSU wins 27-10. Pick: Kansas State

Baylor (-2 1/2) vs. Texas - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Robert Griffin is expected to play, and although the Texas defense has been outstanding, I just don't see the Texas offense being able to keep up with the Bears for 60 minutes. Especially on the road. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Note to Mack Brown: A television network does not a football team make." Pick: Baylor

Machine - Sorry, Baylor, The Machine just isn't buying what you're selling this season. Texas wins 27-24. Pick: Texas

LSU (-12 1/2) vs. Georgia - Saturday, 4pm

Man - Here's how good LSU is: the Tigers could lose this game and then go on to lose the national title game, and I'd still probably put them at #1 on my ballot. Pick: LSU

Woman - "The only times I lost on LSU games this season were when I bet against you, Les. What was I thinking?  (And by the way, I've decided to start a "DRAFT LES MILES FOR PRESIDENT" Committee, if only to see the look on his face when other candidates do really dumb things.)" Pick: LSU

Machine - The Machine doesn't really see Georgia threatening LSU in this game, but it also doesn't see much offense, and Georgia gets the cover because of it. LSU wins 14-6. Pick: Georgia

Oklahoma State (-3 1/2) vs. Oklahoma - Saturday, 8pm

Man - You know that BCS conspiracy thing I mentioned with my Southern Miss pick? Yeah, well it applies here too. What's the best way to ensure that there's no debate between Oklahoma State and Alabama? Have Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State. Though I suppose that when you consider how the Sooners have dominated this rivalry through time, the conspiracy may not be necessary. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "This is it, Cowboys. Time to show all the naysayers why you belong in the BCS Championship. If you win, you've earned it (though it will have to be by thirty points to convince the myopic BCS voters)." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine - The Machine sticks with the trends. Oklahoma wins 41-35. Pick: Oklahoma

Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Clemson has already beaten Virginia Tech by 20 earlier this season, and although the Tigers haven't exactly been a good team the last few weeks, I'm still confident that they can at the very worst cover that spread on a neutral field. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Really? This could be the game that loses me the MWM season? Pass the Maalox while I puzzle through my choices. Yeah, they crushed Virginia last week, but I still have Hokie hesitation. I'm taking a deep breath and going with Sammy Watkins plus home field advantage. Your move, Sicilian." Pick: Clemson

Machine - The Hokies get revenge and quite a bit of it, as Tech picks up a relatively easy 27-7 win. Pick: Virginia Tech

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (-9 1/2) - Saturday, 8:17pm 

Man - I think we've seen the best from Michigan State already this season, and now that they're facing a Wisconsin team that's once again gotten rolling on a neutral field, I'm liking the Badgers' chances. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Next stop, Rose Bowl. (Hey, guys, thanks to you for reading and to Fornelli for coming up with this competition. It's been a lot of fun. Also, thanks to CBS Sports for finally shattering the glass ceiling last week, so I can now look forward to a continued future in football prognostication.)" Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - The Machine doesn't believe in God, and therefore it does not see any Hail Mary saving the Spartans this time. Wisconsin wins 31-23, but that's a cover for Sparty. Pick: Michigan State

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 73-62 (4-6)
2. Machine 72-63 (8-2)
3. Man 71-64 (4-6)
Posted on: November 30, 2011 2:45 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Virginia Tech vs Clemson

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Hokies can get pressure on Tajh Boyd and force turnovers. The Tigers are one last-second field goal away from a four-game losing streak, and turnovers have been the glaring difference in the team's play. Clemson has turned the ball over 12 times in that four game stretch. Only 2-10 Maryland has turned it over more down the stretch of the regular season. Logan Thomas has gotten stronger as the season comes to a close, serving as the perfect dual-threat compliment to ACC Player of the Year David Wilson. The offense should be able to find success against Clemson's defense, so winning the ACC Championship will come down to Bud Foster's unit containing the likes of Boyd, Andre Ellington, and Sammy Watkins. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Boyd has been hurrying throws because of "phantom pressure." If Virginia Tech can get real pressure on the sophomore quarterback, they might be able to force a game-changing turnover (or two).

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They can establish the rushing attack early. One of the reasons Boyd has been feeling this "phantom pressure" has been a drop-off in Clemson's rushing production. Andre Ellington has been banged up, and just started to look healthy again in the loss to South Carolina. Freshmen Mike Bellamy and D.J. Howard have looked good in spurts, but neither have been able to hit the home-run play they relied on earlier in the season. Forcing Virginia Tech's secondary to commit a player to the run will create single coverage opportunities for Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. But Clemson needs to get that running game going to avoid becoming one-dimensional down the stretch.

X-FACTOR: Sammy Watkins. The ACC Rookie of the Year has been obviously limited by his shoulder injury, suffered in the Tigers' 31-28 win against Wake Forest Nov. 12. Watkins missed the NC State loss, and was held to just 39 yards on four catches against South Carolina. When Watkins was healthy his presence on the field was game-changing, but the freshman phenom was invisible for stretches of Saturday's loss to the Gamecocks. Tigers fans are hoping Watkins will be back in September/October form on Saturday, when he was averaging over seven catches and 100 yards per game.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:16 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:37 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Virginia Tech

For the second year in a row, Virginia Tech has answered an embarrassing home loss with an impressive win streak and wound up in the ACC Championship Game. The Hokies' 23-3 loss to Clemson was not as embarrassing as James Madison in 2010, but the effect was the same in regards to the outlook on the season. Quarterback Logan Thomas struggled in that game, completing 15 of 27 passes for only 127 yards and an interception. But the bounce-back 38-35 win over Miami triggered the current ACC tear that has the Hokies back in Charlotte defending the title. Thomas bounced back completing 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns while adding two rushing touchdowns - including the game-winning score with 56 seconds remaining. Ever since then Virginia Tech has not been shaken from their path to the title game, including big road wins at Georgia Tech and Saturday against Virginia.

The 38-0 shutout felt like a "final product" for Virginia Tech's season. While not every conference win came easily, such as escaping from Duke with a 14-10 victory thanks to three missed Blue Devils' field goals, every win has highlighted at least one impressive strength of the 2011 Virginia Tech squad. Saturday's victory against the surging Cavaliers displayed a suffocating defense that held Virginia 30 yards rushing while forcing four turnovers. There was also David Wilson's 153 yards rushing, Thomas' three combined touchdowns, and enough "wow" plays from the Hokies wide receivers to keep any secondary honest against the run. With Clemson dropping three of their last four games in the regular season, it seems as though these teams are moving in opposite directions. How each team remembers their season will be decided when they face off for the ACC Championship under the lights next Saturday.

LOSER: The reeling Clemson Tigers

Since starting the season 8-0 and reaching the Top 5 in the BCS standings, things have slowly come undone for Clemson's dream season. Saturday's 34-13 loss against South Carolina exhibited more of the same problems from the recent weeks: inability to protect the quarterback, mental mistakes on defense, and costly turnovers. After lighting up the stat sheet and scoreboard for most of the season, the Tigers have just two touchdowns in their last two games combined. After the game head coach Dabo Swinney said this loss was "the lowest of the lows" and he never expected that kind of performance.

But the challenge for Swinney and his staff is to find a way to turn around the Tigers before Saturday's ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech. Clemson has had the luxury of being able to lose three of their last four games while still giving themselves the opportunity to play for their first conference title since 1991. Virginia Tech has won seven straight games since losing to Clemson at home earlier in the season, and the Hokies will have revenge on their mind in Charlotte. Swinney's young team has proven to be incredibly dangerous when they are playing smart, and filled with liabilities with they are not. Now there is a big week of preparation ahead for Clemson after another head-scratching loss.

WINNER: The Cardiac Pack

After NC State's uninspired showing in a 14-10 loss at Boston College, things looked bleak for the Wolfpack's postseason hopes. Reaching bowl eligibility would require wins against Clemson and Maryland in the final two weeks of the season, with the Tigers leading the Atlantic Division and Maryland an annual thorn in NC State's side. They started the march by jumping out to a 24-3 lead against a stunned Clemson squad, using ferocious defensive pressure to force four turnovers and hang on for a 37-13 victory.

But the Top 10 upset would not be worth nothing without taking care of business against Maryland. Trailing 41-14 early in the third quarter, it looked as though Maryland would throw a wrench in NC State's postseason plans for the second year in a row. But the Wolfpack simply refused to end their season in that manner. The 42 unanswered points marked the biggest comeback in school history as Mike Glennon led the way with 306 yards passing and five touchdowns on the afternoon. Tom O'Brien has not taken NC State to consecutive postseasons since his arrival in Raleigh, and winning five of their final seven games has taken a lot of the heat off his seat.

LOSER: Randy Edsall

A mind-numbingly frustrating season filled with suspensions, transfers, and injuries ended in the worst way possible with NC State's 56-41 win over the Terps on Saturday. Maryland blowing a 41-14 third quarter lead to the Wolfpack left the first-year head coach shaking his head with few explanations after the game, even though there were plenty of questions.  The loss leaves Maryland with a 2-10 record, their second such finish in the last three years.

Reports have been flying for weeks that Edsall was losing (or had lost) the support of the locker room, and allowing the Wolfpack to mount their biggest comeback in school history showed very little fight left in the Terps. Edsall has the support of the administration, and acknowledges there have been some difficulties with the transition. But Saturday's embarrassment was the worst - although strangely appropriate - finish to a rocky 2011 season for Maryland.

WINNER: Al Golden

Al Golden has tackled, dodged, avoided, and yet also answered hundreds of questions regarding his future at Miami since August. It's not every day that a first-year coach gets asked so many questions about wanting to leave, but Golden's set of circumstances gave media members plenty of reasons to speculate. But despite an ongoing NCAA inquiry and a timely (or untimely) job opening at his alma mater, Al Golden is committed to Miami. Maybe more importantly - Miami is committed to Al Golden.

The school announced during Friday's 28-14 loss to Boston College that Golden had agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension that would keep him at Miami until 2020. Golden's comments in the official release were similar to his explanations from the entire season: his family loves South Florida, he is working on building a program, and he believes in the support from the administration. So now what? Now Golden can stop answering questions about Penn State and if he wants to leave after taking a job with no knowledge of NCAA issues. Now Golden can start the grind necessary to build the program he wants. Now, he hits the recruiting trail.

The first-year Hurricanes coach has made claims of signing "30 new kids" in the upcoming recruiting class. Such a splash would be huge for the program, particularly considering the NCAA issues likely to come. But while the school has self-imposed a ban on the 2011 postseason, Golden has been assured there will be no self-imposed scholarship penalty in the near future. Without a postseason to plan for, now Golden hits the road to get his "30 kids."

LOSER: Miami's 2008 recruiting class

Randy Shannon's 2008 recruiting class was considered one of the best in recent Hurricanes history. The class was ranked in the Top 5 nationally pretty much across the board, and highlighted by some of the top talent in the Miami area. On Saturday some of those players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence, played their final game in a Miami uniform. Because of the self-imposed postseason penalty, that group finishes with a 29-22 record with no bowl wins in their time as a Hurricane. The class was supposed to bring Shannon the success that Coral Gables had not seen since the move to the ACC. Four years later, the Hurricanes have still yet to finish better than tied for second place in the Coastal Division.

WINNERS: Florida State's pass coverage

The Florida State defense has received plenty of deserved praise for their dominating performances this season. But while the Seminoles entered the weekend ranked in the top ten nationally for total defense and scoring defense, they rank near the bottom of the ACC in interceptions gained. After picking off just nine passes in 11 games, Florida State picked off Florida four times in the 21-7 rivalry win. All three Seminole touchdowns came directly after Florida interceptions, with Terrance Parks 29 yard pick six sealing the win in Gainesville.

LOSER: Wake Forest's bowl stock

Jim Grobe deserves a lot of credit for turning around Wake Forest from a 1-7 team in conference play to ACC division contenders. The 6-6 finish is an improvement considering they were picked to finish last in the ACC again this year, but they did themselves no favors in the eyes of bowl committees with a 41-7 loss to Vanderbilt on Senior Day. Wake Forest turned in an unimpressive effort against their SEC rivals in front of a meager announced attendance of 28,020. But the letdown against the Commodores also hurt Wake Forest's momentum heading into the postseason.

When competing with other teams in the conference for preferable bowl bids, losing four of your final five games is a fast way to make your team appear less attractive. Hats off to the Demon Deacons on their first postseason appearance since 2008, but they did themselves no favor on location with their finish.

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Posted on: November 26, 2011 11:17 pm
 

QUICK HITS: South Carolina 34, Clemson 13

Posted by Chip Patterson

SOUTH CAROLINA WON. For the first time since 1968-1970, South Carolina claimed their third straight victory in the in-state rivalry with Clemson thanks to a convincing 34-13 win. Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw put together arguably the most complete performance of his young career, completing 14 of 20 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns through the air while adding 108 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground.

HOW SOUTH CAROLINA WON: South Carolina started the game offensively by taking body shots at Clemson's defense. Draws, dives, and zone reads accounted for a majority of the early play calls, with Spurrier sparingly allowing Shaw to take a shot downfield. But Shaw began to open up Clemson's defense with his ability to scramble from the pocket. Defensively the Gamecocks took NC State's example and emphasized pressure on Tajh Boyd. The difference for South Carolina was the ability to get into Boyd's face almost exclusively with their defensive front. Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney, and the rest of the defensive line had a superb game limiting the Tigers' rushing attack and forcing Boyd into errant throws.

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: The Gamecocks' defense opened the fourth quarter holding Clemson's offense to a field goal after Ingram sacked Boyd for a 9-yard loss on 3rd down inside the 15. The South Carolina offense followed with a 14 play drive that ate up over seven minutes of game clock before ending in a field goal. When Clemson got the ball back, down 27-13, Tajh Boyd threw two incomplete passes before his third was picked off by DeVonte Holloman and returned to the Clemson 19. Two plays later Alshon Jeffery is hauling in a touchdown pass and the game is in the books. After a back and forth third quarter, it was that series of events that ended all hope for the young Tigers' squad.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: For the second time in school history, and the first time under Steve Spurrier, South Carolina hit the 10-win mark. The achievement adds to the list of 2011 honors that include the first 6-2 SEC finish in school history, and the first 5-0 finish against division opponents. The absence of an SEC Championship Game bid does sting, but you have to be impressed with the Gamecocks' finish considering the obstacles they have overcome.

WHAT CLEMSON LOST: Any shot at momentum heading into the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers didn't need to win either of their final two contests to earn a BCS bowl bid, but their back-to-back losses against NC State and South Carolina have shown revealed weaknesses that went under the radar during the 8-0 start. While Clemson is reeling after their third loss in four games, Virginia Tech is playing their best ball of the season. The Hokies have won seven straight games since losing 23-3 to Clemson at home in early October. The Tigers can expect Virginia Tech's best shot on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game, and South Carolina gave the Hokies a great gameplan in the win.

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:06 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 13

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

So you're been eating turkey and Thanksgiving leftovers for two days now, you've still got an entire Saturday of football to get through. And really, is there any better way to work off all the weight you've gained over the holiday than by sitting on a couch watching football?

Of course not.

So strap yourselves in and prepare for one of the last Saturdays you'll have this season.

BREAKFAST

#9 Oklahoma vs. Iowa State - FX 12pm ET

Who'd have known this game could hold so much intrigue? Iowa State is coming off a huge win of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma is coming off a loss to Baylor. Is it possible that Oklahoma could get upset two weeks in a row, or that Iowa State could pull off consecutive upsets? Your first reaction is to probably think not, but then again, how many of us thought Iowa State would beat Oklahoma State last week? - Tom Fornelli

#23 Georgia Tech vs. #13 Georgia - ESPN 12pm ET

The Jackets simply can't ask for a better week to play the Dawgs. Todd Grantham only has a week to prepare his defense for the Tech triple-option; how focused that defense will be with the SEC Championship on deck is entirely debatable; and we're guessing Tech didn't spend all of their nine days between their Nov. 10 game vs. Virginia Tech and last Saturday's vs. Duke prepping for the Devils. But against Jarvis Jones and a Bulldog defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense, will any of that matter? - Jerry Hinnen

#15 Michigan vs. Ohio State - ABC 12pm ET

This would appear to be a prime opportunity for Michigan to exorcise the demons of Jim Tressel's dominance; for one, Tressel's not even there anymore, and more importantly, the Wolverines are probably better than the Buckeyes. Of course, "better" doesn't always equal "victorious" in a sport as maniacally unpredictable as college football, but we're sure Denard Robinson and his (intermittently) high-powered offense are just as eager to take this matchup off paper and onto the gridiron as OSU is. - Adam Jacobi

UConn vs. Rutgers - ESPN2 12pm ET

The schedule has worked out well for Rutgers to put themselves in a position to win a share of the Big East title for the first time in school history.  But accomplishing that feat still requires one more win to finish at 5-2 in league play.  Paul Pasqualoni's Connecticut squad is out of the hunt for a BCS bowl berth, but with Rutgers and Cincinnati left on the schedule they have two great opportunities to spoil someone else's fun. This game has been played close the last several years, and Connecticut's players will be looking for revenge after giving up a close 27-24 game to the Scarlet Knights a year ago.  Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison has emerged as the star in the offensive backfield in the second half of the season, and if he can get going early it should open up the defense for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pick on a struggling Huskies secondary. - Chip Patterson

LUNCH

#24 Auburn vs. #2 Alabama - CBS 3:30pm ET

If this game was being played on paper -- or a neutral venue -- there wouldn't be much intrigue to it. Alabama has the more efficient offense, has the far superior defense, and is favored by three full touchdowns in a series that (for all the "throw out the records" talk) rarely produces upsets. But the game's being played in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tigers nearly ruined the Tide's national championship hopes two seasons ago and where AJ McCarron may not be the steady quarterback he's been at home. So don't send the Tide to New Orleans just yet. - JH 

Virginia vs. #5 Virginia Tech - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

Virginia Tech's move to the ACC received some significant help from Virginia during the ACC's expansion in 2004.  The Hokies have repaid their Commonwealth brothers by winning four of six division titles and beating the Cavaliers every season since joining the conference.  Second-year head coach Mike London has Virginia playing their best football at the right time, winning six of their last seven contests.  There aren't a lot of stars on the roster, but they play smash-mouth football and have been incredibly opportunistic.  Virginia Tech must avoid turning the ball over and try to jump out to an early lead to force Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco to move the ball through the air.  Logan Thomas and David Wilson will be the key to the Hokies' ground game, as ball control will be necessary for either team to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and a berth to the ACC Championship Game. - CP

#16 Wisconsin vs. #19 Penn State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

This one's for half the Big Ten Tostitos, folks. Penn State's basically never been taken seriously as a division contender, yet here it is one win away from a trip to Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Wisconsin gets to continue its path to redemption if it wins here--and then there's just a rematch with MSU with the Rose Bowl on the line. It's a great offense vs. a great defense, and a lousy offense vs. a lousy defense. Compelling viewing all around. By the way, I think I owe Brent Musberger AND Frito-Lay royalties for that opening line. A rare tandem, that. - AJ

#10 Oregon vs. Oregon State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

This isn't a rivalry, this is Civil War. The Ducks are looking to close out the Pac-12 regular season as North champions and host the first ever conference title game so who better to do so against than their rival up the highway? The Beavers are banged up but should put up a fight with quarterback Sean Mannion likely throwing the ball all over. - Bryan Fischer

DINNER

Florida vs. Florida State - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Gators and 'Noles are both living in a Sunshine State of Disappointment at the moment, but one team will get to head off to a bowl game with some measure of solace. Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks -- both teams' offenses have lagged behind their defenses this year, with FSU's 14-13 home loss to Virginia last week the latest evidence -- but 6-5 Gator record or not, the atmosphere at Florida Field should still be plenty hostile and relations between the teams still plenty frosty. - JH

#12 South Carolina vs. #17 Clemson - ESPN 7:45pm ET

Clemson enters the annual rivalry reeling after three frustrating performances that resulted in road losses to Georgia Tech and NC State. The Tigers have clinched a berth to the ACC Championship Game, but need to get a strong performance to get back on track. The Gamecocks on the other hand are just starting to put the pieces back together after a frustrating stretch of injuries and dismissals have revamped the offense. Connor Shaw had one of his best games of the season against Furman, but it was also Furman. The matchup to watch here will be South Carolina's dominating - but slightly banged up - defense against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. The Tigers get star freshman Sammy Watkins back, after missing the NC State loss with a shoulder injury, but will it be enough to make up for a sputtering unit that was exposed by the Wolfpack in the 37-13 loss? - CP

#6 Stanford vs. #22 Notre Dame - ABC 8pm ET

This will be Andrew Luck's final chance to impress Heisman voters this season, and it could be his final game in Palo Alto. Luck will also be facing a team that he's had some trouble with, as in his two games against Notre Dame, Luck has thrown one touchdown and two interceptions. Though Stanford is also 2-0 in both of those games.  As for the Irish, a win over Stanford in Palo Alto to finish the regular season would be an excellent way to cap a season that started off poorly but has redeemed itself a bit since. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

USC vs. UCLA - Fox Sports 10pm ET

USC returns to the Coliseum after their big upset win over Oregon and can end their season with a big win over crosstown rival UCLA. This might be the last game in the cardinal and gold for quarterback Matt Barkley and he'll want nothing more than to have a great game to secure a 10-win year despite sanctions. The Bruins are not only playing to beat the Trojans but also for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and a South division title. - BF 
Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 12:47 pm
 

ACC-SEC Grudge Week Preview



Posted by Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson


There's no formal conference-vs.-conference challenge in college football, but this week is as close as we're going to come: four contests matching up SEC and ACC opponents, all of them competitive matchups on paper. Here, our resident ACC and SEC bloggers break down why each team can (or should) expect to win and offer their predictions.

No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA: Regardless of motivation or prep time (neither of which favors the Bulldogs, admittedly), the antidote to Georgia Tech's triple-option is the same as it's always been: a powerful defensive line and a running game that keeps the Tech offense off the field. In immovable nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers and whirling-dervish 3-4 outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Bulldogs can put a check mark by the former, and the combination of Crowell and a rapidly improving offensive line should be able to provide the latter. If the Dawgs are at all focused, they've got the better, more talented team. But are they at all focused?

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA TECH: While the in-state athletes have made a point to do their barking in the media, I'm not entirely sure the Bulldogs will have their total focus on Georgia Tech.  With the SEC Championship Game a week away, some have suggested that Mark Richt rest banged up players like star running back Isaiah Crowell to keep them fresh for the SEC West representative in Atlanta.  Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Championship Game hunt, and now has refocused on a goal of achieving a 10-win season.  With the game in Atlanta, it just seems like the Yellow Jackets have more to play for and less to lose.

Jerry's Pick: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27
Chip's Pick: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 24

Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET. TV: ESPNU

THE CASE FOR VANDERBILT: A 5-6 record is a fine, fine start for James Franklin, but even more impressive is that the 'Dores have arguably been even better than that record: their last four SEC losses have come by a total of 19 points. Jordan Rodgers has been a revelation since taking over as starting quarterback, and potential All-SEC corner Casey Hayward leads a top-notch secondary that will pose major matchup problems for the Deacon passing attack. That Vandy's been better at home than on the road (and that the same goes for Wake) could be troubling, but this Commodore team is easily good enough to be a bowl team, and they should be plenty fired up to prove it.

THE CASE FOR WAKE FOREST: Wake Forest can expect to get Vanderbilt's best shot, particularly with bowl eligibility on the line for James Franklin's squad.  Perhaps the best matchup for Wake Forest is neutralizing one of the Commodores' strengths.  Vanderbilt has an opportunistic defense that has forced 17 interceptions on the season (T-1 in the SEC), but Tanner Price has one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC at taking care of the ball.  Price has thrown for 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions, and has nearly doubled his 2010 output with 2,646 yards on the year.  Still, especially after last week's debacle against Tennessee you have think Vanderbilt will be an inspired team on Saturday.

Jerry's Pick: Vanderbilt 30, Wake Forest 27
Chip's Pick: Vanderbilt 34, Wake Forest 31

Florida State at Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN2

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA: The (surprisingly difficult) win over Furman got the Gators into a bowl, but the only way to genuinely salvage Will Muschamp's rocky debut season is to beat the 'Noles, and Muschamp's team knows it. Playing hated FSU at home should wake up the dormant Florida Field crowd, and it's not like the Gators don't have the talent to win this game: a healthy John Brantley at quarterback, the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps tag team at tailback, Jelani Jenkins at linebacker. The Gators' top-20 defense should be plenty enough of a match for an FSU offense that's scored a total of 36 points the last two weeks. If the 'Noles can lose to Virginia at home, they're certainly vulnerable enough to lose to the motivated Gators in Gainesville.

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA STATE: Unlike the Gators, the Seminoles have shown the potential of a Top 10-caliber team when they are healthy and have all the pieces working together.  Unfortunately for Florida State, they are like Florida with their inconsistent performances throughout the season.  When EJ Manuel has time to throw and is able to get in rhythm, the Seminoles becomes dangerous and potent very quickly.  The Gators' defense presents arguably their toughest challenge on the schedule, but at least Florida State has played at an elite level at times this year.

Jerry's Pick: Florida 24, Florida State 21
Chip's Pick: Florida State 28, Florida 16

No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina, 7:45 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks haven't seen many offenses like Clemson's, but the Tigers also haven't seen many defenses like Carolina's. Melvin Ingram has been one of the nation's best defensive ends, Jadeveon Clowney has lived up to the hype and more, and what was one of the FBS's most flammable secondaries in 2010 has turned into one of its stingiest in 2011. The buttoned-down Gamecock offense won't put a lot of points on the board, but they should put up some against the roller-coaster Tiger defense. They could easily be enough opposite that defense.

THE CASE FOR CLEMSON: Sammy. Watkins. When healthy, his presence on the field changes so many aspects of the game.  The superstar freshman has been cleared to play after sitting out last week with a shoulder injury, and if he is at full speed Steve Spurrier will have some difficult special teams decisions to make.  The Gamecocks' kick coverage has been less than stellar, so OBC will need to figure out whether he'd rather set up the potent Tigers offense with a short field or put the ball in the hands of arguably the most explosive player in the ACC.  He returns kicks, punts, and offensive coordinator Chad Morris moves him all around in the offense.  The Tigers' offense was missing a spark in the loss to NC State, but he'll be ready to go for this rivalry game.

Jerry's Pick: Clemson 27, South Carolina 21
Chip's Pick: Clemson 45, South Carolina 38


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