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Tag:Dabo Swinney
Posted on: November 29, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 2:47 pm
 

Swinney: Ohio State has not called for OC Morris

Posted by Chip Patterson

As the coaching carousel continues to turn, many top programs have begun to target the most prized coordinators in the game to inject some new life into their team. As more teams are finding success with a faster offense, coaches like Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris have become household names on the wish list of many college football fans. Morris' spread scheme has made him a possible candidate to join new head coach Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney debunked that rumor on Tuesday, but he did confirm the interest in Morris' services.

Swinney told the media he has been called by five schools interested in talking to the Tigers' offensive coordinator, and Ohio State is not one of those schools. CBSSports.com's Travis Sawchik reports that Swinney does not anticipate Morris leaving Clemson unless he it is for a head coaching position at a power program.

Morris is a student of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who is currently a name in the mix for many BCS jobs including Ole Miss and North Carolina. The idea that the Tigers' offensive coordinator will one day be in the same discussions is not unlikely, though it does seem a bit soon for Morris to be making another jump. The offense was humming through the first half of the season, and the lightning-fast ability to score was one of the key factors in Clemson's 8-0 start.

But now Morris, along with Swinney, have the task of refocusing their reeling team before Saturday's ACC Championship. Clemson is a last-second field goal away from a four-game losing streak, and the offense has only put up one touchdown in each of their last two games - both losses. They'll meet Virginia Tech in Charlotte with an Orange Bowl berth on the line. If Clemson can turn things around this week and knock off the Hokies, the memories of their late-season struggles will begin to fade from the minds of Tigers' fans.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 8:53 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 9:01 pm
 

BCS Standings Top 10 Reactions, Week 13



Posted by Eye On College Football


On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. With Alabama and LSU wrapping up their regular seasons in style, the SEC powerhouses appear headed back on a collision course for the BCS title game.  LSU will be tested one more time against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, while Oklahoma State will try to state their case against Oklahoma and hope for chaos.

You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.

1. LSU:14-0 deficit to the third-ranked team in the nation? No bother for Les Miles and LSU, who then ripped off a 41-3 spree on Arkansas to finish the game's scoring. We're at the point where LSU's resume is so good, so dominant, so much better than everybody else's that the Tigers could probably take a loss to Georgia in the SEC title game and still be in the BCS championship game -- or maybe even still ranked No. 1. Seriously, who would you put in front of a one-loss LSU team among these contenders? - Adam Jacobi

2. Alabama: It's good for 'Bama that it's got such a strong hold on No. 2 in the Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll, because the Crimson Tide's season is over, while third-ranked Oklahoma State's got a date with Oklahoma this weekend. Tide fans should be cheering for Oklahoma to pull the minor upset, of course, but as long as the game's close it's unlikely that a surfeit of voters will swap Oklahoma State and Alabama, and we should look for a rematch in the BCS Championship. And that's the way it ought to be, as LSU and Alabama have been, hands-down, the best two football teams this season. - AJ

3. Oklahoma State: In case you weren't already aware of it, losing to Iowa State was a rather terrible idea, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys move back up to third in the BCS but Alabama remains #2 and has no possible games left to lose this year. Which means that the Cowboys best bet is to detroy Oklahoma in Bedlam next weekend and then cross their fingers that the performance was strong enough to convince voters that they don't really want to see a rematch. Which, honestly, is not the best position to be in. - Tom Fornelli 

4. Stanford:Thanks to an Arkansas loss and a win over Notre Dame, the Cardinal have secured a BCS bowl berth for the second straight year. It's a remarkable accomplishment for a program that has been to a bowl game just three times in ten years and underwent a change at head coach before this season. The win over the Irish wasn't a blowout but it was a marquee opponent in primetime and allowed Andrew Luck to pad his stats for the Heisman. Stanford will watch Oregon host the Pac-12 title game this week but will be home knowing they will likely end up as an at large team in the Fiesta Bowl. - Bryan Fischer

5. Virginia Tech:The Hokies were put on upset alert heading to Charlottesville to face a hot Virginia team with the ACC Coastal Division on the line. But Virginia Tech punched their ticket to a fifth ACC Championship Game with a thorough 38-0 dismantling of the Cavaliers. The win was the seventh in a row for Virginia Tech, and the "win move up/loser move down" voter mentality has the Hokies in the Top 5 of the BCS standings. It would likely take a disaster to get bumped into the title game, so the main focus for Frank Beamer's squad will be defending their ACC title against Clemson on Saturday. - Chip Patterson

6. Houston:Houston has the benefit of playing in a conference championship game to get another week to impress the voters. Unfortunately for the undefeated Cougars, it is also another test of their perfect record. Houston can lock up a BCS bowl bid by taking care of business against Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship Game. Case Keenum and Co. dodged the Golden Eagles in conference play, and another convincing win like Saturday's against Tulsa would complete one of the most dominant runs through the league in recent memory. - CP 

7. Boise State: Oh of all the years to lose a game at home, Boise State, you had to choose this one. Listen, the Broncos need a lot to go right for them this weekend to end up in a BCS bowl game because as things sit right now, they wouldn't be in one. So if you're a Boise State fan, this is what you want to happen this week: beat New Mexico, have Houston lose in the C-USA title game, have LSU beat Georgia and Wisconsin beat Michigan State. That knocks out Houston and Georgia, and if Michigan State loses then the odds of Michigan becoming eligible for a BCS at large berth (currently 16th) is nearly null. It's a lot to ask, but it's also possible. And if all that does happen, then Boise may get that BCS invite. - TF

8. Arkansas:An opportunity to dramatically upset the BCS picture passed through Arkansas' grasp on Saturday, as the Razorbacks failed to take advantage of their early lead at LSU. So being that current rules prohibit more than two teams from any given conference participating in the BCS, Arkansas' presence here at No. 8 is of no relevance to any of the big bowls. The Capital One Bowl committee should be salivating at having such a highly-ranked team available, though. - AJ

9. Oklahoma: It's simple for Oklahoma at this point. If it loses to Oklahoma State next week it will have 3 losses and have no chance for a BCS at-large berth. If the Sooner do win that game, though, they'll be Big 12 champions and headed to the Fiesta Bowl. So it's pretty cut and dry. - TF


10. Oregon:A Civil War victory gave the Ducks the right to host the first ever Pac-12 Championship game and given the way UCLA was routed by USC, it's looking like flower shops in Eugene might be all out of roses by the end of the week. Sitting ninth in the rankings and with two losses, Oregon is out of the running for the national title but a win at home this week gives the team a trip to the Rose Bowl against either Wisconsin or Michigan State. It may not be a return trip to the BCS championship game but the granddaddy of them all is a pretty good way to end the season. - BF

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 8:53 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 9:01 pm
 

BCS Standings Top 10 Reactions, Week 13



Posted by Eye On College Football


On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. With Alabama and LSU wrapping up their regular seasons in style, the SEC powerhouses appear headed back on a collision course for the BCS title game.  LSU will be tested one more time against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, while Oklahoma State will try to state their case against Oklahoma and hope for chaos.

You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.

1. LSU:14-0 deficit to the third-ranked team in the nation? No bother for Les Miles and LSU, who then ripped off a 41-3 spree on Arkansas to finish the game's scoring. We're at the point where LSU's resume is so good, so dominant, so much better than everybody else's that the Tigers could probably take a loss to Georgia in the SEC title game and still be in the BCS championship game -- or maybe even still ranked No. 1. Seriously, who would you put in front of a one-loss LSU team among these contenders? - Adam Jacobi

2. Alabama: It's good for 'Bama that it's got such a strong hold on No. 2 in the Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll, because the Crimson Tide's season is over, while third-ranked Oklahoma State's got a date with Oklahoma this weekend. Tide fans should be cheering for Oklahoma to pull the minor upset, of course, but as long as the game's close it's unlikely that a surfeit of voters will swap Oklahoma State and Alabama, and we should look for a rematch in the BCS Championship. And that's the way it ought to be, as LSU and Alabama have been, hands-down, the best two football teams this season. - AJ

3. Oklahoma State: In case you weren't already aware of it, losing to Iowa State was a rather terrible idea, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys move back up to third in the BCS but Alabama remains #2 and has no possible games left to lose this year. Which means that the Cowboys best bet is to detroy Oklahoma in Bedlam next weekend and then cross their fingers that the performance was strong enough to convince voters that they don't really want to see a rematch. Which, honestly, is not the best position to be in. - Tom Fornelli 

4. Stanford:Thanks to an Arkansas loss and a win over Notre Dame, the Cardinal have secured a BCS bowl berth for the second straight year. It's a remarkable accomplishment for a program that has been to a bowl game just three times in ten years and underwent a change at head coach before this season. The win over the Irish wasn't a blowout but it was a marquee opponent in primetime and allowed Andrew Luck to pad his stats for the Heisman. Stanford will watch Oregon host the Pac-12 title game this week but will be home knowing they will likely end up as an at large team in the Fiesta Bowl. - Bryan Fischer

5. Virginia Tech:The Hokies were put on upset alert heading to Charlottesville to face a hot Virginia team with the ACC Coastal Division on the line. But Virginia Tech punched their ticket to a fifth ACC Championship Game with a thorough 38-0 dismantling of the Cavaliers. The win was the seventh in a row for Virginia Tech, and the "win move up/loser move down" voter mentality has the Hokies in the Top 5 of the BCS standings. It would likely take a disaster to get bumped into the title game, so the main focus for Frank Beamer's squad will be defending their ACC title against Clemson on Saturday. - Chip Patterson

6. Houston:Houston has the benefit of playing in a conference championship game to get another week to impress the voters. Unfortunately for the undefeated Cougars, it is also another test of their perfect record. Houston can lock up a BCS bowl bid by taking care of business against Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship Game. Case Keenum and Co. dodged the Golden Eagles in conference play, and another convincing win like Saturday's against Tulsa would complete one of the most dominant runs through the league in recent memory. - CP 

7. Boise State: Oh of all the years to lose a game at home, Boise State, you had to choose this one. Listen, the Broncos need a lot to go right for them this weekend to end up in a BCS bowl game because as things sit right now, they wouldn't be in one. So if you're a Boise State fan, this is what you want to happen this week: beat New Mexico, have Houston lose in the C-USA title game, have LSU beat Georgia and Wisconsin beat Michigan State. That knocks out Houston and Georgia, and if Michigan State loses then the odds of Michigan becoming eligible for a BCS at large berth (currently 16th) is nearly null. It's a lot to ask, but it's also possible. And if all that does happen, then Boise may get that BCS invite. - TF

8. Arkansas:An opportunity to dramatically upset the BCS picture passed through Arkansas' grasp on Saturday, as the Razorbacks failed to take advantage of their early lead at LSU. So being that current rules prohibit more than two teams from any given conference participating in the BCS, Arkansas' presence here at No. 8 is of no relevance to any of the big bowls. The Capital One Bowl committee should be salivating at having such a highly-ranked team available, though. - AJ

9. Oklahoma: It's simple for Oklahoma at this point. If it loses to Oklahoma State next week it will have 3 losses and have no chance for a BCS at-large berth. If the Sooner do win that game, though, they'll be Big 12 champions and headed to the Fiesta Bowl. So it's pretty cut and dry. - TF


10. Oregon:A Civil War victory gave the Ducks the right to host the first ever Pac-12 Championship game and given the way UCLA was routed by USC, it's looking like flower shops in Eugene might be all out of roses by the end of the week. Sitting ninth in the rankings and with two losses, Oregon is out of the running for the national title but a win at home this week gives the team a trip to the Rose Bowl against either Wisconsin or Michigan State. It may not be a return trip to the BCS championship game but the granddaddy of them all is a pretty good way to end the season. - BF

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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 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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Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:34 am
 

Sammy Watkins (shoulder) expects to play at SC

Posted by Chip Patterson

When Clemson needed fast scoring after falling into a 24-3 second quarter deficit against NC State, their most explosive playmaker could do nothing but watch from the sidelines. Freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins initially warmed up for the road game against the Wolfpack, but sat out nursing an injured shoulder.

Their spot in the ACC Championship Game is clinched, but Clemson has plenty of bragging rights to play for in the unofficial state championship against South Carolina. The good news for Tigers' fans is Watkins was able to practice Tuesday, and believes he will be at full speed for Saturday's Top 25 showdown with the Gamecocks.

“I feel fine. I am getting a lot of treatment and getting better every day so I can get better as quickly as possible. I have made a lot of progress and think I will be close to 100 percent by game time," Watkins said on Tuesday. “I am excited to play South Carolina because I know about the rivalry. It is a nationally televised game against a top 15 team. I am most excited to just get back on the field and help this team.”

Watkins isn't the only key player expected to be back on the field for the Tigers. Starting left tackle Phillip Price missed the NC State loss after spraining his right knee against Wake Forest. The offensive line was overwhelmed and out of sync against the Wolfpack, allowing a season-worst six sacks. CBSSports.com's Travis Sawchik reports that Price was able to do all the physical drills in practice on Tuesday, and should be back in the starting lineup for South Carolina.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Clemson at South Carolina

Posted by Chip Patterson

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: They can move the ball against Clemson's defense. The Gamecocks offense has struggled in the back half of the season, but was able to gain some momentum in Week 13 - even if it was against The Citadel. After averaging 16.5 points per game in their previous four contests, quarterback Connor Shaw led a 473 yard offensive performance that resulted in the 41-20 win. The Gamecocks defense has been the most consistent aspect of this year's team, but the unit enters the rivalry game with some injury issues. The Tigers' defense has shown they are vulnerable, and South Carolina may need to take advantage just to play keep-up with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They can win the battle in the trenches. Clemson's offensive line only allowed 18 sacks through their first ten games, but allowed six sacks to NC State alone in the embarrassing 37-13 defeat on Saturday. By the same measure, Clemson's defensive line has to do a better job of getting into the backfield and pressuring the quarterback. Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson were near the top of everyone's midseason watch list for all-conference honors, but both players have been much more quiet in the last three games. Clemson has to regain their focus to get a win against South Carolina, and they need a strong performance to build some momentum heading into the ACC Championship Game.

X-FACTOR: Sammy Watkins. The superstar freshman injured his shoulder against Wake Forest and was unavailable for the Tigers' loss at NC State. With Watkins cleared to play, the question is now how much he can play. Watkins in his most dangerous form impacts the game as a wide receiver, punt returner, and kick returner. Every touchdown by the opposition is followed with the question of whether you want to kick the ball to Watkins, or risk giving Clemson's high-powered offense a short field. Every punter has to undergo the same concerns, causing him to rethink or readjust his kick. As Watkins shifts around in the offense, the secondary has to be aware and ready to close in at any moment. Rivalry games like this are often decided by big plays, and few people can impact a game in a split-second like a healthy Sammy Watkins.

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