1. BeamerBall Bowl Hopes Still Alive
With Frank Beamer announcing earlier this month that 2015 would be his last as Virginia Tech’s head coach, much was made of this being the long-time Hokie boss’ final Thursday night game. In the end, the Hokies turned it into a night to remember for the departing coach.
Trailing by two touchdowns early on, VT was able to come back late in the first half, then again late in the second to secure a 23-21 win over Georgia Tech. The win improved the Hokies to 5-5 on the season, meaning Tech needs to win one of its last two (North Carolina, at Virginia) to ensure Beamer will be going bowling one last time in his storied career and the Hokies won’t be home for the postseason for the first time in more than two decades……(continue reading)
2. Not Interested
Earlier this week, a report out of Miami stated that current Texas head coach Charlie Strong, according to those connected to The U, has an interest in the same job with the Hurricanes. That report came nearly two weeks after initial speculation connected Strong to The U, with the coach publicly denying any interest.
Just as the script calls for in this type of coaching search, reports are now filtering out of Texas refuting the Miami reports. From the Dallas Morning News:
A source close to the Texas program indicated Thursday that Charlie Strong is not interested in the head coaching job at Miami
But the source indicated that Strong, who strongly denied interest initially, has not changed his mind. Strong is “very happy” at Texas, the source said.
Offer more than $3m/yr and we might have a different story – it’s negotiation thru the media. (h/t John Taylor)
3. Remote Patrol
It’s Friday the 13th and there’s only 3 more weeks left of college football before all giddy-up breaks loose. Last week was trava-sham-ockery of football in Tuscaloosa and tonight the Buffaloes get custom fitted Trojans – so let’s all grab some coca by-tha-fire and enjoy the show.
(h/t matt brown)
Georgia at Auburn
It’s the matchup of preseason top-10 teams that turned out to be disappointments, although the positive here is that both are coming off solid wins. After a tumultuous week, Georgia crushed Kentucky 27-3, while Auburn sent Texas A&M into disarray with a 26-10 win featuring Jeremy Johnson back at quarterback because of an injury to Sean White. Both teams have had messy quarterback situations. It appears that both Greyson Lambert and Bryce Ramsey — who is also punting — will play quarterback for the Bulldogs, while it’s unclear whether White or Johnson will start for the Tigers. It’s tough to tell how either of these teams is going to play in any given week, but Georgia has a chance to run the ball well with Sony Michel against Will Muschamp’s Auburn defense.
No. 3 Ohio State at Illinois
Ohio State has won the Illibuck seven times in a row, and It’s an overwhelming favorite for an eighth, unless Illinois can somehow play spoiler before the Buckeyes move on to their tough end-of-season schedule against Michigan State and Michigan. Bill Cubit has done a solid job as Illinois’ interim coach and could get the full-time gig, with the Fighting Illini needing to beat either the Buckeyes, Minnesota or Northwestern to get bowl eligible. But while beating Purdue is nice, they’ve struggled against the better teams on their schedule — including a 39-0 loss to Penn State two weeks ago and a 48-14 loss at North Carolina. With J.T. Barrett back at quarterback, Ohio State’s offense should run smoothly and keep the Buckeyes among the playoff frontrunners.
No. 11 Florida at South Carolina
Florida survived an ugly 9-7 game against Vanderbilt last week to clinch the SEC East, so this game is only about staying alive in the race for a playoff bid and a New Year’s Six bowl. Fortunately for the Gators, the Gamecocks defense is much more vulnerable than Vandy’s. So while this is a road game, Florida shouldn’t have much trouble moving the ball, just as its defense should shut down a mediocre Gamecocks offense. Florida has Vernon Hargreaves to contain Pharoh Cooper, and the Gamecocks don’t have much else to put a scare into this Florida defense.
N.C. State at No. 16 Florida State
12:30 p.m., ACC Network/ESPN3
The Seminoles dropped from the playoff discussion with their loss at Clemson, and now their focus turns to at least finishing strong and perhaps staying in the New Year’s Six conversation with the Wolfpack and Chattanooga left before the tough season finale at Florida. Everett Golson will return to the starting quarterback position for the Noles over Sean Maguire, and they actually face a decent challenge this week, as the Wolfpack have been solid defensively thus far. However, N.C. State has played a lot of bad offenses — and did get torched by Clemson — and it has seen nobody like FSU running back Dalvin Cook. Throw in the season-ending injury to N.C. State tailback Matthew Dayes, and it will be tough for the Wolfpack to come away with a road win in Tallahassee.
Pittsburgh at Duke
Noon, ESPN News
North Carolina beat each team the last two weeks, meaning the Tar Heels are running away with the ACC Coastal. Both the Panthers and Blue Devils had just one loss entering the last week of October, but they’ve each lost back-to-back games and are trying to stop the bleeding. Duke’s defense, which had previously been ranked among the nation’s best, is hoping for a turnaround game after allowing 400 passing yards to UNC in one half, while despite a solid season overall under defensive ace new coach Pat Narduzzi, the Panthers rank just 73rd in yards per play allowed. Duke is the better bet at home.
Texas at West Virginia
Road games have not gone well for Texas: So far, the Longhorns have lost 38-3 at Notre Dame, 50-7 at TCU and 24-0 at Iowa State, for a total road score of 112-10. West Virginia actually held Texas Tech to 26 points in a win last week in Morgantown, and if it can do that, it can likely limit the Longhorns enough to secure another win at home after a rough October against a tough midseason schedule. Mediocrity in the passing game remains a concern for the Mountaineers, but that is still an even bigger concern for the Longhorns.
Maryland at No. 13 Michigan State
Over the past three seasons, Michigan State has fallen from third to 61st to 90th in pass defense, losing several key players in the secondary, plus defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Fortunately, the Spartans’ greatest weakness might not mean much at home against the Terrapins, whose main threat on offense comes from quarterback Perry Hills running — although he got nothing going against Wisconsin last week. The Spartans have to try to respond well after a devastating, controversial last-minute defeat at Nebraska ruined their undefeated season, but they can control this game by leaning on their stellar line play and Connor Cook.
No. 2 Alabama at No. 17 Mississippi State
3:30 p.m., ESPN
By no means is Alabama perfect, but last week it looked exactly like an Alabama national championship contender, with the defense completely shutting down Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry wearing down LSU for over 200 yards rushing. The Crimson Tide’s defensive front is absurdly deep and talented, with lots of big but athletic bodies — see A’Shawn Robinson’s blocked extra point — and thus they have the capability of slowing down Dak Prescott too.
While Prescott hasn’t gotten the same attention that he had for much of last season, he’s having another terrific season as the best quarterback in the SEC. He’s completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 2,351 yards with 18 touchdowns and just one interception, and he has rushed for 418 yards and seven touchdowns. Last year, Mississippi State hung with Alabama in a 25-20 loss in Tuscaloosa, despite Prescott throwing an uncharacteristic three interceptions. This Alabama defense is better than last year’s unit, and that front will surely frustrate Prescott, as it is the toughest matchup he’s faced all season.
Mississippi State’s best hope is the Bama comes out a bit sluggish after the emotional high of last week’s win. The best team the Bulldogs have beaten is Auburn, though, and this just seems like Mississippi State will struggle to move the ball consistently against the Tide defense, and then Henry will wear the Bulldogs down to deliver Alabama another victory.
No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse
3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
Clemson has shown few signs of stumbling this season, and while it has to go on the road to the Carrier Dome a week after the emotional win over Florida State, it’s nearly impossible to see the top-ranked Tigers suffering enough of a letdown to actually lose to the Orange. Syracuse has lost six games in a row after a 3-0 start, including blowouts at the hands of Florida State and Louisville the last two weeks. It’s not even clear if Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey will be cleared to play. Regardless, Syracuse doesn’t have the personnel to move the ball consistently against this Clemson defense, and it’s also unlikely to slow down Deshaun Watson.
No. 8 Oklahoma State at Iowa State
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Well, undefeated Oklahoma State playing in Ames in November has never gone poorly … right?
Here’s what Iowa State has going for it this time: It shut out Texas 24-0 in its last home game, and Oklahoma State might not be totally up for this one, after last week’s huge win over TCU and with home dates with Baylor and Oklahoma next. This is the one forgettable game on the Oklahoma State schedule in November. Still … Iowa State just got blown out 52-16 by Oklahoma, and the Cowboys are playing too well on both sides of the ball. Iowa State can’t stop receiver James Washington, and it can’t contain defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. Don’t expect any repeats of 2011.
Miami at No. 23 North Carolina
3:30 p.m., ESPNU
The Tar Heels finally broke into the top 25 after their dismantling of Duke, behind over 400 passing yards from Marquise Williams in the first half alone. They’ve been playing at a high level on both sides of the ball and now rank second in offensive yards per play and 40th on defense — which is a huge improvement over last year, under new coordinator Gene Chizik. Miami has won both of its games since firing Al Golden, but one was the controversial miracle against Duke and the other was a 27-21 win over Virginia. North Carolina is the better team in nearly every facet of the game.
No. 14 Michigan at Indiana
3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
Michigan’s path to the Big Ten championship isn’t actually far-fetched: The Wolverines need to win out against Indiana, Penn State and Ohio State, and they need the Buckeyes to beat Michigan State, all thanks to the Spartans’ loss to Nebraska. Indiana is known for posing upset threats, but it’s typically incapable of putting together a full 60 minutes. That will probably be the case again on Saturday. The Hoosiers defense continues to struggle, ranking 115th in yards per play allowed, while the Wolverines boast one of the best defenses in the country. Michigan should do what it does best and overpower Indiana on both sides of the ball to continue to make an unlikely conference title a possibility.
Wake Forest at No. 4 Notre Dame
3:30 p.m., NBC
Notre Dame continues to be in decent playoff shape. While its best wins, according to the committee, are Navy and Temple — the USC win is looking better too — it is fourth in the rankings after LSU’s loss. The path to the playoff seems fairly clear: Win out, including at Stanford in their Nov. 28 showdown, and hope that both Oklahoma State and Baylor lose a game. A one-loss Notre Dame — with its loss coming to Clemson — will probably get a bid over a one-loss Big 12 champion. Before the Stanford game, Notre Dame just has to take care of business against anemic Wake Forest and Boston College offenses. That shouldn’t be a problem, even with the availability of starting running back C.J. Prosise uncertain.
Washington at Arizona State
3 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Washington’s season has had a couple of surprises — the win at USC, the 49-3 win over Arizona — but it is close to where it was expected to be, fighting for bowl eligibility in a rebuilding season for Chris Petersen. The Huskies are 4-5, needing to win two of three against Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington to get to the postseason. Arizona State’s fight for six wins has not been expected. The Sun Devils opened the season ranked 15th, but at 4-5 as well, they’ll need to win two of three against Washington, Arizona and Cal. The Huskies own the much better defense, but the Sun Devils’ aggressive defensive approach may cause too many problems for Washington freshman QB Jake Browning on the road.
Kansas State at Texas Tech
3:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Texas Tech lost to TCU by three and scored 53 in a loss to Oklahoma State. And while Kansas State got embarrassed by Oklahoma, it has lost to Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU by a total of 16 points during its five-game losing streak. Talk of the backloaded Big 12 schedule means that the league’s top teams have left a path of destruction over the last month, resulting in Kansas State holding a 3-5 record while Texas Tech is 5-5. Kansas State fortunately still has Iowa State and Kansas left on its schedule in its question for bowl eligibility, while six of Texas Tech’s eight Big 12 wins under Kliff Kingsbury have come against the Cyclones and Jayhawks. The season has been frustrating for both, but Texas Tech simply has more playmakers.
No. 12 Oklahoma at No. 6 Baylor
8 p.m., ABC
Oklahoma has mostly played great defense this season, but this will be the true test of just how far the Sooners — who rank fifth in yards per play on both sides of the ball — have come. Last year, Oklahoma was hopeless to stop the Baylor passing game at home, giving up 15 catches to Corey Coleman in a 48-14 embarrassment in Norman. This year, the improved defense goes on the road to Waco, where Baylor has not lost since Oct. 13, 2012. Baylor has dominated Oklahoma each of the last two seasons, and it has a chance to finally notch its first meaningful win of the 2015 season, before the back-to-back road trips to Oklahoma State and TCU.
It’s a huge test for freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who threw for 419 yards in the narrow 31-24 win at Kansas State in his first career start. He’ll have to deal with Eric Striker and a talented Oklahoma defense, although he still has a sturdy line and receivers like Coleman — who’s in the middle of a Heisman campaign — at his disposal. What should definitely be expected is a tighter game than we’ve seen the last two seasons when these teams have met. Baker Mayfield has sparked the Sooners offense, ranking second nationally in passer rating behind injured Baylor QB Seth Russell, and Oklahoma’s defense has run into few problems.
However, the one team Oklahoma did have trouble with defensively? Tulsa, who averaged 6.6 yards per play behind former Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery. We don’t yet know where this offense is headed behind Stidham, but Baylor still has too many weapons for to falter, at least not at home, against a defense that has yet to prove that it can stop this type of offense.
Oregon at No. 7 Stanford
7:30 p.m., Fox
For a few years, Oregon-Stanford rivaled Alabama-LSU for national importance in an intra-division rivalry, but last year saw Stanford fall off, and this year has seen Oregon take a step back. But this matchup is starting to look a lot more interesting again. Stanford’s rise after its Week 1 stumble at Northwestern has been well-documented, and Oregon is starting to hit its stride again now that quarterback Vernon Adams is healthy. Last week against Cal, Oregon set a program record with 777 total yards in one game, and despite the occasional struggles, the Ducks rank 12th nationally in yards per play.
The question is still whether Oregon can stop anybody. Stanford tailback Christian McCaffrey has another opportunity to increase his Heisman profile, and there is little evidence to suggest that Oregon can slow down this offense. The Ducks may have held California to just 28 points, but the Stanford offensive line is miles ahead of Cal’s. It’s a tough game to call. Oregon is still unpredictable and unreliable in the back end on defense, but Adams’ health changes things. It’s not as if this Stanford defense is impenetrable either. Oregon can absolutely put up a fight and threaten to ruin Stanford’s playoff hopes. Still, this looks like a game in which McCaffrey can steal the show.
No. 21 Memphis at No. 24 Houston
7 p.m., ESPN2
Memphis’ loss to Navy prevents this from being an even bigger matchup of undefeated teams, but it’s still a great game between top-25 teams in the AAC West division who have New Year’s Six bowl hopes and two coaches, Justin Fuente and Tom Herman, destined for Power Five jobs soon. Despite the Tigers’ subpar outing last week, in which they made too many mistakes against the Midshipmen, this should be one of the weekend’s most entertaining games, featuring talented, productive quarterbacks in Memphis’ Paxton Lynch and Houston’s Greg Ward. Memphis still has a better win (Ole Miss) than Houston has had all season, although the Cougars did win at Louisville, shut out Vanderbilt 34-0 and hold off Cincinnati. Expect a back-and-forth, somewhat high-scoring game, with the edge going to Herman’s Cougars at home as they try to stay undefeated.
Minnesota at No. 5 Iowa
8 p.m., Big Ten Network
Minnesota hasn’t won under interim-turned-permanent head coach Tracy Claeys, but it came a yard short of upsetting Michigan and at least kept things close on the road at Ohio State. Now comes yet another upset opportunity amid a brutal three-game stretch for the Golden Gophers, who need to win two of their last three against undefeated Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin to go bowling. They trounced Iowa 51-14 last year, but these are much different teams: Minnesota has not found a consistent rhythm on offense and has had injury issues on defense, while Iowa has overcome some injuries to put together surprising 9-0 run. The Hawkeyes don’t do anything in particular that makes them look like one of the nation’s best teams, but they’ve done just about everything well and have avoided crippling mistakes. It’s been a tough couple weeks for Minnesota, and winning in Kinnick Stadium at night is a tall task.
Arkansas at No. 9 LSU
7:15 p.m., ESPN
The battle for the Golden Boot has moved up from Black Friday to mid-November, a change that began last year with the Razorbacks unexpected destroying the Tigers 17-0 to kick off their impressive finish to the season. They draw LSU at a good time again: LSU must respond after its frustrating loss to Alabama in which Leonard Fournette rushed for 31 yards, while the Hogs have looked better and have won three straight games — although two of them came in exhausting fashion. First, Arkansas beat Auburn in four overtimes, and then it somehow pulled off a fourth-and-25 miracle and a two-point conversion to win at Ole Miss in one overtime. This matchup will not go like last year’s shutout. Arkansas’ defense has taken a big step back, and while the Razorbacks can move the ball well, this is an opportunity for Fournette to rebound against a mediocre run defense.
BYU vs. Missouri (at Kansas City)
7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Amid a whirlwind week on the Missouri campus, football is a mere footnote after the team returned to practice following the resignation of president Tim Wolfe on Monday. With football resumed, the team will head down the road to Arrowhead Stadium for a nonconference matchup with BYU, who has flown under the radar at 7-2. The Cougars made national headlines in September but lost back-to-back games to UCLA and Michigan and have since seen their schedule lighten considerably. Here, they face a Missouri team that is excellent on defense but has scored just one touchdown in its last four games, putting the postseason in doubt with a 4-5 record.
No. 22 Temple at South Florida
7 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Watch out for the upset. The Bulls have quietly improved this year. Willie Taggart was on the hot seat, but they are one win away from bowl eligibility — they haven’t been to the postseason since 2010 — and are coming off an impressive road win at East Carolina. Bowl eligibility will likely come because the Bulls end the season with UCF, but this is an interesting opportunity to grab some attention, with the defense playing well and the combination of tailback Marlon Mack and quarterback Quinton Flowers making plays on the ground.
Washington State at No. 19 UCLA
10:45 p.m., ESPN
Mike Leach’s surging Cougars go on the road to face the enigmatic Bruins with a late kickoff, which means this game could easily enter some quality #Pac12AfterDark territory. The Bruins are hanging around the top 20, but they’ve also been ravaged by injuries all season — and the hits aren’t stopping. It makes for an interesting matchup, and a big opportunity for Leach and quarterback Luke Falk to make another statement. Washington State is 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-12, set for its second bowl bid since 2003. They beat Arizona and Arizona State two of the last three games and nearly upset Stanford, and Falk is averaging 415 passing yards per game with 33 touchdown passes. UCLA remains the better all-around team and is at home, but don’t be shocked if the Cougars push the Bruins to the limit, given the challenges UCLA faces on defense. It could, however, also be a good showcase for Bruins running back Paul Perkins to get going again.
No. 10 Utah at Arizona
10 p.m., Fox Sports 1
The Utes are quietly hanging around the playoff race. They still have only one loss on the road at USC, plus their 42-point win at Oregon and their win over Michigan. They’re the favorites in the Pac-12 South, and they could certainly beat Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. If they win out, they’ll have a strong playoff case. They end the season with Colorado, so the challenges are the next two weeks: in Tucson, then at home against UCLA. The Arizona challenge isn’t looking nearly as daunting, as the Wildcats have fallen apart at 5-5. Their only two conference wins are against Colorado and Oregon State, and they were humiliated by Stanford and Washington. They’ve played most of the season without linebacker Scooby Wright, and running back Nick Wilson has missed three of the last four games. The Pac-12 South title defense has not gone well, and this version of the Wildcats seems unlikely to derail Utah’s championship quest.