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Tag:Clint Trickett
Posted on: October 10, 2011 9:36 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 4:44 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 6



Posted by Bryan Fischer


There wasn't a particularly appetizing slate of college football games this week. Sure there was the Red River Shootout Beatdown Blowout Rivalry and a few other entertaining match ups but there truly was not a must watch game from kickoff to the final whistle most of the day. AP Top 25 teams in week 6 won by an average of 24.8 points, with Florida State being the lone upset to an unranked team.

It was another good week of college football, don't get me wrong, but the drama was a bit lacking until late Saturday night when Ohio State-Nebraska took the stage down in Lincoln. The game itself was nothing to write home about in terms of style points but it made up for it in second half theatrics. Taylor Martinez helped lead the storied program's biggest comeback ever, from down 21 points, with three scores, 102 yards rushing and an efficient 191 yards on 16 of 22 passing.
 
When I watched OSU against Miami, I saw a team that was half a step slower than the Hurricanes and looked like they were going through their first spring practice execution-wise. They were a solid Big Ten team but one who just couldn't execute like previous years. It was much different from when my colleague Gregg Doyel watched the Buckeyes in their opener in early September. There was a sense of relief then after a tumultuous offseason and, just as important to the OSU faithful, hope that they would be ok until most of the 'Buckeye Five' returned from their suspensions. Luke Fickell was a coach to believe in and this was a team that still had seemed to have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, according to Doyel:
It was Akron, so who really can say, but what the heck -- I'll go ahead and say it:

Ohio State has two solid quarterbacks in Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller. Ohio State has a promising coach in Luke Fickell. And Ohio State has a team that won't be as bad as some people (OK, me) would have thought, given the terminations, suspensions and distractions of recent months.

Well, that was Akron and things certainly have changed since Doyel wrote that column (one he'd love to have back, I'm sure), including the step up in competition with Nebraska. Granted this isn't your father's Cornhuskers team. They're 46th in total offense and, even more surprising with the Pelini brothers patrolling the sidelines, 59th in total defense. They got whacked by Wisconsin and have flirted with several close games before putting inferior opponents away late. They are no Akron but they're not a top 10 team either.

The Buckeyes looked like they were on their way to a win Saturday by a surprising margin, ruining the Big Ten debut of Memorial Stadium. Things weren't going great but they were at least good. Freshman Braxton Miller looked comfortable running the offense, making plays with his feet and doing plenty to stake the team to a 27-6 lead in the 3rd. After the offense had looked pitiful against Miami and Michigan State the previous two weeks, there were signs of life for the scarlet and gray. With about five minutes left in the third quarter, Ohio State led 27-13 and had rolled up 312 yards of offense.

Then Miller sprained his ankle and all hell seemed to break lose.

"I'd like to say no," tight end Reid Fragel told the Cleveland Plain Dealer when asked if Miller's absence affected the whole team, "but it's one of those things at the back of everybody's mind. I'd like to say no, but at the same time, everybody cares about our quarterback and was kind of worried about him."

Senior Joe Bauserman came on to replace him and went 1 of 10 for 13 yards while the team as a whole had just 39 yards of offense the rest of the game. The Buckeyes went from grabbing an uplifting win on the road to a devastating loss; from a good team to mediocre to bad in a span of about 20 minutes of game time. There were mistakes in every phase of the game and at every level. Execution was lacking and any playmakers on the team seemed to be sitting on the bench drinking Gatorade.

Who deserves blame for it? Well there's plenty to go around. Bauserman, certainly, for the interception and stagnant offense. The defense too, for allowing Nebraska to rush for nearly 200 yards in the second half after holding them to just 37 in the first half. Many OSU fans are quick to blame offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and he rightfully deserves the lion's share for one reason: he didn't have a game plan for Bauserman. At all. He bet big on Miller and when it came time for Bauserman to take over at a key point in the game, Bollman seemed to panic and out-think himself.

What makes it interesting is that Bauserman was at one time the starter and he's played in every game this year. You'd think they would adjust the play calling so that he could nurse the lead and allow the senior to manage the game. Following Miller's injury, there were eight rushes and 10 passes, one of which was intercepted.

"No, Joe is not as mobile," Fickell said after the game. "We have to do a better job of putting him in situations he can handle a little better."

"The floodgates kind of opened and we started to panic a little bit and we never got ourselves back on track."

Those are not the words of a head coach. Jim Tressel - despite his compliance issues - was a terrific head coach because he had everybody buy in to what he was doing. More importantly, he knew what he was doing.

Fickell, a Buckeye through and through, seems to be in over his head and the inexperience really came through Saturday. There are plenty of people rooting for him to succeed but there's a reason why so many other names have been mentioned as the head coach of the team in 2012. Fickell has been thrown into the fire, a very hot one, and is doing the best that he can. Knowing how to manage a program, especially one like this, is not something many know how to do. It takes time and it takes a very good coach, one who is in control of everything and knows just what button to push at the right time. At this point in the season, it's hard to say Fickell has total control nor knows what to do. It's unfortunate but it's also life.

Ohio State's 3-3 with six games left, four of which they'll likely be decided underdogs. A bowl game is probably still likely but the program seems like it's adrift and capable of falling off the cliff if the staff isn't careful.

"You've got to rely on some guys," Fickell said. "And it's about leadership. But I don't know. That's what we're going to have to really look back at."

The leadership has to come from Fickell and the upperclassmen on the team, it shouldn't be 'I don't know' coming from the head coach or something that they'll 'have to look at.' There will be a lot of soul-searching going on in Columbus this week as well as some growing up for Fickell and company.

Stat of the week

According to the Associated Press, the state of Florida has been shut out of the AP poll for the first time since December 6, 1982. Not just the big three of Florida, Florida State and Miami, the entire state. There's just one California team (7. Stanford) and four from the state of Texas (20. Baylor, 21. Texas A&M, 22. Texas, 25. Houston).

Stats of the week

- Florida's loss to LSU was the worst loss for the program since 1996.

- Texas A&M is ranked in the top 25 but feature the nation's worst pass defense at 347.6 yards per game. They're behind Kansas and UNLV who have three wins between them.

- There were five SEC conference games and the winning quarterbacks had a combined 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

- Mark Richt earned his 100th win at Georgia and has a 100-36 overall record with the program.

- 27 players across the country are averaging over 100 yards rushing per game. Last year, just 19 finished with an average over the century mark.

- Arizona's Nick Foles leads the country in completions per game, is third in yards per game, second in total yards, fourth in total offense and has a 5-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Yet his team is 1-5 because the defense is 115th in total defense, 117th in scoring defense and second to last in the country in sacks.

- With a touchdown catch against Texas, Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles is the active leader in career receiving touchdowns with 10 more than the next guy, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.

- Surprisingly Illinois is tied for the nation's third longest winning streak at seven games. Stanford has the longest (13) followed by Oklahoma (10). Alabama and LSU both have seven game streaks as well but obviously will play each other in November. New Mexico and Florida Atlantic have the longest losing streaks at eight games, while Memphis has lost 15 straight in conference.

- The Pac-12 leads the country in passing and has 31 more passing touchdowns than any other conference (153 total). The Big Ten leads the country in rushing and has 11 more rushing touchdowns than any other conference.

- UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel improved to 9-0 against Washington State at three different schools (Colorado, Washington, UCLA). One of the wins came as a non-conference win while at Colorado. With eight wins in conference play, that would mean 25% of Neuheisel's Pac-12 conference victories have come at the expense of the Cougars.

- According to the Big Ten Network, every time Michigan has started 6-0, they've gone to the Rose Bowl.

Yard-by-yard

- There was plenty of Boomer Sooner at the Cotton Bowl this weekend, enough to cause Bevo to turn away from the field of play so he didn't have to see anymore of the Longhorns. Most saw Texas as overrated, moving into the top 10 largely because they hadn't lost and because they're, well, Texas. They had some momentum coming into the game and thought they had a solid backfield that would be able to make a few plays in Bryan Harsin's offense. Nope. The story of the game wasn't Oklahoma's potent offense, but its spectacular defense that had a coming out party and reminding everyone that though they might not be Alabama or LSU's, they are still pretty good. The Sooners set six defensive school records against the Horns, including eight sacks. Final score: Oklahoma's offense 34, Oklahoma defense 21, Texas 17.

- It really didn't matter what true freshman quarterback took snaps under center for Florida, they were getting fed to the wolves. Or at least one Honey Badger, who picked off starter Jacoby Brissett's deep pass in the third quarter. It's rare for LSU to have the advantage at the quarterback position but it was pretty clear they had the advantage at just about every position in their 41-11 rout at home. The Gators have issues but they're still a solid football that's just trying to find some footing. The Tigers, meanwhile, look like they used the weekend to tune up every phase of their game, controlling throughout and limiting their opponent to 2 of 11 on third down and 213 total yards. The lasting images of the game might have come from a punter and a back up quarterback. Much-maligned quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw a touchdown pass in a manner Florida fans are quite familiar with - a jump pass near the goal line. Brad Wing became an overnight sensation after faking a punt and taking it 52 yards to the house late in the first. Wing, however, raised his arms slightly before crossing the goal line and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag that took the points off the board. That was about the only thing that went wrong all day for Les Miles' crew.

"We showed everybody that we are capable of some special things against a really good Florida team," said Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery. "I want more. I want a National Championship. I want to play the best ever."

- Virginia Tech just doesn't lose back-to-back games at home under Frank Beamer. Perhaps it's the 'Enter Sandman' music the PA announcer puts on late in games but there's not much you can do to stop the Hokies. Miami thought they did thanks to Lamar Miller, who broke off several big runs in the fourth quarter before catching a throwback pass for a touchdown to pull the Hurricanes to within three. He gave them the lead with a 30 yard run late in the game before Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said 'Sorry, I'll take that' on an option on fourth-and-one to scamper 19 yards for the game-winning score. The comeback by Thomas capped an overall great day for him, going 23 of 25 for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

- Staying in the ACC, the surprise team in the league might be Georgia Tech, not Clemson. The 6-0 Yellow Jackets held off a late charge from Maryland after building a 21-3 lead going into the fourth. "They whipped our tail pretty good in the end," Tech coach Bobby Johnson said. Still, his squad is undefeated and among the top 10 in a good number of offensive categories. The passing game wasn't there against the Terrapins like it was in previous games but they still managed to eek out a victory. By the way, it's ok if you missed watching this game on account of Maryland's uniform combination, which featured mustard yellow pants.

- Arizona State has finally started to live up to expectations while Utah hasn't even come close to them. The Sun Devils defense forced three straight turnovers at one point in the third quarter, quick enough that quarterback Brock Osweiler couldn't even get his jersey cleaned in time. "They were cleaning it one second and the next second it was, 'Hey, you got to go,"' he said. "But that's a credit to our defense. They were staying focused, playing with a lot of intensity, creating turnovers." As sharp as the defense has looked the past few games, the offense has shown off an explosive side as well, scoring 18 straight points in four minutes. Dennis Erickson's squad also won a road game, big because they have a showdown and possible championship game preview with Oregon this week. For the Utes, we all worried about the grind of a BCS conference and it does seem like they're wearing down in the second half of games after starting relativly strong. Of course, it helps to have a healthy quarterback but they just haven't had one as Jordan Wynn missed yet another game. They've lost six of their last 10 and need to do something against the back half of their conference schedule to make a bowl.

- Remember when Florida State was fifth in the country and everybody was whispering they were back? Me neither. The only ranked team to lose to an unranked foe, the Seminoles had their issues with Wake Forest. After a previously injured E.J. Manuel returned in the second quarter to replace starter Clint Trickett, he threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene and many expected FSU to start moving from there. Wake running back Josh Harris had other ideas, breaking off big run after big run on his way to 136 yards and an upset. The Demon Deacons have now won four straight and are undefeated in ACC play even if they are flying under most people's radar. Wake has only five wins against Florida State all-time but have won four of them since 2006 and four of the last six.

- On one hand, it was Kentucky. On the other hand, it was an impressive showing by South Carolina. Steve Spurrier made a change at quarterback and Connor Shaw paid off as the Gamecocks had more yards on offense since the Old Ball Coach started calling plays in Columbia. The 54-3 win was also South Carolina's biggest victory since joining the SEC, thanks in large part to the sharp play of Shaw, who went 26 of 39 for 311 yards and four touchdowns. About the only one who didn't score was running back Marcus Lattimore.

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Quote/Tweet of the week

"That #11 ranking was such a farce. If Texas had Complete Scouting Services they wouldn't lose to OU so bad."

- Infamous recruiting scout Willie Lyles.

Fisch's Finest

Like the AP poll, my top 10 does not change.

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. Stanford

7. Oklahoma State

8. Oregon

9. Clemson

10. Georgia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Mr. College Football Tony Barnhart will see if Connor Shaw is the real deal as South Carolina heads to Starkvegas to play Mississippi State. Dennis Dodd will take in the sights and sounds of Knoxville as LSU plays Tennessee. Brett McMurphy will see if Texas shows any improvement as they host Oklahoma State while Bruce Feldman will head to the Pacific Northwest to see a possible Pac-12 Championship Game preview with Arizona State and Oregon.

Leaning this way

Michigan at Michigan State

Anything can happen in rivalry games and it would certainly make the Spartans' season if they pulled off an upset of Big Blue and a top 10 team. Mark Dantonio has had a bye week to help prepare to stop Denard Robinson but Michigan's improved defense will be enough to help squeak by in a close game in East Lansing.

Oklahoma State at Texas

Those 55 points Oklahoma scored? Oklahoma State had that by halftime last week. The young Texas defense will have their hands full again this week with what might be an even better passing offense. The defense for the Cowboys is nothing special so the Horns should be able to put up some points of their own but there's just too many weapons for Brandon Weeden to keep it close.

Arizona State at Oregon

Dennis Erickson's squad got a road win and have been playing as well as anyone on defense the past couple of weeks. They've been forcing turnovers left and right and will need to continue that if they're to have a shot against the Ducks. LaMichael James won't play but the offense is still potent with Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas coming out of the backfield. This could be a championship game preview and Oregon wins thanks to another big second half.



Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:46 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 3:15 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 6



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: Logan Thomas

The struggles of the Virginia Tech offense and sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas were well documented after the 23-3 loss to Clemson a week ago. But Thomas absolutely silenced his critics with a near-perfect performance in the 38-35 win over Miami on Saturday. With 2010 ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor watching from the sidelines, Thomas did his best Taylor impression orchestrating a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes of the game. Thomas may have capped his memorable night with a 19-yard touchdown rush to win the game, but it was performance through the air that showed the most improvement. Thomas completed 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions against a Miami back seven with NFL-caliber talent at nearly every position. The young quarterback had shown flashes of potential, but not quite put it all together until Saturday's victory. If Thomas can replicate that kind of production, the Hokies may not be as far removed from division contender status as we thought.

LOSER: Miami's defense

Miami defense - For the first time all season, the Hurricanes did not turn the ball over once on offense. Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller had the offense humming in the second half against Virginia Tech, giving the defense an opportunity to win the game in the final minutes. The unit has become significantly thinner in recent weeks, particularly with the loss of seniors Ramon Buchanan and Marcus Forston to season-ending injuries. That lack of depth showed late in the game, with the Hurricanes defense a step slower all over the field as the Hokies stormed back and won the game on a 19-yard Logan Thomas run up the middle.

WINNER: Wake Forest, your new ACC dark horse

With a 3-0 conference record, the Demon Deacons are tied with No. 8 Clemson and No. 13 Georgia Tech as the best team in the ACC. A national ranking may arrive for Jim Grobe's squad on Sunday, but the team's arrival as a contender was made on Saturday with the victory over Florida State. Sophomore Tanner Price and Josh Harris were impressive against a talented Seminoles defense, but the play of Wake's defense has changed the team's outlook in conference play. Nearly the entire starting lineup was part of 2010's disastrous 1-7 ACC record, but the unit is back and playing at an unexpectedly high level. Grobe is notorious for being tagged as a "player development" coach, but 2011's team might be another one of those squads that keeps that reputation going. The unit forced five Florida State turnovers on Saturday, picking off both Clint Trickett and EJ Manuel two times each to set up a short field for Price and the unpredictable spread offense. There are plenty of challenges left on Wake's schedule, including next week's contest against Virginia Tech, but the similarities that some have drawn to the 2006 team don't seem to be that radical.

LOSER: Florida State's offensive line

There are a lot of aspects to Florida State's team that aren't going as planned, but the struggles of the offensive line can be blamed for many of the most glaring problems. The Seminoles were one of the most productive rushing teams in the conference in 2010, and now the running backs have become a non-factor against quality opponents. The line is not opening up the lanes, and the backs are not finding their holes. The inability to rush the ball has now begun to have an increasingly negative effect on the passing game, as Florida State's opponents treat them as a one-dimensional team. The unit entered the season dealing with injury issues, and has continued to search for a working rotation. Getting EJ Manuel healthy brings 2011's best rusher back to the lineup, so that should be a start. But the line has to improve if Florida State wants to try and make the most of the season after this three-game losing streak.

WINNER: Clemson's winning streak

The Tigers improve to 6-0, even losing Boyd to the strained hip. Luckily the Tigers had built a lead at the time of the starting quarterback's injury, so Cole Stoudt's job was not too difficult. But considering how much time Boyd spent mastering the intricacies of Chad Morris' system in the offseason, it has to be comforting for Tigers fans to know that Stoudt can keep the machine moving forward while under center. If Stoudt gets the start against Maryland next week, there will be some drop-off. But after seeing the freshman move the ball against Boston College's defense, head coach Dabo Swinney was able to get some comfort in Stoudt's ability if Boyd is unable to play. Rushing Boyd back and/or causing further injury would be the worst possible situation for the undefeated Tigers, and if there is any question regarding Boyd's health the Tigers should be able to continue performing at a high level with Stoudt.

LOSER: Georgia Tech's ability to close out opponents

Georgia Tech was not a loser on Saturday, but they took a step back with yet another poor defensive showing in the fourth quarter. In their three ACC contests combined, the Yellow Jackets have given up 48 fourth quarter points, while only allowing 31 points in the first three quarters of play. The reasons seem to be different every time, but the result is always the same. Against Maryland, it was allowing backup quarterback C.J. Brown and Davin Meggett to establish a powerful downhill running attack. Against N.C. State it was soft coverage and lack of focus with a big lead. The Yellow Jackets are 6-0 and sitting on top of the ACC standings, but they might not be so lucky if they let another opponent climb back into the contest late.

WINNER: Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown

Maryland's inconsistencies and offensive struggles since their opening night win have been well documented, but a quarterback change in the loss to Georgia Tech introduced a new aspect to the offense. Sophomore quarterback C.J. Brown took over for 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien in the second half, and led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to bring the Terps back into the game against the Yellow Jackets. Brown presented a new rushing threat for the opposition, and was able to get an effective read game going with running back Davin Meggett. The backup quarterback finished as the game's leading rusher, thanks in large part to a 77 yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Brown struggled mightily trying to move the ball through the air, but he at least presents offensive coordinator Gary Crowton the option of possibly using a two-quarterback system to keep opposing defenses on their toes. Imploring the two quarterback tactic can be toxic to a team in certain situations, but at 2-3 Maryland needs something to jump start the sputtering offense.

LOSER: This Clemson fan

Tajh Boyd's hip was not the only Clemson thing slightly out of place on Saturday. CBSSports.com's Adam Jacobi pointed out this lost soul from the Michigan-Northwestern game.





WINNER: N.C. State CB David Amerson

N.C. State's sophomore cornerback was responsible for two of the Wolfpack's four interceptions in the second half against Central Michigan. After the Chippewas came out firing and took an early lead in Raleigh, N.C. State's defense answered with big stops and turnovers in the second half while the offense piled on the points and N.C. State picked up a much-needed bounce back win after dropping two straight.

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 4:24 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Wake Forest 35, No. 23 FSU 30

Posted by Chip Patterson

WAKE FOREST WON. Even with an off-week to get healthy and prepare, the Seminoles were caught off guard on their road trip to Winston-Salem to face Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons rattled redshirt freshman quarterback Clint Trickett, who was making his second career start, and built a lead that could not be overcome even with the return of EJ Manuel. Trickett threw two interceptions and fumbled once before being replaced by Manuel, who saw his first action since injuring his shoulder against Oklahoma. Tanner Price picked apart the Florida State back seven, completing 21 of 35 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, he threw no interceptions. Josh Harris also ran for 136 yards on 13 carries, with a highlight reel 57-yard scamper to set up Wake Forest's final touchdown.

HOW WAKE FOREST WON: Wake Forest's defense was relentless all afternoon. Whether the Florida State attack was led by Clint Trickett or EJ Manuel, the Demon Deacons were swarming to the ball and getting their hands in the air to force turnovers. Half of the four interceptions were a result of batted balls, and the awareness of the defense led to the momentum-swinging takeaways. Both teams were competitive statistically, but the turnover margin was the difference in this game and the reason Wake Forest found themselves victorious for the fourth game in a row.

WHEN WAKE FOREST WON: Florida State continued to push for four quarters, right up to the final touchdown with less than a minute remaining. But EJ Manuel's interception with 6:21 remaining as the Seminoles were driving down 11 brought FSU's turnover count for the game to "one too many to win."

WHAT WAKE FOREST WON: Belief that they can contend for an ACC title. The first two conference victories were against arguably inferior opponents, and did little to legitimize the Demon Deacons as contenders. But with three victories over Atlantic Division opponents and Florida State in the rearview, Wake Forest has put themselves in a position to contend with Clemson for a berth to the ACC Championship Game.

WHAT FLORIDA STATE LOST: Their third straight game. Their status as ACC title contenders. Possibly some self confidence. Saturday's meeting with Wake Forest was supposed to get the Seminoles back on track after dropping two straight. EJ Manuel appears ready to play again, but his return comes as the window of opportunity is closing. The Seminoles will now need to run the table and get some help if they want to return to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Wake Forest's first touchdown came on a 30-yard pass from wide receiver Michael Campanaro to Terence Davis. The trick play is just one of several options the Demon Deacons' offense presents when they run sweeps, reverses, and options. Campanaro has been productive when given the opportunity to throw, completing 3/3 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. His inflated passing efficiency is 616.8.

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 10:07 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 10:10 am
 

Wake Forest preparing for Manuel and Trickett

Posted by Chip Patterson

In a matter of weeks, Florida State has gone from being a potential national title contender to hanging on the edge of the national rankings. A pair of losses to No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 8 Clemson left the Seminoles banged up and looking for answers heading into their bye week. Starting quarterback EJ Manuel is questionable for Saturday's contest with an upstart Wake Forest team, re-joining the team in practice after suffering a shoulder injury against the Sooners.

On Tuesday Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe told the media his team was preparing to face both Manuel and redshirt freshman Clint Trickett. Trickett led two scoring drives in the second half against Oklahoma to tie the game in the fourth quarter, and completed 24 of 38 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns against Clemson.

"It's really hard because they've got two really talented quarterbacks and we're not sure which one we'll get," Grobe explained at his weekly press conference. "I think the Trickett kid has a great arm and is a very accurate thrower and more of a pocket guy. And Manuel is very athletic. He's driven us crazy with boot passes and play-action passes when we've played him."

Manuel said on Monday he expects to play against Wake Forest, but head coach Jimbo Fisher has insisted the junior quarterback is questionable. Despite the impressive performance of Trickett in Manuel's absence, it is hard to replicate the strength and athleticism Manuel provides under center. The game has become a must-win for the Seminoles, who cannot afford to drop to drop their second straight Atlantic Division showdown if they plan on making a return to the ACC Championship Game in December.

The Demon Deacons' defense is preparing for the game as if they'll see both quarterbacks. After a frustrating 1-7 showing in conference play in 2010, Wake Forest has been one of this year's surprise teams in the ACC. Sophomore quarterback Tanner Price has settled in and the offense has figured out how to best utilize a stable of talented playmakers led by Chris Givens and Josh Harris. The next two weeks will offer Jim Grobe's squad arguably their toughest stretch of the season, with the Seminoles and No. 21 Virginia Tech coming to visit BB&T Field. If the Demon Deacons can pull an upset in one of the next two contests, they will put themselves in a great position to be bowling in December.

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Posted on: September 25, 2011 3:01 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 3:22 am
 

What I learned from the ACC (Sept. 24)



Posted by Chip Patterson

1. After stealing headlines in Week 3, the ACC (and future ACC) struggled in Week 4. A week ago, I was writing praises for commissioner John Swofford for taking action to ensure the ACC had a place in the uncertain future landscape of college football. The ACC was gathering praise for their off-field transactions and on-field victories over Auburn and Ohio State. In a fashion typical of this fluid college football world we live in - things have changed in seven days. Florida State was so beaten emotionally and banged up physically after their 23-13 loss to Oklahoma they could not play to their potential against Clemson in Death Valley. Maryland got embarrassed 38-7 by Temple at home, Virginia lost to Southern Miss at home, and Miami followed their defeat of the Buckeyes with a home loss to Kansas State.

Making the perception even worse, incoming members Pittsburgh and Syracuse both embarrassed the conference on Saturday. The Panthers could not muster a single fourth quarter score in their 15-12 loss to Notre Dame at home while Syracuse beat Toledo in an overtime that should have never happened. The week wasn't all bad - the games certainly revealed new legitimate conference contenders in Atlanta and Death Valley - but in comparison to the praises showered on the conference a week ago this was a pretty weak encore.

2. Georgia Tech ready to challenge Virginia Tech for Coastal Division. After gaudy victories against Western Carolina and Middle Tennessee, we were intrigued by Georgia Tech. After decisive victories against Kansas and a talented North Carolina team, we know Paul Johnson's team is back and ready to compete for an ACC title. When Josh Nesbitt broke his arm last season, Tevin Washington took over and the offense struggled to maintain the level of production due to a rough adjustment period and an unhealthy habit of turning the ball over. The changes in the offense which the coaching staff has discussed all offseason have been clearly visible in the Yellow Jackets' 4-0 start. Not only is the triple option sharper with less turnovers, but Tevin Washington has gotten comfortable throwing the ball as well. With the physical Stephen Hill as his favorite target, Washington actually leads the nation in passing plays of more than 50 yards.

The Yellow Jackets dominated the Tar Heels on Saturday, much more than the 35-28 victory would suggest. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has not faced any opponents of note for comparison and has not looked particularly impressive offensively. While the Hokies defense seems to have found their grit back, holding teams basically no yards on the ground, Logan Thomas and running back David Wilson are still getting used to their new full-time starting positions. Virginia Tech is still the favorite to win the division thanks to a favorable draw, but the Yellow Jackets are right up there with a more convincing resume at this point for the strongest team in the Coastal Division.

3. Clemson's win does not put them in the driver's seat yet. Clemson's victory over Florida State in Death Valley was reaffirming. It was reaffirming to Dabo Swinney that his efforts to recruit players like sophomore Tajh Boyd and freshman Sammy Watkins would pay off for the program. It was reaffirming to offensive coordinator Chad Morris that his newly installed system could roll against the best defensive units in the nation when executed properly. It was reaffirming to a fan base who doubted their team's ability to beat two ranked opponents in a row, that the 2011 Tigers could compete for an ACC title.

But this "driver's seat" talk that is being tossed around? That's a little much.

Two wins over ranked opponents do not automatically erase several seasons of inconsistency within Clemson football in recent history. A 1-0 conference record with a win over Atlantic Division favorite Florida State does not pencil you in to the ACC Championship Game, but it does eliminate one of the most difficult obstacles on the schedule.

The Tigers faced Florida State at THE most opportune time. EJ Manuel out with a shoulder strain. Greg Reid and Bert Reed both out with injuries. The entire team coming down after losing the biggest game of the regular season 23-13 on the biggest stage. But those intangibles are not the sole reason the Tigers put up 455 yards of total offense on Florida State, in fact they are likely a small fraction. The Clemson defense, which has received very little attention so far this season, dropped back against a suddenly one-dimensional Florida State offense while the front four applied pressure to redshirt freshman quarterback Clint Trickett. They were able to come up with just enough stops to secure the 35-30 win and set up the Tigers with an incredible opportunity to jump ahead in the ACC Atlantic Division race.

Are the Tigers in the "driver's seat?" No. But if they can do it again at Virginia Tech, we might have a different conversation on our hands.

4. Jury is still out on Miami and Maryland. Maybe it is because they played a memorable season opener against each other on Labor Day, but Miami and Maryland both have started the season in different yet equally confusing fashions. Miami bounced back from the loss to the Terps with a defensive showcase against Ohio State with four of their suspended players back in the lineup. Maryland has come back from making headlines with the Miami win and shockingly memorable jerseys with two straight losses to West Virginia and Temple. As we saw on Saturday night, West Virginia is a formidable opponent and far from an embarrassing loss. Temple, on the other hand, should be a cause for concern for Terps' fans.

Additionally, Miami's win over Ohio State was supposed to be a signature win for Al Golden and this new attitude in the Miami football program. But the defense that looked so sharp against Ohio State gave up 265 rushing yards to the Wildcats, and forced the Hurricanes offense to scramble just to get back in the game. On paper both of these teams should be among the best in the conference. But their performances have been inconsistent and difficult to interpret, making it tough for any fan to judge exactly how good these teams could be come November.

5. Gio Bernard is ready to be the feature back in Chapel Hill. Entering the season, it was expected that redshirt senior Ryan Houston would be the starting running back. A big bruiser with an ability to withstand the first and second hit, Houston was going to be featured with sophomore Giovani Bernard as the change-of-pace back. It only took two games before interim coach Everett Withers started splitting the workload more evenly, and when the Tar Heels faced Georgia Tech in their first road test of the season it was Bernard who was the featured running back in the offense.

The 5-foot-10 shifty back from Florida answered the call with an impressive performance that basically kept the Tar Heels competitive for our quarters against the high powered Georgia Tech offense. Bernard rushed 17 times for a career high 155 yard and two touchdowns. He was also a threat in the screen game, with 5 receptions for 47 yards. As sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner has become more conservative against tougher defenses, Bernard's role has increased. If he can replicate Saturday's performance on a weekly basis, it would make life much easier for the first-year starter under center.

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Posted on: September 24, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 8:09 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 21 Clemson 35, No. 11 FSU 30



Posted by Chip Patterson


CLEMSON WON. Death Valley was rocking from kickoff to final whistle, and Saturday's Top 25 Atlantic Division rivalry game lived up to everything we expetced as No. 21 Clemson knocked off No. 11 Florida State 35-30.  Quarterback Tajh Boyd orchestrated an impressive display of Chad Morris' offense, throwing for more than 300 yards for the second straight game.  Boyd becomes the first Clemson quarterback to accomplish that feat since Charlie Whitehurst, and the Tigers are 4-0 for the first time since 2007.  

HOW CLEMSON WON: The Tigers did a lot of things right, but injuries and costly penalties also played a big role in Saturday's upset.  Three of Clemson's first four scoring drives were kept alive by costly penalties against Florida State on 3rd or 4th down.  By the end of the game, the Seminoles had racked up 11 penalties for 124 yards, which paired with the absence of EJ Manuel, Willie Haulstead, Bert Reed, and Greg Reid certainly aided the Tigers.

But don't let those facts discredit Clemson's performance.  Boyd was spectacular outside of a few poor decisions (the most humorous is featured below), freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins continued his breakout campaign with eight catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and the Tigers' defense took advantage of the suddenly one-dimensional Florida State offense by putting pressure on Trickett in the pocket all afternoon. 

WHEN CLEMSON WON: Clint Trickett kicked off the fourth quarter by finding Rashad Greene for a 30-yard touchdown to cap off a three minute scoring drive that cut the Clemson lead to 28-23.  On the very next possession, Sammy Watkins beat senior cornerback Mike Harris with a double move and Boyd hit him in stride for a 62-yard touchdown.  The score deflated the Seminoles, and the offense followed with a three and out.  All Clemson had to do from there was take care of the ball and burn clock.  

WHAT CLEMSON WON: For the Tigers, this win was reaffirming what they began to believe in the victory against Auburn: they can hang with anyone on their schedule.  Auburn, Florida State, and Virginia Tech looked like a brutal stretch coming into the season, and Dabo Swinney's squad has passed two of the tests with flying colors.  Taking on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg can be a daunting task, and Saturday's win was much-needed for their confidence heading into that matchup.

WHAT FLORIDA STATE LOST: Florida State walked into Doak Campbell a week ago one win away from being a national title contender.  Seven days later they are 2-2 with their starting quarterback leading a star-studded injury report.  Thankfully the Seminoles have a week off before returning to ACC play against Wake Forest.  This will be a crucial week for Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State coaching staff to refocus the team on their goal of reclaiming the ACC Championship.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Clemson won.  Despite this derp-tastic play.  (courtesy of @bubbaprog, Mocksession)



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Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 10:43 am
 

EJ Manuel 'day-to-day' with AC joint sprain

Posted by Chip Patterson

Florida State starting quarterback EJ Manuel sat out of Monday's practice, resting what head coach Jimbo Fisher is calling a "sore shoulder."

In a news conference that same day, Fisher revealed Manuel's issue to be an AC joint separation in the left, non-throwing shoulder. The head coach said the MRI found "no abnormalities," and the quarterback would be evaluated on a "day-to-day" basis.

Manuel scrambled on a six-yard run in the third quarter of Florida State's 23-13 loss to Oklahoma before being hit by Sooners' linebacker Travis Lewis. Manuel landed awkwardly on that left shoulder, and reportedly could not lift that non-throwing arm parallel to the ground when he left the came.

Fisher claims pain tolerance is the only thing keeping Manuel from the field, but if the injury is an AC joint separation the injury could be much more serious. A "Type I" or "Type II" separation does not require surgery, and recovery time can be between 2-6 weeks. If the injury is a Type III separation, Manuel might be faced with some tough decisions regarding his return to the field.

A Type III AC joint sprain was the injury that ended Sam Bradford's career at Oklahoma in 2009. Bradford was originally scheduled to miss three-to-six weeks following the injury in the first game of the season against BYU. Bradford returned briefly after a three week absence before re-injuring his shoulder against Texas in the Red River Rivalry. The re-injury resulted in Bradford needing surgery, ending his career as a Sooner.

If Manuel's separation only requires rest and rehabilitation, it will be important that he does not put himself in a position of re-injury by coming back prematurely. The junior quarterback has shown incredible growth since his first action as Christian Ponder's backup in 2009, and there are high expectations of where he can lead this team before his career as a Seminole is over.

For more information on AC joint sprains, check out Coley Harvey's crash-course over at the Orlando Sentinel.  

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 1:19 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 1:26 am
 

What I learned from the ACC (Sept. 17)



Posted by Chip Patterson


1. When it comes to expansion, ACC moves swiftly and silently. While Mike Slive and Larry Scott continue to make headlines with their cryptic quotes about realignment and expansion, ACC commissioner John Swofford once again made the moves necessary to protect the future of the conference. Before Legends, before Leaders, and before the Pac-12 matched their name with their membership; the ACC added Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College from the Big East in order to hold a conference championship game. I knew that September 17 would be a big day for the ACC, but I did not know it would be a day that defined the future of the conference.

Before Big East commissioner John Marinatto could say "clambake," Pittsburgh and Syracuse reportedly submitted formal applications to the ACC for membership. CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy broke the story Saturday morning, and Gary Parrish is reporting the ACC presidents could vote on the expansion as soon as Sunday. "It's done," a source said to Parrish.

The addition of the two schools paired with last week's decision to raise the conference's exit fee to $20 million protects the future of the ACC. If we are indeed headed towards superconferences, Swofford has prepared his league to be one of them. By the time the story broke, the deal was reportedly already done, and there was no need for cryptic quotes or loaded statements. While Texas A&M's move was the first domino to fall, Saturday's developments may have expedited more major moves. Buckle up folks, the shift is happening now.

UPDATE: At 11:37 p.m. (ET), the ACC announced a media teleconference for Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.. CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy is reporting that the university presidents will meet prior to the teleconference. Stay tuned to CBSSports.com for more details of the conference's announcement, whatever it may be.

2. Florida State displays resilience in loss, but now what? The Seminoles fought with every ounce they could pull together from their beaten and battered roster in a losing effort to the top-ranked Sooners. The options were laid out plainly before the game: win and become a national title contender, lose and fall from the national title discussion entirely. Granted there are plenty of scenarios that could feature the Seminoles in the national title game as a 1-loss or even 2-loss team, but I wouldn't put any money on those outcomes.

The challenge for Jimbo Fisher's team is avoid a hangover from this frustrating loss. Florida State can still set their sights on the ACC Championship and a BCS bowl victory. The Seminoles haven't won an ACC title since 2005 and haven't won a BCS bowl game since defeating Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl to win the National Championship for the 1999 season. There is plenty of room for growth, and the loss does not mean that the Seminoles "aren't back." The atmosphere in Doak Campbell Stadium was electric on Saturday night, and hopefully a sign of things to come in Tallahassee rather than a one-time occasion.

3. Miami got Jacory Harris back, but the difference was on defense. Jacory Harris may have matured, and changed in many ways off the field. But against Ohio State, Jacory Harris still looked very much like the Jacory we know and love. Great footwork, incredible athleticism, and wildly inconsistent in his reads and decision making. Harris finished the game with 123 yards passing, two touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions to match. The Hurricanes got their boost from their defense, which swarmed all over the field with high energy and held the Buckeyes to just 209 yards of total offense. Senior linebacker Sean Spence led the way in his first game back from suspension as the team's leading tackler while Adwele Ojomo and Marcus Forston provided depth on the defensive line that was lacking in Miami's season opening loss to Maryland.

4. Georgia Tech's offense is for real. Record-setting real. Georgia Tech's frustrating 2010 season included a 28-25 loss to Kansas. If the Yellow Jackets were out for revenge on Saturday, they certainly showed it in their 42-point second half output against the Jayhawks. When the final buzzer sounded 12 different Georgia Tech players had combined for 604 yards rushing in the 66-24 win. The total set a new school record, and the 12.1 yards per carry as a team set a new NCAA record. (NOTE: the official game notes list it as a record, but CBSSports.com's Adam Jacobi points out that Northern Illinois recorded 15.5 last November. Regardless, impressive performance by the Jackets).  Georgia Tech's offense has been steamrolling their opponents, using a stable of home-run threats to deflate their opposition with big plays. Against Kansas, the Yellow Jackets had scoring plays of 95, 63, 67, and 52 yards. Quarterback Tevin Washington has become a wizard in Paul Johnson's option offense, freezing defenders with fakes and reads while his teammates set up the perimeter blocking for the playmakers. High point totals against inferior opposition is normal for early season games, but hanging 66 on Kansas and giving the Jayhawks their first loss of the season made a statement. This offense is a force to be reckoned with.

5. Don't give Clemson WR Sammy Watkins any space. None. At least not if you plan on keeping him from burning your defense. The true freshman wide receiver has drawn the praises of coaches, fans, and teammates since arriving on campus this fall. On Saturday he made his presence known to the nation in the Tigers' 38-24 win over Auburn in Death Valley. Watkins led all receivers with 10 catches for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both scores came on short/mid-range passes that Watkins reeled in and took to the house. Against a defense that carries the reputation of "SEC speed," Watkins looked supersonic as he left the Auburn secondary in his dust headed towards the end zone. Watkins is an early favorite for Rookie of the Year already, and likely will be giving defensive coordinators headaches for the foreseeable future.

6. Things have gone from bad to worse at Boston College. Heading into the season, all the buzz around Boston College was about an upgraded offense that would feature Preseason Player of the Year Montel Harris rather than rely on the star running back. The defense, ranked among the best in the nation, returned arguably the game's best linebacker in Luke Kuechly and touted sophomore Kevin Pierre-Louis. Kuechly still leads the nation in tackles, but that's about all that has been going write for the Eagles. Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers has taken a medical leave of absence, Montel Harris is struggling to get back to the field after undergoing his second arthroscopic knee surgery in a year, and leading receiver Ifeanyi Momah might be lost for the season with his own knee injury. But frustrations have spilled over to kicking game as well, with Nate Freese missing an extra point in the second quarter and a 23-yard field goal with 43 seconds remaining in a 20-19 loss to Duke in the ACC opener for both squads. What started as a season of hope for BC (and even some chatter about ACC Atlantic dark horse) has turned into an 0-3 start with Clemson, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State, and Miami left on the schedule.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com