Complete preview for the MAC in 2018.
The MAC hasn’t had a repeat champion since 2011-12, and it’s likely that streak extends to five years in a row in 2018. That’s due to Ohio taking the top spot in the 2018 MAC predictions as the favorite to win the league. The Bobcats fell just short of reaching the league title game last season and are a heavy favorite in the East Division. Buffalo and Miami aren’t far behind the Bobcats, with Akron in the next tier. The picture is a little cloudier at the top of the West Division. Toledo is the defending conference champion but must replace standout quarterback Logan Woodside. Northern Illinois returns one of the MAC’s top defenses, while the development of quarterback Marcus Childers could help coach Rod Carey’s team win the West once again.
This year, Akron seems to have some pieces in place, but the Zips could have a tough time getting back to the league title game as the top teams in the East should be vastly improved. Ohio looks to be the class of the division, and both Miami and Buffalo will be in the hunt. The Zips could finish anywhere from first to fourth in what figures to be an intriguing season of MACtion.
Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has some decent building blocks with Bowling Green’s veteran secondary and athletic linebackers. QB Jarret Doege has the confidence of his coaches and teammates after making five starts as a freshman, while Scott Miller provides a clear No. 1 target on the outside. The first month of the season will be rough, with Oregon, Maryland and Georgia Tech all on the schedule, so a break-even year will require a strong conference showing.
Coach Lance Leipold won five Division III national championships at Wisconsin-Whitewater but has not reached the postseason in three years at Buffalo. With so much firepower returning, anything less than a trip to a bowl game will be a major disappointment.
If nothing else, the team will be much more fun to watch in 2018, with head coach Sean Lewis calling the shots in a fast-paced attack. His system will breed a star or two per usual, and if one of them is a quarterback, the Flashes could pull off a few surprises in 2018 — and set the stage for much bigger and better things in the years to come.
Despite the numerous and costly mental breakdowns, coach Chuck Martin saw his contract extended for two years, through the 2020 season. He has spent the first four seasons building up the roster, both in talent and physicality, and he feels now that the RedHawks are in an enviable position with experienced players who are better able to physically compete in the MAC.
Miami will be tested by a challenging schedule that includes only five true home games. The RedHawks are due to play archrival Cincinnati at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, and they face a grueling stretch of three road trips to Army, Buffalo and Northern Illinois in the second half of the season.
Coach Frank Solich has the Bobcats poised for a run at the MAC East title. “This is a team that could easily win the division — and the league — this year if they get more of the same kind of play from the quarterback position,” says one opposing MAC assistant coach.
The Cardinals should show significant improvement across the board — assuming they don’t suffer a similar rash of injuries. That, however, might not be enough for them to make a significant move in the MAC West, the more challenging of the league’s two divisions.
A lot of what Central Michigan does this season will tie in with the development of QB Tony Poljan and the inexperienced wide receiver group. Every other position group should be satisfactory to strong, so those could be the final pieces of the puzzle in taking another step forward. The Chippewas have a fairly difficult schedule with three Power 5 opponents in addition to the MAC slate, which is bookended by road games at Northern Illinois and Toledo. At least rival Western Michigan is a home game.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism this year with so much back in the fold on defense and on the offensive line, but the name of the game in football is quarterback play, and there is a serious question mark there. It’s hard to imagine anyone living up to the standard set by Brogan Roback. If Eastern Michigan is to win more games than it loses this season, it will be due a running game that controls the clock and a defense that limits big plays. It won’t be long before EMU figures out where it stands in the MAC as it opens league play at home against Northern Illinois, travels to Western Michigan and is back home versus Toledo in the first three weeks of the conference season.
The Huskies have not won more than eight games in any of the last three seasons, and although the talent level, especially on defense, would indicate a possible 10-plus-win team, the schedule is a big obstacle. The good news is that the Huskies possess significant talent on both sides of the ball, enabling them to make a run at the West Division title.
If either Mitchell Guadagni or Eli Peters emerges as a viable replacement for Logan Woodside at quarterback, then it’s all systems go. But if the offense struggles a bit, the defense will have to do its part. And that defense will be tested early with non-conference dates against Miami (Fla.), Nevada and Fresno State. The Rockets do catch a break in league play by not having to face either Ohio or Miami, the two favorites in the East.
By the end of last season, WMU had lost a whopping 21 players to season-ending injuries, including five safeties, five running backs and five receivers. “It started getting ridiculous,” head coach Tim Lester says. It did, however, create a good dynamic entering this season — an experienced roster, devoid of a large senior class. The Broncos have only nine seniors on a team with realistic designs on competing for a MAC championship, meaning this should be a two-year group.
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Complete ACC preview for the 2018 season.
Clemson is once again the pick to win the ACC title for the 2018 college football season, but the conference has continued to improve its depth in recent years. Miami took a step forward under coach Mark Richt last season by winning its first Coastal Division title and are the pick to win the division once again in 2018. Virginia Tech isn’t far behind, with Georgia Tech and Pitt next in line as contenders. Clemson should be picked No. 1 or No. 2 nationally by most this preseason and holds a significant edge over the rest of the Atlantic. New coach Willie Taggart should have Florida State in the mix for a New Year’s Six bowl and is the top threat to the Tigers in the Atlantic. Behind projected first-team All-ACC quarterback Ryan Finley, NC State ranks just outside the top 25 and headlines the next tier of teams in the division. It’s a close call behind the Wolfpack, as Boston College, Wake Forest and Louisville each finished 4-4 in the league last fall and not much separates this trio once again in 2018.
This should be one of coach Steve Addazio’s best teams, even though it may not show up in the record, as the Eagles draw both Miami and Virginia Tech out of the ACC Coastal Division and travel to an improved Purdue in the non-conference slate. Still, RB AJ Dillon should have a big year, and the defense has enough returning firepower to keep games close. If either Anthony Brown or EJ Perry provides a real threat in the passing game, the Eagles can win more than seven games under Addazio for the first time in his six years at the Heights.
Upsets happen, as Clemson knows after losing to Syracuse last year and Pitt in 2016. But this team is just so much more talented than almost everyone it will play. A fourth consecutive playoff appearance seems like the baseline for this team. Clemson-Bama Part 4 sounds fun.
After Jimbo Fisher bolted for Texas A&M, FSU’s administration wanted a head coach who could take the football program in a completely new direction. Willie Taggart checked every box. The biggest change, of course, is the swapping of Fisher’s plodding pro-style offense for the up-tempo, spread attack Taggart employed at Oregon and USF. FSU’s defense also will take a more aggressive stance under former Michigan State co-coordinator Harlon Barnett. Judging by the excitement during spring drills and offseason workouts, FSU’s players are fully on board. That alone should help the Seminoles improve upon their dismal 7–6 campaign from a year ago. How much they improve will depend largely on how quickly they can execute their new schemes at a high level.
The Cardinals have more questions in 2018 than they’ve had during any season of Bobby Petrino’s second tour of duty at the school. Louisville must solve significant issues on defense and replace a former Heisman-winning quarterback. And they must do so against a schedule that begins with Alabama in Orlando and includes a road trip to Clemson. Another season in the middle of the ACC Atlantic pack looms.
NC State got a preview of life without DE Bradley Chubb in the Sun Bowl. The offense did the heavy lifting behind QB Ryan Finley and the receivers and put up 52 points in a win over Arizona State. With so many personnel changes on defense, the same formula will have to work in 2018 for the Wolfpack to avoid a step back after their first top-25 finish under Dave Doeren and only third in the past 20 years.
Syracuse enters Year 3 of the Dino Babers era with reason to believe that a four-year bowl drought could end this fall. The Orange bring back experienced lines, have quality quarterback depth and feature an experienced secondary. The schedule is slightly less of a gauntlet, too.
There are questions, though, on both sides of the ball. How will SU replace its linebackers, including three-time captain Zaire Franklin? Can the receiving corps pick up the production that graduated with Steve Ishmael and Erv Philips?
This projects to be a season in which Babers’ reputation begins to take shape. A postseason appearance would invite talk of a contract extension. But another disappointing finish would hurt much more than the last two seasons.
The building blocks are there for a third straight bowl appearance. That starts on both lines, where Wake finally boasts talent and experience. Depth is always a concern, and a couple key injuries could eliminate a small margin for error. Coach Dave Clawson has rebuilt the facilities and the culture, and this is now a program that expects to win.
There’s reason to believe Duke will once again be stout on defense. It could be up to the offense — which averaged only 19.8 points in ACC games — to determine whether the Blue Devils will be a borderline bowl team or emerge as a contender in the Coastal Division. The schedule certainly gets tougher, with non-conference road games at Baylor and Northwestern and a crossover game at Clemson.
Coach David Cutcliffe likes what he sees from his group. “We know this team can run,” he says. “[This] was the most physical Duke football that has been out here in quite some time. This is something we’ve got to build on; I’m anxious to see.”
Coach Paul Johnson’s teams traditionally outperform expectations, but last year’s 5-6 record was disappointing because a play here or there in games they led late against Tennessee, Miami or Virginia cost them a bowl berth. With nearly the entire offense returning and a defensive philosophy that should better fit the personnel, it’s easy to envision those games going their way in 2018. There’s never a huge margin for error at Tech, but with even small improvements in TaQuon Marshall’s passing, offensive line play and the kicking game, Tech should return to the postseason and factor into the ACC Coastal race.
Last year was a rude awakening for the Hurricanes, who elbowed their way into the College Football Playoff discussion in November only to get thrashed by Clemson in the ACC title game. No one in Coral Gables will forget that feeling, and confidence is high on campus that Miami is building the type of team that can compete with the top dogs in any conference. They’re not playing at a championship level consistently, but they’re showing flashes, and Mark Richt’s last two recruiting classes have been excellent. The former Miami quarterback has restored the shine to his alma mater.
The Tar Heels have plenty of room for improvement after limping to a 3-9 record in 2017, but it remains to be seen whether they have enough talent to make much progress. Top priorities on offense are patching together a passable offensive line and getting consistent play at quarterback. On defense, UNC must avoid major breakdowns after allowing five runs of more than 50 yards and five TD passes longer than 65 yards a year ago. With a non-conference schedule that includes two road games and a matchup against UCF, a bowl game would be a good accomplishment.
In the past two seasons, Pittsburgh has pulled off major upsets against Miami, Clemson and Penn State. But at what point do the Panthers advance past the occasional stunning win and start to develop more consistency across the board? Coach Pat Narduzzi’s program took a step back in 2017. It finished 5-7 (3-5 in the ACC) after posting 8-5 records in each of his first two seasons. The mission in 2018 is to prove the program is trending upward, as was the case in 2015 and ’16.
In Year 2 at Virginia, coach Bronco Mendenhall took the team from two wins to six and helped the Cavaliers reach their first bowl game since 2011. He may be hard pressed to continue that upward trajectory this season, at least in terms of wins and losses. The team lost key seniors in key spots, robbing the lineup not only of production but also of leadership.
The offensive and defensive lines are being largely rebuilt, and the entire offense figures to have a different feel as Virginia moves to a dual-threat quarterback and a scheme more reminiscent of what Mendenhall and his staff employed at BYU. There’s enough depth on defense to be optimistic, and if Bryce Perkins shines at quarterback, the offense could be interesting.
Virginia Tech fans couldn’t have asked for much more from coach Justin Fuente in his first two years in Blacksburg, where he’s gone 19–8, won a division title and seamlessly handled the transition from legend Frank Beamer. It’s possible that 2018 might be his greatest challenge so far, however, with three-quarters of the roster being sophomores or younger. Fuente and his staff have recruited well, but those classes are just now starting to hit a turning point in their development.
The schedule’s manageable, with Clemson rotating off, Miami at home and the Coastal Division not overwhelming, but the Hokies will need to do a lot of growing up at key positions if they’re going to make a run at the division title again.
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March Madness Round 64 Preview
Loyola-Chicago vs. Miami
Miami would love nothing more than to rebound from last year’s poor showing at the NCAA Tournament – and has already gone through plenty of big-game moments in preparation – as it faces Loyola-Chicago in the first round of the South Region on Thursday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The sixth-seeded Hurricanes are also hoping to get a boost with the possible return of Bruce Brown Jr.
The Hurricanes gave fans more than their share of thrills to close out the regular season, winning each of their final four games by a combined eight points – a stretch that included a three-point triumph over North Carolina and a one-point victory over Virginia Tech. But whatever heroics Miami displayed over that stretch ran out when the ACC Tournament got underway as the Hurricanes were trounced 82-65 by the Tar Heels. Miami’s quest for a first Final Four appearance begins against the No. 11 Ramblers, who locked up their sixth tournament berth in school history – and first since 1985 – by claiming the Missouri Valley Conference title. The Ramblers won the national title in 1963, but have won only four tournament games since.
TV: 3:10 p.m. ET, truTV
ABOUT LOYOLA-CHICAGO (28-5): The Ramblers ended their 33-year NCAA Tournament drought by playing some of the most relentless defense in the nation – they allowed the fifth-fewest points in the country (62.2) while limiting opponents to fewer than 10 made free throws per game. And Loyola-Chicago’s offense wasn’t so bad either as it boasted a 57.8-percent effective shooting rate that ranked in the top 10 nationally. Five players averaged double figures in scoring this season, led by Clayton Custer’s 13.4 points as he’ll be looking to end a frightful offensive slump that has seen him held to a total of 23 points over his past four games while shooting 4-for-20 from beyond the arc over that stretch.
ABOUT MIAMI (22-9): Brown’s return would invigorate the Hurricanes’ offense and rebounding as he ranks tied for second on the roster in scoring at 11.4 points while contributing a team-best 7.1 boards. But Miami hasn’t had to worry much in his absence, boasting seven players who average between 8.7 and 11.5 points per game, but the Hurricanes will need to be much better from the free-throw line, where they ranked last in the ACC at 66.3 percent this season. Look for the Hurricanes to put plenty of pressure on Loyola-Chicago in the early going as Miami allowed just over 30 first-half points per game this season, ranking inside the top 30 in the country in that category.
1. Brown leads the team in average playing time at 33.7 minutes.
2. Loyola-Chicago enters the NCAA Tournament on a 10-game winning streak.
3. Custer reached double figures in 14 straight games prior to his four-game scoring funk.
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Louisville at Miami
Louisville continues to make its case for a spot in the polls with fourth straight victories to move into second place in the ACC behind Virginia. The Cardinals look to follow up Sunday’s 77-69 over Boston College when they head south to face a Miami team that has been up and down since conference play began, but the 24th-ranked Hurricanes put an end to their two-game skid Sunday with a strong 86-81 road victory over North Carolina State.
The Hurricanes were efficient in the victory over the Wolfpack, shooting a blistering 57.6 percent, including 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) from 3-point range, while recording a season-high 26 assists on 34 field goals – their most ever in an ACC game and their most in any game since Nov. 16, 2009 – but those numbers will be difficult to match against Louisville. Under interim coach David Padgett, the Cardinals are playing with great intensity on defense, forcing turnovers and contesting shooters on the perimeter, limiting them to just 29.6 percent on their 3-point shots. “We got to focus on being a good defensive team,” Padgett told reporters following the Boston College win. “Our offense will be fine. We’ll have games where we can’t shoot the ball well and that’s just where we got to rely on defense and our guys have just been working extremely hard in practice every day and we’re playing well because of it.” The Hurricanes are likewise making a living out of strong defensive play, but while they are allowing just 63.1 points per game and have held nine opponents below 60 points, their last two foes have surpassed 80.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (15-4, 5-1 ACC): Deng Adel, the team’s leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, had a quiet first half in the win over Boston College but he roared back in the final 20 minutes with all his points (18) and rebounds (10) to finish with his third double-double in the last five games. Center Anas Mahmoud and forward Ray Spalding make up a dominant duo up front, with Mahmoud swatting down 3.53 shots per game to rank as the nation’s fourth-best shot blocker – Louisville is second in the nation with 7.3 blocks per game – while Spalding is nearly averaging a double-double with 11.4 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game. The Cardinals recorded 10 steals against Boston College and the team is now 7-0 when it amasses double-digit steals.
ABOUT MIAMI (14-4, 3-3): Center Dewan Huell is one of just two Hurricanes averaging in double figures for the year (13.6) but he was held to eight points on 4-of-9 shooting in the win over N.C. State, just the fourth time this season he failed to reach double digits. Sophomore guard Bruce Brown Jr. (11.5 ppg) stepped up with a near-perfect shooting performance, hitting 7-of-8 shots from the field (3 of 3 from downtown) and finished with team-bests in points (19) and assists (nine), while Ebuka Izundu was 7-for-7 from the field and scored a season-high 15 points, his third double-digit outing of the year. Opponents are shooting just 39.1 percent from the floor against the Hurricanes and 30.4 from 3-point range, both ranked in the nation’s top 20, but Miami couldn’t slow N.C. State’s shooters, who hit 54.4 percent of their shots from the field, second highest by a Canes’ opponent this year (55.4 by Duke).
1. Louisville has won 10 of the 13 meetings between the teams, including a 3-1 edge since joining the ACC, but all three Miami wins have come at home.
2. The Cardinals have the fifth-most ACC road wins in their four years in the conference (16).
3. With its win over N.C. State, Miami is now 10-0 when leading at the half.
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Duke at Miami-Florida
Offense meets defense in a clash of ranked ACC foes when No. 19 Miami hosts sixth-ranked Duke on Monday. The Blue Devils have one of the most explosive offensive teams in the nation, but they’ll take on one of the stingiest defensive clubs in the country in the Hurricanes.
The Blue Devils have won two straight and four of five overall but have lost their first two ACC road games, falling at Boston College (89-84) on Dec. 9 and North Carolina State (96-85) on Jan. 6. Duke picked up its first road win in conference play with a rout of Pittsburgh on Wednesday before beating Wake Forest 89-71 three days later. The Hurricanes are coming off a 72-63 loss at Clemson on Saturday, but they’re 6-0 at home and have won 33 of their last 35 at Watsco Center. Miami is 7-18 against Duke, but five of the seven victories have been recorded since 2011-12.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT DUKE (15-2, 3-2 ACC): The Blue Devils are the only team ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring (93.2 points), rebounds (44.1) and assists (19.9), as they are second in all three categories. Freshman Marvin Bagley III leads the ACC in scoring (22.5 points) and rebounding (11.7), and he has turned up his production even more in conference play – averaging 24.8 points and 13.8 boards. All five starters average at least 12.2 points, and they rarely come off the floor as only three reserves average double digits in minutes and just one has done so in ACC play.
ABOUT MIAMI (13-3, 2-2): The Hurricanes rank in the top five in the nation in scoring defense (60.6 points), field-goal defense (37.3 percent) and 3-point defense (28.5 percent). Dewan Huell (13.6) and Bruce Brown Jr. (11.3) are the team’s only double-digit scorers, and the latter also leads the Hurricanes in rebounds (7.1) and assists (3.9). Five others average at least 7.8 points – including reserve guard Chris Lykes (7.8 points), who was named the ACC Rookie of the Week after averaging 13 points and 3.5 assists in a loss at Georgia Tech and a win over Florida State last week.
1. Bagley has recorded 14 double-doubles, tying him for second in the nation as well as the Duke freshman record.
2. Brown has averaged 20.4 points in five home games against ranked opponents, including 25 in a 55-50 win over the Blue Devils last season.
3. Duke G Gary Trent Jr. (13.4 points) has scored in double figures in six straight games, making six 3-pointers twice during that stretch.
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Week 13 CFP Rankings
The 12th weekend of the 2017 season was light on must-see matchups, but the action didn’t disappoint on Saturday. Alabama and Oklahoma cruised to easy wins to maintain the top two spots in the rankings, while Miami overcame a slow start to knock off Virginia. Wisconsin secured Week 12’s biggest win, as the Badgers defeated Michigan to move to 11-0. Coach Paul Chryst’s team checks in at No. 5 in this week’s rankings, followed by Auburn, Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame and TCU. Northwestern, Boise State and Virginia Tech join the post-Week 12 rankings after picking up wins on Saturday.
Here is the top 10 week 13 CFP rankings :
1. Alabama (11-0)
Week 12 Result: Defeated Mercer
Will the Crimson Tide get any injured defenders back in time for the Iron Bowl at Auburn?
2. Miami (10-0)
Week 12 Result: Defeated Virginia
Hurricanes overcome slow start against Virginia to improve to 10-0.
3. Clemson (10-1)
Week 12 Result: Defeated The Citadel
As expected, the Tigers didn’t have to sweat much in Saturday’s win over The Citadel. The challenge gets significantly tougher next week against South Carolina.
4. Oklahoma (10-1)
Week 12 Result: Defeated Kansas
Win over Kansas secured spot for Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.
5. Wisconsin (11-0)
Week 12 Result: Defeated Michigan
Timely offense and standout defense lead the way in Saturday’s victory against Michigan.
6. Auburn (9-2)
Week 12 Result: Defeated ULM
The Tigers have scored at least 40 points in seven out of the last eight games. How will this offense perform against Alabama?
7. Georgia (10-1)
Week 12 Result: Defeated Kentucky
Nick Chubb and Sony Michel cap off standout careers in Athens with big performances against Kentucky.
8. Notre Dame (9-2)
Week 12 Result: Defeated Navy
Notre Dame’s defense held Navy to 277 rushing yards in Saturday’s win, which was the fewest allowed to the Midshipmen since giving up 149 in 2012.
9. Ohio State (9-2)
Week 12 Result: Defeated Illinois
J.T. Barrett is the first quarterback in Big Ten history to reach 100 touchdown passes.
10. Penn State (9-2)
Week 12 Result: Defeated Nebraska
A win over Maryland in the season finale should position James Franklin’s team for a New Year’s Six bowl.
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Week 12 CFP Rankings
With 11 weeks of action from the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to update the CFP rankings. With 11 weeks completed, only three weekends remain in the 2017 college football season. Alabama gains one spot and takes over No. 1 after escaping Starkville with a close win over Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide have a looming showdown against Auburn in Week 13, which will decide the winner of the SEC West. Clemson jumped two spots to land at No. 2 in this week’s rankings. Miami is checking in at No. 3 following a dominant win over Notre Dame. Oklahoma rounds out the playoff bound teams to No. 4 after a convincing win over TCU. They are followed by undefeated Wisconsin at No. 5 and Auburn at No. 6 after a huge win against former No. 1 Georgia.
Here is the top 10 week 12 CFP rankings :
1. Alabama (10-0)
Week 11 Result: Defeated Mississippi State
Jalen Hurts and Calvin Ridley delivered in the clutch for the Crimson Tide to escape Starkville with a victory.
2. Clemson (9-1)
Week 11 Result: Defeated Florida State
The Tigers weren’t particularly impressive in the win over Florida State, but coach Dabo Swinney’s team pulled away late to secure the Atlantic Division title.
3. Miami (9-0)
Week 11 Result: Defeated Notre Dame
It’s official: The U is back. And thanks to Virginia’s loss to Louisville, the Hurricanes are the champs of the Coastal Division title for the first time since joining the ACC.
4. Oklahoma (9-1)
Week 11 Result: Defeated TCU
The Sooners averaged 7.8 yards per play against a tough TCU defense on Saturday night, which will only help quarterback Baker Mayfield increase his lead in the race to win the Heisman Trophy.
5. Wisconsin (10-0)
Week 11 Result: Defeated Iowa
Badgers’ defense dominates in win over Iowa. Victory over Hawkeyes also clinches a trip to Indianapolis for Wisconsin.
6. Auburn (8-2)
Week 11 Result: Defeated Georgia
Auburn won the battle up front on both sides of the ball and got clutch performances from running back Kerryon Johnson and quarterback Jarrett Stidham in Saturday’s huge win over Georgia.
7. Georgia (9-1)
Week 11 Result: Lost to Auburn
Loss to Auburn was a setback, but the Bulldogs are still alive for the CFB Playoff.
8. Notre Dame (8-2)
Week 11 Result: Lost to Miami
Miami’s speed and athleticism and inconsistent quarterback play from Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book were just too much to overcome in Saturday’s loss.
9. Ohio State (8-2)
Week 11 Result: Defeated Michigan State
Buckeyes rebound from last week’s disappointing loss at Iowa to demolish Michigan State 48-3.
10. Penn State (8-2)
Week 11 Result: Defeated Rutgers
The Nittany Lions started slow but eventually pulled away for a 35-6 win over Rutgers. Running back Saquon Barkley has been held under 100 rushing yards in three consecutive games.
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ACC Games of the Week
Saturday lives for College Football and FanPicks has your fantasy football fix. If you are a fan of the ACC conference, then you’re in luck because we got the ACC Games of the Weeks contest. Only ACC games are allowed.With 6 games on tap, there will be no shortage of draft picks. Check out all of the ACC Saturday games preview below and join the action for cash prize!!! >>>Click here to join the game<<<
Louisville Cardinals vs Florida State Seminoles
Louisville announced its presence as a national championship contender in 2016 by annihilating then-No. 2 Florida State, but both teams find themselves struggling just to stay relevant in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference just over 13 months later. A pair of recent powers hovering around the .500 mark hope to improve their recent fortunes Saturday when the Cardinals visit the Seminoles (Noon Et on ESPN).
Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson accounted for five touchdowns as Louisville throttled Florida State 63-20 last September – a victory that marked the third of four straight games in which the Cardinals scored at least 59 points. While the offense has more than held up its end of the bargain this season despite not maintaining the same pace as last season’s team, the defense has not after giving up at least 520 total yards for the third time in 2017 in last weekend’s 45-42 home loss to Boston College.
The Seminoles avoided their first 1-4 start to a season since 1975 with a 17-10 triumph at Duke – their fourth consecutive contest decided by seven points or fewer. The Seminoles have yet to win outside the state of North Carolina, however, losing in Atlanta to No. 1 Alabama in the opener as well as at home versus North Carolina State and Miami (Fla.).
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (4-3, 1-3 ACC)
Jackson (3,221 career rushing yards) continues to set school records by the week, breaking Walter Peacock’s mark (3,204; 1972-75) for the most ever by a Cardinal; he also scored his 42nd career rushing touchdown, breaking Lenny Lyles’ mark of 41 from 1954-57. For only the second time in school history, the Cardinals had a pair of 100-yard receivers and 100-yard rushers in the same game last week, as Dez Fitzpatrick (127) and Jaylen Smith (118) each topped 100 yards receiving while Jackson (180) and Reggie Bonnafon (107) surpassed the century mark on the ground. Fitzpatrick’s seventh touchdown catch moved him into a tie with Arnold Jackson (1997) and Mario Urrutia (2005) for most receiving touchdowns in a season by a freshman.
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (2-3, 2-2 ACC)
The Seminoles rank 121st in the country in scoring offense (18.2 points) and 110th in total offense (346.6 yards), but a new offensive line tweak seemed to spark them against Duke as left tackle Derrick Kelly moved to left guard while freshman Josh Ball took over at Kelly’s old spot. Florida State allowed a season-low two sacks while its 84th-ranked rushing attack (144.8) churned out a season-high 228 yards on the ground, including 115 from freshman Cam Akers. Auden Tate paces the team with 19 receptions, 312 yards and five touchdowns despite finishing with only three catches for 30 yards against Duke; he has scored one touchdown in every game this season – tied for the longest active streak in the nation.
Pittsburgh Panthers vs Duke Blue Devils
Teams in search of a much-needed win and better quarterback play meet Saturday when Pittsburgh meets Duke in an ACC Coastal Division matchup (12:20 p.m. ET on ACC Network). The Panthers have dropped five of six since an opening-week victory over FCS foe Youngstown State, while the Blue Devils have dropped three straight conference games after opening the season with four wins by a combined 101 points.
Pittsburgh routed Duke 56-14 last season behind 237 yards passing and three touchdowns from current Buffalo Bills backup quarterback Nathan Peterman, but the Panthers have not received consistent play from either injured Max Browne or sophomore Ben DiNucci this season. The two have combined for just eight touchdown passes and 1,609 yards passing, opening the door for freshman Kenny Pickett to play in the second half of last week’s 35-17 loss to North Carolina State. During the Blue Devils’ season-opening four-game winning streak, sophomore Daniel Jones completed 62 percent of his passes for an average of 226 yards per game with five touchdowns against two interceptions. In the last three contests, the 6-5 signal-caller has completed just 48.3 percent of his passes for an average of 165 yards per game with one TD against three picks.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (2-5, 0-3 ACC)
With Browne out for the season with a shoulder injury, DiNucci (55-of-97, 612 yards, three TDs, three interceptions) will remain the starter against the Blue Devils. The Panthers have rushed for a combined total of 433 yards in their last five games after breaking out for 363 yards in the first two games of the season.
ABOUT DUKE (4-3, 1-3 ACC)
With Jones struggling, the Blue Devils may want to use senior running back Shaun Wilson more, as the senior has averaged 5.4 yards per rush during the losing skid but has toted the ball on average less than 10 times per game. Sophomore defensive back Mark Gilbert leads the team with four interceptions – tied for fifth in FBS – and the team’s total of 12 is two more than they registered in the entire 2016 campaign and tied for second in FBS. The defense ranks 19th in FBS in total defense (313 yards per game), including 16th against the run (108).
Boston College Eagles vs Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia aims for its first five-game winning streak in 10 years when it hosts Boston College and surging running back A.J. Dillon in an ACC clash Saturday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET on RSN). Dillon erupted for 272 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a surprise 45-42 win at Louisville last week, posting the third-highest single-game total in program history and the most ever for a freshman.
He will take aim at a defense that is allowing 312.8 total yards per game – the third-fewest among ACC teams – and let up just 257 in last week’s 20-14 win at North Carolina. That result put the Cavaliers one win away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011. The Eagles are the only ACC team that Virginia has never beaten, having dropped each of the first five meetings, the last coming in 2010 at Boston College.
ABOUT BOSTON COLLEGE (3-4, 1-3 ACC)
Starting quarterback Anthony Brown completed 5-of-17 passes before being knocked out of the win at Louisville with a shoulder injury, and backup Darius Wade went 7-for-10 to help finish the upset. Dillon and junior Jon Hilliman have combined for 967 rushing yards and nine TDs for the league’s fifth-rated ground game.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (5-1, 2-0 ACC)
Benkert ranks second in the league behind Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson with 15 TD passes and he’s thrown just three interceptions in 248 attempts. He has plenty of targets, as three Cavaliers have at least 377 receiving yards and four TDs, led by junior running back Olamide Zaccheaus, who needs 32 yards to move into the top 20 all-time at Virginia. Safety Quin Blanding leads all active FBS players in career tackles (419) while Kiser ranks sixth (329) after the pair combined for 18 against North Carolina.
Syracuse Orange vs Miami Hurricanes
If Miami (Fla.) had any thoughts of looking past Syracuse, those surely disappeared last weekend. The seventh-ranked Hurricanes hope to avoid the upset at the hands of the visiting Orange when the ACC foes square off Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Syracuse defeated No. 2 Clemson, the defending national champion, in its last outing behind three touchdown passes from Eric Dungey. Coach Dino Babers now hopes his team can re-focus in time to face the undefeated Hurricanes, who escaped last week’s date with Georgia Tech with a 25-24 triumph.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (4-3, 2-1 ACC)
The Orange are aiming to knock off consecutive top 10 opponents for the first time in school history behind Dungey, who ranks fifth in the nation in completions per game (26.9), and Steve Ishmael, who leads the nation in receptions (62). Ishmael has scored a touchdown in four straight games, although he is averaging 5.7 catches over the last three outings after averaging 11.3 catches in the first four contests. Dungey leads the team in rushing (386 yards) and has eight of the team’s 11 scores on the ground.
ABOUT MIAMI (5-0, 3-0 ACC)
The Hurricanes have won 10 games in a row dating back to last season, although last week’s win was a mini-miracle. Darrell Langham caught a fourth-down pass on a lucky bounce to keep the game alive before Michael Badgley kicked the decisive field goal with four seconds left. Travis Horner ran for a career-high 170 yards on 20 attempts and scored two touchdowns – one on the ground and one through the air.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs Virginia Tech Hogies
Teams heading in opposite directions meet Saturday when North Carolina visits No. 14 Virginia Tech during homecoming weekend (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2). The Hokies are 5-1 with their lone loss against defending champion Clemson and coming off a bye week after dropping Boston College 23-10 on October 7, while the Tar Heels are trying to avoid a fifth consecutive loss in one season for the first time since 2006.
The Tar Heels have averaged just 12 points per outing during their skid after last week’s 20-14 defeat against Virginia, and their only win has come against FCS foe Old Dominion. Virginia Tech will have a decided advantage at the quarterback spot, as Josh Jackson leads all FBS freshmen with 1,700 passing yards and 13 touchdowns and is second in passer rating (158.2), while North Carolina will give LSU transfer Brandon Harris his second start of the season Saturday.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (1-6, 0-4 ACC)
Harris replaced Chazz Surratt last week and completed only 7-of-18 passes for 46 yards with three interceptions. The offensive highlight last week was 5-9 freshman Michael Carter, who ran for a season-high 157 yards and two touchdowns, including 127 yards and both of his scores in the third quarter as the Tar Heels came back from a 10-0 halftime deficit. Jackson, whose TD passes are the most ever by a Virginia Tech freshman, needs 141 yards to overtake Michael Vick’s freshman record for passing yards (1,840 in 1999) and is looking forward to attacking a defense that is surrendering 31 points and 461 yards per contest.
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (5-1, 1-1 ACC)
Jackson leads the ACC in passer rating (158.17), which is 13th in FBS, is third in the conference in total offense (309 yards per game) and fifth in passing yards per game (283.3). Wide receiver Cam Phillips, who ranks second in Tech history with 207 catches and third in receiving yards with 2,671, is hopeful to return after leaving the Boston College game with a foot sprain. Led by defensive backs Brandon Facyson, Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander, opponents are completing just 44 percent of its passes for 387 yards with only one TD in three home games this season, and the defense is second in the ACC and seventh in FBS in scoring defense (13.7 points).
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech is two one-point losses away from being undefeated on the season, but the Yellow Jackets enter Saturday’s home contest with Wake Forest (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU) with no time to wonder what could have been. The Yellow Jackets face a Wake Forest team that threw a scare into Clemson before having its bye last week, and Georgia Tech’s remaining schedule features matchups with the No. 8-ranked Tigers, No. 14 Virginia Tech, Virginia and No. 3 Georgia.
The Demon Deacons started the season 4-0 before suffering a pair of losses to Clemson and Florida State, and begin a pivotal stretch in which Wake Forest plays three of its next four games on the road. Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford, who missed the Clemson game with a shoulder injury, and running back Cade Carney (rib) are expected back for Saturday.
ABOUT WAKE FOREST (4-2, 1-2 ACC)
Wolford has completed 63.2 percent of his passes this season with eight touchdowns and only one interception, while rushing for four touchdowns and 6.3 yards per carry. Redshirt freshman receiver Greg Dortch ranks second in the ACC and 19th nationally with 136 all-purpose yards per game, finishing with 156 yards against the Tigers. Wake Forest’s defense is surrendering only 16.7 points per game, third the conference and 12th in the country.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (3-2, 2-1 ACC)
The Yellow Jackets scored fewer than 28 points last week for the first time in nine games, but still lead the ACC and rank third in the nation in rushing yards per game (362). Quarterback TaQuon Marshall has combined for 14 touchdowns (nine rushing, five passing) and leads the team in rushing, but was held to just 18 yards against the Hurricanes. Georgia Tech has allowed opponents to convert third downs just 22.4 percent of the time, ranking second in the nation.
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NCAA Football 2017 Season
ACC Coastal Division Preview
Miami won the coastal division last year and there is little doubt that they won’t repeat that success this year. Virginia Tech are their closest competition for top spot. Georgia Tech and Pitt are the dark horses of this division. Anything can happen this year in the division. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks.
If Miami finds a quarterback and the secondary settles down, this could be a special year. The Hurricanes have a favorable schedule that includes a tough test early — Florida State in Week 3 — and home/road balance the rest of the way. With the rest of the ACC Coastal rebuilding, the Hurricanes should be able to compete for the division title with an outstanding defense and an offense that does just enough. If QB N’Kosi Perry arrives early — some inside the program compare him to Deshaun Watson or Lamar Jackson — expectations in South Florida will skyrocket.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Coach Justin Fuente had plenty of success after succeeding the legendary Frank Beamer as Virginia Tech’s coach, returning the school to its 10-win standard, claiming the Coastal Division title for the first time since 2011 and giving Clemson all it could handle in the ACC title game. Now comes the harder part: restoring the Hokies to their former mantle as ACC champions. The offensive exodus will challenge this team, particularly early, but Hokies fans hope a full year in the new system, several key returning pieces and Fuente’s offensive acumen can offset some of the loss of talent. It helps to have associate coach Bud Foster’s always-trusty defense. In a Coastal Division that doesn’t figure to have a clear-cut frontrunner, there are plenty of reasons to believe Virginia Tech has as good a chance as anybody.
Pitt made headlines by defeating national champion Clemson and Big Ten champ Penn State last season. The question is: What can it do for an encore?
Despite the loss of 12 starters, and a schedule that features back-to-back games with Penn State and Oklahoma State, head coach Pat Narduzzi believes the wins will keep coming. Based on his first two seasons and a couple of strong recruiting classes, there is reason to believe Narduzzi can produce another solid year for the Panthers.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Hopes were high a year ago, but the Tar Heels fell short in their quest to reach the ACC Championship Game for the second year in a row. While the Coastal Division race remains as unpredictable as ever, UNC probably has too much uncertainty to be considered a legitimate threat. Are there enough playmakers on offense? Can the graduate transfers provide a big lift immediately? Can the defense become an asset instead of a liability? And is it possible that the team hold its own on special teams? The Tar Heels have enough talent to earn a fifth consecutive postseason berth, but doing so probably won’t be easy.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Something clicked midway through 2016. The Yellow Jackets finished strong, posting a 9–4 season including a win at Georgia that should give them momentum in a division in which the top programs are all losing multiple key players. With eight returning defensive starters and nine on offense, there are some proven, experienced ingredients. But replacing Justin Thomas, a highly productive three-year starter at quarterback, may not be that simple. And on defense, the front six has some intriguing young players but no clear-cut difference makers or vocal leaders. How Georgia Tech fills those personnel holes will likely determine whether it wins the Coastal for a fifth time in head coach Paul Johnson’s decade on the flats or has to sweat reaching bowl eligibility.
With a track record of success at BYU, a reputation for instilling order and accountability, and methods and metrics straight out of a business management text, head coach Bronco Mendenhall seemed to have an answer for every contingency when he arrived at Virginia, playfully warning fans not to make travel plans during bowl season.
Reality hit home when the season started, however, and by the end of a 2–10 campaign, Mendenhall admitted he’d underestimated the scope of the rebuilding project. Expectations have been re-calibrated, with Mendenhall cautioning that a turnaround could take a while. After laying the cultural foundation last season, he’s turning his attention to improving the execution that was so woefully lacking.
With a tighter on-field operation and a fair amount of talent returning, Virginia could be better, but fans likely won’t need to alter their bowl season travel plans just yet.
Duke Blue Devils
For an example of how far Duke football has come, one needs look no further than last season. In the decade since he arrived in Durham, head coach David Cutcliffe turned what had been a football wasteland into a program that reached four straight bowl games, briefly cracked the top 25 and made great strides in recruiting, facilities and visibility. So when the 2016 squad stumbled through a season defined by injuries, bad breaks and head-scratching losses, oddly enough, it felt out of character.
This season, the Blue Devils should have a chance to get back to a more familiar Cutcliffe-era script. Quarterback Daniel Jones should give the offense a dynamic leader and, if the defense can find answers, the Blue Devils have every reason to believe they can make strides and compete for a bowl bid in a Coastal Division that lacks a clear hierarchy.
NCAA Football 2017 Season
MAC East Division Preview
Ohio and Miami tied for the MAC East crown at 6-2 in league play last year, with the Bobcats earning a trip to Detroit thanks to a 17-7 victory on October 1st. Miami looks to use its momentum from the second half of the season to overtake Ohio for the top spot this season. With 16 returning starters, the RedHawks are primed for their best year under coach Chuck Martin. Let’s check how the MAC East is going to stack up. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks
Fourth-year coach Chuck Martin has the RedHawks on the right track. They closed 2016 with a rush — since the NCAA allowed teams to start playing 12 games in 2006, no team had ever finished 6–6 after starting 0–6, and their 17–16 bowl loss to Mississippi State almost felt like a win. They won’t be sneaking up on opponents next season, but they seem to have the experience to handle the spotlight.
Indeed, the entire program is experiencing a renaissance. In February, Miami opened a new 56,000 square-foot Athletic Performance Center, including a plush 6,000 square-foot locker room, an 8,200 square-foot weight room, a 5,000 square-foot athletic training and rehabilitation area and a 1,400 square-foot players’ lounge. It’s connected to the newish indoor practice facility, and both will help with recruiting while enhancing the RedHawks’ on-field performance.
There’s no reason to believe Miami will regress. With 16 starters returning, the future looks bright as the RedHawks try to restore the luster to a program that once was the pride of the MAC.
Ohio will be in the mix again for a MAC East title and a bowl bid. That’s been the case for much of head coach Frank Solich’s 12-year tenure. The defense will be competitive and should keep the Bobcats in most games. The run game should be more effective with better injury luck in the backfield compared to last season. But for Ohio to take another step — challenge for 10 wins, be a favorite to win the MAC Championship Game — it will have to figure out a way to juice up an offense that hasn’t been among the MAC’s top three in the past decade. With young quarterbacks and unproven receivers, it’ll be a tough task.
Despite quarterback Thomas Woodson’s injury and their struggles defensively, the Zips were a dropped pass in the end zone away from playing in the MAC Championship Game last season. They fell 9–3 in the regular-season finale at East Division champ Ohio University with converted wide receiver Tyrell Goodman playing quarterback.
Head coach Terry Bowden has built a program that’s stable enough to survive most personnel losses, but the quarterback situation is a concern since explosiveness at that spot is so crucial in the high-scoring MAC. If Woodson can’t go, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M transfer Nick Johns will likely become the man, and he joins the program with a reputation as a strong pure passer.
With linebacker Ulysses Gilbert leading the way as an upperclassmen, and a well-respected coordinator calling the shots in Chuck Amato, Akron’s defense will improve at least to some degree. If the signal-caller situation gets settled, the Zips could compete for the MAC East Division crown once again in 2017.
Bowling Greens Falcons
Many felt that Bowling Green’s brain trust really rolled the dice when the school hired Mike Jinks — with no coordinating or head coaching experience at the college level — to lead this program in 2016. But after the 1–8 start, Jinks set things straight, and BG won its final three games. Now a full season, two recruiting classes and two sessions of spring ball into this gig, Jinks and the Falcons seem quite comfortable with each other.
James Morgan has made seven starts at quarterback, his receiving corps is skilled and deep, and the running game is nasty again. If the offensive line develops and the defense can take a step forward, the Falcons will have an opportunity to make a move in the MAC East. But getting to six wins and bowl eligibility will be a challenge, thanks in part to a non-conference slate that includes trips to Michigan State, Northwestern and underrated Middle Tennessee.
The 2016 season was a reality check for the program. Coach Lance Leipold added some much-needed speed the past two years, but it will take time for the youth to develop. Strength coach Ryan Cidzik is in only his second year. Good player development is critical for the Bulls, who aren’t in a position to recruit more polished products than the MAC powers. More patience is required for a program that has had just two winning seasons in 18 years at the FBS level. If quarterback Tyree Jackson can make good progress this season, the future will look a lot brighter.
Kent St. Golden Flashes
Head coach Paul Haynes is in the final year of his five-year contract and has yet to win more than four games in a season. Last year’s squad was much more consistently competitive in MAC play but still finished just 3–9 after losing three conference games by four points. With Nick Holley at quarterback for a full season and more help in place at the skill positions, the Flashes will finally enter a season sporting an offense that strikes some semblance of fear into opposing defenses. Haynes’ teams have always been solid defensively, so offensive production remains the key to overall success. Kent State must also survive a brutal non-conference schedule that features road trips to Clemson, Louisville and Marshall.
ACC (21-11, 10-8)
by Jacob Young
After a ten win season against the loaded ACC, the Hurricanes are back in the tournament, aiming for back to back Sweet 16 appearances. Miami has been a slow-paced, defensive minded team since Jim Larranaga arrived in 2012, and this year is no exception. The Hurricanes score about 70 points per contest, but only allow 63.4 points to opponents. For Miami to win games in the tournament, they will have to control pace and slow their opponent down.
Big Wins: 1/28 North Carolina (77-62), 2/20 at Virginia (54-48), 2/25 Duke (55-50)
Bad Losses: 1/4 at Syracuse (55-70), 1/18 at Wake Forest (79-96), 2/27 at Virginia Tech (61-66)
Coach: Jim Larranaga
Why They Can Surprise:
As stated above, if Miami is able to dictate the pace of the game, they will have an advantage over their opponent. Miami was able to slow down notoriously fast-paced North Carolina and Duke this season, holding them to 62 and 50 points, respectively. In a road contest against slow-paced Virginia, Miami won a rock fight in overtime by a score of 54-48. Miami wants to grind games out and win ugly and they have proven to be able to do that against any kind of opponent. Also, about half of the players on this team have good tournament experience, having made the Sweet 16 a year ago.
Why They Can Disappoint:
One reason Miami likes to limit possessions is because the offense can look stale for long periods of time. Look no further than their most recent game against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament where Miami only scored 53 points. They also failed to break 60 points in losses to Iowa State, Florida, Florida State twice, at Duke and in wins against Virginia and Duke. Miami only scored 80 twice in conference play, both times against lowly N.C. State. They only shoot about 45 percent from the field and are prone to turnovers, with almost 20 percent of their possessions ending in a turnover.
Ja’Quan Newton, Junior, Guard, 13.4 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.6 rpg
Bruce Brown, Freshman, Guard, 11.9 ppg, 3.2 apg, 5.8 rpg
Davon Reed, Senior, Guard, 15.0 ppg, 2.5 apg, 4.8 rpg
Anthony Lawrence, Sophomore, Forward, 6.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Kamari Murphy, Senior, Forward, 7.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg
Key Role Players:
D.J. Vasiljevic, Freshman, Guard, 6.1 ppg
Dewan Huell, Freshman, Forward, 5.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Ebuka Izundu, Sophomore, Forward4.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 70.2 (249th in nation, 13th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.4 (22, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.7 (108, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.0 (45, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.4 (268, 14)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.2 (125, 11)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.0 (117, 8)
Rebound Margin: 4.9 (41, 3)
Assists Per Game: 12.0 (272, 15)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.8 (138, 12)
Recent Postseason Appearances:
2016 NCAA Round of 64 win over Buffalo
2016 NCAA Round of 32 win over Wichita State
2016 NCAA Regional Semifinal loss to Villanova
2015 NIT First Round win over North Carolina Central
2015 NIT Second Round win over Alabama
2015 NIT Quarterfinal win over Richmond
2015 NIT Semifinal win over Temple
2015 NIT Final loss to Stanford
2013 NCAA Round of 64 win over Pacific
2013 NCAA Round of 32 win over Illinois
2013 NCAA Regional Semifinal loss to Marquette
2012 NIT First Round win over Valparaiso
2012 NIT Second Round loss to Minnesota
2011 NIT First Round win over Florida Atlantic
2011 NIT Second Round win over Missouri State
2011 NIT Quarterfinal loss to Alabama
2009 NIT First Round win over Providence
2009 NIT Second Round loss to Florida
2008 NCAA Round of 64 win over St. Mary’s
2008 NCAA Round of 32 loss to Texas
2006 NIT First Round win over Oklahoma State
2006 NIT Second Round win over Creighton
2006 NIT Quarterfinal loss to Michigan
2005 NIT First Round loss to South Carolina
*all team stats through 3/5
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Miami Hurricanes 2017 Preview
Not that Jim Larranaga isn’t smart enough to figure all this out, but he entered season facing questions he’s never had before. The Miami Hurricanes coach, coming off his second Sweet 16 appearance in four seasons, has a brand new roster once again. Unlike his rebuild of 2013’s ACC championship and Sweet 16 squad, he also has talent.
Last year, the roles seemed well defined. He had a bulldog point guard (Angel Rodriguez), a go-to scorer (Sheldon McClellan) and an athletic 7-footer (Tonye Jekiri) holding down the middle. He had valuable complementary players in 3-man Davon Reed and 4-man Kamari Murphy. Now he’s counting on his sixth man, junior combo guard Ja’Quan Newton, to take over the point. He needs Reed and Murphy to provide senior leadership. He’ll need a host of untested players to grow up in a hurry. The faster they do, the faster Miami will compete for another league title. (Play College Basketball)
No one on the roster has the build or defensive presence of Jekiri, the 7’0″, 250-pounder who made the ACC’s All-Defensive Team twice. In fact, the largest regular is sophomore Ebuka Izundu, who stands 6’10” and 210 pounds. Izundu, who like Jekiri came from Nigeria to play high school ball in the U.S., has greater hops and much more offensive game than his predecessor at the 5. However, Izundu needs to prove he won’t be pushed around by ACC big men and defend without fouling.
The most veteran frontcourt player is Murphy, who proved to be an active defender and rebounder (6.0 rpg) in his Miami debut last year. The Brooklyn native, formerly of Oklahoma State, is the type of get-in-your-face leader Reed and Newton aren’t. Miami won’t be able to keep top-25 recruit Dewan Huell on the bench for long, and the Canes may team the five-star freshman with Murphy to create a pair of springy big men. Freshman center Rodney Miller has bulk and comes from heralded Virginia prep program Oak Hill, but he may be too raw to play in the heat of the ACC schedule. VCU transfer Michael Gilmore, a stretch-4, will sit out a year.
Newton is an aggressive layup-maker, but he needs to improve his outside shooting (34.6 percent from 3) and, most important, his assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5-to-2.1). He’ll play major minutes, as will the versatile Reed, who averaged 11.1 points per game last season. If Newton falters at the point, 6’7″ swingman Anthony Lawrence Jr. might get a crack at handling the ball instead of playing one of the forward spots. He had a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in limited minutes last year, and like Reed he can guard 1-through-4. Though he’s new, the Hurricanes believe five-star freshman Bruce Brown could be an impact player in Year 1.
Rashad Muhammad, the brother of NBA swingman Shabazz, is eligible after transferring from San Jose State. He’s an excellent deep shooter but with his thin frame won’t be banging around much. Australian freshman Dejan Vasiljevic, a veteran of his country’s international tournaments, will compete for time as Newton’s backup.
This may be the most talented recruiting class in program history. Five-star prospects Bruce Brown and Dewan Huell will play major minutes at guard and forward, respectively. Australian Dejan Vasiljevic is a heady point guard who will come off the bench. Four-star center Rodney Miller could redshirt as he adjusts to the pace of ACC play. There’s also Rashad Muhammad, who sat out after transferring from San Jose State. He’ll battle Brown for the starting 2-guard spot.
Larranaga has recruited well enough that it’s hard to see the Hurricanes sliding to the bottom third of the league any time soon, but this roster is so green and undefined that it seems tough to put the Canes among the league’s legitimate title contenders. The best-case scenario: The talented freshmen find their sea legs quickly, suddenly making Miami one of the deeper, more balanced teams in the league. If Newton becomes an All-ACC-caliber distributor and scorer, and the Hurricanes can find a way to defend against bigger opponents, they will be a tough out in March. If Larranaga still doesn’t know whom he can count on by January, they will be out of the NCAA Tournament.
Russell Athletic Bowl Preview
West Virginia Mountaineers vs Miami Hurricanes
An old Big East rivalry will resume on December 28 with West Virginia and Miami meeting in Orlando for the Russell Athletic Bowl (Enter Contest). These two teams have not played since 2003. The Mountaineers have lost six in a row in their all-time series against the Hurricanes.
West Virginia heavily recruits the state of Florida, so an appearance in this game against Miami is a good showcase for coach Dana Holgorsen’s program. The Mountaineers are coming off their best win total (10) since joining the Big 12. Holgorsen was inked to a long-term contract following the regular season finale against Baylor. Quarterback Skyler Howard (26 TDs) took a step forward in his development, but the Mountaineers also have a solid collection of running backs and a standout offensive line.
Mark Richt’s return to his alma mater was a much-needed stabilizing force for Miami and better days are ahead for this program. Quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Mark Walton will test a West Virginia defense that limits opponents to 5.6 yards per play. Keep an eye on the turnover battle. In two losses this year, the Mountaineers were minus-six in margin. Miami was plus-eight for the season and finished the year with positive or even turnover margins in five straight games.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (10-2, 7-2 Big 12)
The Mountaineers rank No. 12 in FBS in total offense (506.9 yards per game) with a balanced attack behind Howard (3,194 yards passing, 60.8 percent, 26 touchdown passes). They also have a backfield that had four different players rush for more than 100 yards in a game. Justin Crawford leads the group with 1,168 yards, 7.4 yards per carry and four TDs. Howard, who is also a running threat, has a trio of dangerous receivers in Daikiel Shorts Jr. (58 receptions, 833 yards), Ka’Raun White (48, 583) and game-breaking Shelton Gibson (40, 927, 23.2 yards per reception). All-American senior cornerback Rasul Douglas, who had eight of the team’s 14 interceptions, is the leader of a unit that ranked No. 3 in total defense (but only No. 79 in FBS) in the offensive-minded Big 12 (431.2 yards per game).
ABOUT MIAMI (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
Kaaya (3,250 yards, 61.2 percent, 23 touchdowns) played his best at the end of the season. He benefited from improved protection from his line, the emergence of explosive freshman wide receiver Ahmmon Richards (46 receptions, 866 yards, 18.8 yards per reception) and the improved play of tight end David Njoku (38, 654, 17.2), who caught seven TD passes. The offensive line’s re-emergence after being dominated during the losing streak also helped. Walton (1,065 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, 14 TDs) and Joe Yearby (592, 6.0) provided balance in the final four wins. With four freshmen in their front seven, Miami’s defense held nine foes to 21 points or fewer.