NCAA Football News
Last week’s results:
No. 7 Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) beat Georgia Tech 55-31.
The Citadel (5-6, 4-4 Southern Conference) beat VMI 31-10.
Will Clemson look ahead to South Carolina?
This game comes at a good time on the schedule for Clemson: For the first time in Dabo Swinney’s five-year tenure, Clemson has scheduled an FCS opponent the week before its rivalry showdown with South Carolina. Just like Georgia Tech, The Citadel runs a triple-option offense. But it begs the question: Will the Tigers, a 42.5-point favorite come out flat or think about their looming rivalry game this week?
Swinney doesn’t think so.
“We don’t have time to peek ahead. We have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday preparation to go through, we have a preparation process to deal with each day, regardless of the opponent. We believe in it very much. It’s very proven and very productive on game day. That’s what we do. If the game turns out where guys can get a little rest, that’s great. The objective is to win a football game.”
Swinney first became aware of The Citadel as a University of Alabama senior receiver in September 1992. The Crimson Tide faced Arkansas, which was guided by interim head coach Joe Kines. Why? Because head coach Jack Crowe had been fired a week earlier after losing to The Citadel.
A side note: Clemson legend Danny Ford was brought in as a consultant by Kines later that season and took over as Arkansas’ head coach in 1993.
“I didn’t know who The Citadel was in 1992. That was literally the first time I’d heard of The Citadel. They beat Arkansas,” Swinney said. “You better be ready each and every week. You don’t play with great passion, toughness, attention to detail, can’t do the things you need to do to win games, you’ll get beat. I don’t care what sport it is, what level it is, how much discrepancy it is, you’ll get beat.”
How will Clemson send off its seniors?
When Swinney took over for Tommy Bowden in December 2008, Clemson’s recruiting was struggling. The Tigers’ Class of 2009 had suffered defections due to Bowden’s resignation under pressure in October 2008 and the subsequent uncertainty over who would be Clemson’s next head coach. So Swinney made the decision to sign a 12-man 2009 class (which he dubbed “The Dandy Dozen”) and carry over scholarships to the following season.
Seven players remain from that class: quarterback Tajh Boyd, linebacker Quandon Christian, tailback Rod McDowell, guard Tyler Shatley, linebacker Spencer Shuey, tight end Darrell Smith and offensive tackle Brandon Thomas. Saturday, they’ll play their final home game alongside four other scholarship seniors in kicker Chandler Catanzaro, long snapper Phillip Fajgenbaum, cornerback Darius Robinson and corner Jerrodd Williams.
It is a small but decorated class. Boyd, Christian, McDowell, Shatley, Shuey, Thomas, Catanzaro and Fajgenbaum are starters. Boyd owns more than 50 Clemson single-season and career passing records and owns the ACC’s career passing touchdown record. And a win Saturday would give this class the most wins over a four-year period by a Clemson senior class since 1984. With three more wins, it will reach 39 and tie the 1991 team for second-most by a class in Clemson history.
The class has won an ACC title and won or shared two ACC Atlantic Division titles. As Swinney’s first Clemson recruiting class, they hold a special place in his heart.
“They transformed Clemson. Changed the culture at Clemson. They set the standard and made it realistic to achieve that standard,” he said. “They’ve done things that have never been done. They have a ton of records, a ton of (firsts), did a lot of things that have not been done in a long time here on their resume.
“This group came here at a time of total change and no guarantees, and took a leap of faith with me as a head coach and in Clemson. What a journey it’s been. They’re part of the bricks and mortar and have laid a foundation for our future success.”
Is this Sammy Watkins’ final game in Memorial Stadium?
Watkins won’t be honored alongside Clemson’s seniors, but the odds are good that this is his final home game in a Clemson uniform. The standout junior wide receiver has recovered from a down sophomore season in a big way, piling up 71 receptions for 1,086 yards and nine touchdowns. He is projected as a top-15 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, and Swinney himself has said that Watkins is a top-10 pick and has “a big decision to make” at season’s end.
Watkins is a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s top receiver. He is seven yards behind DeAndre Hopkins for the program’s career receiving-yardage record and 22 receptions behind Aaron Kelly for the program’s all-time receptions mark (which took Kelly four years to accomplish).
“Coming into this season it was about dominating every team, putting my face back on Clemson and letting everyone know I can play and be that same guy from my freshman year,” he said. “I came in this summer, worked the hardest I’ve ever worked, and it’s showing on the field. I’m practicing hard every day, doing the little things right, and coach can’t ask for more from me than me.”
Watkins says he’ll evaluate his draft status following the season but admitted he is getting a lot of contacts from potential agents and financial advisers, which he is ignoring for now. Clemson fans would be wise to get a look at him while they can.
Time: Noon, Saturday.
Place: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
TV: ESPN3.com (online only)
Radio: Clemson and The Citadel radio networks (regional).
Spread: Clemson -42.5 via vegasinsider.com
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.
When USC flipped longtime Alabama commit Viane Talamaivao earlier this week, the Trojans football program reestablished its foothold as a top destination in college football. Additionally, interim head coach Ed Orgeron incidentally made it that much more difficult for USC athletic director Pat Haden to look outside the program for his new head football coach.
It's no secret that Orgeron has dramatically turned the sinking USC ship around in his seven weeks at the helm, and high school recruits are starting to take notice.
Under Lane Kiffin, USC was still USC, but a lot of its allure and appeal were gone. Some of that had to do with NCAA sanctions, but Kiffin's style of coaching didn't do much for anyone. Last season, we saw half of USC's highly-coveted recruiting class abandon ship as the Trojans dramatically underwhelmed in 2012, and the residuals of that even carried over into this season.
At the beginning of the year, El Cerrito High (El Cerrito, Calif.) star linebacker D.J. Calhoun de-committed from USC in favor of Arizona State, and the Trojans looked to be taking big hits once again.
And then Orgeron happened.
The interim head coach and his staff made a big statement when they lured Talamaivao, just two weeks out from his official visit to Alabama, to Troy: not only can USC pluck top talent out of mighty SEC country, but also that it is back in the thick of the recruiting race. With top talent like Damien Mama (St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif.)—who recently Instagrammed a photo listing USC in his top four of options—and John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach, Calif.), USC is now in a good position to land one, or both of them. Talamaivao is good friends with both of these highly-touted athletes, and we have seen before that as goes one top recruit, so do others.
This would not be even close to the case were it not for the changes Orgeron has made.
Furthermore, ESPN.com's Jeremy Crabtree (subscription required) reported on Tuesday that one top recruit in particular thinks so much of Orgeron, that he alone is motivation to consider going to USC:
The victory [against Stanford] generated a lot of positive comments from recruits, and now it's cool to have USC on your list again. It will be interesting to see how seriously USC looks at Ed Orgeron as a candidate for the Trojans' coaching position, because recruits certainly are warming up to the idea. "If Coach O isn't there, then I'm not looking at USC anymore," one top prospect said. "I would follow that guy anywhere."
With that in mind, has Haden's decision been made for him?
If players are considering USC again because they want to play for Orgeron, Haden can't exactly go hire someone else in his place. That could negatively impact recruiting, even if USC nabbed a sexy hire like Kevin Sumlin.
Haden has to consider things like that if he is still going to look into finding a new head coach in Troy, which he will likely do, as that is his job as the athletic director.
With basketball, we saw interim head coach Bob Cantu finish the season strong only to be replaced by Andy Enfield once the season was over. Things are obviously different and more impactful on the football field for USC. Haden can't afford to make an emotional decision based on what is happening now, as the next head coach will be expected to stick around and win for a while.
This very well could be Orgeron, and if USC wins out the season, it is very probable that it would be. But if it is not, the hits USC's recruiting class could sustain again in the final stretches of the recruiting trail could be huge.
If USC can land some more 5-star recruits in the coming weeks—and if the Trojans keep winning like they are, they should be able to—Haden's decision will be all but made for him by the time the Trojans suit up for their impending bowl game.
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It seems like the same old song and dance from last year.
Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson burst onto the scene last year in record-breaking fashion. His 77 catches were a school record, and he added 1,018 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns along the way. For a player who only had three catches his entire freshman season, this was quite the jump.
There was some intrigue as to how Allen Robinson would follow up his opening act. No longer an unknown, and with a freshman quarterback leading the way, it certainly seemed like it would be a challenge to significantly improve on his 2012 numbers.
Challenge accepted. In 2013, Robinson has been Penn State's best and most valuable player. And he's done so by bumping it up a notch from his 2012 season.
It all started during the first game of the year against Syracuse. Robinson was suspended for the first half of the game but came back to play in the second. What he did when he got back on the field was spectacular.
In just 30 minutes of action, Robinson caught 7 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. On his first drive back, Christian Hackenberg connected with Robinson on the first two plays from scrimmage—the first was a 25-yard swing pass, the second a 51-yard deep route that went for a score.
In less than a minute, he was the game's leading receiver. From that point on, the bar had been set for Robinson the rest of the way.
Over the course of the season, he continued to raise it. In 10 games, Robinson has essentially carried the Nittany Lions passing attack. Just by taking a look at cfbstats.com, his 81 receptions account for nearly 40 percent of all catches by Penn State offensive players and his 1,204 receiving yards for just over 47 percent. He also has six of the team's 15 receiving touchdowns.
Not to mention, both his receptions and receiving yards in 2013 are Penn State single-season records. He's two touchdowns away from tying that single-season record, too.
Those numbers aren't just impressive. They're downright legendary. When a player affects his respective unit as much as this, it's nearly impossible to consider anyone else as the team's best player.
Robinson has clearly been the primary option for freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Not just for general production, but in key moments as well.
During the Michigan game, Robinson caught a 36-yard pass from Hackenberg inside the 5-yard line with less than a minute remaining. It put Penn State in position to tie the game, and they would eventually go on to win in quadruple overtime.
It wasn't just any catch—Hackenberg threw up a prayer to Robinson who towered over a Michigan defender, grabbed the pass and was able to get his feet down inbounds.
He made a similar one against Illinois, with Penn State again down a score with just moments to go. The catch set up a Sam Ficken field goal, and the Nittany Lions would again go on to win in overtime.
Although these were only two of his 81 catches on the year, they represent just how much Robinson means to this team—and Hackenberg specifically. Having a safety net like Robinson surely doesn't hurt in the development of a young quarterback.
Robinson's efforts haven't gone unnoticed. He was recently named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to college football's best wide receiver. He's also considered one of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft if he chooses to leave school a year early.
Allen Robinson is the clear cut-choice as Penn State's 2013 MVP. While other guys have had good seasons—DaQuan Jones, Mike Hull and even Hackenberg are a few that come to mind—the performance that Robinson has turned in this year is one that Penn State fans will never forget.
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Discarding history is foolish.
But relying entirely upon it is just as unwise.
Brady Hoke, now in his third year as head coach, is trying to reestablish a "Michigan Man" tradition that he helped promote during the mid-to-late '90s as a defensive coach under Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr.
It's a noble tale, the story of the Wolverines' leather-helmeted rise to national prominence. But it's slowly becoming a tired cliche used to excuse the poor performance of Team 134 (7-3, 3-3). For better or for worse, the term "Michigan Man" went by the wayside during a certain former coach's tenure.
He was the "anti-" anyway—and not in a contemporary, progressive sort of way. He couldn't have been more wrong for Michigan.
Citing the historical significance of 900-plus wins and 42 Big Ten titles is necessary, to an extent. But concentrating on boosting a resume that includes one BCS bowl appearance and zero conference titles should be the primary focus.
Spending too much time thinking about yesteryear is counterproductive.
Ditch the Shirts
The idea of the legacy jerseys was cute at first. But over the season, it's developed into a major issue among fans. Sure, slapping a set of legendary digits on some youngster's chest and back seems like a way to usher him toward success, but it's also a way to set him up for failure.
Devin Funchess, a Mackey Award finalist, has been terrific at tight end this season with 42 catches for 684 yards and five touchdowns. He's certainly on track to become a great at Michigan. But he's already wearing a great's number, and that's somewhat of an issue.
Why not let these guys—and not just Funchess—carve out their own reputations while wearing their own number? Funchess could do for No. 19 what Ron Kramer did for No. 87. The Apple Man's jersey (one of a few) was retired for a reason.
Jeremy Gallon wears No. 21 as a show of respect for Heisman winner Desmond Howard, who's stated on television that he was cool with the situation. Courtney Avery wears No. 11 as a nod to the Wistert brothers and Devin Gardner channels his inner Tom Harmon in No. 98.
Or does he? Harmon won the Heisman in 1940, an era where readily available highlight films didn't exist. According to his Heisman profile, he did a whole lot more running forward than he did backward. He also threw a few more touchdowns.
Gardner's not playing anything like a figurehead of Michigan football. It's almost as if he were jinxed. In 2012, he played great during his five-game term as starter, the No. 12 affixed to his front and back (changed from No. 7). Then, all of the sudden, he gets the Wayne Gretzky-, Pavel Bure-ish hockey number and goes ice cold.
It seems as if the Michigan culture, the "Michigan Man" agenda, was taken a little too far. Paying homage is one thing, but the current players have to be allowed to have their own identity.
In August, Hoke said the following about the honorary jerseys to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com:
The Legend jerseys aren't simply given, but earned. Each of these three young men has done a great job of representing this program, and they understand the significance each of those numbers carries. I think they will do a great job of honoring those legacies.
Six wins earns Harmon's rep. One season gets Kramer's. Being a serviceable defensive back puts you up there with the Wisterts.
Doesn't make much sense on this end, other than for Gallon, a senior who may be the only real qualifier among the bunch. He's increased his yearly receiving totals by more than 200 yards and 16 catches since his sophomore year.
He's no Desmond, but he'll be remembered as one of the better Michigan wideouts of his time period.
Remind them of the culture, pride and history, but don't give it to them. Make them truly earn it.
Hoke is nabbing SEC-like classes each season. Since 2011, Michigan has produced top-10 recruiting hauls. In 2013, Hoke secured Derrick Green, the No. 8 running back per 247Sports. And that's just part of the list.
The following table highlights some of Hoke's biggest commits.
If he's going to compete with Ohio State's Urban Meyer, Alabama's Nick Saban or even Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Hoke must continue cleaning up on the recruiting trail. He's recently reclaimed the Great Lakes State after Michigan State's four-year pick-of-the-litter streak ended in 2013. Prior to that, Dantonio ruled the state. Drake Harris initially committed to the Spartans before changing his mind.
Hoke's done well in Ohio, and he's stretching to southern reaches of the country looking for top-shelf recruits. He struck gold when receiving pledges from Mason Cole (OL) and George Campbell (WR).
As with anything, there is another side to recruiting; the perils of successful national signing days can ruin a school for years. Recruiting high-character players is just as important as recruiting high-profile athletes.
Thus far, Hoke's brought aboard guys who want to play by the rules. Other than the common college mistakes, his players have been relatively quiet off the field. He made examples of Darryl Stonum and other lawbreakers, so it's difficult to tab him as a lax disciplinarian.
Two weeks ago, however, Hoke's good friend Jason Whitlock called Michigan's integrity into question. Whitlock blasted Hoke, suggesting that the coach briefly lowered the program's character standards in an attempt to gain an athletic advantage.
Whitlock wrote the following on Nov. 6, via ESPN:
This Michigan team is soft and has low character. It does not reflect the values that have defined Hoke throughout his head-coaching career. The Michigan State train wreck was predictable. Every flaw on this Wolverines team was laid bare in East Lansing. Michigan State's strengths (high character and toughness) are Michigan's weaknesses. Hoke's team was beaten by his mirror coaching image, Mark Dantonio, who took a bunch of three-star grinders with chips on their shoulders and demolished Hoke's collection of recruiting all-stars.
Did Hoke suffer because he let questionable youths into the fold? Only Hoke knows if that's true. And if so, he wasn't the first to get burned that way.
It's been three years since Michigan relieved a head coach. In Hoke's term, the Wolverines have dipped from 11 to eight to seven. See a trend? The funny thing is that his recruiting classes—at least on paper—are getting better.
The opposite was true for the other guy. He went from three to five to seven with dipping star rankings.
It's easier said than done, but winning a few games can change this seemingly down-and-out feeling into something reminiscent of past greats but with a trademark all its own.
Hoke doesn't really have to change anything. He has to start something.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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USC travels to Boulder, Colo., for its final road game of the season against the Colorado Buffaloes. The Trojans look to continue the Coach Orgeron Victory Tour, and another conference victory would just add more to the discussion surrounding his future with USC.
As strong as newly-ranked No. 23 USC has looked, this game does have the makings of a trap: It's going to be bitterly cold in Boulder, and the Trojans don't have an impressive record in such conditions. The Buffs would love to derail USC's newfound success, and though it's not particularly likely, anything can happen.
While the Trojans slowly come down off an emotional high after beating the then-No. 4 Stanford Cardinal last week for the first time in five seasons, Colorado is experiencing one of its own. Under new head coach Mike MacIntyre, the Buffs, too, are coming off a big victory; they beat California last week and snapped a 14-game Pac-12 losing streak in the process.
Then again, USC and Colorado have only clashed seven times, and the Trojans have easily won all of them. This week looks to be no different.
Before we look at the match up, here are the vitals:
KICKOFF: 6:30 p.m. PT
PLACE: Folsom Field
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: ESPN 710 (it will also be carried by USCTrojans.com)
Spread: USC (-22) according to VegasInsider.com
Football is a team sport. Though, every team has one player who steps up and rises as the program's MVP.
For South Carolina, the season started off with all of the hype surrounding Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has not disappointed his team in 2013 as he is continuing to be a disruptive, defensive force, yet he is not the Gamecocks' MVP.
Quarterback Connor Shaw has battled injuries throughout the season and is the heart and soul of the offense with his leadership and ability to win football games. Shaw's presence on the field arguably salvaged the season with the comeback victory against Missouri. But, even Shaw is not South Carolina's MVP.
One player stands out from the rest, and his name is Mike Davis.
Running back Mike Davis started the offseason with the potential to ascend to feature back duties, but nothing was handed to him on a silver platter. Teammate Brandon Wilds provided worthy competition at the position, though Davis blew the coaches away with his all-around style of play.
Davis had the power, speed, vision and receiving abilities to be the workhorse of an offense and could also add a change of pace to the offense with his catching skills.
By the end of the spring, Davis emerged as the starter, and since then, he hasn't looked back. Davis has stampeded all over opposing defenses, racking up the statistics and helping in every way to lead his team to victories.
Davis has managed to rush for more than 100 yards in seven of the 10 games this season. Davis also scored at least one touchdown in each of the first seven games, including three touchdowns against Central Florida and two against Kentucky.
All of those big games add up to 10-game totals of 1,112 yards on just 179 carries and 10 touchdowns for Davis. He has had a couple of costly fumbles, but there is no denying Davis' offensive impact with his ground game. Davis also has 30 catches for 332 yards, a good amount for a running back.
South Carolina has seen Davis develop into a focal point of the offense and a player who the offense can trust to get the job done. He averages 6.2 yards per carry, which shows how effective he is.
Davis may not be on Boston College's Andre Williams' level when it comes to yardage, but the running back has nearly 100 fewer rushing attempts. He is used sparingly while still maintaining his status as the feature back, and he makes every touch count.
South Carolina's star running back also possesses another invaluable attribute: adaptability. Davis fumbled twice against Missouri, crippling his team in the first half. However, the sophomore remained resilient.
When Missouri slowed down Davis' running game and tried to discourage the back, the Gamecocks knew that he could get involved in the passing game, as he went on to have 10 catches for 99 yards. It's that type of versatility that brings Davis to a whole new level of play.
Another impressive quality of Davis that doesn't contribute to his status as the Gamecocks' MVP of 2013 is the fact that running back is just a sophomore. The future is bright because this elite running back will only improve and become even more of an offensive weapon.
Davis is the MVP of 2013, and he could be South Carolina's MVP of the next two years.
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