Final Thoughts Before Rivalry Weekend
Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
Posted Nov 24, 2011

The ACC has a chance to make a big national statement.

Final Thoughts 

Before The Week 13 Games

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- 2011 Fearless Predictions

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 - Call this the biggest Saturday for the ACC since it expanded in 2004. Vanderbilt is improving, but it's Vanderbilt; Wake Forest is good enough to pull off the win at home. Florida can't seem to put it together, and Florida State needs to make a statement of some sort with a win in Gainesville. Georgia's world revolves around the SEC championship and could be ripe for the picking by Georgia Tech. Clemson is coming off a bad performance against NC State, and while it might be focusing on the ACC championship, it's good enough to beat a punchless South Carolina. ACC, you have to go 3-1.

- Anyone who says he'd rather his team went 1-11 with a win over the archrival instead of 11-1 with a loss to the rival is a moron and needs to be stuck in a corner with a shiny piece of tin foil and a spinny toy.

- Is it possible for the Urban Meyer hiring to be handled more clumsily? Meyer is going to be the Ohio State head coach – what other job could he possibly take after now that Penn State is going bye-bye? – but everyone is trying to respect Michigan week before kicking Luke Fickell out as politely as possible.

- What if Ohio State beats Michigan and then Fickell gets canned for Meyer? No coach will ever feel more pressure than the vice applied to Ol' Urb going into next year's Michigan game.

- Woooooo Pig Hog Fans. Talk about being really chirpy, really fast; watch out for the explosion from the Razorback Nation if Tyler Wilson and the boys pull this off in Baton Rouge.

- LSU, I'd like to reintroduce you to a friend you haven't seen in several weeks; a team that can throw a forward pass.

- One more reason why Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in America. Alabama hasn't lost a fumble in its last eight games and has given away just three on the year. LSU lost a fumble against Western Kentucky, and that was its first since the September 10th game against Northwestern State. The Tigers have lost just three fumbles on the year, too.

- By the way, Wisconsin has also lost just three fumbles so far on 654 offensive touches. Stanford lost three fumbles against Oregon, but it's given away just five on the year, and Virginia Tech has lost just six.

- Alright, FINE. I've already whined about not wanting a rematch, and I'll spend the next several weeks getting my whine on over an LSU vs. Alabama BCS championship, but if I'm being truthful, my college football fan side wants to see the two blow through this week without breathing hard, and for an LSU blasting of Georgia, so we can watch them go at it again.

- However, and this is nothing against LSU or Alabama in any way, there's a bigger part of me that wants them both to lose so we can all kick back and groove on the complete and utter chaos that would ensue.

- LSU and Alabama are about to show why they're the two best teams in the country.

- Don't fall the banana in the tailpipe. Trent Richardson has put up huge stats on a bunch of lousy teams – and yes, that includes Florida - but he's going to blow up against a bad Auburn defense and suddenly emerge as the Heisman front-runner. He's a phenomenal talent, but he didn't run for a score against Arkansas and LSU, and 15 of his 20 rushing touchdowns have come against Kent State, North Texas, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Georgia Southern.

- Put it this way. Alabama is going to be 11-1 with Richardson as the main weapon. Where would it be without him? 11-1.

- Put Montee Ball's season at Alabama and put Richardson's season at Wisconsin and this Heisman thing is over.

- And no, I don't want to hear about how the SEC defenses are so great. Alabama's defense is great. LSU's defense is great. Everyone else's defense is fattening up the stat sheet on miserable SEC offense.

- Take Robert Griffin off of Baylor and you have a more interesting Kansas.

- Rob, the ballot is right here on my desk. If you're RGIII against Texas Tech, I might be ready to fire.

- Take Collin Klein off of Kansas State, and the Wildcats wouldn't be going to a bowl.

- Collin, I promise, I'll wait and see what you do against Iowa State. You belong in New York.

- If you're Wisconsin and you see it's a wide open year for the Heisman, how do you not come up with a huge last-second push for Ball by sending out fliers saying, "Let's Make A Deal!" Behind curtain No. 1, Ball set the Big Ten record for touchdowns in a season with 30 on the year, and he still has one more game. Behind curtain No. 2, he leads all BCS league backs in rushing and is third in the nation with 1,466 yards. Behind curtain No. 3, a zonk!

- Montee, two more 100-yard games, four more touchdowns, two more wins, and one Big Ten title, and Griffin might move one spot to the right.

- I know no one seems to care, but Brandon Weeden threw for 476 yards and three touchdowns against Iowa State, and at least one of those three picks wasn't really his fault.

- I still want to see what No. 3 does against OU before hitting Submit.

- And I'm dead serious. Any Heisman voter who turned his ballot in already needs to be kicked out of the voting process.

- And any voter putting in the words Andrew and Luck on the ballot have to then fill out a five-page blue book – front and back – detailing exactly why.

- Best Iron Bowl week line … "War Amn Eagle. Auburn's D has disappeared."

- No, the Jay Paterno Post-It schtick isn't cute, it's not a tribute, and it's not honorable. It's sickening. If Penn State wins the Big Ten title, Paterno wants to put a note saying Joe Paterno on the championship trophy that used to bear his father's name. This tone-deaf program continues to have no sense of decency.

- How many Post-Its will it take for Paterno to cover the trophy? One. Penn State will cover up the rest.

- Why can't Joe Paterno coach by cell phone? He was up in the box for games anyway, so what would be the difference if he communicated his thoughts by phone to an assistant upstairs?

- Of course Ohio State should go to a bowl game when it's invited, just like Miami should reverse its stance and accept an invite. Penn State has a different problem. Good luck slapping any corporate bowl sponsor's logo on anything Penn State right now.

- When it comes to dealing with the family during the holidays: shorten the game. Take the air out of the ball. Take a little longer than usual in the bathroom; a long hot shower is always nice. Pretend to fall asleep while watching the game. Play a game on the iPad with the nephew where you have to pass it back and forth and it takes ten years to make a move. Volunteer to go to the store to get the marshmallows for the yams. Volunteer to take all the kids to the Muppet movie and get some shuteye. Whatever you do, stay in bounds and keep the clock moving. And along the way, eat way too much.

- If you were my close, personal friend and you were going off to Vegas to legally "invest" what little money you might have left, I'd suggest taking a look-see at LSU -11.5 over Arkansas, Alabama -21 over Auburn, Georgia Tech +6 over Georgia, Virginia +5.5 over Virginia Tech, Clemson +4 over South Carolina, Florida State -2.5 over Florida, and my Five-Star, Master Lock Pick of the Millennium For This Week, Minnesota +10.5 over Illinois.

- Alright, I'm making slow strides to come back. I'm holding off the chase until the bowl season, and then I'll get it all back after going 25-42 against the spread with these picks over the first 12 weeks. 

- Happy Thanksgiving, and all snark aside, I'm eternally thankful for everyone who continues to read my inane ramblings.

- Now hit the treadmill. Two miles equals one piece of pumpkin pie.

- I'm sorry for that. Yes, of course you add the ice cream to slice No. 4. 

By Matt Zemek 

TEXAS-TEXAS A&M: If Texas A&M loses a double-digit halftime lead in this game, the laughter from Austin won't die out until the next time Mike Sherman is hired as the head coach at a power conference program… which is to say, NEVER.

HOUSTON-TULSA: First of all, this game is on CBS Sports Network at noon on Thanksgiving Friday. Yet, there are no five-star night games on Friday. That's a poor job by TV framers and schedule makers. Second, Tulsa should be favored. Houston hasn't played very many tough road games this season, while the Golden Hurricane have tested themselves against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Boise State. Tulsa is an 8-3 team, but if Houston played Tulsa's schedule, the Cougars would be…. 8-3. Without ANY doubt whatsoever. Tulsa is tougher, and it will outmaneuver Houston in the trenches en route to a Conference USA West Division title. Houston has a Sugar Bowl berth to play for, but the aftermath of this game isn't likely to be sweet for Case Keenum.

ARKANSAS-LSU: In 2007, LSU was fully expecting to win en route to New Orleans for the BCS National Championship Game. Yet, Darren McFadden delivered a memorable performance as the Hogs went into Baton Rouge and pulled off a shocker, seemingly knocking the Bayou Bengals out of the title chase. Then, however, a certain man named Paul Rhoads – ever heard of him? – engineered Pitt's 13-9 win over West Virginia as the defensive coordinator for the Panthers. LSU backdoored into the Superdome and made the most of its second chance against Ohio State. This year, LSU isn't about to backdoor into anything; the Tigers have been at the head of the class throughout the season, taking the lead on opening day against Oregon and staying there. This season is a lot like 2007, but LSU is playing a different role. The Tigers aren't at the head of a large pack of 1- or 2-loss teams vying for second place; they're the team which has established itself as the No. 1 team in the country, waiting for a worthy foe to emerge. Will Arkansas be that foe? Will the Hogs recapture a measure of 2007 magic? Will Bobby Petrino call his best set of plays for 60 minutes, not just in his opening package of 15-20 snaps? Game on… the 2007 season is watching, and so are we.

BOSTON COLLEGE AT MIAMI: The Friday after Thanksgiving. BC at Miami. Oh, if only Doug Flutie and Bernie Kosar WERE going at it again, with Jack Bicknell and Jimmy Johnson patrolling the sidelines and Brent Musburger calling the action with Ara Parseghian. Meeeeeeeeem-reeeeeeees, like the cooooorners of my miiiiiiind……

PITTSBURGH-WEST VIRGINIA: Memo to Big East teams: Win your games and let the heavens sort it all out. Permutations and scenarios are for the fans to think about.

CALIFORNIA-ARIZONA STATE: It's a grand cosmic joke: Jeff Tedford holds the fate of the Pac-12 South in his hands if USC and Utah do what they're supposed to do this weekend. The football gods have a tremendous sense of humor. Tedford's Cal teams regularly let down their guard in the "dead-ender" Pac-12 game following the emotionally draining duel against Stanford. If California wins here, it would be a surprise; that's saying something considering the "Michigan State/Clemson/Pitt of the Desert Southwest" identity Arizona State has so consistently cultivated over many decades.

IOWA STATE-OKLAHOMA: How could Oklahoma not light up Texas Tech or Baylor for at least 50 points? That's what I wanna know.

GEORGIA-GEORGIA TECH: This is Georgia Tech's season. This is a weekend before the SEC Championship Game for Georgia.

MICHIGAN STATE-NORTHWESTERN: The Spartans would have been upset bait material had they needed this game to sew up the Big Ten Legends Division title. Now, they can rest any banged-up bodies and prepare for the Big Ten Championship Game. Don't view this as a "Sparty, NO!" moment if Michigan State loses. This game really doesn't matter for Team Dantonio.

OHIO STATE-MICHIGAN: Will Brady Hoke announce his presence in this storied rivalry with the same flair that Jim Tressel displayed 10 years ago in Ann Arbor? Meanwhile, Boise State fans – who have surely rooted against Ohio State on many occasions in the past – will be cheering themselves senseless for the Scarlet and Gray in this game.

NEVADA-UTAH STATE: Nevada ambushed Boise State with a furious fourth-quarter rally in its penultimate regular-season game last year. How bitterly ironic that the Wolf Pack got "Nevada'd" by Louisiana Tech on Nov. 19, thereby surrendering control of the Western Athletic Conference race to the Bulldogs from Ruston?

ALABAMA-AUBURN: Alabama should win this game. However, you do need to realize that Auburn is far more competent at defending the run than the pass… and Alabama can't pass all that well. Moreover, Alabama was clearly the better team in 2009… and barely got out of Jordan-Hare Stadium with its unbeaten record intact. This game usually produces spirited and competitive contests even if the talent disparity is noticeable. Auburn, playing at home, won't allow this game to devolve into a massacre. It will be a fight for at least three full quarters.

VIRGINIA TECH-VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers were not supposed to be alive in the ACC Coastal race entering this game, but Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is a first-class health-care provider. Unexpectedly given a one-game portal to paradise, Virginia has a very legitimate chance to steal this game… and a ticket to the ACC title tilt in Charlotte. One should trust Virginia Tech to pull through, but the Hokies are not airtight – not to the extent that they used to be. If we wind up with a Virginia-Rutgers Orange Bowl in early January, don't be completely shocked; it really could happen.

PENN STATE-WISCONSIN: The Badgers have been a horror show on the road and were fortunate – very fortunate – to escape Illinois with their hide. Now in Madison, Wisconsin should flourish and reach the Big Ten Championship Game despite two conference losses.

VANDERBILT-WAKE FOREST: So, how will Vanderbilt come up with its latest stomach-punch loss? Given that Wake Forest is the opponent, that's saying a lot.

NEW MEXICO STATE-LOUISIANA TECH: Yes, you knew this would be the WAC clincher when the season began. Of course you did. I did, too. It was so obvious, right? Anyone could see it coming.

CLEMSON-SOUTH CAROLINA: Clemson has played some decidedly subpar football over the past few months. The Tigers are finally giving off the vibe they've exuded in past seasons. Tajh Boyd is a body-snatched quarterback.

The Tigers will thump the Gamecocks. Seriously – South Carolina can't throw, can't score, and can't win 10 games in a 12-game season. Clemson should be a touchdown favorite in this game instead of a two-point underdog (if one was to judge this game on the raw merits, not from a Vegas revenue-generating perspective).

NOTRE DAME-STANFORD: A lot of people who hate Notre Dame with a passion will be rooting for Notre Dame something fierce in this game. Hello, Boise! Good to see you, Fort Worth! Checking in with you, Ann Arbor!

UCLA-USC: Lane Kiffin is the unquestionably superior coach in a matchup with Rick Neuheisel. Yes, life is marked by change and upheaval.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

- Texas and Texas A&M should be playing every year. It's a shame that this will probably be the last one for a while. Bad blood aside, this is a rivalry that needs to stay.

- With that said, both of these teams need this win. Texas appears to be stuck in neutral with no offense to speak of, and A&M is one of the biggest let-downs of the season. Bad blood + desperation = fine Thanksgiving fun.

- Tyler Wilson has been fantastic for Arkansas this season, despite getting hit on virtually every play. That won't fly vs. LSU. The Tigers have the pass rush and the secondary to make Wilson pay. The Game of the Century II will be riveting to watch, and I think Arkansas finds a way to hang around. The Hogs will have the ball with a chance to tie or win late in the ball game, but won't be able to get the job done.

- Michigan is favored over Ohio State? Say what? I know Buckeyes want to keep the streak going, but that place is just a mess right now. Some coaches staying, some know they're going, Urban Meyer on the way in. Honestly, just getting it over with may be the best idea for Gene Smith.

- Speaking of Urban - Ohio State, be careful. I know you're all excited about the possibility of Meyer coming to Columbus - as you should be. But if you're getting the Urban Meyer that lost the fire 12 months before leaving Florida, it won't help.

- Auburn, I apologize in advance for what's about to happen. Alabama is significantly better and still would like some style points, just for insurance purposes. This one gets ugly - 2008 ugly. Trent Richardson will give the voters one last thing to think about against a weak Auburn defense.

- Logan Thomas, this is your time. Virginia Tech is one of the least impressive top 5 teams that we've seen in a while, but you can't fault them for getting to this point...not a lot of other teams did. The college football world - and the city of Charlotte in particular - wants a Virginia Tech / Clemson rematch for the ACC Championship. Hokies roll.

- Seriously, Mississippi State? #HailState hash tags painted in the end zone? Be better than that.

- Clemson is pulling one of the biggest "Clemsons" ever. From 8-0 to an underdog in the state title game. Without Sammy Watkins, that team has taken a nose dive. If he plays vs. South Carolina, Clemson can win. If he doesn't, it'll get ugly.

- USC...a top five team next year if Matt Barkley comes back? Yes.