Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (downfield blocking instructional video sold separately at Northwestern, where the Wildcats have yet to break any of their 71 rushing attempts for longer than 15 yards):
FOURTH QUARTER: CONFRONTING A NEMESIS
Tennessee is scheduled to play Florida on Saturday (depending on Hurricane Irma after-effects), and that matchup takes on a different tint after the Volunteers finally beat the Gators last year. That snapped an 11-game losing streak in the annual series, liberating Tennessee from one area of its manifold football suffering (winning the SEC East is a whole other matter).
But there are a few other nemesis games this weekend, some of them of high national and conference import. The list:
Clemson-Louisville (31). Nemesis: Clemson. The national College GameDay game will have major ACC Atlantic Division implications, and will be an enticing matchup of Lamar Jackson against the ferocious Clemson front four. But it’s also Louisville’s best shot at the one Atlantic opponent it hasn’t beaten in three previous seasons in the league. All the meetings have been close: Clemson by six, Clemson by three, Clemson by six. Cardinals fans no longer have James Quick to kick around – the former receiver fumbled a punt in a key spot against the Tigers in 2014 and rather famously ran out of bounds a yard short of the first-down marker late in the game in last year’s thriller in Death Valley. Vegas line: Clemson by three.
Kentucky-South Carolina (32). Nemesis: Kentucky. It is exceedingly rare that the Wildcats are any SEC opponent’s nemesis, but that’s the case for the Gamecocks. Kentucky has won three straight, all of them tightly contested: 45-38 in 2014; 26-22 in ’15; 17-10 last year. Will Muschamp is the (very) early leader for SEC Coach of the Year, but that isn’t likely to last if the unbeaten Gamecocks lose at home to a Kentucky team that is a shaky 2-0. Vegas line: South Carolina by seven.
ACC-East Carolina (33). Nemesis: East Carolina. Truly strange stat: the Pirates of the American Athletic Conference are working on a four-year streak of knocking off at least one ACC opponent. They have beaten Virginia Tech twice, North Carolina twice and North Carolina State once in that stretch. Saturday’s opponent is the Hokies – and if this ECU streak continues it will be a shocker. East Carolina is awful, 0-2 and outscored by 56 points on the year. Defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson was reassigned Sunday. Vegas line: Virginia Tech by 20 ½ .
LSU-Mississippi State (34). Nemesis: LSU. The Tigers have won 16 of the last 17 in the series, with only Dak Prescott capable of turning the tables in the 21st century. Still, the last two have been close: LSU withstood a late rally last year to win by three, and Mississippi State missed a 52-yard field goal at the end of the game that would’ve won it two years ago. Vegas line: LSU by seven.
SMU-TCU (35). Nemesis: TCU. Horned Frogs have won the last five Metroplex battles for the Iron Skillet, and nine of the last 10. Most of those have been blowouts. But expect maximum effort from the Mustangs this time around, because when you’re playing for something as grandiose as the Skillet, you don’t take losing easily. Vegas line: TCU by 18 ½ .
NOSTALGIA GAME OF THE WEEK
For the first time since Vince Young beat the Trojans to the corner of the end zone in the Rose Bowl, Texas-USC (36) is a thing. That was one of the greatest games in college football history, between two great teams. It effectively ended the Trojan mini-dynasty, and it elevated the legacies of Young and Mack Brown at Texas.
This time around? The Longhorns (1-1) have failed to uphold their end of the hype bargain, losing their opener under Tom Herman to Maryland. USC (2-0) is on course after last week’s blasting of Stanford.
The Trojans are at home and favored by a fat 17 points. But this is worth noting: Herman was a remarkable 5-0 as an underdog at Houston. His underdog days could be numbered if he gets Texas up and running quickly, but he can wear that comfortable cape Saturday.
If you’re looking for college football reading, The Dash recommends “The 100-Yard Journey,” written by former Missouri coach Gary Pinkel (37) with Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pinkel is the most successful coach in Mizzou football history, making the school’s move to the Southeastern Conference immensely more credible by winning the SEC East in 2013 and ’14. Pinkel also was part of some interesting off-field times at Mizzou, from the brief team boycott of 2015 that shook the campus (and the sport) to his own arrest for a DWI in 2011. Mizzou fans will want to pick up this one.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Chris Creighton (38), Eastern Michigan. The measure of the Eagles’ victory at Rutgers on Saturday cannot be overstated – it’s simply never happened before in EMU history. The program was 0-58 against Power Five opponents, most of them predictably fearful beatdowns. After seasons of 2-10 and 1-11, Creighton turned the corner in a big way last year with a 7-6 mark and the program’s first bowl bid in 29 years. This year looks even better, with the Eagles 2-0 for the first time in six years. Creighton took some ribbing for the failed sledgehammer-the-wall stunt before the 2014 season opener, but he’s breaking down walls now.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Gary Andersen (39), Oregon State. It’s rare to have a repeat bus rider this early in the season, but that’s how bad the Beavers have been through three games. Their lone victory was by three points over FCS Portland State, and it was sandwiched between a 31-point opening loss to Colorado State and a 34-point home loss Saturday to Minnesota.
That was the biggest road victory margin for the Gophers in 52 years. And while that certainly says something positive about P.J. Fleck, it also says something about the current state of Oregon State in year three under Andersen.
When hungry and thirsty in South Bend, The Dash recommends a walk across the street from campus to the very nice Eddy Street Commons area. Once there, drop in on O’Rourke’s Public House (40) – an appropriately Irish pub. Try the baked mac ‘n’ cheese and, if you want to be thematically consistent, have a pint of Guinness. Thank The Dash later.
Sadly, time constraints prevented The Dash from visiting the much-touted Evil Czech Brewery in adjacent Mishawaka. Next time.
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