ACC: 3-point stance

3-point stance: UCLA's growing pains

October, 29, 2013
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1. UCLA started eight true freshmen against Oregon, including three on the offensive line, and played 18 overall against the Ducks. If you are looking for a reason that Oregon scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, it might be physical (how long can 19-year-olds play guys two or three years older?) and it might be mental (close game, big stakes, who’s been there before?). Either way, the Bruins will get a dividend on this investment in, oh, 2015.

2. If you congratulate No. 3 Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher for voting his conscience on his USA Today ballot -- he sounded as if he voted Alabama No. 1 -- and if you applaud him for sitting his starters in the second half against North Carolina State after leading 42-0 at halftime, you may as well congratulate him for getting his team on the field for the opening kickoff. That’s how a coach should act. As the saying goes, Fisher is acting as if he has been there before. Which he has, as an assistant under Nick Saban.

3. Kentucky is 1-6, 0-4 in the SEC, and Wildcats first-year head coach Mark Stoops is trying to remain patient. Only the 48-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama could be considered a blowout. “I think we all see us resembling a good football team from time to time,” Stoops said at his press conference Monday, “but that’s not going to cut it and win you a lot of games in the SEC. You’ve got to be good top to bottom, and you’ve got to be good in critical situations, and most importantly when you’re under pressure situations, our habits, bad habits, come right to the surface.”

3-point stance: Florida State is back

October, 21, 2013
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1. We are fooled easily in the excitement of the moment. Yet Florida State so dominated at Clemson that the 51-14 victory will be one of the seminal moments of the season. It will mark the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston in prime time, literally and otherwise. As good as Winston played, the Florida State defense played better. The Seminoles are back, and what better time? The university that dumped Hall of Fame head coach Bobby Bowden four years ago will honor him this Saturday.

2. The one complaint against the makeup of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee that has merit is that West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, at age 53, is the youngest member. It makes sense that the commissioners wanted gravitas on the committee, and with the presence of members such as Tom Osborne, Mike Tranghese and Pat Haden, they have it. But they made room for a woman and a retired sportswriter. However hard they searched for a member under 40, they should have looked again.

3. The old protocols are butting heads with the new spread offenses, and everyone is groping for the right way to act. Should the offense throw when it’s way ahead? Baylor is averaging 64.7 points per game, and judging by the Bears’ No. 8 ranking, no one is holding that against them. Should the offense throw if it’s way behind? Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti ripped Washington State head coach Mike Leach for throwing 89 times, then apologized last night. No one knows what the rules should be any more.
1. Never mind that when the federal government was shut down on Nov. 18, 1995, Army, Navy and Air Force all played. They all happened to be at home on that Saturday. Since Air Force is traveling to Navy, and Army is scheduled to play at Boston College, there are travel costs involved. But how is it that the Dept. of Defense didn’t have an answer Tuesday as to whether the three athletic departments used appropriated funds to travel? Shouldn’t someone have looked into this? It’s not as if the shutdown snuck up on anyone.

2. No. 3 Clemson goes to Syracuse on Saturday, where the Orange have beaten a ranked team in each of the last four seasons. “Teddy Bridgewater [Louisville last year] has been in there and gotten beat with a top-10 team,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said at his press conference. “Geno Smith [West Virginia in 2011] has been there with a top-10 team and gotten beat.” The Mountaineers were No. 15, but let us not quibble. As to the Carrier Dome, Swinney pointed out that Clemson went 2-0 in the Georgia Dome in 2012.

3. Eleven teams move into October without a victory, and the good news is that Conference USA’s oh-fers play one another Saturday. FIU (0-4) plays at Southern Mississippi (0-4), which hasn’t won in two years. Both teams are winless because they have played teams they should have lost to, and that even may include FIU’s 34-13 loss to FCS Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 14. The Golden Eagles should end their 16-game losing streak by beating the Golden Panthers. Hey, no remarks re: the mascots. You know what silence is.

3-point stance: Changing direction

September, 11, 2013
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Three turnarounds in progress:

1. The third coordinator in three seasons has been the charm for Illinois senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Illini head coach Tim Beckman snapped up Bill Cubit, fired after eight seasons (51-47) by Western Michigan, and the difference in Scheelhaase has been huge. He is completing 74 percent of his passes this season as opposed to 60 percent last year, and 10.6 yards per attempt, nearly double last year’s 5.6 yards per attempt. Illinois is 2-0 and making the Big Ten Leaders look a lot tougher.

2. Boston College head coach Steve Addazio, who always acts as if he takes his Red Bull intravenously, has injected life into the Eagles, who seemed like a team more talented than the 2-10 record that got Frank Spaziani fired a year ago. BC has matched its win total of last season thanks to a newly aggressive defense under coordinator Don Brown. The Eagles have eight sacks in two games. Last season, they had eight sacks.

3. Utah is 2-0 for the first time in three seasons thanks to an offensive explosion (100 points in two games) that reflects the touch of new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson, the longtime passing guru who won two national championships at Miami. Sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson has more than doubled his 2012 QBR (92.0/41/7) with five touchdowns and no picks this season, as opposed to seven and six, respectively, a year ago.

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