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ESPN Upstate Blog

Join us here everyday for thoughts, predictions, scores, and more with some of the best sports authorities in the Upstate.  We have blogs from Greg McKinney of the Huddle, Mark Sturgis and Price Atkinson from Straight up with Sturg and guest blogs from Regie Eller!


A few games I'm keeping an eye on tomorrow...



Last night's Auburn-Kansas State game from the Little Apple delieverd in every way. And met all my expectations. Except one - I thought K-State would score the upset. In fact, I spent little to no time at all even debating it.

That said, I'm not afraid to roll the dice, especially with a lot of great games and wild finishes to come. Just like in every season. But it's not until we work our way toward the end of September of the college football season that we really get down to the nitty gritty. I think we're in store for several great games this coming weekend.

Outside of our local teams and Clemson's showdown in Tally with top-ranked Florida State, there are several games I've got an eye on tomorrow. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm not sure why two of the best games on Saturday weren't even on our list to pick. Both are conference games involving one ranked and an unranked team.

Here's what I've got my eye on tomorrow:

No. 4 Oklahoma at West Virginia (7:30 pm, Fox)
The last time these two got together in Morgantown, "Big Game Bob's" Sooners eeked out a 50-49 win behidn six Landry Jones TD passes. OU (3-0) will be without leadin rusher Keith Ford, who suffered a hairline fracture in the win over Tennessee last weekend. WVU (2-1) hasn't had any problems moving the football this season behind quarterback Clint Trickett's 1,224 passing yards (third most in the country) and receiver Kevin White's 32 catches and 460 yards (second most in the country). The intrigue is the defensive-minded Stoops, who's team is giving up just 296 ypg, against the offensive-minded and Silence of the Lambs lookalike WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. I smell upset central.


Mississippi State and No. 8 LSU
(7:00 pm, ESPN)
Are Dan Mullen's Bulldogs for real? Can Dak Prescott quarterback MSU to its first win in Baton Rouge since 1991? Prescott is playing like a first-team, All-SEC selection just three games into the season, completing over 60 percent of his passes with almost 700 yards passing, nine TDs and just two picks. But something has to give Saturday night between the two undefeated teams at Tiger Stadium. The Bulldogs will be going up against another juggernaut defensively as Les Miles' LSU defense is allowing just 8.0 ppg and 94.0 passing ypg. How MSU isn't ranked is a crime. The SEC West is easily the best division (and conference by itself) in the country and we've got our first bigtime division battle this season. Playing at home under the lights, LSU finds a way to win a close one.


UNC at East Carolina (3:30 pm, ESPNU)
Don't tell ECU (2-1) they're not ACC worthy. Ruffin McNeil's bandy bunch of Pirates have won three-straight games against ACC opponents (all on the road) and have overhyped UNC (2-0) coming to town this weekend. Outside of Duke, ECU is owning the state, tallying wins last season at UNC (55-31) and NC State (42-28). Shane Carden is the best quarterback in the country you haven't heard about (unless you're a South Carolina fan). He's carved up opposing offenses with his arm, averaging over 300 yards per game with seven TDs and just two picks. The Tar Heels had to rally past 1-AA Liberty in the opener and used a miracle to escape at home two weeks ago against San Diego St. It'll take more than a miracle Saturday, as the Pirates will roll to their fourth-straight win over an ACC team.


Northern Illinois at Arkansas (7:00 pm, ESPNU)
NIU (3-0) won't be awestruck walking into Fayetteville and one of the nicest venues in the SEC on Saturday night. The Huskies own the nation's longest true-road winning streak (17) and has beaten three Big Ten teams the last two seasons (which isn't saying much). Arkansas (2-1) got a much-neded 49-28 win at Texas Tech last weekend that should temporarily fire up the fanbase in Brett Bielema's second season. Not need to remind you that the Mid-American Conference is a giant killer, but NIU isn't your average mid-major either. Behind one of the best running back duos in the country (Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams), the Hogs should wear down the Huskies late and ride the power running game to a 10-point victory.


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"Back Back Back It Up" - NFL staff picks Week 3



Well two weeks ino the season and we're still neck deep in drama off the field in the NFL. Ray Rice is appealing his indefinite suspension, both Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy have been placed on the commissioner's exempt list, meaning they won't be participating in practice or games but will still be getting paid while they are away from their teams dealing with their legal situations. We also had another player, running back Jonathan Dwyer who plays for the Arizona Cardinals, get arrested this week for domestic violence.

The commissioner has not been seen or heard from since his interview on CBS over a week ago and pressure continues to mount from various organizations and sponsors for Roger Goodell to be ousted as the commissioner of the National Football League. It seems the off the field drama will not be leaving us anytime soon I'm afraid.

One off the field happening this week that correlates with football on the field is the revised drug policy that was agreed upon and implemented by the NFL and NFLPA. Now that the new policy is in place, which eases the penalties on stimulants taken in the offseason and introduces HGH testing for the first time in the NFL, certain players were able to return to their teams this week.

The three who will be suiting up this weekend who originally were still going to be serving a suspension are Broncos receiver Wes Welker, Cowboys defensive back Orlando Scandrick, and Rams receiver Stedman Bailey. The league and players union are still hammering out details on a revision of the substance abuse policy which could reduce the suspensions of players like Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon if and when it is passed.

Alright, let's hit the field and look back at Week 2 in the NFL. Some fans are feeling pretty good right now and others are in the midst of wide spread panic.I would say both groups need to calm down a bit. Just because your team is 2-0 does not mean that they are legitimate contenders and there are a few teams who are 0-2 that you can't write off just yet. The sample size is still small, so let this season play out a bit more before you start concluding who the winners and losers of this season are going to be.

For me, the story of Week 2 in the NFL was the excellent play of several backup players. Quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Drew Stanton, and Austin Davis all lead their teams to victories this week filling in for their teams' starting quarterbacks. Stat lines for all weren't pretty (neither Stanton nor Davis threw a single touchdown) but they got the job done. Knile Davis gave the Chiefs a solid day on the ground after star running back Jamaal Charles went down.

Then, the best backup of the week in my opinion, cornerback Kyle Fuller stepped in for Charles "Peanut" Tillman when the Bears star defensive back went down. He snagged two interceptions and helped the Bears complete a great comeback win against the 49ers. Just goes to show, you can never have enough quality depth.

My Top 5 Players of Week 2:
  1. Jay Cutler (CHI) - 23-34—176 YDS—4 TDs, 5 Carries—25 YDS
  2. CJ Spiller (BUF) – 12 Carries—69 YDS, 1 REC—9 YDS, 2 KO Returns—122 YDS—1 TD
  3. Antonio Gates (SD) – 7 REC—96 YDS—3 TDs
  4. Kyle Fuller (CHI) – 7 TCKLS, 2 INTs
  5. Darren Sproles (PHI) – 4 Carries—26 YDS—1 TDs

Looking at my list this week, you might question some of the players on the list and/or their placement on it. Jay Cutler didn't really rack up a lot of passing yards, but with his two best targets hobbled, his team down by double digits, and taking a very hard hit that made you wonder if he would be able to keep playing, Jay Cutler remained poised, patient, and in total control throughout and led his team on an impressive comeback victory.

CJ Spiller also did not have the biggest stat day but coming out in the second half, in a game which Buffalo was leading but had not yet sealed the deal, Spiller took a kickoff 102 yards to the house to break the Dolphins spirit. I judge player performance by not only stats but also impact on the game. So feel free to disagree (just wanted you all to know how I choose).

Week 3
There are several good games on tap for this weekend but one I will have my eye on, the Super Bowl rematch between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. It will not be a blowout like it was in the Super Bowl, I guarantee you that.

Peyton Manning will have to adjust playing in Seattle, as he won't be able to verbally audible much due to the noise in that stadium. The new and improved Broncos defense hasn't looked much improved at all. They have let teams get back in it in the second half of games and can't seem to get off the field on 3rd downs.

However, the Seahawks are actually WORSE on 3rd downs than the Broncos so far this season and the Broncos certainly have the weapons to make plays and keep them out there. For the Broncos to win, they will need big games from their tight end Julius Thomas and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Pro Bowl defensive back Richard Sherman seems to have the most trouble with smaller speedy receivers. I say the Broncos should stick Sanders on the right side and see what they can do.

Like the Colts and Saints, I am off to a slow start in the picks but will bounce back as those two teams will. Don't write me off yet. I told you guys I am always at my worst at picking games at the very beginning of the season. Jackson Turner leads the pack after two weeks while I temporarily bring up the rear. I start my comeback this week. Enjoy week 3 of the NFL.
Week 3 Greg Sturg Kenn Price Lonzo Zack Will Jackson
TB
@
ATL

Falcons

Falcons

Falcons

Falcons

Falcons

Falcons

Falcons

Falcons
SD
@
BUF

Chargers

Bills

Chargers

Bills

Bills

Bills

Bills

Bills
BAL
@
CLE

Browns

Ravens

Ravens

Ravens

Ravens

Ravens

Browns

Browns
TEN
@
CIN

Bengals

Bengals

Bengals

Bengals

Bengals

Bengals

Bengals

Bengals
DAL
@
STL

Cowboys

Cowboys

Cowboys

Cowboys

Cowboys

Cowboys

Cowboys

Rams
GB
@
DET

Lions

Packers

Packers

Lions

Packers

Lions

Packers

Lions
HOU
@
NYG

Giants

Texans

Giants

Texans

Texans

Texans

Texans

Texans
IND
@
JAX

Colts

Colts

Colts

Colts

Colts

Colts

Colts

Colts
MIN
@
NO

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints
OAK
@
NE

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots
WSH
@
PHI

Eagles

Eagles

Eagles

Eagles

Redskins

Redskins

Eagles

Eagles
SF
@
ARI

Cardinals

Cardinals

49ers

Cardinals

49ers

49ers

49ers

Cardinals
DEN
@
SEA

Seahawks

Seahawks

Seahawks

Seahwaks

Seahawks

Broncos

Seahawks

Seahawks
KC
@
MIA

Dolphins

Dolphins

Chiefs

Dolphins

Chiefs

Chiefs

Dolphins

Dolphins
PIT
@
CAR

Panthers

Panthers

Panthers

Panthers

Panthers

Panthers

Steelers

Panthers
CHI
@
NYJ

Bears

Bears

Bears

Bears

Bears

Bears

Bears

Jets
Last Week
9-7

5-11

7-9

9-7

6-10

6-10

8-8

11-5
Total 19-13 14-18 18-14 17-15 16-16 13-19 18-14 22-10


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ESPN Upstate's Week 4 college football picks



It's always the weeks when the slate of college football games and weak with very few big, meaningful games that are the hardest to pick and nail. Hence what's happened the last two weeks with the terrible set of games.

But that all changes starting tonight in the Little Apple when No. 5 Auburn visits No. 20 Kansas State. I've had this game circled on my calendar for months, as THE best non-conference game of the entire college football season (outside of your Thanksgiving weekend rivalries).

Only one ranked, non-conference opponent has come to Manhattan since Bill Snyder took over as the K-State head coach and that team left with a loss (11th-ranked Southern Cal, 27-20 in 2002). Since 1993, Bill Snyder's team is 101-21-1 (.825), while the Wildcats have gone undefeated at home 14 of the last 21 seasons.

What does all that mean? Nothing, outside of a little statistical history, which doesn't translate to wins on the field. It does however paint the picture of the atmosphere Gus Malzahn's Tigers will be entering tonight. As K-State play-by-play voice Wyatt Thompson said to Sturg and I on the show last night, "We might only have 50,000 in our stadium but it's a very loud 50,000."

Tonight sets the stage for a great weekend of matchups in college football. We're going to start seeing a little bit of separation and what teams are really made of with the many of the Popcorn States in the rearview mirror. Can Clemson pull one of the upsets of the season Saturday night in Tallahassee? Will East Carolina keep on rolling with a home game against the No. 25 Tar Heels?

Heck, two of the best games this weekend weren't even included in our games to pick: No. 4 Oklahoma at West Virginia and undefeated Miss. St. at No. 8 LSU. Who knows why but I just play and pick the hand we're dealt.

Speaking of, here's the hand we were dealt and how each of us played it...

Week 4 Zack Greg Jackson Lonzo Mario Mark H. Price Sturg
Aub at K-St.
Auburn

Auburn

Auburn

Auburn


K State

K State

Auburn
Clem at FSU
Clemson

FSU

FSU

FSU


FSU

FSU

FSU
Miami at Neb
Nebraska

Nebraska

Miami

Nebraska


Nebraska

Nebraska

Nebraska
GT at VT
Va. Tech

Va. Tech

Va. Tech

Va. Tech


Va. Tech

Va. Tech

Va. Tech
Iowa at Pitt
Pitt

Pitt

Pitt

Iowa


Pitt

Pitt

Pitt.
UNC at ECU
UNC

ECU

ECU

ECU


ECU

ECU

UNC
Mary. at Cuse
Syracuse

Syracuse

Maryland

Maryland


Syracuse

Maryland

Syracuse
Rutg. at Navy
Rutgers

Navy

Navy

Rutgers


Navy

Navy

Navy
Utah at Mich.
Utah

Michigan

Michigan

Utah


Michigan

Michigan

Michigan
Cal at Zona
Arizona

Arizona

Arizona

Arizona


Arizona

Arizona

Arizona
Last Week
5-5

6-4

5-5

5-5

---

5-5

5-5

6-4
Total Record
18-12

19-11

13-17

17-13

10-10

17-13

19-11

18-12








-Our Guest Picker last week on "Straight Up With Sturg" was former Gamecock standout BJ McKie, who went 4-1 (only miss was the ECU-Virginia Tech game).


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ICYMI: Our interview w/ Nancy O'Dell yesterday as our weekly Guest Picker!



Yesterday afternoon on "Straight Up With Sturg," Sturg and I had the pleasure of being joined by Clemson alum and the first-ever, official beauty queen (former Miss South Carolina) to join the show - Nancy O'Dell!

The co-host of Entertainment Tonight, Nancy was awarded an honorary doctorate from Clemson last spring and was very gracious with her time to be our college football Guest Picker of the week ahead of the Tigers' big game Saturday at top-ranked Florida State.

"Dr. O'Dell," who we decided needed to be addressed by the proper name after earning the special honor last year, was simply fantastic and just a lot of fun during our 10-minute interview. And she certainly knows her football!

She touched on a number of different topics with us including:

-Where her passion for Clemson comes from and her lucky gameday outfit;
-That she's coming back for homecoming this fall (Oct. 25 vs. Syracuse);
-Her "go-to" place when back in the area and on campus;
-Nicknaming Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt as the "Heisman of Handsome";
-Picking the "chickens" to beat Vandy as she called them;
-Her take on Jameis' half-game suspension and why she's picking the Tigers to upset the Noles!

Click to listen to our interview with Nancy O'Dell (begins at approx 23:30)


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There is NO QB controversy at Clemson. Period.



Sometimes fans just don't and won't get it. Nothing wrong with that. They're "fan-atical" for a reason - undying passion for their teams, schools, players and coaches.

But no matter how hard a coach looks squarely into a camera and talks to his or her team's fans, people just refuse to understand. That's why I could only sit back and smile as Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney stood at the podium today, previewing the upcoming game against top-ranked Florida State, when a question about Cole Stoudt and DeShaun Watson came.

Once again, he dug in and held court - again - on the issue. Dabo all but looked dead into the camera and spoke directly, eye to eye, with many Clemson fans who just don't understand. And he couldn't have been more clear, direct, sincere and matter of fact that there is NO quarterback controversy between Stoudt and Watson.

"It is not a controversy. We have a starter and he's played great. (Stoudt) won the job. He earned it and he's played very well."

While Dabo said the evaluation process will continue (as it should), he also touched on something that many fans don't see and understand when it comes to the locker room and being a head coach.

"I'm glad we're having the conversation because that means we have a very special freshman who has played very well. You have to have credibility in your program. You don't just make starters based on their potential. (Watson) hasn't won the job yet. He may. But you don't win the job based on potential."

Without going down every single Top 25 team and looking at their quarterback situation, I'd tell you Clemson probably has the best situation of anybody. South Carolina and Georgia fans aren't frothing at the mouth to replace Dylan Thompson or Hutson Mason, mostly because neither team has a backup half as talented as Watson.

I'm not arguing that Stoudt has more pure talent than Watson. That's laughable. Because DeShaun Watson is going to be a stud, when his time comes.

Which is another reason why the staff has to play him, because his time could come soon. Any player is one play away from being knocked out of the game, especially a quarterback. So Watson needs the seasoning to be ready just in case and because next year he will be THE guy under center.

A controversy has negative connotation and means there's an argument at hand. Which in this case, there is no argument to be made between the two. Could that change maybe six, seven or eight games from now? Sure, absolutely things could change.

Coaches and players know who's earned the job and who hasn't. They also know which player gives them the best chance to win and win right now - and that's senior Cole Stoudt.

I realize it's a minority of Clemson fans who want to see Watson as the fulltime starter. He's got the hype, pizzaz and potential. When he comes onto the field, I admit that I feel a little bit of an extra spark in the offense. But over the course of 60 minutes, I think the experience and leadership of Stoudt clearly provides Clemson the best chance to be successful and win football games. Right now.

And there's no doubt Dabo Swinney feels the same way.

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Jameis Winston Throws a Punch?



Some video has come out in the past few days from the Florida State and Citadel football game that may show the Seminole's Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston throwing a punch at a Bulldog defender.

Citadel beat writer for The Post and Courier Jeff Hartsell wrote about the incident yesterday. The video is not conclusive on what exactly happens, so the debate is ongoing. Take a look for yourself, you can watch two different versions of the play here as well as here. Did he or didn't he?

What do you think occurred? And if a punch was thrown, will Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher do anything about it?




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Thoughts from the trip to Columbia



This past weekend I headed down to the capital city to watch the Gamecocks take on the Bulldogs. I had a great time tailgating with some friends and going to the game on Saturday, but it sure turned into a longgggg day with all the rain, lightning, and the weather delays. Anyway, here are some random thoughts from the game:
  • Dylan Thompson didn't play great, but played well enough to win. He still missed some throws, and even on some completions the ball wasn't quite where it needed to be.
  • The South Carolina offensive line finally decided to show up and played great. They were opening holes for Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds all day.
  • Buster Anderson finally had a nice game. He caught a few balls over the middle and a nice touchdown down the seam.
  • I've been impressed by Nick Jones this season. He's been very dependable.
  • Skai Moore had a good game. He finished with 10 tackles and a handful of those were when he was one-on-one with Gurley.
  • Speaking of which, Todd Gurley is a man. He's like trying to bring a tree trunk down. He had several runs on Saturday where you thought he was stopped and he just shook off defenders and took off upfield.
  • There were some big penalties in the game, including ones negating a 50+ yard TD run from Gurley and a UGA interception.
  • Hutson Mason is solid, but isn't going to win you any games. He's going to make the throws he's supposed to, but not make any spectacular ones.
  • What were Mike Bobo and Mark Richt thinking going play-action pass on first and goal from the 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter instead of handing it off to Gurley? Obviously, it did not work out as Mason was called for intentional grounding and Georgia went on to miss a game-tying field goal.
  • You have to feel bad for Marshall Morgan. The guy makes 20 in a row & then misses 2 when it matters.
  • I'm not sure if I've ever seen a measurement as close as the one on fourth-and-one at the end of the game. Even once the sticks were out there you had both teams pointing opposite directions. The ref basically had to get down on his knees to see if it as a first down or not.
  • I was disappointed to see the students and some other fans throwing things on the field when they thought a call did not go their way. That was uncalled for and reflected poorly on South Carolina.
  • Williams-Brice Stadium gets pretty loud. I think it is a very underrated venue.
All in all, I had a great time this past weekend from going to the Vista Friday night, tailgating before the game, and then going to the game itself. It was a heck of a ballgame, and I'm glad I was able to witness it first hand.


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Live running in-game blog from the Panthers-Lions game...



I'm at the Carolina Panthers home opener today against the visting Detroit Lions. I'll be live blogging here pregame, in-game as well as a few nuggets afterwards.

Stay tuned for updates once I get to Charlotte, which reminds me, I gotta get out the door and head North. Back soon!

11:11 am - Hit the ground in Charlotte at the train station, taking it in to Bank of America Stadium with my buddy Travis Woods.

11:39 am - And we have arrived. BOA on a cool, windy day in downtown Charlotte...



12:01 pm - Upon arrival into the BOA press box, we get word that Panthers DE Greg Hardy is inactive for today's game due to the pending domestic violence appeal. Translation = PR pressure too great so the Panthers relent.

12:15 pm - As we were walking around BOA en route to the media window, we saw Panthers team president Danny Morrison (and former Wofford AD and SoCon commish) outside chatting about...



12:17 pm - Enjoyed meeting Yahoo! Sports columnist Eric Adelson on the way up to the press box. Sturg and I have had Eric on a couple of times, including once live from the World Cup in Brazil this past summer. We were chatting on the way up about the USC-UGA he covered yesterday and why the Dawgs didn't go with Gurley inside the 10-yard line late in the game?!?!? Here's his column from last night on that exact topic.

12:24 pm - Just had a great chat with Panthers play-by-play announcer Mick Mixon. Mick is one of the classiest, friendliest and most gracious people that we've had the pleasure of working with. Love us some Mick!

12:39 pm - Arrival into the BOA press box about an hour ago...



12:43 pm - The obligatory "view from the office" photo...



12:53 pm - The Panthers' team intros for the first time at home this season...




1:02 pm - That's one big flag. Definitely won't fit on my flag pole at home...



1:05 pm - Panthers win the toss and defer. Cam running down the sideline to the end zone, getting the Panther fans riled up just before kickoff. Speaking of, we now have kickoff. Off we go!

1:12 pm - Lions on the move thanks to Matthew Stafford's arm and passing game. Fumble on third down the Panthers recover. However, it's called incomplete. Looks like a fumble to me. Review coming.

1:17 pm - After a long review, Detroit kicker Nate Freese pushes a 49-yard FG attempt wide right. Cam about to take his first snap of the season.

1:20 pm - You want a weather update...I'll give you my best elementary Pamela Wright attempt: Upper 60s, cloudy and overcast. No rain...yet.

1:27 pm - The Lions have their team PR and personnel on the row directly in front of me and by my count have north of a dozen people here.

1:32 pm - Calvin Johnson...damn he's good.

1:34 pm - Just for the record, you can pick out the female TV anchors here in the press box like a Christmas tree sitting int the middle of a pumkin patch. Mercy.

1:36 pm - The Panthers D comes up w/ a fumble recovery. Cam back out there and looking tentative on that ankle. Definitely not himself yet.

1:45 pm - Wofford alum Brenton Bersin is active today for the Panthers. Hoping he gets his first-career catch and I can ask him about it afterward. Super nice dude. Pulling hard for him!

1:51 pm - Carolina rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin banged his knee and just asked to come out of the game. Game still scoreless (12:08 to go, 2nd quarter).

1:54 pm - And Bersin just made his first-career catch, an 8-yard gain off a crossing route across the middle. Congratulations and way to make Wofford and the Upstate proud!!

2:00 pm - Graham Gano's 29-yard FG gets the Panthers on the board. (3-0 2nd quarter, 7:58)

2:04 pm - Yes, I want the Panthers to win. But seeing Bersin pick up his first catch will be the highlight of the day for me. Can't wait to ask him about it afterwards.

2:10 pm - And Freese missed ANOTHER FG, this one from 49 yards. Good guys take over.

2:11 pm - Packed house in the BOA press box. ESPN's Ed Werder in the center...and it looks like he's going old school with a blackberry!?!?!?



2:19 pm - Panthers have a kicker. The Lions don't. Gano knocks home a 53-yard FG, as Panthers double the lead. (6-0, 2nd quarter, 1:11)

2:21 pm - Unconfirmed rumor: there will be nachos served at halftime. Fingers crossed. And here's to hoping they've got chilli and jalapenos for me to spice it up.

2:23 pm - Trav also reports in they'll have dogs and cookies among other junk items to choose from. I hope.

2:26 pm - Halftime: Panthers 6, Lions 0. And an incredibly boring half it was.

2:27 pm - On that note, I'm going to look and see if that rumor about nachos, hot dogs and the array of junk food to choose from is accurate. Back shortly.

2:41 pm - This photo and long line of sports writers and journalists confirms the rumor: all the hot dogs and nachos your stomach can pack in (or endure).



2:42 pm - One more update: Panthers kicker Graham Gano won't have to give out free tickets again for the second straight week...the halftime band was long gone by the time he hit the pitch to warm up again.

2:50 pm - First touchdown of the game, Lions fullback Jed Collins' (yep a fullback) 1-yard TD reception from Stafford. (7-6, 3rd quarter, 9:28)

2:57 pm - I think ESPN's Ed Werder liked my tweet, making fun of what appeared to be him using a blackberry. Thanks for being a good sport Ed!



3:12 pm - Boom! Cam throws an absolute BULLET to Justin Avant, who leans across the goaline for a 14-yard TD. (13-7, 3rd quarter, 2:30)

3:22 pm - Cluster of TVs on the back wall of the press box makes for great NFL viewing. Could use this setup in my house (if my wife would even halfway allow it)...



3:29 pm - Panthers come up with a big INT...tipped ball intended for Megatron inside the 10-yard line. Carolina's D is no joke.

3:40 pm - Jonathan Stewart plows his way into the endzone from a yard out. Two-point conversion is good. Panthers opener up a 21-7 lead! (4th quarter, 7:26)

3:44 pm - Just like that, the Lions give it right back, fumbling the ensuing kickoff. Panthers pounce (recovered by the kicker) and are inside the Detroit 20-yard line now.

3:49 pm - Gano's 38-yard FG is good, which should ice the game up 24-7. (4th, 4:45)

3:50 pm - Note: Heading down to the locker room for interviews shortly and will report back after the game. Definitely gonna try and get Bersin and also head to the Lions' locker room to see if former USC standout Devin Taylor is still around.

5:10 pm - Just got back up from the postgame. Got plenty of audio for "The Huddle" and "Straight Up With Sturg" tomorrow. Here's a snapshot vid of Coach Rivera and heading to the locker room...




5:14 pm - Bummer of the day: Bersin was gone by the time they opened up the Panthers locker room to the media. Was really hoping to grab him. I did grab a quick shot of Brenton-less locker though...



5:20 pm - Head coach Ron Rivera talked after the game about the decision regarding DE Greg Hardy: "It was my decision and one that I felt was in the best interest of the Carolina Panthers."




5:24 pm - Alright, I'm outta here. Been a fun ride today, watching the Panthers whip up on the Lions but also one where the Hardy news hit about an hour before kickoff. It was THE subject of the postgame interviews in the Panthers' locker room. Players seemed to really just focus on doing their jobs and one winning.

I'm going in search of a postgame pizza and hope not to doze off on the drive back to the Upstate. Thanks for following today!






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Byrnes Rebels In California - Day Four



We said before the game last night that a key for the Rebels would be how quickly they could adjust to De La Salle's veer attack. Well, it took too long.

The Spartans surprised us by throwing long on their first play from scrimmage, but the Rebels' Tavaris Jeter picked it off and returned it into De La Salle territory. It was a big early momentum swing when Byrnes misfired on a pass attempt on 4th and one foot. Next thing you know, the Spartans had ridden the veer to a 21-0 lead. By halftime, it was 35-7.

The Rebels did adjust at halftime and matched De La Salle punch for punch in the 2nd half. Highlights included a 93 yard kickoff return by Lyrics Klugh, and some big hits by Devin Dexter. But the first half hole was too deep, and the Spartans won, 56-28.

This game will make the Rebels stronger for region play. For sure, it'll be a while before they face this type of challenge again. Waiting for the bus trip to San Francisco airport this morning, I see a group of players who have matured since leaving Duncan last Wednesday.

They'll also benefit from the encouragement of Marcus Lattimore on their sideline last night. It has been an unforgettable four days for players, coaches, and the radio team. As we check out of Hotel California, I know this. The Rebels may not be coming home with a win, but they are coming home winners.


Adam Walker and I in our makeshift radio "booth"...




The Rebels warming up for De La Salle...




Former Byrnes great and current San Francisco 49ers RB Marcus Lattimore was on hand to cheer on the Rebels...




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A few games I'll be keeping an eye on today



As mentioned yesterday, there's little in terms of intrigue this weekend on the college football slate. While quality and key games are lacking, there are however a couple of games that offer a few interesting matchups.

Here are a couple I've got an eye on today on things are just now getting underway:

No. 21 Louisville at Virginia (12:30 pm, WMYA)
-It's no secret the excitement around the 'Ville this past offseason and summer, leading up to the Cards first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Cards got past Miami (FL) in their season opener at home much easier than the score indicated. But now Bobby Petrino's squad hits the road for their very first ACC away game. While Virginia and Hoo-ville isn't exactly the most intimidating opponent and environment, it'll be interesting to see how UofL reacts to a brand new stadium and road environment. While I do think Mike London's team is much improved, I expect the Cards to win a very close one.

Syracuse at Central Michigan (12 noon, ESPN News)
-Staying in the ACC, here's one you can book as the upset of the weekend. CMU opened with a close win over a solid UT-Chattanooga team and then destroyed Purdue last weekend in West Lafayette. Syracuse needed double overtime to get past Villanova at home to start the season. This is an easy one as I expect the Chippewas and the MAC to rack up another quality win against a BCS-level team.

Kentucky at Florida (7:30 pm, SEC Network)
Most of you know UK is my alma mater and my blood runneth blue...Big Blue. This is one of those "prove it" games in the SEC this weekend (along with Tennessee at No. 4 Oklahoma). Mark Stoops has more talent to work with thanks to a pair of Top-20 recruiting classes, which have played a major role in UK starting the season 2-0. But traveling to the Swamp is a much different animal than playing at home against Tennessee-Martin and Ohio U. UK hasn't beaten Florida and more than 25 years. While we're going to find out where this UK team is right now, we're also going to learn more about Will Muschamp's Gators after a 65-0 yawner against Eastern Michigan. UK could hang around if they can take care of the football, but I expect a Florida 17-20 point win.

Penn State at Rutgers (8:00 pm, Big Ten Network)
I know what you're thinking..."who cares?!?!" Okay, I hear you! This is Rutgers' Big Ten conference opener since entering the league and the Scarlet Knights are the beneficiary of former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen joining the offensive staff. But tonight they'll have their hands full with James Franklin's Nittany Lions, who despite the troubled times in Happy Valley, are back in the New Jersey area and plucking talent at will from Rutgers' backyard. It's a conference game but Rutgers would benefit in more ways than one with a win tonight. I expect a close ball game that Penn State pulls out in the 4th quarter.



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Byrnes Rebels in California - Game Day! (Pregame)



Game Day!

It was a 6:30 am breakfast call, then on the buses for a 46-mile trip south to Santa Clara to tour the NFL's newest facility, Levi's Stadium. The first regular season game here happens in two days, Sunday night against the Chicago Bears. This stadium seats 68,500 and features the latest technology. We were able to visit luxury boxes, the press box, the rooftop (complete with solar panels), the visitors locker room, and even the cheerleaders locker room. The Rebels were even able to walk out the visitor's tunnel to the edge of the field.

We had sandwiches on the bus trip back, and the team had a 3 pm indoor walkthrough. It's just about time to go to work!

It will come down to this: How quickly can the Rebels adjust to De La Salle's version of the veer? And, how well will the Spartans handle the Byrnes speed and athleticism? We go on the air tonight at 9:30 pm (EST) on ESPN Upstate!


The Rebels checking out the vistors locker room at Levi's Stadium this morning...




Standing on the field, soaking it all in...




A rooftop solar terrace at Levi's Stadium...




Byrnes head coach Brian Lane with game day instructions following the tour at Levi's Stadium...



Go Rebels!



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ESPN Upstate's weekend college football picks



Another weekend and another set of crappy games. Outside of No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina, collectively it's another brutal slate of games. Until next weekend, when most schools will have dispensed with the Popcorn States of the world and begun conference play, we're left with scraps.

I fully anticipate another down-the-wire affair in Columbia. While I picked USC to win the SEC East (as still have to stand by that pick), I'd be crazy not to take the Dawgs after seeing them in just one game (a home game too), while Carolina has struggled defensively. But that changes with a more traditional pro-style offense comng to Williams-Brice and I expect an electric crowd on Saturday as well.

Both quarterbacks Dylan Thompson and Hutson Mason at some point will have to make a play with their arms. Like most tight SEC games, controlling the line of scrimmage will be key. However, I think USC defensively has got to get off the field on third down and come up with somne key stops on third-and-short. If so, the Gamecocks have a shot at picking up a must-win. Or else their season in all likelihood will be over.

Below are our ESPN staff picks for the week, minus Mario who must not have liked any of the choices he saw...

Week 3 Zack Greg Jackson Lonzo Mario Mark H. Price Sturg
UGA at USC
Georgia

USC

Georgia

Georgia


Georgia

Georgia

Georgia
ECU at VT
Va. Tech

Va. Tech

Va. Tech

Va. Tech


Va. Tech

Va. Tech

Va. Tech
WVU at Mary
Maryland

Maryland

WVU

WVU


Maryland

Maryland

WVU
Ark at Tx Tech
Texas Tech

Texas Tech

Texas Tech

Arkansas


Texas Tech

Texas Tech

Texas Tech
Minn at TCU
Minn.

TCU

TCU

TCU


TCU

TCU

Minn.
Penn St at Rutg
Penn St.

Penn St.

Rutgers

Rutgers


Penn St.

Penn St.

Penn St.
Mass at Vandy
Vandy

Vandy

Vandy

UMass


Vandy

Vandy

Vandy
NSCU at USF
NC State

USF

USF

USF


USF

USF

NC State
Wake at USU
Utah St.

Utah St.

Utah St.

Utah St.


Utah St.

Utah St.

Utah St.
Nev at Zona
Arizona

Arizona

Arizona

Arizona


Arizona

Arizona

Arizona
Last Week
7-3

5-5

4-6

5-5

5-5

5-5

6-4

4-6
Total Record
13-7

13-7

8-12

12-8

10-10

12-8

14-6

12-8




Also last week...
-Our weekly Guest Picker on "Straight Up With Sturg" was Carolina Panthers' WR Brenton Bersin, who went 3-2 in his five games.

-Smoke on the Water's Mike Shuler is now 14-6 for the season.
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Byrnes Rebels in California - Day Two



The highlight of Thursday for the Rebels was a two hour Hornblower bay cruise. Eighty football players and about forty others left the Berkeley side of the bay and cruised out to Alcatraz, the federal penitentiary which closed in 1963. We had a great view of San Francisco to our left, and got a good look at the fog descending on the Golden Gate Bridge. The kids took hundreds of pictures, and enjoyed lunch on the boat.

We rode the offensive bus out to the cruise, and the coaches were still discussing strategy for the De La Salle game on the ride. It was a picture perfect sunny day and great for the outdoor adventure. We had the afternoon free, and some of us enjoyed the pool at the Renaissance, while others napped. Coach Lane issued a "no-Spalding" decree, not wanting any of his players to risk injury playing basketball right before a big game.

At 6 pm, there was one more practice at De La Salle. This one was without pads, and finished under the lights. I found the lighting a bit dim, until the temporary ESPN standard was illuminated. That caused a big bright section offset toward the visitors stands around the 50 yard line. Here's hoping they get that adjusted for Friday night.

After practice, we tore up a local buffet. Then the team was called to a final meeting at the hotel before lights out. Speculation is growing about how the south will match up with the west coast Friday night (10:15 pm EST). It's time to find out.


The view into downtown San Francisco from Alcatraz...




The Rebels having fun on the boat ride back from Alcatraz...




It's buffet time for a hungry football team...




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NFL Week 2 staff picks


"One Week Down, 16 to Go"



If you have been following the NFL this week, you may have actually forgotten that all thirty-two teams played their first games this past week and that they have their week two matchups coming up, starting tonight in Baltimore between the Steelers and the Ravens. And you know what? I can't say I blame you for forgetting.

The sports media has been talking non-stop about the Ray Rice situation and how the NFL has handled it this week and rightfully so. As of this writing, we have a clear idea on what happened that night in the casino between Ray Rice and his then fiancée Janay Palmer but have so many questions about the NFL's investigation into the incident and what has followed since. While this is a very popular, interesting, and ongoing story, there will be no lack of coverage on it so I would like to focus on the actual football in the National Football League.

Taking a quick look back at week 1, there were quite a few interesting stories. Here are some of the ones that caught my eye:

1.) Admittedly it is hard to get a feel for teams with only one game played, but so far there appears to be only one dominant team and that is the Seattle Seahawks. Some of the other teams many consider contenders this year showed signs of being top teams but also showed weaknesses.

Look at the defending AFC Champion Denver Broncos. They looked dominant on both sides of the ball in the first half of their game against the Indianapolis Colts. In the second half however, the Colts dominated both sides of the bowl and nearly stole one in Denver. Other teams in contention this year such as the Packers, Saints, and Patriots all showed weaknesses in their openers.

2.) I believe that there are only four elite quarterbacks in the NFL: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. In the opening week of the 2014 season, three of the four elite quarterbacks lost and Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos nearly blew a large lead late in the fourth quarter. What does this mean? Not too much in my opinion. I believe all these quarterbacks, assuming they stay healthy, and their teams will be good and be playoff teams. They just might not be quite as invincible as they have been in the past. But we need more than one week to determine anything.

3.) There was a lot of bi-polar football played in Week 1. The Steelers, Broncos, and the Jaguars played very good first halves only to come out and play lackluster football in the second half and let their opponents back in it. The Jaguars actually went on to lose their game after leading the Eagles 17-0. The Patriots went into halftime up in a close game with the Miami Dolphins. In the second half, the Patriots couldn't do anything right and lost. A lot of this can be chalked up to sloppiness from teams in the first week. Time will tell though how much was sloppiness and how much was legitimate weakness that got exposed.

Here are my Top 5 Players of Week 1:

1.) Matt Ryan (ATL) - 31-43, 448 YDS, 3 TDs
2.) Cameron Wake (MIA) – 3 TKLs, 2 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles
3.) Marshawn Lynch (SEA) – 20 Carries, 110 YDS, 2 TDs
4.) Julius Thomas (DEN) – 7 REC, 104 YDS, 3 TDs
5.) Calvin Johnson (DET) – 7 REC, 164 YDS, 2 TDs

Now we look ahead to Week 2. I want preview upcoming games too much this week because again, you need a few games to really get a good feel for how teams and players will do this upcoming year. When it comes to Week 1 picks, I sadly am bringing up the rear. I would have been tied with Price at 8-8 but I refused to pick the Colts/Broncos game and I stand by my decision. I usually do my worst picks in the first few weeks so I'm confident I'll bounce back soon. At the top of the leaderboard we have Kenn who started his new show NFL Game Night this past Sunday tied with Jackson Turner at 11-5. This week, we're bringing Kenn's co-host Phil Cox into the fold on picks. Let's look at this week's matchups and see what we all think:

Week 2 Greg Sturg Ken Price Lonzo Zack Will Jackson Phil
PIT
@
BAL

Ravens

Ravens

Ravens

Steelers

Steelers

Steelers

Steelers

Steelers

Ravens
MIA
@
BUF

Bills

Bills

Bills

Bills

Bills

Dolphins

Dolphins

Bills

Bills
NO
@
CLE

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints
DET
@
CAR

Panthers

Lions

Panthers

Panthers

Panthers

Lions

Panthers

Panthers

Panthers
ATL
@
CIN

Falcons

Falcons

Bengals

Bengals

Bengals

Falcons

Bengals

Bengals

Falcons
DAL
@
TEN

Titans

Titans

Titans

Titans

Titans

Titans

Titans

Titans

Titans
JAX
@
WSH

Jags

Redskins

Jags

Redskins

Jags

Redskins

Redskins

Jags

Redskins
NE
@
MIN

Vikings

Vikings

Patriots

Patriots

Vikings

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots
ARI
@
NYG

Cardinals

Giants

Giants

Cardinals

Cardinals

Cardinals

Cardinals

Cardinals

Giants
SEA
@
SD

Chargers

Seahawks

Seahawks

Seahawks

Seahawks

Seahawks

Seahawks

Chargers

Seahawks
STL
@
TB

Bucs

Bucs

Bucs

Bucs

Bucs

Bucs

Bucs

Bucs

Bucs
KC
@
DEN

Broncos

Broncos

Broncos

Broncos

Chiefs

Broncos

Broncos

Broncos

Broncos
NYJ
@
GB

Packers

Packers

Packers

Packers

Packers

Packers

Packers

Packers

Packers
HOU
@
OAK

Texans

Raiders

Raiders

Texans

Texans

Raiders

Raiders

Raiders

Raiders
CHI
@
SF

49ers

49ers

49ers

49ers

49ers

Bears

49ers

49ers

49ers
PHI
@
IND

Eagles

Colts

Colts

Colts

Colts

Colts

Colts

Colts

Eagles
Last Week
10-6

9-7

11-5

8-8

10-6

7-9

10-6

11-5

0-0
Total 10-6 9-7 11-5 8-8 10-6 7-9 10-6 11-5 0-0



Special note: Also, today is the 13th anniversary of 9/11. As we remember the tragic events of that day, the lives lost, and the lives given to help others please take the time to say thanks and give appreciation to any police officers, firefighters, first responders, and military members you may know or encounter. We appreciate them every day but today is a day that we especially remember what they do and sacrifice for others.

I want to say thank you to my cousin Todd Ellis who is a detective and of course to all those who protect and serve. God bless those who serve and give of themselves and God bless the USA.


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Byrnes Rebels On The Left Coast - Day One



We left Duncan, SC at 4:35 am, and arrived in San Francisco about eight hours later. There were no major problems, although some eyebrows lifted when the pilot came out to the gate in Charlotte to tell us there would be a delay while they made sure the new dent in the aircraft door wouldn't turn into a crack during flight.

My color analyst Adam Walker, who was about to leave Mother Earth for the first time, shifted a bit in his seat with that pronouncement. We pulled off an OJ style sprint through the Atlanta airport and barely made our connection.

On the 25 mile bus ride from San Francisco Airport to Walnut Creek, we learned a couple of things. First, traffic sucks here, even at 2 pm. Second, when you go through the Caldecott Tunnel, 71 degrees rather suddenly becomes 92 degrees. Our bus driver told us the mountains hold the moisture and cooler weather into San Francisco proper.

The Byrnes football team put a dent in the Bay Area pasta supply at Rocco's Italian Ristorante. Then, it was a quick 35 minutes to check in at the Renaissance at Walnut Creek, and off to De La Salle High for a spirited 90 minute practice. When it was over, Head Coach Brian Lane asked his team, "How many teams got up at 3 am today, travelled 2,662 miles, and were still practicing at 10 pm? One."


Byrnes Rebels vs. No. 20 De La Salle Spartans (Friday, September 12 at 10:15 pm EST)...



Getting a light workout in upon arrival at De La Salle...



The Rebels stretching out and reprensenting the Upstate...



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The Weekend of New Uniforms



Tons of teams are breaking out new uniforms and helmets this weekend; some good, some bad. Before the season, USA Today ranked their top 17 "Good and Bad" uniforms this season. Here a few of the new ones to expect this coming weekend...


Maryland Terrapins



Houston Cougars



BYU Cougars



Boston College Eagles


Which is your favorite among these above or which new ones unveiled so far scored with you?

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Top 5 things I'd like to see G-Mack do while in San Francisco



During the last few weeks, I've asked Sturg on his show several times whether or not our colleague and host of "The Huddle" Greg McKinney had agreed to audition for NBC's America's Got Talent by tightroping across the Golden Gate Bridge later this week.

As the play-by-play voice of the Byrnes Rebels, G-Mack departs tomorrow for the Bay Area where the Rebels will take on national-power De La Salle High School Friday night at 10:15 p.m. (EST). He'll have the call as Byrnes tries to upset the USA Today 20th-ranked Spartans in Concord, Calif.

While I'm not sure if heights is G-Mack's thing or not, it got me thinking what else he might do while in the Bay Area. Because let's face it, for us South Carolinians strange things happen out there (they probably say they exact same thing about us!).

Here are he Top 5 things I'd love to see G-Mack do, while on his trip to San Francisco later this week. And of course, live to tell about it with video or photographic evidence:


1.) Re-enact the legendary "Bushman" at Fisherman's Wharf

Earlier this year, 30-year street performer Gregory Jacobs died after scaring thousands of tourists as the legendary "Bushman" in San Francisco. My wife had a blast watching him during our trips to the area and hated to hear the news about his passing. Do you think Greg could scare people as well as Jacobs did? If he's that good, the Fisherman Wharf's Communbity Benefit District may not let him leave.




2.) Serve hot dogs to the throngs of Giants fans/boaters in McCovey Cove

San Francisco Giants players have 'served up' more than 65 "splash hits" into McCovey Cove beyond the right-field wall at AT&T Park. Every game, especially as the playoffs near, boaters and kayakers fill McCovey Cove in hopes of landing a splash hit into the water. But sitting there waiting for a ball to come is a waste of time if you ask me. G-Mack would probably feel more useful helping to paddle a 'hot dog cart' and feed hungry Giants fans.




3.) Ride a big wheel down the world-famous (and curvy) Lombard Street without crashing

I'll fully admit, this may be one of the easiet. I've driven and walked down the most curvy road in the world and let me tell you, it's steep. If you've done it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Once a year (Easter Sunday), a group of folks hold an annual big wheel race down Lombard Street. It looks like a lot of fun and hope G-Mack doesn't use the excuse that his legs are too long for a big wheel!




4.) Repel down the side of Coit Tower

This goes hand-in-hand with G-Mack tightroping across the Golden Gate Bridge due to the height factor. Completed in 1933, Coit Tower sits on top of Telegraph Hill and provides maybe the best view in all of San Francisco. Entry fee is only $5 per person but my hunch is they'd let Greg do it for free if he's brave enough to repel down the side of it. Parting gift? A pair of Levi's from Levi Plaza at the bottom of Coit Tower.



5.) Swim with the sea lions at Pier 39

Depending on how big of a sweat G-Mack works up as the "Bushman," a dip with the sea lions at Pier 39 may be in order to cool off. Something tells me if he hits the water with the sea lions before the actual Byrnes game, he may not be around to see the Rebels pull off the upset, as city officials could escort him over the Bay Bridge and show him the way to Oakland.

And if we get any advance warning that he's in and gonna take the plunge, at least we'd have time to pull up the Pier 39 sea lions webcam and watch!



If you've got any other suggestions, feel free to tweet them to us at @ESPNUpstate and I'll see if we can tempt him or talk him into it! In all seriousness, good luck to Greg and crew and hope they bring home a Byrnes victory.

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Where's the security?



While I was browsing the internet today I came across an article on LostLettermen.com about a guy at the Boston College game who snuck on to the field for the first half of their Friday night game against Pittsburgh.

This of course is coming on the heels of the story about the Virginia fan that snuck into the team huddle during the ACC Tournament Championship against Duke

Now, do not get me wrong, this sounds awesome, and I would love to be able to do something like that and be on the court or field during a game. However, this has got to stop. I know these kids did not mean any harm and were doing it just for fun, but it is just not safe.

The security at games like these has to be improved, and this has got to be stopped. One day a crazed fan with bad intentions may make it out there, and that is something that no one wants to see.


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Get in w/ us on the two-hour "The Xtra Point" Clemson postgame show


What did you think about Clemson's 7-3 win over SC State today in Death Valley? Got any thoughts on the blowout win? Give Sturg and I a call on two-hour "The Xtra Point" postgame show: 800-774-0093!

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Live running in-game thread from the Clemson-SC State game...



Today, No. 24 Clemson and South Carolina State will tee it up from Death Valley with kickoff set for 12:30 p.m. I'll be live blogging the game with pregame pics, sights and sounds, so this post will be a LIVE running game thread.

I'll be posting live at least until Mark Sturgis and I have to high-tail it out of here in order to get to Bellacino's in Easley for the two-hour "The Xtra Point" postgame show we're hosting on 93.3 The Planet. So let's get going...


9:14 am - A beautiful morning from Clemson as the tailgaters slowly roll in...




11:03 am - I caught a Gamecock fan admiring Howard's Rock with envy...




11:44 am - The obligatory "my-office-for-the-day" media types love to post...



11:58 am - Today's official Clemson gameday program featuring a few of the Tigers' seniors, including starting quarterback Cole Stoudt, whom a few delusional fans or haters said played poorly last week against Georgia...




12:14 pm - My illustrious sidekick about to dig in to somepregame mac 'n cheese. Guess he just can't wait til we get to Bellacino's for the postgame show around 4:30'ish. Have at it Sturg! (He may be in trouble w/ Smoke On The Water for cheating and eatin' someone else's mac.)...



12:27 pm - A little #Clemson, pregame pageantry and run down the Hill...



12:38 pm - Clemson gets the ball on the opening kickoff and behind Cole Stoudt's 3-3 for 53 yards, the Tigers march down the field for a 7-0 lead (12:35, 1st quarter). Wayne Gallman totes the rock once on the drive but his 7-yard carry shows the violence and attitude he rushes with.

12:52 pm - Tigers stopped inside the 10-yard line, kicker Ammon Lakip driils a 22-yard field goal for a 10-0 Clemson lead (6:46, 1st quarter). True freshman Adam Choice sees his first-career action, carrying the ball four times for 21 yards on the drive. Interesting that he got the bulk of the carries instead of Gallman.

12:57 pm - No in-game update...but I look to my right and see Sturg staring at the cheerleader section in today's game program. Can't even begin to fathom a guess why he hasn't turned the page in at least five minutes! Alright, back to the field...

12:58 pm - ...and as soon as I turn back toward the field, All-American defensive end Vic Beasley registers his first sack of the day, pinning the Bulldogs at their own 1-yard line.

1:02 pm - Tigers can't convert on fourth down from inside the SC State 40-yard line, as Stoudt missed a wide open Gallman down the sideline. Guessing that frosh DeShaun Watson sees his first action on the next offensive series.

1:06 pm - And here's DeShaun right on cue! His first pass of the day is complete to speedy frosh WR Artavis Scott, then keeps it on a scramble for six yards.

1:10 pm - End of the first quarter. Clemson 10, SC State 0.

1:14 pm - On the first play to start the 2nd quarter, DeShaun connects with Charone Peake on a nice out-route for a 7-yard TD and a 17-0 Clemson lead (14:54, 2nd quarter).

1:22 pm - A sneak peak inside the press and press row. Not a huge throng of media today due to the opponent, but ACC games loom. Yep, believe it or not, that's Sturg actually working next to me (closest to me).



1:25 pm - Artavis Scott breaks free and Stoudt finds him wide open in the endzone for a 37-yard TD (his first-career TD reception). I know it's only SC State, but Stoudt has looked really, really good (12-16, 130 yards). Watson solid in his lone drive, but again Stoudt shows why he's the clear starter. Tigers lead 24-0.

1:32 pm - While SC State struggles (they've total -13 yards total offense), Sturg just brought up a great idea. We're gonna try and sneak into the Clemson President's box next door to us. He saw a delicious looking tray of lobster rolls thru the window and it'll be worth the risk of getting booted. Stay tuned for a hopeful pic of us enjoying one or two at halftime!

1:37 pm - Lakip drills a 38-yard FG to exercise a few demons after last week's awful miss in Athens. He needed a mid-ranger like that for his confidence. Lead grows to 27-0, while the Bulldogs yardage and confidence continues to dwindle. (7:10, 2nd quarter)

1:43 pm - The upperdeck of the North stands at Death Valley have filled in nicely. Meanwhile, SC State is awful.



1:46 pm - CJ Davidson takes a toss sweep six yards for the score. DeShaun's long completion to Scott sets up the Tigers touchdown and a 34-0 lead. (3:39, 2nd quarter)

1:56 pm - The Bulldogs now actually have positive total offense (30 yards). Halftime: Clemson 34, SC State 0.

1:59 pm - Since it's a "snoozefest" here at Death Valley (and also halftime), Sturg and I are gonna start our quest to get into the President's box next door and hopefully toast to some lobster rolls. Back with a report and hopefully a mouthful shortly...

2:21 pm - Alright, a bummer of an update to report on "Operation Lobster Rolls" from the President's Box: Upon our arrival at the food spread after gaining access past the security guard, the lobster rolls were gone! In favor of some cruddy tacos or hot dogs. Sturg insisted on eating the high-dollar hot dogs next door instead of our lowly press box dogs. See below (as well as Michael Dean Perry over his left shoulder)...



2:25 pm - And it wouldn't be any fun if we didn't ask the former NFL Pro Bowler and AFC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Dean Perry for a pic w/ my sidekick...



2:31 pm - SC State unable to move the ball starting the second half. Then Clemson comes right back with a DJ Howard touchdown. 41-0 (11:30, 3rd quarter)

2:35 pm - Not sure where Sturg went, but he's gone again. Dude spends more time walking around hob-nobbing than anyone in this entire press box.

2:36 pm - I'm glad he doesn't have access to this blog and I'm the only one who knows how to post. I can zing him for another full quarter.

2:44 pm - Scott takes a shovel pass down the Clemson sideline 69 yards before being pushed out at the two. Tigers settled for a Lakip 24-yard FG and a 44-0 lead. (7:50, 3rd quarter)

2:46 pm - Two freshman who've made the most of their opportunities and touches today: WR Artavis Scott and Adam Choice. Chad Morris has put Scott (4 catches, 149 yards) in a playmaking type of role, touching the ball in a myriad of ways, while Choice (7 rushes for 37 yards, 2 catches for 15 yards) has been the most effective runner for the Tigers along with freshman Wayne Gallman.

2:52 pm - Fire up the DeShaun/QB controversy folks again: Watson tosses his second score of the day, a 34-yard TD pass to Jay Jay McCullough. (5:31, 3rd quarter).

2:54 pm - Up 51-0, any chance to save us all the heat exhaustion and call off the fourth quarter?

3:02 pm - Well, that's all from the press box today. Sturg and I have to make a run for it and hit Highway 123 out of town for Easley. We'll be hosting two-hour "The Xtra Point" postgame show live from Bellacino's in Easley on 93.3 The Planet. Hope you'll tune in and better yet, get in with us with your thoughts on the game...800-774-0093!



PS - Here's the aftermath of a long, fun day in Tigertown and what two exhausted little Tiger fans look like going home...



Thanks for following today guys. It's been a fun day and hope you enjoyed it...especially me zinging Sturg. He's too easy of a target!

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A few games I'll be keeping an eye on tomorrow

Ty Montgomery,Torin Harris


The slate of college football games this weekend is absolutely abysmal. In both the ACC and SEC, there may be one or two games in each league that look even halfway decent on paper.

The marquee game of the weekend is without question in Beaverton where it'll have a Rose-Bowl-feel as No. 7 Michigan State squares off against the host No. 3 Oregon Ducks (6:30 pm, Fox Sports). MSU head coach Mark D'Antonio's defensive mindset could certainly lead to a Sparty win across the country because they're going to have to get off the field on third down against the Ducks. Still, I like Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota and the Ducks playing at home to win a close one.

While this game is still early in the regular season, it will likely play a major factor in the College Football Playoff come December.

Here are a few other games that catch my eye for tomorrow:

No. 14 Southern Cal at No. 13 Stanford (3:30 pm, ABC)
-Both schools weren't tested in their openers last weekend, though the Trojans surprised me in how easily they got past a sneaky-good Fresno State team. However, this weekend is different as it's the first, major Pac-12 showdown this season. I love David Shaw's team and how well coached they are on both sides of the ball. The pros should come calling again after this season. The Cardinal are going to win in it playing at home and because USC quarterback Cody Kessler is banged up with the injured toe.

Old Dominion at NC State (6 pm, ESPN3)
-Wake Forest was the only ACC to fall last weekend, though several other conference teams were close. And NC State was one of those teams, needing Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett to save the Pack at Carter-Finley Stadium. I don't think they have that luck in them two weeks in a row. Old Dominion is in its first season as a D-1 team in Conference USA and have perenially been one of the top FCS teams in the country. The Monarchs should be in contention for a bowl game at the end of the season. But in the meantime, I think the Dave Doeren era in Raleigh hits rock bottom tomorrow with a loss to ODU.

Northern Illinois at Northwestern (3:30 pm, Big Ten Network)
-This is a game the neighboring Huskies crave. They defeated Big Ten opponent Iowa in 2012 when they reeled off the magical run to the Orange Bowl (ironically in Dave Doeren's final season in DeKalb before taking the for NC State job). Though Jordan Lynch is off to the pros, NIU is still one of the favorites to win the MAC again, while Northwestern dropped a home game last weekend to a weak Cal squad. You won't find a much bigger fan of Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald and his ability to do more with less than me. He's great. But the Huskies will be playing with the "lil bro" mentality against the Windy City's flagship team and ride that edge to an upset in Evanston.


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"The Boys are Back" - NFL Week 1 season picks



Despite what some delusional fans down in the Big D would like to believe, the headline is NOT talking about the Cowboys return to prominence (keep dreaming). Instead, I'm talking about the return of the NFL with tonight's regular season opener where the Green Bay Packers will travel to Seattle to take on the reigning defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.

We're a couple of weeks into high school football, Week 1 of college football is in the books and now we have the football trifecta with the NFL starting up its season. The offseason and preseason are in our rearview mirrors and players have been drafted, released, traded, signed, cut, fined, suspended, caught popping mollies, and more. We have had plenty to talk about and breakdown off the field this summer.

While a lot of the storylines had us intrigued, what we all love and want most is some on the field action (that actually counts) and now it is here. Whether you love elite quarterback play, smothering defenses, dynamic playmakers, watching teams try to turn their fortunes around, hoping your team continues its winning ways, coaches who mumble through press conferences, or just having an excuse to go hang with your buddies on a Sunday afternoon the NFL is guaranteed to deliver what it is you seek.

If there is one thing we're reminded of each and every year, it is that we the "experts", don't really know anything. That doesn't stop us from pretending we do though. With that, here's a look at how your favorite ESPN Upstate "experts" see things breaking down this year in the NFL...

Greg Sturg Kenn Price Lonzo Zack Will
NFC North: Packers Packers Bears Packers Packers Packers Packers
NFC South: Saints Saints Saints Saints Panthers Saints Saints
NFC East: Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles
NFC West: Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks
NFC Wildcard
Teams:
49ers,
Bears
49ers,
Bears
Packers,
Panthers
49ers,
Bears
49ers,
Saints
Bears,
Cardinals
49ers,
Bears
AFC North: Bengals Ravens Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Steelers
AFC South: Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts
AFC East: Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots
AFC West: Broncos Broncos Chiefs Broncos Chiefs Broncos Broncos
AFC Wildcard
Teams:
Chargers,
Texans
Chiefs,
Steelers
Raiders,
Texans
Ravens,
Steelers
Broncos,
Ravens
Chargers,
Steelers
Bengals,
Chiefs
NFC Conference
Champion:

Eagles

Seahawks

Eagles

Seahawks

49ers

Saints

Seahawks
AFC Conference
Champion:

Broncos

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Chiefs

Broncos

Steelers
Super Bowl Champion:
Broncos

Seahawks

Eagles

Patriots

Chiefs

Broncos

Steelers


So there you have it. That is how we all see the NFL looking this year. The two people I'm raising an eyebrow at are Kenn Blankenship, who will be hosting his own NFL show right here on ESPN Upstate, and our friend over at The Clemson Insider Will Vandervort.

Kenn looks to have made some odd picks to say the least by having the Raiders make the playoffs as a wildcard team and having Peyton Manning and the Broncos not only not winning their division but missing the playoffs entirely! He's either a smart and courageous man or completely insane! Then Will just picked with his yellow, excuse me, gold and black homer glasses on. I cannot see the Steelers going all the way. But, as they say, that is why they play the games. Perhaps at the end of the season Will will be laughing at us all.

Time will tell but it all starts this week. There are always teams who are expected to do well that crash and burn and other teams that are not expected to do much and surprise us all.

Here are the Week 1 picks from our panel. I will note that you will not see a pick from me, Angry Zack, for the Colts @ Broncos game. That is because I can't pick between my favorite team (Colts) and my favorite player (Peyton Manning) who should never have had to leave Indianapolis in the first place! It's like trying to pick your favorite child. I will just take that game as a miss. I'm already helping everybody else out so there will be no excuses in the end if I pick the most games right this year. I'll be back next week and we'll see who navigated the tricky waters of the NFL's opening week best.

Enjoy ALL the football this weekend!

Week 1 Greg Sturg Kenn Price Lonzo Zack Will Mario
GB
@
SEA

Seahawks

Seahawks

Seahawks

Packers

Packers

Packers

Seahawks

Packers
NO
@
ATL

Saints

Saints

Falcons

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints

Saints
MIN
@
STL

Rams

Vikings

Vikings

Vikings

Vikings

Rams

Vikings

Vikings
CLE
@
PIT

Steelers

Steelers

Steelers

Steelers

Steelers

Steelers

Steelers

Steelers
JAX
@
PHI

Eagles

Eagles

Eagles

Eagles

Eagles

Eagles

Eagles

Eagles
OAK
@
NYJ

Jets

Jets

Raiders

Jets

Raiders

Jets

Jets

Jets
CIN
@
BAL

Bengals

Ravens

Bengals

Ravens

Bengals

Bengals

Bengals

Bengals
BUF
@
CHI

Bears

Bears

Bears

Bears

Bears

Bears

Bears

Bears
WSH
@
HOU

Texans

Texans

Texans

Redskins

Texans

Texans

Redskins

Redskins
TEN
@
KC

Chiefs

Chiefs

Chiefs

Chiefs

Chiefs

Chiefs

Chiefs

Chiefs
NE
@
MIA

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots

Patriots
CAR
@
TB

Buccaneers

Buccaneers

Panthers

Buccaneers

Panthers

Buccaneers

Buccaneers

Panthers
SF
@
DAL

49ers

Cowboys

49ers

49ers

49ers

49ers

49ers

49ers
IND
@
DEN

Broncos

Broncos

Broncos

Broncos

Broncos

--

Broncos

Broncos
NYG
@
DET

Lions

Lions

Lions

Lions

Lions

Lions

Lions

Lions
SD
@
ARI

Cardinals

Cardinals

Chargers

Cardinals

Cardinals

Chargers

Cardinals

Cardinals



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ESPN Upstate Week 2 college football picks



After the opening weekend of college football that saw several swings and misses from all of us here at ESPN Upstate, we're back with our crack at Week 2.

While the slate of games is one of the worst of the entire season, there could be a couple of tricky ones below. After the opening weekend, G-Mac, Sturg and I lead the way at 8-2 (all three of us losing A&M-USC and Cal at Northwestern).

Let us know what you think about our Week 2 picks by calling us on "The Huddle" (1:00-4:00 pm) or "Straight Up With Sturg" (4:00-7:00 pm) at 844-GSP-ESPN!

Week 2 Angry Zack Greg Jackson Lonzo Mario Mark H. Price Sturg
UTSA at Arizona Arizona Arizona UTSA Arizona UTSA Arizona UTSA UTSA
ECU at USC USC USC ECU USC ECU USC USC USC
Mich St. at Oregon Mich St. Oregon Mich St. Mich St. Mich St. Mich St. Oregon Mich St.
Va. Tech at Ohio St. Ohio St. Ohio St. VT Ohio St. VT Ohio St. Ohio St. Ohio St.
SoCal at Stanford SoCal Stanford SoCal Stanford SoCal Stanford Stanford Stanford
Michigan at ND Michigan ND Michigan Michigan ND ND ND ND
BYU at Texas BYU Texas BYU Texas Texas Texas Texas Texas
Pitt at BC Pitt BC BC Pitt Pitt Pitt Pitt Pitt
Maryland at USF Mary USF USF Mary USF USF Mary Mary
Colo St. at Boise St. Boise St. Boise St. Boise St. Boise St. Boise St. Boise St. Boise St. Colo St.
Last week 6-4 8-2 4-6 7-3 5-5 7-3 8-2 8-2
Season total 6-4 8-2 4-6 7-3 5-5 7-3 8-2 8-2


Also last week...
-Our weekly guest picker on "Straight Up With Sturg" was former UK QB and now Saturday Down South analyst Andre' Woodson who was 3-2 in his five games picked on-air.

-Smoke on the Water's Mike Shuler went 8-2.
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Could the ACC Coastal Division really end with every team 4-4?



I spend too much time on Twitter. But it's my daily news aggragator and up-to-the-second news source for sports, politics and current events. Unfortunately the occasional, worthless Justin Beiber garbage pops into my timeline.

But yesterday I saw the tweet above from CFB Leaderboard to Grantland's Holly Anderson and Associated Press writer Ralph Russo. And it really got me thinking...what if. Just what if. Could the ACC's Coastal Division really finish with all seven teams tied at 4-4? How crazy would that be?

It's not out of the question and at this possible, though I know it's way too early. Miami (FL) is the only Coastal team to even play an ACC game so far (a 31-17 loss at Louisville).

However, this caused me to look up the ACC Championship Game tiebreaker scenarios in the event three of more teams are tied. Now, it's clear this isn't updated because it lists procedure No. 7 by referring to the "full Bowl Championship Series Standings," which the BCS obviously is no longer.

A review of the preseason predictions (see the pic below) from the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro shows just how all over the board the media think the Coastal could play out. The Hurricanes were the media's pick to win the division but Duke (picked second) finished with the most first-place votes (33) followed by UNC (picked fourth) with the second-most, first-place votes (27). Pittsburgh, which was picked sixth, even received two first-place votes.

I realize we're only a week into the season and it's waaaaay too early. But still, it's possible. How crazy would this be.




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SEC Speed?



Who said only the players could run? Auburn Tiger wide receiver Melvin Ray caught a pass from Jeremy Johnson and took off down the sideline for a touchdown, and well, the ball boy had no problem keeping up.

Check out this video of the Auburn ball boy blazing down the sideline...





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What caught my eye opening weekend

Colorado State v Colorado


I'm going to refrain from getting back into the Clemson or Carolina openers because there's just not a lot more to stay other than both teams have the chance to get in the win column this weekend.

But besides Todd Gurley's off-the-charts performance Saturday night and "Kenny Football" last Thursday in Columbia, there were a few other things that caught my attention during the opening weekend of the college football season...

LSU
-While Texas A&M and Georgia punched in with the two most impressive wins in the SEC last weekend, the 13th-ranked Tigers' 17-point rally against the Badgers can't be overlooked. If No. 14 Wisconsin hadn't gone away from running the football, I think time would have been on their side and left Les Miles' bunch without time for to complete the rally. And it was an LSU running back not-named-Leonard Fournette who led the way - Kenny Hilliard's 110 yards on 18 carries nearly matched Wisky Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon's 140 yards on 16 carries.

Colorado State's Dee Hart
-Former five-star recruit and Alabama running back Dee Hart has found a new home in Ft. Collins by reuniting with former Bama offensive coordinator and now CSU head coach Jim McElwain. The CSU transfer looks right at home, too. Hart led the way for the Rams' in their 31-17 comeback win over in-state rival Colorado ast Friday night in Denver. His 139 yards rushing (2 TDs) and 35 yards receiving nearly accounted for half the Rams' 400 total yards of offense. You can never overstate what beating your biggest rival in the season opener will do for a team's confidence - or the alumni and fan base.

Lane Kiffin
-I'm sorry but it's just strange to see this guy on the Alabama sideline and anywhere within 100 yards of Nick Saban. I can't be alone in thinking this.

Furman's Reese Hannon
-My heart sank for the junior and Greer native when a source called me before the end of Furman's game to tell me Hannon was likely lost for the year due to an ankle injury. In fact, Furman SID Hunter Reid and I were just talking earlier in the week about what an advantage it will be for the Paladins' to have a veteran under center right out of the gate this year. Redshirt freshman backup Dillon Woodruff started Furman's opening loss last year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury before the end of the game. Unfortunately or fortunately, Woodruff will be the key to managing the offense and whether Furman can bring home its second-straight SoCon title.

Baylor's defense
-I knew the Baylor Bears had a beautiful new stadium they'd be debuting. Like everyone else, I also knew the Bears have an outstanding offense led by quarterback Bryce Petty. But what I didn't know was what a sout defense Art Briles has. Holding June Jones' high-flying, pass-happy offense to just 67 TOTAL yards and ZERO points is impressive. This wasn't a directional state school but rather an SMU team that can put yards despite struggling to accompany its gaudy offensive numbers with wins. If Baylor's defense plays like this all season, look out Big 12.
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Palmetto Panic? No, but....



So, that wasn't the start to the 2014 season we were looking for around here. With South Carolina and Clemson each dropping their opener by 24 points, refiguring expectations will be the topic of the week on our local call-in shows on ESPN Upstate. Consider this, from espn.com:


South Carolina's probability of winning the SEC East plummeted from 41 percent to 11 percent and its chance of winning the SEC fell from 19 percent to four percent.

Clemson and South Carolina had the two biggest drops in FPI rankings among teams in the Top 25, with Clemson falling 17 spots (to 30th) and South Carolina slipping 13 (to 20th). They were followed by North Carolina, which dropped 12 spots to 31 despite beating Liberty, 56-29.

Is there a silver lining somewhere in here? Well, perhaps. Florida State seems less daunting, with their 6 point win over Oklahoma State. Alabama wasn't much more impressive, winning by 10 over West Virginia. Ohio State and UCLA looked less than intimidating. It seems most of the top teams have issues to correct.

Clemson will roll easily this week over SC State, and start getting ready for a trip to Tallahassee. Florida State will be a good barometer of where this team stands. South Carolina has a dangerous game at home with East Carolina this week. If they take care of business as the favorite, they then can get right back in the thick of the SEC race by handling Georgia at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 13th.

It's been 15 years since both teams lost their first game, and that's hard to stomach given the success of recent years. Opening week was a blow to our local teams' odds of getting into the first college football playoff, but everything else is still on the table. The Huddle with G-Mack will be on the air starting Tuesday from 1 pm - 4 pm, and Straight Up With Sturg is on from 4 pm - 7 pm. It's going to be a wild college football season. Call us up and let's talk about it!



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