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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!


Army-Navy: America and college football's greatest rivalry

NCAA Football: Army vs Navy


In the South, we know football. We crave football. And we love it passionately, especially when we've pledged our allegiance to our various team running down the Hill or being introduced thru blowing smoke and the anthem-like playing of 2001.

Clemson-Carolina. Auburn-Alabama. Florida-Florida State. Georgia-Auburn. The list is of great rivalries is long. Too long to list. One of the things that makes them great is the passion of the people involved. As good as every single one of them is in its own special and unique way, there's just one rivalry that sits apart, all alone.

The Army-Navy game is college football's best rivalry. It's also America's greatest rivalry.

Yes, I too once scoffed at even the thought of something being bigger, better, more passionate, meaningful and grander in spectacle than anything resembling any of those listed above.

Truth be told, I was also naive and didn't get it either until 2000 when I experienced my first Army-Navy game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. It was my first year working at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and I heard all year about the game, experiencing the rivalry in advance with other sports across the Yard. But nothing could prepare me for that day on Saturday, December 2, 2000.

How could a game with two subpar quality teams be worth the hype? How could Navy at 0-10 and Army at 1-9 entering the game carry so much national interest? Why would a sold-out stadium come to watch a pair of teams that totaled just a single win between them?

Arriving at the stadium on a clear, frigid early morning, I quickly began to realize something was very different. Long in advance of kickoff, the stadium began to fill up for the pregame pageantry with everyone watching:

-the formal march-on of the Corps of Cadets from Army and then the Brigade of Midshipmen from Navy;

-the exchange of "prisoners" (a small group of students attending classes for the semester at the opposite Academy);

-jump teams from both schools descending onto the field;

-military flyovers across the sky with helicopters and streaking fighter jets;

-the Secretary of Defense walking across the field for the coin toss;

-and a national TV audience on CBS looking on as the only D-1 game being played at that time.

Glancing down into the corner of the stadium was a rowdy entire student body of one school and in the other corner was the entire student body of the other. There isn't another game in the country where you can find two complete student bodies in attendance, while cheering every big play feverishly.

Couple that with the servicemen and women across the globe, glued listening and/or watching the pregame and actual game on the Armed Forces Network in all corners of the world at varying times of day, including the middle of the night. The meaning of the game transcended just those in attendance and fan bases of both schools.

I was taking it all in, while preparing to be the game's official scorer by calling stats aloud in the middle of a press box full of more than 150 media members. It was scary. It was also an honor. An honor that that still ranks atop my professional sports opportunities along with serving as the game's official scorer in 2002 as well.

Navy won 30-28 in a turnover-filled affair that left Army players in tears on the field and the Midshipmen celebrating the chance to sing the Navy Blue and Gold alma mater second as the winning team. In all the games I have worked and covered, I've never seen more tears and crying on a football field, en route to the locker room and in the post game press conference than I did watching the hurt fill the losing Army players' eyes. Knowing it was their final chance, lining up across their Academy rival and unable to taste victory that last time.

It wasn't about playing for a BCS bowl bid or trying to impress for the chance to play for pay on Sundays. Army and Navy players were playing their hearts out on the field for pride, respect and fellow soldiers who had come before them and/or were currently serving abroad wearing the stars and stripes.

Words do not and cannot do the experience of an Army-Navy game justice. CBS gives it the 'ol college try and attempts to capture the essence of what it means for viewers at home. But until you get to see, feel and experience it in person, you just won't understand it.

With my Annapolis roots and friends on the Navy sideline, I'll be rooting for the Mids on Saturday. I'm hoping the Navy record-winning streak hits 13. But in the end, it's not a life or death game. That part unfortunately comes later for players on both sides, as they move into harm's way and remind us that freedom is never free.

I think of my friends like Ronnie Winchester and J.P. Blecksmith, who wore the Navy uniform on the football field and later lost their lives in combat. It's the sacrifice of guys like Ronnie and J.P. that allow America's greatest rivalry to be played annually, including all the other rivalries without as much on the line.

Go Navy. Beat Army.




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Our live ACC Championship blog from Charlotte...



Greetings from downtown Charlotte, where Sturg, Kevin Thomas and I safely navigated I-85 en route here to Bank of America Stadium for tonight's ACC Championship game. Over the next few hours, I'll bring you live updates from in and around the game.

Kickoff between Florida State and Georgia Tech is set for 8:00 pm and we'll have some fun up until then and thru kickoff...

5:14 pm - The media shuttle was surprisingly quick from The Westin around the corner from BOA Stadium...



5:26 - Sturg catching a glimpse of his Crimson Tide, while waiting for the press elevator to take us up stairs. He's a tad nervous watching his boys...but he would never admit that you or me!



5:31 - Upon arrival to our "seats," Sturg and I quickly realized we didn't have one. I guess the ACC office doesn't qualify us for seats but rather they two bar stools they assigned us.

5:32 - Bush league! While many seats will be filled with simple onlookers doing no work at all, your truly found...actually strike that, made a press box seat right here (and I might have the best view in the house with every game in front of me...



5:44 - Media sighting: Former Washington QB Brock Huard (worst gelled flip-up hair I;'ve ever seen), Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde (always has female reporters attached to his hip), our friend from ESPN.com Andrea Adelson, several smokin' ACC female interns/wannabeee and several more we haven't seen yet. Stay tuned.

5:53 - Media observation: Every now and then, eespecially when it comes to the national media, you have several reporters who are clearly show ponies. They need everyone in the press box to make sure they know that they're there. I won't name her name but she REALLY wants to be seen here tonight...and the Panthers' press box is pretty spacious.

6:05 - Meanwhile, while Sturg and I are in here, my man Kevin Thomas sent me this pic below of a Noles fan...clearly still happy with their 23-17 win over Clemson back in September. You'd think FSU fans might have moved past that game and/or on to one of their other comeback victories...




6:13 - Caught my man Sturg digging into his banana pudding (post friend chicken dinner, which smokes Clemson's traditional pregame rubber chicken), watching Alabama hold onto a 21-10 lead in the SEC CHampionship game...




6:31 - Enjoying talking with the Georgia Tech student newspaper reporters. Cool dues and they know their stuff. Especially basketball!

6:38 - Heading down to the field with Sturg for a bit. Back shortly!

8:01 - Just back up from the field. Chilly, damp and wet down there. Tech fans have the advantage while Noles are loud.

8:02 - Noles warming up...





8:03 - Jackets getting ready...





8:10 - Not gonna lie, Tech cheerleaders aren't half bad. :)





8:20 - Tech is out doing work on the field, while I was down there doing "work" a short while ago before kickoff...



8:22 - And I'll give you their "better" side just to be fair...




8:28 - Oh yeah, Tech leads 7-0.

8:32 - I did manage to get a little Clemson love in during the pregame as the mascot were coming thru...




8:38 - Just like that, Jameis strikes back with a big TD pass to Nick O'Leary, tying the game 7-7. (1st quarter, 7:42)

8:41 - No doubt Tech has more fans in here but Noles fans are definitely loud. However, Tech fans and players seemed to have an edge and more fire to them pregame. Not sure what that'll translate to but it was noticeable.

8:45 - Back come the Jackets...another methodical drive down the field without throwing a pass. 11 plays, 75 yards in 5:50 to take a 14-7 lead. (1st quarter, 1:45)

8:51 - FSU running back Dalvin Cook is a playmaker. Huge future and star awaits the true frosh next season.

8:52 - End of 1st quarter and FSU is on the move inside the Tech 20-yard line. Georgia Tech 14, Florida State 7.

8:57 - Cook takes his 10th carry of the game and accounted for all 75 yards on the drive for the game-tying, one-yard TD run, 14-14. (2nd quarter, 14:10)

9:05 - Remember FSU manager "Red Lightning" from last season? Got a good shot of Frankie Grizzle-Malgrat before the game...



9:19 - BOOM! Jameis to Rashad Greene for a 44-yard TD pass and another tie game, 21-21. (2nd quarter, 5:40)

9:31 - Tech punts for the first time in the game with 2:26 left in the first half.

9:36 - Jameis to Greene again from 9 yards out and the Noles take their first lead of the ballgame, 28-21. (2nd quarter, 0:21)

9:40 - Halftime: Florida State 28, Georgia Tech 21

10:07 - Sorry for the delay, was off getting my media hot dog to refuel for the second half!

10:16 - Tech goes the length of the field on 14 plays (all rushing) to tie the game 28-28. (3rd quarter, 8:01)

10:19 - Got some of the ACC mascots during the pregame, including the Clemson Tiger in the house!





10:20 - About those halftime hot dogs (no, it had nothing to do with the halftime show), here's the media scrum Sturg and I had to fight thru in order to obtain those dogs. Wasn't a short line...



10:25 - Halftime talk over the hot dogs was about Ohio State's shocing 38-0 halftime lead over Wisky and what the CFB Playoff selection committee will do. Do they bump the Big 12 out all together? Or does OSU's loss to Virginia Tech loom as the weight around the Buckeyes' neck? Will be interesting!

10:27 - Wow...an actual stop. Tech's defense holds FSU to a 37-yard FG by All-American kicker Roberto Aguayo, giving the Noles another lead, 31-28 (3rd quarter, 3:13)

10:29 - Safe to say Sturg and I picked the best conference championship game to attend today. Heck of a ballgame here in Charlotte!



10:36 - Hold the fort...FSU just made a stop of their own...Tech punts the ball back to the Jackets. Noles take over at their own 10-yard line.

10:37 - End of the 3rd quarter: Florida State 31, Georgia Tech 28

10:41 - Look at the new souvernir I just picked up for the ride home!



10:49 - Aguayo bangs home a 32-yard FG, pushing the Noles' lead to 34-28. (4th quarter, 10:25)

10:50 - Official attendance for tonight: 64,808

10:55 - FSU holds Tech on fourth down and the Noles are in business. A score likely ends it.

10:57 - With FSU leading 34-28 and the ball at the 50-yard line, Sturg and I are out of here. Thanks for following along today...it's been fun on this end!

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ESPN Upstate championship weekend picks



Here we are...Championship Saturday in college football. Tomorrow afternoon, the debate will cease and arguments will begin about who should or shouldn't have been the fourth and final team selected for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

We'll always argue about the last time in or out, no matter how big or small the playoff is. So I'm preparing for it regardless of how the weekend shakes out. And there will be some shaking out that happens.

The Big 12 obviously doesnt have a title game today, so we'll see TCU probably try and beat lowly Iowa State by 80, while Baylor has a dangerous home game against Kansas State. That's one of the biggest things to watch today in terms of movement tomorrow in the CFB Playoff. The other thing to watch is in Indianapolis and whether Ohio State can overcome J.T. Barrett's injury against Wisky in the Big Ten Championship game. My guess is Melvin Gordon runs wild and Barrett's injury is a moot point.

Sturg and I are headed up the road to Charlotte this afternoon for tonight's ACC Championship game. Gotta say I'm incredibly excited and intrigued by the Florida State-Georgia Tech matchup. The fact they didn't play in the regular season could work in Tech's favor, as a lot people love the Jackets and an upset. Don't count me in that group.

The other way on I-85 in Atlanta, Alabama and Mizzou are set to take the field in the SEC Championship game around 4 pm. Virtually nobody gives Gary Pinkel's Tigers a shot today and I'm included in that group. I don't know where Mizzou's points will come from, while the Tide has playmakers and the ability to run it up. Just don't think Mizzou has the firepower to get it done, while Bama is playing for a spot in the CFB Playoff. A loss and the SEC is shutout.

So let's get to our final set of picks before bowl season begins...


Week 15 Zack Greg Jackson Lonzo Mark H. Mike S. Price Sturg
Arizona vs Oregon
Oregon

Oregon

Oregon

Oregon

Oregon


Oregon

Oregon
Ohio St vs Wisky
Ohio St

Wisky

Wisky

Ohio St

Wisky


Wisky

Wisky
Georgia Tech vs FSU
FSU

Ga Tech

Ga Tech

Ga Tech

Ga Tech


FSU

FSU
Mizzou vs Alabama
Alabama

Alabama

Mizzou

Alabama

Alabama


Alabama

Alabama
Bowling Green vs NIU
BGU

NIU

NIU

NIU

NIU


NIU

NIU
UCF at ECU
ECU

N/A

ECU

ECU

ECU


ECU

ECU
Ok State at Okla
Okla

Okla

Okla

Okla

Okla


Okla

Okla
K-State at Baylor
Baylor

Baylor

K-State

Baylor

Baylor


Baylor

Baylor
Houston at Cincy
Cincy

Cincy

Cincy

Cincy

Cincy


Cincy

Cincy
Temple at Tulane
Tulane

Tulane

Tulane

Tulane

Temple


Temple

Temple
Last Week
5-5

5-5

4-6

5-5

5-5

5-5

4-6

5-5
Total Record
86-54

72-68

65-75

86-54

66-64

79-61

76-64

75-65




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After eight days in Colorado, what did I miss?



We came, we saw and ultimately we survived…and made it. A long and I mean very long, eight-day roadie to Colorado ended last night upon arrival back home.

To say it was an eventful week nestled close to my mother-in-law's fam would be an understatement. For those married, you know just what a week with your in-law(s) will do, especially when you're miles from home without any recourse. Sure I had some fun along the way, playing in the mountain snow with my kids, trying some outstanding new IPAs in beer heaven and hitting one of the hidden gems in Boulder called The Sink (featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives").

Through it all I managed to take in some college football and catch a bit of the Feast Week college hoops action. The highlight of the trip was without a doubt my visit to Colorado Springs covering the Air Force-Colorado State game. Truth be told, it was probably the best college football game I've seen in person in the last three years.

Air Force was without its starting QB and top rusher and saw a 24-10 lead evaporate to Jim McElwain's No. 21 Colorado State Rams in the final quarter. Former Alabama five-star running back Dee Hart was stoned on a 4th and two from the Falcons' 42-yard line that if converted likely would have led CSU to the win. Instead Air Force took over, completed a 30-yard bomb into CSU territory that set up senior Will Conant's game-winning, 39-yard FG as time expired to defeat their Rocky Mountain rival, 27-24.

It was a fantastic 60 minutes of college football on Black Friday. Heisman Trophy candidate Garrett Grayson threw 366 yards and three TDs in the loss, while Biletnikoff Award finalist Rashard Higgins was beyond spectacular (12 catches, 193 yards, two TDs) and worth every bit of hype he's getting this season for the Rams.

But better than the game was the unexpected friendship I struck up with the man seated next to me in the press box. Sometimes in life you cross paths with someone and you know that it's just meant to happen. It's crazy how life works but I'm looking forward to sharing the story on the "Straight Up" this afternoon (provided Sturg gives me 3 minutes!).

Of course, there's no way I'd miss the Carolina-Clemson game no matter where on Earth I might have been. Everything has pretty much been said and written to this point so I won't waste a ton of time on it, including blasting the Stephone Anthony targeting call (video). Was it a late hit? Yeah, I could deal with a flag for being a bit late getting to Dylan Thompson. But that was probably the single-worst targeting called in college football this season and the replay official in the booth is clearly legally blind and should be relieved of his duties.

It didn't make a lick of difference as Clemson whipped the Gamecocks up and down the field, thanks to the return of Deshaun Watson. While the freshmen playmakers in orange were running wild, the Clemson defense probably didn't get the proper credit it deserved. Sure USC piled up 339 yards of total offense with a good chunk of that coming in the final quarter. And this was one of Spurrier's best and most balanced offenses he's had yet in Columbia.

Offense wins headlines and defense wins championships. No championship was won this season or even last Saturday in Death Valley. But Brent Venables' defensive unit is about as good as it gets and without it Clemson is merely a six-win, bowl eligible team this year.

So what else did I miss while I was gone, other than the Carolina Panthers' ongoing debacle continuing and Chad Morris bolting for SMU?

I'm looking forward to talking some college basketball as well as getting ready for the upcoming ACC and SEC Championship games upon reuniting with Sturg on the mic this afternoon. Can't wait to begin cleansing my road-trip soaked fatigue and start stuffing my sports-starved mind again!

(This is my new happy place....)




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Will the Pony Express ride again? Chad Morris leaves Clemson to take the helm



What Chad Morris has done since arriving in Clemson, South Carolina, four seasons ago, has been nothing less than spectacular.

While it is possible that Chad Morris was not able to see his offense come to full maturation, Clemson still succeeded: 41 wins, a 6 yard-per-play average over four seasons, too many records that fell to even mention (Enter Tajh Boyd), and, oh yeah, Clemson's first ACC title in 20 years as well as two Orange Bowl appearances all were greatly influenced by Chad Morris - or, "The Chad" as some referred to him as.

Born in Edgewood, Texas, Chad Morris rose to become one of the top high school coaches in Texas Football History at Lake Travis. Then, Morris led Lake Travis to back-to-back undefeated state championships - winning three state titles overall and playing in six; Now, he returns to Texas to revive the Pony Express left vacant by the June Jones retirement.

Chad Morris' offense - really a modernized wishbone - has the potential to be wildly successful back in Texas - just as it was in Clemson. What Morris has done with the classic triple option - learned under Gus Malzahn - could see that return of the Pony Express. Spread, lots and lots of motion, tempo: this will be a change from the now-fading run-and-shoot offense of June Jones. And it is one SMU fans appear to be excited about.

I caught up with SMU sideline reporter and writer for the oldest and largest website covering SMU - PonyFans.com - Steve Lansdale to get his thoughts and reactions to Chad Morris returning "home".

1) Since the news broke regarding the hiring of Chad Morris what has the reaction been from the SMU fans?

The selection of Chad Morris has been met with nearly universal applause. Ever since speculation began that June Jones should be replaced — a move that some disenchanted fans thought happened a couple of years later than it should have — Morris is a guy many PonyFans have coveted. One of the complaints about Jones was that he didn't pluck top recruits from the state of Texas; SMU has fewer Texas players on its roster than any other FBS team in the state. Morris went to Texas A&M and had huge success as a Texas high school football coach, a title that borders on royalty to many, and has successfully recruited Texas-bred players to Tulsa and Clemson. So the perception among many PonyFans is that he will come to Dallas, put together a staff of relentless recruiters and quickly restock the stable with talented in-state players who will help the program get back on track.

2) What possibilities do you see with Chad Morris' offense coming to town as opposed to what it formerly had been running under June Jones?

How the Mustangs can adapt to the Morris offense will be interesting to watch. The Run-and-Shoot offense was very effective in the NFL and in college years ago, but in recent years, the Mustangs got away from the offense in its basic form. Ever since running backs Shawnbrey McNeal and Zach Line became the first backs Jones ever had who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a single season, the offense morphed away from the traditional Run-and-Shoot system. The key to the system is the quarterback, who must be mobile, and of the six quarterbacks on the SMU roster, current starter Matt Davis is the fastest and most elusive, so the easy assumption is that he would be the odds-on favorite at the position going into spring drills. But all six will be brand new to Morris and his staff and the new offense, so the competition should be fairly wide open.

3) Coach Morris knows Texas: what impact, considering conference affiliation too, will he or could he have in the state of Texas recruiting?

Again, the fact that Jones was nearly the anti-Texan really bothered some fans, some of whom bristled when he began his tenure at SMU wearing a Hawaiian lei on the sideline, a nod to the state where he coached before SMU. Yes, it looked a little unusual at games, but seeing him in boots and a Stetson hat would have been just as strange — maybe more so. Morris, on the other hand, comes across as a Texan. He grew up in the Lone Star State and became firmly entrenched as part of the culture by coaching on Friday nights here. He knows coaches across the state, and therefore is expected not only to add talent to the roster, but to fill it with Texas-bred talent. There are countless players from the other 49 states who can play, and can make the Mustangs better, but Texans take great pride in things that are done for Texans, by Texans. If Morris can keep more top talent home and win with Texas players, he will be revered on the Hilltop.


Rest assured: The SMU faithful are in store for some exciting times under the leadership of Chad Morris.

With Chad Morris' exit, we now must consider the question at hand: where does Clemson turn to lead its offense?

There are a couple thoughts out there. One, that Clemson WRs coach Jeff Scott has been groomed to take over for Chad Morris. Though that would supply the sustainability from a recruiting standpoint, it seems; how comfortable would Clemson be turning the offense - and playcalling - over to an unproven Jeff Scott? There is also some indication that Jeff Scott - potentially - could be heading to Dallas with Chad Morris to become the SMU Offensive Coordinator. And if that happens, is Chad Morris taking anyone else with him? Namely, Marion Hobby? Two, if Clemson goes outside of the staff-at-hand to make the hire, the candidate would have to be able to atleast pick up and run an offense suitable with the players on the roster. ECU's Lincoln Riley and Auburn's Rhett Lashlee are two that come to mind that you would have to assume would get calls from Dabo Swinney.

For now though, Clemson fan can tip its hat to Chad Morris as he exits Tiger-town for a job very well done.

We all - as football fans - can now sit back as we eagerly wait to see if the Pony Express will ride again.




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Top 25: Lonely at the top



Note: Richard Breen is a longtime journalist who has covered high school and college football, as well as professional baseball, for daily newspapers and their websites. His weekly Top 25 is intended to be a thought-provoking look at who is enjoying success in the win-loss column.

We'll be posting his personal Top 25 every week, the rest of the way thru the college football season. Enjoy because it's not your every day Top 25!



Lonely at the top
FSU leads shrinking group of playoff-worthy teams

1. Florida State 12-0 (1)*
2. Alabama 11-1 (2)
3. Oregon 11-1 (3)
4. Texas Christian 10-1 (6)
5. Ohio State 11-1 (5)
6. Baylor 10-1 (7)
7. Wisconsin 10-2 (13)
8. Georgia Tech 10-2 (14)
9. Mississippi State 10-2 (4)
10. Missouri 10-2 (12)
11. Arizona 10-2 (15)
12. Michigan State 10-2 (18)
13. UCLA 9-3 (9)
14. Boise State 10-2 (16)
15. Arizona State 9-3 (10)
16. Georgia 9-3 (11)
17. Kansas State 9-2 (20)
18. Mississippi 9-3 (21)
19. Marshall 11-1 (8)
20. Clemson 9-3 (23)
21. Louisville 9-3 (22)
22. Southern Cal 8-4 (UN)
23. Nebraska 9-3 (UN)
24. Colorado State 10-2 (17)
25. Northern Illinois 10-2 (25)
* – previous ranking in parentheses

Fell out: Auburn 8-4 (19), Minnesota 8-4 (24)

100 words of insight: Despite the excitement, nothing got decided this week. Let's address something different instead. Sports-talk radio was abuzz with news that a poll of coaches revealed that a lot of them want an eight-team college football playoff. The narrative was that coaches are already not satisfied with the four-team system and think the eight-team format would be in the best interests of the game. Wrong. Coaches are in favor of an eight-team format because it is in the best interest of coaches' job security. Whether it's president, school board, or a college football playoff, most people vote their own selfish interests.


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ESPN Upstate's Week 14 college football picks



(I snapped this week's cfb picks photo in person here at the CSU-Air Force game).

It's Thanksgiving weekend and Clemson and South Carolina fans are on edge, or surprisingly confident going into tomorrow's "Palmetto Bowl." 

If you're confident either way in the outcome, you either know something that I don't or are blindly behind your team. I honestly don't have a great feel on the game either way. But in all honesty, I think this game comes down to one thing: if Deshaun Watson plays, Clemson wins. if he doesn't, South Carolina wins its sixth in a row. 

Led by Vic Beasley and company, the Clemson defense will clearly be the best unit on the entire field tomorrow in Death Valley. However, Dylan Thompson and the Gamecock offense have been outstanding at times this season. USC will score points tomorrow, but the Tigers can't give up big plays to Pharoh Cooper, Mike Davis and the group. 

We don't often talk about special teams being the biggest key. But tomorrow could hinge on which team better executes on special teams, which USC single-handidly used to rally past Florida a few weeks ago. Ammon Lakip and Bradley Pinion have been incredibly solid this season. However, kickoff return and punt coverage are critical and the Gamecocks have more weaponry and playmakers.

In the end, I went with my gut and took the Gamecocks, largely because of the unknown playing status of Deshaun for Clemson. Will he or won't he? I think he plays and starts. How effective will he be playing less than 100%? That's THE biggest question going into this game and ultimately the difference maker for me. Pressed for a score, I'll say USC wins, 27-23. 

While getting set for tomorrow, I'm here at halftime of the Colorado State-Air Force game in Colorado Springs and it's a damn good football game. The Falcons have rallied for a 17-10 halftime lead over the 10-1 Rams. Should be a fun second half. 

So....without further delay, here's our picks for rivalry weekend...

 
Week 14 Zack Greg Jackson Lonzo Mark H. Mike S. Price Sturg
USC at Clemson  
Clemson
 
USC
 
USC
 
USC
 
USC
 
USC
 
USC
 
Clemson
Bama at Auburn  
Bama
 
Bama
 
Bama
 
Bama
 
Bama
 
Bama
 
Bama
 
Bama
NC State at UNC  
UNC
 
UNC
 
UNC
 
UNC
 
UNC
 
UNC
 
UNC
 
UNC
Ga. Tech at Georgia  
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
Miss St. at Ole Miss  
Miss St.
 
Miss St.
 
Miss St.
 
Miss St.
 
Miss St.
 
Miss St.
 
Miss St.
 
Miss St.
LSU at A&M  
A&M
 
A&M
 
A&M
 
A&M
 
LSU
 
LSU
 
A&M
 
A&M
Minn at Wisky  
Minn
 
Wisky
 
Wisky
 
Wisky
 
Wisky
 
Wisky
 
Wisky
 
Wisky
Nebraska at Iowa  
Nebraska
 
Nebraska
 
Iowa
 
Nebraska
 
Iowa
 
Nebraska
 
Iowa
 
Nebraska
ASU at Arizona  
Arizona
 
Arizona
 
Arizona
 
Arizona
 
Arizona
 
ASU
 
Arizona
 
Arizona
ND at SoCal  
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
Last Week  
6-4
 
2-8
 
3-7
 
6-4
 
N/A
 
4-6
 
4-6
 
5-5
Total Record  
81-49
 
67-63
 
61-69
 
81-49
 
61-59
 
74-56
 
72-58
 
70-60

 


 
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Feast Week/Rivalry Week never disappoints...and it's underway



We’re headed west on a family trip to Colorado as Thanksgiving week begins. Otherwise known as "Feast Week" to a college hoops junkie - one of the best weeks of roundball all season. 

I won’t be feasting on quite as much hoops as usual due to being all over the greater Denver and Boulder area visiting family and taking our kids on adventures that aren’t at our fingertips in the Upstate. 

But it’s not lost on me that besides Feast Week, this is also rivalry week in college football. Otherwise known locally as Clemson-Carolina week or more specifically as “battle-lines-are-drawn-and-vitriol-reigns-surpreme-between-Tigers-and-Gamecocks-fans week.”

That self-described monicker is a bit long but you get the picture. There’s a small slice of me that’s glad I’ll miss the nastiness everywhere from, grocery stores to the carpool line at school to work and of course tailgates decorating the landscape around Death Valley on Saturday. 

There’s also a large piece of me that hates to miss such a week we’re only lucky to enjoy once a year. While it’s not Army-Navy (the greatest single rivalry in all of college sports), this week is special because of the passion involved between the two fans bases. 

On Black Friday, I’m going to take in a local Rocky Mountain rivalry between the No. 22 Colorado State (10-1) and the host Air Force Falcons (8-3) in Colorado Springs. Head coach Jim McElwain’s Rams are positioned to sneak into one of the “New Years’s Day Bowls” with a win over the Academy and a Boise State loss.  

I’m excited to catch up with former Furman standout and current AFA offensive line coach Clay Hendrix. I’m also pumped to see McElwain’s revitalization of the CSU program in person as well as stud QB Garrett Grayson (29 TDs, 5 INTs) and five-star Alabama transfer Dee Hart (1,139 yards rushing, 6.9 yards/carry, 16 TDs). The two have teamed up to form a powerful one-two punch for the Rams in the Mountain West. 

I’ve never been to a Buffs game in Boulder and may wander over for some of the Colorado-Utah game depending on the game time and outcome of other rivalry games, including UK-UofL, the Iron Bowl and Georgia-Georgia Tech. 

But back to an outstanding week of hoops as several of the annual holiday tourneys that got underway yesterday led by the Maui Invitational. No. 3 Arizona is the favorite in Maui, a field comprised of primarily teams from the West and Midwest. No. 15 San Diego State needed 2OT to get past BYU last night and is Zona’s likely opponent in the Maui final. But Sean Miller’s team has a big time test in the first semifinal tonight against Bruce Weber’s deepest and most talented Kansas State team. 

Nothing screams loaded more than the Battle 4 Atlantis field, as four ranked teams (including two in the top 5) get things started tomorrow at Imperial Arena in the Bahamas. While it may be a converted hotel ballroom, this tourney has quickly become one of if not THE best of all the holiday classics. 

Led by Big Ten preseason Player of the Year, No. 2 Wisconsin opens with UAB followed by a semifinal against the No. 18 Florida-Georgetown winner. The Gators are down to just six scholarship players with starters Dorian Finney-Smith and Eli Carter not expected to play. On the other side of the bracket, No. 22 UCLA gets Lon Kruger’s well-coached Oklahoma Sooners to start. The winner will advance to face either No. 5 UNC or the undefeated Butler Bulldogs.

(Man, how I’d LOVE to get a Wisky-UNC matahcup in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game Friday afternoon at 4:30 pm.)

Formerly the Old Spice Classic now the Orlando Classic at Disney, Champions Classic losers last week No. 11 Kansas and No. 20 Michigan State are the cream of the crop and likely to meet in Sunday’s title game at the Milk House.  There’s too many unknowns rounding out the field with Marquette, Tennessee, Rider and Georgia Tech possible spoilers. 

This week is a college sports fan’s absolute dream with the football-basketball crossover all the way thru Sunday evening. Enjoy it…I know I’m going to. Cheers from Colorado and Happy Thanksgiving!





 
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Top 25: The good, the bad and the meh




Note: Richard Breen is a longtime journalist who has covered high school and college football, as well as professional baseball, for daily newspapers and their websites. His weekly Top 25 is intended to be a thought-provoking look at who is enjoying success in the win-loss column.

We'll be posting his personal Top 25 every week, the rest of the way thru the college football season. Enjoy because it's not your every day Top 25!



The good, the bad and the meh
FSU escapes again, but what to make of BC?

1. Florida State 11-0 (1)*
2. Alabama 10-1 (2)
3. Oregon 10-1 (3)
4. Mississippi State 10-1 (5)
5. Ohio State 10-1 (6)
6. Texas Christian 9-1 (4)
7. Baylor 9-1 (7)
8. Marshall 11-0 (8)
9. UCLA 9-2 (9)
10. Arizona State 9-2 (11)
11. Georgia 9-2 (10)
12. Missouri 9-2 (12)
13. Wisconsin 9-2 (16)
14. Georgia Tech 9-2 (13)
15. Arizona 9-2 (15)
16. Boise State 9-2 (17)
17. Colorado State 10-1 (18)
18. Michigan State 9-2 (19)
19. Auburn 8-3 (20)
20. Kansas State 8-2 (25)
21. Mississippi 8-3 (14)      
22. Louisville 8-3 (UN)       
23. Clemson 8-3 (UN)        
24. Minnesota 8-3 (UN)     
25. Northern Illinois 9-2 (UN)
* – previous ranking in parentheses
 
Fell out:  Southern Cal (21), Nebraska (22), Utah (23), Duke (24)

100 words of insight: The game between Florida State and Boston College brought up an important, and complicated, aspect of ranking teams. That is: How do you account for teams you thought were meh but turn out to be good, and vice versa? At first, Southern Cal’s loss in Boston seemed like a bad loss to a meh team, but BC is better than expected. So what does that say about one-loss Colorado State, who beat BC in Boston? And two-loss Boise State, who beat CSU? Meanwhile, FSU’s win over Oklahoma State is looking less good and more meh. Like I said, it’s complicated.

 
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ESPN Upstate's Week 13 college football picks



Since when did the SEC decide to make the weekend before Thanksgiving "Exhibition Saturday?"

Yeah, I know next Saturday is rivalry weekend and all. But is it really necessary to schedule FCS schools this late in the season? I know it’s every program’s God-given right to schedule as they see fit. 

I also know that the SEC has given us several outstanding weekends of college football that made every other Power 5 conference jealous. However, here are the laughers ahead tomorrow:

Western Carolina at Alabama (4 pm, SEC Network)
Samford at Auburn (7 pm, ESPNU)
Eastern Kentucky at Florida (12 noon, SEC Network)
Charleston Southern at Georgia (12 noon, SEC Network)
South Alabama at South Carolina (12 noon, ESPN3)

So let’s all go ahead and thank the Pac-12 for continuing to play on with the best slate of games this weekend. It’s the start of rivalry games (with respect to last night’s UNC-Duke game) with No. 19 Southern Cal traveling across town to face the No. 9 UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl (8 pm, ABC).

Jim Mora Jr.’s team has their second, four-game winning streak of the season hosting their Trojan rivals. A CFB Playoff darkhorse by many to start the season, a UCLA win would likely earn the Bruins a rematch against No. 2 Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game, provided they don’t stumble against Stanford in their regular season finale. 

Speaking of the Cardinal, it’s probably the only game between a pair of 5-5 teams that I’d even remotely consider watching, but Stanford and Cal will renew their Bay Area rivalry this weekend in Berkeley (4 pm, Fox Sports). It’s one of the fiercest and most underrated in the country…you know what rivalry games do…(I’m gonna spare you the cheesy cliche).

Rich Rod’s No. 15 Arizona squad heads to Sack Lake City to try and upend the pesky No. 17 Utah Utes. Utah has lost two of their last three and needed double OT to get by Stanford in Palo Alto last weekend. The Wildcats used a game-winning FG to upend visiting Washington, but this should be one of the day’s best games tomorrow. 

I won’t waste time talking about Clemson or Carolina’s cakewalks tomorrow.

Have you ever heard on the radio or TV “never argue with a producer?” Couldn’t be more true in our ESPN Upstate staff picks as our two producer extra-ordinaires are kicking everyone’s tail and know far more about college football than the rest of us. Case and point, look at Lonzo and Angry Zack lapping the field below. 

It’s ugly but we’ll march on for another couple weeks as the regular season comes to a close and ends the misery for some of us like me (until college basketball picking begins). Here’s where we stand…

 
Week 12 Zack Greg Jackson Lonzo Mark H. Mike S. Price Sturg
K-State at WVU  
WVU
 
WVU
 
K-State
 
K-State
 
 
 
K-State
 
K-State
 
WVU
UNC at Duke  
Duke
 
Duke
 
Duke
 
Duke
 
 
 
Duke
 
Duke
 
UNC
SoCal at UCLA  
UCLA
 
UCLA
 
UCLA
 
UCLA
 
 
 
UCLA
 
UCLA
 
UCLA
Arizona at Utah  
Arizona
 
Utah
 
Utah
 
Utah
 
 
 
Utah
 
Utah
 
Arizona
Minn at Nebraska  
Minn
 
Nebraska
 
Nebraska
 
Minn
 
 
 
Nebraska
 
Nebraska
 
Nebraska
UofL at ND  
ND
 
ND
 
ND
 
UofL
 
 
 
UofL
 
ND
 
UofL
Mary at Michigan  
Michigan
 
Michigan
 
Michigan
 
Michigan
 
 
 
Maryland
 
Michigan
 
Michigan
Stanford at Cal  
Stanford
 
Cal
 
Stanford
 
Stanford
 
 
 
Cal
 
Stanford
 
Cal
Mizzou at Tenn  
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
 
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Mizzou
Oregon St at Wash  
Wash
 
Wash
 
OSU
 
Wash
 
 
 
OSU
 
Wash
 
OSU
Last Week  
6-4
 
7-3
 
3-7
 
5-5
 
6-4
 
5-5
 
8-2
 
5-5
Total Record  
75-45
 
65-55
 
58-62
 
75-45
 
61-59
 
70-50
 
68-52
 
65-55

 


 
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