Saturday, January 4, 2014

Orange Bowl Thriller

O-H My Goodness! 


Clemson stepped back into the National spotlight last night once again with a major opportunity to prove their worth and redeem themselves from their last trip down to South Beach. The Tigers were embarrassed in that game against West Virginia, 70-33 and up until last night were at the wrong end of jokes and one-liners poking fun at the Clemson defense. Last night though, it was the Tigers that got the last laugh as Clemson stitched their name into Orange Bowl history greatness surviving a thriller over #7 Ohio State, 40-35 in front of a 70,000 plus+ Buckeye dominated crowd in Sun Life Stadium. 

It was a much anticipated match-up that the entire country was looking forward to and most fans knew that we would be in for a high scoring thriller and the game certainly did not disappoint. From the first drive of the game where Tajh Boyd scampered down field for a 48 yard score to the late interception by linebacker Stephone Anthony that sealed the deal, this game had fans on the edge of their seat. Ironically, that is just how the game ended the last time these time these two teams met up. Luckily, this time no punches were thrown towards Clemson players, however the same can't be said for the whiteboard in the Buckeye lockerroom. Boyd's early touchdown run was matched on the next series by OSU's Braxton Miller on a touchdown drive that should have never happened. OSU took advantage of a fake punt and a unsportsmanlike penalty called on Vic Beasley following a sack of Miller, and kept driving down the field and made the Tigers pay for their mistakes. However, Clemson would turn the heat up on Miller and stay in his face all night long and the defense would prove it wasn't the same as it was two years ago forcing four turnovers on the night and putting a pretty serious hurting on dual threat QB Braxton Miller keeping him under control for the most part.No doubt in my mind Miller woke up this morning feeling the pain from last night's physical game. The Tigers were stellar on third down unlike in their previous game against South Carolina and only allowed the Buckeyes to convert on 2 out of their 13 third down conversions and once again played with a "bend but don't break" mentality and came up with stops when it mattered the most. 

In what was almost certainly Sammy Watkins last game in a Clemson uniform, the wide out from Florida showed out and reminded me of the Sammy we saw his freshmen year. It was clear from the start that the Tigers wanted to get him as many touches as possible and he came up bigger than ever for his team setting a new Orange Bowl record and becoming the All-Time receptions leader for Clemson as well with 16 catches for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Florida native played his heart out and gave Clemson nation his all in his likely curtain call as a Tiger. Tajh Boyd's night wasn't too shabby either as the senior answered the call and proved he could win a big time game on the national stage and really only had two bad plays the entire night, both were interceptions. The first came deep in Buckeye territory and the second late in the game had Clemson fans on the brink of cardiac arrest. He finished with a great stat line going 31-40 for 378 yards and 5 TDs and also added 127 yards rushing and another score on the ground to lead the Tigers.

 The Clemson defense once again did their part and the Clemson offense simply couldn't be stopped, although the refs did their best to derail the Tiger offense. Never in my life have I seen so many holding calls in a game and the fact that they missed one of the easiest calls of the entire night on Ohio State's offense against Vic Beasley while it was literally right in front of them is simply baffling to me. I still haven't figured out the call in which we were stopped short on fourth down but got the first down (or so we thought) via a late hit penalty on Ohio State. The play was reviewed, (which I also don't understand as he appeared to be clearly short) and when it was all said and done, it was the Buckeyes football and the penalty was basically taken back like it never occurred. But I digress on that one, glad we got the win and don't have to see these refs on a regular basis and hopefully ever again. They were bad. Really, really bad. The Tigers not only took down one of the best offenses in the country, they put up some pretty impressive numbers themselves finishing with 576 total yards. Boyd played arguably the best game of his career and lead his team like a true leader should. He was composed and focused and put the ball where his play makers could go up and take advantage of this well over matched Buckeye secondary. From Watkins to Bryant, to Williams, Hopper and Leggett, there was simply too much for Ohio State to handle. 

For Clemson fans, the best part of the night (following the win of course) had to be when Swinney fired back at Spurrier who took a shot at the Tigers following the Gamecocks win over Wisconsin on New Years Day saying "Two Capital One Bowl Championships are good but that State Championship is pretty nice too!" Swinney trolled on Spurrier and company during his trophy presentation as well noting that the Tigers are the first team to win (and even PLAY, for that matter) in a BCS Bowl. I loved it especially since I had been getting text messages from Carolina fans since the 1st quarter. I thought after the game I would be in the clear but actually STILL had Gamecocks tweeting and texting me running their mouth...I honestly couldn't stop laughing. Nice try Coots, but we are going to be enjoying this one for a while AND WE SHOULD! You guys have our number right now in the rivalry but South Carolina had absolutely NOTHING to do with OUR game last night. So please, exit stage left.

I'm so proud of this team and this season. 11 wins yet again and now our first BCS Bowl Championship. This senior class has restored the ROAR in Clemson, SC and great things are ahead for this program if they can remained focused. Last night the guys proved they belong to be discussed among the top teams in College Football and shut the door not only on Ohio State's offense but also in the face of all the press,media and fans across the nation that have been trolling Clemson since their lost to West Virginia on that very same field two years prior. If you are the type that loves stats, especially surprising ones, check this out: Clemson became the FIRST team to beat Ohio State when they've scored at least 35 points. Read that last sentence again, its not a typo. The Buckeyes are now 279-1-1 when scoring 35 or more points. The tie came back in 1978 in a 35-35 game with SMU. The Tigers also handed Urban Meyer his first BCS game loss and only his second loss since he arrived in Columbus last season. I wonder if Clemson fans will still be hearing about THESE stats for the next two years. Doubt it, I highly doubt it. But the future is bright for Clemson football and I'm already fired up for the 2014 season opener in Athens against Georgia. Clemson stepped up big last night and captured a win that was 32 years in the making. 32. We deserve to enjoy this one for a while and trust and believe that we will do just that! Go Tigers...2014 Orange Bowl Champions!! 




Monday, December 23, 2013

Life After Tajh

Its almost that time. We have only 60 minutes left to watch Tajh Boyd play in a Clemson uniform. Its been quite the roller coaster ride full of ups and downs but at the end of the day #10 will go down as one of the All-Time Clemson greats and rightfully so. He's gone above and beyond what I personally expected out of him and has taken Clemson to the next level and made the Tigers a serious threat in the ACC and beyond. He has come a long, long way from his first days at Clemson. I was there and saw Boyd try, but come up short in rallying his team to a victory over South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. I was there and saw the empty seats and lack of spirit and enthusiasm from both the Clemson football team and the fans. I read the stories and message boards of Tiger nation and their reactions to our first losing season in 11 years. It was a depressing and difficult time to be a Clemson fan. I remember it like it was yesterday. But things would quickly turn around. Boyd went back to the drawing board and went to work. And the next year he led the Tigers to an impressive 8-0 start (cue the "Shock the World Tour") and some believed that this might finally be the Tiger's year and they would be the Cinderella team of 2011. I was back in Bank of America Stadium later that season to watch him lead the Tigers to an ACC Championship in convincing fashion on the very same field the Tigers played for a meaningless bowl game trophy the season before. I saw Clemson fans coming out of the woodwork after that game only to see them jump right off the bandwagon and once again throw Boyd under the bus (just as they did following the Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and South Carolina games that season) following the 70-33 loss in the Orange Bowl to West Virginia. His performance in big games became a serious concern.

Then I watched him go back to work yet again in the off-season dropping a few pounds and adding some muscle and speed that clearly made him a more dangerous threat heading into the 2012 campaign. Now, not only did you have to worry about his arm strength but him lowering the shoulder and running more often giving the opposing defense one more thing to worry about. We watched as he made countless "home-run" type plays placing the ball perfectly for guys like Deandre Hopkins, Brandon Ford, and Sammy Watkins to go up and make plays. Clemson's offense became one of the most explosive in the country and as a Tiger fan, it was a thrill to watch our offense work under offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Of course 2012 had its low points as well. A disappointing finish against both Florida State and South Carolina had many believing Boyd simply couldn't win the "big ones". Boyd answered many of those questions and proved all the experts and nay-sayers wrong with his performance against LSU in the Chic-Fil-A Bowl and led the Tigers to unbelievable come-from-behind victory over #8 LSU. His progression and maturity as a football player shined Bright Like a Diamond that night. (Yes, I just went there. Sue me.) Even Boyd himself left the Georgia dome that night believing he had played his last game in a Tiger uniform and was ready for the NFL after an overall solid season.

Luckily for Clemson, not only did Boyd return for his senior year, but so did offensive coordinator Chad Morris who appeared to be the leading candidate for the head coaching position at Texas Tech. However, the Red Raiders chose former Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury and Clemson nation led out a collective sigh of relief. The Tigers brought all the momentum in the world into their 2013 season opening showdown with long time rival, Georgia, in a top ten battle that would have instant BCS implications. Boyd again rose to the occasion and led his team to victory to become to the first non-SEC team to defeat two ranked SEC opponents in consecutive games. Boyd has re-written the Clemson record books and has earned his right to not only the Clemson hall of fame but will surely be honored by the ACC the future as well.

Now we have only 60 minutes left of seeing #10 play for Clemson. Its been a wild ride full of program defining wins and heartbreaking losses. Boyd has helped changed the perception of Clemson football and "Clemsoning". The Tigers are 31-8 with Tajh has their starter. Impressive to say the least, however, those losses include 3 to South Carolina as a starter. (Kyle Parker started the 2010 game and played until the 2nd half) Yup, arguably the best QB in Clemson history never took down the Gamecocks and that will leave a lingering blemish on his otherwise sparkling career as a Tiger. One thing is for sure, regardless of what happens against Ohio State, Boyd deserves a warm standing ovation when he walks off the field for the final time on January 3rd. He has helped turn around this program and we would not be where we are today with the services and dedication from #10. So on behalf of Tiger nation, Tajh Boyd, THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

That being said, its time to start preparing for life after Tajh. The good news is the Tigers already have two talented and competitive replacements in Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly. In their limited playing time this season in "clean-up" duty, we have seen flashes of potential from both quarterbacks and I can't wait to see how this plays out through spring ball and fall camp leading up to another season opener against Georgia, this time "Between the Hedges" in Athens, GA. In my opinion, Stoudt would have to be the early favorite heading into the off-season. Although Chad Kelly should (and will) be right on his heels.


And speaking of Georgia, we have another guy named Deshuan Watson a 6-3, 190 QB out of Gainesville, GA that will also be in the mix and is expected to be the next great Clemson quarterback. He will challenge both Stoudt and Kelly from day one. He is ranked the #1 dual threat QB coming out of the 2014 class and will be on campus in January. Watson is nursing an MCL injury suffered in his last High School game and although it won't require surgery, he will under go rehab in the coming months in order to be ready for spring practice. One thing is for sure, the competition for the starting job will be intense. All three want nothing more than to be the starter for the season opener and have the potential to do so. Chad Morris noted during interviews last week that Bowl Practice is an early look into who will have the edge heading into spring practice. He is pushing all three to play at a high level. We will miss Tajh Boyd but it appears that next year Clemson will not be rebuilding, but simply reloading. It is going to be fun to watch it all pan out.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bowl Predictions

Capital One Bowl
January 1, 2014--Orlando, Florida 1pm EST 

#9 South Carolina (10-2) vs #19 Wisconsin (9-3) 

The Gamecocks enter this match-up riding a five game winning streak and are looking for their third straight 11 win season in Columbia. South Carolina QB Conner Shaw has left his mark on the Gamecock football program and will look to go out on the winning side when he takes the field against Wisconsin. Shaw has been impressive again this season completing 61% of his passes for 21 touchdowns and only 1 interception this year. You'd be hard pressed to find a ratio that solid anywhere in the country. Mike Davis has led the way on the ground for Carolina with 1134 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. The Gamecocks haven't always blown  the competition, but when it came down to the wire, more times than not, they found a way to get the job done. The Gamecocks were 4-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season. Wisconsin hasn't drawn too much attention throughout this season but definitely deserve all of South Carolina's respect. The Badgers have a solid rushing attack and average 283 yards per game ranking 8th in the nation. They average nearly 36 points per game and are a stingy group on defense giving up only 14.8 points per game. A Top QB-RB duo in Joel Stave who has tossed for over 2,000 yards this season (20 TDs, 12 INTs) and Melvin Gordon who is closing in on a 1500 yard season with 1466 yards entering the bowl game and 12 touchdowns lead the way. The Badgers handled two top 25 teams with relative ease in #19 Northwestern (35-6) and #25 Minnesota (20-7) and gave Ohio State all they could handle on the road in Columbus before falling to the Buckeyes 31-24. I could see this one going either way but give the ever-so-slight advantage to Shaw and the Gamecocks. They've found a way to win close games and they get it done on New Years Day. 

The Pick: South Carolina 


FedEx Orange Bowl 
January 3, 2014--Miami, Florida 8:30pm EST

#12 Clemson (10-2) vs #7 Ohio State (12-1) 


Both teams enter this game looking to redeem themselves from their previous performance. The Tigers had six (!!!!) turnovers against the Gamecocks and couldn't seem to get out of their own way in their regular season finale loss in Columbia. Ohio State's last outing didn't turn out so well either and the Buckeyes were horrible on third down covering on only 1 of 10 against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship. Both of these teams have explosive offenses. Ohio State is fourth in the country in scoring offense putting up 46 points per game and the Tigers aren't too far behind with 40.2 per game. Along with high powered offenses, both teams also have suspect defenses. Clemson simply didn't have an answer for Winston and the Seminoles who dropped 51 on the Tigers and Conner Shaw had his way against Brent Venables' defense. That should scare the daylights out of Clemson fans. With all due respect to Conner Shaw, if we couldn't slow him down its going to be even more difficult to stop the rushing attack of not one, but TWO 1,000 yard rushers in QB Braxton Miller and RB Carlos Hyde. However, Ohio State's defense has also had some major issues especially in the pass defense department which keeps this game way more interesting and scary for Buckeye fans. In their last two games, the Buckeyes gave up 755 yards combined through the air. If you've watched the Tigers at all this season you know they have a wealth of big play receivers and you better believe Clemson will take shots down field early and often and challenge this Buckeye defense. I'm also interested to see what the Tigers can do on the ground. If and that is a big if, Clemson establishes a running game early and Boyd is able to tuck it and run and pick up 4, 5, or even 6 yards here and there, that will open up the passing game and I like our chances and match-ups against Ohio State's defensive backs.

I think this game is going to be a shootout. While I'm not convinced Ohio State has played  (and beat) a quality opponent, the same could be argued for the Tigers. I think this game comes down to who can up with that big turnover that gives their team an extra possession that could be the difference in this high scoring frenzy. Clemson will be playing with a chip on their shoulder and looking to redeem themselves from not only the 70-33 loss to West Virginia in Miami two years ago but their two embarrassing losses this year to Florida State and South Carolina...the only two teams that defeated Clemson last season as well. Bottom line is I think there is more uncertainty on the Tiger sideline. What team will show up in Miami? The one that took down UGA? How bout the team that was down 17-0 against FSU before some fans even got to their seats? Only time will tell. That being said, I have to go with the Buckeyes in a close one. 

The Pick: Ohio State


BCS National Championship
January 6, 2014--Pasadena, California (8:30pm) EST

#1 Florida State (13-0) vs #2 Auburn (12-1) 

I don't believe there is a single person in the WORLD who had these two teams meeting up in Pasadena but if you've watched this wacky season of college football, this match-up should no surprise you. Florida State has cruised through this season with ease and have been dominant every time they stepped on the field. The Seminoles are 2nd the nation in points scored with 53 per game and on defense they are 1st in the nation allowing only 10.7 points per game. Freshmen sensation and Heisman winner Jamies Winston has been phenomenal but has had quite the supporting cast as well. The Seminoles have NFL-ready talent at nearly every single position on the field and have a head coach that is quickly on the rise and is on pace to be among the greatest to ever coach at Florida State. Auburn has been the comeback team of the year. The Auburn Tigers were just 3-9 last year and now they are 12-1 and are 60 minutes away from capturing another National Championship. Gus Malzhan has been simply amazing and his Tigers have found the most improbable ways to win this season. In back-to-back games to conclude the regular season, Auburn scored in the final moments of the game to win. Some would call it luck, and they would be right. However, some times its better to be lucky than to be good. Auburn however has proved its not only lucky, but a great football team and they have earned their trip to Pasadena, make no mistake about it. Florida State on the other hand could be more questionable. Yes they have been absolutely dominant, but their level of competition is not even in the same ball park as Auburn. (SEC! SEC! SEC!....happy now?) That being said, Auburn is a very predictable team. They literally run the same handful of plays time and time again at you. I guess you could say that they bore you and put you to sleep with it then catch you napping and hit you with the big play. With plenty of time to prepare and break down film, I think this FSU defense will be well prepared for Tre Mason and company and will make them fight for every yard. I'm by no means an ACC homer but if there was ever time for me to pull for the ACC against the SEC, its now. I think Winston and the Seminoles get the job done in Pasadena by a touchdown. 

The Pick: Florida State


Other Picks:  

Chic-Fil-A Bowl:  #24 Duke (10-3) over #21 Texas A&M (8-4)
Gator Bowl: #22 Georgia (8-4) over Nebraska (8-4) 
Alamo Bowl: #10 Oregon (10-2) over Texas (8-4) 
Outback Bowl: #16 LSU (9-3) over Iowa (8-4) 
Cotton Bowl: #8 Missouri (11-2) over #13 Oklahoma St (10-2) 
Rose Bowl: #4 Michigan St (12-1) over #5 Stanford (11-2)
Fiesta Bowl: #15 UCF (11-1) over #6 Baylor (11-1) 
Sugar Bowl: #3 Alabama (11-1) over #11 Oklahoma (10-2) 




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Redemption

As most of us expected, Clemson was selected by the Orange Bowl to represent the ACC taking the place of Florida State who will square off against Auburn for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena, California January 6, 2014. The Tigers will take on #6 Ohio State down in Miami on January 3rd and will seek to redeem themselves from their last trip to South Beach. I don't think I have to remind you (but I will anyway) of the 70-33 woodshed beating put on my Tigers by West Virginia two years ago in Miami. After that loss, Coach Dabo Swinney promised Clemson nation that it wouldn't take another 31 years for the Tigers to return to the Orange Bowl and just two years later he has followed through on his promise. Although Clemson fans would have obviously liked to win the ACC outright, I don't think you will find many Tiger fans complaining about where Tajh Boyd and company will be spending the holiday season.

Clemson has a great opportunity standing before them next month. If the Tigers hope to redeem themselves from their last appearance in Miami and also ease the sting of last month's loss to rival South Carolina, this is a game they have to win. A win over #6 Ohio State would not only be a great ending to this season but would go a long way in proving the Tigers are truly a BCS worthy team and are ready to take that next step. However, it won't come easy. Urban Meyer is in his second year as the head coach of the Buckeyes and has an impressive 24-1 record in Columbus. The Buckeyes have two 1,000 yard rushers in QB Braxton Miller and RB Carlos Hyde and have big, physical players all over the field, many of which will likely be playing on Sundays later in their career. When you sit down and view the teams side-by-side, there are actually quite a few similarities. Both teams have high powered offenses that can light up the scoreboard and beat you in a variety of different ways. However, both the Buckeyes and Tigers have some significant areas of concern on defense, specifically in the secondary. That being said, I think we could very well be headed towards a high scoring affair in Miami and it should be an exciting game.

Tajh Boyd has basically re-written the Clemson record books but has struggled in big-time games and will leave Clemson having never beaten South Carolina. His legacy and draft stock will be heavily affected by the outcome of the Orange Bowl and you have to think that Boyd would want nothing more than to end his career with a BCS bowl victory over the Buckeyes and will leave it all out on the field. It's going to be a great opportunity for Clemson to make a statement on the national stage. Will they rise to the occasion? Or will it be the same old story yet again? Only time will tell but you really can't stress just how big this game is for the Tigers. Not only would it be big to end the season with a signature win and help with recruiting but it would be a great springboard for the 2014 season. Although the Tigers lose some key guys on offense including Tajh Boyd, Roderick McDowell and (most likely) Sammy Watkins, Clemson will be more-so reloading, rather than rebuilding next year. The defense should be even better next year and potentially be among the best in the country. Many people don't realize that Clemson led the nation in a quite a few defensive categories during the duration of the season. Once the smoke clears at the QB position, the Tigers should also be in pretty good shape offensively. To get to the point, a win in Miami along with all the returners coming back and a solid recruiting class could have the Tigers preseason ranked in the top 5 heading into the fall of 2014. But lets just take things one at a time. And for now that means focusing on Ohio State and playing what will have to be their best game of the season to take down Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.  




Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rivalry Week


Its that time of the year again! Rivalry week has arrived! While most of the nation will have their eyes set upon the Auburn-Alabama showdown, there is another pretty big rivalry game going on down in Columbia, SC. Two top ten teams will face off under the lights in Williams-Brice Stadium where the Gamecocks have won 17 straight and currently hold the record for longest (active) home game winning streak. Much of that success can be attributed to Conner Shaw. The guy just has that unmatched will to win and when he's on the field no matter how healthy he is, you know you're gonna get 100% from him every play. From a Clemson fan perspective, he is easily the most well respected Gamecock QB I have watched. Gets it done on the field, he is a great leader, stays out of trouble and represents his team and university well. Strictly business from him and I respect that to the utmost degree. 

This rivalry doesn't get the national attention it deserves but its quickly on the rise. Saturday will be the first EVER meeting of top ten ranked teams between the Gamecocks and Tigers. Although recent times have been not-so-memorable for Clemson fans, its been fun to see this rivalry become relevant on the national stage. In the "old days" (remember, I'm just 21 years old) South Carolina and Clemson alike would be fighting for that 8th/9th win and a respectable bowl trip. Fast forward to now, both have been contenders for conference titles and now both teams almost "expect" to have 10-win seasons. Incredible to see how times have changed and in short period of time. Both of these programs are on the rise and I'm thrilled to see this rivalry continue to grow. This is THE game of the year in this state and is talked about 365 days a year. Spurrier and Swinney have been taking shots at each other since June and July. This is truly a heated and year-long rivalry. For the Tigers, Saturday is, simply put....a must-win. Clemson has had to listen to the criticism and jokes for four years straight now. It has been a long and tough four years. A LONG, LONG, FOUR YEARS. Its time to reclaim the dominance in this rivalry. Is this the year the Tigers get the job done and take down South Carolina? Only time will tell but both fan bases should take the time to enjoy this special era of this rivalry with both teams recent success. This won't last forever and might not ever happen again. So be sure to step back and enjoy the greatness of this moment, no matter who you cheer for. 

PREDICTIONS: 


#1 Alabama vs #4 Auburn

The Iron Bowl is bigger than ever this year....at least from a hype standpoint. This year's game features a top 5 showdown. The winner earns a trip to the SEC Championship to take on either Missouri or South Carolina. The game also has BCS title game implications. Auburn has been the comeback team of the year after winning only three games in 2012 topped off by a 49-0 woodshed beating from Alabama. This year the Tigers are much improved. However, I don't think it will make a difference. Auburn needed a fluke Hail Mary to hold off the rally from a struggling UGA squad that has lost just about every significant piece of their offense at some point or another this season. Auburn does have the home-field advantage going for them but not sure how much they will actually have to cheer about. Auburn 's offense is pretty simple and they run basically the same 6-7 plays at you. Granted they are very good at executing these plays...from a game-planning standpoint, you know exactly what Auburn is going to try and do. Nick Saban was created for games like these and I think his guys come out and show why they are the #1 team in the nation. Roll Tide, Roll!

The Pick: Alabama 41 Auburn 21 



#2 Florida State vs Florida 

This game barely even deserves any discussion at all. Florida has had a horrible season plagued by injuries and ineffective coaching. I like Will Muschamp and I hope Florida AD Jeremy Foley stands by his world and gives Muschamp a chance to get this ship sailing in the right direction. However, after last week's lost to Georgia Southern (!!!!) at home, Gator country is...not pleased about the condition of the program right now and rightfully so. Jamies Winston is probably the best player I've ever seen in person and off the field issues aside, he has been extremely impressive so far this year. That being said, I'm interested to see how he matches up against a solid defense like the one he will likely face in the national championship...assuming the Seminoles and Crimson Tide handle their business these next two weekends. As for this game, even with it being in the Swamp and even with it being a rivalry game and all...I just don't see the Gators standing a chance of even holding the Seminoles under 40 points. We saw the effects of having a 3rd string QB under-center last weekend....this one is just gonna be downright ugly.

The Pick: Florida State 56 Florida 10




Georgia @ Georgia Tech

Both teams enter this year with a record of (7-4, 5-3) and are looking to end the season on a positive note. Its been quite the year for the Bulldogs who had dreams of a BCS title this year. However, a season opening loss to Clemson and key injuries to Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell and most recently, QB Aaron Murray have crippled their offense, literally. Its been a devastating year for the Dawgs and it seemed to be one thing after another in Athens this year. However with Gurley back healthy I would have to give the Bulldogs the edge here. The yellow jackets are 5th in the nation in rushing yards and their option-based offense can be extremely tricky. However, Vad Lee is pretty atrocious at throwing the football...probably why they don't air it out too often. Despite the losses they have suffered including Aaron Murray who tore his ACL last weekend, I still think UGA is the better team of the two and they will make it known. Hutson Mason is now the man in Athens...will be interesting to see how he responds.

The Pick: Georgia 31 Georgia Tech 21 



#6 Clemson @ #10 South Carolina 


Preview: 

Clemson (10-1, 7-1) vs South Carolina (9-2, 6-2) 
Columbia, SC--Williams Brice Stadium 7pm ESPN2 

This year's game is HUGE. Plain and simple. South Carolina has had the Tigers number the past four years and have dominated Clemson. The Gamecocks game plan hasn't been a complicated one. On defense, expect South Carolina to bring some pressure and try to sniff out the running game and more importantly, try to rattle Tajh Boyd who hasn't played so well against the Gamecocks. On offense they are going to try and establish the running game early and set up the play-action pass and attack this Tiger secondary who will be without Safety Travis Blanks who suffered a torn ACL last weekend against the Citadel. One of the major keys to this game will be the line of scrimmage. South Carolina has won that battle the past few years and last year the Tigers had no answer for Clowney who recorded 4.5 sacks in Death Valley. The Tigers are going to have to step up and be physical up front on both sides of the ball. Conner Shaw can beat you through the air or on the ground. If he has success running the ball early... it could be a long night for the guys in Orange and White. If Boyd can get comfortable in the pocket and Clemson can establish some success in the running game, the Tigers will have a much better chance at escaping Williams-Brice with a victory. Another key to the game is time of possession. The Gamecocks held the ball for 39:58 of the game last year compared to 20:02 for the Tigers. (That is pure domination) In 2011, South Carolina held the ball for 37:17 compared to Clemson's 22:43. In addition, the Tigers have been outscored 124-54 the past four games, each game by double-digits. That being said it will be crucial not only for the Tigers to make stops on third down to end Carolina drives but to also be able to drive the ball against the Gamecocks. Although Clemson will need a few big plays and scoring strikes, being able to use some clock and move the ball will be huge down the stretch. Lastly, the Tigers must win the turnover battle. Conner Shaw has only thrown one interception this year...the Tigers have recorded a interception on defense in every game this year. Conner Shaw is the winningest QB in Gamecock history and had led his school to 17 straight wins at home. Clemson has the third longest road game winning streak in the nation. Something has to give Saturday night...who will rise the occasion? I have a hunch that it will be the supporting cast that plays a big role Saturday night...guys like Brandon Wilds/Nick Jones for South Carolina, and Mike Williams/Zac Brooks for Clemson could be the extra push that makes the difference.

Prediction: 

Overall I think this is the best team Clemson has had heading into game week against the Gamecocks in the past few years. I think the Tigers play much better than they have in recent past against South Carolina and give them all they can handle. However, things have just not came together overall when the Tigers have squared off against the Gamecocks. Clemson is a four point underdog Saturday night but that might be a good thing. Not many people are giving the Tigers the chance Saturday and that could be a motivating factor that plays into the Tigers favor. Boyd is the best QB in Clemson history. He has re-written the record books for Clemson. However, there is one thing he hasn't been able to do...beat Carolina. Fair or not, his legacy will be judged by the results of Saturday's game. I see this game as a true toss up but due to the past few years and with the game being played under the lights in Williams-Brice, its hard to pick against Shaw and the Gamecocks and the coaching advantage of Steve Spurrier. As much as it hurts, I think the streak extends to five straight. Shaw once again finds a way to get it done for his team, but it won't be easy. Prepare for a instant classic as we add another chapter to this great rivalry.

The Pick: South Carolina 31 Clemson 27



Other Predictions: 

#3 Ohio State over Michigan 

#8 Stanford over #25 Notre Dame

#13 Oregon over Oregon State 

#21 Texas A&M over #5 Missouri

#24 Duke over North Carolina 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Keeping The Dream Alive



For those of you that know me personally, you know that since high school I knew I wanted to become a sports journalist and one day make my way to ESPN. However, other than a few internships here and there along with just writing for fun and having friends and family read my "articles" I hadn't really taken that next step to make my dreams a reality. In May of 2012, I decided I would start this blog. At first I wasn't sure how I wanted to organize it, how often I would post and what content it would include. I've discussed just about everything at some point or another...NFL, NBA, Golf, Tennis, MLB, and College Baseball. However, nothing has been more fun than writing about college football and more specifically, my Clemson Tigers. Its now been a year and 6 months since this blog was born and I can honestly say its been one of the best choices I've ever made. 

Things started off slow with only a few views a week, mainly from friends and family via a link on Facebook. Not too long after I got the blog up and running I decided to start a twitter account  (@CHallSportsTalk) which would be, unofficially, linked to my blog where I would tweet about sports, converse with other "sports geeks" and media outlets to help build my network and simply learn from others and become a better writer. Little by little, I got better and started posting more often and drawing larger audiences. 

The past year has been simply amazing. Thanks to my blog I've made my way onto the radio three times with two different stations, been offered a few jobs with various sports media outlets and I have readers all over the globe including Russia, China, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Malaysia, South Korea,
Indonesia, Lativa, and Pakistan. Also, one of my tweets made collegespun.com 's "Top 10 college football tweets of the day" list last November.

At the beginning of this season, I set out a goal to double by page view number and surpass 5,000 views on my blog before the end of the football season. Today I'm thrilled to announce I have met that goal. I want to say thank YOU, the reader for viewing my material week in and week out and giving me feedback and motivation to keep this dream alive. I down play it a lot in face-to-face conversation but nothing makes my day and sometimes even entire week, more than hearing someone tell me they enjoy reading my blog, or strike up a conversation about football or even ask for my thoughts about upcoming games. The support I've received has been unreal at times. 



I hope to keep this thing going strong as long as I can and continue to provide quality content that you guys (and girls) enjoy reading. Its your support, kind gestures and comments that have kept not only this blog but this dream alive. I truly feel like this is what I'm supposed to do and pray I continue to grow as a writer and a person overall. In closing, I again just want to thank all of you for reading and hopefully I can continue to build my audience and keep you guys interested in what I have to say. Its been a fun ride this past year and six months and I'm looking forward to the future and where this dream takes me. One thing is for sure, if and when I make it big...you guys will be the first to hear about it. Thanks again and of course...Go Tigers! 



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Week 12 Predictions

November To Remember

With college football kicking off on Tuesday night, fans were blessed with the chance to watch football Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday last week. It was rather nice if I do say so myself. The big news out of the earlier played games came from out west as #5 Stanford knocked off #2 Oregon 26-20 giving them their second straight win over the Ducks. Baylor took on Oklahoma that same night but had no trouble with the Sooners dominating them by a score of 41-12. That is a 29 point margin of victory over the former #10 team in the nation.  Very impressive! If Baylor was to win out and somehow Alabama or Florida State trip up, Baylor would be right in the mix for a chance to play for a BCS title. The Bears host a 7-3 Texas Tech squad Saturday night in Arlington. Vanderbilt pulled the big upset of the day blowing out Florida in the Swamp and ruining the Gators homecoming festivities, 34-17. Texas A&M survived a shootout with Mississippi State 51-41. Neyland Stadium couldn't slow down Auburn and the Tigers got it done on the road. Over in the ACC, the Coastal division is a mess and Florida State continues to dominate anything that crosses its path. With just a few weeks left in the regular season its now or never for teams to make that final push and make a statement. Its not about how you start but its how you finish....its time to make this November something to remember. I've rambled on enough....lets get to business. 




#23 Miami @ Duke 

Duke is 7-2...let that sink in. If the Blue Devils can knock off the Hurricanes this weekend, they could find themselves making a trip to Charlotte next month to battle FSU for the ACC Championship. Miami is coming off not one but two blowout losses after falling to Logan Thomas and the Hokies last Saturday. Georgia Tech is 1st place in the division but with a road trip to Clemson Thursday night, the opportunity to make a move towards the top of the division is on the table for Duke, Miami and Virginia Tech. I'm gonna put something down in writing I thought I would never say, BUT I'm jumping on the Blue Devil bandwagon. Make it three straight losses for the Canes and give the ACC Coach of the Year trophy to Mr. Cutcliffe for a job well done this year. 

The Pick: Duke


#10 South Carolina vs Florida

The wheels have fallen off in Gainesville. Florida looked like it was a force earlier in the season but a pile of injuries has made life very difficult in Gator country. Things got much worse after Saturday's debacle at home against Vanderbilt. A night game in Columbia with SEC-East title dreams hanging in the balance? Against the Ole Ball Coach's former team? Hard to pick against the Gamecocks, considering the situation. You know Williams Brice will be rocking. NOT SO FAST though....I'm picking South Carolina but they can't come out flat and overlook the struggling Gators. Florida has nothing to lose, and that makes them dangerous regardless of how they have played the past few weeks. 

The Pick: South Carolina 

#7 Auburn vs #25 Georgia 

Another classic SEC showdown between these two rivals. Auburn has had a great turnaround this year and have positioned themselves for a crash-course showdown with rival Alabama to conclude the regular season that will have BCS title implications. Auburn's only loss this year came against LSU back on September 21st. Georgia still has life in the SEC despite its roller-coaster season and a win would not only shake up the BCS picture but make things even more interesting in the East division. Its going to be tough for the Bulldogs to go on the road and pick up the win, but I think they find a way. Yupp, I'm calling for the upset!! 

The Pick: Georgia 


#8 Clemson vs Georgia Tech

We have Thursday night football in Clemson for the first time in over a decade. Not to dismiss the Citadel next week but this will be the Tigers last "real" home game and Boyd's last time playing under the lights in Death Valley. The Tigers have responded well since their woodshed beating from the Seminoles and are as healthy as they've been all season and are playing well at the right time. This rivalry is always an interesting showdown. 12 of the last 18 games have been decided by five points or less including a 6 game streak between 1996-01 when every single game was decided by exactly three points. Defending the option is never an easy task and Clemson will have to play good assignment football every single snap to avoid giving up big plays and keep the yellow jackets in front of them. Do your job and stick to your assignment and the rest should fall into place. I think the defense will rise to the occasion at home and take care of business and the offense does its part as well. Not to mention a prime-time crowd under the lights...Tigers roll. 

The Pick: Clemson 


Other Predictions:


#12 Oklahoma State over #24 Texas

#1 Alabama over Mississippi State 

#2 Florida State over Syracuse 

Virginia Tech over Maryland 

#5 Baylor over Texas Tech