Kenneth Harrison Jr.

Future of College Football Playoff

kenBy: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We’re in year three of the College Football Playoffs and the four teams were announced to play for the National Title. I don’t have a problem with the teams that were picked but it made me stop and think about the selection process.

Some analysts point to Washington (12-1) and say a team with two loses like Penn State or Michigan is more deserving because they played a tougher non-conference schedule. I disagree but I think things should be more uniformed across college football to leave everyone with an equal playing field.

The first major change should require all Power 5 conferences to play an equal amount of conference games. For instance, the Pac 12, Big Ten and Big 12 all play nine conference games. Two leagues with fourteen members, the ACC and SEC play eight conference games. It was proposed two years ago that the SEC might add an additional conference game and it was overwhelmingly shot down.

“This has been a thoughtful and deliberative process that has resulted in maintaining the current format and adds a provision that will bolster our collective annual non-conference schedule,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “Critical to maintaining this format is the non-conference opponent factor which gives us the added strength-of-schedule we were seeking while allowing continued scheduling flexibility for institutional preferences, and acknowledges that many of our institutions already play these opponents.”

That’s a very interesting comment because what actually happens is a lot of teams backload their schedule with a cupcake opponent. Half of the league did that in the second to last week of the season. Several played FCS opponents: Alabama played Chattanooga, Auburn played Alabama A&M, South Carolina played Western Carolina and Kentucky played Austin Peay. Some played weak FBS opponents, for instance Georgia played Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas A&M played Texas-San Antonio. These are all basically glorified scrimmages before the season finale.

I also think since there are only four playoff spots we should rethink having five major conferences since they don’t all play by the same rules. I think the Big 12 should not be considered a Power conference anymore. They are the only conference that does not play a conference championship game since the league has had less than the required twelve teams after the 2010 season.

I think they enjoy not having to play the conference championship game for a couple of reasons. The first thing is since they only have ten teams they divide revenue amongst those universities. If they add members that will decrease the amount of money each school receives.

It’s also easier for a team to play one less game and stay in the hunt for a national championship. They have had a few teams in contention for the national title until they lost the Big 12 championship. In 1996 No. 3 Nebraska (10-1) lost to Texas. In 1998 No. 2 Kansas State (11-0) lost to Texas A&M and in 2003 No. 1 Oklahoma (12-0) got blown out by Kansas State.

I think they have been taking the easy way out by not expanding and they should be punished for that. Maybe the American Athletic Conference should become a Power 5 conference to replace them.

Who Will Win ACC Title?

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

By this time next week we’ll know the conference champions for each Power 5 conference and the four-playoff teams. I’m going to preview the ACC championship game.

The Dr. Pepper ACC Football Championship Game is this Saturday night in Orlando, FL. It’s a matchup between No. 3 Clemson and No. 19 Virginia Tech. Clemson (11-1, 7-1 ACC) is trying to win its second consecutive conference championship and College Football Playoff appearance.

The Tigers have been very inconsistent this year. Some of that is because they are replacing several talented players that are now in the NFL. Coach Dabo Swinney has to get them to play more disciplined and consistent.

“This is the best team I’ve had since I’ve been (at Clemson),” said Swinney. “It’s a little frustrating at times, because I think sometimes these guys are held to a little bit different standard than some of these other teams out there. I don’t know what some people are looking at, but these guys have played well all year.”

That starts with the play of super star quarterback Deshaun Watson. He had a breakout season last year passing for over 4,000 yards and rushing for over 1,100. He only had 13 interceptions in 2015 and he already has 14 this season. His rushing total has also drastically dropped to under 500 yards.

In the loss to Pittsburgh Watson threw for 580 yards completing 74% of his passes but he also tossed 3 picks. The Tigers have played better the last two games so it looks like they might have finally found their niche.

The running game is what helped get them back on track. Junior Wayne Gallman has battled injuries but he’s finally getting healthy. Gallman averages over 5 yards per carry and he helps to take pressure off of Watson.

The Tigers are a balanced team that can also play defense. They rank 9th in the nation in total defense allowing 308 yards per game and 17 points per game.

Va Tech (9-3, 6-2) is doing well under first year head coach Justin Fuente. Fuente is tied for the most wins by a first-year Tech coach with C.P. Miles (went 9-1 in 1905). This is Virginia Tech’s first ACC Championship game appearance since 2011.

“Life has been pretty good, to be honest with you,” said Fuente. “We all have things that we’re trying to overcome, program wise. Change has been incredibly smooth (at Tech), but there hasn’t been anything to me that’s stuck out that’s been a huge thorn in our side.”

Junior QB Jerod Evans leads the Hokies with over 3,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and 5 picks. He also completes 64% of his passes. His top three targets have over 600 yards and four touchdowns each.

Tech is coming off of a two game winning streak so they have momentum going for them. They play well on defense as well coming in at 20th in the country in total defense.

If Clemson wins their guaranteed to make the College Football Playoffs again. The Tigers have a lot at stake so I expect them to feel the pressure. The game will be very competitive in the first half. I expect the superior talent of Clemson to take over in the second half and they’ll put the game out of reach.

Georgia Bulldogs versus Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Preview

kenBy: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

This is a bittersweet time in college football. We’re down to the final week of the regular season. The highlight of this is the many in state rivalry games. We get match ups like Alabama vs. Auburn, Clemson vs. South Carolina, Florida vs. Florida State, USC vs. UCLA and Washington vs. Washington State.

You see where I’m going with this. These games might not decide a spot in the playoffs but they are for bragging rights for the next 364 days. My favorite game is Georgia versus Georgia Tech. This game is called Clean, Old Fashioned Hate for a reason. They first played in 1893 making it one of the oldest rivalries in the country.

This has been a very one-sided rivalry especially as of late. Since the year 2000 UGA is 13-3 against Tech. Paul Johnson is only 2-6 in the series after becoming the Yellow Jackets head coach in December 2007. I think his record is something to keep in mind depending on the outcome of this game.

Georgia Tech (7-4) has had a decent season but it’s a drastic improvement over last year when they finished 3-9. They’re led by senior quarterback Justin Thomas. He’s very good at running the spread option offense that Coach Paul Johnson is known for.

Thomas has over 550 rushing yards and averages 4.6 yards per carry. They don’t pass often but when they do Thomas normally takes long shots down the field. He only averages 6.7 completions per game and he has close to 1,300 passing yards.

Georgia (7-4) is experiencing some growing pains under first year head coach Kirby Smart. They got rid of their most successful coach since the Vince Dooley era last year for not winning enough big games. Smart has to be feeling some pressure especially knowing that it’s tough to reach the unrealistic expectations of the UGA fan base.

The Bulldogs are led by true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. He was Gatorade Football Player of the Year in 2015. His father Tony was an NFL quarterback that also played in a Super Bowl so he seems to have the pedigree for a successful career. He’s only completing 55% of his passes with 13 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He’s going through growing pains now but the experience he’s getting should pay off next season.

We tell our kids all the time: You’re remembered by what your senior class does and what your record is against Georgia Tech. So I think the same case as any rivalry. You’ve got to keep it within the grasp of your emotions. You play with emotion, but you’ve got to play with controlled emotion. You’ve got to make good decisions on the field. You’ve got to prepare well,” Smart said.

Neither team is ranked but I expect this to be one of the best rivalry games this weekend. Both teams are already bowl eligible but the winner can possibly have a nine-win season with a win in this game and the bowl game. That will provide a lot of momentum going into the offseason.

They play in Athens at noon Saturday. I think being at home is a big advantage for Georgia. They also have superior talent to Georgia Tech so I expect them to win. Georgia is having a down year so if Georgia Tech still can’t win this game they should look at changing coaches immediately.

Who Will Be in the College Football Playoffs?

kenBy: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We’re reaching the home stretch of the college football season. We had one of the most chaotic Saturday’s in recent memory. It was the first time Nos. 2,3 and 4 lost in the AP Poll since 1985. Now the rankings are shaken up. I’ll examine the teams most likely to make the playoffs.

Alabama (10-0) has been the most dominant team this season and their still undefeated.

Their final two regular season games are at home against FCS Chattanooga and No. 16 Auburn. The SEC Championship game opponent is not set yet. Right now they would face Florida.

The East is so bad it doesn’t matter who the opponent is. The Crimson Tide are basically a lock to finish the season undefeated and remain No. 1.

With all of the upsets Ohio State (9-1) benefitted the most moving up to No. 2. Their last games are at Michigan State and at home against No. 4 Michigan. The Spartans (3-7) are having a subpar year so this should be an easy win.

The rivalry game against Michigan (9-1) will be tough. The Wolverines lost their starting quarterback Wilton Speight with a broken collarbone. That should increase OSU’s chances of winning.

The odd thing is even after winning their last two games they aren’t expected to play in the Big Ten Championship game. Penn State beat the Buckeyes so if they win their last two games they’ll represent the East in the championship game. Now we have to wonder if the committee will hold that against them.

No. 3 Louisville (9-1) is in the same situation as Ohio State. The Cardinals lost to Clemson so the tiebreaker belongs to the Tigers. Clemson will represent the Atlantic division in the conference championship game if they win their final conference game.

The one advantage Louisville has is they have the best player in the country, quarterback Lamar Jackson. He’s the clear cut favorite to win the Heisman. The playoff selection committee might choose the Cardinals to represent the ACC despite not winning the conference.

Michigan’s last two opponents are Indiana and Ohio State. If they can pull the upset on the road against OSU they’ll play in the conference championship game. Winning that will guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. I don’t like that the Wolverines have lost their starting QB but winning is still possible. We saw Ohio State win the 2014 national championship with a 3rd string quarterback.

No. 5 Clemson (9-1) should have easy wins to finish the season. They play Wake Forest and South Carolina. Their opponent in the ACC Championship will be Virginia Tech or North Carolina.

Washington dropped from No. 4 to No. 7 after losing to USC. The Huskies play Arizona State and at No. 20 Washington State. The Apple Cup game against the Cougars will be tough.

I’m not sure if they’ll win but if they do they will represent the Pac 12 North in the championship game. Currently they would play Colorado but that can change.

The last two weeks should be very exciting to watch. Alabama is guaranteed to finish and stay No. 1.

Ohio State and Clemson will also make the playoffs. The final spot is tricky. If Washington wins out they will be in but if they lose I’m not sure who the fourth team will be.

Tar Heels March Back To Final Four?

ken

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

 

Last basketball season was pretty good for North Carolina. The Tar Heels went 33-7 and finished first place in the ACC. They also won the conference tournament. They lost the national championship game to Villanova 77-74. Losing was very disappointing but it was their first appearance in the national title game since 2009.

Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige are two key players that the Tar Heels will miss this season. They averaged 82.3 points per game last year which was tied with Indiana for 11th in the nation. Having a high scoring offense has always been a hallmark of Roy Williams’ coaching style.

Junior guard Joel Berry II averaged 12.8 ppg which made him the second leading scorer on the team behind Brice Johnson. Forward Justin Jackson also contributed 12.2 ppg and 3.9 rebounds per game.

Senior forward Kennedy Meeks will be expected to step up and play a bigger role this season. Standing 6’10 Meeks should make an impact blocking or altering shots and rebounding. He averaged 9.2 ppg and 5.9 rpg in 2015-16. Another senior forward Isiah Hicks is in the same position. The 6’9 Hicks should improve on his 4.6 rpg and 8.9 ppg.

UNC is a blue blood program but for whatever reason they don’t typically get the elite recruits like Kentucky, Duke, Arizona or Kansas. That makes them one of the few major programs led by upperclassman which is a huge advantage. They did sign a few talented players that should contribute right away.

Center Tony Bradley is 6’10 and a five star recruit. He was ranked 17th overall in the class of 2016. He was Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida and a McDonald’s All-American. He averaged 23 ppg, and 12.6 rpg, while shooting an impressive 65% from the field as a senior.

He’s only 235 pounds so he still needs to get stronger and put on weight but he’s expected to see the most playing time of any of the freshmen. Bradley has received a lot of comparisons to Tim Duncan. That’s a huge comparison but everyone in Chapel Hill will be happy if he can be half as good as Duncan.

They also signed two four star guards, Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods. Robinson is a 6’5 shooting guard from Georgia and he’s a very good shooter. He shot 42% from the three-point line as a high school senior.

North Carolina needs that same production out of him to help stretch the floor. UNC only made 32.7% of shots beyond the arc last season which ranked 263rd out of 346 teams. Robinson is also a very good defender.

Woods is only 6’1 but he’s very athletic and explosive. As a 14 year old freshman he had a dunk that has over 14 million views on YouTube and was the No.1 play on the SportsCenter Top 10. He likes to play above the rim but he will have to transition into being a point guard.

The season starts Friday at Tulane which will be an easy win. Carolina normally plays a tough nonconference schedule and this year is no different. They are going to the Maui Invitational with other big time programs like UConn, Georgetown, Wisconsin and Oregon.

They play No. 11 Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge November 30th. They also play No. 2 Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic December 17th.

The Tar Heels start the season ranked 6th in the nation. They have a realistic goal of making the Final Four again.

North Carolina Stomping Through ACC

kenBy: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The ACC has been dominated by the Atlantic Division for the last six years. No. 3 Clemson, No. 5 Louisville and No. 12 Florida State are the marquee programs in the conference.

Can a Coastal Division team win the conference championship for the first time since 2009?

No. 21 North Carolina (6-2) appears to be the team most likely to reach the conference championship game for the second consecutive year. The Tar Heels are currently first in the division with a record of 4-1.

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Gators Offense Has No Bite

kenBy: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Jim McElwain is in his second year as head coach of the Florida Gators. Currently he guided the team to a 5-1 record and their first place in the SEC East. Last year they finished 10-4 and 7-1 in conference play. A 10-win season is very respectable in year one.

On the surface everything seems great. I’m going to delve just a bit deeper to really get a proper perspective on his coaching performance.

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Florida Chomping For Dawgs

kenBy: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The University of Florida has been synonymous with greatness since Steve Spurrier took over as head coach in 1990. The program never won an officially recognized conference title prior to him returning to Gainesville.

They’ve won 8 conference titles since 1991 and had the best record in the SEC in 1990 but were ineligible for the league title due to NCAA probation. Their also tied with Alabama with the most SEC Championship game appearances with ten.

They haven’t won a conference championship since 2008 though. Back when Urban Meyer was the head coach and Tim Tebow was quarterback. Second year head coach Jim McElwain is working to end that drought.

So far the Gators are off to a good start, 5-1 and ranked in the top 15 in the Coaches Poll and in the AP Poll. The one loss was at Tennessee and they gave up a 21-point lead to lose 38-28.

The LSU game originally scheduled for October 8th was postponed because of the weather from Hurricane Matthew. The game was at home but now it’s been moved to Baton Rouge on November 19th.

Florida was impressive in their last game with a 40-14 blow out of Mizzou. They scored two defensive touchdowns.

“Anytime you get a defensive score or a non-offensive score, it’s a momentum shift for the whole team,” cornerback Jalen Tabor said. “I felt like I did that for my team today.”

Florida has one of the best defenses in the nation, currently ranked 3rd in total defense. They only allow 253 yards per game and 12 points per game. They have 19 sacks, which ties them for 20th nationally.

Tabor is the best player on defense, widely considered a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He returned an interception 39-yards for a touchdown. The opposite corner Quincy Wilson also took a pick to the house.

“When you’ve got two great corners like that, they’ve got to pick one side of the field,” Gators coach Jim McElwain said. “It’s like pick your poison. Where you going to go with it?”

Quarterback Luke Del Rio made his return from a sprained left knee, playing for the first time in a month. The offense looked sloppy and he didn’t play well. He threw 3 interceptions and they were flagged for 8 false starts.

“Knee felt great,” Del Rio said. “Brett Favre said it: Playing injured or hurt is not an excuse for playing poorly. The knee didn’t affect me at all. It was just bad decisions, bad throws.”

Del Rio played well before he was injured. He’s passed for 998 yards, 7 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and a 57.6%completion rate.

The Gators have some talented skill players. Running back Jordan Scarlett leads the team with 375 yards and 5 TD’s. Lamical Perine has 300 rushing yards and Mark Thompson has 262 yards. Receiver Antonio Callaway has 23 receptions, 399 yards, 2 scores and averages 17.3 yards per catch.

The Gators are far from being a prolific offense but they can become more efficient. They have bye week before the October 29th showdown with Georgia. They will get the chance to rest players and get them healthy. It will also give them more time to game plan against true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason.

Both teams should be prepared and well rested for this rivalry game. I give the advantage to UF.