SEC Landscape: Week Eight

Mark Stoops has brought optimism to Kentucky football, but he wants to make sure it remains a cautious optimism.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he said.

That’d be easy to do, of course. With a win at Mississippi State on Saturday, the Wildcats (5-1, 2-1 SEC) would become bowl eligible. It also could set the Wildcats up for a shot at least a nine-win season.

Having won five of six games, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that Kentucky still has a shot at another five wins before December. But that’s precisely the kind of talk Stoops doesn’t want to hear from his players, either.

“Our players know enough by now to know it’s a one-week season,” said Stoops, whose team’s only setback was a 28-27 loss to Florida in the final seconds because of a defensive breakdown. “Let’s just take care of business and do the best we can this week and not look ahead.

“If you look ahead, you are going to get knocked down real quick.”

The Wildcats did have a bye week last week to appreciate what they’ve accomplished so far and perhaps consider what’s in front of them.

Stoops said the main value in having the time off was the chance to rest and get a little healthier.

“There were probably a couple of starters who wouldn’t have been able to play if we had a game last week,” said Stoops. “We were worn down and beat up.”

Last season’s game between the Wildcats and Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2 SEC) was a 40-38 shootout that feature five lead changes and was decided by a 51-yard field goal by UK’s  Austin MacGinnis on the final play of the contest.

MacGinnis, who is now in his senior season, became UK’s career scoring leader in a 40-34 win over Missouri two weeks ago.

Kentucky is led on offense by quarterback Stephen Johnson, who has thrown for nearly 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns with just two interceptions.

Mississippi State has won each of its three previous home games, including a stunning 37-7 romp against LSU last month. In three of its wins, the Bulldogs surrendered a total of 17 points.

Stoops is concerned about the dual threat ability of Nick Fitzgerald. The MSU quarterback has passed for 1,024 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for nearly 500 yards and another seven touchdowns.

“Finding ways to win and putting yourself in position to win the game is the bottom line. I think this team has done that very well.”


All times Central

Idaho at Missouri,  Saturday 11 a.m. CT, SEC Network

Tennessee at Alabama, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, CBS

Kentucky at Mississippi State, Saturday 3 p.m. CT,  SEC Network

LSU at Mississippi, Saturday 6:15 p.m. CT,  ESPN

Auburn at Arkansas, Saturday 6:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network


1.  Alabama (7-0, 4-0): Last Week: W, Arkansas, 41-9. The Impact –  Damien Harris scored on 75 yard run on first play and Tide opened up 24-0 halftime lead to make short work of Razorbacks.

2.  Georgia (7-0, 4-0): Last Week: W, Missouri,  53-28. The Impact – Kirby Smart has used lessons learned at Alabama to make No. 3 Bulldogs a national power again. Bulldogs are second only to Alabama in total offense (454.3 ypg), scoring offense (37.57 ppg),  rushing offense (282.86) and scoring defense (12.6 ppg).

  1. LSU (5-2, 2-1): Last Week: W, Auburn, 27-23. The Impact – Don’t look now, but Ed Orgeron’s players have learned how to win close games, beating Florida and Auburn by combined five points.
  2. Auburn (5-2, 3-1): Last Week: L, at LSU, 27-23. The Impact – After Tigers surrendered last 20 points to LSU, including two field goals in final 2:36, Gus Malzahn is again feeling heat. LSU also scored TD in final 32 seconds of half.
  3. Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1): Last Week: W, at Florida, 19-17. The Impact – Daniel LaCamera made four field goals (46. 43. 25. 32), three in final 12 minutes of game as Aggies bounced back from loss to Crimson Tide.


  1. Kentucky (5-1, 2-1): Last Week: Idle. The Impact –. Wildcats have exceeded expectations with five wins by midseason, and have won 12 of last 16 regular season games under Mark Stoops.
  2. South Carolina (5-2, 3-2): Last Week: W, Tennessee, 15-9. The Impact – Gamecocks secure another win with late goal-line stand and Will Muschamp improved to 6-0 vs. Tennessee. South Carolina also has won twice while being held to 17 or fewer points. Kicker Parker White made three FGs after making just 4 of 11 entering game.
  3. Mississippi State (4-2, 1-2): Last Week: W, BYU, 35-10. The Impact – Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs picked up fourth win with Nick Fitzgerald accounting for four touchdowns – two passing, two rushing. He had two more passes intercepted in end zone.
  4. Florida (3-3, 3-2): Last Week: L, Texas A&M, 19-17. The Impact – Injury ravaged Gators, who have lost last two games by combined three points, have two weeks to get ready for “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” with Georgia.
  5. Mississippi (3-3, 1-2): Last Week: W, Vanderbilt, 57-35. The Impact – Shea Patterson threw for 351 yards and four TDs and Rebels scored 57 points as they ended three-game losing streak and picked up SEC win.
  6. Arkansas (2-4, 0-3): Last Week: L, at Alabama, 41-9. The Impact – The good news? Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks gave up fewer points than they did against South Carolina (48), but they’ve still allowed 131 points in three conference games.


  1. Tennessee (3-3, 0-3): Last Week: L, at South Carolina, 15-9. The Impact – After gaining 100 yards rushing on 14 attempts against Gamecocks, Vols mustered only 20 more yards on 25 more carries.
  2. Vanderbilt (3-4, 0-4): Last Week: L, at Mississippi, 57-35. The Impact – After 3-0 start, Commodores have lost four straight SEC games by combined 199-73. Derek Mason’s staff has a week to make changes before again trying to get a win in conference..
  3. Missouri (1-5, 0-4): Last Week: L, at Georgia, 53-28. The Impact – Tied with Georgia, Tigers surrendered 26 straight points and have given up 210 points in five-game skid.

Beard’s Picks

Predicted winners in Bold Caps


Tennessee at ALABAMA


LSU at Mississippi

AUBURN at Arkansas


OVERALL: 40-10

Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be  updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.

Big Ten Landscape: Week Eight

Michigan is coming off a couple of tough weeks, losing to Michigan State and then struggling to win in overtime at Indiana last Saturday.

Certainly, Jim Harbaugh expected his Wolverines to be much better positioned in the conference at this point. But here we are entering Week 8 of the college football season with No. 19 Michigan needing to win Saturday’s game at No. 2 Penn State just to remain in contention in the Big Ten East.

Ohio State (6-1. 4-0), Penn State (6-0, 3-0) and Michigan State (5-1, 3-0) have yet to lose in conference, so a second league loss now would be difficult for Michigan (5-1, 2-1) to overcome.

Not impossible, but difficult.

That’s why Harbaugh was disappointed with the way his squad struggled to put away the Hoosiers last week after leading by 10 at halftime. Being forced to win in overtime made for a stressful afternoon.

He was even further exasperated by the 16 penalties for 141 yards his Wolverines were assessed, and that doesn’t include the two flag that were picked up when Michigan was whistled for three penalties on one play.

“I tell my 6-year-old not to spill the milk. And, gosh darn, the next thing that happens is spilled milk,” said Harbaugh. “(We) try to coach them how not to get penalties and we’re getting penalties. That’s an area we have to grow and get better.”

Harbaugh preaches the importance of playing mistake-free and not doing anything to beat yourself. If there was ever a time for the Wolverines to embrace that philosophy it would be now because Penn State has excecuted at a high level on offense and defense.

Coming off a bye week, James Franklin and his players aren’t likely to lack focus since they are entering what may be the toughest stretch for any Big Ten team with games against Ohio State and Michigan State next on the schedule.

On paper this promises to be a defensive battle with Penn State leading the Big Ten in scoring defense at 9.0 points per game and Michigan third at 14.7 points.

The problem for the Wolverines is that the Nittany Lions are also second in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 47.3 points per game. They have a Heisman frontrunner in tailback Saquon Barkley, who is averaging 6.2 yards per carry, while quarterback Trace McSoreley leads the Big Ten with 266.2 yards passing per game.

Nonetheless, Harbaugh is looking forward to the challenge.

“We have the most punts against us of any team in college football this year. The most three-and-outs,” he said. “We’re doing some really great things on defense.”

Franklin knows the mastermind behind the Michigan defense fairly well, having served with Don Brown on Maryland’s staff from 2009-10. Brown was the Terps’ defensive coordinator when Franklin was the offensive coordinator.

“They’re going to solve their problems with aggression,” Franklin said. “(Brown’s) answer for the game of football is to be aggressive – be aggressive in the way he calls the game, be aggressive in how the players play.”

Franklin hopes to counter that aggressiveness with big plays. The Nittany Lions already have had 38 plays covering 20 or more yards this season.


All times Central

Iowa at Northwestern, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ESPN2

Purdue at Rutgers, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, BTN

Maryland at Wisconsin, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, FOX

Indiana at Michigan State, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, ABC

Illinois at Minnesota, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, BTN

Michigan at Penn State, Saturday 6 p.m. CT, ABC


  1. Penn State (6-0, 3-0): Last Week – Idle. The Impact Yardage and points could be difficult to come by when No. 2 Nittany Lions host No. 19 Wolverines in duel between two of nation’s best defenses.
  2. Wisconsin (6-0, 3-0): Last Week – W, Purdue, 17-9. The Impact – Jonathan Taylor is running away with Big Ten rushing title with 164.3 yards per game. Averaging 10 yards per carry, he’s on track to a 2,000-yard season.
  3. Ohio State (6-1, 4-0): Last Week – W, at Nebraska, 56-14. The Impact – J.T. Barrett back in thick of Heisman race with 18 TD passes with no picks in last five games, leading Buckeyes to more than 50 points and 500 yards in each.
  4. Michigan State (5-1, 3-0): Last Week – W, at Minnesota, 30-27. The Impact – With countdown on to back-to-back November games with  Penn State and Ohio State, Mark Dantonio needs to guard against any hint of a letdown by Spartans.
  5. Michigan (5-1, 2-1): Last Week – W, at Indiana, 27-20, OT. The Impact – Karan Higdon rushed for 200 yards and three TDs, including 25-yard winner on first OT carry.


  1. Iowa (4-2, 1-2): Last Week – Idle. The Impact – Hawkeyes have outscored opponents 70-20 in fourth quarter but still lost against Penn State and Michigan State. Linebacker Josey Jewell leads Big Ten and is seventh nationally with 70 tackles.
  2. Purdue (3-3, 1-2): Last Week – L, at Wisconsin, 17-9. The Impact – Boilermakers are fifth in Big Ten in turnover margin (plus-4) and their 15 forced is second only to Penn State’s 17. That should give Jeff Brohm’s bunch confidence rest of season.
  3. Northwestern (3-3, 1-2): Last Week – L, at Maryland, 37-21. The Impact – Senior Justin Jackson now Wildcats’ career rushing leader with 4,639 yards and No. 1 in career total yardage with 5,350 yards. He still has half season to go with four of six games at home.
  4. Indiana (3-3, 0-3): Last Week – L, Michigan, 27-20. OT. The Impact – Hoosiers have lost 22 in row to Michigan, but Wolverines have gone to OT in last two trips to Bloomington. All IU’s losses this season have come to Top 25 teams.
  5. Minnesota (3-3, 0-3): Last Week – L, Michigan State, 30-27. The Impact – Gophers may have found a spark with Demry Croft hooking up with Tyler Johnson for three TDs in fourth quarter of loss to Spartans.
  6. Maryland (3-3, 1-2): Last Week – L, Northwestern, 37-21. The Impact – Junior D.J. Moore was bright spot in loss with career highs of 12 catches for 200 yards. He’s now 10th on Terps’ career list with 110 catches for 1,610 yards.


  1. Nebraska (3-4, 2-2): Last Week – L, Ohio State, 56-14. The Impact – Receiver JD Spielman had a school record 200 receiving yards on 11 catches but majority of Cornhusker fans bailed by halftime as Buckeyes rolled.
  2. Rutgers (2-4, 1-2): Last Week – W, at Illinois, 35-24. The Impact – Scarlet Knights ended 16-game skid in league, never trailing in road game while rushing for most yards (274) in school’s Big Ten history.
  3. Illinois (2-4, 0-3): Last Week – L, Rutgers, 35-24. The Impact – Jeff George Jr. passed for career-high 308 yards in home loss to Rutgers but has thrown five picks in last two games with just two TD passes. Illini have lost last four games after a 2-0 start to season.


(All times Central; projected winners in bold caps)


PURDUE at Rutgers

Maryland at WISCONSIN


Michigan at PENN STATE

Last Week: 5-1

Overall:  45-13

Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.

Looking back on latest fallout in ACC, Big Ten and SEC football with poll rankings

Looking back on last weekend’s college football shakeup as well as my picks in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC.


With four top 10 teams losing, including defending national champion Clemson, there was a big shake up in the polls.

The Tigers were ranked No. 2 before losing at Syracuse. Also No. 5 Washington lost 13-7 at Arizona State; No. 8 Washington State lost 37-3 at California and No. 10 Auburn lost 27-23 at LSU.

Four other Top 25 teams were defeated with No. 19 San Diego State losing to Boise State 31-14, No 24 Texas Tech losing 46-35 to West Virginia and No. 25 Navy losing to Memphis 20-27.

The complete AP Top 25 rankings can be accessed through the above link, but since the Beard Football Headquarters is only concerned about the state of affairs in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC, we’ll provide the team rankings for those conferences.

ACC (4): 7. Clemson (6-1); 8. Miami (5-1); 14. Virginia Tech (5-1); 16. (tie) N.C. State (6-1). Note: Notre Dame (5-1), which only plays a partial ACC schedule, is ranked 13th.

BIG TEN (5): 2. Penn State (6-0), 5. Wisconsin (6-0); 6. Ohio State (6-1); 18. Michigan State (5-1); 19. Michigan (5-1).

NOTE: Michigan visits Penn State on Saturday.

SEC (4): 1. Alabama (7-0); 3. Georgia (7-0); 21. Auburn (5-2); 24. LSU (5-2).



CLEMSON 24, at Syracuse 27 – WRONG

N.C. STATE 35, at Pittsburgh 17 – CORRECT


Boston College 45, at LOUISVILLE 42– WRONG

at MIAMI 25, Georgia Tech 24 – CORRECT

VIRGINIA 20, at North Carolina 14 – CORRECT


OVERALL: 46-9 (83.6%)

ACC Standings:


Rutgers 35,  at ILLINOIS 24 – WRONG

MICHIGAN 27, at Indiana 20, OT – CORRECT

NORTHWESTERN 37, at Maryland 21 – CORRECT

at WISCONSIN 17, Purdue 9 – CORRECT

OHIO STATE 56, at Nebraska 14 – CORRECT

MICHIGAN STATE 30, at Minnesota 27 — CORRECT


OVERALL:  45-13

Big Ten Standings:


SOUTH CAROLINA 15, at Tennessee 9 – CORRECT

at MISSISSIPPI STATE 35, Brigham Young 10 – CORRECT

at MISSISSIPPI 57, Vanderbilt 35 – CORRECT

at LSU 27, AUBURN 23 — WRONG

Texas A&M 19, at FLORIDA 17 — WRONG

at ALABAMA 41, Arkansas 9 – CORRECT

at GEORGIA 53, Missouri 28 – CORRECT


OVERALL: 45-12 (78.9%)

SEC Standings:

 Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be  updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.

From Sidelines to Punchlines

An entertaining look at sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while impressed by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s sportsmanship after his Tigers were upset by Syracuse:

Crushing loss

Taylor Twellman delivered a shotgun blast tirade against United States soccer this week after the men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“This is literally now going to be eight years without a World Cup. We’re losing generations of players,” said Twellman.

While Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss in Trinidad led to Bruce Arena’s resignation as national team coach, Twellman believes there are problems at all levels of the United States Soccer Federation’s player development program, starting with the “pay-for-play” age-group club teams.

“Every decision in our sport is based on money. Around the world it is about the sport,” Twellman said on ESPN’s “The Ryen Russillo Show” on Wednesday.

One fix he’d like to see made would require the NCAA and USSF to combine forces to replace the four-month college season with something more substantial. Increasing the number of games and training sessions would be a better way of developing individual skills, but giving soccer a longer competition schedule is something the NCAA has resisted.

“If Borussia Dortmond, Christian Pulisic’s club, is coming here to find players, the players are here,” said Twellman, a former U.S. player who does color commentary on soccer for ESPN and other networks. “A scout told me that in four years there will be over 60 American kids under the age of 16 signed to European teams because the talent is here before the age of 16. They want them at a certain age so they can develop them … The NCAA is doing the sport an injustice.”

Sweet Tweets

Rehashing and tagging this week’s best hits from @Randy_Beard11:

Dino beats Dabo and Clemson loses to a team nicknamed Orange.

According to NCAA, anyone with diploma from UNC in past decade needs to add asterisk. But don’t worry, it just means you are part of team,

NCAA colluded with University of North Carolina to let Crying Roy keep job and titles. UNC = Unlimited Nonsense Courses.

Guessing Dolphins OL coach Chris Foerster experiencing both “stripper regret” and “coke withdrawal” today. Goodbye to rich/famous lifestyle.

 Tom Petty tribute by Florida fans was great, rocking to ‘I Won’t Back Down.’ Alas, against LSU, Gators kind of did ‘back down’ in SEC East.

Balloon buffoons

Nebraska fans celebrate the Cornhuskers’ first touchdown in each home game by releasing thousands of helium-filled red balloons. But for Saturday’s clash with Ohio State, the folks in Lincoln were guilty of a collective false start.

Midway through the second quarter, the Buckeyes were ahead 28-0 while the Cornhuskers were struggling just to move the chains. So when Nebraska earned its second first down, the fans called an audible and filled the sky with red balloons.

With 11 minutes left in the third quarter, Tanner Lee finally got Nebraska into the end zone when he hooked up with JD Spielman on a 77-yard catch and run.

Ohio State was ahead 42-0 by then and went on to claim a 56-14 win.

In the future, Nebraska might want to replace all those balloons with a few beach balls so the fans can keep themselves entertained.

 Price of success

According to Phil Mushnick of the N.Y. Post, making the postseason was just an excuse for the New York Yankees to further fleece their fans by quadrupling the price of a spot in the cheap seats.

Mushnick reports that the cost of a bleacher seat for the wildcard game against Minnesota was $110.30, which included a $6 per ticket “convenience fee” and a $3.30 ticket tax. That same seat during the season would have cost $17 to $22.

The parking fee was $50 compared to $35 during the season.

They said it

Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel: “The U.S. Men’s National Team getting eliminated from the World Cup qualifying by Trinidad and Tobago is the most embarrassing moment for American soccer since Alex Morgan’s last trip to Disney World.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “A coach for the Miami Dolphins had to resign after a video surfaced of him snorting white powder. Afterwards, the team was like, “So THAT’S why the 50-yard line kept disappearing.”

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “Odds-on favorite to win this year’s “Pot, Meet Kettle” Award: Kentucky’s John Calipari — the only coach to lead multiple schools to vacated Final Four appearances — saying the FBI’s probe of college basketball is giving his sport a “black eye.”

RJ Currie of “WWE and reality TV star  Nikki Bella and ex-NFL receiving great Terrell Owens are on “Dancing With the Stars.” One is a big name in total divas; the other is Nikki Bella.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter via Twitter: “Mike Pence walked out of the Colts game, a form of peaceful protest. So Mike Pence was immediately upset by Mike Pence’s actions.”

Janice Hough of “Silver lining for being Cleveland football fan?  – at least the Browns don’t get your hopes up.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Byron Scott, a former coach of the Lakers, had his home broken into and money and valuables stolen. Afterwards, Scott said, ‘It could be worse. I could still be the coach of the Lakers.’

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg after retired heavyweight champion George Foreman challenged ancient actor Steven Seagal to fight him in Las Vegas: “They’re calling it ‘The Geezers at Caesars.’ ”

No ‘Mr. October ‘

Through eight postseason games, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has struck out 19 times in 31 at-bats with just four hits, only one of which was a homer. It computes to a .129 batting average.

During the season, Judge hit .258 with 51 homers and drove in 114 runs.

Stat of week

Cal ended last week’s game against Washington with a botched snap on a field goal attempt, losing 41 yards on the play. It left the Golden Bears with minus-40 yards rushing on 26 attempts.

Headlines “Fox tries to resell World Cup broadcasting rights on Craigslist.” “U.S. soccer vows to adopt English model of waiting to suffer crushing disappointment until after making World Cup.” “Should the Patriots back up Tom Brady on a hard drive?” “Mike Pence leaves NFL game after realizing the Colts and 49ers are playing.” “Fans increasingly unable to recover in time for Thursday night games.”

Vegas games

It wasn’t long ago that professional sports teams didn’t want to associate with Las Vegas. Now they are making themselves quite at home in the gambling capital of the nation.

The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights began their expansion season there earlier this month. The NFL’s Raiders plan to relocate there by 2020. And now the women are getting into the act with the San Antonio Stars of the WNBA announcing plans to move to Vegas in 2018.

Oh yeah, the New York Mets have a Triple-A club based there, while the NBA holds a summer league in Vegas.

What are the odds of Las Vegas being the birthplace of a new U.S. league for professional lacrosse? I even have a name: United LasCrosse Association.

Getting picky

No. 2 Clemson’s 27-24 loss at Syracuse Friday night made it clear that I wasn’t going to have a second consecutive weekend of perfection picking college football games in the ACC.

Another surprise came from Rutgers, which gave Illinois a 35-24 beating to pick up a rare Big Ten win. Meanwhile, I should have known better than to pick Auburn to win in Baton Rouge. The last time Auburn won at LSU was 1999.

But there’s nothing I can do about those picks now. Besides, it still wasn’t a bad weekend to be me.

I was 4-2 in the ACC to improve to 46-9 (83.6%).

In the Big Ten, I went 5-1 to improve to 45-13 (77.5%).

And in the SEC, I’m now 45-12 (78.9%) after a 5-2 week.

Recapping my college football picks in ACC, Big Ten and SEC with TV Times



Recapping my weekend college football picks in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC with game times and television networks.



CLEMSON 24. at Syracuse 27 (Friday) — LOSS (So much for perfect week in ACC)

N.C. STATE at Pittsburgh, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ACC Network

FLORIDA STATE at Duke, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ESPN2

Boston College at LOUISVILLE, Saturday 11:20 p.m. CT, ACC Network

Georgia Tech at MIAMI, Saturday 2:30 p.m., ABC

VIRGINIA at North Carolina, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, ACC Network

Last Week: 7-0

Overall: 42-7



Rutgers at ILLINOIS, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, BTN

MICHIGAN at Indiana, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ABC

NORTHWESTERN at Maryland, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2

Purdue at WISCONSIN, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, BTN

OHIO STATE at Nebraska, Saturday 6:30 p.m. CT, FS1

MICHIGAN STATE at Minnesota, Saturday 7 p.m., BTN

Last Week: 5-2

Overall:  40-12



SOUTH CAROLINA at Tennessee, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ESPN

Brigham Young at MISSISSIPPI STATE, Saturday 11 a.m., SEC Network

Vanderbilt at MISSISSIPPI, Saturday 2:30 p.m., SEC Network

AUBURN at LSU, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, CBS

Texas A&M at FLORIDA, Saturday 6 p.m. CT, ESPN2

Arkansas at ALABAMA, Saturday 6:15 p.m. CT, ESPN

Missouri at GEORGIA, Saturday 6:30 p.m., SEC Network


OVERALL: 40-10


Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be  updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.

ACC Landscape: Week Seven

Mark Richt hopes his players are done celebrating last week’s victory at Florida State, which ended a seven-year losing streak to the Hurricanes’ state rivals.

That’s because UM (4-0. 2-0 ACC) faces another important battle this Saturday against Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0 ACC). The winner will have first place in the ACC Coastal Division all to themselves.

Defensively, it will be a much different challenge than what the Canes faced against the Seminoles. The Yellow Jackets’ option attack leads the conference and is ranked second nationally with 396 rushing yards per game.

“Our rushing defense really hasn’t been lights out,” said Richt. “We’ve really got our work cut out for us, and I’m hoping our guys will do a good job of tackling out there in space, defeating blocks, doing things you’ve got to do to try to slow them down.”

Having been the head coach at Georgia for 15 seasons before he landed at Miami, Richt at least knows what to expect and will make sure his players are well prepared for the misdirection Georgia Tech throws at teams. He also knows head coach Paul Johnson will have tweaked his playbook to take advantage of the Hurricanes’ aggressive pursuit.

“(Georgia Tech’s) offense is one that is one of the more difficult to prepare for and to try to slow down,” said Richt. “(Johnson) understands his system so well that he doesn’t even need a call sheet. He just watches the game and knows exactly what to call.

“If he sees something, he knows how to counterpunch.”

Yellow Jackets quarterback TaQuon Marshall leads the ACC in rushing (130.8 yards per game) and running back Kirvonte Benson is second, averaging just 11 fewer yards, so the Yellow Jackets can be expected to ride their running game and take advantage of play-action passes for big hits.

“They’ve got a big front seven. They run well. May have the best group of line backers in the league,” Johnson said of UM’s defense. “They’re very aggressive. And when they happen to guess right, they get you, and hopefully we can guess right some against them.”

Georgia Tech is one of only four teams overall that rank among the nation’s top 20 in both total defense and total offense.

Defensively, the Jackets have forced three-and-outs on 53.1 percent of opponents’ possessions.


All times Central

Friday’s Game

Clemson at Syracuse, 6 p.m., ESPN

Saturday’s Games

N.C. State at Pittsburgh, 11 a.m. CT, ACC Network

Florida State at Duke, 11 a.m., ESPN2

Boston College at Louisville, 11:20 a.m., ACC Network

Virginia at North Carolina, 2:30 p.m., ACC Network

Georgia Tech at Miami, 2:30 p.m. ABC


  1. Clemson (6-0, 4-0):Last Week – W, Wake Forest, 28-14. The Impact – Kelly Bryant has been cleared to play after ankle injury last Saturday, but is that an unnecessary risk? Surely, Tigers could beat Syracuse with backup QB.
  2. Miami (4-0, 2-0):Last Week – W, at Florida State, 24-20. The Impact – Former FSU assistant Mark Richt had happy homecoming in Tallahassee and now has No. 11 Hurricanes (he’s an alum) challenging for first ACC Coastal Division title.
  3. Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1): Last Week – W, at Boston College, 23-10. The Impact – Hokies are winning but Justin Fuente says his team still gives him a “three-and-a-half hour stomach ache.” Losing receiver Cam Phillips to sprained foot didn’t settle his nerves.
  4. N.C. State (5-1, 3-0):Last Week – W, Louisville, 39-25. The Impact – Wolfpack are rolling, off to best start in ACC since 2002 after wins over ‘Noles and ‘Cards, and Clemson has to come to Raleigh in four weeks.
  5. Louisville (4-2, 1-2):Last Week – L, at N.C. State, 39-25. The Impact – Throwing a Pick-6, and being blown up at goal line by linebacker Germaine Pratt on return, won’t be a Heisman memory for Lamar Jackson.


6. Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0):Last Week – Idle. The Impact – Yellow Jackets are only ACC team that ranks among top 20 in total defense (No. 6) and total offense (No. 20) going into Coastal showdown with UM.

7. Wake Forest (4-2, 1-2):Last Week – L, at Clemson, 28-14. The Impact – Having lost last two, Deacs have extra week to dwell on it. For what it’s worth, they are 0-22 when facing 5-0 teams. Oh, they “beat” Tigers 14-0 over last eight minutes.

8. Florida State (1-3, 1-3):Last Week – L, Miami, 24-20. The Impact – Seminoles scored 17 points in last 12 minutes but surrendered two TDs to UM in final five minutes, including winning six with six seconds left. Jimbo Fisher is 8-7 in last 15 ACC games.

9. Virginia (4-1, 1-0):Last Week – W, Duke, 28-21. The Impact: Kurt Benkert overcame a fumble and two interceptions, including a Pick-6, to rally Cavs with three TD passes. Bronco Mendenhall’s team plays four of next six games on road.

10. Duke (4-2, 1-2):Last Week – W, at Virginia, 28-21. The Impact: Playing six of eight home games to start season no longer so promising with mad-at-world FSU coming to town next.

11. Syracuse (3-3, 1-1):Last Week – W, Pittsburgh, 27-24. The Impact – Having lost three games by single digits Orange figured out how to win a close game. Still, there’s trouble looming with Friday’s coaching clash between Dino and Dabo.


12. Pittsburgh (2-4, 0-2): Last Week – L, at Syracuse, 27-24. The Impact – With offense sputtering, Panthers left wondering how they won a 76-61 shootout over Syracuse last season that set NCAA record for points in a game.

13. Boston College (2-4, 0-3): Last Week – L, Virginia Tech, 23-10. The Impact – Eagles, who won two league games last season, are in danger of going winless in ACC for second time in three seasons.

14. North Carolina (1-5, 0-4):Last Week – L, Notre Dame, 33-10. The Impact – Larry Fedora’s team is dwelling in ACC cellar for a reason – 14th in scoring defense (33.0), total defense (466.8 yards).


Friday’s Game

CLEMSON at Syracuse

 Saturday’s Games

N.C. STATE at Pitt


Boston College at LOUISVILLE

VIRGINIA at North Carolina

Georgia Tech at MIAMI

Last Week: 7-0

Overall: 42-7

SEC Landscape: Week Seven

 Will Auburn’s players be looking to party like its 1999 when they make the trip to Baton Rouge for Saturday afternoon’s game against LSU?

Yes and no.

“We do need to understand that it has been a long time since we have beaten them there,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. “I think we all need to know that, but this is a new year and that is the way we are looking at it. It is a big challenge to go there and win.”

Simply put, Malzahn would rather his players remain focused on what they need to do to stay on track to winning an SEC championship. And that’s all about winning – at home or on the road.

A little rivalry history doesn’t mean that much when compared to the larger goals the Tigers have set.

.“We’re in the process of having a chance to become a pretty good team.” Malzahn said.

But yeah, he and his players are aware that Auburn hasn’t won a game on LSU’s home field in 17 seasons. The last time was 1999 – the  “Cigar Game” – when Auburn players were photographed lighting victory cigars at midfield.

Auburn won that game 41-7. Don’t be surprised if the score isn’t similar this time around.

The 10th ranked Tigers (5-1, 3-0 SEC)_haven’t been held to fewer than 44 points in their three Southeastern Conference games this season.

While LSU (4-2, 1-1) has had some impressive efforts, including road wins at Mississippi State last month and at Florida last week, Ed Orgeron’s team also suffered an inexplicable 24-21 loss to Troy University in their last home game two weeks ago.

“We are not worried about anything that has happened up to this point, good, bad or in between,” said Malzahn. “This is the week we play LSU. They are in the West, and it is a very important game.”

Quarterback Jason Stidham has gotten into a nice rhythm since Auburn suffered a 14-6 loss at Clemson. Stidham has passed for 1,345 yards, completing 71.2 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns with two interceptions.

The offensive balance has been good with Kerryon Johnson rushing for 504 yards and 12 touchdowns, including a 60 yarder.

“Our tempo has gotten better,” said Malzahn. “So I think it is just more of an all of the above: everything coming together, being more comfortable, knowing who we are and running the football effectively, which I think is where it all starts.

“Also, having the ability when your quarterback is highly efficient and protecting the football and making good decisions. I think the fact that we are spreading it around to a lot of different receivers is really good.”


All times Central

Auburn at LSU, Saturday 2:30 p.m., CBS

Texas A&M at Florida, Saturday 6 p.m. CT, ESPN2

South Carolina at Tennessee, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ESPN

Arkansas at Alabama, Saturday 6:15 p.m. CT, ESPN

Missouri at Georgia, Saturday 6:30 p.m., SEC Network

Vanderbilt at Mississippi, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT< SEC Network

Brigham Young at Mississippi State, Saturday 11 a.m. Ct, SEC Network


1  .    Alabama (6-0, 3-0):Last Week: W, at Texas A&M, 27-10. The Impact –  Nick Saban considers media praise “rat poison” for his players. But until his Crimson Tide loses a game or two, he’ll have to get used to it.

2. Georgia (6-0, 3-0):Last Week: W, at Vanderbilt, 45-14. The Impact – Bulldogs are running wild, off to best start since 2005 and on longest win streak (7) since 2012 SEC title game appearance.

3. Auburn (5-1, 3-0):Last Week: W, Mississippi, 44-23. The Impact – Since missing two games with a pulled hammy, Kerryon Johnson has rushed for 11 touchdowns in three games and Tigers have out-scored SEC foes 144 to 47.

4. Florida (3-2, 3-1): Last Week: L, LSU, 17-16. The Impact – On a day Gators set NCAA record by scoring in 366th straight game, kicker Eddie Pineiro missed the most important point.  As punishment, Gators should have to wear their “swamp lizard” uniforms the rest of the month in honor of Halloween.

5. Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1):Last Week: L, Alabama, 27-10. The Impact – Remember when a trustee wanted Kevin Sumlin fired after Aggies blew 34-point lead against UCLA? Critics might want to ask other SEC coaches what they think of his coaching ability.


6. Kentucky (5-1, 2-1):Last Week: W, Missouri, 40-34. The Impact – Kicker Austin MacGinnis kicked four field goals to become Kentucky’s career scoring leader with 313 points as Wildcats moved within one win of being bowl eligible.

7.  South Carolina (4-2, 2-2):Last Week: W, Arkansas, 48-22. The Impact – Gamecocks blew open tight game with school record three defensive touchdowns (and had a fourth called back) to serve notice that while they are bending, they aren’t breaking.

8. LSU (4-2, 1-1):Last Week: W, at Florida, 17-16. The Impact – How does a team lose at home to Troy, then one week later beat a ranked Florida squad on road?

9. Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2): Last Week: Idle. The Impact – QB Nick Fitzgerald has accounted for 56 career touchdowns – 32 passing, 24 rushing – but he’s still less than halfway to matching Dak Prescotts’ 114 career TDs.

10. Tennessee (3-2, 0-2):Last Week: Idle. The Impact – Butch Jones said his team enjoyed one of the best bye weeks ever, but he needs to be more worried about Vols’ experiencing a good-bye week if Gamecocks win Saturday’s game in Knoxville.

11. Arkansas (2-3, 0-2):Last Week: L, at South Carolina, 48-22. The Impact –Four-turnover implosion against South Carolina has left Razorbacks shaken heading into Saturday’s game at Alabama. The end of the Bret Bielema era is fast approaching.


12. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3): Last Week: L, Georgia, 45-14. The Impact – Commodores are getting beat up in the trenches. In three games against SEC teams (Alabama, Florida, Georgia), Vandy has been outgained in rushing yards by nearly a thousand yards (1,137 to 150).

13. Missouri (1-4, 0-3):Last Week: L, at Kentucky, 40-34. The Impact – Tigers continue to excel at making big plays on offense, but Barry Odom’s defense is also giving up too many back-breaking scoring plays, including 71- and 64-yarders against UK.

14. Mississippi (2-3, 0-2):Last Week: L, at Auburn, 44-23. The Impact – SEC schedule-makers put Rebels in tough spot with back-to-back games against Alabama and Auburn, who pummeled Matt Luke’s troubled team by combined 110-26.

Beard’s Picks

Predicted winners in Bold Caps


Texas A&M at FLORIDA


Arkansas at ALABAMA

Missouri at GEORGIA

Vanderbilt at MISSISSIPPI



OVERALL: 40-10

Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be  updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.

Big Ten Landscape: Week Seven

It’s still too early to judge Purdue’s potential under Jeff Brohm, especially this season.

But statistically, it is worth noting that the Boilermakers have so far shown considerable progress on both offense and defense. Purdue (3-2, 1-1) is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring offense at 29.6 points, which is a full five points better than last season. And defensively, they’ve climbed from the cellar in scoring defense to middle of the pack, allowing just 20.8 points per game. Last season Purdue was surrendering 38.2 points per outing.

So how will all that translate when Brohm takes his team on the road to Wisconsin for what will be Purdue’s biggest test since the season opener against Louisville in Indianapolis.

“They’re very talented and play very hard,” Brohm said of the Badgers. “You can tell it on video. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

He has to feel good about where this game falls on the schedule. Purdue overcame four turnovers in the first half last week and then dominated the fourth quarter to claim a 31-17 victory over Minnesota.

Seeing his team finish strong just two weeks after squandering a halftime lead in a 28-10 loss to Michigan was another step forward, he said.

“We are definitely going to continue to work on ball security, take care of the ball, preaching it, talking about it,” said Brohm. “But I still want our guys to play aggressive and try to make plays. There’s a fine line but we will work hard at it again.”

Junior quarterback David Blough has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for almost 700 yards, but he only has seven touchdown passes with four interceptions. He has split time with sophomore Elijah Sindelar, who has six TD passes with two picks but completed just 55 percent of his passes.

Brohm said he plans to continue to use both players.

“They want to be the guy but they understand it’s all about winning, so they have been outstanding to this point in (sharing the job) and that’s been a big reason why we’ve been able to do what we’ve done at that position.” “… Both guys are good teammates and they want to win.”

The defense has that same aggressive mindset.

“We do try to play an attacking style of defense and try to take away the run and make a team beat us throwing the football,” said Brohm. “You know, load the box as much as we can, to make a team earn every touchdown they get.”

That may be the most interesting storyline this week because of Wisconsin’s success running the football. The Badgers have the nation’s 16th best rushing attack, averaging 256.7 yards per game.

“They like to play power football and they are going to come downhill at you,” said Brohm. “It would help if we could find a way to get a lead and maybe not make them do everything they want, but it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be tough.

“We are just going to have to hang in there. We are going to have to stop some of the things, even they do well, but they are a power-running football team.”

Chryst has a lot of respect for what Brohm has done.

“You see a team that’s got a lot of talent, playing at a high level, playing confident,” said Chryst, whose Badgers haven’t scored fewer than 31 points in any game this season. “It is truly an offensive system, where everything complements each other … I think they do a good job of making you defend the whole field.”

Wisconsin is averaging 40.2 points per game while allowing an average of only 14.2 points.


Rutgers at Illinois, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, BTN

Michigan at Indiana, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ABC

Northwestern at Maryland, Saturday 3:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2

Purdue at Wisconsin, Saturday 2:30 p.m., CT, BTN

Ohio State at Nebraska, Saturday 6:30 p.m. CT, FS1

Micigan State at Minnesota, Saturday 7 p.m., BTN


  1. Penn State (6-0, 3-0): Last Week – W, at Northwestern, 31-7. The Impact – Trace McSorley set school record with 15 straight completions, Nittany Lions are on a collective roll and James Franklin’s squad now has bye week to prep for Michigan.
  2. Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0): Last Week – W, at Nebraska, 38-17. The Impact – Badgers overpowered Cornhuskers with 353 yards rushing – 7.2 yards per carry – with Jonathan Taylor averaging a first down every time he got the ball with 249 yards on 25 carries.
  3. Ohio State (5-1, 3-0): Last Week – W, Maryland, 62-14. The Impact – Buckeyes will get to enjoy another blowout and bye week before having anticipated showdown against Penn State.
  4. Michigan State (4-1, 2-0): Last Week – W, at Michigan, 14-10. The Impact – Despite being shutout in second half, Mark Dantonio’s squad held on for eighth win in 10 years against rival Wolverines, and did it at the Big House.
  5. Michigan (4-1, 1-1): Last Week – L, Michigan State, 14-10. The Impact – Last week’s loss to Spartans further exposed Jim Harbaugh’s bunch, who may be most suspect of one-loss power 5 teams.


6. Iowa (4-2, 1-2): Last Week – W, Illinois, 45-16. The Impact – Six months after suffering torn ACL, safety Brandon Snyder’s 89-yard interception return helped Hawkeyes regain stride with blowout win over Illini. Iowa also converted two more turnovers into another 10 points.

7. Purdue (3-2, 1-1): Last Week – W, Minnesota, 31-17. The Impact – In matching last season’s W total, Boilermakers have avoided back-to-back losses. That shouldn’t change after consecutive road trips since Rutgers is part of that mix.

8. Maryland (3-2, 1-1): Last Week – L, at Ohio State, 62-14. The Impact – Cycling through two more QBs, offensive woes continued for Terps, who were held to 16 yards passing and 66 total by Buckeyes. That’s 1.2 yards per play.

9. Indiana (3-2, 0-2): Last Week – W, Charleston Southern, 27-0. The Impact – Peyton Ramsey secures job with 356 yards passing, but he could claim a legacy with half that if it’s enough to beat Wolverines.  

10. Minnesota (3-2, 0-2): Last Week – L, Maryland, 31-24. The Impact – Gophers converted 3 of 4 fourth downs but just 5 of 17 third downs and paid price with just a field goal to show for second half.

11. Nebraska (3-3, 2-1):Last Week – l, Wisconsin, 38-17. The Impact – After losing to Buckeyes this week, Huskers get a bye week to regroup for task of winning three of final five games to become bowl eligible. It won’t be easy, but its doable.


12. Northwestern (2-3, 0-2): Last Week – L, Penn State, 31-7. The Impact – The hits keep coming for Clayton Thorson, who has been sacked a dozen times in last two weeks.

13. Illinois (2-3, 0-2): Last Week – L, at Iowa, 45-16. The Impact – Getting first start, Jeff George Jr. passed for 246 yards but no touchdowns with three interceptions.

14. Rutgers (1-4, 0-2): Last Week – Idle. The Impact – Let’s not downplay fact that Chris Ash and his Scarlet Knights could be headed toward a second consecutive winless season in the Big Ten.


(All times Central; projected winners in bold caps)

Rutgers at ILLINOIS, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, BTN

MICHIGAN at Indiana, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ABC

NORTHWESTERN at Maryland, Saturday 3:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2

Purdue at WISCONSIN, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, BTN

OHIO STATE at Nebraska, Saturday 6:30 p.m. CT, FS1

MICHIGAN STATE at Minnesota, Saturday 7 p.m., BTN

Last Week: 5-2

Overall:  40-12

Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.

It’s time for U.S. soccer to hit reset button

The ‘Road to Russia’ proved to be too bumpy for the United States soccer team Tuesday night.

The doomsday scenario was triggered when Trinidad and Tobago pulled off a 2-1 upset of Bruce Arena’s squad. By the time the dust from that axle-breaking pothole had settled, two more jarring blows were felt after Honduras knocked off Mexico 3-2 and Panama outlasted Costa Rica 2-1.

Just like that, the wheels were off the bus.

“We had everything there for us today,” Arena said. “No excuses. It’s a blemish for us. We should not be staying home for this World Cup and I take the responsibility for that.”

The combined results meant that Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama clinched the three automatic berths from CONCACAF and Honduras earned a home-and-home playoff with Australia to secure another spot in Russia.

 The unexpected results caused the United States to fall from third in the standings to fifth. All Arena’s team needed to do to punch its ticket to Russia was to tie Trinidad, which had won just one other Hexagonal stage game.

After last Friday’s 4-0 win over Panama, which had appeared to put the U.S. back on course, perhaps too much was taken for granted entering Tuesday’s match.

Were they overconfident? The fact the U.S. beat Trinidad 2-0 back in June may have fed into that narrative.

Certainly, there was a noticeable lack of urgency in the way Arena’s squad played in the first half, including allowing an own goal with sloppy defending.

It doesn’t matter how Trinidad scored its goals, of course.They scored them and now the U.S players are free to make new plans for the summer.

That, of course, has to be a jarring realization for old guard players like Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and goalkeeper Tim Howard. This can’t be how either of them wanted their international soccer careers to end.

But Arena has to know that in order to make it to the 2022 World Cup,  the rebuilding of the USMNT needs to begin pronto. Only nine of the 26 players who are listed in the current player pool are younger than 30. Just six of those players will be younger than 30 in four years.

Dempsey is 34 and Howard is 38. It’s defintely time for them to hang up their boots. And while Bradley, who is 30, could have another cycle in him, he’s hardly irreplaceable. 

The best player on the field during this qualifying stage was 19-year-old Christian Pulisic. It’s time to get him more help, preferably from more young players who have similar skill and vision.

The revamping that’s been done in recent years with pro clubs funding youth academies was a good way to kickstart anew the player development process. But there also needs to be a greater grassroots effort to identity players who are being overlooked by the travel club systems for a variety of reasons, including economic.

After failing to qualify for a World Cup for the first time in 32 years, it’s a good time to examine everything the U.S. Soccer Federation is doing in order to compete at an elite international level.

It’s not happening under current system.



 How I fared this weekend in college football picks for ACC, Big Ten and SEC. Hint: my overall winning percentage for the weekend  was 85 percent. It’s hard to beat that. My picks entering the weekend are in bold caps.

Thursday’s Game

N.C. STATE 39, Louisville 25 — WIN

Saturday’s Games

Wake Forest 14, at CLEMSON 28WIN

Duke 21 at VIRGINIA 28 — WIN

Pittsburgh 24 at SYRACUSE 27 — WIN

MIAMI 24 at Florida State 20 — WIN

NOTRE DAME 33 at North Carolina 10 — WIN

VIRGINIA TECH 23 at Boston College 10 — WIN

Last Week:  7-0  Overall: 42-7 (85.7%)

ACC Standings:


GEORGIA 45 at  Vanderbilt 14 — WIN

Mississippi 23 at AUBURN 44 — WIN


Arkansas 22 at SOUTH CAROLINA 48 — WIN

ALABAMA 27 at Texas A&M 10 — WIN

Missouri 34 at KENTUCKY 40 — WIN

 LAST WEEK: 5-1 OVERALL: 40-10 (80.0%)

SEC Standings:

Big Ten

Illinois 16 at IOWA 45 — WIN

PENN STATE 31 at Northwestern 7 — WIN

Minnesota 17 at PURDUE 31 — WIN

Charleston Southern 0 at INDIANA 27 — WIN

Maryland 14 at OHIO STATE 62 — WIN

Michigan State 14 at MICHIGAN 10 — LOSS

Wisconsin 38 at NEBRASKA 17 — LOSS

Last Week: 5-2 Overall:  40-12 (76.9%)

Big Ten Standings: