Clear Your Schedule 2018 | Week 2

By Brian Wilmer -

The open of this piece is normally a light place. In most weeks, I’d keep it that way.

Legendary sports broadcaster Mike Hogewood passed away Wednesday night. For those of us who grew up in the mid-Atlantic and points south, Mike was one of the voices of our childhood. He called ACC games, served as the sports director of WFMY in Greensboro, and did so much more in a storied professional career than we could ever list in this space.

He also spoke to the Elon winter term class in which a certain person whose work your reading now was seated, and left a lasting impression.

As I’ve often told others, Mike was — and is — one of the key reasons I got into this business. Therefore, give him the credit or the blame, whichever you prefer.

I later had the privilege of getting to know Mike much better through our work with the Big South Conference. I was also privileged enough to share a table with him, Greer Smith from the High Point Enterprise, and now-retired Shelby Star sports editor Alan Ford at Big South Media Day a while back. Sitting among those three was just like being back in that class all over again.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I could offer Mike is that I always learned something in his presence. It wasn’t always about the business, either. I learned about respect. I learned about kindness. I learned about how important it is to truly love what you do, even when it’s tough.

I never heard an unkind word said about the man. I still don’t know if he ever realized how much he made an impact on me, or on the countless others whose lives he touched.

Thank you, Mike. For everything.

Last week’s scores

#17 West Virginia 40, Tennessee 14
#9 Auburn 21, #6 Washington 16
Liberty 52, ODU 10
#12 Notre Dame 24,  #14 Michigan 17
#25 LSU 33, #8 Miami (FL) 17
#20 Virginia Tech, #19 Florida State 3

Trivia question (answer at the end of the column):  Clemson got its most recent win in Texas in 1959, beating TCU 23-7 in the first-ever Bluebonnet Bowl. Who won the final Bluebonnet Bowl?

Georgia Tech (1-0) at USF (1-0)
Noon | ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)

Blake, baby:  It’s been a long and storied road for USF quarterback Blake Barnett, having traveled from Tuscaloosa to Tempe to Tampa and beyond. None of that seemed to matter last week, as the grad transfer finished just seven yards shy of the largest passing yard total by a USF quarterback in his first start. Barnett knifed through Elon to the tune of 24-for-34 passing, 305 yards, and three scores. Barnett also rushed for a touchdown, eventually leading all five drives in which he played to scores.

Respect your elders:  This game matches one of college football’s most storied programs against one of its least. The Yellow Jackets have played 105 more seasons of varsity football than have the Bulls, with the Ramblin’ Wreck first taking the field in Central Park in Macon, Georgia, on November 5, 1892. South Florida drilled Kentucky Wesleyan, 80-3, to begin its program on September 6, 1997.

Ramblin’ wrecked:  Georgia Tech’s sports information department notes that the Jackets’ 439 rushing yards against Alcorn State last week marked the fifth time in the last 12 games that the club finished with 400 yards or greater on the ground. South Florida surrendered 192 rushing yards to Elon last week — an odd number against an FCS club — but has not yielded a 400-yard rushing game since Florida State hung 476 on the Bulls in a 55-35 victory on September 24, 2016. Only two opponents have even run for 300 against South Florida since that game, with Temple and Navy doing so in back-to-back outings in 2016.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  USF gets a rare opportunity for a statement win at home this early in the season.  If — a big if — it can control the run, that just may happen.

#3 Georgia (1-0) at #24 South Carolina (1-0)
3:30pm | CBS

Okay, so maybe it’s not Tim’s Tidbits, but…:  With the retirement of our SID hero, Tim Bourret, we were worried that a regular feature in this piece would also disappear. Thankfully, David Cloninger from the Charleston Post and Courier is here to bail us out. Take it away, David!

Weathering the storm:  It seems as though Georgia’s trips to South Carolina are enshrouded in terrible weather. The 2014 contest in South Carolina David referenced in his note was delayed by an hour and a half due to storms, while the 2016 tilt was, as the Georgia sports information department reminds us, delayed a day by Hurricane Matthew. Though ironically-named Hurricane Florence swirls in the Atlantic at press time, it does not appear to pose a threat to the Palmetto State on Saturday. The forecast for Saturday — for now, anyway — calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low-to-mid 90s.

Nearly mirror images:  Though the teams played different levels of opponents in Week 1 (Georgia played FCS Austin Peay, while South Carolina played in-state foe Coastal Carolina), the numbers posted by the two look pretty darn similar. Both scored over 40 points (Georgia 45, South Carolina 49), ran for similar totals (South Carolina 263 yards on 38 carries, Georgia 284 yards on 33 carries), allowed just over three yards per carry (South Carolina 3.2, Georgia 3.1), and totaled over 500 yards of offense (South Carolina 557, Georgia 508). Our most instructive data point, then, may be third-down conversions. South Carolina converted 56 percent of the penultimate downs last week, while Georgia moved the chains just 44 percent of the time. Small sample size, sure, but one conversion may be the difference in Williams-Brice Saturday.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  If Will Muschamp gets his first win as South Carolina’s head coach against his alma mater Saturday, it could lead him past Athens to Atlanta in December.

#2 Clemson (1-0) at Texas A&M (1-0)
7:00pm | ESPN

The Lone Win State:  If Clemson walks off the field victorious Saturday night, it would mark the Tigers’ first win in Texas in nearly 60 years. The Tigers have also never won at Kyle Field. Clemson last played in College Station in 2004, a 27-6 loss that prompted coach Dabo Swinney to say this in this week’s media availability:

Runnin’ Aggies:  For all the attention Clemson’s rushing attack (deservedly) gets, the Tigers’ ability to bottle A&M’s lead rusher will loom large Saturday. Junior Trayveon Williams punished Northwestern State last week, carrying 20 times for 240 yards and three trips to the paint. The question, though, will be which Williams appears — will we see the Williams from week one, or the Williams who was bottled up in four consecutive SEC contests last season (51 combined carries for 144 yards)? The Tigers have allowed a combined 200 yards of rushing to just four opponents in the last three seasons, and it’s been 15 games since the feat was accomplished. The Aggies do, however, lead the nation in rushing with 503 yards — small sample size warnings in effect, of course.

Two heads are better than one?:  Those who love to debate the effectiveness of the two-quarterback system will love this game. Much-heralded freshman Trevor Lawrence and veteran upperclassman Kelly Bryant shared the snaps for the Tigers in last week’s thrashing of Upstate neighbor Furman. Bryant got the start, connecting on 11-of-17 throws for 132 yards and a score. Lawrence arguably had a more effective day in relief, hitting 9-of-14 tries for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Bryant did run five times for 55 yards and a score, as well. A&M, meanwhile, leaned on sophomore Kellen Mond last week, completing 17-of-25 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Mond’s accuracy was a challenge last season (51.5 percent), and he threw for just 1,375 yards in ten games as a freshman. Fellow second-year passer Nick Starkel subbed in for the Aggies Saturday, after being the more productive of the two last year.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  The Tigers are minus-12, which seems like an awfully large margin at Kyle Field in a night game. Clemson should win, but it won’t be easy.

#13 Penn State (1-0) at Pittsburgh (1-0)
8:00pm | ABC

It’s all about the Jacksons:  20 is a pretty magical number for Penn State.  Should the Nittany Lions crack the 20-point plateau Saturday night, that would be their 25th straight game having achieved that number. The last team to hold Penn State below 20 was then-number four Michigan, who boat raced Penn State, 49-10, on September 24, 2016. Pittsburgh held three of its final four opponents to 20 or fewer to close last season — losing one of those games, 20-14, at Virginia Tech. The Panthers then held FCS Albany at bay last week, 33-7.

Tighten up:  Pitt could very well find lightning in a bottle if it continues getting production from sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett and receivers Dontavius Butler Jenkins, Rafael Araujo-Lopes and Taysir Mack. Appalachian State torched Penn State through the air last week, collecting 13 first downs through the air on 26-of-39 passing for 292 yards. Though the Nittany Lions’ offense had just a bit more firepower than did the Mountaineers’, those concerns have to still weigh on the mind of fans in Happy Valley. The Panthers also have bruising feature backs in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, who will challenge a Nittany Lion defensive front that permitted 159 yards and two scores on 37 App carries last week.

Trace your steps:  There will arguably be no more important player on the field Saturday night than Penn State senior Trace McSorley, though his two performances against the Panthers since the rivalry experienced its rebirth in 2016 might paint a different picture. In the Nittany Lions’ 2016 tilt at Pittsburgh — a game his team lost — McSorley threw for 332 yards on 24-for-35 passing, recording a score and a rip. Meanwhile, when his club returned the favor by beating Pitt in Happy Valley last year, McSorley completed just 15-of-28 throws for 164 yards. Three of those throws went for scores, however. If the senior signal-caller is called upon late to drive for a tie or a win, Penn State has to like its chances.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  This game gets more and more entertaining by the year. Pat Narduzzi’s Panthers continue to close the gap, and this year might top the prior two for excitement.

#17 USC (1-0) at #10 Stanford (1-0)
8:30pm | FOX

Arcega’s genesis:  Stanford wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside extended his streak of games with multiple catches to 13 in style last week, hauling in a crazy 226 yards on six grabs last week against San Diego State. Three of those snags took him to the paint. The senior South Carolina native has six catches for scores in his last two games, which, as Stanford’s sports information department points out, ties Ken Margerum from 1980 for the largest number over a two-game stretch.

JT the QB:  Freshman USC quarterback JT Daniels enjoyed quite the successful first outing, throwing for 282 yards on 22-for-35 passing. That yardage total is the highest for any USC quarterback’s first start in program history. 11 of the Trojans’ 23 first downs came through the air. He’ll tee it up against a Stanford pass defense that surrendered just 113 yards passing on 10 completions by the Aztecs last weekend.

The best game note ever?:  With all credit to Stanford’s sports information department, we bring to you arguably the most hilarious — if maybe not the most useful game note we’ve ever seen:

32:26 • At 32:26, Stanford’s average time of possession per game since 2011 ranks fifth nationally. The average millennial spends over 32 minutes a day on Instagram.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Both games last season — both USC victories — were incredibly fun. Daniels vs. Costello is a sneaky great QB matchup.

And, in honor of FBSchedules adding FCS to our repertoire, we present to you…arguably this week’s most important FCS game!

#21 Furman (0-1) at #15 Elon (0-1)
6:00pm | College Sports Live/CBS Digital

Rematch:  While a lot of FCS teams will play FBS opponents this weekend, Rhodes Stadium will host a rematch of a first-round playoff game between these two from 2017. Last year’s affair on this same field yielded a 28-27 Paladin victory, after Furman blocked an extra point that would have tied the game, then held on for the final 11-plus minutes of the contest to escape the North Carolina piedmont with a victory. That win avenged a 34-31 Furman loss on its home turf at Paladin Stadium in week two of the regular season.

Ground-dwelling birds:  Elon’s sports information department notes that the Phoenix’ outrushing USF by 44 yards in last week’s loss in Tampa accomplished two feats. First, this was the first time Elon has ever outrushed an FBS opponent. The Phoenix joined the FCS in 1999 as an independent, after decades of success at the NAIA level. Elon’s 192 rushing yards were also the largest total they’ve tallied against a FBS team. Freshman running back Jaylan Thomas paced Elon with 87 yards on nine carries.

Speaking of running:  Given Furman coach Clay Hendrix’ experience — he was the associate head coach at Air Force before coming back to his alma mater — count on the Paladins to pound the rock. A lot. Furman carried the ball 53 times at Clemson last week, versus just nine throws. Much of that rushing attack will go through bruising back Kealand Dirks. Dirks ran just seven times for 15 yards in last week’s loss at Clemson, but the 250-pounder ran for 720 yards and nine scores in an all-SoCon campaign last season.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Furman’s propensity to run could be a blessing or a curse. Elon needs to jump out to an early lead to lengthen the game and force Furman’s freshman QBs to throw.

Trivia answer:  We asked earlier:  Clemson got its most recent win in Texas in 1959, beating TCU 23-7 in the first-ever Bluebonnet Bowl. Who won the final Bluebonnet Bowl?

Texas beat #19 Pittsburgh, 32-27, in the final Bluebonnet Bowl ever played on December 31, 1987. The game was played in the Astrodome.

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