ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Week of 1/25

Douglas MacArthur, whose 136th birthday is Tuesday, once said, “In war, you win or lose, live or die–and the difference is just an eyelash.”

While ACC basketball is not a life or death scenario like World War II, the general is correct that the difference in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is often so very little.  One shot that rolled off of the rim, one ill-timed turnover, or one missed opportunity over the course of 40 minutes can come back to change the outcome of a game, or sometimes even a season, when the games are so close.

That being said, MacArthur also said “In war, there is no substitute for victory.”  Sports, including college basketball, are a results business, measured in simple wins and losses, and while the outcomes of games are often determined by the most minute of details, winning the game is the objective, and losing will punish a team in rankings such as these, even win winning is sometimes so painstakingly close.  It’s why Notre Dame, after beating two bottom half teams, still moves up three spots, while Clemson, losing to a strong Virginia team on the road, still drops from third to sixth.

With that, here are this week’s rankings.

1. North Carolina (18-2, 7-0 ACC, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 2nd)
Last Week:  def. Wake Forest, def. Virginia Tech
This Week:  Saturday vs Boston College
The Tar Heels remain the undisputed leader in the ACC, and 2nd in the AP Poll, and are in the midst of a week off before hosting Boston College.  Brice Johnson continues to play well, averaging 23 points and 14 rebounds per game over the last week on his way to ACC Player of the Week.

2. Louisville (16-3, 5-1 ACC, LW: 2nd, AP: 16th)
Last Week:  def. Florida State, def. Georgia Tech
This Week:  Wednesday at Virginia Tech, Saturday vs Virginia
The Cardinals continue to impress, with wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech, although they are going into a tough week as they travel to Virginia Tech and host Virginia.  The Cardinals rank second nationally allowing just 58.8 points per game.

3. Virginia (15-4, 4-3 ACC, LW: 5th, AP: 11th)
Last Week:  def. Clemson, def. Syracuse
This Week:  Tuesday at Wake Forest, Saturday at Louisville
The Cavaliers had a great week, beating Clemson and Syracuse to get back above .500 in the league, and back to just outside the top 10 in the ACC.  While the Wahoos are sixth in the country in defense (61.4 ppg), one weakness is in rebounding, where they rank 314th (32.8 per game).

4. Notre Dame (14-5, 5-2 ACC, LW: 7th, AP: 25th)
Last Week:  def. Virginia Tech, def. Boston College
This Week:  Thursday at Syracuse, Sunday vs Wake Forest
The defending ACC champions are starting to play like it, although their roster makeup is different from a season ago.  The Irish have now won four straight, and could realistically head to Miami on February 3rd with a six-game winning streak.  Zach Auguste is fourth in the league in rebounding (10.1 rpg), while Demetrius Jackson is third in assists (5.0).

5. Miami (15-3, 4-2 ACC, LW: 6th, AP: 15th)
Last Week:  def. Boston College, def. Wake Forest
This Week:  Monday vs Duke, Saturday at NC State
While it wasn’t against the best teams in the league (the bottom two in fact), the Hurricanes bounced back from a two-game losing streak with a current two-game winning streak, although that streak will be tested this week as the ‘Canes get a taste of Tobacco Road.  While four double figure scorers for Jim Larranaga’s team can’t be ignored, Tonye Jekiri (8.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg) is an inside presence that has been huge this season for the Hurricanes.

6. Clemson (12.7, 5-2 ACC, LW: 3rd, AP: receiving votes)
Last Week:  lost to Virginia
This Week:  Wednesday vs Pittsburgh, Saturday at Florida State
You know it’s a tough league when one loss to a top 15 team on the road drops the Tigers from 3rd to 6th.  Now the Tigers are finished with a brutal stretch of schedule that they nearly aced, and won’t play another ranked opponent for at least two weeks.  The Tigers only rank 266th in points per game (69.4), but are winning on the strength of the 16th ranked scoring defense (62.7 ppg allowed).

7. Pittsburgh (16-3, 5-2 ACC, LW: 4th, AP: receiving votes)
Last Week:  lost to NC State, def. Florida State
This Week:  Wednesday at Clemson, Sunday vs Virginia Tech
The Panthers had one of those head-scratchers in a home loss to NC State that wasn’t even close, but bounced back to beat Florida State in Tallahassee.  The Panthers, led by James Robinson, who is second in the ACC in assists (5.0 apg), fell out of the top 25, but are still projected comfortably within the NCAA Tournament field.

8. Syracuse (13-8, 3-5 ACC, LW: 11th)
Last Week:  def. Duke, lost to Virginia
This Week:  Thursday vs Notre Dame, Saturday vs Georgia Tech
The Orange beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, quite a feat in itself, although they fell just short at Virginia.  Winning at home is important for a mid-pack ACC team, and the Orange will have the chance to do just that this week.  Malachi Robinson is the ACC’s Rookie of the Week after scoring 18.5 ppg over the last week, including a career-high 23 points at Virginia.

9. Duke (15-5, 4-3 ACC, LW: 8th, AP:24th)
Last Week:  lost to Syracuse, def. NC State
This Week:  Monday at Miami
After losing to Syracuse, the Blue Devils had lost three straight, and were on the verge of making it four in a row before a strong second half shooting performance to win in Raleigh.  Mike Krzyzewski’s offense is great, averaging 85.7 points per game (5th nationally), but outside of five double-figure scorers, depth is a big issue, although that issue gets some help with a week off after tonight’s contest in Coral Gables.

10. Virginia Tech (12-8, 4-3 ACC, LW: 9th)
Last Week:  lost to Notre Dame, lost to North Carolina
This Week:  Wednesday vs Louisville, Sunday at Pittsburgh
One of the teams that showed how little the difference in winning and losing can be is the Hokies, who are “ahead of schedule” as they rebuild.  A 2-point loss at Notre Dame and a 5-point loss (that was really even closer) to the 2nd-ranked Tar Heels shows how well the Hokies are actually playing, but they drop a spot to 10th, simply because wins mean so much more.  Statistically, the Hokies are mid-pack pretty much everywhere, but they have no huge holes, something that is helping Buzz Williams to rebuild more rapidly.

11. NC State (11-9, 1-6 ACC, LW: 14th)
Last Week:  def. Pittsburgh, lost to Duke
This Week:  Wednesday vs Georgia Tech, Saturday vs Miami
If NC State could have played the entire conference schedule like they played at Pittsburgh, they would be higher than 11th.  They led by 10 late in the first half against Duke, but were beaten to the finish by the sharp-shooting Blue Devils.  The Wolfpack boast the league’s leading scorer in Anthony “Cat” Barber (22.1 ppg) and shot blocker in BeeJay Anya (2.6 bpg)

12. Florida State (12-7, 2-5 ACC, LW: 10th)
Last Week:  lost to Louisville, lost to Pittsburgh
This Week:  Tuesday at Boston College, Saturday vs Clemson
A week after the Seminoles looked like they were beginning to come around, they suffered a blowout loss at Louisville, and a close home loss to Pittsburgh.  There will be growing pains for this young of a team in the tough ACC, particularly defensively, where the ‘Noles are allowing 73.6 points per game (224th nationally).  Xavier Rathan-Mayes leads the ACC with 5.2 assists per game.

13. Georgia Tech (11-8, 1-5 ACC, LW: 12th)
Last Week:  lost to Louisville
This Week:  Wednesday at NC State, Saturday at Syracuse
While it’s unfortunate to punish a team in the bottom third of the league for a loss to a ranked team, if the Yellow Jackets want to start a winning tradition under Brian Gregory, they’re eventually going to have to win a close game or two, particularly at home.  It gets tougher on this week’s road trip, although the Yellow Jackets do have Charles Mitchell, the league’s leading rebounder, who is averaging a double-double (11.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg).

14. Wake Forest (10-9, 1-6 ACC, LW: 13th)
Last Week:  lost to North Carolina, lost to Miami
This Week:  Tuesday vs Virginia, Sunday at Notre Dame
While the Demon Deacons two losses last week were against ranked teams on the road, there were very few positives to take away.  They practically didn’t show up in Chapel Hill, before turning a 48-48 tie with 10:00 to go into a 77-63 loss in South Beach.  One positive is Devin Thomas, who is second in the ACC in rebounding and fifth in blocks (16.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.9 bpg), but for the Deacs to have any success, they have to improve on defense (317th nationally at 79.1 ppg).

15. Boston College (7-12, 0-6 ACC, LW: 15th)
Last Week:  lost to Miami, lost to Notre Dame
This Week:  Tuesday vs Florida State, Saturday at North Carolina
The uphill climb seemingly continues to get steeper for the Eagles, who have now lost all six conference games by an average score of 75.3-53.5.  While Saturday’s game in Chapel Hill must seem like an impossible task, the Eagles were in a similar situation two years ago when they traveled to #1 Syracuse and pulled arguably the ACC’s biggest upset in this decade.  However, for a team in the 300’s in both points and rebounds per game, going against a team in the top 19 in both, a miracle sure doesn’t seem likely.

Game of the Week:  Virginia at Louisville (Saturday, 1:00 pm ET, CBS)
Naturally when the second- and third-ranked teams in these rankings play, it is a big game.  Both teams are playing well, particularly on defense, and particularly at home.  That should come into play as these two meet on Sunday, as the winner will likely be the consensus second best team in the league.  As has been the case all season long in the ACC, expect home-court advantage to come into play.
Louisville 62, Virginia 60.

Twitter Picks for NFL Championship Sunday

AFC Championship Game
New England Patriots (13-4) at Denver Broncos (13-4)
Sunday, 3:05 pm ET, CBS
Favorite:  Patriots by 3


NFC Championship Game
Arizona Cardinals (14-3) at Carolina Panthers (16-1)
Sunday, 6:40 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  Panthers by 3


Season to Date
Overall Record: 70-51
College Overall Record: 55-41
Game of the Week: 11-5
Big Game Guarantee: 31-17
Upset of the Week: 6-14
Closer Than the Experts Think: 7-6
NFL Game of the Week: 14-10
Last Week: 3-1

ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Week of 1/18

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this week, once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

While the game of basketball pales in comparison to the significance of the civil rights movement, this quote is appropriate as we look at the last week in the ACC, and not just because Dr. King would have been 87 this past Friday.  Eight ACC teams suffered tough losses in the last week, and six of them have lost consecutive games as they play their difficult ACC schedules.  It isn’t just the teams in the cellar of the ACC that are battling through losing streaks, but legitimately good teams like Duke and Miami that have hit an arduous stretch in a difficult league.

The challenge for each of these teams is evident, as the ACC is as good from top to bottom as it has been since expanding to 15 teams, and there are hardly any games that could be considered breathers, even for the best teams in the league.  How each of these teams deal with a losing streak, and whether or not they are able to remember that it is still very early in the conference schedule and there is still plenty of time to turn a season around, will help to determine the direction of the duration of their season.

King also said “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”  If any ACC team loses that hope in the wake of their recent disappointment, it could result in a very long two-month stretch to finish the season.  In other words, to use a golf analogy, they don’t need to let a bogey on the fourth or fifth hole ruin the round.

1. North Carolina (16-2, 5-0 ACC, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 2nd)
Last Week:  def. NC State
This Week:  Wednesday vs Wake Forest, Sunday at Virginia Tech
The Tar Heels beat winless NC State in their only game of the week, but the perception of this team still improved as the teams around them in last week’s rankings all suffered a setback.  As a result, the Tar Heels are the very clear choice as the top team in the conference, entering a week when they play a pair of games in which they will be heavy favorites.  Ranked second, the Heels are now the only ACC team in the top 10 of the AP Poll, after Duke and Miami have fallen in those rankings.  At 16.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, Brice Johnson is one of the leading candidates so far for ACC Player of the Year.

2. Louisville (14-3, 3-1 ACC, LW: 6th, AP: 17th)
Last Week:  def. Pittsburgh
This Week:  Wednesday vs Florida State, Saturday at Georgia Tech
The main knock on the Cardinals so far had been the lack of a big win on their schedule, but they were able to answer their critics with an assertive 59-41 win over Pittsburgh.  Holding the Panthers offense to 41 points is more impressive to me than the win itself, as it shows how well the Cardinals defense is playing.  This week the Cardinals have two games against the bottom half of the league, giving them an opportunity to further cement their status in the top tier of the ACC.

3. Clemson (12-6, 5-1 ACC, LW: 7th)
Last Week:  def. Duke, def. Miami
This Week:  Tuesday at #13 Virginia
For the first time in program history, Clemson has defeated three straight ranked opponents, with wins over Louisville, Duke, and Miami.  While all three were at home, and doubters are wondering how well the Tigers will do against stellar competition on the road (that will be answered Tuesday at Virginia), the stretch is still a very remarkable one, as the Tigers are the first ACC team with such a stretch since Wake Forest in February 2004 (Chris Paul’s freshman year).  The Tigers don’t have superstars, although Jaron Blossomgame (16.1 ppg) did score 17 against Duke and 25 against Miami, but they play together as a team with excellent chemistry, and have used that through this stretch.  How this team is not ranked in the AP Poll (they are the second team listed as “receiving votes,” or basically 27th overall) is beyond me.

4. Pittsburgh (15-2, 4-1 ACC, LW: 5th)
Last Week:  lost to Louisville, def. Boston College
This Week:  Tuesday vs NC State, Saturday at Florida State
The Panthers were dominated on the road at Louisville, but responded with a dominant 23-point win over Boston College.  Jamie Dixon’s team has played well all season, and has played unselfishly, as they rank seventh nationally with a 1.65 assist-to-turnover ratio.  While Michael Young (17.2 ppg, 3.1 apg), Jamel Artis (16.1 ppg, 3.2 apg), and James Robinson (9.9 ppg, 5.0 apg) are the team’s three leading scorers, they are all averaging at least 3.1 assists per game; for a team to have three such players is rare.  The Panthers can improve their standing, and perhaps get back into the top 25 (they fell out after losing to Louisville), with two games this week against the league’s bottom half.

5. Virginia (13-4, 2-3 ACC, LW: 3rd, AP: 13th)
Last Week:  def. Miami, lost to Florida State
This Week:  Tuesday vs Clemson, Saturday vs Syracuse
The Cavaliers bounced back from a pair of road losses with a home win over Miami, only to lose to Florida State, once again on the road.  Like a lot of the ACC, Tony Bennett’s club is finding it tough to win on the road; they are 0-3 on the road and 2-0 at home in conference play, and overall are 1-4 on the road and 12-0 at home or a neutral site.  If that form holds, the Wahoos will have a good week this week, but it will not be easy, as a couple of hot teams in Clemson and Syracuse are coming to Charlottesville.

6. Miami (13-3, 2-2 ACC, LW: 4th, AP: 15th)
Last Week:  lost to Virginia, lost to Clemson
This Week:  Wednesday at Boston College, Saturday vs Wake Forest
The Hurricanes also struggled on the road over the last week, losing to Virginia and Clemson in games closer than the 8- and 11-point margins would indicate.  The AP Poll voters seem to understand the difficulty of winning on the road, and that, along with the fact 16 of last week’s top 25 all lost at least one game, resulted in the Hurricanes only dropping seven spots to 15th despite their losing streak.  That being said, seeing this team in person on Saturday, they did not look like a top 15 team, but they do have a very quality resume already, and will have opportunities to build upon it in ACC play.  This week they can right the ship with a pair of games against the bottom third of the league.

7. Notre Dame (12-5, 3-2 ACC, LW: 8th)
Last Week:  def. Georgia Tech, def. Duke
This Week:  Wednesday vs Virginia Tech, Saturday vs Boston College
After beating Georgia Tech at home, the Irish did something that is historically difficult for anyone to do, winning a game as a visitor at Cameron Indoor Stadium in a 95-91 thriller.  The Irish have five double figure scorers, including leader Demetrius Jackson (17.5 ppg, 5.4 apg), who scored 24 points against Duke, and Bonzie Colson (12.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg), who scored 31 points off the bench in Durham.  With a good week this week, the Fighting Irish would improve to 5-2 in the league, and it’s certainly possible with Virginia Tech and Boston College both coming to South Bend.

8. Syracuse (13-7, 3-4 ACC, LW: 13th)
Last Week:  def. Boston College, def. Wake Forest, def. Duke
This Week:  Saturday at #13 Virginia
Just two days after Duke lost at home to Notre Dame, the Orange also went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and left with a victory, as they also won a thriller, 64-62.  That came after dominant wins over Boston College and Wake Forest, with the latter also coming on the road by 28.  Saturday the road trip continues with the toughest game the Orange have played on the road all year at Virginia, and while the last two games were their first road wins of the year, the Orange have now proven they can win on the road.  It’s up to them whether or not they will.

9. Duke (14-5, 3-3 ACC, LW: 2nd, AP: 20th)
Last Week:  lost to Clemson, lost to Notre Dame, lost to Syracuse
This Week:  Saturday at NC State
After a 14-2 start, suddenly the Blue Devils are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the worst since a four-game streak in 2007.  This team is very young, and is currently suffering some growing pains, but they should not still be ranked (although the rankings did come out Monday before the Syracuse loss).  This is Duke, and I think they’ll be fine and eventually break out of their sudden drought, but for now they are going through quite a rough stretch by the high and mighty standards of Durham.

10. Virginia Tech (12-6, 4-1 ACC, LW: 11th)
Last Week:  def. Wake Forest, def. Georgia Tech
This Week:  Wednesday at Notre Dame, Sunday vs #2 North Carolina
You could make a case the Hokies should be higher, as they are off to a 4-1 start in conference play, but with the exception of a win over Virginia, the other three teams that Buzz Williams’ bunch has defeated in league play have a combined two ACC wins.  Also, the Hokies’ non-conference resume is not nearly as good as some of the other teams with good conference records.  That being said, this team led up front by Zach LeDay (15.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Chris Clarke (10.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and in the backcourt by Seth Allen (13.3 ppg) and Justin Bibbs (12.5 ppg), will have a chance to get some quality wins this week when they travel to Notre Dame before hosting 2nd-ranked North Carolina.

11. Florida State (12-5, 2-3 ACC, LW: 12th)
Last Week:  def. NC State, def. Virginia
This Week:  Wednesday at #17 Louisville, Saturday vs Pittsburgh
The Seminoles, after starting 0-3 in league play, have righted the ship with back-to-back wins, first on the road at NC State, then at home against Virginia, the ‘Noles best win of the year.  This team, while playing better in recent days, still probably is not as good as expected, but is still very young, with leading scorers Malik Beasley (17.1 ppg) and Dwayne Bacon (16.7 ppg) both freshman, and team leader Xavier Rathan-Mayes (12.1 ppg, 5.3 apg) a sophomore.  If this nucleus stays together, they will be really dangerous in a couple of years, but they already have the talent to still be dangerous against two good teams this week, at Louisville and at home against Pittsburgh.

12. Georgia Tech (11-7, 1-4 ACC, LW: 10th)
Last Week:  lost to Notre Dame, lost to Virginia Tech
This Week:  Saturday vs #17 Louisville
The Yellow Jackets, coming off an upset of Virginia on January 9th, were unable to back that up with another big win this past week, falling at Notre Dame and at home to Virginia Tech.  By the time they play Louisville at home on Saturday, they will have had a week to prepare, so maybe they will be able to pull off another big win, something this team needs.  Charles Mitchell is ranked 9th in the country with 11.0 rebounds per game, which is third among players in Power Five conferences.

13. Wake Forest (10-7, 1-4 ACC, LW: 9th)
Last Week:  lost to Virginia Tech, lost to Syracuse
This Week:  Wednesday at #2 North Carolina, Saturday at #15 Miami
Just days after many national analysts said the Wake Forest program was “back”, and the team was projected on the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Demon Deacons had a rough week, losing a close road game to Virginia Tech, before being dismantled by 28 on their home floor by a Syracuse team whose only prior conference win was over Boston College.  Danny Manning is doing a great job rebuilding this program, but the fan base (yes, that includes me, in case you haven’t heard) still needs to be patient.  With a four game stretch of North Carolina, Miami, Virginia, and Pittsburgh coming up, with only the Cavaliers coming to Winston-Salem, it’s very realistic that the Deacs’ ACC road record of 0-11 under Manning (and 2-43 since the beginning of the Jeff Bzdelik era in 2010) isn’t necessarily about to drastically improve–at least not yet.

14. NC State (10-6, 0-5 ACC, LW: 14th)
Last Week:  lost to Florida State, lost to North Carolina
This Week:  Tuesday at Pittsburgh, Saturday vs #20 Duke
Once the Wolfpack started conference play on a losing streak, it was evident with the schedule ahead of them that any wins would be hard to come by through most of January.  The stretch continues with losses to Florida State and North Carolina, and will continue this week with games at Pittsburgh and at home against Duke (although both of those look moderately less difficult than they did a week ago, but still tough).  There will eventually be a few games that are less difficult, at least by the standards of this year’s stacked ACC, but outside of Anthony “Cat” Barber’s league leading 21.8 points per game (Duke’s Grayson Allen is the only other player averaging more than 17.6 ppg), it’s hard to find bright spots right now in Raleigh.

15. Boston College (7-10, 0-4 ACC, LW: 15th)
Last Week:  lost to Syracuse, lost to Pittsburgh
This Week:  Wednesday vs #15 Miami, Saturday at Notre Dame
Sometimes a conference has a team that just doesn’t fit in for a season or two as they rebuild, although they are usually able to eventually turn it around.  The Eagles currently fit that mold.  While the schedule hasn’t necessarily been the kindest, they still have not played a close game yet in conference play, losing every game by at least 17, being outscored 309-219 in four games (an average of 77.3-54.8).  Florida transfer Eli Carter (17.6 ppg, 4.1 apg) looks like he belongs in the best conference in college basketball, but for the rest of the Eagles, it’s going to continue to be a long season.

Games of the Week:  Clemson at Virginia (Tuesday, 8:00 pm ET, ACC Network) and North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Sunday, 6:30 pm ET, ESPNU)
Both of these games feature an upstart team (Clemson, Virginia Tech) who has surprised early in the ACC schedule against an established front-runner (Virginia, North Carolina) in a game that, while not the biggest game of the year for the conference overall, has some decently large implications for both teams.  Clemson can continue their streak of wins against ranked opponents, although a win over Virginia would be the first of the Tigers’ remarkable streak to come on the road.  Virginia, while ranked in the top 15, has shown that they can be the victim of an upset, starting 2-3 in the ACC, but has yet to lose all season at home, including wins over Miami and Notre Dame in league play.  Virginia Tech has shown that they can stay with anyone at home, as they beat rival Virginia at Cassell Coliseum, but needs more big win to despite their critics after starting 4-1 in a relatively easy schedule stretch.  North Carolina is the proven top team in the conference, and is ranked second in the AP Poll, and is one of the most storied programs both in the history of the conference as well as recent seasons.  The Tar Heels will likely be looking to stay perfect in conference play (as long as they beat Wake Forest on Wednesday as heavy favorites).
Virginia 66, Clemson 60.  Expect Clemson to play well, but Virginia to pull away late at home.
North Carolina 92, Virginia Tech 81.  Yes, the Hokies are playing well of late.  But the Tar Heels are playing as well as anyone in the country.

ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Week of 1/11

Since my last rankings before the season had even started in November, so much has changed in the ACC.  We learned a lot from seven weeks of non-conference play, but we’ve learned even more over the last 10 days, as the ACC’s members have played each other.

The teams I picked fourth and fifth in November are currently a combined 0-6, while the teams I picked 13th and 14th are 5-2.  There’s usually one or two teams who I am wrong about in the preseason (this is the third straight year Clemson has been one of them), but this year this seems to be at least somewhat true with almost half of the conference.

The top half of the ACC is as good as always, as the league has six teams ranked in the AP Top 25, but the bottom half of the ACC is much better than it was last year, when it felt at times like there were legitimately easy games in the league.  This year, with the exception of Boston College (sorry, Eagles), any team will have a legitimate chance to beat any other team on any given night, particularly at home.

That being said, as we keep in mind that the difference between the top and the bottom of the league is less than in years past, here is my opinion on how the teams in the ACC are currently ranked:

1. North Carolina (15-2, 4-0 ACC, Previous Ranking: 1st, AP Poll: 5th)
This Week:  Saturday vs NC State
The Tar Heels are one of the best teams in the country, with a resume including wins over Maryland and UCLA, and four dominant performances to start conference play.  Their only two losses are very close road games at Northern Iowa and Texas.  Roy Williams’ club is in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense, field goal percentage, and assist-to-turnover ratio, and are led as expected by senior guard Marcus Paige (15.1 ppg, 4.1 apg), but also by a rising star in double-double machine Brice Johnson (16.7 ppg, 10.2 rpg).  The schedule in the immediate future is favorable for the Heels, who don’t play a ranked team until February, although they will have a rougher stretch run.

2. Duke (14-2, 3-0 ACC, PR:3rd, AP: 9th)
This Week:  Wednesday at Clemson, Saturday vs Notre Dame
This isn’t necessarily Mike Krzyzewski’s best Duke team, and is a very young club, but has had a solid start.  The Blue Devils didn’t play a true road game in non-conference play, but took care of business against VCU and Georgetown, falling short against Kentucky and Utah (all four games were at neutral sites).  In conference play, that lack of prior road tests hasn’t seemed to hurt the Blue Devils yet, as they beat Boston College and Wake Forest on the road, before dismantling Virginia Tech at home.  The Blue Devils, led by sophomore guard Grayson Allen (23rd nationally with 20.5 ppg) are fourth in the nation scoring 88.1 points per game, and freshman Luke Kennard is fourth in the nation in free throw percentage (93.2%).

3. Virginia (13-3, 2-2 ACC, PR: 2nd, AP: 13th)
This Week:  Sunday at Florida State
If I had ranked the teams last week, the Cavaliers would have been at the top, as they ranked fourth in the AP Poll after non-conference wins over West Virginia, Villanova, and Ohio State, with just a loss at George Washington, along with a win to open conference play at Notre Dame.  They have fallen a couple spots after road losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, but showed their strength and resilience in beating Miami on Tuesday night.  Tony Bennett’s defense is strong, as always, ranking 10th in the country allowing just 60.9 ppg, as the Cavaliers prepare for a trip to Tallahassee this weekend.

4. Miami (13-2, 2-1 ACC, PR: 6th, AP: 8th)
This Week:  Saturday at Clemson
Very quietly, Jim Larranaga has his Hurricanes squad playing their most solid basketball since winning the ACC in 2012-13.  The ‘Canes boast wins over Utah and Butler in non-conference play on their way to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off title, with just a loss to a Northeastern team that is projected in the NCAA Tournament field, and Tuesday night’s road loss at Virginia.  Before facing the Cavaliers, they had started conference play with convincing wins over Syracuse and Florida State.  Both of those games were at home, but the Virginia game was the first of three straight on the road.  The ‘Canes are led by the backcourt of Sheldon McClellan (16.3 ppg) and Angel Rodriguez (11.4 ppg, 3.8 apg), and are a good-shooting team, ranking in the top 15 nationally in both field goal and free throw percentage.

5. Pittsburgh (14-1, 3-0 ACC, PR: 10th, AP: 20th)
This Week:  Thursday at #21 Louisville, Saturday vs Boston College
The Panthers have quietly compiled a strong record into mid-January, with their only loss coming to a very strong and big Purdue team.  The main argument against Pitt’s resume has been a weak strength of schedule, with their best non-conference wins coming against Duquesne and Davidson, but after starting conference play with wins over Syracuse, Georgia Tech, and at Notre Dame, they are now comfortably within the top 25.  James Robinson has the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the country (6.75), and the Panthers rank first nationally in free throw percentage (79.3%) and 10th in rebounding margin (+10.9).

6. Louisville (13-3, 2-1 ACC, PR: 8th, AP: 21st)
This Week:  Thursday vs #20 Pittsburgh
Like Pittsburgh, the main argument against the resume of Louisville is that they haven’t beaten anyone.  Even three games into conference play, the Cardinals still don’t have a win over anyone currently projected as an at-large NCAA team.  They did play well in road losses to Michigan State and Kentucky, although they did not play well in Sunday’s loss at Clemson.  Drexel transfer Damion Lee leads the Cardinals with 16.3 ppg.  The Cardinals are third nationally in field goal percentage defense, allowing just 36.1% of their opponent’s shots to fall (the next best team in the ACC is 55th nationally), but that stat comes with the caveat that it has come against a mostly light schedule.  They can pick up an elusive quality win this week in a ranked matchup with Pittsburgh.

7. Clemson (10-6, 3-1 ACC, PR: 14th)
This Week:  Wednesday vs #9 Duke, Saturday vs #8 Miami
Maybe one of these years, I’ll learn not to pick Clemson 14th in the ACC.  The Tigers had five non-conference losses, with the worst coming at a neutral site against UMass, and looked like they might struggle through ACC play.  When they reached conference play, however, they have been much better.  After a loss in Chapel Hill (where they’ve still never won), the Tigers have defeated Florida State, Syracuse in overtime, and Louisville, and are now 3-1 as they head into a brutal stretch against Duke, Miami, Virginia, and Pittsburgh, although three of the four games are at home.  The Tigers are 15th nationally in scoring defense (62.2 ppg), and are very balanced on offense–Jaron Blossomgame (15.4 ppg) and Avry Holmes (10.7 ppg) are the team’s only double-figure scorers, but all five starters average at least 8.5 ppg.  This team still isn’t on any of the experts’ NCAA Tournament radar, and I can’t see how that is.

8. Notre Dame (10-5, 1-2 ACC, PR: 7th)
This Week:  Wednesday vs Georgia Tech, Saturday vs #9 Duke
The defending ACC champions are a much different team than last year in terms of the names making headlines, but are stylistically similar, as Demetrius Jackson (17.1 ppg, 5.3 apg) has led them into sixth in the country in field goal percentage (50.6%) and 18th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.57).  The worse loss for the Fighting Irish is to Alabama at a neutral site, with other non-conference losses coming to NCAA probable Monmouth and to Indiana, and while they have lost two of three to start conference play, both losses were to ranked opponents, and the Irish were very impressive in a win over Boston College.  The NCAA Tournament is still very much on this team’s radar, as most have them around the bubble in these early stages.

9. Wake Forest (10-5, 1-2 ACC, PR: 11th)
This Week:  Wednesday at Virginia Tech, Saturday vs Syracuse
The Demon Deacons are on the rise in Danny Manning’s second year at the helm, and this year have easily their best team in six years.  The Deacs defeated Indiana and UCLA in the Maui Invitational, even though they were without Bryant Crawford (13.2 ppg, 4.9 apg) for one of those games, and Codi Miller-McIntyre (7.4 ppg, 3.3 apg) for both, and for all of their first eight games.  Devin Thomas (16.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg) is a presence in the post, averaging a double-double.  The Deacs opened conference play with a road loss to Louisville and a home loss to Duke, before beating NC State for their first ACC win.  Manning’s rebuild is ahead of schedule, and with a big win or two, the Deacs have a shot at dancing in March.

10. Georgia Tech (11-5, 1-2 ACC, PR: 12th)
This Week:  Wednesday at Notre Dame, Saturday vs Virginia Tech
I wasn’t a fan of Georgia Tech keeping coach Brian Gregory after last season, but Gregory has improved the Yellow Jackets this year.  The Jackets are led by four double-digit scorers, including Adam Smith (14.8 ppg), Marcus Georges-Hunt (14.6 ppg), and Charles Mitchell (12.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg), who is eighth in the country in rebounding.  The Jackets balanced non-conference wins against Tennessee and VCU with losses to East Tennessee State and Georgia, and have improved in each conference game, first losing to North Carolina and Pittsburgh, before upsetting Virginia.  This team probably won’t make an NCAA run, but can still be dangerous  in ACC play.

11. Virginia Tech (10-6, 2-1 ACC, PR: 13th)
This Week:  Wednesday vs Wake Forest, Saturday at Georgia Tech
After a 2-16 ACC record in Buzz Williams’ first season last year, the Hokies are also improved in Williams’ second campaign.  While their non-conference resume isn’t flattering, with their best win coming over UAB, and losses to Alabama State and St. Joseph’s, they have played better in conference play, beating NC State in overtime, and stunning rival Virginia, before struggling where many do in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  The Hokies have four double-digit scorers, and are led by Zach LeDay (14.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg).  If the ball bounces right, the Hokies could be 4-1 in league play by the end of the week.

12. Florida State (10-5, 0-3 ACC, PR: 5th)
This Week:  Wednesday at NC State, Sunday vs #13 Virginia
The Seminoles are a puzzling team.  While the team has no “bad losses” on their resume, and wins over VCU and Florida, they are currently winless in the ACC.  Even considering that the losses are to Clemson, North Carolina, and Miami, this is still a team that no one expected to struggle, as Leonard Hamilton had many of his key players returning and a strong recruiting class.  The recruiting class has panned out, as Dwayne Bacon (16.7 ppg) and Malik Beasley (16.7 ppg) have both been strong, in addition to sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes (12.2 ppg, 5.5 apg), but the wins haven’t come, at least not yet.

13. Syracuse (10-7, 0-4 ACC, PR: 9th)
This Week:  Wednesday vs Boston College, Saturday at Wake Forest
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Orange.  They started 6-0 in a stretch that included wins over Connecticut and Texas A&M as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.  Since, they are just 4-7, including a loss to a struggling St. John’s team in non-conference play, before conference losses to Pittsburgh, Miami, Clemson, and North Carolina.  While that four-game stretch to begin conference play wasn’t a light one, no one ever expects Syracuse to start 0-4 in conference play.  Coach Jim Boeheim’s nine-game NCAA suspension ended before the North Carolina game, so perhaps the Orange having their leader back, in addition to the play of Michael Gbinije (17.6 ppg, 4.6 apg), can help them out of the hole they have dug themselves.

14. NC State (10-6, 0-3 ACC, PR: 4th)
This Week:  Wednesday vs Florida State, Saturday at #5 North Carolina
I picked the Wolfpack fourth in the ACC, but the team hasn’t looked like that team much at all.  Outside of a win over LSU, the Wolfpack struggled in non-conference play.  While they won most of their games, they won games against High Point, UNC Greensboro, and Northeastern that were too close for comfort, and lost to William and Mary.  Once conference play began, the Wolfpack lost to Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Wake Forest, and due to the schedule, if they don’t beat Florida State, there is a real possibility they could fall to 0-7 in the conference.  There are bright spots–Anthony “Cat” Barber, one of four double figure scorers, is eighth nationally in scoring (22.9 ppg), and the team is 15th nationally in offensive rebounding (15.6 per game)–but if Mark Gottfried’s run of taking the Pack to the NCAA Tournament in every year of his tenure is to continue, he has a lot of work to do.

15. Boston College (7-8, 0-2 ACC, PR: 15th)
This Week:  Wednesday at Syracuse, Saturday at #20 Pittsburgh
The Eagles have been streaky so far, going on winning streaks of three and four games, with losing streaks of six and two.  A win over Harvard was nice, but none of their other wins have any quality.  Add to that losses that include UC Irvine, Santa Clara, and UMass Lowell, and the Eagles are not expected by anyone to have even moderate success in the ACC.  They have been dominated by Duke and Notre Dame in their first two conference games, and the schedule won’t get any easier (then again, it never does when you’re at the bottom).  Florida transfer Eli Carter (17.0 ppg, 4.3 apg) has been a bright spot, but Jim Christian’s second year in Chestnut Hill is going to be a long one.

College Football Playoff National Championship Preview: Clemson vs Alabama

In the second year of the College Football Playoff, the system has produced an incredible Championship Game matchup between #1 Clemson and #2 Alabama.  Both teams are coming into the game off of impressive wins in the Playoff Semifinals on New Year’s Eve, and these two teams are clearly the best two teams in college football.  This may be the most clear-cut, legitimate, and level #1-vs-#2 championship bout in many years, and perhaps since the legendary USC-Texas matchup in the 2006 Rose Bowl.   The word bout fits this game, because it almost feels like a heavyweight title fight instead of a football game between two teams of young student-athletes.

These teams enter the game as the top two teams in both polls.  ESPN’s Football Power Index ranks the Crimson Tide first in strength of record and game control, while the Tigers rank second in those categories.  In overall efficiency, Alabama is first and Clemson is second, as Alabama ranks first in defensive efficiency and 17th in offensive efficiency, and Clemson ranks second in defensive efficiency and 10th in offensive efficiency.  The Crimson Tide rank first in overall rank in the FPI, while the metric doesn’t as heavily favor the Tigers, leaving them fifth.

This game marks the 15th all-time meeting between Clemson and Alabama, and although Alabama has a 12-2 lead in the series, the two programs have not met since 2008.  That game was the season opener of Nick Saban’s second year at the helm at Alabama, while Dabo Swinney was the wide receivers coach under Tommy Bowden.  Swinney became the interim coach later that season when Bowden resigned after six games, before the interim tag was later removed, as he began to lead the program all the way to tonight’s pinnacle.

Before that meeting in 2008, the teams had not played since 1975.  Alabama has won 12 straight in the series, with Clemson’s only two wins coming in the first two meetings, a pair of shutouts in 1904 and 1905.  In the seven meetings between 1909 and 1966, Clemson scored a total of seven points, while Alabama averaged nearly 33 points in those meetings.  Since their last win in the series in 1905, Clemson has never scored more than 14 points on the Crimson Tide defense, while in the last 10 meetings, the Tide have scored 21 or more nine times, 32 or more seven times, and 40 or more three times, including a 74-point output in 1931.  Of course, all of that means nothing going into tonight’s matchup in 2016.

The Alabama Crimson Tide enter tonight’s game at 13-1, as champions of the SEC, becoming a Playoff finalist with a 38-0 domination of #3 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.  Alabama lost to Ole Miss, 43-37, on September 19, but has won every game since, with every game except one (Tennessee) decided by 13 points or more.  The Crimson Tide have faced eight ranked opponents in their first 14 games, although only five of those remain ranked in my most recent top 25.

Alabama is led offensively by Derrick Henry, a workhorse running back who became the second Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy, rushing for 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season.  Henry was held in check by Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, but quarterback Jake Coker had a career night in the win, completing 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns.  Coker doesn’t have the overall passing numbers of Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and certainly can’t touch Watson’s rushing numbers, but has actually thrown less interceptions.  Defensively, Alabama’s front seven is one of the best the college game has ever seen, with all seven starters projected among the top 30 prospects for April’s NFL Draft.  It was this defensive front that cut off Michigan State’s offense so definitively in the Cotton Bowl.

The Clemson Tigers enter tonight’s game at a perfect record of 14-0, and are trying to become the first 15-win team in college football history (although teams play more games now than the ever have).  The Tigers are the ACC champions, and had regular season wins over the teams ranked eighth, ninth, and 10th in my pre-bowl top 25, before beating #4 Oklahoma, 37-17, in the Orange Bowl to reach the title game.  Some will point to their ACC conference affiliation as somewhat of a weakness, compared to Alabama playing the SEC, the best conference in college football, but the strength of Clemson’s wins speaks for itself.

Clemson is led by Watson, a dual-threat quarterback who finished third in the Heisman voting behind Henry and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey after throwing for 31 touchdowns and rushing for 12.  If Alabama can shut down Watson, running back Wayne Gallman, who has rushed for 1,332 yards and 10 touchdowns, could be an X-factor in the contest.  Defensively, Clemson is led by defensive end Shaq Lawson and cornerback Mackensie Alexander.  Lawson is an electric pass rusher, and Alexander is a shutdown corner, but both enter the game with injury question marks.  Lawson injured his knee against Oklahoma 11 days ago, but is likely to play, although he may not be at 100 percent, while Alexander is a game-time decision with a hamstring injury.

Historically, while Clemson has traditionally had a solid program among the ACC’s best, there’s little contest between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide.  Alabama is playing for their 16th national championship, and only Princeton and Yale have more (and neither has won a championship since 1950).  The Crimson Tide are playing tonight for their fourth title in a remarkable seven year stretch under Nick Saban, who is going for his fifth overall.  Clemson won the national title in 1981 over Danny Ford, but that is their only top five finish in the AP Poll (they’re guaranteed their second such finish this year regardless of tonight’s outcome).  Alabama has finished in the top five a stunning 22 times, and the top 10 in 39 seasons, compared to seven for Clemson.  That being said, while Clemson’s history pales in comparison to their opponent tonight, they are still considered in the upper echelon of programs with the richest history.

There are striking parallels between Clemson’s 1981 national championship season and their 2015 run to tonight’s title game.  Both teams were coached by a former Alabama player, with Danny Ford coaching the Tigers in 1981 and Swinney today.  The quarterback for the 1981 edition of the Tigers was Homer Jordan, from Athens, GA.  Watson, leading this team, is from Gainesville, GA, only about 40 miles from Athens.  Both teams played Wofford in their season opener, and both entered bowl season undefeated and played in the Orange Bowl.  In 1981, that was against Nebraska, the champions of the Big 8.  That conference later evolved into the Big 12, whose 2015 champion, Oklahoma, was defeated by Clemson in this year’s Orange Bowl.  The 1981 team won their games by an average of 18.4 points per game, while this year’s team has won their games by 19.4 per contest.

The team that Alabama has played that is stylistically the most similar to Clemson is Ole Miss, the only team to beat the Crimson Tide this year.  Ole Miss is led by Chad Kelly, a dual-threat quarterback who, ironically enough, played at Clemson in 2012-13.  The Rebels also have a defense with playmakers and athletes similar to those at Clemson.  Dual-threat quarterbacks seem to have given Saban-coached Alabama teams trouble over the years, with some of the teams most renowned losses coming to opposing quarterbacks like Cam Newton (Auburn) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M).  Alabama committed five turnovers in that 43-37 loss, and while the defense did allow easily their most points this season (the next most is 23), some of those points were scored off of those turnovers.  However, Alabama has matured exponentially since their loss to Ole Miss, so while that loss proves Clemson certainly has a chance in this game, the team the Tigers are trying to beat is much different, and better, than the one the Rebels beat some four months ago.  The fact Alabama scored 37 points on the Ole Miss defense in a game that they turned the ball over five times is good news for the Tide tonight, as long as they can keep control of the football.

The Clemson opponent who most resembles Alabama is Florida State, although the athletes Clemson will see lining up across from them tonight will be like none they have seen all season.  Clemson defeated Florida State, 23-13, on November 7th, putting the Seminoles away with a late touchdown after the entire game until that point had been a one-possession contest, and the game had been tied entering the fourth quarter.  Following a 75-yard touchdown run by Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, the Tigers defense only allowed two field goals the rest of the game, while Watson threw for 297 yards and rushed for 107 in the victory that clinched the ACC Atlantic Division for Clemson, although by that point they already had much bigger goals in mind, like reaching, and eventually winning, the title game tonight.

Many experts have been analyzing tonight’s game through the lens of the matchup between the Clemson offense and the Alabama defense.  As mentioned, Alabama has the best front seven in the country, and has allowed 17 or less in 12 of their first 14 games, while Clemson has scored 33 or more in 11 of their first 14 contests.  Alabama has 50 sacks, which comes out to over three and a half per game, and if they can get to Watson and get him on the ground, Clemson will surely struggle offensively.  If Watson is able to extend plays with his legs long enough for some key completions or favorable runs, and if Gallman can have a good night on the ground, the Tigers should have an excellent chance to celebrate when the clock strikes midnight (in Clemson, 10 p.m. in Glendale, AZ where the game is being played).

Naturally, the opposite aspect of this game is how the Alabama offense matches up with the Clemson defense.  While Alabama’s strongest trait is their defense, and Clemson’s their offense, both teams have been dominant all year, and a team can’t be dominant without being very good on both sides of the ball.  Alabama has scored 27 or more in every game except one this year (Tennessee), while Clemson has allowed 17 or less in eight of their games (including against some of their better opponents, including Oklahoma).  If Alexander is out for the Tigers, it changes the dynamic of this matchup completely, as Coker should have an easier time of dissecting Clemson’s secondary.  If Alexander is able to play, the matchup of him against Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley will be a huge key to how many points Alabama has on the scoreboard at the end of the night.  Clemson’s secondary with Alexander playing would be the best secondary the Crimson Tide have faced this year, and could make them turn to the running game.  Coker comes in on a hot streak, having thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions in his last four games.  Clemson’s defensive front isn’t quite as good as Alabama’s but is still very strong, including Lawson, and is capable of holding Henry in check.  Naturally, the Heisman winning back is also capable of a legendary rushing performance.  Clemson did a good job containing the run against Oklahoma, who had been averaging 300 yards per game since their loss to Texas.

With both offense vs. defense matchups being pretty even, one thing that could play a factor in the game is the special teams, one facet of the game which very heavily favors Alabama.  The Crimson Tide are only ranked 29th in the FPI’s special teams efficiency, but have five punt return touchdowns and five blocked kicks.  Both of those numbers are excellent, but the Tide can really separate themselves in this faction of the game when considering that Clemson ranks an abysmal 123rd in special teams efficiency out of 128 in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision.  With that wide of a gap between these two units, the Crimson Tide can really aid their effort to win the title tonight by making a couple of plays on special teams.

A common theory I’ve heard in the buildup to this game is that a high-scoring game would favor Clemson, while a low-scoring game would favor Alabama.  However, in the event of a high-scoring game, if it comes down to which defense can get just one stop in the second half or fourth quarter, wouldn’t you want Alabama on the field to get that one stop?  Similarly, in a low-scoring game, if it comes down to which offense can score just once down the stretch, wouldn’t you want the Clemson offense on the field for that potential game-winning score?

The spread for tonight’s game favors Alabama by six and a half points, which is interesting considering that Clemson is the undefeated team and top seed in the College Football Playoff.  However, a big reason for this spread is that, while Clemson was impressive in their 20-point win over Oklahoma, Alabama’s shutout of Michigan State was flat-out dominant, and was one of the best performances on that size of stage that college football has ever seen.  Clemson fans might actually like this spread, as the Tigers are 4-0 as bowl game underdogs under Swinney, including wins over Oklahoma the last two years, Ohio State in 2013, and LSU in 2012, all big-name programs just like Alabama.

FPI favors Alabama to win tonight, giving the Tide a 61.9 percent chance at hoisting the trophy.  Personally, I see this as more of a 50-50 game, with two superb football teams who are both more than deserving for a chance to bring their school a championship.  This is one of the hardest games I’ve ever had to make a pick for, and I don’t think either team will necessarily cost themselves the game, as the game should be played at an extremely high level.  In the end, both offenses are going to make their share of plays, and both defenses are going to make their share of plays, but only the Alabama special teams have shown the capability to change a game in their own right.  I don’t like to revert to special teams play to decide who I think will win a game, but this game is that close.  This should be a “whoever has the ball last” and “whoever makes the most plays in the fourth quarter” (or for that matter the final five minutes) type of game.  Enjoy this game, because this has the potential to be an absolute classic.

Alabama 31, Clemson 27

Twitter Picks for NFL Wild Card Weekend

Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans
Saturday, 4:30 pm ET, ESPN/ABC
Favorite: Chiefs by 3
Chiefs: 11-5, AFC 5th seed (Wild Card)
Texans:  9-7, AFC 4th seed (AFC West Champion)


Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, CBS
Favorite: Steelers by 3
Steelers: 10-6, AFC 6th seed (Wild Card)
Bengals: 12-4, AFC 3rd seed (AFC North Champion)


Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, 1:00 pm ET, NBC
Favorite: Seahawks by 5
Seahawks: 10-6, NFC 6th seed (Wild Card)
Vikings: 11-5, NFC 3rd seed (NFC North Champion)


Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins
Sunday, 4:30 pm ET, FOX
Favorite: Redskins by 1
Packers: 10-6, NFC 5th seed (Wild Card)
Redskins: 9-7, NFC 4th seed (NFC East Champions)



And for my predictions for how the NFL Playoffs will play out…


Season to Date
Overall Record: 64-49
College Overall Record: 55-41
Game of the Week: 11-5
Big Game Guarantee: 31-17
Upset of the Week: 6-14
Closer Than the Experts Think: 7-6
NFL Game of the Week: 8-8