On this week’s episode of Tar Takes we discuss the aftermath of the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team’s amazing week which included two decisive wins over the Duke Blue Devils and Florida State Seminoles. We also break down what we saw against Duke, who will win on Tuesday in Syracuse vs. UNC, and ask the question should Zion Williamson play anymore basketball games for Duke?
We also start the show by making an apology to UNC forward Luke Maye since he balled out against Duke after Tar Takes was not optimistic in its predictions for Maye against the Blue Devils last Wednesday.
Takeaways and thoughts after UNC’s win over Duke? Florida State?
Is UNC being ranked at No. 5 too high, too low or just right?
What should we expect tomorrow night against Syracuse? Will UNC lose, win by a little or win by a lot?
Should Zion Williamson play another game for Duke?
FSU ended last season ranked eighth in the AP poll, but they’re one of the top contenders for the college football title next season. Under the right circumstances, this year’s FSU team is a recipe for success.
Last Time Out
Overall, the Seminoles had a successful 2016 campaign, but there were some bumps in the road, with surprise losses to UNC and Louisville. The ‘Noles bounced back and only suffered one more loss against powerhouse Clemson, and then edged Michigan in the Orange Bowl.
Throughout the season FSU had powerful players on both sides of the ball, but the big story is whether they’ll be able to replace RB Dalvin Cook, who just got drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.
To supplement Akers, FSU is also bringing in the No. 4 ranked running back Khalan Laborn and the No. 15 ranked RB Zaquandre White. Laborn is a five-star recruit out of Virginia, and is ranked No. 1 among all-purpose backs.
With this stacked RB recruiting class, it seems the Seminoles have solved the problem of Cook’s departure for the long term. If Akers, Laborn, and White perform as well as they’re ranked, FSU won’t lose any sleep over running concerns.
Any doubt that people had about Deondre Francois’s passing game is all but gone.
In his first season as FSU’s quarterback, he threw 235 completions for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Francois has been working consistently to become a better team leader, and he thinks he’s doing well. “I feel like I’ve gotten better this spring,” he told ESPN in an interview. “I will never be pleased with myself internally, but as a team and as an offense, I am very pleased with how we’ve been doing.”
One thing that Francois did struggle with was protection – he was sacked 37 times last season, and if changes aren’t made to the O-line the ‘Noles have a problem.
The main culprit for all these sacks is the rest of the offense. Francois was also tackled for a loss 86 times and was hurried 28 times, terrible numbers for a top-10 team.
The bottom line is, if Francois doesn’t receive better protection, he’s going to continue to get sacked, which will impair FSU’s ability to reach the title game.
All-American offensive tackle, Roderick Johnson, recently left for the draft, leaving yet another hole in the Seminole O-Line. For a line already plagued by injury, losing a player like Johnson is a recipe for mediocrity. If FSU is going to have a strong offensive line, their young players are going to have to step up.
Josh Ball, a 6’8″ 287 pound offensive tackle out of Virginia, might help the Noles answer some questions. He redshirted last season and comes into this season as a freshman. Redshirt freshman Jauan Williams, a four-star offensive tackle, and Baveon Johnson, a four-star center, also hope to supplement the struggling line.
Sense a trend here? It looks like FSU had a lot of talent in reserve last season. If this group of promising players pans out, FSU looks good for the post-season.
Top-Notch Recruiting, as Usual
Ranked as the sixth-best recruiting class in the nation, the Noles have an impressive group of young talent coming in on both sides of the ball. Besides the obvious with Akers at running back, the Seminoles have some quality offensive players for the upcoming season.
FSU’s receiving corps added eighth-ranked wide receiver D.J. Matthews. He’s joined by wide receiver Tamorrion Terry, and tight ends Tre’ McKitty and Alexander Marshall.
It seems like FSU put more focus on the defense this year, though. Defensive end Joshua Kaindoh, a five-star recruit out of Florida, is the third-ranked WDE in the country and ranked ninth in the nation overall. He’s joined by four-star cornerback Stanford Samuels and four-star safeties Cyrus Fagan and Hamsah Nasirildeen.
The Seminoles also recruited five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who is the No. 1 ranked defensive tackle in the nation.
Add four-star defensive tackle Ja’len Parks, and FSU looks strong on defense for the upcoming season.
Why Florida State will win the college football title game
FSU has played well consistently since 2012, and last season was no exception. This year they come back with a more mature quarterback and a stellar ground game, as well as a defense that’ll be tough to beat.
The most important thing for the Seminoles to focus on right now is their opening game against Alabama. It could prove to be their toughest game of the year, and the Crimson Tide won’t hold back.
It will be interesting to see the Hurts-Francois matchup, since so many people have compared them this offseason. FSU will also be going up against one of the best offenses and defenses in the nation.
Even with an opening day loss, the ‘Noles won’t completely lose their spot. It would be an important win for Francois’s confidence and their ranking, though.
The new receivers will have to learn how to work with Francois as he develops, and his offensive line will need to make sure he has time to get rid of the ball.
If those two things happen, the Seminoles will be a hard team to beat, and will most likely make the title game.
Given the right circumstances, the Crimson Tide will retake their place at the top of the college football world.
Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts showed intelligence and talent last season, giving fans a lot to look forward to as Hurts matures as a player.
Here is why Hurts and the rest of the Tide will be National Champions in 2018.
Top-flight recruiting class
Nick Saban is bringing in one of the most talented recruiting classes in Crimson Tide history.
The biggest story for the Tide is incoming running back Najee Harris. He’s 6-foot-2, 224 pounds and is ranked as the third best RB in the 2017 class.
His story is interesting, having been homeless for a portion of his life and moving from place to place. More on his past can be found here.
Five-star offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and 5-star offensive linebacker Dylan Moses, as well as four 4-star offensive linemen will start this year at Bama.
Alabama also brings in an impressive young receiving corps, headed by WR Jerry Jeudy, a five-star recruit out of Florida, and three 4-star wide receivers and a 4-star tight end.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a 5-star recruit out of Hawaii, will challenge Hurts at his own game, and there’s nothing wrong with a little competition from the two to decide who is the better quarterback.
Can the Crimson Tide reload on defense?
Bama only allowed 13.7 points per game, the best in the FBS. They also had 11 defensive touchdowns last year, as well as 54 team sacks. They were one of the best defensives of all time last season, proved by this ESPN article.
There’s only one problem, a lot of this talent left for the NFL draft this year.
They’re losing a couple of their best defensive players: Washington Redskins defensive end Jonathon Allen, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tim Williams, Redskins linebacker Ryan Anderson, Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson and New York Giants defensive tackle Dalvin Johnson.
Despite the losses, it looks like the Tide will reload on defense. Outside linebackers Christian Miller, Anfernee Jennings, and Terrell Hall return to the team and will look to replace the defensive talent from last year.
Da’Shawn Hand, a backup senior defensive end, looks to take over Allen’s spot. He played a supporting role for most of his career to date, but looked productive during his playing time.
Alabama’s weakness: pass defense
It’s hard to find weaknesses with the Alabama team, but Alabama has shown the inability to defend the pass during stretches.
The Tide gave up over 400 yards against both Ole Miss and Arkansas, both teams that shouldn’t have been much of a threat.
Those were the only two games where an opponent got more than 14 points on the board in the regular season, but the slip-ups are telling. Saban knows he has to close the gap quickly if he hopes to get a season-opening win over Florida State.
Can Alabama overcome their tough schedule?
Alabama always has a tough schedule, but this year should prove to be especially challenging. Their season opener is against a very strong FSU team, and momentum is everything for the Tide. FSU is projected to be one of the best teams in the country and anything can happen on opening day.
An opening day slip-up would force Alabama to win out if they want to make it to the playoffs.
Even after the first game, Bama goes up against Tennessee, always tough rival LSU, Auburn, and whoever they play in the SEC title game (most likely either Florida or Georgia).
Why Alabama will win the college football title game
Betting that Alabama will be in the title game is always a safe move. There’s plenty of teams that have the skill to challenge the Crimson Tide this year, but, like always, Alabama finds their way into the title game.
Alabama’s incoming offense is one of the best in the country, and as Hurts matures he’ll find that he has a ton of talent to challenge defenses.
Alabama will continue to have a dominant defense with their new recruits, but that won’t be the reason for them winning a championship this season.
Hurts’ improvement in his second season will make them that much better offensively and push them over the hump to winning another national title.
Florida State safety Derwin James isn’t a name that you hear often in college football; he hasn’t been relevant since 2015.
In the 2015 season, the safety was named to the freshman all-american team by several news outlets after clocking 91 tackles with 9.5 for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 4.5 sacks. He looked to be on the upward trend for Heisman consideration by his sophomore year.
Early last season against Charleston Southern, James tore his meniscus forcing him to miss the last 11 games of the season.
The Florida native is ready to play for the Seminoles this upcoming season and is already considered a Heisman candidate, according to Pro Football Focus.
He would be the first defensive player to win the Heisman since 1997, when Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson won it. Woodson went on to play for the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers, before retiring in 2015.
After being out an extended period of time with the injury, James is excited to get back in the game, per his own twitter page.
I'm Finally back can't wait to get back out there with my brothers again #Spring Ready #NoleNation
James excels in every aspect on defense, making him a strong force for the 2017 season. Florida State is looking to prove that they deserve to be in the national title conversation again, after not having been to the championship since 2013.
Florida State has a knack for recruiting quality players. Deondre Francois came into the program after Jameis Winston made, what I consider to be, his great escape. The investigations were iffy, the departments in charge were in disarray, and Winston probably took his lawyer’s advice and declared for the NFL draft (of course, he probably would have anyways).
FSU didn’t have the best season in 2015. Sean Maguire didn’t have what it took to keep them in playoff contention, and they suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Houston Cougars in the Peach Bowl. Fast forward to 2016, and Francois has helped them rebound to a top 10 program once again.
Francois had an impressive season statistically, but he had less success than several ACC Quarterbacks. He passed for 3,350 yards with a 58.8% completion percentage and threw for 20 touchdowns. In the game that mattered most, when FSU pulled out a win against Michigan 33-32, he didn’t perform well completing only 9/27 passes for 22 yards. Luckily for FSU, Dalvin Cook was there to save the game.
Francois will have an immediate test in 2017, against Alabama in the season opener, to prove that he is a Heisman contender. Vegas has already flagged him as a possible 2017 Heisman candidate among 18 other players. During Winston’s Heisman trophy campaign as a freshman, he threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns while completing 66.9% of his passes. The difference is pretty staggering. Even in 2014 when Jameis was 6th in the running for the trophy, he did better than Francois’s redshirt freshman year.
There are several things that need to happen for him to be considered a serious contender for the Heisman. First, FSU needs to step up the caliber of their offensive line. After losing Cook, they might need to pivot and become a pass-heavy team—the only way they can possibly do this is to protect Francois more than they did last year.
Next, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, and Baker Mayfield need to have average seasons. I could see Mayfield doing this, but the other two might prove to be a problem. FSU has the opportunity to beat Louisville, and improve Francois’ Heisman chances, but may need USC to lose to several games throughout the year.
Jimbo Fisher never recruits uncoachable players. He’s fostered many amazing players in the last couple years, and not only do I see Francois staying through his junior year, but he will improve each season as well.
Francois has a lot of talent that he hasn’t cultivated yet. He has as much talent as anyone in the nation. If he can stay focused and play like everyone knows he can, then he will make an impressive case for the Heisman next season.
It wouldn’t hurt if FSU makes it to the College Football Playoffs next year, either.
Tomorrow will be the most exciting day in the bowl season thus far. There are five games throughout the day starting at noon (EST) and ending with the start of the Orange Bowl at 8. In this article I’ll focus on the Sun Bowl and the Orange Bowl, but I’ll also include some quick notes on the remaining three games.
Sun Bowl — UNC vs Stanford
El Paso, Texas
This is going to be a tight one. The Cardinal haven’t had the best season, especially at the beginning, and losing Christian McCaffrey to the NFL draft will only cause more harm. Check out our article
UNC is starting Mitch Trubisky (projected top 10 pick), and he will be the key to a Tarheel’s victory. He has only thrown an interception in two games, and has reliably led this explosive offense. If Trubisky plays as he has all year, the Cardinal will be hard-pressed to shut down the Heels.
If UNC can get over the apathy they seemed to possess during the NC State and Duke losses and the Cardinal can’t get over the loss of McCaffrey, the Heels should be a lock to win.
Orange Bowl — FSU vs Michigan
Miami Gardens, Florida
#5 Jabril Peppers
Image by Tony Ding/AP Images
The Orange bowl is always a big game, and this year should be no different. It has huge implications for next season and promises to be a close one.
The Seminoles have had a hard time this season playing balanced teams like Michigan, and I think the Wolverines will take advantage of their weakness.
FSU’s impact player is Dalvin Cook; whenever he lights up in a game and delivers on his full potential, FSU wins. Cook is one of the nation’s best RBs and he’ll definitely get his yards—the question is whether it’ll be enough to win the game. I think Michigan’s defensive line will tear FSU’s sub-par O-line apart and render Cook ineffective. This will also serve to frustrate most of Francois’s attempts to move the ball. The Wolverines only allow 3.1 yards per carry and have 44 sacks on the year (2nd in FBS).
If FSU’s O-line can come out aggressive, Francois has the chance to be a mobile and effective QB. He has 3,128 yards this season and may be up to the Wolverines’ challenge.
FSU’s defensive line shouldn’t be overlooked. They lead the nation with 47 sacks, and have had 15 of them come from DeMarcus Walker.
Jimbo Fisher’s team is always impressive, but this year has been barred with disappointment because of a bitter loss in the bowl game last year vs Houston and several losses this season. Michigan is bitter after losing their chance at the college football playoffs, and will want to use this game as a catapult towards a national championship next season. It’ll be a close one, but the Wolverines will come out on top.
Liberty Bowl — Georgia vs TCU
#27 Nick Chubb
Contributed Photo /Times Free Press
It is hard to believe that the Horned Frogs and the Bulldogs are meeting in the Liberty Bow. It wasn’t too long ago these programs were churning out wins and were top ranked opponents. This definitely isn’t what either team wanted, but as with any bowl game, winning is important to give them confidence going into next season. TCU simply won’t be able to stop anything that Georgia throws at them, and Kenny Hill won’t be able to jump-start his own pass offense after throwing just 3 touchdowns in his last 6 games. Jacob Eason isn’t golden either, but he’ll get the job done despite his 55% completion rate.
Music City Bowl — Nebraska vs Tennessee
Obviously you can’t overlook the home field advantage, but it’ll be hard for Tennessee to pick up enough slack to win the game. The Vols had a tough loss against Vanderbilt to end the regular season and they need to shake it off and come into this game fresh and ready. Nebraska is dealing with some pretty big injuries, and although the Cornhuskers have a pretty good team coming in, the Volunteers will take the W.
Arizona Bowl — Air Force vs South Alabama
America Sports Network
Winner: Air Force
South Alabama won’t be able to shut down an impressive Falcons run game. Although South Alabama will be able to throw a few touchdowns, Air Force has the more impressive offense and should win by more than a few scores. South Alabama’s 6-6 record doesn’t give me confidence that they’ll win in just their second bowl game ever against a 9 win Air Force team.
Chaos factor (i.e., they muddle up the process of choosing playoff contenders completely)? Check.
Everything seems to point to the Buckeyes. Regardless, something deep down tells me that Michigan is going to win and cement themselves for the playoffs. Don’t ask me why. The game will be decided by less than five points and in the last five minutes, but I think it’ll be decided in favor of Michigan. I think Ohio State will have the first half advantage—and for a home game, this is huge—but desperation and a strong and balanced team will give Michigan the comeback power it needs to take the game.
#1 Alabama vs #15 Auburn — Winner: Alabama
Every year I want to choose Auburn to win this one. Alabama is hungry for its postseason, and they want to be on top when they inevitably enter the playoffs at the end of the year. Saban is 6-3 in the Iron Bowl, and the Crimson Tide enjoys their time at the top too much to lose to their bitter rival. Their defenses are pretty even, but I think Bama has the competitive edge when it comes to offense, and ultimately they’ll win a bitterly close matchup.
#10 Colorado vs #12 Utah — Winner: Colorado
Utah will be unable to stop the Buffaloes’ crazy win streak, especially after being humbled by a 3-7 Oregon team last week. Liufau is going to have a miraculous showing, and with no home field advantage for either team, even Utah’s strong special teams via Andy Phillips won’t be able to snag the win.
#6 Washington vs #22 Washington State — Winner: Washington State
This is my huge upset of the week, and I think I’ll be spot on about it. Washington showed its weakness when it lost to USC, and I think it’ll be caught off guard by Falk and his receivers. Falk will throw for well over 300 yards, and while it’ll of course be a close game, WSU will come out on top and Washington will lose its hopes of going to the playoffs.
#17 Florida State vs #23 Florida — Winner: FSU
This is gonna be a super close game. Last year, even Seminoles fans were disappointed at how badly the Seminoles beat UF, and now the Gators will be back with a vengeance. Despite that, the over 80,000 capacity venue at Doak Campbell in Tallahassee will be enough to rattle the Gators, and they won’t be able to slow down Dalvin Cook nearly enough.
#8 Penn State vs Michigan State — Winner: Penn State
Looking at records this seems like a no-brainer, but all I’m saying is that Michigan State and Dantonio are gonna keep this closer than anyone expects.
#16 LSU vs #25 Texas A&M — Winner: LSU
The Aggies will be too overconfident with their home field advantage, and LSU will show them why that’s a mistake. It won’t be close, but I can predict a high scoring game from both teams. LSU will get a strong showing from both Guice and Elting, and Knight just won’t be able to cut it for TAMU.
(Clemson) Deshaun Watson, Christian Wilkins, Mike Williams
My first reaction when I saw the matchup for the Clemson vs. Florida State game was a disappointment. This wasn’t the game I was hoping for in terms of rankings, and growing up as an avid Seminole—and being able to still support them because I’m at a school with division III sports—this game comes with a sense of foreboding. For the first time in a good amount of years, the Noles aren’t ranked in the top 10, and the roles are flipped. Clemson comes into this game at no.3 in the nation, while FSU is lagging behind at no.14. Every year for the last seven years, the winner of this game has gone on to the ACC championship. Statistically, Clemson should win this game; but as my dad always told me, never underestimate any rivalry. As a staunch Gators fan, my dad has seen the unranked Noles beat the highly ranked Gators, and vice versa. Just as an unranked Tigers squad took down the no.3 FSU team in 2003, the same thing can happen with a low ranked Seminoles team. Not that this means much for this season, but FSU has a 20-9 edge over the Tigers all time and a home field advantage. With a seating capacity of 80,000 and a ton of rowdy, drunk FSU students, anyone would be intimidated.
Seminoles fans have reason to worry about this game. A two-loss team in the top 12 is sketchy already, and the Seminoles have always had a problem with consistency. Despite their weaknesses, the Seminoles come in with both strong offensive leaders and a stellar defensive line. Dalvin Cook averages 128.6 yards per game, and Quarterback Deondre Francois passes for 268 yards per game. He’s no Jameis, but he seems like an okay guy, and at this point for the FSU PR team this is all we can hope for. Cook needs only 100 more yards to hit the 1,000 mark, his third 1,000-yard season. On the defensive side of things, DeMarcus Walker has 8.5 sacks out of 32 tackles, putting him at second in the nation for sacks. With his injury finally clearing up, Josh Sweat brings a new element of explosive talent to the Noles defense.
The Tigers lead the ACC with a strong undefeated record. They are an all-around solid team with a lot to throw at the Noles. QB Deshaun Watson is #8 nationally in touchdown passes, and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins leads a dominating defense that is sure to be a headache for the Noles. Mike Williams poses a deep threat for receiving, and the Seminoles will have to play some amazing defense to keep the ball out of his hands.
It’s heartbreaking for me to project a loss from my Seminoles, but I believe after a hard contest from both teams the Tigers will come out on top. FSU will battle plenty of errors throughout the game and will cause their fair share of penalties (what’s new?) and will cause Noles fans all over the country to pull their hair out after 100 yards of penalties. Clemson will underperform, and will not look like the same team that beat Auburn and Louisville; if there’s any team that can rattle the Tigers, it’s FSU. Regardless, the Noles will play worse and ultimately will fall to the Tigers. This game will mark the end of an era for them—since 2011 they have been a dominating force in college football. Starting with last year’s loss against Houston, they have begun their slow descent into mediocrity—even their stellar recruiting class may not be able to save them this time.