Sean Tucker and Will Shipley, each representing an unbeaten squad squaring off in upstate South Carolina this past Saturday, Tucker for No. 14 Syracuse and Shipley for host Clemson, ranked fifth in the country.
Their individual duel was poised to be one of the highlights of Week 8 in college football, if not the entire 2022 season. It was positioned to play the deciding factor in the outcome of the game. Certain to impact the course of the rest of the conference campaign. Maybe even give a preview of a terrific Heisman race next season between two ACC stars.
Only it never materialized.
Because one team gave its guy the ball, and the other didn’t.
Oh, Shipley showed up and answered the bell, even getting up from a potentially disastrous second-half fumble, to record his best day as a collegian, a day so good (172 yards and 2 TDs rushing, 53 yards on two kickoff returns, and another 17 yards on three receptions) that it earned him the Doak Walker National Running Back of the Week honors.
Tucker showed up, too. Only there was no bell to answer as the Orange inexplicably opted to use the jet-powered junior as nothing more than decoy for three hours on a glorious sunny afternoon. All told, Tucker got 10 touches (five carries and five receptions for a total of 72 yards and Syracuse’s first TD).
Utterly ridiculous. So much so it cost the ‘Cuse the game (Clemson won, 27-21, to extend its ACC home win streak to a record 38 games).
When Tucker saw the ball within the game’s last couple of minutes after seemingly going 90 minutes since the last time he had, ESPN announcer Sean McDonough (a Syracuse grad) sarcastically noted how it was nice to see Tucker “out of the witness protection program.”
Orange head coach Dino Babers and quarterback Garrett Shrader only made things worse post-game by saying that the Tigers’ defense had done things to take away Tucker. As someone who watches Clemson religiously, you can bank on the legitimacy of this call of “bullshit” right here.
No, what Babers and offensive coordinator Robert Anae did was the equivalent of San Diego Padres manager Bob Melvin not using extraordinary reliever Josh Hader in the eighth inning in Sunday’s Game 5 of the ALCS and then watching Shipley go all Bryce Harper in delivering the clinching home run, a 50-yard TD gallop.
Frankly, it was a fire-able offense for Babers, Anae … and Melvin.
Tucker can tweet all he wants that he was “PL34SED” with his effort … and really mean it. But he can be, and really should be, PO’d beyond belief at how underutilized he was against Clemson.
As Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney said, “We felt he was the one guy who could beat us.”
Too bad Babers and Anae didn’t know.
The continuing evolution of Bo Nix leaning more toward Dr. Jekyll instead of Mr. Hyde during his final season as a collegian, as quarterback at Oregon after a turbulent three-year run at Auburn, has been one of the better storylines in the sport, whether anyone cares to notice or not.
Following the Ducks’ disastrous depantsing at the hands of defending national champ Georgia in their opener, the guy has averaged better than 300 yards per game passing and running and accounted for 25 TDs. Oregon is 6-0 during that stretch, including this past Saturday’s 45-30 upending of previously unbeaten UCLA in which Nix was his best yet, throwing for 283 yards, 5 TDs (0 INTs), and running for another 51 yards.
OUT OF BOUNDS
Is there anything more hollow than a blowout victory for Penn State a week after it ended a blowout victory? This cycle is old and stale, James Franklin. Raise expectations against a soft schedule only to detonate them once some real competition arrives, then “salvage” something by rebounding against more softness … it just doesn’t hold any weight. Fortunately, 106K on fall Saturdays still don’t get that.
Aren’t the people ripping Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher now the same ones who previously raved about his recruiting prowess and touted how he had positioned the Aggies into being a real power of a program, the kind likely to challenge Alabama in the SEC, if not overtake it?
The only guy on ESPN’s College Gameday who knew Illinois RB Chase Brown was the nation’s leading ground gainer heading into games last weekend was Desmond Howard … really?!! Hey, ahem, “experts,” any idea who happens to be the leader entering this week? Hint: Nothing changed since last week.
Ummm, is this what everyone was talking about with returning “The U” to its past glory? Not for nothing, but Miami fans might be longing for the glorious mediocre days of Al Golden if things keep up as they have. Favorite son Mario Cristobal’s “Hail the Conquering Hero” return home, take 1, has the ‘Canes 3-4 at this point, with four losses in their last five games, including a 45-21 pounding at the hands of Duke. Yes, Duke.
Don’t look now but something special is going in the Carolinas. Both Mack Brown's North Carolina (6-10) and Shane Beamer's South Carolina (5-2) find themselves ranked in the top 25 (at Nos. 21 and 25) and riding current win streaks of three and four games, respectively. Both have schedules that will afford the opportunity to jump up the polls, too; the Tar Heels still have dates against No. 10 Wake Forest and No. 24 N.C. State and the Gamecocks against No. 3 Tennessee and No. 5 Clemson.
UNC, if it reaches the ACC title game, likely would face Clemson, too.