A Preseason Look at Duke

Another in-depth look at our 2021 opponents by Rich in SC.

Trying to find a story line or interesting tidbits on the Duke football team is like having your teeth pulled – a slow and painful experience. After three evenings of starts, stops, rewrites and erasures, I just decided to gum my way through it. Why is it hard? You probably know or guessed the answer – Duke is a Basketball School.

David Cutcliffe enters his fourteenth season with the Blue Devils. His overall record is currently standing at 74 – 88 (35-71 ACC, 36 – 13 OOC, a bowl record of 3 – 3, and finally 0 -1 in conference championship games. If you ignore the 2020 season, Duke basically averages going 3 – 1 in OOC play. His golden years at Duke was the time period from 2012 – 2015. His teams were 33 – 20 (18-14 ACC, 14-2 OOC, and four bowl appearances (1-3).  His best year was 2013. A 10 – 4 record (6-2 ACC,    4-0  OOC and a conference championship appearance (loss).

AS usual, I start off the preseason look with Duke’s and Pitt’s 2021 schedule.

On to the review, starting with recruiting.

Duke’s recruiting is not very accretive (JoeL ☺).

Duke took in 4 players from the transfer portal (TP).

I hate to say it, but this TP haul reminds me of Pitt’s pre-TP search for OLinemen and tight ends. Who are the Duke players to know?

Usually, I start this by listing the returning 2020 All ACC selections followed by the 2021 Athlon All ACC selections. There are no returning 2020 selections. The 3 players Duke had, went pro. Instead, I have listed the two names besides Mataeo Durant who attended the 2021 ACC Media Days.

Speaking of the ACC Media Days, the ACC released the 27 man (13 offense, 11 defense, three special team) 2021 Preseason All ACC team.

Howell Named Preseason POTY, Clemson Leads with Eight on All-ACC Team – Atlantic Coast Conference (theacc.com)

The team was selected by 147 media attendees. Mataeo Durant’s name is in bold to mark his selection.

That wraps up the recruiting, TP additions and ‘names to know” section of the review.

What payers did Duke lose?

As I said previously, Duke lost their three All ACC selections to the pros. Their names are in bold. Here is the complete listing.

One TP entry from Stanford. Mark Gilbert opter-out of the 2020 season.

Of course, they lost a few players to the TP

I do not know much about Duke, but I believe they lost at least 3 starters – QB Brice, Safety Waters and DT Tangelo.

Brice will be replaced by 2021 ACC Duke Media Days representative Gunner Holmberg. He had 48 snaps where he either passed (25 snaps) or ran the ball (23) during the 2020 season.

That all I got. There is some grumbling from the Duke fan base on Cutcliffe tenure but probably not going anywhere. After all, Duke is a Basketball School.

On College Football Realignment

A clear and concise look at possible conference realignment by POV reader Joe Lawrence.

Last week’s news about Texas and Oklahoma giving the bum’s rush to their Big 12 (B12) college football conference partners in search of the almighty dollar in the SEC was a bit surprising… and at the same time, not at all. The Longhorns have flirted with other conferences in the past – both the Pacific-12 (PAC-12) and Big Ten (B10) were suitors. And the pairing with the PAC-12 was given a long look by both parties.

To be honest, I thought that Texas A&M’s move to the South Eastern Conference (SEC) gave the conference the TV footprint it needed in Texas and it might not need another school. Silly me! The Longhorns are one program that any conference would take in a heartbeat. As for Oklahoma, anywhere the Longhorns go, so goes the Red River Rivalry.

Obvious questions following this news are: what happens to the remaining B12 schools? Specifically, what do the Hoopies do in a heavily diluted conference? And will other Power Five (P5) conferences make expansion moves in response?

Today, Jay Bilas of ESPN indicated that ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips should call the SEC and propose a merger. Jay doesn’t always get it right and I believe this is one of those times. But his remarks did get me thinking about the future of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and upon reflection, I think he has it half right.

In a merger of businesses (and college football is a business), the end game is to unlock accretive value. Sometimes it comes through back-office consolidation; other partners bring complementary products/services which when paired unlock higher sales. Often, a merger will give the combined concern greater geographical reach.

I’m not sure overall that the ACC offers any of those things. It’s a second tier P5 conference whose TV network has not been able to get a cable deal in the geographic markets where it has a different footprint than the SEC – namely the Xfinity markets of the mid-Atlantic. The SEC has a significantly better TV deal than anyone other than the Big Ten. Adding Texas and Oklahoma though makes perfect sense from a financial standpoint. The two bring accretive value.

Rather than call the SEC, Jim Phillips may want to call an investment banking firm that specializes in large, complicated transactions. I say this because I believe the ACC’s break-up value may be actually greater than its total. An argument can be made that a split of the ACC between the SEC and B10 could create more TV revenue than otherwise.

If one goes down this path, who goes where there is the biggest challenge? Some current ACC schools such as Clemson and North Carolina State feel like SEC programs. Others like Syracuse and Boston College feel like logical fits in the B10. Here is a table with some rough thoughts about who might go where in such a deal:

ACC SchoolAAU MemberBigTen FitSEC FitBest Non-Conf geographic rival
Boston College          YY Notre Dame
Clemson  YSouth Carolina
Florida State    YFlorida
Louisville         YKentucky
NC State          Y?
Syracuse        Y Rutgers
Wake Forest     ?
Duke  YY ?
Georgia TechYY Georgia
Miami   YFlorida
North CarolinaYY ?
Pitt     Y  Penn State
Virginia          YY Maryland
Virginia Tech    YWest Virginia

Notice that the first column in the table notes membership in the Association of American Universities (the AAU for short). This is important to B10 school Presidents – the folks who actually decide on membership invitations. AAU schools share non-athletic resources such as libraries and research – something many sports fans overlook when considering a school’s fit in a conference. Thirteen of its schools are members and adding other AAU schools might be attractive. Only four SEC schools enjoy AAU status (and we all could have guessed that).

Something else to think about is a vague idea of “fit”. This can include geography, historic rivalries of fanbases, location of alumni, etc. I’m sure many of you might come up with something similar to what I’ve noted in the table, give or take a few changes. Taking a look at the last column of the table, many of those moves would bring some existing natural rivalries in-house.

Based purely on the table above, the two “buying” conference might each take six ACC schools, putting the SEC at 22 schools and the B10 at 20. Wake and Pitt still need homes. In return for the B10 taking both schools (despite the non-accretive value each would bring), Vanderbilt agrees to a “trade” to the B10 and the SEC “picks up” Nebraska in the deal. B10 Presidents are pleased with the shrewd deal-making, adding six AAU schools to their ranks.

Those folks aren’t wired like the average sports fans after all and have other agendas, such as being associated with other like-minded universities. The SEC then snatches up WVU and OkSt to round out to 24 schools and creating a reasonable geographic footprint. The B10, needing four schools of good academic caliber, picks up AAU affiliates Iowa, Kansas and Iowa State from the B12 trash heap.

It is at that moment that the investment bankers call Notre Dame President, the Reverand John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. and throw the Irish a life raft. As the mega conferences now can each hold their own playoff systems, talk of expanding the CFP quiets down. With Irish no longer guaranteed a spot at the CFP table, the Irish grab the lifeline.

In short, Pitt is a pawn in this transaction. Is anyone surprised?

There is of course a more realistic scenario where no trade occurs and the B10 does not pick up Pitt due to its TV market overlap with the Penn State Nits. Pitt – standing in a corner of the gym while all of the prettier programs dance together – plotting the chance to rekindle their relationships with Temple. If only we had an experienced, savvy AD who could leverage Pitt’s considerable position of strength…sigh…

A Preseason Look at Miami

Here is another interesting future opponent review by Rich in SC…

Head Coach Manny Diaz starts his third season at the helm of the Hurricanes. This game is the second of three that I believe Pitt will lose. But not as absolutely a loss as the Clemson game.

Fun facts. Since 2015, Miami has won as many bowl games and played in and lost as many conference championships as Pitt.

I am bringing back quarterback pass attempt and run snap counts. (Those names highlighted in blue are no longer with their respective teams). For Pitt and the first three Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) opponents, see the Virginia Tech preseason review.

D’Eriq King suffered an ACL tear in his knee in last years bowl game. He has supposedly recovered and as good as ever. But we do not know. He did play in the Miami spring game, but that game was a played with a “No Touch” QB rule. Miami fans are happy with their 4-star backups – 2020 Tyler Van Dyke and 2021 Jake Garcia.

On to the review – Miami’s schedule.

Two interesting points on this schedule. This is the first time since 2015 (or maybe before – I only went back to 2015) that Miami is scheduling two Power Five (P5) out of conference opponents. The second is the neutral site (Atlanta) game with Alabama. This second point is not about Miami but Alabama.

Since 2012, Alabama has followed the same scheduling format- one home game against an Football College Subdivision team, two home games against G5 teams and a neutral site game against a P5 opponent. 2021 is the last of that format. Starting in 2022, Alabama will play a home/away (H/A) series with a P5 team (Texas 22/23, Wisconsin 24/25).

But the big change for Alabama begins in 2025. In 2025, Alabama starts scheduling two “name” P5 opponents a year. They have already completed this scheduling change from 2025 thru 2034.

Florida and Georgia are following this change but are now scheduling a third P5 team in years after 2026. In fact, Florida has four P5 teams scheduled for 2031.

One other South Eastern Conference (SEC) team has gone all in on upgrading to at least two P5 OOC opponents. South Carolina, like Georgia and Florida, has a cross conference yearly rivalry with an ACC team. They have added a second home and away P5 game series starting in 2026.

No other SEC team is making a move to schedule a second or more P5 team in future years. Missouri has a few but theirs is to make room for H/A rivalries with Kansas and/or Illinois.

The SEC was looking to the future when these changes began. They knew that the 10 year college football playoff four team format was going to be expanded to six or eight and now 12 teams. The SEC believed that “strength of schedule” was going to guarantee two or three teams for whatever format was chosen.

The ACC, unlike the SEC, has a history of multiple teams scheduling two OOC P5 opponents a year. From 2015 to 2019 the ACC played 103 OOC P5 game or an average of 1.47 P5 games/team/year. The SEC played 79 OOC P5 teams in the same time frame or an average of 1.13 P5 games/team/year.

Looking into the future (2021-2030 seasons), the ACC as a whole has scheduled 206 P5 OOC opponents or an average of 1.47 P5 games/team/year. The SEC has scheduled 173 P5 OOC games or 1.24 games/year/team.

I did not expect to write as much as I did. Just one more item. I include Notre Dame and Brigham Young University as P5 OOC opponents.

Back to Miami. And as usual, I start off with recruiting.

In my opinion, Miami is the second best ACC team over the 2017-2021 recruiting period. Using Numerical Rivals Ranking (NNR), Miami has two classes which round to an average player ranking of a 5.8  4*. The other 3 classes round to 5.7  3-stars. Compared to Clemson’s three  classes of 5.9  4*s and the other two of 5.8  4*s, you can see why Clemson dominates on talent.

Miami has used the Transfer Portal (TP) probably better than any team in the ACC and probably amongst all P5 teams. Their TP entries dot the All-ACC teams. When I show a list of names, I include their old school next to their name. Look for some of these 2021 TP names to show up in this and future lists.

Another great TP class. Small but probably 3 starters – Johnson, Rambo, and Stevenson. Oluwaseun adds depth to the Oline.

Here are the names to know. The first group are returning 2020 All ACC honorees. The second group are additional names from Athlon not included in the first group.

Three of the 10 names came through the TP.

That wraps up the recruiting, TP additions and ‘names to know” section of the review.

Who did Miami lose?

They had some players move on the next level.

Three more TP entries to the Miami team.

Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season.

Miami thought so much of their kicker, they signed his younger brother (Andres – Rivals 5.5  3-star) in the 2021 class to replace him.

Of course, they lost a few players to the TP.

You may remember Tate Martell. He originally signed with Ohio State and was considered a huge get. He is currently a huge flop.

I posted this link in the Tennessee review.

Max Olson on Twitter: “Power 5 programs have lost an average of 12 scholarship players to the portal in this year’s cycle. @NicoleAuerbach and I talked to HCs about the need to increase the 25-man signing limit…and why it won’t happen soon: https://t.co/981NPa9StP https://t.co/pFO1cDRvzC” / Twitter

That tweet was posted 6/9/21 and numbers have changed.

To save you time, I copied this chart that Mr. Olson provided. According to the chart, Miami, Ohio State and Pitt have lost only 5 scholarship players to the portal. Only Stanford has less out of 65 P5 teams. 

I learned two things, First, I did not know I could copy and paste from a tweet. The second was to read everything in something you consider important. Back in June, I just jumped to the meat of the chart. I did not notice he is using a “since 10/1/2020” as a start date. I use the 24/7 site start date of 8/1/2020. That explains most of the discrepancies between my numbers and his. I actually only have four Pitt scholarship players in the TP – Michael Smith, Carson Van Lynn, Will Gipson and Liam Dick. I think the fifth is “walk-on” Paris Brown who was rated as a 3-star by both Rivals and 24/7 out of high school.

That wraps up my review of Miami. I am going to leave you with one last fun fact. Since 2004, Miami has as many 10 win seasons as Pitt. Someone jog my memory. What team stopped them from getting an eleventh? Maybe that info will get the Hager Twins concert back into the shoe box in the attic of my mind.

Former Stadium Sites in Pittsburgh

This just sent to me by a friend (total old time Pitt fan). Take a look and if you are over 60 years old grab a tissue box… Note the 1:24 minute mark – the photo on the wall (from a Life magazine cover) shows my Dad standing – his head is the tallest one shown.

I used to go watch the rare weekday day games from there while my dad worked – you could see everything but home plate and the batter/catcher/ump.

Watching this video, seeing the photo and talking on here about past Pitt football games, both at Pitt stadium and at Heinz, make me very nostalgic for ‘the good old days’.

Which also makes all these earthshaking changes happening in college sports all the harder for me to handle. For me, and I don’t speak for others, but for me I just don’t see the all-encompassing fun that college football used to be happening in our future.

It is not just what happened over these last few months either. It started with the separation of athletes in football and basketball programs by being sequestered from the general student body and the slowly narrowing circle of involvements of the student athletes in university life.  365-day training tables didn’t help nor did the heavy dependency on tutoring vice attending classes because damn it! that just keep getting in the way of football!!

The shift to Power Five conferences kept it going with all the haves and have-nots being clearly defined and the driven stake in the heart by jettisoning the pretense of amateurism completely with the pay-for-play time we live in (and that is exactly what it is). Obviously the $20+K in-state and $33+K out-of-state tuition scholarships just were not enough for the kids.

This isn’t even like Chinese water torture – more like a series of car bombs going off and driving me away from what I used to truly love. When I turned the POV over to Mike in 2018 it gave me a real opportunity to take a step back and look at all this with a clearer field of vision – not being so intertwined with Pitt football and the POV.

Sadly, that clear vision is coming into crystal clear awareness that all ghee doings are not just the changing of the times, that I could live with, but more of a march in lockstep to a purposeful end to a once joyful thing.

Business is King! Long Live the King!

Maybe it was seeing Pitt’s average-at-best QB Kenny Pickett trademarking a personal logo today. Please… A GIF of him throwing a incomplete deep pass would have had more truth to it. But I guess that is just mean spirited on my part.

So, spare me the old saw of “But they are just kids out there doing their best” or “Don’t criticize them too much, they are students just trying to play their way through college.”

Nothing could be further from the truth at this point – they are now going to be, quite literally, paid employees of the University, choosing schools to attend by the highest bid offered for their services and I for one hope the IRS pays close attention to what that entails.

You know what – there is a reason Pitt fans leave the games in droves at halftime and it ain’t just because of the bussing. It is because after making a cursory appearance at the game they realize they have better, and more fun, things to do on a Saturday afternoon or Thursday evening – like drinking in Oakland, Shadyside, Bloomfield, etc… anywhere without having to watch prima donnas, with personal logos no less, playing poor football and being coached by a bigger prima donna who is so arrogant that he does not even realize his program really sucks.

Because if he actually did realize it sucked he would call the Offensive Coordinator into the HC’s office and demand his committing seppuku immediately. Then he would get someone into the position who knows what an actual running game looked like.

Ever wonder what Narduzzi’s personal logo is going to look like? Here my suggestion.

Anyway – have a great Pitt Day!