Pregame Pep Talk: Obviously, guys, kind of talk about the English language, plus picks and X-Factors

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, left, and Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer shakes hands after an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Syracuse, N.Y. Clemson won, 49-14. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Let’s talk about this, guys.

Imagine for a moment your significant other walked in the door from work while you’re suffering from writer’s block and said, “Talk about your day.” You might get a puzzled look, and after a routine answer you follow up with something along the lines of, “What did you see on that PowerPoint presentation that gave you confidence you’d be able to have success?”

Imagine for a moment you’re coaching your kid in Little League, and he’s up to bat. You give him some parental advisory: “This is kind of one of the biggest at-bats of the season, and even though people say you’ve got the 53rd-highest batting average among kids in B-League, just go out there and obviously lay it all on the line.”

Imagine for a moment you’re at the bar watching football with your boys. Suddenly, in between your buddy Spencer fondly recalling that wild night of winning $400 at the blackjack table in Vegas and a group therapy session over each other’s fantasy football injuries, you randomly muse, “Plucky, underrated, a little edge to ‘em. These really stick out to me and have caught my eye. Everything’s on the table. Just gotta take one at a time.” And your beermates think you’re trying to #talkabout the fiery habañero buffalo wings.

Can you imagine?

You’re probably a sportswriter. Congratulations. Or condolences.

It’s a strange language we coaches and media speak to one another, using words and expressions you wouldn’t use in everyday life. How did we get here? Well, probably just an oversaturation of coachspeak (whoever came up with “mentality,” “chemistry” and – the worst of the worst – “execution”?) that caused can’t-think-for-ourselves reporters to start borrowing the vernacular during group interviews.

For example: the latest ACC Football Coaches Teleconference transcript included 14 “talk abouts”, 40 “obviouslys”, 33 “kind ofs” and – this one is underrated – a whopping 89 uses of the word “guys.”

“Guys” have been working hard. “Guys” are excited to play Next Opponent State. “He’s a guy” who has been “coming on” for his team.

And just to be clear, this isn’t an attack on the proliferation of fan sites or team-orchestrated media or the like. Longtime newspaper reporters have fallen equally victim to the practice.

What’s the point, you ask? It’s really not that significant. Just an amusing development in this lovely little industry we call journalism.



#5 Germone Hopper, 6-1, 180, jr., WR, Clemson. With Ray-Ray McCloud sidelined with a knee injury, Hopper will back up Artavis Scott at the “2” man position. Hopper has actually played a decent amount of snaps (275, which is fourth among WRs behind the starters Scott, Charone Peake and Hunter Renfrow) but only has nine receptions this season.

#69 Maverick Morris, 6-5, 300, soph., RG, Clemson. The life of a lineman: Tyrone Crowder plays 78 snaps at right guard at N.C. State, Morris plays two ... Crowder suffers turf toe on the second play vs. Florida State, Morris plays 84 snaps. Morris, who logged plenty of reps against Georgia Tech, Boston College and Miami, is in line for his first career start Saturday.

#13 Ron Thompson, 6-3, 255, jr., DE, Syracuse. The team’s clear No. 1 pass-rusher, Thompson has six sacks and three forced fumbles.

#8 Antwan Cordy, 5-8, 175, soph., SS, Syracuse. For reference, I am 5-11, 185. But I do not have 12 tackles for a loss, I did not bring a fumble back 44 yards for a touchdown vs. Virginia, I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night and I do not have a cool name like Antwan Cordy.

#16 Zack Mahoney, 6-2, 192, soph., QB, Syracuse. Syracuse announced last night Eric Dungey will not be able to go as he continues to recover from a concussion. So, Mahoney it is, the juco transfer who threw for three touchdowns vs. LSU but is 25-for-50 for 217 yards (4.3 an attempt) on the year.

#9 Brisly Estime, 5-9, 178, jr., WR/PR, Syracuse. Two punt returns for a touchdown this year – “he’s got our full attention,” Dabo Swinney said – and he might need three on Saturday to give Syracuse a chance.

#91 Austin Bryant, 6-4, 265, fr., DE, Clemson. Got his first sack at N.C. State, and has clearly passed Richard Yeargin and Chris Register as the first DE off the bench to spell Shaq Lawson or Kevin Dodd.

#32 Andy Teasdall, 5-11, 190, jr., P, Clemson. See: Estime, Brisly. Also, Teasdall has the worst punt average in the ACC (39.3 yards per punt); the Tigers have not been gashed by returns to this point, but still, Teasdall could afford some upward mobility.

#10 Perry Orth, 6-1, 203, jr., QB, South Carolina. Orth will be the appetizer to Marquise Williams, and Orth has done some things to write home about in the Shawn Elliott era. He passed for 9.7 yards an attempt vs. Vanderbilt, ran for 64 yards and a score at Texas A&M and threw three touchdown passes at Tennessee. Florida’s got a better defense than them all, and Clemson’s defense is right around the Gators’ level.

#34 Elijah Hood, 6-0, 220, soph., RB, North Carolina. Fourth in the ACC in rushing, coming off three touchdowns over Duke, and was electric in his last appearance at Bank of America Stadium (13 rush, 138 yards).

#15 Dak Prescott, 6-2, 230, sr., QB, Mississippi State. Dak has been quiet this fall. Too quiet. His 18-TD, 1-INT ratio, and his team-high seven rushing scores, are something to watch in another opportunity to shake up the SEC.

#5 Christian McCaffrey, 6-0, 201, soph., RB, Stanford. Deshaun Watson Heisman foe #1: his 2,174 yards of total offense tops the nation (1,207 rushing, 325 receiving, 37 punt return, 605 kick return) and the Cardinal has not lost since Week 1 at Northwestern.

#1 Corey Coleman, 5-11, 190, jr., WR, Baylor. Deshaun Watson Heisman foe #2: 1,178 receiving yards (tops the nation on a per-game basis) and 20 touchdowns dwarfs all comers. He’s had seven consecutive multi-TD games.

*all rankings CFB Playoff

No. 11 Florida at South Carolina ~ 12 p.m., ESPN

If you’ve got some spare time before settling in to watch Clemson-Syracuse, the Spurrier Bowl should be interesting – even though Spurrier will reportedly be somewhere else. Look for Pharoh Cooper to break a long play, Elliott Fry to go 4-for-4 on his field goals and Skai Moore to be a constant source of disruption in the upset. Brenner picks: Gamecocks 19, Gators 17

No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse ~ 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

If Eric Dungey could have gone, the Orange could have hung around for a little while. Never more, never more. Brenner picks: Clemson 56, Syracuse 17

Miami at No. 23 North Carolina ~ 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

Took too long to put the Tar Heels in the top 25. But Miami, with Brad Kaaya back, could bounce ‘em, as Larry Scott has followed Shawn Elliott in the “Teams Miraculously Play Better After a Coaching Change” sweepstakes. Brenner picks: Tar Heels 30, Hurricanes 28

No. 2 Alabama at No. 17 Mississippi State ~ 3:30 p.m., CBS

This could be sweet revenge for the Bulldogs, who enjoyed life at the mountaintop before tumbling out of the top ten to end last season. However, for some odd reason, Alabama is being perceived as overrated, which gives Nick Saban and the best roster in the country a little extra juice for no real reason. Brenner picks: Crimson Tide 35, Bulldogs 27

@Georgia Tech 28, Virginia Tech 24 (pick made Thursday). Because the Yellow Jackets are at home. And they need to win out to make a bowl game. I guess. I dunno. Actual score: Hokies 23, Yellow Jackets 21 – even though Twitter buried VT down 14-0. How long do football games last, kids?

USC 38, @Colorado 20 (Friday). Going into tonight, Colorado is 35-85 in its past 10 seasons, and with a loss, the Buffs are on track to miss a bowl nine of the past ten years. This program won a national championship in 1990. Kind of mind-boggling.

@Duke 27, Pittsburgh 24. The ACC Coastal Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda Bowl. David Cutcliffe should have his guys ready to rebound.

@Auburn 35, Georgia 21. Strange line, Tigers by -1.5, at home. Georgia is essentially in freefall; Auburn is starting to turn things around.

No. 3 Ohio State 37, @Illinois 24. I would still pick Ohio State to win the national championship today.

No. 8 Oklahoma State 28, @Iowa State 17. Ames is tricky, and beware the hangover effect, but the Cowboys are finally ranked properly.

Michigan 24, @Indiana 23. Really wanted to pick the pesky Hoosiers here.

@No. 20 Navy 47, SMU 35. Chad Morris’ defense is allowing 37.6 points per game ... to unranked opponents. The three previous ranked foes have put up 56, 56 and 60 points. That being said, this was a cool story.

@Vanderbilt 17, Kentucky 16. Much more fun matchup on a basketball court. College basketball starts today, by the way. I looked it up and everything just to make sure.

No. 21 Memphis 55, @No. 24 Houston 52. Will Justin Fuente or Tom Herman both jump to a high-major coaching gig?

@No. 9 LSU 30, Arkansas 20. Either way, Bret Bielema will hop on ... something after the game.

@No. 7 Stanford 28, Oregon 24. This used to be the annual Pac-12 Championship, but David Shaw has been a much better replacement than Mark Helfrich – words that didn’t make much sense about 12 months ago.

BYU 27, Missouri 6 (in Kansas City). Someday, we’ll look back at this as one of the most bizarre weeks college sports ever blended with politics.

@No. 5 Iowa 34, Minnesota 19. Hawkeyes should be 11-0 heading into Lincoln on Thanksgiving weekend..

No. 10 Utah 35, @Arizona 28. “Mr. Rodriguez, there’s a Mr. Tanner on line two.”

Washington State 41, @No. 19 UCLA 40. Mike Leach has made the Cougars relevant, which is nothing short of miraculous.

No. 12 Oklahoma at No. 6 Baylor ~ 8 p.m., ABC

We had a hearty discussion on “Straight Up With Sturg” on Thursday, as it relates to the playoff race. The Big XII is alternately the most fascinating and maddening case. It’s a clear league of haves and have-nots, and the haves played absolutely nobody in non-conference play. So, how do we know the conference is any good? Answer: we won’t until bowl season. But what we are looking to identify is if there is any one team that is clearly better than the rest. Interestingly, it would seem that TCU is done (sorry, Frogs), and Baylor or Oklahoma State need to win out to make the playoff. However, couldn’t the one-loss Sooners – who in his writer’s opinion have a loss that’s not as bad as it sounds, to Texas – run the table and sneak in to the playoff? Seems that way, no? It’s all about when you lose. Just ask Stanford. Anyway, Corey Coleman probably won’t have all kinds of daylight to score easy touchdowns on national television Saturday, and Samaje Perine should roll for a couple scores against a mediocre run defense. This is a gutsy pick in that Baylor is 29-1 at McLane Stadium since the start of 2011, the greatest home mark in Division I college football.

Brenner picks: Sooners 34, Bears 31

Last week: 9-13

Best Call: Picked Clemson by 8, was actually Clemson by 10, so, close enough. Taking Auburn on the road at Texas A&M also paid off.

Worst Calls: Angry fans of Alabama, Notre Dame, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Utah and Northwestern, my e-mail is Please refrain from using language that would not make your grandmother proud.

Track record: 89-50

That’s it for the Pep Talk. Obviously I went out there and kind of tried to execute at a high level, and hopefully guys take advantage.


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