Tag:ACC Championship Game Preview
Posted on: December 2, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 4:33 pm
 

ACC Championship Game News & Notes

Posted by Chip Patterson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Greetings from Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers and tomorrow home of the 2011 ACC Championship Game. Both coaches met the media on Friday, and each time was given time for one last walk through before Saturday night's title game. The afternoon began with Commissioner John Swofford's announcement that Charlotte will continue to host the ACC Championship Game through the 2012 and 2013 season.

"The Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game has seen tremendous success in Charlotte, and we're pleased to announce they will serve as the host city for 2012 and 2013," Swofford said. "The City of Charlotte has done a terrific job over the past two years and we continue to be appreciative of the enthusiasm and support."

Both coaches echoed Swofford's sentiments, and Saturday night's sellout was mentioned frequently throughout the afternoon. The 2012 ACC Championship Game has been set for Saturday, Dec. 1, and the 2013 title game will be held Saturday, Dec. 7.

More news and notes from Friday:

CLEMSON

- Offensive lineman Phillip Price is listed as probable for Saturday, and head coach Dabo Swinney makes it sound like the senior left tackle will get a chance to earn his time on the field. Price started against South Carolina, but was pulled from the game after position coach Robbie Caldwell "didn't feel good about the way he was reacting."

"[Price] has come back this week and he's had a really good week, and he's gone full speed pass rush and inside and all that kind of stuff," Swinney explained on Friday. "I feel much better about him, but he's got to go and compete and play four quarters tomorrow night."

- Of course Dabo Swinney could not escape Friday's media availability without addressing his response to the alleged comments from Steve Spurrier. Having found out the comments were from a radio broadcaster, not Spurrier himself, Swinney changed his tone significantly.

"I heard today that [Spurrier's comments regarding Clemson] wasn't said, and that's great. It's awful convenient on Thursday. I know this, that if my media put something out that I said and if it was nationally perceived that I said it, I promise you I would correct it.

"I said that last night," Swinney concluded. "I don't know if [Spurrier] said it or not, but there hasn't been any rebuttal. But that's it on that. We'll talk about the ballgame."

- One of the key players in Saturday's game will be Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen. The redshirt junior is one of 19 Tigers to be playing in their second ACC Championship Game, and his presence in the passing game will be needed to keep the Virginia Tech defense spread out and honest.

"Dwayne is a matchup-problem for people. I mean, he's a guy that you've got to know where he is from a defensive standpoint. He's almost 6-foot-4, 255 pounds and can run and jump and handle the ball like a wideout."

VIRGINIA TECH

- Facing an opponent from earlier in the season is not new for Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech. In 2007 and 2008 the Hokies lost to Boston College in the regular season and then defeated the Eagles in the ACC Championship Game. Virginia Tech fans are hoping the trend will continue, but Beamer knows there are no guarantees of avenging the 23-3 home loss from earlier this season.

"I hope we're a better football team," Beamer said. "But again, you know, it's happened to us twice, but that's no sign its going to happen three times in a row. I think we've got to play well. I guarantee they've got the ability to be really good and have been really good at times and just got on the wrong side of that momentum deal."

- Virginia Tech looked much looser in their walk-thru than Clemson. Though that should not come as any surprise. Most of the Hokies' roster was right here in Bank of America Stadium last season preparing to take on Florida State. Clemson's approach and tone was much more serious, as Swinney and the staff are trying to refocus this young team after losing two in a row and three of their last four.

- PREGAME PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 28, Clemson 24

For more analysis on Saturday night's matchup, check out my Keys to the Game

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Posted on: November 30, 2011 2:45 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Virginia Tech vs Clemson

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Hokies can get pressure on Tajh Boyd and force turnovers. The Tigers are one last-second field goal away from a four-game losing streak, and turnovers have been the glaring difference in the team's play. Clemson has turned the ball over 12 times in that four game stretch. Only 2-10 Maryland has turned it over more down the stretch of the regular season. Logan Thomas has gotten stronger as the season comes to a close, serving as the perfect dual-threat compliment to ACC Player of the Year David Wilson. The offense should be able to find success against Clemson's defense, so winning the ACC Championship will come down to Bud Foster's unit containing the likes of Boyd, Andre Ellington, and Sammy Watkins. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Boyd has been hurrying throws because of "phantom pressure." If Virginia Tech can get real pressure on the sophomore quarterback, they might be able to force a game-changing turnover (or two).

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They can establish the rushing attack early. One of the reasons Boyd has been feeling this "phantom pressure" has been a drop-off in Clemson's rushing production. Andre Ellington has been banged up, and just started to look healthy again in the loss to South Carolina. Freshmen Mike Bellamy and D.J. Howard have looked good in spurts, but neither have been able to hit the home-run play they relied on earlier in the season. Forcing Virginia Tech's secondary to commit a player to the run will create single coverage opportunities for Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. But Clemson needs to get that running game going to avoid becoming one-dimensional down the stretch.

X-FACTOR: Sammy Watkins. The ACC Rookie of the Year has been obviously limited by his shoulder injury, suffered in the Tigers' 31-28 win against Wake Forest Nov. 12. Watkins missed the NC State loss, and was held to just 39 yards on four catches against South Carolina. When Watkins was healthy his presence on the field was game-changing, but the freshman phenom was invisible for stretches of Saturday's loss to the Gamecocks. Tigers fans are hoping Watkins will be back in September/October form on Saturday, when he was averaging over seven catches and 100 yards per game.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:16 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:37 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Virginia Tech

For the second year in a row, Virginia Tech has answered an embarrassing home loss with an impressive win streak and wound up in the ACC Championship Game. The Hokies' 23-3 loss to Clemson was not as embarrassing as James Madison in 2010, but the effect was the same in regards to the outlook on the season. Quarterback Logan Thomas struggled in that game, completing 15 of 27 passes for only 127 yards and an interception. But the bounce-back 38-35 win over Miami triggered the current ACC tear that has the Hokies back in Charlotte defending the title. Thomas bounced back completing 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns while adding two rushing touchdowns - including the game-winning score with 56 seconds remaining. Ever since then Virginia Tech has not been shaken from their path to the title game, including big road wins at Georgia Tech and Saturday against Virginia.

The 38-0 shutout felt like a "final product" for Virginia Tech's season. While not every conference win came easily, such as escaping from Duke with a 14-10 victory thanks to three missed Blue Devils' field goals, every win has highlighted at least one impressive strength of the 2011 Virginia Tech squad. Saturday's victory against the surging Cavaliers displayed a suffocating defense that held Virginia 30 yards rushing while forcing four turnovers. There was also David Wilson's 153 yards rushing, Thomas' three combined touchdowns, and enough "wow" plays from the Hokies wide receivers to keep any secondary honest against the run. With Clemson dropping three of their last four games in the regular season, it seems as though these teams are moving in opposite directions. How each team remembers their season will be decided when they face off for the ACC Championship under the lights next Saturday.

LOSER: The reeling Clemson Tigers

Since starting the season 8-0 and reaching the Top 5 in the BCS standings, things have slowly come undone for Clemson's dream season. Saturday's 34-13 loss against South Carolina exhibited more of the same problems from the recent weeks: inability to protect the quarterback, mental mistakes on defense, and costly turnovers. After lighting up the stat sheet and scoreboard for most of the season, the Tigers have just two touchdowns in their last two games combined. After the game head coach Dabo Swinney said this loss was "the lowest of the lows" and he never expected that kind of performance.

But the challenge for Swinney and his staff is to find a way to turn around the Tigers before Saturday's ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech. Clemson has had the luxury of being able to lose three of their last four games while still giving themselves the opportunity to play for their first conference title since 1991. Virginia Tech has won seven straight games since losing to Clemson at home earlier in the season, and the Hokies will have revenge on their mind in Charlotte. Swinney's young team has proven to be incredibly dangerous when they are playing smart, and filled with liabilities with they are not. Now there is a big week of preparation ahead for Clemson after another head-scratching loss.

WINNER: The Cardiac Pack

After NC State's uninspired showing in a 14-10 loss at Boston College, things looked bleak for the Wolfpack's postseason hopes. Reaching bowl eligibility would require wins against Clemson and Maryland in the final two weeks of the season, with the Tigers leading the Atlantic Division and Maryland an annual thorn in NC State's side. They started the march by jumping out to a 24-3 lead against a stunned Clemson squad, using ferocious defensive pressure to force four turnovers and hang on for a 37-13 victory.

But the Top 10 upset would not be worth nothing without taking care of business against Maryland. Trailing 41-14 early in the third quarter, it looked as though Maryland would throw a wrench in NC State's postseason plans for the second year in a row. But the Wolfpack simply refused to end their season in that manner. The 42 unanswered points marked the biggest comeback in school history as Mike Glennon led the way with 306 yards passing and five touchdowns on the afternoon. Tom O'Brien has not taken NC State to consecutive postseasons since his arrival in Raleigh, and winning five of their final seven games has taken a lot of the heat off his seat.

LOSER: Randy Edsall

A mind-numbingly frustrating season filled with suspensions, transfers, and injuries ended in the worst way possible with NC State's 56-41 win over the Terps on Saturday. Maryland blowing a 41-14 third quarter lead to the Wolfpack left the first-year head coach shaking his head with few explanations after the game, even though there were plenty of questions.  The loss leaves Maryland with a 2-10 record, their second such finish in the last three years.

Reports have been flying for weeks that Edsall was losing (or had lost) the support of the locker room, and allowing the Wolfpack to mount their biggest comeback in school history showed very little fight left in the Terps. Edsall has the support of the administration, and acknowledges there have been some difficulties with the transition. But Saturday's embarrassment was the worst - although strangely appropriate - finish to a rocky 2011 season for Maryland.

WINNER: Al Golden

Al Golden has tackled, dodged, avoided, and yet also answered hundreds of questions regarding his future at Miami since August. It's not every day that a first-year coach gets asked so many questions about wanting to leave, but Golden's set of circumstances gave media members plenty of reasons to speculate. But despite an ongoing NCAA inquiry and a timely (or untimely) job opening at his alma mater, Al Golden is committed to Miami. Maybe more importantly - Miami is committed to Al Golden.

The school announced during Friday's 28-14 loss to Boston College that Golden had agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension that would keep him at Miami until 2020. Golden's comments in the official release were similar to his explanations from the entire season: his family loves South Florida, he is working on building a program, and he believes in the support from the administration. So now what? Now Golden can stop answering questions about Penn State and if he wants to leave after taking a job with no knowledge of NCAA issues. Now Golden can start the grind necessary to build the program he wants. Now, he hits the recruiting trail.

The first-year Hurricanes coach has made claims of signing "30 new kids" in the upcoming recruiting class. Such a splash would be huge for the program, particularly considering the NCAA issues likely to come. But while the school has self-imposed a ban on the 2011 postseason, Golden has been assured there will be no self-imposed scholarship penalty in the near future. Without a postseason to plan for, now Golden hits the road to get his "30 kids."

LOSER: Miami's 2008 recruiting class

Randy Shannon's 2008 recruiting class was considered one of the best in recent Hurricanes history. The class was ranked in the Top 5 nationally pretty much across the board, and highlighted by some of the top talent in the Miami area. On Saturday some of those players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence, played their final game in a Miami uniform. Because of the self-imposed postseason penalty, that group finishes with a 29-22 record with no bowl wins in their time as a Hurricane. The class was supposed to bring Shannon the success that Coral Gables had not seen since the move to the ACC. Four years later, the Hurricanes have still yet to finish better than tied for second place in the Coastal Division.

WINNERS: Florida State's pass coverage

The Florida State defense has received plenty of deserved praise for their dominating performances this season. But while the Seminoles entered the weekend ranked in the top ten nationally for total defense and scoring defense, they rank near the bottom of the ACC in interceptions gained. After picking off just nine passes in 11 games, Florida State picked off Florida four times in the 21-7 rivalry win. All three Seminole touchdowns came directly after Florida interceptions, with Terrance Parks 29 yard pick six sealing the win in Gainesville.

LOSER: Wake Forest's bowl stock

Jim Grobe deserves a lot of credit for turning around Wake Forest from a 1-7 team in conference play to ACC division contenders. The 6-6 finish is an improvement considering they were picked to finish last in the ACC again this year, but they did themselves no favors in the eyes of bowl committees with a 41-7 loss to Vanderbilt on Senior Day. Wake Forest turned in an unimpressive effort against their SEC rivals in front of a meager announced attendance of 28,020. But the letdown against the Commodores also hurt Wake Forest's momentum heading into the postseason.

When competing with other teams in the conference for preferable bowl bids, losing four of your final five games is a fast way to make your team appear less attractive. Hats off to the Demon Deacons on their first postseason appearance since 2008, but they did themselves no favor on location with their finish.

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