Tag:Bryn Renner
Posted on: December 26, 2011 8:23 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 9:02 pm
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QUICK HITS: Missouri 41, North Carolina 24

Posted by Chip Patterson

MISSOURI WON. The Tigers scored on their first five offensive drives, and never gave North Carolina a chance to come back on the the way to a 41-24 win in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. Missouri quarterback James Franklin delivered another impressive dual threat performance - picking up 132 yards and a touchdownthrough the air while adding 142 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

HOW MISSOURI WON: North Carolina's offense never had a chance to get in a rhythm, with the Tigers' defense applying pressure to quarterback Bryn Renner and shutting down the Tar Heels' rushing attack. North Carolina picked up just 36 team rushing yards against Missouri, well below their regular season average of 147.4 yards per game. But that defense also benefited from the efficiency of Franklin and the offense. The Tigers scored on every offensive possession in the first half, and did not punt until the 7:16 mark in the third quarter. While the defense was delivering stops, the offense continued to grind away at the Tar Heels and create scoring opportunities by converting on key third downs. The extended drives kept the Tigers in the driving seat, all the way until the end. The victory gave the Tigers their sixth-straight 8-win season, and some great momentum on their way into the SEC East.

WHEN MISSOURI WON: Midway through the second quarter, North Carolina's defense needed to deliver a stop to keep the Tigers from scoring after a Gio Bernard fumble. Staring down a short field, Franklin converted on 2 third downs in the 40 yard drive on the way to increasing the Missouri lead to 24-7. On the Tar Heels' next play from scrimmage, a Dwight Jones bobbled catch turned into an astonishing interception for Tigers' defensive back Zaviar Gooden. At that point, it was clear things weren't going North Carolina's way.

WHAT MISSOURI WON: A fine highlight to show to their future conference partners in the SEC. James Franklin's performance against a talented North Carolina defense showed how comfortable he has gotten leading this Tigers' offense. Now with four-straight wins since Henry Josey's freak knee injury, Franklin has displayed the composure Missouri will need facing the SEC defenses in 2012.

WHAT NORTH CAROLINA LOST: North Carolina's roster has several NFL Draft hopefuls, but none of the prospects got much to put on tape from Monday night's loss. There was some speculation heading into the game that the talented draft class would look to make a statement in their final game as a Tar Heel. For whatever combination of reasons, the Tar Heels missed out on the opportunity to pick up their second-straight bowl victory because they didn't show up.

THAT WAS CRAZY: The aforementioned Dwight Jones bobble interception.  It was just one of those moments when the ball seemed to bobble forever, and the ease with which it fell to Gooden made you believe this was not North Carolina's day.

FINAL GRADE: B-minus. Franklin was still producing impressive plays on his feet well into the fourth quarter, and North Carolina's brief offensive explosion in the third quarter kept it interesting. But the Tar Heels' unenthusiastic showing in general took some of the luster of this matchup. Missouri was decidedly dominant throughout the game, and there was very little in doubt after the second drive of the game. .

Preview the next games on the bowl slate at the Bowl Schedule Pregame

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 4:47 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 4:50 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Independence Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

MISSOURI WILL WIN IF: They can limit turnovers on offense and prevent the big play on defense. Sophomore quarterback James Franklin's performance in the regular season finale against Kansas showed both the best and worst of Missouri's offense sans Henry Josey (knee). The worst came early in the game, with Franklin tossing three interceptions in the first 18 minutes of play and the Tigers' offense only producing one scoring drive - which resulted in a field goal. The best came in the second half, with Franklin wearing down the Kansas defense and taking advantage of their weaknesses by creating big plays on the way to a 24-10 win.

North Carolina is much stronger than Kansas, and three first half interceptions may not be something the Tigers can expect to bounce back from in the Independence Bowl. As long as Franklin is smart with the ball and avoids turnovers, he can keep taking his shots through the air and on the ground until he eventually hits the big play. Defensively the Tigers are much better than their numbers suggest, especially when you consider the competition. Still, even the best defense can be broken down by someone like North Carolina wide receivers Dwight Jones, Erik Highsmith, or Jheranie Boyd. Running back Gio Bernard will likely see a heavy load on the ground as well, and the Tigers must keep the shifty freshman from breaking outside and hitting the sidelines.

NORTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: The front seven can contain and pressure Missouri quarterback James Franklin. Ever since Henry Josey's season-ending knee injury, much of Missouri's offense has been based around Franklin creating plays. Luckily for the Tigers the sophomore signal caller not only can extend the play with his legs, but take off and make defenders miss in the open field. In the first game without Josey - the Big 12's leading rusher at the time of his injury - Franklin rushed for a career high 152 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries while still adding 172 yards and two touchdowns through the air. North Carolina's front seven is filled with NFL-caliber talent. However, there have been several games this season where it seems the defensive line and linebackers have not lived up to that NFL-caliber hype. With the nationally televised bowl game, it would be in the best interest of these pro prospects to delver their best performance of the season in this game. If Quinton Coples, Tydreke Powell, Zach Brown, and the rest of the front seven are able to contain and frustrate James Franklin, they will benefit their own draft stock and give the Tar Heels a much better chance to win their second-straight bowl game. A win-win scenario for the NFL-hopefuls.

X-FACTOR: Who Wants It More? Missouri certainly enters the game with a momentum advantage, winning four of their final five games while North Carolina lost four of their last six. Missouri picked up the invite after being over by the bowls with a Big 12 tie-in, not a surprise considering the Tigers' upcoming departure for the SEC. It will be the last game for interim head coach Everett Withers, who has already confirmed he's not staying with the Tar Heels "in any capacity" under new head coach Larry Fedora. So with Missouri in between conferences and North Carolina in between coaches, the team that can find the motivation for the moment will have an advantage on Dec. 26 in Shreveport.

That kind of advantage will likely be necessary in a bowl game that has been decided by seven points or less five of the last six years, with Georgia's 44-20 win against Texas A&M in 2009 being the only exception. Regardless of the expectations heading into the game, that matchup has always been close in recent years. Maybe it is the mystic atmosphere of Shreveport, or Independence Stadium - where the game has been played every year since the bowl's creation in 1976 - but advantages in X's and O's seem to matter much less in this game. For either team to get win No. 8 in 2011, they will need an extra dose of "Want" on Dec. 26.

Check out all the latest updates on Missouri and North Carolina right up until kickoff at the Independence Bowl Pregame

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 16, 2011 10:56 am
 

PODCAST: Wrapping up the ACC and Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

It must be the holiday season, because Adam Aizer and I are in the giving sprit and delivering two conference wrap-up podcasts for the price of one. In this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, Adam and I put a bow on the regular season in the ACC and the Big East and break down the best and worst of both conferences.

Pleasant surprises, biggest disappointments, conference awards and the best games of the season. What worked well for Mike London in his second year at Virginia? What didn't work well for Todd Graham at Pittsburgh and Randy Edsall at Maryland? We run down each team in the ACC and Big East and tell you what worked and what didn't in 2011.


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Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:38 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 1:58 pm
 

Surveying the Field: End of the season edition



Posted by Bryan Fischer


It's hard to believe, but the college football regular season is over.

Over.

If the finality hasn't hit you, it's ok. Hold on to it, savor it, try not to let it go.

Though things off the field in the sport - realignment, arrests, suspensions, infractions and on and on - may never have been worse, the product on the field was pretty good. There were hail mary's and punt returns, one-handed catches and devastating sacks. There was a Honey Badger, All Russell Wilson Everything and some epic comebacks.

With that in mind, in the final Surveying the Field of 2011, a look back at just about every bowl team and a few lines about them looking forward.

National Championship Game

Looking back: It wasn't pretty at times but the Tigers rolled to the national title game in impressive fashion, dispatching Pac-12 champion Oregon by 13 at a neutral site to open the season, Big East champion West Virginia by 26 on the road, beat their title game foe Alabama at home and rolled over SEC East winner Georgia by 32 in what amounted to their home crowd. Tyrann Mathieu was the ball-hawking fire starter for the team but, gasp, the best player might have been punter Brad Wing who was crucial in establishing good field position every time.

Looking ahead: How much is there left to prove? The rematch in New Orleans can be Les Miles chance to end any doubt as to who was far and away the best team in 2011 by turning the national championship game into a coronation with a convincing win. Lose and an AP National Title likely awaits. The Tigers are in a can't lose situation.

Looking back: Before the season, many in Tuscaloosa said this could be Nick Saban's best defense. It's hard to argue if you look at the numbers, first in rush, pass, total and scoring defense. The most points they gave up the entire year was 21. The offense wasn't too shabby either, not with Heisman candidate Trent Richardson delivering electrifying runs.

Looking ahead: LSU came into their house and won, now it's time for them to do the same for the crystal ball. They might not have won their division but they can win the national title.

Orange Bowl

Looking back: Early on, it seemed like they were going to struggle. A close win against Wofford? Then it seemed like Sammy Watkins started to heat up and the Tigers moved to 8-0 and people were talking titles. But there was also talk of Clemson being Clemson - and it happened at Georgia Tech. And again at N.C. State. And at South Carolina. But the slide ended in Charlotte with another win over Virginia Tech to win the first ACC title since 1991.

Looking ahead: Dabo Swinney said it best after winning the conference championships, saying he's taking his, "Clemson talents to South Beach." The defense shut down the Hokies once again but they are taking a much bigger step up facing Dana Holgorsen with a month to prepare.

Looking back: A 9-3 season, Big East title and BCS bowl berth is not to shabby debut for Dana Holgorsen as a head coach. The offense was as advertised, jumping from 67th last year to 17th at 459.6 yards per game. They were blown out against LSU thanks to turnovers and that was a theme in their losses. The Mountaineers won several close games and that could pay off down the road.

Looking ahead: Given how mediocre the conference was, perhaps this BCS bowl berth should count for the Big 12, the league the school is departing for in 2012. Nothing would be better than for athletic director Oliver Luck to say thanks for the memories like a trophy full of oranges (which he might throw at the Big East offices).

Sugar Bowl

Looking back: They were blitzed at their rival Michigan State and somehow lost to Iowa but the season was certainly a successful inaugural campaign for Brady 'Michigan Man' Hoke. Most of the credit should go to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who has turned around a unit that couldn't tackle to one that finished 7th in the country in total defense. Denard Robinson struggled at times to adapt to a new offense but still manage to deliver thrills such as one of the craziest endings of the year against Notre Dame. It paled in comparison to the final few snaps at the Big House however, as the Wolverines finally beat rival Ohio State.

Looking ahead: Sure this group might be mostly Rich Rodriguez' players but Hoke has taken them to the next level with an easy schedule and tough-love coaching. Winning their first BCS game would send a message to the rest of the country that the program was indeed back.

Looking back: Hokies fans will get upset but it seems pretty accurate to say the team was the least deserving of the at-large selections given their lackluster group of wins (not one BCS team on the non-conference slate, lost to Clemson by a combined margin of 61-13). There were positives on offense, such as Logan Thomas taking over during stretches with his arm or his legs and David Wilson was a tackle-breaking machine. The defense was at normal high standards under Bud Foster.

Looking ahead: Don't belong? Ok, so prove it, it's that easy. Winning the game after last year's bowl performance will also do wonders for Frank Beamer, who enters as the winningest active head coach.

Fiesta Bowl

Looking back: Oh what could have been, Oklahoma State was so close to playing for a national title and would have been headed to New Orleans had it not been for the upset-minded Iowa State team on the road in double overtime. The offense was the second best in the country through the air and elder statesman Brandon Weeden made things click with ease. For all the knocks they were given, the defense was actually impressive when you consider they forced 42 turnovers and allowed a lot of their points and yards when the starters were on the sidelines.

Looking ahead: While Boone Pickens might be upset and threatening to investigate the BCS with his piles of money, the Cowboys can't allow their disappointment to ruin the best season in school history with a Fiesta Bowl loss.

Looking back: It's not often you mention Stanford as a BCS contender but here we are, back-to-back games thanks to Heisman candidate Andrew Luck and despite having a first-time head coach taking over in David Shaw. Though they battled injuries all season long both sides of the ball turned in performances that were fitting of a top five team. The triple overtime thriller against USC might have been the highlight (more points scored against the Trojans than any other team) but a turnover-filled day at home against Oregon was the low-light that prevented them from the conference title. Still it was one of the most impressive seasons in school history.

Looking ahead: No better way for Luck to end his career than a victory against what everybody considers one of the three best teams in the country. In doing so, they'll help the Pac-12's reputation get off to a great start in the league's first year with 12 teams.

Rose Bowl

Looking back: Heisman campaigns were abound in this backfield with the ever efficient Russell Wilson running things at quarterback and Montee Ball finding the end zone more than entire teams did in the regular season. If the defense could have just defended hail mary's better we'd be talking about the national title game for the Badgers but ending up in the granddaddy of them all with a shot to win is the best consolation prize around.

Looking ahead: Despite the two losses on their record, this could still go down as one of the most dominant teams in Wisconsin history with a Rose Bowl win.

Looking back: Their third straight conference title might have been one of the sweetest in school history given the way the season went. The opener was tough as they failed to beat an SEC team and largely fumbled things away. Oregon did what Oregon typically has done under Chip Kelly in conference except for one night at home against USC. Things got a little bit better when the Ducks hoisted the first ever Pac-12 championship up at Autzen Stadium but the program's standards are now so high that the season is sort of considered a disappointment.

Looking ahead: If the program wants to its cement status as one of the game's elite than they're going to have to win the Rose Bowl no if's and's, or but's about it. That it would be the school's second ever win (and first since 1917) would also cement the squad as one of the best in Oregon history.

GoDaddy.com Bowl

Looking back: The MAC champions had a thrilling come-from-behind win to capture the league title thanks in large part to quarterback Chandler Harnish. Northern Illinois also ran off eight straight wins after a narrow loss to Central Michigan earlier in the year.

Looking forward: There was nothing like mid-week MACtion this year and it's up for the Huskies to end the season on a high note.


Looking back: Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze's up-tempo offense produced the school's first winning season since 1995 and a host of records. Quarterback Ryan Aplin is 11th in total offense and was a dual-threat that couldn't be stopped during Sun Belt play. Given that their only two losses were to BCS foes (including a closer than expected loss to BCS-bound Virginia Tech), this is easily the most successful year in the program's history.

Looking forward: Though Freeze will depart for Ole Miss, there will be plenty of players around that can still beat NIU.

BBVA Compass Bowl

Looking back: Things started on the wrong foot in the opener but running back Zach Line was the big star to emerge for SMU as they pulled together a seven win season. The Mustangs had a five game winning streak before coming back to reality later in the year and were actually led by a solid defensive unit.

Looking ahead: Head coach June Jones might be moving on to greener pastures but after 25 years of no bowls, the school's third straight postseason trip is something to cherish.

Looking back: It was an up and down debut season for new head coach Todd Graham as Pitt never could find consistency. They were never blown out, losing four games by 11 points, but couldn't put together back-to-back wins outside of the first two games against lackluster teams.

Looking ahead: The Panthers return to Birmingham for the second straight year trying to give Graham and staff, some of whom are headed to Arizona, momentum heading into the offseason.

Cotton Bowl

Looking back: One of Bill Snyder's best coaching jobs in a career full of them, Kansas State was left out of a BCS bowl but found their way into a de facto one after a 10 win season - the highest win total since 2003. The Wildcats started 7-0 before dropping two straight to the Oklahoma schools before puling things together. Quarterback Collin Klein leads the team in both passing and rushing and has scored an impressive 26 touchdowns. It may not have been the prettiest team in the country but they found every which way to win.

Looking ahead: The team could tie the school-record for wins in a season, a remarkable accomplishment considering they were picked 8th in the preseason.

Looking back: Though they won't be going to the BCS, they can still hang their hats on the fact that their only losses came on the road to the teams ranked first and second. The Razorbacks explosive offense led behind quarterback Tyler Wilson is one reason for their success even if he's been beaten up behind his offensive line.

Looking ahead: They've played in this building before and had a furious comeback against Texas A&M so the stage shouldn't be an issue for the Hogs. They're ranked sixth and could turn in the best season under Bobby Petrino with a win.

Outback Bowl

Looking back: Michigan State fell short of a Big Ten championship but still put together a successful season that included wins over rival Michigan and a thrilling hail mary to beat Wisconsin. The offense is solid with Kirk Cousins at quarterback and Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell in the backfield but the defense is the reason for the success this year. The Spartans not only captured a 10-win season but also won the first ever Legends division title.

Looking ahead: MSU will have to play through the disappointment of their tough championship game loss and refocus for a bowl game. They remember all too well what happened last year so coming out with a win is imperative as the impressive senior group departs.

Looking back: The season started with Mark Richt on the hot seat and two losses to top teams that turned the pressure up a notch. Georgia responded, running off 10 straight thanks to the ease of the schedule and the toughness of their defense. Linebacker Jarvis Jones was a star, leading the SEC in sacks, as the Bulldogs found their way back to Atlanta by winning the East. The lack of depth hurt at times but Aaron Murray was a solid young quarterback and Isaiah Crowell lived up to his billing at running back.

Looking ahead: The Dawgs are playing in January and need a big win to end the year on a high note and make everybody forget about last year.

Gator Bowl

Looking back: A once promising season started to unravel in the offseason, with something negative happening to the program seemingly every month since it became known about the "Buckeye Five." Jim Tressel was out and Luke Fickell was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at head coach. The defense was good but the offense was pretty bad, especially the passing game. Freshman Braxton Miller was a good spark and showed flashes of being something special.

Looking ahead: The Urban Meyer Bowl is an understandable storyline but the Buckeyes won't have their opponent's former head coach on the sidelines coaching them. Showing him what he has to work with will be big for the program however.

Looking back: It was a terrible season by the lofty standards in Gainesville but more than that, it just wasn't fun to watch Florida's offense. John Brantley figured to be a good fit in Charlie Weis' system but wasn't and got hurt. It was tough to produce first downs much less big plays and the defense, though solid, didn't seem to make the stops needed to get some wins. The Gators finished below .500 in the conference, won only three games versus BCS schools and lost four straight to in the middle of a forgettable season.

Looking ahead: The bumps and bruises of the year can all be erased against Ohio State and  a small measure of revenge against their former head coach who left just a year ago.

Capital One Bowl

Looking back: A solid first effort in the Big Ten for Nebraska, which ended with nine wins but seemed to have issues being consistent. Quarterback Taylor Martinez didn't make the leap you'd expect this year and the defense wasn't as impressive as many thought they would be. Injuries played a part but don't explain losses to teams like Northwestern at home or blowouts to Wisconsin and Michigan.

Looking ahead: A rare match up against an SEC team for the Cornhuskers, a win would give them a 10 win season for the third straight year and allow them to count their Big Ten money at home in a much happier mood.

Looking back: There are wild rides and there's South Carolina under the Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. They looked a little shaky early but overcame adversity by managing a 10-2 season despite losing their starting quarterback and running back to suspension and injury, respectively. They almost won the division but, in retrospect, perhaps it was better that they didn't face LSU this year.

Looking ahead: The Gamecocks are looking to post their first 11 win season in more than 100 years and end a three-bowl losing streak by riding the momentum of beating rival Clemson at the end of the year.

TicketCity Bowl

Looking back: It looked like it was going to be a surprisingly good season before the Jerry Sandusky scandal showed the world the skeletons locked in Penn State's closets. Joe Paterno is out and the issues facing the program are still very much ongoing.

Looking ahead: Nittany Lions players are not happy to have fallen this far in the bowl pecking order but they're still going to need to show up if they want a 10th win and something positive to think about in the offseason.

Looking back: Oh what could have been. The dream season led by record-setting quarterback Case Keenum ended in a thud in the Conference USA championship game at home. The offense was the focal point with a slew of weapons at wide out and running back but there's no doubt that last game zapped all the positive things gong for a program that almost made the BCS.

Looking ahead: Kevin Sumlin might be at another school by the time the Cougars play but Keenum and the senior class can still go out on top by beating a marquee opponent and posting one of the best year's in school history.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Looking back: It was a successful turnaround for Mike London that had Virginia on the cusp of playing for the ACC title after several upsets along the way. Alas, a loss to the rival Hokies ended that but things are looking up in Charlottesville based on the way the team played week-in and week-out.

Looking ahead: Playing in their first bowl since 2007, the team is hungry to end the year with nine wins and plenty of positive vibes.

Looking back: Earlier this year Auburn was holding up a crystal ball. After a ton of losses on both sides of the ball, the Tigers took their lumps and struggled on offense and defense. The team was ran over in the Iron Bowl and ended the year on a sour note after surprising many with a win over South Carolina and bouncing around the top 25.

Looking ahead: Back to back lopsided losses in the final two SEC games will be a motivating factor for a young team that is looking to move back into contention for a West title next year.

Liberty Bowl

Looking back: Cincinnati surprised many with six straight wins in the middle of the season and appeared to be on their way to a BCS bowl until quarterback Zach Collaros got hurt.

Looking ahead: The Bearcats have a chance at 10 wins and are playing in a bowl after missing one last season.

Looking back: James Franklin had one of the best coaching jobs in the country by taking a team that had gone 4-20 over the past to years to the school's fifth ever bowl game.

Looking ahead: It's all about building up the momentum for the Commodores under Franklin, who just signed a nice new contract. The senior class will be the only one in school history to play in two bowl and want to make sure they are also the first two win two.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Looking back: UCLA represented the Pac-12 South in the championship game thanks to crosstown rival USC's ineligibility but back-to-back bad losses left the Bruins with some lumps on the field and no head coach off it. There were some bright spots in Rick Neuheisel's final season but some bad losses as both sides of the ball struggled.

Looking ahead: The Interim Head Coach Bowl is all about history for UCLA, who received a waiver to play in the game at 6-7. The team is looking to avoid going 6-8 for the first time in NCAA history.

Looking back: A promising 6-0 start was soon undone by a stretch of six straight losses. Things reached a low point after losing to lowly Minnesota to end the season, sealing the fate of head coach Ron Zook after seven seasons.

Looking ahead: Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will lead the program and no doubt wants to leave a good impression, as do the Illini with the chance to go across the country and wind up with a winning season.

Sun Bowl

Looking back: Six straight wins to open the season had many thinking Georgia Tech as a team to watch out for with their option offense. Things hit a rough patch as they lost four of their next six but the Yellow Jackets still managed to upset Clemson and reach their 15th straight bowl game.

Looking ahead: This is the first time they'll head to El Paso and should be excited trying to reach the nine win plateau.

Looking back: It wasn't quite the way Utah wanted their first ever Pac-12 season to go but they still managed to pull out seven wins despite a rash of injuries. The defense wasn't bad at all but the offense struggled to score all year long.

Looking ahead: The Utes hope to enter the offseason healthy, wealthy and with a win.

Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl

Looking back: It started out as one of the most promising seasons in recent memory for Texas A&M but ended with quite a thud. There was the move to the SEC that dominated much of the conversation about the Aggies before they turned second half collapses into their trademark. As a result of the fall from grace, head coach Mike Sherman found himself looking for a new job.

Looking ahead: The Aggies are close to home and need a win to provide some sort of momentum as they look to head into the nation's toughest conference.

Looking back: The year began with a Heisman push for quarterback Dan Persa in the form of billboards and barbels touting "Persa Strong." He wasn't however, failing to recover from an Achilles injury soon enough leading to struggles early on. Things got turned around and the Wildcats even pulled off a huge upset against Nebraska.

Looking ahead: The program hasn't won a bowl game since 1948 so ending that streak seems like a good stepping stone into 2012.

Insight Bowl

Looking back: Remember when Oklahoma was the top team in the country? Yeah… Injuries to the Sooners' leading receiver and running back set the offense back a few steps and the defense never lived up to expectations. The trashing in Bedlam was rock bottom for a team that started with aspirations of a national title.

Looking ahead: The team doesn't want to be here and has rarely seen a non-BCS bowl under Bob Stoops so finding motivation will be a challenge. A loss will punctuate one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory so the still-talented Sooners will want to get that important 10th win.

Looking back: Not sure there is a team that could be as average this year as Iowa was. The offense and defense were just about in the middle of FBS and alternated wins and losses down the stretch to finish a game above .500. A win over Michigan was a season highlight but other than that, there wasn't much to get excited about.

Looking ahead: The Hawkeyes are a young team so they could use the trip out West as a building block for 2012.

Music City Bowl

Looking back: Wake Forest finished .500 on the year but managed to pull off some surprises, such as a win against Florida State and some closer than expected losses to Clemson and Notre Dame. The offense and defense were fairly nondescript this season.

Looking ahead: A third place finish in the division was a better than expected result for the regular season but dropping below the .500 mark would diminish things.

Looking back: After last season's banner year, many expected Mississippi State to keep things going under Dan Mullen. Inconsistency on offense, quarterback in particular, was part of the reason why the Bulldogs finished just .500 and had just two wins over BCS teams.

Looking ahead: An Egg Bowl win and second consecutive bowl game are a good thing to note when Mullen hits the recruiting trail.

Pinstripe Bowl

Looking back: Iowa State's season didn't really come down to one game but it's pretty clear that the upset of Oklahoma State at home was the thing the Cyclones held their hats on. Beating Iowa earlier in the year in overtime also made it a successful season despite finishing 6-6.

Looking ahead: Paul Rhodes is building something up in Ames and a bowl win would be a nice capper to the season with such a young team.

Looking back: Hardly anybody gave Rutgers a chance to be more than average this year but they rode a strong defense to an 8-4 year. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was the bright spot, toping 1,110 yards and scoring seven touchdowns.

Looking ahead: Some said that Greg Schiano was on the hot seat but he's moved off of it and can firmly put the talk to bed with a ninth win.

Armed Forces Bowl

Looking back: BYU's first season as an independent didn't quite turn out like they wanted with a narrow loss to Texas and blowout loss to Utah on the schedule. The Cougars still finished up 9-3 and on a three game winning streak.

Looking ahead: Pointing at 10 wins in their first season on their own would be a nice way to end a tumultuous year.

Looking back: Despite changing head coaches, Tulsa had a great run through Conference USA and finished 8-4 with an iffy defense. Their only losses were to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State and Houston, whose records aren't too shabby.

Looking ahead: The Golden Hurricanes have won seven of eight and no doubt want to make it eight of nine.

Alamo Bowl

Looking back: Robert Griffin III took a team with a defense ranked 110th in the country and led them to nine wins, including the first in school history over Oklahoma and another over Texas.

Looking ahead: You figure there's a good chance that RGIII wins or comes close to winning the Heisman and this game could be his final swan song if he moves on to the NFL.

Looking back: Everybody though it would be tough for Washington to get back to a bowl game after they lost quarterback Jake Locker but Keith Price took over and actually outperformed everybody's expectations. The defense was shaky and they couldn't come close to the conference's elite but still a nice season in Seattle.

Looking ahead: Steve Sarkisian is building a program up so their second straight bowl win is a great sign of progress but nothing like what a second straight bowl win would be like.

Champs Sports Bowl

Looking back: There was talk of a BCS bowl game this year for Notre Dame but expectations have a habit of being inflated for the Irish. They had a great win (in retrospect) over Michigan State but the season seemed to turn following the loss to USC with the team running off four straight and wind up 8-4.

Looking ahead: In a year considered a disappointment by their own high standards, a win over a team like Florida State will be a nice way to end the season.

Looking back: One of the biggest disappointments in college football, Florida State started in the top five but wind up 8-4 after losses to teams like Wake Forest. Injuries and youth played a part, sure, but it just wasn't the season Jimbo Fisher had hoped for when talking up this team earlier in the year.

Looking ahead: No one is recruiting like the Seminoles are and a big win in their home state while rivals are struggling would go a long ways.

Holiday Bowl

Looking back: Jeff Tedford was likely going to get another year but how California did this season would determine just how hot the seat was. A nice win over Arizona State to end the season and a close than expected loss to Stanford in the Big Game mean it's not too bad for Tedford.

Looking ahead: This is for a little revenge, as Cal no doubt wants to beat Texas after the Longhorns advocated for a BCS bid over them a few years ago.

Looking back: It was a brief hiatus from the postseason for Texas and though they couldn't find a good option at quarterback, the defense was good and they ended the rivalry with Texas A&M with a last second win.

Looking ahead: An eight win season is something most programs would take in a heart beat but it's almost required of Mack Brown this year.

Military Bowl

Looking back: Air Force comes in to the aptly named Military Bowl with the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and option attack that was second in the country in rushing. The defense wasn't up to standards but a solid football team this year.

Looking ahead: They can't lose the Military Bowl, can they?

Looking back: Toledo seemed to go through the ringer this season with a close loss to Ohio State and the fiasco in the Syracuse finish. They ended the season winning seven of eight and have a high-powered offense people have to keep track of.

Looking ahead: They didn't win the MAC but a nine win season and bowl win are a nice thing to have for the Rockets.

Belk Bowl

Looking back: Not much was expected of Louisville this season, especially after losing to FIU at home, but Charlie Strong put together one of the best coaching jobs in the country as the Cardinals won five of their last six and beat champ West Virginia.

Looking ahead: Finishing strong and giving developing freshman Teddy Bridgewater are two things the program can take into the offseason.

Looking back: Despite the record, N.C. State didn't really put together a strong season when you consider they had just four wins over a BCS AQ team, one of whom didn't even go to a bowl game.

Looking ahead: Tom O'Brien is on the hot seat but he's 8-1 in bowl games and hopes an eight win season will cool things off for next year.

Independence Bowl

Looking back: James Franklin was solid in his first season as a starter and Missouri managed to pull out wins against all of the Texas schools except Baylor. The Tigers couldn't beat one of the Big 12's elite teams but it was a good effort for a team that had to replace several pieces on both sides of the ball.

Looking ahead: The school departs to the SEC and would like to have a bowl win on their resume (who knows, it might be awhile before they get back).

Looking back: Given that their coach was fired right after media days, a 7-5 campaign might be considered a success. The offense was surprisingly good with quarterback Bryn Renner, Dwight Jones at wide receiver and Giovani Bernard at running back.

Looking ahead: Who knows what NCAA sanctions might be for the program but a bowl win over an "SEC" team is a nice way to cap an up-and-down year in Chapel Hill.

Hawaii Bowl

Looking back: It's last year's successful campaign but it was a solid one nevertheless that included a five game winning streak led by new quarterback Cody Fajardo.

Looking ahead: They're going to the Hawaii Bowl so plenty of things to look forward to on the islands.

Looking back: Southern Miss had one of the most successful seasons in school history, finishing with 11 wins and the Conference USA championship. They had two puzzling losses, to Marshall and UAB, but upset Houston to throw a wrench into the BCS plans of their conference rival.

Looking ahead: They might be without their head coach but plenty to like about a trip out West.

Maaco Las Vegas Bowl

Looking back: What does it take for Boise State to get a good kicker? The Broncos lost a heartbreaker to TCU at home and that ended what could have been their chance to finally play for the national championship. It was still a very successful season with a big win over an SEC team but that one game against the Horned Frogs seemed to take a lot away.

Looking ahead: Kellen Moore is the winning starting quarterback in FBS history and would like one more to go out in style.

Looking back: It was such a promising year for Arizona State but a stretch run to forget. The offense exceeded expectations but had issues with turnovers and the defense didn't live up to their billing.

Looking ahead: Without a head coach, the Sun Devils don't have much to play for but their fans to get a trip to Vegas out of it.

Poinsettia Bowl

Looking back: Had they not lost to SMU at home, TCU likely would have made the BCS. Instead, they wind up in San Diego but leave the Mountain West in style with conference title in hand and another double-digit win total.

Looking ahead: 11 wins and a top 15 ranking are a nice thing to have when joining the Big 12 next year.

Looking back: Louisiana Tech won the WAC with a 6-1 conference record and seven straight wins to end the season. They almost beat Houston earlier in the year as well.

Looking ahead: A marquee win is something the Bulldogs don't have this year but one over TCU would certainly qualify.

Stat of the week

Via Rivals' David Fox, Landry Jones is 110-of-200 with no touchdowns and seven interceptions in four games since receiver Ryan Broyles got hurt.

Stats of the week

- Wisconsin's Montee Ball led the country in scoring and rushing. He had 38 total touchdowns, which was more than 52 teams.

- Oklahoma State wins a conference title and trip to a major bowl for the first time since 1945.

- The final numbers for Case Keenum: 69% completion, 152 touchdowns-46 interceptions, 18,685 yards passing.

- Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are tied for 7th on the active list with 80 touchdown passes. Luck has been more efficient and has a chance to pass Barkley in the bowl game.

- LaMichael James still lead the country in rushing yards per game. He finished fourth in total yards despite playing fewer games than everybody else.

- Robert Griffin III (192.31) narrowly edged out Russell Wilson (191.60) for the top passing efficiency title. Both marks top the NCAA single season record by a considerable margin. Wilson set an NCAA record with a touchdown pass in 37 straight games.

- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly finished the year with 191 tackles, 44 more than anybody else.

- Stanford failed to score just once in the red zone (63/64 trips) and had 50 touchdowns and just 13 field goals.

- 46% of Trent Richardson's rushing yards came against North Texas, Ole Miss, Georgia Southern and Auburn.

- First time Texas has finished below .500 in conference in back-to-back years since 1937-38.

Tweets of the week

"Bra we would <s class="hash" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; opacity: 0.7; text-decoration: none; display: inline-block;">#</s>smash OKST......they coach better calm down."

- LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard.

"I have no time for Mike Gundy. Dude just claimed Ok state would score 35 points on LSU..pass me what your drankin coach."

- Alabama tight end Brad Smelley.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Boise State

5. Stanford

6. USC

7. Oregon

8. Wisconsin

9. Arkansas

10. Kansas State

Leaning this way

National championship game: LSU

Rose Bowl: Oregon

Fiesta Bowl: Stanford

Sugar Bowl: Michigan

Orange Bowl: West Virginia

Category: NCAAF
Tags: 2011, Aaron Murray, ACC, Air Force, Alabama, Alamo Bowl, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Armed Forces Bowl, Auburn, Autzen Stadium, BBVA Compass Bowl, BCS, Belk Bowl, Big 12, Big East, Big House, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Boone Pickens, Boston College, Brad Smelly, Brad Wing, Brady Hoke, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Fischer, Bryn Renner, Buckeye Five, Bud Foster, BYU, Cal, California, Capital One Bowl, Case Keenum, Central Michigan, Champs Sports Bowl, Chandler Harnish, Charlie Strong, Charlie Weis, Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Chip Kelly, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cody Fajardo, Collin Klein, Conference USA, Cotton Bowl, Dabo Swinney, Dan Mullen, Dan Persa, Dana Holgorsen, David Shaw, David Wilson, Denard Robinson, Dwight Jones, Edwin Baker, Egg Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, FIU, Florida, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Gator Bowl, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech, Giovani Bernard, GoDaddy.com Bowl, Greg Mattison, Greg Schiano, Hawaii Bowl, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Holiday Bowl, Honey Badger, Hugh Freeze, Independence Bowl, Insight Bowl, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa State, Iron Bowl, Isaiah Crowell, Jake Locker, James Franklin, James Franklin, Jarvis Jones, Jeff Tedford, Jerry Sandusky, Jim Tressel, Jimbo Fisher, Joe Paterno, John Brantley, June Jones, Kansas State, Keith Price, Kellen Moore, Kevin Sumlin, Kirk Cousins, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, LaMichael James, Landry Jones, Le'Veon Bell, Les Miles, Liberty Bowl, Logan Thomas, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Kuechly, Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, Mack Brown, MACtion, Mark Richt, Marshall, Matt Barkley, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Michigan State, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Mike London, Mike Sherman, Military Bowl, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Mohamed Sanu, Montee Ball, Mountain West, Music City Bowl, N.C. State, N.C. State, National Championship Game, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, North Carolina, North Texas, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oliver Luck, Orange Bowl, Oregon, Outback Bowl, Pac-12, Paul Rhodes, Pinstripe Bowl, Pitt, Poinsettia Bowl, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Ron Zook, Rose Bowl, Russell Shepard, Russell Wilson, Rutgers, Ryan Aplin, Ryan Broyles, Sammy Watkins, SEC, SMU, South Carolina, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, Steve Spurrier, Sugar Bowl, Sun Belt, Sun Bowl, Surveying the Field, Syracuse, Taylor Martinez, Teddy Bridgewater, Texas, Texas A&M, TicketCity Bowl, Todd Graham, Toledo, Tom O'Brien, Trent Richardson, Tulsa, Tyrann Mathieu, UAB, UCLA, Urban Meyer, USC, Utah, Vic Koenning, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, WAC, Washington, West Virginia, Wofford, Zach Collaros, Zach Line
 
Posted on: November 17, 2011 11:35 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 1:42 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Virginia Tech 24, North Carolina 21

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WON. The Hokies fought through two early turnovers and fought off a late push from North Carolina to pull out a 24-21 victory over the Tar Heels on Senior Night in Blacksburg. North Carolina lost leading rusher Gio Bernard to a concussion in the second quarter, and never fully regained its composure offensively until the final 10 minutes of the game. Mistakes, short punts, and missed field goals plagued the Tar Heels as Virginia Tech slowly pulled away in the second half.

HOW VIRGINIA TECH WON: The Tar Heels did plenty to hurt themselves, but also credit quarterback Logan Thomas for finding opportunities against an impressive North Carolina defense. The Hokies were not able to move around the defensive line quite like they would have liked, but Thomas was able to use quick screens to Danny Coale, DJ Coles, and Jarrett Boykin to keep drives alive and set up short third downs. Few teams in the conference have been as impressive as Virginia Tech on third and short, with too many power rushing options thanks to that strong backfield with Thomas and David Wilson.

WHEN VIRGINIA TECH WON: North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner orchestrated two fast touchdown drives for the Tar Heels in the fourth quarter to cut the Hokies lead to 24-21 with less than three minutes remaining. But when North Carolina's defense needed to get a quick stop, running back David Wilson pounded the ball to milk the clock down to under 10 seconds to put the game away.

WHAT VIRGINIA TECH WON: A much more comfortable position heading into their regular season finale against Virginia. The Hokies are now a win OR Virginia loss away from clinching their fifth ACC Coastal Division title in seven years. The good news for Virginia Tech fans is the Cavaliers have to face Florida State this weekend, with the Seminoles riding a five-game winning streak. The Cavaliers' only chance to jump the Hokies is to defeat Florida State in Tallahassee AND their in-state rivals next weekend. Needless to say, things look good for a rematch with Clemson for the ACC Championship.

WHAT NORTH CAROLINA LOST: Opportunities, and plenty of them. Nothing went North Carolina's way on Thursday night. There were two reviewable calls that went Virginia Tech's way, two missed field goals, and a poor punting performance that continued to put the Tar Heels defense in terrible field position. The woes date back to Ryan Houston's first quarter fumble, just five yards away from making the game 14-0 and silencing the Lane Stadium.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Bryn Renner's family has had season tickets to Virginia Tech games for 44 years. The father of the North Carolina quarterback was a punter at Virginia Tech from 1979-1982. Renner finished the game completing 14 of 25 passes for 224 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions.

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Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:20 pm
 

Keys to the Game: North Carolina at Virginia Tech

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They create turnovers and dictate the pace of the game. One thing Virginia Tech has done as well as anyone in the conference is hold on to a lead. It is not always pretty, as shown in the Hokies' 14-10 victory over Duke, but for the most part the ability to control the ball and shut down offensive drives has helped keep Virginia Tech at the top of the division. As the clock winds down in the second half, the Hokies will force their opposition to start taking chances in order to get back into the game. That's when Bud Foster's defense thrives, forcing turnovers and coming up with a stop in a crucial situation. The Tar Heels have lost three of their last four, and looked shaky outside for their win against Wake Forest. If Virginia Tech can get a first half lead and rattle Bryn Renner early, they could set themselves up for second half turnovers to ice the game.

NORTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: Logan Thomas and David Wilson are neutralized. This may be done with on-field performance or it may happen by sickness/injury. But if Thomas and Wilson are given the freedom to get going offensively North Carolina will not have much of a chance on the road in Blacksburg. Ball control has been an essential part of several Hokie victories, so running back Gio Bernard will need to get the ground game going to keep drives alive. The Tar Heels need to revert back to their performance against Wake Forest, when the offense put up 562 yards of offense and 49 points on the Demon Deacons. Bryn Renner was calculating and accurate with the ball, completing 21 of 28 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. North Carolina's offense needs to get that type of production in order to knock off the Hokies at home.

X-FACTOR: North Carolina's secondary. Logan Thomas has been streaky with his ability to consistently get the ball to his receivers for four quarters. However, the North Carolina secondary has been equally inconsistent and burned for a big play more times than Everett Withers would care to count. If North Carolina's secondary steps up to the challenge and makes the Hokies one-dimensional, and North Carolina's rush defense is one of the best in the ACC. If Logan Thomas gets hot playing pitch and catch, he could end up burning the Tar Heels deep with a big play. Something North Carolina cannot afford to give up against an opponent like Virginia Tech.

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Posted on: November 6, 2011 3:30 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 3:31 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 10



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: Tom O'Brien

NC State's head coach entered the rivalry weekend with plenty of buzz around his name. The Wolfpack needed a win to keep bowl eligibility hopes alive, and O'Brien's less-than-stellar record against competition was starting to come up in potential "hot seat" discussions. In addition to that pressure, North Carolina interim head coach Everett Withers and O'Brien made headlines with their verbal sparring on the topics of academics and who is the state's "flagship" school.

Tom O'Brien won the battle with the biggest zinger of them all, a 13-0 shutout of North Carolina in Raleigh. NC State's rush defense stepped up to the task of slowing star freshman Gio Bernard, and their penetration into the backfield made life tough for quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner left the game with "concussion-like symptoms," and the NC State defense just turned up the head on backup quarterback Braden Hanson. It wasn't the prettiest win, but it was a deflating loss for North Carolina. It was Tom O'Brien's funniest joke.

LOSER: North Carolina's offense

The Tar Heels looked uninspired and unemotional on offense in the 13-0 loss to NC State. The scoreless effort was the first for North Carolina this season, and extremely unusual for a team that has scored 20+ points in eight of their first nine contests. The Wolfpack showed up with a plan to stop the rushing attack and pressure sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner was on the run all afternoon, and was eventually sacked four times for a total loss for 48 yards. After a week of smack talk between the rival schools, North Carolina's failure to show up does not speak well for the future of interim coach Everett Withers. NC State was not able to make the most of great field position all game, but they were able to accomplish enough to escape with the victory. The Tar Heels may be bowl eligible, but Saturday's performance left fans uncertain about North Carolina's immediate future.

WINNER: Virginia's revivial 

For the first time since the 2007, and only the third time since 2005, Virginia is bowl eligible. Mike London's 2011 calendar year will be remembered with a late recruiting surge early, and an impressive improvement in conference play late. After winning just one ACC matchup in 2010, the Cavaliers have started 3-2 in league play with Duke, Florida State, and Virginia Tech left on the schedule. The Wahoos haven't finished .500 or better in conference play since that 2007 Gator Bowl season, and a win over the Blue Devils would at least secure that accomplishment for London. The second-year head coach served as Al Groh's defensive coordinator for that 2007 season, making 2011's success even more sweet.

LOSER: Anyone who watched Florida State-Boston College

Florida State may have walked out of Chestnut Hill with a convincing 38-7 win over Boston College, but very little about the contest was appealing to college football fans. Only 514 total yards of offense and five turnovers between the two teams kept the level of interest at "marginal" through most of the Thursday night game. The game was presumably set for primetime in the thinking that Florida State would be contending for ACC titles and Boston College would be led by Montel Harris ready to stun the Seminoles. But a banged up Eagles squad was outmatched in nearly every aspect of the game on Thursday, Head coach Frank Spaziani will likely have to start addressing job security questions in the week ahead, as the seventh loss makes Boston College ineligible for the postseason for the first time in 12 seasons.

WINNER: Miami offense

Jacory Harris spoke on the topic of needing consistency after the Hurricanes fell to Virginia at home last Thursday. Miami was consistent on offense against Duke in the 49-14 win on Saturday - consistently scoring touchdowns when they touched the ball. Harris led the Hurricanes to touchdowns on their first five drives of the game, and finished with scores on seven of the nine times they touched the ball.

Some of the success is due to the competition, but Miami's execution on offense was a result of a full game plan that might as well have been called "bounce back." Al Golden's squad looked sharper on offense, defense, and in the special teams after embarrassing themselves on national television in the loss to Virginia. In addition to Lamar Miller breaking the 1,000 yard mark on the season, junior wide receiver Tommy Streeter caught his eight touchdown pass of the season. The score pulls Streeter into a tie for second place in the ACC, and ranks him among the Top 15 receivers nationally in that category. Miami just needs one more win to become bowl eligible. With Florida State, South Florida, and Boston College left on the schedule, the expectation is that Golden will have this squad in the postseason by December.

LOSER: Maryland's fan support

A disappointing season has come to an end, at least for the Maryland fans in Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins "celebrated" their Senior Day on Saturday with a 31-13 loss to Virginia to close out the home schedule. After trailing by only one point at halftime, the Terps failed to score in the second half and gave up 300+ passing yards to once of the ACC's least consistent quarterbacks. Virginia's Michael Rocco completed 23 of 36 passes for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Perry Jones added 139 yards rushing in the 527 yard offensive effort. I would suggest the performance might be enough for Maryland fans to have good reason for concern, but judging by the attendance it looks like the fan base is already plenty concerned. Noon kickoffs can be tough for ACC fans, but on a Senior Day this kind of showing (picture taken 10 minutes before kickoff) is pretty disappointing.



WINNERS: Lamar Miller and Gio Bernard

While Bernard struggled to meet his usual production against a well-prepared NC State defense, there was the small victory of him passing the 1,000 yard mark on the season. Miami running back Lamar Miller also accomplished that feat on Saturday, though he enjoyed the celebration of a 49-14 win over Duke. Bernard is the first 1,000 yard rusher form North Carolina since Jonathan Linton broke that mark in 1997. The redshirt freshman has played banged up the last several weeks, though continues to take the field. The Wolfpack held him to just 47 yards on 18 carries, his second-lowest output of the season. Miller, on the other hand, picked up 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 20-carry effort against the Blue Devils. Miller is the first Hurricane to break the 1,000-yard mark since Willis McGahee in 2002.

LOSER: Wake Forest 2nd half offense

Credit the Demon Deacons for putting themselves in a position to knock off Notre Dame in the first-ever meeting of the two schools. But Wake Forest's inability to produce a single point in the second half kept them from picking up that all-important sixth win on Saturday night. Twice Wake Forest had the ball at the Notre Dame 10-yard-line in the second half, but those opportunities ended in a Brandon Pendergrass fumble and David Newman missed field goal. There were opportunities all over the place for Wake Forest, who led 17-10 at halftime. They played well against the top-caliber competition, but the Demon Deacons needed four quarters of solid play from the offense to emerge victorious.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:05 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 12:26 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 8


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: DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins

Freshman phenom Sammy Watkins has been the Clemson wide receiver who has struck fear in defensive coordinators across the ACC, but Saturday was a reminder that there are plenty of dangerous weapons in the Tigers offense - notably sophomore DeAndre Hopkins. Nuke went off against the Tar Heels, catching 9 passes for a career high 157 yards. Hopkins was one of five different receivers to catch a touchdown pass from quarterback Tajh Boyd, who finished with 367 yards on 46 attempts with no interceptions. If Ellington continues to be bothered by an apparent foot injury, you can expect to see a lot more of Nuke down the stretch.

LOSER: North Carolina's third down efficiency

Defeating Clemson this season is an unbelievably difficult task. Beyond their collection of talent and playmaking ability, the team refuses to quit or stop their relentless attack. But North Carolina made winning in Death Valley so much harder by committing penalties, turning the ball over, and not converting on third downs. The Tar Heels did not convert their first third down until the start of the fourth quarter - when the Tar Heels trailed by 25 points.

One of the ways to take advantage of Clemson is to put together extended drives to keep the ball out of Tajh Boyd's hands. Sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner and the Tar Heels offense did the exact opposite on Saturday by continually handing the ball right back to Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. You give the Tigers enough opportunities, they will put basketball numbers on the scoreboard. North Carolina could have played flawlessly on Saturday and still lost, but we'll never know because they did enough beating themselves to put the game out of hand before the fourth quarter even started.

WINNER: Miami's defense

The Hurricanes have been playing much better football in recent weeks, but head coach Al Golden knew they could not defeat Georgia Tech without an improved performance from their defense. They have been hurting on the front line with injuries, but as of last week are back to full-strength from a suspension stand point. Georgia Tech, entering the game as the nations 2nd best rushing team, would be the ultimate challenge in a must-win scenario for the Hurricanes.

Miami's defensive line stuffed the dive from the Yellow Jackets' B-backs, while the linebackers swarmed to the ball to seal off the big play on the perimeter. It was fantastic execution by the entire unit, who only allowed a single scoring drive from Georgia Tech all afternoon. That top-ranked rushing attack only accounted for 127 yards, more than 200 below their season average. If Miami can keep up the effort, there are several winnable games left on the schedule for the Hurricanes to have a memorable on-field finish to a season filled with off-field distractions.

LOSER: Georgia Tech's grip on the Coastal Division

With their second straight conference loss, Georgia Tech has lost their position as frontrunner in the ACC's Coastal Division. There are plenty of places to point the blame. Some will look to the competition, and the unrealistic expectations drawn from weaker defenses the Yellow Jackets' faced in the first month of play. Some will argue that ACC opponents have figured out ways to prepare for, and limit, Paul Johnson's option attack. Johnson himself has spoken of the team's fatigue, and recently cut back on some of the workload in practices.

But whatever the reason, the Yellow Jackets have gotten beat up the last two weeks. The good news for Georgia Tech fans is the team still controls their own destiny in the division. Clemson and Virginia Tech visit Atlanta in the next two contests, with a much-needed bye week between those games. If they can upset Clemson under the lights in Bobby Dodd Stadium, a victory against Virginia Tech would give them a tie for the division lead and ownership of the head-to-head tie breaker. But because of Saturday's loss to Miami, none of that will be possible unless they upset Clemson. Which as we saw elsewhere, might require 94 points.

WINNER: David Amerson and the NC State defense

Just like Miami, N.C. State's defense has caught their fair share of criticism this season. The Wolfpack have been plagued with injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and just now are they starting to get back to full strength. Virginia used a power running game to wear down Georgia Tech a week ago in the upset, but when they tried a similar tactic on N.C. State the Wolfpack were ready. After putting up 272 rushing yards against the Yellow Jackets, N.C. State swarmed into the gaps and won the battle in the trenches to limit the Cavaliers' ability to methodically move the ball while milking the clock.

Once the Wolfpack got the lead, it was David Amerson time. Amerson entered the game leading the nation in interceptions, then picked off both Michael Rocco and David Watford to help seal a big win for N.C. State. Amerson has been viewed as the one bright spot in a struggling defense in some games, but on Saturday he was the icing on the cake in the Wolfpack's first ACC victory of the season.

LOSER: Luke Kuechly

Luke Kuechly is not a loser, but his performances this season have gone largely overlooked because of Boston College's struggles. The junior linebacker entered the game as the nation's leading tackler, averaging 16.5 tackles per game. As the Eagles' defense slowly broke down against David Wilson and Virginia Tech's downhill attack, Kuechly never stopped. The All-American finished Saturday's loss with 19 tackles, and once again seemed to be in on almost every open field tackle. With injuries and close losses, 2011 has not been friendly to Boston College. In the case that this might be Kuechly's last season in Chestnut Hill, it is a shame these performances are finding their way to the back page rather than the headlines.

WINNER: Devonta Freeman

There was a lot that didn't look good for the Seminoles after they suffered their third straight loss to Wake Forest two weeks ago. But the most concerning situation for Florida State's offense was figuring out how to establish a running game, particularly with the season-ending injury to leading rusher Chris Thompson. The Seminoles boasted a stable of talented backs during training camp, but none had emerged as a clear leader once the season started. In the last two weeks, true freshman Devonta Freeman has made his case to be that back for Florida State. Granted the competition has provided some opportunity (Duke and Maryland), but Freeman's back-to-back 100-yard games could be the beginnings of a big-time career for talented rookie. For starters, he is the first freshman to rush for 100 yards in back to back games since 1986. He's already grabbed a small piece of history, now we get to see if he helps the Seminoles bounce back and finish strong after their three-game slide.

LOSER: An unknown amount of C.J. Brown's brain cells

Maryland's freshman quarterback had a brutal meeting with Florida State's Nigel Bradham in the 41-16 loss on Saturday



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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com