Tag:Bud Foster
Posted on: December 27, 2011 4:16 pm
 

Sugar Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Tom Fornelli


A look at the key matchup that could decide the Sugar Bowl. 

Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan vs. Virginia Tech defense

When it comes to stopping the Michigan offense, you essentially have to cut the head off the snake, and Denard Robinson is clearly that head. When considering that Robinson is a dual-threat, it's up to your entire defense as a whole, not just the defensive line, linebackers or secondary. Since Robinson can beat you in so many ways, it takes all 11 players on defense to stop him. Something that isn't very easy to do considering that Robinson finished the regular season averaging 268.3 yards per game.

The best way for Virginia Tech to keep Robinson in check would probably be to force him to throw the ball more often than not. While Denard threw for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, he also threw 14 interceptions and completed only 56% of his passes. So while his arm is dangerous, it's not nearly as dangerous as the legs that help him scoot down the field at lightning speed.

How do you do this? Well, it starts with the defensive line. First and foremost, the Hokies have to shut down Fitzgerald Toussaint and put Michigan in passing situations. If they can do that, then the focus turns on to how to handle Robinson.

When facing a quarterback like Robinson, it's probably better not to get too much pressure on him. Yes, that seems to be counter-productive to what a defensive line's job is on passing plays, but the fact is, if you pressure Robinson he's fast enough to get away, and you generally leave a lot of open lanes for which he can escape through. Then once he gets into the open field against your linebackers and secondary, well, advantage Robinson. So more so than penetration, the Virginia Tech defensive line will be better served to maintain gap integrity. If he wants to scramble, make him go outside where linebackers and defensive backs can try and force him toward the sideline.

Better yet, if you give Robinson time to throw then he's a lot more likely to throw. And while time is not a defensive back's best friend, Robinson's accuracy issues make up for some of that. Yes, you may get beat in coverage but Robinson still has to put the pass on target.

For an example of this, look at Michigan's loss to Iowa. The Hawkeyes followed many of these same principles and let Robinson throw the ball 37 times. He completed only 17 of those passes and rushed for only 55 yards on 12 carries. The result was a 24-16 victory for Iowa.

Now, obviously, you can't afford to give Robinson all day to pass even with his accuracy issues as sooner or later the Wolverines will begin going to short underneath passes, so occasional blitzes need to be part of the game plan as well. If for no other reason than to keep Robinson guessing. Odds are that Bud Foster has more than a few types at his disposal and ready to use.

While it won't be easy for Virginia Tech to keep one of the most dynamic players in all of college football in check for a full 60 minutes, if the Hokies use some of these methods to at least slow him down and limit his effectiveness, then it will go a long way toward a Virginia Tech victory. If not, it may be a long night. 
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: December 3, 2011 11:38 pm
 

Clemson claims ACC Championship with 38-10 win



Posted by Chip Patterson


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Streaks, trends, and traditions. These things did not matter to a young Clemson team as they rode an explosive third quarter to a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech for their first ACC Championship since 1991.

After both teams finished an evenly played first half, the Tigers that emerged from the locker room after the break looked much more like the Tigers that knocked off three straight ranked opponents and was considered outside contenders for a BCS title.

Clemson's BCS dreams were crushed by losing three of their final four games in the regular season, but head coach Dabo Swinney will find plenty of consolation in the first conference title in 20 years and his first BCS bowl berth as a head coach. The experts had the Tigers as underdogs against the defending champions, who entered the game in a very different manner riding a seven-game winning streak.

Tajh Boyd shook off the "phantom pressure" from the last month and hung in the pocket to complete 20 of 29 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, the Clemson offensive line only allowed Boyd to be sacked once. But Boyd wasn't the only the star shining bright in front of a sold-out crowd at Bank of America Stadium. Andre Ellington and Sammy Watkins, both limited during Clemson's slump with nagging injuries, looked explosive as ever against Virginia Tech's defense. Ellington ran 20 times for 125 yards and a touchdown while Watkins added 54-yard touchdown reception of his own as part of his 155 all-purpose yards..

For Clemson - a team that plays at least 20 true or redshirt freshman on a weekly basis - Saturday's win didn't just end the school's conference title drought, it fired a warning shot across the bow of the Frank Beamer ACC Dynasty. The Hokies have appeared in five ACC Championship Games since the conference began holding the event in 2005. A Virginia Tech win would have been their fourth in five years, and third time defeating an opponent from earlier in the season.

But Saturday didn't feel like 2007, 2008, or 2010 for Virginia Tech fans. It felt like 2005. Florida State entered that inaugural championship on a three-game losing streak, and all the momentum was thought to be with the one-loss Hokies who had just arrived to crash the ACC's party. But after entering halftime tied, the Seminoles outscored Clemson 24-0 in the third quarter on the way to a decisive 27-22 victory. This time it was another longtime ACC member, Clemson, who started the second half with three straight scores on offense and three straight three-and-outs on defense. But the Tigers never let the Hokies get back into the game, and kept the pressure coming until the Oranges came raining down from the Orange-clad Tigers fans who stayed to savor every last moment.

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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 22, 2011 5:56 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Virginia Tech at Virginia

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They can jump out to a lead and continue to press for four quarters. The Hokies have struggled at times this season scoring late in games, allowing some conference opponents to climb back into games in the fourth quarter. Just ask Florida State how that worked out for them in the 14-13 loss on Saturday. You cannot let Virginia hang around in this game because they have demonstrated a tenacity and grittiness that makes them dangerous late in games. Virginia Tech needs to rise to the occasion and end this game early. If Logan Thomas and David Wilson have big games and are able to keep drives alive with third down conversions, even the Cavaliers' impressive run defense will wear down by the fourth quarter.

VIRGINIA WILL WIN IF: They win the battle up front and establish their bruising rushing attack. Virginia Tech is thin on both the offensive and defensive line because of injury, and Saturday is the opportunity for that physical style of play to shine on the biggest stage. Mike London's team has beat up conference opponents on their division title chase, and benefited from some hard running from Perry Jones and Kevin Parks. Florida State was able to limit both backs early, but the Hokies' rush defense has declined recently - giving up 477 yards on the ground in their last three contests. By comparison, the unit averaged only 84.6 yards in their first eight games.

X-FACTOR: The Rivalry. Virginia played a very big role in bringing Virginia Tech to the ACC in 2004, and the Hokies have repaid the favor by winning every Commonwealth Cup showdown since their arrival. With Virginia riding a four game winning streak that includes wins over Miami and Florida State, the Cavaliers have all the confidence that this is the year to knock off their in-state rivals. At the same time, Virginia Tech senior safety Eddie Whitley mentioned this week that he's been getting texts from former players encouraging the Hokies to take care of business.

Not to mention, a berth to the ACC Championship Game is on the line in this "winner take all" battle for the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech could clinch their fifth berth in seven years. Virginia could have a shot at their first conference title since 1995. It is the first sellout in Charlottesville all season, and promises to be physical game for 60 minutes. In matchups this heated, the biggest X-Factor is "who wants it more."

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Posted on: November 20, 2011 3:38 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 3:48 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 12



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: NC State's defense

It seemed like an impossible task for NC State fans to comprehend following the 14-10 loss to Boston College. Beat Clemson and Maryland to reach bowl eligibility for the second straight season. The same Clemson that clinched the ACC Atlantic Division title three weeks before the end of the season and ranked in the Top 10 of the BCS standings. But the Tigers' mortality was exposed by Terrell Manning and the NC State defense in a 37-13 conference beatdown on Saturday. The Wolfpack took note of Wake Forest's gameplan to frustrate and confuse quarterback Tajh Boyd with multiple looks, and executed the plan to perfection while quarterback Mike Glennon took advantage of fantastic field position to put the game out of reach before halftime. The defensive unit was led by an unbelievable effort from linebacker Manning, who recorded eight tackles, forced a fumble, and recovered another in an omnipresent showing for the Wolfpack. It would not be a solid NC State defensive performance without a mention of cornerback David Amerson, who tied the ACC single-season record for interceptions with his 11th pick in the second half. All around dominant performance by NC State, and the defense was the primary benefactor.

LOSER: Clemson's BCS bowl probability

The Tigers could afford to lose to NC State and still accomplish all of their goals for the season. After the loss to Georgia Tech knocked them from the national championship discussion, head coach Dabo Swinney reminded media members the goals were to a) win the ACC Coastal b) Win the state championship and c) win the ACC championship. With the division title locked up and the annual showdown with South Carolina a week away, Clemson could afford to lose this game and still win an ACC Championship. But with a Top 10 BCS ranking and many of the top teams losing in Week 12, the Tigers could have been in a position to earn an at-large BCS bid in the event they lose the Championship Game on Dec. 3. But with the embarrassing loss to NC State, Clemson's only chance to reach a BCS bowl likely will be to beat either Virginia or Virginia Tech to claim the ACC's bid to the Orange Bowl.

WINNER: Virginia Tech's ACC Dominance

The Hokies survived a late push from North Carolina on Thursday night to remain undefeated against division opponents with the 24-21 win. Virginia Tech's sixth straight conference win sets up a showdown with in-state rival Virginia next Saturday with a bid to the ACC Championship Game on the line. If the Hokies can knock off the surging Cavs it would be the fifth Coastal Division title in seven years for Frank Beamer, now the nation's winningest active coach. A spot in the ACC title game would not only give the 10-1 Hokies an outside shot at an at-large BCS bid, but it would allow Virginia Tech to seek revenge for the 23-3 loss to Clemson in early October. The Tigers have been reeling since that battle in Blacksburg, and the Hokies have improved dramatically since the setback. Wake Forest and NC State have exposed Clemson's weaknesses offensively, and you can bet Bud Foster will take note of the adjustments should the two teams meet against in Charlotte with an Orange Bowl bid on the line. Since joining the ACC, no team has dominated the league quite like Virginia Tech. It only seems appropriate that Clemson and/or Virginia have to pass through Beamer to reach ACC supremacy.

LOSER: North Carolina's bowl stock

While North Carolina was one of the first teams in the ACC to reach bowl eligibility with a 6-3 start, their stock in the conference pecking order has been on a downward spiral for the last month. The Tar Heels have lost four of their last five, with two losses decided by six points or less. As coaching rumors light up the message boards and blogosphere, interim head coach Everett Withers and the staff is trying to make the most of 2011. The Tar Heels have suffered several unforeseen setbacks, but Gio Bernard's exit from Thursday night's Virginia Tech game was one of the most costly losses of the season. Bernard is already the first North Carolina running back to break the 1,000 yard mark since Jonathan Linton accomplished the feat in 1997, and his absence was felt in the fourth quarter of Thursday's 24-21 loss as the Tar Heels fought to get back into the game. The redshirt freshman has played through hip and ankle injuries this season, but the head/neck diagnosis after a hard helmet-to-helmet hit ended Bernard's night. The Tar Heels still have their annual rivalry with Duke left on the schedule, and Tar Heel fans are hoping Bernard will be cleared to play. After seeing Duke's effort in the 38-31 loss to Georgia Tech, you can bet the Blue Devils will bring their best shot to Chapel HIll in an attempt to re-paint the Victory Bell.

WINNER: Al Golden

It was an ugly game filled with punts and penalties, but after getting 41 yard attempt tipped earlier Jake Wieclaw drilled the 36 yard field goal to win the game and make Miami bowl eligible. For first-year head coach Al Golden, bowl eligibility is a great accomplishment considering the setbacks and off-field distractions tied to the Nevin Shapiro investigation. Golden has overcome suspensions to key players, questions about his commitment to the job, and wildly inconsistent play from his team to get the Hurricanes to six wins. The heralded recruiting class of 2008, led by Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, among others, will get one final opportunity to suit up in Sun Life Stadium when the Hurricanes wrap up the regular season against Boston College on Friday. If you want to know what kind of impact Golden has had on this team in just one year, pay attention to the emotions of the seniors next weekend. Golden has credited them as being the leaders to buy in from day one, and I expect they will play inspired in possibly their final game. With NCAA sanctions almost certainly coming as a result of the Nevin Shapiro investigation, some have suggested the Hurricanes self-impose a bowl ban starting this season. The next several weeks will be interesting in Coral Gables, seeing how the school handles bowl eligibility, but at least they are in the position to have that option.

LOSER: Florida State's clock management

The Seminoles play-calling and execution on the final drive nearly cost them the game twice before Dustin Hopkins missed the potential game-winning 43-yard field goal. Florida State started at their own 40 yard line with two timeouts, but bled the clock and burned timeouts by keeping the ball in the middle of the field without getting first downs. Head coach Jimbo Fisher was bailed out first by a face mask call on fourth down and then by the video review of Bert Reed's completion/incompletion to give Hopkins a shot to win the game. Even with multiple opportunities, the Seminoles couldn't get over their own mistakes in a sloppy loss to Mike London's Cavaliers. While the Seminoles' defense stepped up to the challenge of shutting down Virginia's rushing attack, execution on both sides of the ball fell apart in the final minutes of the game.


WINNERS: Chris Givens

Somewhere lost in the madness of the upsets in Week 12 was Wake Forest turning around a 1-7 conference record into 5-3 and becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. Head coach Jim Grobe returned 17 starters from last season's squad, but few have been more important to 2011's success than Chris Givens. The junior wide receiver recorded season-highs in catches (8) and yards (191) in the Demon Deacons' 31-10 win over Maryland to wrap up the ACC schedule. The big day helped him break a 22-year old single season receiving record, set by Ricky Proehl in 1989. Givens has recorded triple-digit receiving performances seven times this season, teaming with Michael Campanaro as one of the most dangerous duos in the ACC. Wake Forest wraps up the regular season next week at home against Vanderbilt, but their final 5-3 conference record is quite the achievement for a team predicted to finish at the bottom of the conference.

LOSER: Year One in Randy Edsall's "dream job"

Maryland was Randy Edsall's "dream job," but the nightmare continues for the Terps after suffering their seventh straight loss to Wake Forest. Maryland hung with the Demon Deacons for a half, before Tanner Price began to pick apart the Terps' defense on the way to 24 second half points. Price finished the day with 320 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions as Edsall was once again left with the difficult task of explaining what has happened to this team. The transition has been rocky, but I get the feeling we haven't seen the worst of it yet as reports of transfers and more locker room dissension continue to grow out of College Park.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 2:01 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 2:28 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 11



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's offensive backfield

The Hokies moved into control of the ACC Coastal Division thanks to another set of outstanding offensive performances from sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas and running back David Wilson. Wilson's gaudy numbers have become standard-issue for Virginia Tech, but Thursday night's 175 yard outing cemented his status as a contender for ACC Player of the Year. Thomas added 70 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, a nice compliment to his three touchdown passes. Between Wilson's elusiveness and Thomas' strength running the ball, they form a dangerous duo that any defense struggles to stop. Virginia Tech hasn't clinched their fifth division title in seven years yet, they still have North Carolina and in-state rival Virginia left on the schedule. But with the way Thomas and Wilson have been performing recently, I like their chances to be in Charlotte for a rematch with Clemson on Dec. 3.

LOSER: Georgia Tech LB Jeremiah Attaochu

With a 26-21 lead late in the third quarter, Attaochu appeared to have Logan Thomas stopped in his tracks on third down. The Hokies were deep in their own territory, and the punt would have given the Yellow Jackets the ball with great field position as the final period approached. But as the talented linebacker struggled to bring the 6-foot-6 250+ pound quarterback to the ground, Attaochu made a serious mistake throwing a punch.

"I just had an overdose of adrenalin," Attaochu explained after the game. "When I made contact with him, I was mad he wouldn't go down."

The personal foul penalty kept the Virginia Tech drive alive, and it ended with a 12-yard Logan Thomas touchdown run to give the Hokies a 27-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The penalty was undoubtedly the turning point of the second half, after the Yellow Jackets had put together two dominating touchdown drives. The loss knocked Georgia Tech out of contention for the ACC Championship Game, one of the primary goals for this team after last season's disappointing 6-7 finish.

WINNER: Chandler Catanzaro

Clemson's defense followed Tajh Boyd's game tying touchdown pass to Jaron Brown by forcing Wake Forest into a three and out. The field position was ideal, but Boyd was only able to drive the Tigers down to the 13 before Dabo Swinney tapped kicker Chandler Catanzaro to kick the potential game-winning field goal with less than 90 seconds remaining. Catanzaro has been streaky over the last two seasons, but from 30 yards the kick was expected to be a routine make for the sophomore from Greenville, S.C.. Catanzaro missed the kick, sending shock through Death Valley as Clemson fans saw their status as ACC Atlantic frontrunners shaken for the moment. But the Tigers' defense once again answered, giving Catanzaro another shot to win the game and lock up the Atlantic Division title. This time from 43-yards out, Catanzaro was iced twice by Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe before splitting the upright as time expired, booking Clemson's ticket to the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 3 in Charlotte.

LOSER: Jimmy Newman

Wake Forest had Death Valley silenced for a moment in the third quarter on Saturday, after the Demon Deacons scored 21 points in a five minute period to take a 28-14 lead on the ninth-ranked Tigers. But while Chandler Catanzaro got his shot at redemption and hit the game-winning field goal, Wake Forest kicker Jimmy Newman has to walk away from a three point loss after missing two field goals, including one from 32 yards in the fourth quarter. There were plenty of other breakdowns - like the defense allowing Tajh Boyd to pick apart the secondary with receivers NOT named Sammy Watkins, or the offenses sudden inability to control the Clemson pass rush - but games this close come down to execution in routine areas like special teams. While still not bowl eligible, Wake Forest was a field goal away from taking the inside track towards their second ACC Championship Game appearance. After failing to pull the upset on Saturday, the Demon Deacons head home needing a win against either Maryland or Vanderbilt to make the postseason.

WINNER: Luke Kuechly

The man they call "Superman" in Chestnut Hill was just that on Saturday in Boston College's 14-10 victory over NC State. While the Eagles were getting no help from their offense in the second half (-2 yards of total offense), the defense stepped up against a relentless Wolfpack squad led by the gunslinging Mike Glennon. All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly recorded 18 tackles int he victory, his 32nd straight game with double digits in tackles.

Not only was Kuechly all over the field making plays, but he was stepping up when his team needed stops the most. Nine of his 18 tackles were recorded in the final 13 minutes of play, as Boston College fought off NC State in a scoreless fourth quarter. Kuechly entered the game as the nation's leading tackler, and his current total of 168 already has him closing in on last season's nation-leading total of 183. Boston College has suffered setbacks in nearly every aspect of the roster, but Kuechly has been the one consistent piece of Frank Spaziani's 2011 unit. How much longer either will last in Chestnut Hill is still unclear, but coaches and fans alike will enjoy every down Kuechly has left this season.

LOSER: Tom O'Brien

After listing the NC State head coach as a winner in Week 10, TOB walks away from Week 11 as one of the losers. O'Brien had all the momentum after winning the on-field and off-field war with in-state rival North Carolina. But Saturday's loss to his former team, Boston College, gives O'Brien naysayers plenty of ammo for the "hot seat" discussion. Not only is O'Brien winless on the road against his former employer, but the Wolfpack have not won an Atlantic Division road game since his arrival in Raleigh.

O'Brien's squads have often been right on the verge of bowl eligibility, but only reaching the postseason twice. For NC State to be bowl eligible this season, they now need to defeat both Clemson and Maryland at home in the next two weeks. If the Wolfpack had been able to win in Chestnut Hill on Saturday, next week's matchup with No. 9 Clemson would not be a must-win. O'Brien's record at NC State is exactly .500 after the loss, and his record against conference opponents is l6-22. The Wolfpack fans love that TOB is undefeated against rival North Carolina, but those wanting to cause a job security stir will have a stronger argument if the Wolfpack miss the postseason for the third time in O'Brien's five years.


WINNERS: Streaky Florida State

The 23-19 win over in-state rival Miami signaled both the end and continuation of streaks for the Seminoles. For the first time since 2005 the home team in the Miami-Florida State rivalry won, with the Seminoles claiming the last home victory six years ago in Tallahassee. But while that streak came to a halt, Florida State extended their current win streak to five games.

Ever since EJ Manuel returned to the starting lineup after suffering a shoulder injury against Oklahoma, the Seminoles have been a completely different team offensively. In the five-game stretch, the 'Noles are averaging 35.4 points per game, and the rotating running back position seems to have settled on freshman Devonta Freeman as the primary back for the future. Unfortunately, the Clemson loss earlier in the season has the Seminoles out of the ACC Atlantic Division race. The work put in now helps improve their bowl bid possibilities and builds for another shot at the ACC with many of these same players in 2012.

LOSER: Maryland's locker room

Things have gone from bad to worse for Maryland, who picked up their sixth straight loss - their eighth in nine games - in the 45-21 loss to Notre Dame at FedEx Field. After a uninspiring effort in their home finale at Byrd Stadium, Maryland donned their "Maryland Pride" uniforms for Saturday's neutral field contest with the Fighting Irish in the home of the Washington Redskins. On Friday, reports of dissension within the Terrapins locker room was confirmed by players - including kicker Nick Ferrara.

"At this point, it's not like two sides of the cafeteria - this side is buying in, this side is not," Ferrara told The Washington Post. "People are keeping it to themselves. No one knows who is going to go [transfer], who is going to stay, who is feeling which way."

The Terrapins suffered yet another setback in the loss to the Irish, with sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien breaking a bone in "his upper arm" during the third quarter. The 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year has already been ruled out for the final two games of the season. O'Brien's absence leaves sophomore C.J. Brown as the only available scholarship quarterback. The Terps travel to Winston-Salem next week to face Wake Forest before wrapping up the season at NC State at the end of the month.

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