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Tag:EJ Manuel
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: November 27, 2011 2:16 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:37 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Chip Patterson


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

WINNER: Virginia Tech

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

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

LOSER: The reeling Clemson Tigers

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

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

WINNER: The Cardiac Pack

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

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

LOSER: Randy Edsall

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

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

WINNER: Al Golden

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

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

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

LOSER: Miami's 2008 recruiting class

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

WINNERS: Florida State's pass coverage

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

LOSER: Wake Forest's bowl stock

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

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

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Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 12:47 pm
 

ACC-SEC Grudge Week Preview



Posted by Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson


There's no formal conference-vs.-conference challenge in college football, but this week is as close as we're going to come: four contests matching up SEC and ACC opponents, all of them competitive matchups on paper. Here, our resident ACC and SEC bloggers break down why each team can (or should) expect to win and offer their predictions.

No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA: Regardless of motivation or prep time (neither of which favors the Bulldogs, admittedly), the antidote to Georgia Tech's triple-option is the same as it's always been: a powerful defensive line and a running game that keeps the Tech offense off the field. In immovable nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers and whirling-dervish 3-4 outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Bulldogs can put a check mark by the former, and the combination of Crowell and a rapidly improving offensive line should be able to provide the latter. If the Dawgs are at all focused, they've got the better, more talented team. But are they at all focused?

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA TECH: While the in-state athletes have made a point to do their barking in the media, I'm not entirely sure the Bulldogs will have their total focus on Georgia Tech.  With the SEC Championship Game a week away, some have suggested that Mark Richt rest banged up players like star running back Isaiah Crowell to keep them fresh for the SEC West representative in Atlanta.  Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Championship Game hunt, and now has refocused on a goal of achieving a 10-win season.  With the game in Atlanta, it just seems like the Yellow Jackets have more to play for and less to lose.

Jerry's Pick: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27
Chip's Pick: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 24

Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET. TV: ESPNU

THE CASE FOR VANDERBILT: A 5-6 record is a fine, fine start for James Franklin, but even more impressive is that the 'Dores have arguably been even better than that record: their last four SEC losses have come by a total of 19 points. Jordan Rodgers has been a revelation since taking over as starting quarterback, and potential All-SEC corner Casey Hayward leads a top-notch secondary that will pose major matchup problems for the Deacon passing attack. That Vandy's been better at home than on the road (and that the same goes for Wake) could be troubling, but this Commodore team is easily good enough to be a bowl team, and they should be plenty fired up to prove it.

THE CASE FOR WAKE FOREST: Wake Forest can expect to get Vanderbilt's best shot, particularly with bowl eligibility on the line for James Franklin's squad.  Perhaps the best matchup for Wake Forest is neutralizing one of the Commodores' strengths.  Vanderbilt has an opportunistic defense that has forced 17 interceptions on the season (T-1 in the SEC), but Tanner Price has one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC at taking care of the ball.  Price has thrown for 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions, and has nearly doubled his 2010 output with 2,646 yards on the year.  Still, especially after last week's debacle against Tennessee you have think Vanderbilt will be an inspired team on Saturday.

Jerry's Pick: Vanderbilt 30, Wake Forest 27
Chip's Pick: Vanderbilt 34, Wake Forest 31

Florida State at Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN2

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA: The (surprisingly difficult) win over Furman got the Gators into a bowl, but the only way to genuinely salvage Will Muschamp's rocky debut season is to beat the 'Noles, and Muschamp's team knows it. Playing hated FSU at home should wake up the dormant Florida Field crowd, and it's not like the Gators don't have the talent to win this game: a healthy John Brantley at quarterback, the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps tag team at tailback, Jelani Jenkins at linebacker. The Gators' top-20 defense should be plenty enough of a match for an FSU offense that's scored a total of 36 points the last two weeks. If the 'Noles can lose to Virginia at home, they're certainly vulnerable enough to lose to the motivated Gators in Gainesville.

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA STATE: Unlike the Gators, the Seminoles have shown the potential of a Top 10-caliber team when they are healthy and have all the pieces working together.  Unfortunately for Florida State, they are like Florida with their inconsistent performances throughout the season.  When EJ Manuel has time to throw and is able to get in rhythm, the Seminoles becomes dangerous and potent very quickly.  The Gators' defense presents arguably their toughest challenge on the schedule, but at least Florida State has played at an elite level at times this year.

Jerry's Pick: Florida 24, Florida State 21
Chip's Pick: Florida State 28, Florida 16

No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina, 7:45 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks haven't seen many offenses like Clemson's, but the Tigers also haven't seen many defenses like Carolina's. Melvin Ingram has been one of the nation's best defensive ends, Jadeveon Clowney has lived up to the hype and more, and what was one of the FBS's most flammable secondaries in 2010 has turned into one of its stingiest in 2011. The buttoned-down Gamecock offense won't put a lot of points on the board, but they should put up some against the roller-coaster Tiger defense. They could easily be enough opposite that defense.

THE CASE FOR CLEMSON: Sammy. Watkins. When healthy, his presence on the field changes so many aspects of the game.  The superstar freshman has been cleared to play after sitting out last week with a shoulder injury, and if he is at full speed Steve Spurrier will have some difficult special teams decisions to make.  The Gamecocks' kick coverage has been less than stellar, so OBC will need to figure out whether he'd rather set up the potent Tigers offense with a short field or put the ball in the hands of arguably the most explosive player in the ACC.  He returns kicks, punts, and offensive coordinator Chad Morris moves him all around in the offense.  The Tigers' offense was missing a spark in the loss to NC State, but he'll be ready to go for this rivalry game.

Jerry's Pick: Clemson 27, South Carolina 21
Chip's Pick: Clemson 45, South Carolina 38


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Posted on: November 22, 2011 9:49 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Florida State at Florida

Posted by Chip Patterson

FLORIDA STATE WILL WIN IF: They can get a strong performance from the offensive line. Not only has Florida State given up more sacks than anyone in the ACC (31), but the offensive line has also repeatedly been guilty of committing penalties that negate a big play. Many of the offensive line's faults have been blamed on injury issues, forcing the staff to constantly rotate players in and out of different positions. But regardless of health or depth, the Seminoles offensive woes always begin up front. Florida's defense presents on of their toughest challenges all season, and with that kind of athleticism on the other side of the ball Florida State has to bring their best performance.

FLORIDA WILL WIN IF: Florida's defense can frustrate EJ Manuel and force turnovers. Florida's defense has been fantastic against the run this season, and the Gators should have a chance to make Florida State one-dimensional. Creating more possessions for John Brantley, Chris Rainey, and Jeff Demps gives more chances for the home-run play. Unfortunately, that seems to be one of the best forms of offense Florida can create. The Seminoles have struggled offensively for long periods in each of the last two games, and keeping them out of rhythm will be essential for Will Muschamp to get his first win over longtime friend Jimbo Fisher.

X-FACTOR: Penalties. Only two teams (Arizona and Colorado) have committed more penalties this season than Florida and Florida State. Their 89 penalties each ranks for No. 117 in the nation, and has been cited by each coach as a reason for frustrating losses. Whichever team can maintain their focus and limit their penalties will have an edge in this matchup. Nothing crushes the momentum of a Chris Rainey run or long EJ Manuel pass play quite like a holding penalty, particularly in the an emotionally-charged rivalry matchup like this one.

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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 20, 2011 12:20 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 12:22 am
 

QUICK HITS: Virginia 14, No. 25 Florida State 13

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA WON. It was a hard-fought, penalty filled contest with very little offense and one of the most bizarre endings the ACC has seen all season, but Virginia outlasted No. 25 Florida State down the stretch and escaped with a 14-13 win. The victory marked the end of the Seminoles' five game winning streak, and their undefeated record at home against Virginia. Florida State held on to a 13-7 lead through most of the second half before sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco led a 5 play, 75 yard touchdown drive to take the lead with 1:16 remaining. Florida State overcame a series of penalties and video reviews before setting up Dustin Hopkins with a 43 yard field goal to win the game. The kick missed, and now Virginia hosts Virginia Tech with a chance to earn their first-ever bid to the ACC Championship Game.

WHEN VIRGNIA WON: Lamarcus Joyner set up the Seminoles with good field position for the final drive with a 32 yard kickoff return. But after EJ Manuel completed two short passes in the middle of the field, Florida State was forced to burn one of their two timeouts with 0:45 remaining. After Manuel's 3rd down attempt was batted away, Virginia sacked the star quarterback on 4th down near midfield.

The Seminoles got a second chance on the drive after Virginia was flagged for a facemask penalty on the sack, but ran Jermaine Thomas up the middle on the next play - forcing Florida State to burn their final timeout with 0:20 left. The game appeared once again to be over after a Bert Reed completion fell short of the first down marker in bounds and the clock expired. An extensive video review then showed the pass to be incomplete, giving Hopkins a shot to win the game from 48 yards out.

Then the Seminoles caught another break. Virginia's defensive line was flagged for mimicking signals before the snap. The ball was moved up five yards, and Hopkins lined up a 43 yard field goal to win the game. The kick was strong, but the final result was called wide left as the Cavaliers began to celebrate their first-ever victory in a stunned Doak Campbell Stadium.

HOW VIRGINIA WON: The Cavaliers entered the game as one of the ACC's best rushing offenses, averaging 187.6 points per game. But when Florida State's stout defense shut down their ground attack, sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco stepped up and delivered one of his best performances of the season. Rocco has been erratic at times under center, but the young quarterback stayed calm as he completed 22 of 31 passes for 238 yards. Most importantly Rocco, along with the rest of the Cavaliers, did not turn the ball over once to Florida State. However, mistakes were piling up on the other sideline with the Seminoles being flagged 11 times for 95 yards.

Manuel also struggled to keep drives alive against the tenacious Virginia defense, converting on just three of 13 third downs. Florida State had numerous opportunities to pull away from Virginia in the second half, but only had one third quarter field goal to show for their efforts. They allowed Virginia to hang around long enough to have a chance, and that chance was all the Cavaliers needed to pick up their eighth win of the season.

WHAT VIRGINIA WON: The opportunity to host their in-state rivals for a shot at the ACC Championship Game. A win over Virginia Tech next week in Charlottesville gives the Cavaliers a share of the ACC Coastal title and the tiebreaker needed to punch a ticket to Charlotte for the title game. With the Hokies holding on to a 24-21 victory on Thursday, Virginia was in a must-win scenario Saturday night. With the victory finally official, football fans in Virginia can begin preparing for an unofficial ACC semifinal next Saturday.

WHAT FLORIDA STATE LOST: Wedged between annual showdowns with Miami and Florida, the Virginia game has had a "trap game" feel since the beginning of the season. Falling to the Cavaliers on Senior Day did not change their status for the ACC Championship or bowl eligibility. But it did hurt their stock for potential bowl games, and give head coach Jimbo Fisher plenty to fix heading into the regular season finale in Gainesville.

THAT WAS CRAZY: The entire final sequence was insane. From Florida State's questionable play-calling that allowed time to run off the clock to the extended video review of Bert Reed's catch, everyone involved in the game's final moments appeared confused.



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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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Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:56 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 1:23 pm
 

Eye On College Football Midseason Report: ACC



Posted by Chip Patterson


Offensive Player of the Year: David Wilson, Virginia Tech. One of the most important aspects of Virginia Tech's success has been their ability to lean on the ACC's leading rusher for production while new starting quarterback Logan Thomas becomes accustomed to the offense. Wilson carried the load early, averaging 129.0 yards per game in his first four outings. Thomas has shown his rapid development in back-to-back wins against Miami and Wake Forest, and now Virginia Tech is more dangerous offensively than they've been all season. Wilson not only has shown the capability to carry a 20+ attempt load, but has rushed for 120+ yard in six of Virginia Tech's seven games. Also considered: Tajh Boyd, Clemson; Lamar Miller, Miami; Tanner Price, Wake Forest

Defensive Player of the Year: Sean Spence, Miami. Few defensive players have meant more to their unit than Spence has in Coral Gables. After serving his one game suspension in the opener, the senior linebacker has reinserted himself as the playmaker of the Hurricanes defensive unit. In many cases this season, Miami's defense has been shaky - missing assignments and finding themselves out of position. On more occasions than I can count, Spence comes flying across the field to save the play with a big tackle. His game-saving sack of North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner to ice a must-win road game in Chapel Hill on Saturday was a perfect example of Spence delivering when the Canes need him most. Also considered: Luke Kuechly, Boston College. Jeremiah Attaouchu, Georgia Tech. Andre Branch, Clemson.

Coach of the Year: Dabo Swinney, Clemson. After last season's disappointing 6-7 finish, Swinney made some swift changes on the coaching staff and hit the recruiting trail hard. With 42 of his 85 scholarship players either true or redshirt freshman, the ability to bring that youth into the program and develop them quickly would be essential to the Tigers' success. Clemson's uber-talented lineup, led by sophomore Tajh Boyd and true freshman Sammy Watkins, has played with the enthusiasm and energy of their coach. Swinney's personality is all over this team, and this team is undefeated and sitting in the top 10. Pretty good job for a coach who once held the "interim" tag. Also considered: Jim Grobe, Wake Forest

Surprise: Wake Forest. After a disastrous 2010 season, with no notable additions to the roster, the media selected the Demon Deacons to finish at the bottom of the ACC Atlantic Division in the preseason poll. However, what wasn't considered is that Jim Grobe's best teams tend to show up when there is continuity from one season to the next. Grobe and his staff have a roster made of mostly of high-IQ recruits from Florida and Texas that were passed over by some of the powers that dominate those areas. Wake Forest still has several ACC challenges ahead, but the 3-1 conference start and victory over Florida State is plenty to hang your hat on at this point in Winston-Salem. Also considered: Clemson

Disappointment: Florida State. Coming into the season, the buzz was back in Tallahassee. Florida State had a strong finish to Jimbo Fisher's first season at the helm, and returned 17 starters from the squad that knocked off South Carolina in the Chick Fil-A Bowl. They gave Oklahoma everything they had in a memorable top-five bout in Tallahassee, but after that 24-13 loss things began to unravel for the Seminoles. Much of the frustrations can be blamed on a long list of injuries, but three straight losses is incredibly disappointing considering the expectations coming into the season. Also considered: Boston College

Game of the Year So Far: Clemson at Maryland. The game of the year might have been this past weekend with Clemson's 18-point comeback victory over Maryland in College Park. From the Terps' freshman quarterback CJ Brown lighting up the Tigers defense for 162 yards rushing to Sammy Watkins' 89-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, there was no shortage of fireworks in the 56-45 Clemson win. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris (former Tulsa OC) reportedly told Swinney after the game the 28 combined fourth quarter points was "just like another night in Conference USA." Also considered: Miami at Maryland; Georgia Tech at Virginia; Oklahoma at Florida State.

Game of the Year (To Come) - Clemson at Georgia Tech, Oct. 29. With Virginia Tech turning the corner and Georgia Tech picking up their first division loss against Virginia, this game will be a must-win for the Yellow Jackets. In addition to being a rematch of the 2009 ACC title game, both teams are hoping this will be a preview of the 2011 title game in Charlotte. Georgia Tech has the offense that can keep Clemson's explosive weapons off the field, but the rushing attack has been sputtering in their last two outings. The kickoff has already been set for 8 p.m., and Bobby Dodd Stadium should be packed for a inter-division showdown under the lights.

Atlantic Division Champion: Clemson. Six conference wins normally can put you in a good spot to lock up the division, and a home victory over North Carolina will bring the Tigers to 5-0 with Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and N.C. State left on the schedule. Even with an upset against the Yellow Jackets the Tigers should lock this up in the coming weeks.

Coastal Division Champion: Virginia Tech. The beginning of the season showed a Hokies team struggling to impress while Georgia Tech was setting all kinds of offensive records. At the midpoint, Virginia Tech is playing their best football while the Yellow Jackets are looking to get back on track on both sides of the ball. Typical early loss, strong finish season for Frank Beamer will result in another ACC title game appearance.

ACC Champion: Clemson. After that memorable comeback win against Maryland, you have to feel like the Tigers have that never-say-die attitude needed to claim the conference crown. After falling short in 2009, Clemson claims their first ACC title since 1991.

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