Tag:Keys to Victory
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 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 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 22, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Clemson at South Carolina

Posted by Chip Patterson

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: They can move the ball against Clemson's defense. The Gamecocks offense has struggled in the back half of the season, but was able to gain some momentum in Week 13 - even if it was against The Citadel. After averaging 16.5 points per game in their previous four contests, quarterback Connor Shaw led a 473 yard offensive performance that resulted in the 41-20 win. The Gamecocks defense has been the most consistent aspect of this year's team, but the unit enters the rivalry game with some injury issues. The Tigers' defense has shown they are vulnerable, and South Carolina may need to take advantage just to play keep-up with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They can win the battle in the trenches. Clemson's offensive line only allowed 18 sacks through their first ten games, but allowed six sacks to NC State alone in the embarrassing 37-13 defeat on Saturday. By the same measure, Clemson's defensive line has to do a better job of getting into the backfield and pressuring the quarterback. Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson were near the top of everyone's midseason watch list for all-conference honors, but both players have been much more quiet in the last three games. Clemson has to regain their focus to get a win against South Carolina, and they need a strong performance to build some momentum heading into the ACC Championship Game.

X-FACTOR: Sammy Watkins. The superstar freshman injured his shoulder against Wake Forest and was unavailable for the Tigers' loss at NC State. With Watkins cleared to play, the question is now how much he can play. Watkins in his most dangerous form impacts the game as a wide receiver, punt returner, and kick returner. Every touchdown by the opposition is followed with the question of whether you want to kick the ball to Watkins, or risk giving Clemson's high-powered offense a short field. Every punter has to undergo the same concerns, causing him to rethink or readjust his kick. As Watkins shifts around in the offense, the secondary has to be aware and ready to close in at any moment. Rivalry games like this are often decided by big plays, and few people can impact a game in a split-second like a healthy Sammy Watkins.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 3:39 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Georgia at Georgia Tech

Posted by Chip Patterson

GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: The Bulldogs can establish their running game. In this contest, making the most of every possession will be crucial. Georgia has had a revolving door at running back recently because of health and personal issues, but to win Saturday they will just need SOMEONE to be productive out of the backfield. Freshman sensation Isaiah Crowell is questionable with an ankle injury, Carlton Thomas's status after another one-game suspension is murky, Richard Samuel is still recovering from Nov. 1 ankle surgery, while backups Brandon Harton and Ken Malcome combined for three fumbles against Kentucky. The questions of "who" and "how many" running backs play against Georgia Tech do not matter as long as the Bulldogs offense can establish a consistent ground attack.

GEORGIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They catch the Bulldogs off guard between crucial SEC contests. Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Coastal Division race, and has nothing to save themselves for in their new mission for 10 wins. Two of Georgia Tech's losses this season have come against teams that have had extended time to prepare for defending Paul Johnson's offense. Extra time isn't the only way to beat Georgia Tech, but both of those coaches and/or players credited the extra time as a helpful advantage after the fact. Georgia enters the game having just wrapped up the SEC East with the SEC Championship in Atlanta just a week away. If there is any scheduling advantage here, it favors the Yellow Jackets.

X-FACTOR: Isaiah Crowell's availability. In Georgia Tech's three losses this season the defense allowed an average of over 220 yards per game on the ground, in wins that number is 145.5. Early reports make it appear that Mark Richt will have up to four of his tailbacks ready to go against the Yellow Jackets, and some have suggested the Bulldogs rest their star freshman to allow his ankle to fully heal in preparation for the SEC Championship Game. If the Bulldogs run all four backs, they will be able to limit Georgia Tech's time on the field and likely have an opportunity to eat up yards against the 3-4 defense already concerned with stopping Murray through the air.

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Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Clemson at NC State

Posted by Chip Patterson

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They can take care of the ball. The Tigers' offensive potency is well-documented, but their recklessness almost cost them a chance at their first ACC Championship since 1991. In the last two games - 31-17 loss to Georgia Tech and 31-28 win over Wake Forest - the Tigers have turned the ball over seven times. The Tigers can score in a hurry, but games like the 18-point comeback at Maryland will be much tougher with a banged up Sammy Watkins (shoulder) and shifting along the offensive line. Clemson has an advantage over the Wolfpack on paper, but must keep their focus and take care of the ball to reverse the downward trends of the recent weeks.

NC STATE WILL WIN IF: The Wolfpack back seven play their best game of the year. Led by the nation's interception leader David Amerson, the NC State back seven have the opportunity to step up and keep bowl hopes alive with an upset. The unit played especially well in wins over Virginia and North Carolina, demonstrating great gap discipline and forcing tough throws that resulted in interceptions. The defense played well enough to win on the road against Boston College last week, but got no help from the other side of the ball. With Clemson's offensive firepower, the first concern will be frustrating and shutting down Tajh Boyd. If you let Boyd get comfortable, like Wake Forest did late in the game last Saturday, he will eventually figure out ways to beat you.

X-FACTOR: Clemson's focus. With the ACC Atlantic Division locked up, the Tigers could potentially lose this game and still accomplish many of the same achievable goals on the season. A loss on Saturday would still give them the opportunity to win the ACC Championship and potentially the Orange Bowl. Still several spots away in the BCS standings, it is unlikely that Clemson's best-case scenario is anything other than the Orange Bowl. But Dabo Swinney knows his young Tigers team needs to take every game as an opportunity to get better, especially if they want to win a potential rematch with Virginia Tech in the title game come December.

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Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:20 pm
 

Keys to the Game: North Carolina at Virginia Tech

Posted by Chip Patterson

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

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

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

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