Tag:Mike Glennon
Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:29 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 12:22 pm
 

1-to-35: Ranking the 2011 bowl games



Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Each December, there's plenty of rankings out there as to how good each bowl should be. But if that's the "before," what about the "after"? Here's the Eye on CFB's (highly subjective) ranking of all 35 bowls from the 2011-2012 college football postseason, best game to worst.

1. Rose. Unlike certain other bowls we could name (who happen to rhyme with "Schmalamo"), the Rose's outburst of offense came despite the presence of legitimate championship-level defenses--making the punch and counter-punch between Russell Wilson and Montee Ball on one side and LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas on the other like haymakers in a heavyweight prizefight. Add in college football's greatest venue, a down-to-the-wire ending, and even the aesthetic battle between the Badgers' understated uniforms and the Ducks' glitter factory helmets, and you've got the best bowl-watching experience of the year.

2. Fiesta. Andrew Luck vs. Justin Blackmon at the top of their powers -- at the top of the powers of anyone at their positions in college football -- would be worth a top-five placement alone. Luck vs. Blackmon and 79 points and overtime drama? That's worth top-two.

3. Alamo Bowl. To call the defenses in this game abominably porous would be an insult to pores (and abominations). But the Alamo is a random weeknight bowl game--just as no one wants to watch an Oscar-baiting 17th-century literary adaptation on their Guys' Night Out, so no one tuned into the Alamo for rugged defense and awesome punting. Thankfully, what Baylor and Washington gave us was the college football equivalent of four hours of Jason Statham shooting explosions.

4. Outback. Come for Kirk Cousins leading the most unlikely comeback this side of the whooping crane, stay for Mark Richt nominating himself for the (dis)honor of "World's Fraidiest-Cat Football Coach." Oh, and triple overtime.

5. New Orleans. We'd ask if you could remember this thriller between Louisiana-Lafayette and San Diego State from the bowl season's opening night, but we don't think anyone who watched could forget Ragin' Cajun kicker Brett Baer deliriously celebrating his last-second game-winner if they tried.

6. Military. One word: #MACtion. And two numbers: 42-41. And, all right, eight more words to help do this game justice: last-minute do-or-die failed fake extra point holder-kicker option.

7. Sun. We're suckers for any game featuring the triple-option (see the Air Force game ranked one spot above), and Utah's 4th-and-14 touchdown conversion to send the game into OT was one of the more dramatic single plays of the entire bowl season. That 3-0 anti-classic between Pitt and Oregon State was a particularly distant memory in El Paso this year.

8. Belk. A matchup of Utterly Average ACC team vs. Utterly Average Big East team -- in a bowl sponsored by a department store that thinks Macy's is way too wild and edgy -- should have been one of the snoozers of the year. Instead, Mike Glennon caught fire, Louisville mounted a spirited comeback, and this wound up one of the better games of the postseason.

9. Little Caesars. The quality of play in this game at times was like ... well, have you ever actually eaten the pizza of the sponsor? But Western Michigan receiver Jordan White put on a spectacular show (13 catches, 249 yards), the teams combined for 69 points, and the Boilers special teams pulled off two onsides kicks and a kick return for TD. Tasty!

10. Famous Idaho Potato. OK, OK: we're giving this game (which was less-than-must-see-viewing for much of the first 55 minutes) a slight bonus for its killer logo. But we're giving it a much bigger bonus for the pulse-pounding final drive from quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Bobcats for the first bowl win in program history.

11. Armed Forces. If you're going to be a sorta-dull game between two sorta-unmemorable teams, better come up with a memorable play and/or a big finish. Riley Nelson's game-winning fake spike touchdown to become college football's answer to Dan Marino just about did the trick.

12. Sugar. Another for the "ugly game, fascinating ending" file, but this was Michigan doing their damnedest to be Michigan again and Virginia Tech doing their damnedest to avoid the rabbit's feet and horseshoes and four-leaf clovers falling out of the Wolverines' pockets -- Danny Coale most especially -- and it was in New Orleans. You didn't quit watching, did you?

13. Poinsettia. Not a classic, but three-and-a-half back-and-forth hours with a feisty Louisiana Tech team and an underrated TCU squad most definitely qualified as "serviceable." Think of this year's Poinsettia as the quality burger-and-fries plate from the local joint down the street--not mind-blowing, but spend a few weeks in Peru, where they don't have burgers or college football, and you'll crave a Poinsettia Bowl so badly you could scream.

14. Orange. In the space of about an hour, Dana Holgorsen's evisceration of Clemson went from thrilling to discomfiting to boring to morbidly fascinating to -- once we all realized the Mountaineers weren't going to hit triple digits -- back to boring again. Not every game that hits 100 points is one for the DVD vaults, as it turns out.

15. Liberty. Give me Cincinnati defeating Vanderbilt in surprisingly convincing, mildly entertaining fashion or give me death! (Actually, we've got that first thing already, so no need to worry about providing the second, thanks.)

16. Chick-Fil-A. For 2.5 quarters, this was a delightful shootout with all the requisite trickery you'd hope for from a game involving Gus Malzahn. Then Virginia remembered that it was not only Virginia, but proud ACC member Virginia, and the fun was over.

17. Meineke Car Care. Seriously, Texas A&M, we didn't tune in to see you only flirt with blowing a huge lead against a team that hasn't won a bowl game since approximately the Grover Cleveland administration.

18. Capital One. This game featured an abundance of must-watch plays -- Alshon Jeffery catching a  bomb, Alshon Jeffery hauling in a half-ending Hail Mary, Alshon Jeffery getting ejected for fighting -- but aside from, well, Alshon Jeffery, there wasn't much to it.

19. Cotton Bowl. The 15 seconds of Joe Adams' punt return, the 10 seconds of Jarius Wright's touchdown, and the 5 minutes when it looked like Kansas State might mount yet another smashing comeback were riveting stuff. The other 54:35? Not so much.

20. BCS National Championship. A great game, if you're the sort of fan who enjoys watching nature shows where a pride of lions tear a wildebeest to pieces because the wildebeest can't complete a downfield pass to save its life.

21. TicketCity. If he'd stuggled, he'd have been called a fraud; because he ripped Penn State's D into tiny shreds, no one paid attention. Which is why we're working on a sitcom pilot right now called Case Keenum Can't Win.

22. Gator. When one team's special teams scores just one fewer touchdown than the two offenses combined (as Florida's did), it's safe to say you're not watching a classic.

23. GoDaddy.com. Thanks to a 31-0 run from Northern Illinois, what was expected to be a nailbiting shootout ended up the biggest disappointment since that "unrated web content" we checked out.

24. Champs Sports. It wasn't pretty, but at least the Seminoles and Irish were trying their best ... to make us wish they'd just aired a repeat of the 1993 meeting instead.

25. Las Vegas. College football produces a lot of emotions, but from the neutral perspective, it's rare that one of them is outright legitimate anger. Seeing Kellen Moore forced to end his career slumming it against an Arizona State team that checked out in early November sure turned the trick, though.

26. Independence. The Tar Heels came out so flat, and were finished off so quickly, that we're pretty sure the only lovely parting gift they walked away with was "Independence Bowl: the Board Game."

27. Music City. Mississippi State turned the ball over four times, and Wake Forest averaged 2.9 yards per-play. If Hank Williams or some other old-time country artist had come to Nashville to write a sad song about a sad bowl game, this is the game they'd use for inspiration.

28. Insight. Sadly, the only "insight" we got from this game was that Vegas oddsmakers -- who had the Sooners installed as the biggest favorite of the entire bowl season -- know what they're talking about. And who didn't know that already?

29. Holiday. It wasn't that long ago when Jeff Tedford's Cal and Mack Brown's Texas squaring off would have been appointment television. This game was, too, though in the sense that it was the sort of game you made an appointment somewhere else to avoid viewing.

30. Hawaii. Nevada and Southern Mississippi were collectively as sharp as your average butter knife, but let's see you spend a week chilling in Hawaii and then play a quality football game. The best players the NFL has to offer try it every single year and haven't succeeded yet.

31. Pinstripe. The only thing we remember from this game was our wish to travel back to, say, 1998, and explain to a random college football fan that in 2011, Rutgers would win a bowl game in Yankee Stadium that would give them the nation's longest postseason winning streak. (We're still not sure it's actually happening.)

32. Beef 'O' Brady's. Newton's Second Law of Bowl Aesthetics: Whensoever a Game Produces Fewer Offensive Touchdowns Than the Game Has Apostrophes in its Title, That Game Shall Be, Verily, Entirely Terrible.

33. New Mexico. We'd waited so long to be able to sit down and watch a college bowl game, and by halftime we were sort of wishing we'd gotten to wait a little bit longer.

34. BBVA Compass. For two straight years, Pitt has been forced to play in Legion Field on a January weekday afternoon in front of no one under an interim coach against a nondescript opponent. Vs. SMU the Panthers looked like they'd much rather be off somewhere doing something much more fun, like peeling potatoes with their teeth--and we don't blame them a bit.

35. Kraft Fight Hunger. Comedian Patton Oswalt once called a certain famous KFC product a "failure pile in a sadness bowl." Capitalize that B, and we can't think of a better way to describe 2011 Illinois "battling" 2011 UCLA.

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Posted on: December 28, 2011 12:07 am
 

QUICK HITS: N.C. State 31, Louisville 24

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

N.C. STATE WON: 
The Belk Bowl wasn't supposed to have a lot of fireworks and explosive plays, but no one told the Wolfpack. Mike Glennon hit a pair of long touchdown passes -- including a 67-yarder to the electric T.J. Graham -- on his way to a 265-yard, 3-TD night, All-American safety David Amerson collected his ACC record-breaking 12th interception in 65-yard pick-six style, and NCSU rode those big plays to a 31-10 second-half lead. Though Charlie Strong pulled out as many stops as he had to make the comeback -- a fake punt, surprise onsides, throwback passes, and more -- the Wolfpack defense never looked like they'd yield that kind of lead, and finished the game having allowed the Cards just two touchdown drives longer than five yards.

WHY N.C. STATE WON: The final yardage totals: Wolfpack 351, Cardinals 391. So in a game as statistically even as this one (an unsurprising development, given their relative similarities, records, etc.), you'd expect it to turn on a handful of huge plays. And not only was that the case, but it was the NCSU defense that stepped up and made them. Amerson's thrilling interception return was one, but the Wolfpack also made a pair of huge fourth-down stops to deny the Cards what should have been multiple serious scoring opportunities. The first came late in the second quarter, with Dominique Brown stuffed on a 4th-and-1 at the NCSU 31; the second came in the fourth, with Louisville down 14 and desperate, when Victor Anderson went nowhere on 4th-and-1 at the Wolfpack 34.

Combine those two stops with the Cards' three turnovers, and it added up to just too many missed opportunities for a Cardinal offense not exactly known for its point-scoring prowess in the first place.

WHEN N.C. STATE WON: Not until a 4th-and-23 midfield heave from Teddy Bridgewater on the Cards' final drive was picked by Amerson -- extending his ACC record to 13 -- with under 40 seconds remaining.

WHAT N.C. STATE WON: In the grand scheme of things, not that much; moving from 7 to 8 wins after the roller coaster of the Wolfpack's season (lose to Boston College, annihilate Clemson) won't change the overall picture of the program's 2011. But it does offer some maor optimism going forward for the Glennon era, particularly with talents like Amerson around, too.

WHAT LOUISVILLE LOST: On the other side of the coin, one bowl loss doesn't change the general upward trend of the Cardinals under Strong, but it does show that -- considering the ACC also-ran Wolfpack weren't exactly heavyweights -- there's still a good ways to go before the 'Ville enters the ranks of the national elite.

FINAL GRADE: As with the Little Caesar's Bowl earlier in the evening, it's not accurate to say that the Belk Bowl was the best-played game we've seen this bowl season. But what it might have lacked in crisp execution and disciplined performances, it made up for with the high-wire theatrics of Graham, Amerson, and the dynamic Bridgewater, not to mention the Cardinals' dramatic-but-doomed late-game rally. We'll admit it; this game was far, far more entertaining than we expected. B+.

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

PODCAST: Wrapping up the ACC and Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

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

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


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Posted on: December 15, 2011 4:16 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Belk Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

LOUISVILLE WILL WIN IF: the Cardinals can get things going on the ground. Sounds simple enough, but it's hardly coincidence that the Cards went 7-1 in games in which they topped 100 rushing yards -- including all six of their 5-1 sprint to the 2011 finish line -- and 0-4 in games in which they didn't. With true freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater still learning the ropes when it comes to putting the ball in the air (the Cards averaged just 24 pass attempts a game over those final six), the Cards simply don't have the means to overcome consistent 3rd-and-long situations. And that probably goes double against the Wolfpack, who boast All-American safety candidate David Amerson and ranked 31st in the country in opposing quarterback rating. The NCSU rush defense was somewhat softer, though (ranking 41st) and the Cardinal offensive line picked up some legitimate steam down the stretch; if they can give talented backs Victor Anderson and Dominique Brown just a few seams to work with, the Cards should be able to move the ball just enough to earn the victory.

N.C. STATE WILL WIN IF: they likewise can get things going in the air. While the Cards likely need some semblance of balance to make their offense work, the Wolfpack should probably just forget trying to run the ball in this matchup; Charlie Strong's defense boasts the 10th-best rush D numbers in the FBS, while the NCSU running attack is ranked 107th. That's a no-go. But Mike Glennon quietly enjoyed a steady-if-unspectacular season under center for the Wolfpack (28 TDs-to-11 INTs) and a deep corps of receivers emerged with six different targets finishing with 25 or more receptions. The Cards struggled with viable passing attacks, too, yielding 11.8 yards an attempt to FIU, 410 yards on more than 9 an attempts to West Virginia, even 8.5 an attempt to Tino Sunseri at Pitt. If the Wolfpack can keep Glennon upright  -- the Cards finished 19th nationally in sacks -- there will be some holes for the Wolfpack to exploit.

THE X-FACTOR: red zone efficiency. While we can talk about what the offenses do and don't bring to the table, don't make any mistake: this is a "battle" between the nation's 104th- and 93rd-ranked total offenses going against a pair of top-40 defenses, and points are going to be at an extreme premium. (That's Louisville and N.C. State, respectively, but the order hardly matters; in yards per-play, the Cards are 91st and NCSU 107th.) That means whatever rare opportunities these two attacks get to put points on the board must be taken advantage of; don't be surprised to see a 17-13 type of scoreline where one touchdown for one side vs. one field goal for the other proves the difference.

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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 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 19, 2011 6:58 pm
 

QUICK HITS: NC State 37, No. 7 Clemson 13

Posted by Chip Patterson

NC STATE WON. The Wolfpack put themselves in a tough position needing back-to-back victories over No. 7 Clemson and Maryland in order to reach bowl eligibility, but on Saturday they kept those hopes alive by stunning the Tigers 37-13 in Raleigh. Head coach Tom O'Brien got a Gatorade shower on the sideline as the team celebrated his first victory over Clemson, the program's first in Raleigh since 2003.

HOW NC STATE WON: Tom O'Brien and the NC State coaching staff had a gameplan for the high-powered Tigers, and they executed it to perfection for four quarters. Defensive coordinator Mike Archer no doubt saw the way Wake Forest frustrated Tajh Boyd with multiple looks, and the Wolfpack were on their toes, swarming to make plays all over the field. Two forced fumbles in the first half resulted in scores, with another touchdown coming thanks to a big punt return from T.J. Graham. By the time Clemson woke up from their sleepy start, NC State was out to a 24-3 lead in the second quarter. The lead made the Tigers one-dimensional, and NC State's defensive backs delivered a pair of second half interceptions to help shut down Clemson drives.

WHEN NC STATE WON: This ball game ended at some point during NC State's five-score second quarter. Fumbles from Tajh Boyd and Mike Bellamy turned into scores, and Clemson's inability to move the ball down the field made life easy for NC State quarterback Mike Glennon. The Tigers put together come-from-behind victories against Maryland and Wake Forest this season, but down 27-3 at halftime it did not feel like Clemson had a chance to get back in the game.

WHAT NC STATE WON: Bowl eligibility seemed like a pipe dream after the disappointing 14-10 loss to Boston College. The Wolfpack offense had only produced 23 combined points in their last three contests, so keeping up with Clemson seemed like a daunting task. But Saturday was just a matter of NC State wanting the win more. They game in well-prepared and executed their gameplan for sixty minutes. It was an impressive performance in all aspects of the game, and NC State fans should feel good about their chances next week against a struggling Maryland squad.

WHAT CLEMSON LOST: All of their momentum heading into a pivotal three game stretch. Clemson has fallen behind in four of their last five games, including the two losses. Their Top 10 ranking in the BCS standings put them in a position to possibly earn a BCS bowl bid even with a loss in the ACC Championship Game. Now they will likely fall too far down the standings to earn a BCS bid any other way than claiming the conference's spot in the Orange Bowl. This game was expected to be a test of Clemson's focus, and the young Tigers squad failed their examination.

THAT WAS CRAZY: NC State did not just stun the conference by upsetting the Atlantic Division champs, but they also did some damage to the ACC record book. Cornerback David Amerson tied Dre Bly's single-season interception record with his 11th pick in the third quarter, and wide receiver T.J. Graham broke the ACC career record for kickoff return yards. Not a bad day for a pair of NC State's stars.



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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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