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Tag:NC State
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 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 25, 2011 3:06 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 13

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

So you're been eating turkey and Thanksgiving leftovers for two days now, you've still got an entire Saturday of football to get through. And really, is there any better way to work off all the weight you've gained over the holiday than by sitting on a couch watching football?

Of course not.

So strap yourselves in and prepare for one of the last Saturdays you'll have this season.

BREAKFAST

#9 Oklahoma vs. Iowa State - FX 12pm ET

Who'd have known this game could hold so much intrigue? Iowa State is coming off a huge win of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma is coming off a loss to Baylor. Is it possible that Oklahoma could get upset two weeks in a row, or that Iowa State could pull off consecutive upsets? Your first reaction is to probably think not, but then again, how many of us thought Iowa State would beat Oklahoma State last week? - Tom Fornelli

#23 Georgia Tech vs. #13 Georgia - ESPN 12pm ET

The Jackets simply can't ask for a better week to play the Dawgs. Todd Grantham only has a week to prepare his defense for the Tech triple-option; how focused that defense will be with the SEC Championship on deck is entirely debatable; and we're guessing Tech didn't spend all of their nine days between their Nov. 10 game vs. Virginia Tech and last Saturday's vs. Duke prepping for the Devils. But against Jarvis Jones and a Bulldog defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense, will any of that matter? - Jerry Hinnen

#15 Michigan vs. Ohio State - ABC 12pm ET

This would appear to be a prime opportunity for Michigan to exorcise the demons of Jim Tressel's dominance; for one, Tressel's not even there anymore, and more importantly, the Wolverines are probably better than the Buckeyes. Of course, "better" doesn't always equal "victorious" in a sport as maniacally unpredictable as college football, but we're sure Denard Robinson and his (intermittently) high-powered offense are just as eager to take this matchup off paper and onto the gridiron as OSU is. - Adam Jacobi

UConn vs. Rutgers - ESPN2 12pm ET

The schedule has worked out well for Rutgers to put themselves in a position to win a share of the Big East title for the first time in school history.  But accomplishing that feat still requires one more win to finish at 5-2 in league play.  Paul Pasqualoni's Connecticut squad is out of the hunt for a BCS bowl berth, but with Rutgers and Cincinnati left on the schedule they have two great opportunities to spoil someone else's fun. This game has been played close the last several years, and Connecticut's players will be looking for revenge after giving up a close 27-24 game to the Scarlet Knights a year ago.  Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison has emerged as the star in the offensive backfield in the second half of the season, and if he can get going early it should open up the defense for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pick on a struggling Huskies secondary. - Chip Patterson

LUNCH

#24 Auburn vs. #2 Alabama - CBS 3:30pm ET

If this game was being played on paper -- or a neutral venue -- there wouldn't be much intrigue to it. Alabama has the more efficient offense, has the far superior defense, and is favored by three full touchdowns in a series that (for all the "throw out the records" talk) rarely produces upsets. But the game's being played in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tigers nearly ruined the Tide's national championship hopes two seasons ago and where AJ McCarron may not be the steady quarterback he's been at home. So don't send the Tide to New Orleans just yet. - JH 

Virginia vs. #5 Virginia Tech - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

Virginia Tech's move to the ACC received some significant help from Virginia during the ACC's expansion in 2004.  The Hokies have repaid their Commonwealth brothers by winning four of six division titles and beating the Cavaliers every season since joining the conference.  Second-year head coach Mike London has Virginia playing their best football at the right time, winning six of their last seven contests.  There aren't a lot of stars on the roster, but they play smash-mouth football and have been incredibly opportunistic.  Virginia Tech must avoid turning the ball over and try to jump out to an early lead to force Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco to move the ball through the air.  Logan Thomas and David Wilson will be the key to the Hokies' ground game, as ball control will be necessary for either team to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and a berth to the ACC Championship Game. - CP

#16 Wisconsin vs. #19 Penn State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

This one's for half the Big Ten Tostitos, folks. Penn State's basically never been taken seriously as a division contender, yet here it is one win away from a trip to Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Wisconsin gets to continue its path to redemption if it wins here--and then there's just a rematch with MSU with the Rose Bowl on the line. It's a great offense vs. a great defense, and a lousy offense vs. a lousy defense. Compelling viewing all around. By the way, I think I owe Brent Musberger AND Frito-Lay royalties for that opening line. A rare tandem, that. - AJ

#10 Oregon vs. Oregon State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

This isn't a rivalry, this is Civil War. The Ducks are looking to close out the Pac-12 regular season as North champions and host the first ever conference title game so who better to do so against than their rival up the highway? The Beavers are banged up but should put up a fight with quarterback Sean Mannion likely throwing the ball all over. - Bryan Fischer

DINNER

Florida vs. Florida State - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Gators and 'Noles are both living in a Sunshine State of Disappointment at the moment, but one team will get to head off to a bowl game with some measure of solace. Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks -- both teams' offenses have lagged behind their defenses this year, with FSU's 14-13 home loss to Virginia last week the latest evidence -- but 6-5 Gator record or not, the atmosphere at Florida Field should still be plenty hostile and relations between the teams still plenty frosty. - JH

#12 South Carolina vs. #17 Clemson - ESPN 7:45pm ET

Clemson enters the annual rivalry reeling after three frustrating performances that resulted in road losses to Georgia Tech and NC State. The Tigers have clinched a berth to the ACC Championship Game, but need to get a strong performance to get back on track. The Gamecocks on the other hand are just starting to put the pieces back together after a frustrating stretch of injuries and dismissals have revamped the offense. Connor Shaw had one of his best games of the season against Furman, but it was also Furman. The matchup to watch here will be South Carolina's dominating - but slightly banged up - defense against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. The Tigers get star freshman Sammy Watkins back, after missing the NC State loss with a shoulder injury, but will it be enough to make up for a sputtering unit that was exposed by the Wolfpack in the 37-13 loss? - CP

#6 Stanford vs. #22 Notre Dame - ABC 8pm ET

This will be Andrew Luck's final chance to impress Heisman voters this season, and it could be his final game in Palo Alto. Luck will also be facing a team that he's had some trouble with, as in his two games against Notre Dame, Luck has thrown one touchdown and two interceptions. Though Stanford is also 2-0 in both of those games.  As for the Irish, a win over Stanford in Palo Alto to finish the regular season would be an excellent way to cap a season that started off poorly but has redeemed itself a bit since. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

USC vs. UCLA - Fox Sports 10pm ET

USC returns to the Coliseum after their big upset win over Oregon and can end their season with a big win over crosstown rival UCLA. This might be the last game in the cardinal and gold for quarterback Matt Barkley and he'll want nothing more than to have a great game to secure a 10-win year despite sanctions. The Bruins are not only playing to beat the Trojans but also for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and a South division title. - BF 
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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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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