Tag:Duke
Posted on: November 6, 2011 9:11 pm
 

BCS Standings Top 10 Reactions, Week 10



Posted by Eye On College Football


On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. LSU is now an unquestioned number one, but now the huge story is Alabama falling from No. 2... all the way to No. 3, ahead of not only Boise State but also Stanford. That might not hold up for more than a week, but it's the situation right now.  

You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.

1. LSU: LSU is number one, no questions asked, and only a loss could possibly keep the Tigers out of BCS contention -- and even then, LSU would be a major contender for the BCS Title. That's not to say that it doesn't matter if LSU beats Arkansas or not, obviously, but it does demonstrate just how powerful LSU's perch is here atop the BCS standings with three weeks and the conference championships still yet to play out. - Adam Jacobi

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are right where they want to be. It's going to be impossible to pass LSU at this point barring a loss, but whether the #1 or #2 is next to your name in the BCS standings, all that matters is your in line to play for a BCS championship. Still, Oklahoma State has a long way to go with games left against Texas Tech and Iowa State on the road, not to mention Bedlam. - Tom Fornelli

3. Alabama: Losing to the top-ranked team in the nation in overtime might be devastating for fans, but it sure has a nice effect on a team's strength of schedule, which is why we see Alabama staying so high in the polls. Now, this designation of Alabama over Stanford isn't nearly as important as what the BCS decides next week, after Stanford potentially has a win over Oregon on its resume. Then and only then will we get a good sense of how close we are to a Bama-LSU rematch. - AJ

4. Stanford: The Cardinal went up to Oregon State and took care of business but suffered two big blows with the loss of wide receiver Chris Owusu (concussion) and tight end Levine Toilolo (upper body). That could be a big factor this week as Oregon comes to Palo Alto in what is the game of the year West of the Rockies. Stanford still has the best player in college football in Andrew Luck and are looking to solidify their hold on the #2 spot with a win. - Bryan Fischer

5. Boise State: Well, it looks like the Broncos will have to resign themselves to another possible unbeaten season ending in the wrong BCS bowl game. In order for Boise State to reach the top two it needs a lot of teams ahead of it to fall, and considering that Alabama has already lost and is STILL (italicize) two spots ahead of it in the standings, that's not a good sign for the Broncos. The possible good news is that with Georgia now being the favorite in the SEC East and TCU beginning to climb into the rankings, there's a chance Boise's schedule strength could give them a bump. - TF

6. Oklahoma: Some bad news for Oklahoma if they were hoping to be a one-loss team qualifying for the BCS title game: Alabama has a loss and only fell to third. Which means that if Oklahoma wins out it's probably going to need Stanford and maybe Boise State to fall, along with another loss from Alabama. Worse yet, the ACL injury to Ryan Broyles makes beating Oklahoma State at Bedlam even tougher. - TF

7. Oregon: Though they're not the highest ranked one-loss team, that could change with a win on Saturday against Stanford. LaMichael James put together a solid game against Washington as he continues to return from injury but the encouraging sign for Ducks fans had to be the play of the defense. The team hasn't really been tested since the opener but that will change this week in a game that essentially determines the Pac-12 champion. - BF

8: Arkansas: Want to see chaos befall the SEC and BCS system? Watch to see what happens if Arkansas somehow goes into Death Valley and upsets LSU. We'd be at a three-way tie in the SEC West (assuming everybody wins out), and each of the three teams would have a legitimate argument to make for getting to the SEC Championship -- and then, potentially, the BCS Championship. Yes, Arkansas at No. 8 means the Razorbacks would need a lot of help from pollsters ascending this ladder, but again, we're talking about if they win at LSU; voters would certainly take notice. - AJ

9. Clemson: While the Tigers' BCS title hopes were crushed in the loss against Georgia Tech, Clemson still has plenty to play for in the ACC Atlantic Division. Winning out in conference play would lock up the division and give them a shot to claim their first conference championship since 1991. For a team that plays 20+ redshirt or true freshman per game, that would not be a bad building block for the next few seasons. Chip Patterson

10. Virginia TechVirginia Tech is lucky to still be collecting votes after their 14-10 squeaker against Duke two weeks ago. But the off week has given the Hokies a chance to hit the reset button before arguably their biggest game of the season. Virginia Tech will travel to Atlanta on a Thursday, and try to avoid the same trap that caught Clemson. A win should give Virginia Tech control of the ACC Coastal Division, a loss and the Yellow Jackets become part of the picture. - CP
Posted on: November 6, 2011 3:30 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 3:31 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 10



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: Tom O'Brien

NC State's head coach entered the rivalry weekend with plenty of buzz around his name. The Wolfpack needed a win to keep bowl eligibility hopes alive, and O'Brien's less-than-stellar record against competition was starting to come up in potential "hot seat" discussions. In addition to that pressure, North Carolina interim head coach Everett Withers and O'Brien made headlines with their verbal sparring on the topics of academics and who is the state's "flagship" school.

Tom O'Brien won the battle with the biggest zinger of them all, a 13-0 shutout of North Carolina in Raleigh. NC State's rush defense stepped up to the task of slowing star freshman Gio Bernard, and their penetration into the backfield made life tough for quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner left the game with "concussion-like symptoms," and the NC State defense just turned up the head on backup quarterback Braden Hanson. It wasn't the prettiest win, but it was a deflating loss for North Carolina. It was Tom O'Brien's funniest joke.

LOSER: North Carolina's offense

The Tar Heels looked uninspired and unemotional on offense in the 13-0 loss to NC State. The scoreless effort was the first for North Carolina this season, and extremely unusual for a team that has scored 20+ points in eight of their first nine contests. The Wolfpack showed up with a plan to stop the rushing attack and pressure sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner was on the run all afternoon, and was eventually sacked four times for a total loss for 48 yards. After a week of smack talk between the rival schools, North Carolina's failure to show up does not speak well for the future of interim coach Everett Withers. NC State was not able to make the most of great field position all game, but they were able to accomplish enough to escape with the victory. The Tar Heels may be bowl eligible, but Saturday's performance left fans uncertain about North Carolina's immediate future.

WINNER: Virginia's revivial 

For the first time since the 2007, and only the third time since 2005, Virginia is bowl eligible. Mike London's 2011 calendar year will be remembered with a late recruiting surge early, and an impressive improvement in conference play late. After winning just one ACC matchup in 2010, the Cavaliers have started 3-2 in league play with Duke, Florida State, and Virginia Tech left on the schedule. The Wahoos haven't finished .500 or better in conference play since that 2007 Gator Bowl season, and a win over the Blue Devils would at least secure that accomplishment for London. The second-year head coach served as Al Groh's defensive coordinator for that 2007 season, making 2011's success even more sweet.

LOSER: Anyone who watched Florida State-Boston College

Florida State may have walked out of Chestnut Hill with a convincing 38-7 win over Boston College, but very little about the contest was appealing to college football fans. Only 514 total yards of offense and five turnovers between the two teams kept the level of interest at "marginal" through most of the Thursday night game. The game was presumably set for primetime in the thinking that Florida State would be contending for ACC titles and Boston College would be led by Montel Harris ready to stun the Seminoles. But a banged up Eagles squad was outmatched in nearly every aspect of the game on Thursday, Head coach Frank Spaziani will likely have to start addressing job security questions in the week ahead, as the seventh loss makes Boston College ineligible for the postseason for the first time in 12 seasons.

WINNER: Miami offense

Jacory Harris spoke on the topic of needing consistency after the Hurricanes fell to Virginia at home last Thursday. Miami was consistent on offense against Duke in the 49-14 win on Saturday - consistently scoring touchdowns when they touched the ball. Harris led the Hurricanes to touchdowns on their first five drives of the game, and finished with scores on seven of the nine times they touched the ball.

Some of the success is due to the competition, but Miami's execution on offense was a result of a full game plan that might as well have been called "bounce back." Al Golden's squad looked sharper on offense, defense, and in the special teams after embarrassing themselves on national television in the loss to Virginia. In addition to Lamar Miller breaking the 1,000 yard mark on the season, junior wide receiver Tommy Streeter caught his eight touchdown pass of the season. The score pulls Streeter into a tie for second place in the ACC, and ranks him among the Top 15 receivers nationally in that category. Miami just needs one more win to become bowl eligible. With Florida State, South Florida, and Boston College left on the schedule, the expectation is that Golden will have this squad in the postseason by December.

LOSER: Maryland's fan support

A disappointing season has come to an end, at least for the Maryland fans in Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins "celebrated" their Senior Day on Saturday with a 31-13 loss to Virginia to close out the home schedule. After trailing by only one point at halftime, the Terps failed to score in the second half and gave up 300+ passing yards to once of the ACC's least consistent quarterbacks. Virginia's Michael Rocco completed 23 of 36 passes for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Perry Jones added 139 yards rushing in the 527 yard offensive effort. I would suggest the performance might be enough for Maryland fans to have good reason for concern, but judging by the attendance it looks like the fan base is already plenty concerned. Noon kickoffs can be tough for ACC fans, but on a Senior Day this kind of showing (picture taken 10 minutes before kickoff) is pretty disappointing.



WINNERS: Lamar Miller and Gio Bernard

While Bernard struggled to meet his usual production against a well-prepared NC State defense, there was the small victory of him passing the 1,000 yard mark on the season. Miami running back Lamar Miller also accomplished that feat on Saturday, though he enjoyed the celebration of a 49-14 win over Duke. Bernard is the first 1,000 yard rusher form North Carolina since Jonathan Linton broke that mark in 1997. The redshirt freshman has played banged up the last several weeks, though continues to take the field. The Wolfpack held him to just 47 yards on 18 carries, his second-lowest output of the season. Miller, on the other hand, picked up 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 20-carry effort against the Blue Devils. Miller is the first Hurricane to break the 1,000-yard mark since Willis McGahee in 2002.

LOSER: Wake Forest 2nd half offense

Credit the Demon Deacons for putting themselves in a position to knock off Notre Dame in the first-ever meeting of the two schools. But Wake Forest's inability to produce a single point in the second half kept them from picking up that all-important sixth win on Saturday night. Twice Wake Forest had the ball at the Notre Dame 10-yard-line in the second half, but those opportunities ended in a Brandon Pendergrass fumble and David Newman missed field goal. There were opportunities all over the place for Wake Forest, who led 17-10 at halftime. They played well against the top-caliber competition, but the Demon Deacons needed four quarters of solid play from the offense to emerge victorious.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 4:28 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 9



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: Georgia Tech's ACC title hopes

"I know a lot of people are disappointed that wrote us off," head coach Paul Johnson said after the game. "Let us finish the season before you do our tombstone."

The Yellow Jackets were reeling. Their offense was sputtering, and pundits nationwide had hopped off the Yellow Jackets' bandwagon following their 3-2 start in ACC play. But head coach Paul Johnson and defensive coordinator Al Groh know all too well how fast things can change for the better - or for the worse. Georgia Tech dominated time of possession and their defense forced turnovers from a young and hasty Clemson offense that, for the first time in several games, showed their youth. With leading rusher Andre Ellington (ankle) sidelined, Georgia Tech's defense capitalized on fumbles from both D.J. Howard and Mike Bellamy to give the ball right back to Tevin Washington. Washington's 176 rushing yards (most ever by a Georgia Tech quarterback) displayed the preparation by Georgia Tech's staff and players. Just two weeks ago Maryland quarterback CJ Brown burned the Tigers' defense with his legs, forcing the 56-point performance to secure the win.

But this was not Maryland's defense, this was Al Groh's swarming and opportunistic unit. Credit the linebackers and secondary for manning up with Clemson's playmakers and taking advantage when Tajh Boyd began to force throws into coverage. As Clemson failed to chip into Georgia Tech's lead as the game extended, the urgency turned to recklessness for the Tigers. The Yellow Jackets smelled blood, and when it was time to deliver a play defensive back Jemea Thomas was in the end zone to snag the interception and seal the win.

Georgia Tech now gets a much-deserved week off before hosting Virginia Tech on a Thursday night in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Considering what we saw from the Yellow Jackets and the Hokies, it is fair to say the game could serve as an unofficial ACC Coastal Division title match. If Georgia Tech can win out in conference - including a defeat of No. 15 Virginia Tech - they win the division thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

LOSER: Clemson's BCS title hopes

It's hard to say that "Clemson pulled a Clemson" with their 31-17 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday night, because a ton of credit goes to Georgia Tech for their preparation and execution. But the loss does likely knock Clemson out of contention for a shot at the national championship. The Tigers will fall from their position in the Top 5 of the BCS and now refocus on winning the ACC Atlantic Division. With Wake Forest and NC State left on the conference schedule, the Tigers can win out and earn a bid back to the ACC Championship Game in December. Winning the title game will put the Tigers in their first-ever BCS bowl game. It won't be the title game in New Orleans, but it will be a big step for Dabo Swinney and this young Clemson squad.

WINNER: David Wilson

Virginia Tech did not do much to impress the voters with their 14-10 victory, but when it comes to the ACC standings the only thing that counts is wins. With the road in on Saturday, the Hokies improve to 8-1 and maintain their hold on first place in the ACC Coastal Division. Ugly wins have become of a reoccurring practice for Frank Beamer's squad in 2010, with the win over Duke looking eerily similar to East Carolina, Marshall, and Boston College. One similar aspect to those wins, and most of the Virginia Tech games this season has been the production of junior running back David Wilson. For the eighth time this season, Wilson led the way offensively for the Hokies with 120+ rushing yards. It has become Virginia Tech's M.O. in 2011: establish a lead, then let a Wilson-led ground attack eat up the clock while Bud Foster's defense creates turnovers and delivers stops. It's not pretty, but it has worked. Without Wilson, Virginia Tech is a .500 team. With Wilson, they are set to make a run at another ACC Coastal Division crown.

LOSER: Placekickers in the ACC

Week 9 featured some horrendous kicking performances in the ACC. In some cases, like Boston College's Nate Freese, missing on both of your field goal attempts wasn't that costly in the 28-17 victory over Maryland. Duke's Will Snyderwine, however, cost the Blue Devils dearly by missing three field goals in the 14-10 loss to No. 15 Virginia Tech. As a conference, the ACC's place kickers combined to hit only 9 of 23 field goal attempts this weekend. It wasn't as though weather was a factor to blame, there was just inaccuracy all across the board. Only Wake Forest's Jimmy Newman and Georgia Tech's Justin Moore were mistake-free, each connecting on 1 of 1 from inside 25 yards.

WINNER: Roland Finch

It has been a frustrating season for Boston College. Considered to be a possible ACC dark horse coming into the season, the Eagles have battled through injuries to key players and close losses in their disappointing first half of the 2011 season. But Boston College had something to celebrate on Saturday, thanks to the play of Roland Finch. The sophomore running back was listed behind star Montel Harris and Andre Williams when the season began, but injuries in the backfield have given Finch a chance to step up. He delivered against Maryland, torching the Terps' defensive for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 39 carries. Williams added 16 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown as well in the Eagles' 28-17 win. Finch had never broken the 100-yard mark before, and he accomplished that feat before halftime.

LOSER: Miami's consistency 

Just when it seemed like Miami had turned things around, the Hurricanes suffer another close loss in part because of penalties and mental mistakes. All four of the Hurricanes' losses have come by eight points or less, with Miami's offense having a chance to take the lead or win the game in each failing effort. But Thursday's loss 28-24 loss to Virginia came with some embarrassment, losing at home in front of the 2001 National Championship team. That team, arguably one of the best championship teams of this decade, saw the Hurricanes have game-changing plays called back because of penalties, missed blocks, and giving up the big play. After the 24-7 victory against Geogia Tech, Miami submitted themselves as Coastal Division contenders. Their encore performance against Virginia just four days later retracted that application.

WINNER: Mike London

The second-year head coach has now led Virginia to victories over Georgia Tech and Miami, and positioned the Cavaliers for their first bowl appearance since 2007. Virginia needs just one more victory to reach six wins, and even if they fall to Maryland in College Park there is a winnable date with Duke the following Saturday. London was identified as a rising star in the coaching business, and his work on the recruiting trail is now complimented with some early success. After the loss to Southern Miss and narrow victories over Indiana and Idaho there was some doubt throughout the Cavaliers' fan base. But after the big division wins and a 5-3 start, the support for London has never been stronger in Charlottesville.

LOSER: Tom O'Brien

Hard to imagine that NC State head coach Tom O'Brien would be mentioned in the "hot seat" discussion, but the buzz began to grow after the Wolfpack were shut out 34-0 against Florida State in Tallahassee. Just 10 months ago, O'Brien was hoisting the Champs Sports Bowl trophy after the first 9-win season since Phillip Rivers was suiting up for the Pack.

O'Brien's teams at NC State have often been injury-plagued, and last season was arguably the healthiest roster he's had since arriving in Raleigh. But with two of NC State's four 2011 wins against FCS teams, and a 15-21 record against ACC competition, O'Brien will likely begin to face job security questions in the coming weeks. It is not normal to think a coach would be on the hot seat after a successful 2010, but when the ACC Coach of the Year can be dismissed in a matter of weeks (see: Ralph Friedgen) it seems as though few jobs are safe anymore in the ACC.

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Posted on: October 29, 2011 4:16 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 12 Virginia Tech 14, Duke 10

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WON. Well, a more appropriate phrase probably would include "didn't lose." The Hokies improved to 8-1 overall, emerging victorious in a game that was highlighted by six turnovers, twelve penalties, three missed field goals, and no second-half touchdowns. Duke's defense kept them in the game, but Sean Renfree could not deliver on two 4th down opportunities late in the game.

HOW VIRGINIA TECH WON: Duke placekicker Will Snyderwine was a preseason all-conference selection by several different outlets, but his 2011 performance has been completely out of character. Three missed field goals goals against Virginia Tech kept the Blue Devils from capitalizing on the Hokies' offensive struggles. When Virginia Tech needed to milk the clock, they ran their best play: feed David Wilson. Wilson kept up his steady production, rushing 23 times for 148 yards on a Duke defense that eventually could not deliver enough stops to make up for the offensive blunders.

WHEN VIRGINIA TECH WON: Duke kept getting the ball back, so this one wasn't done until Sean Renfree threw his third interception of the game on 4th down with less than a minute remaining. The junior quarterback took a beating all game, but his gritty play helped keep it competitive down to the final minutes. Virginia Tech's final point of the game occurred with 10:20 left in the second quarter.

WHAT VIRGINIA TECH WON: A win. There is so little the Hokies can take away from this performance, I'd suggest they just jump right to next week's preparation. The offensive line looked out of sync, there were too many penalties on both sides of the ball, and Virginia Tech looked very sluggish and uninspired. But a win is a win, and the Hokies remain atop the Coastal Division Standings.

WHAT DUKE LOST: Head coach David Cutcliffe called beating Virginia Tech a possible "program changer" for the Blue Devils. Between Snyderwine's missed field goals and Renfree's interceptions, there were just too many mistakes to pull the upset on Saturday. Duke has been on the cusp of bowl eligibility several times under David Cutcliffe, but the loss to the Hokies sets up what will likely be another bowl-less season for Duke football.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Matt Daniels played an absolutely fantastic game. Considered one of the leaders of the Duke defense, Daniels' contributions don't always show up on the stat sheet. Saturday was not the case, with the senior safety recording three interceptions, unofficially 14 tackles, and several key break ups to help keep Duke in the game.

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 10:22 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 10:29 am
 

Virginia Tech CB Hosley (hamstring) doubtful

Posted by Chip Patterson

It took a while for the Hokies to to hit their stride, but Virginia Tech seems to be putting the pieces together for another ACC title run in 2011. However, one item of concern moving forward is the health of All-ACC cornerback Jayron Hosley.

Hosley injured his hamstring last week in practice, and after aggravating it against Wake Forest is listed as doubtful on the Hokies injury report. CBSSports.com's Sean Bielawski reports that Hosley's recovery plan is to take it slow, and the star cornerback said he wants to be 100 percent before returning to the field.

Redshirt freshman Detrick Bonner would be the next man up if Hosley does miss Saturday's showdown with Boston College in Blacksburg. In addition to cornerback, Hosley is also one of the league's best punt returners. Senior wide receiver Danny Coale is expected to be the next man up at that position.

If there's a point in Virginia Tech's schedule for Hosley to take it easy with his recovery, now is the time. The Hokies face Boston College, Duke, and then have an off-week to prepare for a Thursday night showdown with Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The way Virginia Tech has been playing, they shouldn't need the talented corner on the field until Nov. 10.

Hosley has been a difference-maker since breaking out in 2010, with 12 interceptions in the last 20 games. The Hokies schedule is backloaded with division opponents, and they will need to be playing their best football down the stretch to secure their fourth Coastal Division title in five years.

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

Eye On College Football Midseason Report: ACC



Posted by Chip Patterson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 5:01 pm
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 7


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: Sammy Watkins

Best freshman in the game? Best freshman in the game.

With 345 all-purpose yards, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins broke C.J. Spiller's single game school record. Spiller re-wrote most of the offensive record book for the Tigers, and seven games into his collegiate career Watkins is already making a dent. The special teams play may become a non-factor as teams learn to kick away (as they did with Spiller), but there is just not an answer for a player of Watkins' caliber and potential at this point in the ACC. The freshman's combination of physical attributes and understanding of the game have been well documented, mostly by his coaches. Swinney started singing his praises days after his arrival on campus in the offseason, and never has his ability come in handy more than in leading the Tigers' greatest comeback in program history. Clemson still has plenty of challenges left between now and their ultimate goal of an ACC title, but I struggled to find a newcomer that has made a more significant impact on his team than Watkins.

LOSER: Clemson's not-so-kind reputation

Until proven otherwise, the Tigers' comeback has silenced Clemson's "watch them pull a Clemson" critics. The Tigers have started plenty of seasons with a talented roster that wows fans and experts alike, only to fall to an opponent they should defeat. Saturday night in College Park was the perfect opportunity to "pull a Clemson." But thanks to outstanding play of Boyd, Ellington, Watkins, and enough plays by the Brandon Thompson and the defense; they pulled a 2011 Clemson. The 2011 Clemson is an act that is not so dissimilar from a 2010 Auburn. They just find a way to win. Expecting a similar result to the Tigers' national title run is outrageous. But expecting a comparable finish (ACC title and BCS bowl win) might not be so crazy at this point.

WINNER: Jacory Harris

The oft-criticized Harris has been silencing the nay-sayers with his most recent performances against two talented defenses. Ever since halftime of Miami's loss to Virginia Tech, Harris has been sharp and on point with his delivery. Against North Carolina on Saturday, Harris got off to a fast start thanks to big plays from Allen Hurns and Tommy Streeter. The senior signal-caller torched North Carolina's secondary for 233 yards in the first half, a new career high. But even with an impressive production, the most important improvement has been his lack of turnovers. Harris' most frequently detrimental fault has been his tendency to misread a route and toss the ball to the opposing defense.

But since getting picked off in Miami's 28-24 loss to Kansas State, Harris has been perfect in the interceptions column. Miami could not afford to fall to 0-3 in the conference, and the Hurricanes got the fast start they needed to ensure it didn't happen in Chapel Hill. The win was a huge step forward for first-year head coach Al Golden, and another building block in Jacory Harris' final season with The U.

LOSER: Maryland's confidence

Quarterback controversies, suspensions for team rules, reports of locker room unrest - it's all been present in Maryland's roller coaster start to the Randy Edsall era. As the Terrapins pushed Clemson to the brink and had Byrd Stadium rocking like it was Labor Day all over again, it seemed like all of the issues were evaporating. A win over No. 8 Clemson could have been the jolt of positivity this team in transition has needed, but instead they suffered a deflating loss. Blowing an 18-point lead is no moral victory, and now the onus will be on Edsall to spin this into the best possible learning experience for Maryland. Sitting at 2-4 with plenty of ACC play left, the Terps are now in jeopardy of missing the postseason. Such a finish would not send great vibes through a program looking to rebrand around their new coach.

WINNER: The Mike London Movement


Throughout the offseason, there was a definitive buzz around second-year coach Mike London at Virginia. The former Richmond head man took the job as one of the touted young coaches in the game, but London's fast impact on the recruiting trail raised eyebrows across the nation. After a slow start, the happy feelings of hope around Virginia football seemed to have turned from a bubble to a fizz until the Cavaliers' upset win over No. 12 Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Cavaliers got it done by winning the battle in the trenches, physically dominating the Yellow Jackets on the offensive and defensive line. That physical attitude is embodied in London's steadfast attitude towards his football team, and it showed on the big stage against the undefeated Yellow Jackets. With an off-week to prepare, the Cavaliers entered the game with an unwavering confidence defensively and held Georgia Tech to a season-low for rushing yards and total yards of offense. As the fans rushed the field, London celebrated the big win with his players. This might not be THE year for Virginia, but Cavs fans have to feel like they have found THE coach moving forward.

LOSER: Duke

The Blue Devils walked into a losing situation facing Florida State after three straight losses. After losing three straight games over a four week span, the talented Seminoles roster was angry and looking for redemption. EJ Manuel got his first start since the Oklahoma game, and got to work early with three 50+ yard passes in the first quarter. The junior quarterback finished with 239 yards and two touchdowns on the day, sharing the spotlight with freshman running back Devonta Freeman. The lack of a consistent rushing attack has been the most common criticism of Florida State this season, and Freeman's 109 yard outing led the way for an impressive 242 team rushing yards. Duke never really had a chance against this angry Florida State team.

WINNER: Logan Thomas' maturation

The only for Thomas to follow his 23 for 25 outing against Miami with a game-winning touchdown was to repeat the routine again in a crucial road game against a surging Wake Forest team. Thomas was not as accurate statistically, but he was just as effective in providing the big plays needed for the Hokies to bounce back from an early 14-0 deficit. Star receiver Jarett Boykin was the target of choice for the big redshirt sophomore, snagging in seven catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. In addition to his 280 yards and two touchdowns through the air, Thomas once again was a threat on the ground and punched in two goal line scores.

Thomas' maturation as a passer and rushing threat has forced defenses to focus less on running back David Wilson. Focusing less on Wilson is a bad thing, as he demonstrated on Saturday with a 136 yard outing against the Demon Deacons. After another slow start and early season loss, Virginia Tech is hitting their rhythm at the right time. If things continue to progress in Blacksburg, a rematch against the Tigers in Charlotte could be in the cards for Virginia Tech.

LOSER: Bryn Renner

After starting as one of the ACC's most efficient passers, Renner seems to have regressed since starting conference play. There were only eight incompletions on the stat sheet, but the sophomore looked uncomfortable under center against Miami on Saturday. He was uncharacteristically off-target on a few routine throws, and seemed unhappy with his pass protection throughout the entire game. The numbers may look sharp from Saturday's game, but many of the completions were screen passes and check downs to star running back Gio Bernard. Renner knew he was going to face an uphill battle against Miami's defense, now he needs to help his team bounce back on the road against an undefeated Clemson team.

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 12:29 am
 

What I learned from the ACC (Oct. 1)



Posted by Chip Patterson

1. Clemson is a contender, Virginia Tech is a pretender - The Tigers made ACC history on Saturday, being the first team to defeat three ranked opponents in consecutive weeks. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech (well huh) have both accomplished the feat once in program history, but neither school was a member of the ACC at the time. Their win against one of the highest ranked team ended up being their most impressive, with Clemson holding Virginia Tech from the end zone at home for the first time since 1995. But as much attention as Chad Morris' offense has gotten under Tajh Boyd's direction, the Tigers had not gotten a performance like that from their defense yet this season. It all seems to be coming together for Clemson, and just at the right time. With the victory over Florida State, the Tigers are in the driver's seat for the Atlantic Division title. If they take care of business, they will find themselves back in the ACC Championship Game.

The Hokies, on the other hand, might not be back in the conference title game. The Coastal Division is much more difficult to project, but Georgia Tech has arguably replaced Virginia Tech as the frontrunner. The Yellow Jackets did allow a relentless N.C. State team to climb back into the contest twice, but you cannot expect any conference road game to be a breeze.

Frank Beamer's squad will have a chance to bounce back immediately, with a divisional showdown against Miami in Blacksburg. The Hurricanes' also have one conference loss, and some consistency issues of their own. A lot more to learn about the Coastal in the week ahead.

2. Georgia Tech is still very impressive, but not unstoppable - With N.C. State missing their leading rusher and severely depleted on defense, the Yellow Jackets were predicted to roll over the Wolfpack in Raleigh. But after jumping out to a quick 21-0 lead, N.C. State's defense clamped down on quarterback Tevin Washington. Middle linebacker Audie Cole directed the defense as they filled the gaps and cut the Georgia Tech lead to one touchdown in the third quarter. Georgia Tech then scored three more touchdowns in under three minutes of game time in the fourth quarter, which was followed by three more touchdowns from N.C. State. The entire period was sloppy on both sides, but the first comeback might provide some helpful insight for the rest of the conference.

3. Giovani Bernard is the real deal. North Carolina has not been known as a program that produces star running backs recently, but they may have one with redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard. Bernard continued his impressive rookie campaign in North Carolina's 35-20 win at East Carolina, picking up 146 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Bernard's numbers on the season rank among the nation's best for freshmen, but they are already good enough to earn him a spot in program history. On Saturday Bernard became the first North Carolina running back to rush for 100+ yards since Pro Bowler Natrone Means did it in 1992. His seven touchdowns on the season already match the count for last year's team leader, Johnny White - now with the Buffalo Bills.

4. Florida State and Virginia Tech should not overlook Wake Forest. Nowhere close to putting either team on "upset alert," but Wake Forest has continued their play that is significantly improved from 2010. Both Florida State and Virginia Tech will travel to Winston-Salem to face Jim Grobe's squad at home in the next two weeks. Few teams returned more starters than the Demon Deacons, and some assumed that would lead to similar results. But Grobe has once again lived up his "player development" reputation, taking basically the same lineup that went 1-7 in ACC play and already doubling that win count in 2011. Hitting the meat of their schedule at 3-1, the Deacons will need to find four more victories on the schedule in order to return to the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Wake Forest's success has been due to noticeable improvement on both sides of the ball. The defense, particularly the back seven, is communicating better and swarming to the ball in space. Tanner Price finally is leading an offensive scheme that fits the personnel with Josh Harris, Chris Givens, and Michael Campanaro all emerging as dynamic playmakers. The one weakness Wake Forest has displayed has been the inability to hold a lead late in the game. It cost them the season opening win at Syracuse, and nearly got them in trouble against N.C. State and Saturday at Boston College. But as far as the visits from the Seminoles and Hokies go, I wouldn't imagine a quick Deacs lead would be in the cards anyway.

5. Miami has consistency issues. Miami's consistency issues aren't just game-to-game, they seem to be half-to-half and even quarter-to-quarter at times this season. The dominant performance against Ohio State is sandwiched between frustrating losses to Maryland and Kansas State, while the first 22 minutes of Saturday's matchup with Bethune-Cookman was vastly different to the 45-3 blowout in the final 30+ minutes of play.

You could put some of the blame on the shifting personnel or distractions from the NCAA investigation. You could look at the new coaching staff, as they try to implement a new culture on a roster that is loaded with talented upperclassmen. But whatever the issues are, the Hurricanes need to get them straightened out quickly. The ACC Coastal is now wide open, and despite the rocky 2-2 start the Canes can still salvage their season with strong conference play.

Unfortunately for Al Golden's staff, those tests are coming now. Miami travels to Virginia Tech and North Carolina in the next two weeks before hosting Georgia Tech on October 22 in the comfy confines of Sun Life Stadium. In the next month Miami's season will be defined. The time to tighten up is now.

6. Duke to bowl game? Three straight wins is a start. Okay, maybe a bit of a stretch there. But the Blue Devils have won three straight games since starting the season 0-2. Most importantly, those three victories have all been against FBS opponents. Duke has nothing but conference games left, so three wins is the magic number to make David Cutcliffe's squad bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Virginia is winnable, but on the road. Wake Forest is looking less winnable, but will be played at home. Steal both of those and one upset victory against Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech or North Carolina and the Blue Devils are golden. Doesn't sound probable, but they've at least go the momentum to make it seem possible.

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