Instead of Texting Pick’em: Week 9

October 29, 2009

Last week proved to be a bit of a game changer in the ACC standings. For the first time, an Atlantic Division team beat a Coastal Division team (twice, no less). For the first time, one of the Big Three — Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami — lost to someone other than each other or a Top 2 team. And for the first time in a really long time, Duke has a winning record more than halfway through the season.

Last week also promised to be a game changer in the two-man IoT picks league. With three games separating us in the standings, Jimmy and I differed on three picks. A sweep for Jimmy would have effectively put me away; a sweep for me would have knotted things up. Instead, I took two out of three to inch ever closer to my bitter rival.

This time around, we’re split on two games, starting with Central Michigan-Boston College. Jimmy is calling for the upset, picking the Chippewas, who already knocked off in-state rival Michigan State and gave Arizona a tough game. I like the Eagles at home, where they seem to do no wrong.

We’re also parting ways on the Duke-Virginia game, which looked like it was going to be a pillow fight a few weeks ago. Unlike last week, Jimmy is following his heart and picking the Blue Devils. In a close call, I’m going with my head and taking the home team again.

Jimmy’s Picks (43-20) Jeremy’s Picks (41-22)
North Carolina
at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
N.C. State
at Florida State
Florida State Florida State
Coastal Carolina
at Clemson
Clemson Clemson
at Wake Forest
Miami Miami
at Virginia
Duke Virginia
Central Michigan
at Boston College
Central Michigan Boston College
Georgia Tech
at Vanderbilt
Georgia Tech Georgia Tech

Is Jacoby Ford good?

October 27, 2009

Jacoby Ford Game Winner vs. Miami

Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford scores after a (somewhat) rare catch. This one clinched an upset win at Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

When the Clemson sports information department releases a year-end football highlights video, wide receiver Jacoby Ford will likely have a prominent place.

Ford scored a signature (possibly season-turning) touchdown Saturday afternoon at 10th-ranked Miami. On third-and-11 in overtime, he broke loose for a 26-yard touchdown to beat Miami. The upset was huge, as was the end-zone celebration at Land Shark Stadium.

Ford’s one of the “fastest and most explosive players” in the ACC (and the country, according to another prominent ACC watcher).

Ford’s speed is undeniable. Harder to argue is his productivity. The senior is third in the ACC in targets-per-game, seeing 8 passes each contest. He’s not doing a lot with all those tosses in his direction, however: Ford has caught 50 percent of the 56 passes sent his way, the lowest rate among the ACC’s top 20 pass catchers.

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Week 8 Roundup: More ACC ugliness

October 25, 2009

Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford (6) was mobbed by his teammates after catching the game winner in overtime against Miami in an exciting back-and-forth game. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford (6) was mobbed by his teammates after catching the game winner in a back-and-forth game against Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Week 8 was another ugly one in the ACC. The conference’s last (faint) hope for a national title bid fell. Two conference teams turned in weak performances in non-conference losses.

Clemson and Duke exit the weekend feeling best about themselves. The Tigers rode C.J. Spiller’s routine brilliance and Jacory Harris’ self-destructive tendencies to a 40-37 road upset over the Hurricanes.

Where does Spiller sit in the ACC player of the year debate? He posted 310 all-purpose yards and two long touchdowns (one receiving, one returning) against the conference’s last top-10 team Saturday. For the season, Spiller has more than 1,400 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns. With Clemson controlling its destiny in the Coastal Division, Spiller has as good an argument for POY honors as anyone right now.

Meanwhile, Duke put together its first conference winning streak since the Contract with America. An ugly fourth quarter closed the game: the teams combined for more turnovers (3) than points (0) in the last stanza. A muffed punt return with slightly more than two minutes left sealed Maryland’s fate.

At 2-1 in the Coastal Division, Duke technically controls its destiny for an ACC title game bid. But Duke won’t beat Virginia and Wake Forest, much less Georgia Tech and Miami, with the sort of display it put on in the fourth quarter Saturday. With opportunities to close Maryland out, Duke fumbled the ball away at the Maryland 1 and spoiled a drive to the Maryland 28 with 23 yards in penalty and sack yardage.

Elsewhere in the ACC, Georgia Tech held serve against Virginia and gave itself the softest path toward a BCS bid. Tech may eventually replace Miami in the BCS top 10. But with no ranked teams left on the schedule (barring something unforeseen in the Atlantic Division), the Yellow Jackets are unlikely to make a serious run for the national title game.

Wake Forest and Boston College both lost nonconference games. After a 52-point outburst against N.C. State, the BC offense came back to earth against Notre Dame: 5 turnovers, a sub-50% pass completion rate and 2.4 yards per carry on the day. Still, the Eagles had a chance to win, carrying a 16-13 lead into the fourth quarter.

Navy defeated Wake Forest without attempting a single pass. Starting his first college game for the Midshipmen, sophomore quarterback Kriss Proctor ran for 89 yards and a touchdown. Navy rolled up 338 rushing yards on Wake. Having failed to contain Paul Johnson Offense 3.1 Saturday, I don’t like the Deacons’ chances against Johnson XP in two weeks.

Rounding out the ACC Week 8 schedule, Florida State came back from an 18-point deficit to win at North Carolina Thursday night. Instead of Texting (sort of) doesn’t gamble, but neither of us would have chosen Oct. 22 in a preseason pool on when then-No.-18 FSU and then-No.-21 UNC would get their first conference win. Poor team showings aside, FSU’s Christian Ponder is the best quarterback in the ACC right now.

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Instead of Texting Pick ‘Em: Week 8

October 22, 2009

As the college football season has reached its midpoint, the ACC Atlantic Division has been taking a beating from pundits for major media outlets to little-known blogs.

Atlantic teams have an opportunity to redeem their side of the conference this weekend with three matchups against Coastal Division teams, starting with Florida State’s visit to North Carolina on Thursday night. Boston College, the current leader in the division, can also make a statement for the entire conference with its annual game against that other Catholic school, Notre Dame.

The only intradivisional meeting of the weekend features a battle for first place in the hotly contested Coastal between Georgia Tech and Virginia. After about as miserable a start as any team can have, the Cavaliers are somehow still undefeated in the ACC and leading a division that includes three teams in the top 14 of the BCS rankings. One of those teams is the Ramblin’ Wreck, which won its long-anticipated showdown with Virginia Tech last Saturday.

Meanwhile, this could prove to be a pivotal moment for another major college football race — the two-man IoT picks league. Jimmy and I have been trading a game in the standings with each other for the last three weeks. That could change this weekend as we go head-to-head on three of the six ACC games on the schedule.

Jimmy is going with road underdogs FSU, Maryland and Wake Forest. I’m sticking with the theory that Atlantic Division teams can’t win away from home. All five Atlantic teams in action this weekend play on the road, so I’m picking against them all. (I was tempted to take the Bye over N.C. State just for good measure.)

If Jimmy is right, he could build an insurmountable lead in the IoT standings. If I’m right, we could be right back where we started the season — dead even.

Jimmy’s Picks (40-17) Jeremy’s Picks (37-20)
Florida State
at North Carolina
Florida State North Carolina
Georgia Tech
at Virginia
Georgia Tech Georgia Tech
at Duke
Maryland Duke
at Miami
Miami Miami
Boston College
at Notre Dame
Notre Dame Notre Dame
Wake Forest
at Navy
Wake Forest Navy

IoT’s Power Rankings: Week 7

October 20, 2009
 (US Presswire/Paul Abell)

Tyrod Taylor (5) and Ryan Williams (34) couldn't hold onto the top spot in the IoT power rankings this week. (US Presswire/Paul Abell)

It’s official. The upper ranks of the ACC have become a low/medium-stakes game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Scratch that. The upper ranks have become Starrcade ’89. Surely, you remember the marquee event of the National Wrestling Association’s 1989 calendar. On one half of the card, four top wrestlers battled one another in a round-robin tournament. On the other half, four tag teams did likewise. The events of Dec. 13, 1989, sparked world-changing events we’re still reckoning with today. The reunion of the Four Horsemen. The devastating knee injury that prevented Sting from getting his title shot against Ric Flair. The opening of the first McDonald’s in Russia.

Twenty years later, it’s all happening again. Thanks to a win Saturday over Virginia Tech (Ric Flair/paper), Georgia Tech (Sting/scissors) moves into second place in the conference. Meanwhile, Miami (Lex Luger/rock) takes over first by virtue of its early-season victory over Georgia Tech. Miami’s lone blemish is a September loss at Virginia Tech.

Look, I know what you’re thinking. Ric Flair didn’t beat Lex Luger. They fought to a draw. But we all saw that match. We all know who really won. Think about it.

Enough pro wrestling talk. On to the rankings, where Clemson climbs three rungs and Wake Forest does the opposite.

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Week 7 Roundup: A Tale of Two Divisions

October 18, 2009
Georgia Tech's 28-23 win over Virginia Tech brought down the goal posts at Bobby Dodd Stadium and erased any semblance of order left in the ACC. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Georgia Tech's 28-23 win over Virginia Tech brought down the goal posts at Bobby Dodd Stadium and erased any semblance of order left in the ACC. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Midway through the season, both divisions in the ACC seem to be in chaos. The difference is that only one actually seems to matter.

That would be the Coastal Division, where the three best teams — Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech — have all taken a game from each other after the Yellow Jackets 28-23 win over the Hokies.

(For the record, Virginia actually leads the Coastal and remains the only ACC team without a conference loss, but I challenge you to find someone outside Charlottesville who actually thinks the Cavaliers are going to finish ahead of all three of those teams.)

Georgia Tech’s win pretty much ensures that we’re going to get an exciting finish in the Coastal and could give us a chance to see how well a three-way tiebraker can be done with one-loss teams. As sweet as the game was for the Jackets, it was a major disappointment for a Virginia Tech team that still had a shot at playing for the national title. The Hokies’ loss also weakened the ACC’s hopes of putting two teams in BCS bowls, although Miami and Georgia Tech are 10th and 12th in the initial BCS standings, and Virginia Tech isn’t far behind at No. 14.

On the other side of the standings, the Atlantic Division is looking more and more like the Big 12 North, circa 2004. Florida State and N.C. State, two of the preseason favorites in the division, have been exposed as frauds. Wake Forest entered the weekend with a chance to put some distance between itself and the rest of the division but crumbled instead. Clemson, the team Wake lost to, has shown flashes of dominance but remains inconsistent. Maryland really isn’t even worth mentioning. And Boston College, now the Atlantic leader, has probably looked the best of anyone in the division but has yet to prove it can win away from home.

That’s a common theme in the Atlantic. The six teams in the division are collectively 1-12 on the road, including 0-9 in the conference. It’s called home-field advantage for a reason, but at some point, a team has to win a game or two on the road to be successful.

If you need any more proof about the gap between the divisions, Atlantic teams are 0-6 against the Coastal.

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Gameday Links

October 17, 2009

Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech is rightfully getting a lot of national attention, but there are other games important to the ACC race today. To the links:

Instead of Texting Pick ‘Em: Week 7

October 17, 2009

For weeks, the Instead of Texting team had Saturday, Oct. 17, circled on its virtual calendar. It promised to be a momentous day, as Maryland and Virginia payed one of the most significant conference games of the season. Finally, we’d know definitively who the worst team in the Atlantic Coast Conference is.

But fate conspired with the Cavs and Terps. Our Bottom-Feeder Bowl has become a game with actual ramifications for the rest of the league. A Maryland win, coupled with a Wake Forest loss, would put the Terrapins atop the Atlantic Division. Virginia would remain in a virtual first-place tie atop the conference with a victory, regardless of the other Week 7 outcomes.

Meanwhile, the true tests of ACC futility lie elsewhere. Thursday night’s North Carolina-Florida State game will pit two ACC-winless teams. It’s conceivable the Seminoles and N.C. State could still be seeking their first conference victories when they meet on Halloween. We’ll have our pillow fight yet.

The top conference game this week has some national consequences. Virginia Tech visits Georgia Tech in a matchup of one-loss ACC teams. This is probably the Hokies’ last regular-season chance to bolster their BCS resume. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, could enter the big-bowl conversation with a win today.

Elsewhere, Clemson seeks to regain a spot in the Atlantic Division race when it hosts Wake Forest. N.C. State will try to stop the bleeding in a visit to Boston College, where the Eagles are having an identity crisis. Are they the team that gave Wake its only loss or the hapless group that got drilled by Clemson and FSU?

Miami continues its break from actual competition with a trip to play Conference USA’s Central Florida. It’s a well-earned respite for the Hurricanes after their murderous season-opening stretch.

Last week, Jeremy gave back the game he gained on me in week 5. We only differ on one contest this week: Wake Forest-Clemson. I think Wake will continue separating itself from teams 6-12 in the conference standings. Jeremy expects Clemson to bring the Deacons closer to the pack.

Jimmy’s Picks (37-15) Jeremy’s Picks (33-19)
Wake Forest at Clemson Wake Forest Clemson
N.C. State at Boston College Boston College Boston College
Virginia at Maryland Virginia Virginia
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
Miami at Central Florida Miami Miami

The fourth thing that can happen when you pass

October 16, 2009
Ponders passes periodically portend pass interference penalties. (Doug Beng/Getty Images North America)

Ponder's passes periodically portend pass interference penalties. (Doug Beng/Getty Images North America)

I’ve been working this week on a lengthy piece about wide receiver effectiveness in the ACC – something similar to what we’ve already done with running backs. That post should go up some time next week (spoiler alert: the best receiver in the ACC is exactly who you think it is).

In the interim, though, I’ve been thinking about pass interference penalties. Noted public speaker Woody Hayes once said three things can happen when you pass the football, and two of them are bad: incompletions, interceptions and completions.

He didn’t mention interference penalties (did they exist when Woody coached?), which can be positive and pivotal. They often come on long passes where offenses get their biggest chunks of yardage, or on long-yardage downs, where they keep defenses from getting off the field.

My original intent was to look at which receivers draw the most interference calls, but play-by-play logs are spotty on listing intended receivers on interference plays. That left the quarterbacks, and there are a couple who’ve shown a knack for drawing 15-yard flags this year.

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IoT’s Power Rankings: Week 6

October 15, 2009
After the Big 3, Chris Givens and Wake Forest are the best of the rest of the ACC — for now. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

After the Big 3, Chris Givens and Wake Forest are the best of the rest of the ACC — for now. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

The offensive explosion in the ACC last weekend was entertaining to watch, but it did nothing to alter the fundamental shape of the conference.

Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech are still firmly ahead of the rest of the league, while everyone else is almost interchangeable in the rankings from week to week. Case in point: two weeks ago, N.C. State was sitting in fourth, while Virginia was mired in dead last. This week, the Wolfpack are down to No. 10, while the Cavaliers are up to No. 7.

For the first time, we have a tie in the IoT Power Rakings — because Jimmy and I couldn’t agree on who is worse, Florida State or Maryland. Normally in this situation, the two teams would be tied for 11th. However, we at least agreed that was too good for both of them, so we’ve tied the Seminoles and Terrapins to 12th place and added our respective cases for why one is worse than the other.

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