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.
Game of the Week
Clemson 40, Miami 37 (OT). Aside from its obvious impacts on the ACC’s division races, this was just a fun game to watch, with big plays on offense, defense and special teams. After the two teams traded scores throughout the game, Miami had to settle for a field goal in overtime. It looked like Clemson would have to do the same, but on third and 11, Kyle Parker hit Jacoby Ford with a bullet over the middle, and Ford took it the rest of the way for the game-winning touchdown.
Player(s) of the Week
C.J. Spiller, Clemson, and Christian Ponder, Florida State. Two performances were so good this week that we couldn’t pick just one.
Spiller was spectacular in Clemson’s win, setting a school record with the aforementioned 310 all-purpose yards (81 rushing, 104 receiving, 125 returning). He has at least one play of 50 or more yards in every game this season, making him look like a threat to do this each time he touches the ball.
Meanwhile, Florida State has 99 problems, but Ponder ain’t been one. The junior quarterback completed 33 of 40 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Seminoles’ comeback. His 98-yard touchdown pass to Rod Owens also matched a school record set by Chris Weinke on a play that featured one of the greatest ball fakes ever and the immortal Snoop Minnis.
Team on the Rise
Clemson. The title of “Atlantic Division leader” has been a burden for every team that’s held it this season, but the Tigers earned that distinction — at least for this week — by picking up the best win of the season for any team from their division.
Team on the Decline
Miami. In the three-way staring contest that was the upper tier of the Coastal Division, the Hurricanes blinked first. Miami is going to need a lot of help down the stretch to get back into the division race and consideration for an at-large BCS berth.