Do you know your enemy?

November 27, 2009

When I was a freshman at N.C. State, I quickly learned that I needed to know four words in the fight song above all others. I could be forgiven for not knowing the rest as long as I shouted “Go to Hell, Carolina!” at the top of my lungs. (The actual words to the song are “Come over the hill, Caroline,” but really, what fun is that?)

For Wolfpack fans, it’s crystal clear that North Carolina is their rival. But Sports Illustrated has a survey out that shows every fan base in the ACC doesn’t have the same clarity, at least when it comes to figuring out who’s their main in-conference rival.

The SI survey covered every I-A conference in the country. Andy Staples wrote a summary of its results, including this description of how it came about:

In October, we asked college football fans of all stripes to tell us about themselves. We received 33,144 responses to questions such as “What is your favorite team?” and “How closely do you follow recruiting?” We received responses from fans of all 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and everyone’s answers counted the same — whether they came from Ohio State fans (the most, with 2,004 responses) or Florida Atlantic fans (the fewest, with four responses).

That last sentence tells me this wasn’t the most scientific survey, but that doesn’t make the data for the ACC any less interesting. Here’s how fans from each school answered the question “What is your biggest conference rival?”:

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Instead of Texting Pick ‘Em: Week 13

November 27, 2009

As is often the case with the holiday season, the last weekend of regular season ACC football seems a little anti-climactic.

Clemson clinched a spot in the conference title game last week, joining Georgia Tech for a rematch of their highly competitive game from week 2. Georgia Tech won the first half of that game, 24-0. Clemson took the second half, 27-6. The comeback wasn’t enough in a contest we’ll be revisiting next week.

Tech and Clemson take two final stabs at defending the ACC’s honor this week. The Yellow Jackets host nemesis Georgia, while Clemson travels to Columbia to play arch-rival South Carolina.

Elsewhere, the intraconference games largely match bottom- and middle-feeders. Duke and Wake Forest will meet in a matchup of two of the conference’s most prolific quarterbacks, eighth-year seniors Riley Skinner and Thaddeus Lewis. Maybe it only seems as though they’ve been playing college football that long.

Boston College seeks its second road win against Maryland.Virginia Tech seems likely to give Al Groh a rousing sendoff in what will probably be his last game coaching Virginia. Miami plays at South Florida in what may be the best matchup of the weekend.

Finally, we have the rotting husks of two rivalries: North Carolina plays at N.C. State, while Florida State travels to Gainesville to play Florida.

Closer to home, my lead in the IoT season standings is officially insurmountable. Jeremy and I differ on two games this week; sweeping them would only get Jeremy to within three games of me. I’d like to thank Boston College for nailing this one down for me by mailing in the Carolina game last week. At this time (midday) next week (Dec. 4), I’ll be getting ready to eat a steak in New York, courtesy of Jeremy. Or, chicken on a stick from a street vendor. Depends on my mood.


Jimmy’s Picks (63-24) Jeremy’s Picks (58-29)
Clemson at South Carolina Clemson South Carolina
North Carolina
at N.C. State
North Carolina North Carolina
Wake Forest at Duke Duke Duke
Florida State at Florida Florida Florida
Virginia Tech at Virginia Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
Georgia at Georgia Tech Georgia Tech Georgia Tech
Miami at South Florida Miami South Florida
Boston College at Maryland Boston College Boston College

Instead of Texting Pick ‘Em: Week 11

November 13, 2009

Three weeks from now, Team IoT will meet face-to-face in New York City. One of us will be buying a grossly overpriced steak for the other.

This weekly picks column will determine whose wallet gets lighter in The Big Apple. Right now, I’m holding a two-game lead on Jeremy. As has become our custom, we differ on two games this week: Miami at North Carolina and Boston College at Virginia.

Four of six ACC games Saturday will occur in central North Carolina. The corpse of Florida State, beheaded last week by the needless loss of quarterback Christian Ponder, is traveling to Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest. Duke hosts Georgia Tech, the ACC’s last hope for national relevance. Miami visits Chapel Hill to play North Carolina. And N.C. State hosts C.J. Spiller and Clemson. A warning to the Wolfpack: I’ll be in the stands this week. State hasn’t won a game I’ve attended in five years.

A tangent: at Carter-Finley, I’ll be wearing my T.A. McLe … er, my Levar Fisher jersey. A funny story: at the last home game of the 2002 season, McLendon and Phil Rivers jerseys were both on sale for $20. “Why get a #17 that will only be useful for another year,” I thought. “You’ll be able to wear that 44 when Touchdown Anytime wins the Heisman in 2004! And hey, how about Kelly Rowland? Beyonce will rue the day she split with THAT hitmaker.” Way to be, Jimmy. Way to be.

Elsewhere, Virginia hosts Boston College, while Virginia Tech travels to College Park to play Maryland.

Jimmy’s Picks (53-23) Jeremy’s Picks (51-25)
Georgia Tech
at Duke
Georgia Tech Georgia Tech
at N.C. State
Clemson Clemson
Florida State
at Wake Forest
Wake Forest Wake Forest
Virginia Tech
at Maryland
Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
at North Carolina
North Carolina Miami
Boston College
at Virginia
Boston College Virginia

IoT’s Power Rankings: Week 10

November 12, 2009

As a former student reporter once said about a student government meeting, there was an awful lot of motion in the ACC last weekend with very little movement in the IoT power rankings. Most of the top and bottom of the rankings stayed the same, with some slight changes in the mushy middle.

Meanwhile, we’re trying something a little different with the power rankings this week. Jimmy is tackling the Coastal Division (a.k.a. – the better half of the conference), while I take on the Atlantic. This arrangement works out rather nicely because it gives me the chance to do some gloating about a bit of a dispute we’ve been having. More on that later in the rankings — much later.

On to the rankings:

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IoT’s Power Rankings: Week 9

November 7, 2009

Since Jeremy and I didn’t get any comments or emails over the Power Rankings’ absence last week, I can only assume you’re all capable of great restraint. Life has gotten busy around IoT headquarters lately; all apologies.

There’s been plenty of turnover at the top of the conference since we last checked in. Miami held first place for a week, only to yield to Georgia Tech after an overtime home loss to Clemson. After two straight losses, Virginia Tech is falling, but not freely enough to give anyone new a shot at the top three. Clemson is the first time all season to hold onto our fourth spot, defending it with a 49-3 win over Coastal Carolina.

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Instead of Texting Pick’em: Week 10

November 5, 2009

As we come down to the last third of the college football season, just about every game on the ACC schedule this weekend has bowl implications. The only one that doesn’t is the game the IoT crew might be most interested in.

Jimmy and I have had a running debate over the last couple of weeks over who is the worst team in the conference — Maryland or N.C. State. (Check out our belated Power Rankings tomorrow to see how we came down on the question this time around.) Fortunately, we’ll finally get our answer on the field Saturday. While we’ve wasted quite a bit of time arguing this point, we both think the Wolfpack is going to come out on top at Carter-Finley Stadium (a.k.a. – the Un-fairgrounds).

Like the football season, we’re coming down to the end of our two-man IoT picks league. Last week, we split the two games we differed on, leaving me two back in the standings. I’ll get another chance to make up that ground Saturday.

One of the two games we’re divided on this week is Duke-North Carolina, which has some actual implications in the standings for once. Jimmy is predicting Duke’s three-game winning streak comes to an end, but I’m taking the Blue Devils to move one step closer to a bowl.

Our other head-to-head matchup is the (post-Tommy) Bowden Bowl. Florida State and Clemson have both suddenly gotten hot after disappointing starts. Jimmy likes the Seminoles and their high-scoring offense. Give me the home team that actually plays some defense.

Jimmy’s Picks (48-22) Jeremy’s Picks (46-24)
Virginia Tech
at East Carolina
Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
at Miami
Miami Miami
at N.C. State
N.C. State N.C. State
Wake Forest
at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech Georgia Tech
at North Carolina
North Carolina Duke
Florida State
at Clemson
Florida State Clemson

Demaryius the Great

November 5, 2009

Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas is running away from the rest of the ACC. (Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images North America)

Writing about Demaryius Thomas is almost tedious.

The Georgia Tech junior is so clearly the Atlantic Coast Conference’s best receiver that pondering his greatness can get a little boring. Consider: Thomas’ 823 receiving yards place him 163 ahead of his nearest competitor, Duke wideout Donovan Varner. Varner gains about 82 yards per game; Thomas could take Georgia Tech’s next two games off and Varner would possibly catch him.

Thomas is first in the ACC in receiving yards, second in receiving touchdowns, second in yards per reception. He has 12 catches of 25 or more yards, four more than North Carolina and just as many as Maryland. Look out, Virginia and Virginia Tech (13 apiece).

If there’s a definitive Demaryius stat, it’s this one: Thomas has accounted for two-thirds of Georgia Tech’s total passing yards this season. No one in the country bears as great a share of his team’s passing burden as Thomas. Only 11 receivers are responsible for as much as 40 percent of their team’s passing this year:

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Week 9 Roundup: Down the stretch they come

November 1, 2009

Duke Virginia Football

Could Thaddeus Lewis and Duke really be headed to a bowl? (AP Photo/News & Observer,Ted Richardson)

As we come into the home stretch of the football season, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the ACC won’t have 10 bowl teams again. Down to the last three or four games of the season, we thought we’d use this week’s roundup to look at where each team stands with its bowl chances.

Overall records are in parentheses. Teams with an asterisk have to win seven games to become bowl eligible because they played two non-I-A teams. Perhaps not coincidentally, all three of those teams have some work to do to get to a bowl game.

With that explanation out of the way, away we go:

Atlantic Division
Boston College (6-3): Bowl eligible for the 10th consecutive season with Saturday’s win over Central Michigan. The Eagles also have a shot to play in their third straight ACC championship game if they can win a game or two on the road and get some help from someone else against Clemson.

Clemson (5-3): Bowl eligible with one more win. The bowl bid seems almost assured at this point. The bigger issue for the Tigers is whether they can get to Tampa for the ACC title game by running the table in their last three conference games, all of which are winnable.

Florida State (4-4): Has to split two of four. The Seminoles are in a much better position than they were going into their bye week. Still, they should be the underdog at Clemson next week and forget about beating Florida as long as this guy is still standing. That leaves Wake Forest and Maryland as FSU’s best path to six wins.

Wake Forest (4-5): Need to take two of three. The Demon Deacons cane up just short against Miami on Saturday, which has been the story of their season. With games left against Georgia Tech, suddenly resurgent Florida State and Duke, those last two wins could be hard to come by.

N.C. State* (3-5): Must win out. As Wolfpack fans, we’d say were ready for basketball season, but we’re not.

Maryland (2-6): Also must win out. At least Terrapin fans can look forward to watching Greivis Vasquez on the court.

Coastal Division
Georgia Tech (8-1): Orange or Chick-fil-A? That’s pretty much the only mystery left in the Yellow Jackets’ bowl picture. Tech seems all but assured of playing in the ACC championship game, so we won’t get an answer until then. Bet on the Jackets enjoying some time on South Beach instead of eating mor chikin.

Duke* (5-3): Has to split their last four. Each week, the Blue Devils’ season-opening loss to I-AA Richmond looks more like an outlier each week, but it also becomes a bigger drag on their bowl chances. With games left against Georgia Tech and Miami, Duke almost has to win against North Carolina and Wake Forest.

Miami (6-2): Bowl eligible after coming back to beat Wake Forest 28-27 on Saturday. The Hurricanes will be favored to win their last four games and crack the 10-win mark, but any shot they had an at-large BCS berth disappeared with last week’s overtime loss to Clemson.

Virginia Tech (5-3): Should become bowl eligible against East Carolina on Thursday. The key word there is “should.” The Hokies looked like a national title contender two games ago but lost to Georgia Tech and inexplicably fell to North Carolina.

North Carolina* (5-3): Must win at least twice more. Carolina and Duke are in a similar position. The Tar Heels have two games left they’re not going to be expected to win — vs. Miami and at Boston College. Next week’s game with the Blue Devils is going to go a long way toward determining both teams’ bowl fates.

Virginia (3-5): Needs to win three out of four. That’s going to be tough to do with road games against Miami and Clemson and a home date against archrival Virginia Tech.

Bottom line: Georgia Tech, Miami and Boston College will be going somewhere for the holidays, and Virginia Tech and Clemson can probably start packing before much longer. Of the rest, Florida State probably has the best shot to go to a bowl. Duke and North Carolina are likely playing an elimination game next Saturday. Wake Forest still has a shot but will need to win a game it won’t be favored in. N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia — better luck next year.

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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

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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