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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The Boston College Double Stuffed Rushing League

October 7, 2009
Boston College running backs Montel Harris (with ball) and Josh Haden (background, #2) go backward more often than most ACC runners.

Boston College running back Montel Harris and teammate Josh Haden (not pictured) go backward more often than most ACC runners.

Boston College is one of the pleasant surprises of the ACC football season. At 4-1, the Eagles have overcome a turbulent offseason and one of the ugliest performances of 2009 (a 25-7 loss to Clemson) to put themselves in position for a decent bowl game.

On Saturday, they rode running back Montel Harris to a 28-21 win over Florida State that wasn’t as close as the final. Harris ran 25 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Sixty percent of his carries were successful, and he gained seven first downs on the ground.

Harris’ performance was impressive, but there’s a problem lurking in the BC running game. Harris and his primary backup, Josh Haden, go nowhere more often than any non-Re’quan Boyette running backs in the conference. On nearly a third of Haden’s and Harris’ 148 carries this year, they’ve been stuffed, gaining no yards or going backward. Haden has the highest stuff rate in the conference, moving in neutral or reverse on 42 percent of his carries this season.

Harris is two spots behind, at 27 percent. They’re the tasty wafers on a Boyette-flavored Oreo® brand sandwich cookie.

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Useful yardage

September 29, 2009
Maryland running back Da’Rel Scott in happier times, running against Cal in a 2008 win. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Maryland running back Da’Rel Scott in happier times, running against Cal in a 2008 win. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Three feet is three feet. All yards are equal.

But in football, as in Animal Farm, some rushing yards are more equal than others.

No ACC running back illustrates that better than Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott.

Scott looks like one of the better running backs in the ACC. Through four games, he’s fourth in the conference in rushing, with 297 yards. He’s averaging more than 5.7 yards per carry, third among ACC backs with at least 45 carries. Scott has put up two 100-yard games in the season’s first four weeks.

Look a little deeper, though, and it’s clear Scott’s not as effective as his standard statistics suggest. Scott is a classic boom-and-bust back. Nearly 40% of his season yardage total came from just three carries.

Scott’s success rate better illustrates his true value this season.

My definition of “success” is a derivative of the one used at a carry is successful if it (a.) gains at least 40% of needed yards on first down, (b.) gains at least 60% of needed yards on second down, (c.) converts a first down on third or fourth down or (d.) yields a first down or touchdown, under any circumstances.

Scott’s success rate is 36.5%, the second-lowest among conference running backs averaging at least 10 carries per game:

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Week 4 Roundup: Hokies are still “the man”

September 27, 2009
Virginia Tech DB Dorian Porch sacked Jacory Harris and forced him to fumble early in the first quarter, marking the start of a long day for the Miami quarterback. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Virginia Tech DB Dorian Porch sacked Jacory Harris and forced him to fumble early in the first quarter, marking the start of a long day for the Miami quarterback. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

One of the great philosophers of our time is fond of saying, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man!” After thoroughly dismantling upstart Miami 31-7, Virginia Tech has proven it’s still the man … er, team to beat … in the ACC.

The Hurricanes were the team everyone, including this guy, was talking about in the run up to Saturday’s showdown. A win over VT would have given the ‘Canes victories over the three best teams on their conference schedule and put them into position to run away with the Coastal Division. Instead, the Hokies reminded everyone why they’ve been kings of the ACC ever since they joined the conference.

The game was vintage Beamerball. DB Dorian Porch sacked Miami QB Jacory Harris on the ‘Canes first possession and forced him to fumble at his own 11, setting up the Hokies’ first touchdown. With the score 14-0 in the second quarter, Jacob Sykes blocked a punt that Matt Reidy recovered and walked into the end zone. The offense rushed for 272 yards, and the defense harassed Harris all day, something Florida State and Georgia Tech couldn’t do.

Between VT’s win and Georgia Tech’s 24-7 victory over North Carolina, the Coastal Division looks like it’s going to stay a four-team race for a while. But until someone knocks them off, the Hokies are still “the man.”

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