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
Maryland
at Duke
Maryland Duke
Clemson
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

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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Week 6 Roundup: The Glass-Half-Full Edition

October 11, 2009
Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis accounted for six touchdowns in a 49-28 win at N.C. State Saturday. (The Associated Press)

Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis accounted for six touchdowns in a 49-28 win at N.C. State Saturday. (The Associated Press)

You might look at the weekend’s ACC results and see even more cause for pessimism. Florida State, once a marquee program, fell to 0-3 in the conference. N.C. State, a preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Division, fell to 0-2 in the ACC after a home loss to lowly Duke. Six weeks into the season, ACC schools (Miami and North Carolina) are still playing Football Championship Subdivision patsies (Florida A&M and Georgia Southern).

But we prefer to see the positive. Consider:

Saturday was one of the greatest offensive shows in conference history. Not long ago (before last season, basically), the ACC was seen as a punchless league dominated by defense. Saturday’s games may have killed off that perception. In every game involving ACC teams, the winner scored at least 40 points. Fittingly, the day ended with Georgia Tech outlasting Florida State, 49-44.

Even Virginia broke 40 points. Running back Mikell Simpson’s four touchdowns drove the Cavaliers to a 47-7 win over Indiana.

Three ACC teams are still relevant nationally. Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech, the ACC’s last one-loss teams, all held serve. Every week these three avoid stumbling against lesser competition moves the conference closer to securing two BCS bids for the first time.

We may be watching one of the finest collections of ACC quarterbacks ever. Four conference passers are among the top 25 nationally in quarterback rating. While Miami’s Jacory Harris has gotten most of the attention, Lewis, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor, Skinner and Wilson have all been outstanding.

Four ACC quarterbacks accounted for at least four touchdowns. Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis and FSU’s Christian Ponder threw five touchdowns apiece (Lewis added a rushing TD). Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner threw four touchdowns. Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt threw for one touchdown and ran for three more.

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Instead of Texting Pick ‘Em: Week 6

October 9, 2009

Last week’s big winners in the ACC: Virginia, Boston College, Maryland. Big losers: North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State and Team Instead of Texting.

Jeremy and I both had mediocre weeks, although mine was more mediocre (3-4) than his (4-3). As such, he’s gained a game on me in the standings, cutting my season lead to three games. But I think I should get an extra half-win for predicting the end of Russell Wilson’s interception-less streak.

The most intriguing games Saturday carry forward two of the week’s top storylines: the ongoing drama surrounding Bobby Bowden’s future at Florida State and the emergence of Boston College as a potential conference title contender. Jeremy expects FSU to rally ’round the old man for a big win over Georgia Tech, while I just think the Yellow Jackets are better.

We’re both going with VT over BC. I’m not sure about Jeremy’s reasoning, but I’m suspicious of BC’s running game, and Virginia Tech needs to make a statement after nearly losing to Duke last week.

Elsewhere in the conference, Miami celebrates the end of college football’s toughest four-game stretch with its first cupcake, Florida A&M. North Carolina has dessert this week, too, in the form of Georgia Southern. I’m not sure they earned this sweet treat – the Tar Heels definitely didn’t clean their plates against Virginia last week.

On to the picks:

Jimmy’s Picks (32-13) Jeremy’s Picks (29-16)
Boston College at Virginia Tech Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
Georgia Southern at North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina
Indiana at Virginia Indiana Indiana
Duke at N.C. State N.C. State N.C. State
Maryland
at Wake Forest
Wake Forest Wake Forest
Florida A&M at Miami Miami Miami
Georgia Tech at Florida State Georgia Tech Florida State

IoT’s Power Rankings: Week 5

October 8, 2009
Jacory Harris (12), with help from SpongeBob SquarePants, is keeping Miami focused on staying near the top of the ACC. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Jacory Harris (12), with some help from SpongeBob SquarePants, is keeping Miami focused on staying near the top of the ACC. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The ACC has clearly divided itself into two tiers.

The teams in the first tier — Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech — are nationally ranked, have an impressive win or two on their résumés and haven’t lost to anyone they shouldn’t have. There’s even a clear pecking order among the trio: Virginia Tech has beaten Miami who beat Georgia Tech.

Ranking the rest of the league is a bit like playing 52-Card Pickup — throw all the teams up in the air, put them in whatever random order you happen to pick them up and feel wholly unsatisfied. OK, Boston College is clearly better than, say, Duke right now, but you get the idea.

Last Saturday, the teams ranked 4 through 7 in our two-man poll all lost conference games to lower ranked teams. That either means parity rules three-quarters of the league, or we don’t know what we’re talking about. We’d like to think it’s the former, so here’s another crack at figuring out where everyone currently stands.

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