All posts by Justin Bramm

Bold Predictions for Florida State vs Houston

With the Chic-Fil-A Peach Bowl only being a day away, there isn’t a whole lot that hasn’t been said about the matchup between the Houston Cougars and Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles are favored by seven, which most people agree with, giving the benefit of the doubt of a close matchup to the team with a better profile in recent history. Even with that, there isn’t much doubt that this will be a game that goes down to the end.

The Seminoles haven’t been able to put a lot of points on the board against any quality team this season, while Houston scores the 11th-most points per game in the nation. On the other side, Florida State allows the fifth-least points per game to opponents in the country, compared to Houston, who rank 19th in points allowed. Statistics can’t be relied on to predict a winner in this one, this will be your classic; is the national powerhouse team in fact better than a similar team that isn’t in a power five conference?

Having said all of that, here are a few bold predictions for the game:

GREG WARD JR. RUSHES FOR 150 YARDS AND 2 TD’S

This has to be the scariest aspect of the game for Florida State fans; the prospect of a running quarterback. Greg Ward Jr. is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks the Seminoles have faced in the past few years outside of Marcus Mariota, and typically, these types of quarterbacks are able to run free against Seminole defenses. Deshaun Watson and Justin Thomas, of Clemson and Georgia Tech, respectively, each accumulated at least 88 yards rushing against the Seminoles, and both games were losses for the Noles. I don’t see why this game will be any different (save for maybe the loss column.) Ward will be able to do what he wants on the ground, to the tune of over 150 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

SEAN MAGUIRE THROWS FOR 350 YARDS AND 4 TD’S

It's been an interesting year for Sean Maguire, but he'll prove his doubters wrong in this game
It’s been an interesting year for Sean Maguire, but he’ll prove his doubters wrong in this game

It’s been an interesting year behind center for the Seminoles. It began with Everett Golson, developed into a seesaw between him and Maguire, to now, where Maguire has firmly become the quarterback for the Seminoles. This will be the best game of Maguire’s season. Considering Houston’s rush defense (which I’ll get to later,) and their terrible pass defense that has allowed 3,449 yards through the air this season (which ranks them at 121 of 128 teams,) Maguire will have a field day against the Cougar defense, throwing for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. This will be Maguire’s break out game for the Seminoles, and will begin the big question of whether he should remain the starter for 2016, or if the five-star recruit Malik Henry should be given the reins as a freshman.

HOUSTON HOLDS DALVIN COOK TO LESS THAN 50 RUSH YARDS

As I was alluding to earlier, Houston’s rush defense is very, very good. The Cougars allow only 3.3 yards per rush attempt, good for 6th in the nation in that category. Obviously they face a tough task in stopping one of the best running backs in the country in Dalvin Cook, but Houston will be up to the task. They’ve had success this season against potent rushing attacks, most noticeably having held Navy – who have the second most rush yards on the season – to only the 3.9 yards per carry in a win. Cook will have his hands full against Houston, and the results will tell the story, Houston will hold Dalvin Cook under 50 rush yards.

DERWIN JAMES HAS TWO INT’S AND TWO SACKS

Derwin James is poised to have a breakout game to finish his freshman campaign
Derwin James is poised to have a breakout game on a national stage to finish his freshman campaign

One of the wild cards of this game that I’ll be very interested to watch will be how the Seminoles utilize freshman safety Derwin James. James has proven to be a jack-of-all-trades for the Seminoles as the season has worn on, as he’s proved to be equally talented in coverage as he is rushing the passer. I think he’ll be put all over the field, at times being in charge of containing Ward, and at times dropping back in coverage. People who have watched James play recently are certainly aware of the talent he possesses and it can be argued that he has already had a couple breakout games. However, this will be the first time since he’s become a vital component on the Nole defense that the nation will be able to watch him play, and the nation will recognize a star in the making after he has two sacks and two interceptions on New Year’s Eve.

Key Marquee Personnel Matchups for Houston vs FSU

The #9 Florida State Seminoles and #18 Houston Cougars will face off in the Chic-Fil-A Peach Bowl December 31st, in a game that features a few marquee personnel matchups on either side of the ball. Both teams present challenges for the other team, and the way that these individual matchups play out will go a long way towards determining the outcome of the game.

TERRANCE SMITH vs GREG WARD JR

The Seminoles will need to keep Ward from doing this if they want to beat Houston
The Seminoles will need to keep Ward from doing this if they want to beat Houston

One of the biggest player matchups of the game will be between Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith, and Houston’s leading rusher, quarterback Greg Ward Jr. Houston’s leading rusher is their quarterback, which has proven to be a difficult thing for Seminole defenses to defend over the past few years. With Houston’s offensive success hinging on the effectiveness of Ward running the ball, I expect Seminole coach Jimbo Fisher to have a spy on Ward for most of the game. The player most likely responsible for containing Ward, will be senior linebacker Terrance Smith. Smith, one of the defensive leaders for the Seminoles, has the athletic tools necessary to contain Ward, but Ward at the same time hasn’t been able to be stopped
by nearly everyone he’s faced. Of course read-option plays by Houston’s offense will require the entire Seminole defensive front to stay disciplined, but on designed throwing plays, it will be up to Smith to keep Ward from breaking out of the pocket and into open space where he does the most damage.

JALEN RAMSEY vs DEMARCUS AYERS

Another matchup to watch will be Seminole cornerback Jalen Ramsey, versus Houston’s leading receiver Demarcus Ayers. Many people already know about 2nd team All-American Ramsey, but less is known about Ayers. Ayers is the first receiving option for the Cougars, caught 89 passes for 1,140 yards this season, and made the first-team All-AAC team as a receiver and as a return specialist. Ayers has almost twice as many receiving yards as the next closest receiver on the team. Whoever wins this matchup initially will go a long way to determining how much attention the Seminole defense will be able to give to Greg Ward’s rushing attack. If Ayers can prove to be a threat from the beginning, the Seminole defense will have to sag back and give more attention to the receivers, which would allow Ward more space to run once he drops back. On the other hand, if Ramsey can prove he can cover Ayers one-on-one early, the Seminole defense will be able to focus more on keeping Ward from using his legs, which would most likely mean using safety Derwin James more as a pass rusher, instead of dropping him back in coverage.

DALVIN COOK vs ELANDON ROBERTS

Keeping Cook in check will be at the top of Houston's priorities
Keeping Cook in check will be at the top of Houston’s priorities

Probably one of the most determining matchups of the game will be between Seminoles star running back Dalvin Cook, and Houston’s All-AAC first-team linebacker Elandon Roberts. Cook is probably the best player on the Seminoles roster, and Roberts is the best player on Houston’s defense. Roberts is simply a monster, with double digit tackles in six games this year, Roberts will be the head man in charge of keeping Cook from getting to the second level of their defense. With the way that Florida State’s offense relies on Cook, it will be up to Roberts to keep Cook from turning short gains into long touchdowns. The only team the Seminoles have faced this year that gave Cook a lot of trouble was Boston College, and I expect Houston to use their defense as a template to keep Cook in check, utilizing Roberts the way that Boston College deployed linebacker Steven Daniels. For Houston’s defense to have success, they will have to contain Cook, and if Roberts can keep him from having multiple field-changing runs, that would be a big indicator that the game is close by the end.

 

Turning Points of FSU’s season; ACC Wrap Up

This is the period of time in the college football season when you really get to reflect on your team’s season, assess what went right and wrong, and see what could have been. For the Seminoles, they were only a couple of plays from being undefeated, and a couple of plays from being 8-4. The Seminoles went through a couple quarterback changes and injuries on both sides of the ball that altered their season, but instead of running down a list of things that affected their season, I’m going to point out the pivotal moments of the Seminole’s season, positive and negative, in chronological order.

1. Seminoles stop Miami at midfield on 4th and 4 with 53 seconds left

This was one of the moments that could potentially have derailed the Seminoles’ entire season. With Miami down 29-24, they got the ball at their own 19-yard line with two minutes left with a chance to win the game. After getting a first down, the Hurricanes ultimately found themselves in a 4th and 4 situation at their own 42-yard line. With how well Brad Kaaya had been playing in the game, Seminole fans weren’t too confident in the defense’s ability to stop the Hurricanes, and were afraid they were about to watch Kaaya drive down the field and hand the ‘Noles their first loss of the season. Alas, the pass Kaaya attempted was incomplete, and the Seminoles were able to get into victory formation, and end the week at 5-0.

2. Aguayo gets his kick blocked, and returned for a touchdown against GT

This obviously had a huge impact on the Seminole’s season, and the loss had a couple trickle down effects for the team. First of all, the decision to go for a 56-yard field goal, although long, had to have been a no-brainer for Jimbo Fisher considering he had one of the best kickers in the country in Roberto Aguayo, so let’s not argue with the decision itself. The team set up for the field goal, and knowing it needed to be a low-angle kick, a Georgia Tech defender managed to get a hand on it, and that’s when everything hit the fan for the Seminoles. It didn’t look too harmful when GT picked up the loose ball, but after reversing the field and getting to the sideline, Seminole fans started to realize what was about to happen. Two terrible missed tackles by Cason Beatty and Roberto Aguayo later and the clock had struck zero with the Yellow Jackets leading 22-16. This game not only was the first loss of the season, but it also brought up the first real questions about who should be starting at quarterback for the Seminoles.

3. Sean Maguire starts for the Seminoles against Syracuse

After losing to Georgia Tech, Fisher decided to switch out quarterback Everett Golson, in favor of Sean Maguire. Maguire was the quarterback everyone expected to be the starter in the spring, but after Golson transferred in during the summer, the quarterback battle was neck and neck going into the season with Golson slightly ahead of Maguire. A slip up by Golson gave Fisher enough of a reason to see what Maguire could do. Maguire proceeded to pass for 348 yards and 3 TD’s in a 45-21 win, and supplanted Golson as the starter going into playing #1 Clemson. This game brought up questions about whether Maguire should have been starting all along, and what might have happened in the Georgia Tech game had Maguire been starting.

4. Seminoles turn the ball over on downs with 6 minutes left against Clemson

This was the part of the game that decided the outcome of the game for the Seminoles. Down 16-13, the Seminoles had the chance to drive down the field and take a 4-point lead. At midfield, the Seminoles had two opportunities to gain one yard for a first down, but Cook couldn’t gain the yard in either of his two attempts. Clemson would take possession of the ball, and score a touchdown to go up 23-13 with 2:34 remaining. Getting that first down and potentially scoring a touchdown could have changed the entire landscape of college football. With a win, the Seminoles would have had the lead in the Atlantic divisional race with a head to head win over Clemson, and with a win in that game could have overcome the loss to Georgia Tech and found themselves playing in a playoff game. Clemson however rose to the challenge, stopped Cook and preserved their undefeated season. The game gave the Seminoles their second loss of the season, and ended any dreams of grandeur for the Seminoles.

5. The Seminoles defeat Florida 27-2

At 9-2, the outlook of the 2015 season for the Seminoles had a lot riding on the outcome of this game against Florida, that was the highest profile Florida vs. Florida State game in recent years. The Gators had a chance to make a run to the playoffs if they entered the SEC Championship with only one loss, and the Seminoles had a chance to extend their 10-win season streak. The game kind of went the way people had expected early, with both defenses playing well, allowing only 13 points going into the 4th quarter. In the 4th, Dalvin Cook ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Seminoles to a victory over the hated Florida Gators. The game gave the Seminoles a 10-2 record at the end of the season, and put an exclamation point at the end of the season, after losing a couple of tough games earlier in the year.

One has to wonder what could have been for the Seminoles had they managed to win the game against Clemson, however I’m sure there are a lot of teams thinking the same thing. In all, it was a good season for the Seminoles. Although fans have become accustomed to winning more, you can’t complain too much with a ten-win season, especially when one of the losses was to the #1 team in the country who remain undefeated.

The Seminoles have a chance to end the season 11-2, when they play #18 Houston in the Chic-Fil-A Peach Bowl December 31st at noon.

Here’s what’s happening around the ACC:

ACC HAS FOUR FIRST TEAM ALL AMERICANS

The AP All American teams were announced a couple days ago, and the ACC had four players placed on the first team. Two were named from Clemson between quarterback Deshaun Watson, and defensive end Shaq Lawson. Guard Landon Turner from North Carolina and safety Jeremy Cash from Duke were the other two. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and runningback Dalvin Cook from Florida State were both named second team All-Americans, and the third team consists of guard Joe Thurney of NC State and cornerback Mackensie Alexander from Clemson. This is a pretty good showing for the ACC when you consider the depth of the conference. With four first teamers, the ACC placed the third most players on the first team, behind the SEC with six, and the Big Ten with five.

DESHAUN WATSON AND DALVIN COOK FINISH 3RD AND 7TH IN HEISMAN RACE

Deshaun Watson of Clemson finished in third place in the Heisman race, receiving 1,165 total votes, 831 more than the fourth place finisher. The Heisman race turned out as expected with Derrick Henry winning the trophy, and Christian McCaffrey coming in second. Beyond the top three, Dalvin Cook of Florida State finished seventh in the race, receiving 79 total votes. Of the power-5 conferences, the Big 10, Big 12, the SEC and the ACC each had two players in the top ten.

FSU vs Houston; ACC Wrap Up

The #8 Florida State Seminoles have landed in the Chic-Fil-A Peach bowl, and will face the #18 Houston Cougars at noon on December 31st. At 10-2, the Seminoles have had a great season if you take into account the type of year that was expected, and the questions they have faced at a couple key positions. The Seminoles are still coming off their biggest win of the season, and head into late December playing the best football they’ve played all year.

Some Seminole fans were a bit disappointed that they didn’t end up playing a more glamorous opponent, but once you look at this Houston team it becomes apparent that they will give the Seminoles a few problems in the game.

The first and most obvious is Houston’s rush defense. With the Seminoles, the buck stops with Dalvin Cook and their running attack. Behind Cook, the Seminoles offense averaged 5.4 yards per carry, which ranks them at 14th in the country in yards per carry. Houston’s defense, ranks 8th in defending that same category, allowing only 3.3 yards per carry to opponents. If Houston wants to win this game they will need to win this matchup, and by win I don’t necessarily mean completely shut down Cook, but Houston will need to bottle him up and limit his effectiveness if they want to be in the game by the end. Fortunately for Houston they have a defense capable of doing this, as they held the #2 rushing offense in the nation, Navy, to only 147 yards on the ground when they averaged 330 yards per game for the season.

Houston’s QB Greg Ward Jr. will also give the Seminole defense their own fair share of problems. Ward at quarterback has completed 68% of his passes this season for 16 TD’s and only 5 INT’s, these are pretty good stats, but when you add in the fact that he is also their leading rusher with 1,041 yards on the season, you start to see why this guy is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country. These are the exact kind of quarterbacks that have given Seminole defenses problems in the past. If you look at just this season, the two games the Seminoles lost have come by the hands of Justin Thomas and Deshaun Watson, but additionally in the past we’ve seen Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett, and even Everett Golson give the ‘Noles problems.

Maguire will be the difference maker against Houston's 111th ranked pass defense
Maguire will be the difference maker against Houston’s 111th-ranked pass defense

With these things in mind, I think it will be a much closer game than many people anticipate. My bold prediction for this game, is that quarterback Sean Maguire for the Seminoles will have a break out game and be the reason why the Seminoles beat Houston. Maguire has been steady in the second half of the season, but he hasn’t put together a performance that has completely erased doubts about who should start at quarterback. I think the Seminoles will be put in a few third and long situations during the game, and Maguire’s play will help table the effectiveness of Houston’s rush defense. Maguire will prove to Seminole fans that he should have been the starter all season long.

Here’s what’s happening in the ACC:

CLEMSON DEFEATS UNC: PLAYOFF BERTH

Clemson defeated North Carolina 45-37 in the ACC Championship Game, to win the ACC and clinch a berth into the 2015 College Playoffs. The game ended with a terrible offside call that eliminated an onside kick recovery by UNC that would have allowed the Tarheels a chance to tie the game. Nonetheless the referees called an invisible offside, and the Tigers were able to wind the clock down. #1 Clemson now will face #4 Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl December 31st at 4pm. This game will put two of the best quarterbacks in the country against each other between potential Heisman winner Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield.

MIAMI HIRES MARK RICHT

After firing Al Golden, Miami had been looking for the best successor, and found exactly that in Mark Richt. Georgia fired Richt after a couple down seasons, and basically by the time the news broke he was hired by Miami. This is a great fit for a couple reasons; Richt played at Miami, and Miami had been looking for a high-profile name to lead their team. It seems as if this is the hire all Miami fans have been waiting for, and they seem poised to return to former glory with a coach like Mark Richt at the helm.

ACC HAS NINE BOWL TEAMS

The ACC has enjoyed a pretty successful season as a whole, culminating in nine teams playing in bowl games this year. Among the teams in bowl games are Miami, Duke, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, NC State, Louisville, Florida State and Clemson. The ACC as a whole is a top-heavy conference, with only three top-25 teams, however all three of them are in the top ten. These three teams, #1 Clemson, #9 Florida State, and #10 UNC will play against #4 Oklahoma, #18 Houston and #17 Baylor, respectively in their bowl games.

Seminoles defeat the Gators; ACC Wrap Up

On Saturday the Florida State Seminoles defeated the Florida Gators in dominant fashion 27-2. The Seminoles have now won five of their past six games against the Gators. Without an ACC Championship berth, the Seminoles head into bowl season with a 10-2 regular season record.

This wasn’t the prettiest game to watch for non-Floridians, as both offenses struggled to gain momentum for most of the game. At 13-0 heading into the fourth, the Florida Gators held the ‘Noles in check for most of the game, but Dalvin Cook eventually wore the Gators down and proved to be too much for them to handle. Cook ran for 150 of his 186 rushing yards in the fourth quarter, scored two touchdowns and ultimately brought home the victory for the Seminoles.

Florida State’s defense simply shut the Gator’s offense down, holding them to only 262 total yards. Gator’s quarterback Treon Harris’ poor play continued against the Seminoles, and Kelvin Taylor’s 136 rushing yards weren’t enough to carry the entire offense. Florida’s offensive ineptitude was one of the biggest takeaways from this game, and one has to wonder how they are going to score against Alabama in the SEC Championship.

For Seminoles, this was the perfect way to end the season. In a year that was supposed to be a transition year after losing Jameis Winston, the Seminoles were only a couple of plays away from playing in the ACC Championship Game. In total, it was a pretty successful season for the Seminoles. Despite shuffling quarterbacks during the season, they still managed another ten-win season, and there are a lot of positives to take into the next season. The Noles still have one more season from superstar running back Dalvin Cook, and freshman safety Derwin James looks ready to lead the defense in the future.

It wasn’t an ACC Championship year or a particularly great season for Florida State fans with lofty expectations, but fans have to be happy about how the year panned out and the way the team played. Jimbo Fisher turned in one of his best seasons as the head coach, and made a team that lost NFL players at many positions a top ten team in the nation. Going 10-2 in a year that was considered a transition year speaks to the amount of talent that Florida State has within the program. Coach Fisher continues to bring in top recruiting classes, and this season really tested the depth of his team.

At 10-2, the Seminoles have some time off before their bowl game and opponent are announced.

Here’s what else is happening in the ACC:

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP

On Saturday the #1 Clemson Tigers will play #10 North Carolina in the ACC Championship. Even with North Carolina’s relatively low ranking, the winner of this game will probably find themselves representing the ACC in the College Football Playoff. This has all the makings for a high-scoring game that showcases the two best quarterbacks in the ACC between Deshaun Watson and Marquise Williams. Prior to the season it wouldn’t have surprised many people to see Clemson playing in the Championship game, but UNC has been the surprise of the year in the ACC. Behind Marquise Williams’ great season, the Tarheels have the #11 ranked offense in the nation in points scored. That offense will face their toughest task of the season against Clemson’s 7th ranked defense in yards allowed. In order for the Tarheels to win Williams will have to prove to the nation he is as advertised. The ACC Championship is at 8pm on Saturday the 5th.

VIRGINIA TECH IS BOWL ELIGIBLE

Virginia Tech defeated Virginia on the road 23-20, and will be playing in a bowl game in Frank Beamer’s last season with the Hokies. The scene after the game on Saturday was one that would put a smile on anybody’s face watching Beamer celebrate with his team. At 6-6, it hasn’t been a good season by any means, but considering the circumstances Hokie fans have to be content with the way the season ended up playing out. In a bowl game yet to be determined, Beamer has a chance to end up with a winning season in his last year with the program.

THREE ACC TEAMS IN THE TOP TEN

Heading into championship weekend, the ACC has three teams ranked in the top ten between #1 Clemson, #9 Florida State and #10 North Carolina. The ACC as a whole is pretty top heavy, but three teams placed in the top ten is great for any conference. With five conferences and an independent team ranked in the top ten, the ACC and Big-10 are the only conferences with multiple top ten teams. It goes without being said that it has been a strong year for the ACC. With either UNC or Clemson participating in the Playoff, the ACC has a chance to win two of the last three College Championships.

Seminoles vs Gators: ACC Wrap Up

Florida State defeated Chattanooga 52-13 over the past weekend, in a game that was never really in question. At 9-2, the #13 Seminoles will now turn all of their attention towards the #12 Florida Gators.

Obviously this is a monumental game for both teams, a win for Florida State would be the highlight of their season and would keep the Noles from having their first three-loss season in a couple years. A win for Florida would keep them on track for a playoff berth if they can beat Alabama in the SEC Championship. This game also could mean a lot to the recruiting landscape in Florida, as the winner would have bragging rights within the state as the best program.

These two teams have been pretty similar throughout the season. Neither has gotten a lot of production from their offense, and both rely on their defense to win games. Both teams have their reasons for their offensive woes, but currently both have questions at quarterback. The Gators quarterback situation got sticky when Will Grier got suspended, while the Seminoles have just had a quarterback problem all season between Sean Maguire and Everett Golson. Both offenses rely on their rushing game to gain yards, and that will be no different this weekend.

On the defensive end, Florida’s defense is ranked third in the nation in points allowed per game, and the Seminoles’ defense is ranked 11th in the same category. All signs point towards this game being a low-scoring, defensive showdown that will be decided by which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes.

Whichever back has the better game will most likely determine who wins this game
Whichever back has the better game will most likely determine who wins this game

For the Seminoles, this game will come down to the matchup between their ground game, and Florida’s 8th ranked run defense. Florida State’s offense hinges on the success of their run game, and if Dalvin Cook can continue doing what he’s done all season against Florida that would bode well for their chances of winning. At quarterback, the Seminoles need to get Sean Maguire settled into the game early on with some quick and easy throws that will help him get some confidence in the beginning of the game. Maguire has shown that he can play well when he establishes some confidence and gets into a rhythm. Noles fans are hoping that he can do this early on in the game, opposed to getting into a hole quickly on the road.

The game will be played in the Swamp at night, which provides it’s own set of problems for the Seminoles as they’re 2-2 on the road and 7-0 at home. However their game against Clemson in Death Valley should help prepare this team for the fans they’re about to face in Gainesville.

In a game that will be decided by big plays and the ground game, I’ll take the Seminoles winning this game simply because of Dalvin Cook. If Cook can shred the Gators this weekend he might even find himself in the middle of the Heisman discussion, although no ACC Championship for the Noles will make Cook’s odds very slim. Florida State’s defense should be able to contain the Gator’s offense considering that the Gator’s offense hasn’t really been able to do damage against anyone. In a low scoring game, I think the Seminoles will take this one 20-13.

The game kicks off at 7:30 in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Here’s what else is happening in the ACC this weekend:

RIVALRY WEEK

Being that it is rivalry week in college football, there are numerous matchups to watch within the ACC. Georgia Tech could end their season on a positive note when Georgia comes into town to play them. Seeing as Georgia Tech has nothing left to play for, they should show up in this game against a beatable Georgia team. Clemson plays South Carolina in what has been a very disappointing season for South Carolina. Virginia Tech and Virginia face off in an interstate rival that will determine which team has the better season. One of the sneaky good matchups this weekend will be when UNC travels to NC State this weekend. At 7-4, the Wolfpack are a good team in their own right and the Tarheels will have their hands full with their high-powered offense.

 FRANK BEAMER AND VIRGINIA TECH

Virginia Tech’s game this weekend has a lot more on the line than a victory over Virginia, a victory this weekend means that the Hokies will be bowl eligible in Frank Beamer’s final year with the team. At 5-6, the Hokies haven’t had a whole lot of positives from this season, and a win against Virginia would change that. A win would allow Frank Beamer the chance to finish his last season with a winning record, and would boost morale within the program going forward. A loss would be a sad way to end Beamer’s career at Virginia Tech.

ACC NEEDS CLEMSON AND UNC TO WIN

One thing that I don’t think will happen, but would be bad for the ACC is if Clemson or UNC were to lose this weekend. A win by both teams this weekend would mean that the winner of the ACC would most likely be playing in the playoffs. A loss this weekend for either team allows the possibility of the ACC winner not playing in the playoffs. A loss by UNC this weekend would make them 10-2, making it hard for them to advance even if they did beat Clemson, and a loss by Clemson would mean that if they beat UNC they might not make it to the playoff. Even though it is hard to imagine the ACC winner not being in the playoff, a loss by either team this weekend would open up a Pandora’s box of possibilities.

Maguire the Seminole Starter; ACC Wrap Up

Florida State defeated NC State 34-17 on Saturday to move to 8-2 on the season.

The score doesn’t necessarily reflect the kind of game it was, as it was tied 17-17 going into half before the Seminoles eventually shutout NC State in the second half. Everett Golson started the game at quarterback for the Seminoles and on his first play of the game fumbled the ball, and later would throw two interceptions before getting pulled in favor of Sean Maguire. Maguire came in the game and made the offense flourish. Down 17-7, Maguire led the Semioles on a touchdown drive on his first possession to bring the game within three. After Maguire came into the game, the Seminoles outscored NC State 27-0.

This game served as the ultimate conclusion to the quarterback dilemma that Florida State was having.

After Everett Golson struggled against Georgia Tech a few weeks ago, the starting quarterback position has been back and forth between him and Maguire ever since. Jimbo Fisher gave Golson the start for this game against NC State, and Golson’s play made the decision to go to Maguire an easy one. After the game Fisher named Maguire the starter for the rest of the season.

With Maguire the offense simply looks more fluid than it does when Golson is at the helm. Play action is more effective, balls get downfield, running lanes open up for Dalvin Cook, and the offense doesn’t look limited like it can at times when Golson is in control.

Besides the quarterback play, one of the biggest stories for the ‘Noles is the play of freshman safety Derwin James. James was a five-star recruit and was the best rated defensive back coming out of high school, and he certainly has looked the part. As the season has progressed he has played more and more, and now has a defined role on the Seminole defense. James has thirty-one tackles and a sack in the past three games. James is also one of the most versatile defenders on the Seminoles defense. He can line up at free safety, he can play the fifth defensive back role, and the Seminoles even use him as a pass rusher, which has quickly become one of the most effective ways to line him up.

To date James has started five games, is second on the teams in tackles, has six TFL’s, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. His best performance of the year was last weekend against NC State and with his play won the ACC Defensive Back of the Week award. James has quickly become one of the best players on the Seminoles’ defense, and Seminole fans have a lot to look forward to with him leading the defense for the next couple seasons.

Here’s what else happened in the ACC this weekend:

UNC STILL UNDERRATED

All North Carolina does is continue to impressively win games, yet they still can’t even crack the top fifteen in rankings, even though they are 9-1. Of course, UNC will have the chance to play Clemson in the ACC Championship game which, with a victory would catapult them up the rankings, but even with that potential victory and an ACC Championship, with the way that the playoff rankings have unfolded, it seems like it would be very tough for them to jump up into the top four even if they were a one-loss ACC Champion. Why aren’t they getting any love in the rankings? Michigan State is 9-1 with their one loss being to Nebraska, but their #9. Oklahoma jumped to number seven, even with a loss to Texas. Yes they just beat Baylor, but I’d take UNC over Baylor all day. Then there are even five two-loss teams in front of them. Even in the AP Poll they get a little more respect and are ranked 12th. For whatever reason the Playoff Poll doesn’t think very highly of North Carolina, and I don’t think anyone is quite sure why.

One interesting thing to think about is; North Carolina’s only loss was against South Carolina in the first game of the year. The #1 team in the country Clemson finishes their season against South Carolina. If Clemson were to lose that game and be 9-1 in the ACC Championship, a UNC victory over a 9-1 Clemson probably wouldn’t get them in the Championship. But wouldn’t Clemson’s loss to South Carolina make UNC’s loss look much better? A Clemson loss to South Carolina seems like the worst-case scenario for the ACC.

DUKE CONTINUES TO SLIDE

Duke just can’t recover from that last second game winner that Miami illegally scored against them. With Thomas Sirk out of the game, Duke extended their losing streak to three, when prior to it they had a legitimate chance to play in the ACC Championship. At 6-4 Duke now sits in the third spot in the Coastal division. Since that Miami kick return the Blue Devils have been outscored 97-44. Halfway into the season this team looked promising behind quarterback Thomas Sirk, but right when they were gaining some momentum at 6-1, the team has since spiraled out of control.

CLEMSON ONLY THREE GAMES AWAY

Something that can’t be over stated is that Clemson is only three games away from representing the ACC in the Playoffs. Clemson has kept their eyes on the prize all season, even if their coach dances like they won the National Championship after every game. Still the #1 team, the only thing standing in the way of the playoffs is themselves, as they finish the season out against Wake Forest and South Carolina. Clemson has kept their foot on the gas pedal all season, and have looked like the best team in the country while doing so. The Tigers just need to make sure they don’t take their foot off the pedal with only two regular season games left before a showdown against UNC in the ACC Championship.

VIRGINIA TECH ONLY ONE WIN FROM A BOWL GAME

Even with the bad season that Virginia Tech is having that has their long-time coach Frank Beamer set to retire at the end of it, the Hokies are only one victory away from a bowl game. They play UNC this weekend, so that win doesn’t seem likely, but with the last game being against Virginia, the Hokies have a great chance of making a bowl. Wouldn’t that be a great ending to Beamer’s tenure at VT? It’s been a down year of course, and Beamer surely wasn’t hoping he would go out on a year like this, but with what looked like would be a bowl ineligible year, the Hokies have won their past two games to remain bowl eligible. Beamer has a chance to put a positive note on the end of their season if they beat rival Virginia, and win a potential bowl game, in what had looked like would be a sad ending to Beamer’s time at Virginia Tech.

Seminole’s Lose Again

The Florida State Seminoles were defeated 23-13 by #1 Clemson, who clinched the Atlantic division title with the victory.

It was a tied game going into the fourth quarter, but ultimately the Clemson offense exposed the Seminoles defense late with a couple seam passes and screens, which proved to be too much for defense to handle. Combine that with poor quarterback play from Sean Maguire and you have a recipe for a loss. Besides a 75-yard touchdown from Dalvin Cook on the second play of the game, the ‘Noles offense only scored six points. The loss can’t be entirely blamed on the quarterback, but one has to wonder if starting Maguire was the correct decision by coach Jimbo Fisher.

The Seminoles had a couple chances to step on Clemson’s throat early and seize all of the momentum, but failed to rise to the occasion. The first mishap was the inexplicable interception by Maguire at the 5-yard-line, in which Maguire decided to throw the ball off his back foot up to 5’7” WR Kermit Whitfield, the interception kept the game from being potentially 14-0. Once the Tigers got the ball, the Seminoles would have forced a three and out, if not for a dumb late hit penalty from cornerback Jalen Ramsey that extended Clemson’s drive.

Surprisingly Clemson never pulled away in this game, as their quarterback Deshaun Watson missed a few throws and had a few costly errors of his own. The most obvious being him spiking the ball on third down inside the Seminoles’ 20-yard-line with thirty seconds left in the first half. The Seminoles’ defense played very well, but one of the biggest takeaways from this game might be that Clemson looked very beatable.

The pivotal point of the game was obviously Clemson turning the ‘Noles over on downs after two failed rushing attempts by Dalvin Cook to get a single yard. Clemson would go on to score the game-clinching touchdown seven plays later.

What it means:

The Seminoles are now 7-2, and National Title hopes are officially dead. The hopes were already clinging to life before the loss, but now there isn’t a possible way to get to the playoff. It’s still a good season by most standards, but after winning the National Championship and making the playoffs in the past two years, two losses in a season is unfamiliar ground in recent history for Seminole fans. The success of this season for ‘Noles fans will be decided on the last game of the season by the outcome of their game against the #11 Florida Gators. A win over a contending Florida team would help people forget about the tough losses as well as give Seminole fans bragging rights, while a loss would help declare the season a failure (any season with a loss to Florida is a failure for Seminole fans.)

The biggest question for the Seminoles is who will be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season. With an eye already looking towards next season, you would think that Fisher would opt towards Maguire starting the rest of the year, as he will be back on the team next season, and Golson won’t. Whoever ultimately does end up starting won’t really affect the team much, as both are mediocre, but I do think that Maguire starting would be most beneficial going forward because at least Maguire can open up the offense and help younger players grow in the system.

Here’s what else happened in the ACC:

CLEMSON IS ATLANTIC DIVISION CHAMPS

With Clemson’s victory over Florida State they have clinched the Atlantic division within the ACC and will set their sights on the ACC Championship. Clemson’s remaining opponents until then have a combined record of 9-18, with none seemingly having any chance of beating them. What a year for Clemson. Deshaun Watson has been everything Clemson fans could have hoped for, leading Clemson’s fifteenth ranked offense in points per game. Combine that with their fourth ranked defense in terms of yards, and it doesn’t seem like this team has a weakness. The only thing this team may have to worry about until bowl season is the underrated Tarheels who they are poised to play in the ACC Championship.

UNC CAN CLINCH COASTAL DIVISION

Can someone please tell me why everyone is overlooking the Tarheels? Since the first game of the season, a game they shouldn’t have lost, the Tarheels have won every game, culminating in their two best wins of the season in the past two weeks against Pittsburgh and Duke. At 8-1, UNC is only four games a way from a possible playoff birth, the fourth of which would assumedly be against a #1 Clemson team. Quarterback Marquise Williams has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country this season, making the Tarheel offense the sixth most efficient offense in the country. Granted they haven’t had a very tough schedule, but if they can close out the season, a matchup against #1 Clemson would allow North Carolina to make up for their lack of a tough schedule. North Carolina can clinch the Coastal division with a victory and a Pittsburgh loss this weekend.

DUKE AND PITT UNRAVEL

Pittsburgh and Duke both got shredded on defense this weekend giving up a combined 108 points to UNC and Notre Dame. Both teams have now lost two games in a row when they each had a chance to win the Coastal division. Duke’s past two games have been brutal between Miami’s illegal kick return and a 35-point loss to the Tarheels. Pittsburgh has to be wondering how their season would have went if they had a bit of an easier schedule. The Panthers have lost to #4 Notre Dame, #5 Iowa, and an under ranked #23 North Carolina. These are two teams that the ACC was hoping could step up and provide some depth in the ACC after Clemson, UNC and Florida State, but it hasn’t worked out that way. One of these teams will add another loss to their record when Duke hosts Pittsburgh this weekend at noon.

FSU’s QB Battle and ACC Wrap Up

Florida State’s 45-21 victory over Syracuse means a lot more than simply defeating an ACC opponent, the victory brings up questions at the most important position on offense, the quarterback.

With season long starter Everett Golson sitting out the game due to a concussion, backup Sean Maguire got the start and proceeded to pass for 348 yards, 3 touchdowns with no interceptions.

Maguire simply made the offense look the best it has all season. Most noticeably was his ability to throw down the field, which Golson has shown he isn’t consistently able to do. The plays that were being called for Maguire proved that there is more trust in his arm than Golson’s. The Seminoles haven’t been utilizing wide receiver Travis Rudolph’s speed downfield because Golson can’t be trusted to chuck it down the field. In comes Maguire, and two bombs to Rudolph later early in the game and he has two catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Travis Rudolph had his best game of the season with Maguire under center.
Travis Rudolph had his best game of the season with Maguire under center.

Being able to stretch the field is something that the Seminole offense has been lacking all season, with this, opposing defenses have been loading the box in order to contain running back Dalvin Cook, and Golson hasn’t given any team a reason not to because he hasn’t shown that he is capable of making the defenses pay.

All of this adds up to one big question for the Seminoles leading into the biggest game of their season against newly #1 Clemson; who should be the starting quarterback?

Normally a good game by the backup quarterback in replacement of the starter isn’t enough to supplant the starter, but this isn’t an ordinary situation. The first reason is that even though Golson transferred in during the offseason and subsequently won the starting job over Maguire, Golson hasn’t performed to the level that was expected and the level coaches were hoping. Secondly is that Maguire has proved that he can lead the team to victories, he is only 2-0, but one of them was against Clemson and their top five defense last season.

Who will start is a complete unknown at this point. Coach Jimbo Fisher has said everything from saying he’s going to wait and see throughout the week, to saying that he’s not eliminating the possibility of a two quarterback system. Regardless of who starts, the success of the Seminoles season will be determined by the outcome of their next game against Clemson. A win will help people forget about their loss to Georgia Tech, while also putting them in the driver’s seat of the Atlantic division of the ACC.

If you asked me, I think the nod will be given to Maguire. It is a tough decision, but Golson just hasn’t looked like he has been in control of the ‘Noles offense at any point of the season. At times he looks scared and opts to scramble, or he throws a short pass, the offense under Golson was more of a dink and dunk offense, compared to what Maguire showed us on Saturday. Maguire’s arm brought life to the offense, and he did so without Dalvin Cook.

The Seminoles face Clemson at 3:30 on Saturday.

Here’s what else happened in the ACC this weekend:

MIAMI’S KICKOFF RETURN VS DUKE

One of the biggest plays of the season happened last weekend when Miami miraculously returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Duke to win the game as time expired. Miami, in a last ditch effort to win the game lateralled the ball eight times and managed to get by the Duke coverage team to score the game-winning touchdown, but not really. One of the Miami runners who attempted to lateral the ball was clearly down upon watching the replay, and multiple block in the back calls were missed that should have been called. The ACC has thus suspended a couple of the ACC officials from the game, admitting that the referees erred on the play. So the play that won Miami the game, shouldn’t have been a touchdown, but it was. Why the ACC can’t overturn the play and give Duke the victory is beyond me, but as it stands Miami won the game, and now has an outside shot of winning the Coastal division. It really is a shame because Duke had a lot more on the line in this game than Miami did. With the loss, Duke now is a game back from UNC in the Coastal division of the ACC.

UNC LEADS THE COASTAL DIVISION

Because of the botched kickoff return, UNC is now sitting atop the Coastal division. With Pittsburgh and Duke both losing, #21 North Carolina is now quietly 7-1 and in position to face either Clemson or Florida State in the ACC championship. The divisional race is still far from over as UNC and Duke face each other this weekend, with Duke and Pitt facing each other in two weeks. Nonetheless it seems like this UNC team is being slept on. They have the 21st ranked offense in points per game in the NCAA, and the 15th best defense in terms of points allowed. People will point to their strength of schedule, but the win over #23 Pittsburgh helped put them on the map, and how they perform in their game against Duke this weekend will go a long ways to determining how good this team really is.

FRANK BEAMER RETIRES

Frank Beamer, the long-time coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies has decided to step down as head coach after the end of the 2015 season. This wasn’t a move that was completely unexpected, but it will mark the end of an era at Virginia Tech. Beamer began coaching for Virginia Tech in 1987, leading them to 22 straight bowl games. His teams have slipped a bit over the past few seasons, which along with his age, surely played a big part in his decision to step down. Beamer will be remembered as one of the most respected coaches in college football by coaches, and by his players who all credit Beamer to being one of the biggest influences in their careers. Beamer took Virginia Tech from an independent team in 1987, to the Big East in 1991, to where they are now in the ACC in 2004. Beamer led the Hokies to four ACC Championships, three Big East Championships, and six BCS bowl game appearances. Who will be the coach in 2016 is unclear, however Beamer has stated in the past that he hopes someone on his current staff will be named his successor.

What FSU’s Loss Means

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple days, you’ve probably seen the Seminoles’ blocked field goal attempt that Georgia Tech subsequently returned for a touchdown to give the Yellow Jackets the lead and win the game as time expired. At 6-1, the Seminoles are now ranked 17th, and trail Clemson by a game in the Atlantic division of the ACC.

I’m not here to talk about why the Seminoles lost, or what they could have done, or how bad their kick coverage was once the field goal got blocked, I’m just going to focus on what the loss means for Florida State going forward.

First and foremost, National Title hopes are most likely over for the ‘Noles. Of course there is always a chance for the Seminoles to go undefeated the rest of the way and slide into the fourth playoff spot, but based off of what we saw on Saturday night, going undefeated the rest of the season doesn’t seem very likely. Sure the Seminoles could defeat #3 Clemson in two weeks, but Clemson just defeated Miami 58-0, and Miami took the ‘Noles to the last drive of the game. Oh yea, and the Seminoles finish the season at #11 Florida. Florida State fans can still hold on to the glimmer of hope that remains, but all signs point to this loss forcing them out of the playoff picture.

Surprisingly the loss actually doesn’t do a whole lot to diminish ACC title hopes for the Seminoles. With only one loss, and due to the way the Atlantic division is shaping up, a win at Clemson would put the ‘Noles in the driver seat to win the Atlantic division and advance to the ACC Championship. Unfortunately Clemson might be the best team in the country and defeating them will be a very tall task for the ‘Noles. The result of the game against Clemson will either definitively end the Seminoles title chances, or catapult them back up the rankings.

Although Dalvin Cook’s Heisman chances were slim before the loss, this loss basically signals the end of those dreams for Cook. Realistically the only way that Cook could have won the Heisman was if the Noles went undefeated, finished with a higher ranking than LSU, and LSU’s Leonard Fournette would have to have had a slump at some point in the season. Alas, Florida State has lost, LSU hasn’t, and Cook didn’t have a “Cook-like” performance in the loss to Georgia Tech.

For Florida State fans, the loss was a brutal reminder that Everett Golson is not Jameis Winston. With Winston, Seminole fans had become accustomed to winning every game that they played in the past couple of seasons, having ridden one of the best college quarterbacks in recent history. The loss bring with it the realization that maybe expectations for this team were a little too high, assuming that a new quarterback would be able to jump in and bring the Seminoles to another playoff. It also served as a much needed reality check to Seminole fans that National Title runs are hard to come by and shouldn’t define the success of a season. In a vacuum, a team that loses the #1 overall draft pick to the NFL, has a new quarterback, and loses key players on defense forcing the team to rely on less-experiences players would most likely result in a few more losses. That’s exactly what is happening for the 2015-16 Seminoles.

The Seminoles will look to get back on track this weekend at home with Syracuse coming into town, before heading to Death Valley to take on #3 Clemson.