Tag Archives: Marquise Williams

All Aboard the Tar Heel Bandwagon

Down the stretch last fall, a good buddy of mine hopped on the North Carolina Tar Heels’ bandwagon.  He’s a big fan of this guy, Ryan Switzer.  Why exactly, I couldn’t tell you.

Now, contrary to popular belief, being a bandwagon fan is not a bad thing.  If your hometown team sucks, or if you lack one altogether, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking up an alternate rooting interest.

Doing so can revitalize your love for the game.  Believe me, as a Michigan fan that spent his high school and college years watching Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke coached teams, I know.  If you have a true love for the game, you’ll be able to pick up that side team no problem.

Anyway, I had been watching last year’s Heels somewhat closely ever since they’d proven me wrong, winning at Georgia Tech in early October.  Then, when they popped Pitt on the road at the end of the month, I was ready to ride the Fighting Michael Jordans all the way to a surprise playoff appearance.

I called for the upset in the ACC Championship Game, but the Heels and I can’t get no (dunh nuh nuh) satis-faction.  So, I’m here now to double down.

ACC Ripe for Picking

The Tar Heels are the team to beat on the East Coast this fall.

A quick aside: UNC’s athletic director’s name is Bubba Cunningham.  Without knowing anything about him personally, that’s a man I want to see succeed, if only because we’ll get to hear the name Bubba Cunningham more often.

Clemson is good, yes.  DeShaun Watson will likely be the best quarterback in the draft class.  Florida State is also good.  Dalvin Cook will be a top pick, too.  The Tigers and the Seminoles will come up short this season, though.

What Clemson did last year was captivating.  We all wanted that team to succeed so we could watch Dabo Swinney act a fool after big wins.  Realistically, a repeat performance will be tremendously difficult.

Say goodbye to seven key members of last year’s defense, including ends Shaw Lawson and Kevin Dodd, corner Mackensie Alexander, and safety T.J. Green, who all went in the first two rounds of the draft.

Overwhelming firepower only takes you so far when you lack proper fortifications.  I’ll err on the side of Clemson’s replacements not being as sturdy as the now pros they’re taking over for.

Florida State is the new USC.  That 2013 national championship was supposed to be a springboard for FSU, not the pinnacle.

We keep hearing about how loaded Jimbo Fisher’s group is but we’ve not seen enough supporting evidence the past two years to legitimize the hype.  The Seminoles have lost the benefit of the doubt.  They’ve got a lot to prove in order to earn it back.

Closing Statement

North Carolina wins the ACC this year because it replaces its gamebreaker with a steady hand that can utilize all the returning talent around him.  Mitch Trubisky is taking over for Marquise Williams and with a name like that he’s got to be good.

Five All-ACC selections return on the offensive side.  Switzer, along with running back Elijah Hood, receiver Mack Hollins, guard Caleb Peterson, and tackle Jon Heck will all be reliable cogs in the UNC machine.  Receiver Bug Howard, tackle Bentley Spain, and center Lucas Crowley are all back as well.

Interestingly enough, former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman is now a volunteer coach for the Tar Heels.  Beckman, who was fired almost a year ago to the day for mistreatment of players, will help scout and evaluate film.

This is an excellent move by head coach Larry Fedora, who’s familiar with Beckman from their time together on the 2007 Oklahoma State staff.  Basically, Fedora is getting a major bargain, adding a veteran defensive-minded coach with plenty of incentive to get his act together at no cost.

Normally, having to replace a quarterback, particularly one of Williams’ stature, is a great way for me to not pick you to do much.  However, the progress report on Trubisky and the supporting cast he’ll be able to lean on have me sipping the Carolina blue kool-aid.

No, it won’t be either one of the usual suspects representing the ACC in this season’s playoff.  It’ll be the team whose bandwagon is about to pick up many more interested travelers along the way.

Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

2016 ACC Football: The Struggle is Real

Last week I took a look at the 2015 year that was in the ACC, some good and bad for each school. This week we’re going to put the past behind us and take a look at what 2016 may hold for ACC football.

Boston College

What needs to get better – The passing game and 3rd down conversions. The two go a bit hand in hand. BC had one of the worst passing games in the nation, ranking 125th in yards per game. None of their quarterbacks threw for more than 464 yards on the season. Yes, you read that correctly. The quarterbacks combined to complete 44.6% of their passes. This all lead to an offense that was 126th out of 127 in 3rd down conversion rate, getting a first down on just 26.7% of their third down attempts. If the offense wants improvement in 2016, it’ll need to start here.

What will go well – The run game. Part of the inability to throw the ball has been due to the dual-threat nature of the quarterbacks that the Eagles trot out there. This obviously helps the ground game. After five games of not getting double digit carries, junior RB Tyler Rouse had 24 for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the final game against Syracuse. Hopefully that leads to a big senior year for him. Helping will be the offensive line, which returns three starters that were only underclassmen last year.

What will be a struggle – Passing game. Once again. There really isn’t much hope here. Even if there is moderate improvement it’s hard to see a team jumping from the bottom five in the country to anywhere near average. Last year BC’s leading receiver had 17 catches for 233 yards. If someone approaches 500 yards in 2016 it would be a miracle.

Clemson

What needs to get better – Big plays allowed. Clemson had a great season, but they gave up some big plays in the ACC Championship to North Carolina which allowed the Tar Heels to hang around and stay in the game. Those big plays basically cost them the title, with multiple breakdowns in the secondary resulting in long touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

What will go well – The offense. I know, I’m a such a genius, but this is about as obvious as it gets. Deshaun Watson was coming off a knee injury and still was a Heisman finalist this season. Now he’ll be further removed from that injury and back with him will play explosive playmakers Wayne Gallman, Artavis Scott, and Mike Williams, who would have been the Tigers’ best WR but was lost for the year in the season opener.

What will be a struggle – The defense. Clemson is going to be in a lot of shootouts in 2016. Brent Venables was able to rebound from losses to the NFL draft going into 2015 to lead one of the nation’s best defenses yet again. It’s hard to overcome that multiple years in a row however, just ask LSU. This time the Tigers lose both starting DEs (who just happened to be numbers 1 and 2 in the country in tackles for loss) as well as 3/4ths of the secondary. They lose seven defensive starters in total, an astonishing five of them early entrants to the NFL draft.

Duke

What needs to get better – The defense. It gave up almost 31 points per game, including 40+ to the explosive offenses that were Virginia and Virginia Tech. They pass defense in particular was a sieve, finishing 73rd in yards allowed, but there is hope. All five secondary starters return in their 4-2-5 alignment.

What will go well – The running game. Duke’s ground attack was pretty versatile in 2015, led by QB Thomas Sirk. Sirk led the team with 803 yards rushing, but they also had three different running backs all rush for over 400. In total the Blue Devils ran for over 2500 yards on the season on almost five yards per rush.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. It’s not all Sirk’s fault, he just doesn’t have much to work with. A measley 6.15 yards per attempt won’t put fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators, and Duke will not see much improvement unless someone steps up and produces some of the play-making that vanished when Jamison Crowder took his talents to the NFL after the 2014 season.

Florida State

What needs to get better – The passing game. You couldn’t expect FSU’s passing to be as good when Jameis Winston left for the NFL. Outside of a couple nice efforts, the it couldn’t be counted on consistently, and certainly not against the better teams on the schedule. Whether Sean Maguire retains the starting job going into 2016 or a younger, more talented signal caller takes the spot, there’s no reason for this area not to improve with the talent the Seminoles have at receiver.

What will go well – Handing the ball off. FSU could probably just do that every play in 2016 and win double digit games. Dalvin Cook averaged 7.4 ypc last year and he’ll be back. He’ll also be running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. I already feel bad for the rest of the ACC.

What will be a struggle – Kicking game. The Seminoles have been spoiled the last few years with Roberto Aguayo, one of the best college kickers in years. Aguayo never missed an extra point and was almost as automatic on field goals, converting over 90% of them (64-70) from under 50 yards. With Aguayo off to the pros, Seminoles fans will have to hope their kicking situation doesn’t turn into the one present in Gainesville.

Georgia Tech

What needs to get better – Ball security. It might be expected that a team that runs the triple option would have more chances at fumbling. But you’d also think that they’d preach protecting the ball even more. Whatever they do didn’t work in 2015 as the Yellow Jackets lost 14 fumbles (only three teams lost more). Navy, another triple option team, only lost six. Add the Yellow Jackets’ 10 interceptions, another astonishing number considering how little they throw it, and the result is finishing 105th in turnover margin.

What will go well – The run game. Georgia Tech wasn’t able to stay in games with their rush attack like in previous years, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism. The line was extremely young (they had a freshman at center and both tackles spots by the end of the year) so it should improve. Add that to QB Justin Thomas and their stable of running backs returning and the offense should rebound.

What will be a struggle – Pass defense. It wasn’t bad in 2015, ranking 37th in pass yards allowed, but the Yellow Jackets were also 120th in sacks. They now lose all four starters from the secondary. If the front seven can’t find a way to put pressure on the opposing quarterback, the defense could get burnt through the air with a less experienced defensive back corps.

Louisville

What needs to get better – The offense. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Bobby Petrino team but the offense was pretty disappointing. The quarterbacks were average, finishing 61st in QBR. That is a little more understandable with Lamar Jackson getting so much playing time, but with a dual-threat guy like himself, the Cardinals should have been able to finish better than 81st in rushing.

What will go well – Defense. The Cardinals defense could be one of the best in the country in 2016. They were T-10th in sacks last year and return stud Devonte Fields who was T-10th in individual sacks. As if a ferocious pass rush wasn’t enough, the ‘Ville will also get all their secondary starters back, including NFL prospects Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. Bobby Petrino can work whatever magic and QB voodoo he wants, I just don’t think he’s going to be able to do what he traditionally has with Lamar Jackson. It doesn’t mean Jackson won’t improve, I just don’t think there will be any game to game consistency, which will frustrate the coaching staff as well as Cardinals fans.

Miami

What needs to get better – 3rd downs. I talked about how bad Boston College was on third downs, but that’s a little more understandable considering their quarterback situation and well, because of the fact that they’re Boston College. But Miami was almost as bad, finishing 107th at 35%. Considering the talent at the skill positions and at quarterback, there’s no excuse for that and Miami needs to see drastic improvement in this area if they want any shot at competing for the division in 2016.

What will go well – Pass attack. The offensive line was extremely young last year, with four underclassmen starters at year’s end. With improvement Kaaya should have time to throw. With talent at WR in Stacy Coley and Braxton Berrios and at TE in Standish Dobard and David Njoku, Kaaya will have plenty of options at his disposal.

What will be a struggle – Pass defense. Miami was 70th last year in sacks, and they have had a non-existent pass rush for years. Last year the pass defense was able to survive because of how good the secondary was. That won’t be the case this year. Miami loses both starting safeties as well as CB Artie Burns, who led the ACC with six interceptions. In 2016, no lead will be safe.

NC State

What needs to get better – Explosive passing plays. Jacoby Brissett had a mediocre yards per attempt, and it showed when you look at the receivers. The Wolfpack’s leading WR averaged under 10 ypc (9.2). That’s embarrassing. And their second leading receiver had just 34 catches. Not the ideal way to keep a defense honest.

What will go well – Run game. At least NC State has this going for them. They have their top three running backs return, and all three averaged over six yards per rush in 2015. But the biggest reason will be the return of Matthew Dayes. Dayes was averaging over 100 yards per game on 6.5 ypc and had 12 touchdowns through just 7+ games. He ended up missing the last five games due to a foot injury but will be back next season.

What will be a struggle – Passing attack. NC State might be able to get some plays off play-action thanks to their run game, but a standard passing game will not be forte. They have limited wide receivers and with Jacoby Brissett no longer around, will have a new starting quarterback as well.

North Carolina

What needs to get better – The defense. It was abysmal the second half of the year. They gave up at least 31 points in 4 of 6 games. The two that they didn’t were against Miami and Virginia Tech, not exactly the Marcus Mariota-led Oregon Ducks.

What will go well – Offense. The Tar Heels’ offense was explosive in 2015 and have most of it returning in tact for next year. 4/5 offensive linemen return along with the top two receivers and stud running back Elijah Hood. While starting quarterback Marquise Williams departs, he’ll be replaced by Mitch Trubisky, who fans have been high on.

What will be a struggle – The defense. It’s hard to see much improvement from a unit that allowed over 400 yards per game. It was 110th in run defense, stamped off by their embarrassing showing in the bowl game when the allowed a bowl record 645 rushing yards to Baylor. Now they lose a DT and MLB who were defensive captains.

Pittsburgh

What needs to get better – Their “passing attack”. It wasn’t Boston College level putrid, but it left a lot to be desired. Pitt can run the ball, so mild improvement in the passing game is all they need to have a competitive offense.

What will go well – The run game. James Conner was an ACC player of the year candidate before missing basically the whole season. In his place was Qadree Ollison who ran his way to a nice little 1,100 yard, 11 touchdown season in Conner’s place. Both will be back in 2016 to run behind an offensive line that returns 4/5 starters.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. The Panthers need their passing game to be competent, but I don’t see how it improves from last year. It wasn’t good to begin with and now the Panthers are losing WR Tyler Boyd early to the NFL draft. Boyd accounted for 91 of the team’s 212 receptions in 2015.

Syracuse

What needs to get better – The whole offense. They were 119th in yards per game. Brutal to watch and not able to move the ball consistently as evidenced by their 100 ranking in red zone opportunities. But the Orangemen were actually pretty good once they got there, ranking 8th in red zone scoring percentage. If the offense can move the ball a little more, they can put their red zone efficiency to better use.

What will go well – Defense. It wasn’t exactly good this past year, but it was young. They return seven starters so with the experience they should be better just from that. Additionally, the defense played better at home in 2015, not surprising for a young unit. A year older and they should be able to carry some of that success on the road more frequently.

What will be a struggle – Getting to a bowl game. It’s hard as a fan to go into a year knowing your team probably won’t make a bowl. What’s more difficult is seeing how Syracuse gets to one. Along with divisional home games against FSU and Louisville, they have to go on the road in conference to play BC, Pitt and Clemson. Add in non-conference games at Connecticut and with Notre Dame and this year will be about building for 2017.

Virginia

What needs to get better – Performance in close games. Virginia had their chances last year. They had a halftime lead against Notre Dame and a second half lead against Miami, neither of which they could hold. They were also tied at half with North Carolina and tied in the 4th quarter with Louisville. An ability to finish games and the Cavaliers may have not been looking for a new coach.

What will go well – Off-season. If nothing else there will be positive vibes around the Cavaliers before the season starts. Tiquan Mizzell is a player fans can be excited about watching. There’s always hope when a new head coach comes in, which is what Virginia has in Bronco Mendenhall. Throw that in with a senior quarterback and fans may talk themselves into a sneaky good season.

What will be a struggle – The offense. An experienced quarterback returns, yes, but also a limited one. He’ll be looking for new targets as well since the offenses loses its top two receivers from last year. Just like 2015, it appears 2016 will be the Mizzell show.

Virginia Tech

What needs to get better – The running game. As bad as Virginia Tech’s offense has been, you could usually count on a decent running game if nothing else. Last year the Hokies didn’t even have that, ranking 112th in yards per carry. If you’re going to win games by keeping them close and playing good defense, you need a good running game to take pressure off the quarterback.

What will go well – Pass defense. This is one thing you can count on with the Hokies. They were 17th in passing yards allowed per game and return everyone in the secondary besides Kendall Fuller. He can be adequately replaced by Brandon Facyson, the next in line for NFL-caliber Hokie corners.

What will be a struggle – The passing offense. It’s going to be a shock for new coach Justin Fuente going from possible 1st rounder Paxton Lynch to new Hokies starter Brenden Motley. Motley got his feet wet last year when Michael Brewer got hurt and I don’t think fans liked what they saw. He had success in his first couple starts against against Furman and Purdue (congratulations), but the rest of the way was mostly a disaster.

Wake Forest

What needs to get better – Pass protection. Wake Forest is Wake Forest, so they’re going to be playing from behind a lot. Because of this it would be nice if the quarterback wasn’t running for his life every other play. That’s probably what it felt like for Demon Deacons quarterbacks last year, when they were sacked on 8.94% of drop-backs, 113th in the country.

What will go well – “Offensive fireworks”. OK fireworks might be a strong word. But Wake’s offensive should be vastly improved from a unit that was almost last (125th) in scoring at 17.4 ppg. The offense only loses two seniors, one at WR and one at guard, and 7/11 starters last year were freshmen or sophomores. On top of that, QB John Wolford improved his accuracy from 58.3% to 60.9% while also increasing his yards per attempt by over two full yards (5.55 to 7.69). Why do I feel like I’m talking myself into Wake Forest? I can’t wait to look back on this in November when Wake is eliminated from bowl contention and the offense is still a disaster.

What will be a struggle – Speaking of bowl games, making one will be tough for Wake Forest next year. The first month of the season is manageable but with a road slate that includes games against Florida State, Louisville, NC State, and Duke, it’s going to be a nail-biter for fans the second half of the season.

E-mail Jason at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JLindy87.

Featured image courtesy of Thomson20192

Clemson Overcomes Multiple Potentially Fatal Mistakes

Remember when Miami joined the ACC in 2005? The ACC brass had dreams of regular matchups between Florida St & Miami in the ACC championship game…so much so that the first 5 championship games were scheduled for Jacksonville & Tampa respectively. Imagine Floridians chagrin when Wake Forest & Georgia Tech showed up for the championship game in 2006 followed by Boston College & Virginia Tech the following 2 years. While the Championship game has moved to Charlotte where it belongs, the dream matchup the ACC anticipated is still just a dream. However, the 2015 game is pretty darned good contest between Clemson & North Carolina, rightly played in Charlotte’s Bank of America stadium so there is no danger of attendance looking like a regular season Miami Hurricane’s home game.

The 2015 edition of the ACC championship is an intriguing matchup between Clemson and North Carolina. Clemson was expected to be in this game as one of the two power teams in the Atlantic division. UNC on the other hand, emerged out of the annual jumble that is the Coastal division. Georgia Tech is the most recent pre-season favorite in the Coastal to confound prognosticators. Loaded with top-shelf talent as usual, Clemson finally met pre-season expectations, ran the table in the regular season, and sits atop the NCAA playoff rankings coming into the conference championship. On the other hand, UNC came out of nowhere to post an 11-1 regular season mark. After a dreadful performance against a dismal South Carolina team, UNC righted itself, dodged a few bullets the rest of the way and is riding an 11 game win streak. What a difference a defense makes. Like last year, Carolina has racked up yards & points on offense, but in 2014, the UNC defense was the worst in the ACC yielding 39mpoints per game and letting offensive powerhouses like Liberty University and San Diego St march up and down the field. Carolina has found defensive stability and righted the ship against its schedule of whacky-racers in the Coastal. Tonight Carolina gets a chance to see if they are ready to run with the big dogs against Clemson.

‘Bama punched their ticket to the NCAA playoffs, it’s time for the ACC Championship game. Let’s get to it!

While this game was billed as Clemson versus North Carolina, it really boiled down to Clemson versus Clemson. UNC was present, but this game was decided by Clemson’s ability to overcome their penchant for self-destruction, particularly in the first half but really throughout the game. From a near Steve Bartman moment when Clemson punter Andy Teasdall inexplicably called his own number on 4th & 15 from the Clemson 35, to 4 personal foul penalties, to multiple dropped passes on third down, Clemson outgained UNC by 3X in the first half, but only led by 5 at the break.

With some flashes of life in the second half fueled by more Clemson mistakes, Carolina admirably did not go down without a fight in their inaugural championship appearance. However the Heels simply were not good enough to win this game outright, on their own. Instead, the Tar Heels were good enough to take what Clemson gave them and the Tigers were truly feeling the generosity of the holiday season. The Clemson defense, when it wasn’t making silly penalties or falling asleep in coverage, by and large dominated the line of scrimmage and kept the UNC offense off balance. The Clemson offensive line, which was a massive rebuild to start the season, won the war of attrition and had the Carolina defense looking more like the 2014 edition than the much improved 2015 squad.

What was clear, no matter how many mistakes Clemson made, the best team in the Atlantic is a lot better than the best team in the Coastal. This was pretty clear midway through the first quarter and painfully obvious early in the second half when Clemson shoved a 97 yard drive down the Carolina’s throat. It was apparent there was little the Heels could do about it, other than hope for more Clemson mistakes.

Coming into this game the burning question in the ACC was “who was the better quarterback, Marquise Williams or Deshaun Watson?” I might have argued for Williams coming into this game. No more. After their performances in the biggest game on the ACC calendar, there is no question that Watson is the better quarterback and the best offensive player in the ACC. While neither was at his best, Watson was by far the better QB. Watson overcame early passing accuracy problems with effective running. Watson’s passing accuracy got better and better as the game progressed. Williams never got fully on track…by Williams standards. While many teams would have been happy to have tonight’s performance on any given night, by Marquise’ gaudy standards, this was a subpar performance when Carolina needed his best. As much as I love Williams running skills, how does a guy that athletic get hit so much? He needs to feel pressure better and take off sooner. His inability to use his running skills and tough stretch of inaccurate passes helped Clemson survive their litany of mistakes.

While the UNC faithful will gripe about the missed offsides call late in the 4th quarter, it’s hard to say that the gifts UNC received throughout the game where not more than any team can reasonable expect. Clemson was the better team that could overcome multiple, potentially suicidal mistakes.

There is no question that Carolina is still a basketball school. The football program hasn’t won an ACC championship since 1980. The basketball program has won 9 over that time. Unless UNC and their pals in the Coastal get a lot better in a hurry, it’s hard to see Clemson or Florida St coming out on the short end of this stick in the near future. Kudos to Carolina for fighting to the end, but in the end, Clemson was just too good, no matter how many stupid mistakes they made from whistle to whistle.

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.

Five You Must See: Week Nine

North Carolina (6-1) at #23 Pittsburgh (6-1) Thursday 7:00 PM on ESPN

First place in the ACC Coastal division is on the line on Thursday night.  The biggest difference between these two teams is found in the time of possession.  Pittsburgh ranks fifteenth in the nation, holding the ball for 32 minutes and 49 seconds per game.  North Carolina, on the other hand, possesses the ball for a tick shy of 25 minutes per game.  Only Mississippi State and Hawaii rank lower.  What does that mean?  Well, clearly the Panthers like hanging onto the ball for the majority of the game, and apparently that doesn’t bother the Tarheels.

My x-factor for this close game is North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams.  If he plays well I like his team’s chances.  If not, I’m not sure they have enough around him to overcome such a formidable opponent.

USC (4-3) at Cal (5-2) Saturday 3:00 PM on Fox

College football is full of up’s and down’s.  You don’t need to tell these two teams.  The Trojans have had a puzzling season that’s been tough to predict from week to week.  They saved it last week with a big win over Utah.  The Bears’ last two times out have resulted in disappointing losses that have them in a similar position to USC last week.

UCLA exposed the Cal offensive line last Thursday.  With little time to sit in the pocket, Jared Goff was quieted relatively easily.  Look for the Trojans to blitz throughout the game in an attempt to keep Goff unsettled.  If the Cal offense isn’t scoring, they’re in trouble.  The Bear defense isn’t terrible, but I imagine they’ll have a hard time containing a USC offense that can put up points in bunches.

Georgia (5-2) at #11 Florida (6-1) Saturday 3:30 PM on CBS

As usual, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will go a long way in deciding who will represent the East division in the SEC championship game.  Florida holds that top spot now, but a loss here would see Georgia take it over.

I want to know if these teams are for real, especially Florida who played much better at LSU than I anticipated.  After this tilt both teams have two winnable conference games, a joke of a non-conference game, and a rivalry game against an ACC foe.  This is likely our last chance to see what the Gators and Bulldogs are really about.

Both have had a bye week to prepare.  Both have lost an important playmaker.  Florida quarterback Will Grier is suspended.  Unfortunately, Georgia running back Nick Chubb has become just another in a long list of future first-round draft picks to suffer a tragic injury.  Of the last eight matchups, each team has won four.  Tune in to find out who will control their own destiny going forward.

#9 Notre Dame (6-1) at #21 Temple (7-0) Saturday 8:00 PM on ABC

This is easily the biggest game in Temple football history.  It’s funny how at the beginning of the season we looked at this game as an easy win for the Irish, and now it’s turned into one of their tougher tests.

How have the Owls ascended to #21 in the nation so inconspicuously?  They play stout defense and haven’t come across a ranked team yet.  They give up 14.6 points per game, good for eighth in the country, sandwiched between Clemson and Ohio State.  They’re one of eleven teams that allow fewer than 100 rushing yards per game.  And they rush the passer well.  Their 23 sacks tie them for eleventh in that category.

That means it’s on DeShone Kizer to keep the Owls honest.  Kizer needs to be an accurate passer and scramble effectively when no one is open.  If he can consistently move the chains the Irish should triumph.  This atmosphere will be nuts and you’ll want to say you saw this game.

#8 Stanford (6-1) at Washington State (5-2) Saturday 10:30 PM on ESPN

You probably had to do a double take to make sure you read this matchup correctly.  Yes, with a win here Wazoo will take control of the Pac-12 North.  Surely, no one saw this coming when the Cougars opened the season by losing to Portland State.

Speaking of turning it around after a week one loss, how about Stanford?  The Cardinal lost to Northwestern in a game that seems like it was ages ago.  Since then they’ve been arguably the best team in college football, scoring 31 points or more every time out.  In that time, quarterback Kevin Hogan and running back Christian McCaffrey have been a deadly combo that no team has been able to stop.

Washington State probably won’t either.  That’s not their game.  In true Mike Leach fashion, the Cougars will air it out in an attempt to roll up enough points that it won’t matter.  Luke Falk holds the keys to the nation’s second best passing attack that averages 415 yards through the air.  Falk’s numbers are mind-blowing.  He throws 55 passes per game, far more than anyone else.  That makes his FBS-leading 72.9 completion percentage that much more impressive.

The Cougars score 36.4 points per game.  The Cardinal put up 37.4.  Assuming the offenses are a wash, look for the Stanford defense to make the difference on Saturday night.

The Game of the Weak

Texas San Antonio (1-6) at North Texas (0-7) Saturday 7:00 PM

It’s the Roadrunners against the Mean Green in the battle for last place in C-USA.  This is the single greatest matchup of nicknames we’ve ever seen.  It gets no better than this.  Football wise, I’m not sure it gets worse.  Math is not my strong suit, but I believe I’m correct when saying these two have been collectively outscored 577-261 this season.  I’d go into more detail, but I think that tells you everything you need to know.  Sparingly, it doesn’t look like this game will be broadcast anywhere.

ACC WRAP UP 10/21

The rich got richer in the ACC this weekend, with a couple of teams pulling away from the pack in division races. The Atlantic division is the two horse race that everyone thought it would be between #6 Clemson and #9 Florida State, but the Coastal division is as wide open as it gets. Three teams sit at 5-1 atop the Coastal division being #23 Duke, #25 Pittsburgh and North Carolina, with Miami looking up at 4-2.

Here’s what else we learned in the ACC this weekend:

PITTSBURGH IS REAL

Qadree Ollison has rushed for 559 yards in replacement of the injured James Conner
Qadree Ollison has rushed for 559 yards in replacement of the injured James Conner

 This Pittsburgh team is doing exactly what they weren’t doing last season; finishing close games. Their game this past weekend against Georgia Tech is the perfect example. With 8:13 remaining in a tie game, the Panthers took seven minutes off the clock, and hit a 56-yard field goal that ended up being the game winner. Pittsburgh is now 4-1 in one score games this season. Pittsburgh has a well-rounded offense between QB Nathan Peterman, RB Qadree Ollison and WR Tyler Boyd, and also have the tenth ranked defense in the nation in yards allowed. It’s unclear exactly how good this team is since they haven’t had a very hard schedule to date, but that will quickly change as they face UNC, #11 Notre Dame and #23 Duke in the next month.

MARQUISE WILLIAMS HAS BEEN PLAYING GREAT

Since North Carolina’s loss the first game of the season, quarterback Marquise Williams has responded with a 14:3 touchdown to turnover ratio, leading the team to five straight victories. This is the way that Tarheel fans were hoping Williams would be able to play and is exactly what the Tarheels need if they want to win the Coastal division. Although they haven’t had a very tough schedule, it is still nice to see Williams clicking on all cylinders as they head into the defining part of their schedule. Williams will look to prove he can keep this play going when it really matters with divisional matchups in each of the next five weeks.

 GOLSON GETTING COMFORTABLE IN FSU OFFENSE

As Florida State’s season has progressed, QB Everett Golson has noticeably been getting more and more comfortable in the Seminole offense with every week. Since their bye week three weeks ago Golson has completed 71/102 passes for 865 yards, 5 TD’s and 0 interceptions. Of course, everything that the Noles do on offense is reliant on RB Dalvin Cook’s success, but that doesn’t change the fact that Golson has played very well. Despite looking a bit shaky in the beginning of the year at times, he still hasn’t turned the ball over all season and now is starting to develop trust in his teammates and vice-versa, allowing him to just go out there and control the game. With a dynamic running back in Cook, the Seminoles don’t need Golson to single-handily beat opponents, they just need him to do what he has been doing which is spread the ball around enough to make defenses respect the pass, and not turn the ball over.

GT HAS HAD THE HARDEST SCHEDULE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Something that has been overlooked during Georgia Tech’s five game losing streak is the quality of their opponents. As the teams are currently ranked now, Georgia Tech’s past five games have been against #11 Notre Dame, #23 Duke, a 5-1 UNC team, #6 Clemson, and #25 Pittsburgh, with things not getting any easier as #9 FSU comes into town this weekend. Their schedule after this weekend gets much easier to round out the season, but unfortunately the Yellow Jacket’s season is beyond all repair, sitting at 2-5 for the season and 0-4 within the ACC.

 

ACC Weekend Wrap Up 9/22

Coastal

Miami – Miami managed to escape Nebraska this weekend with an interception in overtime that essentially ended the game. Miami looked like they had the game wrapped up with a 23-point lead in the 4th quarter, when Nebraska rallied to force overtime. Losing a 23-point lead is never a good thing, but as QB Brad Kaaya said, “We won the game, that’s all that matters.” Miami heads into their bye week at 3-0.

Georgia Tech – Georgia Tech suffered a tough 30-22 defeat to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Even though they ended up losing by eight points, the score doesn’t really reflect the outcome of the game. Notre Dame and their front-seven controlled Georgia Tech’s triple-option run game for the whole game, and Notre Dame’s new quarterback played a pretty good game against the Yellow Jackets. This game represented something that is the downfall of a run based team, once you get down early it is hard to comeback. Georgia Tech faces Duke on the road this weekend.

Duke – Duke lost 19-10 in their first real test this year against a surprisingly good Northwestern team. This game was decided by a couple long touchdowns for Northwestern that Duke could never overcome as they only scored 10 points in the contest. Now 2-1, Duke has a big test in Georgia Tech coming into town. With a victory Duke is right back in conference contention, a loss could be detrimental to the team’s season outlook.

North Carolina – QB Marquise Williams led the Tarheels to victory behind his 3 touchdown passes and 100 rushing yards, beating Illinois handily 48-14. A lot of the Tarheels success this season will depend on how well Williams plays, and if he plays as well as he did this weekend the future is bright for this team. North Carloina faces Delaware this weekend with a tough matchup against Georgia Tech looming in two weeks.

Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Iowa Hawkeyes. After a game-tying touchdown with 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Iowa traveled down the field and scored on a 57-yard field goal as time expired. After going down 10-0 to start the game, Pittsburgh came back to tie the game after a five minute 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended up not being enough for the Panthers. Heading into their bye week 2-1, the team looks to rebound before they travel to Virginia Tech next weekend.

Virginia Tech – Virginia Tech pulled away from Purdue in the second half, ultimately cruising to a 51-24 victory. Brenden Motley played well for the Hokies passing for 220 yards and 2 TD’s while also having a rushing TD and no turnovers. Hokie fans hope Motley can continue his play from this game into the future after replacing the injured Michael Brewer. Virginia Tech plays against East Carolina on the road this Saturday.

Virginia – Virginia won their first game of the season after a brutal schedule to start, defeating William and Mary 35-29. Heading into the fourth leading 35-20, Virginia was unable to score again as William and Mary mounted their comeback. William and Mary got to Virginia’s 30 yard line with a minute left, but turned the ball over on downs to give Virginia their first win. Virginia plays another tough opponent in Boise State this weekend.

Atlantic

Clemson – Clemson managed to hold onto a game that they probably should have lost last Thursday. Louisville failed to score at the end of the fourth after Clemson allowed them a couple of chances to grab the lead. At 3-0, Clemson heads into their bye week getting ready for their tough test against the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a game that features #11 Clemson and #6 Notre Dame.

Florida State – Florida State shutout Boston College 14-0, relying on their defense the whole game. With the Seminoles’ offense sputtering and only scoring seven points, defensive standout Jalen Ramsey picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown that ended up sealing the game. Running back Dalvin Cook was injured in the game, but says that he is fine going forward. The Seminoles head into their by week 3-0, with their next game being Wake Forest on the road.

Syracuse – Syracuse defeated Central Michigan in overtime 30-27 with Jordan Frederick’s touchdown to seal it. At 3-0 Syracuse is in control of their destiny in the Atlantic division. Syracuse faces Leonard Fournette and #8 LSU at home this weekend.

NC State – NC State cruised to a 38-14 victory over Old Dominion and are now sitting at 3-0 after a pretty easy schedule to start the season. Jacoby Brissett has started the season without a turnover, and running back Matthew Dayes has had three straight 100-yard rushing games to start the season. NC State faces Southern Alabama before their first real test against Louisville in two weeks.

Boston College – Boston College lost 14-0 to the Seminoles in a game where their starting quarterback Darius Wade broke his ankle, forcing him out for the remainder of the season. This is a tough blow for the Eagles as they had a team that could surprise a few people, centered around their tough defense. It is uncertain who will be the starter for Boston College when they take on a Northern Illinois team that took Ohio State to the finish last weekend.

Wake Forest – Wake Forest defeated Army with a 47-yard field goal as the game expired. Wake Forest scored all of their points in the second half behind quarterback Kendall Hinton’s two rushing touchdowns. It wasn’t a good game for Hinton passing the ball as he threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, but he made up for it with his 101 yards on the ground. Wake Forest takes on Indiana this weekend leading up to their matchup against #10 FSU in two weeks.

Louisville – Louisville lost a tough game against Clemson after having a few chances in the fourth to tie the game. Louisville missed a game-tying field goal with two minutes left and threw an interception with time expiring. At 0-3, it has been a tough start to the season for Louisville, losing all of their games by only one score. They look to get their first victory at home against Samford this weekend.

ACC Coastal – That’s All Folks!

The jumble that was the 2014 ACC Coastal division has finally sorted itself out. The final results look nothing like the pre-season predictions, which should surprise no one.

David Tulis / AP Photo
David Tulis / AP Photo

Kudos to Georgia Tech, they earned it

Georgia Tech was predicted to be an “also ran” in 2014 and started the year looking like just that with lackluster wins against an equally lackluster schedule. However, after distressing back-to-back losses to Duke and UNC, the Jackets ripped 5 consecutive impressive wins, including a drubbing of Atlantic division runner-up Clemson and a thrilling road victory against a resurgent Georgia team. As noted last week, of the potential sacrificial lambs offered from the Coastal to play Atlantic Division champion Florida State, Georgia Tech clearly has the best chance to win. A credible passing threat in 2014 has done wonders for the effectiveness of Georgia Tech’s run-first offense and might be enough to trip the over-confident Seminoles…but don’t bet more than the pocket-change sitting in your sock drawer on it.

If Duke beats Wake Forest and no one is there to see it, did Duke really win? Discuss amongst yourselves.

“Duke is Duke” means a lot of things to a lot of people. In basketball it is usually a comment of resignation from opposing fans. In football, the meaning is more ambiguous. For over a decade it was a comment on Duke’s annual exercise in futility. After two very successful seasons, maybe “Duke is Duke” means that regardless of how many games they win, no one cares about Duke football. The group project for the 2014-2015 off season is to figure out how many games Duke football has to win before fans actually show up to their home games. Without question, 19 wins over 2 seasons is not enough. It always looks so lonely at Duke games. Duke sold out Wallace-Wade when they played Alabama a few years back, but a home game crowd rooting for ‘Bama in Durham isn’t a ringing statement about the level of enthusiasm for the Blue Devils of the gridiron. Maybe next year the “Duke Crazies” will post during football season, but then again…maybe they won’t.

For Virginia, ‘tis always the Season of Giving

It is past time that someone let the Virginia coaching staff know that while it is truly more blessed to give than receive, giving doesn’t cut the muster in college football. Generosity might score big points for getting into heaven, but it doesn’t put points on the scoreboard or fans in the seats on college football Saturdays. For the fourth time this season (UCLA, UNC, & Duke being the others) Virginia gave away a victory in a game they clearly should have won. Virginia Tech always finds a way to beat Virginia, but this is the first time in several years that Virginia was teed up for the win and decided to give it away. The Virginia Tech defense, as has been the recent trend, played a solid game Saturday. In an ironic twist of fate, when the chips were down and Virginia Tech needed a score, the much maligned VT offense delivered a game-winning touchdown, greatly aided by a mindless roughing the passer penalty and silly pass coverage breakdown. The Hokie Nation can rejoice that they kept their consecutive bowl streak alive at 22, but there is little joy in Blacksburg as the Hokies greatly underperformed expectations in 2014, especially after what was, in hindsight, a truly shocking win over Ohio State. Virginia, on the other hand, leads the ACC is moral victories, which is of no solace to Virginia fans as they again get to watch the ACC bowl lineup on TV while hoping for continued improvement next year.

Once is enough for UNC

I can only assume that after playing one game to the potential everyone expected of them in 2014 in their win against Duke, UNC decided they’d had enough and packed it in a week early. It has become clear this season that if Marquise Williams doesn’t produce over 400 yards of total offense and 4 or more touchdowns, the Tar Heels have no chance to win. (The gift victory from Virginia excepted, when Williams only produced 300+ yards and 3 TDs) As has been their standard this season, the UNC defense surrendered over 500 yards of total offense and 35 points to rival NC State. With Williams all but shut down and held to season lows in offensive production, Carolina’s probability of winning Saturday was statistically insignificant and they lost in a lopsided blowout to an average NC State team. UNC ends the season with a tepid 6-6 record and should make for easy pickings for their to-be-named bowl opponent.

Pitt going up, Miami while Miami goes down

In a game of divergent streaks, Pitt won its second game in a row after losing 6 out of their prior 7 and Miami lost their third consecutive game after riding a 3-game win streak. The good news for both teams is that they are bowl eligible, though Pitt had to view this as their “play-in game” and played as well as they have all year against a talented, but seemingly demoralized Miami team.

Coastal Observations:

Every Coastal team with the exception of Virginia is eligible for postseason play.

At least the Wahoos didn’t finish in sole possession of last place, but rather shared it with a scrabble of 3-5 teams that were smart enough to schedule enough cupcake games in their out-of-conference games to ensure the requisite 6 wins.

It is hard to fathom that the same Virginia Tech team that convincingly beat Ohio State on the road also lost to Wake Forrest 6-3 in a pitcher’s duel that had to go into extra innings.

Al Golden has to be wondering what might have been if Miami had not collapsed against Florida State while Paul Chryst has to wonder how in the heck he lost to the Zips of Akron.

Duke’s OoC scheduling strategy doesn’t change in 2015 and neither does Virginia’s. Duke plays Tulane, NC Central, Northwestern, & Army. Meanwhile Virginia plays UCLA, Notre Dame, William & Mary, and Boise St. Guess which team has a higher probability of winning 3 out of 4 OoS games?

James Connor and Duke Johnson are an outstanding pair of running backs who both richly deserved first team all-ACC honors.

In yet another robbery for which he will not be punished, Jameis Winston robbed Marquise Williams of first team all-ACC honors.

 

 

 

 

Rise & Demise in the ACC Coastal

Week 12 in the Atlantic Coast Coastal division was all about “rise and demise”. Georgia Tech continues its rise, Virginia Tech and UNC suspended their demise, and Duke began what might be its deserved 2014 demise. Miami lost its forward momentum in a winnable game against Florida State, while Virginia mercifully had the week off.

 

timesdispatch.com
timesdispatch.com

The cracks in the foundation of Duke’s football success have been visible all year for anyone who cared to look. After playing the weakest opening schedule in the FBS, Duke has been riding a wave of good fortune in the past few weeks of ACC play. Games that easily could have been losses against Virginia and Pitt ended up in the win column with fortunate breaks, bad calls, and questionable coaching decisions that all favored the Blue Devils. That wave of good fortune crashed down on Duke in their game against Virginia Tech. In the first half , Virginia Tech continued its combination of ineffective offensive and lackluster defensive play and looked like it was headed for another frustrating loss. In the second half, however, the Virginia Tech defense came to life. The Hokie offense demonstrated that if you turn the ball over inside your own red zone, they can put points on the board. In what will never be described as a “showcase game” for quality play in the ACC, the Virginia Tech defense finally played like everyone expects and took control of what was essentially an ugly shoving match, producing a much-needed Virginia Tech win. Anthony Boone was sloppy all day and when Bud Foster dialed up his blitz packages, the Duke fans that bothered to show up for this game folded their tents and went home along with the Duke football team. The “Duke Era” in the Coastal has begun its demise.

If I got a vote for offensive player of the year in the ACC, I would have a hard time not voting for Marquise Williams. Against the Pitt Panthers, the Carolina defense had an average day by UNC standards yielding 35 points and over 500 yards (again!) of total offense. The Carolina defense played poorly enough to lose this game, which has been their standard for the 2014 season. However Marquise Williams countered the poor tackling and missed assignments of the UNC defensive squad with a performance that single handedly won this game for the Tar Heels. Williams produced almost 400 total yards running for 122 yards and passing for another 276. He ran for 3 touchdowns and threw for another. There are not many players in the ACC who can cover for a defense as flimsy as the Tar Heels, but Williams did it Saturday, and it wasn’t the first time he strapped this Carolina team on his back and carried them to victory. If Duke is favored against Carolina in Durham Saturday, I’d take the Heels and the points. I don’t think Duke will be able to contain Williams any better than Pitt, which after Saturday’s has a fighting chance to finish at the bottom of the Coastal division.

Credit where credit is due. Georgia Tech started off with some very shaky play early in the season, but the Jackets have reeled off 4 straight wins and are playing some of the best football in the Coastal. Their gimmick offense is running as well as it has in many years as Justin Thomas has given the Georgia Tech offense a credible passing threat for the first time since Calvin Johnson terrorized defenses at Grant Field. It is easy to argue that this would have been a different game if Clemson’s Deshaun Johnson had not gone down in the first quarter, but by the end of the game, Georgia Tech was whipping Clemson in all phases of the game. If Georgia Tech hangs on to win the Coastal, their triple option + a passing game might give the Jackets a fighting chance against Florida State…but don’t bet on it.

Speaking of Florida State, it is hard to believe they remain undefeated. Their win against Clemson was such a gift it should have an asterisk by it. While Miami didn’t give their game away, the ‘Canes were in great position to win and simply could not make the plays in the second half to hold on against the Seminoles. It would be easy to hang this loss on the inconsistent play of freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya in the second half. I’d be more inclined to blame this loss on the inability of the Miami defense to pressure Jameis Winston. Given enough time, Winston can pick apart most any defense. Miami had one sack and very few knockdowns and paid the price as the FSU offense found its rhythm in the second half, thwarting Miami’s hopes of a Coastal crown.

If there is a bigger waste of time than making pre-season rankings in the ACC Coastal, I don’t know what it is. Georgia Tech was picked just ahead of Virginia in many Coastal pre-season projections and Carolina and Miami were universally projected to vie for the Coastal crown. The   5th/6th place Georgia Tech program is on the rise, the pre-season favorites Miami and UNC are in various stages of demise. Such is life in the ACC Coastal.

Another Week – More Coastal Chaos

If you watched any of the ACC games this weekend, you heard a lot of chatter from the network talking heads about the Coastal Division. Unfortunately the talk wasn’t about the Coastal as the standard bearer for quality college football. It was all about the Chaos in the Coastal and the fact that the Coastal could end the season in a 7-way tie with a full division of 4-loss teams. Wouldn’t that be fitting for the nuttiest of the power conference divisions? Of course we correctly called-out Coastal Chaos weeks ago and look forward to the final weeks of the Coastal race, if nothing else, just to see what might happen.

Contributing to the Coastal Chaos, Duke is in the driver’s seat to win the division, yet no one knows if Duke is a very good football team. A combination of “scheduling for success” and a favorable draw in the ACC schedule left the Blue Devils with the easiest schedule in the ACC. Duke only has two real tests on their 2014 schedule, both of which they failed. Duke lost convincingly to Miami on the road and then again to Pitt this past weekend. Fortunately for Duke, Pitt was not comfortable winning what has become the annual track meet with Duke. The Pitt coaching staff inexplicably forced their maligned kicker to attempt a 24-yard, game winning field goal from the right hash versus the center of the field on a gusty day in Hines Field. (Have I mentioned how much I detest college games in NFL stadiums?) The result was the shank-of-the-season and an overtime win for Duke that raised still more doubts about their worthiness as the sacrificial offering from the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship game.

cityofchampionssports.com
cityofchampionssports.com

If a team is struggling on offense, a game against the UNC defense will get things back on track. Similarly, if a defense is struggling, a matchup with the Virginia offense will likely produce favorable results. In case anyone had forgotten that the UNC defense was the worst in the ACC, Miami reminded us with a 47 point/500 yard performance that was every bit as dominating as it sounds. Duke Johnson had another first team all-ACC performance and the Miami defense was surprisingly effective against Marquise Williams and the normally potent UNC offense. UNC was never in this game. Maybe UNC athletes are spending time in class for a change, to the detriment of their on-field performance.

To the north in Atlanta, the Georgia Tech defense, which has been ineffective at best in 2014, shut down an impotent Virginia offense in a dominating 35-10 win. Georgia Tech was effective in both the passing and running games as Virginia gave up 3rd and long with regularity in the first half. I don’t know what kind of offensive adjustments Virginia makes at halftime. They might want to consider rock-paper-scissors to map out their changes because the current strategy isn’t getting it done. For the 4th game in a row Virginia failed to score a touchdown in the second half. Virginia has scored a grand total of 6 second-half points in their last 4 games. Bottom line, if the ‘Hoos don’t have enough points to win by halftime, they aren’t going to win. That’s not a recipe for success. Georgia Tech’s offense was impressive early and then coasted the rest of the way as Virginia imploded with dropped passes, obtuse play-calling, and poor game management.

At least Virginia Tech laid different kind of egg this week, but they laid an egg nonetheless. Quarterback Michael Brewer was effective against a determined Boston College defense. His performance should have quelled calls for his replacement, but it didn’t. The Virginia Tech running game was ineffective once again, which generally spells trouble for the Hokies. The real culprit however, in the loss to BC was the Hokie defense which broke down repeatedly, giving up long runs at inopportune times throughout the game. While Virginia fans would love to see a 50K+ crowd at Scott Stadium, it is apparent that the Hokie-nation has seen about enough of the 2014 edition of Virginia Tech football. The VT crowd this week was the smallest of the season and the smallest in recent memory. Long runs against the Hokie defense and empty seats in Lane Stadium used to the very uncommon in Blacksburg. Not so much in 2014. Virginia Tech gets a week off to gather themselves before a trip to Durham on the 15th. If Duke manages to beat Syracuse, the Hokies will likely travel to Duke as underdogs. If I were betting on the game, I’d take Virginia Tech and the points as I expect VT to get their act together and win in Durham.

The coming week’s Coastal schedule is light with only 3 teams in action. I am certainly not predicting all of these outcomes, but with the track record of the Coastal I would be only mildly surprised if Syracuse beat Duke, NC State beat Georgia Tech, or in the doozie of them all if UVa beat Florida State. I will predict that one of these upsets will post next weekend, and don’t be shocked to see two. It’s only fitting for the most chaotic of the FBS divisions.