ACC Review – Week 4

Miami at Houston – Miami’s biggest opponent for the rest of the year will be themselves. Unless something surprising happens, there isn’t a game left where they won’t be fairly significant favorites. It’s a bit odd for a team to have their biggest, toughest and most significant game so early in the year. I wonder if it will be too hard for the Canes to maintain focus without that one key game to motivate them?
One slight concern at this point is the play of Brock Berlin. He has not looked particularly sharp yet. He may just not be that good, but it shouldn’t matter. As long as he doesn’t kill them with turnovers, Miami has enough talent on both sides of the ball to more than make up for mediocre quarterback play.
Maryland at Duke – Wow. Either Duke’s worse than I thought or Maryland’s better. I’ve been overrating Duke all year, but I really think a lot of the credit for this blowout goes to Ralph Friedgen and his Terrapins. Yeah, Duke’s not that great to begin with and they are banged up, but Maryland rolled up 685 yards of offense. 685! And that’s with a QB, Joel Stathon, that has been shaky all season. Well, shaky until Saturday, when he passed for 324 yards and four touchdowns. Stathon did throw three picks and this is Duke, but still, it was a great game for a young QB.
Maryland’s defense did a pretty good job too, allowing only one touchdown. Duke’s other two scores were a kickoff return for a touchdown (pretty rare for Duke) and an interception return. Duke totaled only 190 yards on offense.
With this effort and given another week to reflect on it, maybe I was too hard on the Terps for their showing in Morgantown last week. Considering they were on the road against a ranked team, a close loss isn’t too bad, even if it wasn’t pretty.
NC State at Virginia Tech – I’ll be the first to admit that I read this NC State team wrong. Like many people, I overreacted to the Ohio State game. One game does not make a season and things like turnovers and costly penalties are often easy to fix. What I didn’t give them near enough credit for is their defense. Sure, they shut out 1-AA Richmond and they held Ohio State to only 137, but I wasn’t convinced. Richmond is, well Richmond, and Ohio State is very conservative on offense. But it’s obvious now – this team has a nasty defense.
Check what they did to the Hokies in Lane Stadium – 16 points with their only touchdown coming on a short drive after a turnover, 192 total yards of offense and ten (10!!!) sacks given up by mobile QB Bryan Randall. To get ten sacks in any game is mighty impressive, but to do it to Bryan Randall is amazing. State was fast and relentless.
All that said, NC State was lucky to win. Randall moved the Hokies into field goal range on their final drive, but they missed a game-winning 43 yarder. As much credit as I’m giving the Wolfpack defense, the Hokie D did nearly as well. They allowed State only 223 yards of offense, and State’s two TDs were the result of short fields after turnovers.
The bottom line is that both schools showed that they have good, dangerous teams. Both have better defenses than offenses, but they are each capable of beating any team in the league.
Boston College at Wake Forest – I said this one would be close, didn’t I? For the second year in a row, Wake scored a late touchdown to beat the Golden Eagles despite being outgained on the day. What a great end of that game. Wake really showed great composure despite having their offense largely shut down for most of the game.
I can’t say enough about how good of a coach Jim Grobe is. I’ll be shocked if he’s still in Winston-Salem next year.
Louisville at North Carolina – I believe my lovely, scatological quote from last week’s Preview was that UNC might be “due to take a dump at midfield” in this game. I should have said “enormous dump.”
34-0. That’s bad. I also said in my preview that given the prowess of the two offenses, that the game would be a shootout. Shootout? More like an execution. That was the kind of game that you wonder if a team can recover from. I’m guessing no.
One big reason why I (and others) gave Carolina too much credit in this game was how they took apart Georgia Tech just one week earlier. Well, the problem with judging teams early in a football season is that almost every team has one or two games in a season that are anomalies, either for the good or bad. Well, now that Carolina’s played four games, it’s pretty easy to see that the Georgia Tech game was their anomaly. That was an aberration. They aren’t that good and the Yellow Jackets aren’t that bad.
Clemson at Florida State – I turned this game on for the first time in the first quarter and saw that the Tigers were up 7-3. I checked back in just before the half and saw that they were down only 17-14. Man, I thought, I guess their offense is nowhere near as bad as you would think, considering they scored only 6 points last week against Texas A&M. I mean, Florida State’s defense looked awesome against Miami. It was only later, when I was watching highlights, that I realized that one of those touchdowns was a kickoff return. Of course, the one they scored in the second half was a return also. Add those to their safety, and you see that the defense and special teams scored 15 of Clemson’s 22 points. So, their offense is that bad and FSU’s defense is that good. Clemson managed only 183 yards and star quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw for only 90 yards to go with three interceptions. Maybe “star” isn’t the proper adjective anymore.
The most interesting side-story for this not-as-close-as-it-appeared game is the FSU quarterback situation. Maybe you’ve heard something about it? Erstwhile star quarterback (and can I make an aside here? Wasn’t this supposed to be the year of the QB in the ACC? All those returning QBs – Whitehurst, Rix, Berlin, Durant, Randall – and not one is playing to all-conference levels. Wake’s Cory Randolph is your leader in the clubhouse for 1st team All ACC.) Chris Rix sprained his ankle, letting sophomore Wyatt Sexton get in the game. Sexton wasn’t spectacular, but a blind man could see that he was better than Rix. He has more poise and confidence. Unsurprisingly, Sexton has been named the starter for a few weeks while Chris Rix heals up his ankle. (I wonder if Rix will get a handicapped sticker for his car in the meantime?) Don’t be surprised if Rix returns to find his job gone. The Seminoles loss to Miami in week one removed all margin for error this season and Rix is just too inconsistent.
Syracuse at Virginia – Virginia cruised again, although this time the margin wasn’t quite as wide. As I mentioned last week though, don’t buy into the hype. The national media types keep seeing those lopsided UVA scores and have overrated this team. I’ve heard more than one pretty boy say that he is looking forward to a matchup between undefeateds when UVA plays Miami on November 13. Nope. Not gonna happen. Virginia is good, but I doubt they’ll win in Tallahassee and don’t ignore games at home against Clemson and Maryland. The Terps in particular are no gimme. The Cavaliers will lose at least one of those games (and Miami still has Louisville at home and NC State on the road before then).
On the flip side, this team really is playing well in every phase. Their running game has been solid, and now Marques Hagans’ passing is becoming a weapon. Although his two rushing touchdowns got most of the attention, he also completed 11 of 12 passes against the Orangemen. That’s not the kind of efficiency you usually get from a mobile quarterback like Hagans. It’ll be very interesting to see how this team does against stronger opponents. We may or may not be able to tell in their next game against Clemson in two weeks.

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