Some observations and thoughts about last weekend’s ACC football games…
- Note to self – you never want to play a good team the game after they get embarassed on national television. Man. Virginia Tech destroyed UVA. They beat them in every possible way. Their offense was better, their defense was better, their special teams were better and they made fewer mistakes. It was very impressive. I don’t really think the Hokies are five touchdowns better than Virginia, but on that day they certainly were.
- And for Virginia’s next game … refer to the first bullet point. They get to travel to Miami and take on the pissed-off Hurricanes. Who thinks we’ll see another ugly blowout? The only hope UVA has is that the Hurricanes are too dejected after blowing their BCS opportunity. Well, that or maybe they spend a little too much time on the seventh floor.
- The top five teams in the ACC by both overall record and computer rating? Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, Boston College and Georgia Tech. The only team to play them all this year? Virginia.
- Georgia Tech’s impressive upset over Miami reinforced one thing I’ve seen several times this year – with poor quarterback play, any team can lose. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of bad quarterbacking this year. Kyle Wright looked terrible on Saturday night (although the constant pressure from the Yellow Jacket linemen was a big reason) and that’s why the Canes couldn’t move the ball. That’s largely why FSU lost their last two games, why Virginia Tech got spanked by those same Hurricanes and why NC State has struggled all year. When your quarterback is playing poorly, it’s hard for anything else to work right.
- This is the time of the year when folks start talking about who the conference award winners should be. I can’t remember a weaker year for conference player of the year. There hasn’t been one single offensive player who has stood out. The best offensive player is almost certainly Calvin Johnson, but he just doesn’t have POY-type numbers. Chris Barclay leads the league in rushing – by a lot – but he hasn’t really had any signature games and Wake has had too few wins. Marcus Vick is probably the front runner and he’s probably been the best quarterback, but the Hokies don’t rely on his offense. Vick is only eighth in the league in passing yards per game.
No, I don’t think any offensive players have earned the award. This is a perfect year to give it to a defensive player. And that player is Maryland linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, and not just because he has the most bizarre apostrophe in ACC history. For some reason, I haven’t heard much talk about his season, but the man’s averaging nearly 14 tackles per game! That’s an incredible number, somewhat equivalent to rushing for 200 yards per game. Maybe he’s not the NFL prospect that many other ACC linebackers are, but he’s been the most effective player. D’Qwell Jackson – ACC Player of the Year.
- For ACC Coach of the Year, I think it’s a two-man race between Frank Beamer and Chan Gailey. Beamer’s team is good and extremely well-coached. But, then they were supposed to be good this year, weren’t they? The Yellow Jackets had little expectations, but jumped out of the gate and beat Auburn on the road. They stumbled a bit in the middle of the year, but last weekend’s win over Miami was one of the most impressive wins of the year.
So, who should win it? The guy whose team is at the top but is only meeting expectations or the the guy whose team is not quite as good, but has exceeded expectations? I say give it to the guy at the top. The Hokies were picked to win it all in large part because of Beamer. Sure they have a lot of talent, but do they have more than Florida State or Miami? I don’t think so. Frank Beamer – ACC Coach of the Year.
- Back to the weekend games – tough loss for Maryland against BC. They moved the ball well enough to win, but two turnovers for touchdowns really killed them. Nothing can ruin a game like driving for a score, fumbling and watching the defense score on a 95 yard return. Ouch. Fortunately for the rest of us, that loss set up a very interesting final game against NC State. Both teams are 5-5 and need one more win to gain bowl eligibility. On top of that, both programs need the win to avoid adding to the perception that they’ve failed to capitalize on a few years of success. A loss for either team would mean consecutive losing seasons. Neither program expected to have losing records at this point in Friedgen’s or Amato’s reigns.
- How about the way that Tommy Bowden and his Clemson Tigers finished the year? They knocked off Florida State at home and then went on the road and beat their rivals, the red-hot South Carolina Gamecocks. A loss to the Cocks would have been very painful, as it would have possibly signaled the start of Steve Spurrier’s reign over South Carolina (the state, not the school) football. Caulton Tudor had an interesting piece last week about how many regional schools were probably pulling for Clemson in that game. No one outside of Columbia wants to see the Dark Prince get things rolling.
- The ACC Bowl situation is still a bit murky. The conference has six bowl tie-ins and already has seven teams who are eligible. The winner of the Maryland-NC State game will be the eighth. If a cholera epidemic breaks out in Blacksburg leading to a North Carolina win on Saturday, the Heels would be the ninth ACC team. Fortunately for the ACC, there are some other bowls available. As strong as the SEC has been, they won’t have enough teams to fill all of their slots, and the Pac-10 and Big-10 might fail in that regard as well. So, it’s possible that all of the eligible teams will find a place to go, but I bet it won’t work out that way. Virginia has a long and glorious history of not being invited to bowls when they seemingly earned the right and if they finish with two blowout losses, that might happen again. I’m guessing the guys in tacky jackets aren’t too excited about Maryland either, considering the way their season has gone. Look for one or two ACC schools to completely whiff on that extra game.