Ranking The ACC – Week 7

It’s Friday already? Quick week!
I had so many thoughts about that fantastic Virginia upset over Florida State, but I never got a chance to give them the article they deserved. Instead, I’ll do a quick conference ranking and spit out a few thoughts about that game at the end.
1. Virginia Tech – The Hokies looked very solid last night against Maryland. Not perfect by any means, but very tough. Maryland gave Tech all they had and Ron New Mexico and company stood and took it before delivering their own knockout punch. An extremely well-coached squad.

2. Florida State – Yes, they lost, but Virginia played very well and Drew Weatherford actually showed me something. The kid has a nice arm. I just don’t understand why they don’t try harder to get their running game going. They have some talented backs. The Cavaliers exposed their weakness though – a young and mistake-prone secondary.
3. Miami – I’m sorry, but if you’re going to play Temple, you can’t stop scoring early in the second quarter. Miami’s scout team ought to be able to rout Temple.
4. Boston College – A very lucky comeback against Wake Forest. I think this might be a team that’s not quite as good as their record. But they keep winning, and I don’t want to belittle that.
5. Clemson – An impressive ass-whupping of NC State last Thursday. This week, they get Temple, who’s the ACC’s version of the Easy Girl from college – you know you can score as often as you like, but you’re not going to brag to your friends about it afterwards.
6. Virginia – So which Cavalier team is the real one? The one that pushed around by Maryland, the sloppy one who played BC or the solid, aggressive unit that savaged Florida State last Saturday? The answer is somewhere in the middle, but given their improving health, I’m going to guess it’s closer to the FSU game team.
7. Georgia Tech – An unexpected week off thanks to Wilma, the forty-second Category Five hurricane of the season.
8. Maryland – Does it make sense that they looked good in being trounced 28-9 at home? Well, it’s true. Ralph Friedgen and company have finally gotten through to this team.
9. Wake Forest – The conference’s tough-luck bunch. Should be a good game this weekend against the Wolfpack, but if Cory Randolph can’t go, it’ll be much tougher. They might rush for 400 yards though.
10. North Carolina – I’m going to say that the Louisville debacle was an aberration. Clearly it exposed some problem areas, but I don’t think the Heels are really that bad. The game against Virginia this weekend should be really interesting and will help clear up the relative standings of the middle ACC teams.
11. NC State – Bad is as bad plays. This team does not have the eleventh best talent in the league. Far from it. When they execute, they’re as good as any team in the conference. They just don’t execute very often. Remember when they had a fearsome defensive line?
12. Duke – If were a gambling man, I’d bet my mortgage on Florida State this weekend. I don’t care how many points they’re giving. Duke is completely hapless and the Seminoles are going to be pissed. On top of that, the ‘Noles appear to have a group of playmakers like I haven’t seen down there in a few years. I have a hunch that they’re going to put about 60 points on the Blue Devils in Wallace Wade tomorrow. Fortunately, there will be few witnesses.
And now for a few thoughts about that Virginia – Florida State game. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, let me know. I have it on TiVo. You bring the beer, I’ll supply the chips.

  • Marques Hagans was incredible. Incredible. We’ve seen a lot of good running quarterbacks in the ACC, with Charlie Ward and Woodrow Dantzler at the top of the list. Hagans is not in their league, but his first half was better than anything I ever saw them do. I mean that – better. Now, he’s not the runner that either of those guys were, but what Biscuit was so good at was scrambling out of the pocket under pressure and then finding a man downfield. He did that over and over. Florida State has some quick and aggressive linemen (as always), and they’d routinely break through the line and flush Hagans out. Just as it looked like he was going down, he’d slip to the side run to daylight and then stop and throw to a receiver or tight end 15-20 yards downfield. And hit him right in the numbers.
    Escaping pressure and then still complete passes is probably the best thing a quarterback can do. It forces the defense to be tentative, it keeps the receivers happy, because they know that they can always get the ball and it keeps the defensive secondary from helping out on the scramble. The thing is, it’s hard. It’s hard to see downfield when you are running for your life. How can you find the second or third read? Even if you find the guy, can you get the ball to him accurately? It’s very easy to throw an int in that situation, but somehow Hagans got even more accurate. I think he was something like 16-20 in the first half and almost all of those throws were under duress.
    I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
    In the second half, FSU got smart and deployed a spy and that worked. Hagans cooled off, but the damage had been done. Virginia was confident and the Seminoles were frustrated and rushing their game.
  • Virginia looked very prepared for this game. Despite the frantic complaints of some Virginia fans after the Boston College game, Al Groh and his staff are good.
    Announcer Bob Davie had a good quote during the game – “It’s not the X’s and O’s; it’s the Jimmies and Joes.” The point is that all the coaching and scheming in the world doesn’t do any good if you don’t have the players. As I wrote about earlier, due to attrition, Virginia just doesn’t have that much depth. On top of that, many of their top players, including Ahmad Brooks, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Wali Lundy have been hurt off and on all year. Both Brooks and Ferguson missed the previous games but both came back and played great on Saturday night. Lundy has been playing, but has been hobbled by an injured foot. Lundy is a very good running back, but in the Emmett Smith mold, meaning he’s not terribly big, fast or quick – he just makes plays. He has no speed to spare though and so he’s been almost completely ineffective this season. On Saturday night though, Lundy looked better. Not all the way back, but he made several plays that he simply couldn’t have made two weeks earlier.
    Take an average team and add one All-American linebacker (Brooks), one All-American left tackle (Ferguson) and an All-ACC running back (Lundy) and suddenly it’s a pretty good squad. That’s what happened with Virginia. Players make the coaches.
  • Florida State has a lot of good, young offensive talent. That is one frightening offense. Drew Weatherford threw three interceptions, but he also made a lot of great throws. He looked nothing like the frightened kid I saw in that Miami game six weeks ago. He’s going to be a hell of a quarterback. And any good QB needs talented receivers, and he has them in spades. It looked like the FSU of old at times out there. The problem is that they’re all so young. I’m not sure what happened down there to result in so many freshman being on the field, but if they can get some seasoning out of those guys, watch out.
  • Naturally, that upset evoked many comparisons to the classic 1995 upset. How does this one compare? To me, it’s not even close. While it was a huge win over an undefeated, top-five opponent, 1995 was different. Back then, Florida State was invincible. They were in the midst of one of the great runs in college football history, finishing in the national top four for something like seventy-two years in a row. They were in the middle of their fourth ACC campaign and they had yet to lose a game. Not one! And few had been close. These days, FSU loses an ACC game or two every year and isn’t even the clear-cut best program in the conference. Things have changed.
    So, yes last weekend’s game was a great, memorable win, but it doesn’t compare to what happened ten years ago (man was it really that long ago?).

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