Boston College – The Eagles are very quietly having an outstanding season. With all the turmoil in Miami, Tallahassee, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Charlottesville, it seems like BC’s 7-1 record just isn’t interesting enough. Or maybe it’s because they are – you know – in Boston. Either way, BC’s win down in Tally was easily their most impressive and most important ACC win yet. The Atlantic division is all jammed up with three teams at 3-1 and Clemson at 4-2 and several game left between those teams. It should be a hell of a finish. Hopefully we can start to focus on that and not as much on the flailing and failing teams (although it’s hard to avoid watching a car wreck).
Clemson – That loss in Blacksburg just seemed so predictable, didn’t it? Clemson was riding high after whipping Georgia Tech on national television and everyone said they were the league’s best team. Then they had to go to Lane Stadium on a Thursday night to play a Hokie squad that was angry and looking for a big win. Talk about your trap games.
Still, I didn’t expect that the Tigers would have so much trouble running. James Davis definitely didn’t look healthy. When he’s on, he and CJ Spiller are a ridiculously good tailback tandem. Spiller has the best acceleration I’ve seen in college since Marshall Faulk. That kid is going to be special.
The Tigers should be able to handle Maryland and NC State at home in their next two games, leaving only South Carolina between them and a 10-win regular season (although any talk of such things should always point out that the prestige of a 10-win season was earned in the days when seasons had eleven games, not twelve.).
Duke – I guess at this point, Duke fans (chuckle) should be happy that the Blue Devils are at least scoring points. And it’s pretty amazing that they were in the game late against both Alabama and Miami. But moral victories are really all you can look for with this program. Well, that and the inevitable win over Carolina to end the season.
Florida State – It’s a measure of just how dominant the Seminoles were for so long that I just can’t get used to them being mediocre. It shouldn’t shock me that they lost at home to Boston College and then on the road at Maryland. I mean, what have they done this year that suggested they wouldn’t lose those games? But yet, as much as intellectually know they aren’t very good, I have a hard time convincing my instincts. It still seems like they should be winning.
That said, even with Wake Forest, Virginia and Western Michigan left on the schedule, all at home, it’s not a sure thing that FSU will finish above .500 this year. Every one of those teams could beat them. Oh, and Florida will beat them sideways to end the year.
Georgia Tech – I started watching the Miami game thinking that Reggie Ball might be the worst quarterback in the ACC. Then, on the very first play of the game, he was sacked and fumbled and Miami picked it up for a touchdown. 25 seconds into the game – a game where the Yellow Jackets received the kickoff – and Georgia Tech was down 7-0. Needless to say, I felt vindicated in my assessment of Ball.
Then, over then next 59.5 minutes, he proved me wrong. Sort of. He and the rest of the Jackets never really looked spectacular, but they quickly stopped Miami’s momentum and grinded out a nice 30-23 win. Maybe that said more about the Hurricanes than the Yellow Jackets, but either way, Tech proved (again) that they are one of the 3-4 best teams in the conference. And I guess Reggie Ball isn’t really that bad.
Maryland – See, here’s why I can’t get my mind around this team. For some reason, their games are either never on here or I’ve just missed them, so that the only game I’ve seen them play was that disaster against West Virginia where they looked like a bad Division III team. Well, now the Terps are 6-2 with three straight conference wins. They staged a big comeback against Virginia, held off a big comeback from NC State and then beat Florida State last weekend. The Terps must be pretty good, right? They better be, because their last four games are against Clemson, Miami, BC and Wake. I have a hunch that they won’t win more than one of those games.
Miami – As I wrote above, Miami scored a defensive touchdown just seconds into their game against Georgia Tech. A few minutes later, they forced the Jackets to punt and then drove down for a field goal. Now, back in the day – oh, like two years ago – a Hurricane start like that meant a blowout. They ‘Canes would be jacked up, the other team would be intimidated and basically the game would be over. Not anymore. That alone probably explains better than anything why Miami fans are howling about Larry Coker’s performance.
North Carolina – I’m going to change things up and write something positive about the Tar Heels who managed to not rise up and support their coach with a home win the week after he was fired (well, now I will write something positive). I love watching Ronnie McGill run. That dude is a football player. He’s not terribly fast and he doesn’t have a lot of moves, but you better hit him with two or three guys or he’s not going down. I have to chuckle every time I see him dragging two or three clinging defenders for a few extra yards. If the rest of the team had just half of his toughness (and about twice his endurance, McGill seems to tire too easily) they’d have actually won some games this year.
NC State – Here’s the thing with State (and I know, I’m hardly the first to critique their offense) – they need to rethink what they are doing when they have the ball. For most of the year, they’ve sucked on offense, yet somehow they’ve managed to put together several late charges as well as an impressive full game against Florida State. They have two outstanding running backs, a very good group of receivers and a serviceable quarterback. So why are they failing? Watch for just a few minutes and you’ll see. They’re constantly dinking and dunking the ball around, throwing screens, running sweeps and short outs and it’s just not working. Yet when they go vertical, their receivers make plays and generate yardage! So why not go to an old-style pro offense? Pound the ball inside the tackles with their two studs and then when the defense puts eight men in the box, throw it over the top. Sure, they’ll suffer through some three and outs, but give those backs, especially Andre Brown, enough runs and they’ll eventually bust some big ones (and to me, Brown looks better between the tackles anyway). Play the whole game with the game plan you use when you’re behind. Sure, Daniel Evans will throw some picks, but hell, he does anyway! At least this way you’ll score some points to counterbalance the slew of mistakes your offense is sure to make (because changing the play calling isn’t going to make them more disciplined) and maybe those mistakes will happen on your opponent’s side of the field.
Virginia – I said it in the last roundup, Al Groh and his staff is doing a very good job with this team and their performance is just getting better and better. The offense is still very conservative, but they are making fewer and fewer mistakes and therefore holding the ball longer. That has allowed their excellent defense to stay fresher throughout the game and so they can play their field position battle for the whole four quarters. While this Cavalier squad isn’t going to win any titles or awards, it certainly has been fun to see them grow up and improve.
All that said, it could be a tough last three games. UVA closes out with Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, with only Miami at home. Sure all three of those programs are down this year, but if Virginia wins even one of those games, it will be a notable accomplishment.
Virginia Tech – There they are! I’ve been looking for the Hokies all season. I hadn’t seen them until I watched the Thursday night game last week. The team that throttled Clemson for 60 minutes looked much more like the Beamer squad I’m used to seeing than the disjointed, mistake-prone group that’s been wearing maroon all year. The question is, was that just because it was a TV game at home against a ranked foe? Can they keep that up? If so, all four of their remaining games are winnable and the Hokies could turn this rebuilding season into a 10-2 masterpiece and possibly take another crack at an ACC title.
Wake Forest – Go Deacs! Sure, my Cavaliers are playing better these days, but I’m not hopping off the Wake Forest bandwagon. No sir. It wasn’t pretty, but that win in Chapel Hill against and emotional Tar Heel team was a big one. If Wake is going to keep this dream season up, they needed to get that W headed into this final stretch of games. The last four include three against foes with a combined 19-5 record, and that doesn’t even include a road game in Tallahassee!
Can Wake keep it up against the better teams in the league? I think so. I certainly hope so. A 2-2 split would be acceptable to me (obviously real Wake fans would like better, but come on) and would put the Deacs at 9-3 on the season and 5-3 in the conference. That’s a hell of a year!