Forest is hugging the rail on the inside track to represent the ACC in JAX?
Georgia Tech and Reggie “The human turnover machine” Ball will touch down on
The Landing in JAX? How amazing is it that the once mighty Sunshine State ACC
schools known as Miami and Florida State have now been beaten seven times in
league play, eight times overall, and appear to be fighting for the 7th and 8th
ACC bowl slots respectively? And how about N.C. State, North Carolina, and Duke
combining for only f-o-u-r wins on 2006?
“Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Strange days indeed. Most
peculiar momma.” –John Lennon-
That has been the ACC football season through the first 3/4’s of 2006, and
as we round the bend and head into of the final quarter of 2006, who will emerge
to play in the ACC auto-birth bowls ranked 2nd through 8th? Will there even be
eight bowl eligible ACC teams? Let’s find out…
Current ACC Standings
This Week’s Games
N.C. State+14 @ Clemson O/U=44.5: (11.11, Saturday 12noon, LFN-split)
- NCS strengths: Special-Teams play, Pass Defense, Sacks/TFL.
- NCS weaknesses: Turnover Margin, Passing Efficiency, Offense in general.
- CU strengths: 1st best QB protection, Sacks/TFL, Total Defense.
- CU weaknesses: Ground game is slowing down a bit, Punt Returns.
After three quarters of play, N.C. State held a two point lead over likely
ACC Coastal champion Georgia Tech, but State did not score again, and GT tallied
10 points in the final 15 minutes to win. The Wolfpac tried to resuscitate the
1980’s version of Air Coryell, throwing 53 times, but only connecting 41% of
the time. That’s not a Dan Fouts kinda night. If State had some discipline, a
QB, and even just one reliable RB, this would be bowling quality football team,
maybe even a Top-4 ACC football team. As the Wolfpac defense is willing, but the
State offensive body is just not intact. The Wolfpac is a very incomplete and
imbalanced football team, but one that has beaten two ranked teams already this
It sure looks like a certain Thursday night football game played a couple of
weeks ago gave the Clemson Tigers probable cause to let go the 2006 rope, as the
Tigers clearly have the better backfield, and front-lines when compared to the
Maryland Terrapins. Clemson RB James Davis did top 1000 yards rushing for 2006,
becoming the first Tiger to do so in six years. But three Tiger offensive drives
of 70+ yards stalled in the Maryland red-zone. As the antithesis of the
guessing-game known as Clemson QB Will Proctor “is getting colder”, not
warmer as 2006 progresses. So the team that once seemed a Coastal Divisional
lock for Jacksonville now appears to be struggling for a Champs or Peach Bowl
This is a case of two trains moving in the same wrongful direction. The only
assessment I can make is that the State team is moving at the greater
misdirected velocity. I’ll take Clemson at home in Death Valley. But little
Bowden badly needs to rally his sagging troops.
Probability of upset=37%
Wake Forest+6.5 @ Florida State O/U=42: (11.11, Saturday 8pm, ABC)
- WF strengths: counter based Running game, 11th in Net Punting, 12th in
- WF weaknesses: 108th Passing Offense, 88th in Pass Defense, skill-position
- FSU strengths: 8th best Run Defense, 10th in Total Defense, Sacks/TFL,
- FSU weaknesses: 3rd worst Kickoff Returns, 90th in Rushing, 87th in
Senior S Patrick Ghee’s interception in the Wake Forest end zone prevented
the 2006 ACC Cinderella football team’s clock from striking 12; he did so at
precisely 57 seconds before midnight, or at least with 57 seconds remaining in
the 4th Quarter. The Demon-Deacs totally beyond improbable march towards an
Atlantic Divisional birth in the ACC title tilt down in JAX continued. Wake won
despite being out-gained by exactly 150 total yards, despite converting only 30%
of their 3rd down attempts, and despite former back-up QB Ryan Skinner’s two
INT’s on the night. Wake was however the more disciplined football team,
accumulating seven less penalty-flags and rushing for 132 more yards than B.C.
did down in Winston-Salem, NC. Is Wake a great football team? My answer is “no”,
but they have been greatly coached all year, and Jim Grobe may be the only ACC
coach who departs the ACC this spring via means other than being handed the
FSU really turned france inside-out last week, pitching a perfect 33-zilch
shut-out in the process of rising to exactly one game above .500 on 2006. But
did FSU really turn france inside-out? The ‘Noles only managed 118 on the
ground, only completed 45% of their passes, and were greatly aided by nine
defensive points scored and a +2 turnover margin on the day. As a fellow WWII
history buff, I actually like Bobby Bowden. But clearly this is his worst
football team in the last 20 years, and most of this blame must be laid at the
feet of Bobby nepotistic offensive coordinator and birth son Jeff Bowden. The
‘Noles top two QB’s were ranked 7th outta H.S. on average, their top two RB’s
were ranked 4th on average, their WR’s were ranked 26th on average, and the
O-Line was ranked 56th. That’s a lot of offensive talent producing very little
in the way of results folks.
Clearly momentum is on the side of the Demon-Deacs, but the ‘Noles did get
well a bit last week, and are playing the 2nd of their four game home-stand to
end 2006. That does help. B.C. did not have the defensive speed or athletes to
mess with the Wake Forest counter based rushing attack. FSU on the other hand
does. I’ll take cowgirl Jen’s team here.
Probability of upset=40%
Duke+27.5 @ Boston College O/U=44: (11.11, Saturday 7pm, ESPNU)
- Duke strengths: Kickoff returns, TFL, that’s it.
- Duke weaknesses: scheduling, depth/health, ranked 102nd or worse in 10 out
of 17 D-1 categories I track. (119 total teams this year).
- BC strengths: Ryan/Passing Offense, 11th in Turnover Margin, 12th in
Rushing Defense, 4th in Kickoff Returns.
- BC weaknesses: Pass Defense, Running-attack, different team on the Road.
Poor Duke. A never was offense, coupled with a has-been defense is no way to
close out a college football season, as Navy got well in racking up a smashing
good 425 on the ground vs. the Blue-Devils last weekend in Durham, North
Carolina. But wait, it gets worse. If that was not bad enough, Duke suffered a
complete composure melt-down, going 3 Mile Island during a scuffle with the: “We
don’t say anything more than Yes or No Sir.” Midshipmen which saw Duke DE
Greg Akinbiyi ejected for kicking and fighting with the Middies to start the 4th
quarter. “Hello zero-twelve, Duke is calling.”
Last week Junior Flying-Eagle QB Matt Ryan went off to the tune of 400+ yards
passing. But he chalked up a -1 turnover margin the wrong way and fell one pass
short of his 8th comeback on his career late in the 4th quarter last week, as 10
different B.C. WR’s caught multiple passes vs. Wake Forest. Converting just
under 50% of your 3rd downs, and 67% of your 4th downs is no bad way to live,
but rushing for only 28 yards is very bad for such a bulky offensive-line, which
blocks for two RB’s that combined for almost 1,600 yards last year. This year
they are on pace for approximately 1,250 rushing yards. That’s a major-drop
off for an offensive-line that had as many as three preseason all-ACC
first-teams to its credit.
But fear not Flying-Eagle fans, the ACC get-well-soon-card also know as the
Duke Blue-Devils football team is coming to Bean-Towne this weekend, as the Duke
run-stop unit has fallen over 40 spots on the year. Ergo, B.C. notches their 8th
win on 2006 by at least 25.
Probability of an upset=1%
Georgia Tech-13.5 @ North Carolina O/U=45.5: (11.11 Saturday
- GT strengths: #1 in Net Punting, attacking Defense, 33rd in Rushing, Cal
- GT weaknesses: 90th in Passing Offense, that’s about it, as no other
unit is ranked lower than 74th.
- UNC strengths: Special Teams play, Pass Defense.
- UNC weaknesses: next to last in Turnover Margin, 6th worst Run Defense,
eight units ranked 108th or worst.
Last week Senior Pivot Reggie Ball tied a career mark with 4 passing TD’s.
But it was the career record breaking efforts of two other Yellow-Jacket
skill-position players that stole the show. Oklahoma transfer RB Tashard Choice
ran for a career best 164, whereas all-world Wideout Cal Johnson snagged 167
receiving yards, setting a personal mark himself. For all those personal GT
bests, it is interesting to note that GT finished with a -2 turnover margin on
the day, while winning by eight points on the road. But 211 rushing yards
compared to 54 rushing yards allowed more than made up for the poor pigskin
security showing. As Georgia Tech looks like the eventual ACC Champions to me.
Up in South Bend, UNC anted up 45 points while allowing Brady Quinn to make
his all-American case to the sweet tune of a season-high 346 through the air. As
Notre Dame out-gained UNC by over 250 total yards, had 13 more first downs, and
only allowed the Tar-Heels a paltry 34 yards gained on the ground. All while
finishing with a negative turnover margin on the day. That’s good folks. Maybe
not B.C.S. great, but very good nonetheless. UNC set a 2006 high for points
scored vs. a D-1 opponent (26), and freshman WR Hakeem Hicks did have a career
high of 171 yards in receiving. But still, this is clearly the 2nd worst ACC
football team, and it may be the only football team pitiful Duke beats all year.
This week the user-friendly hit-parade also known as the John Bunting
farewell tour hosts the Rambling Wreck of Georgia Tech. Instead of the 1970’s
classic television show: “Name That Tune”, this week reminds me of Name That
Score. As the Yellow-Jackets can very likely set terms for every how many points
they feel like tallying. I’ll call for a 30+ win from GT.
Probability of an upset=3%
Miami+3 @ Maryland O/U=38: (11.11, Saturday 3:30pm, ABC)
- MiaFla strengths: still 3rd in Rushing Defense, tons of TFL/Sacks, nice
- MiaFla weaknesses: QB change forthcoming? Return Teams, QB protection.
- MU strengths: Cardiologist’s dream (tons of heart!), Special Teams play.
- MU weaknesses: Total Offense, Defense and Turnover Margin all ranked worse
If Webster’s published a college football dictionary, and you looked up the
word persistency…the 2006 Maryland Terrapins would surely have their
black and white stenciled beside that very word. Maryland kicker Dan Ennis
booted a 31 yard field goal to rally the Terrapins to a one point road victory
over 19th ranked Clemson last week jus’ as the game clock struck 0:00 down in
South Carolina. Maryland senior QB Sam Hollenbach connected on 11 straight
throws at one point, probably playing his best game of his –until now- only
so-so college career. In a game that saw Clemson conspicuously flagged one time
for 5 yards, the Terrapins overcame 38 yards gained by their leading RB to win
yet another gutty, gritty, scrappy game on 2006.
Miami on the other hand has been persistently in-disciplined, and therefore
not surprisingly, persistently inconsistent on offense. Take the ‘Canes
first-half offensive effort last Saturday Night for example, “The U” was bad
for 25 yards gained on their first 16 offensive plays, then only gained 37 more
for the rest of the first 30 minutes of play. But then Miami’s 2nd and 3rd
drives of the second-half amassed 43, and 58 yards respectively. That kind of
yo-yo’ing offensive output must be exceptionally maddening for Miami Head
Coach Larry Coker. The ‘Canes do have tons of offensive talent, ditto
offensive speed. But they are jus’ not making plays and are one, maybe two
o-linemen short of a complete offensive unit.
This week the nose-diving Ibis’s must travel to play surging Maryland up in
College Park. If Miami was not ready to quit last Saturday night, I expect they
now are fully prepared to tap-out on 2006. The only remote hope I can see here
is if back-up QB Kirby Freeman might somehow ignite the feckless ‘Canes. But
he is barely a 50% thrower with a sub average 1:1 ratio (TD’s:INT’s) on his
career. I gotta go with the team that will n-o-t quit no matter what. Maryland
by about a full play.
Probability of an upset=30%
Kent State+27 @ Virginia Tech O/U=43.5: (11.11, Saturday 3:30pm,
- KSU strengths: Jack Lambert played there, nice QB-based ground-game, 8th
in pass defense.
- KSU weaknesses: very poor Special Teams play, 96th in QB protection, 86th
in Run Defense.
- VT strengths: ranked 5th or better in four outta five main Defensive
categories, momentum, overall team health, improving Return Teams.
- VT weaknesses: 85th in Sacks allowed, 87th in Net Punting, O-Line health.
We beat Miami by one full play last Saturday night down in So.Beach. But how
we overcame the following stat line requires some explanation: we completed 24%
of our passes, gained 19 yards in the final 30 minutes of play, had one fumble,
one INT, one INT called-back, allowed the pinch-hitting Tyrone Moss to rush for
1o3 in less than three quarters of play, while only Netting 58 on the ground
ourselves. I went so far as to ask Fox Mulder, but even he can not explain
winning a football game on the road at night like that.
Therefore, I gotta call last Saturday night one of the biggest VT wins since
we upset Miami for the first time way back in 1995 in Lane! Helluva a great
night to leave Coral Gables with our 7th notch in the ole Win Column, which sets
a perfect table to help ourselves to a 7-0 finish to 2006. It has been a long
time since we were out-gained and still won a football game. How long you ask?
23 overall games have elapsed since we won when we were last out-gained! That
just does not happen very often folks. And riddle me this, because I’m not
overly sure what number to assign as an answer to this question…how long has
it been since Bud Foster put together such dominant back to back game plans vs.
so very much offensive talent???
Kent State is an average MAC team, but I can not wait to see our defensive
speed go up against smallish running QB Julian Edelman, and downright
microscopic RB Euguen Jarvis. My only concern here is do we win by more or less
than 35 points? Because this outcome is in the bag, a done deal, a foregone
conclusion, that has many proverbial utensils sticking out of it.
Probability of an upset=0%