Bourbonstreet’s ACC Capsule: Week 14

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Been a helluva a year in the ACC folks! The team playing the best football at
this moment (our very own Hokies) will not be playing in Jacksonville. But the
former ACC doormats know as the Wake Forest Deacs will travel to JAX, as they
carved out an amazing 10 win season for themselves. Wake will be playing a team
whose QB has tossed 54 completions to the other side, and only completed 48% of
his passes to his own team. That would be Reggie Ball and the Georgia Tech
Yellow-Jackets. How many of you called that ACC title match-up??? Not me.

FINAL 2006 ACC REGULAR-SEASON STANDINGS

ATLANTIC DIVISION
School ACC Overall
Wake Forest 6-2 10-2
Boston College 5-3 9-3
Maryland 5-3 8-4
Clemson 5-3 8-4
Florida State 3-5 6-6
NC State 2-6 3-9
COASTAL DIVISION
School ACC Overall
Georgia Tech 7-1 9-3
Virginia Tech 6-2 10-2
Virginia 4-4 5-7
Miami 3-5 6-6
North Carolina 2-6 3-9
Duke 0-8 0-12

FINAL 2006 ACC GRADES

Below I’ve given you a look back at last week, a quickie look ahead to 2007
in terms of which teams return what kinda talent, and my final 2006 letter
grades for each team. Final letter grades are based on all 119 D-1 football
teams comparatively.

ATLANTIC DIVISION:


Boston College: (9-3 overall, 5-3 ACC)

  • Offense: B+
  • Defense: B+++
  • Special Teams: A-
  • Overall: the highest possible B+, as B.C.
    was only three plays away from being perfect on 2006

Boston College has dropped every game vs. the Miami Hurricanes since Doug
Flutie connected with WR Gerald Phelan to win the game in the Orange Bowl way
back in 1984. That’s dropping 15 straight vs. Miami if you are keeping score
at home. Last Thanksgiving night the Flying-Eagles looked a bit sluggish to me,
though Miami is a very difficult defensive speed match-up for the BC offense to
handle. For such a truncated offensive effort, BC did lead by 11 at one point,
had a +2 turnover margin on the road, and only needed a field-goal to tie with
just less than three minutes left. But cardiac QB Matt Ryan’s 9th come
from behind victory was not to be, as the Flying Eagles finished 9-3 on the year
and were mathematically eliminated from any ACC Atlantic contention in the
process. Still, a nine win season for the team picked to finish no better than
6th overall in the ACC is no bad year. BC has officially earned a nice bowl in
my book, and will return nine on defense and seven on offense next year.


Clemson: (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC)

  • Offense: A (only A in all of the ACC in fact)
  • Defense: A-
  • Special Teams: B+
  • Overall: B+++. But this team should have been no
    less than a flat A, as the Tigers had the best combined offensive and defensive
    lines in the entire ACC

C.J. Spillerer ran for a downright bizarre 15.5 yards per carry last week, but
even his superhuman effort could not lift the Clemson Tigers to victory over
arch-rival South Carolina, as the Tigers were beaten by a field-goal midway
through the 4th quarter, falling 28 to 31 to the Gamecocks. The Tigers had their
chances, as a +2 turnover margin, and 181 total yards rushing would suggest, but
the depleted Clemson defense finally came apart at the seams, and allowed Steve
Spurrier’s boys to roll up nearly 500 yards on the day. Clemson struggled to
stop both the run and the pass, allowing over 200 yards of each. Next year the
2007 Clemson offensive line will be gutted by departing four senior starters,
and the Tigers subsequently will only return four offensive starters in 2007.
The Tigers defense departs all starting linebackers and six starters overall, so
2007 looks a bit down for the Clemson faithful.


Florida State: (6-6 overall, 3-5 ACC)

  • Offense: D
  • Defense: A-
  • Special Teams: D
  • Overall: C-.
    Offensive production here was
    nearly a disgrace, poor coaching is all you can call this level of output

The Florida State Seminoles were able to hang within one full play of the 3rd
ranked Florida Gators at home last weekend, only getting beat by a 21-14 score.
Per all year, the main FSU issue was to be found on the offensive side of the
Seminole line-of-scrimmage, as the ‘Noles struggled to complete 41% of their
passes vs. the only team I can see with a debatable shot at beating Ohio State,
the Florida Gators. A -2 turnover margin, and a 3rd down conversion rate of 33%
left the Seminole defense out on the Tallahassee playing field too long, as the
Gators controlled time of possession, and won in spite of 14 penalties for 130
yards in reverse. The bottom line here was that while Florida can play better,
the FSU Seminoles basically can not. Next year the ‘Noles will return seven on
offense, and 10 ballers off of their 16th ranked 2006 defense. So if Coach
Bowden can land himself a top-flight offensive-coordinator this off-season, the
2007 ‘Noles should be able to press for 10 wins.


Maryland: (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC)

  • Offense: D
  • Defense: D
  • Special Teams: A+
  • Overall: C+++. Maryland barely broke 90th
    in either total offense or total defense! How amazing is eight wins for such a
    below average football team?

Most of the time when you run for 194 at home, you are very likely going to
win the football game. That however was not the case last Saturday night, as the
Terrapins dropped a 14 point decision at home by a final score of 24-38.
Turnovers eventually beat Maryland last weekend, but not before Terrapin RB Keon
Lattimore tried to get 119 yards worth of words in edge wise. It is interesting
to note that in Maryland’s 4 L’s on the year senior QB Sam Hollebach has a
ugly 4:8 passing ratio (TDs:INTs). I’m not gonna tell you Maryland could have
won all four, but maybe one out of B.C. or Wake were within reach. For 2007 the
Terrapins return eight on offense, including four outta five upfront, and the
defense brings back eight as well. So it’s not a stretch to suggest that
Maryland will be better, providing they can find a solid QB.


N.C. State: (3-9 overall, 2-6 ACC)

  • Offense: D-
  • Defense: B-
  • Special Teams: C
  • Overall: D- for underachieving all year
    long, as this was a six win team in an undisciplined three win disguise

N.C. State looked pretty suspect to me last week, despite getting beat by
only five points, 21-16, as the ECU Pirates won an easier game that the final
scoreboard would suggest. The Wolfpac drove the field for 76 yards on what was
ultimately a meaningless final possession, thus skewing the final box score a
bit in State’s favor. Per the entire year, the Wolfpac defense played good
enough to win, but was on the field for too long in the final 30 minutes of
play. The State offense was its usual limited self, plenty of speed and
athletes, but no real play makers, which reads rather contrarian does it not?
The Wolfpac hurt themselves with untimely penalties, and the inability to
prevent the big offensive play from ECU QB James Pinkney. Pinkney was held to a
very pedestrian sub 50% passing night, but his 14 completions averaged a
sparkling 15+ yards per catch. State finished with only three wins on the year,
though it is clear to me they had 100% more victories in them in terms of raw
Wolfpac talent levels. This is exemplified by the fact that 67% of all State
victories came vs. ranked football teams. Next year, State returns eight on
offense, and seven on defense, and should be fully able to surpass three wins
for 2007.


Wake Forest: (10-2 overall, 6-2 ACC)

  • Offense: C+
  • Defense: B+
  • Special Teams: A-
  • Overall: a very low A- kinda year, their
    lack of offensive balance prevented this overall letter-grade from being a flat
    A.

36 years have past since Wake last played for the ACC championship in
football. Thanks to a very impressive 38-24 road victory up in College Park,
Maryland last weekend, the Demon-Deacs are on their way to Jacksonville to play
Georgia Tech for the ACC’s B.C.S. auto-berth. Last week Wake was four yards
short of an even 300 on the ground, and in one look at the scoreboard and you
can see the +2 Demon-Dec turnover margin manifest itself in the final 14 point
margin for the game. Wake RB Kenneth Moore chalked up a nifty 165 on the ground,
and QB Riley Skinner nailed a very efficient 77% of his pass attempts, as the
Demon-Deac offense mostly ran, and threw only on occasion, like a well-oiled
machine. 2006 was Wake’s highest win total ever, and the Demon-Deacs became
the very first ACC team to carve six winning notches on their visiting belts.
That’s ACC Coach of the Year Award winning impressive folks. Next year Wake
returns seven on offense and six on defense. But both QBs will be back, and the
Demon-Deacs recover the services of their former top-2 RBs, both currently out
for the year.

COASTAL DIVISION:


Duke: (0-12 overall, 0-8 ACC)

  • Offense: F-
  • Defense: D+
  • Special Teams: F–
  • Overall: a flat F for Duke, though their
    defense was a B quality stop-unit for a while

The 2006 Duke Blue-Devils were perfect. Perfect in that wrong direction that
is, as the Blue-Devils closed out 2006 with a furious 13 point rally in the last
4:25 of play, only to have their final PAT of the year snuffed-out. Thereby
ensuring a 0 for 12 finish to their 2006 regular season. Even if you are no fan
of Duke, that kinda year leaves a mark. Duke’s offense was pretty good, 44
points scored usually is, as QB Thaddeus Lewis did all he could do, throwing for
4 TD’s on the day, and Duke Wideout Eron Riley snagged 6 throws for his second
100 yard receiving day for 2006. The once testy Duke defense was another matter,
as the Blue-Devil stop-unit yielded a hair over 450 total yards on the day. 200+
of which were on the ground. Still…Duke’s offense gained valuable experience
this year, and every single Blue-Devil offensive starter returns for 2007. On
defense, the right side of the Duke defensive line departs, as do both DBs. So
it may be a while before Dukies can feel the sting of victory champagne in their
eyes again.



Georgia Tech (9-3 overall, 7-1 ACC)

  • Offense: C+
  • Defense: lowest possible A-
  • Special Teams: solid C+
  • Overall: a B+++ kinda football team,
    would have been higher had their running game developed earlier in 2006

Georgia Tech was upset by the Georgia Bulldogs down in Athens, Georgia last
week, by the score of 12-15 against. If you have followed ACC football the last
four years, you just knew it had to happen, and you were prolly surprised it had
not happened sooner. But eventually you were sure that the “human interception
machine” himself, one Reggie Ball, would have his giveaway game and hand the
other team a win before the 2006 season ended. Or rather I should have typed
throw, the game away, as senior Georgia Tech QB Reggie Ball only hit for a
miserable 27% on the day, on his way to a personal -3 turnover margin all by
himself. Two Reggie Ball picks, one Reggie Ball fumble returned for six points,
and that was that, as the better team gift wrapped this one on black Friday+1 to
the Georgia Bulldogs. Yellow-Jacket RB Tashard Choice did rush for his 6th 100
yard day for 2006, and the Rambling-Wreck defense only permitted 255 total yards
on the day. But one has to wonder just how long this Bulldog hang-over will
linger for one Reggie Ball? How high can his confidence level be heading down to
Jacksonville next week? I still view the Yellow-Jackets as the best all-around
team playing in the ACC championship game, but their mentality heading into JAX
is shaky at best.


Miami

  • Offense: D
  • Defense: A+
  • Special Teams: D-
  • Overall: D-. Can’t give this team any
    better than that, major tank-job, brutal season on-field, even harsher off-field

The 2001 National Championship winning Miami Florida head football coach won
his last game as the Hurricanes’ head coach last Thanksgiving night, upsetting
#18 ranked Boston College 17 to 14 in the fabled Orange Bowl. I told a few of
you that ESPN sideline reporter extraordinaire Erin Andrews must have known
something was up down in Coral Gables last Thursday night. As she asked ex-coach
Corker four times about either his future plans, or whether he would be coaching
the Hurricanes next season. Coach Corker will not be back. But 17 Hurricane
starters will (nine on offense, eight on defense). If at all possible, I
strongly suggest that Miami hire a replacement coach this week. It strikes me as
a disservice to all whom it may concern to parade a lame-duck coach out, and
then ask him to do a good job in a bowl game. Hire a new coach right away if you
can, then let him audition his 2007 Miami football team in a minor bowl,
presuming the ‘Canes receive such a bid. As for last Thanksgiving night…the
‘Canes held a rather crafty Flying Eagle offense to a paltry 193 total yards
on the night, a 13% conversion rate on 3rd downs and 0% on three different 4th
down occasions. That’s pretty impressive, but what’s even more impressive is
overcoming a -2 turnover margin to win.

All is not right in South Beach, but there are some signs of 2007 life, the keys
will be: who will the ‘Canes bring in as head football coach? When is he
hired? And will Miami gain the always future-tense benefits of the extra two to
four weeks of bowl football practices, a preemptive version of spring practice
if you will.


North Carolina: (3-9 overall, 2-6 ACC)

  • Offense: D-
  • Defense: D-
  • Special Teams: A-
  • Overall: the best I can do is a flat D,
    on bonus points for a gutty finish, and for such solid special teams play all
    year

To lame-duck former UNC head football coach John Bunting’s credit, his
Tar-Heels played pretty dag-gone hard to close the year, despite the termination
of his six year reign down in Chapel Hill. UNC closed with back to back wins on
2006 (N.C. State and Duke), hung with Notre Dame as best they could, and were
within one full-play of bowl bound Maryland and Wake Forest. That folks is a
sure-fire sign of a players’ coach. Last week the Tar-Heels barely held on via
stellar special-teams play to edge ACC neighbor Duke by one point to send Coach
Bunting out on a winning note. UNC enjoyed fine afternoons from its quartet of
RBs, all of whom averaged not less than 4.2 yards per carry on the day. WR
Hakeem Nicks had a triple-digit receiving day (117), as the Tar-Heel offense
chalked up its highest D-1 offensive scoring output of the year by a very smooth
19 points. Next year former Miami Hurricane coach Butch Davis takes over the
Tar-Heel reins, and returns four out of five offensive linemen, and seven
overall on offense. But with only six back on defense, if you are a UNC fan be
patient, better football times lie ahead, but they may not get here until 2009.




Virginia: (5-7 overall, 4-4 ACC)

  • Offense: F
  • Defense: A-
  • Special Teams: C-
  • Overall: C. This is one of the few football
    teams that played to their potential all year long in the ACC, that’s not a
    compliment, nor is that an insult; the cavs gave you what they had, and that’s
    all you can ask

12 penalties did not help, nor did -31 total return yards. As virginia
repeatedly anted up hidden yardage, and the associated field-position battle was
forfeit, as the hoos finally folded in another hand of Commonwealth Cup poker on
the Lane Stadium turf last Saturday afternoon. The hoo defense did play well in
the first half, but, per usual, gradually began to wear down, and then wore plum
out in the final third of the game. Byron Glaspy (#22, Free-Safety) came to
play, as did Howie Long’s son. But in the end the parisian offense just could
not get much beyond the Hokie line-of-scrimmage all day. As the hoos’ longest
run went for 21 feet, and their longest pass barely eked out 24 yards, and some
of that was due to a missed Hokie tackle. Virginia will return every single
front-line starter in 2007, 10 starters on defense, and seven on offense. So the
hoos should be a bowl quality team next year. But I don’t see a lot of success
in store for the frenchies until they import some offensive play-makers, when
the match-up with the top four ACC speed-based football teams.


Virginia Tech (10-2 overall, 6-2 ACC)

  • Offense: C-
  • Defense: A+++ (first-best in all of D-1!)
  • Special Teams: A-
  • Overall: A-. Considering coaching turnover,
    offensive line turnover, o-line injuries, 2005 defensive stars now playing Pro
    ball, and a greenhorn QB…this very well might have be Frank and Staff’s
    greatest coaching effort yet! And that’s saying something folks.

The all Chicago Maroon look was back, Branden Ore was not, but it did not
matter in the end, as our Hokies eventually took control of the game and beat
the hoos 17-0, in a defensive, old-fashioned first-school struggle. In doing so
our Hokies pitched their fourth shut-out of the year. That is very impressive,
but winning the Commonwealth Cup for the 7th time in 8 years is domination!

Domination is a pretty good word to toss around regarding Bud Foster’s 2006
stop-unit. Holding the french offense to only 113 on the day is by definition a
dominant performance. If you could see the football, you had a very good chance
to spot at least one of the following three Hokies last Saturday in Lane: as
Barry Booker, Vince Hall and Cary Wade swarmed to the pigskin all day long. This
was very helpful in producing nearly a 3 to 1 total yardage margin in favor of
our Hokies.

In the final 30 minutes of play the VT ground game finally got on track, as
Kenny Lewis and George Bell took turns breaking off 4 to 8 yard runs throughout
the second half of play. Nic Schmitt had a fine day as well, booming five punts
for an all-conference quality 47 yard average. In 2007 our beloved Hokies will
return eight starters on both sides of the ball, and the 2007 Hokie defense has
a very legit chance to be the best Hokie defensive unit of all-time. Easily the
best hind-7 VT has ever fielded (LB’s plus Secondary), and only one bell-cow
on the D-line away from best-ever VT defensive status.

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