Around the ACC: November 30, 2009

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It was a rough week for the ACC’s divisional champions. Clemson and Georgia
Tech were beaten by two middle of the pack SEC teams, which takes a lot of the
air out of next Saturday’s ACC Championship Game.

Clemson was defeated by South Carolina and Georgia Tech fell to Georgia, two
teams who finished 7-5 overall and combined to go just 7-9 in SEC play. There is
a possibility that the Hokies could find themselves facing one of those two
teams in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Atlantic Division

Clemson (8-4, 6-2)

Clemson lost for the first time since October 3, falling to in-state rival
South Carolina 34-17 on Saturday in Columbia. The Gamecocks dominated the game,
outgaining Clemson 388 to 260 and limiting star tailback C.J. Spiller to just 18
yards on the ground.

Spiller returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, but South
Carolina steadily took control throughout the first half. SC finished with 223
rushing yards and controlled the ball for over 36 minutes. Despite their
struggles in the SEC this year, the Gamecocks took on the best team from the
ACC’s Atlantic Division and whipped them soundly at the line of scrimmage.

The Tigers have to regroup before facing Georgia Tech in Saturday’s ACC
Championship Game. They lost to the Yellow Jackets 30-27 in their first meeting,
and the second meeting figures to be just as entertaining. Kickoff is scheduled
for 8pm on ESPN.

Boston College (8-4, 5-3)

Boston College beat Maryland 19-17 on Saturday. Overall, this has to be
considered a very good season for the Eagles. They came into 2009 with a new
head coach in Frank Spaziani, new offensive and defensive coordinators, as well
as a group of quarterbacks who had never taken a college snap. 8-4 is probably a
best-case scenario under those conditions, and that’s what the Eagles got.

True freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie had his good moments and bad moments,
but his future looks solid. The 25-year old passed for over 1,800 yards,
throwing 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

However, it was true sophomore tailback Montel Harris that made this a
successful season for the BC offense. Harris finished second in the ACC in
rushing, averaging 119.9 yards per game.

The Emerald Bowl in San Francisco or the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte
seem like good bets for bowl destinations at this time.

Florida State (6-6, 4-4)

Florida State is the third and final bowl eligible team in the ACC Atlantic,
barely making it in with a 6-6 record. The Seminoles were pounded by #1 Florida
37-10 in The Swamp. Following the game, Bobby Bowden said he had some “soul
searching to do” with regards to his status for 2010.

Bowden wants to coach one more year, but should he? Mickey Andrews is
retiring as defensive coordinator. If Bowden returns, who will hire the new
defensive coordinator? Bowden himself, who will only be there for one more year
most likely, or coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher? This is a perfect example of a
division of authority on a coaching staff, and it’s why most schools haven’t
adopted the coach-in-waiting idea.

Like Boston College, Florida State could end up in the Emerald Bowl or the
Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Wake Forest (5-7, 3-4)

Wake Forest broke a five-game losing streak, knocking off Duke 45-34 in
Durham. The Demon Deacons aren’t going to a bowl this year. They had perhaps the
worst luck of any ACC team this year. Five of their seven losses came by a
combined 13 points.

Wake lost to Baylor (24-21), Boston College (27-24 in OT), Navy (13-10),
Miami (28-27) and Georgia Tech (30-27 in OT) in very tight football games. The
Deacs didn’t quite have the talent to knock off those teams, after losing four
defensive players in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Riley Skinner finished his career after taking Wake to a bowl game for three
consecutive seasons in his first three years. He finished in style, throwing a
school-record five touchdown passes against the Blue Devils.

NC State (5-7, 2-5)

NC State had only won one football game since September until Saturday, when
they upset in-state rival North Carolina 28-27 in Raleigh. It was the third
straight win for the Wolfpack against the hated Tar Heels, and they get to end a
disappointing, injury-plagued season on a positive note.

NC State was outgained 481 to 335, but they were +2 in turnover margin, which
turned out to be the difference in the game. Russell Wilson was 20-of-27 for 259
yards, with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Owen Spencer and Jarvis
Williams combined for 11 catches for 180 yards and four touchdowns.

The Wolfpack will not be going bowling this year, but they return most of
their team intact for 2010. If they can manage to stay healthy, expect good
things from Tom O’Brien’s squad.

Maryland (2-10, 1-7)

Maryland’s nightmare 2009 season came to an end on Saturday with a 19-17 home
loss to Boston College. Ralph Friedgen’s future in College Park is very much in
doubt, but as of the time of this writing no decision has been announced with
regards to his future.

The Terps suffered from a major lack of talent on both sides of the ball this
year. Friedgen is a good X’s and O’s coach, but the talent level at Maryland has
slowly slipped as the decade has progressed. The Terps have had several stars
such as Vernon Davis and Shawn Merriman, but they have never had a lot of depth.

Coastal Division

Georgia Tech (10-2, 7-1)

A great season for Georgia Tech ended on a sour note on Saturday night, as
the Yellow Jackets lost at home to in-state rival Georgia 30-24. This was
another bad moment for the ACC, with a middle of the pack SEC team beating the
ACC’s best.

Georgia Tech’s defense allowed 415 yards of total offense, and the Yellow
Jacket offense was thoroughly dominated in the first half. Georgia led 17-3 at
halftime, but Georgia Tech tried to make a run in the second half.

The Yellow Jackets advanced the ball to the Georgia Tech 46 with just under
two minutes left. However, they elected to go away from their bread and butter
and throw four consecutive passes, all of which fell incomplete, including a
drop on fourth down by Demaryius Thomas.

Georgia Tech will look to finish their season strong and make a BCS bowl by
winning the ACC this weekend. They play Clemson at 8pm on ESPN.

Virginia Tech (9-3, 6-2)

The Hokies closed their season in strong fashion, whipping in-state rival UVA
42-13 in Charlottesville on Saturday. Tech has now won four straight games, with
three of them coming by 27 points of more.

Ryan Williams ran for 183 yards and four touchdowns. It was his second
consecutive game with four touchdowns or more. He now had 20 touchdowns on the
season, which breaks the previous record held by NC State’s T.A. McLendon.
Williams finished the regular season with 1,538 yards. A 110 yard performance in
the bowl game will break the single season school rushing record set by Kevin
Jones in 2003.

Danny Coale also had a big game, repeatedly beating star UVA cornerback Ras-I
Dowling. Coale had six catches for a career-high 135 yards. Tyrod Taylor threw
for 185 yards, so it’s easy to see exactly how much Coale meant to the Tech
passing game.

Right now Virginia Tech is being projected in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta
or the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. However, they still have an outside shot of
landing an at-large berth in a BCS Bowl. We will cover those chances in an
article later this week.

Miami (9-3, 5-3)

Miami closed the season strong, blowing out South Florida 31-10 on the road
on Saturday. The Canes weren’t quite the ACC title contenders everyone thought
they were after the first two games of the season, but they had a very good
year, and they return the bulk of their team for 2010.

Jacory Harris passed for 161 yards and two touchdowns, while Damien Berry ran
for 114 and Graig Cooper added 83. The tough Miami defense limited the South
Florida offense to just 220 total yards. This was a dominating performance by
the Hurricanes in every phase of the game.

As of now, Miami looks poised to go to either the Champs Sports Bowl in
Orlando or the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. Both would be good rewards for a very
good season.

North Carolina (8-4, 4-4)

North Carolina and NC State were two teams going in opposite directions. The
Tar Heels had run off five straight wins and looked like one of the best teams
in the ACC, while NC State had just one win since the month of September, and
that came over last place Maryland. However, you can throw the records out in
rivalry games, as the Wolfpack beat UNC 28-27 behind a second half comeback.

Turnovers were the difference. The Tar Heels outgained the Wolfpack 481 to
335, but UNC had two turnovers while NC State had none. UNC looked like the
better team, but they lost the game on the scoreboard, and that’s all that

North Carolina will still get a nice bowl game. Right now they look like they
are headed to the Music City Bowl, and a matchup with border rival South
Carolina is very possible.

Duke (5-7, 3-5)

Duke came up short in their quest to finish at .500, and they did not qualify
for a bowl. Their latest loss came 45-34 at the hands of Wake Forest, and the
Blue Devils will be sitting at home for the holidays yet again. Their last bowl
appearance came in 1994.

However, that doesn’t take anything away from what David Cutcliffe has
accomplished in just two years at the helm at Duke. The Blue Devils have won a
total of nine football games over the past two years. Considering they won just
10 games from 2002 through 2007, it’s easy to see the progress the program has
made in such a short time.

Virginia (3-9, 2-6)

Virginia was pasted 42-13 at home by Virginia Tech on Saturday, and it didn’t
take Virginia athletics director Craig Littlepage long to make a move. Al Groh
was fired early Sunday afternoon, ending a 9-year tenure that started very
strong, but fizzled out towards the end. This is the third time in four years
that the Hoos have failed to qualify for a bowl, and the writing was on the wall
for Groh.

So who will be Virginia’s next head coach? A popular choice would be Richmond
head coach Mike London, who won the 1-AA National Championship last year. He is
a former assistant at UVA, and he has good in-state recruiting ties, which is
something UVA lacks right now.

Another choice could be Temple coach Al Golden. In just his second year at
Temple, Golden has the Owls at 9-3, and they won nine consecutive games from
September 26 through November 21. Temple will be going bowling for the first
time since 1979, and this is their first winning record since 1990. Golden is
also a former Al Groh assistant.

This will be a hire that Tech fans will be keeping their eyes on, as it will
impact in-state recruiting.

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