Around the ACC: December 7, 2009

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Georgia Tech defeated Clemson in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday night,
and the Yellow Jackets will represent the conference in the Orange Bowl. Six
other teams also qualified for bowl games, and postseason football will begin
for the ACC on December 26.

Three ACC teams ended the season ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS. Georgia
Tech checks in at #9, the Hokies are at #11 and Miami is #15. All three teams
are from the Coastal Division. No teams from the Atlantic Division are ranked,
as a result of Clemson losing their final two games of the season.



Meineke Car Care Bowl, UNC vs. #17 Pitt, Dec. 26, 4:30pm, ESPN

North Carolina went 8-4, with a 4-4 mark in the ACC. Their reward is the
Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Pitt was 9-1
before dropping their final two games to West Virginia and Cincinnati. The
Panthers were a botched extra point away from taking Cincinnati into overtime in
a battle for the Big East Championship. They could easily be playing in a BCS
Bowl. Pitt’s three losses came by a combined 11 points.

UNC will have to face freshman tailback Dion Lewis, who is one of the top
running backs in the nation. He ran for 1,640 yards and 16 touchdowns on the
season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 136.7 yards per game. Pitt also has
quarterback Bill Stull, who threw for 2,470 yards, with 21 touchdowns and eight
interceptions.

The Panthers have a very balanced offense, but the Carolina defense will be
the best they have faced all season. The Tar Heels rank sixth nationally in
total defense. They will also have a major homefield advantage playing in their
home state.



Emerald Bowl, Boston College vs. #24 USC, Dec. 26, 8:30pm, ESPN

Boston College (8-4, 5-3) has a tough draw in the Emerald Bowl. The Eagles
must take on the talented Trojans of Southern Cal. Though USC had a down year,
only finishing 8-4, they are still a very talented football team who will be
playing in their home state. This will basically be a road game for Boston
College.

The Trojans struggled this year behind true freshman quarterback Matt
Barkley, who threw 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. USC tailback Joe McKnight
ran for 1,014 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per carry, but the offense as a whole
averaged just 385 yards per game. Yes Hokie fans, the Tech offense averaged more
yards per game (388.3) than the vaunted USC offense.

Still, that’s a tough matchup for BC, who doesn’t have the athletes that the
Trojans will field. BC will have to play smart football, not turn the ball over
and take advantage of their opportunities. Both teams start true freshmen at
quarterback, so it could turn into an interesting game.



Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, Clemson vs. Kentucky, Dec. 27, 8:15pm, ESPN

Clemson was defeated by Georgia Tech 39-34 in Saturday night’s ACC
Championship Game. Once so-close to an Orange Bowl berth, the Tigers now find
themselves playing Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. It’s a solid bowl game, but
not what Clemson was looking for. They have now lost two straight games, to
in-state rival South Carolina and to Georgia Tech.

To beat Kentucky, the Tigers will have to stop the SEC’s Mr. Everything –
Randall Cobb. Cobb returns kicks and punts, and he is his team’s leading
receiver and second leading rusher. He has caught 37 passes for 427 yards and
four touchdowns, he has 84 carries for 537 yards and 10 touchdowns, he has a
punt return for a touchdown and he also averages 26.5 yards per kickoff return.

Cobb has even thrown 10 passes for the Wildcats this year. He started four
games for Kentucky at quarterback in 2008. He can line up anywhere on the field.
Cobb is one of the best players in the country that you’ve never heard of. If
Clemson can limit his production, they should win the game.



Champs Sports Bowl, #15 Miami vs. #25 Wisconsin, Dec. 29, 8pm, ESPN

Miami (9-3, 5-3) will take on Wisconsin in one of the ACC’s best bowl
matchups of the season. Florida State defeated the Badgers in last year’s Champs
Sports Bowl, and Miami will be looking to give the ACC another win over the Big
Ten Conference.

Wisconsin went 9-3 on the season, with losses to Ohio State, Iowa and
Northwestern. The Badgers are the same team they usually are – they play strong
defense and try to control the clock with a power running game. This game should
be an interesting contrast in styles with the high-flying Miami Hurricanes.

Wisconsin tailback John Clay ran for 1,224 yards and 12 touchdowns on the
season. Clay is the typical Badger running back, big and strong at 6-1, 248.
He’ll be facing a fast Miami defense, but Clay has the ability to wear them down
as the game progresses.

Miami needs to jump on top of Wisconsin early and make them throw the ball to
win. That would get the Badgers out of their comfort zone.



Chick-fil-A Bowl, #11 Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee, Dec. 31, 7:30pm, ESPN

The Chick-fil-A Bowl will feature one of the better matchups this bowl
season, with Virginia Tech taking on the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols finished
the season 7-5, with a 4-4 mark in SEC play, and they were a blocked field goal
away from upsetting #1 Alabama on the road.

Tennessee is led by first year head coach Lane Kiffin and his father,
defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. They have a young, small defense that is
suspect against the run but dominant against the pass. Eric Berry is an
All-American safety and future NFL player, and the Vols will make life difficult
for the Tech passing game.

Offensively, Montario Hardesty paces a running game that averages 170 yards
per game on the ground. Hardesty ran for 1,306 yards on the season, with backup
true freshman Bryce Brown adding 460. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton passed for
2,565 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Both teams are hot, with Tech winning four straight games and Tennessee
winning four of their last five. This is a great regional matchup that Hokie
fans have been looking forward to for a long time. The teams have met just seven
times, and just once since 1937, despite their close proximity. Tennessee beat
Virginia Tech 45-23 in the 1994 Gator Bowl.



Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, Florida State vs. #16 West Virginia, Jan. 1, 1pm,
CBS

The Gator Bowl wanted Florida State so they could air Bobby Bowden’s final
game as head coach, and that’s exactly what they got. Despite FSU only going 6-6
and there being much more deserving teams in the ACC, the Seminoles are going to
Jacksonville.

The Gator Bowl isn’t concerned with ruffling feathers in the ACC football
offices. This is the last year the Gator Bowl is affiliated with the ACC, as
they’ll be switching to an SEC-Big Ten matchup next season.

Florida State had a terrible defense this season, allowing 443.5 yards per
game. They’ll have to play a lot better against West Virginia, who will run Noel
Devine and his 108.1 yards per game average. The Mountaineers average 183.5
yards per game on the ground and 198.1 yards per game through the air, making
for a very balanced offense.

WVU is the better football team, but the Florida State players will be
motivated to send Bobby Bowden away with a win.



FedEx Orange Bowl, #9 Georgia Tech vs. #10 Iowa, Jan. 5, 8pm, FOX

Georgia Tech finished the season 11-2, defeating Clemson 39-34 in the ACC
Championship Game. The Yellow Jackets will take their powerful option attack to
Miami to take on a good Big Ten defense that will have a month to prepare.

Iowa went 10-2 on the season, and they are an at-large selection out of the
Big Ten Conference. The Hawkeyes have struggled in the last month with
quarterback Ricky Stanzi out with an injury, but he will be back for the Orange
Bowl. Stanzi averaged 218 yards per game through the air, with 15 touchdowns and
14 interceptions.

Overall, the Iowa offense isn’t much. They averaged just 330.8 yards per game
of total offense, and they averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. The defense has
carried the Hawkeyes. They allow only 288.7 yards and 15.5 point per game.

Because of Iowa’s mediocre offense, this is a game that Georgia Tech should
win, on paper. But football games aren’t played on paper, and the Iowa defense
will have a month to prepare for the option attack.

Coaching Changes

In case you’ve missed it, the ACC will feature two new head football coaches
next season. Bobby Bowden stepped down at Florida State last Tuesday, and he
will coach his final game in the Gator Bowl against West Virginia. Bowden was
the head coach at WVU before moving to Florida State. Coach-in-waiting Jimbo
Fisher will take over the Florida State program in 2010.

In Charlottesville, UVA fired head coach Al Groh and have spent the last week
searching for a replacement. Richmond’s Mike London appears to be the answer.
London is a former assistant on Groh’s staff at Virginia with good ties to
in-state recruiting. He led Richmond to the 1-AA National Championship last
season, and the Spiders advanced to the quarterfinals in the 1-AA playoffs this
year.

London is expected to be announced as UVA’s new head coach as early as today.
He will be expected to turn Virginia’s in-state recruiting efforts around, and
to put a better product on the field.

In other news, Maryland decided to keep head coach Ralph Friedgen for another
season following a 2-10 campaign in 2009. The Terps struggled, but Friedgen will
get a chance at redemption in 2010.

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