Around the ACC: September 22, 2011

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It was a big weekend for ACC football, and the conference performed at a much
higher level than they did in such weeks in previous seasons. The ACC won two of
their four big non-conference matchups, and were very much in the game in the
two losses.

Here’s a quick look at the ACC scores from last week …

Clemson 38, Auburn 24
Oklahoma 23, Florida State 13
Miami 24, Ohio State 6
West Virginia 37, Maryland 31
Duke 20, Boston College 19
Georgia Tech 66, Kansas 24
North Carolina 28, Virginia 17
Virginia Tech 26, Arkansas State 7
NC State 35, South Alabama 13
Wake Forest 48, Gardner-Webb 5

Miami picked up a big win over Ohio State, while Clemson knocked off the
defending National Champs.

Power Rankings

Here are this week’s ACC power rankings.

ACC
Power Rankings
Rank Team
1 Virginia Tech
2 Florida State
3 Georgia Tech
4 Miami
5 Clemson
6 North Carolina
7 Maryland
8 Wake Forest
9 Virginia
10 NC State
11 Duke
12 Boston College

Florida State lost to #1 Oklahoma 23-13, but the game was tied in the fourth
quarter and starting quarterback E.J. Manuel got hurt. Manuel could also miss
this weekend’s game against Clemson.

How Legit is Clemson? How Ready is Florida State?

Clemson knocked off Auburn 38-24 on Saturday afternoon, and they looked very
good offensively. So how good is Clemson? That offense looks dominant, averaging
522 yards per game. Of course, they have played Troy (109th in total defense),
Wofford (85th in total defense in 1-AA) and Auburn (117th in total defense). The
defending National Champs are allowing an astounding 534.33 yards per game, and
couldn’t even stop Utah State (38 points, 448 yards).

Clemson hasn’t faced a good defense yet, but they will this Saturday against
Florida State. The Noles are allowing fewer than 200 yards per game, and did a
great job against a powerful Oklahoma offense last Saturday night. We will have
a much better idea about how good Clemson’s offense is after they play Florida
State this Saturday at 3:30pm.

The Clemson defense has not been good: 97th in total defense, 110th in
rushing defense, 55th in pass efficiency defense, 58th in scoring defense, 111th
in tackles for loss and 102nd in sacks. The Tigers are not getting penetration,
and even Troy and Wofford were able to move the ball on them. The fewest yards
Clemson has allowed in a game this year was 399 against Wofford.

Defensively, Clemson has enough talent that they should get better as the
year goes on. If E.J. Manuel can’t play this week, the Tigers will have several
distinct advantages over the Seminoles:

1) They’ll be facing a r-freshman quarterback, at home.
2) They’ll be facing a team with no running game.
3) They’ll be facing a team with an average (or worse) offensive line.
4) They’ll be facing a team who must go on the road after an emotionally
draining loss.

Will Florida State be ready to go on the road and face a hot, confident
football team? And possibly do so without their starting quarterback? From that
standpoint, this game is setting up for a Clemson win.

Of course, the Tigers have a history of tanking just as soon as you think
they’ve got something going, so who knows who is going to win this game?

Florida State isn’t Good Enough Up Front

Florida State’s offensive line was soundly whipped by an average Virginia
Tech defensive front seven in last year’s ACC Championship Game. The Noles lost
arguably their two best players off of that offensive line, and yet many folks
thought they were a definite national contender.

As it turns out, that offensive line just isn’t good enough for the Noles to
compete on the national level, and it might not be good enough for them to win
their own conference. Florida State is averaging 96.3 yards per game on the
ground and just 3.2 yards per carry on the season, and that is including two
games against really bad competition to start the season.

Quarterback E.J. Manuel is the team’s leading rusher with 79 yards. Check out
the stats for their running backs.

Florida
State Running Back Production
Player Games Yards YPC Long
James Wilder, Jr. 2 76 7.6 41
Chris Thompson 3 45 2.6 19
Devonta Freeman 3 42 2.6 11
Ty Jones 3 37 2.8 11

That’s downright bad. Take out a 41 yard run by James Wilder, Jr., and FSU has
basically done nothing on the ground this season, which makes them an easier
offense to defend.

I think Jimbo Fisher really knows what he is doing down there, but they need
a talent upgrade on the offensive line if they want to get back to the old days
of the 1980s and 1990s.

How Good is Georgia Tech?

People thought Georgia Tech was fading because Paul Johnson had finally lost
all of those Chan Gailey players who were perfect fits for Johnson’s spread
option attack. Apparently that’s not the case, as the Yellow Jackets have been
the most impressive offensive team in the country so far this season.

Georgia
Tech Offensive Numbers
Category Stat National
Rank
Rush Off. 427.67 ypg 1
Pass Off. 247.67 ypg 47
Total Off. 675.33 ypg 1
Scoring Off. 59.33 ppg 1
Pass Eff. 322.73 1
Third Down % 70.59% 1

Georgia Tech has played some terrible defenses. Each defense they have faced
(Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee State and Kansas) allows an average of 500
or more yards per game. Let’s get that out of the way right now: those defenses
are truly awful.

That being said, 675 yards is a lot of yards, no matter who you are playing.
Last year, Kansas held the Yellow Jackets to three points. This year, GT put up
66 on the Jayhawks. I think Georgia Tech is a good team, and better than they
were expected to be. They face North Carolina this weekend, and the Tar Heel
defense will give them a good test.

The Weekend Schedule and Picks

ACC
Weekend Schedule
Game Time TV
NC State at Cincinnati (Thurs) 8pm ESPN
UNC at GT Noon ESPN
Temple at Maryland 12:30pm ACC Network
UMass at BC 1pm ESPN3
FSU at Clemson 3:30pm ESPN
Kansas State at Miami 3:30pm ESPNU
Southern Miss at UVA 3:30pm RSN
Tulane at Duke 3:30pm ESPN3
VT at Marshall 3:30pm CBSSN

It should be a good afternoon of ACC football on ESPN, with Carolina and Georgia
Tech kicking off at noon, followed by Florida State and Clemson. All four of
those teams are ranked in at least one of the polls.

The action kicks off tonight with NC State and Cincinnati. The Wolfpack
haven’t looked good so far this season, and they have to travel to Cincinnati
after playing just five days ago. The traveling team in that scenario generally
loses.

I only went 7-3 in my picks last week, and that puts me at 24-6 on the
season. I did pick Clemson over Auburn, but missed on Maryland over WVU (that
comeback fell just short), BC over Duke (really, BC? At home?) and Ohio State
over Miami (that Ohio State passing game is awful). As a side note, Boston
College linebacker Luke Kuechly already has 58 tackles through three games.
That’s nearly 20 tackles per game. Sheesh.

Picks for this week:

Cincinnati over NC State
Georgia Tech over UNC
Maryland over Temple
BC over UMass
Clemson over FSU
Miami over Kansas State
UVA over Southern Miss
Duke over Tulane
Virginia Tech over Marshall

I’m just taking a stab in the dark that E.J. Manuel won’t play against
Clemson, but that’s just a guess. As much as I like the UNC defense, that
Georgia Tech offense is rolling. Plus, Bryn Renner has been a bit interception
happy so far. UNC doesn’t need any turnovers on the road against such a hot
team.

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