How do the Hokies stack up in the ACC?

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There have been high moments and low moments two weeks into the season for the ACC.  Exactly how good is this league?

I for one think it’s better at the top than it has been in recent  years.  When the Hokies dominated the ACC for so many years, Tech fans lamented that we weren’t getting any help from programs like Florida State, Clemson and Miami.  Well, now that help has arrived, and I think the ACC is a better league because of it.

We’ll spend a few moments talking about the league in general, and then take a look at the Hokies to see how they stack up the rest of the way.

The ACC vs. the SEC

The ACC and the SEC have met in four big games on the gridiron thus far, and the conferences have split the matchups 2-2.

Clemson 38, Georgia 35
Miami 21, Florida 16
Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10
South Carolina 27, UNC 10

Victories by Clemson and Miami were banner wins for a conference that hasn’t had much non-conference success recently.  In fact, Clemson has defeated two straight high-level SEC teams, if you go back to their Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU.  Wins over LSU and Georgia are nothing to sneeze at.

Those wins haven’t been dominating.  Though Clemson was able to score a lot of points against Georgia, they still allowed over 500 yards of total offense (that Georgia offense is legit…they manhandled a pretty solid South Carolina defense a week later).  Florida outgained Miami 413-212, and it was generally the poor play of quarterback Jeff Driskel that did the Gators in.

Nevertheless, the ACC has been able to do something that they haven’t been able to do in the past…compete with upper-level SEC teams.  Even the VT-Alabama game, which wasn’t close on the scoreboard, was evenly matched in the trenches, and some (including Nick Saban and me) would go so far as to say that the Hokies got the better of the battle of the lines.

Why?  I think Clemson has become less soft than they used to be.  Their offensive line is capable of blocking SEC teams, unlike in the past.  Also, the Tigers have given Dabo Swinney a blank check to hire coordinators.  They can compete with the SEC in coaching salaries, and that makes a big difference.

I think the coaching has gotten better at other schools as well.  Al Golden is better than his predecessors Randy Shannon and Larry Coker.  Jimbo Fisher was what the Florida State program needed, and they’ve also been able to put first round quarterbacks under center and surround them with an improved running game.

And again, even though they lost, Virginia Tech was able to compete with Alabama in the trenches because Frank Beamer made good coaching hires in the offseason.  Jeff Grimes and Scot Loeffler were exactly what the offense needed, and though his receivers are young, I think Aaron Moorehead is a good coach, too.

I’m certainly not saying the ACC has caught the SEC, but they are in a better position to compete with them at the top than they were several years ago.

Quick UVA Thoughts

UVA got pounded by Oregon 59-10 last weekend.  I watched part of the game, and I found it as entertaining as I’m sure you did.  The previous week, the Hoos narrowly beat a BYU team that went on to pound Texas 40-21.  The Courgars rolled up 550 rushing yards on the Longhorns, and Mack Brown immediately fired his defensive coordinator.

What does it mean?  Well first off, Mack Brown is likely done at the end of the season, if not before.  Texas is a mess, compared to what they should be with the talent available to recruit in that state.  Second, I also think it means UVA is better defensively.  I’m not a big fan of Jon Tenuta’s all-out blitzing style.  It’s high-risk and high-reward.  But on the whole, ever since MIke London (or his superiors) cleared out the 1-AA coaches from that staff, I think it’s made them better.

They still don’t have much offensively, and they’ll have to lean on that defense if they want to win games.  The biggest obstacle is their schedule, which includes games at Pitt, Maryland, UNC and Miami, and home dates with Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia Tech.  A .500 season would be a pretty good year for the Wahoos.

Under the Radar: Maryland

Everybody thought Randy Edsall was a terrible coach two years ago.  In reality, he had to deal with Ralph Friedgen’s undisciplined mess.  It took him a year to get his team tough and disciplined.  They would have made a bowl last year, IMO, if all their quarterbacks didn’t get hurt.

This year, the Terps have two blowout wins to their credit…

43-10 vs. Florida International
45-3 vs. Old Dominion

FIU isn’t good, and ODU is in their first year of 1-A football.  However, the Monarchs did drop 38 points the week before against an ECU team that has made a bowl in six of their past seven years.

Quarterback C.J. Brown (r-Sr.) looks excellent so far.  Through two games, he is 34-of-45 (75.6%) for 556 yards, with five touchdowns and no interceptions.  That’s an efficiency rating of 216, which ranks #4 in the country.

The Terps get UConn next, and they are a good bet to start 3-0.  They host West Virginia the following week, and the Mountaineers are having a lot of trouble offensively.  Maryland also plays Boston College, Syracuse and UVA at home, and Wake Forest and NC State on the road.  If that’s not a schedule that screams “bowl eligible”, I don’t know what is.

Look for that November 16 matchup in Blacksburg to be a much bigger game than people thought when the schedule first came out.  I think Randy Edsall is doing a good job there, and the Terps will be bowling this year.

Where do the Hokies stack up?

In the preseason, I put Tech’s over/under in wins at 8.5.  When the injuries started popping up to guys like Ryan Malleck and Ronny Vandyke, I dropped that to 7.5.  Once I saw them play Alabama, I took another look and thought 8.5 was the better over/under again.

The two games that worry me the most are Georgia Tech and Miami.  The Hokies must play at Georgia Tech just five days after hosting Marshall, and it’s really tough to win a road game against a good team with only a few days to practice.  It’s even more difficult when facing a unique offense like Georgia Tech’s.

I’m ready for a couple of things to happen…

#1, I want Paul Johnson to move on, or get fired, whatever.  His offense is too difficult to prepare for.  Bud Foster has done a fine job coaching against it, but it’s really annoying to have to play those guys because of the offense they run.  Even if you beat them, it messes with preparation time, practice tendencies in the middle of the season, etc.  The super-annoying thing is that Georgia Tech really isn’t any better with that offense.  They aren’t winning 10 games a year or taking the ACC by storm.  Unfortunately, Johnson isn’t doing well enough (or he doesn’t run the right offense) to get hired by another school, and he’s not doing poorly enough to get canned.

#2, I want schools and the NCAA to stand up to ESPN and say “no, we will not play two games in five days.”  It’s always a detriment to that team who travels.  Just ask Clemson about their trip to Lane Stadium in 2006.  There should be no fewer than seven days between football games, or maybe six if you draw the Friday night game (poor BC and Syracuse will be the kings of Friday Night Football).  Sure, it’s great if you are the home team, and the Hokies benefited from it back in 2006.  But it shouldn’t happen.

As far as Miami goes, the Canes have a senior quarterback, talented tailback Duke Johnson, and what appears to be an improved defense.  If I had to pick those Georgia Tech and Miami games right now, I would pick against the Hokies.

I think Tech will beat East Carolina this weekend, based on the running game and great defense.  If there are turnovers in the wrong area of the field then things could get dicey, but I do greatly favor the Hokies this weekend.  I think Marshall is an underrated team, but Tech should take care of them at home.

That leaves Georgia Tech, UNC and Pitt in three big games back to back to back.  The Hokies need to hold serve and win those home games.  If they lose either of those home games, I think that would force them to have to run the table to have a chance to win the Coastal Division.  That would be tough to do with a road trip to Miami on the back end of the schedule.  Don’t assume wins against Maryland and UVA either.  If last year taught us anything, it should be humility.  Never assume (unless it’s Western Carolina or some other bottom level 1-AA team).

I’m hereby setting the over/under on wins at 8.5 for this season.  What’s your take?  Talk about it on the message boards here or here.  I think either eight wins or nine wins is equally realistic, but based on what I’ve seen from Bud’s defense and an improved offensive line, I’m going with nine.

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33 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I’ll wait on praising Miami until they win a tough game on their own, without so much help from the opponent. Five turnovers by UF, plus a failed 4th-down conversion. They dominated TOP (38+ minutes) and killed themselves every time they got moving. The UM defense gave up over 400 yards.

    Offensively, UM had 136 yards in the first quarter, and 76 (!) for the rest of the game (including -8 in the 2nd quarter). I don’t believe Miami at #15 for a moment. Sure, VT still needs to improve before they could beat UM on the road, but I can easily see that happening.

  2. Regarding UVa/BYU game, BYU tried to pass all over the Hoos and it didn’t work. They ran the ball okay, but for whatever reason elected to focus on passing and it didn’t work. The next week they played Texas and decided to focus on the run (as their passing game was horrible vs UVA). The result is they pound the Longhorns on the ground.

    I don’t think you can draw a conclusion that the UVA D is any better because they held down BYU. IMO BYU thought they were a passing team and went into that game at UVA with that mindset and it didn’t work. UVA didn’t see the real BYU.

  3. I’ll make my highly-anticipated prediction right after the UVa game. Don’t try to get me to give anything away. I don’t want anyone to learn my closely-guarded system of post-game predictions, in which I rarely miss a game.

  4. I believe this week’s game with ECU is one of the most important of the season. They are playing at home, have a two game win streak, and, as always, have somthing to prove. Based on talent, we should win, but with all the intangibles, it will not be easy. On the other hand, if we can improve, win this one, then Marshal, it will give us the experience and confidence our young players need to execute the plans of our new coaches. If not, it will be a long season. We need this game. Tom

    1. I don’t want to overlook ECU…they always play us tough and with a chip on their shoulder (kind of reminds me of us years ago). But beating ODU and Florida International Atlantic submarine band University should not scare the wits out of a strong VT team with a top 10 defense that held its own against the #1 team in the country. Tech’s offense is still suspect, but is improving with a surprising OL and a resugent running game. Ecu is a tough game especially at their place where the crowd will be jacked up (again, kind of like Lane), but like CC I think wins this one.

    1. if the coaching staff is truly improved then you have to believe there is 10 wins in this schedule. If this is a great staff then 11 or 12 wins is possible too. Great coaches win. period. reference wku, aTm last year, penn st lasy yr, and urban meyer’s teams back to BG.

    2. Ok. I wrote 15 wins down so what do I do with it. Since we can only play 14 games and we have already lost one I am not sure what the 15 is for. Unless you have already moved on to basketball but then again I think you may still be a little optimistic.

  5. 10-wins during the regular season; maybe, like 2004, they steal a couple games and win-out in the regular season. Winning the ACCCG will be tough. FSU and Clemson look pretty good — win the Bowl Game!!!

    1. beating Clemson would be tough for us given recent history. Lets hope for FSU or gasp, Maryland (snicker) in the CG.

  6. Until proven otherwise, Pitt has our number. UNC will be dicey. An improved VT defense, no doubt, but UNC manhandled us last year. I think we beat GT because this is essentially the same group that handled them last year and I think Foster has it figured out.

    1. I agree with your comments regarding GT. It took Foster a couple of years to figure how to coach them up for GT but I do not think it is as big a challenge to get the D ready anymore. As you say, we have a lot of the same guys back on D, particularly in the middle of the field, which makes things easier. If Exum comes back by the game it will give Bud lots of options – no pun intended. Personally, I would prefer for Exum to wait until after the bye but I will not be surprised if he plays a few downs against GT. I think Jarrett will also be a key as he has been playing great close to the line of scrimmage.

      1. I should also say, I am not convinced GT knows how or is able to play defense. If we can establish the run and protect the football we should win this one for sure.

        1. The GT D is always at a disadvantage. How do they expect to consistently stop a regular offense when they practice against the option so much?

  7. pretty much the same as everyone else

    Going into the season, I thought we’d lose to Bama (along with everyone else), then win the next 3. I thought we’d win 2 of 3 against GT, UNC, and Pitt. Then win 4 of the last 5 to finish the regular season 9-3. With all the injuries, I thought that might slip to 7-5. After the Bama game, I was thinking if LT can get connected with the WR corps, 10-2 was realistic (pick a loss against GT, UNC, Pitt, or Miami). I don’t know if I can go better than 8-4 now unless the passing game can get better quickly.

  8. The eternal optimist that I am, I only worry about the GT game now. The rest will be wins. I repeat again VT with top D and identity on offense will not be beat unless VT beats themselves. Riding it out. The O is making huge strides will be interesting championship game!

  9. As long as the defense stays focused (and healthy, knock wood) then 10 wins before December is in the bag. I know a lot of folks look at the offense and say there’s no way we’ll win 10, but my optimism is due to the defense. That squad is wicked good. We can’t lose if we’re not giving up points. Stay healthy on D, and we’ll win 10 games and the Coastal Division. We’ll likely lose the ACC Championship Game and get to go to the Peach Bowl, but I think 10-3 going to Atlanta is very possible.

  10. 9/10 wins, with a Bowl Game win. I would love to say 10/11 wins including a ACC championship game win , But LT will have to be a lot more sharper in his passing for VT to get 10 wins this year. Turnovers hurt VT in a lot of games last year. Thanks for a good article

  11. I’m glad that Maryland is looking to be more competitive that we were expecting this year. It’ll be great to have a good, exciting last home game for the season (compared to the doldrums that was the UVa game last year), especially for me since I won’t be able to make it to the UNC home game.

    1. A competitive Maryland and UVA is not good for tech from a recruiting standpoint. Then you factor in an improved PSU program.

      1. So far all I have seen from the former 5* DE’s and DT’s this season is taking plays off, explosion on couple plays a game, and no chase from behind. I think VT has the best Dline in college football because they get after you. I agree with Chris and wish that option offense was gone.

      2. Neither is Maryland and UVa being pansy teams that we can barely beat good for recruiting. I’d take competitive teams that we beat consistently as a recruiting tool any day.

    2. I wish nothing good for the Twerps. I’d like to see them leave the conference with their tails between their legs.

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