Tuesday, October 9, 2007

About Last Saturday...

This will undoubtedly be a subpar effort, but I've got things aplenty at home and work to take care of, now that I'm back from my weekend getaway. Off we go...

Here's a question I never thought I'd have to ask...can Georgia Tech even reach the Chan Gailey Equilibrium this year? Before the season, I thought I was oh-so-clever in picking the Yellow Jackets to be the class of the conference. The talent is there. Both lines were stacked. Patrick Nix bolted. Taylor Bennett had to be an upgrade over Reggie Ball, right? Whatever. It's still The Chan Show and the ending is always in the vicinity of 7-5, a loss to Georgia, and a late-December-afterthought-bowl. As for the Terps, another huge lead nearly melted away, shades of the Wake fiasco. Fix that second-half defense and Maryland just may be a darkhorse ACC Title Game participant.

Before we get too excited UNC fans, let's remember that John Bunting upset Florida State 41-9 and Clemson 38-3 in his first year, poundings that were supposedly harbingers of Tar Heel dominance to come. First year results under new coaches are usually a bit out of whack from what transpires over the coach's tenure...and that also applies to all you Cane fans bashing your head against a wall over Butch Davis' smackdown of Randy Shannon. Nonetheless, it's safe to say that the team in powder blue was much better prepared to hit the field last Saturday, and that too many Miami kids just thought that they could throw their helmets onto the field and walk out with a win. Shannon and crew still have a bit of work to do with their squad in terms of mental preparation...and history lessons.

Now that was the kind of performance worthy of the Eagles' newly-minted #4 ranking. Well, except for giving up 401 passing yards to the Falcons. Sure, Bowling Green only gained 65 yards on the ground (on 23 carries), but 401 yards through the air - especially when you know that the Falcons are going to fling it all around - is concerning. Nonetheless, the five picks tallied by the BC defense certainly made up for the otherwise difficult defensive day. And that Eagle offense - 'tis a thing of beauty when Matt Ryan is in a groove. And how good is BC? Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon had this to say: "That might have been the best team, arguably, that we've ever played since I've been coaching here." Brandon came aboard in 2003, and during his tenure the Falcons have played Ohio State (2006), Wisconsin (2005 & 2006), and Oklahoma (2004).

I haven't been right about much this year, but I am usually dead-on about Wake Forest and their maddening propensity to play to the level of their competition. The score of this game isn't quite indicative of how the game was played (Wake trailed 9-0 early, but went up 34-9 by mid 3rd quarter before Duke rallied to make it interesting). The Deacs' all-everything Kenny Moore continues to be one of the most unheralded players in the nation this season (100 receiving yards, 84 rush yards, 22 return yards against the Blue Devils). Duke has garnered quite a bit of respect this season despite only closing the deal once; sooner or later another victory needs to be chalked up or they'll start to pack it in.

In a game that probably should've been 37-10 or even 41-10, the Seminoles nonetheless displayed continued improvement on the offensive side of the ball, while the defense again blanked an opponent for three quarters...the only difference this time was that the Pack racked up their 10-spot in the first rather than fourth stanza. Xavier Lee was efficient, calm and steady...which in cold print reads a lot like Drew Weatherford, except that Lee kept the chains moving, froze the Pack defense at times with the threat of a scramble, and was deadly accurate with the long ball. The one huge thorn in FSU's potentially rosy future this season is that the OL is now down to just eight roster players, four of them true or redshirt freshmen...hence the disappointing rushing stats. As for the Pack, it's still all about the turnovers (four on their part, none by the Seminoles) and the increasingly obvious mismatch of the Tom O'Brien approach to current NCSU personnel. It's easy now to say that O'Brien is in the running for magna cum laude in the Shelley Long/David Caruso (pre-CSI Miami) School of Career Moves...but we really won't know that for another three to four years. Unless of course Jeff Jagodzinski's Eagles are facing off against LSU in New Orleans on Jan. 7; in that case, O'Brien gets that career-move-school named after him and Shelley Long can finally fade away into blissful obscurity.

If anything has been consistent and unsurprising in this wacked-out season, it's been Clemson. Beat FSU, start out 4-0 and move into the Top 15, and then the cave in. So why did I predict the Tigers to beat Georgia Tech last week and Virginia Tech last Saturday? Because they should have. But as is too often the case with the Tigers under Tommy Bowden, being the better team does not equate to winning, and in fact tends to result in spectacularly interesting defeats. Virginia Tech had been unable to do much of anything on offense or special teams throughout their first five games, but their trip to Tiger Stadium naturally resulted in two special teams TDs, a defensive score, a 31-8 halftime lead and merciful breathing room for an offense that still didn't do much other than not turn the ball over. And I think we all expect that the Hokies will somewhat struggle with Duke next week in a 20-10 type of ball game.

This is why I'm still not sold on the Hoos (even though I finally ranked them on my Blog Poll ballot)...they leave everything on the field in their ACC games and just take the day off in non-conference play. Needing a field goal at the gun to beat Middle Tennessee? The same Middle Tennessee that lost to Western Kentucky? Well, I suppose it's better than kakking away your season to Stanford.

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