Tuesday, November 6, 2007

About Last Saturday (and Thursday)...

The foul stench emanating from my preseason preview continues to permeate this blog, and the Hokies' impressive bounce-back beatdown of the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta did little to disperse the noxious odor. Silly me, I thought the Ramblin' Wreck could excel this year in spite of their head coach, but alas I was idiotically mistaken. The Jackets' biggest on-field problem - quarterback play - has been mostly dismal over the entire Chan Gailey Era, from AJ Suggs to Reggie Ball to Taylor Bennett. That's not bad luck - that's either shoddy recruiting, piss-poor coaching/preparation, or both. Gailey's QB woes on Thursday night were only magnified by the kick-ass performance of the usually cringe-inducing Sean Glennon, who carved up Jon Tenuta's defense despite wearing a white Georgia Tech jersey with his name scrawled on the back with a Sharpie. When Glennon wasn't threading the needle against the Jacket secondary, the Hokies' running game was pounding out 185 yards. That's the same Hokie offense that ranks 108th nationally, even after Thursday's festivities.

Water is wet, the sky is blue, the Cavaliers win by a point. What earlier seemed like a combination of crazy luck and so-so competition has now evolved into a methodical formula for Al Groh and Co. What has largely gone unmentioned throughout the Wahoo season of wonder is their superb conditioning - 7 of their last 8 games have gone down to the wire, and they've prevailed in 6 of the 7 nailbiters. That's a team that can still grind it out, rush the passer, and cover receivers in the 59th minute of a ballgame, over and over and over. Well done Mr. Virginia Strength & Conditioning Coach, whoever you are. Tough loss for the Deacs, but having Sam Swank line up for a game-winning kick is usually a precursor to victory. Not this time.

N.C. STATE 19 - MIAMI 16 (OT)
I don't know which is more horrifying - Kirby Freeman's stat line over his last two games (5 for 25, 143 yards, 2 TDs & 5 INTs), or that Florida State allowed Freeman to march down the field and beat them with a minute left two weeks ago, and that it took an overtime period for NC State to knock off the Canes last Saturday. A two-game stat line like that from your QB should equate to a pair of 35-7 floggings, but in this screwy year anything goes. That said, the Wolfpack probably don't care that it took them five quarters to beat Miami in the Orange Bowl's penultimate appearance, especially considering the State offense did jacksquat after blowing up Virginia the previous week. The Pack now stand at 4-5 overall and are out of the basement in the Atlantic Division....quite a turnaround engineered by Tom O'Brien.

A lot of points, but a curiously modest sum of total yards for the Tigers (350...5.7 per play). Nonetheless, a turnover free day and a scoring frenzy appear to have Clemson headed in the right direction with a difficult final three game stretch (Wake and BC at home, then the finale at South Carolina). QB Cullen Harper has very quietly developed into one of the better signal-callers in the nation, and easily leads the ACC in passing efficiency. However, his horrid performances in the losses to the Techs still cast a shadow entering the final three game stretch. As for the Blue Devils, it appears that the Ted Roof Era may be winding down. A promising September (by Duke standards) that saw them beat Northwestern on the road and scare the crap out of Virginia, Miami, and Navy has devolved into a three straight blowout losses (@VT, @FSU, Clemson) heading into the final stretch. At Notre Dame in two weeks appears to be the only possible win from here on out; good God it's a weird year when I'm typing that last sentence about Duke.

This is a much better win for the Heels than it appears. Despite a lackluster performance from heretofore all-everything QB TJ Yates (16 of 26, 2 INTs), UNC was able to generate enough offense to get into the endzone once and to get kicker Connor Barth in position for makeable field goals, while the defense slammed the door on the Terp comeback before it ever got too dangerous. Winning games against decent comptetition when you don't bring your "A" game is a great sign of progress for Butch Davis' young crew...there are now no more "moral victory" losses. As for the Terps, despite last year's weird 9-4 season in which they were terrible on both offense and defense yet managed to catch their opponents at their worst, they are the picture of a program that has stalled. You may have noticed that the "genius" tag has been dropped from nearly all mentions of Ralph Friedgen, and for good reason - in three of the last four years, the Terps have ranked 88th or lower nationally in total offense. For whatever reason, the Fridge was able to orchestrate some superb offensive fireworks with talent he inherited, but he can't seem to find the right talent on his own to get his offense going. With the loss to UNC, they look to finish with their third losing campaign in four years.

It took a little longer than expected, but the influx of new coaches on the offensive side of the ball for FSU is beginning to have it's effect. I mean, seriously, was that really Drew Weatherford out there that looked like the Heisman candidate? And was that really the same offensive line that just three weeks ago looked like human turnstiles in a loss to Wake Forest? The damage wrought on every facet of the offense during Jeff Bowden's reign-of-error was much more extensive than previously imagined, but after 9 games under Jimbo Fisher and Friends, the corner appears to have been turned. How far around the proverbial corner the Seminoles are is a question that Virginia Tech will help answer next Saturday. As for BC, the shot at the national title - longshot that it was - is over. As for Matt Ryan, the Heisman shot is likely over (un-Heismanlike stat: he ranks just 8th in the ACC in pass efficiency). Opportunities for national titles and Heismans don't come around often at a program like Boston College - how they respond to those missed chances will determine whether they can still make the Orange Bowl, or whether they plummet all the way to a late-December Disappointment Bowl.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Florida State!
Florida State!
Florida State!