Thoughts on the final ACC regular season weekend:
VIRGINIA TECH 33 - VIRGINIA 21
Was the Matt Ryan Miracle the best thing to actually happen to the Hokies? Since that kick in the nads 4 weeks ago, the Hokies have increased their offensive output by 70 yards a game, against the supposed meat of their schedule (GT, FSU, Miami, UVA). Virginia came up short yet again in the Commonwealth Cup, but a solid showing against the Hokies and a chance at ten wins for the first time in school history is a fantastic ending to a season that seemed a wreck after week one.
BOSTON COLLEGE 28 - MIAMI 14
Conversely, the Thursday Night Theatrics in Blacksburg was the teetering apex of the BC season, as they stumbled down the mountain a bit after that win. Two subsequent losses to Florida State and Maryland - games in which the Eagle defense was carved to pieces by previously struggling offenses - dropped them not only out of BCS title contention but put them behind the 8-ball in the ACC. They redeemed themselves with a gutsy road win at Clemson followed by a methodical victory over the dead-in-the-water Canes. Speaking of which, Miami lost 6 of their final 7 with the only win coming at Florida State. Damn rivalries.
MARYLAND 37 - N.C. STATE 0
Mystery solved. I pondered last week whether Maryland's 42 point outburst against Boston College in week 11 was an aberration or the start of a new chapter in Terp football, and I believe a 5-touchdown win on the road answers that quite completely. 37-0...forget about taking the proverbial wind out of State's sails, the mast broke apart and knocked everyone overboard. The Wolfpack's year began and ended in different but equally excruciating losses at home (25-23 in the opener to UCF, and then this stinkpile). In between were five wins and five losses. Progress was made, but no one in Raleigh's all that happy about it right now.
WAKE FOREST 31 - VANDERBILT 17
So the Deacons prevailed in the battle of former patises turned scary-as-hell opponents. In true Wake form, they led 31-3 early in the 4th despite being outgained by a bazillion yards, and held on for a comfortable victory. If Jim Grobe remains in Winston-Salem (word has it that Nebraska is interested in his services), the Deacs look set for an ACC title run again with much of their roster returning in 2008. Now it's on to the Meineke or Emerald Bowls. Well done.
NORTH CAROLINA 20 - DUKE 14 (OT)
A few days after Butch Davis secured a contract extension despite a then 3-8 record in his first year, how does he thank his employers? By nearly losing to his 1-10 archrival, at home, when everyone else on planet earth has kicked around said archrival for the last six weeks. At least Butch got Ted Roof fired.
GEORGIA 31 - GEORGIA TECH 17
What Florida has been to Georgia for most of these past 17 years, UGA has been to Tech the last six seasons...that is, an opponent with an unmistakeable mental and psychological edge, regardless of record. Shoot, I was so certain of this outcome that I even picked the score correctly...almost (I said 30-17). At least Mark Richt got Chan Gailey fired.
FLORIDA 45 - FLORIDA STATE 12
That thing I said about the Seminoles having turned the proverbial corner a few weeks ago...yeah, go ahead and disregard that. But not necessarily for the reasons you're thinking. Despite the abominable performance on offense against the Gators (except for new folk hero Gary Cismesia), progress was made this season, albeit very slow and sputtering. It's now the defense that threatens to keep the Seminoles in 8-4/7-5 land for the near future. The shocking dearth of talent on defense - particularly at safety - compounds the problems Mickey Andrews has always had when facing a spread offense or anything resembling such. If he hasn't figured it out in the last few years, he likely won't next year or the year after. And the overwhelming talent is no longer there to bail him out.
CLEMSON 23 - SOUTH CAROLINA 21
Collapse averted. The Tigers reached nine wins in the regular season for just the second time in Tommy Bowden's tenure, and in most thrilling fashion. Down one with two minutes to go, Cullen Harper drove the Tigers down to field goal range, allowing the oft-maligned Mark Buchholz to kick the game winner at the gun, ensuring his place in Tiger lore and earning himself free beers for life in bars around the Palmetto State. In other news, no word yet on whether Steve Spurrier is still a genius.