Friday, November 30, 2007

ACC Championship Game Preview: Out of Town Version

I just arrived here in Fort Walton Beach for a family engagement this weekend. After eight not-so-lovely hours on the road, I'm beat. Needless to say, this will be brief.

The Hokies have steadily improved since their loss to the Eagles on Oct. 26. BC has regressed a tad since that victory in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech 31, Boston College 24.

Good night.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rumors



No, not of the Nicks/Buckingham/McVie variety (although their alleged escapades back in the day are far more intriguing than what I'm about to report). The rumo(u)rs I'm alluding to concern the head coaching vacancies at Georgia Tech and Duke...

Georgia Tech
The top names appear to be David Cutcliffe, Rick Neuheisel, Chris Hatcher, Paul Johnson and Will Muschamp. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, both Georgia Southern and Navy claim that they haven't been contacted regarding Messrs. Hatcher and Johnson. While both Hatcher and Johnson lack some sizzle and "big splash" credentials that many think Tech needs, both are going to have superb careers at whatever BCS school takes a chance on them. They're that good.

Cutcliffe and Neuheisel are retreads...and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but both gents won't come cheap, and I don't see either staying in Atlanta long after he knocks off the Bulldogs and takes the Jackets to the ACC title game.

Will Muschamp is a hot name in the coaching carousel this year. He's done a great job with Auburn's defense, but there are two issues that may be a problem: 1) He's a Georgia grad, and 2) Tech already has a superb defensive coordinator in Jon Tenuta. There's no way Tenuta stays if Muschamp gets the job.

For the latest updates and news in the Yellow Jacket coaching search, check out the Georgia Tech Sports blog and the AJC.com Tech page.

Duke
I have yet to see any solid information regarding their search, and we may never know who the Devils are talking to until the new hire is announced (private schools are able to keep these things annoyingly under wraps, since the state isn't footing any bills for searches and salaries and such). The best I can gather is that Steve Logan and Skip Holtz are the names most often mentioned. What I can just about guarantee you is that it won't be anyone (except maybe Logan) from this deluded list.

For the latest updates and news in the Blue Devils search, ACC Now is probably your best bet.

If anyone out there has a tip, halfway-substantiated rumor, or wants to squash any of the names addressed here, feel free to drop a comment.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

About Last Saturday...

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.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

ACC Refs: Incompetent? You Bet. But They're a Hoot at Parties.

If Ron Cherry wasn't the worst referee in the history of competitive sports, I guess I'd find this a bit funnier. Nonetheless, this was a most unusual call from Saturday's Maryland-N.C. State game...


The "business" will cost you 15 yards every time

Monday, November 26, 2007

Help Wanted

Georgia Tech cans Chan Gailey and Duke dumps Ted Roof.

Early rumors for the Tech job: interim head coach and DC Jon Tenuta, Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher (Tech AD Dan Radakovich was associate AD at LSU when Fisher was OC there and is said to be very high on Jimbo), Navy coach Paul Johnson (who won a 1-AA championship down the road at Georgia Southern), and perhaps the most interesting name, the newly unemployed Houston Nutt. I think Johnson would be a phenomenal choice...he's an offensive genius, he knows the state of Georgia, and he turned Navy into a perennial bowl team despite the incredible academic hurdles at Annapolis. But I must admit that it would fun to have the Nutt-house in the ACC.

Early rumors for the Duke job: Ummmm, yeah.....no rumors yet, thanks. Let's give it a few days.



Good night, and...


...Good luck.

Out of Conference Report, Week 13

Updated non-conference records among the BCS leagues for this season, heading into conference-championship weekend...
Conf.RecordPct.
SEC40-8.833
Big 1035-9.795
Big 1236-12.750
Big East29-11.725
Pac 1021-9.700
ACC33-15.688
And the ACC dips back into the cellar in these standings. Of course, there's much more to non-conference competition than just the above standings. For instance, below is the total combined record of all the teams each league has played in out of conference competition (1-AA/FCS opponents not included):

Conf.RecordPct.
Pac 10170-160.515
ACC243-238.505
SEC223-221.502
Big East196-206.488
Big 12224-247.476
Big 10157-270.368
The Big 10....yeesh. I know which BCS conference I'm betting on to get drilled come bowl season. As for the remaining five leagues, since we're dealing with numbers in the hundreds now, it's a statistical wash in my estimation, with .039 percentage points separating first from fifth. And, in case you're looking at these numbers and thinking something is a bit off (such as the ACC and SEC both having played 48 non-conference games yet there's 37-game disparity in the record of their competition), keep in mind that some conferences played more 1-AA competition than others - which as I stated I'm not including here - and there are still several games to be played next week around the country.

ON THE ROAD
Below illustrates the percentage of games each league played away from home in non-conference action...

Conf.Road Games/OOC GamesPct.
ACC20/4841.7%
Big East16/4040.0%
Big 1216/4833.3%
Pac 109/3030.0%
Big 1011/4425.0%
SEC8/4816.7%

FYI- out-of-conference neutral site games (i.e. Missouri-Illinois, Florida State-Alabama) were calculated as road games for both leagues.

Compare and contrast the number of road games to total losses for each league. There's a fairly strong correlation - for instance, the SEC went 40-8 overall and played 8 road games; the Pac 10 went 21-9 overall, and played 9 road games. Impressively, the ACC bucked that trend, having played a whopping 20 games on the road, but only had 15 total non-conference losses. The Big East and Big 12 also similarly bucked the trend. No conference had more losses than road games.

BCS COMPETITION
The following indicates the percentage of non-conference competition played against fellow BCS-league opponents...

Conf.BCS Foes/OOC GamesPct.
ACC22/4845.8%
Big East15/4037.5%
Pac 1011/3036.7%
Big 1013/4429.5%
SEC14/4829.2%
Big 1211/4822.9%
And each conference's record against other power-league competition:

Conf.RecordPct.
Big 109-4.692
Pac 106-5.545
ACC11-11.500
SEC7-7.500
Big East7-8.467
Big 125-6.455

From these numbers alone, the Big 12 clearly fares the worst. They played the least amount of BCS non-conference opposition (exactly half in number and percentage of what the ACC played), and they have the worst record against that competition by a slim margin. But, there's more to the story. Below lists the actual BCS teams played by each league in non-conference play, against whom, and the result (win/loss only; scores not included for simplicity's sake).

Big 10
Wins- Washington State (@Wisconsin), Pittsburgh (@Michigan State), @Washington (Ohio State), Notre Dame (@Penn State), Notre Dame (@Michigan State), Notre Dame (@Purdue), @Notre Dame (Michigan), Syracuse (@Iowa), @Syracuse (Illinois)
Losses- vs.Missouri (Illinois), Oregon (@Michigan), @Iowa State (Iowa), Duke (@Northwestern)

Pac 10
Wins- Tennessee (California), @Michigan (Oregon), Colorado (@Arizona State), @Nebraska (USC), @Notre Dame (USC), @Syracuse (Washington)
Losses-
Ohio State (@Washington), @Cincinnati (Oregon State), @Wisconsin (Washington State), Notre Dame (@Stanford), Notre Dame (@UCLA)

ACC
Wins- Connecticut (@Virginia), @Rutgers (Maryland), Texas A&M (@Miami), @Colorado (Florida State), vs.Alabama (Florida State), @South Carolina (Clemson), @Vanderbilt (Wake Forest), @Northwestern (Duke), Pittsburgh (@Virginia), @Notre Dame (Boston College), @Notre Dame (Georgia Tech)
Losses-
West Virginia (@Maryland), Georgia (@Georgia Tech), @LSU (Virginia Tech), @Oklahoma (Miami), @Florida (Florida State), @USF (North Carolina), Connecticut (@Duke), South Carolina (@North Carolina), Nebraska (@Wake Forest), Louisville (@NC State), @Notre Dame (Duke)

SEC
Wins- Virginia Tech (@LSU), Florida State (@Florida), @Georgia Tech (Georgia), Oklahoma State (@Georgia), Kansas State (@Auburn), Louisville (@Kentucky), @North Carolina (South Carolina)
Losses-
Missouri (@Mississippi), @West Virginia (Mississippi State), Clemson (@South Carolina), USF (@Auburn), Wake Forest (@Vanderbilt), vs.Florida State (Alabama), @California (Tennessee)

Big East
Wins- @Auburn (USF), Mississippi State (@West Virginia), @Maryland (West Virginia), Oregon State (@Cincinnati), @NC State (Louisville), North Carolina (@USF), @Duke (Connecticut)
Losses- Illinois (@Syracuse), @Virginia (Connecticut), @Virginia (Pittsburgh), @Kentucky (Louisville), Maryland (@Rutgers), @Michigan State (Pittsburgh), @Iowa (Syracuse), Washington (@Syracuse)

Big 12
Wins- vs.Illinois (Missouri), @Wake Forest (Nebraska), Iowa (@Iowa State), Miami (@Oklahoma), @Mississippi (Missouri)
Losses-
@Georgia (Oklahoma State), USC (@Nebraska), @Arizona State (Colorado), @Auburn (Kansas State), Florida State (@Colorado), @Miami (Texas A&M)

And to delve a little further, the following is the combined record of each league's BCS opposition:

Conf.RecordPct.
SEC104-61.630
Big 1279-51.608
ACC148-112.569
Big East95-84.531
Pac 1068-62.523
Big 1052-102.338
So, taking into account the percentage of total non-conference games played against fellow BCS competition, the quality of that competition, and each league's results against that competition, the SEC and ACC appear to be clear winners in this category. The Big 10, despite the gaudy 9-4 record against BCS opposition, is the clear loser here upon close inspection (seriously - count how many times you see "Notre Dame" and "Syracuse" among their BCS opponents).

THE 1-AA (OR "FCS" IF YOU WANT TO BE ALL TECHNICAL) FACTOR
The percentage of non-conference games against 1-AA competition...

Conf.1-AA Foes/OOC GamesPct.
SEC9/4818.8%
Big 108/4418.2%
Big 128/4816.7%
Big East6/4015.0%
ACC7/4814.9%
Pac 102/306.7%
The Big 10 - and this appears to be a theme - clearly fares the worst in this category...not only has just over one-fifth of all their non-conference competition involved 1-AA opponents, they've lost two of those games (Appalachian State-Michigan and North Dakota State-Minnesota). Honestly, only the Pac 10 really comes off well in this category.

AND ALL THE REST
Each league's record against other 1-A/FBS foes...that is, the non-conference results against the poor schleps from the Sun Belt, Conference USA, MAC, etc.:

Conf.RecordPct.
SEC24-1.960
Big 1020-3.870
Big East16-3.842
Big 1224-5.828
ACC15-4.789
Pac 1013-4.765
And, just for kicks, the combined record of the "other 1-A" opponents for each BCS league:

Conf.RecordPct.
Pac 10102-98.510
Big East101-122.453
ACC95-126.430
SEC119-160.427
Big 12145-196.425
Big 10105-168.385
Again, the Big 10 is lagging behind the pack. The Big 12 doesn't look so hot here either, having played the most games against "other 1-A" opponents, having just the fourth highest win percentage, and the quality of their opposition isn't too good. The SEC is the only one that really comes out of this category looking decent.

FACTUALLY SUPPORTED SUBJECTIVE CONCLUSION
So, what does all of this mean? A few things stand out to me: 1) The ACC deserves major props for the hitting the road and playing a brutal non-conference schedule (45.8% of all games against fellow BCS leagues!), and doing fairly well against it; 2) The Big East deserves some kudos as well; 3) The SEC did quite well, but their refusal to hit the road in any meaningful way is a giant black mark; 4) The Pac 10 looks impressive, but is a bit of an anomaly since they played much fewer non-conference games due to their round-robin league slate; 5) The Big 10 + non conference play = crime against nature; 6) The Big 12 couldn't appear more middle-of-the-pack if it tried.

All that said, this is how I'd rank the conferences as we head into the final weekend:

1) SEC
2) Pac 10
3) ACC
4) Big East
5) Big 12
6) Big 10...a very distant 6th
Finally, let me say that I believe non-conference competition is by far the best way to compare the BCS leagues side-by-side-by-side, but this compilation is certainly not a complete analysis. Margin of victory, the placement of games on the schedule, the equality of matchups, and countless other factors aren't really taken into account here. These reports try to make the comparisons as objective and concise as possible, but in reality there will likely never be a thorough enough and definitive enough analysis to determine how the leagues truly stack up to one another.

But for me, this will do.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blog Poll Ballot, Post-Week 13: This Is No Longer A Power Poll

RankTeamChange
1Missouri 2
2West Virginia 2
3Ohio State 3
4Georgia 1
5Oklahoma 5
6LSU 5
7Kansas 5
8Virginia Tech--
9Southern Cal 2
10Florida 5
11Boston College 2
12Arizona State 5
13Clemson 3
14Illinois 4
15Hawaii 5
16Tennessee 1
17Cincinnati 5
18South Florida 1
19Virginia 5
20Texas 8
21Auburn 5
22Oregon 13
23Wake Forest 3
24Wisconsin 1
25Brigham Young 1

Dropped Out: Boise State (#21), Connecticut (#23)

Ballot Meditations
>>> I didn't look at last week's ballot, just started with a clean slate this week and ranked teams based on their overall resume this year. I've switched from power poll ranking to resume ranking. Why? Because, today, I think USC would beat everyone...and in a "power poll" that means they should be ranked #1 . But they don't deserve the top spot based on the whole season. So there you have it.

>>> Mizzou gets the nod at #1 (very strange to be typing "Mizzou" and "#1") over West Virginia due to schedule strength and overall domination of their opponents (closest win besides the Kansas victory was by 13 points).

>>> Oregon plummets. Losing Dixon is akin to UF losing Tebow. That's how valuable those guys are, and that's how shaky those teams actually are as well. Dixon is the difference between Oregon going 11-1 and 7-5. If I were ranking power poll-style, Oregon would be out of the poll altogether.

>>> Nonetheless, UF moves into the top 10. Their offense is unstoppable with Tebow and Harvin hitting on all cylinders. But, the Gators are walking a tightrope.

>>> Conference call...ACC (5 teams ranked), Big East (3), Big 10 (3), Big XII (4), Mountain West (1), Pac 10 (3), SEC (5), WAC (1)

Feedback is welcome.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

ACC on TV

Where to find today's games on the tube:

Miami @ Boston College, 12pm ET - ESPN
Virginia Tech @ Virginia, 12pm ET - ESPN2
Maryland @ NC State, 12pm ET - Raycom/Lincoln Financial & ESPN GamePlan
Georgia @ Georgia Tech, 3:30pm ET - ABC & ESPN GamePlan
Duke @ North Carolina, 3:30pm ET - ESPNU
Florida State @ Florida, 5pm ET - CBS & CSTV
Clemson @ South Carolina, 7pm ET - ESPN2

There is no TV coverage for the Wake Forest-Vanderbilt game at 2pm.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Week 13 Preview, Part II: Put Up or Shut Up

It's rivalry week, and the unofficial ACC/SEC Challenge kicks off tomorrow. If the lordly SEC is truly the best conference in the land, they'll sweep all four games, as the matchups favor them this weekend - Florida and Georgia are simply better than FSU and Georgia Tech, while Wake and Clemson travel to Vandy and South Carolina. Anything less than three wins by the SEC clubs tomorrow should cause some rethinking about the perceived strengths of each conference by pundits and bloggers aplenty.

WAKE FOREST (7-4) at VANDERBILT (5-6)
Saturday, 11/24/07, 2pm ET - Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN
Series Record: Vanderbilt leads 7-3; the Commodores won the last meeting, 24-20, in 2005
Storyline: Vandy shoots for their first non-losing season - along with a possible bowl bid - in 25 years.
Brief Overview: Of the four ACC/SEC clashes this weekend, losing this one would do the most damage to the ACC's reputation. And that's not entirely fair, as Vandy has risen from their Duke-like depths and has played competitive football the last few seasons, ala Wake Forest under Jim Grobe prior to 2006. The Deacons are now the model for Vandy to follow in terms of a small private school navigating a the waters of a BCS league year-in and year-out. And the Commodores first giant milestone toward that could kind of success would be decapitating Wake in mano-a-mano combat, Highlander-style. After all, the legend says that only one small, pesky BCS-conference upstart can truly exist at one time. As for the Deacs, this one is all about bowl placement and conference pride. It's clear that Vanderbilt has more to play for on Saturday.
Prediction: Vandy has had their chances already to get that sixth win, losing in crunch time to Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia over the last month. Like Wake, the Commodores tend to play to the level of their opponent...and this will be no different. Wake Forest 23, Vanderbilt 21

GEORGIA (9-2) at GEORGIA TECH (7-4)
Saturday, 11/24/07, 3:30pm ET - Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Series Record: Georgia leads 54-37-5; the Bulldogs won last year's meeting, 15-12
Storyline: The Dawgs can keep their miniscule national title hopes alive with a victory; likewise, Tech's Chan Gailey can keep his continued employment hopes alive with a victory.
Brief Overview: At quick glance, this one looks to be the biggest mismatch of the four ACC/SEC clashes, as the Bulldogs are rolling into Atlanta on a five-game winning streak, having scored 40+ in three of their last four games. Meanwhile, the Jackets have been clunking along all season. They first relied on their defense to bail out the sputtering offense, however as the season winds down, it's the offense that is now picking up the slack from the recently lax defensive efforts. But, when you look at the official NCAA stats, the following mystery emerges: Total Offense (Georgia Tech #61, Georgia #71), Total Defense (Georgia Tech #7, Georgia #22), Turnover Margin (Georgia +2, Georgia Tech -2). Those are the three most important team stats, in my opinion, and they all point to two evenly matched teams...which just goes to show that stat comparisons can sometimes be a pointless load of bullcrap.
Prediction: I can't pick Chan to actually beat the Dawgs until he actually does so. And this could be his last shot. Georgia 30, Georgia Tech 17

FLORIDA STATE (7-4) at FLORIDA (8-3)
Saturday, 11/24/07, 5pm ET - Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
Series Record: Florida leads 30-19-2; the Gators won last year's meeting, 21-14
Storyline: Will Tim Tebow clinch the Heisman Trophy on a banged-up Seminole defense?
Brief Overview: I'm a Seminole through and through, but for whatever reason this little factoid had escaped me until this week: in 233 passing attempts on the season, Drew Weatherford has thrown just one interception, to go with eight TD tosses. Keep that in mind when you consider that Weatherford is going against a fairly horrid Gator secondary (#94 in the nation); whatever problems the Noles will have on Saturday, it shouldn't be in the passing game. No, the real problem is Tim Tebow going against a collapsing FSU defense that over the last month made Kirby Freaking Freeman look like John Elway, gave up a 38-yard QB scramble on 3rd-and-31 to Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor, and has coughed up nearly 900 passing yards over the last three games. One interesting subplot should be how UF and FSU utilize their uber-versatile offensive talents in Percy Harvin and Preston Parker. And the first time Tebow takes off running and sees Geno Harris in space should be interesting. Umm, Geno...Tebow's got 20 lbs. on you.
Prediction: Tebow will torch the FSU secondary, but the 'Noles will put points on the board too...just not nearly enough. Florida 41, Florida State 24

CLEMSON (8-3) at SOUTH CAROLINA (6-5)
Saturday, 11/24/07, 7pm ET - Williams Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
Series Record: Clemson leads 63-37-4; the Gamecocks won last year's meeting, 31-28
Storyline: The loser's season will be considered an abject failure; the winner ends an up-and- down year on a big up.
Brief Overview: The specter of the Darren McFadden/Felix Jones obliteration of the Gamecock defense a few weeks ago weighs heavily on this matchup, and Clemson OC Rob Spence has to be burning the midnight oil in film study in order to construct all new ways for James Davis and CJ Spiller to unleash hell. Sure, that's an easy matchup to peg, and it's not like Carolina DC Tyrone Nix hasn't come up with a wrinkle or two as well. The winner of this one is the team who has the quicker recovery time....Clemson's coming off the heartbreaker to BC, while the Cocks are reeling after three straight defeats. Steve Spurrier's nit-picky, patronizing style of coaching apparently works when his teams are 10-1 or 9-2; does it work when his team is 6-5? We'll see.
Prediction: I'm very tempted to call this one for the Gamecocks, but they just don't appear to have the horses to pull it off. Clemson 24, South Carolina 17

And thus endeth the regular season in ACC-land. The ACC Championship Game and bowl games are all that's left.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Week 13 Preview, Part I: Post-Tryptophan Binge

VIRGINIA TECH (9-2) at VIRGINIA (9-2)
Saturday, 11/24/07, 12pm ET - Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA
Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 46-37-5; the Hokies won last year's meeting 17-0
Storyline: Biggest game ever for the Commonwealth Cup? Winner takes all in the ACC-Coastal.
Brief Overview: Two teams that have been spotty all season - yet continued to win - now meet when they're peaking. The Hokies are coming off consecutive routs of Florida State and Miami, while the Cavaliers' last effort was the 48-0 wrecking ball they took to the Hurricanes and the Orange Bowl. Virginia was idle last week, meaning most of the momentum from the Miami win has been lost. And Tech now knows that a win on Saturday sets up a rematch with Boston College, with a chance to erase the pain of that Thursday Night thriller.
Prediction: The Hokies are finally starting to gel on offense, while their defense is firing on all cylinders. The bye week probably hurt the Hoos more than it helped. Virginia Tech 27, Virginia 17

MARYLAND (5-6) at N.C. STATE (5-6)
Saturday, 11/24/07, 12pm ET - Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
Series Record: NC State leads 30-29-4; the Terrapins won last year's meeting 26-20
Storyline: The winner goes to Boise for the holidays; the loser stays home and finishes last in the ACC-Atlantic.
Brief Overview: The great Ralph Friedgen will notch his third losing season in the last four years with a loss on Saturday, while Tom O'Brien could post one of the more impressive in-season turnarounds in recent memory. Just six weeks ago, the Pack stood at 1-5, but have gone 4-1 since their bye week in early October and are a win away from a bowl bid. It remains to be seen whether the Pack's 38-18 loss to Wake last week killed some of their mojo, and we'll likely find out if Maryland's inexplicable 42-point explosion against BC two weeks ago was a sign of new life or an aberration.
Prediction: The Pack get their mojo back, and the Fridge's ample seat gets a bit warm this offeseason. N.C. State 22, Maryland 18

MIAMI (5-6) at BOSTON COLLEGE (9-2)
Saturday, 11/24/07, 12pm ET - Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA
Series Record: Miami leads 23-3; the Hurricanes won last year's meeting 17-14
Storyline: Pride...a Miami loss would drop them to 5-7, their worst record in 30 years. A win gets them bowl eligible.
Brief Overview: Miami has all the appearances of a dead-team walking, but you have to thikn there's a chance that we'll see the team that beat Texas A&M and Florida State earlier in the year, especially with a bowl berth on the line and the unheard of losing season closing in. The shocking part of Miami's demise has been the collapse of their defense, and the disappearance of DE Calais Campbell. The Eagles already have their ticket punched to Jacksonville for the ACC title game and could use a tune-up in the meantime.
Prediction: The Canes quit two weeks ago against Virginia, when they had plenty of things still to play for. All they have to play for now is pride, and they left that in the Orange Bowl. Boston College 31, Miami 13

DUKE (1-10) at NORTH CAROLINA (3-8)
Saturday, 11/24/07, 3:30pm ET - Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
Series Record: North Carolina leads 51-31-4; the Tar Heels won last year's meeting 45-44
Storyline: This is likely the swan song for Ted Roof.
Brief Overview: You could make a case that both teams are better than their records - especially the Tar Heels - but it's a hollow case as both schools are again well out of bowl range and both are again situated at the bottom of their division and conference. The Butch Davis-Arkansas rumors appear to have been squashed, erasing a potential distraction for him and the team. Meanwhile, Duke's good vibes from their win at Northwestern have long since dissipated, leaving Ted Roof's club a dejected and woefully undermanned ballclub.
Prediction: Say goodnight, Ted. North Carolina 34, Duke 10

The remaining game previews will be up tomorrow. Meanwhile, the tryptophan has overtaken me and I can no longer keep my eyes ope*$)H?FN/K{WL<{NJKsfshrgoiEwq[

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No "Out of Conference Report" This Week

It's already Wednesday evening, so any numbers I compile and present will be valid for less than 72 hours. Plus, there are six inter-conference matchups among the BCS leagues this weekend, highlighted by the four-game ACC/SEC Challenge on Saturday. Once this weekend's festivities are over, I'll post an updated "Out of Conference Report", likely on Monday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

About Last Saturday...

FLORIDA STATE 24 - MARYLAND 16
Ladies and gents, the 2007-2009 success or failure of the Seminoles lie in great part in the talented hands of superb sophomores Preston Parker and Patrick Robinson. Parker, moving from WR to RB to fill the void left by the injured Antone Smith and Jamaal Edwards, tore through the Terrapins to the tune of 133 yards on 20 carries, while cornerback "P-Rob" snagged his 6th interception in his last 7 games. Parker has become a revelation after being buried on the depth chart in the preseason and being utterly ignored his freshman year by the Jeff Bowden Project. As for the Terps, the hangover from the BC win appeared to carry over as they found themselves at the wrong end of a 21-3 score early in the second quarter, before sobering up and playing decent football the rest of the way. QB Chris Turner outplayed his Seminole counterpart Drew Weatherford and the Maryland defense completely manhandled the Nole offense in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

"Versatility and stop-on-a-dime shiftiness reminiscent of Peter Warrick? To hell with that crap." - Jeff Bowden

GEORGIA TECH 27 - NORTH CAROLINA 25
Equilibrium achieved. A classic Chan Choke (UNC took their first and only lead with 5:50 remaining) was averted when the infallible Chan Gailey Equilibrium rearranged time and space to provide the Jackets with their 7th win of the season on a 27-yard field goal with 18 seconds left. While no one can look at the Tar Heels this year and say they are anything but improved over the last six seasons, their 3-8 record heading into the Duke game still looks awfully Bunting-esque and may spur Butch Davis into going home to momma (who happens to reside in Fayetteville, AR; I hear there's a job opening there).

The Equilibrium cannot be stopped. Hell, it can't even be contained. It devours all in it's path.

WAKE FOREST 38 - NC STATE 18
Leave it to a Jim Grobe team to extinguish a completely en-fuego NC State club. Up 21-3 in the third quarter, the Deacons withstood a Wolfpack rally and pulled away with their 724th (okay, 8th) INT return for a score this season. Despite the loss, the Pack still showed a pulse on offense but were done in by the pesky interception bug. Wake likely clinched a Muffler Bowl spot while State needs a win over Maryland next Saturday to become amazingly bowl eligible after the 1-5 start.

They call me the fireman. That's my name.

NOTRE DAME 28 - DUKE 7
It's a strange season when a loss to the Fighting Irish can get a Duke coach fired.
Sure, there's been no word on Ted Roof's status, but after such a promising beginning to the season, the Devils have again sunk to "Worst BCS Conference Team" status after getting drilled by the former owners of that title, the now 2-9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Coughing up 414 yards to one of the all-time worst offensive units in major college football history, and avoiding a shutout only by scoring a cheap TD in garbage time, is simply a total disgrace to Duke - and the ACC by association - and we'll have no more of that, dammit. I hope.

The Roof...the Roof...the Roof is now fired. Well, probably.

VIRGINIA TECH 44 - MIAMI 14
Miami sucks. Quite horribly, in fact. And in the distance, Larry Coker laughs impishly but with a morose undercurrent. That is all.

It takes a special coach to lose 92-14 to the Commonwealth of Virginia in a seven-day span. Ths is not that coach.

BOSTON COLLEGE 20 - CLEMSON 17
Sure, Matt Ryan gets all the glory for his eerily familiar scrambling-for-dear-life late 4th quarter TD toss to win the game, but Eagle RB Andre Callender was the true hero for BC on Saturday night. 92 yards receiving and 75 yards rushing aren't quite legendary numbers, but it was the third down conversion daggers thrust into the gut of the Clemson faithful by Callender that was the theme of the night. Well that, and the inevitability that a Tommy Bowden club will be always be so damn predictable and consistent, even in this year of lunacy.

The wind beneath Matt Ryan's wings. Ugh, did I actually just type that?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blog Poll Ballot, Post-Week 12: The End Is Near

RankTeamChange
1LSU--
2Kansas--
3Missouri 2
4West Virginia 3
5Georgia 4
6Ohio State--
7Arizona State 1
8Virginia Tech 2
9Oregon 6
10Oklahoma 6
11Southern Cal 1
12Texas 1
13Boston College 3
14Virginia--
15Florida--
16Clemson 5
17Tennessee 4
18Illinois 4
19South Florida 7
20Hawaii 3
21Boise State 3
22Cincinnati 2
23Connecticut 2
24Brigham Young 2
25Wisconsin 1

Dropped Out: Kentucky (#19), Penn State (#23)

Ballot Meditations
--West Virginia is the big winner in the Oregon-Oklahoma freefall sweepstakes. You'll note that three other Big East teams are ranked on my ballot while Ohio State has just two other Big Ten brothers in the poll, one of whom they lost to (Illinois), and then the Badgers at #25 and that's just because I couldn't think of anyone else to put there.
--Georgia also leaps the Buckeyes. The Dawgs would win if they played OSU today. Earlier in the year? No.
--Conference count...ACC (4 teams ranked), Big East (4), Big 10 (3), Big 12 (4), Pac 10 (3),
SEC (4), Mountain West (1), WAC (2).
--Most likely to depart from next week's ballot: Connecticut (as West Virginia), Hawaii or Boise State (they play this Friday).