Leave it up to Al Groh to spoil what could've been a sublime week of redemption for the ACC. But let's not dwell on the negative; instead, let's recap one of the better weekends in the ACC in many, many months. Forgive the choppy, rambling style today...I'm a bit under the weather so blame Day-Quil if I'm a bit nonsensical.
NORTH CAROLINA 44 - RUTGERS 12
Freakin' sweet. National television, on the road, up and coming ACC club beats the bejesus out of flash-in-the-pan Big East pretender. And the Tar Heel defense, the one I have been rather rude about the last two weeks...4 picks and a score. All is now forgiven for the McNeese mess. Poor Brandon Tate...if only he played in the SEC or Big XII, clips of his greatness would be hurtling through cyberspace via ESPN.com and you'd be seeing his name on all those meaningless but still widely read "Heisman Watch" lists. Alas, he'll have to settle for ACC Player of the Year honors and perhaps a trip to Tampa if he keeps up half this pace.
MARYLAND 35 - CALIFORNIA 27
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this pleasant upset is that it didn't involve monster days from either Chris Turner (156 yards passing but a superb 79% completion rate), Da'Rel Scott (87 rushing yards) or Darrius Heyward-Bey (2 receptions). The Terps didn't really do anything extraordinary except play mistake free, efficient football and got a huge effort out of their defense through the first three quarters. After taking a 28-6 lead into the 4th stanza the Terps maddeningly switched to a prevent-D and susbsequently let Cal make the score respectable, but the damage had been done. The Fridge always pulls one of these out of the blue upsets every year and I probably should've seen this one coming. And based on the near miracle at Kentucky last Saturday, the Middle Tennessee loss looks slightly less horrid now.
CLEMSON 27 - N.C. STATE 9
I told you the Tigers were still in their Tide-induced fog. This is one of the games were the boxscore says one thing (Clemson domination), but a very different impression was left when actually viewing the game. State had a couple of chances to make this one very interesting but blew it in the red zone. It was another lackluster day on the ground for CJ Spiller and James Davis (24 rushes, 95 yards combined). Cullen Harper had the most workman-like 262 passing yards I've seen in a while. The Tigers are simply off-kilter and they've been that way since early in the Bama debacle. The Wolfpack are a mess in all facets of the game, save for RB Andre Brown and some flashes of potential from QB Russell Wilson.
DUKE 41 - NAVY 31
Could the Blue Devils actually qualify for a bowl bid this season? Hear me out...they're 2-1 now and get their replacement-in-the-basement Virginia in two weeks. That's 3-1. Then they'll need 3 more wins from the rest of their ACC slate (which is sans FSU, BC and Maryland) and their remaining non-conference tilt with Vandy. It's possible, especially with a fantastic air attack led by QB Thaddeus Lewis. David Cutcliffe may now be in danger of raising expectations too quickly in Durham - he's doing a great job thus far, but he's doing it with a ton of seasoned upperclassmen.
VIRGINIA TECH 20 - GEORGIA TECH 17
The Hokies are one idiotic personnel decision from being 3-0 and in the Top 15 right now. Everyone outside of Frank Beamer, Bryan Stinespring and Sean Glennon knew that Tyrod Taylor was the better QB and the better fit for the Hokies heading into this season, but stubbornness reigned and a Glennon-aided loss to ECU in the opener was the result. The V-Tech victory over G-Tech this Saturday is proof positive of Taylor's value, as he turned busted plays into gains and generally kept the Jacket defense guessing. Taylor's stats weren't impressive, but it's what he could do that made a difference, as well as what he didn't do (turn the ball over). Tough, tough loss for the Ramblin' Wreck but just think how much damage they'll do when they figure out how to hold onto the football.
FLORIDA STATE 46 - CHATTANOOGA 7
The Seminoles have had many problems over the last three years, but one largely unmentioned factor in their recent struggles has been the way they've opened each of those seasons - on Monday night, against Miami ('05 and '06) and Clemson ('07). In each of those years, the Noles then suited up again on the following Saturday and played like excrement against opponents they otherwise should've clobbered. Being cursed with Jeff Bowden (and the fallout he left behind) and sub-par offensive line play is bad enough, but being thrown to the wolves in game one each year and then having to take the field 4 1/2 days later stalled the FSU offense right out of the gate in each of those seasons. Not so in 2008, as the suspension-depleted Seminoles smartly scheduled two tune-ups (holy alliteration overload) prior to the showdown with Wake, and boy does it appear to have worked. Quarterback Christian Ponder has been laser sharp and error-free, along with backup D'Vontrey Richardson; the receivers are the best in a decade, although they suffered the dropsies against the Mocs on Saturday; and the line has played well, but still coughed up a few sacks. As for the defense, FSU stifled Chattanooga all day aside from one busted play - the Mocs' lone TD on a busted-coverage 62-yard strike. The Seminole defense surrendered just 73 yards otherwise.
CONNECTICUT 45 - VIRGINIA 10
Let's be honest here - both USC and UConn let up on the Cavs in what could've been 66-7 and 59-10 punishments if Pete Carroll and Randy Edsall graduated from the Urban Meyer School of Stat Padding and General Jerk-Offishness. And that's all that really needs to be said about the current state of Virginia football under Al Groh and Son. Well that, and a third ass-kicking is going to be administered in nine days...by Duke.