Monday, September 29, 2008

About Last Saturday...

No game summaries and recaps here...just a few themes that emerged from the kooky weekend that was.


Of the eight games involving ACC clubs last Saturday, five were won by the visiting team. This is not a new development, as the road squad has been victorious in three of the four biggest conference games prior to last weekend (Wake at FSU, Georgia Tech at BC, Virginia Tech at UNC), while the visitors have won their fair share of non-conference games as well (USC at Virginia, Wake at Baylor, Northwestern at Duke, UNC at Rutgers, Miami at Texas A&M). What does this all mean? Beats me, other than lousy teams are lousy teams no matter where they play. For home-field to be an equalizer, you've gotta have the Jimmies and Joes as well as the Xs and Os to be competitive. As for the more evenly matched games that went to the visitors - maybe it's just me, but in my professional and personal life I find there are more distractions for me at home than when I'm on the road. I'm more focused and alert to what I should be doing if I'm stuck in a strange town for one single purpose.

The folks at Hot Seat Central are pleased to see Al Groh and Tommy Bowden in attendance once again, and earlier than expected this time around.

Look, if you give Groh and Bowden five more years apiece, things might actually come together - I've seen stranger things happen. But in a realistic sense, a program cannot stabilize, much less gather any sort of momentum, if the head coach's job status is a near-annual topic of discussion. It's certainly fair to say that "it" would've happened by now if either Groh or Bowden were capable of "it". Clemson and Virginia need to end the charade once and for all, and soon.

Few would disagree that Virginia Tech and Maryland looked like diaper contents after the first two weeks of the season. But quarterback changes (one forced, one not) and a back-to-basics approach have reaped major rewards for both programs, as they've combined for five suberb victories over the last three Saturdays. Both the Terps and Hokies are in the driver's seat for division crowns now and credit must be given to Frank Beamer and Ralph Friedgen. In a season in which nine different teams can conceivably win the league, the clubs with the best coaches are the safest bets.

It is seemingly beyond debate that ACC rookies David Cutcliffe and Paul Johnson are the clear front-runners for ACC Coach of the Year (sidebar: not that the honor means a whole lot...Al Groh and Tommy Bowden have both won it twice). The early nod goes to Johnson, who inherited a stickier situation - a solid but drifting program with high expectations yet saddled with tricky recruiting obstacles, on top of installing a completely foreign offense. Cutcliffe had nowhere to go but up, inherited 20 returning starters and has a fraction of the demands and expectations...although the culture of losing and apathy in Durham over last decade isn't the easiest obstacle to hurdle. The Yellow Jacket-Blue Devil tilt next week may just decide the race early.

It was quite mystifying to see Wake Forest of all teams learn absolutely nothing from Turnover Fest 2008 in Tallahassee last week. Six flubs later against Navy and Jim Grobe's squad suddenly looked like the pre-2006 Demon Deacons.

In fact, in seven of the eight games involving ACC clubs last Saturday, the team that won the turnover battle won on the scoreboard as well (only FSU bucked the trend, equalling Colorado at two turnovers apiece). When you add up all the fumbles and picks from last weekend's ACC-involved games, the winners enjoyed a collective +23 advantage in turnover margin. More than anything, that is how you account for wild and wacky upsets not just in the conference but around the nation as a whole. As if that's news.

Despite 34-7 and 42-0 shellackings of UCF and Rhode Island respectively the last two Saturdays, Boston College is one of the shakier teams to emerge out of the first month of play. Part of that has to do with the dreadful competition the Eagles have faced in three of their four games, and that their only major exposure was a plodding loss at home to Georgia Tech. Most of the grumbling has to do with quarterback play, the major bone of contention at virtually every ACC program at some point in the last two years. In BC's rout of the Rams, Eagle QBs threw the ball exactly nine times, completing three throws for 27 yards. Another problem is that the Rams held the ball for almost 40 minutes of the game; props to BC for keeping the Rams off the scoreboard, but something's amiss on defense when a bad 1-AA/FCS team can keep the ball for over two-and-a-half quarters.

With Virginia Tech's 35-30 triumph at Nebraska and Florida State's 39-21 win over Colorado in Jacksonville, the ACC improved to 4-0 against the Big XII this season. And three of the games were at Big XII venues. Does this mean a great deal in the whole scheme o' things? Nope. But why am I the only one touting this little factoid? The ACC has been pronounced dead in the national media at least three or four times this year following bad non-conference losses; the resuscitation should be equally covered.

You and I both know that this is a Hurricane touchdown in the old Orange Bowl (please ignore lame-o graphics and soundtrack):

No way, no how does that ball fall into UNC safety Trimane Goddard's mitts if the game had been played in the recently-demolished hellhole. We'll see how much mojo Miami can muster next week against archrival Florida State in plainly sterile Dolphin Stadium.


Anonymous said...

F-L-O-R-D-I-D-A S-T-A-T-E! Florida State! Florida State! Florida State! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Where has that rushing game been for the last...oh, say five years? Can I get my hopes up or will the Noles continue to be one of the most inconsistent teams in the Nation (I'm guessing it's the latter)?

but you're right, I keep hearing announcers mention how atrocious the ACC is and how unbelievably great the SEC is and I wonder if they're actually watching the games. Outside of Bama and Vandy every SEC team has been somewhat of a disappointment so far while the ACC is full of young, rapidly-improving teams. Obviously the SEC is still the better league but they're not head-and-shoulders above the rest of college football the way Mike Tirico would have you believe.

Marcus said...

I'm not buying this new FSU running game until they put a few good ground games together in a row. Antone Smith had a nice game at Colorado last year too and then didn't do much of anything the rest of the way.

Why the hell is Tirico babbling about the SEC? Not enough to talk about during MNF?

The ACC has been vastly improved with the additions of Paul Johnson and David Cutcliffe and will improve even more when Tommy Bowden and Al Groh are shown the door. And when Bobby "retires". The Fridge looks to be back on track and Beamer's last 3 games are among the best stretches of his career. The ACC should be hitting on most cylinders by late 2009 and then 2010 could be a monster year for the league.