Posts by Christopher Paschal

ACC Bowl Recap

It was an all-around lackluster bowl season showing from the ACC as the conference went 4-5 in its bowl contests. Clemson was the only team that really looked impressive considering the other three wins were by a combined margin of just 12 points. Here’s a look back at how each ACC team fared in their

It was an all-around lackluster bowl season showing from the ACC as the conference went 4-5 in its bowl contests. Clemson was the only team that really looked impressive considering the other three wins were by a combined margin of just 12 points. Here’s a look back at how each ACC team fared in their bowl.

Sun Bowl, Miami 14: Washington State 20

Four turnovers and a poor rushing attack doomed Miami in this one. Two of those turnovers were in the first half, allowing Washington State to take a 20-7 lead. Miami had to punt on all four of its third quarter possessions, and two late-game turnovers gave Washington State all they needed to hold off a Hurricane comeback. Brad Kaaya looked very average in this game, throwing for 219 yards with one touchdown and one interception. As a team, Miami was only able to rush for 114 yards on 3.9 yards-per-carry. 

Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana 41, Duke 44

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

This was another game for Duke that involved a late-game controversy, but this time they were on the winning side. After Duke kicked a field goal in overtime, Indiana apparently missed their attempt over the right upright. Although many protested and said it was good, the play could not be reviewed and Duke began their celebrations. Overall, this was a great back-and-forth game. Duke won it on the ground, with 373 total rushing yards. Thomas Sirk ran for 155 and two scores, and both Jela Duncan and Shaun Wilson rushed for over 100 yards. It was a great finale after Duke staggered to the finish of the regular season. 

Independence Bowl: Tulsa 52, Virginia Tech 55

The Hokies were able to send off Frank Beamer with a thrilling victory over Tulsa. This game was all about offense, as both teams combined for 1161 total yards. Michael Brewer threw for 344 yards, 227 of them to Isaiah Ford alone, but it was the rush game that scored the majority of Tech’s points. Four different players combined for five total rushing touchdowns. 

Military Bowl: Pittsburgh 28, Navy 44

The Navy ground game proved to be too much for Pitt as Navy rushed for 417 yards and ate up 42 minutes of clock, led by Kenan Reynolds who ran for 144 yards and four total touchdowns. Turnovers were an issue for Pitt with Nathan Peterman throwing three interceptions. Their offense appeared to stall often, only gaining 335 total yards. At one point, Pitt was down 31-7, and the offense just wasn’t potent enough to mount a comeback. Star wide receiver Tyler Boyd was held to just 53 yards on six catches. 

Russell Athletic Bowl: North Carolina 38, Baylor 49

In a fun-to-watch shootout, UNC failed to cope with a powerful Baylor ground game. Playing with their third string quarterback, Baylor resolved to pass the ball just 18 times and rush a whopping 84 times. It sure worked. The Bears racked up an incredible 645 rushing yards, often times running the same play over and over again. The Tar Heel defense looked completely lost in how to stop them. Baylor’s Johnny Jefferson ran for 299 yards and three touchdowns by himself. The defense completely let UNC down in this one. 

On offense, North Carolina had another strong showing. Marquise Williams was prolific in the passing game, throwing for 243 yards and three touchdowns while adding 81 yards on the ground. Elijah Hood ran for 118 yards but was kept out of the end zone.

Belk Bowl: NC State 28, Mississippi State 51

In the biggest loss for an ACC team, NC State was completely out-played by Mississippi State. Dak Prescott had a career day with 380 passing yards and four touchdowns. He and the rest of the Bulldog offense were completely unstoppable. Offensively, it wasn’t a terrible day for NC State. Their run game was the focal point, racking up 210 yards and three touchdowns. Jacoby Brissett had a disappointing outing, throwing for 214 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Both interceptions led to Bulldog touchdowns. The defense gave up 569 total yards, and only Clemson was able to score more than 51 points on the Wolfpack.

Music City Bowl: Texas A&M 21, Louisville 27

Louisville relied on 20 first quarter points and a strong second half defense to seal a victory against the Aggies. Lamar Jackson was brilliant as he threw for 227 yards, rushed for 226 more, and scored four total times. No one else on the field came close to matching that kind of individual performance. The Cardinals certainly have a lot to look forward to in 2016.

Orange Bowl: Oklahoma 17, Clemson 37

The lone ACC bright spot, Clemson looked absolutely dominant in this game. The first half was close, with Oklahoma taking a one point lead into the locker room. In the second half however, it was all Clemson. The defense shut out a prolific Sooner offense and Deshaun Watson put together another stellar performance. Watson threw for 187 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 145 yards and another score. Wayne Gallman also had a fantastic game, rushing for 150 yards and two scores on 26 carries. 

Peach Bowl: Houston 38, Florida State 24

The word that comes to mind when describing FSU’s performance against Houston is “sloppy”. They started sluggishly, allowing Houston to take a 21-3 halftime lead. FSU scored plenty more points in the second half but conceded 17 fourth quarter points, thus sealing their fate. 

All aspects of the Seminoles looked awful in this game. Sean Maguire threw four interceptions. Dalvin Cook finished with just 33 yards rushing (his lowest total all season) with one touchdown and one lost fumble. The defense allowed the most points they’ve given up all season. Roberto Aguayo missed a field goal. This game should have been easy for the Noles, but they finished an otherwise great season on an extremely disappointing and sour note.

Overall, the ACC had a pretty poor bowl season. There were many winnable games that teams just couldn’t pull out. North Carolina and Florida State especially could have given the conference a huge boost, but fell short. It’s a fitting end to a season that had so much potential. Of course a Clemson national title is still a possibility, and that alone can give the conference a great image. Until that happens however, ACC fans will have to contend with mediocrity.

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SQ Music City Bowl Preview

In another matchup that features two teams trending in opposite directions, the 2015 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl will see Texas A&M (SEC, 8-4) take on Louisville (ACC, 7-5). The game will be broadcast on ESPN Wednesday December 30th at 7:00 pm EST. Both teams will be looking to finish underwhelming seasons with a

In another matchup that features two teams trending in opposite directions, the 2015 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl will see Texas A&M (SEC, 8-4) take on Louisville (ACC, 7-5). The game will be broadcast on ESPN Wednesday December 30th at 7:00 pm EST. Both teams will be looking to finish underwhelming seasons with a quality win.

Storylines Heading Into the Game

Disappointing seasons for different reasons – Both of these teams entered the 2015 season with high expectations. After a final CFP ranking of 21st last season, Louisville proceeded to lose their first three games, and four of their first six. The Cardinals managed to go 5-1 to finish, but a 7-5 season was still very underwhelming. Texas A&M on the other hand won their first five, achieving a season-high ranking of 9th in the AP Poll. From there, they went 3-4 to finish the season. Instead of challenging for the SEC West crown, they fell to fifth. 

A&M Quarterback woes – It has been a bad couple of weeks for the Aggies. Just a few days after starting QB Kyle Allen announced he would transfer, backup Kyler Murray announced he was leaving for Oklahoma. Both players appeared to be concerned with the direction A&M was trending, and felt that they would have better chances at another university. No matter what it is definitely embarrassing to have your first and second string quarterbacks opt out, and these events certainly don’t help coach Kevin Sumlin’s seat get any colder. This leaves sophomore Jake Hubenak earning his first career start in this bowl. 

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Devonte Fields turnaround – After earning BIG 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker at TCU, Devonte Fields was dismissed from the school for allegedly hitting his ex-girlfriend in 2014. He spent a year at community college, and then was looked at by Louisville. Coach Bobby Petrino was blasted for allowing Fields to join the team, but Fields has absolutely shown that he belongs. He finished the regular season with 7.5 sacks (all in the last six games), and his 19 tackles for loss put him at second in the country. His coaches have praised him for his work ethic and growth as a person.

Key Stats

323 – total yards per game allowed by the Louisville defense. The Cardinals have the 14th ranked total defense in the country, and it has been their strong point all season. This is great news against a mediocre A&M offense, especially with a new starting quarterback. Look for Louisville’s defense to make Hubenak uncomfortable and try to control the pace of the game. 

206 – rushing yards per game allowed by A&M. That number puts them at a dismal 104th in the country at what has been a huge weakness all season. They allowed Heisman-winner Derrick Henry to have one of his best games with 236 yards and two scores. Louisville’s offensive plan centers around the run, a fact that should make A&M fans nervous. The Aggie defense is going to have to play better than their average in order to come out of this game with a victory. 

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

27 – season passing attempts by new A&M starter Jake Hubenak. Hubenak is a huge question mark right now for the Aggies as he makes his first career start. He has only attempted 27 passes this season, completing just 12 of them for 92 yards. He has also thrown one touchdown and no interceptions. A&M’s offensive performance is going to depend a lot on whether or not Hubenak can play well in his debut. If he ends up being a bust, it could be a long night for he and his teammates as they would be forced to play the run one-dimensionally. On the other hand, a strong showing from Hubenak could give them a win and tons of confidence heading into next season. 

Key Players

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville – Louisville’s offense lives and dies by Jackson. He is both the main passing quarterback and the leading rusher. Most of A&M’s defensive efforts will be focused around containing Jackson and limiting his explosiveness. In the passing game he has been pretty average, completing almost 56% of his passes for 1613 yards and just 10 touchdowns. On the ground he has totaled 734 yards with a per-rush average of 5.2 yards. He has also added nine rushing scores. 

He has improved as a passer, but is a much greater threat on the ground with his lightning speed. A&M will need to keep him in the pocket and force him to throw the ball in order to slow him down. They certainly can’t afford to let him dictate offensive drives with his legs. 

Myles Garrett, DL, Texas A&M – Garrett is A&M’s best chance at being able to contain Jackson. He has totaled 12 sacks this season, good for sixth in the country. He also has one interception and one forced fumble. Garrett has the ability to wreak complete havoc in the backfield, someone that Louisville can’t afford to let happen. If Garrett is allowed to have his way with a pitiful Cardinal offensive line, he could single-handedly contain Jackson and slow the Louisville offense.

Why Louisville Wins

Simply put, the Aggies are known for a poor offense while the Cardinals are known for a great defense. A&M has struggled all season to score points against quality teams, and this game won’t be any different. They are also know for giving up turnovers, which can afford Louisville a few extra chances on offense. Making matters worse for the Aggies, they will be starting a new quarterback in this game. Barring a miracle, the Louisville defense should be able to all but shut down the A&M passing attack. 

On offense Louisville favors the run game, and the A&M run defense is a disaster. If Louisville can get the duo of Jackson and Brandon Radcliff going early, there won’t be much that A&M can do to stop them. Louisville will be able to dictate the pace of the game with their rushing attack. 

Why Texas A&M Wins

The A&M offense may be poor, but Louisville isn’t exactly stellar with the ball either. They too have struggled to score points, and an offensive line that allowed 43 sacks this season won’t magically get better. Garrett and Daeshon Hall will be able to wreak havoc in the backfield and cause problems for Louisville all night. It will make it very tough for Louisville to comfortably run the plays they want to. 

A better offensive line for A&M should also allow them to get looks in the running game. In addition, rookie QB Hubenak could benefit greatly from solid protection. If they can give him that for most of the night, he should be able to make the easy throws and play game-manager effectively.

Prediction

This game will absolutely be about the defenses. And as mediocre as the Louisville offense is, A&M’s is in worse shape. They haven’t been good all season, and now they are forced to play with an untested quarterback. Thats a recipe for disaster against a all-star defense like Louisville’s. Ultimately, I think this game will come down to one more explosive play from Louisville. 

Final Score: Louisville 27, Texas A&M 23

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SQ Military Bowl Preview

This year’s Military Bowl will feature two physical, run-heavy teams as Pittsburgh (ACC, 8-4) faces off against #21 Navy (AAC, 10-2). The game will be held on Monday, December 28th at 3:30 pm EST and will be broadcast on ESPN. Both teams have had incredible breakout season, and each will be looking to cap off

This year’s Military Bowl will feature two physical, run-heavy teams as Pittsburgh (ACC, 8-4) faces off against #21 Navy (AAC, 10-2). The game will be held on Monday, December 28th at 3:30 pm EST and will be broadcast on ESPN. Both teams have had incredible breakout season, and each will be looking to cap off their year with an impressive bowl win.

Storylines Heading Into the Game

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Keenan Reynold’s Heisman campaign – Navy QB Keenan Reynolds’ stellar season has been well documented. His 85 career touchdowns were the most all time, until Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon recently scored his 87th in the New Orleans Bowl. With one game left to go in Reynold’s career, he’s got a great shot at getting that record back. 

Reynolds has enjoyed a spotlight this year that is focused on military academy players. During Heisman voting time, he made waves as the fan vote leader with 47% (Derrick Henry was far behind with 29%). In the actual Heisman voting, Reynolds finished fifth, ahead of big name players like Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, and Ezekiel Elliot. For a player on a low-profile team, that is certainly a huge achievement. 

Pitt’s success without James Conner – When James Conner went down in the season opener with an injury, it looked like Pitt’s season was over. Instead, they’ve gone 8-4, finished second in the Coastal Division, and have all around had a very successful year. Three of their losses have come against highly ranked opponents in Iowa, North Carolina, and Notre Dame. 

Pitt has faired well without Conner, with their run game being their strongest asset. Qadree Ollison has filled in nicely as the featured back, rushing for just over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. In the passing game, Nathan Peterman has played very consistently, completing 61.4% of his passes for 2150 yards and 19 scores with just five interceptions. Pitt hasn’t blown anyone away with talent but they’ve played consistent good football all season, and thats how they’ve managed such a great season. 

Pat Narduzzi’s first Bowl game – Narduzzi has had a pretty good season in his first year at Pittsburgh. To finish it off, he’d love to get a win in his first bowl game as a head coach. He enjoyed great success as defensive coordinator at Michigan State, and he has given Pitt’s defense new life as head coach. He will surely be leading Pitt in many more bowl games to come.

Key Stats

319.2 – rushing yards per game by Navy. Its no secret that Navy’s rushing attack is one of the best in the nation. They run an option offense, and they run it well. In this game they will look to establish dominance with their ground game early. One other huge benefit of the option offense is the ability to control the clock and pace of the game. When its working well, the option offense has the power to completely take over games.

126.1 – rushing yards per game allowed by Pitt. That number is good for 20th in the nation. Against an elite rushing attack from Navy, Pitt’s run defense is going to have to play perfectly in order to have any chance of stopping the Midshipmen. In the last game against an option team (Georgia Tech) however, Pitt gave up 376 yards rushing and three scores on the ground. Hopefully they know what to expect this time, and can perform better. 

9 – games won by Navy by double digits. To be fair, Navy doesn’t exactly face top-notch talent every Saturday, but still this many double digit wins are impressive. Those nine games also include a 25 point domination of then-ranked No. 13 Memphis. Navy has not only played very well all season, but they’ve also been firmly control. This is the result of a fully-functioning option offense and a surprising solid defense.

Key Players

Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy – The powerful Navy run game operates exclusively through Reynolds, and his performance is the key to a Midshipmen victory. He’s has seven 100 yard rushing games this season, and six multiple rushing touchdown games. If he can have a big day, it will be a long game for Pitt. On the other hand if he is contained, Navy doesn’t have a lot of other options offensively. Reynolds is absolutely the crutch of Navy’s potential victory. 

Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt – Boyd has had a pretty average season so far, but that doesn’t take away from his immense talent. This matchup seems centered around the teams’ running games, so a breakout game from Boyd could give Pitt a great advantage. If Boyd can get in the end zone at least once, Pitt’s chances will skyrocket. If, however, the Navy defense can shut down Boyd and the quick, deep score threat he provides, they can make Pitt’s offense one-dimensional. Simply put, Pitt needs Boyd to perform well in this game to give their offense some much needed depth. 

Why Navy Wins

As is common with option teams, Navy will win if Pitt allows them to stick to their gameplan. If they can keep pass attempts to a minimum and the rushing game racks up the yards its designed to, Navy will be hard to stop. It is almost a guarantee that Keenan Reynolds will get in the end zone, and a strong likelihood that he will do it multiple times. In the end, the option offense has a great ability to suffocate opponents, and that’s exactly what Navy wants to do here. 

Why Pittsburgh Wins

Pitt has a more well-rounded attack than Navy, even though their passing game sometimes leaves something to be desired. The Panthers’ rushing attack has been great all year, and Tyler Boyd is always a threat through the air. With more offensive options Pitt has breathing room to adjust their gameplan if needed, a luxury that Navy doesn’t really possess. Pitt can pound the ball if they are ahead, and can also throw the ball if they need to come from behind. 

Prediction

This game will be close, and it will be physical. Both teams love running the ball and both teams play very solid defense. Ultimately, I think Navy’s option attack will be too much for Pitt to handle. Navy will stay ahead all game, and force Pitt to throw the ball more than they’d like to. One or two bad possessions or turnovers will doom Pitt. 

Final Score: Navy 31, Pittsburgh 24

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SQ Russell Athletic Bowl Preview

Two prolific offenses will face off on December 29th at 5:30pm as #10 North Carolina (ACC, 11-2) takes on #17 Baylor (BIG 12, 9-3). The game will be broadcast on ESPN. These two teams have been going in opposite directions for the past few weeks, but this game is sure to be an exciting shoot-out to

Two prolific offenses will face off on December 29th at 5:30pm as #10 North Carolina (ACC, 11-2) takes on #17 Baylor (BIG 12, 9-3). The game will be broadcast on ESPN. These two teams have been going in opposite directions for the past few weeks, but this game is sure to be an exciting shoot-out to watch. 


Storylines Heading into the Game

Baylor’s Injury Woes – After feeling that they were snubbed from last year’s College Playoff, Baylor started this season hell-bent on being one of the top four teams. They certainly looked the part for the first six weeks as they only scored below 60 points in a game once (even then, they scored 56). 

Against Iowa State, disaster struck as star quarterback Seth Russell was knocked out of the game and had season ending surgery shortly after. A few weeks later, backup Jarrett Stidham left the Oklahoma State game with a broken ankle. Third string Chris Johnson had to then leave the Texas game with a concussion, leaving wide receiver Lynx Hawthorne to play the quarterback position. Baylor has suffered greatly from these injuries, losing three of their last four games after starting 8-0. It is still not confirmed who will start for the Bears in this game.

UNC’s Surprise Stellar Season – What a season for the Tar Heels. After being picked to finish fifth in the Coastal, they rebounded from an opening weekend loss to South Carolina by winning 11 straight games. They went toe-to-toe with #1 Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, coming up just eight points short. Hardly anyone could have predicted such success for this team that is now ranked in the Top 10. The defense carried the team through the fist half of the season, and the offense has exploded in the second half. They have quickly become one of the hottest teams in the country. 

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Larry Fedora Contract Extension – Shortly before the ACC Championship game it was announced that Fedora had agreed to a contract extension with UNC through 2022. Fedora finished second in the ACC Coach of the Year voting (behind Dabo Swinney), and has led UNC to a 32-19 record in four seasons since signing on in 2012. Three of those seasons have been winning ones, including a first place finish in the Coastal in 2012 (UNC declared themselves ineligible for postseason play that year) and a Belk Bowl win in 2013.


Key Stats

7.326, 7.248 – North Carolina’s and Baylor’s yards-per-play, respectively. Its no secret that this game will feature a ton of offense, as both teams are phenomenal with the ball. Baylor averages close to 600 yards per game, while North Carolina averages around 500. Those numbers are somewhat skewed by Baylor’s incredible start, but the potential for offensive domination is very much still present. There are sure to be many explosive plays throughout this matchup. 

22.6 – Points-per-game allowed by North Carolina’s defense. With so much talk of these two offenses, lets consider some defensive numbers. They have given up 34 and 37 points in their last two games, but prior to that they had held teams very well. In fact, they held seven of their first eight opponents to under 20 points. The Heels do give up plenty of yards, but they somehow keep those yards from turning into too many points. On the other hand, Baylor gives up 27.5 points-per-game. This game may come down to which defense can make one or two more key stops than the other, and UNC’s defense certainly has the advantage there. 

20, 0 – Touchdown passes caught by Baylor WR Corey Coleman in the first eight games, and the last four. Before all the quarterback turmoil, Coleman was poised to completely dominate all opposition at the wide receiver position. Even after not catching any touchdowns in the past four games, he still leads all other division one receivers on the season with his 20. He is also fourth in the nation in receiving yards. Still, his production has dropped off considerably in the last four games. Without a consistent quarterback, he’s hardly made an impact at all. If Baylor expects to win this game, Coleman has to be a factor and he has to get in the end zone.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Key Players

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina – In a league of phenomenal running backs like Henry, Fournette, McCaffrey and Cook, Elijah Hood is flying way under the radar. Quietly, he’s racked up 1,345 yards (averaging 6.5 yards-per-carry) and 17 touchdowns. That puts him in the top 15 in the nation in both categories. He is poised to attack a pretty mediocre Baylor rush defense. UNC would love to control the pace of this game behind strong running from Hood. 

Unknown, QB, Baylor – Nearly all of Baylor’s offensive success in this game will hinge on who starts under center. Jarrett Stidham is a much better option than Chris Johnson, however his availability is still questionable. It may be a small sample size, but Stidham’s passer rating is nearly twice as high as Johnson’s (199 to 103.6). Baylor fans should be confident if Stidham plays, but this game may be a lost cause if Johnson is forced to make another start. 

Why North Carolina Wins

UNC’s major strength is their running game. They average 222.9 yards-per-game, with Marquise Williams and Elijah Hood carrying most of the load. Unfortunately for Baylor, their rush defense is pretty weak, allowing 156.3 yards-per-game. If the Bears allow Williams and Hood to run wild, it will be tough for them to play from behind (especially if Johnson is the quarterback). 

Matters could get worse if All-ACC Second Team CB M.J. Stewart is able to lock down Corey Coleman. That combined with a possible Chris Johnson start could completely take the Baylor passing game out of the picture, forcing a very one-dimensional game plan. 

Why Baylor Wins

As good as the Tar Heel rushing attack is, Baylor’s is better, averaging just over 300 yards-per-game. And as mediocre as Baylor’s run defense is, North Carolina’s is worse. The Tar Heels give up a whopping 216.8 yards-per-game. If Baylor can get the run game going early then they can force Marquise Williams to throw the ball and press more, something he’s not fully comfortable doing. Williams is prone to making mistakes when playing from behind and trying to do to much.  

In the best case scenario, Stidham would start and Coleman would break out of his current slump. If that were to happen, those two have the potential to light up the UNC secondary. Coleman was once considered one of the most explosive players in college football, and I’m confident he’s itching to get that title back. 

Prediction

This game should largely be decided by who can control the rushing game better, and who can get off to a better start. I think that North Carolina has the advantage, having a dual threat QB like Williams and a fantastic RB in Hood. Between Williams and Hood, the Tar Heels should be able to control the pace of the game and force Baylor to throw the ball more than they want to. 

Even with Stidhman playing at quarterback, the Baylor offense isn’t the impressive machine it used to be. It will be a shootout, but North Carolina will force an early punt or turnover and never lose control of the game. Since a lot hinges on who will be playing quarterback for Baylor, I will include two final score predictions. 

Final Score (Stidham plays): North Carolina 41, Baylor 38

Final Score (Johnson plays): North Carolina 38, Baylor 26

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ACC Championship Game: By The Numbers

This year’s edition of the ACC Championship Game was an absolute classic. It featured some fantastic athletic performances, the drama of a College Football Playoff berth, and even some late game controversy. Here are some of the key stats from the game.

82: Combined Total Points

The combined 82 points scored

This year’s edition of the ACC Championship Game was an absolute classic. It featured some fantastic athletic performances, the drama of a College Football Playoff berth, and even some late game controversy. Here are some of the key stats from the game.

82: Combined Total Points

The combined 82 points scored in this game made it the highest scoring ACC Championship ever since the game’s inception in 2005. The 45 points by Clemson also tied the most points scored by one team ever (Florida State in 2013). The score was only 9-7 UNC at the end of the first quarter, but both offenses heated up from that point on. 

Starting with their final possession of the first half down 14-16, the Tigers scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives for 21 unanswered points to go up 35-16. That proved to be too much of a hole for the Tar Heels to climb out of. They would slowly bring the deficit to just eight points by the end, but there just wasn’t enough time to tie it up or take the lead. 

990: Total Combined Yards

Both offenses were incredible in this game. The mark of 990 total yards is another ACC Championship Game record. By itself, Clemson set new ACCCG records for total yards (608), plays (98), and first downs (33). Defense took a back seat in this game, as both teams looked unstoppable with the ball for large portions of the game. 

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
17:52: Time Clemson Held The Ball Longer Than UNC

Its tough to win when the time of possession is so lopsided. Clemson absolutely dominated on offense, running 98 total plays compared to North Carolina’s 69. UNC still managed to put up plenty of points, so this plays ran differential should have more to do with their defensive performance.

Offensively, UNC likes to play a very quick style. Only two of their drives went over two minutes, and none of them went for more than nine plays. At first glance this sounds bad, but it really isn’t considering that the Tar Heels managed to score 37 points. Still, three of their drives were under one minute and many more were barely over the minute mark. Too many early quick three-and-outs were a problem all night (including three straight and five total in the first half). 

Their main issue however was not being able to get Clemson’s offense off of the field. The Tigers were able to score and eat up clock on their long drives. Five of their drives were compromised of 10 or more plays, and five were over four minutes long. Only two were less than a minute.

420: Total Yards Accounted For By Deshaun Watson

Watson was pure magic in this game, accounting for 420 total yards of offense. He achieved that with 289 passing yards and 131 rushing yards. His 420 yard mark breaks Jameis Winston’s old record as the most total offense for one player in the ACC Championship Game. For comparison, as a team UNC gained just 382 total yards. Again and again Watson has proved that he is an incredible dual threat quarterback. When asked about Watson, Coach Dabo Swinney had this to say: 

“If you really sit down and watch our 13 games he’s the best player in the country and there’s no doubt about it. This guy beats you not just with his legs, he beats you with his arm, his mind, his heart, his guts, his toughness, this is a great champion of a player…”

5: Total Touchdowns Accounted For By Deshaun Watson

Watson didn’t just rack up yards in this game, he racked up points as well. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more. Inside the UNC 10-yard-line it was almost a guarantee that Watson was going to try to run it in himself, but nobody could do anything to stop him. This marks his 8th game this season in which he both threw for a touchdown and ran for one. It is also his 4th straight doing so. Watson has only had one game this year in which he didn’t score multiple touchdowns. 

33.3%: Completion Percentage For Marquise Williams

Even though he gained 305 total yards, it was a tough day for Marquise Williams as he completed just 11 of his 33 pass attempts. He somewhat made up for it with 224 yards passing and three touchdowns, but it’s tough to win when your quarterback can’t complete even 50% of his passes. UNC drives were completely halted when Williams would throw two incomplete passes in one set of downs. Those incompletions contributed heavily to North Carolina’s early three-and-out trouble. 

0: UNC Players Offsides On The Onside Kick

It can’t be an important college football game without controversy can it? After bringing it to within eight, North Carolina appeared to recover the onside kick with about 1:10 left in the game. Unfortunately, they were called for being offsides, and Clemson recovered the re-kick. Upon further investigation, no UNC player was even close to being offsides.

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ACC Rivalry Week Recap

Six matchups on “rivalry weekend” this year involved ACC teams. Two games were ACC vs ACC, and four were ACC vs SEC. Here is a summary of how these six games went down.

Georgia 13, Georgia Tech 7


Georgia Tech fell to in-state rival Georgia in perhaps the most boring and

Six matchups on “rivalry weekend” this year involved ACC teams. Two games were ACC vs ACC, and four were ACC vs SEC. Here is a summary of how these six games went down.

Georgia 13, Georgia Tech 7


Georgia Tech fell to in-state rival Georgia in perhaps the most boring and mediocre game of the season. Both teams struggled enormously to score any points, even though they combined for 678 yards of total offense. For Georgia Tech it was another game under 200 yards rushing, something almost unheard of just a year ago. The Jackets converted a dismal 2 of 13 third downs (15.38%), and committed 3 costly turnovers. One of those turnovers was a Ricky Jeune fumble just outside of the UGA 30 yard line. 

Tech struggled more than usual in the passing game as well, with Justin Thomas converting just 33% of his passes for 82 yards. On the ground Clinton Lynch had a nice game with 8 carries for 78 yards, but he was the lone bright spot. This was the second game this year that Tech failed to score a rushing touchdown (they also failed to do so against Clemson). Ultimately, their inability to move the ball quickly down the field doomed a potential fourth quarter comeback. 

Clemson 37, South Carolina 32


This game surprised a lot of people who thought Clemson would blow USC out of the water. Instead, a supposedly tough Clemson defense gave up 32 points (their second most all season), including 29 in a second half comeback by the Gamecocks. The Tigers were again carried offensively by the play of Deshaun Watson who accounted for 4 total touchdowns on 279 yards passing and 114 yards rushing. Watson is continuing to showcase that he is one of the most talented players in the country.

This game should make Clemson fans somewhat nervous heading in to the ACC Championship against North Carolina. Remember South Carolina is the only team thats beaten UNC this year, and they just gave Clemson all they could handle. If the Tigers play another poor game UNC’s powerful offense could throw up a lot of points. Clemson has to tighten up and get back to the solid defense they’ve been playing all year. 

Florida State 27, Florida 2


The ACC should feel pretty good about themselves after the Seminoles completely dominated the best team from the SEC East. FSU completely shut down the Florida offense, with the Gators’ only 2 points coming from an unfortunate safety in the fourth quarter. It was their lowest point total all season. Offensively, the Noles played great against a Florida defense that is ranked 5th in the country in both total defense and scoring defense. FSU will certainly be a scary matchup for whoever they will play in a bowl game. 

Dalvin Cook also had a fantastic showing in his last regular season game, rushing for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns on 26 carries. It was exactly the kind of game he needed to go out on to impress the Heisman voters. Either way, Florida State has a bright future with him on the field. 

North Carolina 45, NC State 34

The two teams from North Carolina put together a fantastic game on Saturday, with UNC jumping out to a huge 35-7 lead after the first quarter and NC State slowly bringing it back to just an 11 point loss. UNC had a couple second half fumbles that didn’t help, as they played fairly sloppy for the final 30 minutes. Still, the Tar Heels scored a touchdown on their first five drives of the game, an impressive number no matter the opponent. 

Elijah Hood accounted for most of UNC’s production with 21 carries for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Hood has proven to be a fantastic back for the Heels, and a great compliment to Marquise Williams. 

For UNC, many records were set after this game. It was their first time going 8-0 in ACC play. It was also the first time they’ve beaten the other three North Carolina ACC teams in the same season since 2004. This game should give them tons of confidence heading into the Championship game against Clemson.

Louisville 38, Kentucky 24


Louisville finished off their season on a high note, solidly beating SEC rival Kentucky. The Cardinal’s rushing attack came up huge in this game, as Lamar Jackson and Brandon Radcliff ran for two scores each and combined for 248 total yards. All together, the team rushed for 314 yards. Louisville fell behind 24-7 by halftime but managed to score 31 unanswered points in the second half to seal the comeback victory.

It was the fifth straight victory for Louisville over Kentucky and tied the overall series at 14 apiece. The Cardinals finished the regular season 7-2 after dropping their first three games, a good sign for a team that had high hopes for success coming into this season. 

Virginia Tech 23, Virginia 20


In another great fourth quarterback comeback, Virginia Tech gave retiring coach Frank Beamer one last Commonwealth Cup victory. Down 20-13 at the start of the fourth, the Hokies scored a touchdown and a field goal on their final two possessions and forced a punt and an interception on the Cavaliers’ final two tries. 

Both offenses looked pretty sluggish in this game, combining for only 12 first half points. Michael Brewer had an average game with 237 yards passing and two touchdowns, but he was by far the best offensive player on the field. 

Overall, it was a very solid day of ACC rivalries. In terms of final results, there weren’t any surprises, but there were plenty of great games. The ACC went 3-1 against the SEC in rivalry games, which is absolutely something to be proud of. Yes they were teams from the East division, but the SEC is the SEC. It was a strong finish for a conference that had their high expectations dashed early on in the season. Now, everyone is looking forward to a great championship game between Clemson and North Carolina to wrap up the pre-bowl season. 

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Dalvin Cook For Heisman

With one week left in the college football regular season, the Heisman trophy race is heating up. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is certainly the ACC’s best bet at having their next Heisman winner after Jameis Winston in 2013. Here’s why Cook should be considered the best candidate, at least at the

With one week left in the college football regular season, the Heisman trophy race is heating up. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is certainly the ACC’s best bet at having their next Heisman winner after Jameis Winston in 2013. Here’s why Cook should be considered the best candidate, at least at the running back position. 

Player Attempts Yards YPG YPA Touchdowns
Dalvin Cook 185 1475 147.5 8.0 16
Derrick Henry 249 1526 138.7 6.1 21
Leonard Fournette 239 1582 158.2 6.6 17
Ezekiel Elliott 232 1458 123.5 6.3 17
Christian McCaffrey 260 1456 140.5 5.9 7

*Comparing Cook to the four other running backs in contention according to ESPN’s Expert’s Poll.

When looking at Cook’s production it is important to remember that he achieved these numbers in one less game than the other backs he is being compared to. Cook left the game against Wake Forest after just two carries with a hamstring injury, and sat out the entire game against Syracuse with the same ailment. Even so, his numbers are extremely comparable to other top running backs. 

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Cook only has 107 less rushing yards than the national leader, LSU’s Leonard Fournette. Impressively, Cook has done that with 54 fewer carries. In fact, Cook has the second highest yards-per-attempt in the nation among full-time running backs at 8.0 (Georgia Southern’s Matt Breida has 8.2 in an option-heavy running offense). Among Heisman candidate running backs, Cook’s YPA is by far the highest with Fournette in second place with only 6.6, nearly a full yard and a half behind. 

Yards-per-attempt is without a doubt one of the most important statistics for running backs. There’s nothing special about racking up huge amounts of yards in a run-heavy offense where the back is getting 30 attempts in a single game. Cook has only gone above 22 attempts in a game one time this season and is averaging just 18.5 attempts per outing. He is matching or besting all of his counterparts while getting about 20% fewer carries than them.

Player Games Attempts Attempts per Game Touchdowns Attempts per Touchdown
Dalvin Cook 10 185 18.5 16 11.56
Derrick Henry 11 249 22.6 21 11.86
Leonard Fournette 10 239 23.9 17 14.06
Ezekiel Elliott 11 232 21.1 17 13.65
Christian McCaffrey 11 260 23.6 7 37.14

Extrapolating Cook’s numbers using his averages would give him an incredible 1,808 rushing yards if he were given the 22.6 attempts-per-game of Derrick Henry at his current rate of 8.0 yards-per-attempt. 

The only statistic that Cook is lacking in (comparatively) is touchdown production, where his 16 scores put him tied for 7th in the country and four behind the leader, Alabama’s Derrick Henry with 21. The “fewer carries” argument does have some merit in regards to Cook’s touchdowns; he is actually scoring more often than anyone else shown. His 11.56 attempts-per-touchdown is slightly better than Henry’s 11.86, and much better than Fournette’s 14.06. 

Using his averages, Cook could have had about 35 more attempts in the time he missed, which would on average give him 3.03 additional touchdowns. Three more scores would be a huge improvement, putting him only two away from Henry. Ultimately this is all theoretical, but it still proves the point of just how good Cook is. 

On top of these standard statistics, Cook has some other very impressive numbers to look at. The graphic linked by this Florida State Football tweet showcases his big-play potential, and proves his worthiness of the title “College Football’s Most Explosive Player”.

I think the thing hurting Cook the most right now is his one missed game due to injury. Using his averages, here is how Cook’s projected numbers would compare to other backs if he hadn’t sat out any time:

Player Games Played Attempts YPG YPA Yards Touchdowns
Dalvin Cook (projected) 11 220* 160 8.0 1760 19.03
Derrick Henry (actual) 11 249 138.7 6.1 1526 21
Leonard Fournette (actual) 10 239 158.2 6.6 1582 17
Ezekiel Elliott (actual) 11 232 132.5 6.3 1458 17
Christian McCaffrey (actual) 11 260 140.5 5.9 1456 7

*Adding 18.5 carries for the game against Syracuse and 16.5 for most of the game against Wake Forest (he had two carries, meaning he’d need 16.5 more to get to his average) yields 35 total extra carries.

In this world, Cook would without a doubt be considered the top running back. Still, its tough to give a performance award based on what could have been and projected numbers. Hopefully Cook can have a big game in the season finale against Florida and convince voters that he’s the real deal.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Either way, it will be a difficult task for the Heisman voters to compare Cook to the quarterbacks being considered. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is really the only quarterback in contention right now (Deshaun Watson isn’t polling particularly well), and he is definitely putting up strong numbers. Cook should have the edge considering how much his team leans on him for offensive production. Mayfield is surrounded and helped out by star playmakers like RB Samaje Perine and WR Sterling Shepard. It very well may end up coming down to who is playing on the more high profile team at the end of the season.

The Heisman race is in turmoil from a running back standpoint. Leonard Fournette has drastically fallen off in the past t games, and Ezekiel Elliott is in hot water over his criticism of Urban Meyer and decision to not return to Ohio State this past week. Derrick Henry only entered contention a few weeks ago. Dalvin Cook has been the only consistent threat at running back. If Alabama wins out, Henry will have the huge benefit of being on a playoff team, something that is always (for better or for worse) taken into account with the Heisman. If Alabama were to falter however, Dalvin Cook is waiting for his rightful spotlight. 

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The Downfall Of Duke

Just a few weeks ago, Duke was 6-1 and aiming for their second ACC Coastal Division Championship in three years. Now after 3 straight losses they sit at 6-4, helplessly watching North Carolina steal their Coastal spotlight. They have even dropped to third place behind Pittsburgh. With such high expectations just a short time ago,

Just a few weeks ago, Duke was 6-1 and aiming for their second ACC Coastal Division Championship in three years. Now after 3 straight losses they sit at 6-4, helplessly watching North Carolina steal their Coastal spotlight. They have even dropped to third place behind Pittsburgh. With such high expectations just a short time ago, what has happened to this supposedly good team?

Heading into their matchup against Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils had one of the best defenses in the nation, giving up just 9.3 points-per-game and 252.8 yards-per-game. Against VT, they gave up 43 points and a whopping 452 yards. They did win that game, but it ended up being the start to a downward streak.

Over their next three games (losses to Miami, UNC, and Pitt) Duke gave up 42.3 points-per-game and a staggering 514.3 yards-per-game (391 to Miami, 704 to UNC, and 448 to Pitt). The “elite” Blue Devil defense has entirely disappeared. Before Virginia Tech, Duke were ranked 6th in total defense and 3rd in scoring defense. Four bad games have single-handedly dropped Duke to 38th in the country in total defense and 46th in scoring defense. Before VT, their opponents were converting third downs 25.3% of the time. Now, that rate has risen to 37.41%. Their opponents have gone from 3.4 punts-per-score before VT to just 1.5 now. Anyone can see that each of these statistics have drastically changed in just a few games. It’s almost as if a separate defensive unit starting taking the field for Duke. 

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The play of Thomas Sirk has been another huge blow to Duke’s success. He was never a big playmaker for the Blue Devils, but he was a fantastic game managing quarterback. Against Miami his lack of big play ability really hurt them, as he threw for 258 yards and only 1 touchdown on 52 pass attempts. 

At North Carolina, Sirk had his worst performance of the season, going 18-for-37 for 191 yards and 2 interceptions. He did not play against Pittsburgh due to an injury sustained against UNC. He should get somewhat of a pass for playing injured, but poor play is still poor play. Backup Parker Boehme started against Pitt and played just as mediocre, if not worse. The quarterback is one of the most important positions, and Duke desperately needs theirs to improve.

The lack of a running game to make up for Sirk has also been an issue for Duke all season. Through 10 games, Thomas Sirk is actually the leading rusher with 113 carries. Their starting running back, Shaquille Powell, is close behind with 104. Coach David Cutcliffe clearly doesn’t have a lot of faith in the rushing game; they have only run the ball 399 times, just the 53rd highest total in the country. They rank 45th in rushing yards and 42nd in rushing touchdowns. With a game managing quarterback like Sirk a solid running game would be ideal, however Duke fall way short of solid. 

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

In the last three games, turnovers alone have cost the Blue Devils plenty of chances. Through the first seven games, Duke only turned the ball over eight times. Over the last three, they have committed seven turnovers. Making it worse, they’ve only taken the ball away three times in the same time span.

This combination of offensive ineptitude is crushing Duke right now. Normally a team can get by with a weak running game by making up for it in the passing game, or vice versa, but the Blue Devils are playing poorly in both. For example, they only managed to gain 78 second half yards against Pitt. Hopefully Thomas Sirk will return against Virginia, otherwise this situation doesn’t look like its going to improve with backup quarterback Boheme. 

It’s tough to win games when both sides of the ball aren’t performing as well as they should. Right now, Duke are giving up droves of yards and points, and they can’t score enough to cover those wounds. Thats not a good combination. It’s tough to assign most of the blame to one person or squad; both the offense and defense need to step up to finish the season strong. 

Fortunately for Duke, they close out their schedule with two fairly easy games, Virginia and Wake Forest. ESPN FPI currently gives them a 54.8% against UVA and a 71.6% chance against Wake. The UVA game might be tougher than they want if Boehme is under center, but it is certainly still their game to lose. Even with a backup, theres no reason Duke should lose to Wake. At worst, they finish the season 7-5. While this is a huge disappointment following a 6-1 start, it still means a winning season and a trip to their fourth straight bowl game. 

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North Carolina’s Meteoric Rise In The ACC

Last week, I said that Duke needed to win out in order to gain back first place in the Coastal, but North Carolina clearly had other plans. After a blowout win over the Blue Devils, UNC is now in complete control of the Coastal at 8-1. Pittsburgh is miles behind in second at 6-3. North

Last week, I said that Duke needed to win out in order to gain back first place in the Coastal, but North Carolina clearly had other plans. After a blowout win over the Blue Devils, UNC is now in complete control of the Coastal at 8-1. Pittsburgh is miles behind in second at 6-3. North Carolina was predicted to finish in 5th place in the Coastal, and ESPN’s David Hale had them at 10th on his preseason power rankings. So, just how did we get to this point?

North Carolina actually started off this season with a pretty bad close loss against South Carolina. Marquise Williams threw three interceptions, and the offensive just couldn’t put points on the board. A late touchdown sealed it for the Gamecocks. It looked like the Tar Heels were destined to meet their expectations of 5th in the Coastal, or maybe worse. 

Over the next three weeks, North Carolina played three non conference teams in North Carolina A&T, Illinois, and Delaware. None of these teams is considered particularly good, but UNC racked up huge victories, scoring 142 combined points in the process. Marquise Williams didn’t see a lot of playing time in those three games, but he made the most of his opportunities, throwing 5 touchdowns and rushing for 2 more. He started looking more and more like the athletic dual threat quarterback he was last year. 

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting at 3-1, UNC began their ACC schedule with an away game at 2-2 (and falling fast) Georgia Tech. They forced 2 turnovers, Williams rushed for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns, Elijah Hood added 2 more rushing touchdowns, and UNC overcame a 21 point deficit to win. This game was huge for the Tar Heels. Georgia Tech was playing better than their record indicated, and many people still considered them to be a good team. UNC showed that they could overcome adversity against a solid team, and left Atlanta with a ton of confidence. 

After a blowout win over lowly Wake Forest and a solid victory over Virginia, UNC won another tough road game 26-19 against #23 Pittsburgh. It would be their seventh game of the year holding an opponent under 20 points, a surprising stat considering their defense was very underwhelming last season. The defense was playing well, and Marquise Williams was giving them consistent results in both the passing and rushing game. Elijah hood was also emerging as a very solid running back. UNC finished the week ranked at #21 in the AP Poll.

Heading into a heated game with rivals Duke, most people expected a tightly contested battle between two good teams. Instead, they got a UNC offensive onslaught. The Tar Heels put up 66 points on an elite Duke defensive, by far the most they’ve conceded all season. Williams threw for 494 yards (a school record) and four touchdowns while adding one rushing score, and Hood ran in three scores himself. They were firing on all cylinders, racking up 704 yards and forcing 3 turnovers. It was a complete domination of the Blue Devils. UNC moved up to #17 in the AP Poll after the victory. 

At this point in the season, a much-improved defense has been the key to UNC’s success. This is in stark contrast to a year ago when their electric offense had to score 35+ points per game to win in spite of a disappointing defense. Now UNC is only conceding 18.55 points per game, good for 22nd in the country. As stated above, they’ve only allowed two opponents to go over 20 points in a game. By doing this, they are giving the offense a chance to relax. Last year, Williams needed to play like a maniac to get his team to score enough points to stay in the game. This year, he can take on more of a game-managing role and let the opportunities come to him instead of the other way around. 

Moving forward, there is no reason North Carolina can’t go 3-0 to finish the season. Their remaining opponents are Miami, Virginia Tech, and NC State. ESPN FPI has them favored in each of those matchups. Making it a little tougher, they must go on the road agains VT and NC State. If UNC can finish the regular season at 11-1, they should be a top-15 team. They were left out of the initial Playoff Rankings, but they should start gaining more respect each week. 

Either way, barring any crazy turn of events, North Carolina will play Clemson for the ACC Championship next month. While Clemson is a great team, North Carolina will absolutely have the chance at an upset. They’ve grown to become a mature team that can win tough games, and a game against Clemson would be just that. 

If Deshaun Watson has a bad game, and Marquise Williams plays well, put Clemson on upset alert. Hypothetically, it would be a interesting situation if North Carolina were to pull off the upset. They could be 11-1, have a win against the #1 team in the country, and be a conference champion. If more top teams continue to falter, consider North Carolina a dark horse to make the Playoff.

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The Miami-Duke Fiasco: What It Means For The ACC

Once again, college football never ceases to amaze. With 6 seconds left, Duke scores a touchdown to go up 27-24 and everyone collectively cedes the game to the Blue Devils. A few seconds later, a squib kick is lateraled 8 times and the Miami bench rushes into the end zone in elation. 

Time and time

Once again, college football never ceases to amaze. With 6 seconds left, Duke scores a touchdown to go up 27-24 and everyone collectively cedes the game to the Blue Devils. A few seconds later, a squib kick is lateraled 8 times and the Miami bench rushes into the end zone in elation. 

Time and time again, fortunes are won and lost in just a few seconds in this sport. Adding to the drama was the fact that officials threw a flag for a block-in-the-back on Miami but decided to pick it up and review the entire play. They deliberated for a few minutes and eventually confirmed the touchdown. 

Flash forward to Sunday afternoon, and the ACC has officially suspended the referees involved for two games. The official statement highlights several mistakes by the officiating crew, including:

      The replay official erred in not overturning the ruling on the field that the Miami player had released the ball prior to his knee being down. If called, this would have ended the game.

      The on-field officials erred by failing to penalize Miami for an illegal block in the back at the Miami 16-yard line. If called, the ball would have been placed at the Miami 8-yard line and the game would have been extended for an untimed down.

      A block in the back foul was called at the Duke 26-yard line. After the officials conferred, which is appropriate, they correctly determined that the block was from the side, which resulted in the flag being picked up. The replay official was not involved in the decision to pick up the flag; however, the referee did not effectively manage communication and properly explain why the flag was picked up.

      In addition, the on-field crew failed to penalize a Miami player for leaving the bench area and entering the field prior to the end of the play. This foul would not have negated the touchdown because it would have been enforced as a dead ball foul.

      Basically, the ACC is coming as close to saying that Miami should not have won the game  as they professionally can without actually saying it. In my opinion, this is an egregious string of errors by the officials. It is absolutely unacceptable that this touchdown was upheld. The ACC is right to suspend the officiating crew. In 99.9% of blown calls, the outcome of the game is not directly affected. 

      Yes, a controversial play can drastically change the landscape of a game, but rarely does it 100% change the outcome of the game with no ability for recovery. This is different. Duke won the game and yet multiple blown calls miraculously gave Miami the victory. 

      While I am of the opinion that Duke should have won the game, they had plenty of chances on the final play to make that certain. This was an absolute breakdown of special-teams defense. There is no reason to allow an 8 lateral touchdown. This is a play we see every few years with grainy footage from a high school game, not two high profile college teams.  

      Multiple Duke defenders had clear shots to tackle Miami ball-carriers, but they couldn’t convert them. Several Duke players appeared to be just standing around on the field, unsure what was happening. If the Blue Devils could’ve maintained focus for just a few more seconds, we wouldn’t still be talking about this game. 

      Either way, whats done is done. So what does this mean for Duke and the ACC? The ACC Coastal Standings are currently as follows:

      1. North Carolina (7-1, 4-0 ACC)

      2. Pittsburgh (6-2, 4-1 ACC)

      3. Duke (6-2, 3-1 ACC)

      4. Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC)

      5. Virginia (3-5, 2-2 ACC)

      6. Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3 ACC)

      7. Georgia Tech (3-6, 1-5 ACC)

      Now, assuming the officials had correctly overturned the Miami touchdown giving Duke the win, this is what the standings would look like:

      1. North Carolina (7-1, 4-0 ACC)

      1. Duke (7-1, 4-0 ACC)

      3. Pittsburgh (6-2, 4-1 ACC)

      4. Virginia (3-5, 2-2 ACC)

      5. Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3 ACC)

      6. Miami (4-4, 1-3 ACC)

      7. Georgia Tech (3-6, 1-5 ACC)

      While it doesn’t look drastically different, there are a few key differences. Notably, Duke would be tied for first in the division instead of sitting alone in third. While Miami still won’t really be competing for the division title at fourth, they would fall all the way to sixth. 

      Duke is impacted the most here, especially with such a tight race between them, UNC, and Pitt for the Coastal crown. Making it more interesting is the fact that Duke and UNC will play each other next week. Obviously, if Duke wins out they will be the division champions. However, a single loss could take them completely out. Being credited with the win against Miami would have given them a comfortable buffer against UNC and Pitt. Consider this scenario:

      • Duke beats UNC, beats Pitt, goes 1-1 against Virginia and Wake Forest

      • Pitt loses to Duke, beats Louisville and Miami

      • UNC loses to Duke, then goes 3-0 to finish

      In the current set-up, the final Coastal Standings would look like this:

      1. North Carolina (7-1 ACC)

      2. Duke (6-2 ACC) *tiebreaker over Pitt

      3 Pittsburgh (6-2 ACC)

      Here, North Carolina gets to play in the ACC Championship. Now consider if Duke was given the win over Miami. The adjusted standings under the same described scenario look like this:

      1. Duke (7-1 ACC) *tiebreaker over UNC

      2. North Carolina (7-1 ACC)

      3. Pittsburgh (6-2 ACC)

      Here, Duke goes to the Championship unhindered by an extra loss to Miami. Now, as stated above, Duke can solve this problem by simply winning out. However, I’d bet anything that they would love to have that one game buffer just in case. Obviously, this is just one possible scenario out of many different ones, but if it comes true Duke should be furious at the ACC for costing them a trip to Charlotte. 

      Depending on how the next few weeks play out, the Miami miracle could live in infamy for Duke fans for years to come. Hopefully Duke can step up and win their last 4 games to win the division, however, the only certain thing in college football is chaos. Anything can happen. 

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      “Miracle On Techwood”: By The Numbers

      Wow. What a game, what a finish. There was so much emotion swirling around this game; Georgia Tech absolutely needed this win, and Florida State couldn’t afford to lose. On a five game losing streak, Tech entered an electric white-out Bobby Dodd stadium, on Homecoming no less, and came

      Wow. What a game, what a finish. There was so much emotion swirling around this game; Georgia Tech absolutely needed this win, and Florida State couldn’t afford to lose. On a five game losing streak, Tech entered an electric white-out Bobby Dodd stadium, on Homecoming no less, and came away with one of the most improbable wins of the season. This is why fans love college football. Here are some of my favorite numbers from the game.

      82: rushing yards Tech’s defense held Dalvin Cook to. Cook entered this game with a slight hamstring injury, but appeared to be alright as Florida State fed him the ball early. Perhaps it was due to his injury, perhaps not, but oddly enough Cook did not get a carry in the second half until a minute into the fourth quarter. There’s no question that Cook is FSU’s best player, and one of the major reasons Tech was able to come out on top was his poor performance. 

      13: number of blocked kicks Georgia Tech had coming into the game since 2013, the most in the nation. Update that stat to 14. This is one of the little-known, surprising stats about this team, but it should definitely be in the limelight now.

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      Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

      0: Number of Roberto Aguayo misses in the fourth quarter in his career coming into tonight. This number is insane. In three years, this man has never missed a fourth quarter kick. That is the absolute definition of clutch. The former Lou Groza Award winner is 60/67 (89.6%) in total for his career. This is a guy who probably remembers every miss because there are so few. He will definitely remember this one for a long time, whether he wants to or not. 

      0: Number of kicks Aguayo has ever had blocked before tonight. Lots of firsts happened for Aguayo on Saturday night. In 67 field goal attempts spanning three years, he’s never had one blocked. What a time for it to happen. 

      ESPN’s Mark Jones follows up an all-time great play with all-time great call. What a time to be alive.

      00:00: time that Georgia Tech led in the game. This is another mind-blowing stat. Tech went a full 60 minutes without a lead. The clock hit zero at about the moment Lance Austin picked up the ball.

      28: straight ACC games that Florida State had won coming into this one. Over the last three years, Florida State has been unquestionably the most successful and dominant ACC team. In that span, they won three ACC Championships and one National Championship. With Clemson looming ahead on their schedule, Florida State looks to be giving up their recent ACC dynasty. 28 straight conference wins is a streak that no team is likely to match in the near future. 

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      Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

      1,113: days since Florida State’s last ACC loss, Oct. 6, 2012. For some perspective, here are some things that happened in 2012: the Summer Olympics were held in London, Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast, Barrack Obama was re-elected as president, Felix Baumgartner completed his record-breaking space jump, and “Gangnam Style” was an international hit. The clock starts back at one today. 

      0: Everett Golson turnovers in 2015 before this game. Golson went the first six games of the season committing zero turnovers and playing brilliantly. Without a doubt, his first turnover of the season came at the worst possible time. Facing a third and goal from the 10 yard line with about 8:00 remaining in the fourth quarter and a three point lead, Golson was intercepted in the end zone by Jamal Golden. With a touchdown, Florida State likely wins the game. With an incomplete pass followed by a field goal, Florida State likely wins the game. Even if Golson commits no turnovers for the rest of the season, this one stings. 

      Thoughts on the Game

      Who could’ve predicted that this game would turn into a tightly-contested defensive battle? Certainly not me. This was a wild game to watch, and Bobby Dodd was absolutely electric from the start to well-past the finish. It was truly a sight to behold. In fact, the raucous crowd ended up causing a couple of costly late-game false start penalties for the Noles. 

      Ultimately, it was the Seminole offense that lost them the game. They only put together one touchdown drive, and it was just two yards long (after a long interception return). They struggled to move the ball effectively all game, and only ended up with 280 total yards. Tech put constant pressure on Everett Golson all night, preventing him from scoring a touchdown for the first time in a game this season. They also managed to sack Golson three times. 

      Moving forward, Florida State should recover fine against a weak Syracuse team next week, but Clemson is looming large on Nov. 7th. After watching FSU lose this game and Clemson obliterate Miami just a few hours prior, I give the Seminoles almost no chance to win the Atlantic (and therefore the ACC) this season. They still should make a great bowl game, but this has to be a huge disappointment to Nole Nation after high hopes of making the College Football Playoff for the second straight year. 

      For Tech, this game could be the spark they need to get the ball rolling and get hot. They are soundly favored in their next three games against Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Miami. With UGA’s team in shambles, the Jackets have a decent chance at closing out the season 5-0 and making a bowl.

      No matter how the rest of the season turns out for either team, this game will live on in infamy for Florida State and as a legend for Georgia Tech. I am beyond proud to have been a part of it; this is easily my best memory at Bobby Dodd Stadium ever. The final play is an easy candidate for play of the year, right up there with Michigan State’s blocked punt. Paul Johnson describes it best, without using any words:

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      Five ACC Players To Watch

      The ACC has gained plenty of recognition so far this season, with four teams now ranked in the AP Top 25. For a few years now, this conference has been known for having some fantastic players worth highlighting. Since the 2013 season, ACC players have won 14 of the 17 major individual college football awards, and there

      The ACC has gained plenty of recognition so far this season, with four teams now ranked in the AP Top 25. For a few years now, this conference has been known for having some fantastic players worth highlighting. Since the 2013 season, ACC players have won 14 of the 17 major individual college football awards, and there are plenty of players in 2015 vying to continue that success. And even beyond those win awards, there are plenty of ACC players that are still elite at their position. I have identified five ACC players that college football fans should keep their eyes on, both for now and the future. 

      Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB

      Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

      It feels like Watson has been labeled a Heisman dark-horse for the past couple years and while he may not have lived up to that title, he is certainly having a fantastic 2015 season. Stats aside, he has led Clemson to a 6-0 start and the No. 6 ranking in the AP Poll. They are well on their way to an ACC title and perhaps a College Football Playoff berth. 

      When looking at the stats, he is no less impressive. Watson has completed 68.2% of his passes so far, throwing for 1410 yards (only 56 away from his 2014 total) and 14 touchdowns. That’s good for 8.29 yards-per-attempt with a passer rating of 156.8 (17th in the nation). In addition to his passing prowess he is the second-leading rusher for Clemson, going for 234 yards and two touchdowns on 56 attempts, a solid 4.2 yards-per-carry. He certainly isn’t blowing anyone away, but he’s playing rock-solid with a good supporting cast surrounding him. 

      Watson is the type of quarterback that makes a great leader for a great team. Clemson has a high chance of going far this season, and they owe a lot of that to consistently great play from Watson. Much of the rest of their season will rely on Watson’s performance down the stretch. Fortunately for them, the second half of their schedule is made up of more than a few soft defenses. Watson should be able to pad his stats over the next six games and finish with career-best numbers. If Clemson can win out and make it to a Playoff game, Watson will gain plenty of national recognition for his leadership and play. 

      Watson isn’t eligible for the NFL draft until 2017, yet he still has the chance to build a solid draft resume with a strong 2015 season. He certainly has the potential to make a Heisman push in 2016. 

      Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB

      There probably hasn’t been a more talked-about player in the ACC this season than Dalvin Cook. He is absolutely the reason that Florida State has remained undefeated, and there’s for no reason his stellar play to stop in the colder months. He has amassed 955 yards (fifth nationally) and 10 touchdowns (11th nationally) on just 110 attempts, giving him 8.7 yards-per-attempt (also fifth nationally). 

      Cook on pace for nearly a 2,000 yard season, something only two backs were able to do last season. Florida State will surely continue to lean on him in their coming games, meaning he’ll definitely get the chances he needs to break 2,000. If he can get to 2000 yards, and probably even if he can’t, he will finish among the top backs in the country. Currently, Cook is ranked fifth in the Heisman race according to the ESPN Expert’s Poll. I don’t know if he has enough to surpass Leonard Fournette, but he can absolutely make a huge push for the second or third spot. If something were to happen to Fournette, Cook could potentially become the frontrunner. After Jameis Winston’s disappointing fall from the Heisman polls last season, its good to see an ACC player getting a lot of sustained national recognition. 

      Like Watson, Cook isn’t eligible for the draft until 2017, giving him a chance to put together two stellar season in a row before being selected. If Cook can improve on his 2015 successes for next season, the ACC could see two Heisman candidates in he and Watson.

      Marcus Marshall, Georgia Tech RB

      This one may come as a surprise because Marcus Marshall is a player that has flown well under the radar this season. He has only rushed for 439 yards and four touchdowns, but he has done that on just 41 carries. Marshall had an impressive season-opening game with 184 yards and two scores on just eight carries, but he only received 12 total carries over the next four games. After an average outing against the run-stopping power of Clemson (45 yards on 11 carries), Marshall exploded again against Pittsburgh with 159 yards and two more touchdowns, needing only 10 touches to do so. That’s an incredible 15.9 yards-per-attempt. 

      In fact, by just looking at the three games where he received a standard number of carries, Marshall has rushed for 388 yards and four touchdowns on only 29 carries. That’s 13.4 yards-per-carry. Furthermore, he’s not just breaking one big run every game and then getting a lot of small-yardage runs; he is actually gaining huge chunks of yardage every time he touches the ball. 

      Watch out for Marcus Marshall because he is only a freshman. He is extremely talented (remember he broke a lot of his brother’s (UGA’s Keith Marshall) high school rushing records), and could be a huge impact player for Tech over their remaining 5 games. He is an incredibly explosive athlete, and will hopefully get the touches he needs over the next five games to put a bow on a fantastic freshman season. Marshall should gain a lot of confidence from his debut season and hopefully can improve and become a dominant player in the ACC for the next few years. 

      Everett Golson, Florida State QB

      Golson was considered an elite quarterback at Notre Dame before his late-season derailment in 2014 and eventual transfer to FSU. In 2015, he has turned his game around, throwing for 1449 yards (2nd most in the ACC), 11 touchdowns (2nd most in the ACC), and most important of all, zero interceptions (best in the ACC). Since interceptions became his downfall at Notre Dame, this is a huge improvement for Golson. A lot of people didn’t expect him to play this well at FSU after his letdown at Notre Dame, but he has absolutely proved them to be wrong, and he has instead exceeded all expectations. 

      Similar to Deshaun Watson, Golson isn’t blowing anyone away with his stats, but he is extremely efficient (completing 67.2% of his passes) and doesn’t commit turnovers. He has quietly led Florida State to an 6-0 start and they currently sit ranked 9th in the country. If Florida State can continue winning, Golson should finish 2015 with fantastic numbers and a shot at All-ACC recognition. It looks like there should be an exciting three-player race between Golson, Watson, and Miami’s Brad Kaaya for All-ACC First Team Quarterback honors. 

      If Florida State can upset Clemson and make it to the Playoff, Golson should earn back the “elite” moniker that he received at Notre Dame. Golson also has a great chance at increasing his draft stock and being considered a legitimate NFL prospect. 

      Ross Martin, Duke K

      I’ll bet that most people reading this have no clue who Ross Martin is. But Duke’s place-kicker is currently having a literally perfect season, going 19-19 on extra points and 12-12 on field goals. In my mind, he has eclipsed Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo as the most automatic kicker in the ACC in 2015. He is one of only seven kickers in the country currently sitting on a perfect season. 

      Martin came up huge against Boston College going 3-for-3, including nailing a field goal from 53 yards out, scoring Duke’s only points of the game. Duke runs a very efficient offense, so he isn’t attempting a lot of field goals in every game, which means he should stay fresh all season. If Martin can just maintain near-perfection, he should be a front-runner for the 2015 Lou Groza Award. Kicking may not be particularly exciting to watch, but if Martin stays in his current form, it would certainly be a wonderful achievement for both he and the ACC if he were to win Groza honors. 

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      Surprising Teams In The ACC

      Here we are at the halfway point of the 2015 season. In the ACC, much has stayed the same. Clemson and Florida State remain undefeated and are ranked 5th and 11th respectively. Duke is 5-1 and ranked 25th. Other than that, not many teams are receiving national attention. There are a few surprise teams in the conference

      Here we are at the halfway point of the 2015 season. In the ACC, much has stayed the same. Clemson and Florida State remain undefeated and are ranked 5th and 11th respectively. Duke is 5-1 and ranked 25th. Other than that, not many teams are receiving national attention. There are a few surprise teams in the conference that have either surpassed or fallen short of expectations. Let’s look at what these programs are doing right or wrong. 

      Louisville 

      In 2014, Louisville relied on a great defense that gave up only 21.8 points-per-game. A year later, their defense remains strong, but they’ve failed to play any explosive offenses between Auburn, Houston, Samford, and NC State. The Tigers did manage to hold Clemson to just 20 points, but their offense clearly isn’t at its best this season. 

      The real problem seems to lie with the Cardinal offense. First off, they started off the season juggling a two-quarterback system between Lamar Jackson and Kyle Bolin. To date, the passing attack has only mustered 5 touchdowns (106th in the country), while the rushing attack only has 11 (46th in the country). They are known for being a defense team, but the offense has been lackluster so far this season.

      Louisville entered the 2015 season looking to build on their somewhat-surprising success in 2014. They went 5-3 in the conference, just a game behind Clemson, and looked prepared to make the jump in this season. They were never going to a New Year’s Six Bowl game, but they certainly had a chance to be ranked for most of the season. 

      Instead, Louisville have started the season with three straight losses. At the time, a tight Week 1 loss against #6 Auburn wasn’t seen as a problem and could even have been considered a positive sign. But as time went on, Auburn proved to be a shadow of their former selves, and the Cardinals went on to lose to Houston. Granted, Houston is currently ranked 24th, but a good Louisville team should have been able to handle them.

      Georgia Tech

      Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

      I wrote last week about how disappointing Georgia Tech have been of late, and my feelings have not changed after the Clemson game. The only stat needing mention from that game is the 71 rushing yards Tech finished with, an all-time low under Paul Johnson. 

      In 6 games, the Yellow Jackets are only averaging 270 rushing-yards-per-game, less than 80% of their average from last season. The Tech offense is completely stagnant, failing to get anywhere on the ground, and barely managing anything through the air. Tech certainly aren’t all to blame, as they’ve been dealing with a plethora of injuries in the A-back position. With so many players injured at such a key position, it’s tough to get anything going. 

      In addition, the offensive line have become a complete liability. Losing Shaq Mason was a much bigger hit than anticipated, and the B-back position is suffering from this loss as well. In Tech’s first two games, transfer Patrick Skov looked completely unstoppable, but he has rushed for just 60 yards in the past two games. 

      Same goes for Marcus Marshall who was primed to be the feature back after going for 184 yards and two touchdowns in his first game, but has managed just 96 yards and no touchdowns in 4 games since. For a rushing-based team, Georgia Tech has no rushing attack. The offensive line can’t hold gaps for inside runs, and the A-backs and receivers can’t block on the perimeter for outsides runs. 

      Tech came into this season with hopes of being a Playoff dark horse, or at least having a legitimate shot at an ACC Championship and a New Years Six Bowl. Now, they’ve got to work hard just to get into a bowl game, let alone a prestigious one. In all honesty, they might be among the most disappointing teams in the country at this point. Its a shame for them, and its a shame for the ACC since they lost their chance at having an extra ranked team. 

      Syracuse

      Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

      More so than the other teams on this list, Syracuse has been greatly aided by their schedule. Three of their five games have been Rhode Island, Central Michigan, and USF. Not exactly powerhouses. They did, however, notch a solid win against an ACC opponent in Wake Forest. Currently, the best thing going for the Orange is their close game with LSU. 

      At game time, Syracuse were 24 point underdogs. No one expected them to put up any sort of fight against such a physical LSU team. In reality, it took a punt-return touchdown and a monster game from Leonard Fournette for LSU to win. This is likely more so a case of LSU playing poorly than Syracuse playing well, but it still has to give the team a lot of confidence that they can compete. The offense isn’t blowing anyone away, but they are playing very efficiently, giving up only 6 turnovers to date. Defensively, they’ve taken the ball away 10 times. No matter the team, being on the positive side of the turnover ratio is always a good sign. It’s not pretty, but it works. 

      Syracuse don’t look great, but somehow they have managed to put together a winning record (3-2) so far this season. To add to their resume, they only lost by 10 points to powerhouse LSU. They won’t achieve much success for the remainder of the season, but keep in mind this was a team that went 3-9 last season and lost their starting quarterback at the beginning of the year. They started the season 3-0, and currently sit at 1-0 in conference play. Those numbers are good for #3 in the ACC Atlantic. I do not at all expect them to maintain that position, but I certainly didn’t expect them to even hold it at all.

      Pittsburgh

      A few weeks ago, I predicted that Pitt would struggle to make a bowl game after losing 2014 ACC player of the year James Conner. I was very wrong. They sit at 4-1 (2-0 ACC), and are currently projected to win 7 games (their post-Conner projection was 5 games). What a turnaround that is. 

      Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports                                              

      The Pitt offense is definitely lost without Conner, thats for sure. They’ve scored just 15 touchdowns while giving up 8 turnovers. They’re relying on a lot of different running backs to try to make up for Conner, and have only managed 163 rushing yards-per-game. In the passing game, they only sit at 174 yards-per-game. However bad the offense looks, they’ve proven that their defense is strong enough to win games. 

      They are currently giving up just 20.6 points-per-game and 264.6 yards-per-game (good for 7th in the country). They keep scores low, giving their offense a chance to score just enough points to win. They’ve absolutely asserted themselves as one of the best defenses in the ACC. It is very easy to completely keel over after losing your best player, but Pitt have proven to be a very resilient team, and they should safely finish up with a winning record.

      Duke

      No one expected Duke to do poorly, but they were expected to be mediocre. Their preseason predicted win-loss record was 5.8-6.3, and that projection has quickly jumped to 8.5-3.7. They sit at the top of the Coastal Division at 5-1 (2-0 ACC), with their lone loss being against a solid Northwestern team. Outside of that game, they have largely taken care of business, scoring 31.5 points-per-game while allowing just 9.33 (3rd in the country). 

      They are a classic example of a team with a stellar defense and an efficient offense. Allowing 9.33 points-per-game speaks for itself, so lets look at some offense numbers. They average 232 yards-per-game passing, and 180.7 rushing. Those aren’t phenomenal numbers but are still very solid for a team with few offensive stars. Thomas Sirk has proven to be an efficient quarterback with above-average running skills (he is their leading rusher with 75 attempts), and they are spreading the ball around very nicely in the rushing and receiving squads. All around, Duke are a very good team with a lot of potential. 


      Team Most Likely to Continue Success: Duke

      Duke is good. Let me be very clear about that. They may be currently projected to go 9-3, but I think they have a great shot at 11-1 and a trip to the ACC Championship. They have a lot of close matchups coming soon, but their defense looks the real deal, and I think they have what it takes to win out. Furthermore, they could absolutely compete with Clemson for the ACC Title.

      Team Most Likely to Falter: Syracuse

      This shouldn’t be a big surprise. They’ve largely gotten on with the help of a pathetic schedule, and I fully expect them to lose the remainder of their games, maybe winning one. 

      Team Most Likely to Continue Downturn: Louisville

      With such a weak offense, you better have a stellar defense. Louisville have a good defense, but not a good enough one to cover up their lackluster offense. They are projected to lose 2 more games, but I think this number could easily jump to 3 or 4.

      Team Most Likely to Turn it Around: Georgia Tech

      I say this with not as much confidence as I’d like. They are projected to win all their remaining games bar the match-up with UGA, but Tech have proven that projections don’t matter much. Most of my confidence is coming from the “They can’t possibly keep playing this bad, can they?” school of thought. Surely the offense has to start clicking at some point. They are very unpredictable at this point: they could win out just as easily as they could lose 3 more games. I put them higher than Louisville for the fact that they at least have a chance of winning out. 

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      The ACC Finally Gets a Statement Win

      The ACC came into this 2015 season looking to make waves, with teams like Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Louisville all looking to build on their 2014 campaigns, but they hadn’t made much of a ripple -- until now. With Clemson’s 24-22 victory over No. 6 Notre Dame, the ACC finally has its first

      The ACC came into this 2015 season looking to make waves, with teams like Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Louisville all looking to build on their 2014 campaigns, but they hadn’t made much of a ripple — until now. With Clemson’s 24-22 victory over No. 6 Notre Dame, the ACC finally has its first 2015 signature statement win. Let’s look at this game a little more closely, and consider its ramifications moving forward.

      Saturday October 3rd was unusually quiet for a college gameday, perhaps due to Hurricane Joaquin bearing down on the east coast. Without a doubt, Saturday night’s bout between the Tigers and the Irish was the best game of the week. It had everything: a raucous college environment, weather drama, big name players, schools rich in tradition, national title hopes, and a nail-biting game coming down to a 2-point conversion in  the final seconds. 

      Total Yards

      ND: 437

      Clem: 296


      Total Plays

      ND: 72

      Clem: 64

      Possession Time

      ND: 29:58

      Clem: 30:02

      First Downs

      ND: 20

      Clem: 15


      Turnovers

      ND: 4

      Clem: 1

      Looking at the first four comparisons, you’d certainly be wondering how Notre Dame managed to lose this game. They out-gained Clemson by 141 yards, ran more plays, and gained more first downs. The problem lies in the fact that most of their success occurred late in the second half. At halftime, Notre Dame had only managed to gain 135 yards (31.6% of their total). In fact, 51.9% (217) of Notre Dame’s yards came in the 4th quarter after they had already fallen behind, 3-21. By then, it was too late for the Irish. 

      As it often does, this game came down to costly turnovers. Interestingly enough, though, Clemson failed to score any points off of those turnovers. This shows that Clemson could have won this game by a lot more if the Irish defense didn’t play as well as they did. Notre Dame’s defense put them in a position to win multiple times, but the offense just couldn’t seal the deal. 

      The Irish Offense

      All in all, it was a pretty pitiful performance from the Irish offense. Their first nine drives were punt, field goal, punt, fumble, punt, punt, fumble, punt, punt. After scoring two late touchdowns on consecutive drives to bring the game within eight, the next two drives resulted in an interception and a fumble respectively. It was actually pretty fitting that at the end of the game it was the offense that couldn’t score the two-point conversion to tie it up. They racked up a lot of yards, but failed to convert those yards into points.  

      Most of the offensive blame gets put on the Irish rushing attack. Quarterback Deshone Kizer ended up being the leading rusher with only 60 yards on 15 carries for one touchdown. After averaging 167 yards per game over his last three contests and rushing for six scores in the same timespan, C.J. Prosise only managed to put up 50 yards on 15 carries with no scores against Clemson. Now, it is universally agreed-upon that Clemson has one of the best defensive lines in the country, but Prosise is still an elite back and should be able to perform better for his team. He played well in the passing game (more on that later), but he it just wasn’t enough. 

      Going back to Kizer, he actually had a very solid game, throwing for 321 yards and two touchdowns on 19 of 34 completions. Again, his interception was very costly, but otherwise it was a great performance. The passing game was only held back by the strength of the wide receivers. Budding star Will Fuller ended with just two receptions for 37 yards. Oddly enough, Prosise was the leading receiver with four catches for 100 yards and a score. Kizer has shown that he has great talent, but he needs his receivers to step up. Fuller was labeled as the go-to guy this season, and they need him to play like it if they expect to recover from this loss. 

      The Tiger Offense

      Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

      In contrast to Notre Dame’s running game letting them down, Clemson’s running game carried the team to victory. Wayne Gillman racked up 98 yards on 22 carries, and star QB Deshaun Watson finished with 93 yards and one touchdown on just 16 carries. The Clemson running game accounted for 199 of their 296 total yards, and it proved to be just enough to carry them past a strong Irish defense.

      The passing game looked pretty lackluster in this contest, with Watson going 11 of 22 for just 97 yards. Interestingly enough, he did toss two touchdowns (short ones). This had less to do with Watson playing poorly and more to do with the terrible weather forcing the Tigers to rely more on the ground game. It was never pretty, and in fact it was very sloppy at times, but it got the job done. 

      Tiger Defense

      Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

      The defense obviously came up huge in this game, forcing four turnovers and stopping Kizer on the two-point conversation at the end. We’ve heard for a while that Clemson has a top-tier defense, and they really proved it on a national stage in this game. They by no means played a complete game (remember, they gave up 437 total yards), but they made up for it by forcing turnovers and defending well during big points in the game. They played very opportunistically, and held off Notre Dame’s late comeback. One main point of worry is how they played in the first three quarters versus how they played in the 4th. Through three, they held Notre Dame to just 210 yards and three points. In the 4th alone, they gave up 217 yards and 19 points. They could absolutely play better in the future, but this was a solid outing against the #6 team in the country.

      Conference and National Impact

      At times, this game looked more like a Notre Dame loss than a Clemson win, but the Tigers still proved they should be considered among the elite teams in the country. They played solid defense and game-managed the offense in a torrential downpour, and that’s about as much as you can expect from any team. Either way, Clemson now has a signature win on their resume, boosting their image and the image of the ACC as a whole. Speaking of the ACC, the conference now has six non-conference top-10 wins over the last two seasons, the most of any conference.

      Moving forward for Clemson, I think they have a fantastic shot at making the College Football Playoff. Next week’s matchup against Georgia Tech will likely not be easy, but ESPN still gives them a 66.4% chance to win at home. If they can come away with a victory against the Jackets, the remainder of their schedule is a cake-walk. Florida State is currently the only ranked opponent they’ll play, but ESPN still gives Clemson a 64.4% chance to win. Aside from FSU, Miami is the only team that could possibly give Clemson trouble, but I don’t think they’ll be good enough to pull off the upset. Currently ranked No. 6, if Clemson wins out they should absolutely be one of the top 4 teams at the end of the season. In addition, they will likely not face much competition in the ACC Championship, which should only serve to boost their chances. 

      If Clemson were to make the Playoff, it would be huge for the ACC as a conference. It would mean consecutive years that they were represented in the Playoff (and by two different teams at that). Clemson making the playoff would also salvage a potentially disastrous season where multiple ACC teams were supposed to make waves nationally. Beyond that, Clemson certainly has the talent to make a push for the title, as teams like Ohio State have been less than impressive thus far in 2015. If they can get past Georgia Tech on Saturday, I like their chances to go all the way. 

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      Why Georgia Tech Is A Stumblin’ Wreck

      Four weeks ago, I wrote my first article defending Georgia Tech and predicting success for them this season. After this week's debacle against UNC, I am forced to eat my words and declare that Georgia Tech is nearly dead. I have been a student at Tech for 4 years, and I

      Four weeks ago, I wrote my first article defending Georgia Tech and predicting success for them this season. After this week’s debacle against UNC, I am forced to eat my words and declare that Georgia Tech is nearly dead. I have been a student at Tech for 4 years, and I have never seen a game where a team was so close yet so incapable of winning. 

      Statistically, Tech dominated UNC. But when it mattered most they choked, and choked hard. A week ago they were still favorites to win the ACC Coastal division, but now they look a team that will struggle to make a bowl game. This wasn’t how this season was supposed to go. The most frustrating part is that Tech is still very good. They’ve shown that they have the talent and the ability. But they’ve also shown that they apparently don’t have the nerve. Let’s break down the statistics and big moments in this game.

      Total Yards Possession Time Plays Run First Downs
      Tech 417 38:45 80 27
      UNC 413 21:15 59 21

      (all according to ESPN)

      Like I said before, Tech destroyed UNC statistically. No team that has twice the possession time of the other should ever lose the game, period. Adding to that point, Tech ran 21 more plays than UNC and gained 6 more first downs. If someone just read those stats, they could assume Tech won by at least two scores. Here’s a more detailed look at these numbers:

      Seconds/Play Time/Drive Time/Touchdown Drive Plays/Touchdown
      Tech 29.06 3:25 6:52 20
      UNC 21.61 2:06 1:59 11.8

      Tech’s seconds-per-play was a little high this week because Paul Johnson decided to change the play-calling system. Normally, the rotated-in A-back or B-back carries the play to the huddle. Starting Saturday, Justin Thomas received initial hand signals from an assistant coach and the team would line up. After lining up, Thomas would look back to the coaches for further information before finally snapping the ball. This looked odd at first, but it appeared to give Coach Johnson time to look at the defense and make appropriate corrections to the play.

      To me, the statistics show that Tech was methodically better, UNC was just scoring more quickly. Three of UNC’s touchdown drives were under 7 plays (1, 5, and 6). Tech’s first three touchdown drives were 10, 14, and 13 plays. That speaks volumes to the pace of the game. Tech spent most of the game methodically marching down the field, but when UNC got favorable field position they struck quickly. This is best shown by Tech’s 20 plays-per-touchdown vs UNC’s 11.8.

      Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

      The time-per-drive vs time-per-touchdown drive is one of the more intriguing comparisons in my opinion. Tech spent almost exactly twice as much time on touchdown drives as they did on drives that didn’t result in touchdowns. In stark opposition are UNC’s drive times. They are nearly identical, no matter if it was a touchdown drive or not. No UNC drive went over 4 minutes, and less than half of their drives went over 2 minutes. Tech is still one of the better teams in the country at eating clock on long touchdown drives, but they fail to do much on other drives. No non-touchdown drive for Tech went over 8 plays (and that one included an extra 4th down attempt). It seems that if Tech gets a drive going early, they can score easily. If a drive starts off poorly, it doesn’t have much of a chance of going anywhere. Unsurprisingly, the shorter non-touchdown drives contained the majority of the passing plays for Tech.

      In tennis, one player can actually win more points than the other, but still lose the match by losing the key points that matter the most. That is precisely what happened to Tech on Saturday. This game was a classic example of how a team can do everything right, but manage to lose because of a few key breakdowns. 

      Offensive Breakdowns

      For much of the game, UNC struggled to fully defend the option offense. Tech’s A-backs were gaining huge yards every play, and they were eating up the clock. There were only 3 cases where Tech’s offense broke down, and they weren’t necessarily the option’s fault:

      1. With 1:30 left in the first half, Tech ran three straight passing plays in an effort to gain a quick score, but instead wound up going 3-and-out in just 33 seconds, giving UNC the opportunity to march down the field and make the halftime score 21-14 instead of 21-7. Tech got greedy instead of just running out the clock going into halftime. 

      2. Up 28-24 in the second half, Tech went for it on 4th and 1 on the goal line, but chose to run the exact same play they ran on 3rd and 1, and were sufficiently stuffed. Instead of taking an easy 3 points to go up 7, they made a questionable play call and turned the ball over. 

      3. On their very next drive, Tech had the ball on the UNC 37 and Justin Thomas fumbled on the first play of the drive. This was just about Thomas’s only mistake all game, but it was very costly as Tech was in a great position to score. 

      These three situations, comprising about 1 total minute of game play, represent either a 13 point swing (assuming no UNC touchdown on #1, scoring a field goal on #2, and a field goal on #3) or a 17 point swing (same but touchdown on #3). That 1 minute of play immensely changed the tone of the game.

      Defensive Breakdowns

      Much like the offense, Tech’s defense played very well for most of the game. They did a decent job of stopping the run for players not named Marquise Williams, and did a superb job stopping the passing game. The only major issues occurred on plays where Williams scrambled for 30 yards at a time. Of course, it didn’t help that star defensive lineman Adam Gotsis was ejected in the first half for a questionable targeting call. Again, I’ll highlight a couple examples of where the defense broke down:

      1. With Tech up 21-0 and roughly 4:30 left in the half, the defense allowed two quick touchdown drives by UNC. The first one took 3 minutes, and the second one took just 52 seconds. To this point in the game, UNC had only gained 57 yards, but all of a sudden, the defense started leaving gaping holes for Marquise Williams to exploit. Even by just getting a stop on one of those drives, Tech could have drastically changed the game. 

      2. In the fourth quarter with UNC leading 31-28, Tech need a big stop to regain the lead, but instead gave up a touchdown on the first play of the drive. The play? a double wide receiver reverse where Quinshad Davis threw a 37 yard pass to a wide open Marquise Williams. Yes, the quarterback Marquise Williams. At the biggest defensive point in the game, Tech gave up a trick play touchdown.

      Special Teams Breakdowns

      For what feels like the 100000th week in a row, Tech’s special teams hugely let them down. Fortunately, Harrison Butker made his only field goal attempt, but that was the only bright spot. These are the two biggest blunders: 

      1. On a positive note, Ryan Rodwell only had to punt on one occasion. Unfortunately, that punt was a fumbled snap that he barely got off in time for 23 yards. Even worse, this punt occurred on Tech’s quick 3-and-out at the end of the first half, and the 23 yard boot gave UNC a short field to score a quick touchdown. If the punt had even just gone Rodwell’s season average of 40.7 yards, UNC would have had a much more difficult time scoring that touchdown. 

      2. After the Butker field goal made it 31-38, Tech attempted an onside kick with 2:40 to go and miraculously recovered it (If you recall, they also did this against Notre Dame two weeks ago late in the game). Problem is, the ball barely grazed a Tech player 9.5 yards downfield. Now I am of course not at all blaming this on any Tech player, this is just an example of terrible luck and timing. If the ball had gone an inch to the right, Tech would’ve legally recovered with a great chance to tie up the game. 

      Jason Getz-USA TODAY SportsI’d like to take a moment to single out how well Justin Thomas played in this game. He went 12-21 for 168 yards and 1 score, and added 56 yards and 2 scores rushing (I am ignoring his 1 interception on the final hail mary play because it was a desperation heave). It’s rare that a Tech option quarterback has such a great game both rushing and passing. Aside from his one costly fumble he looked sharp the entire game, making great reads and pitches. This game proves that he can’t carry the team on his own, other players need to step up around him. He played just about as well as Tech could have asked him to but it still wasn’t enough. 

      What’s to Blame

      A lot of people will start calling for Paul Johnson’s head, but I think thats the wrong way of looking at it. When specifically looking at the UNC game, this point still holds. UNC struggled the entire game to stop the option. They started protecting the B-back run in the second half, but outside pitches still gashed the defense for 5-7 yards at a time. Justin Thomas also added a few great runs himself on QB keepers. The offensive problem with this game was absolutely not the option. In fact, the problem was not running the option enough. This has become a recurring problem for Tech in the past 3 games. They get down a few points, panic, and start throwing the ball too much, and going for too much. Thomas has attempted 20+ passes in each of the last 3 games. To put that into perspective, the most passes he attempted during a game in the 2014 season was just 11. Paul Johnson just honestly doesn’t look like himself. They don’t need to get rid of the option, they need to run it even more. Tech needs get rid of the short drives that go nowhere and commit to purposefully running the option and running down the clock.

      Season Outlook

      I don’t want to sound fatalistic, but Tech has almost completely resigned itself from the ACC Coastal race. Now two games (and the head-to-head tiebreaker) behind Duke, it’s a tough road ahead. Obviously Tech absolutely needs to win out if they want a chance, but they also need a lot of help from other teams. Currently, Duke is projected to lose two ACC games at Virginia Tech (39.6% chance to win) and at North Carolina (25.8% chance to win). They are also about a 50-50 shot at Miami (54% chance to win). Speaking of Miami, they are only favored to win 2 ACC games, and projected to lose their remaining 6. In an almost ironic twist of fate, UNC is now Georgia Tech’s biggest problem. UNC is projected to win all their remaining ACC games except for at NC State (49.7% chance to win). Tech needs UNC to lose at least two and that currently looks like a tall order, but it’s not impossible. Here is the most likely scenario where Tech could rise back to the top of the Coastal:

      1. Tech wins out

      2. Duke loses to VT, UNC, and Miami

      3. UNC loses to NC State and VT

      4. Miami loses at least one more game other than Tech

      This would cover Tech’s current deficit to Duke and UNC, and a win over Miami would keep them ahead of the Hurricanes. Its definitely a long-shot, but the Coastal historically a marathon rather than a sprint. Next week’s trip to Death Valley to face Clemson is absolutely the point of no return for the Yellow Jackets. With a loss against the Tigers, Tech is just about mathematically eliminated. Hopefully they can turn their season around and make a statement win against a Clemson team that didn’t look great against a less-than perfect Notre Dame on Saturday. 

      As far as everything outside of ACC play, Tech doesn’t have much left but the rivalry game against UGA in late November. Luckily for Tech, UGA looks like an absolute debacle of a team after the Alabama game, and ESPN currently gives GT a 44.6% chance to win. I know plenty of students that would be willing for us to go 3-9 this season as long as it meant we got the win agains the bulldogs. 

      Let’s pretend for a moment that Tech does manage to win out, what would that mean on a national scale? Well, it would mean a GT team that went 9-3 with wins against a top-10 Clemson, top-20 Florida State, and top-something UGA. Not to mention that they would then likely (maybe) be playing for the ACC Championship against either Clemson or Florida State, and with a hypothetical win against both of those teams already under their belt, Tech would surely be confident in that game. At the time of the ACC Championship game, Tech would surely be ranked, probably in the top 20. Does losing to Duke and UNC early and then making the top 20 and the ACC Championship sound familiar? It does, because thats exactly what happened last year to Tech. I’m not saying this is at all a likely scenario (ESPN gives Tech a 2.3% chance of winning out), but it is at least a possible one. 

      All these hypothetical points sum up to one thing: Tech is down, but they aren’t out. Three losses is by no means the end to a season, and there’s a lot of football left to play. It looks bleak, but the Jackets certainly have the ability to turn this season around. Through 5 games every position has shown they can have good games, they just need to put it all together at once. They are certainly in dangerous territory, with little room for error, but its nothing this team hasn’t faced before. 

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      The Case For Georgia Tech And The Option Offense

      Every year, football pundits and experts say the same thing about Georgia Tech. It usually goes something to the tune of “They’re good, but is the option offense still a viable one?” I am here to say that the answer to that question is a resounding “yes”.

      Each year the option offense is ridiculed

      Every year, football pundits and experts say the same thing about Georgia Tech. It usually goes something to the tune of “They’re good, but is the option offense still a viable one?” I am here to say that the answer to that question is a resounding “yes”.

      Each year the option offense is ridiculed for being a “high school offensive scheme” that “can’t compete with the best teams”, and each year Tech piles on more yards per game than nearly any other team in the country. The option offense doesn’t get nearly the national credit it deserves. 

      Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson knows this more than just about anyone else around campus. It is his “high school offense” that gets ridiculed at the first signs of trouble, yet manages to gain the second highest rushing yards-per-game in the FBS in 2014.

      Year after year pundits and analysts question the validity of the option offense, and year after year, Johnson puts them in their place. Only rarely are “experts” willing to cede that the offense can be viable, yet they come back with the usual “but it could never work in the SEC.” Well, Georgia Tech can show you two solid victories against two solid SEC opponents in 2014. My absolute favorite quote from Johnson came after Tech’s thrilling win over UGA when he exclaimed “how about that high school offense?” He made another similar statement after their Orange Bowl victory over Mississippi State. 

      The 2014 season provides perfect evidence to show just how successful the option offense can be when done right. Tech was projected to finish 6th in the ACC’s Coastal Division, and Johnson was a few bad games away from being fired. They instead finished 1st in the Coastal and came two points (and star wide receiver DeAndre Smelter’s ACL) away from beating then-undefeated Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. They then went on to demolish early-season favorite Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl on New Years Eve. 

      Here is how the option offense ranked nationally for the 2014 season:

      #1 in rushing yards

      #6 in yards per attempt

      #2 in rushing TDs

      #11 in total yards

      #10 in points per game

      #6 in 1st downs

      #1 in 3rd down conversions

      (according to ESPN)

      After this fantastic season, people still said that the option offense only works because Georgia Tech never plays “good” teams because they compete in the mediocre Coastal Division of the ACC. When looking at the final AP Top 10 rankings from 2014 however, a different story can be seen. Tech was 3-1 against Top 25 teams (again, using the season-ending rankings), with an average opponent rank of 10.2. Those three wins came against opponents with an average ranking of 11.6. Yet they never played, let alone beat, anyone good? Here is a full breakdown of these stats for the entire AP Poll Final Top 10:


      Actual Top Ten

      1 Ohio State   
      2 Oregon
      3 TCU
      4 Alabama
      5 Michigan State
      6 Florida State
      7 Baylor
      8 Georgia Tech
      9 UGA
      10 UCLA


      Average Ranking Of Top 25 Opponent Played

      1 Michigan State (3.3)
      2 Ohio State (6)
      3 Baylor (8.6)
      4 Georgia Tech (10.2)
      5 Oregon (11.6)
      6 Florida State (12.2)
      7 Alabama (13)
      8 TCU (14)
      9 UGA (16.6)
      10 UCLA (16.7)


      Average Ranking Of Top 25 Opponent Beat

      1 Ohio State (6)
      2 Michigan State (7)
      3 Baylor (10.5)
      4 Georgia Tech (11.6)
      5 Oregon (12.2)
      6 Florida State (15.6)
      7 Alabama (15.6)
      8 TCU (17.5)
      9 UGA (18.7)
      10 UCLA (18.8)

      Average Ranking Of Top 25 Opponent Lost To

      1 Ohio State (-)
      2 Michigan State (1.5)
      3 Florida State (2)
      4 Baylor (5)
      5 Georgia Tech (6)
      6 TCU (7)
      7 UGA (8)
      8 Alabama (9)
      9 Oregon (10)
      10 UCLA (11.5)

      Georgia Tech can compete with the top teams in the nation. Furthering this point, Georgia Tech’s lone Top 25 loss came by only two points against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. In fact, Georgia Tech’s three losses were only by an astoundingly small 13 points combined. Teams can rarely slow down the option offense, meaning Tech almost never gets blown out. They are firmly competitive in every single game they play. 

      The stats show that the option offense can make waves in the NCAA. It is reliable, consistent, and has the ability to steamroll opponents when executed well. Hopefully as Georgia Tech continues to do well, the option offense can drop its “high school offense” moniker and be respected for the powerhouse offense it is. 


      Post Week One Addendum:

      Yes it was Alcorn State, but the first team offense still managed to put up 34 points in the first quarter alone. That’s a lot of points no matter who the opponent is. Tech’s offense looks like it’s already firing on all cylinders. This trend should easily continue this upcoming Saturday against Tulane. I believe Tech is an early favorite to win the ACC Coastal, and has a great chance at winning the ACC Championship. If they can hang on with a tough schedule and only drop one game (possibly two), I think they’re a dark-horse candidate for the College Football Playoff. At the very least, I expect them to finish for a second straight year in the Top Ten.

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