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Bowl Game Picks

December 24, 2009

Well, the college football bowl season is upon us.  The ACC has quite a slate to offer during the next several days.  So, without further ado, here are my picks:

  • Meineke Car Care – PITTSBURGH vs. North Carolina
  • Emerald – USC vs. Boston College
  • Music City – Kentucky vs. CLEMSON
  • Champs Sports – Wisconsin vs. MIAMI
  • Chick-Fil-A – Tennessee vs. VIRGINIA TECH
  • Gator – West Virginia vs. FLORIDA STATE
  • Orange – Iowa vs. GEORGIA TECH

Worth Noting:

  • It’s no secret that the Gator Bowl will indeed serve as Bobby Bowden’s swan song.  He ends an amazing 34-year run with the Seminoles, although it could have continued for another season had that option been made available.  Still, his legacy will continue on campus in an entirely different form.
  • You can call the Meineke Car Care Bowl a match between two teams that lost to the Wolfpack.  Pitt suffered a 38-31 defeat back in Week 4, while UNC went down 28-27 in Week 13.   Both contests took place in the friendly confines of Carter-Finley Stadium, which is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Charlotte’s  Bank of America Stadium.  Hopefully neither team will encounter a sea of red in the Queen City.
  • Boston College will take on a USC team in unfamiliar territory.  The Emerald Bowl will be the first non-BCS bowl for the Trojans since the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl.  They lost three of their last five games to end up making the trek to San Fran, although the bowl organizers there seem to be thrilled.
  • Hopefully the third time will be the charm for Virginia Tech as they make their way back to Atlanta for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.  They also hope to break a four-game drought against SEC opponents.  Better hope UT coach Lane Kiffin isn’t up to his bag of tricks again.
  • The Orange Bowl should be an interesting matchup, given Iowa’s stellar defense and GT’s amazing triple-option.  The outcome will likely depend on which side blinks first and who can capitalize on the most available opportunities down the stretch.

For ACC Football fans everywhere, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Week 14 Result & Bowl Bids

December 8, 2009

Well, it’s easy enough to say who’s the champ this year …

GEORGIA TECH 39, Clemson 34

Congratulations to the Yellowjackets on winning the 2009 ACC Championship and best wishes in the Orange Bowl!

And now, here are the bowl games with ACC tie-ins:

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Week 14 Pick – ACC Championship

December 4, 2009

The two teams that had a memorable Thursday night matchup earlier this season meet again in Tampa Bay this weekend.  Both Clemson and Georgia Tech are potent scoring machines that will do whatever it takes to gain an advantage over the other. And with a BCS bid on the line, they’ll stop at nothing to get there.  GT last won an ACC title in 1990, when they also won a share of the national championship, while CU grabbed the conference crown the following year.

While much can be said over the Yellowjackets’ vaunted triple-option or the amazing play of ACC Player of the Year C.J. Spiller for the Tigers, it will be how each others’ defense will come into play.   The deciding factor  may well come to the number of turnovers and penalties each team accrues over the course of the game.  The Tigers have an edge when it comes to controlling both sides of the ball, while the Jackets are more likely to run up the score first and attempt to hold onto the lead in the closing moments.

And if the Tigers needed further incentive for payback, a clip from the closing moments of a heartbreaking 30-27 loss in Week 2 should suffice.

But still, I’d base my pick on who I feel has the best chance to win.  With that regard, here is my prediction …

GEORGIA TECH 36, Clemson 33

Yes, expect this to be a close game indeed with the score going back and forth.  The winner will head to the Orange Bowl against an opponent TBD.  The SEC and Big XII Championships, along with the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game will likely determine the winner’s opponent.  As for the loser, it’s kind of a complicated mess since it appears the Gator Bowl will select Florida State against West Virginia for Bobby Bowden’s final college football game (an ongoing story that never seems to go away for some strange reason).

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End of Season Review – Coastal Divison

December 2, 2009

Continuing my year-end assessment of ACC football, let’s have a look at how each of the teams in the Coastal Division.

DUKE (C) – At the beginning of November, the Blue Devils still had an opportunity to finish out with a winning season and possible bowl bid.  Both of those dreams evaporated as the month dragged on courtesy of a four-game losing streak.  Still, they’ve accomplished a lot over the season and have something to work with during the offseason.  Thad Lewis ends his college career as the most prolific passer in Duke history, so whoever takes his place next season has some big shoes to fill.

GEORGIA TECH (A) – The powerful triple option has carried the Yellowjackets well to their second ACC Championship game.  It’s the reason why five of their players on the offensive line made All-ACC First Team.  The defense remains suspect, which was evident early on during last week’s lsot to rival Georgia.

MIAMI (A-) – The ‘Canes managed to regain some of their swagger this season by getting a winning record against other ACC schools and beating all of their non-conference opponents for the first time in four years.  Despite struggling a bit down the stretch with losses to Clemson and UNC, the defense really turned it up a notch in their win over South Florida last week.  While this season might not compare to those championship-caliber campaigns (try to say that three times fast) of the past, it is evident that Randy Shannon is helping push this program in the right direction once again

NORTH CAROLINA (B-) – The Heels improved their offensive output following a midseason slump to pull off a four-game winning streak before losing to rival NC State for the third year in a row.  Still, they managed to hold their own against both Miami and Virginia Tech, while giving Boston College their only home loss of the season.  And their defense remain solid throughout the stretch as well.

VIRGINIA (F) – Well, it is no secret why Al Groh was told to hit the bricks following a disastrous loss to rival Virginia Tech.  Despite their unexpected three-game win streak, which included a win over UNC, at the midpoint, the Hoos folded quicker than Jon & Kate’s marriage by faltering the rest of the way.  Looks like the administration has a huge mess to clean up as they look for Groh’s potential replacement.

VIRGINIA TECH (B) – The Hokies benefited greatly during November by peeling off a four-game win streak to end the season.  The offense put up some impressive numbers in the air courtesy of QB Tyrod Taylor and on the ground thanks to RB Ryan Williams’ impressive stats.  The defense hasn’t done quite as well against the run, though, which might explain why this squad may be a little off compared to previous seasons.

For what it’s worth, the Coastal Division has proved to be the stronger of the two divisions.  Aside from Virginia, all the other teams remained fairly competitive and had at least a shot at possibly leading the division at one point or another.  Even so, this was a scenario where only the strong managed to survive and advance.

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End of Season Review – Atlantic Division

December 1, 2009

Now that the regular season is in the books, let’s take a look at my own assessment of each team in the ACC’s “black and blue” division.  The results are as varied as the teams themselves.

BOSTON COLLEGE (B+) – The Eagles managed to stay strong in the second half, albeit against weaker competition.  Losses to Notre Dame and North Carolina and close wins against the conference cellar-dwellers have caused their stock to drop off a bit.  Still, BC managed to be bowl-eligible for the 11th year in a row, which matches the total number of bowl trips they’ve been to in the six decades prior to the current streak.

CLEMSON (A) – Coach Dabo Swinney managed to do something that Tommy Bowden couldn’t do.  Despite a rough start with losses against Georgia Tech, TCU, and Maryland (!), the Tigers ran off a six-game winning streak en route to its first ACC Championship game and possibly it’s first conference title since 1991.  Having your best player honored with a full page color ad in USA Today certainly adds to your rep as well.

FLORIDA STATE (C-) – Despite the controversy surrounding their revered head coach all season, the Seminoles managed to pull together some close wins over UNC, NC State, and Maryland to eke in another bowl game.  Even so, it became apparent that whatever bowl they’ll be heading to will be the last for Bobby Bowden as he calls it a career.

MARYLAND (F) – Never did I think doling out this grade would be necessary.  But the Terps earned that distinction by ending the season with a mighty thud, thanks to a seven-game losing streak to end the season.  Ralph Friedgen will remain on board for 2010, despite having to deal with a litany of injuries, inexperience, and just plain bad luck.  Perhaps the only thing keeping him in College Park at this point would be the money, or lack thereof.  For what it’s worth, there needs to be significant improvement next season if Coach Friedgen doesn’t want to end up on the hot seat again.

N.C. STATE (D) – The Pack wasn’t able to put together another impressive late-season run this time around.  Injuries and a weak defense doomed their bowl chances, although a season-ending win over rival UNC did offer a sense of redemption.  Probably the biggest question during the offseason would be whether QB Russell Wilson will stick around for another season or take a crack at professional baseball.

WAKE FOREST (D+) – The Deacs fell apart during the backstretch of the season, only to end a five-game losing streak against Duke to cap the season.  While the season was a letdown for the number of seniors on the squad, including their record-breaking QB Riley Skinner, it was quite a learning experience for the defense who helped keep Wake in a number of close contests.

In conclusion, the Atlantic Division had more drama than Jon & Kate without all the screaming and backbiting.  Even so, there is room for improvement as the offseason progresses and wholesale changes are expected across the board.  It’s just a matter of finding the right balance needed to keep the division more sound and competitive.

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Week 13 Results

November 30, 2009

One thing about rivalry games that make them special is the amount of pride and passion both schools bring out.  Whether it comes from the players, fans, students, or the band, the level of emotion on display reaches an entirely different level.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad your team is, but which side wants to sniff the sweet smell of victory even more.

This past weekend also showed that even the ACC’s best is no match to what the SEC has to offer.  It’s the main reason why the best two teams in the nation are squaring off in the SEC Championship next Saturday for dibs on a spot at the BCS Championship game next month.  As for the ACC, looks like our champion is heading to the Orange Bowl once again.  The difference between the two leagues is apparently much wider than the 416 miles between Tampa Bay and Atlanta.

So, if you’re wondering how well I fared, then wonder no more.  Thought a couple of rockin’ songs from back in the day would set the mood for this week.

FLY(ING) LIKE AN EAGLE

  • VIRGINIA TECH 42, Virginia 13
  • BOSTON COLLEGE 19, Maryland 17
  • FLORIDA 37, Florida State 10

(ON THE) HIGHWAY TO HELL

  • Wake Forest 45, DUKE 34
  • N.C. State 28, NORTH CAROLINA 27
  • South Carolina 34, CLEMSON 17
  • Miami 31, SOUTH FLORIDA 10
  • Georgia 30, GEORGIA TECH 24

TOTALS

  • This week – 3 wins, 5 losses
  • Overall – 63 wins, 33 losses (65.6% winning percentage)

“Okay, Jimmy, so what does all this mean?” you’re still wondering.

Even with a rough beginning and end to the regular season, I did better overall with my pick selection.   I guessed 8 more wins correctly than i did last season.  Percentage-wise, that would be about 12.6% more.  And I was slightly ahead of my mark of 63.8% at the halfway point of the season (or a 2.8% increase).  So, turns out this season was somewhat better than expected.  Not exactly at the level the SEC has reached, but hey, we’ll get there someday.

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Week 13 Picks

November 27, 2009

Okay, now that I’m fully recovered from stuffing myself silly over a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, it’s time for my ACC football picks for theweek.  A number of rivalry games from within the conference and against our SEC brethren highlight this week’s slate of matchups.  Two of those games have implications on the BCS standings as well, although both games might appear to be somewhat lopsided.

So, without further ado, here are my picks for the week:

  • Wake Forest @ DUKE
  • NORTH CAROLINA @ NC State
  • CLEMSON @ South Carolina
  • VIRGINIA TECH @ Virginia
  • Miami @ SOUTH FLORIDA
  • BOSTON COLLEGE @ Maryland
  • Georgia @ GEORGIA TECH
  • GAME OF THE WEEK – Florida State @ FLORIDA

Worth Noting:

  • The NC State family has been hit hard over the weekend with news that two of their own are battling cancer.  The football team will be without the services of OC Dana Bible again this week after being diagnosed with leukemia. He is currently seeking treatment over at UNC Hospital.    In the broadcast booth, play-by-play announcer Gary Hahn was also sidelined due to surgery for prostate cancer over the weekend as well.  The news certainly has to be disheartening with the Wolfpack faithful, especially since longtime women’s basketball coach Kay Yow died earlier this year following a long battle with breast cancer.  My thoughts and prayers go to the families of Dana Bible and Gary Hahn in hopes of a speedy and successful recovery.
  • Virginia desperately needs a win over rival Virginia Tech if there’s any hope of Coach Al Groh staying for another year.  He’s currently 1-7 against the Hokies and Frank Beamer, so expectations are huge for the Cavaliers on this one.  Another loss could mean the end of the Groh era in Charlottesville as we know it.
  • Miami will be taking on USF in the first of a five-game series with the Bulls.  This will be the first meeting between the two schools since The Canes won 27-7 back in 2005.  The program at USF has taken off since  then, and has even notched a win over  FSU back in Week 4 of this season.
  • The FSU-Florida game could be quite an emotional game for a number of reasons.  Not only will this be the final home game for UF’s senior QB Tim Tebow, but perhaps the final opportunity for FSU to win a game for Bobby Bowden at The Swamp.  The opportunity to play the spoiler certainly sounds intriguing for the Seminole faithful that have endured their share of hardship the past few seasons.
  • South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is looking at keeping Clemson’s three big playmakers at bay when the two schools renew their annual rivalry.  In addition to C.J. Spiller’s amazing prowess, receiver Jacoby Ford has also put up impressive numbers this season, and QB Kyle Parker has been fairly consistent throughout the season as well.  Gotta wonder what kind of game plan The ‘Ol Ball Coach has cooking up.
  • Duke and Wake Forest compete in their final game of the season.  The Blue Devils will be aiming for their first non-losing season in 15 years, which would say a lot about where the program is heading.  As for the Demon Deacons, this is a homecoming of sorts for receiver Marshall Williams, who played high school football at Riverside High in Durham and used to participate in summer workouts on the Duke campus.