ACC Weekend Recap
By Jordan Martin
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Georgia Tech and Florida State are primed to meet in the ACC Championship Game.
Offensive Player of the Week: Tajh Boyd-QB-Clemson [30/44 Passes Completed, 426 Passing Yards, 5 Passing TDs. 103 Rushing Yards, 3 Rushing TDs.]
Eight touchdowns?! EIGHT?! Okay, maybe if this was week one and Clemson was playing “Ham & Eggs A&M” or some lowly FCS opponent this wouldn't be a major story, but to do this in week 12…in conference play…against a usually feisty North Carolina State defense? I’m not sure Boyd could have done that for himself if he was playing NCAA Football on Xbox in rookie mode.
He completed 68% of his passes and, despite throwing two interceptions, he was a human dynamo. The Tigers scored 62 points total, which means Boyd accounted for 77% of their offense!
Defensive Player of the Week: Nick Clancy-LB-Boston College [20 Tackles, 17 Solo, 2.5 TFL]
Clancy was a major reason why BC almost pulled off the upset of Virginia Tech. Sometimes tackle numbers are exaggerated, but this certainly wasn’t the case with Clancy. He was running wild on the defensive end, whether it was against the pass or against the run. Anytime you score double digit tackles, you’re doing great. If you manage to hit 20, you’ve had a career day.
Game of the Week: (Clemson 62, NC State 48)
What is it with the last two weeks in the ACC? Last week, Georgia Tech and North Carolina combined for 118 points, and this week, Clemson and NC State combined for 110. Sure, the game has become more favorable for offensive execution and the advent of spread or hybrid spread offenses has truly opened up the game for individual mismatches and space creation, but to give up this many points in a game is to lapse defensively or lack preparation altogether.
That’s not to take anything away from offensive execution, but it almost looked effortless at times for Tajh Boyd and the Tigers. What gets lost in all this is NC State was very effective offensively as well. Mike Glennon threw for nearly 500 yards, and the Wolfpack had a 100-yard rusher of their own. Still, all that matters at the end of the day is whether you have more points than the other team or you don’t. It’s been an odd year in the ACC, and a down one in many ways, with two teams ineligible for postseason play, many teams disappointing in the regular season and Maryland’s announcement to leave for the Big Ten. However, if the ACC can hang its hat on anything, it’s that Clemson and Florida State are flying the banner high and they are perfectly capable of matching up with any team out there.
Game You Should Have Watched: (Virginia Tech 30, Boston College 23 [OT])
A win is a win, for certain. A win marks improvement, success, confidence and the ability to claim that you played and prepared better than your opponent, despite what anyone may contest. I’m not so sure Virginia Tech can celebrate this win more than Boston College can mourn the loss.
To say both teams have had disappointing seasons might rank the statement as one of the greatest understatements of the year. Tech could salvage whatever remained of the wreck by winning this game and their next game, but even if they do, I highly doubt anyone within the program will call the season a success. Boston College would finish with a losing record regardless, but they needed this win as something to point to for pride’s sake. It simply wasn’t meant to be. They matched up well with the Hokies, but as the game drew to a close, they made too many untimely errors and it cost them.
Game That Hurt to Watch: (North Carolina 37, Virginia 13)
If you watched either of these teams play last week, you would think the momentum would have been entirely on Virginia’s side. It’s a bit late in the season for emotional boomerangs. North Carolina isn’t bowl eligible and Virginia could have possibly seized that. For two weeks, they played inspired football and looked to have a complete game at their disposal. The way this team played against North Carolina State and rallied to beat Miami, they looked to be headed in the right direction.
Virginia had every reason to come out in this game with everything it had to offer as to avoid a losing season, while North Carolina had little reason outside of pride to show up and play its heart out. Credit Larry Fedora for having his team prepared and shame Mike London for taking it for granted.
“I Love My Job”: (Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech)
That seals the deal. Miami announced a self-imposed bowl ban and the Yellow Jackets recently punished Duke. As of now, they will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC title game.
No one could have predicted this turn of events. The Coastal Division has been in a state of tumult the entire season and Georgia Tech was, at one time, 3-5. Outside of Clemson and Florida State, there isn’t a team in the ACC playing better football right now than Georgia Tech. Considering what has happened to the team this year and the way it looked they may fizzle out completely, this is nothing short of incredible.
“Is It Getting Hot In Here?”: (Tom O’Brien – North Carolina State)
North Carolina State had a great deal of fanfare and expectations from the media to start the season. A flat loss to Tennessee opened the season, but a win against Florida State renewed faith in the belief the team was turning the corner as a conference contender. That notion was put to bed quickly. After barely edging out Maryland following their victory over the Seminoles, the Wolfpack have lost three of their last four and are currently 6-5. Two blowout losses to Clemson and Virginia have not beset unrest in the fanbase, and I’m certain that’s the case within the athletic department. Sure, NC State is third in the Atlantic standings, but considering they are above Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College, who have all had down seasons, it’s nothing to celebrate.
The folks in Raleigh didn’t settle for mediocrity under Chuck Amato, which is precisely why O’Brien was courted, so I highly doubt they’ll abide mediocrity for very long under him. NC State has one game remaining against Boston College, and if they were to lose that game, I’d be hard pressed to believe NC State Athletic Director Deborah Yow and O’Brien wouldn’t have a little chat.
“Just When Things Were Going So Well”: (Mike London - Virginia)
Truly, everything was going quite well for the Cavaliers and they could have written their own postseason ticket with a continuation of the strong play they had displayed of late…so much for that.
After losing by 27 to the bowl ineligible Tar Heels, Virginia looked more like the team that lost six straight through the middle of the season. To achieve such a drastic turnaround only to suffer an equally drastic setback can be very detrimental to a team’s inner faith in the ability of the coach to lead them in the right direction.
Obtaining bowl eligibility would have been a coup of sorts for London in both recruiting momentum and establishing trust and confidence in his players into the next season. This loss, and the manner of the loss, will be very difficult to shake as the Cavaliers know they’ll be sitting at home for the holidays wondering what might have been and what is to come.
“Will Someone Give Me An Answer?”: (David Cutcliffe - Duke)
Duke led the Coastal Division at one point, and until this past weekend, could have become representatives of the division in the ACC Championship Game for the first time in history. All they had to do was win their last two against Miami and Georgia Tech. That’s what separates the contenders from the pretenders, beating the teams trying to take that spot at the top away from you when it matters most.
They not only lost to Georgia Tech, they did it in the manner of Duke teams of old. They simply got beaten down. Duke’s season is a success in many ways, but it had the chance to seize so much more. It’s a tragedy that they have to settle for a run-of-the-mill bowl game at season’s end, no matter how significant it may be to the program, because of the way they have closed out the season.
What’s even more shocking to think about is if Duke had beaten to Georgia Tech and lost to Miami next week; if Virginia Tech were to win their final game they would actually have been Coastal Division champions once more with Miami and North Carolina ineligible for postseason play.