ACC Winners and Losers: Week 8
Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:05 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 12:26 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins
Freshman phenom Sammy Watkins has been the Clemson wide receiver who has struck fear in defensive coordinators across the ACC, but Saturday was a reminder that there are plenty of dangerous weapons in the Tigers offense - notably sophomore DeAndre Hopkins. Nuke went off against the Tar Heels, catching 9 passes for a career high 157 yards. Hopkins was one of five different receivers to catch a touchdown pass from quarterback Tajh Boyd, who finished with 367 yards on 46 attempts with no interceptions. If Ellington continues to be bothered by an apparent foot injury, you can expect to see a lot more of Nuke down the stretch.
LOSER: North Carolina's third down efficiency
Defeating Clemson this season is an unbelievably difficult task. Beyond their collection of talent and playmaking ability, the team refuses to quit or stop their relentless attack. But North Carolina made winning in Death Valley so much harder by committing penalties, turning the ball over, and not converting on third downs. The Tar Heels did not convert their first third down until the start of the fourth quarter - when the Tar Heels trailed by 25 points.
One of the ways to take advantage of Clemson is to put together extended drives to keep the ball out of Tajh Boyd's hands. Sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner and the Tar Heels offense did the exact opposite on Saturday by continually handing the ball right back to Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. You give the Tigers enough opportunities, they will put basketball numbers on the scoreboard. North Carolina could have played flawlessly on Saturday and still lost, but we'll never know because they did enough beating themselves to put the game out of hand before the fourth quarter even started.
WINNER: Miami's defense
The Hurricanes have been playing much better football in recent weeks, but head coach Al Golden knew they could not defeat Georgia Tech without an improved performance from their defense. They have been hurting on the front line with injuries, but as of last week are back to full-strength from a suspension stand point. Georgia Tech, entering the game as the nations 2nd best rushing team, would be the ultimate challenge in a must-win scenario for the Hurricanes.
Miami's defensive line stuffed the dive from the Yellow Jackets' B-backs, while the linebackers swarmed to the ball to seal off the big play on the perimeter. It was fantastic execution by the entire unit, who only allowed a single scoring drive from Georgia Tech all afternoon. That top-ranked rushing attack only accounted for 127 yards, more than 200 below their season average. If Miami can keep up the effort, there are several winnable games left on the schedule for the Hurricanes to have a memorable on-field finish to a season filled with off-field distractions.
LOSER: Georgia Tech's grip on the Coastal Division
With their second straight conference loss, Georgia Tech has lost their position as frontrunner in the ACC's Coastal Division. There are plenty of places to point the blame. Some will look to the competition, and the unrealistic expectations drawn from weaker defenses the Yellow Jackets' faced in the first month of play. Some will argue that ACC opponents have figured out ways to prepare for, and limit, Paul Johnson's option attack. Johnson himself has spoken of the team's fatigue, and recently cut back on some of the workload in practices.
But whatever the reason, the Yellow Jackets have gotten beat up the last two weeks. The good news for Georgia Tech fans is the team still controls their own destiny in the division. Clemson and Virginia Tech visit Atlanta in the next two contests, with a much-needed bye week between those games. If they can upset Clemson under the lights in Bobby Dodd Stadium, a victory against Virginia Tech would give them a tie for the division lead and ownership of the head-to-head tie breaker. But because of Saturday's loss to Miami, none of that will be possible unless they upset Clemson. Which as we saw elsewhere, might require 94 points.
WINNER: David Amerson and the NC State defense
Just like Miami, N.C. State's defense has caught their fair share of criticism this season. The Wolfpack have been plagued with injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and just now are they starting to get back to full strength. Virginia used a power running game to wear down Georgia Tech a week ago in the upset, but when they tried a similar tactic on N.C. State the Wolfpack were ready. After putting up 272 rushing yards against the Yellow Jackets, N.C. State swarmed into the gaps and won the battle in the trenches to limit the Cavaliers' ability to methodically move the ball while milking the clock.
Once the Wolfpack got the lead, it was David Amerson time. Amerson entered the game leading the nation in interceptions, then picked off both Michael Rocco and David Watford to help seal a big win for N.C. State. Amerson has been viewed as the one bright spot in a struggling defense in some games, but on Saturday he was the icing on the cake in the Wolfpack's first ACC victory of the season.
LOSER: Luke Kuechly
Luke Kuechly is not a loser, but his performances this season have gone largely overlooked because of Boston College's struggles. The junior linebacker entered the game as the nation's leading tackler, averaging 16.5 tackles per game. As the Eagles' defense slowly broke down against David Wilson and Virginia Tech's downhill attack, Kuechly never stopped. The All-American finished Saturday's loss with 19 tackles, and once again seemed to be in on almost every open field tackle. With injuries and close losses, 2011 has not been friendly to Boston College. In the case that this might be Kuechly's last season in Chestnut Hill, it is a shame these performances are finding their way to the back page rather than the headlines.
WINNER: Devonta Freeman
There was a lot that didn't look good for the Seminoles after they suffered their third straight loss to Wake Forest two weeks ago. But the most concerning situation for Florida State's offense was figuring out how to establish a running game, particularly with the season-ending injury to leading rusher Chris Thompson. The Seminoles boasted a stable of talented backs during training camp, but none had emerged as a clear leader once the season started. In the last two weeks, true freshman Devonta Freeman has made his case to be that back for Florida State. Granted the competition has provided some opportunity (Duke and Maryland), but Freeman's back-to-back 100-yard games could be the beginnings of a big-time career for talented rookie. For starters, he is the first freshman to rush for 100 yards in back to back games since 1986. He's already grabbed a small piece of history, now we get to see if he helps the Seminoles bounce back and finish strong after their three-game slide.
LOSER: An unknown amount of C.J. Brown's brain cells
Maryland's freshman quarterback had a brutal meeting with Florida State's Nigel Bradham in the 41-16 loss on Saturday
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Tags: ACC, ACC Winners and Losers, Al Golden, Andre Ellington, Boston College, Bryn Renner, C.J. Brown, Chip Patterson, Chip Patterson, Chris Thompson, Clemson, David Amerson, David Sims, DeAndre Hopkins, Devonta Freeman, Dwight Jones, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Gio Bernard, Jimbo Fisher, Luke Kuechly, Maryland, Miami, N.C. State, Nigel Bradham, North Carolina, Paul Johnson, Roddy Jones, Sammy Watkins, Sean Spence, Tajh Boyd, Terrell Manning, Tevin Washington, Tom O'Brien, Virginia Tech, Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers Week 8