Discover Orange Bowl Preview: Clemson vs. West Virginia

The High-Powered Offenses of Clemson and West Virginia Face Off in the Discover Orange Bowl

The Clemson Tigers stunned ACC favorites Virginia Tech to earn their first Discover Orange Bowl bid in 20 years. In the other corner, the West Virginia Mountaineers won a three-way tiebreaker to take home the Big East title and the default BCS berth that goes with it. It’ll be a battle of great offenses down in Miami Gardens. We examine who’s most likely to prevail.

Bowl Game: (Discover) Orange Bowl

Location: Miami Gardens, Fla.

First Year: 1935

2012 Participants: Clemson Tigers (10-3) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (9-3)

Last Meeting: 1989, a 27-7 Gator Bowl win by Clemson

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Clemson (previous bowl game: 31-26 loss to USF in 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl)

For much of the 2011 season, the surprising Tigers sported the ACC’s most electrifying offensive attack. With All-ACC quarterback Tajh Boyd at the helm, and star freshman Sammy Watkins catching passes, the team raced out to an 8-0 start, averaging over 40 points per game in that span. Though the team struggled through the year’s final four regular season games (going 1-3), they still managed to recapture their previous magic in the ACC title game against Virginia Tech. Propelled by a swarming defensive front and a relentless passing assault, they cruised to a 38-10 victory. And while it was an impressive, unexpected victory, it shouldn’t cloud the obvious flaws in this Tigers team. Continue reading

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ACC Previews & Predictions (Week 11)

A Win Thursday Would Aid Virginia Tech in Their Quest for an ACC Title

The postseason picture could start to sort out a whole bunch after this weekend. As we mentioned in our tiebreakers article, several ACC teams have a shot to clinch, solidify or enhance their chances to play for the league title, starting with Clemson. One win away from wrapping up the Atlantic Division, they just need to get by Wake Forest Saturday. Virginia Tech can clinch the Coastal by winning out — a process that starts Thursday night against Georgia Tech. Virginia and Miami are also in the mix for the Coastal crown, though it’ll take a few more cards to fall just right (especially for the ‘Canes).

*Game of the Week*

Virginia Tech Hokies (8-1) (4-1) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-2) (4-2): Based on the previous game’s results, these two teams would appear to be headed in opposite directions. Georgia Tech demolished previously-unbeaten Clemson, and the Hokies struggled to put away Duke. So which anomaly do we stand by? While the offense didn’t impress against the Blue Devils, the Hokies did show up on D again, maintaining their top-10 national ranking in that department. As for Georgia Tech, Clemson had struggled to stop the run prior to the ‘Wreck optioning them to death. Given how much better VPI is at stopping the run than Clemson, and the one-dimensional nature of the Yellow Jackets’ offense, this pick’s more cut-and-dry than originally thought. Prediction: Virginia Tech 23, Georgia Tech 14

The Rest of the Slate (in order of start time):

USF Bulls (4-4) at Syracuse Orange (5-4): Two squads in a freefall, and only one can stop their season from careening out of control Friday night. Last time the Orange played on Friday night, it scored a pretty impressive win versus West Virginia. That’s ancient history now, though. In USF, the Orange face a formidable defense and a quarterback that can beat them both in the air and on the ground. It’s a must-win for both teams, but if Syracuse can put pressure on B.J. Daniels like they did to Geno Smith and maybe force a few turnovers, I see them clinching bowl eligibility (please don’t prove me wrong!). Prediction: Syracuse 23, USF 20

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-4) (4-2) at Clemson Tigers (8-1) (5-1): Wake Forest understands what’s at stake here. After three straight lackluster efforts (one win and two losses), the Demon Deacons will try to salvage a season that at one point was filled with promise. Clemson, as mentioned above, would love to wrap up the Atlantic Division this week, so the goal of most seasons: beating South Carolina. Given Wake’s suspect passing defense, and Tajh Boyd‘s considerable skills in that category, expect the Tigers offense to have a great bounce-back performance. Prediction: Clemson 38, Wake Forest 21

Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5) at Louisville Cardinals (5-4): Pitt’s final three games are no picnic — not the news any team looking to clinch a bowl berth wants to hear. And Louisville isn’t looking to make things any easier. After a rough 2-4 start, the Cardinals are now in second place in the Big East and riding a three-game winning streak on the strength of solid defensive and special teams play. The big question will be whether the Louisville D can put pressure on Pitt QB Tino Sunseri early. If they succeed, they’ll make short work of the Panthers’ limited passing attack, and with sparse options in the running game, Pitt could be in trouble. Prediction: Louisville 27, Pittsburgh 21

North Carolina State Wolfpack (5-4) (2-3) at Boston College Eagles (2-7) (1-5): Was last week’s shutout over UNC a sign of things to come for the Wolfpack, or should we expect results closer to the previous week, when they were crushed by Florida State? I’d trend toward the middle — with the team more relying on QB Mike Glennon to out duel the opposing offense than leaning on the defense to hold down the fort. Lucky for them this week, they’ve got BC, who doesn’t score all that many points (18.4 points per game — 113th in the country). Prediction: NC State 28, Boston College 17

Duke Blue Devils (3-6) (1-4) at Virginia Cavaliers (6-3) (3-2): One disappointing loss to NC State aside, Virginia has continued to impress week-in and week-out. Given that the Blue Devils rarely impress, this shouldn’t be too tough of a test for Virginia. Like in-state rivals Virginia Tech, UVa controls its own fate in the race for the Coastal Division — win out, and they’re in the title game. It would be a magical ride for them, but it all starts with getting it done against an inferior opponent this weekend. While they’ve faltered in this situation before, I believe they’ve learned from it and the defense, specifically, will be in rare form. Prediction: Virginia 26, Duke 14

Miami (FL) Hurricanes (5-4) (3-3) at Florida State Seminoles (6-3) (4-2): When Miami first joined the ACC, this was supposed to be the matchup that decided ACC titles and national championships. And though neither has really come to fruition, the intensity of this year’s end-of-season races, along with the usual bad blood in this rivalry does crank things up a bit. Facing their first quality opponent in over a month, can FSU respond with a dominant defensive performance? Can Miami display consistency in league play and notch another impressive win to pair with their drubbing of Georgia Tech a few weeks back? I know we’ve said this before, but the ‘Noles have been revitalized, and thus, will be victorious. It won’t be easy, though. Prediction: Florida St. 41, Miami 35

Maryland Terrapins (2-7) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-3): Notre Dame continues their open auditions for the ACC by taking on sacrificial lamb, Maryland. The Terps, once respectable, even in the face of mediocrity, have been a laughing stock for about a month now. The Irish, on the other hand, have taken an 0-2 start and turned it into a slightly compelling/entertaining campaign. While not worldbeaters by any stretch of the imagination, ND’s junior receiver Michael Floyd could probably defeat Maryland on his own, and will attempt to do so Saturday (half-joking). In all seriousness though, I’d be shocked if the Terrapins managed to stop Notre Dame’s balanced, efficient attack. Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Maryland 20

Last Week’s Record: 5-2; 2011 Record: 17-9

ACC Power Rankings, Week 9

Are the Wheels Coming off the Wagon at Georgia Tech?

In these conference rankings, I list the ACC teams, one through 14, as if Pitt and Syracuse were already in the league. Yes, adding the additional teams may seem pointless now, but wait until they officially join. Then it’ll seem like old news and we can get past that initial awkwardness. No, I won’t reconsider. On to this week’s rankings!

1. Clemson Tigers (8-0) (5-0) (LW: 1): Bouncing back from an effort versus Maryland that was equal parts impressive and concerning, Clemson never took their foot off the gas on Saturday, en route to a 21-point victory versus UNC that doesn’t even begin to tell the story. The Tar Heels looked horrendous on both sides of the ball and if not for some garbage time points, would’ve been laughed off the field.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies (7-1) (3-1) (LW: 2): Due to Georgia Tech‘s recent collapse, the Hokies now have the inside track to win the ACC’s Coastal Division. While there are no guarantees there, it’s a nice position to be in halfway through league play. Perils await though, specifically since Virginia Tech has a well-chronicled inability to get up for big games. If teams keep losing though, may not be anymore of those left on the schedule.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-3) (2-2) (LW: 5):Miami has been able to leapfrog from bottom-third to top-quarter of these rankings over the past few weeks due to a penchant for forcing turnovers and exposing the respective weaknesses of their league opponents. There’s not a game left this team can’t conceivably win. And while a division title’s probably out of the question (VPI would need to lose twice), there’s nothing wrong with going 9-3.

4. Florida State Seminoles (4-3) (2-2)) (LW: 6): They’re not out of the woods yet, nor are they out from under expectations that originally placed them among the nation’s top five teams. Still, given the disaster this Seminoles season has had the potential to turn into, you have to like the team’s 4-3 record with at least three wins left on the slate. As is usually the case, everything will come down to whether they can beat in-state rivals Miami and Florida.

5. Syracuse Orange (5-2) (1-0) (LW: 8): Recording its first win over a top-15 program since 2002, Syracuse did tons to help its resume in a 49-23 romp over West Virginia. Executing flawlessly on offense and putting the type of pressure on quarterback Geno Smith that only LSU has really been able to deliver, the Orange are suddenly a contender in the Big East.

6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-2) (4-1) (LW: 7): No, last week’s win versus Duke was not of the impressive variety, failing to ever truly put away the Blue Devils in a one-point victory. Still, Wake Forest sits at 5-2 through seven games — within one win of bowl eligibility and just a game out of first in the Atlantic Division. So what happens next? The Demon Deacons have struggled for offensive consistency these past few weeks, so it’s a great place to go back to the drawing board.

7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-2) (3-2) (LW: 3): Georgia Tech’s offense is a shadow of its former self, failing to score more than 21 points in three straight games now. That’s what happens when you’re extremely one-dimensional however. Once you’re figured out, you don’t stand a chance. Ask Navy how that run-exclusive attack is going right now (2-5 record right now). Maybe the Yellow Jackets rethink commemorative tees for blowout victories versus Kansas next time, too.

8. North Carolina Tar Heels (5-3) (1-3) (LW: 4): As always, the Tar Heels struggle against ACC competition, and now sit at a paltry 1-3 against conference foes. After several bystanders (guilty) bought in to the team, we’re now all left wondering what we believed in the first place. Besides an opening weekend FCS romp, the Heels have been less-than-impressive in victory, while increasingly futile in defeat. Future opponents Wake Forest and Virginia Tech aren’t likely to help right the sinking ship either.

9. NC State Wolfpack (4-3) (1-2) (LW: 13): I’ll eat my words leaving the Woflpack up for dead. No, the Virginia Cavaliers aren’t worldbeaters, but at the same time, defeating a fellow conference middling and notching your first notable win all season surely counts for something. Still in need of three wins for bowl eligibility (two of their current Ws are against FCS competition), it’s hard to see them in the postseason, but never say never.

10. Virginia Cavaliers (4-3) (1-2) (LW: 9): The story of this season is still untold for the Cavaliers. After supposedly pulling off a signature victory against Georgia Tech, the team lost to NC State and now has to watch the Yellow Jackets’ freefall continue as well. So which team are they? The apparent defensive powerhouse that shutdown Tech or the offensive joke that couldn’t even hit the 20s on the Wolfpack? To me, the Cavs have 6-6 written all over them.

11. Pittsburgh Panthers (3-4) (0-0) (LW: 11): The problems are going to continue for Pittsburgh, as their key win (versus USF) now means very little and they’re running out of winnable games. In all honesty though, can they win another game on this year’s schedule? Every Big East team has proven themselves formidable at one points or another, making the Panthers’ road to a postseason bowl very much in doubt.

12. Duke Blue Devils (3-4) (1-2) (LW: 12): Not a bad effort by Duke as they managed to keep Wake Forest off-balance all game Saturday and almost pulled off the upset. In the last two games alone, the Blue Devils have made FSU look phenomenal and Wake look pedestrian. Both can’t really be true, so which is the anomaly? We may have to wait for a November 12 matchup with Virginia for a final verdict.

12. Maryland Terrapins (2-5) (1-3) (LW: 10): So much for getting excited about the C.J. Brown era. After exciting fans into thinking he could lead Maryland to a new brand of high-octane football, the young quarterback pulled up a dud against the Seminoles on Saturday. While he gets a learning curve, we can’t necessarily afford one to his coach as well, though. Randy Edsall was supposed to improve upon the Terps’ 8-4 regular season, but now find themselves on the brink of irrelevance and a losing campaign. Prior to Maryland, Edsall coached Connecticut into relevant and a BCS game last year.

14. Boston College Eagles (1-6) (0-4) (LW: 14): Irrelevant and completely unwatchable for the first time in recent memory, the Eagles will be getting a new coach this offseason and a hopeful housecleaning to go with it. Fundamentally, the program’s current crop of players lacks the necessary skill set on offense to compete with the speed of Clemson, Virginia Tech, et al — a problem that can’t continue if BC hopes to remain a factor in the ACC.