ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week 12

DeAndre Hopkins and the Clemson Offense Are Hoping to Avoid a Letdown Versus NC State for the Second Straight Year

For this weekend to be deemed a success, the ACC must simply hope that its favorites pull out victories against in-conference underdogs, while two five-win squads tack on victories out-of-conference to get to bowl eligibility. Unfortunately, even the easiest request has become a tall order in the ACC, a league still mired in extreme parity, parading as mediocrity to outside spectators (or at least that’s my story). Let’s just hope for the best…

Game of the Week

NC State Wolfpack (6-4) (3-3) at Clemson Tigers (9-1) (6-1): Last year, I called this matchup a trap game, but for some reason felt that Clemson’s defense — facing a one-dimensional offense — would be the difference-maker. This time around, the game feels eerily similar. Underachieving Wolfpack squad versus a 9-1 Clemson team that hasn’t been tested in months, and thus, has plenty of room to grow on the defensive side of the ball. But for State, there just isn’t the same sense of urgency as last year — with the team clinching bowl eligibility last week, their backs are not pressed against the wall, nor are they all that inspired to play for their lame-duck coach, Tom O’Brien. I’m convinced this year’s Clemson team is better than the 2011 model, and because it’s a home game, it’s hard not to go with the talented Tigers and their potent offensive attack. Prediction: Clemson 41, NC State 30

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

North Carolina Tar Heels (6-4) (3-3) at Virginia Cavaliers (4-6) (2-4): The South’s Oldest Rivalry is always a fun — if underrated — game and this year’s edition should be no different as both teams are surrounded by more questions than answers. Carolina’s offense showed it’s capable of putting up points in bunches when it rang up 50 last week. But its defense revealed itself as a porous, overrated group still struggling to get a handle on Larry Fedora’s 4-2-5 scheme while giving up 68 points. On offense, the Hoos are no world-beaters, but there’s hope the group has finally hit its stride, with the running game seemingly back on track and Michael Rocco firmly taking the reigns of the passing attack once more. Expect tonight’s matchup to be sloppy and mistake-ridden, with Carolina killing off UVa’s dreams of bowl eligibility by a slim margin. Prediction: UNC 27, Virginia 21

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Where’s Danny O’Brien Transferring Next Season?

Former Maryland QB Danny O'Brien Will Be Making His Decision on Where He'll Transfer Soon

After the messy divorce with Randy Edsall and the Maryland Terrapins football team, former Terps QB Danny O’Brien still needs a new team. Unfortunately for the North Carolina kid, who can suit up immediately, all the homestate ACC squads are pretty set at QB already. So that leaves about five schools based on where he’s visited and the early rumors regarding his transfer. We rate them below based on the odds he signs there, along with some pluses and minuses of each situation (from longest shot to most likely):

Mississippi (Odds: 20/1): As appealing as a wide-open offense would appear to O’Brien, he’d likely find life in the bottom of the SEC West among the most difficult things he’s ever endured. Of course he’s a quality quarterback, but we can’t kid ourselves and pretend he’s the next Eli Manning down in Oxford, Miss. Too much pressure and a similar situation to what he had last year (new coach trying to prove his system works) spells disaster and no for Danny.

Connecticut (Odds: 17/1): Hard to peg this move as anything but spite toward former coach Edsall (who used to coach there). Also hard to see him making this choice when he may not be even be the second-best quarterback on the roster. Both Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings showed effectiveness in 2011, making this a poor and unlikely move for everyone involved.

Penn State (Odds: 10/1): There’s no way O’Brien hasn’t heard about what’s going on there, right? With too many institutional issues and legal storms brewing, this seems like the only situation worse for him than Maryland right now. And yet, with a new regime and quarterback questions, it could also be a nice fit. Expectations would be modest, and he could grow with a new coach. That second part could also backfire (see Mississippi above). Continue reading

Randy Edsall’s Problem With Vanderbilt and Danny O’Brien

Maryland Coach Randy Edsall's Never Been A Big Danny O'Brien Fan, And Now He's Trying to Restrict Where He Can Transfer To

This blog has been unabashed in taking Maryland coach Randy Edsall to task since the start of the 2011 season. Since arriving in College Park, Md. he’s done very little but allow the team to dress like clowns, become an ACC laughing stock, surrender a 27-point lead and push out former starting quarterback Danny O’Brien. The subject of this post will mostly focus on that last one.

Of the 12 players Edsall’s lost to transfers for this coming year already (yes, it’s that many), O’Brien’s departure last week — along with the departures of Mario Rowson and Max Garcia — hurt the most. Heading into 2011, O’Brien was a standout sophomore on to bigger and even better things for a rising Terps squad. Instead, injury and a lack of faith from his head coach led to a drawn out QB controversy with the mobile C.J. Brown. It was a precipitous fall for O’Brien, since the only big changes for the program from one year to the next were Edsall’s arrival and former offensive coordinator James Franklin’s departure. Franklin is now the head coach over at Vanderbilt. Enter controversy:

The murmurs about Franklin tampering with all three players, but specifically O’Brien, started immediately. These rumors, of course, were pushed along by Randy Edsall’s ridiculous stipulation that none of the departing players could attend Vanderbilt. Normally, the atrocious practice of blocking transfers allows for definite future opponents — specifically conference foes, whom Edsall also prohibits here. But with the Commodores failing to appear anywhere on the Terps’ current schedule, it appears downright odd for this additional note. Hence where the tampering speculation comes in. Keep in mind that all of the talk is completely unfounded. Continue reading

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl Recap: Missouri over North Carolina, 41-24

Missouri's James Franklin Was the Catalyst Behind a Dominant 41-24 Independence Bowl Win

What Happened: Missouri‘s offense embarrassed North Carolina‘s defense to the tune of 513 total yards in the 2011 Advocare V100 Independence Bowl. Behind quarterback James Franklin, who 274 total yards, the Tigers jumped out to a quick 21-point lead by halftime. Even while on cruise-control in the second half, Missouri still punished the Tar Heels’ front line and secondary — a 337-yard rushing performance that’s outright shameful for a team that our announcers (Danny Kanell and Rob Stone) were continually quick to point out for its NFL-level talent. While UNC quarterback Bryn Renner was fairly effective (317 passing yards and three touchdowns), all-ACC receiver Dwight Jones was barely a factor past the first quarter. Totaling just 36 yards on the ground as a team, Giovanni Bernard and the Tar Heels’ rushing attack may as well have sat out the game.

Who’s to Blame: With interim coach Everett Withers on his way out the door, was this North Carolina team truly prepared for this game? Many times, the defense lacked the aggression they displayed for much of the season, looking out of place and out of position against Missouri’s various looks on offense. There was little pressure by the defensive line, and players looked fairly disinterested in the proceedings. As mentioned earlier, UNC’s running game was awful, and completely ineffective.

It Was Over When: Missouri running back Kendial Lawrence scampered into the endzone with two minutes remaining in the first half to make the score 31-7. Though some could make a case for the match being over well before it began. This Tar Heels’ team has a lot to improve upon under new coach Larry Fedora, and it starts with burying this ugly loss into the annals of their lengthy history.

Game Ball Goes To: Missouri quarterback James Franklin, for starters. The sophomore was instrumental in putting this one out of reach early on, allowing the Tigers to really soak in their last win as members of the Big 12. Additionally, credit is due to head coach Gary Pinkel and his staff for devising a plan designed to come straight at the UNC from the opening whistle. Hard to combat a well-prepared team, and the gameplan had a clear understanding of this.

Prediction Update: So far, I’m 1-0 picking ACC bowl games, though unfortunately it’s at the expense of the conference’s reputation in this one. While my original 38-24 prediction seemed like it might be a little bit of a stretch (to me, at least), UNC performed even worse than anticipated against Missouri. Now, they’ll have several toss-up games in a row to either make or break their chances at postseason respectability.

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl Preview: North Carolina vs. Missouri

This Year's Independence Bowl Pits North Carolina Against Missouri

Welcome to ACC bowl season! Crazy that postseason festivities have been going on for over a week already without the conference’s participation, but the resulting eight-team, 10-day whirlwind (Pittsburgh doesn’t play until a few days after the Orange Bowl) promises to be exciting, even if it’s not necessarily fruitful for the conference’s less-than-stunning bowl reputation. We start off with an evenly matched contest between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Big 12‘s Missouri Tigers in the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl.

Bowl Game: (Advocare V100) Independence Bowl

Location: Shreveport, La.

First Year: 1976

2011 Participants: North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5) vs. Missouri Tigers (7-5)

Last Meeting: 1976, a 24-3 home win by Missouri

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North Carolina (previous bowl game: 30-27 win over Tennessee in 2010 Music City Bowl)

Rather than talking about how wide receiver Dwight Jones could improve his draft stock during his final game as a collegiate athlete, we were too busy worrying about his likeness on club posters last week. In spite of those shenanigans, Jones will play and promises to be a major factor in the Tar Heels. Based on their offense’s performance at times this season, he’ll need to be, too. Finishing 57th overall while scoring 28 points per game, UNC also had three games where they only managed two touchdowns or less (including an embarrassing shutout at the hands of NC State). Their defense, while good, still let up an average of 23.5 points per game — a bit concerning considering the level of competition UNC faced this season. While Missouri is hardly the best team these ‘Heels have faced (they’ve previously lost to far superior Clemson and Virginia Tech squads this year), their most impressive win is a 28-17 victory over an unranked Virginia outfit. Needless to say, they still have something to prove.

Missouri Tigers (previous bowl game: 27-24 loss to Iowa in 2010 Insight Bowl)

I recall last year’s Iowa-Missouri bowl game being utterly confusing, since both teams wear the same colors (yellow and black). Glad bowl organizers avoided such a mix-up this year. Of note about these Tigers, they won four of their last five games to get here, have a better offense (32.2 points per game) and a very similar defense (same amount of points per game as the Heels — 23.5). Missouri quarterback James Franklin appears very similar when compared to UNC counterpart Bryn Renner, both racking up around 2,700 yards passing along with 20 or so touchdowns — until you see Franklin’s eye-popping 839 yards on the ground, too. If one of these teams excels at anything, it’s the Tigers and their run-game, which was ranked 11th in the FBS (against Big 12 competition, to boot).

Verdict

Missouri’s proficiency running the ball will likely be the difference in a game of mostly equal competitors. It can also be argued that the Tigers were only truly “out” of one game all year, a 45-24 drubbing at the hands of Oklahoma State (who actually beat Oklahoma by even more than that margin, so take from that what you will). North Carolina, on the other hand, was truly dominated in two of their games — a respectable loss to Clemson and the previously mentioned shutout to NC State. Looking at the quality of opponents though, the nod here (based on resume) goes to Missouri, with four losses to ranked teams. Plus, with their forthcoming move to the SEC, it would only be fair that they torched an ACC squad to kick things off. I’ve heard it’s part of the initiation process. Prediction: Missouri 38, UNC 24