Hyundai Sun Bowl Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. USC Trojans

Georgia Tech Must Throw the Ball Effectively If They Have Any Shot Against USC

Georgia Tech Must Throw the Ball Effectively If They Have Any Shot Against USC

Neither of these teams should be here. USC, the top team in the nation by many preseason measures, was not supposed to lose any games — let alone five. Georgia Tech, left for dead at 3-5, had no business getting to the ACC title game, let alone playing the Trojans in a New Year’s Eve bowl game. And yet, here we are, pitting two flawed teams against one another in a battle to see who ends 2012 more disappointed than the other.

Bowl Game: Hyundai Sun Bowl

Location: El Paso, Tex.

First Year: 1935

2012 Participants: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-7) vs. USC Trojans (7-5)

Last Meeting: USC over Georgia Tech, 23-6 (1973)

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Georgia Tech (previous bowl game: 30-27 loss vs. Utah in 2012 Hyundai Sun Bowl)

We all saw the script for Georgia Tech’s success play out during the ACC Championship Game against Florida State: Pass the ball with some sort of effectiveness, and continue running their triple-option. The issue then, as it will be again against USC, is figuring out who should be delivering those passes. Tech had three different quarterbacks (Tevin Washington, Synjyn Days and Vad Lee) throw the ball against FSU, and while they had 118 yards through the air, they also completed just five of 16 attempts with two interceptions. Ideally, they should be able to establish a bit more consistency against a USC defense that ranked just 71st in the FBS against the pass, and bump that completion percentage up to somewhere around 50 percent. From a defensive standpoint, recent injuries to key Trojans have flipped the script a bit for the Yellow Jackets. Quarterback Matt Barkley is out following his injury against UCLA back in November, and based on recent reports, it appears star receiver Marquise Lee is also out of commission. Suddenly, Georgia Tech’s focus is now stopping the running game, which could very well carry the load for USC. Neither Silas Redd nor Curtis McNeal have seen all that many carries this season (just 263 between them), so they’ll basically be coming at this game with fresh legs. The Wreck’s run defense was middle-of-the-road this year (47th nationally), but benefited from their offense’s own ball-control style. Teams ran the ball on them just 450 times all year, and still managed to rack up 4.27 yards per carry. If USC dictates the pace, it’s something to watch out for.

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Tajh Boyd’s Progress and Clemson’s Success Should Be Given More Credit

Despite Clemson and Tajh Boyd’s Respective Success, Neither Get the Respect They Deserve

Clemson’s offensive resurgence over the past two years is due to the influence of Chad Morris, the highest-paid coordinator in college football for a reason. But Morris has an impressive set of tools to work with, and none has been more essential than quarterback Tajh Boyd.

Although he came to Clemson as a highly-touted recruit, Boyd’s redshirt year was followed by an unimpressive showing in garbage time in 2010 (33 of 63, four touchdowns, three interceptions) capped by a disastrous appearance in the final minutes of the Meineke Car Care Bowl to replace graduating starter Kyle Parker.

Benefiting from Morris’s tutelage and system, Boyd grew into one of the nation’s best in 2011. Even with the Tigers’ late-season implosion, he finished 20th in passing yards per game at 273.4. Boyd is on track for an even better finish this year; he’s currently 14th at 292 yards per game, above big names like Landry Jones, Matt Barkley and Johnny “Football” Manziel. His passer rating of 163.92 is good for tenth in the nation.

Most people could look like a decent quarterback with Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins catching their passes, but Boyd truly is one of the best. His development from last year has been very encouraging, and he’s making better decisions. There have been a few moments that looked uncomfortably like this pick against Florida State, or his attempted throw out of bounds against Virginia Tech that went backwards and was only saved when the officials ruled his knee down. But for the most part he’s kept a good head on his shoulders.

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Prediction: Week 2 (Part Two)

Boston College’s New-Look Offense Hopes to Put Up Big Numbers Against Maine This Weekend

This is Part Two of this week’s Previews & Predictions feature. Also check out Part One.

Maine Black Bears (0-0) at Boston College Eagles (0-1) (0-1): As disappointing as last week’s loss to Miami was, you couldn’t help but notice that spark from BC’s players that’s been missing these past few seasons. New offensive coordinator Doug Martin’s already performed a miracle after Chase Rettig‘s phenomenal passing day, and something tells me we’ll be seeing much more of the same against Maine. If they go five-wide all day I wouldn’t be surprised. The Black Bears are far too rusty to keep up with a team fresh off an exciting, active first game. Prediction: Boston College 48, Maine 20

Austin Peay Governors (0-1) at Virginia Tech Hokies (1-0) (1-0): Austin Peay got absolutely smoked by Western Kentucky last week. So if that’s any indication of the team that will be facing the Hokies, expect this one to be quick. Now, Tech is coming off a short week, having just played on Monday. But a lowly FCS school is exactly what they need to shake off the final cobwebs. The Pistol formation looked like it had a lot of potential, so Logan Thomas would be well-advised to give it some more practice runs against the Governors. Prediction: Virginia Tech 41, Austin Peay 0

North Carolina Tar Heels (1-0) at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0): Two North Carolina schools faced FCS opponents last weekend. One came out of it looking like they had one of the country’s best offenses. The other looked as if they’d struggle to win four games. After tallying 62 points on Saturday, there’s no telling what Larry Fedora’s UNC offense will do next. So long as running back Giovani Bernard‘s knee doesn’t become an issue, they’ll give defenses issues all season. Wake has a defense (sometimes) so it appears they’ll be having some issues. Prediction: UNC 45, Wake 24

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Does the ACC Have the Nation’s Best Group of Quarterbacks?

We Look at Whether or Not the ACC's Crop of Quarterbacks Is the Nation's Best

The ACC, top to bottom, has the nation’s best group of quarterbacks for the 2012 season. Laugh all you want, but it may be hard to avoid the fact. While some may call out the pure number of schools we’re considering (14), or the fact that none are necessarily “elite” (false, by the way), this post’s going to try to prove those naysayers wrong. Or at least make them consider the opposing point of view. Maybe. Let’s jump in…

Of the 14 ACC starting quarterbacks, not one is in a real quarterback controversy. Just one (Stephen Morris) lost a position battle last year, and he still got considerable reps in 2011. Every one of these guys are upperclassmen — half seniors, half juniors. Six of them have also thrown for more than 3,000 yards in a season. Need I go on?

Below you’ll find a breakdown of the ACC’s signal-callers, compared to how they stack up to their counterparts in the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. To make all things even, we’ll average out all statistics across all passers. The categories will include: Career wins, 2011 passing yards, 2011 (total) TDs, and 2011 interceptions.

We’ll keep in mind this “study” isn’t perfect or scientific, so long as you remember we never claimed it was either. Continue reading

ACC Heisman Watch (Week 14)

Montee Ball's Imrpessive Stat Line is Starting to Get Heisman Attention Again

As with all “Heisman Watches,” the one we’ll compile here at Atlantic Coast Convos isn’t about who’s having the best individual statistical season, but who’s experiencing the most combined individual and team success overall. So while player X may have 2,000 passing yards through five games, if his team’s 1-4, there’s no shot. With that in mind, let’s go to this week’s Heisman hopefuls — now viewed from a nationwide standpoint:

With no ACC player even near the Heisman Trophy conversation, let’s just get on to the nation’s top five candidates, in order:

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (3,170 passing yards/37 total TD/9 INT/70.0% completion): Say what you want about Stanford’s schedule (just one win over a ranked team — USC), but is it really their fault the Pac-12 isn’t up to par? Luck has performed admirably this season and is the main force behind the Cardinal’s 11-1 record. Even without an additional chance to prove himself in the Pac-12 title game, I still believe the Heisman belongs to Andrew Luck.

2. Case Keenum, QB, Houston (4,726 passing yards/46 total TD/3 INT/73.2% completion): Houston is blowing out opponents lately, but even in shortened action, Keenum has been incredibly impressive. With over 300 yards passing in every game this season, a 12-0 record, and a conference title and BCS berth on the line, it’ll be hard to ignore Keenum’s resume when the votes are finally tallied. Frighteningly, 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards are both within reach.

3. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (1,870 total yards/34 total TD): If Montee Ball played for Alabama or LSU, he’d be the overwhelming favorite to win this award. Since Wisconsin has two losses in a down year for the Big Ten though, his 34 total touchdowns have gone virtually unrecognized on the national stage until his recent four-score performance against Penn State. As I’ve said before — I don’t care who you’re playing for. These numbers are impressive at any level, against any opponent.

4. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (1,910 total yards/23 total TD): Richardson rushed the ball extremely well against rival Auburn, racking up 203 yards on just 27 carries. What he’s lacked though is a real signature game against a worthy opponent. Still, his team is 11-1, plays in the SEC and their only loss was in overtime to the nation’s number-one school. Taking all of that into account, it’s not hard to see why he’s been moved to the top of several mock ballots, however debatable his credentials may be in comparison to his peers.

5. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (3,528 passing yards/41 total TD/7 INT/69.1% completion): Avoiding the “what if” game with Barkley’s chances and USC’s postseason ban, just examine his statistics on their own. The junior quarterback has accounted for 18 touchdowns in the past four games — a staggering total. He’s gotten more impressive and poised as the season’s progressed. He has dominated and embarrassed teams in recent games. And all for a team that had no chance to go anywhere at the end of this season. As the Trojans’ leader, he proved himself worthy of Heisman consideration and should get at least an invite to New York.