Monday, August 27, 2012
weekend review, acc preview
TO DEFEAT THE.... uh, SPIDERS
It's game week. That by itself should put a hop in your step, and the thought of a week full of wildly optimistic content out of yours truly should be a nice bonus. ACC roundup-style preview today, which includes:
-- Best and worst units
-- Hot seat coaches
-- Best non-rivalry OOC games
-- Bowl predictions
-- Best starting quarterback: E.J. Manuel, Florida State
-- Worst starting quarterback: Perry Hills, Maryland
My, how times change. Last year I was so bereft of ideas for "best" that I went with the guy who ended up benched and transferring to Wisconsin. (Though, to be fair, he's now starting there.) This year we're full of choices. You could legitimately pick Bryn Renner (last year's top passer rating), Tajh Boyd (the media's pick for ACC POY), Logan Thomas (what he occasionally lacks in decision-making he more than makes up for by being impossible to take down.) Mike Glennon, Sean Renfree, Tanner Price, and Mike Rocco are all solid-to-excellent QBs in their own right. But we'll go with E.J. Manuel, who has the best combination of elusiveness and passing skills. He didn't own the absolute gaudiest of stat lines, but he's ruthlessly efficient, and enough of a running threat to create a lot of space for himself to maneuver. You could make a great argument for half the rest of the conference, but that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.
Again with the times-change motif, Randy Edsall managed to coach his way from having the best returning QB in the league to - oh Lord. C.J. Brown is out for the season with a blowed-up knee, and he was seriously in the running for "worst" anyway because he passes like Taylor Martinez on meth. Now the Terps are closing their eyes and praying that Perry Hills doesn't get completely murdered. He's a true freshman, and it's not like he was the hottest commodity around last year - Maryland landed him by outmaneuvering four MAC schools and Old Dominion. In a year when 11 of 12 teams like their situation at quarterback, Maryland is bringing foam noodles to a gunfight.
-- Best receivers: Clemson
-- Worst receivers: Georgia Tech
Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins comprise one of the scariest tandems in the country. With our secondary comprised of fresh-faced urchins, it is a GREAT year not to be playing Clemson. As for GT, when you pretty much only ever have one receiver who does anything, and that guy graduates, you're kind of a shoo-in for this. Most of the "worst" candidates at least have a quality second option returning to be the top gun this year (think Tobais Palmer, Michael Campanaro, Allen Hurns) but GT probably still doesn't know who's the best they got.
If it's any consolation for the Jackets, last year I put Wake in this spot and they replied with Chris Givens and Campanaro, and all Givens did was get himself drafted in like the third round or something.
-- Best running backs: Virginia
-- Worst running backs: Duke
Yes sir. There are some better individual backs scattered around the league - Andre Ellington and Giovani Bernard come to mind - but nobody has a deeper stable of backs that they can rotate in and out and see wildly differing styles but no drop in production. Duke, on the other hand, has seniors (Desmond Scott, specifically) that have never been productive and are at risk of being displaced by true freshmen. I'm also not especially sold on what NC State and Wake Forest bring to the table.
-- Best offensive line: Georgia Tech
-- Worst offensive line: Wake Forest
I didn't even have to think about "worst" here. There are a couple lines in the league that replace four starters (VT) but Wake is such a damn disaster it'll be a miracle if there are any rushing yards to speak of after the season. As for "best," a tip of the cap to the lines at UNC and NC State, but Georgia Tech is the only team returning all five starters, and they're actually very good starters, particularly NFL candidate Omoregie Uzzi. Another flip-flop from last year, when I had GT down as the worst. They done proved me wrong.
By the way, if I were to split this up into "best tackles" and "best interior linemen", UVA would've won the tackles category hands down. Nobody even comes close. But you can't win best line with a big shuffle on the interior like that.
-- Best defensive line: Florida State
-- Worst defensive line: Duke
Apologies to the Hokies, but FSU is deep, nasty talented, and as a tiebreaking factor, mostly seniors. Tech comes close here, but this one is FSU by a nose. Brandon Jenkins is legitimate as hell, and the Noles run a three-man rotation at DT that's at times totally unstoppable. Remember how Wake Forest upset FSU last season? Not gonna happen this year, not matching up that O-line against this crew.
By the same token, BC is strongly in the running for the flip side of this coin, but when it comes down to it, Duke is who I'm least sold on. The only player that flashes any ability to scare is Kenny Anunike, and that's mostly potential since he was hurt most of last year. The rest of the line, to borrow the terminology I used in the Duke preview, is a turnstile.
-- Best linebackers: Virginia Tech
-- Worst linebackers: NC State
This comes with the caveat that Jeron Gouveia-Winslow needs to get his shit together and also stay healthy. In 2010 he had the latter but not the former; in 2011, it was the reverse. If he puts it together, Tech's got an excellent trio of linebackers. Other schools in the running here, but several steps behind: BC, UVA, and, yup, Maryland. NC State, on the other hand, has a bunch of noobs, and the always-worrisome fifth-year senior who's just now getting a chance to start and who played less last year than he did the year before. That's a guy just waiting to have his spot yoinked.
-- Best secondary: NC State
-- Worst secondary: Boston College
Thank you, Eagles, for having a way-unsettled secondary without much star power in it and saving me from having to ignomiously dump UVA from best secondary last year to worst this year. So many underclassmen. Aiiieee. The difference is that at least UVA has one position on lockdown with Tre Nicholson, and at BC it's a battle everywhere, and with a bunch of guys who didn't do very much last year.
The Wolfpack, on the other hand, have possibly the nation's best cornerback in David Amerson and a huge load of experience everywhere else. That's a multitalented secondary, and it has to be because of the linebackers.
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I skipped this part of the preview last year, because none of the coaches in the league were fixin' to be fired. Except for Everett Withers, and that didn't count. A year is long enough for seats to start warming on up, though. First, here are the coaches that are perfectly safe:
-- Dabo Swinney: Winning an ACC title gives you a few years' reprieve.
-- Paul Johnson: Very popular, and not going anywhere for a little while.
-- Randy Edsall: Only because Maryland's broke ass can't afford to fire him.
-- Larry Fedora: Just hired.
-- Tom O'Brien: Getting a lot out of his team.
-- Mike London: Not going anywhere.
-- Frank Beamer: Could personally shoot the President and be allowed to coach the team from solitary confinement.
-- Jim Grobe: Probably gets to also write down his own retirement date.
That leaves four coaches who are under some pressure to produce:
4. David Cutcliffe: Probably not at much risk of being fired, since four and five win seasons at Duke are like ten win seasons anywhere else. But you never quite know.
3. Al Golden: Only in his second year, so not so much for on-field performance, but if that report has any legs - that Miami's recruiting shenanigans continued on his watch - it might affect things a little.
2. Jimbo Fisher: This isn't to suggest that he's actually at major risk here. But the natives will get restless if such a talented roster fails to win an ACC title. That said, there's an enormous chasm between #2 and #1.
1. Frank Spaziani: BC has gone nothing but backwards on his watch and there's a feeling among Eagles fans that Spaz is leading them into a decade of irrelevance.
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For this section, scratch all game that are rivalries, because otherwise this list would just be a yearly list of the same old rivalry games. Instead, here are the most compelling OOC matchups this year that aren't played all the time, and not in any order:
-- NC State vs. Tennessee
-- Clemson vs. Auburn: Two good chances for the ACC to notch a win over SEC squads.
-- Virginia vs. Penn State: Love a good ACC-Big Ten matchup.
-- Virginia at TCU: When we scheduled this - and played the home game - TCU was in the MWC. Since then they've jumped from the MWC to the Big East to the Big 12.
-- Georgia Tech vs. BYU: Kind of random, but fun.
-- Maryland @ Temple: Hee hee.
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And now the part you've been waiting for: where I put my ass on the line with actual predictions. I did pretty good last year, missed some, nailed others, but I'd especially like to point out that I was one of the few - if not only - savants who picked UVA to go to a bowl. And even then I was underestimating the Hoos. This year's prediction:
-- Orange: Florida State
-- ex-Peach: Clemson
-- ex-Tangerine: Virginia Tech
-- Sun: Georgia Tech
-- ex-Tire: NC State
-- Music City: Virginia
-- Independence: none
-- Military: none
-- Hunger: none
Rough year for the ACC? Yep. Just six bowl-eligible teams - not a good sign. Keep in mind, UNC is banned from the postseason this year. That bumps a few teams up a notch in the pecking order. And I have, honestly, a really hard time seeing where the rest of these teams are gonna find six wins. Even Miami. That could be a four-win team this year. If BC beats them, then the Eagles have the best chance of the other five teams to make a bowl. Wake as well, but you're not gonna see both the Deacs and Eagles go bowling. The schedules simply don't work in favor of the bad teams. Either there'll be a colossal jumble this year, as usual, or the ACC will sort itself out into a pretty clear couple of tiers - one good, one bad. I think it'll be the latter. And in that case, the ACC will leave a lot of bowl slots unfilled. Let's hope the Hoos are in the good section.
Now as promised: Senior Seasons. High school football is underway, which knowing typical UVA luck, naturally means we've already got one of our commits hurt. The North Carolina season started two weeks ago, with Keeon Johnson's A.L. Brown team getting off to a nice start, winning 44-0. LaChaston Smith and South Iredell also won, but the bad news there was Smith's broken leg, which will keep him out half the season.
This past weekend's results are a little meatier:
Archbishop Moeller (OH) 35, Gilman 14: Lousy start for Gilman, but Micah Kiser at least had 9.5 tackles, not too shabby. Gilman is 0-1.
Bishop Gorman (NV) 27, Good Counsel 22: Out-of-state games against bishop schools didn't go too well. Brendan Marshall tried to rally the Falcons and threw for 182 yards, but came up short. OLGC is 0-1.
A.L. Brown 62, South Rowan 6: Keeon Johnson didn't catch any touchdowns but he did throw one, a 53-yarder off a lateral. It's not like they needed him to dominate. Brown is 2-0.
Ocean Lakes 60, Tallwood 0: Corwin Cutler needed only the first half to rack up 300 passing yards and four TDs, and finished with five. Told you I was interested to see this guy play. Ocean Lakes is 1-0.
Bayside 28, First Colonial 3: A workmanlike 119 yards and 2 TDs for Smoke. Bayside is 1-0.
Statesville 30, South Iredell 20 (LaChaston Smith - South Iredell is 1-1)
Byrnes (SC) 42, Oscar Smith 21 (Zack Jones - Oscar Smith is 0-1)
Potomac 28, Stafford 10 (Donta Wilkins - Potomac is 1-0)
Hermitage 38, FUMA 0 (Malcolm Cook - FUMA is 0-1)
So if you were getting yourself really excited for nationally televised high school football this weekend, and there was a lot of it involving our recruits, it didn't turn out so well. Byrnes is one of the nation's elite teams, and Oscar Smith was totally outclassed. I didn't watch any of these games, but folks who did said Gilman looked flatter than flat. Only Good Counsel came even close to a win.
Next week, just about everyone is playing, and the Big Deal of the Week is Gilman's visit to Good Counsel in the first Hoo vs. Hoo matchup of the season. There are a couple more on tap later on. Also of interest next week: Bayside vs. Salem and Bucky Hodges.
-- The depth chart came out today, and there are few, if any surprises. We'll discuss tomorrow and Wednesday.
-- Speaking of surprises, how about our first 2014 commitment? Chris Nelson is a former teammate of Demeitre Brim at Victory Christian in Florida, and in two years he'll sign with UVA. Not going to add him to the Senior Seasons feature because it's called Senior Seasons for a reason. But with 150 or so tackles as a sophomore, he promises to be a good one. The only shame: now that he's committed, nobody will scout him and he'll just get some generic three-star rating. Minor deal.
-- Don't forget that you're supposed to be reading my columns at Inside The ACC. And I should probably be pimping them more than I am. So here's the latest.