Week 7: MVPs, Helmet Stickers, and Power Rankings

Week 7 was a fairly quiet week for ACC football. Quiet can be a good thing, because normally it means there were no major upsets. And like I said last week, we could only go up from there. Florida State bounced back with a blowout win against BC. Virginia Tech flipped a switch in the second quarter and played the best football we have seen them play so far this year. Maryland and North Carolina had important conference wins.

> Biggest Surprise Week 7: This week’s biggest surprise for me was the Duke/Virginia Tech game. The game was remarkable for many reasons. First off, Duke was blowing out Virginia Tech in the first quarter. The Blue Devils were up 20-0 and looked impressive in just about every aspect of the game. Virginia Tech was once again struggling to move the ball and didn’t have much of an answer for the Blue Devil offense. This week was Homecoming at VT, and I’m sure when everyone looked at the schedule in August they expected the typical Homecoming blowout win. Well it looked like there was going to be a blowout, but for the wrong team. This was shocking to everyone watching, including the TV announcers who mentioned their astonishment several times. Then the second quarter began and the real shocker unfolded. Virginia Tech played the best all-around football we have seen them play all year. They looked like the team many people expected them to be way back in August. They were running the ball consistently. Logan Thomas was completing passes easily and stretching the field with long balls repeatedly. The defense also pitched a shutout for the remaining three quarters. You could tell the team was playing with confidence and making plays when it needed to. There were still blown assignments and mistakes made on both sides of the ball, but they played very well.

Virginia Tech now enters the most difficult stretch of their schedule. The next three games are at Clemson, at Miami, and a home against Florida State. Tech is capable of winning (and losing) all three of these games. The three quarters of football they played against Duke this past Saturday are exactly what this team and fanbase needed. Reason for hope. Reason for optimism. Reason to believe that the season isn’t a complete failure. Sure, it may be one of the worst seasons in recent memory, but there is still a lot to play for. Believe it or not VT can still win the conference and play in a BCS game this year. They will need to tighten up on defense and find more consistency on offense, but it’s still possible. As I’m sure Frank and the staff have told the players, the first step is taking care of business at Clemson on Saturday.

> MVP: EJ Manuel, Florida State QB. Manuel completed 27 of 34 passes, threw for 439 yards (his career high) and four touchdown passes. Sure, it was against Boston College, who is having a tough year, but the numbers are still impressive. What impresses me more is that this performance came the week after a heartbreaking loss at NC State that ended their National Championship hopes. How teams respond in situations like this is usually a result of the leadership within the team. It’s safe to say that Manuel is one of the leaders in this locker room. His leadership off the field earned him my week 7 MVP just as much as his on-field performance did.

> Helmet Stickers

1.) Giovanni Bernard, UNC RB. Bernard ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. His performance was one of the primary reasons the Tar Heels were able to win a key in conference matchup at Miami.

2.) Dustin Hopkins, Florida State Kicker. Hopkins set two records on Saturday after he successfully kicked six PATs and three field goals for a total of 15 points on the day. Hopkins is now the all time leading scorer in Florida State and ACC history (402). As it stands he is at the 5th spot in all time NCAA history for career points scored.

3.) JC Coleman, Virginia Tech RB. Freshman running backs have to prove themselves in game situations to earn playing time. I think Coleman proved himself to coaches and fans Saturday as he tallied 183 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries. He scored on two long runs of 45 and 86 yards. He displayed his world class speed and was a main factor in the Hokies’ success. I would expect to see him more often on offense from now on.

>ACC Power Rankings

1) Florida State. Week 7: W 51-7 vs. Boston College. Many fans and other observers were interested to see how the Noles would respond to last week’s devastating loss. Well, I don’t think there could’ve been a better response. The Noles played well in all three phases of the game as if nothing happened. They deserve the top spot because they are the most talented team in the conference and because they have beat Clemson. FSU travels south to Miami for a primetime showdown in week 8.

2) North Carolina. Week 7: W 18-14 vs. Miami. UNC is finding ways to win the games they need to. They built on their week 6 success against Virginia Tech with a tight win at Miami Saturday. Giovanni Bernard is emerging to be one of the best players in the conference. The Heels are hot right now and I don’t think anyone on their schedule will be excited to play them. They will play at Duke in week 8.

3) Clemson. Week 7: Off. Clemson was off in week 7 so they unfairly got shuffled down. However, they will host Virginia Tech in week 8 which is a good chance to prove how good they really are.

4) Virginia Tech. Week 7: W 41-20 vs. Duke. It’s not normal to say that a three touchdown homecoming victory over Duke was impressive. But it was. The Blue Devils came into Saturday with all the confidence in the world and played very well in the first quarter. VT then played the best three quarters of football they have played all season. All three phases of the team played well for those three quarters and the Hokies scored 41 unanswered points. They will need all the confidence they can get as they will travel to Clemson in week 8.

5) NC State. Week 7: Off. The Wolfpack were off in week seven so they got pushed down a little. They will have a chance to remind everyone why they were good enough to beat a top five team in week 8 as they take on the division leading Maryland Terrapins.

6) Duke. Week 7: L 20-41 vs. Virginia Tech. Duke has had a great year so far. They are still in competition for the conference crown two thirds of the way through the season. Coach Cutcliffe said his team felt as if their bubble had burst after the game Saturday. I hope that isn’t the case as this has been one of the most interesting ACC story lines all year. We wont have to wait long to find out as the rival UNC Tar Heels are coming to town in week 8.

7) Miami. Week 7: L 14-18 vs. UNC. Miami took a tough loss on Saturday at home. The defense showed improvement, but the offense was lackluster. Miami has been inconsistent all year. This was just their first conference loss, so they still have a lot to play for. They will need to forget the mistakes quickly because they host rival Florida State in a primetime game in week 8.

 8) Maryland. Week 7: W 27-20 vs. UVA. I know it might not be fair to have the Terps this far down on the list, but I truly feel that they are somewhere between 5th-9th in the conference in any given week. It’s fascinating to watch this team each week because they are improving and maturing in front of our eyes. Each and every week they play better. They are the only team in the ACC who hasn’t lost a conference game yet. So what’s my problem you ask? I think we will see their offensive issues come to the surface once they play the better teams within this conference. NC State comes to College Park Saturday for what will be a big time matchup for the division race.

9) Georgia Tech. Week 7: Off. Since the Yellow Jackets were off this week they stayed in the same spot. They are way below where they should be. The recent firing of Al Groh was a necessary move and it will be interesting to see how this major coaching shake up will affect this team. If they can’t find a way to beat Boston College on Saturday they may need to think about firing someone else too.

 10) Wake Forest Week 7: Off. Wake takes on UVA in week 8. This is a must win if they want to become bowl eligible this year.

 11) Virginia. Week 7: L 20-27 vs. Maryland. Saturday’s loss to Maryland further prolonged the agony of the fans and coaching staff at UVA. It seems to me that this team is regressing in each week. This is a team that was supposed to contend for the Coastal Division and now they find themselves on the outside boundaries of becoming bowl eligible. They will host Wake Forest in week 8.

 12) Boston College Week 7: L 7-51 vs. Florida State. BC didn’t do much of anything right in week 7 as they were up against a far superior team in FSU. This year is shaping up to have 2 or 3 wins maximum. BC will take on Georgia Tech this Saturday.

Featured game, week 7:

There are two key games in week 8 for the ACC. The first of the two is a rematch of the 2011 conference championship as Clemson takes on Virginia Tech. Last year Clemson whipped Virginia Tech twice on national television. It’s safe to say that the 2012 season has been a disappointment so far for the Hokies. The defense is a work in progress and the offense has been lackluster. The clear edge Clemson has is their ability to score. I think the Hokies will have a much greater probability of winning if they can limit the Tigers to 30 points or less. Easier said than done. I believe the Hokies are overmatched in this game because of their inability to consistently move the ball and score on offense.

My prediction: Clemson 38 Virginia Tech 28

The second key ACC game will be a primetime showdown pitting the Miami Hurricanes against the Florida State Seminoles. FSU responded well to their week 6 loss at NC State. Miami is coming off a tough loss at home against UNC. I think the edge to this game is very similar to the matchup of Clemson and Virginia Tech. Miami’s inconsistency on offense is a problem. Will they be able to keep up with the fast paced FSU style of play? Or will they falter as they did at Kansas State earlier this year. I think the game is tight for the first half, but FSU will pull away in the end simply because of their playmakers on offense and their stellar secondary.

My prediction Florida State 34 Miami 21

Don Deibler is a college football enthusiast and Virginia Tech alumnus who has had a passion for college sports since he was a young child. Outside of the ACC, he follows Notre Dame and South Carolina intently. He currently lives in Frederick, Maryland where he works in the mortgage banking industry and is in training for Air Traffic Control. You can reach him at [email protected].

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