Week 11: MVPs, Helmet Stickers and Power Rankings

Week 11 provided ACC fans with plenty of entertainment. The action started Thursday night in Blacksburg where Florida State needed to score in the final minute to escape another upset on the road. The games Saturday afternoon and evening were action packed as well. UVA had a late 4th quarter rally to stun the Miami Hurricanes. Georgia Tech likely scored more points on UNC than their basketball team will this year. NC State and Clemson cruised along with blowout victories.  Boston College found a way to keep the score respectable against a very good Notre Dame team.

> Biggest Surprise Week 11: This week’s most surprising result in my eyes was Virginia’s victory over Miami. In case you missed it, the Cavaliers edged out the Canes with a last minute touchdown pass to win 41-40. The win was important because it keeps UVA in contention for bowl eligibility and also knocks Miami out of the front runner spot in the division standings. This result was surprising because of how poorly Virginia has played all year long and the fact that Miami was coming off an important win.

Coming into the weekend, Miami had momentum on their side. They had just beaten rival Virginia Tech and now controlled their own destiny in the race for the ACC Coastal Division. In the three previous games, Miami had only allowed an average of 21 points per game. This was an improvement to what their current average is, 31.2 ppg allowed ranking 90th in the country. Maybe we weren’t seeing the true problems because the Hurricanes were still giving up big yards in that three game span. The average yards allowed was 451, including both rushing and passing. This leads me to believe the Canes have been giving up yards and allowing teams to move the ball, then holding them to field goals and/or preventing them from scoring at all on those drives. That was the part that changed Saturday. UVA exploded with 21 points in the first quarter. UVA quarterback Michael Rocco had a career day with 300 passing yards, 4 touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Cavs were able to successfully convert 64% of their third down plays, which helped keep those scoring drives alive and also helped keep the dangerous Miami offense off the field. If you were to tell me that Miami running back Duke Johnson would have 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Stephen Morris would throw for three touchdowns, and the Canes would score a total of 40 points, I would’ve bet that Miami would have won this game convincingly. But as we have found out over the past two weeks, Virginia is capable of producing big numbers on offense. The Cavs deserve credit for bouncing back and playing with pride over the past two games. They will have a short week before hosting UNC on Thursday night. After that they finish the regular season in Blacksburg to play in-state rival Virginia Tech. If they can manage to win both of those games, they will become bowl eligible despite starting the season 2-6.

> MVP: Michael Rocco, Virginia Quarterback. Rocco was instrumental in the upset victory this weekend. He finished the day with 300 passing yards, 4 touchdown passes, and no interceptions. More importantly, he lead his team down the field and threw the game winning touchdown pass to Jake McGee with just six seconds remaining.

> Helmet Stickers

1.) Georgia Tech & UNC Offenses. It’s too tough to narrow down this record setting performance to one player.The final score in Chapel Hill Saturday was GT 68-UNC 50. GT and UNC combined for 1,085 total yards and to score 118 total points Saturday, a new ACC football record. The defenses should still be running wind sprints.

2.) EJ Manuel, Florida State Quarterback. Manuel finished 25 of 42 for 326 yards with 3 touchdowns. The most important throw came late in the 4th quarter when he found reciever Rashad Greene for a 39-yard game winning touchdown. Manuel is from Virginia Beach and was playing like he had something to prove Thursday night in a tough road venue. His leadership is the reason that the Noles are standing at 9-1 and ranked 10th in the country right now.

3.) Duke Johnson, Miami Running Back. Johnson finished the day with 150 rushing yards, a kickoff return touchdown, and a passing touchdown. He averaged 9.4 yards per rush too. Johnson is continuing to improve and impress in his freshman season. If he can stay healthy, he will likely find himself playing on Sundays.

>ACC Power Rankings

1.) Florida State. Week 11 W 28-22 vs Virginia Tech. The Noles once again struggled in a road night game. However, EJ Manuel kept his cool and led his team to a game winning touchdown. The win was big for the ACC because FSU represents the only team currently ranked inside the top 10. FSU has the inside track to the ACC Championship Game and another BCS Bowl appearance. The Noles travel to Maryland for their final conference game Saturday.

2.) Clemson. Week 11 W 45-10 vs Maryland. Clemson steamrolled the Terps Saturday in a game that wasn’t supposed to be close anyway. The Tigers seem to be hitting on all cylinders since the early season loss to Florida State. Tajh Boyd and the Tiger offense continue to create unbelievable stats while the defense has allowed their last four opponents to score an average of just 15 points per game. Clemson will host NC State this weekend in what could be a trap game if the Tigers are looking ahead to a rivalry matchup against South Carolina on November 24th.

3.) NC State. Week 11 W 37-6 vs Wake Forest. NC State crushed Wake Forest on Saturday and rebounded from an embarrassing loss to UVA last week. UVA played well again and beat Miami, so the loss last week doesn’t look so bad. The performance they had on Saturday was more reminiscent of the team we have seen this year in victories. They limited turnovers and penalties and didn’t give up too much on defense. The Wolfpack travel to play at Clemson Saturday, and then will finish the regular season at home against Boston College.

4.) Georgia Tech. Week 11 W 68-50 vs UNC. Tech put on an amazing display of offense this weekend, tallying 68 points and 588 total yards. I know that Georgia Tech has had a disappointing season, and they have fallen short of preseason expectations, but this was their second consecutive win and they now are back to .500 on the season. They will need to win one out of the two remaining games to become bowl eligible. The first game is against Duke, which will be far easier than their final game of the year at Georgia.

5.) Virginia. Week 11 W 41-40 vs Miami. Remember that these are power rankings, and not necessarily the ranking order of teams in the conference. At one point UVA was 2-6, losing six in a row. Now they have won twice in a row and are still able to become bowl eligible if they win out. All of a sudden this team has found a way to win. With the way UVa has played the past two weeks ( averaging a 14 point differential in those two wins) their remaining opponents better be prepared to play well if they intend to beat the Cavs.

6.) Miami. Week 11 L 40-41 vs Virginia. Miami has proved their offense is dangerous. The problem? Their defense is porous. The Hurricanes will need to find a way to slow down opposing offenses in order to win their remaining games. Another issue is how the administration will handle a self imposed sanction. There have been rumors of that happening this year, but nothing has been confirmed so far. Many people assumed the reason was that Miami had the chance to win the conference and go to a BCS game for the first time since it entered the conference. With this weekend’s loss we will continue to wait and see if that is true or not. Miami hosts South Florida this weekend then finishes the season at Duke. They need to win at least one of those to become bowl eligible.

7.) Duke. Week 11 Off. As you can see above, Duke is going to determine the bowl eligibility of several ACC teams. The slate starts Saturday at Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils are coming off back to back blowout losses to Florida State and Clemson. You have to wonder how much confidence this team could have after two defeats like that. The good news is that they can lose out and still make it to a bowl game. But you know Head Coach David Cutcliffe isn’t going to let his guys walk around with that type of mentality.

8.) UNC Week 11 L 50-68 vs Ga Tech. When you give up 42 points, you probably aren’t going to win that game. 42 is the average number of points UNC has allowed this year in games they have lost. It’s strange to think of UNC this way because they have traditionally had a stingy defense. Running back Giovanni Bernard has been a star and finally eclipsed 100 yards this past Saturday. UNC has two games left this year. Due to infractions, they are ineligible for the conference title. They travel to play UVA this week and UVA has been playing extremely well recently. They will need to play much better than they did this week to slow down Rocco and the Cav offense.

9.) Virginia Tech Week 11 L 22-28 vs Florida State. Lets face it Hokie fans, Logan Thomas isn’t a leader. Teams without leaders lose close games. VT has lost several close games this year. This one stung because (yet again) the Hokies were in position to win, but failed themselves. Bud Foster’s defense played a heck of a game and limited FSU to -15 yards rushing in a victory. This was a direct result of Foster’s relentless blitzing. When you blitz you leave your defensive backs in man-to-man coverage. That was exactly what happened when Rashad Greene caught a short slant pass and ran for the game winning score. Logan Thomas sealed the loss with an interception inside FSU territory. Thomas has now thrown at least one interception in 8 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the country. VT plays at Boston College Saturday, then will come home to play UVA Novemeber 24th. The Hokies need to win both to become bowl eligible. If they cannot win both of those games, the 19 year consecutive bowl game streak (3rd longest in the country) will come to an end.

10.) Wake Forest Week 11 L 6-37 vs NC State. Wake didn’t do themselves any favors by losing to NC State this week. They still need one more win to become bowl eligible and they have two tough opponents remaining. This week they play Notre Dame, who will not only want to win, but will want to win convincingly to get votes for National Championship polls. The final week they play Vanderbilt, who is currently on a four game winning streak and playing very well. Wake will need to find a way to produce more on offense if they want to win either of the remaining games. Currently Wake ranks 114th in rushing offense and 108th in scoring offense nationally.

11.) Maryland Week 11 L 10-45 vs Clemson. The Terps once again struggled due to their depleted offense. They will need a miracle to compete against Florida State, who is still hoping for a BCS bowl appearance.

12.) Boston College Week 11 L 6-21 vs Notre Dame. BC played Notre Dame about as tough as they could Saturday night. They couldn’t capitalize on some turnovers and mistakes the Irish made, but the same could be said for several of their other losses this year. They can still play the bowl eligibility spoiler role to Virginia Tech and NC State.

Featured game, week 12: NC State at Clemson

Note to Clemson:  Don’t pull a Clemson! Clemson has a lot riding on the final two games of the year. With Alabama’s loss, the odds of Clemson getting into a BCS game(likely the Sugar Bowl) are now increased. If FSU avoids an upset at Maryland Saturday, the Noles win the Atlantic Division. That leaves the Tigers on the outside of the automatic bid to the BCS. They will need to win the following week against rival South Carolina, but that is another story. What Clemson needs to worry about now is not choking and making it to the big game. As many of you know, NC State beat FSU earlier this year. It’s not unreasonable to think that this is a trap game for Clemson, who has so much on their minds right now. Clemson has the clear edge in all phases of this game. As I mentioned above, the defense has played a lot better recently than it did early in the year. The last time NC State beat Clemson was 2003, when now NFL Quarterback Phillip Rivers was there. I don’t see any reason that the Textile Bowl trophy will be changing hands this year either.

Prediction: Clemson 44 NC State 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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