Week 12: MVPs, Helmet Stickers and Power Rankings

Week 12 went as expected for much of the conference. Florida State and Clemson rolled once again. UNC flexed their muscles against UVA Thursday night. Miami took care of business against USF to help quiet some doubters within the state. One disappointment was Wake Forest, who didn’t give Notre Dame any worries in their 38-0 loss. Notre Dame had now beaten three ACC teams this year with a combined score of 100-9. In the crazy world of college football, Clemson actually dropped a spot in the AP Poll even though they won by 14 against an NC State team that beat FSU earlier in the year. Clemson is now #12 in the AP Poll while FSU held position at #10.

> Biggest Surprise Week 11: This week’s biggest surprise for me was Georgia Tech’s victory over Duke. Even though Georgia Tech was favored, I find it extremely surprising that the Yellow Jackets have found their way back to the top of the ACC Coastal Division. At one point in the year, they were 2-4 and even had to fire their defensive coordinator mid-season. Most teams that are 2-4 and firing coordinators before the year is over do not find themselves in the race for a BCS bowl game in late November.  No matter what happens against Georgia this weekend, Georgia Tech will play for the ACC Championship.

> MVP: Tajh Boyd, Clemson Quarterback. Boyd accounted for eight touchdowns this week. Yes, you read that correctly. He finished the day with five passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns. He completed 68% of his passes and finished with 426 passing yards and 105 rushing yards. The eight touchdown performance set an ACC record.

> Helmet Stickers

1.) Stephen Morris, Miami Quarterback. Morris 21 for 32 for 413 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. His outstanding performance ensured the sixth win of the season.  However, Miami has enforced a postseason ban on themselves and will not play for the ACC Championship, or in a bowl game.

2.) Conner Vernon, Duke Wide Receiver. With Saturday’s performance, Vernon is now the ACC leader in receiving yards. He surpassed former FSU great Peter Warrick’s record of 3,517 by three yards.

3.) Devonta Freeman, FSU Running Back. Freeman pounded the Terps on the ground Saturday totaling 148 rushing yards on sixteen carries and two touchdowns. The Noles controlled the clock and more than doubled the Terps in total number of first downs. Freeman’s solid performance was a key factor to their success.

>ACC Power Rankings

1.) Florida State. Week 12 W 41-14 vs. Maryland. The Noles were impressive on both sides of the ball this week. After a close call in Blacksburg last Thursday, they returned to good form Saturday afternoon. The offense was stellar both on the ground and through the air. The defense was impressive, albeit against a lackluster offense. Next week’s test will be far more challenging as the Florida Gators are coming to town.

2.) Clemson. Week 12 W 62-48 vs. NC State. They did it! 10 wins in the regular season for the first time since 1981. And even more importantly, they didn’t lose to a team that they were supposed to beat (also known as “Pulling a Clemson”). All joking aside, the Tigers have fielded their best regular season performance in 30 years. It just so happens that FSU has found a way to be slightly better in the same season. There is still a chance Clemson could be chosen as an at-large bid for a BCS bowl game. They would do themselves a big favor by winning this week against South Carolina.

3.) Georgia Tech. Week 12 W 42-21 vs. Duke. The Yellow Jackets have found their way back to the ACC Championship Game. The offense has gotten back on track averaging 45 points per game in the last four games they won. More importantly, the defense has improved recently as well. In the past four victories the defense allowed an average of just 26 points per game, and that includes the “No defense game” against UNC two weeks ago. GT will travel to play rival UGA Saturday.

4.) Miami. Week 12 W 40-9 vs. South Florida. There are many positives to take away from this week’s win if you are a Miami fan. First, you won an out of conference game vs. a BCS conference opponent. Second, it’s a good win for in-state recruiting. Next week the Canes play Duke.  Because of their postseason ban, it will be their last game of the season.

5.) North Carolina. Week 12 W 37-13 vs. Virginia.  UNC bounced back and won an important matchup against UVA Thursday night. The season will be over after next week’s game vs. Maryland due to a post season ban. However, this season has been a success for first year head coach Larry Fedora. Quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovanni Bernard have developed into the most dangerous duo in the Coastal Division. If they can find a way to play more consistent defense, this team will be a serious contender for a 2013 ACC Championship.

6.) NC State. Week 12 L 48-62 vs. Clemson. NC State was hoping to play the role of spoiler to the second best team in the ACC this week. The problem? Tajh Boyd is just too good to be stopped right now. The Wolfpack started off strong and got out to an early lead, but Clemson exploded and blew out the Pack in the second and third quarters. NC State is bowl eligible now and will look for their seventh win Saturday at home against Boston College.

7.) Virginia. Week 12 L 13-37 vs. UNC. Despite losing at home Thursday night on senior night and now not being able to become bowl eligible, there is one last thing for this team to play for: a win over rival Virginia Tech. The seniors on this team have never beaten the Hokies. You better bet they would love to end their career beating the Hokies to ensure VT doesn’t go to a bowl game. Wipe out the records and statistics, the battle for the Commonwealth Cup on Saturday will be a good old fashioned backyard brawl amongst neighbors. Should be fun to watch.

8.) Virginia Tech Week 12 W 30-23 vs. Boston College. Well, this win wasn’t the performance the Hokies were hoping to have against the worst team in the conference. But then again, most of the VT performances this year have been disappointing. As I said in the paragraph above, there is a lot to play for Saturday in Blacksburg. The difference maker will be Logan Thomas. Will he be the player we saw in last year’s UVA/VT game when he accounted for three touchdowns?  Or will he have another shaky turnover filled performance that keeps a less talented team in the game, or even in the lead? Flip a coin. Your guess is as good as mine.

9.) Duke. Week 12 L 24-42 vs. Georgia Tech. With this week’s loss, Duke has now dropped three straight. The feel good story of the ACC is sliding. This is three straight blowout losses for the Blue Devils after starting the year 6-2. They have already qualified for bowl eligibility just in case they drop their fourth straight.

10.) Maryland. Week 12 L 14-41 vs. Florida State. With Saturday’s loss, the Terps will not be able to become bowl eligible. With the amount of injuries this team has endured, particularly at the quarterback position, it is amazing they have won four games. The last game of the year wont be an easy one either as they hit the road to play UNC.

11.) Wake Forest. L 0-38 vs. Notre Dame. There isn’t much to take away from a blowout loss like this. Wake just isn’t built to play from behind, much less to a team like Notre Dame. The good news is that Wake can still become bowl eligible if they beat Vanderbilt on Saturday.

12.) Boston College Week 12 L 23-30 vs. Virginia Tech. BC played the Hokies very tough Saturday. It seems as though this team has grown and improved over the course of the year even if their record doesn’t show it. There is a lot of rebuilding for this team to do. The question is who will be in charge? Keep an eye out for coaching turnover after next week’s finale at NC State.

Featured game, week 13: Florida vs. Florida State

In case you haven’t heard, there is a HUGE game in Tallahassee Saturday night. This will easily be Florida State’s toughest test of the year. It’s hard for me to predict and analyze this game right now because of the uncertainty regarding Florida’s starting quarterback Jeff Driskel. Driskel suffered a sprained right ankle and did not play this past week’s game. From what I have read and heard, Driskel’s status may be unknown for another two or three days. There is no doubt that the Gator offense is better with Driskel in the game. FSU looked solid against Maryland on Saturday, but I don’t think it’s fair to compare the Terps to the Gators in any aspect of the game.

I think both defenses are among the best in the country. Coming into last week, FSU ranked #1 in total defense nationally while Florida ranked #4. The difference will be which offense can produce more against the opposing defense. Many times in these defensive battles it will come down to special teams play and turnovers. Florida leads the nation in turnover margin at +20 while FSU is ranked 66th at -1. If Driskel doesn’t play, Florida will need to produce turnovers to win this game. The reason? FSU is much more productive on offense. This is the biggest statistical difference between the two teams. FSU ranks 14th in the country in offense while Florida ranks 106th. And the Gators are even worse without Driskel. In summary, I believe FSU’s offense will be the difference unless the Gators can find a way to produce many turnovers and/or score on special teams.

Prediction: FSU 20 Florida 13

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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