Week Eight: Five Things We Learned

Another week in the books and it was an eventful one for the ACC. We had an unexpected finish to the Georgia Tech/Florida State game, a colossal blowout leading to the firing of a prominent ACC coach, and a four overtime game between Duke and Virginia Tech. With plenty of storylines to choose from, here are my five most prominent takeaways from week eight across the conference.

1. Better Days are Ahead for Miami
 

No, this isn’t because of the 58-0 wipeout loss to #6 Clemson at home on Saturday that really couldn’t get much worse, but simply because the Al Golden era in Coral Gables is officially over. As head coach, Golden had as many Top 25 wins as I did, which is an indication of just how much the Hurricanes underperformed in his tenure, despite pulling in multiple four and five star recruits from the state of Florida.

With Golden at the helm, this wasn’t your grandfather’s Hurricanes. In fact, it wasn’t even your father’s Hurricanes. This era was different, one which was marred with mediocrity and sealed up with a bow in the way of the worst loss in school history on Saturday afternoon. With notable former players speaking out on social media following the debacle, and cries from the boosters ringing loudly in the ears of the athletic department, enough was enough and Golden was let go. After a strange last couple of seasons that hit rock bottom against the Tigers this weekend, one thing is for certain:

Better days are ahead for Miami.
 

2. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson is Making Strides as a Passer

Quarterback Lamar Jackson has been thrown into the fire this season as a freshman at Louisville. Despite a pretty disappointing season for the team overall, Jackson has shown plenty of promise at the quarterback position to warrant some serious hope for the future of the offense for the Cardinals. While Jackson has displayed plenty of athleticism through his ability as a runner, one area where he was looking to improve was in the passing game. In Saturday’s win over Boston College, he appeared to begin making strides in the right direction, going 15-25 for 230 yards with a couple of interceptions.

While he will need to clean up the turnovers moving forward, Jackson was able to improve his completion percentage for the second consecutive week after an ugly passing performance against NC State three weeks ago. Over the last two games against Florida State and Boston College, Jackson has gone 35-60 (58%) for 537 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Although this may not seem like much of a leap, we can all agree that Jackson has come a long way from his 9-20 performance against Auburn in the opener, as well as the 10-27 effort against the Wolfpack.  A mixture of run, pass, and perhaps most importantly, experience, will make Jackson a premier player in the conference for years to come, and his growth as a complete college quarterback will be something to watch throughout the rest of the season.
 

3. Abandoning the Run Doomed the Seminoles Against Georgia Tech
 

Six.

That’s the number of touches Florida State’s Heisman-contending running back, Dalvin Cook, received in the second half of Saturday night’s contest against the Yellow Jackets. Three of those six touches came on the final drive of a game in which Cook was averaging nearly five yards per carry. While Georgia Tech should be given credit for the job they did in keeping Florida State’s offense off of the field in the second half, there is no excuse for not giving your best play-maker the ball in crucial situations down the stretch. He has won multiple games for the Seminoles this season, but wasn’t given the opportunity to do the same on Saturday. Because of this, Florida State is no longer undefeated.
 

4. I Was Wrong, Clemson Will Represent the ACC in the College Football Playoff

At least, I think they will.

Look, if there is one thing that I have learned while watching the 2015 college football season, it is that the only constant from week-to-week is change. Something unexpected seems to be happening each and every Saturday, destroying predictions and ruining hopes of fans rooting for their respective schools across the country. With all of this being said, there is no longer any doubt in my mind that the Clemson Tigers will run the table and represent the ACC in the second annual College Football Playoff.

Initially, I wasn’t sure that there would be a candidate in the conference that would be strong enough in 2015 to make noise come playoff time. While I thought that Clemson would win the ACC Championship at regular season’s end, I didn’t expect them to be an undefeated team entering that contest. Now, there is still plenty of time for that to change, as there have been upsets galore across college football this season. However, with the Tigers defense replacing all of the starters that they lost after last season so seamlessly, and the offense finally living up to the ridiculous expectations set before them in the pre-season, there is no doubt in my mind that Clemson will be in the College Football Playoff.
 

5. Pittsburgh’s Inconsistency on Offense Could Cost Them the Coastal

My new pick to represent the Coastal in the ACC Championship game in December, is the Pittsburgh Panthers. I made this proclamation a couple weeks ago, with Georgia Tech in the midst of their 0-4 start to ACC play, as the Panthers defense continued their suffocation of each and every opponent on their schedule. The defense that Pitt has displayed in every game this season made them an easy pick for me at the time, but I would be remiss to not mention that the offense must become more consistent if they want those hopes of playing for the conference championship to come to fruition.

Running back Qadree Ollison has been a pleasant surprise in taking over for the injured James Conner, as he has run over and through nearly every team on the schedule to date. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd is as active as ever, coming off of a 12 catch performance in the game on Saturday, despite still being held to less than 100 yards against Syracuse. The reality of the situation is this: Quarterback Nate Peterman, at some point down the stretch of this season, is going to have to pressure an opposing defense with deep passes down the field. The dink and dunk passing offense will only get you so far, especially if defenses begin to slow down Ollison and the Panthers running game.

The Pitt defense will always have the Panthers in the game, but will the offense be consistent enough in the passing game to win? That’s what will dominate the storyline for Pittsburgh as we head to the back-end of the ACC schedule. If the Panthers don’t improve on offense, they could cost themselves their best chance of winning the Coastal Division since joining the ACC in 2012.

 

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @MikeMcDanielACC and check out InsideTheACC on Facebook and on Twitter @InsideTheACC.

 

 

 

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