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19 Sep 2011

One Foot Inbounds: ACC Amplification

by Robert Weintraub

What happens when you circle a game all summer long, mark it as a program measuring stick, fill your stadium to the bursting point, leave absolutely everything on the field physically and emotionally, play the visiting powerhouse mostly even -- and lose? Can you bounce back, or does it take a few weeks?

That, to me, will be a truer test of Jimbo Fisher and the regrowth of the Florida State program. The 23-13 loss to Oklahoma Saturday night in priiiiime tiiiiime was a defensive slugfest for much of the night, but OU was clearly the better team in the end, especially once starting Noles quarterback E.J. Manuel was injured. Given that the Sooners won by 30 points last year in Norman, a 66 percent improvement isn't anything to sneeze at. FSU battled hard, and its defense put the team in a position to steal an upset, but Landry Jones put together a big drive with the game tied and the record crowd at full howl. His throw, and Kenny Stiles’ awesome grab over Greg Reid for the winning points, was a thing to put on the wall of the Whitney or Tate Modern. Considering how Jones had been beaten up and frustrated after a sharp opening drive, it was even more astonishing. More importantly, it was a play that could easily usher the Sooners into the BCS title game, given that the schedule ain’t exactly LSU-strong from here on out.

Florida State’s remaining slate isn’t a crusher, either, but it’s toughest test until the finale at Florida is probably this Saturday, when the garnet and gold travel to Clemson. FSU is a little better, but while Clemson is coming off a pummeling of Auburn, the Noles need to put the pieces back together in a hurry. Keeping the focus forward, not back, will be a tough task for Fisher. If he can get it done, there’s no reason his team won’t be in the conference title game, and perhaps beyond.

Said conference, the ACC, had a good weekend elsewhere, gaining the respect it sought in Tallahassee. The aforementioned Tigers finally jammed Auburn’s lucky horseshoe where the sun don’t shine, ending their 17-game win streak 38-24. It was a reversal of last year’s game, when Auburn came from way down to win in OT. This time, Clemson spotted the Other Tigers a two-touchdown lead, then roared right past them. The Tahj Boyd-Sammy Watkins combo was electrifying. Watkins, a true freshman who dropped some jaws by picking Clemson over basically every school with a football team, showed why he got those five stars from the recruiting folks. He had 199 total yards and two touchdowns. He ran away and ran over defenders with equal aplomb. He’ll be a test for Reid and company in Death Valley.

Down on Probation Beach, Miami took care of an Ohio State team that is outmatched at quarterback at the moment, 24-6. Joe Bauserman and backup Braxton Miller combined for all of 13 passing yards until a couple of garbage time throws got the number all the way up to 35. If it weren’t for the standard pair of picks from Miami hurler Jacory Harris, it would have been a bigger rout. Coach Luke Fickel surrendered at the end, letting the clock run out with the game still technically in reach before the U iced it.

I hate to admit this, but I was a bit torn about the result. Why, given I’m a Hurricanes fan since the olden timey days, and I loathe the Buckeyes? Well, the interim head coach, Luke Fickell, and I have something in common -- we both are often said to resemble one Adam Sandler.

Judge for yourself:

Here’s me, coach Fickell, and the Great Sandu.

Sandler is an alum of noted football power NYU, who might be asked to fill out the suddenly headed-for-extinction Big East. It’s apparently official -- after several years of railing at the turncoats in Chestnut Hill among others, my Syracuse Orange are following in their footsteps, heading from the Big East to the ACC along with Pitt. John Swofford couldn’t have been too impressed with his new adoptees, as the ‘Cuse were whipped out in LA by USC (who scheduled this one?!) 38-17, and Pitt blew a big lead out in Iowa, falling 31-27 after the Hawkeyes scored four times in the final quarter and change. But with late word that the Pac-12 is going big with Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech, it seems like the dam is burst and it’s go big or go home. The Big 12 and Big East appear to be, uh, not so big after all.

All this on the day that Dave Gavitt, the founder of the Big East conference, passed away.

TOEDRAGS

  • There were several outstanding quarterback performances over the weekend. Seth Doege, for example, who completed 40-of-44 for 401 yards and five touchdowns as Texas Tech hammered New Mexico 59-13. 40-for-44! That was precisely twice as good as Robert Griffin’s half-day against Stephen F. Austin. Griffin was 20-of-22 for 265 yards and three scores plus 78 rushing yards in the blowout. He now has eight touchdown passes and eight incomplete passes in two games. Geno Smith set a school record with 36 completions, which combined to go for 388 yards (three different receivers cracked the 100-yard mark) as West Virginia tripped Maryland 37-31.
  • But for poise and precision, I’ll go with Kellen Moore of Boise State. Toledo is a solid team, and had the Friday night ESPN crowd on their side. The Rockets had a few moments when it seemed like a seismic upset was possible, but whenever the crowd started to rock, Moore would unzip the secondary and move the chains. He finished with a 32-of-42 with 455 yards and five touchdowns, which is amazing and yet somehow undervalues his importance and excellence. Boise’s 40-15 win will of course be overlooked, willingly or otherwise, amid the big name action on Saturday. It was still impressive.
  • I was against my Yankees jamming in a game at a ludicrous post-midnight hour a couple of weeks ago, so needless to say I’m not thrilled with the idea of starting a college football game after midnight. That’s what Tulsa and Oklahoma State did after waiting out a weather delay for three hours. At 3:35 a.m., the Cowboys finished off a 59-33 rout. Brandon Weeden, the OSU quarterback, is a former minor leaguer, so he’s presumably used to sitting out rain delays. It showed, as he threw for three scores. Sorry, but play on Sunday afternoon.
  • Looks like Florida handed its center snap issues from last season to Tennessee. Chris Rainey was brilliant in the Gators 33-23 win in the Swamp, but the Vols might have been more competitive if the ball would have wound up in Taylor Bray’s hands more cleanly. Losing wideout Justin Hunter for the season on the game’s fourth play didn’t help -- it’s a killer loss for a young UT side.
  • The 24-21 escape against Navy was just the kind of letdown game South Carolina would have lost in prior years. The difference, of course, is that Marcus Lattimore is on this team. The sophomore sledgehammer wouldn’t let the Cocks go flaccid (yep, went there), carrying the rock an absurd 37 times for 246 yards and all three Carolina scores. Lattimore has played 16 games in his young career. In eight of them he has scored two or more times. Aside from Lattimore, the presumed favorites in the SEC East have yet to convince.
  • Remember when everyone, especially Charles Barkley, was pissed Turner Gill didn’t get the Auburn job? The former Nebraska star went to coach Kansas instead. His Jayhawks were humiliated on the Flats by Georgia Tech, 66-24. Tech’s first play from scrimmage was a 95-yard touchdown run, and the Jackets rolled up a school-record 768 yards, 604 yards of it on the ground. Tech set a Division I record with 12.1 yards per carry.
  • There was a surprise in Philly as Temple almost knocked off Penn State for the first time since before Pearl Harbor. Not the tight game, won 14-10 by the Nittany Lions on a late touchdown. No, I’m wondering why the Temple Owls use an eagle’s shriek to signify first downs. What wrong with a nice, eerie "whoo-whoo?"

OFI TOP 25

1. LSU
2. Boise State
3. Oklahoma
4. Alabama
5. Oklahoma State
6. Wisconsin
7. Texas A&M
8. Stanford
9. Arkansas
10. Florida State
11. South Carolina
12. Florida
13. Oregon
14. Baylor
15. Virginia Tech
16. West Virginia
17. South Florida
18. Michigan
19. Nebraska
20. Houston
21. Illinois
22. TCU
23. Clemson
24. USC
25. Georgia Tech

Oklahoma and Boise are 2-3 after stellar road wins (LSU’s was impressive, too) while Alabama stayed home to rout overmatched North Texas. Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan State and Arizona State drop out.

LOWSMAN TROPHY WATCH


1. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State.
The Berlin Wall didn’t have a huge statistical performance, but a national TV audience saw the German lineman demolish Oklahoma’s Maginot line, especially RT Lane Johnson. The Seminoles defense kept slugging it out with OU until the end, and Werner was the motor that kept FSU punching.

2. Javon Harris, LB, Oklahoma. Two big interceptions in the showdown game of the weekend, including a diving stab that ended FSU’s hopes late.

3. Antonio Allen, LB, South Carolina. Just another week for Allen -- a game sealing pick, plus ten tackles and a forced fumble against Navy. Allen is pushing Kentucky tackle machine Danny Trevathan for the title of best LB in the SEC.

4. Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois. Brown led a fearsome pass rush that blunted Arizona State’s offense. Brown finished with seven tackles (3.5 TFL), 1.5 sacks, and an interception.

5. Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame. Had the 82-yard goal line pick and return to ice the first win for the Irish, plus 3.5 tackles for loss (six overall) and three passes defensed. Who says the Irish secondary can’t play?

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 19 Sep 2011

9 comments, Last at 20 Sep 2011, 10:25pm by navin

Comments

1
by KeithWaters (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:27pm

There is one Carolina, and it ain't the pretenders in Columbia.

Signed,
Duke fan

4
by ASmitty :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:04pm

Actually, there are two Carolinas.

Signed,
A Map

9
by navin :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 10:25pm

Hey Duke fan,
Only one team wears "Carolina" on their jersey.

Signed,
A Duke graduate

2
by KeithWaters (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:29pm

Carolina is in Chapel Hill. It seems that everyone but the pretenders in Columbia know that.

Signed,
Duke fan

8
by TimTheEnchanter (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:20am

As part of their self-imposed sanctions for violating NCAA rules, UNC has publicly acknowledged that their state does not border the Eastern edge of Georgia and that there is another state immediately to their south which also has the includes the word "Carolina" in its name.

3
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 2:50pm

If South Carolina plays Lattimore, and the game goes more than four hours, should they seek immediate medical attention?

5
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:22pm

I am still uncertain whether the Wisky d-line matches last year's team. while the guys other than Watt received little attention they were very good at holding their ground and honoring their assignments. There were not a lot of big running plays due to guy's being out of position or behind muscled.

6
by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 3:34pm

"The 24-21 escape against Navy was just the kind of letdown game South Carolina would have lost in prior years."
_______________________________________________________

Not to rain on the parade, but they're 100th in the nation in points against (giving up 33 a game) and 102nd in passing yards, meaning coming back is going to be tough when they invevitably fall way behind somebody.

7
by njligernj :: Mon, 09/19/2011 - 10:20pm

There are two Big East teams in the top 20 and neither of them are moving (yet). If the Big 12 and Big East end up merging (after some other teams leave the Big 12 as rumored) I wouldn't be surprised to see that new conference outshine the ACC.

Regardless, this whole thing is an insane farce. I love watching the game of college football but savagely despise everything about the system and everyone involved in it. It's an utter disgrace. Get a playoff together for crying out loud.