Belatedly running through 10 observations from this week's action around the ACC
1. Lock up ACC player of the year for Tyrod Taylor. It's his award so long as he doesn't throw four interceptions each of the next two weeks. The Virginia Tech quarterback zipped the Hokies past North Carolina with a couple touchdown passes and another solid day.
In the process, he demonstrably outplayed arguably one of his two legitimate competitors (T.J. Yates) for the honor on Yates' home field. The best player on the best team shouldn't automatically be handed these sorts of awards as much as sports media types tend to think. But in this case, the best player on the best team also happens to be the best player overall.
2. Lock up ACC rookie of the year for Danny O'Brien. And not just because he got a fourth ACC rookie of the week award.
O'Brien has 16 touchdown passes and four interceptions. For those obsessed solely with Ws and Ls as a quarterback stat, Maryland is 5-2 in his seven starts. He's run for and caught a touchdown. For as much scrutiny as his debut created --- and it was plenty --- most of the nine following games have been ruthlessly efficient. He's the most productive freshman in the ACC from beginning to end, and it's not even close.
3. Florida State can win with E.J. Manuel. It's just not fun to watch. At least for now, it isn't, Manuel led the Seminoles to a 16-13 victory over Clemson, and coach Jimbo Fisher no doubt breathed a sigh of relief that he got away with Christian Ponder's injury for a week.
It's worth mentioning Maryland nearly upended a Manuel-led Florida State team in Tallahassee last year. Yes, Florida State is better this year, but so are the Terps. If Ponder is back this week (and with the division title on the line, chances are he plays if he is physically able), the Seminoles have to be considered the favorite. If not, things shift closer to toss-up territory --- exactly the sort of neighborhood Maryland likes a lot.
4. Miami's not toast yet. Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon deserves credit for not only holding things together after Jacory Harris' concussion, but also for knocking Georgia Tech out of the ACC title race (and quite possibly down to the Independence Bowl) with ease.
The Canes are winning, of course, with defense and a power running game leading the way. Maryland fans should know both well, even if it was a long pass that ultimately doomed the Terps two weeks ago. But Miami is built around its defense, and it has a large enough offensive line to bulldoze opponents and athletic enough running backs to burn teams on the perimeter. The Hurricanes still need help to win the ACC --- Virginia would have to win in Blacksburg --- but there's no reason they can't knock off Virginia Tech this weekend.
5. At long last, it's time to give up on Georgia Tech. Not for the long-term, of course, but this season has turned into a disaster. Besides the loss at Kansas (just as embarrassing now as then), the Yellow Jackets have not done anything that on the surface is offensive besides give up a ton of points. But they've also beaten almost no one of value, the exception being suspension-depleted North Carolina. Losing Joshua Nesbitt for the season isn't helping matters.
After 10 games, it's obvious the Yellow Jackets are a mid-tier team this season, the sort Georgia Tech fans grew plenty accustomed in the middle of the last decade. If form holds, the Yellow Jackets will beat Duke, lose to Georgia and then pretty much be forgotten about. With the real possibility of finishing the season as the first ACC defending champ to finish with a losing record since 1992 Clemson, that fate is probably appropriate.
6. It was a good day for kickers. Hopkins was the big star, but Chris Hazley and Chris Hinkebein connected from more than 50 yards out, and N.C. State backup Chris Hawthorne was perfect in place of injured starter Josh Czajkowski. Plus, there were three field goals for Duke's Will Snyderwine and no missed extra points in Miami. A good day indeed.
7. Clemson lost in Clemson-like fashion.The Tigers have had just about enough of special teams deciding their fate late in games this season. But really, how many teams in the ACC could lose on a 55-yard field goal? Other than Clemson, that is.
As things stand, the Tigers still have a chance to finish the regular season with a winning record --- and perhaps even re-institute the Chicken Curse for fans of another famously erratic program inside the Palmetto State's borders. Nonetheless, it will take quite a bit for the Tigers to climb into the upper echelon of the ACC's bowl games at this point.
8. Boston College is destined to make things interesting. Take a look at the following set of numbers:
3, 7, 32, 4, 2, 6, 10, 5
No, it's not some sort of complex pattern. Instead, it is the margin of victory in all eight of Boston College's victories over BCS conference teams since Frank Spaziani took over as head coach. That's an average margin of victory of 8.63 points, and that total falls to 5.29 points once the Montel Harris game against N.C. State last year is taken out.
BC's defeat of Duke pretty much hit that average on the head (the final was 21-16), and it also provided a reminder the Eagles don't seem to have it in them to take care of things with complete ease. Perhaps a major endorsement deal with Maalox, Rolaids or Pepto-Bismol is in order.
9. Duke's done. The Blue Devils fell to 3-7, ensuring the ACC's longest bowl drought (16 seasons and counting) will continue. Duke once again didn't get completely humiliated in its setback to Boston College (joining the Wake Forest, Maryland and Miami setbacks in that category), but couldn't generate any sort of running game against one of the conference's top defensive fronts.
If Duke could manage one more victory, it would probably wind up right in line with what realistic expectations were entering the season. But with Sean Renfree experienced along with a more veteran offensive and defensive line, the Blue Devils should go into next season with serious hopes of six wins.
10. So is Virginia. The odds were good at the start of the season that Virginia would be the ACC's first bowl ineligible team. Wake Forest and Duke beat them there (the Blue Devils by only a few hours), so that's something of a feat. OK, it isn't.
Nonetheless, the Cavaliers stuck with Maryland for three quarters before yielding 21 points in the final period. It wasn't a result that was welcome in Charlottesville --- and neither were the 16 penalties --- but Virginia still was plucky even while falling to 4-6. That's something to be lauded as Mike London's first year comes to a close.