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Posts published in January 2012

ACC Midweek B-Ball Picks – 1/24-26

Can NC State stay atop the ACC with a trip to Chapel Hill Thursday? It’s one of a few intriguing midweek games…

(18-10 on season)

Tuesday

9:00 PM ET – Miami 68 GT 63 (Atlanta) – Miami leading scorer Malcolm Grant (12.9 PPG) hasn’t scored in double-digits five of his last six games, including his 5 points in the 78-73 home loss to NC State Sunday (0-5 on 3-pointers), meanwhile, junior forward Kenny Kadji posted double-figure scoring in nine of his last ten (20 points and 11 rebounds against NC State). If it wasn’t for Glen Rice Jr.’s 19, Georgia Tech would’ve been blown out again at Clemson (64-62 loss) after the 70-38 home defeat to UVa last week. I’m saying Miami’s guards get back in action here, while Kadji and Reggie Johnson feast inside to a conference road win.

Glen Rice Jr. was the only thing going for GT at Clemson Saturday (19 points), and he’ll need to be on against Miami to snap a 3-game losing streak. (Pic per OrangeandWhite.com)

Wednesday

7:00 PM ET – FSU 68 Wake Forest 59 (Winston-Salem) – You know the story with this FSU team right now – they’re winning…by…scoring. Through five ACC games, the ‘Noles are at 74.4 points per game – 83.3 PPG in their last three wins (at Duke, Maryland and UNC). The Deacs have been up-and-down, losing to Duke and NC State by 27 PPG, and drilling BC on the road Saturday, 71-56. Jeff Bzdelik and co. have to hope the ‘Noles are a bit road-weary and reading their press clippings.

9:00 PM ET – Duke 72 Maryland 64 (College Park) – Both can share stories of their losses to Temple (Duke, 78-73, and Maryland, 73-60). Traditionally, College Park is a tough place to play for the Blue Devils, but I’m not sure Maryland can score with them in this edition.

Thursday

7:00 PM ET – UNC 75 NC State 68 (Chapel Hill) – As we stretch into late January, NC State is looking down on the Tar Heels in the standings – something we haven’t been able to say in quite a while, but they stay on the road after a 78-73 win at Miami en route to Chapel Hill Thursday. UNC struggled for a half and eased to a 82-68 win in Blacksburg last week before taking the weekend off, and play their first full game without guard Dexter Strickland, who’s out for the season with a knee injury. The Wolfpack have scored 77 PPG on the road in the ACC so far (2-0, 76-40 win at Wake the other game), while the Tar Heels have held conference opponents to 58 PPG in the Dean Dome. Bottom-line, winning at Wake or Miami isn’t winning in Chapel Hill, and while I’m a big fan of the new and improved Pack, UNC edges them out here.

9:00 PM ET – Virginia 66 BC 55 (Charlottesville) – *Thud* <— That’s Virginia’s ACC title chances smacking into a brutal, ugly 47-45 loss to rival Virginia Tech at home over the weekend. By their loss and FSU’s triumph in Durham, the ‘Hoos went from top-3 to the back of a five-team group atop the conference, but they have a nice tune-up with BC on Thursday, where they hope to get in the 50s.

Orange Bowl “a bitter taste” for Clemson, ACC

Streaking down the middle of the field, West Virginia’s Darwin Cook flipped momentum of an Orange Bowl on pace for a basketball score into as one-sided a contest as possible…

It was apparent all too early – Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s defense wasn’t stopping anything, but like wins against Maryland earlier this season, or even UNC – the offense matching the output step-for-step would take the spotlight off.

It wasn’t to be.

A great strip of Tigers running back Andre Ellington and then heads-up play by the Mountaineers’ Cook to take the ball from the goal-line and run it to the opposite goal-line for the score changed the game – the Tigers were rattled, West Virginia hitting them with an early big blow.

Then, twin turnovers by Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, a fumble and interception in the final 2:05 of the first half, sealed it – allowing West Virginia to post 49 first-half points to break a bowl record.

Just like that, only 30 minutes in – the expected shootout was a massacre.

The Tigers, and especially quarterback Tajh Boyd, knew exactly what they were up against in the Mountaineers’ offense – there was little room for error.

West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen twisted the knife in the second half too – leaving in starting QB Geno Smith late into the game to break the BCS record of 6 touchdown passes while hitting 31-of-42 attempts for 401 yards (first 400-yard passing yard game in Orange Bowl history).

Up 63-26 in the fourth quarter, Holgorsen was calling playaction passes – really.

But I digress, calling a 70-33 loss a catastrophic embarrassment can only be an understatement.

Boyd completed 24-of-46 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns and interceptions each – sacked three times, but most of those came late in a very desperate time down big. For most of the game, he had solid protection.

His receivers suffered from drops aplenty – including usually reliable options, wide receiver Jaron Brown and tight end Dwayne Allen.

His running back Andre Ellington had a career-game with 10 attempts for 116 rushing yards (68 coming on one touchdown rush) in the first half, but due to the score, Ellington didn’t have one second-half carry.

Ellington’s fumble changed the game, but honestly, the way West Virginia moved the ball – a score there probably wouldn’t have changed the result.

You can’t win big games with that caliber of defensive play – much like the Clemson offense needed an overhaul post -2010, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney will face the same pressure from the Clemson faithful to do something – anything to fix the defense. However they do it, Swinney vowed more than once postgame that another Orange Bowl drought (30 years between last two) is not about to happen under his watch.

“Tonight is a bitter taste,” Swinney said. “Really disappointing to our fans, especially those that traveled down here. Just so disappointing for us to play like we played.

“But we’ll be back.”

Maybe they will, but if West Virginia’s back too, it’ll be déjà vu all over again with the current staff.

The Orange Bowl was just an apropos rotten tomato atop the ACC bowls – finishing 2-6 overall and falling to 2-13 in BCS games. If there was any mistaking it before, this is not a good football conference right now – and I’m not sure when it will be.

2011-12 ACC Pick’Em: Sugar & Orange

With my day job, I’m live in Miami, which turns out to be a lot of work (and some play) – either way, my keys to the ACC BCS bowls were published in Southern Pigskin…

Sugar: Jan. 3 – Virginia Tech (11-2) vs. Michigan (10-2), 8:30 ET

Will Virginia Tech play like they deserve this bowl game?

That’s the critical question, after its BCS bowl bid was highly-questioned in the wake of a 38-10 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

No matter who deserves it – we could be in store for a good one between Michigan’s rushing attack, fueled by junior quarterback Denard Robinson, and Virginia Tech’s running game of its own, anchored by junior running back David Wilson.

Robinson rushed for 1,163 yards and 16 touchdowns – passed for 2,056 yards, 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season. He was joined in the 1,000 yard rusher club by junior RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (1,098 yards), who punched in 10 scores as well.

The Wolverines started and finished strong this season – taking six-straight to open it up and wins over three bowl teams down the stretch (at Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State).

If it wasn’t for Clemson, I guess Virginia Tech would be undefeated – losing 23-3 in Blacksburg and 38-10 in Charlotte to the Tigers. The constant in the two losses was Clemson just dominating the Hokies’ offensive line, first, in the second half of game one, and the whole game in part two.

While we’re dwelling on the negative, we’d be remiss to not mention Virginia Tech’s last BCS stint, a 40-12 loss to Stanford in the Orange Bowl in 2010. The Hokies had no running game to speak of (34 carries for 66 yards) , and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck eviscerated the defense for 4 touchdown passes and running backs Stepfan Taylor/Jeremy Stewart combined for 213 rushing yards in the blowout.

Hokies wide receiver Danny Coale talked at ACC media days this July about that loss: “Sure, you sit back and thinks sometimes – what happened? But then you remember that’s a great team. We just simply didn’t play well enough. It’s embarrassing when you lose and you’re representing the ACC in a big-time game like that.”

Coale and the Hokies, though not in the ACC’s champion bowl, get another shot in New Orleans on Tuesday to prove skeptics wrong this season and uphold the conference reputation.

Michigan’s defensive prowess isn’t encouraging for that cause though – 6th in passing defense and 35th in rushing defense against some solid competition. If the Hokies can channel what they got offensively and defensively against Virginia (38-0 win), they win, pure and simple, but I need to see the Hokies do it on this stage before I pick it.

Pick: Michigan 27-21

Orange: Jan. 4 – Clemson (10-3) vs. West Virginia (9-3), 8:30 ET

There will be points.

Both the ACC and Big East champs feature newly-installed spread-‘em-out and pick-‘em-apart offenses, but from different branches of the scheme.

Clemson’s attack is run-centered, inspired by Gus Malzahn, but with Chad Morris’ spin on it.

West Virginia’s is all about the passing game, inspired by Mike Leach/Hal Mumme under head coach Dana Holgorsen – quarterback Geno Smith averaging 40.25 attempts for 331.5 yards per game with 25 touchdowns to 7 interceptions this season.

Still developing the o-line and armed with weapons like freshman receiver Sammy Watkins, the Tigers chucked it around the field quite a bit this season too – breaking single-season school records for passing yards (284.77), total offense (440.62) and points (33.62) per game.

West Virginia punched its ticket to Miami by way of a three-way tie in the Big East – ranking highest in the BCS of the three (Cincinnati and Louisville the others).

Clemson started 8-0, but stumbled into the ACC Championship Game with three losses in four games. But their odd dominance over Virginia Tech continued in the ACC Championship Game after a 23-3 win in Blacksburg earlier this season – forcing an early turnover and rolling downhill all game to a 38-10 blowout victory.

The Mountaineers will show a different look defensively than Clemson has seen this season with a 3-3-5 formation (27th nationally in total defense). Tigers struggled down the stretch with teams dropping more into coverage and forcing quarterback Tajh Boyd to pick them apart (in part, due to his o-line struggling with holding down the opposing d-line with injuries). WVU’s Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller could both give Clemson some struggles in the pass rush.

The Tigers have, on the whole, contained the passing game, but still were quite susceptible to the big play. West Virginia will test that – twin 1,000 yard receivers (Stedman Bailey, 1,197 yards/11 TDs and Tavon Austin, 1,063 yards/4 TDs), and an offense that hit nine different targets in a game five times this season.

What we saw with Clemson this season is if they can protect Boyd and limit turnovers – the points will come. They’re facing one of the more impressive offenses nationally, but best v. best, I give a slight edge to the Tigers.

I tend to think both will start a little slow – doing a bit too much, but once the game settles down, the offenses will find their footing and make this an entertaining game. Clemson just makes a couple more plays to pull it out.

Pick: Clemson 34-31

Rest of the staff picks: J.J. Greenstein – Virginia Tech 28-26, Clemson 31-20; Griffin Wong – Michigan 31-27, Clemson 38-34.

(ACC Pick’em on the season: Brandon Rink – 71-32, J.J. Greenstein – 73-30, Griffin Wong – 75-28)

ATS Section (42-43-2 to date)

New Year’s Eve was forgettable for the ACC/my picks – one last gasp in the BCS bowls…

Michigan -3 vs. Virginia Tech

Take to Bank %: 10%

Clemson -3 vs. WVU

Take to Bank %: 15%

Check us out live in Miami for the Orange Bowl both at @accblogger on Twitter and OrangeandWhite.com for a live chat during the game!