Another strong week for the ACC as the only three losses came against fellow conference opponents. Maryland backed up its undefeated start with a rout of West Virginia. Georgia Tech improved to 2-0 early in the league, at the expense of North Carolina. Clemson, Wake and Virginia Tech all won in rather ugly fashion but, hey, a win is a win. Duke and Pitt put on a fireworks display which the Panthers eventually won, claiming their first victory in the ACC for 2013. Syracuse, Virginia, Miami and Florida State all smacked lesser competition, in fact three of those teams took on FCS clubs. All in all the bounce back across the league continues as the ACC is telling all the pundits to shut the heck up.
Hopefully this isn’t your first time checking out our stock report, but if it is, the above chart is the power rankings of the league. The buying/holding/selling stock in a team is relative to preseason expectations, making a better bowl, or surprising the league and competing for a division title. Just because I’m buying a lot of stock in a team doesn’t mean I think they are better than the first place team. Now that we are all in sync, let’s get after it!
Clemson – You know what, I’m glad Clemson won ugly. It is good for a team to take a hit like this and keep going. Let’s look at the one big positive we can from its win at NC State: Coach Debo Swinney’s defense is proving it can play at a championship level. This unit has been the question mark for several season and when they were on, the Tigers rolled. When they were off or during the rare game when the offense struggled, Clemson would fall. This game went the opposite. As Clemson’s offense failed to rack up the points, its defense answered the call. They may have given up some yards (378) but they held NC State to just 14 points (one score came very late) and forced two turnovers. Week four grade: B
Florida State – Bethune-Cookman came to Tallahassee, they saw Doak Campbell Stadium, but they didn’t quite come to play. FSU conquered. Week four grade: A
Georgia Tech – What did we learn in Tech’s win over UNC? This team is nasty. Going down 13-0 after a quarter, Tech shored things up defensively and the option attack may have needed a couple tugs like a lawn mower but once it started, it was humming. Tech will be a tough out all season and the folks that picked them to win the division are looking smarter and smarter. Week four grade: A-
Maryland – 37-0 sort of speaks for itself but I want to dig a little deeper. You’ve seen me write about C.J. Brown, but guess what – he had a rare off day. The real story here are the Terps forcing six turnovers. They held the Mountaineers to just 175 yards, 62 through the air and made their day a living nightmare. Randy Edsall has been the target of plenty of jokes, especially in the wake of his jilting Connecticut, but one thing he has always preached has been defense. It is strange that as a former quarterback, his teams would develop that smash-mouth defensive identity. However, when you look back at his best teams, they have all won games with tough defense. That 2010 Huskies team that made the Fiesta Bowl gave up just 20.8 points per game. Strip out the losses (including to a great Oklahoma team that beat them in the bowl, a solid Louisville team, an eight-win Temple team and bowl-bound Michigan) and you have a team giving up just 15.6 points a win. This Maryland team is currently sitting at 10.3 points allowed per, good for ninth in the entire country. Week four grade: A+
Miami – Much like their rivals up north, they took a dip in the FCS pool and found it very refreshing. Week four grade: A
Duke – Obviously I am very concerned about my postseason prognostication for these Dukies. The Blue Devils’ defense is giving up almost 28 points a game, ranking it down at No. 72 in the nation. They host Troy and Navy next and still have at Virginia and at Wake as winnable games. Perhaps even an upset bid against NC State at home. I am holding for now, but if they can knock off Troy and get to 3-2, I like their chances of slipping into a bowl. Even the Tech and UNC games have slim chances of upsets because coach David Cutcliffe’s offense is pretty good. The important thing is fewer turnovers. Brandon Connette threw four interceptions this past week. If you subtract the turnovers, Connette looked pretty good (21/28 without the picks, 323 yards, four TDs) but he missed an opportunity. His team only lost by three, despite his four turnovers. Week four grade: C
North Carolina – Georgia Tech is a better team and UNC made a game of it in Atlanta. That’s the good news. The reality is they are 1-2 with a pesky ECU team next. Then at Virginia Tech. Then Miami. Three tough outings before BC comes to town. This stretch will make or break the Tar Heels’ season. Week four grade: B-
NC State – Did they play well enough to win? Maybe. They were only 19-percent on third down, however. They turned the ball over twice. Suffered nine penalties. Sure, the out of bounds call hurt big time (side note: this needs to be reviewable or refs need to let the play go when it is that tight). Coach Doeren seemed pretty confident when commenting afterwards. I’ll let you be the judge, but personally, I think Bryan Underwood and NC State got robbed of a score. Hindsight is 20/20 but that came with more than seven minutes left in the third quarter of a one-score game. NC State turned it over a few plays later. We can’t be sure that even with Underwood’s score, NC State would have won. Doeren’s squad also looked very sloppy through the game. Penalties and turnovers will haunt the Wolfpack much longer and result in more losses than the one blown call. Deep down, the most diehard Pack fan agrees with me. Week four grade: B
Pittsburgh – Tom Savage’s day as quarterback can be summed up in one word: Wow. What a day for the Panthers offense in general as they had almost 600 yards of offense and 58 points without a single giveaway. It still wasn’t a perfect performance, of course. Duke had four turnovers and still only lost by three. They are four wins away from a bowl and still have both ACC Virginia schools, Old Dominion, Navy, UNC and Syracuse. The toughies are Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and Miami. I think a win next week might have me buying some Pitt stock. Week four grade: A-
Syracuse – Another team like Pitt that started slow but is now rolling. I am re-evaluating the losses against Penn State and Northwestern. I don’t think I realized how good those two teams are. The Orange played PSU fairly tight and their back-to-back wins now has Syracuse evened up at 2-2. In terms of making a bowl they have to sweep the Wake, Pitt and BC games since the other four are road games and hosting Clemson. They’ll need to steal a road game to make a bowl. Still, the improvement once benching starting quarterback Drew Allen and seeing Terrel Hunt’s magnificent play is impressive. Week four grade: A
Virginia Tech – In a sloppy, rain-drenched field, Tech won in overtime … against Marshall … of C-USA. I know Marshall is improved but this wasn’t exactly an awe-inspiring performance either. Maybe the weather really was that big a factor. I’m going the other way. Two lifeless efforts against ECU and Marshall to go along with lousy offensive numbers (even without the Alabama game) leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m waiting for this team to make a statement. They’ll get that chance next week in Atlanta. A win there, and I’ll feel much more confident about the Hokies’ prospects this season with Logan Thomas at the helm. A loss and I will have seen enough and sell any remaining Tech stock I have. Week four grade: C
Boston College – Idle
Virginia – You know what is a good indication of a team’s standing? When you can leave a program off last week’s stock report and not receive a single email or comment about the omission. If you don’t believe me, look it up here. I didn’t notice, the editors didn’t notice, my crack team of 35 un-paid interns … who am I kidding, those guys couldn’t catch a cold in Canada. As for this Cavs team, the BYU win still looks decent and they knocked off cupcake VMI to get to 2-1 following the Oregon disaster. My problem with Virginia has always been the schedule. Clemson, Tech and Miami were all on it but now you add in that tough-looking Maryland team and a road trip next week to a Pitt team trending upward and you see the problem. Coach London is building for the future and they have played some tough ball this year, but if the losses mount, I’m not sure he’ll get to see all his efforts pay off once this program turns the corner. Week four grade: B
Wake Forest – Congrats Wake, you won! Sadly it was by 14 against Army in what was a tight game even in the second half. Here’s your prize for getting a victory: At Clemson next week. Transitioning to a different style of play is never easy, especially when you lack talent like Wake and then combine that with the rest of the league getting better. This will be a long year for the Demon Deacons once they hit league play – where they are already 0-1 thanks to a loss to BC. Week four grade: B
Get That Kid Dinner (if the NCAA allowed it)
Tom Savage (QB, Pitt) – 23/33, 424 yards, 12.8 avg, six TD, 0 INT, 95.6 QBR
Maryland Defense – The unit shut down offensive guru Dana Holgerson’s club all day and kept them off the scoreboard in the 37-0 blanking. L.A. Goree led the Terps with seven tackles (5 solo), one TFL and forced a fumble from his linebacker position. Safety A.J. Hendy had an unusual day, recording zero tackles but recovering two fumbles and returning an interception 28 yards for a score. Goree and Hendy certainly stood out but this was a clear team effort.
Chandler Catanzaro (K, Clemson) – Catanzaro drilled two field goals (49 and 45) to give the Tigers an early 6-0 lead. He also hit both of his PATs for a total of eight points. For those wondering, that was the exact margin of victory in Clemson’s narrow road win.
Dunce of the Week
Duke fans, plain and simple. I know you are a basketball school and I know you have better things to do on football Saturdays – like find a cure for Ebola – but you have a nice little team that went to its first bowl since 1995 last year. In their home opener against NC Central, just 22,251 fans showed up. In the ACC opener, 21,267, and last Saturday against Pitt just 22,714 could be bothered. Wallace Wade can seat just under 34k. This is unacceptable by the fans and poor job of the athletic department at getting people in. As a fan base you have complained about the lack of success in the past. Common arguments are also that “it’s just not a football school.”
To the first point: you went to a bowl last year, you have 17 conference titles and until the misery of the last decade or so, you were above .500 as a program.
To the second point, how can you ever change that thinking without showing up? Without crowds the university has no reason to fund the program. With no funding no coach. With no coach, no recruits. With no recruits, no wins – and it is cyclical. Schools that think they are basketball (or football)-only schools don’t get it. You can excel at both. Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas and Oregon have all been strong in both sports since the turn of the century. How do these programs do it? They fund the sports. How do they have the money? Donations. How do the donations come in? There is interest in the program. How can you measure the interest in a program? Butts in the seats. What Duke is doing is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A Duke fan’s mentality is simple: ‘We’re a basketball school so our football team stinks. Our football team stinks so I won’t go to the game.’
Unless fans show interest, or the school finds ways to make the games more attractive to go, no Duke booster would ever give a dime to that program so the cycle of bad results may restart.
The shame of it all is, like I said to start the rant, Duke’s team is a pretty fun little bunch to watch. They are scrappy too, getting by with a backup quarterback after their starter went down with injury. Lastly, these are 18 to 22-year-old kids representing your university. The institution you presumably love. How do you think these kids feel rushing out to a stadium barely two-thirds of the way filled? Here’s an idea: In order to purchase Duke basketball tickets you must purchase football season tickets and have them scanned at all home dates or donate a certain amount of money to the football program. Hmmm … this plan could also work at Kentucky, Kansas and, well, a few others.
Bottom line is Duke fans, it is just seven measly Saturdays out of the year. I think Ebola can wait a few weeks.