Ten things to consider after a weekend of football the ACC would likely soon forget (at least in its nonconference games).
1. The answer to Clemsonliness is Sammy Watkins. Even though Clemson tried to give away its eventual victory over Florida State, it has Sammy Watkins. And the freshman wide receiver is going to help solve a lot of problems for the Tigers over the next three seasons.
Watkins has 29 receptions and 433 yards to go along with six touchdowns in four games. The ACC freshman records are 58 receptions (Wali Lundy and Frank Wycheck) and 853 yards (Koren Robinson). Better get out an eraser, because Watkins could have both records well before the end of the regular season.
2. N.C. State is up a creek. The Wolfpack is 2-2 with a pair of victories over I-AA teams. Hence, it needs five victories the rest of the way to assure bowl eligibility after falling to Cincinnati on Thursday. State’s remaining schedule? Georgia Tech, Central Michigan, Virginia, Florida State, North Carolina, Boston College, Clemson and Maryland.
Regardless how how unimpressive the likes of Virginia and Maryland were this week, it’s hard to see the Wolfpack managing a 5-3 mark against that group. As the injuries pile up on defense (the real culprit, regardless of the easy Russell Wilson chatter), N.C. State’s postseason hopes will continue to diminish.
3. Florida State will get things settled soon enough. For all the talk of a national title run in the preseason, many folks ignored Florida State’s four losses from a year ago and the fact its quarterback was in his first full year as a starter. And then that quarterback, E.J. Manuel, got hurt and a redshirt freshman (Clint Trickett) wound up playing extensively against Oklahoma and then the entire game at Clemson.
Yes, the Seminoles are 2-2, but step back and look at this for a moment. Florida State’s defense stifled Oklahoma, and Jimbo Fisher’s team stuck with Clemson on the road with a reserve QB. All is not lost, and Clemson’s erratic nature will surface once or twice the rest of the way. A national title can wait, but here’s guessing Florida State still wins 10 games by the time the entire season is complete.
4. Virginia’s down, but not entirely out. The Cavaliers lost a one-possession game at home to Southern Mississippi to even their record at 2-2. There are chances for four victories still floating around out there – Idaho, N.C. State and Duke all come to Charlottesville, while trips to Maryland and Miami could provide an opportunity to surprise – so there’s still a chance Virginia reaches a bowl for the first time since 2007.
But it won’t happen with quarterback Michael Rocco throwing interceptions. He tossed three more Saturday and has seven (to go with one touchdown) through four games. The Cavaliers have some capable backs, but they must be multidimensional if they are to reach the six-win plateau. Otherwise, they’ll be like other ACC teams all but doomed to stay at home for the holidays.
5. Boston College is still short on hope, but at least Montel Harris returned. A victory over Massachusetts doesn’t solve the Eagles’ problems. They’re still probably not reaching a bowl game, and there are plenty of things that could happen in a season imbued with Murphy’s Law.
Still, Harris came back and rushed for 27 yards on nine carries against the Minutemen. It’s an extra offensive option – and a big one – for Boston College to have at its disposal as the schedule stiffens over the second half of the season.
6. Virginia Tech predictably emerged from September unscathed. Granted, this isn’t a common development in Blacksburg. But the Downy-soft nonconference slate allowed the Hokies to break in quarterback Logan Thomas and give him some looks on the road before things get tougher.
That happens in the next two weeks, when Clemson and Miami roll into town. A lot more will be known about the Hokies at this time next week.
7. Georgia Tech is into maintenance mode. The possibility of a fast start always existed for Georgia Tech, which is now 4-0 and has N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia up next. The Yellow Jackets lead the country in total offense, scoring offense and passing efficiency, and also own an ACC victory after defeating North Carolina on Saturday.
Before anyone gets excited, just recall that as good as Paul Johnson’s teams usually are, there’s usually a penchant for a clunker before the middle of the season. Remember the 10-7 defeat of Gardner-Webb in 2008? Or the 33-17 loss at Miami in 2009? And last year’s loss at Kansas? It happened at Navy, too. Avoiding a similar stumble in the next three weeks will be crucial to the Yellow Jackets’ conference title hopes, at least in the long run.
8. Way to go … Duke? Yep, the Blue Devils will have a chance to match their longest winning streak of the last 16 years (three) after hammering Tulane and evening their mark at 2-2. Next up is a trip to Florida International, a plucky bunch coming off an unexpected loss to UL Lafayette.
The opening loss to Richmond drained a lot of hope for a bowl berth. It’s still a tricky proposition, but beating Florida International, Wake Forest and Virginia isn’t an impossible task. Maybe there’s another potential win floating around out there to reach six victories. Either way, Duke’s rebounded as well as could be hoped after a forgettable opening week.
9. It might get worse before it gets better for erratic Miami. The Hurricanes were stunned at home by Kansas State and, after a date with former Maryland quarterback Jamarr Robinson and Bethune-Cookman, get Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech over three straight weeks. Not good.
The curious part about Miami’s latest loss was the all-or-nothing quality of its defense. After obliterating Ohio State, the Hurricanes gave up four touchdown drives of at least 63 yards. Yet Kansas State managed more than 13 yards in only one other possession. If Miami’s defense evens out, Al Golden can still have a solid first season.
10. It’s not a rebuilding job in College Park, regardless of what anyone says. At least it shouldn’t be, anyway. Maryland looked feeble in its 38-7 loss to Temple, but it still retains many of the pieces (if not the depth) from a 9-4 team a year ago.
New coach Randy Edsall declared “No excuses, just play” well before the season, words certain to be repeated over the next week and perhaps beyond. Any repeats of Saturday’s performance will result in more ugly losses, hardly the sort of first-year impression Edsall wants to make to a traditionally apathetic fan base that didn’t gobble up nearly 15,000 tickets at the 54,000-seat Byrd Stadium on Saturday.