ACC: Orange Bowl
It wasn't exactly the easy win so many predicted, but Florida State's size and speed advantage helped the Seminoles outlast upstart Northern Illinois 31-10 to win their first Orange Bowl since 1996.
Record-setting NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch found no room to work, and Florida State's dominant defense showed few flaws in its first game without departed coordinator Mark Stoops, while EJ Manuel accounted for 321 yards of offense and two touchdowns to lead the Seminoles.
It was over when: Xavier Rhodes forced a fumble from Da'Ron Brown on a second-down run with 11:15 left to play in the game. Northern Illinois had just converted a fourth-and-1 and was driving in hopes of cutting FSU's lead to seven, but the fumble was the dagger that ended any hopes of an upset. The play was reviewed, but officials ruled the ball was coming out of Brown's grip before his knee hit the ground, and the Seminoles quickly capitalized on the turnover with a Lonnie Pryor touchdown.
Game ball goes to: Pryor. The senior fullback has toiled in the shadows for four years at Florida State, earning immense respect within the locker room but relatively little fanfare outside it. Tuesday's game was different. While the rest of the FSU running game struggled, Pryor was brilliant. He opened the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown run -- the longest of his career -- and put the icing on the cake with his 37-yard touchdown after NIU's fourth-quarter fumble.
Turning point: There were plenty, but NIU's two turnovers were killer. The fumble by Brown was the last straw, but a third-quarter interception by Terrence Brooks squelched another promising Huskies drive. Brooks picked off Lynch at the FSU 13-yard line to protect a slim seven-point lead.
Stat of the game: Lynch entered the game as one of the most dynamic offensive players in college football, but he found out yards are far tougher to come by against Florida State. Coming into the game, Lynch had racked up 1,771 rushing yards -- fourth most in the nation -- and was averaging 6.5 yards per carry. But Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and the FSU linebacking corps was exceptional, hitting him repeatedly and giving him nowhere to run. Lynch had bragged earlier in the week that NIU planned to wear FSU down late, but the opposite was true, and the junior quarterback finished with just 44 yards rushing on 23 carries, while completing just 36 percent of his throws.
Unsung hero: It's tough to call Manuel an unsung hero, but in a season in which he's earned just as much criticism as praise -- and maybe more -- he wrapped up a five-year career at Florida State with a solid performance. Manuel completed 27 of 39 passes for 296 yards through the air and added another 26 rushing with a touchdown. He missed a few passes -- something his critics will be happy to note -- but he connected on far more. When the FSU offense needed him, he made the throws he had to make. Manuel never lived up to his immense promise at FSU, but he was surely a very good quarterback, and he ends his career as an Orange Bowl champion and winner of four straight bowl games.
What it means: Northern Illinois shrugged off the legions of doubters and proved an unexpectedly competitive opponent, but in the end, Lynch and the Huskies simply didn't have enough to make a late charge. For Florida State, it was yet another inconsistent performance in a season that has been filled with them. But it was also the school's first BCS win in 12 years, and it marked just the second time in program history that FSU has won 12 games in a season.
ACC officials have spoken with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, according to the report. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise -- in fact, ACC fans should expect commissioner John Swofford to pursue such a partnership. The Irish have a strong history and tradition with several teams in the ACC and it would make sense in years Notre Dame qualifies. Swofford also told me recently Notre Dame could be involved in the mix.
It's an exciting opportunity that's on the table for the ACC. Stay tuned.
There are still several questions the ACC must answer as it moves forward with its 12-year partnership with the Orange Bowl, namely who the opponent will be, who will get the TV rights, and how the ACC will choose its Orange Bowl rep if the league champion is playing in the new four-team playoff. I spoke with ACC commissioner John Swofford this afternoon to ask him those questions:
In your mind, who would be the ideal opponents for the ACC?
John Swofford: I think it could go several different directions as we talk through this. Anything specific I would say would be premature. One thing is certain, and that is, we will end up with a quality opponent on a prestigious day in a terrific bowl.
Would you go so far as to say which conference or conferences you would like to align with?
JS: It could be a conference, it could be multiple conferences, it could be considerably broader than that. We’ll just have to see as we continue the discussions on the possibilities.
JS: I think it’s likely Notre Dame could be involved in the mix.
How much revenue do you think you could possibly generate from this?
JS: It’s hard to tell until we go to the marketplace, but it certainly has excellent value, as does the entire system that has been developed. One of the real pluses here for the ACC from a financial standpoint is that this game is a contract game, and therefore the revenue from it will largely benefit the ACC.
What does this do to solidify the stability of the conference moving forward?
JS: I think the stability has been there. This just accentuates that stability and it accentuates the strength of the conference as a selection of schools. It accentuates the potential our programs have.
How does the four-team playoff change this game for the ACC, if it does at all?
JS: I think the pluses systemically is that for our league, just like any other league at the FBS level, if we have a team or teams that are good enough and rated highly enough, our access to the national championship picture is equal to anyone else’s. Beyond that, it gives our champion an opportunity to play on New Year’s Day in a great location and a terrific bowl. If we have one team that goes to the semifinals as our champion, then a second ACC team will go to the Orange Bowl. If there are any years where we have two teams in the semifinals, then a third ACC team goes to the Orange Bowl. Being able to put a stake in the ground on New Year’s Day in the Orange Bowl and have our own contract game is a tremendous plus for our league.
How will a selection committee or polls and rankings factor into this for the ACC?
JS: It starts with our champion in terms of the Orange Bowl itself. If our champion is not in the top four, they’re in the Orange Bowl. If they are, then it’s up to the ACC and the bowl to determine which team other than our champion will play in the Orange Bowl that particular year. We’ll need to have a conversation about how that team is selected. It could be the next-highest rated team. It could be the loser of the championship game. We haven’t made that determination yet. I’d say it’s likely to be the highest-rated team, but we have some discussing to do about that.
So it’s not accurate to say it’s going to be the runner-up of the ACC title game?
JS: Not necessarily.
As part of the new postseason college football arrangement recently announced by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, the ACC has selected the Discover Orange Bowl as its annual contract bowl partner, to serve as the home of the ACC Champion. If the ACC Champion is identified as one of the top four teams by the Bowl Championship Series selection committee, then the ACC Champion will participate in the national semifinals and a replacement team from the ACC would participate in the Discover Orange Bowl.
In addition to the partnership between the ACC and the Discover Orange Bowl, it’s anticipated that the Orange Bowl will host at least four semifinal games in the new recently announced arrangement by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee. In the years that the Orange Bowl serves as a semifinal host, the ACC Champion would then participate in one of the three host bowls that will be established as per the direction of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee.
Details on both the opponent and broadcast partner will be forthcoming.
Actually, chances would be more accurate – nine of them: LSU, Boise State, Oklahoma, Ohio State, USC, Auburn, Alabama, Stanford and West Virginia.
The final score: Nationally relevant conferences 9, ACC 0.
After this past weekend, which featured four ranked opponents, the ACC’s best opportunities at making a statement on the national level are now officially in the rearview mirror. Sure, you can talk about the season-ending rivalry games against South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, but none of those programs are carrying the weight right now of an Ohio State, Boise State, Alabama or Oklahoma.
Georgia is off to a 0-2 start in the SEC and its chances at playing for the conference title are likely already over. Even though Florida is regarded as one of the top teams, it has consistently struggled to find the next gear offensively, though the Seminoles’ defense will probably help them find it.
There are three things the ACC needs to do in order to finish the season strong and avoid further embarrassment:
1. Win the rest of the remaining nonconference games. It starts this week with two Big East matchups. UNC is at Rutgers, and Miami travels to Pitt. There’s no reason the ACC shouldn’t come out 2-0. Virginia can’t afford to lose to VMI, and shouldn’t if it plays the way it did the first two weekends. Duke and Maryland both need to rebound in winnable games against Army and FIU, respectively.
2. Produce an exciting conference race and championship game. The ACC has been one of the most unpredictable conferences in the country in recent years, and while that has contributed to the problem of separation and producing a national title contender, it has also made it an extremely fun story to watch unfold. It continues to be anybody’s game, and ACC officials are hoping the championship game’s move to Charlotte, N.C., will boost attendance and interest.
3. Win the bowl games. Redemption for the ACC could come in the form of bowl wins, but the first step is bowl eligibility, and that’s a legitimate question for teams like Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia and even North Carolina. Where the ACC needs to win most, though, is in the Orange Bowl.
Under the partnership, Discover will be the official card of the Orange Bowl and the Bowl Championship Series.
The ACC, though, is better than its record indicates if you measure the conference’s performance during the regular season like the BCS officials do. Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, said the ACC has solidly earned its automatic berth in the BCS and there has never been any hesitancy on the part of Orange Bowl officials to continue their partnership. Instead, the data from the 2004-2007 regular seasons shows the league fared no worse than fifth among the 11 conferences in the major rankings used by the BCS to determine which conferences earn automatic qualifying status.
“The ACC and the Big East are solid,” Hancock said in a recent interview. “A lot of people when they talk about conferences don’t remember that the top to bottom conference rankings is one of the three thresholds, and those conferences are solid. I know the Orange Bowl is tickled with their ACC relationship.”
There are two ways to earn annual automatic qualification: (1) have a contract with a bowl, or (2) earn it on the field by meeting the thresholds which you’ll see in the charts below. In order to meet the thresholds, conferences must finish among the top six in the first two rankings and top 50 percent in the third. The five conferences earned it because they have contracts with bowls. Maybe not coincidentally, they also met the thresholds. And met them easily.
Here’s how the ACC fared against the other conferences in the most recent BCS evaluations:
1. Bobby Bowden retires. On Dec. 1, 2009, Bowden announced the Gator Bowl would be his last game as Florida State's head coach, closing the chapter on a career that spanned six decades. His final moment? When he took the flaming FSU spear from Chief Osceola and stuck it into the turf at midfield, one of Florida State's most revered pregame traditions. With the win over his former team, West Virginia, Bowden finished with a 389-129-4 record, and a 33rd consecutive winning season.
2. Chris Weinke wins the Heisman Trophy in 2000. He was the ACC’s last winner of the prestigious award. That season, Weinke led the defending national champions to the national championship game against Oklahoma, where the short-handed Seminoles lost, 13-2. Still, it was the program's third consecutive appearance in the national title game, making FSU the only school to appear in three straight BCS national title games.
3. Conference expansion. Virginia Tech and Miami joined the league in July 2003 (though their first seasons were in 2004), and Boston College accepted the offer to join the league in October 2003 (and started conference play in 2005). Expansion divided the conference into two divisions and produced a championship game that has since garnered mixed reviews.
4. Wide right. On Oct. 7, 2000, at Miami, Florida State walk-on kicker Matt Munyon was wide right from 51 yards for the tying field goal as time expired, securing Miami’s 27-24 win. It was the lone regular-season loss for FSU (11-2), and it snapped a 17-game winning streak which had included Florida State's Jan. 4, 2000, 46-29 Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech to secure the wire-to-wire No. 1 run to a national championship.
5. Wake Forest wins school’s first ACC title since 1970. In 2006, unheralded Wake Forest -- the smallest school in the BCS -- claimed its second ACC title and first in 37 years with a 9-6 win over Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game in Jacksonville, Fla. Wake Forest won a school-record 11 games and became the first ACC team to go 6-0 on the road.
6. Virginia Tech wins ACC title in first season. In its inaugural season, the Hokies announced their presence with a conference title and 7-1 record in ACC play. Virginia Tech edged FSU by one game, and it was a foreshadowing of what was to come, as the Hokies won the ACC championship in three of their first five seasons in the conference.
7. Matt Ryan’s “Heisman moment.” Former BC quarterback Matt Ryan orchestrated one of the conference’s greatest comebacks, when he led the Eagles to a 14-10 win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on an ESPN Thursday night game. Ryan threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:11, including a scrambling 24-yarder to Andre Callender with 11 seconds remaining. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit called it Ryan’s “Heisman moment.”
8. Orange Bowl Bust: Virginia’s 48-0 win over Miami in 2007 in the final game played at the Orange Bowl will go down in history with the dilapidated old facility. It was an embarrassing performance in front of dozens of former Miami stars in what was the biggest shutout loss in the stadium’s history. It was Miami's first home shutout loss since Oct. 4, 1974, against Auburn. The last time Miami lost by more points at home was in 1944, when Texas A&M beat the Hurricanes 70-14.
9. Virginia Tech’s 20-7 Orange Bowl win over Cincinnati. The win over Cincinnati snapped an eight-game losing streak in BCS bowls by ACC teams, and was just the second win in a BCS bowl for an ACC team (Florida State in the 2000 Sugar Bowl). The Hokies’ defense ended the 2008 season with four interceptions in that game.
10. He's No. 1. NC State defensive end Mario Williams was selected as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. It was the only time in league history that has happened. In 2005, he set school single-season records for tackles for loss (27.5) and sacks (14.5). He finished as NC State’s career record holder with 55.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Jan 5., 8 p.m., (FOX)
Georgia Tech has been an inspired team since its embarrassing 38-3 loss to LSU last year in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and it enters the Orange Bowl determined not to suffer the same fate. In a matchup of two of the country’s top 10 teams, the Yellow Jackets’ offense will be unlike anything Iowa has seen this year. But the Hawkeyes are a disciplined defense that has what it takes to the stop the triple option -- dependable interior linemen. This game will feature two of the country’s top defensive linemen in Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan and defensive tackle Adrian Clayborn.
On paper, it’s a very intriguing matchup. Georgia Tech has the No. 2 rushing offense in the country, and the No. 11 scoring offense at 35.31 points per game. Iowa is 10th in the country in scoring defense at 15.5 points per game.
The players Iowa will need to stop, though, are B-back Jonathan Dwyer, quarterback Josh Nesbitt, and receiver Demaryius Thomas. All of them have big-play potential and showed it in Saturday’s win over Clemson en route to the program’s first ACC title since 1990. Thomas had his fourth reception of 70 yards or more, and his ninth of at least 50 yards. Statistically, Nesbitt and Dwyer are the second-best rushing tandem in ACC history.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Virginia Tech sold about 4,700 tickets for the Orange Bowl so far, but a school spokesman said most Hokies fans are getting their tickets through the Internet and second-hand markets.
Cincinnati isn't exactly expected to fill the stadium, so it will be interesting to see what the final attendance count is. Last year's atmosphere was great for the Kansas game. I'd be surprised if this year rivals that.
The blog will be quiet for a few hours now while I watch the Papajohns.com Bowl, but check back later for the usual.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Orange Bowl officials rolled out an orange carpet on the tarmac and saluted the Hokies with water cannons when they arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale airport today.
"This is our second year in a row, but we are still excited," cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris said. "Last year, we left on not too good of a note. So, it feels good to be back and have another chance.
"The coaches learned a lot from last year. They've changed the schedule. We are practicing more. We've really put in the hard work even more."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is trying to recruit some fans to the Orange Bowl, where ticket sales are struggling. Beamer even put up a video on the Hokies' Web site advertising the game. I know the economy is bad, really I do. But has anyone considered the fact that ticket sales might not be flying because it's not a thrilling matchup? I'm telling you, Papajohns.com Bowl ...
While Beamer is trying to recruit fans, Clemson is trying to recruit more than eight players.
Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich began to renegotiate Paul Johnson's contract this week. That's pretty impressive, considering Johnson's contract was seven years to begin with. Ah, what a win over Georgia can do for you.
Will Ralph Friedgen make good on his promise at the start of the season that quarterback Jordan Steffy "will come in and win a game for us before the season is over?" He's only got one game left to do it.
There is one huge difference between the coach-in-waiting scenario at Wisconsin, and the one Jimbo Fisher has at Florida State. At Wisconsin, Bret Bielema "knew when it was going to happen and how it was going to happen." FSU's situation has an added emphasis on the "waiting" part.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There are 10 bowl-eligible teams for nine ACC tie-ins. Messy, just like the season was. There is an NCAA rule that forces bowls to select seven-win teams over six-win teams, and that could mean trouble for NC State. More likely, it means an at-large selection. While ACC officials try to figure that one out, here are this week's predictions for everyone:
BOSTON COLLEGE -- BC fans shouldn't have to worry about being slighted by the bowl selection committees this season. The Eagles have everything they need to make it to the Orange Bowl, including confidence from the fact they've already beaten Virginia Tech this season.
Possibilities: Orange Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Music City Bowl
Prediction: Orange Bowl
CLEMSON -- The Tigers threw the bowl picture out of whack when they became bowl eligible with their win over South Carolina. Their addition means everyone else is likely to get bumped a notch.
Possibilities: Music City Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Emerald Bowl, Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, Eagle Bank Bowl
Prediction: Music City Bowl
FLORIDA STATE -- The Noles took a pounding from Florida, but they're still an attractive eight-win team that should be one of the top picks. A trip to Jacksonville to face Nebraska makes sense at the expense of Georgia Tech.
Possibilities: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl
Prediction: Gator Bowl
GEORGIA TECH -- This team deserves to be in one of the top bowls, especially after beating rival Georgia, but FSU would bring a "home" crowd and be a lucrative matchup for the Gator Bowl folks.
Possibilities: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl
Prediction: Champs Sports Bowl
MARYLAND -- In a matter of two weeks, the Terps went from contender to pretender. Instead of seeing orange, they're more likely to see blue, as in Smurf Turf blue. You get what you play for. They can't play in the Eagle Bank Bowl because the date conflicts with their exam schedule.
Possibilities: Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Emerald Bowl, Roady's Humanitarian Bowl.
Prediction: Roady's Humanitarian Bowl.
MIAMI -- The Hurricanes didn't finish strong, but they still had a much better season than a year ago, and the fact they're even playing in a bowl game proves it. An invitation from the Champs Sports Bowl would be surprising.
Possibilities: Champs Sports Bowl, Music City Bowl, Emerald Bowl
Prediction: Emerald Bowl
NC STATE -- This is where the confusion comes in, because of the NCAA rule. There should be a few bowls out there, though, still looking for a team. Count the Motor City Bowl among them, since Ohio State should be in a BCS Bowl.
Possibilities: Meineke Car Care Bowl, Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, Eagle Bank Bowl, Independence Bowl, Texas Bowl, Motor City Bowl,
Prediction: Motor City (at-large)
NORTH CAROLINA -- The Tar Heels won't be home for Christmas, but they might be very close. This is where the pecking order will come into play, with Music City, Meineke Car Care and Emerald either having to agree, or going in that order. Since Music City can go first, odds are it scoops up Clemson.
Possibilities: Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Emerald Bowl
Prediction: Meineke Car Care Bowl
VIRGINIA TECH -- The Chick-fil-A Bowl doesn't have to pick the ACC runner-up, but in this case it would make sense. LSU and South Carolina would both be good matchups.
Possibilities: Orange Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl
Prediction: Chick-fil-A Bowl
WAKE FOREST -- The Demon Deacons and Miami seem like the two most likely candidates for this inaugural bowl, and a rematch against Navy could be interesting. It would also be a no-win situation for the Deacs, who should have beaten the Middies the first time around.
Possibilities: Meineke Car Care Bowl, Emerald Bowl, Humanitarian Bowl, Eagle Bank Bowl
Prediction: Eagle Bank Bowl
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The ACC closed the regular season with a bang, not a bust. Clemson and North Carolina State both earned their bowl eligibility, and so far the league is 2-1 against the SEC with the Wake/Vandy game still in progress. (I'll check back on that one when I get back to the hotel, which won't be for a while.) Until then, here are a few thoughts from all of today's games, and what a week it was:
GEORGIA TECH 45, GEORGIA 42
This was arguably the ACC's biggest win of the season, and will be even tougher to beat in the Orange Bowl. Now, that's how you represent. On the road against a ranked SEC team. If this is what Paul Johnson did in his first year, imagine how tough the Yellow Jackets will be to beat in his third, when he's brought in his own recruits. And no doubt the win over Georgia helped win some local talent over. Even without an ACC title, Georgia Tech fans have at least nine other reasons to celebrate, the latest being the biggest.
VIRGINIA TECH 17, VIRGINIA 14
Regardless of how they did it (with defense and coaching) the Hokies deserve credit for making it to the ACC championship game again. Virginia Tech was probably the one team in the ACC that met preseason expectations, as they were picked by the media to win the division. Nobody, though, probably expected it would be this difficult. Virginia, on the other hand, ended its season with a four-game losing streak and failed to become bowl eligible for the second time in the past three years. AD Craig Littlepage stands behind his earlier statement this season that Al Groh's job is secure, regardless of how he finishes the season.
CLEMSON 31, SOUTH CAROLINA 14
Dabo Swinney hasn't had an official interview yet for the head coaching job, but his win over rival South Carolina spoke louder than anything he probably could have said anyway. The Tigers are now bowl eligible and will be an attractive team to a lot of bowls. One of the most impressive aspects of this win is that Clemson's defense outplayed South Carolina's, which was one of the best in the SEC. Swinney made a tough call firing former offensive coordinator Rob Spence, but judging by the success they've had since that move was made, it was the right one. Of course, having a healthy offensive line and the right combination there has also made a tremendous difference.
NC STATE 38, MIAMI 28
The Wolfpack are now bowl eligible, and odds are they wind up in D.C. for the first Eagle Bank Bowl. It's hard to believe NC State entered the month 2-6. The turnaround can be attributed to the coaching staff, the health of the team, and quarterback Russell Wilson. He did it again today, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. They racked up 439 yards against what was one of the better defenses in the ACC. While NC State made a run similar to the one it did last season, the program took another step forward by finishing the job. Last year, their four-game winning streak was marred by back-to-back losses.
BOSTON COLLEGE 28, MARYLAND 21
Dominique Davis proved he is a capable quarterback and an accurate passer. He's good enough to win his next game, especially if he gets another outstanding performance from the defense and Montel Harris adds another 100-yard rushing performance. When the Eagles hold opponents to under 100 yards rushing like they have their past five opponents and the offense doesn't make mistakes, it's usually a winning formula. It's also a formula that doesn't bode well for the one-dimensional Hokies.
FLORIDA 45, FLORIDA STATE 15
FSU coach Bobby Bowden said before this game it would be interesting to see how much they had closed the gap with their rivals. Maybe he'd rather not know. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the Gators this season. They've made their case as the best team in the country. FSU placekicker Graham Gano was the best offense the Noles had. It was another learning experience for Christian Ponder, who was benched in favor of Drew Weatherford.
NORTH CAROLINA 28, DUKE 20
The Tar Heels finally got what they needed from quarterback T.J. Yates, and were able to snap the two-game losing streak. Yates threw three touchdown passes, and the defense looked like it did a few weeks ago when Trimane Goddard intercepted a pass in the final minute to seal the win. Duke fans should still be happy with the job David Cutcliffe did this season as he brought the program back to respectability.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
|Billy Flutie, the Boston College backup quarterback and nephew of Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, threw for a 9-yard touchdown on a fake field goal to help Boston College to a a 28-21 victory over Maryland.|
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Not only isn't this Matt Ryan's team, it's not even Chris Crane's team anymore.
What Boston College doesn't have, though, has never mattered this season, and it didn't matter in Saturday's 28-21 win over Maryland.
Boston College won the Atlantic Division without Ryan, without a veteran running back, and with its backup quarterback. The Eagles did it with one of the nation's stingiest defenses and a group effort on the day it mattered most. For the second straight season, the Eagles will face Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game.
It's the same result, but this year is much different.
There are no Ryan-esque superstars on this Boston College roster, which is why those within the program agreed this year's trip to the ACC title game is even more gratifying than last year's.
It's also why nobody outside the Yawkey Athletics Center expected Boston College to be here.
"That's the best part of it," said coach Jeff Jagodzinski, who is in his second season. "The guys believed they could. That's the whole thing about coaching, getting your guys to believe they can do it. It doesn't matter who's on the field. They're all wearing gold helmets. We had four starters out and it didn't matter. They didn't flinch, they just kept playing.
"When they believe, and the coaches believe, you've got a chance," Jagodzinski said. "Our kids fought. We didn't have to count on anybody this year to help us get into the game. They kept earning themselves into the championship game by winning."
The Eagles closed their regular season with four straight wins. It's the second straight season for Jagodzinski with at least nine wins, as last year's team finished 11-3, the first team to win 11 games since 1940. They can reach that mark again with an ACC title and Orange Bowl win.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Alumni Stadium, there was one fan behind the BC bench holding out an orange, a symbol that once seemed highly unlikely for this undermanned offense.
Starting quarterback Chris Crane, a fifth-year senior in his first season leading the offense, broke his collarbone last week in the win at Wake Forest. He was the fourth starter the Eagles lost to injury this season, along with linebacker Brian Toal, defensive end Alex Albright and receiver Clarence Megwa. It was up to backup quarterback Dominique Davis to lead the offense to the Atlantic Division title in his first career start. He managed the offense well without turning the ball over and finished with a career-high 134 yards passing and two touchdowns.
And as usual, he got some help.
BC scored on offense. They scored on defense, and they scored on special teams. There was even a player named Flutie involved. Billy Flutie, the nephew of BC legend Doug Flutie, completed the first pass of his career -- a nine-yard touchdown on a fake field goal. It was something they had practiced all week.