Well, yes. Because the results carry even more significance now that we are in in the College Football Playoff era. Just look at the way the ACC has been dismissed as a conference. Unbeaten Florida State is ranked behind two one-loss teams in the only rankings that matter -- as much an indictment about the Seminoles’ close wins as it is about the perception of the ACC as a whole.
While it has been convenient for many to dismiss what Florida State has accomplished, it has been just as convenient to dismiss the accomplishments of No. 18 Georgia Tech, No. 22 Louisville and No. 24 Clemson. But it may be less difficult to do so if all four teams come through and all win this weekend.
The last time Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson swept their SEC rivals was in 2000. The last time they posted a winning record against them was in 2008, when Georgia Tech and Clemson came out victorious. That also happens to be the last time both teams won their SEC rivalry game.
This might be their best shot at a sweep in years. With Kentucky-Louisville now added into the mix, the Cards, Florida State and Clemson are favored to win. All three are at home; all three are the only teams ranked in the matchup. Georgia Tech is the only underdog, though the Jackets go into their game off a bye, with a four-game winning streak under their belts.
To take it one step further, the FPI game projections show:
- Florida State with a predicted 73 percent win percentage over Florida.
- Louisville with a predicted 77 percent win percentage over Kentucky.
- Clemson with a predicted 62.5 percent win percentage over South Carolina.
- Georgia with a predicted 80 percent win percentage over Georgia Tech.
“Winning would help the league a lot but it’s going to be how does the media portray it?” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “When I was here in ’08, my first year, we beat Georgia and Clemson beat South Carolina … but nobody said much about it. It was like, ‘Oh.’ Now the next year when they beat us, it was a big deal so would it help the league? Sure. Anytime we can go head to head with the SEC and win a game it helps the league.”
Johnson brings up an excellent point. Will a potential sweep be diminished in value because they are all against SEC East teams? Georgia is the only ranked SEC squad in the group. Florida and South Carolina have been disappointments; Kentucky is not bowl eligible. Georgia is the only school among the four with a winning record in SEC play.
So the East is not even close to its counterparts in the West, creating a no-win situation. If the ACC does well in these games, people may not dish out as much credit as they should. If the ACC winds up with a losing record, get ready for more finger pointing and laughter.
If we are looking a little closer at the matchups, there are two teams that cannot afford to lose: Florida State and Clemson. If Florida pulls the upset, Florida State will be out of the College Football Playoff, the worst result imaginable for a league that only has the Noles in the mix.
The stakes are high for Dabo Swinney and Clemson, too. After beating South Carolina as interim coach in 2008, he has gone 0-5. For the first time since 2009, Clemson will be the only ranked team in the matchup. Clemson has the No. 1 defense in the nation; South Carolina has the No. 87 defense in the nation. While Deshaun Watson’s status remains up in the air, the feeling is that Clemson simply cannot afford to lose this game again, not when it has so many obvious advantages.
“The last five years, we’ve had 15 turnovers and they’ve had three,” Swinney said. “That affects everything. That affects your plays per game, it affects your time of possession, it affects the way things are called, field position, on and on and on and on. That’s definitely something we have to get changed for us to have a chance to win the game. There’s no doubt about it.”
Georgia Tech also has lost five straight to Georgia, and 12 of the last 13. Last season, the Jackets blew an early 20-0 lead and lost 41-34 in double overtime. Todd Gurley scored both overtime touchdowns for the Bulldogs. He won't play Saturday.
While Georgia Tech has a Top 25 ranking and spot in the ACC championship game, a win over Georgia would only add to an already stellar season.
“The atmosphere is different about this week because it’s a must-win game,” Georgia Tech safety Jamal Golden said. “You don’t want to give them bragging rights for the next 365 days. You just have to hear it over and over again that you can’t beat them. It’s one of those games you look forward to playing.”
It’s one of those games that has to fall in the ACC win column this year.
FSU’s hangover effect
Florida State fans have been quick to point to the number of well-rested teams getting their shot at the Seminoles this season as an explanation for some of FSU’s struggles. Indeed, four opponents faced FSU the week after byes and another had an FCS foe the week before (and that doesn’t include the season opener or this week’s game against Florida). In other words, seven of FSU’s 12 opponents would have had an extra week to focus on getting ready for the Seminoles.
But in addition to what came before the FSU game, what came after is interesting, too. Here’s a rundown of how FSU’s opponents fared the week after playing the Seminoles.
Oklahoma State: FCS opponent
Clemson: Beat North Carolina 50-35
NC State: Lost to Clemson 41-0
Wake Forest: Bye week
Syracuse: Fell behind Wake 7-0 but rebounded for 30-7 win
Notre Dame: Trailed Navy 31-28 entering fourth quarter before winning 49-39
Louisville: Trailed Boston College 13-3 before winning 38-19
Virginia: Bye week
Miami: Lost to Virginia 30-13
So of Florida State's six opponents to play an FBS team the following week, all but Clemson started sluggish, and two lost outright. Is that the hangover effect of teams giving FSU their best shot and coming up empty? It’s certainly not proof, but it’s worth consideration.
Marquise the magician
Williams’ 33 touchdowns this season are the seventh-most by any player in the country, trailing only Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, Notre Dame's Everett Golson and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott among Power 5 QBs.
Williams and Prescott are the only quarterbacks in the nation with at least 2,500 passing yards, 700 rushing yards, 20 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs. In fact, in the last decade, only seven other Power 5 quarterbacks have done that: Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, James Franklin, Taylor Martinez, Brett Hundley and Johnny Manziel.
And since Williams stopped splitting reps with Mitch Trubisky at the end of September, he’s thrown 12 touchdowns, four interceptions, completed 63 percent of his throws and rushed for 10 more scores. His adjusted QBR of 78.9 is 10th-best among Power 5 quarterbacks during that span.
Ramsey’s all-purpose D
Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey had another exceptional game against Boston College, racking up eight tackles, 1.5 for a loss and a sack. Ramsey now has 68 tackles, 9.5 for a loss and 11 passes defended this year.
The 9.5 tackles for loss are tied for the third-most by a defensive back in the nation, and only USC’s Su’a Cravens also has at least 10 passes defended to go with the TFLs.
Hat tip to the kids
Four true freshmen started in the penultimate week of the regular season, and Reggie Bonnafon and John Wolford both came away with wins. But the youth movement has been rampant in the league all year.
Here’s a strange coincidence: Senior QBs have thrown 1,018 passes in the ACC this year. True freshman QBs have thrown 1,017. So, since they’ve thrown virtually the exact same amount of passes, who’s doing better?
No question the edge goes to the kids, which should certainly bode well for the future of offenses in the conference.
Changes coming in Blacksburg?
After a disastrous, 6-3 loss to Wake Forest, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer admitted the QB position would be evaluated moving forward. Here’s why: Michael Brewer completed just 15 of 28 passes for 126 yards and an interception in the loss to Wake Forest. His QBR for the game was just 6.0 — the fourth-lowest by a starting QB in the ACC this season.
Since beating North Carolina on Oct. 4, Brewer’s Adjusted QBR is 29.8, the lowest of any ACC quarterback with at least 50 pass attempts.
Of course, if changes are in store, Beamer’s position could be under review, too. The Hokies are just 17-17 against FBS teams since the start of 2012, and six of those games required overtime. In regulation, Virginia Tech is just 13-15-2, and it has just four wins by two touchdowns or more against Power 5 foes.
- Pitt’s Tyler Boyd accounted for 126 of the Panthers’ 189 receiving yards Saturday, but that’s no surprise. For the season, Boyd is responsible for 52.3 percent of Pitt’s receiving yards — by far the highest percentage for any player in the country. Next up is Alabama’s Amari Cooper, who has 43.8 percent of the Tide’s receiving yards.
- Virginia’s Quin Blanding had seven tackles and an interception in the victory over Miami, and he is second behind Duke’s David Helton in tackles in the ACC. More impressive, though: Of the top 100 tacklers in the nation this year, Blanding is the only freshman.
- Louisville’s Brandon Radcliff has had four games with more than 95 rushing yards this season, and four games with less than 10. He gained 136 yards on 17 carries Saturday.
- Duke Johnson could have set Miami’s all-time rushing record with 122 yards on the ground Saturday. Instead, he finished with just 88 — snapping a streak of 12 consecutive games with at least 90 rushing yards. He did have an additional 44 receiving yards, giving him 132 total scrimmage yards — his ninth straight game topping the century mark.
- Wake Forest was the first team since 2012 to win a game when scoring six points or fewer (BYU beat Utah State 6-3) and the Deacons are just the fifth Power 5 team in the last decade to win a game with just six points scored. UTSA is the only other team this season to win a game in which it didn’t score a touchdown.
- There were 13 field goals missed by ACC kickers in Week 13, and one more missed in an ACC game. That last one was by Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza against Louisville, which cost the Irish the game. For the season, ACC kickers were connecting at a 78.2-percent clip. In Week 13, they made just 51.9 percent of their field-goal tries.
- Defensive lineman Ron Thompson scored a rushing TD for Syracuse on Saturday — just the 11th rushing score of the year for the Orange, which rank 106th nationally in that category. But no running back has scored on the ground for Syracuse against an FBS team since Jerome Smith in last year’s bowl game.
- Clemson’s Tyshon Dye missed all of last season and the first seven games of this year with injuries. Entering Saturday, he had just five career carries. Against Georgia State, however, he ran 20 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
The Hokies probably have no interest in reliving the gory details, of course. And there are much bigger questions ahead.
The future of many coaches on Virginia Tech’s staff could ride on Friday's outcome, too.
As The Roanoke Times writes, plenty of questions are swirling around the program, chiefly surrounding offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler.
Our Travis Haney suggests changes on the Hokies’ offensive staff seem likely — meaning Frank Beamer would be on his third offensive coordinator in four years.
But the more immediate change could come at quarterback, where Michael Brewer has struggled to ignite the offense.
For the season, Brewer has the second lowest Total QBR in the ACC (ahead of only Wake Forest freshman John Wolford, who bested Brewer on Saturday), and Brenden Motley certainly seemed to provide the only minor spark for the Hokies against the Deacons.
It’s a situation to monitor, and the decision on how Tech handles its QBs could have huge ripple effects for both the Hokies and UVA.
A few more links:
- Jimbo Fisher says Florida State deserves more respect on account of its 11-0 record and two-year winning streak, writes the Orlando Sentinel.
- Florida State defensive tackle Derrick Mitchell narrowly missed being in Strozier Library when the shooting broke out, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.
- Deshaun Watson will test his injured knee in practice on Monday, writes the Post & Courier.
- Paul Chryst gets credit for keeping Pitt motivated in spite of a rocky season, writes the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
- Wake Forest’s players won the game on Saturday, but it was Dave Clawson’s will that drove the team, writes the Winston-Salem Journal.
- If Chryst and Clawson are enjoying the spoils of victory amid tough seasons, things aren’t quite so celebratory for Syracuse coach Scott Shafer, whose team lost again Saturday.
- Virginia’s seniors said goodbye to the home fans in style, writes the Daily Progress.
- The loss to Virginia has Miami fans worried again, but Al Golden insists the Hurricanes can finish the season strong, writes the Miami Herald.
There's a reason why the coaches of the College Football Playoff contenders are wound tighter than a fire hose these days.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher would rather grow arm-hair curtains than face Florida and Georgia Tech in back-to-back weeks.
Alabama's Nick Saban gets Auburn in the Iron Bowl this week and, if the Tide win, gets Missouri or Georgia in the SEC championship game. Fun.
Baylor's Art Briles has to make the short trip to Arlington for a matchup against Texas Tech, and then play Kansas State in the regular-season finale.
TCU's Gary Patterson has to travel to Austin to play the suddenly dangerous Texas Longhorns, followed by a home game against not-so-dangerous Iowa State.
Ohio State's Urban Meyer meets desperate Michigan at the Horseshoe, and then plays either Wisconsin or Minnesota in the Big Ten championship game.
Oregon's Mark Helfrich takes his team to Corvallis for the Civil War (Arizona State can tell Helfrich all about the Beavers), and then faces UCLA, Arizona or ASU in the Pac-12 championship game.
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen has to survive the Egg Bowl in Oxford, and then hope for the best (an Alabama loss to Auburn, which would mean the Bulldogs would face either Mizzou or UGA in the SEC championship game).
And UCLA's Jim Mora, who runs Saban-Meyer-Fisher intense, has to beat Stanford at Pasadena, and then Oregon to have any chance at reaching the four-team playoff.
This is when roster depth matters. When avoiding injuries matters. When talent, coaching and luck matter.
The contact between Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and an official in Saturday's Boston College game was "incidental and insignificant" and did not warrant an unsportsmanlike penalty, the ACC's coordinator of officials said.
With the score tied at 17 and 5:20 left in the third quarter, an official stood between Winston and center Cam Erving to prevent the Seminoles (No. 3 CFP, No. 1 AP) from running their next play. An official is instructed to stand over the ball to prevent the offense from snapping it until the defense has sufficient time to match the offense's substitutions. The center judge was not standing over the football, however, and Erving was already set with his hand on the ball.
Winston tried moving the official with his hand and arm before the center judge retreated to his normal position on the field.
Doug Rhoads, the ACC's coordinator of officials, said in a statement Sunday: "The center judge's positioning, which was due to the experimental year of having an eighth official, combined with the late substitution and by rule the need to allow the defense to matchup, led to contact between himself and the player. The official believed the contact was incidental and insignificant and did not rise to the level of unsportsmanlike conduct and automatic disqualification."
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and Winston said there was nothing malicious about the contact between the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and an official in the third quarter of the Seminoles' 20-17 win over Boston College on Saturday.
The gap between the Seminoles and the Crimson Tide narrowed after another close call by Florida State, which beat Boston College 20-17 on a field goal in the waning seconds.
Florida State received 37 first-place votes and 1,458 points, down six first-place votes and 18 points from last week. Alabama has 21 first-place votes 1,445 points. No. 3 Oregon received two first-place votes, one more than last week.
Can Florida Send Muschamp Out With A Win?
Final/2OT Virginia Tech 3 Wake Forest 6 Final Syracuse 7 Pittsburgh 30 Final 24 Louisville 31 Notre Dame 28 Final Boston College 17 3 Florida State 20 Final Georgia State 0 22 Clemson 28 Final Miami (FL) 13 Virginia 30