Friday, November 1, 2013
ACC: November stretch run
By Heather Dinich
The biggest games on the ACC schedule have come and gone. Instead of November being the highlight of the season, which it typically is, it seems more like a formality in the ACC. October held the gems, the Florida State-Clemson and FSU-Miami games, both matchups between top-10 teams. The biggest game remaining on the schedule will be Virginia Tech’s trip to Miami on Nov. 9 for a game that will likely determine the Coastal Division winner. Even that game has lost much of its luster since the Hokies were upset at home by Duke.
What we do have to look forward to is more rivalry games. Can Clemson finally get the better of Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, or will the Tigers lose for a fifth straight time to their in-state rivals and fall out of the BCS picture? Georgia Tech will face Georgia, and Florida State still has to travel to rival Florida. The ACC enters November with a 2-2 record against the SEC, and now looks like a good time to take advantage of unranked, injury-riddled rivals. Virginia will have home-field advantage against Virginia Tech, and Boston College and Syracuse finally will meet again.
The ACC has had a great season so far, with three teams in the top 10 of the BCS standings, and has a good shot at earning two BCS bowl bids. For the ACC, November is less about marquee matchups and more about sustaining its place in the BCS standings. Here’s a look at what lies ahead for the ACC in November:
Logan Thomas and the Hokies have a month to prove they're not the team that inexplicably lost at home to Duke.
Team with most to prove: Virginia Tech -- The Hokies can still win the Coastal Division and play for the ACC title if they can beat Miami and avoid any further letdowns. Against three straight division opponents -- Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Pittsburgh -- the Hokies found a winning formula by pairing minimal mistakes on offense with an elite defense. Against Duke, they reverted to their old turnover-prone ways, and quarterback Logan Thomas struggled. The program came under scrutiny for similar performances after last year’s pedestrian 7-6 finish. Just when it looked like the Hokies were back to their winning ways, they suffered the monumental upset against Duke. Which version of Virginia Tech will we see in November?
Team with the most to lose: Florida State – There is simply no margin for error if the Seminoles are going to have a chance at playing in the national title game. FSU and Oregon will continue to jockey for the No. 2 spot, but the minute the Noles let up, their ranking will go down. Expectations are soaring for FSU right now, as the Noles will be favored to win all of their remaining games.
Three players to keep an eye on: Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston. For the Hokies, Thomas has been at the heart of the team’s offensive woes for two years now. He took another step back in the loss to Duke and will have to make better decisions to keep the Hokies in the Coastal Division race. Clemson’s Boyd entered this season intent on leaving his legacy, but his Heisman hopes slipped away with the loss to Florida State. The question now is whether he can finish his career with a win against rival South Carolina or if he’ll go oh-fer. As for Winston? Well, he’s so good you simply can’t miss a play. At 19, he’s already a leading candidate to win the Heisman.
Biggest trap game: Miami at Duke, Nov. 16 -- The Blue Devils believe they can win every remaining game on their schedule. After their historic win in Blacksburg, don’t doubt them -- especially considering the unconvincing way Miami has gone about winning its games.
Fearless November prediction: The ACC finishes .500 or better against the SEC. That’s including wins over South Carolina and Florida and a loss at Vanderbilt. The Georgia game is the toss-up, but it’s in Atlanta. The ACC hasn’t had a winning record against the SEC since 2003, but this is a good year to change that. At the very least, it should be .500 for the first time since 2008.