Scattershooting around the ACC, while wondering what Virginia’s defense can do to avoid a disastrous finish …
Presently, the Cavaliers defense has surrendered 338 points in 10 games, which unless they can tighten things up, potentially could be the worst in that category since 1975 when UVa went 1-10 in Sonny Randle’s final season. That year, the Cavaliers gave up 428 points (38.9 ppg), the most in post-World War II UVa football.
The ’75 Wahoo defense gave up 58 touchdowns, also a post-WWII era record. The present UVa defense has given up 44 (and, yes, we know the ’75 team played 11 games compared to present day’s 12).
This year’s ‘D’ is giving up 33.8 per game, about five points below the ’75 average, with two games to play against Miami and Virginia Tech. UVa is tied for 98th out of 123 FBS teams in scoring defense.
That ’75 squad lost its last nine games and gave up 60 points or more in three of those nine losses. This year’s defense has given up 59 twice to Top 10 teams Oregon and Clemson.
What has hurt Virginia the most, other than injuries to key personnel, is giving up big plays, by far the most of any team in the ACC.
Help on the way
Asked during Wednesday’s ACC Coaches teleconference about whether it has been difficult keeping his committed recruiting class together, Virginia coach Mike London reaffirmed what he said in my column last Sunday.
“Thus far, everything’s been very positive for us in terms of the young men who have said yes,” London said. “they’ve said yes because they feel that they can be the difference and their talent is the type of talent that speaks to their opportunities to help this football team. That’s been positive…it’s been very positive even as we speak to 2015.”
Coastal up for grabs
If Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson needs any motivation to get his Yellow Jackets up for tonight’s game at Clemson, he can point to an opportunity to win the ACC’s Coastal Division and play in the league championship for a second straight year.
Georgia Tech did so in 2012 by default when Miami declared itself ineligible to play for the title (UNC was also ineligible due to NCAA sanctions).
“I think our guys will be motivated,” Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “It’s a rivalry game. It’s a national game on ESPN. I think [Clemson] has a great team and that’s a far bigger motivating factor.”
Johnson did acknowledge that should Tech win tonight, his Jackets will be finished with ACC play with a 6-2 record and there’s no other team in the Coastal with less than two losses, so should that hold up, the Jackets can do no worse than tie.
Virginia Tech is 4-2 (Maryland and UVa left to play), while Duke is 3-2 (Miami, Wake, UNC left), and Miami is 3-2 (Duke, UVa, and Pitt remaining).
The Hokies have beaten both Miami and Georgia Tech and lost to Duke.
How to turn it around
At one point, North Carolina was 1-5 but has now won three in a row heading to Pitt. The Tar Heels, who have Old Dominion and Duke remaining after Pitt, need two wins to become bowl eligible.
How did UNC turn it around?
“We have a very sound philosophy,” said Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora. “When things aren’t going well, what you do is you don’t just make changes. That’s what everybody on the outside wants, is that you need to do this, you need to do that. And all we did was stay the course. We kept doing the same things. We kept the kids believing.”
It hasn’t hurt that the Heels haven’t given up many big plays during the winning streak, and when its defense has, it usually holds opponents to field goals.
Quote of the week
Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst was put on the spot during Wednesday’s teleconference when asked about video showing off his rhythm (and we use that term loosely) and dance moves that he exhibited in celebrating the Panthers' upset over Notre Dame last week.
“The locker rooms used to be sacred,” Chryst said, joking attempting to change the subject.
“They’re not anymore,” a reporter responded.
“No, they’re not, and shame on me for being so naïve … but we’re taking care of measures to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Chryst said of the security leak.
“Okay, now that I’m done picking you … in all seriousness,” the reporter said.
“I refuse to look at [the video] by the way,” Chryst said. “My kids looked at it and said, ‘Thanks a lot, Dad.’”
Stat of the week
Perhaps he’s the most underrated player in the ACC (not by coaches, but by fans and media). Boston College senior running back Andre Williams leads the nation in rushing yards per game (163.4) and total rushing yards (1,471).
Williams put up 295 rushing yards against New Mexico State last week. Perhaps Virginia should consider scheduling those guys.
The BC back has a chance to eclipse two ACC records held by legendary Virginia tailback Thomas Jones, who holds marks for the highest single-season rushing average per game (163.5), and most yards rushing in a season (1,798), both established in 1999. There could be an asterisk attached though because Jones did it in 11 games.
So, what does Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher tell to his team about keeping focused now that the Seminoles are potentially in the mix for a spot in the national championship game?
“Remember why you’re in this position,” Fisher said was his message. “You’re in this position because you did this, this, and this. There’s nothing magical about this. Stay in the moment and don’t worry about next week.”
Short yardage …
…Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said that even though QB Tanner Price threw six interceptions against Florida State last week, he plans to stick with Price as the Deacons’ starter. …Six ACC teams are already bowl eligible and four more have an opportunity to become eligible this weekend: Boston College, Pitt, Syracuse and Maryland. …While Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas has his detractors, particularly for his passing skills, the senior has moved to No. 1 on Tech’s all-time TD passes list with 50 and over the last two games, he has thrown for a combined 757 yards. …By the way, Wake’s Grobe said in last week’s Scattershooting that it was the best FSU team he’s seen in his 13 years in the league and after playing the Seminoles, he’s further convinced: “I think from top to bottom, if you look at the offense and defense, this is the most solid Florida State team we’ve played in the 13 years I’ve played them.” …UVa coach Mike London said that while he will give backup QB Greyson Lambert more snaps with the first team, he’s not interested in making wholesale changes with two games remaining, which sounds like to us that he’s committed to starter David Watford the rest of the way.
Last week: 6-2. Upset Special (Syracuse over Maryland, 1-0). Overall to date: 84-20. Tonight: Clemson 33, Georgia Tech 20. Saturday: Boston College 37, N.C. State 21; Miami 27, Duke 23; Florida State 44, Syracuse 17; Virginia Tech 36, Maryland 10; North Carolina 30, Pitt 27; Louisville 44, Houston 37.
Hootie’s Power Rankings
1. Florida State, 9-0 (1). Seminoles finish regular season vs. Syracuse, Idaho and Florida. Can that lineup keep them No. 2 in BCS?
2. Clemson, 8-1 (2). Tigers had an extra week to get ready for Georgia Tech’s option tonight.
3. Duke, 7-2 (4). Blue Devils have a chance to make a huge statement at home against the Hurricanes on Saturday. Can they do it?
4. Virginia Tech, 7-3 (6). Lose to Duke, lose to BC, beat Miami. Will the real Hokies please stand up?
5. Miami, 7-2 (3). Are the Hurricanes in trouble without Duke Johnson?
6. North Carolina, 4-5 (7). Tar Heels have won three in a row. A win over Pitt would be big.
7. Boston College, 5-4 (5). Eagles should have no trouble steamrolling N.C. State to become bowl eligible.
8. Georgia Tech, 6-3 (8). With Clemson tonight and Georgia at end of the month, Jackets are thankful for Alabama A&M in between.
9. Pittsburgh, 5-4 (11). Panthers showed some life in upsetting Notre Dame last week. Can they keep it up?
10. Syracuse, 5-4 (9). Upset Terps last week. The reward? A trip to Tallahassee. Enjoy!
11. Wake Forest, 4-6 (10). Deacons offense not the same without best threat Michael Campanaro.
12. Maryland, 5-4 (12). We said weeks ago Terps were worst 5-1 team in America. Nothing has changed our mind.
13. Virginia, 2-8 (13). There’s really nothing else to say, is there?
14. N.C. State, 3-4 (14). Ditto (see above).