I know, I know, it sounds more like a Final Four match-up than a football bowl game but it is what it is. Dave Cutliff has done a great job earning the ACC COTY this season. He didn’t finish the way he would have liked but his team from that basketball school is pretty happy to still be playing this time of year. Let’s look at the match-ups.
Here’s what I said about the Blue Devils during my ACC Preview.
The general consensus is that the Duke Blue Devils are and always will be the worst team in the conference and they will struggle to win a conference game this year with a crazy cross over schedule traveling to Wake Forrest and FSU. However; head coach Dave Cutcliffe has done an admirable job trying to make it more than just a basketball school (yeah right) and returns 17 starters. They will put a better product on the field than the Maryland Terrapins’ and the BC Eagles.
I went on to say they would only win one game and they made a liar out of me by finishing 5th in the Coastal Division ahead of Virginia and ahead of Maryland and BC both overall. Lets look at this team.
Playmakers: On offense the big playmaker and the difference maker for the Blue Devils has been QB Sean Renfree. The 6’5″ 225lb senior from Notre Dame Prep in Scotsdale, AZ has been sensational this season completing 66% of his passes (260-392) for 2,755 yards with 18 touchdowns against only 8 INT’s. He has escapability but isn’t a runner, he will stand in the pocket and take it on the chin and make a play. His two favorite targets were close to both being over 1,000 yards. Jamison Crowder (1,025-8td’s) and Conner Vernon (955-7TD’s) give Renfree the help on the edge.
Defensively, the Blue Devils have relied heavily on CB Ross Cockrell, the 6’5″ 180lb junior leads the team and the ACC with 5 INT’s this season and is high on the team with 63 tackles. Picked on early in his career he has turned things around and has become a headhunter of sorts as well. The hard-hitting cornerback has made play after play down the stretch for the Blue Devils and will be important in run stopping support against the Bearcats. Read More
Bert Blathers- Also in Tuesday’s B1G Conference Call, Coach Bielema talked about how impressed he is with Ohio State’s improvement as the season has progressed. He mentioned the offensive line in particular, and said that they are playing really well at this point in the year. He also addressed speculation that his team would be satisfied after last week’s win, which put them into the Conference Championship Game for the second straight year; and said that his team would not see a let down against the Buckeyes, especially given last year’s game. Added to the fact that it’s “Senior Day”, and it’s sure to be a high intensity game.
Uniform Updates Read More
Oh, college football… How I love you!!
Well, that happened.
While a lot of people were saying that Alabama was ripe for a loss against a Texas A&M team that’s been playing really well over the past few weeks, most of this felt like lip service. You know, the kind of things that ESPN makes one person say on the Gameday set in order to appear unbiased.
And then- “Johnny Football”.
There are a lot of reasons why Alabama lost- coming off of an emotional win on the road in Death Valley, LSU’s offense showed a lot of people the issues that the Tide have in their secondary, Saban’s fear of the high speed offense is based on his knowledge of his team’s weaknesses; but the fact of the matter is that the Aggies outplayed Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, in several key areas of the game.
The Crimson Tide defensive front was stifled, for the most part, by the aTm offensive tackles. Combined with concerns about a quarterback’s mobility, the Tide were not able to mount the type of disruptive pressure that they are so used to.
Alabama’s offense made key mistakes and turnovers, and seemed out of rhythm all night long. The three turnovers didn’t help, particularly when the Tide defense couldn’t get any of their own… and the mental errors were even more egregious. On the final interception, it seems to me that the receiver on the end of the line of scrimmage did a poor job getting depth in the end zone, making it easy for defenders to cover both him and the primary target. In addition, with Bama’s defense stiffening and forcing a punt, to have a member of their punt return/block team create a neutral zone infraction for an automatic first down is an aggressive penalty, but one that is terrible to have happen in that circumstance. Again, the intensity was there for the student in question, but the lack of focus eventually cost them a final chance at victory.
But we can’t miss the point here- this game was won by Johnny Manziel’s continual ability to make plays and put the Tide defense on their heels.
After the third week in a row with this type of performance (Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State), the redshirt freshman has lifted himself into Heisman candidacy- and for good reason. Given the lack of a clear “star” this year, given Matt Barkley’s struggles, the game this weekend was his “Flutie to Phelan” moment; outstanding performance in high profile opportunity. I’ll leave the debate to others, but will certainly enjoy watching the electricity that all of these candidates provide.
Even if he doesn’t win this year, you’ve got to think that next year’s Heisman race is going to be something spectacular- Braxton Miller, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Everett Gholston, Tahj Boyd, DeAnthony Thomas… and those are just the ones I’ve got off the top of my head.
(And since I’m on the topic, I think that Marquis Lee needs to be included in this year’s debate. But that’s just me).
Does this loss end the run of SEC titles in the final year of the BCS? Well, not exactly… more on this in a bit.