So in a year during which the conference was derided for its mediocrity, the ACC wound up getting its first ever double invite to the BCS. All eyes will be on the performance of Virginia Tech and Clemson in the coming days, and it’s in the best interests of the conference to win both of these games, handily if possible. Given that one of the teams involved is the team to which I pledge my fan allegiance while another one is a hated rival school from the Big East, I am almost certainly the worst person to be doing this analysis. Michigan fans, I apologize in advance. West Virginia fans, I’d apologize, but I know you can’t read this anyhow.
Allstate Sugar Bowl, January 3, 2011:
#11 Virginia Tech vs. #13 Michigan
Breakdown: Look, I’m not saying that Virginia Tech deserved to be in this game. Please don’t get me wrong, they almost certainly didn’t. But while the fuss raised by certain sportswriters (Looking at you, Forde) may be justified, I’m shocked that no one is complaining about Michigan’s presence in this game. At least Virginia Tech was in their conference championship game. Heck, if you want to split hairs, Virginia Tech’s losses both came to the conference champion, 1 team that figured out a way to (badly) beat the Hokies. Michigan didn’t play their conference champion. I’m just throwing that out there.
Both teams use a strong ground game, though Virginia Tech has a traditional attack using David Wilson at running back, while Michigan uses their quick and agile quarterback Denard Robinson. Neither team is exactly intimidating through the air, ranking 66th (Tech) and 90th (Michigan) in passing yardages. The teams are 8th and 9th in scoring defense, and they actually look pretty dang similar on paper. All told, this should be a good game.
Pick: Virginia Tech’s got some fast corners and good linebackers who should be able to contain (not stop, but at least slow down) Robinson. If the Hokies can force him to throw, the game will be in the bag for Tech. The wildcard on the other side of the ball is Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech’s QB who is a very large man, but who is also only a sophomore. He’s been good in some games this year, he’s been bad in others, and he’s got to be sharp because Michigan will score with Robinson, and Tech has to keep pace. Either way, this game should be fun and (hopefully) better than the bloodbaths both teams suffered last season.
Discover Orange Bowl, January 4, 2011:
#15 Clemson vs. #23 West Virginia
Breakdown: The Big East champion is at least ranked this year, which is fairly remarkable since it seemed no one actually wanted to win that conference this season. West Virginia is actually the perfect representative for the Big East: undefeated against miserable nonconference foes, took a crushing loss to the good nonconference opponent, and performed relatively adequately in the conference. Clemson, on the other hand, had an excellent un-Clemson-like start, and then they turned back into Clemson in November. After smashing Virginia Tech in the title game, Clemson looks to end the season on a high note. There’s not much more to add.
Pick: Clemson. The ACC isn’t exactly great competition, but at least it ain’t the Big East. The two teams are virtually identical in the points for/points against categories, but Clemson put together those stats against superior competition. WVU’s only saving grace is this: they have the #7 pass attack in the nation and Clemson’s pass defense is 39th. Frankly, I don’t think it’s enough.
So there you have it. After my disastrously bad January 2nd picks, I probably should have listened to my gut and then done the opposite of what my gut said. Even so, the coming days are a real make or break time for the ACC’s football reputation. Should be a good time.