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2007 ACC Lookbacks/Recaps
Boston College QB Matt Ryan
Boston College QB Matt Ryan
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 14, 2008


Taking a look back at every ACC team's 2007 season.

2007 ACC Lookbacks/Recaps

- 2008 ACC Lookaheads
Atlantic
Boston Coll | ClemsonFlorida St | Maryland | NC State | Wake Forest

Coastal Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami | North Carolina | Virginia | Virginia Tech

2007 ACC Season
Atlantic Boston Coll | ClemsonFlorida St | Maryland | NC State | Wake Forest
Coastal Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami | North Carolina | Virginia | Virginia Tech

Atlantic Division
Boston College
Recap: First-year head coach Jeff Jagodzinski inherited a talented team that he helped guide to 11 wins for the first time since 1940, and a nation’s-best eighth bowl victory in-a-row.  The fact that the finale was the Champs Sports Bowl, and not the Orange Bowl, was a disappointment for the Eagles, who started 8-0 and lost to Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game.  The season featured the Heisman run of Matt Ryan, the best quarterback since Doug Flutie to play in the Heights, and a player that earned a reputation for excelling late in games.          

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Matt Ryan

Defensive Player of the Year:
S Jamie Silva

Biggest Surprise: The play of the defense.  Even without LB Brian Toal and DT B.J. Raji for the entire season, the Eagle defense was the backbone of a program that often had trouble putting points on the board.  Boston College finished second nationally in run defense and 19th in total defense, despite beginning the season without any true defensive stars.   

Biggest Disappointment: Losing at home to 5-3 Florida State on Nov. 3.  In one of the biggest games in school history, No. 2 Boston College flamed out in front of the nation, managing just one touchdown through three quarters, and allowing a Geno Hayes pick six to end its comeback hopes with a minute left.

Looking Ahead:
As a caretaker, Jagodzinski did a fine job, but what happens after Ryan and a slew of other key seniors graduate?  We’re going to find out next season, the staff’s first really big challenge at Boston College.  Getting back Toal from injury and Raji from suspension will provide a big lift to a defense that’ll carry the program in the early going.

Clemson
Recap: Clemson came tantalizingly close to having that long-awaited breakthrough season under Tommy Bowden, but couldn’t close the deal, a familiar result for the school.  The Tigers appeared to be in the Atlantic Division driver’s seat at the end of the season before losing a heartbreaker to Boston College in Death Valley, 20-17.  They went on to win nine games, beating rival South Carolina and losing to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, while finding a gem at quarterback in junior Cullen Harper.

Offensive Player of the Year:
QB Cullen Harper

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Phillip Merling

Biggest Surprise: Harper.  A career backup, Harper looked vulnerable to mega-recruit Willy Korn before the season began.  He won the job in August, however, and then padlocked it during the season, earning a spot on the All-ACC second team by throwing 27 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.

Biggest Disappointment: The devastating Nov. 17 loss to Boston College.  Clemson was at home and on fire heading into this winner-take-all game for the Atlantic Division, but fumbled opportunities to win the game, eventually caving in to QB Matt Ryan’s late-game heroics.

Looking Ahead:
Yeah, it’s becoming a tired phrase around Death Valley, but Clemson does have enough returning talent to finally win that first ACC championship since 1991.  With the rushing tandem of James Davis, who chose to come back to school at the last moment, and C.J. Spiller, the ground game should be devastating.

Florida State
Recap: All of those offseason coaching changes made by Bobby Bowden did little to ignite Florida State, which lost six games for a second straight year, and struggled to excel in Jimbo Fisher’s offense.  The Seminoles opened with a loss to Clemson, closed with an academic scandal that robbed the team of two dozen players for the Music City Bowl, and was out of contention in the ACC by mid-October.  The highlights of the season were wins over Alabama in September and an upset of Boston College in November that ended the Eagles national title dreams.

Offensive Player of the Year:
WR Preston Parker

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Geno Hayes

Biggest Surprise: Parker.  One of the few bright spots on offense, Parker came out of relative obscurity to lead the team in receptions, shift seamlessly to running back when Antone Smith went down, and provide a threat on returns.  Just a sophomore in 2007, he’ll play a huge role in the offense in 2008. 

Biggest Disappointment: The offense.  Fisher wasn’t going to be a miracle worker in his first year, but much more was expected from a unit that’s underachieved the past few seasons.  The ‘Noles were never able to get the running game cranking, scoring fewer than 30 points in all but the visit from UAB.

Looking Ahead:
Hey, it’s Florida State, so no one would be floored if next year was the season that the program finally gets back to double-digit wins for the first time since 2003.  Mickey Andrews’ defense will be fine, but to get over the hump, the Noles need an offensive wake-up call and a breakthrough final year from QB Drew Weatherford.

Maryland
Recap: Maryland appeared to have the talent and athleticism of an ACC sleeper, but that was before injuries and suspensions ravaged the offensive line and quarterback position.  The schizophrenic Terps never fully recovered, beating two top 10 teams for the first time ever, yet failing to finish the season above the .500 mark.  While competitive in most games, Maryland lacked the bite on offense and ability to close out games to ever go on an extended run or elevate beyond ordinary.

Offensive Player of the Year:
RB Keon Lattimore

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Erin Henderson

Biggest Surprise: Not only did Maryland shock No. 10 Rutgers on Sept. 29, but they did it with backup QB Chris Turner taking most of the snaps.  Terrapin backs Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball both outshined Heisman contender Ray Rice in a 34-24 upset that brought some brief national notoriety to the program.     

Biggest Disappointment: Maybe the season would have taken a slightly different course had the Terrapins not choked to Wake Forest the week before the big win at Rutgers.  Maryland held a commanding 24-3 lead late in the third quarter, but Alphonso Smith’s 100-yard interception return sparked a rally that ended with the Deacons celebrating a stunning overtime victory.

Looking Ahead: The Terrapins have been stuck in neutral for the past four seasons, losing nearly as many games as they’ve won.  If head coach Ralph Friedgen is going to change that trend, he needs more from the quarterbacks, who produced just nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in 2007.  Getting ex-Florida Gator Josh Portis off academic suspension would be a nice starting point.           

North Carolina State
Recap: The grim news was that the Wolfpack opened the season 1-5, and closed it with lopsided losses to Wake Forest and Maryland with bowl eligibility at stake.  The good news was that the program battled back from the anemic start and a mess of injuries to carve out a four-game winning streak that changed the climate around Raleigh in head coach Tom O’Brien’s debut on the sidelines.  The need to elevate the talent level at NC State is no more pronounced than at quarterback, where Daniel Evans, Harrison Beck, and Justin Burke combined to throw 23 interceptions and just 14 touchdown passes.     

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Jamelle Eugene

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Willie Young

Biggest Surprise: Upsetting No. 21 Virginia, 29-24, on Oct. 27.  Considering the state of both schools at the time, knocking off the 7-1 Cavaliers was completely unexpected.  Evans had a career day, throwing for 347 yards and three scores, putting the Wolfpack in the improbable position of contending for a bowl invitation in November.   

Biggest Disappointment: Getting bombed, 37-0, at home by Maryland in the regular season finale.  In a winner-take-all bowl elimination game with the Terps, the Wolfpack reverted back to their early season form, never contending and failing to score in a game for the first time since 1995.      

Looking Ahead: It took time for O’Brien to turn things around at Boston College, so fans should be patient with his blueprint for success at NC State.  There’ll be no shortage of quality backs to power the coach’s running attack, with Eugene being joined by Toney Baker and Andre Brown, both of whom missed big chunks of the 2007 season with injuries.

Wake Forest
Recap:
Those expecting Wake Forest to disappear after its magical 2006 season were off the mark, as the program won nine games, capping its best two-year record in school history.  Using the same formula that led to an ACC title a year ago, sound defense and positive turnover margin, the Deacons rebounded from an 0-2 start to finish on a 9-2 tear that included a Meineke Car Care Bowl win over Connecticut.  Wake made an admirable push in the Atlantic Division, but was never able to overcome an opening day loss to Boston College, the eventual divisional champ.

Offensive Player of the Year:
WR Kenneth Moore

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Aaron Curry

Biggest Surprise: Wake Forest embarrassed Florida State, 30-0, in Tallahassee last season, so the ‘Noles would get revenge this year, right?  Wrong.  On national TV, the Deacons showed America they were no one-hit wonder, scoring 17 unanswered points in another statement win over the Seminoles.   

Biggest Disappointment: In Week 2, the Deacons outplayed a Nebraska team that was looking ahead to USC, yet fell short in a heartbreaker, 20-17.  Wake Forest had a ton of chances to pull the game out, but was hampered by the absence of starting QB Riley Skinner, who was sidelined with an injury.      

Looking Ahead: The return of head coach Jim Grobe and emergence of freshman back Josh Adams mean Wake Forest should be right back in the ACC title hunt in 2008.  Developing more depths on both lines will be a top priority for the coaching staff in the spring.

Coastal Division
Duke
Recap: In Week 3, the Blue Devils snapped a 22-game losing streak at the expense of Northwestern, but that brief bout of jubilation wasn’t enough to propel them to another victory.  Or save head coach Ted Roof’s job.  Oh, Duke often came close, nearly upsetting Virginia, Navy, Miami, Wake Forest, and North Carolina, yet showed an uncanny knack for coming up short.  Changing that culture of losing, which has persisted for nearly a generation, now belongs to David Cutcliffe, who was hired away from Tennessee to lead the program.

Offensive Player of the Year:
QB Thaddeus Lewis

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Vince Oghobaase

Biggest Surprise: The win at Northwestern on Sept. 15.  When you’re Duke, and you haven’t won a game in two full years, any victory qualifies as a shocker.  Fueled by a big second quarter and three Lewis touchdown passes, the Blue Devils never trailed, and, for a change, held on for the win when the Wildcats rallied in the fourth quarter.    

Biggest Disappointment: There were so many near misses throughout the year, but the Sept. 22 loss to Navy may have been the most painful.  On a day when the Lewis-to-Eron Riley connection was otherworldly, the Duke D couldn’t protect an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead, eventually losing in overtime, 46-43.  Had things ended differently, it was the kind of game that might have been a springboard to a third or fourth victory.

Looking Ahead: Obviously, Cutcliffe has his hands full turning this vessel around.  However, he does inherit a lot of returning regulars, and is no stranger to the sidelines or challenging jobs.  If nothing else, the returns of their top passer, rusher, and receiver means Duke should be fun on offense under Cutcliffe’s guidance.

Georgia Tech
Recap: The Yellow Jackets’ 11th consecutive bowl invitation, a loss in the Humanitarian Bowl, was overshadowed by a 1-6 record versus other bowl-eligible programs and a seventh straight season of at least five losses.  The rampant mediocrity and inability to solve rival Georgia marked the end of the Chan Gailey era in Atlanta after six uninspired seasons.  Tech made a brief cameo in the Top 25 with routs of Notre Dame and Samford, but struggled all year with an offense that had no passing game to complement RB Tashard Choice.

Offensive Player of the Year:
RB Tashard Choice

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Philip Wheeler

Biggest Surprise: Of course, it became less impressive as the season progressed, but when Tech wrecked Notre Dame, 33-3, on opening night, it raised more than a few eyebrows.  The Yellow Jackets handed the Irish its worst season-opening loss, forcing three fumbles and getting 196 yards and two touchdowns from Choice.

Biggest Disappointment: QB Taylor Bennett.  Bennett’s performance in last year’s Gator Bowl ended up looking like a giant tease.  The junior was erratic all season, managing just seven touchdown passes on 327 pass attempts, production that made some Tech fans pine for the days of Reggie Ball.

Looking Ahead: Tech’s quest to get to the next level has prompted the program to hire Paul Johnson, who was wildly successful in stints with Georgia Southern and Navy.  Expect plenty of roster upheaval from a coach that has leaned heavily in the past on an option offense


Miami
Recap: On paper, the Hurricanes appeared more than capable of winning eight or nine games, but on grass, they managed just five in Randy Shannon’s first season, resulting in the program’s worst record since 1977.  At 4-1 Miami looked to be on solid footing before completely collapsing in the second half of the year, including a 48-0 loss to Virginia in its Orange Bowl swan song.  Although the defense was a year-long disappointment, there were even bigger concerns on an offense that’s still pining for a reliable quarterback, and finished next-to-last in the ACC in scoring and total offense.           

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Graig Cooper

Defensive Player of the Year: S Kenny Phillips

Biggest Surprise: Reeling from back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Georgia Tech, Miami stepped up at rival Florida State on Oct. 20 for a 37-29 victory.  The ‘Canes got a Kirby Freeman-to-Dedrick Epps touchdown pass and a Colin McCarthy fumble return for a score in the final 75 seconds, snapping an ugly five-game road losing streak. 

Biggest Disappointment: The defense.  With S Kenny Phillips and DE Calais Campbell acting as the cornerstones of a veteran unit, the defense figured to be a mainstay of this year’s Hurricanes.  Uh-uh.  They allowed 312 points, more than any ‘Cane team since 1984, coming apart at the seams in losses to Oklahoma, Virginia, and Virginia Tech.  

Looking Ahead: Even after going 7-6 a year ago, Miami actually regressed in 2007, needing Duke to avoid the ACC cellar.  If the rebuilding timetable is to be shortened, the ‘Canes desperately need an offensive firebrand, say freshman QB Robert Marve, to step forward in 2008. 

North Carolina
Recap: Despite winning only four games, new head coach Butch Davis laid the foundation for the future in Chapel Hill, filling his two-deep with a number of freshmen and sophomores that’ll benefit from this year’s hands-on experience.  Save for games at South Florida and Wake Forest, the Heels were competitive every Saturday, picking up building-block wins over Miami and Maryland along the way.  Sensing that far better days lie ahead at Carolina, Davis remained committed to the program, even after other schools showed interest in his services in December.     

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Hakeem Nicks

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Durell Mapp

Biggest Surprise: The Oct. 6 upset of once-beaten Miami.  The Heels jumped all over the ‘Canes, holding on for a 33-27 win, and handing Davis his first signature win versus his former employer.  It was the type of victory that the neophyte Carolina program will point to when it eventually makes it back to the postseason.

Biggest Disappointment: Losing to NC State on Nov. 10.  Although the Tar Heels probably grew numb to close defeats by the final month of the season, this one really stung.  North Carolina blew a fourth quarter lead, rallied back down the field, but stalled on the Wolfpack 7-yard line with a few ticks left on the clock.

Looking Ahead: Don’t get bogged down solely by wins and losses when evaluating North Carolina’s progress as a program.  Davis is back in his element, rebuilding a sleeping giant with budding talents on both sides of the ball, such as QB T.J. Yates, DT Marvin Austin, and S Deunta Williams.  If Yates continues to develop and the Heels learn to win the close ones, they’ll be competing for more than just moral victories next November.     


Virginia
Recap:
The Cardiac Cavs unexpectedly manufactured nine victories, winning an NCAA-record five games by two points or fewer, and nearly copping the ACC Coastal Division.  With no stars beyond DE Chris Long and limited resources on offense, Virginia persevered behind the play of the defense and special teams, and that knack for pulling out close games.  Considering the Cavaliers began the season with a 23-3 loss at Wyoming, head coach Al Groh and his staff did a remarkable job of guiding this group to the Gator Bowl.             

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Mikell Simpson

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Chris Long

Biggest Surprise: Much of the season was a surprise, but none more than on Nov. 10, when Virginia destroyed Miami, 48-0, the ‘Canes’ worst home loss since 1944.  The fact that the city was giving a celebratory farewell to the Orange Bowl made the final score even more incredible.   

Biggest Disappointment: The Cavaliers were on the brink of capping their amazing 2007 campaign with a New Year’s Day bowl win before the bottom fell out against Texas Tech.  Presumably safe at 28-14 late in the fourth quarter, Virginia uncharacteristically yielded 17 points in the final four minutes for a stunning 31-28 defeat. 

Looking Ahead: Even without Long, the Cavaliers should again be formidable on defense in 2008.  The offense, however, is a different story.  While it’ll help to get RB Cedric Peerman and WR Kevin Ogletree back from injuries, Virginia needs to determine if Jameel Sewell is truly a quarterback it can build around the next two seasons. 

Virginia Tech
Recap: On and away from the field, Virginia Tech endured a rollercoaster ride that began with an emotional tribute to the victims of the April 16 campus massacre and ended with a second ACC crown in four years.  Using a familiar formula of great defense and special teams, the Hokies battled back from a lopsided Week 2 loss to LSU to go 10-1 before getting dumped by Kansas in the Orange Bowl.  It took awhile for the offense, particularly the line, to mesh, but when freshman QB Tyrod Taylor began doing his Michael Vick impression on the field, Tech became much tougher to defend on the boundaries.    

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Branden Ore

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Xavier Adibi

Biggest Surprise: QB Sean Glennon.  Although he may never be the next coming of Jim Druckenmiller in Blacksburg, Glennon developed into a steady game manager in the second half of the season.  For a stretch of eight games from Sept. 15 to Nov. 24, he rarely misfired, connecting on the intermediate routes and going well over 100 straight passes without an interception.    

Biggest Disappointment: Losing to Kansas in the Orange Bowl.  Tech entered the game as one of country’s hottest teams, but suffered a fifth loss in its last seven bowl games, throwing three crucial interceptions that led to 17 Jayhawk points.           

Looking Ahead: Although reinforcements will be needed on defense, at Virginia Tech, rebuilding is not in the lexicon.  Will a two-quarterback system be used again in 2008, or will Taylor or Glennon earn the majority of the snaps?  Stay tuned in the spring.