| Florida St
NC State |
2007 ACC Season
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.