ACC Rivalry Week Recap
Six matchups on “rivalry weekend” this year involved ACC teams. Two games were ACC vs ACC, and four were ACC vs SEC. Here is a summary of how these six games went down.
Georgia 13, Georgia Tech 7
Georgia Tech fell to in-state rival Georgia in perhaps the most boring and mediocre game of the season. Both teams struggled enormously to score any points, even though they combined for 678 yards of total offense. For Georgia Tech it was another game under 200 yards rushing, something almost unheard of just a year ago. The Jackets converted a dismal 2 of 13 third downs (15.38%), and committed 3 costly turnovers. One of those turnovers was a Ricky Jeune fumble just outside of the UGA 30 yard line.
Tech struggled more than usual in the passing game as well, with Justin Thomas converting just 33% of his passes for 82 yards. On the ground Clinton Lynch had a nice game with 8 carries for 78 yards, but he was the lone bright spot. This was the second game this year that Tech failed to score a rushing touchdown (they also failed to do so against Clemson). Ultimately, their inability to move the ball quickly down the field doomed a potential fourth quarter comeback.
Clemson 37, South Carolina 32
This game surprised a lot of people who thought Clemson would blow USC out of the water. Instead, a supposedly tough Clemson defense gave up 32 points (their second most all season), including 29 in a second half comeback by the Gamecocks. The Tigers were again carried offensively by the play of Deshaun Watson who accounted for 4 total touchdowns on 279 yards passing and 114 yards rushing. Watson is continuing to showcase that he is one of the most talented players in the country.
This game should make Clemson fans somewhat nervous heading in to the ACC Championship against North Carolina. Remember South Carolina is the only team thats beaten UNC this year, and they just gave Clemson all they could handle. If the Tigers play another poor game UNC’s powerful offense could throw up a lot of points. Clemson has to tighten up and get back to the solid defense they’ve been playing all year.
Florida State 27, Florida 2
The ACC should feel pretty good about themselves after the Seminoles completely dominated the best team from the SEC East. FSU completely shut down the Florida offense, with the Gators' only 2 points coming from an unfortunate safety in the fourth quarter. It was their lowest point total all season. Offensively, the Noles played great against a Florida defense that is ranked 5th in the country in both total defense and scoring defense. FSU will certainly be a scary matchup for whoever they will play in a bowl game.
Dalvin Cook also had a fantastic showing in his last regular season game, rushing for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns on 26 carries. It was exactly the kind of game he needed to go out on to impress the Heisman voters. Either way, Florida State has a bright future with him on the field.
North Carolina 45, NC State 34
The two teams from North Carolina put together a fantastic game on Saturday, with UNC jumping out to a huge 35-7 lead after the first quarter and NC State slowly bringing it back to just an 11 point loss. UNC had a couple second half fumbles that didn’t help, as they played fairly sloppy for the final 30 minutes. Still, the Tar Heels scored a touchdown on their first five drives of the game, an impressive number no matter the opponent.
Elijah Hood accounted for most of UNC’s production with 21 carries for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Hood has proven to be a fantastic back for the Heels, and a great compliment to Marquise Williams.
For UNC, many records were set after this game. It was their first time going 8-0 in ACC play. It was also the first time they’ve beaten the other three North Carolina ACC teams in the same season since 2004. This game should give them tons of confidence heading into the Championship game against Clemson.
Louisville 38, Kentucky 24
Louisville finished off their season on a high note, solidly beating SEC rival Kentucky. The Cardinal's rushing attack came up huge in this game, as Lamar Jackson and Brandon Radcliff ran for two scores each and combined for 248 total yards. All together, the team rushed for 314 yards. Louisville fell behind 24-7 by halftime but managed to score 31 unanswered points in the second half to seal the comeback victory.
It was the fifth straight victory for Louisville over Kentucky and tied the overall series at 14 apiece. The Cardinals finished the regular season 7-2 after dropping their first three games, a good sign for a team that had high hopes for success coming into this season.
Virginia Tech 23, Virginia 20
In another great fourth quarterback comeback, Virginia Tech gave retiring coach Frank Beamer one last Commonwealth Cup victory. Down 20-13 at the start of the fourth, the Hokies scored a touchdown and a field goal on their final two possessions and forced a punt and an interception on the Cavaliers’ final two tries.
Both offenses looked pretty sluggish in this game, combining for only 12 first half points. Michael Brewer had an average game with 237 yards passing and two touchdowns, but he was by far the best offensive player on the field.
Overall, it was a very solid day of ACC rivalries. In terms of final results, there weren’t any surprises, but there were plenty of great games. The ACC went 3-1 against the SEC in rivalry games, which is absolutely something to be proud of. Yes they were teams from the East division, but the SEC is the SEC. It was a strong finish for a conference that had their high expectations dashed early on in the season. Now, everyone is looking forward to a great championship game between Clemson and North Carolina to wrap up the pre-bowl season.