Giglio: ACC Week 8 review ... in Yellow Pad form
Upsets in college football typically go a certain way.
When a 24-point underdog beats the No. 10 team in the country on the road, there are turnovers or a special-teams mistake or a defensive touchdown and maybe a controversial call for good measure.
What’s wild about Virginia’s 31-27 win at North Carolina on Saturday is that there wasn’t any of the usual hallmarks of this type of upset.
There was nothing fluky about the way Virginia beat UNC. The Cavaliers, who entered at 1-5 under 2nd-year coach Tony Elliott, outplayed the Tar Heels for the program’s first road win over a top-10 team.
The Wahoos just beat the Heels, and it actually should have been worse. UVa fumbled the ball through UNC’s end zone once and threw an interception in the Tar Heels’ end zone on another possession.
UVa ran for a season-high 228 yards and got 3 touchdowns from inspirational running back Mike Hollins.
“On the critical plays, they made the plays and we didn’t,” UNC coach Mack Brown said after the game.
For Elliott, who was 1-8 in first 9 ACC games, it was more than just a sigh of relief. It was a reward for a team that has been through so much in the past 11 months.
The close calls on the field this season (3-point losses to NC State and Boston College) are nothing compared to the death of 3 players last November in a campus shooting. Hollins was able to survive the tragic gun attack and return to the field.
“I don’t believe there’s another program, based off of what we’ve been through over the last year, that deserves to win more than we do,” Elliott said. “However, it’s not about what you deserve. It’s about what you go out and you earn.”
Hollins’ 1-yard score with 3:56 left in the 3rd quarter, after UNC had pulled ahead 24-14, might have been the most important part of the game. Props to the UVa defense for keeping the Tar Heels from any late-game magic.
While UVa earned the win, UNC is left to wonder “What if?” Just last week, the world was UNC’s oyster. The “Sleeping Giant” was awake.
While a path to the College Football Playoff was realistic, Brown was on upset alert. Brown called it “poison cheese,” imploring his players during the week not to eat it.
“We ate it,” Brown said. “I worried about all of this. I worried all week, that’s why I talked about it so much.”
UNC had chance after chance to put UVa away but never could. It was another head-scratching loss for Brown and the Tar Heels.
Unfortunately for Brown, losses like this haven’t been a fluke. The Tar Heels lost to Georgia Tech last year at home as a 21.5-point favorite. UNC is just 6-5 straight up as a double-digit favorite in ACC games since the start of the 2020 season.
It’s nearly as notable that UNC has played that many ACC games (11) as a double-digit favorite. Only Clemson (18) has had more. UNC’s .545 win percentage in such games is by far the worst in the league.
The pattern under Brown, since he returned in 2019, has been to overhype and under deliver. Brown’s charm as a recruiter and press-conference salesman is undeniable but there’s little way around excusing the head coach for these types of losses, let alone 5 of them in less than 4 seasons.
Where UNC goes from here, who knows? Brown’s bluster and the gaudy recruiting stars feel like empty promises for a program that hasn’t won an ACC title since 1980.
“I’m not going to let this ruin what we’ve got going,” Brown said. “We’ve got a really good team that didn’t play very well tonight.”
Fair enough, the Heels picked a bad time to have a bad night. They could still play their way to the ACC Championship Game, as they did last year.
But opportunities like this — to be a real player nationally — only come around so often, especially for teams in the Triangle.
Elliott and Virginia will look back at this game as a reward. Brown and UNC will look back and only see regret.
Florida State was down 20-17 to Duke near the end of the third quarter and the Blue Devils were looking to add more. Duke had the ball, 2nd-and-6, at FSU’s 7-yard line.
FSU’s defense held Jordan Waters to 3 yards on the next 2 plays. On 4th down, Duke quarterback Henry Belin couldn’t connect with receiver Jalen Calhoun in the back of the end zone.
As the Seminoles have done all season, they took control of the game in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jordan Travis led a 14-play, 96-yard drive to give FSU the lead for good.
Travis ran 4 times on the game-changing drive, for 40 yards, including the final 2 for the touchdown. The 6th-year quarterback finished with 268 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 62 rushing yards and a score.
“When it got tight, when it got tough — he played his best,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said of his resilient quarterback.
The same can be said of the Noles as a whole. They’ve outscored their opponents 80-23 in the fourth quarter, That’s the most points by an ACC team this season and the biggest differential.
They put Duke away on Saturday with 3 touchdowns in the final quarter without giving up a point. “Finish” isn’t just a buzz word, Norvell said, for offseason workouts.
“That’s what we want to be known for,” the 4th-year coach said.
With a 5-0 league mark, the Noles find themselves in the driver’s seat in the ACC race and with their sights on a return to the CFP for the first time since 2014.
Their schedule was front-loaded with LSU and Clemson in September. They will have to avoid a Pitt landmine (Nov. 4) and take care of Miami at home (Nov. 11), but the prospects look very bright for the Noles.
Is Miami back?
Hats off to the Hurricanes, who ended a wicked 4-game losing streak to Clemson with a 28-20 overtime win on Saturday night.
The Canes finally found a way to compete with and topple the Tigers. In the previous 4 matchups (from 2015 through 2022), Clemson had won by a total of 148 points.
That Miami found a way with a backup quarterback? Impressive.
Maybe the bigger question is when will Clemson be back? The Tigers have gone 5-6 in their last 11 games against Power 5 opponents. That’s startling when you consider the Tigers lost a total of 7 games in 6 seasons between 2015 and 2020.
Clemson (4-3 overall) should still get to the 6-win mark this season, but the Tigers are on track to win less than 10 games for the first time since 2010.