Welcome to ACC Action! Each week our staff will divide up the conferences, watch the games pertaining to the the assigned conference and then write up an overview with the key takeaways from that weekend.
Boston College, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Miami and Virginia Tech were all idle this week but we still had 4 inter-conference games this week to digest.
Let’s dig into the notable impressions and what we learned from Week 8 in the ACC.
UVA Secondary Continues to Make Big Plays
Who has the best playmaking secondary in the ACC? Right now it’s hard to make a better case for any team other than Virginia. The real debate is which player has shined brighter: S Juan Thornhill or CB Bryce Hall.
After hauling in two interceptions against Miami last week, Thornhill hauled in his fourth interception of the season against Duke to go with four pass breakups on the season. His ball production has increased incrementally over the last 4 games and Thornhill is settling in nicely in his roll as a “sabre” safety in Bronco Mendenhall’s defense. He’s sound with his assignments but it’s the splash plays that will truly move the needle for his draft stock. He’s playing his best football of the season and its a big reason why the Cavs have won 4 of its last 5 contests.
I’m not sure a cornerback has done more to elevate their draft stock than what we’ve seen from Hall this season. I’ve been tweeting and blurbing about him for weeks and he keeps impressing. With 3 more pass breakups and an interception against Duke, Hall now has 2 interceptions and 12 pass breakups over the last seven games! He is a true playmaker and offers exciting physical gifts to complement his ball production.
Finley Fails Important Resume Game
WELP! Finley is who is, folks. A 6th-year player that will be 24 in December, Finley offers very little in terms of upside and arm talent. His inability to generate velocity on the football was never more present than it was against Clemson in the Pack’s 41-7 loss to the Tigers. Finley uncorked several lollipop throws on out-breaking routes to the sideline and they just didn’t have the zip to arrive on schedule. His limited arm strength, slow trigger, and ball placement issues beyond 10-yards are very alarming when projecting him to the NFL.
I know Finley has some fans in the draft community but I’d challenge anyone who believes in Finley to examine their process and develop standards that are in line with how NFL QBs find success when evaluating prospects.
Finley finished 21-of-34 for 156 yards and 2 interceptions against Clemson in a game littered with late decisions, throws without enough juice and misplaced throws.
Brian Burns on Fire
With 2 more sacks against Wake Forest on Saturday, Florida State EDGE Brian Burns is now up to 9 sacks this season, all of which came in conference games. While you go ahead and crown him ACC Defensive Player of the Year, let’s talk about what he’s done over the last 12 games. Over that span, Burns has 44 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and 6 forced fumbles. The crazy part? His splits make no sense.
Seven of those 12 games came against Power 5 competition (Clemson, Florida, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Lousiville, Miami and Wake Forest) and he racked up 12.5 sacks with at least 1.5 sacks in every game. He only had a TOTAL of a .5 sack in his 5 games against Non-Power 5 competition which includes games facing Delaware State, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss, Samford and Northern Illinois.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, Burns’ weight is something we are going to discuss a lot in the coming months. With that said, his production against top competition speaks for itself.
- Virginia LB Charles Snowden continues to pop on a weekly basis. He’s everywhere on the field and racked up 7 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss a .5 sack against Duke. He’s a true sophomore that has found early playing time and he is making it count. At 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, he needs to bulk up and find a true position but there is a lot to like about his tools and upside.
- Duke LB Joe Giles-Harris was active and instinctive against Virginia. He tallied 9 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss, showing some of the best processing skills I’ve seen from him.
- Duke QB Daniel Jones was 22-0f-40 for 240 yards with a TD and 2 INTs vs Virginia. The two interceptions were both bad decisions. The first was heaved into double coverage and Thornhill picked it off. The second has on a vertical route that his receiver didn’t win. While I respect that it was a 1v1 situation, UVA CB Bryce Hall leveraged and dominated the route, making it a poor decision. Jones was otherwise efficient and victimized by numerous drops.
- REMARKABLY, Duke QB Daniel Jones has thrown 23 interceptions in his career and eight (8!) of them have come against Virginia. That is over 34 percent. That’s craziness.
- Syracuse QB Eric Dungey has done some terrific things in his career, but the time is now to hand the offense over to freshman QB Tommy DeVito who led the Orange to an overtime victory over UNC. DeVito looked great against Florida State a few weeks ago and outshined Dungey against the Heels. Dungey has been hit or miss this season, completing under 52 percent of his passes in 4 of 7 games. DeVito added a much-needed spark to a bumbling offense and he deserves to be the guy moving forward.
- After missing the last three weeks with injury, Syracuse senior TE Ravian Pierce hauled in the game-winning touchdown in overtime to defeat UNC.
- With his 9th rushing TD in the last 3 games, it’s time to talk about Clemson RB Travis Etienne in the Heisman discussion. He’s scored a rushing TD in EVERY game this season and now has 14 in 7 games to go with 800 rushing yards.
- Outside of his drop, it’s hard to fault NC State WR Kelvin Harmon for his lack of production against Clemson. In a game that Harmon needed to produce, he only caught 2 passes on 6 targets for 13 yards. While Clemson was sound in its coverage, Finley was uncomfortable and didn’t allow many realistic targets for Harmon to make plays.
- Clemson’s defensive line won the battle of trenches with NC State’s offensive line. The Pack were held to 3.3 yards per carry on 32 attempts while making Finley uncomfortable in the pocket.
- Like most QBs this season, Florida State QB Deondre Francois carved up the Wake Forest secondary. Francois completed 29-of-40 passes for 353 yards with 2 touchdowns.
- Wake Forest had 50 rushes for 96 yards against Florida State. You read that correctly.
Power Rankings After Week 8
- Virginia Tech
- NC State
- Boston College
- Florida State
- Wake Forest
- Georgia Tech
- North Carolina