Bowl season is over for the ACC. Here’s a run-through of some of the more intriguing statistical nuggets from the conclusion to the 2014 season.
ACC in nonconference play
It was not exactly a stellar bowl season for the ACC, with a final record of just 4-7. As we wrote last month, that’s far short of what the league needed to do to make any dent in what is a rather negative overall perception about its strength.
Two of its wins — Georgia Tech’s in the Orange Bowl and Clemson’s in the Russell Athletic Bowl — were over well-regarded foes, and Notre Dame -- using an ACC bowl tie-in -- also knocked off LSU. But beyond that, there were some not-so-impressive outcomes.
Of course, bowl season was just the last chapter in the season, and the full story was at least a bit more palatable for the league.
For the season (with the title game still pending), here’s how each league performed in nonconference games:
ACC: 46-21 overall, 12-13 vs. Power 5, 5-9 vs. ranked, 4-7 in bowls
SEC: 55-12 overall, 11-11 vs. Power 5, 4-9 vs. ranked, 7-5 in bowls
Pac-12: 37-8 overall, 13-4 vs. Power 5, 5-2 vs. ranked, 6-2 in bowls
Big 12: 24-13 overall, 6-11 vs. Power 5, 1-7 vs. ranked, 2-5 in bowls
Big Ten: 47-19 overall, 11-15 vs. Power 5, 5-6 vs. ranked, 5-5 in bowls
Add all that up, and what’s clear is that while the Pac-12 was head-and-shoulders above the rest of the Power 5 in nonconference play, the ACC held its own compared with the Big Ten and SEC and was well ahead of the Big 12. That’s probably not the progress the league wanted, but it’s at least credence for the ACC to be taken a bit more seriously moving forward.
Georgia Tech gets it done
Not only did Georgia Tech earn the biggest victory of the bowl season for the ACC, and not only did it finish with 11 wins for just the second time since 1990 — but the Yellow Jackets did so against one of the toughest schedules in college football this year.
For the season, Georgia Tech’s opponents had a combined winning percentage of .639 — the fifth-highest mark in the nation. Only Ole Miss (.697), Auburn (.666), Arkansas (.663) and UCLA (.640) had a tougher schedule overall. If only considering Power 5 opponents, no non-SEC team had a tougher slate than Georgia Tech, whose opponents had a combined winning percentage of .656.
The victory over Mississippi State in the Capital One Orange Bowl was the third of the season over a ranked foe for Georgia Tech. Overall, Tech was 3-1 vs. ranked opponents, with its only defeat a two-point loss to Florida State in the ACC championship game. The only other teams to win at least three games against ranked opponents while losing no more than one were Oregon, TCU, UCLA, Ohio State, Florida State and Baylor.
Hokies find ground game
At the end of Virginia Tech's 33-31 loss to Boston College on Nov. 1, the Hokies were ranked 93rd nationally in yards per rush and had just 36 runs of 10 yards or more (96th). Junior tailback J.C. Coleman had a grand total of 26 carries for 65 yards.
The next week, however, starter Marshawn Williams went down against Duke. Coleman stepped in and everything changed.
Coleman racked up 468 yards on 81 rushes in his final four games, including a 157-yard effort in the win over Cincinnati in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. His 117 yards-per-game average was 21st nationally during that stretch, and he became just the third Virginia Tech running back in the last decade to have four straight games with at least 95 rushing yards.
Coleman averaged 5.8 yards per carry during that four-game stretch. For the season, all other Virginia Tech running backs averaged just 4.04 yards per carry.
Brissett finishes special season
Jacoby Brissett wrapped up his season at NC State with a win over UCF, and while he tended to float a bit under the radar in a league with star QBs such as Jameis Winston, Justin Thomas, Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya, he turned in an exceptional season.
Brissett threw for 262 yards and a touchdown in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, bringing his season totals to 26 total touchdowns, five interceptions, and 3,135 yards of total offense. How’s that stack up nationally?
Brissett was one of just five QBs nationally to account for 25 touchdowns, 3,100 yards and throw five or fewer picks this season, and he’s one of just 10 Power 5 quarterbacks to do that in the last decade. The others: Matt McGloin (2012), Russell Wilson (2011), Tyrod Taylor (2010), Tim Tebow (2008 and 2009), Brett Hundley (2014), Marcus Mariota (2013 and 2014), Cody Kessler (2014), Bryce Petty (2013) and Jimmy Clausen (2009). That’s pretty elite company.
Clemson’s D historically good
The Tigers led the nation in total defense, surrendering just 260.8 yards per game — 18 yards per game better than the next closest team.
Clemson held eight opponents to less than 300 yards of offense, including Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Only Penn State, Stanford and Wisconsin had more.
After a season-opening loss to Georgia -- played without Crawford in the lineup -- Clemson’s defense surrendered just 1,016 rushing yards (112 fewer than any other team in the country) and six rushing touchdowns (only Alabama allowed fewer). Meanwhile, the secondary finished the season allowing just 5.27 yards per attempt, tops in the nation.
Clemson’s opponents gained 10 yards or more on just 15 percent of their plays, the best rate in the country, and the Tigers’ defense racked up 131 tackles for loss, 17 more than any other defense. Clemson’s tackles for loss accounted for a total of 553 yards lost. For comparison, Wake Forest ran for just 479 yards this season.
The ACC finished with five 1,000-yard rushers after Thomas and Dalvin Cook crossed that mark in bowl games. That’s the most in the league since 2009, when the ACC also had five.
Georgia Tech’s Zach Laskey had 171 rushing attempts this season, and just four went for a loss or no gain. That rate of 2.3 percent was easily the best in the country (and less than half the next closest player) and is the lowest by any FBS running back with at least 150 carries in the last decade.
North Carolina fans have reason to be excited about the arrival of Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator. The Tar Heels’ D coughed up 40 points in its bowl game, the sixth time this season it allowed that many points. Texas Tech is the only other Power 5 team to allow six 40-point games this year.
Marquise Williams finished the season with two touchdowns in North Carolina's bowl loss. He ended with 35 touchdowns — one of just 10 Power 5 QBs to hit that mark and the only one from the ACC.
Duke Johnson had 183 total yards in Miami’s bowl loss to South Carolina, finishing the season with 2,073 yards from scrimmage. He’s just the second ACC player in the last decade with more than 2,000 scrimmage yards in a season (joining BC’s Andre Williams, who had 2,177 in 2013). Johnson is also one of just two Power 5 players with multiple games in which he ran for 100 yards and caught 50 yards of passes.
A missed PAT in overtime doomed Boston College to a bowl loss to Penn State — which was perhaps an appropriate ending for the Eagles. They missed a whopping eight PATs this season. The only Power 5 conference team to miss more in a season in the past 10 years was, surprisingly, the 2005 Texas Longhorns, who won the national title. The only Power 5 team to turn in a worse PAT percentage in a season in the last decade was Duke, which connected on just 75 percent of its tries in 2006.
DeVante Parker had eight catches for 120 yards in Louisville's Belk Bowl loss to Georgia, marking his fifth 120-plus-yard performance in just six games this season. Only four Power 5 receivers had more, and they all played in at least 12 games.
Jameis Winston threw for 348 yards and a touchdown in Florida State's Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, a loss to Oregon. It was the seventh time in 13 games that he topped 300 yards with a touchdown. The only Power 5 quarterback to have more such games this year was the man who beat Winston in the Rose Bowl: Marcus Mariota (8).
Tyler Boyd had nine catches for 112 yards in Pitt’s loss to Houston. For the season, Boyd accounted for 52.2 percent of Pitt’s receiving yards, the third-highest percentage by any Power 5 receiver in the last decade. In fact, Boyd is one of just four Power 5 receivers since 2005 to account for at least 50 percent of his team’s receiving yards.