ACC race coming down to the wire

Duke got a big win on Saturday against Virginia Tech to stay alive in the race for the conference championship. They host a good Florida State team on Tuesday before their showdown next Sunday at North Carolina. The Tar Heels travel to VT on Wednesday. The Blue Devils are one game back, so a pair of wins to close the regular season would give Duke at least a share of the ACC championship. Most pundits have written Duke off for a #1 seed, but if they were to win out and then win the ACC tournament, they could sneak in as a top seed.

As a basketball fan, it would be great to see Duke beat FSU tomorrow guaranteeing that the Duke/UNC tilt on Sunday is for the conference title. Even if the Tar Heels beat Tech and guarantee themselves at least a share of the ACC title, they won’t want to miss out on an opportunity to slam the door on the Dookies. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils need to be careful not to look past a Florida State team that is 22-7. Duke beat FSU in Tallahassee back in January, so the Seminoles will have revenge on their minds.

Joe Lunardi (ESPN “bracketologist”) says that if the season ended today…

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BC fires Jagodzinski – ridiculous or breath of fresh air?

Jeff JagodzinskiBoston College A.D. Gene DiFilippo warned head coach Jeff Jagodzinski that if he interviewed for the New York Jets’ head coaching vacancy, he would be fired. Jagodzinski did interview with the Jets and DiFilippo went through with his word, firing his head coach after only two seasons.

There seems to be two schools of thought on this situation. On one hand, it’s pretty ridiculous to fire someone trying to advance his career. Every man has the right to move up the corporate latter and in the cases of college head coaches, they have to interview for NFL positions when they become open.

On the flip side, this is exactly the wake up message that college coaches need to adhere to. Athletic directors have a hard enough time trying to build a consistent winner without worrying about whether or not their coach is going to fly the coup on them after just one or two years.

Jagodzinski did a hell of a job in his two years at BC. In his first season, the Eagles went 11-3, won the ACC Atlantic Division Championship and finished No. 10 in the polls after beating Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl. Not much was expected of the program this year after they lost Matt Ryan to the NFL, but Jags led a young Eagle team to a 9-5 record, another first place finish in their division and an appearance in the Music City Bowl (a 16-14 loss to Vanderbilt).

Considering he went 20-8 with a 1-1 bowl record and won two ACC Atlantic Division Championships, maybe Jags didn’t deserve to be fired for trying to further his career in the NFL. Maybe he deserved more respect and DiFilippo should have been more courteous to the man who got BC’s program back off the ground again.

But the problem is that when he was hired two years ago, he gave DiFilippo his word that he would stick around at least three seasons. He went back on his word like so many college football coaches normally do, and DiFilippo went through with his. Whether the situation was fair or not, DiFilippo sent a message to head coaches that maybe more A.D.’s should try and follow: try to leave this program after not fulfilling your commitment to it and you’ll be let go.

Jagodzinski will wind up somewhere. If he doesn’t land another position in the NFL (he used to work as an assistant coach for the Packers and Falcons), he’ll certainly take another college football head coaching position somewhere. And it’s sad that such a fine young coach had to be made an example of, but for those who think DiFilippo was in the wrong, try and look at the situation from his perspective. Maybe this was just the first step in ending the way Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino and all the other egotistical college coaches think they can go about things.

Related side note: Defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani is the leading candidate to replace Jagodzinski, but keep an eye on Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly. Kelly is from the Massachusetts area and rumor has it that BC is his dream job. Of course, Kelly was the one that left Central Michigan before his contract was up for the Cincinnati job, so maybe he’s the last guy DiFilippo wants to work considering the situation he just went through with Jagodzinski.

Vanderbilt achieves first winning season since 1982

Thanks to their 17-16 victory over Boston College in the Music City Bowl on New Year’s Eve Day, the Vanderbilt Commodores secured their first winning season since 1982 and just their fourth seven-win season in the past 50 years.

The last time Vandy made a bowl appearance was 26 years ago, so it was a pretty cool site seeing their players douse head coach Bobby Johnson when Myron Lewis intercepted a Dominique Davis’ pass with under two minutes remaining in the game to cap the win.

Despite the loss, this was a pretty impressive year by BC. Not many college football pundits thought they would do much this season after Matt Ryan was drafted, but they went to the Big East Championship and a bowl game, which speaks volumes to the job head coach Jeff Jagodzinksi did this year.

Hopefully both of these teams remain competitive next year, because they were fun to watch in 2008.

By the way, Vandy’s D.J. Moore declared for the NFL Draft following the game. That guy was a sick returner this year.

2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Learned

At the end of the year, it’s always interesting to look back at all that has happened in the world of sports over the last 12 months. 2008 brought us a host of compelling sports stories, including the culmination of the Patriots’ (unsuccessful) quest for perfection, a Bejing Olympics that featured incredible accomplishments by the likes of Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and the Redeem Team, and, of course, Brett Favre’s unretirement, which managed to hold the sports news cycle hostage for a solid month or more.

As is our tradition, we’ve once again broken our Year End Sports Review into three sections. The first is “What We Learned,” a list that’s packed with a number of impressive feats. And when there are feats, inevitably there are also failures.

Don’t miss the other two parts: “What We Already Knew” and “What We Think Might Happen.”

The New England Patriots weren’t so perfect after all.

After rolling through the 2007 regular season unscathed, the Patriots entered the 2008 Super Bowl as overwhelming favorites to roll over the pesky, but seemingly inferior New York Giants. The Pats were just one win away from staking their claim as the best football team in NFL history. But thanks to a dominating Giants’ defensive line, an improbable catch by David Tyree, and a virtually mistake-free performance by Eli Manning, the unbeatable New England Patriots were beat. It’ll go down as one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, and considering Tom Brady’s season-ending injury in 2008 cost the Pats a chance for redemption, it seems that many have forgotten how New England stood just one win away from perfection. – Anthony Stalter

Michael Phelps is part fish.

Eight gold medals in one Olympiad? No problem. Michael Phelps made the seemingly impossible look (relatively) easy en route to one of the most – if not the most – impressive Olympic performances ever. Phelps had to swim all four strokes, compete in both sprint and endurance races, and deal with the constant media attention and pressure that came along with his quest. Sure, NBC turned up the hype, but what Phelps accomplished is simply incredible. – John Paulsen

Usain Bolt is part cheetah.

First, Usain Bolt made Jamaica proud by setting a new world record (9.69) in the 100-meter sprint. Then, he broke the 12 year-old 200-meter world record with a time of 19.30 seconds. He showboated during the first race but cleaned up his act to win the second race in a professional manner. Some even say that Usain Bolt – not Michael Phelps – was the biggest story to come out of the Bejing Olympics. – JP

The Big 12 has the best quarterbacks in the nation.

The Big 12 housed some of the best quarterbacks in all of college football in 2008. Texas’s Colt McCoy, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Missouri’s Chase Daniel and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell were all considered Heisman candidates at least at one point during the season, while McCoy and Bradford are still in the running. Amazingly, Bradford and McCoy aren’t done; both will return in 2008. And although they don’t receive as much attention as the top signal callers in the conference, Kansas’s Todd Reesing and Baylor’s Robert Griffin certainly turned heads this year as well. In fact, the highly versatile Griffin is only a freshman and could make the Bears a very dangerous team for years to come. – AS

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“Beamer ball” lifts Virginia Tech to ACC title

Frank BeamerEver since Frank Beamer took over as head coach at Virginia Tech University in 1987, the Hokies have excelled in two areas: defense and special teams. And thanks in large part to their defense and special teams (as well as sophomore quarterback’s Tyrod Taylor’s athletic ability), VA Tech won the ACC Conference by crushing Boston College 30-12 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Saturday.

The Hokie defense forced four turnovers, returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and essentially dominated Eagles’ freshman QB Dominique Davis for four quarters. While Davis looks like a nice young talent, VA Tech’s defense made him look every bit like the freshman he is.

Speaking of young talent, how good did Taylor look? His passing numbers weren’t too impressive (he threw for just 84 yards on 11 of 19 passing), but he rushed 11 times for 30 yards and added two touchdowns. He also kept drives alive with his legs throughout the game and his one mistake was a batted ball that was eventually picked off. Freshman running back Darren Evans was an absolutle beast, too, rushing for 114 yards on 31 carries.

While the Hokies were impressive, what a dud of a championship game this was. Of course, the entire ACC Conference was a dud this year so I guess it’s only fitting that the title game was, too.

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