Saturday, December 03, 2011
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Only turnovers have held Clemson back

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by the ACC championship game: a much better matchup than most people think.

Q:You sure about that? Virginia Tech's hot. Everybody knows Clemson's struggling - three losses in the past four games. What's happened to that team, anyway?

A:Pretty simple explanation: turnovers. Turnovers caused largely by lousy offensive line play and a freshman quarterback who returned to mortality. Eliminate those, and Clemson is instantly formidable again.

As Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Friday of his team's loss to South Carolina last week: "We played on a 100-yard field and they played on a 20-yard field for a good bit of that game." It's true. If the Hokies have to play on a 100-yard field today, this is a coin flip.

Q:Speaking of Dabo, what do you think of him going off on South Carolina on Thursday, telling local media: "There's a lot of rivalries out there. This is more of a domination. And that's a fact. My kids' grandkids won't live long enough to ever see this really become a rivalry"?

A:Loved it. This guy might have a future after all. Sometimes even genial men have to drop the cliches and stand up for their programs, even if they're standing up against comments that were mis-attributed in the first place.

Q:But the timing, two days before the title game. †Isn't that a bit strange?

A:The question came when it did. So did the answer. No problems with it whatsoever.

Q:Saw you picked the Tigers in the Fearless Forecasters. Why?

A:Truth is, I missed the picking deadline and got saddled with all the home teams. (Doug Doughty had the same thing happen, although he says he made his picks and they didn't show up.) But as awful as my picks have been this season, the default selections might be better than my actual ones.

Q:You mean like your pick of Kevin Harvick winning the Sprint Cup title?

A:Something like that. But the default there wouldn't have been Tony Stewart.

Q:What do you see tonight?

A:I see a thriller similar to Tech's home game against Miami earlier this year. Back and forth, a lot of offense, and the Hokies getting it done in the fourth quarter. Let's go with Tech 31, Clemson 28.

Q:The ACC announced Friday that the title game will be held in Charlotte the next two years as well. Thoughts?

A:No-brainer. Back-to-back sellouts, good facility, happy fans. Sure beats those Tumbleweed Bowls in Florida.

Q:Are you rooting for Cincinnati to beat Connecticut today?

A:You bet. Regardless of who wins the ACC title game, the Orange Bowl needs West Virginia to be in it. If UConn pulls off the surprise, Louisville makes the game. No thanks.

Q:Why are you always sticking up for West Virginia?

A:Juice, baby. Juice. I miss those old trips to Morgantown - even if a lot of Tech fans do not.

Q:College football's probably never getting a playoff. But if you were king, how would you run one?

A:Six teams. Five conference champs (no auto-bid for the Big East) and one wild card. The top two teams get byes, preserving the incentive for a school to dominate rather than just win its league title.

So you'd have five total games - No. 6 vs. No. 3 and No.4 vs. No. 5 in the first round followed by two semifinals and one final - with no team having to play more than three games.

There are currently five BCS bowls. Play these five games at those sites, rotating which bowl gets which matchup annually. The rest of the bowls stay as they are. I like bowls.

Q:Hmm. ... Likelihood this will happen?

A:Same as me suiting up for the Salem Red Sox next spring.

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