ACC Football Power Rankings: Week Nine

Florida State Defeats Miami, Referee Issues and Remains Atop the Power Rankings

Yet another crazy weekend of ACC football, and we still find ourselves no closer to figuring out who’ll be playing in Charlotte for the league championship. The one thing we may be getting a handle on, though? Who is NOT playing in that game. And if eventually that list allows us to fill out the who IS list, then so be it (pray this isn’t what actually happens). Jimbo Fisher’s team deserves to be on top of these rankings, but I’m scared he’d have me suspended if that weren’t the case…

1. Florida State Seminoles (7-1) (4-1) (LW: 1): Never a good thing to hear your best running back is out for the season (again). But when you’re Florida State, you’ve got two more great options ready to go. Referees aside, the ‘Noles looked sloppy for a good portion of their Saturday night matchup with Miami — something that should concern them since the ‘Canes have no defense to speak of. It’s fine if EJ Manuel‘s taking more risks, but he must also keep the rest of the offense focused. Those fumbles were unforgivable, and could cause some real damage against a better team.

2. Clemson Tigers (6-1) (3-1) (LW: 2): The story of the game somehow ended up being the Tigers’ defense, which forced four turnovers and scored a touchdown of its own against Virginia Tech. So was this the turning point Brent Venables seemed to promise when he took over as defensive coordinator? Perhaps, though let’s give it a few more games. The Hokies’ offense has been putrid all season, and Clemson’s had their number these past two seasons. Still, it’s something they can potentially build off of.

3. NC State Wolfpack (5-2) (2-1) (LW: 4): State got very lucky at the end of this weekend’s game, due to a missed field goal — so don’t mistake their one-spot promotion as a ringing endorsement. But nonetheless, this is a Woflpack team that seems to know how to get the job done in crunch time. After their respective rocky starts, both Mike Glennon and David Amerson may have finally turned things around. The biggest issue now is how they’ll get by over the course of the season if they can’t run the ball.

4. Duke Blue Devils (6-2) (3-1) (LW: 7): Make no mistake about it, this Duke team is a legitimate threat to win the down-and-out Coastal division after their big comeback the other night. While there are certainly some kinks still to work out, this is a group that came into its own on that final 87-yard touchdown drive, and now look prepared for anything. That theory will be put to the test immediately against FSU this coming weekend. All eyes will be on Sean Renfree and how he reacts to the constant pressure the ‘Noles bring on D.

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ACC Football 2012 Midseason Recap: Atlantic Division

NC State’s Upset of FSU Steals the Headlines, But There’s Plenty More to Talk About From the ACC’s First Half

At the midway point in the 2012 season, little is decided in the ACC. Neither division has a clear frontrunner, no team is assured a trip to the postseason and no team has clinched a bowl spot either. Nonetheless, it’s been an entertaining season within the conference — something we’ll try to highlight here. Along with evaluations for each team, we’ll be providing additional predictions for the second half as well.

Below is the Atlantic division midseason evaluation. Also be sure to check out the Coastal division recap too, which is now live.

Boston College Eagles (1-5) (0-3): Doug Martin’s ability to revive the Boston College offensive attack is all that saves this team from an utter abyss (and even that statement’s pushing it) in Frank Spaziani’s lame-duck final season at the helm. Despite the leaps and bounds by which Chase Rettig has grown, it just doesn’t matter when your defense plays this terribly as a whole. On the bright side, the Eagles hopefully get one more season of Martin coaching Rettig and breakout receiver Alex Amidon under a different head coach in 2013. It would take a miracle for this squad to win six games at this point.

Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1): Clemson’s offense has been a sight to behold this season, putting up 41.3 points per game (11th in the country). Unfortunately, the defense has seen little improvement with Brent Venables’ arrival, allowing over 27 points over six games. Thus far, they’ve had little problem just running opponents off the field, but November dates against NC State and South Carolina loom large as potential stumbling blocks to end the year. With a better, fitter Tajh Boyd on the field, there’s hope they’ll avoid the same late stumbles from last season. The emergence of DeAndre Hopkins also helps, as we’re still unsure how Sammy Watkins will finish out the season. Orange Bowl’s the goal, but short of that, another BCS game wouldn’t be out of the question if they win out.

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Assessing Clemson: What Can We Take From the Tigers’ First Two Games?

Clemson Has Looked Good Through Two Games This Season, But Are Looks Deceiving? We Discuss.

The Clemson Tigers have looked pretty impressive through two games, but of course, we know there are concerns, too — some of which may not fully come to light until their big matchup with Florida State on September 22. Recognizing this, resident Clemson fan Joel Penning and I had a quick chat about some of the pressing issues thus far, addressing offensive tempo, Sammy Watkins‘s return, the run game and more. Check it out below, and enjoy the game this afternoon!

Clemson OC Chad Morris has promised to push the tempo even more. Is it possible?

Joel: When he arrived at Clemson, Chad Morris said he’d like to run 75-80 plays per game. The Tigers met that mark last year at 75.4. Morris’ offenses weren’t much quicker at Tulsa, where the Golden Hurricane ran 77.4 plays per game in 2010.  But the more plays you run, the more chances you have to score. Clemson is on track to match last year’s results, but the length of the game and the persistence of a defense that has trouble getting off the field will limit the offense’s effectiveness. The most effective hurry-up offenses are paired with competent defenses; otherwise, every quick score can easily be matched by a slower, more plodding score that eats up the clock. It’s just a question of game management. So ultimately, I have a hard time seeing Clemson top 80 plays per game.

John: I’d agree with that. Competing directly with amazing defenses like Florida State and Virginia Tech, I find it hard to believe that shootouts are the way to go. Against a shoddy defense? Sure, bombs away, and dare them to score on you. But against teams like that, you’re giving them opportunities to create turnovers, and letting you beat yourself at your own game. Running 75 plays per game has worked pretty well to this point, and I think it’ll yield better results as the defense improves.

The run defense is a travesty. Will it end up being the team’s undoing once ACC play begins?

JP: Brent Venables was hired to shore up a shaky defense, but two games into 2012, the Tigers are giving up more yards per play than last year. Kevin Steele largely failed during his three years to check option-based offenses, whether the triple-option of Georgia Tech or the zone-read of Cam Newton-led Auburn or the new Steve Spurrier attack. This year in Atlanta, Clemson did pretty well against that type of play, although maybe the departure of Gus Malzahn has accelerated Auburn’s return to a more traditional pro-style. Two games into the season, it’s hard to make a definitive judgment, but my general impression is that defenders are more willing to give up short runs in order to avoid being gassed by option plays. Georgia Tech on October 6 will determine Venables’ success in the minds of a lot of Clemson fans. But to answer the question more directly, Clemson had its most successful season in 20 years despite an awful defense. The Orange Bowl sticks in everyone’s mind, but it was offensive ineptitude that lost games to NC State, GT, and South Carolina.  With the inauspicious start for the Wolfpack, I’m still confident slotting Clemson second in the Atlantic, despite its weakness against the run.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Two

If Clemson’s Andre Ellington Continues Running the Way He Did on Saturday, the Tigers Could Win the ACC Once Again

After months of arbitrary offseason shuffling, we finally have some actual games to base these rankings off of. All 14 ACC squads were in action last week, and while many performed admirably, several manged to disappoint as well. Check out the list below, and weigh in down in the comments if you disagree.

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): The Seminoles did a commendable job pummeling Murray State on Saturday. And that defense — just as impressive as they’ve ever been. Unfortunately, however, the big win came with a steep price. Star defensive end Brandon Jenkins injured his foot, and is now out for the remainder of the season. We won’t know how much the loss affects FSU this week, but once the real slate starts, it’ll be all too apparent.

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): Everything about Saturday’s win over Auburn was exceptional. Andre Ellington‘s ground game. Tajh Boyd‘s ability to make plays work through the air and on the ground. The offensive line’s maturity right in front of our eyes. And of course, the defense quickly showing they’d learned a thing or two from new coordinator Brent Venables.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels (LW: 6): Everyone worried about how Giovani Bernard would fit into Larry Fedora’s offense. After the 62-0 drubbing they handed Elon, I think he’ll fit in just fine. Three TDs on just 12 touches will do that sort of thing. Obviously there’s more difficult opponents out there, but the big win appears to be an appetizer for what’s in store for this offense.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): Another slow start for the Hokies, though this year, they manage to win the opener. If Virginia Tech gave the game ball to anyone on Monday night, it should’ve been handed right over to their opponent’s QB. Aside from their late drive for the game-tying field goal, the offense appeared listless and the O-line issues are real.

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ACC Football Preview 2012: Preseason Defensive Unit Rankings

North Carolina Hopes a Transition to the 4-2-5 Defense Helps Kevin Reddick Become a True Star

We’re literally one day (and some hours) away from the start of the 2012 season, so obviously, we’re rolling out tons of arbitrarily ranked lists to peruse before kickoff. The focus of this particular list? Every ACC defense. Along with the ranked list, we’ll provide some background to legitimize said arbitrary ranking. Don’t agree with us? Voice your opinion in the comment section.

Want more lists? Be sure to check out our offensive unit rankings earlier today, and the coaching ranks later on.

ACC Defense Unit Rankings (Preseason)

1. Florida State Seminoles: FSU will possess one of the most frightening pass-rushes in all of college football. And return nine starters from the fourth-best scoring defense in the country last year. And be the guiding force behind a resurgent season back in the BCS spotlight for the Seminoles.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies: Aggressive and ball-hawking, the Hokies’ defense will be leaned on quite a bit this season, and I give them credit as a group capable of carrying that heavy burden. If they continue to force turnovers with pressure as they have in the past, they’ll be one of the country’s most impressive units yet again.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: The new 4-2-5 scheme should have this group looking like an unconventional version of the two teams ahead of them on this list. Agile and focused on pressure and turnovers, senior leader Kevin Reddick should excel here, as will his defensive cohorts who’ve all waited a long time to be let loose in a set like this.

4. NC State Wolfpack: Some may murmur about linebacker concerns, but the focus for the Wolfpack will be on the talented secondary. David Amerson and Earl Wolff should run things as they have in the past, with Amerson gunning to add to his record-setting total of picks from last year.

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ACC 2012 Season Preview: Clemson Tigers

Clemson’s Offense Will Once Again Be Among the Nation’s Best, But Can the Defense Improve Enough?

Team: Clemson Tigers

2011 W-L: 10-4 (6-2)

Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (29-19; four seasons)

Returning Starters: 14 (7 Offense, 7 Defense)

Clemson enjoyed a banner season in 2011, clinching the ACC for the first time in 20 years and playing in their first Orange Bowl since 1981, they’d announced their resurgence on the national scene. Or at least they would have…

Despite their obvious and numerous accomplishments last year, the one glaring thing the Clemson Tigers will be remembered for is being annihilated by the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Orange Bowl, 70-33. It’s unfortunate, sure, but moments like this can also spark a change, and in this case, they did almost immediately. Within a week of the drubbing, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was out, and in came long-time Oklahoma defensive guru Brent Venables. He vowed to change things, and erase that game from everyone’s memory. While there are far too many memes to let us ever do that (West Virginia just scored again, guys), a new coordinator was probably the best remedy for a group whom tackling was not a specialty.

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Early 2012 ACC Football Power Rankings (July 17)

New Clemson Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables (Right) Believes He Can Fix the Tigers’ Multitude of Problems on That Side of the Ball

I can see kickoff on the horizon! (Almost) But nonetheless, the 2012 college football season is getting closer and closer, meaning more discussions about actual football. As we’ve done this entire offseason, below is a completely arbitrary ranking of all 14 ACC schools, taking into account all random happenings in and around each respective program. These are the final offseason rankings before we dive into our 2012 season preview. Then, once the season starts (!!!) they’ll be updated weekly, just as they were last year.

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): Can Florida State finally make good on the lofty preseason expectations that have accompanied them these past few years? The pieces are all there — 10 returning starters on defense, an experienced, veteran QB in E.J. Manuel, and a very manageable schedule. Now it’s up to the ‘Noles to deliver.

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): Complain about the defense all you want, but I’ve got a great feeling about new coordinator Brent Venables and his ability to make an immediate impact. Plus, how can you honestly bet against the team’s three-headed monster on offense? You saw how they manhandled talented defenses last year. Who’s to say they can’t do so again?

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): There is a boatload of hype surrounding Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas. But the only way he’ll be able to deliver on it is if a) his inexperienced offensive line can adapt quickly, b) the running game can take some of the load off his shoulders (dependent, in part, on the offensive line), and c) his receivers are ready and able to make an impact. Wideout D.J. Coles appears ready to become a bigger part of the offense in 2012. He’ll be called upon often to prove it.

4. NC State Wolfpack (LW: 4): The expectations are growing down in Raleigh, especially with a manageable schedule laid out in front of the Wolfpack. So long as Mike Glennon and David Amerson are healthy, there are very few squads in the ACC that can truly hang with these guys on either side of the ball.

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