ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 6

Don't Look Now, But the Hokies' Defense Has Virginia Tech Steadily Rising in the Rankings

Don’t Look Now, But the Hokies’ Defense Has Virginia Tech Steadily Rising in the Rankings

We’re starting to get a better idea of this year’s ACC contenders, though the story’s far from written out yet. While FSU and Clemson are exactly where they’re supposed to be, teams like Virginia Tech and Maryland are surprising possible contenders who will show their true colors as the weeks wear on. As always, the poll includes all 14 current ACC members, plus future member Louisville. Feel like I’m totally right or completely off-base? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

ACC Football Power Rankings 2013 (Week 6)

1. Clemson Tigers (4-0) (1-0) (Last: 1): Clemson simply lit up Wake Forest last week, and perhaps put to bed (for now) some concerns about their overall performance on offense. Since Tajh Boyd‘s injury in week two, things hadn’t seemed up to snuff. However, after laying a casual 56 points on Wake and getting back to his standard line of nearly 400 total yards and four scores, Boyd and the Tigers appear to be back on track.

2. Florida State Seminoles (4-0) (2-0) (Last: 2): That was a scary opening half, wasn’t it? On the road versus Boston College, FSU looked dreadful early, allowing the Eagles to get on the board with relative ease. Once down 18 though, that’s when Jameis Winston got into the flow of the game and simply controlled things from there on out. Still a bit concerning, but more for the defense than the offense. The 34 points were the most BC had put up all year, meaning the ‘Noles have some issues to address before facing Maryland this Saturday.

3. Louisville Cardinals (4-0) (Last: 3): Louisville had an off-week last week, so some might have already forgotten what they’ve been doing to teams thus far this season. To jog your memory: the Cardinals have scored an average of 48 points per game, while holding every opponent to single-digit scoring but Kentucky (13). There a few tests left on the schedule — that October 18 date with UCF looks a bit daunting after seeing how impressive the Knights have looked — but the Cards are primed for more of the same going forward.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Miami ran right through USF on Saturday, but it was not without consequence. Stephen Morris‘s lingering ankle injury is a real cause for concern, though we’ve yet to see it make an impact on this team due to the schedule. Ryan Williams has filled in well enough to this point, however if forced to see more competitive game action, there could be a much different result. It’s early, but we’ve yet to really see what this defense is made of, or if Duke Johnson can match last year’s levels of production. Continue reading

ACC Football 2013 Previews & Predictions: Week 5

Jeremiah Attaochu and the Georgia Tech Defense Are Aiming to Deliver a Big Win Over Virginia Tech

Jeremiah Attaochu & the Georgia Tech Defense Aiming to Deliver a Big Win Over Virginia Tech

Finally, some actual games that matter (a few anyway). The ACC‘s still got five undefeated teams (sort of six), but will that continue to be the case much longer. I’m sure we all hope so… Just like normal, we’re running down the list of every ACC (plus Louisville) game and predicting outcomes that will almost undoubtedly be wrong. Have some picks of your own? Predict away in the comments!

Game of the Week

Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1) (0-0) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-0) (2-0): For all but one year of divisional play, this game has decided the Coastal. And while it may seem like a remote possibility given the state of Virginia Tech’s offense in particular, that’s still on the table for this season’s edition of the matchup. But this one’s not going to last long if the Hokies can’t cut down on mistakes. The kicking game’s a mess and despite some flashes of success, Logan Thomas is still as rough around the edges as he’s ever been — and as error-prone as he’s ever been too. Georgia Tech’s aggressive defense should take advantage of those opportunities, while Vad Lee could have the offense closing the deal by the third quarter. Prediction: Georgia Tech 31, Virginia Tech 21

The Rest of the Slate (in order of start time):

Miami Hurricanes (3-0) (0-0) at USF Bulls (0-3): In the past, this contest has actually been pretty close. But that was the old version of the USF program. The version we’ve come to know lately has fallen on some hard times, and that’ll likely continue this weekend. USF can’t seem to score points (just 12.3 per game this season), though over the last two games, the defense hasn’t been all bad. It’s certainly not the best MIami’s seen though, after facing and beating Florida in week two. Expect the ‘Canes to breeze through yet another contest en route to a 4-0 record. Prediction: Miami 30, USF 13

East Carolina Pirates (2-1) at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2) (0-1): Considering the high expectations UNC had going into the season and the way things have gone instead, this ECU game is now a must-win. The defense is a bit of a concern, especially after last week’s second-half collapse versus Georgia Tech, but the bigger issue has been and remains the offense. North Carolina’s line is struggling to protect Bryn Renner and can’t open up holes for the running game either. The result has been a neutered attack that pales in comparison to what we’ve seen from previous Larry Fedora teams. They’ve got to figure things out this week against ECU or they’re in full-on crisis mode. Prediction: UNC 41, ECU 28

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ACC Football 2013 Television Schedule & Spreads: Week 5

Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech Leads Off the Weekend in a Battle for the Coastal Division

Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech Leads Off the Weekend in a Battle for the Coastal Division

Every week, we’ll be providing a quick rundown of which ACC football games are on television, and also list the latest spread on each game (should you choose to engage in gambling-related activities). Please plan your days accordingly.

ACC Football Week 5 TV Schedule & Spreads

Thursday, September 26

Virginia Tech Hokies at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (-7.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Saturday, September 28

Miami Hurricanes at USF Bulls (+18.5), noon ET, ESPNU

East Carolina Pirates at North Carolina Tar Heels (-11.5), 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 3/College Gameplan

Virginia Cavaliers at Pittsburgh Panthers (-6), 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 3/College Gameplan

Troy Trojans at Duke Blue Devils (-10.5), 3 p.m. ET, ESPN 3

Central Michigan Chippewas at NC State Wolfpack (-23), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 3

Florida State Seminoles at Boston College Eagles (+21.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Clemson Tigers (-28.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

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Rushel Shell Transfer: Where to, and What’s Next for Pitt’s Backfield?

Rushel Shell's Leaving Pittsburgh, But Where Could He End Up Next?

We Know Rushel Shell’s Leaving Pittsburgh, But Where Could He End Up Next?

As has been the news for nearly a week now, presumed starting running back Rushel Shell has elected to transfer out of Pittsburgh’s football program. SB Nation’s Cardiac Hill has a detailed breakdown of the various puzzling aspects of this move, so for discussion around that front, feel free to wander in that general direction.

What we’re interested in here is where he could potentially end up (touched upon over at CH as well), and then what’s next for the Panthers’ backfield as they continue with spring practice. With little information available right now, please keep in mind this is almost entirely speculation at the moment.

Where could Rushel Shell transfer to?

Just one year ago, Shell was in high demand as one of the top-rated running back prospects in the nation, and he was expected to deliver on those lofty goals as Pitt’s featured back in 2013. Now, he’s an impressive sophomore runner with 641 rushing yards and four scores under his belt, looking for a new home where he’ll sit out a year before regaining eligibility in 2014.

The top transfer choices are the ones in closest proximity: West Virginia and Penn State, but there’s chatter that Pitt would not allow him to head to either long-time rival program. Same goes for Arizona State, where former Panthers coach Todd Graham currently resides as head coach. The Cardiac Hill guys believe Pitt would block any move to those three schools, but is that the right move? Not siding with Shell here, but based on a recent tweet from the mother of Shell’s children, it would almost seem like he’s trying to run from some issues (purely speculation). However, rewind the clock a year, and let’s remember what happened when former Terps QB Danny O’Brien was trying to leave Maryland and head coach Randy Edsall was adamant about limiting his possibilities. The backlash was pretty far-reaching and ultimately, amounted to nothing since O’Brien failed to go to a future scheduled opponent or another ACC team (he went to Wisconsin).

So with that said, where could he potentially land? The top two choices are obvious:

Arizona State: Graham and his staff initially recruited Shell, and perhaps that was part of the initial appeal to the Panthers program (beyond just local tie-ins). The Sun Devils currently have a veteran backfield set for fall, giving Shell ample opportunity to contribute come fall 2014.

West Virginia: Still local, and like many Pitt players, Shell certainly knows plenty of Mountaineers players. With the Big 12 sort of lacking for an elite back, Shell could get an opportunity to really shine in that conference, though who knows how much opportunity he’d get in Dana Holgorsen’s air-raid offense.

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College Football’s Most Overrated and Underrated Teams of the Past Decade

Unfortunately for the ACC, Members Such as Florida State and Miami Rank Among College Football’s Most Overrated

Over on SB Nation, Bill Connelly brought up an interesting point the other day: Has Florida State underachieved this year? It’s a fair question when looking at the overall weakness of the ACC, coupled with the talent FSU possesses on both sides of the ball and their continual refusal to dominate weaker in-conference opponents. The bigger issue here, however, is in the question itself. How do we define “underachievement” in college football? The best measure would likely be the polls, despite obvious flaws. How does a team annually stack up against its expectations that are set by preseason polling? And better, if we want to get a significant sample size, how does a team stack up to expectations over the span of a decade (2003-2012)?

We decided to take on that question, by digging through the last 10 years of the ESPN/USA Today Coach’s Poll. For each season, we took a look at every team’s preseason and postseason rankings (except for 2012, where the most recent rankings are used), and measure the distance between expectation and reality. To get even more data, we also included teams that “also received votes” and listed them in order, as if the polls continued past 25. If a team appeared in the preseason poll (let’s say there were 50 teams altogether), and not the postseason poll, that team’s postseason rank would be 51 — one past the total number of teams. This is repeated for each additional team in that situation so we can get the differentials, even for teams that fail to be included in both polls. Lastly, we averaged the differentials for each team based on however many years they appeared in the polls, and that gets you a picture of just how “overrated” or underrated these teams may be. In general, if it’s within five full spots or so on the poll, a team can be considered “accurately” ranked.

We’ll start with the “underrated” teams, before the yelling starts later on for the “overrated” ones:

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ACC Power Rankings, Week 7

Behind Tanner Price, Wake Forest takes a big leap this week.

In these conference rankings, I list the ACC teams, one through 14, as if Pitt and Syracuse were already in the league. Yes, adding the additional teams may seem pointless now, but wait until they officially join. Then it’ll seem like old news and we can get past that initial awkwardness. No, I won’t reconsider. On to this week’s rankings!

1. Clemson Tigers (6-0) (3-0) (LW: 1): The ACC’s top contender kept rolling with another convincing win last week, this time over the conference’s worst team, Boston College. Still, the focus was on Tajh Boyd, whose injury could have altered both the conference and national title races. Lucky for Tigers fans, he’s slated to be back in action by their next game.

2. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-0) (3-0) (LW: 2): Georgia Tech’s offense looked like a shadow of itself against Maryland Saturday, but the defense played much better than it had previously. So, where does the ‘Wreck stand? Until their showdown with Clemson, probably no better than second in the conference. In the meantime though, this team needs to find a way to impress pundits more — they didn’t seem too convinced on the ESPN networks after only beating the Terps by five.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (5-1) (1-1) (LW: 4): Still don’t know what to make of Virginia Tech after a frenzied win over Miami (FL) this weekend. As always, they seem ripe for the picking any given week, yet the large majority of the time, they do what needs to be done to close out games. I’d also contend there is a pretty wide gap between the top two in this league and VPI right now.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (5-1) (1-1) (LW: 5): Last week’s ugly 14-7 victory over Louisville aside, the Heels have been impressive on both sides of the ball this season — even hanging with Georgia Tech until the very end of their seven-point week four loss. While I’m not convinced the Hokies are head and shoulders above this squad, quality of schedule puts the Tar Heels at a firm number four.

5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1) (3-0) (LW: 8): The jury may truly be out until we see just how well Florida State does this season, but so far, Wake has three conference wins and is the only team with a shot to catch Clemson in the Atlantic Division. If not for week one’s heartbreaker against Syracuse, Wake would be battling the Tigers out for the conference’s best storyline right now.

6. Florida State Seminoles (2-3) (0-2)) (LW: 3): Obviously the ‘Noles are not national title contenders, but now they’re starting to fall out of real contention for an ACC title, too. While Wake Forest is no slouch, it’s hard to believe Florida State was unable to get past them Saturday, and now they face an identity crisis on both sides of the ball. With four straight very winnable games up next, we could look back on this and laugh, but they must right the ship immediately.

7. Syracuse Orange (4-2) (1-0) (LW: 7): Hard to believe this team has four wins this season, right? In total, those victories have come by just 20 points — for anyone who’s witnessed them, they could easily have lost all four. So what comes next? The Orange get to regroup for a bye week they sorely need, and hopefully regain DE Chandler Jones. From there, a big matchup with West Virginia looms large and could tell us a bit more about where SU really stands.

8. Pittsburgh Panthers (3-3) (0-0) (LW: 6): As always, Pitt allowed a big win to get to their heads and then truly drop the ball against an inferior opponent. While Rutgers looked incredibly sloppy against Syracuse in week five, they were locked in and ready for the Panthers Saturday, running them out of the building. While many blamed Dave Wannsteadt for this program’s struggles the last decade, it seems a culture of believing your own hype has taken over even beyond his reach.

9. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-3) (0-2) (LW: 10): The league’s biggest enigma, Miami has been competitive in each of this year’s games, and it’s not inconceivable that they could’ve been undefeated at this juncture. Still, good teams win close games, so in spite of the positives we can take from losses to ranked teams like Virginia Tech and Kansas State, the fact is they could not prevail. Any team with Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller should also be able to win at least eight games, but that’s another argument.

10. Virginia Cavaliers (3-2) (0-1) (LW: 9): Virginia mostly keeps pace after their bye week, dropping just one spot. Things could potentially get ugly next week, however, as the Cavaliers play host to Georgia Tech’s high-flying offense. Though Maryland was able to keep the Yellow Jackets in check last week, Virginia seems too undersized to do the same.

11. Maryland Terrapins (2-3) (0-1) (LW: 11): Maryland’s proven they can compete with ranked teams — hanging in with both Georgia Tech and West Virginia until the end of their respective contests. Still, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to keep Clemson in check next week if Tajh Boyd is at 100% (likely). It’s too easy to throw on the Terps, as even a suspension-riddled Miami team proved earlier this year, and Boyd will exploit that.

12. Duke Blue Devils (3-2) (1-0) (LW: 12): Syracuse’s hard-fought battle against Tulane last week makes the Blue Devils’ 48-27 victory a month or so back look even better. Still, some big tests remain if Duke hopes to gain bowl eligibility. Virginia Tech, UNC, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are all on the remaining schedule. Add another loss to those, and it looks like a five-win ceiling in 2011.

13. NC State Wolfpack (3-3) (0-2) (LW: 13): While they get credit for finally beating an FBS squad (Central Michigan) Saturday, NC State has struggled to stop anyone from scoring this season. Their next game, against Virginia, will probably be the more proper gauge of what this team’s capable of against comparable competition.

14. Boston College Eagles (1-5) (0-3) (LW: 14): Last week could’ve been so much worse than the 22-point loss to Clemson indicated. Yet, you can’t help but sense the hopelessness setting in with this team and fanbase this year. Unfortunately, as they prepare to welcome back two of their oldest rivals (Pitt and SU), the Eagles will probably be coming off some of their worst football in four decades. Don’t count out the possibility of 1-11 here with several huge games left on the schedule.