ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 8

The ACC's Top Two Teams Faceoff In Front of a National Audience This Weekend

The ACC’s Top Two Teams Face Off In Front of a National Audience This Weekend

We’re finally here. The biggest game in the history of ACC football is upon us, and as a result, college football’s eyes are all directed right at our humble conference. Even last year’s FSU-Clemson matchup couldn’t meet the hype we’ll see leading up to Saturday and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited the country finally cares. 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 8)

1. Clemson Tigers (6-0) (4-0) (Last: 1): It wasn’t pretty or confidence-inducing, but Clemson beat Boston College on Saturday and remained undefeated. That’s really all that was asked of them. Likely looking ahead to their matchup with the ‘Noles, it’s at least a little understandable that Clemson’s attentions were elsewhere. But this Tiger team seems different. No “Clemsoning.” No slip-ups thus far. Just dominant play en route to a huge regular season spectacle this weekend. Everything, from ACC title hopes to Heisman trophies and BCS National Championships, are all on the line.

2. Florida State Seminoles (5-0) (3-0) (Last: 2): Coincidentally, Florida State also had some recent trouble with Boston College as well, so at least both of the league’s top teams are in the same boat. After a bye week, FSU should be well-rested and ready for the speed Clemson’s offense will present. But will the offense loose momentum after the long rest? After the last bye week they put up 62 points so no, I wouldn’t be too worried about this team’s ability to keep running.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (5-0) (1-0) (Last: 3): Stephen Morris, your ankle is terrifying the rest of us — or at least those of us who think it would benefit the league for Miami to be a national power again. The ‘Canes and their quarterback have looked resilient this season, meeting every challenge large and small this season, though there are also some questions about style points (and a distinct lack of them). I don’t buy that argument since a win’s a win, but if they’re going to move up in the BCS title race, I suppose they’ll have to start demolishing the schedule’s less challenging teams.

4. Louisville Cardinals (6-0) (Last: 4): Another game which the Cardinals won easily, but apparently not easy enough according to media observers who dropped the Cards two spots in the latest AP Poll just because. At this point, Louisville fans have stopped caring and are actually embracing their role in this last season of the BCS. It’s a commendable outlook for a program that deserves better than the general dismissal they’re seeing from the larger college football consciousness.

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ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 4

On the Arm of Vad Lee, Georgia Tech May Actually be a Contender in the Coastal Division

On the Arm of Vad Lee, Georgia Tech May Actually be a Contender in this Year’s Coastal Division

Three weeks in, and the ACC is not the most beleaguered major conference in the land (high, Big Ten!). It’s an accomplishment — if not on the field, than from a PR standpoint — and as the league’s top teams remain unbeaten this week, things only continue to get better. 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 4)

1. Clemson Tigers (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 1): No game last week means the Tigers will have plenty of time to prepare themselves for a trip down to Raleigh this Thursday. Last time they visited NC State, Clemson was dealt a crushing 37-13 defeat, but that was a different squad. A different (read: worse) defense, and a very green Tajh Boyd at quarterback. This Tigers team is arguably the best one in 30 years. We’ll get to the preview later in the week, but with an extra five days to prepare, Clemson should remain the top team in these rankings without much issue.

2. Florida State Seminoles (2-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): Nevada looked as if they were keeping things close with Florida State for at least a little while on Saturday. And then they weren’t. We’re not exactly sure what the Seminoles’ defense is going to look like against better competition, but for right now, that’s fine. The offense is on another level through two games and it’s showing no sign of slowing down. Whether on the ground or through the air, the ‘Noles know how to score, which makes them incredibly dangerous.

3. Louisville Cardinals (3-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): Teddy Bridgewater slowed down a bit against Kentucky (just one touchdown), but that’s understandable. There’s simply no way he could continue the video game pace he was on through the first two contests. Lucky him, the rushing attack showed up in a big way and gave this team a little bit of hope too. One-man shows don’t win. So if Louisville’s going to actually contend for a title, it’ll need efforts like Saturday’s, just as much as blowouts like their first couple games.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Another team with the benefit of an early bye. The ‘Canes are looking good so far, though the defense won’t truly be tested until October. And that’s a bit nerve-wracking considering how disastrous that unit was in 2012. In the meantime, at least the offense looks competent. Miami’s already proven it knows how to win a couple different types of games — blowouts and slugfests — which should suit them well as the season continues. Best of all, that same offense doesn’t look as if it was rise and fall with Duke Johnson. If nothing else, that may be the biggest gift of all from the first few weeks.

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ACC Football 2013 Preseason Power Rankings

Behind Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd, Clemson Appears Ready to Fly Past the Rest of the ACC

Behind Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd, Clemson Appears Ready to Fly Past the Rest of the ACC

We’re just a couple days away! I know, this has been an incredibly drawn out offseason, but at long last, kickoff is finally (just about) here. To celebrate that, we’re unveiling the final offseason power rankings, before basing these on actual games starting next Tuesday. 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 (August 27)

1. Clemson Tigers (Last: 1): Clemson will be tested very early in a rivalry redux versus Georgia, and should they get past the Bulldogs, they’ll be favored in the next 10 games. If this team has truly buried the term “Clemsoning” (and for what it’s worth, I firmly believe they have), they should be able to run through to the final weekend at a perfect 11-0. There, South Carolina awaits them, but it’s a long season and in order to be undefeated, you’ve got to go week-by-week.

2. Florida State Seminoles (Last: 3): The more preseason prep you do, the more you end up buying into this year’s Seminoles team being just as talented as last year’s edition. Though the pass-rush might be a bit weaker, the very strong back seven give this team the type of edge they’ll need to notch another season of double-digit wins. But again, the key is Jameis Winston at QB, and whether or not he’s up to the task of jumping in and producing right away.

3. Louisville Cardinals (Last: 2): Playing out a season in purgatory is a daunting task, believe it or not, and we’re about to find out if Louisville’s up to the challenge. With a very big target on their backs and favorable odds in all 12 games on the slate, this Cardinals team will be challenged to get up for each and every game. Charlie Strong can provide the motivation, but it’ll be interesting to watch nonetheless as the year keeps going and the pressure around the squad builds.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (Last: 5): Miami likely has the most complete set of offensive tools in the entire conference, with certifiable playmakers at all three major skill positions. This year’s slate is also much easier than 2012′s, with no Notre Dame or Kansas State, though we’ll get a quick sense of what they’re made of in a week two matchup against Florida. Win that one, and who knows how far this team might end up going.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: NC State Wolfpack

Shadrach Thornton is One of Just a Few Returning State Players on Offense

Halfback Shadrach Thornton is One of Just a Few Returning NC State Players on Offense This Year

Team: NC State Wolfpack

2012 W-L: 7-6 (4-4)

Head Coach: Dave Doeren (0-0; first season)

Returning Starters: 8 (4 Offense, 4 Defense)

As SB Nation’s Bill Connelly astutely pointed out a couple weeks back, NC State under Tom O’Brien was a perfectly average team — rarely better or worse than a six- or seven-win team. And so despite another trip to the postseason in 2012, people got antsy, things felt stale, and O’Brien was relived of his duties. Now former Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren’s the head man in Raleigh and the big question is whether or not anything will change. For what feels like forever, the Wolfpack have been a team that can play respectable football, energize a highly underrated fan base and swing an upset once a season. And that’s it. So why now, with a coach whose success is notable but not long-standing, would they suddenly turn into a 10- or 11-win juggernaut? That’s what we try and figure out today…

NC State was a highly one-dimensional team last season with Mike Glennon at the helm. They managed to throw for 310 yards per game (great!), but that was while completing 58 percent of their passes — they threw 569 passes, by the way (seventh in the FBS). So for the most part, a highly inefficient attack. And it’s not as if they didn’t turn the ball over either. Right off the bat, those points must be addressed by Doeren and his staff, but with what personnel? Three-fifths of the offensive line is gone, as is Glennon and last year’s top pass-catcher Tobais Palmer. Glennon’s replacement is also still TBD, as transfers Brandon Mitchell (Arkansas) and Pete Thomas (Colorado State) continue to vie for the job in camp. Though Thomas may be the more polished and experienced player, Mitchell’s more of an athlete in the mold of Doeren’s highly agile QB at NIU, Jordan Lynch. Mitchell also has just one year of eligibility left, which makes me think he’ll grab the inside track at the starting job early on.

Running the ball, State was terrible — mostly as a result of Glennon’s ridiculous volume of passes. They also failed to ever establish a true starter last season, resulting in inconsistent carries for those who did actually get to touch the ball. Now-sophomore Shadrach Thornton showed the most promise in that regard, however, racking up nearly 700 yards based largely on five games of 17 or more carries (and another five of 12 or less with much lesser gains). He’ll come into the 2013 season now as the starter, with some additional help from Tony Creecy too. Creecy came in as the more experienced back, but can still flourish in a relief role this year nonetheless. Both can get involved in catching the ball, which of course plays right into the type of hybrid pistol offense Doeren is likely to run this season while he works to get more players in specifically made for his system.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #46, Darryl Cato-Bishop

NC State’s Darryl Cato-Bishop is #46 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

NC State’s Darryl Cato-Bishop is #46 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

We’re less than two months away from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 46, Darryl Cato-Bishop, DE/NC State (Last Season: NR)

Cato-Bishop has always had the makings of a great pass-rusher at NC State, but he’s only just shown glimmers of that promise during his career thus far. Now as a senior, perhaps this is the year he finally puts it all together.

And that’s not to discredit the work he’s done to this point either. Last year, despite missing two games, he still posted 10.5 tackles for loss (6.5 sacks) as the primary cog in NC State’s underrated defensive line. At 6’4″ and 278 pounds, it’s easy to understand how he’s become such a force, though some may bring up questions on production. While he certainly possesses a hulking frame, he’s not the quickest end (4.89 40-yard dash time) and doesn’t have any significant moves to get past blockers. But take a look at this game tape from last year’s matchup against Boston College. Time after time, he’s double covered, either initially or on delay, which frees up the right side of the line or his fellow left side defensive tackle. Last season, he also did some work lining up in a nose tackle spot on occasion (which you’ll also see in that video), and right away you’ll notice the benefits: sucking in the line to address Cato-Bishop, thus freeing up the cornerback blitz. So, as can regularly be the case with elite defensive linemen, the tale of their production can’t always be captured in the box score alone. Again, see the tape, this time below:

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ACC Football 2013 Payback Games: NC State

Giovani Bernard Terrorized NC State Last Season; With Him Off to the NFL, Can They Turn the Tables on UNC?

Giovani Bernard Terrorized NC State Last Season; With Him Off to the NFL, Can They Turn the Tables on UNC?

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.

As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.

Team: NC State Wolfpack

Opponent: North Carolina Tar Heels

Last Year: Loss, 43-35 at North Carolina

This Year: November 2 vs. North Carolina

After coming back from 18 points down, NC State looked like it was going to hold on for a huge victory over cross-state rival North Carolina. Then they looked like they’d be headed to overtime. And suddenly, following a backbreaking Giovani Bernard punt return for a touchdown with just 13 seconds left, the Wolfpack left the field defeated. This last-minute, come-from-behind victory is always hard to watch when you’re on the receiving end, but that goes double for the most important game on your team’s calendar. For the most part, the annual UNC date is for the Pack, so comeback or not, you can bet they’d be out for revenge again this season just the same.

At the onset of last year’s contest, it really did have all the makings of a blowout in favor of UNC. Scoring 25 points in 15 minutes, the Heels were living up to the billing of its high-powered offense. Then the Pack did the same in the second, and the seesaw began. On the game, the teams would combine for over 1,100 yards of offense, while also committing six turnovers. The largest issue for NC State, though, was the running game. Struggling to run out the clock at the end, a competent ground attack would’ve been able to pick up the necessary first down to kill the clock before Bernard’s return. Instead, they continued the futile effort that netted them just 67 yards on the afternoon, the Pack had to punt, and you know what happened next.

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Way-Too-Early 2013 ACC Football Power Rankings (May 6)

Do Vic Beasley and the Clemson D Decide Whether or Not the Tigers Contend for a Title?

Will Vic Beasley & the Clemson D Decide Whether or Not the Tigers Contend for a Title?

As SB Nation so aptly pointed out today, we are halfway through college football’s offseason; which means that as of right now, it’s just 115 days ’till kickoff, one of the most magical days on the sporting calendar. For the ACC, hope springs eternal at the moment, with at least one real national title contender and a collection of up-and-comers looking to crack the polls, too. Obviously, it’s all speculation, but what else do we have to get us through the next few months?

1. Clemson Tigers (Last: 1): We’ll know all we need to about Clemson after the first game against Georgia — a matchup that’s likely to pit two top-10 teams against one another in a national showcase. The Tigers offense will be fine, but were the glimmers of hope the defense provided come the end of 2012 a flash in the pan, or an indication of better things to come? I’m tempted to think the latter, actually.

2. Louisville Cardinals (Last: 2): The Cardinals’ schedule is a joke consisting of the depleted Big East American Athletic Conference, so running through it with 11 or 12 wins should not be a problem at all. What observers will find truly intriguing about Louisville this year will mostly revolve around whether voters will give the Cards enough credit in the national title conversation, and/or how much Heisman hype Teddy Bridgewater can amass.

3. Florida State Seminoles (Last: 3): New starting quarterback Jameis Winston appears to be the real deal, but we won’t know the extent of the young passer’s growing pains until the real games begin. Though the ‘Noles lost plenty to the draft (11 players in all), the last few recruiting classes still leave plenty of talent to keep this team hovering among the top 15-20, nationally.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (Last: 5): On paper, the Heels lost quite a bit with the departures of Giovani Bernard and Jonathan Cooper, but that discounts the extent of the offense’s evolution under coach Larry Fedora much too heavily. As a senior, QB Bryn Renner‘s poised for his best year yet, and after a strong part-time campaign last year, running back A.J. Blue could be one of the conference’s biggest surprises.

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