ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 9

After Saturday's Stunning Win Over Clemson, There's No Question FSU's On Top in the ACC

After Saturday’s Stunning Win Over Clemson, There’s No Question FSU’s On Top in the ACC

Plenty left to digest in the ACC after a weekend of national poll carnage. FSU’s obviously the king of the hill after massacring Clemson, but every other spot appears up for grabs. With the season more than halfway over, the conference appears to be angling for two BCS bids (hopefully), adding some extra intrigue to the top four or so spots as well. 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 9)

1. Florida State Seminoles (6-0) (4-0) (Last: 2): So much terror. The Seminoles undressed Clemson in a way I’m unsure any of us ACC fans saw coming, and as a result, they sit atop this subjective pile of teams for the foreseeable future. Jameis Winston has asserted himself as the ACC’s best quarterback, leader and player, and is now the nationally-relevant personality the conference has needed for some time. So is FSU “back” for all intents and purposes? We’ve been here before, but it feels very different this time. I’d take this FSU squad over just about any other team in the country right now.

2. Clemson Tigers (6-1) (4-1) (Last: 1): Bear with me here. Yes, the Tigers were demolished. Yes, they proved their doubters correct, derailed their national title hopes and murdered Tajh Boyd‘s chances at winning a Heisman, too. But one surprising blowout can’t just eliminate all the good that’s come from this season, can it? Clemson’s defense is much-improved (especially in the pass-rush) and the offense is still top-notch. When comparing them to Miami, I’d take the Tigers despite last week, and that on its own elevates them over the ‘Canes for the time being.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (6-0) (2-0) (Last: 3): That Thursday night game was horrendous, and yet Miami still managed to pull it out. Stephen Morris was about as flawed as you’ll find him (threw four INTs) and Duke Johnson was injured early. And yet, this team was able to pull out a very late win on the shoulders of their defense and backup running back Dallas Crawford. Again, not pretty, but the fact that the ‘Canes showed some resiliency against a UNC team looking to save their season is a big step in the right direction.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1) (3-0) (Last: 5): The bye week gave the Hokies some much-needed rest and the additional reward of moving up further in the national polls. Inside the top 15, Tech is now a legitimate threat to be in the BCS picture, and with just one challenging game remaining (Miami), The key, of course, will be the offense’s consistency. If they can limit turnovers and score around 24 points per game, that should be enough to win with this D.

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ACC Football 2013 Previews & Predictions: Week 7

Logan Thomas and the Virginia Tech Hokies Aim for Win No. 6 vs. Pitt

Logan Thomas and the Virginia Tech Hokies Aim for Win No. 6 on the Season vs. Pitt

As the country wraps up non-conference schedules for the most part and dives head-long into league play, we get this final middle of the road week of ACC football. It’s not that the matchups are bad, of course. We just know that next week’s slate is chock-full of more interesting story lines and a likely ACC showcase for College Gameday. 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

Pittsburgh Panthers (3-1) (2-1) at Virginia Tech Hokies (5-1) (2-0): Both of these teams were pummeled in their respective season openers, and yet both have also managed to rebound nicely and factor into the early Coastal Division race. Of course, Tech’s five wins have been against a bit heftier competition than Pitt’s had over the last month, so it’s tough to consider them “equal” at this time. The Panthers’ wideouts have played out of their minds of late, but can they do so once again when facing the ACC’s top defensive unit? If the Hokies’ corners can keep containment along the outside, it’ll certainly be a tough task — especially since Pitt doesn’t have much of a running game. Their own defense will also pose a challenge to Virginia Tech, however, testing Logan Thomas to keep up his mistake-free ways. If he can do that, you have to believe the Hokies pull off yet another conference victory. Prediction: Virginia Tech 26, Pittsburgh 17

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

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-1) at Louisville Cardinals (5-0): Don’t be fooled the same way some poll voters have. SUNJ’s 4-1 record is mostly a mirage, built on the backs of college football bottom-feeders and a narrow escape against SMU last week. Formidable teams have been able to score at will on the Scarlet Knights this year (twice allowed 50 points or more), and that makes Louisville’s job rather easy. Teddy Bridgewater should have no problem spreading the field against this defense, and even if the running game fails to get going early, they’ll be plenty of time for handoffs later. Louisville’s not overlooking this one as it might be their “toughest” game all year, so don’t expect them to sleepwalk through. Prediction: Louisville 42, SUNJ 20

Navy Midshipmen (3-1) at Duke Blue Devils (3-2) (0-2): Navy’s rushing defense (85th in the country) is a problem for the Midshipmen right off the bat, so don’t be surprised to see Duke quarterback Brandon Connette running even more than normal. Lost in the shuffle of his many interceptions, Connette’s actually collected a pretty stellar set of statistics both on the ground and through the air (1,246 total yards and 17 scores), and should continue to rack up more against a so-so Navy D. Duke’s defense hasn’t been much better against the ground game, but they do have the excuse of facing Georgia Tech. The line’s close on this one (-3 for Duke), but I see the Blue Devils winning comfortably. Prediction: Duke 35, Navy 20

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #5, Stefon Diggs

Maryland’s Stefon Diggs is #5 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Maryland’s Stefon Diggs is #5 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

It’s finally game week! 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. 5, Stefon Diggs, WR/Maryland (Last Season: NR)

If anyone suffered the “most” from Maryland’s quarterback issues in 2012, I’d argue it was Stefon Diggs. The freshman wideout was still able to show glimmers of some real excellence, but it was obvious that his production was severely hampered by the team’s injury-induced carousel at the passer position. So if anyone’s excited about everyone coming back healthy, it’s probably Diggs. I mean, the team even considered using him at quarterback last year after the rash of injuries tore through the Terps entire depth chart. Of course, it never got to that point, and Diggs himself appeared to beg fans to “hang in there” with him. But if we’ve learned anything from Maryland’s 2012, it’s that we haven’t even come close to figuring out how good their star wide receiver can be.

On the surface, Diggs’s receiving numbers did not look overly gaudy (and we’ve covered why they wouldn’t). But when you consider them further, 54 catches, 848 yards and six touchdowns ain’t too shabby for a freshman. When you add in his rushing and return yards, however, that’s when you’re floored. In just 11 games, Diggs amassed nearly 1,900 yards and eight scores, taking the league by storm in much of the same way that Clemson WR Sammy Watkins managed to back in 2011. Halfway through the year, it almost appeared as if we’d see a new highlight reel play from Diggs every weekend, and all for a team that was sputtering along as it dealt with injury after injury.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Maryland Terrapins

After Two Very Rough Seasons, Is a Young Maryland Team Ready to Bounce Back?

After Two Very Rough Seasons, Is a Young Maryland Team Ready to Bounce Back?

Team: Maryland Terrapins

2012 W-L: 4-8 (2-6)

Head Coach: Randy Edsall (6-18; third season)

Returning Starters: 9 (5 Offense, 4 Defense)

The Terrapins’ ACC farewell tour sets up rather well. Outside of the top two spots, the Atlantic Division is largely up for grabs. They play a very manageable schedule. And they’ve got an offensive star on their hands in wide receiver Stefon Diggs. All of that sounds great, but there’s plenty to overcome as well. Coach Randy Edsall has won just six games total in two season in College Park, and while the team has talent coming in, there’s not a whole lot of experience to speak of either. Plus, the entire athletic program is pretty much bankrupt and there’s declining fan interest across the board (but notably in football). So how does this all end up playing out?

For starters, Maryland should automatically be better on the offensive end, now that they have quarterback C.J. Brown back from last summer’s torn ACL. Though they trotted out four different players to under center (including a freshman linebacker) in 2012, things actually didn’t start off half bad for the team on offense. With a huge assist from Diggs’s play-making, they started off 4-2, moving the ball reasonably well and scoring 22 points per game. But then the injuries struck, and the Terps would end up with one of the country’s worst offenses across the board. Brown will change things immediately by bringing a versatility to the quarterback position (had seven passing TDs and five rushing TDs in 2011), and help them fix their weakest link from last year. There are still plenty of questions about Brown — fans forget that he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in 2011 — but at least it’s better than what they dealt with last season. Along with the dynamic Diggs catching passes, he’ll also have transfer Deon Long at his disposal. Last playing for New Mexico, Long had 47 catches for 809 yards in 2011, and paired with Diggs, should surpass those numbers this year. So long as Brown can get the ball to both of them, Maryland’s obviously looking at a much more dynamic passing game compared to what it had (104th in passing yards per game).

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ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Sammy Watkins is the ACC's Top Receiver, But Does a Different Team's Wideouts Outpace Clemson's?

Sammy Watkins is the ACC’s Top Receiver, But Do a Different Team’s Wideouts Outpace Clemson’s?

While we’re still (barely) over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the wide receivers and tight ends (we’ve also covered running backs and quarterbacks thus far). Like virtually every other conference in the country, you can’t necessarily call the overall receiving product in the ACC “stellar.” For some reason we’ve arrived at a dearth of talent at the position of late. But nonetheless, the league still possesses a strong group of receivers at the top, plus a ton of depth, even on the teams that are lower on this list.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual wide receiver or tight end is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of pass catchers is. Also note: Louisville (as has been the case since November) is included here. Additionally, since these are completely subjective rankings, the difference between the seventh and eighth team is almost entirely negligible (especially in the case of this position). Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

1. Florida State Seminoles: FSU just has too many players who can catch the ball in the open field, and that’s a good thing, especially when fielding an inexperienced quarterback. After a productive season last year (57 catches, 741 yards, six scores), Rashad Greene looks ready to take a huge leap forward for this group, and could be one of the better pass catchers in the ACC. Along with Greene, look out for Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, especially Benjamin, who could end up being a breakout player for the ‘Noles this season following a productive freshman campaign. At tight end, Nick O’Leary should continue his improvement, but with so man other players looking for the ball, it’s uncertain how many passes are thrown his way.

2. Clemson Tigers: Replacing Brandon Ford (TE) and leading receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson certainly has their work cut out for them. But you can’t underestimate the receiving depth Chad Morris and Dabo Swinney have built on this Tigers roster. After an uneventful offseason, Sammy Watkins should be back to his freshman year form, which immediately takes the load off of Adam Humphries and Charone Peake. While not overly experienced, the two still caught 66 combined passes last year, which should trend even higher in 2013. Tight end is a question mark, though Stanton Seckinger likely has the inside track to starting there.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: In year two of Larry Fedora’s offense, it’s time opposing teams started to fear this group. Quinshad Davis put up one of the best freshman receiving seasons in ACC history last year and there’s little doubt he’ll continue to produce at that level again. And he’ll have help, too. Fellow starter Sean Tapley brings further speed on the outside, while tight end Eric Ebron will be putting his athleticism to use against linebackers and corners alike. Ebron’s slated to be one of the best TEs in the country this year, and one look at his 6’4″ 245-pound frame leaves little question as to why.

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Too-Early 2013 ACC Football Power Rankings (June 10)

Can FSU Quarterback Jameis Winston Live Up to His Growing Hype?

Can FSU Quarterback Jameis Winston Live Up to His Growing Hype Around Tallahassee?

The college football season is in sight! No, seriously it is. I received my Athlon Sports 2013 season preview magazine a couple weeks ago. Football Study Hall was able to amass a power poll based on all the preseason rankings thus far. Things are happening! And with that, we’re edging closer and closer to late August. Until then, these rankings are just conjecture, but oh well — we all need something to pass the time until kickoff.

1. Clemson Tigers (Last: 1): Clemson’s season is very likely to boil down to the first and last weekends, with 10 trap games in the middle. Vegas obviously likes the Tigers, but will the pressures of being a National Championship contender finally get to the team at some point? That’s why they play the games, of course, but win or lose the opening game against Georgia, it’s worth circling September 19 vs. NC State and October 19 vs. FSU as some potential bumps in the road.

2. Louisville Cardinals (Last: 2): Is is ridiculous to say that anything short of an undefeated season will be a disappointment for Louisville? The Cardinals play the 90th-most difficult schedule in the country in 2013 — a nice way of saying “nobody.” Like Clemson, though, they’ll be up against the weight of expectations, which could end up being the toughest opponent they face all season.

3. Florida State Seminoles (Last: 3): Jameis Winston will need a couple of games to adjust as the Seminoles’ starting passer, but until then he’ll have plenty of support from his defense, which is more experienced than the “returning starters” numbers let on. FSU doesn’t face a major-conference team with a winning record until October (Clemson), so there’s ample time for everyone — players and coaches — to get settled in.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (Last: 4): North Carolina had one of the top 15 offenses in the country last season, and that was just the first season under Larry Fedora’s system. As he continues to burn up the recruiting trail, this is a team poised to be even better in 2013 as they adapt to Fedora’s spread style. The Heels’ defense may be a trouble spot, but if they’re scoring as they should, it may not matter much. Continue reading

National Signing Day 2013: ACC Team Recruiting Rankings

Matthew Thomas and Florida State Are the Class of the ACC's 2013 Recruiting Classes

Matthew Thomas and Florida State Are the Class of the ACC’s 2013 Recruiting Classes

Earlier today, we covered the ACC‘s top 15 recruits from National Signing Day. Now, we take a closer look at each team’s haul and how it stacks up against their conferencemates (plus Louisville), while also highlighting each school’s top recruit. Once again, we’ll be using ESPN’s rankings for consistency’s sake. Please don’t take that as us putting too much stock in these (or any) numbers, however.

1. Florida State Seminoles (22 commitments, 12 in ESPN300): FSU underwent a bit of a crisis a few weeks back, losing offensive coordinator James Coley to rival Miami, and possibly a ton of their recruits in the process. And yet, the collateral damage didn’t turn out all that bad. The ‘Noles still pulled down a boatload of top recruits from all across the south (especially Florida), filling most needs on both sides of the ball. This team will be forced to reload a bit in 2013, and this class helps them do that — most notably at linebacker, with five commits at the position. Top Recruit: Matthew Thomas, OLB (No. 6 overall, Grade: 90)

2. Clemson Tigers (23 commitments, 10 in ESPN300): Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney continued his recruiting hot streak, scoring another strong class packed with athletic defenders as he and D-coordinator Brent Venables fix this squad’s biggest weakness. While he wasn’t the most heralded member of the star-studded class, New York DE Ebenezer Ogundeko could end up being the hidden gem here, though he’ll need to bulk up a bit for the college game. Top Recruit: Mackensie Alexander, CB (No. 4 overall, Grade: 91)

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (22 commitments, 4 in ESPN300): Tech took advantage of a strong 2013 class coming out of Virginia, nabbing 14 in-state recruits. Overall, the group appears heavy on defense, which stays in line with what Frank Beamer’s staff has done consistently over the past two decades. Granted, that won’t help the team’s current offensive woes, but given some defensive issues this past season, bolstering that side can’t be a bad thing. Top Recruit: Kendall Fuller, CB (No. 18 overall, Grade: 88)

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