ACC Football 2013 Previews & Predictions: Week 9

Miami Breathed a Sigh of Relief on Tuesday -- Will it Help Them Avoid Trap v. Wake?

Miami Breathed a Sigh of Relief on Tuesday — Will it Help Them Avoid Trap v. Wake?

A week after Florida State asserted itself as the ACC‘s top dog, we get a bunch of games that won’t really help us determine the pecking order beyond the ‘Noles. Despite being nearly halfway through conference play, this weekend feels like a bit of a lull — though still, plenty of chances for surprising (but hopefully not to surprising) results. 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

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3) (2-2) at Miami Hurricanes (6-0) (2-0): A matchup with a 23-point spread being the featured game of the week? #goacc… But honestly, that line’s a bit overblown and it’s not as if the ‘Canes have much of a home-field advantage anyway. Miami also struggled to get by a hapless North Carolina team last Thursday, while Wake Forest is suddenly coming on strong offensively, scoring 62 points over the past two weeks (strong for them, obviously). If Tanner Price can move the ball well on the ground, it should help set up the Deacs’ passing game for more success, though Miami’s offense might be too much for them. Whether it’s Duke Johnson or Dallas Crawford carrying the load, expect the Hurricanes to try and test Wake’s strong running defense all afternoon. Miami is likely to win this one — just not by as much as Vegas might think. Prediction: Miami 31, Wake 24

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

Louisville Cardinals (6-1) at USF Bulls (2-4): Louisville’s coming off a tough loss last Friday that killed off any national title hopes. USF’s riding a surprising two-game winning streak and actually holds a share of first in the American Athletic Conference right now. While the Bulls have played better of late, it’s unlikely that’ll be enough against a team out for a bit of redemption this week. USF is still a struggling offense that only puts up 16 points per game, and to be honest, UConn‘s the first offense they’ve really stopped all year. Teddy Bridgewater should make short work of the secondary and get the Cards back on track. Prediction: Louisville 41, USF 13

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-3) (2-2) at Virginia Cavaliers (2-5) (0-3): It’s unlikely Georgia Tech will be able to replicate last week’s 56-point output, though if there was an opponent that could happen against, I guess it would be UVa. The Hoos have been a mess all season, with an offense that can’t score (less than 18 points per game vs. FBS competition) and a defense that simply gets abused in second halves. Maybe Mike London coming under fire serves as motivation for Virginia? There’s a chance of it, though this really is a lopsided matchup of two teams going in opposite directions. Prediction: Georgia Tech 38, Virginia 20

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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 Heisman Watch: Week 8

Clemson's Tajh Boyd is Still Very Much in Control of Heisman Race, Though Jameis Winston is Gaining

Tajh Boyd is Still Very Much in Control of Heisman Race, Though Jameis Winston is Gaining

Like the national Heisman race, the ACC‘s version is packed very tightly with a bevy of spectacular passers leading undefeated teams. There’s very few ways to separate any of these players from each other, but we try our best with what we have at hand. Have other nominees? Submit your ballots below.

1. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (1,970 total yards, 20 total TD, 2 INT, 66.5% completion) (Last: 1)

No, Boyd’s performance against Boston College wasn’t amazing, but at the end of the day, he still managed over 360 total yards and two TDs. In a game that only featured 38 combined points between the two teams, I’d still say that’s pretty impressive. Under pressure, the senior’s accuracy has fallen off a bit, so that’s something to watch for. Though the main concern at the end of the day is to continue winning football games.

2. Jameis Winston, QB/Florida State (1,576 total yards, 19 total TD, 2 INT, 73.2% completion) (Last: 2)

Winston had a bye last week, though it’s tough to forget how well he’s played up to this point. He’s played second-fiddle to Boyd all season, but that could all change should he lead FSU to a victory against the Tigers on Saturday. In last year’s ACC Heisman race, EJ Manuel and Boyd were both pretty equal until the ‘Noles beat Clemson in late September. Winston has an opportunity to repeat the feat this year, and truly state his case for the trophy.

3. Teddy Bridgewater, QB/Louisville (1,921 total yards, 20 TD, 2 INT, 71% completion) (Last: 3)

Louisville appears bored with their opponents, and that goes double for Bridgewater, whose incredible statistics have fallen off somewhat from the early part of the season, but still possesses one of the best number lines in the entire sport. Just like the two gentlemen in front of him, if Bridgewater can continue to generate wins without many mistakes, his candidacy will only continue to improve. Unfortunately, Friday against UCF is likely to be one of his final performances on a national stage.

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ACC Football 2013 Heisman Watch: Week 7

After a Five-Touchdown Effort Against Maryland, Jameis Winston Shoots Back up the Charts

After a Five-Touchdown Effort Against Maryland, Jameis Winston Shoots Back up the Charts

Like the national Heisman race, the ACC‘s version is packed very tightly with a bevy of spectacular passers leading undefeated teams. There’s very few ways to separate any of these players from each other, but we try our best with what we have at hand. Have other nominees? Submit your ballots below.

1. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (1,603 total yards, 18 total TD, 2 INT, 66% completion) (Last: 1)

A game against Syracuse‘s lackluster secondary was exactly what Boyd needed to bolster his case as a Heisman contender. The star senior was pulled early, along with several other Tigers starters, and yet still accounted for 450 yards of offense and five scores. Every game won’t be against the Orange, of course, but if nothing else, the strong effort was a stern reminder of just how explosive Boyd can be.

2. Jameis Winston, QB/Florida State (1,576 total yards, 19 total TD, 2 INT, 73.2% completion) (Last: 3)

Just like Boyd, Winston used last week as a reminder to everyone about just how high his ceiling really is. Up against a Maryland team that was simply embarrassed, he tallied over 400 yards and five touchdowns — making things seem effortless for the second straight week and handing himself yet another “Heisman moment.” At this point, there’s no question the redshirt freshman can keep up a high level of play. The question is now how much better can he get?

3. Teddy Bridgewater, QB/Louisville (1,600 total yards, 18 TD, 1 INT, 71.7% completion) (Last: 2)

And this is where Bridgewater and Louisville’s fortunes start to dip somewhat. They’ve been playing for style points all season to make up for the poor schedule and poor American Athletic Conference affiliation for one more year, but they’re starting to lose ground on the other top-ranked teams now. Beat Temple 30-7 is not just what they were supposed to do, it’s less than what they should’ve been the Owls by (according to voters). It could spell doom for Bridgewater’s Heisman hopes and the Cardinal’s dreams of playing for a national championship, even if undefeated at year’s end.

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ACC Football 2013 Heisman Watch: Week 6

After His Strong Play Carried FSU Over Boston College, Jameis Winston Moves Up the Watch List

After His Strong Play Carried FSU Over Boston College, Jameis Winston Moves Up the Watch List

After five weeks of play, the ACC‘s set a pretty high standard for who belongs on this list. Among the criteria: have zero losses (as four — sort-of five teams do), be your team’s undisputed best player and in one case, giving us what could be a “Heisman moment.” Have other nominees? Submit your ballots below.

1. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (1,153 total yards, 13 total TD, 0 INT, 64% completion) (Last: 1)

Boyd’s made a habit of making opponent demolitions look easy, and that goes double for Saturday’s win over Wake Forest. Throwing just 24 passes, he still managed 311 yards and three scores. Rushing an uncharacteristic 17 times, he still ended up amassing 69 yards on the ground, with another TD thrown in for good measure. As everyone well knows by now, he’s a machine. And we’re so used to his success for the past three years that the gravity of his performances don’t even register anymore. It’s unfair, but it also sets you up well to be a Heisman frontrunner at times (like this one).

2. Teddy Bridgewater, QB/Louisville (1,250 total yards, 14 TD, 1 INT, 71.8% completion) (Last: 2)

A bye week may have actually done Bridgewater a favor, as most players got a full week to catch up to his astronomical statistics, yet still couldn’t. Through four games, he’s been absolutely clinical in his execution — easily one of the best playmakers in the country, even in what amounts to half-games for the most part. If he’s going to move up in the national conversation though, he needs the rest of the teams on Louisville’s schedule to pick it up a little bit. You can’t amass a Heisman resume blowing out a team destined for 2-10 every week, even if your numbers are as good as his have been.

3. Jameis Winston, QB/Florida State (1,159 total yards, 14 total TD, 2 INT, 73.6% completion) (Last: 3)

That sloppiness that’s been hinted at over the past couple weeks? Still there for the entire FSU team, Winston included, as we saw in last week’s oddly close victory over Boston College. And as much as that game may have given way to some doubts about the ‘Noles, it actually ended up pleading the case for Winston’s abilities above all else, and maybe even handed out what could be his “Heisman moment.” Tied at 17 with just a few seconds left in the second quarter, Winston unleashed a pressured Hail Mary to Kenny Shaw, which he completed for a touchdown. The feat of pure athleticism was a microcosm of what makes the true freshman such a force on the game, and a leader for this team.

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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 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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