ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week 13

Florida State Clinched a Spot in the ACC Title Game, But Still Have Bigger Goals in Mind

Avoiding realignment talk is difficult, but we’ll try here, as there is still an actual football season still going on, with actual games being played. Due to the design of the ACC schedule, the conference championship game is set, and this week is mostly about BCS positioning and a few teams wrapping up bowl bids. The conference is bound to fall short of its allotment of bowl slots, but the question now begs how many. In an absolute worst-case scenario, the season may end up with just five bowl-eligible teams. Just pray that doesn’t happen.

1. Florida State Seminoles (10-1) (7-1) (LW: 1): Florida State took care of business last Saturday, wrapping up its third Atlantic division title via tiebreaker advantage with Clemson (who it beat back in September). But there’s still more left to do — namely beating archrival Florida in their annual grudge match for state supremacy. The Gators sit at no. 4 in the most recent BCS rankings, and FSU would love nothing more than to drop them from that perch. Vegas likes their odds, and there’s little chance the ‘Noles aren’t up for this game, which will be played at home in Tallahassee.

2. Clemson Tigers (10-1) (7-1) (LW: 2): The Tigers’ BCS chances took a bit of a hit last week when Oregon lost to Stanford, effectively slotting the Pac-12 back into two-bid territory. Still, Clemson can’t control what happens out west, and must focus on what it can control: beating South Carolina for the first time since 2008. The Gamecocks, while a bit banged-up on both sides of the ball, are still one of the country’s most formidable defenses, which should make this a fun matchup of strengths. Quarterback Tajh Boyd may still be able to put on a solid performance, but it won’t hold a candle to Saturday’s eight-touchdown day.

3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-5) (5-3) (LW: 10): It’s been a roller coaster season for the Wreck this year. And one that still has a few turns left in it as well. After clinching the ACC Coastal Division by virtue of Miami’s self-imposed postseason ban on Monday, they now have their sights set on beating no. 3 Georgia in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate and then taking the ACC’s BCS berth, too. And in a season like this, would you really rule it out? Since their 3-5 start, the Yellow Jackets have rattled off three straight impressive wins, scoring a combined 143 points over that span. Win or lose, the ‘Dogs will certainly have their work cut out for them.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-4) (4-3) (LW: 4): The Heels won a hard-fought game in the latest iteration of the South’s Oldest Rivalry, while further proving just how unpredictable they can be. After leaning heavily on running back Giovani Bernard for about seven straight games, they’ve pumped the breaks on his touches, and emphasized the passing game even more. Is Larry Fedora trying to prepare his team for life without their star back next season? Nothing’s confirmed yet, but it sure seems like that could be the case.

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ACC vs. The World (Week 3)

Randy Edsall and the Terps Had a Rough Saturday

Week 3: 8 games (5-3)

It was another week with a winning record against non conference foes for the ACC, but the numbers do not tell the whole story. All-in-all it was a rough week for the ACC out of conference, but teams also lost all of their non-conference games against other major conferences. And although Virginia Tech vs. Pittsburgh is an ACC matchup in the eyes of this blog, the Hokies loosing to a woeful Pitt team certainly did not make the ACC look al that well.

vs. Big East (0-2): North Carolina played well, but took a tough loss against a good Louisville team

vs. Big Ten (0-1): Like UNC, Boston College did not look bad, though still lost to a quality Northwestern team.

Highlight: Clemson took care of business with Furman without allowing for any unwanted drama.

Lowlight: Maryland lost to UConn, and things continue to get worse for Randy Edsall.

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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 Previews & Predictions: Week 3 (Part Two)

Andre Ellington and Clemson Will Be Using This Weekend’s Matchup Against Furman As a Warm-up for Florida State

This is Part Two of this week’s Previews & Predictions feature. Also check out Part One.

Furman Paladins (0-2) at Clemson Tigers (2-0): Clemson should be happy that their pass defense is improved, because the Paladins know how to throw the ball. Last year, a mild scare against fellow FCS school, Wofford, seemed to wake the Tigers up a bit. This season, they’ve got to use it as a tune-up for a presumed College Gameday matchup with Florida State a week later. Along with fitting Sammy Watkins back into the gameplan on Saturday, Clemson will likely be handing plenty of carries to Andre Ellington as well. One big concern they won’t get to work on, unfortunately, is run defense, since it’s likely Furman is throwing the ball for most of the game. Prediction: Clemson 63, Furman 18

Boston College Eagles (1-1) (0-1) at Northwestern Wildcats (2-0): Even if the Wildcats’ win over Syracuse a couple weeks back was luck, it’s hard to discount their effort in a win against a tough Vanderbilt team many thought was on a steep upswing. Boston College gets some help from NU’s less-than-stellar pass defense, which could surrender another huge day to Chase Rettig. The key for the Eagles will be running the ball effectively, however. SU was unable to do so, and it was their undoing against the Wildcats. Prediction: Northwestern 35, Boston College 27

North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) (0-1) at Louisville Cardinals (2-0):UNC quarterback Bryn Renner took a beating versus Wake Forest last week, so it’ll be interesting to see how he’s spared the same fate against an aggressive Louisville blitz. One obvious solution is running the ball more, though that depends entirely on Giovani Bernard‘s availability. If they can remain balanced on offense, and actually play some semblance of pass defense, the Heels could score an upset. Prediction: Louisville 30, UNC 26

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ACC Football 2012 TV Schedule & Spread: Week Three

Wake Forest and Florida State Are Among the Earlier Kickoffs For the ACC This Saturday, Starting at Noon ET on ESPN

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 3 Television Schedule & Spreads

Saturday, September 15

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats at Miami Hurricanes (no odds), noon ET, ESPN3

Virginia Tech Hokies at Pittsburgh Panthers (+11), noon ET, ESPNU

Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Florida State Seminoles (-24), noon ET, ESPN

Connecticut Huskies at Maryland Terrapins (+1.5), 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3

Furman Paladins at Clemson Tigers (no odds), 3 p.m. ET, ESPN Gameplan

Virginia Cavaliers at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (-10.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Boston College Eagles at Northwestern Wildcats (-3.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

North Carolina Tar Heels at Louisville Cardinals (-3.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Stony Brook Sea Wolves at Syracuse Orange (no odds), 4 p.m. ET, SNY

South Alabama Jaguars at NC State Wolfpack (-31.5), 6 p.m. ET, ESPN3

N.C. Central Eagles at Duke Blue Devils (no odds), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3

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ACC Preseason Top 25 Players of 2012: #5, Sammy Watkins

Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is #5 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 25 Players for 2012

As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

No. 5, Sammy Watkins, WR/Clemson

Life would be pretty good for Sammy Watkins, one of the nation’s most explosive players, if not for a spring arrest concerning marijuana. Now, while Watkins did everything that was asked of him in order to return himself to good standing at Clemson, he’s still out for the first two games of the season. Which is why he appears here at number five, instead of higher (a good case could’ve been made for him to be the best player in the ACC). But if you’re worried about Watkins’s performance at all this year, forget it. Even in just 10 regular season games, he still may put up some of the nation’s most impressive numbers.

Watkins burst onto the scene like a bat out of hell last year, notching 28 catches and six scores in his first four collegiate games. The 4.40 40-yard dash sprinter could not be stopped. A jack-of-all-trades, he not only made defenders pay in the passing game, but on runs and kick returns as well. And this year, he’s adding punt returns to the repertoire, too. Take a look at this video of his 89-yard kickoff return touchdown against Maryland last season. Anyone else startled by how easy that looked? The Florida native is a natural athlete, gifted and quick, without so much as breaking a sweat. It’s no surprise that neutralizing him slowed the Tigers’ offense significantly last year either, as two of their four losses came in his most underwhelming performances (another loss was experienced with him out of the lineup completely).

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ACC 2012 Scheduling Outlook: Clemson Tigers

Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers Face a Difficult Schedule, Along With Inflated Expectations in 2012

With all of the insanity going on over in the Big East, we wanted to give a breakdown of each of the ACC‘s schedules — how the teams stack up, and some thoughts on overall difficulty. If these change at all, we’ll also be sure to update them on a rolling basis. All information is up-to-date as of publishing, based on the latest from FBSchedules.com.

Today’s breakdown: Clemson Tigers

Clemson’s 2012 non-conference schedule is not at all enviable, with two SEC teams on the slate, much like last season. In addition to their annual matchup with South Carolina to end the season, the Tigers will start their season with a trip to Atlanta to face Auburn in the Chick-fil-a College Kickoff. The meeting will be the rivals’ third in a row, after not facing off from 1972 through 2009. Their first game against each other was played in 1899. Lucky for Clemson the rest of the non-conference schedule figures to be a cakewalk, with Ball State and Furman headed to Death Valley for the nearly-inevitable slaughter.

The Tigers’ ACC schedule is balanced, albeit difficult. While they get matchups with 2011 doormats Boston College, Duke and Maryland, they’ll also get just as many tilts with teams ranked in early preseason top 25 polls. Thankfully, of those teams, Virginia Tech and NC State visit Memorial Stadium, but Clemson still must travel down to Tallahassee, Fla. with projected top-10 program Florida State. If you’ll recall, Clemson defeated the Hokies twice last year — both times in resounding fashion — but split with the Seminoles and Wolfpack. Remaining opponents Wake Forest and Georgia Tech both gave the Tigers trouble in 2011, and if their defense isn’t improved, the same may be said this season as well. Head coach Dabo Swinney’s gotten Clemson to a BCS game. Now it’s time to reach their ultimate goal: a National Championship.

Previously: Boston College