ACC Football Chat: Discussing Non-Conference Rivals and the Evolving Recruiting Landscape

Florida and Miami Have No Intentions on Renewing Their Rivalry Past 2013

Florida and Miami Have No Intentions on Renewing Their Gridiron Rivalry Past 2013

Earlier in the week, our own Hokie Mark started up a conversation surrounding three- and four-way rivalries over on SB Nation’s Every Day Should Be Saturday. The basics: there are several three-way rivalries being played out this season, and some of them are going away for a long time after that. Some due to disinterest, others due to scheduling. But what Mark was getting at was the unique setup for three- and four-way rivalries, and which are some of the most- and least-heralded in the country.

Of course, this turned into a jumping-off point for an email conversation between he and I, which I’ve compiled below for everyone. While the main topic focused on non-conference rivals, we also branched out into what’s become an increasingly year-round discussion for everyone: recruiting. Check it out:

Mark: Hello again, John! Only 100 days until the football season begins — a very special one for Syracuse and Pittsburgh, to be sure. For the Orange, the season essentially begins and ends with old rivals: Penn State and Boston College. How do you feel about renewing those rivalries, and are there other rivalries for ‘Cuse that you’d like to see reawakened?

John: I’m about as excited as you can get, considering we’re still about 100 days out. Rekindling the rivalry with Boston College has been one of my favorite aspects of the ACC move, since it easily addresses our crisis of football identity (though much of the media doesn’t think so). Penn State, while arguably our oldest and most storied rival, hasn’t filled that role in over 20 years. It’s nice to play them when we can, but I think most fans have kind of moved on from the Nittany Lions — especially those of us who aren’t old enough to remember when SU and PSU were rivals to begin with.

As far as other rivalries worth rekindling, only two come to mind, and one’s not necessarily a “rivalry” at all. West Virginia‘s always been among our most-hated opponents, and with Syracuse beating the Mountaineers the last three times out (including last December’s Pinstripe Bowl), it’s only created a more hostile tension between the two fan bases. I was at the game in December, and ‘Neers fans were not what you would call “friendly” toward the Orange contingent, by any means. The other aforementioned opponent was Virginia Tech. While never traditionally considered one of Syracuse’s rivals, the Hokies and SU played plenty of heated games toward the latter years of the original Big East football conference that are worth rehashing. Of course, the ACC’s divisional setup won’t do much to help us play Tech more often, so that one’s also kind of off the table.

What about you, from a VaTech perspective? Any rivalries you’d like to start back up — feasible or not? Have any ill will left toward Syracuse from the Big East days?

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Final 2012 ACC Football Power Rankings

Clemson's Big Upset Over LSU Was One of Several Wins to Help the ACC Save Face This Postseason

Clemson’s Big Upset Over LSU Was One of Several Wins to Help the ACC Save Face This Postseason

Well that was a pleasant surprise now, wasn’t it? After getting knocked around on and off the field all season, the ACC found itself when it counted — the postseason — and (including Pitt & SU) managed a 5-3 slate, it’s first winning bowl record since 2005. If you want to include Louisville (and I sure do, given their big Sugar Bowl win), that brings the league to 6-3, with wins over the SEC (LSU & Florida), Big 12 (West Virginia) and Pac-12 (pre-season no. 1 USC). But sure, keep laughing at this league. They proved themselves and more during this year’s bowl season, and hopefully it’s a building block for even more excellent football.

1. Florida State Seminoles (12-2) (7-1) (LW: 1): Knock FSU for their schedule, their two losses (why are we criticizing a 12-win team again?) or their lack of a chance at a national title this season. But at the end of the day, they’re exactly where they were slated to be. The ‘Noles will be back in that conversation again this decade. It just takes some time, and this — winning both the ACC and the Orange Bowl — was the first step. Jimbo Fisher’s team will need to get past several big losses going forward, most notably Bjoern Werner and EJ Manuel, but the foundation’s there for a bright future.

2. Clemson Tigers (11-2) (7-1) (LW: 2): Despite not making it to a BCS bowl game, I’d say the Tigers’ consolation prize was still well-worth the trouble, no? On a national stage, Clemson beat mighty SEC’s LSU Tigers, and in the process, ended up being part of the most-watched non-BCS college football game in ESPN’s history. Most stunning in Clemson’s 25-24 victory, however, was the oft-maligned defense. Down 11 points heading into the fourth, the Bayou Bengals could’ve just run the clock out throughout the final stanza. Instead, it was Clemson that stayed strong, shutting out LSU and setting up a defining win for the Dabo Swinney era.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 4): It’s tough to look at UNC’s 2012 season without imagining what could’ve been for a squad that seemed to finally turn the corner here in Larry Fedora’s first year. Knocking on the door of a division title for quite some time, the Heels finally put it all together, only to be ineligible for the postseason. So while it’s a disappointment for North Carolina fans to watch an eight-win season get laid to waste, it’s also built this program some street cred. Despite Giovani Bernard‘s departure to the NFL Draft, QB Bryn Renner will stick around for his senior year, meaning this team returns plenty of firepower; most of which this season only served as a preview for.

4. Syracuse Orange (8-5) (LW: 5): As if it was meant to be, Syracuse closed out their time in the Big East — the conference they built — by putting together its most impressive season in a decade. Up against one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules, and a top-heavy league to boot, the Orange still managed to win six of their final seven games. The exclamation point, however (on top of a split conference title), was their resounding victory over rival West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. As someone who braved the cold to watch in-person, it was amazing to see this squad’s transformation from the season’s opening-week struggles to the machine-like execution against the Mountaineers.

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ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Virginia Cavaliers

Does Virginia's Michael Rocco Have What It Takes to Guide His Team to an ACC Title?

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Virginia Cavaliers

With all the good that came out of Virginia’s surprisingly successful 2011 season, the one thing truly missing were points on the board. Though the team ran a balanced offensive attack, ranking in the country’s top 60 in both passing and rushing, they had a difficult time punching it into the endzone — averaging just 23.2 points per game. Bringing back just seven starters on offense probably won’t make changing that number any easier, but collective experience may. In his first full season as a starter, then-sophomore Michael Rocco showed poise and leadership in completing nearly 61 percent of his passes for 2,600+ yards and 13 touchdowns. If the unit is looking to take it up a notch this spring, it’ll all start with Rocco’s improvement and the passing game overall. Last year’s leading receiver Kris Burd is graduating, but fellow starter Tim Smith will be back in a more active role for 2012. Competing for the spot alongside him will be sophomores Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell — two receivers who combined for just 28 catches last year in limited action. At running back, senior Perry Jones will also continue his jack-of-all-trades act this spring. As the motor that runs the Virginia offense, he racked up 1,400 total yards on 220 touches, and will once again serve as the main safety valve for Rocco in the passing game. Continue reading

ACC Power Rankings, Week 6

Will Clemson be running away with the ACC this season?

In these, the first conference rankings, I list the ACC teams, one through 14, as if Pitt and Syracusewere 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 (5-0) (2-0): The Tigers have already beaten the two teams everyone thought would be the class of the league this year (Florida State and Virginia Tech), so I think it should be obvious they occupy this spot. Also among Clemson’s victims this season include those “other” Tigers from Auburn, who won won a National Title last season (at least until the NCAA says otherwise) and the Sun Belt‘s likely champs, Troy. Also, just two ranked teams left on the schedule, so I like their chances to represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl.

2. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-0) (2-0): This team’s put up 45 or more points in four of their five contests thus far, and currently lead the nation in rushing yards per game (with a staggering 378.2!). While the defense has been mildly suspect, the ‘Wreck are 5-0 for the first time since the 1990, when they won it all as the last team to take home a national championship with a tie in their record. Like Clemson, just two ranked teams remain on the docket — though one of those are the Tigers on October 29.

3. Florida State Seminoles (2-2) (0-1): No, FSU is not rated this highly for its dominant victories over “powerhouses” Charleston Southern and UL-Monroe. Rather, it’s their two close losses to top-10 programs Clemson and Oklahoma that have the Seminoles looking a bit better than most 2-2 teams would at this juncture. Saturday’s game against Wake Forest should be a better barometer of what we’ll see from the team going forward.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1) (0-1): I won’t even deny it — I considered dropping the Hokies even further after Saturday’s listless effort against the Tigers. Admittedly, part of me has never dropped the grudge against VPI from their Big East days, but still — just a field goal at home?! For shame, Hokies. Good thing ECU‘s not joining the ACC anytime soon.

5. North Carolina Tar Heels (4-1) (1-1): Scandal aside, this is an immensely talented UNC squad that is tough to beat when they’re firing on all cylinders. On the minus side, turnovers have killed them at times as well, specifically during the Rutgers game, which should have never been close to begin with.

6. Pittsburgh Panthers (3-2) (0-0): The Panthers fail to play any ACC competition this season, so their conference record remains blank for 2011. If they were in the league this year, though? I’d bet they’d battle it out for fourth with UNC — especially if they perform anywhere near how they did against USF last Thursday. Ray Graham is an absolute terror. And I still say South Florida wins 8 or 9 games this season, just to further support how impressive a win Pitt had against them.

7. Syracuse Orange (3-2) (1-0): Cardiac ‘Cuse is trying to kill me this season. Five games. Three go into overtime. Another, against a FCS school, goes down to the wire. And I won’t even talk about Saturday’s horrendous effort against Rutgers. Say what you want about any and all of our tainted wins (injuring Wake’s QB to rally, the Toledo XP), but wins are wins and we face another potential one in Tulane this weekend.

8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-1) (2-1): Their first real test will be against FSU this weekend, but if not for some real luck on the part of my alma mater in week one, the Demon Deacons could very well have been 4-0 right now with a 3*-0 conference record (obviously for our purposes here, SU is being counted as a conference game). While I don’t like their chances against the ‘Noles, I will say that when you can pass the ball like that (314 ypg), you’ll at least entertain.

9. Virginia Cavaliers (3-2) (0-1): This is where it gets a bit ugly/muddled for the ACC. Virginia’s resume includes an OT win over Idaho and a three-point victory over Indiana. So needless to say, some real work to be done here in terms of quality wins. Chances are the party won’t be starting against Georgia Tech this weekend, as the Cavs may get run right off the field to the tune of 50+ points scored by Tech.

10. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-2) (0-1): Should we give them a break for having so many suspended players for the first game against Maryland? But then what of the poor play when they were at full strength? Also, when discounting the value of the Ohio State win (really not a lot going on in Columbus this season), it’s tough to see this team as any more than a 7-5 squad (at absolute best).

11. Maryland Terrapins (2-2) (1-0): Maryland sits at #11 for several reasons. Besides the aforementioned win over a ravaged-by-suspensions Miami team, Maryland also got SMOKED by Temple two weeks ago. Plus, those uniforms are horrendous. For everyone’s sake, let’s leave those on the drawing board from now on.

12. Duke Blue Devils (3-2) (1-0): Normally, losing to a FCS squad would be an automatic trip to the basement of completely subjective, arbitrary rankings like these. Lucky for Duke, they’re the only school of the bottom three with wins over FBS schools, so they get the nod. It seems the Blue Devils are doing just enough right to get by thus far, but can they get three more wins out of that strategy? I simply don’t think so.

13. North Carolina State Wolfpack (2-3) (0-2): The Wolfpack got absolutely shelled by Cincinnati, a team that frankly, won’t win more than six games this season. On the other hand, they hung tight with both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, so there’s potential. Still, with both victories over FCS schools, it’s tough to put them ahead of many teams.

14. Boston College Eagles (1-4) (0-2): Apologies in advance to Mike, who’ll surely have something to say about this later in the week, but BC has been terrible this year. Unfortunately for them, three more ranked opponents and a potentially hungry Notre Dame squad await them. Might as well put this one in the books already.