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 Heisman Watch: Week 9

Jameis Winston Flies to the Top of the Heisman Watch List After Beating Clemson

FSU’s Jameis Winston Flies to the Top of the Heisman Watch List After Beating Clemson

You’ve heard this before: Florida State’s big win on Saturday shakes up everything we thought we knew about the ACC. And that includes the Heisman race. As long as FSU keeps winning, Jameis Winston is a serious contender and should remain atop this list. Have other nominees? Submit your ballots below.

1. Jameis Winston, QB/Florida State (2,022 total yards, 23 total TD, 3 INT, 71.3% completion) (Last: 2)

No matter the size of the stage, Jameis Winston has risen to the occasion, with his performance against Clemson obviously being the year’s standout game for any player. He’s got at least two or three “Heisman moments” already, the season’s landmark win and he’s piloting a National Championship contender. What more could you ask for out of a quarterback? He’s a Heisman frontrunner now — arguably even more so than the next man on this list ever was.

2. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (2,134 total yards, 21 total TD, 4 INT, 63.1% completion) (Last: 1)

Any Heisman contender can survive one “bad” game, however this was Boyd’s second. Plus, he lost to fellow contender in Winston. Yes, the senior passer has been in the conversation since the year began, but at this point, his time might have run out. Winston’s energy and charisma are infectious and his performance against Boyd’s Tigers was other-worldly. Boyd is still a stellar senior. It’s just unlikely he’s stellar enough to take home this award.

3. Teddy Bridgewater, QB/Louisville (2,257 total yards, 22 TD, 2 INT, 72% completion) (Last: 3)

Like Boyd, Bridgewater’s time as a Heisman contender may have run out, but it shouldn’t take away from the excellent season he’s had for the Cardinals. While his team lost last Friday, it’s to little fault of their quarterback, who still threw for over 300 yards and two scores. At this point, all he can do is continue to help this team win, and hopefully they can work their way back into the BCS conversation. They’ll need some help, but it’s possible.

… and that’s it. No point extending this list past the top three anymore, since that’s really all there is. Obviously discussions can be reopened if/when all these contenders are eliminated and we revert to the Weinke Awards Watch (named for the last ACC Heisman winner, Chris Weinke) instead.

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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 Player of the Week, Week 8: Jameis Winston, Florida State

Florida State QB Jameis Winston is the ACC's Player of the Week for Week 8

Florida State Quarterback Jameis Winston is the ACC’s Player of the Week for Week 8

Each week, we’ll be identifying the best ACC (plus Louisville) player from that weekend’s games. As always, it’s a completely arbitrary award with no specific criteria beyond the vague concept of “excellence.” No, we don’t take write-ins.

ACC Player of the Week, Week 8: Jameis Winston, QB/Florida State

There’s no denying that Florida State’s victory over Clemson was an astounding series of events, orchestrated by the entire Seminoles team. On both sides of the ball, FSU simply smothered the Tigers, disrupting their gameplan in the early seconds and then just continuing to roll thereafter. Plenty of credit goes out to the defense (and they’ll get their due below), but it’s impossible to discuss this team’s success without Winston. The redshirt freshman quarterback’s risen to every single challenge presented to him this season, with the national attention of the Clemson game being no different. Despite being held in check on the ground (or rather, just didn’t need to bother running), he led an all-out assault on the Tigers through the air: 22-for-34, 444 passing yards, three touchdowns. That’s 20 yards per completion, and over 13 per attempt. Clemson’s secondary never had a chance, especially when they started blitzing a bit too much — teams should probably stop doing that. There’s plenty of season left, but Winston’s impressive win sets them up for what should be an extremely exciting second half of the season and a real shot at playing for a National Championship.

Honorable Mention:

Lamarcus Joyner, FS/Florida State (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 FF)

Isaac Bennett, RB/Pittsburgh (30 carries, 240 yards, 3 TD)

Dallas Crawford, RB/Miami (33 carries, 137 yards, 2 TD)

Zach Laskey, RB/Georgia Tech (13 carries, 75 yards, 3 TD)

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ACC Football 2013 Week 8 Lessons: Florida State Asserts Itself Into National Championship Conversation

Welcome to the National Championship Conversation, Florida State... It's Been Awhile

Welcome to the National Championship Conversation, Florida State… It’s Been Awhile

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 8 of the ACC football season:

1. Florida State joins the National Championship conversation: After spending the early part of the season lingering around the title conversation, FSU is now firmly entrenched in it, and will be so long as they stay unbeaten. The ‘Noles win over Clemson was such a thorough dismantling that you can’t help but buy into the team’s championship hopes now. And it’s not just the offense either, though Jameis Winston had about as impressive a performance as you can on that national platform. The defense showed the same fire they delivered last season as well, shutting down a dynamic Tigers passing game. Dynamic, exciting and very dangerous, Florida State has now become the most entertaining wildcard in this race toward the BCS, and the ACC’s best hope to win it all.

2. Clemson botches their chance: On the other side of the 51-14 coin from Saturday night is Clemson and that team’s absolutely botched opportunity with the national spotlight shining down on them. Of course there were concerns about the Tigers going in, but nobody could’ve predicted how thoroughly they were trounced (well, except Spencer Hall). National title hopes dead, Clemson must be content with simply playing through the slate and avoiding more losses. They can still do plenty this year — including compete in and win a BCS bowl game — but you can’t help but think of what might have been now.

3. The ACC looks better than ever: Despite Clemson’s loss, the conference has arguably never looked better in the BCS era. Four teams in the top 14. Three in the top 10 (the only conference that can say that). Florida State is the first ACC team in the top two since 2000. Digest that for a second. For all the talk we do around here to defend the North Carolina-based conference, that fact still stood above it all; those on-field results. As of right now, though, that’s all in the rearview. In this new “Power 5″ era of college football, the ACC is angling itself to be number three — which is not too bad at all and should/could secure the league for decades to come.

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Florida State vs. Clemson Preview: Why the Seminoles Will Win

Part 2 of Our Florida State-Clemson Preview Explains Why the 'Noles Will Win on Saturday

Part 2 of Our Florida State-Clemson Preview Explains Why the ‘Noles Will Win on Saturday

Saturday’s matchup between Florida State and Clemson is obviously a big deal. And since this is an ACC blog, it only makes sense that we discuss the game as much as possible. We’ve done so all week, but now it’s almost game day, and that means in-depth previews. I gave my short thoughts yesterday, but we want to dive in further. To help, I enlisted the assistance of none other than fellow ACC afficionado Hokie Mark — whom you know from his contributions here as well as his own site, ACCFootballRx. In this battle of ACC powers, he’ll be arguing in favor of Clemson, while I’ll present the reasons why Florida State should emerge victorious. Enjoy!

***

Yes, Clemson’s got the big game experience, the battle-tested quarterback and the home-field advantage. Those things are undeniable. But Florida State brings plenty with them as well. For one, “Famous” Jameis Winston seems to be just a small step behind Clemson’s Tajh Boyd as just a true freshman, and he even makes up for that gap in talent with what can only be described as “swagger.” Two Heisman moments already, a ridiculous stat line and almost irrational confidence in his abilities are all important characteristics in situations like this. With pressure looming down, the weight of Heisman potential, ACC titles and BCS National Championships within sight — sometimes irrational confidence is the only thing that can buy you a win.

Even if confidence isn’t enough though, he’s also got an impressive cast of characters to help him out as well. The running game is a multi-headed monster, with a variety of different backs who can also do some serious damage to an aggressively-blitzing Clemson front. Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder are a lethal combination, and resemble Syracuse’s attack enough (with a bit more talent too) to give the Tigers fits all day. The Orange ran for 323 yards vs. Clemson a couple weeks ago, and have supplied a blueprint for the ‘Noles to do the same. In the passing attack, Winston has the weapons to test Clemson’s secondary too, with Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene prepped to burn them on the outside. All of this made possible by Winston and what’s arguably the conference’s top offensive line.

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Florida State vs. Clemson Preview: Why the Tigers Will Win

In Part I of Our Extended FSU-Clemson Preview, We Explain Why Clemson Will Win

In Part I of Our Extended FSU-Clemson Preview, We Explain Why Clemson Will Win

(Ed Note:) Saturday’s matchup between Florida State and Clemson is obviously a big deal. And since this is an ACC blog, it only makes sense that we discuss the game as much as possible. We’ve done so all week, but now it’s almost game day, and that means in-depth previews. I gave my short thoughts yesterday, but we want to dive in further. To help, I enlisted the assistance of none other than fellow ACC afficionado Hokie Mark — whom you know from his contributions here as well as his own site, ACCFootballRx. In this battle of ACC powers, he’ll be arguing in favor of Clemson, while I’ll present the reasons why Florida State should emerge victorious. Enjoy!

***

This is the week: the Game of the Century (at least for the ACC). Florida State vs. Clemson. The winner likely takes the Atlantic Division, probably the ACC, maybe even a shot at the BCS title. To say this game is huge is an understatement!

Yes, I know that Florida State is the Las Vegas favorite, and yes, I’m aware that some of the computer models like CFBTN and others are also picking the ‘Noles. I’m still going to pick the Tigers, and I’ll tell you why…

First, Clemson is at home. In the recent history of this series, the home teams are 6-0. In fact, FSU has not won in Clemson since 2001 — 12 years ago. Quite honestly, the Seminoles are a different team on the road. At home the ‘Noles win by an average score of 41-11, but on the road, the margin drops to 32-22. Meanwhile, the Tigers have only lost one home game in two-and-a-half seasons (South Carolina). Advantage: Clemson.

Another factor is big game experience at quarterback. Tiger QB Tajh Boyd has been in some real battles over the years: Auburn (2011, 2012), Virginia Tech (2011, twice), LSU (2012), Georgia (2013) — not to mention this is Boyd’s third FSU game as starting QB. By contrast, Jameis Winston‘s toughest road game of his career was probably the game at Boston College; the most hostile environment Winston has played in so far? Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Advantage: Clemson.

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