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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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Tanner Price and the Wake Forest Offense Must Get Back on Track This Year to Get Back to a Bowl

Tanner Price and the Wake Forest Offense Must Get Back on Track This Year to Return to a Bowl

Team: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2012 W-L: 5-7 (3-5)

Head Coach: Jim Grobe (73-74; 13th season)

Returning Starters: 15 (7 Offense, 8 Defense)

Despite what’s perceived as an unprecedented level of program success under his stewardship, Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe finds himself on a bit of a hotseat this fall. The Deacs have missed the postseason in three out of their last four years, and have not won more than six since 2008. After the high-water mark of the 2006 ACC Championship, Wake has actually become a program that expects to be winning six or seven games every year. It’s not the easiest place to do that, of course, but when you set expectations (even lightly), it becomes hard for folks to shake that notion you’re falling short. Hence Grobe’s current position.

If this feels like a broken record in these ACC preivews, it sort of is: Wake Forest’s offense struggled mightily last season. Plenty of teams can’t move the ball effectively, but it does take a special kind of ineptitude to average just 18.5 points per game — nevermind the fact that they also managed to win five of those contests somehow. For what feels like the umpteenth season in a row, Wake’s offensive line simply could not stay healthy (that’s what happens when you’re undersized) and it wreaked havoc on this team’s ability to put up points. While that lack of health is certainly a concern this fall too, it could also be seen as an opportunity. With so many injuries, there’s a large number of Deacs O-linemen with extensive experience and that makes for a more polished rotation at those positions. They’ll need fresh legs given the level of pass-rushers in the conference, and also in order to keep the running game going. Averaging just 100 yards per game, last year’s rushing attack may as well have not existed and part of that falls on the line’s inability to push the pile forward. The other part of that equation are the actual backs though, and it’ll be interesting to see if Josh Harris‘s dismissal-turned-reinstatement this offseason was the type of jolt he needed to finally live up to his potential.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #18, Michael Campanaro

Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro is #18 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro is #18 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Less than one week until college football kicks off! 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. 18, Michael Campanaro, WR/Wake Forest (Last Season: NR)

Michael Campanaro was the entire Wake Forest offense last year. Let’s get that out of the way. In the three games he caught more than 10 balls, the Demon Deacons were 3-0 while scoring an average of 35 points per game. In the four contests in which he caught two passes or less (including two where he did not play at all), they were outscored 115-57, picking up a 16-10 victory over lowly Virginia. The Deacs completed 239 passes on the year (70th in the country) and of those, Campanaro caught 79 of them (one-third). His six scores were nearly half of the teams’ 13 through the air. Again… the entire offense.

This season, Campanaro needs to make the leap, however, from reliable target to game-changer. That’s no easy task in this sort of overly conservative offense. But in just 10 games last year, he did make a huge impact. Now he simply needs to be targeted more often — or maybe the Wake offense simply needs to be better. They understood what they had in Campanaro last year — a quick receiver with sure hands who could excel catching passes in space — and even looked like they tried to use him in innovative ways (16 rushes last year). I have a feeling with the impending move to a spread option setup, you’ll see much more of Campanaro running the ball, which means a ton of big-play potential. No, he’s not Sammy Watkins in that capacity, and never will be, but nothing wrong with trying some new things to fix a very stale attack.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #22, Nikita Whitlock

Wake Forest’s Nikita Whitlock is #22 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Wake Forest’s Nikita Whitlock is #22 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Ten days until college football kicks off! 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. 22, Nikita Whitlock, NT/Wake Forest (Last Season: NR)

Whitlock has struggled to stay on the field throughout his career at Wake, so it’s never easy to quantify his importance to this defense, or how he stacks up against other ACC defenders. But that doesn’t mean he’s an enigma either. The 5’11″, 250 pound nose tackle makes up for his lack of size by getting a quick jump off the snap; shutting down runs up the middle, while also getting through to the quarterback. He had three sacks last season, which is par for the course over the first three years of his career. If they want to get back to the postseason though, Wake will need him to finally increase those numbers in 2013.

This year, Whitlock is just one veteran cog in a three-man front. He’s surrounded by experienced defenders, so you would think that spells ample opportunities for him to take advantage of one-on-one matchups between himself and the opposing center. While Whitlock is well-regarded as a run-stuffer, it’s also tough to glance over the fact that his numbers have dropped a bit since his breakout freshman season back in 2010. After 10.5 TFLs in his first season, he bumped that up to 14 in 2011… and then dropped to just 5.5 last year. You can blame it on injury if you’d like, but that overlooks the attention he’s paid by offensive linemen. As an interior linemen who runs a 4.7 40-yard dash, that’s still an incredibly tough man to stop, blitzing or not.

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ACC Football Standout Senior 2013: Wake Forest

Tanner Price is Banking on Increased Mobility to Jump-Start a Stagnant Wake Forest Offense

Tanner Price is Banking on Increased Mobility to Jump-Start a Stagnant Wake Forest Offense

Last season’s juniors are now this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.

Over these few weeks, we’ve gone team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Tanner Price, QB

As a sophomore, Tanner Price made Wake Forest think they’d struck gold, as their accurate, strong-armed passer led the team to six wins and within one ACC victory of a spot in the league championship game. Throughout 2011, Price was seen as a natural leader and quick decision-maker; one that could certainly carry the Demon Deacons offense and push them to greater heights. And then 2012 happened. The bottom fell out for the entire Wake offense, which managed to be among the worst in the nation. Price regressed mightily, completing just 55.6-percent of his passes for 2,300 yards and 12 scores. Injury bug or not on the offensive line, it was a disaster.

But it shows just how important Price is, and why so much is riding on him to get Wake Forest back to a bowl this year. Last year’s running game averaged just 100 yards per game. The defense allowed nearly 32 points per game. If the team’s senior quarterback isn’t throwing well, there’s not much hope, and yet much of that is beyond his control. Or at least it was.

For 2013, while little personnel has changed for Wake, the philosophy appears to have overhauled itself quite a bit. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke, who’s served the role for 10 years now, seems to understand the pressure the staff’s on, and is implementing some “new” things this year. Mainly, spread option elements. As head coach Jim Grobe mentioned to ESPN during spring practice:

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NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Wake Forest Prospects

Tommy Bohanon's Strength Has Impressed Scouts, Virtually Securing His Draft Position

Tommy Bohanon’s Strength Has Impressed Scouts, Virtually Securing His Draft Position

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

Wake Forest will return virtually everyone for the 2013 season, meaning expectations are high, while draft prospects are decidedly lower. While it can’t hurt to return so much talent back, the program would be well-served to get back to its pro-producing ways come next spring. One of Jim Grobe’s most impressive jobs at Wake is putting them on the map of NFL scouts, and continuing that reputation is paramount to the program’s success and his continued position as head coach.

Tommy Bohanon, FB, Senior (Projected: Early Seventh Round)

As one of the best players at his position, you’d think Bohanon would be able to swing better than just a seventh round pick. Unfortunately, however, fullbacks also continue to be done away with at the pro level — at least in the traditional sense. Looking at him purely as a backfield component, Bohanon’s a bruising, head strong runner with slightly lower-than-average speed (4.81 40-yard dash). Where he excels though, is his upper body strength, as evidenced by his 36 bench press reps at the combine; the best among all running backs. If used correctly, his 6’1″ 246-pound frame could be used in both a lead-blocking capacity and as dangerous pass-catcher as well. Adding a new fold to his game as a senior, he caught 23 passes for 208 yards (and five scores), which is sure to pique the interest of teams looking for short-yardage options.

Previously: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Maryland, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech

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Very Early 2013 ACC Football Season W-L Predictions

Can Tajh Boyd and Clemson Live Up to Early Predictions and Win the ACC Championship?

Can Tajh Boyd and Clemson Live Up to Early Predictions and Win the ACC Championship?

With a nod to SB Nation’s Barking Carnival for the basis of this idea, we wanted to take a very early, top-line view of each ACC team’s prospects for 2013 with regard to schedule. What we’ve done to avoid diving into each and every game, however, is limit this look to just in-conference matchups (eight per team), and provide you with the basic info you’ll need on each squad. In particular, how much experience they have at the quarterback position, how long their respective coach has been there, and how many returning starters they have. Obviously, it takes more than just that information to surmise how a team will fare in a given year, but since it’s so early, this should be plenty to get a conversation going. All figures on returning starters are from Phil Steele.

Boston College Eagles: Coach: Steve Addazio (first year); Quarterback: Chase Rettig (fourth year); Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense); Projected conference W-L: 1-7

Clemson Tigers: Coach: Dabo Swinney (sixth year); Quarterback: Tajh Boyd (third year); Returning starters: 13 (seven offense, six defense); Projected conference W-L: 8-0

Duke Blue Devils: Coach: David Cutcliffe (sixth year); Quarterback: Anthony Boone (first year); Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense); Projected conference W-L: 2-6

Florida State Seminoles: Coach: Jimbo Fisher (fourth year); Quarterback: TBD; Returning starters: 10 (six offense, four defense); Projected conference W-L: 6-2

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Coach: Paul Johnson (sixth year); Quarterback: Vad Lee (probable; first year); Returning starters: 16 (eight offense, eight defense); Projected conference W-L: 5-3

Maryland Terrapins: Coach: Randy Edsall (third year); Quarterback: C.J. Brown (probable; second year); Returning starters: 12 (seven offense, five defense); Projected conference W-L: 2-6

Miami Hurricanes: Coach: Al Golden (third year); Quarterback: Stephen Morris (second year); Returning starters: 19 (10 offense, nine defense); Projected conference W-L: 7-1

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