ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 5

Clemson Survived a Scare Vs. NC State on Thursday, and Stay Atop This Week's Rankings

Clemson Survived a Scare vs. NC State on Thursday, and Stay Atop This Week’s Rankings

The season’s four weeks old, and surprisingly, the ACC‘s still got a good deal of unbeaten teams within its ranks. Perhaps the league’s rebounded in a big way? Or maybe they just figured out how to schedule better from a PR standpoint? I’d bet a little bit of both. 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 5)

1. Clemson Tigers (3-0) (1-0) (Last: 1): Clemson almost became the latest high-ranked victim of Raleigh, N.C. But due to a questionable out-of-bounds call and a fantastic effort by the Tigers’ defense, they manged to escape and remain in the national title conversation. Also worth noting: Tajh Boyd has sort of entered a bizarre realm in which nothing he does impresses us anymore. Throwing for 245 yards and three touchdowns in a win should still be an accomplishment, even if you are the league’s most consistently excellent passer.

2. Florida State Seminoles (3-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): Jameis Winston isn’t perfect! Or so we’ve discovered… The Florida State passer completed just 10 of 19 passes for 148 yards and two scores, and was one of many FSU players who had a less-than-stellar game against the team’s worst competition to-date. So is this a case of State just looking ahead to the rest of the slate, or an opportunity to cast some doubt on the ‘Noles? They’ve yet to be tested at this point, but they’ve also looked less impressive in each successive game. Time will tell, I suppose…

3. Louisville Cardinals (4-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): Like most, I’d love to get to the bottom of this running clock situation from Saturday, as it makes the Cardinals’ blowout of FIU even more impressive. But already four games in to this schedule to forget, it’s already gotten a bit sad, no? Of course, Teddy Bridgewater‘s numbers should not be discounted as a result, but we’re all starting to see the issues brought to light in preseason. Louisville’s playing through a 12-team disaster movie and just as a cinematic monster should, they’re plowing through everything in their path. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean they’ll be rewarded for doing so, even if it’s not their fault they have such a poor schedule anyway.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (3-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Miami, just like their rivals up in Tallahassee, sleep-walked through this week — or as much as you can sleep walk through a 77-7 victory. They had a bit of an excuse after Stephen Morris‘s injury, but nonetheless, what’s been most alarming about the ‘Canes start (in a bad way), is the lack of play-making by its top offensive weapons. So long as Morris is back and healthy, we’ll get a real glimpse at what they’re capable of soon.

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ACC Football Goat of the Week, Week 1: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Quarterback Logan Thomas is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 1

Virginia Tech Quarterback Logan Thomas is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 1

No one enjoys piling on when things go wrong. But nonetheless, we’ve got to call out the ACC players who were counter-productive in helping their teams grab a victory this weekend. On the bright side for them, they can always get off this list next week. And for their sake, let’s hope they do.

ACC Goat of the Week, Week 1: Logan Thomas, QB/Virginia Tech

Prior to Saturday night’s game against Alabama, there seemed to be loads of chatter about how Logan Thomas had put last year’s failures behind him and how Virginia Tech was prepared to pull an impressive upset. Unfortunately for the Hokies though, none of that ended up coming true. Tech looked like a disaster in all facets of the game, but nowhere was it more apparent than the offense’s continued inability to move the ball. Sure, Thomas wasn’t the sole reason for the issue, but at this point it’s undeniable that he will be struggling more often than not, even if it fails to reach Saturday’s awful levels. Few of the nation’s quarterbacks can manage to complete just 19 percent of their passes for 56 yards and an interception. With numbers like that, you might as well not have a quarterback at all. Thomas and Tech can redeem themselves soon enough, but after a ghastly display like that, things are suddenly looking very dire in Blacksburg.

Honorable Mention:

Drew Allen, QB/Syracuse (189 passing yards, 2 INT)

North Carolina offensive line (three sacks allowed, continued pressure, 293 total yards of offense)

Tom Savage, QB/Pittsburgh (201 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT)

Josh Harris, RB/Wake Forest (29 rushing yards)

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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 Football Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC's Running Backs for the 2013 Season

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC’s Running Backs for the 2013 Season

While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the running backs (you can check out last week’s feature on quarterbacks, too). Though there’s not a whole lot of experience at the position — just one returning back (Syracuse’s Jerome Smith) rushed for 1,000 yards last year — this group makes up for a lot of that in potential. Many of the most talented runners this year will be sophomores or juniors, so that aforementioned experience will come with time. As for those who are seniors, many possess a significant leg-up, which you’ll find reflected here as well.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

1. Florida State Seminoles: Injuries ravaged the Florida State backfield in 2012. But because of that, the team’s top two returning rushers, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., actually have quite a bit of experience under their respective belts (221 carries between them last year). They’re both vertical runners for the most part, doing most of their work in the middle of the line, but Wilder, in particular, also has some pass-catching ability out of the backfield (19 catches for 136 yards and two scores last year). Expect that role to expand this year, while also incorporating Mario Pender, who’s the quickest back on the roster and anxious to contribute after red-shirting last season.

2. Miami Hurricanes: Miami’s ranking here is purely on the strength of sophomore Duke Johnson, and his success is likely to decide how far the ‘Canes go this season. Despite splitting carries with Mike James last year, Johnson still ran for 947 yards and 10 scores, while tacking on another 1,133 yards from receiving and kick returns. With that on his resume in just one season, he’s now being listed among the most dynamic players in the country and will be the focal point of every gameplan against Miami. He won’t be acting alone in the backfield, but there’s no telling what to expect from backups Dallas Crawford or Eduardo Clements either.

3. Syracuse Orange: SU’s offense was largely seen as a pass-first attack in 2012, but its success in the season’s second half was heavily reliant on the running game. The Orange bring back everybody this year, and arguably have one of the deepest backfields in the country. The group will be guided by Jerome Smith (1,171 yards last year), but this will be a multi-back, run-first system. Expect Prince-Tyson Gulley to approach the 200-carry mark as well, while the team gets additional contributions from short-yardage specialist Adonis Ameen-Moore and jack-of-all-trades Ashton Broyld in hybrid WR/RB slot role.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

is Jim Grobe on the Hot Seat in 2013? This Spring May Help Decide His Fate

is Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe on the Hot Seat in 2013? This Spring May Help Decide His Fate

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team:  Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Spring Practice Start Date: March 19

Spring Game Date: April 20

After what can only be described as a frustrating 2012, Wake looks to right the ship for next season, starting here in the spring. But with 16 starters returning, along with head coach Jim Grobe and both coordinators, will anything change? While Grobe’s reign has involved consistency and apparent stability, he’s also come under some fire for the last few years of mediocrity. So will things be radically adjusted this spring, or is Grobe going to hope this veteran group can simply right the ship on their own? His job may depend on the answer.

As mentioned during the 2012 Wake Forest season recap, last season sure felt like 1-11, despite the fact that the Deacs went 5-7. And that was no more apparent than on offense. Wake finished 120th in total offense, 116th in scoring and only managed 21 points or more once from the beginning of October through the rest of the season. Despite all that, offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke is indeed back for his 10th season at the position, hoping that the offensive line can stay healthy and consistent in front of senior quarterback Tanner Price. After a strong start to his career, Price’s accuracy and confidence appear to have fizzled amidst increased pressure and uncertainty on the line, along with a variety of unreliable targets. Michael Campanaro‘s efforts last year were impressive, sure, but he’ll need to take a leap starting this spring if he hopes to develop into one of the conference’ elite targets. Price will also be in dire need of both another dependable receiver and a legitimate rushing attack if the offense hopes to reverse last year’s fortunes. Even with extended time in this system over the last three years, Josh Harris still hasn’t taken the lead at halfback, and it’s now or never for him as he enters his senior year. The one-dimensional attack was a key part of last year’s struggles, and he’ll be called upon to do more to help Price out this year.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest Struggled in Every Aspect of the Game in 2012, Making 2013 a Long Road Back

Wake Forest Struggled in Every Aspect of the Game in 2012, Making 2013 a Long Road Back

Team: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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

Postseason: N/A

Top Offensive Performer: Michael Campanaro, WR

Top Defensive Performer: Kevin Johnson, CB

It’s difficult to figure out what Wake Forest’s 2012 season actually was. Apologists cite numerous injuries along with off-the-field issues. Those more critical may even go after coach Jim Grobe’s diminishing returns over the past few seasons. But regardless of who/what is at fault — and all of the above (and more) are — there’s no denying there was just something decidedly listless about the Demon Deacons this year.

After September 29, Wake scored more than 20 points in a game just twice, and on the season, it happened just six times (and only one of those times did they top 28). To call the group “anemic” would actually be a compliment, as evidenced by their 18.5 points per game (116th in the country) and just 301 yards per game (120th). And really no player — maybe outside of receiver Michael Campanaro — is outside of criticism here. QB Tanner Price, who many thought was ready for a breakout season, regressed mightily to the tune of just 2,300 passing yards and 12 scores. The offensive line, which failed to block for him last year (allowed 34 sacks), didn’t really improve all that much this season (allowed 25), but it was his Price’s (in)accuracy that truly killed him. Five different times, he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, and even his most impressive effort (a 28-27 victory over North Carolina) featured zero passing scores (though he ran in two touchdowns). But was it because he felt too much pressure to carry the team? The Deacs averaged just 100 yards per game on the ground, with starter Josh Harris stacking up an immensely underwhelming campaign on his own, along with the rest of the backfield. And it only got worse as the season wore on. Wake couldn’t even amass 200 rushing yards over its final three games, even when one of those efforts amounted to 124 yards. One dimensional offenses can work, but that dimension needs to be effective. For this team in 2012, the offense can only be described as “no-dimensional.”

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week 12

DeAndre Hopkins and the Clemson Offense Are Hoping to Avoid a Letdown Versus NC State for the Second Straight Year

For this weekend to be deemed a success, the ACC must simply hope that its favorites pull out victories against in-conference underdogs, while two five-win squads tack on victories out-of-conference to get to bowl eligibility. Unfortunately, even the easiest request has become a tall order in the ACC, a league still mired in extreme parity, parading as mediocrity to outside spectators (or at least that’s my story). Let’s just hope for the best…

Game of the Week

NC State Wolfpack (6-4) (3-3) at Clemson Tigers (9-1) (6-1): Last year, I called this matchup a trap game, but for some reason felt that Clemson’s defense — facing a one-dimensional offense — would be the difference-maker. This time around, the game feels eerily similar. Underachieving Wolfpack squad versus a 9-1 Clemson team that hasn’t been tested in months, and thus, has plenty of room to grow on the defensive side of the ball. But for State, there just isn’t the same sense of urgency as last year — with the team clinching bowl eligibility last week, their backs are not pressed against the wall, nor are they all that inspired to play for their lame-duck coach, Tom O’Brien. I’m convinced this year’s Clemson team is better than the 2011 model, and because it’s a home game, it’s hard not to go with the talented Tigers and their potent offensive attack. Prediction: Clemson 41, NC State 30

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

North Carolina Tar Heels (6-4) (3-3) at Virginia Cavaliers (4-6) (2-4): The South’s Oldest Rivalry is always a fun — if underrated — game and this year’s edition should be no different as both teams are surrounded by more questions than answers. Carolina’s offense showed it’s capable of putting up points in bunches when it rang up 50 last week. But its defense revealed itself as a porous, overrated group still struggling to get a handle on Larry Fedora’s 4-2-5 scheme while giving up 68 points. On offense, the Hoos are no world-beaters, but there’s hope the group has finally hit its stride, with the running game seemingly back on track and Michael Rocco firmly taking the reigns of the passing attack once more. Expect tonight’s matchup to be sloppy and mistake-ridden, with Carolina killing off UVa’s dreams of bowl eligibility by a slim margin. Prediction: UNC 27, Virginia 21

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