ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #3, Duke Johnson

Miami's Duke Johnson is #3 in Our Countdown of the ACC's Top 50 Players for 2013

Miami’s Duke Johnson is #3 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

It’s finally game week! 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. 3, Duke Johnson, RB/Miami (Last Season: 9)

Duke Johnson shocked everyone from day one last year. On just seven carries against Boston College, he ran for 135 yards and two scores, while only beginning to give a glimpse of what he could do in the return game. And for some reason from there, he still never grabbed the starting job away from Mike James. In all 12 games, Johnson never ran the ball more than 16 times, and in four different games he ran it less than 10. What he was able to do considering that limited action though is downright astounding. If you include kickoffs, Johnson had a grand total of 193 touches. And in those limited moments, he still manged 10.7 yards per play. His total yards on the season ranked him 11th in the country, his average per game (171.7) were ninth. The only running backs to even come close to that type of production were North Carolina‘s Giovani Bernard and Kent State‘s Dri Archer. Yet the ceiling has been raised for Johnson, now a sophomore this year.

First and foremost, he’s now the primary back, and that should automatically mean he’s getting 20-25 carries per game. The ‘Canes also have a pretty strong passing game, which means the pressure won’t be entirely on him to produce at the same rate as last year (though he’ll likely be able to do so anyway). Should he end up in that 20-25 carry range, I’m curious to see how much longer he remains a kick returner, which would certainly diminish his overall impact, even if it helped out his rushing durability. In the passing game, he’ll be a factor yet again though, and should be able to improve upon last year’s 27 catches.

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Discover Orange Bowl Preview: Florida State Seminoles vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

Which EJ Manuel Will Show Up in the Orange Bowl -- the Elite Playmaker, or the Struggling Veteran?

Which EJ Manuel Will Show Up in the Orange Bowl — the Elite Playmaker, or the Struggling Veteran?

While Florida State reached the Orange Bowl, just as many expected, there’s also an air of lost potential about the ‘Noles this season. It’s why, despite never playing in a game of this caliber, many think that Northern Illinois has a shot at an upset. So do they? We take a look at how the matchup shakes out.

Bowl Game: Discover Orange Bowl

Location: Miami Gardens, Fla.

First Year: 1935

2012 Participants: Florida State Seminoles (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1)

Last Meeting: None

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Florida State (previous bowl game: 18-14 win vs. Notre Dame in 2011 Champs Sports Bowl)

On paper, Florida State was one of the country’s most dominant teams. Conference champions, 12th in scoring in the country (39.9 points per game) and sixth in scoring defense (15.1 points allowed per game). Yet, what will stand out most is how they struggled in key moments. Up 16-0 against NC State early in the season, the team began showing its deficiencies on offense. Then in the regular season finale, the defense showed its own issues, letting rival Florida rack up 24 points in the fourth quarter of an FSU loss. The common thread when they struggled most? EJ Manuel‘s consistency, or lack thereof. In four of their closest games, Manuel put up just two scores to five picks — not exactly the type of performances a championship-caliber team wants out of its senior quarterback. While all of their games certainly weren’t against “elite” competition, NIU’s defense did manage to force 15 interceptions and allow just 10 scores (seventh-best in the country), so that’s certainly something the ‘Noles should be prepared for. On defense, Florida State showed some holes without star defensive end Tank Carradine during the ACC title game, and it’s unlikely the team’s front-seven will be as aggressive without him in this matchup either. The Huskies allowed just 14 sacks all season — in part due to an elite offensive line, and also due to quarterback Jordan Lynch‘s elusiveness. It’s not impossible, but FSU will have to crack the code on containing Lynch if they hope to pull out a win.

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Russell Athletic Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

It's Been a Rough Year for Logan Thomas, But He'll Still Be the Key to a Hokies Bowl Win

It’s Been a Rough Year for Logan Thomas, But He’ll Still Be the Key to a Hokies Bowl Win

Virginia Tech endured its worst season in two decades this year, struggling to win two straight games in order to get back to a bowl. Rutgers, after getting themselves into the BCS Rankings’ top 15, lost three of three of their final five contests, and fell backwards into a four-way tie for the Big East title. Which team’s recent trend will continue?

Bowl Game: Russell Athletic Bowl

Location: Orlando, Fla.

First Year: 1990 (Blockbuster Bowl)

2012 Participants: Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-3)

Last Meeting: Virginia Tech over Rutgers, 48-22 (2003)

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Virginia Tech (previous bowl game: 23-20 loss to Michigan in 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl)

Before the season started, experts felt that Virginia Tech, while certainly adjusting to a ton of new faces on the O-line and in the backfield, could still succeed behind QB Logan Thomas and a staunch defense. Instead, the team tumbled to the brink of bowl ineligibility with a defense that was frequently put in poor field position, mostly be an offense that struggled mightily. Still, the team was top-40 nationally in passing and rushing yards per game, as well as points allowed per game (23.9). So that leaves this one up to the offense more than anything else. Thomas, who put on quite a performance in 2011, has regressed significantly in 2012, but has continuously been relied upon to carry this team by himself. While there’s no point in creating excuses for the junior passer, it’s hard to otherwise figure the increase in sacks and interceptions from one year to the next. The key for Tech in this one will be mixing it up — involving a running game that was middle-of-the-road at its best, and completely inefficient at worst. Rutgers’ defense found itself most effective this season when facing one-dimensional teams. If the Hokies allow them to generate too much pressure on Thomas, it’s sure to result in more costly turnovers. While Thomas’s mobility can also be an asset, it’s just too much pressure for him to be the only effective offensive player.

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Atlantic Coast Convos 2012 Top 25: Final Regular Season Poll

After a Big Overtime Win in the MAC Title Game, NIU's Headed to the BCS

After a Big Overtime Win in the MAC Title Game, NIU’s Headed to the BCS

As is customary, we’ll be bringing you a new take on the top 25 teams in the country each Monday during the regular season. And on the final Saturday of the year, we ended up confirming what we all feared: a Notre Dame/Alabama title game that promises to be among the most haughty, pseudo-historical events you’ve ever witnessed. Disagree at all? Feel free to share that with us below (respectfully, of course).

Atlantic Coast Convos 2012 Top 25 (End of Regular Season)

1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-0) (LW: 1) (First-place votes: 4)

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0) (LW: 2)

3. Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1) (LW: 3)

4. Florida Gators (11-1) (LW: 6)

5. Oregon Ducks (11-1) (LW: 4)

6. Kansas State Wildcats (11-1) (LW: 7)

7. Georgia Bulldogs (11-2) (LW: 5)

8. Stanford Cardinal (11-2) (LW: 8)

9. LSU Tigers (10-2) (LW: 9)

10. Texas A&M Aggies (10-2) (LW: 10)

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Hypothetical College Football Playoffs 2012: Week 14

Another Oregon/Stanford Classic? Sign Me Up.

Now that the dream of a playoff has turned into a reality (following the 2014 season), this realistic-but-still-hypothetical-for-two-years feature actually has some outside guidelines to follow: four teams, two semifinal spots and then a championship game. We currently have no clue how teams will be determined, how polls will be released, or who will put them together. So with that in mind, we’re going with the BCS rankings (courtesy of BCSGuru for teams outside of top 25), for lack of an on-hand committee to spit out a detailed list. We’ll also fill in the major bowl games also slated to be part of the playoff structure. Additionally, for our own enjoyment, you’ll find a 16-team hypothetical tournament below, too. Just because it’s too much fun not to think about.

If the Four-Team Playoff Started This Year…

Fiesta Bowl (semifinal): #1 Notre Dame vs. #4 Florida

Sugar Bowl (semifinal): #2 Alabama vs. #3 Georgia

National Championship: #2 Alabama over #1 Notre Dame

Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Texas A&M

Cotton Bowl: Kansas State vs. Oregon

Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Nebraska

Chick-fil-a Bowl: LSU vs. Kent State

The SEC, as one might expect, grabs a ton of the premier bowl spots, increasing their respective payout far beyond what the other conferences would receive. In this scenario, out of all of the power conferences, the SEC receives five bids, while the only other conference with more than one is the Pac-12 (two).

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Atlantic Coast Convos 2012 Top 25: Week 14

Don’t Look Now, But Kent State Is Suddenly On the Cusp of Crashing the BCS

As is customary, we’ll be bringing you a new take on the top 25 teams in the country each Monday during the regular season. This week shows little change near the top as Notre Dame clinched its spot in the National Championship Game. The rest of the poll, however, is still a muddled grouping of flawed teams. Disagree at all? Feel free to share that with us below (respectfully, of course).

Atlantic Coast Convos 2012 Top 25 (Week 14)

1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-0) (LW: 1) (First-place votes: 4)

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0) (LW: 2)

3. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) (LW: 3)

4. Oregon Ducks (11-1) (LW: 4)

5. Georgia Bulldogs (11-1) (LW: 6)

6. Florida Gators (11-1) (LW: 8)

7. Kansas State Wildcats (10-1) (LW: 5)

8. Stanford Cardinal (10-2) (LW: 12)

9. LSU Tigers (10-2) (LW: 9)

10. Texas A&M Aggies (10-2) (LW: 10)

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Atlantic Coast Convos 2012 Top 25: Week 13

Notre Dame Took Care of Business Versus Wake Forest, and Now Sit One Win Away From the BCS National Championship Game

As is customary, we’ll be bringing you a new take on the top 25 teams in the country each Monday during the regular season. This week, we survey the wreckage after the top two teams went down; leaving us with the real possibility of another all-SEC championship. Disagree at all? Feel free to share that with us below (respectfully, of course).

Atlantic Coast Convos 2012 Top 25 (Week 13)

1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-0) (LW: 3) (First-place votes: 4)

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-0) (LW: 5)

3. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1) (LW: 4)

4. Oregon Ducks (10-1) (LW: 1)

5. Kansas State Wildcats (10-1) (LW: 2)

6. Georgia Bulldogs (10-1) (LW: 10)

7. Florida State Seminoles (10-1) (LW: 6)

8. Florida Gators (10-1) (LW: 7)

9. LSU Tigers (9-2) (LW: 8)

10. Texas A&M Aggies (9-2) (LW: 9)

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