ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 8

The ACC's Top Two Teams Faceoff In Front of a National Audience This Weekend

The ACC’s Top Two Teams Face Off In Front of a National Audience This Weekend

We’re finally here. The biggest game in the history of ACC football is upon us, and as a result, college football’s eyes are all directed right at our humble conference. Even last year’s FSU-Clemson matchup couldn’t meet the hype we’ll see leading up to Saturday and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited the country finally cares. 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 8)

1. Clemson Tigers (6-0) (4-0) (Last: 1): It wasn’t pretty or confidence-inducing, but Clemson beat Boston College on Saturday and remained undefeated. That’s really all that was asked of them. Likely looking ahead to their matchup with the ‘Noles, it’s at least a little understandable that Clemson’s attentions were elsewhere. But this Tiger team seems different. No “Clemsoning.” No slip-ups thus far. Just dominant play en route to a huge regular season spectacle this weekend. Everything, from ACC title hopes to Heisman trophies and BCS National Championships, are all on the line.

2. Florida State Seminoles (5-0) (3-0) (Last: 2): Coincidentally, Florida State also had some recent trouble with Boston College as well, so at least both of the league’s top teams are in the same boat. After a bye week, FSU should be well-rested and ready for the speed Clemson’s offense will present. But will the offense loose momentum after the long rest? After the last bye week they put up 62 points so no, I wouldn’t be too worried about this team’s ability to keep running.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (5-0) (1-0) (Last: 3): Stephen Morris, your ankle is terrifying the rest of us — or at least those of us who think it would benefit the league for Miami to be a national power again. The ‘Canes and their quarterback have looked resilient this season, meeting every challenge large and small this season, though there are also some questions about style points (and a distinct lack of them). I don’t buy that argument since a win’s a win, but if they’re going to move up in the BCS title race, I suppose they’ll have to start demolishing the schedule’s less challenging teams.

4. Louisville Cardinals (6-0) (Last: 4): Another game which the Cardinals won easily, but apparently not easy enough according to media observers who dropped the Cards two spots in the latest AP Poll just because. At this point, Louisville fans have stopped caring and are actually embracing their role in this last season of the BCS. It’s a commendable outlook for a program that deserves better than the general dismissal they’re seeing from the larger college football consciousness.

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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 2013 Week 4 Lessons: Clemson (and the ACC) Just Got Incredibly Lucky

A Questionable Call in Thursday's Clemson-NC State Game Gave the Tigers a Huge Win

A Questionable Call in Thursday’s Clemson-NC State Game Gave the Tigers a Huge Win

Each Monday morning (or sometimes Tuesday), we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 4 of the ACC football season:

1. Clemson got very, very lucky: There’s no guarantee that Clemson would have proceeded to lose to NC State had Bryan Underwood‘s huge touchdown catch stood, but there’s also no doubting a win would’ve been much harder for the Tigers. They certainly didn’t bring their A-game last Thursday, with a strong defensive effort and a dubious out-of-bounds call being the biggest factors in the 26-14 win. It was also a huge boost to the ACC, which avoided losing a BCS title hopeful for the second straight September. I won’t be fanning the conspiracy flames here, but you can jump to whatever conclusions you’d like…

2. Georgia Tech‘s a Coastal Division contender this year: Things looked grim against North Carolina for awhile on Saturday, but after starting down 20-7, the defense rallied, the offense got going and tech came away with a big conference victory. The win gives the Yellow Jackets a nice head start on their Coastal competition — namely fellow supposed contender UNC. There’s still Miami to deal with of course, but a hard-fought, complete win like this one certainly gives a lot more credence to this team, which is now 3-0 on the year (2-0 in the conference).

3. The Terrel Hunt era has officially begun: Forget whatever it is you think you know about this Syracuse team, because since Hunt’s taken over, everything looks and feels different for the Orange. Yes, he’s primarily faced weak competition, but that shouldn’t take away from the great success he’s had in what’s amounted to just two games (one start). The redshirt sophomore has shown himself to be tough, dynamic and a smart playmaker; all qualities it appeared the Orange lacked through the first two contests. Of course, the defense is still a bit of an issue, but if the offense can score like this, it becomes a much lesser concern.

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ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Post-Week 1

After a Huge Win Over Georgia, No One Can Deny Clemson the Top Spot in the ACC

After a Huge Win Over Georgia, No One Can Deny Clemson the Top Spot in the ACC

One week down, and things seem to be trending positively for the ACC. Conference teams are rising in the polls, everyone has positive things to say about the ACC and (knock on wood), things really couldn’t be much better for the league as a whole. I don’t know how long this will last, but it’s fantastic. 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 (Post-Week 1)

1. Clemson Tigers (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 1): Up to number four in the recent AP rankings, Clemson is riding high right now. And why not? You beat a top-five team in Georgia, your quarterback is now assumed to be a Heisman front-runner… There’s very little left to question about this Tigers squad, and given how unimposing the remaining schedule is for them, it’s unlikely much more doubt creeps up between now and November. This is a team capable of winning the national title, and believe it or not, they just might go ahead and do it this year.

2. Florida State Seminoles (1-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): There was hope that Jameis Winston could step right in and run this Seminoles offense. But no one could’ve known just how good the freshman would be in his debut on Monday night. Accounting for five touchdowns against Pittsburgh, Winston has quickly thrown himself into the national spotlight very early in the season. In a surprising move, his team’s also joined him, putting to rest concerns about how they’ll replace EJ Manuel and much of last year’s defense.

3. Louisville Cardinals (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): Louisville understands what it needs to do to keep observers’ respect this season, whether that’s fair or not. And thus far, they’ve met the challenge. Teddy Bridgewater was a star against Ohio, putting up 355 passing yards and five scores against a team that was thought to be among the best in the MAC. We’ll see if that’s true or not, but we do know is that the Cardinals will be tough to beat on both ends this year. Now, the rest may be up to the voters.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Miami didn’t meet much of a test in Florida Atlantic on Friday, but they took care of business and collected a solid victory. Duke Johnson was the game’s standout performer, picking up right where he left off in 2012 by picking up over 200 total yards and a score. Obviously, the Owls are no worldbeaters, but it’s also worth noting the defense’s improved effort in the 34-6 win, too. We’ll see if that’s a mirage or not next week versus Florida.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Virginia Cavaliers

Can Kevin Parks Help Bail Out a Virginia Team That Lacks Experience in Several Key Areas?

Can Kevin Parks Help Bail Out a Virginia Team That Lacks Experience in Several Key Areas?

Team: Virginia Cavaliers

2012 W-L: 4-8 (2-6)

Head Coach: Mike London (16-21; fourth season)

Returning Starters: 13 (6 Offense, 7 Defense)

Virginia’s collected plenty of praise over the last few years for their torrid pace on the recruiting trail. Despite a minimal history of football success, Mike London has been able to attract top-tier talent to Charlottesville since he arrived, and that trend continues this offseason, with another likely top-40 class. But unfortunately, all of these recruiting wins have failed to produce actual wins for the most part. In three years, London has just one winning season (2011 at 8-5) and the current roster is based more on youth than actual proven talent. Should the team post its third losing season in four years, does that mean London’s shown the door, though?

Well, a large part of that can be answered (and prevented) by the offense. Returning four of five starters on the line, the Hoos would appear to be set, though they did lose the unit’s top player from last year in Oday Aboushi. Last season’s group also allowed 25 sacks last season, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of their viability going forward. And it gets worse, too. Following up on a 2011 season that saw UVa average 162 yards on the ground, last year’s team had just 128 — and with the same two backs functioning as primary rushers. Starter Perry Jones is gone, but Kevin Parks still remains and the team may actually benefit from having a primary ball-carrier. Of the two, Parks was more effective, though at 5’8″ and 200 pounds, he lacks the physical make-up to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the ACC’s truly elite backs. Still, he’ll be expected to carry the entire load, and given the state of the passing game, it may end up being the entire offense.

Both of last year’s quarterbacks — Phillip Sims and Michael Rocco — are gone from the program, leaving the team in the inexperienced hands of David Watford. The sophomore hasn’t thrown a pass since 2011, so right off the bat, there’s some doubt about how quickly he’ll be able to jump in and be effective. Luckily, the Hoos do bring back a nice stable of pass-catchers, who should all help ease the transition into the starting role. Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell both have the promise of true play-making ability, though we’ve yet to really see it from either. Blame it on the fluctuating quarterback position if you want, but at this point, both need to find a way to produce at a higher level. A combined 86 catches won’t cut it to get through this year, and expect Watford to test both early to see who his most reliable target is. He’ll also have rising talent Jake McGee at his disposal at tight end. Hardly just a safety valve, McGee has some big-play ability and could be the team’s top receiver by year’s end.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #24, Kevin Parks

Virginia’s Kevin Parks is #24 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Virginia’s Kevin Parks is #24 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Less than two weeks 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. 24, Kevin Parks, RB/Virginia (Last Season: NR)

Kevin Parks’s career numbers thus far aren’t eye-popping. In two seasons, he’s run for more than 1,400 yards, plus 14 scores. His 2012 season looked very much like his 2011 season, save a slight dip in touchdowns. And yet, that could all change this fall. Now that Perry Jones is gone, Parks is the primary back for Virginia and will get all the carries that come with that responsibility. There was always a sense that he was impeded by the split backfield setup with Jones — that Parks was one of those backs that just needed to get 20 touches and establish and consistent rhythm. Now, he’ll get a chance to prove it for the Hoos.

Last year, Parks topped 100 rushing yards in a game just twice, and it’s no coincidence that those were the only two games in which he had over 15 carries. He managed to become more of a factor in the passing game (24 catches) to at least increase his involvement in the offense though, a fold that should play some very big dividends as UVa breaks in quarterback David Watford. While Parks is obviously a valuable rusher, being a safety valve for an inexperienced passer is a huge role as well. He’s proven he’s a capable receiver out of the backfield, and it’ll be interesting to see how that part of his game expands this season. I’d fully expect him to come in around the 40-catch mark, but we’ll see how quickly Watford gets comfortable throwing downfield. The more tepid he is at the onset, the more likely Parks will be racking up receptions.

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ACC Football 2013 Payback Games: Virginia

Virginia Lost to Rival Virginia Tech By Just a Field Goal Last Year; Can They Finally Beat the Hokies in 2013?

Virginia Lost to Rival Virginia Tech By Just a Field Goal Last Year; Can They Finally Beat the Hokies in 2013?

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.

As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.

Team: Virginia Cavaliers

Opponent: Virginia Tech Hokies

Last Year: Loss, 17-14 at Virginia Tech

This Year: November 30 vs. Virginia Tech

Nine straight years. Nine straight years Virginia has lost to cross-state rival Virginia Tech, but could’ve been the biggest letdown yet for the Hoos. Though UVa was already eliminated from postseason contention, Virginia Tech needed to win on the season’s final Saturday in order to go bowling. Virginia could’ve played spoiler to the Hokies’ season, and for nearly the entire game it appeared they would follow through. They hadn’t trailed since tying the score at 7-7 in the first quarter, and the Hokies’ passing game continued to look anemic, just as it had all season. But a less-than-stellar pass from Virginia QB Michael Rocco with three and a half minutes remaining would result in an interception and later, the game-winning field goal. Virginia Tech won 17-14. They’d be going bowling once again, and the Hoos were not only sitting home, but had helped their rivals reach their postseason dreams.

In the less dramatic version of the story, this one played out as season-long observers of both teams should’ve expected. Virginia Tech’s offense struggled all year, but Logan Thomas could typically do enough when called upon to keep them in games. The defense, as always, was solid, but needed to be handed opportunities more so than normal. And Virginia’s inconsistency — something we’ll see more of in 2013 — was ultimately what did them in once again. There wasn’t much separating these two teams last year, save the difference in experience. Tech knew how to win these types of games. Virginia just didn’t.

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