ACC Football Chat: Discussing Non-Conference Rivals and the Evolving Recruiting Landscape

Florida and Miami Have No Intentions on Renewing Their Rivalry Past 2013

Florida and Miami Have No Intentions on Renewing Their Gridiron Rivalry Past 2013

Earlier in the week, our own Hokie Mark started up a conversation surrounding three- and four-way rivalries over on SB Nation’s Every Day Should Be Saturday. The basics: there are several three-way rivalries being played out this season, and some of them are going away for a long time after that. Some due to disinterest, others due to scheduling. But what Mark was getting at was the unique setup for three- and four-way rivalries, and which are some of the most- and least-heralded in the country.

Of course, this turned into a jumping-off point for an email conversation between he and I, which I’ve compiled below for everyone. While the main topic focused on non-conference rivals, we also branched out into what’s become an increasingly year-round discussion for everyone: recruiting. Check it out:

Mark: Hello again, John! Only 100 days until the football season begins — a very special one for Syracuse and Pittsburgh, to be sure. For the Orange, the season essentially begins and ends with old rivals: Penn State and Boston College. How do you feel about renewing those rivalries, and are there other rivalries for ‘Cuse that you’d like to see reawakened?

John: I’m about as excited as you can get, considering we’re still about 100 days out. Rekindling the rivalry with Boston College has been one of my favorite aspects of the ACC move, since it easily addresses our crisis of football identity (though much of the media doesn’t think so). Penn State, while arguably our oldest and most storied rival, hasn’t filled that role in over 20 years. It’s nice to play them when we can, but I think most fans have kind of moved on from the Nittany Lions — especially those of us who aren’t old enough to remember when SU and PSU were rivals to begin with.

As far as other rivalries worth rekindling, only two come to mind, and one’s not necessarily a “rivalry” at all. West Virginia‘s always been among our most-hated opponents, and with Syracuse beating the Mountaineers the last three times out (including last December’s Pinstripe Bowl), it’s only created a more hostile tension between the two fan bases. I was at the game in December, and ‘Neers fans were not what you would call “friendly” toward the Orange contingent, by any means. The other aforementioned opponent was Virginia Tech. While never traditionally considered one of Syracuse’s rivals, the Hokies and SU played plenty of heated games toward the latter years of the original Big East football conference that are worth rehashing. Of course, the ACC’s divisional setup won’t do much to help us play Tech more often, so that one’s also kind of off the table.

What about you, from a VaTech perspective? Any rivalries you’d like to start back up — feasible or not? Have any ill will left toward Syracuse from the Big East days?

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Rushel Shell Transfer: Where to, and What’s Next for Pitt’s Backfield?

Rushel Shell's Leaving Pittsburgh, But Where Could He End Up Next?

We Know Rushel Shell’s Leaving Pittsburgh, But Where Could He End Up Next?

As has been the news for nearly a week now, presumed starting running back Rushel Shell has elected to transfer out of Pittsburgh’s football program. SB Nation’s Cardiac Hill has a detailed breakdown of the various puzzling aspects of this move, so for discussion around that front, feel free to wander in that general direction.

What we’re interested in here is where he could potentially end up (touched upon over at CH as well), and then what’s next for the Panthers’ backfield as they continue with spring practice. With little information available right now, please keep in mind this is almost entirely speculation at the moment.

Where could Rushel Shell transfer to?

Just one year ago, Shell was in high demand as one of the top-rated running back prospects in the nation, and he was expected to deliver on those lofty goals as Pitt’s featured back in 2013. Now, he’s an impressive sophomore runner with 641 rushing yards and four scores under his belt, looking for a new home where he’ll sit out a year before regaining eligibility in 2014.

The top transfer choices are the ones in closest proximity: West Virginia and Penn State, but there’s chatter that Pitt would not allow him to head to either long-time rival program. Same goes for Arizona State, where former Panthers coach Todd Graham currently resides as head coach. The Cardiac Hill guys believe Pitt would block any move to those three schools, but is that the right move? Not siding with Shell here, but based on a recent tweet from the mother of Shell’s children, it would almost seem like he’s trying to run from some issues (purely speculation). However, rewind the clock a year, and let’s remember what happened when former Terps QB Danny O’Brien was trying to leave Maryland and head coach Randy Edsall was adamant about limiting his possibilities. The backlash was pretty far-reaching and ultimately, amounted to nothing since O’Brien failed to go to a future scheduled opponent or another ACC team (he went to Wisconsin).

So with that said, where could he potentially land? The top two choices are obvious:

Arizona State: Graham and his staff initially recruited Shell, and perhaps that was part of the initial appeal to the Panthers program (beyond just local tie-ins). The Sun Devils currently have a veteran backfield set for fall, giving Shell ample opportunity to contribute come fall 2014.

West Virginia: Still local, and like many Pitt players, Shell certainly knows plenty of Mountaineers players. With the Big 12 sort of lacking for an elite back, Shell could get an opportunity to really shine in that conference, though who knows how much opportunity he’d get in Dana Holgorsen’s air-raid offense.

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Conference Realignment: Which FCS Programs Could Be Next to Upgrade to the FBS?

Appalachian State Is Headed to the Sun Belt With Georgia Southern; Which FCS Schools Could Be Next to Upgrade?

Appalachian State Is Headed to the Sun Belt Conference Along With Georgia Southern; Which FCS Schools Could Be Next to Upgrade?

Schools are upgrading their football programs at a rapid pace. By 2015, 129 full members will be participating in FBS-level competition, up from 120 in 2012. That’s a 7.5-percent increase in just three years. And yet, there’s still plenty of talk about adding more schools to college football’s top tier too. While the ACC’s not jumping to add any of these schools, it’s not out of the question that this shuffling could eventually affect the sport’s top conferences – as top teams from football’s “mid-majors” look to upgrade their competition and move into the “Power Five.”

First, a recap of the recent moves from FCS to FBS:

2009: Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)

2013: South Alabama (Sun Belt), Texas State (Sun Belt), UT-San Antonio (Conference USA), UMass (MAC)

2014: Georgia State (Sun Belt)

2015: Appalachian State (Sun Belt), Charlotte (Conference USA), Georgia Southern (Sun Belt), Old Dominion (Conference USA) (*Appalachian State and Georgia Southern moves just reported today, via SB Nation)

And there’s still more schools that could potentially make the call. But who are they? Well, first a look at the basic eligibility requirements to move up to FBS from FCS (from the NCAA):

  1. Sponsor a minimum of 16 varsity intercollegiate sports, including football, based on the minimum sports sponsorship and scheduling requirements set forth in Bylaw 20. Sponsorship shall include a minimum six sports involving all male teams or mixed teams (males and females), and a minimum of eight varsity intercollegiate teams involving all female teams. Institutions may use up to two emerging sports to satisfy the required eight varsity intercollegiate sports involving all female teams. [Bylaw 20.9.7.1]

  2. Schedule and play at least 60 percent of its football contests against members of Football Bowl Subdivision. Institutions shall schedule and play at least five regular season home contests against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. [Bylaw 20.9.7.2]

  3. Average at least 15,000 in actual or paid attendance for all home football contests over a rolling two-year period. [Bylaw 20.9.7.3]

  4. Provide an average of at least 90 percent of the permissible maximum number of overall football grants-in-aid per year over a rolling two-year period. [Bylaw 20.9.7.4-(a)]

  5. Annually offer a minimum of 200 athletics grants-in-aid or expend at least four million dollars on grants-in-aid to student-athletes in athletics programs. [Bylaw 20.9.7.4-(b)]

Obviously, the second bullet is taken care of with the commitment to upgrade the program and the final two can easily be attained by just reaching those scholarship numbers. As far as item no. 1 and no. 3 though, the following schools would qualify for an FCS-to-FBS upgrade:

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Can the Wake Forest Football Program Remain Competitive?

Is the College Football Landscape Making it Impossible for Schools Like Wake to Compete?

Is the College Football Landscape Making it Impossible for Schools Like Wake to Compete?

While assembling the daily links for Wednesday, I happened upon an interesting story from Rant Sports, “Can the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Stay Competitive in ACC Football?” On a top-level, author M. Shannon Smallwood, takes a quick look at how Wake Forest and head coach Jim Grobe have continued to compete despite lesser resources and prestige than many of their counterparts, both locally and nationally. But I wanted to dig a bit deeper into that discussion, and really talk about the factors the school’s up against in the evolving college football environment. So rather than just chat about it by myself, I decided to bring in the author himself. What follows is our email conversation from yesterday:

John Cassillo: Can Wake Forest hope to compete in football in the future? With the conference’s smallest athletic budget and an influx of “richer” teams (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and “sort of” Notre Dame) coming in the ACC door, how are they going to play catch-up? Or better question: Can they play catch-up with the conference’s 14 other schools?

M. Shannon Smallwood: I am the eternal optimist so I have to believe the leadership in the Athletic Department and the President of the University are capable and smart enough to realize what decisions need to be made in order to keep the school afloat. But the reality is the landscape just got a lot more challenging for Wake Forest on every level.

I am working on my first ACC Football Power Rankings for Rant Sports (posting on Saturday) and I have Wake in the bottom three in the new-look ACC. I just don’t think the Demon Deacons will be able to put the depth of talent on the field to compete for four quarters in every game. I do think they can recruit and put 25 or so top level athletes on offense and defense, but its the athletes from 26 to 85, I am worried about.

I will say this is not a game of “catch up”. I think if you are a school looking at the landscape and, as an AD or President, you say “we need to catch up with the other members of the ACC,” you are setting yourself and your school up for disaster. Case-in-point: Maryland. The Terps made some terrible decisions and were/are bankrupt until the Big 10 bailed them out. Could Wake, Boston College or Duke ever be in a situation like Maryland? I don’t think so. I think there are some deep pockets and smarter folks at these three schools. But to be successful, you have to win. You have to create a buzz around campus, the town and the nation.

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Atlantic Coast Convos 2012 Top 25: Final Poll

After Yet Another Title Game Win, Alabama Takes its Place in the History Books

After Yet Another Title Game Win, Alabama Takes its Place in the History Books

Another great year of college football, another unfortunately forgettable title game. While we can’t necessarily count Notre Dame as an ACC team officially, it still stings a bit to see the Irish get so thoroughly throttled last night. Regardless of what Alabama coach Nick Saban says, the Crimson Tide are a dynasty and they proved it on Monday. Congratulations to them, and let’s all collectively make an effort to end the SEC streak next year, since we failed so miserably again in 2012.

Atlantic Coast Convos 2012 Top 25 (Final Poll)

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (13-1) (LW: 3) (First-place votes: 6)

2. Oregon Ducks (12-1) (LW: 5)

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

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-1) (LW: 1)

5. Georgia Bulldogs (12-2) (LW: 7)

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

7. Texas A&M Aggies (11-2) (LW: 10)

8. Florida State Seminoles (12-2) (LW: 13)

9. South Carolina Gamecocks (11-2) (LW: 11)

10. Clemson Tigers (11-2) (LW: 14)

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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

***

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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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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