ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Eight

The Tar Heels May Be the Coastal Division’s Top Team, But Unfortunately, Are Ineligible to Play for the ACC Championship

The ACC continues to be a riddle, and as such, so do these power rankings. Beyond the top two, who’s a true conference championship contender? Will the Coastal champ finish with a better record than 4-4? Based on what we’ve seen so far, we’re really no closer to finding out any of this, but as we do every week, we’ll take our best guess here in the power rankings.

1. Florida State Seminoles (6-1) (3-1) (LW: 1): EJ Manuel had a field day against the BC secondary on Saturday, throwing for 439 yards and four touchdowns, en route to a 51-7 victory. Of course, it helps when your defense played the way it did, too. The Eagles came to town with one of the conference’s better passing attacks. They left with just 129 yards through the air, and a pick. If Florida State’s going to win themselves an ACC title, they’ll need to play at that level for the remainder of the season.

2. Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 2): The Tigers were off this past weekend, which may be the only thing that can slow this offense down. On Monday, OC Chad Morris mentioned to the Post-Courier that Sammy Watkins is “ready to break out,” which is something that should horrify opposing defenses. Should he finally get back to full-strength, Watkins adds yet another dimension to this group, making for an entertaining second half.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels (5-2) (2-1) (LW: 6): If not for postseason ineligibility, UNC would be the Coastal division frontrunners, having already knocked off two of their three biggest competitors (and facing the third, Duke, this weekend). And if not for Giovani Bernard‘s injury earlier this season, perhaps this team would be in the top 25, too. Over the last two games — both big wins for the Heels — the sophomore’s amassed 485 total yards and four scores. As long as he stays healthy, Carolina’s likely to keep winning.

4. NC State Wolfpack (4-2) (1-1) (LW: 5): The Wolfpack are in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic division, but the jury’s still out on whether they’ll take full advantage or not. Through six games, we’re still unsure about the secondary — already lit up several times this year — and quarterback Mike Glennon‘s play has been mostly inconsistent (FSU comeback aside). Every remaining game is very winnable, but it will come down to their ability to execute late. All they have to do is win out, and they’ll find themselves playing for their first BCS Bowl trip.

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ACC Football Goat of the Week, Week 6: Phillip Sims, Virginia

Virginia QB Phillip Sims is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 6

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 6: Phillip Sims, QB/Virginia

In his first collegiate start, Sims had his worst game Saturday, completing just 50-percent of his passes, for 268 yards and two interceptions. After being inserted into the starting role, the hope was that Sims could re-energize what’s become a stagnant Cavaliers offense. Instead, things looked to get even worse than they were under Michael Rocco, as UVa looked overmatched and inconsistent all day in their loss against Duke. Of course, Sims shouldn’t take all the blame. For this entire season thus far, Virginia’s play-calling has appeared uninspired, and the running game has lacked for any sort of rhythm. And of course, there’s the defense, which appears to be staunchly against covering receivers. Sims can potentially succeed as the Hoos’ starter, but given the myriad issues currently plaguing the squad, it may be a more difficult task than once thought.

Honorable Mention:

Virginia Tech defense (allowed 48 points, 533 yards of offense — including 339 rushing yards)

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Head Coach (overly conservative play-calling in second-half of Saturday’s 17-16 loss to NC State)

Terrence Brooks/LaMarcus Joyner, Florida State (beat on Mike Glennon‘s game-winning touchdown pass)

Mike James, RB/Miami (6 carries, 28 rushing yards)

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ACC Football Goat of the Week: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Defense

The Georgia Tech Defense is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 5

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 5: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Defense

Following a strong start to the year against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech’s defense has devolved into something so putrid and ineffective that D-coordinator Al Groh may end up being subjected to the rare (for college football) mid-season dismissal. Things looked bad when the Wreck allowed 42 to Miami. But 49 points against Middle Tennessee State? As any Georgia Tech fan will tell you, losing a game in that fashion — especially to a Sun Belt team — is downright unacceptable. As a group, the Yellow Jackets looked out-of-sorts defending both the run and pass, and struggled on third down, allowing the Blue Raiders to convert on seven of 11 tries. In total, they let MTSU score 49 points and rack up 510 yards in just 26 minutes of possession. I’m unsure what’s ailing this unit of late, but whatever it is, they’ll need to get it sorted out quickly, or else.

Honorable Mention:

Logan Thomas, QB/Virginia Tech (17/30 passing, 242 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT)

Michael Rocco, QB/Virginia (14/23 passing, 278 yards, 2 TD/3 INT)

Tanner Price, QB/Wake Forest (19/38 passing, 230 yards, 2 TD/3 turnovers)

Mike Glennon, QB/NC State (24/42 passing, 440 yards, 4 TD/4 turnovers)

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ACC Football 2012 Week 5 Lessons: The ACC Looks Top-Heavy with Florida State, Clemson

Signs Point to Last Month’s Florida State-Clemson Game Functioning as an Early ACC Championship Game

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 5 of ACC football action:

1. The ACC is likely a two-horse race: And unfortunately, one of those teams (Florida State) has already beaten the other (Clemson). The middle of the ACC pack looks more and more questionable each week — with each respective squad having their own obvious weaknesses. While it’s great to actually have a team in the national championship conversation, the conference’s resurgence this year was supposed be be based in a three- or four-team upper crust. Even Clemson, who is head-and-shoulders above the nearest team below them, still has one of the most suspect defenses in the conference, too.

2. Coastal Division still undecided: Miami has started out hot at 3-0 in league play, but just one of those wins is against divisional competition. While Virginia Tech appears to be reeling at 3-2, they — along with Duke — are also undefeated in the ACC, at 1-0. Still plenty of football left to play, and give the small margins of victory for all of these teams, we really don’t know much about their staying power over the course of the season.

3. Duke is making the postseason: Despite a defense that may sometimes look overwhelmed in pass coverage, and that glaring blowout loss against Stanford, Duke’s passing game has been one of the nation’s best. Quarterback Sean Renfree‘s elbow injury from last week will be a lingering concern, but if he can come back without any noticeable effect, there’s a very good chance that the Blue Devils will break the curse and head to a bowl.

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week Five

Duke Johnson and the Miami Hurricanes Look to Extend Their Surprising Start with Another ACC Win

Byes aplenty this week, as the ACC has just 10 teams in action amidst what ends up being a fairly dull slate of games nationwide, somehow. In fact, the guys over at Shutdown Fullback will tell you it’s downright awful (like Ibis-on-a-jet-ski-plus-explosions awful). Still, we trek on and highlight the best of ACC action, in the hopes that it surpasses the pure boredom that will be College Gameday this week (OSU-MSU). The B1G: Where they can’t field a postseason-eligible team that could finish in the top 15.

Game of the Week

NC State Wolfpack (3-1) (0-0) at Miami Hurricanes (3-1) (2-0): Both of these teams have fared poorly in their big non-conference tests thus far. For the Wolfpack, they were run off the field by Tennessee to open the season and Miami was embarrassed by Kansas State in week two. Since those losses, however, both teams appear rejuvenated, relying on some unexpected skill players to show them the way, in freshmen Duke Johnson (Miami) and Shadrach Thornton (NC State). If the ‘Canes can generate an efficient rushing attack with Johnson and veteran back Mike James, they’ll have a shot against the Pack. But, given how porous the Miami defense is, Thornton and senior QB Mike Glennon may be all NC State needs to win their first conference game of the year. Prediction: NC State 24, Miami 21

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

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (2-1) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-2) (1-2): Middle Tennessee State allows over four yards per carry, which is going to be a bit of a problem against Georgia Tech’s triple-option. Despite their loss to Miami last week, the Wreck still ran for 287 yards; no small number, and they’re likely to equal or surpass that figure this week. So the Blue Raiders obviously have an uphill battle ahead. The only saving grace may be their own respective ability to move the ball on the ground — but it’s also against some pitiful competition. Tech’s looking to bounce back after their disappointing result on Saturday, and will definitely do so. Prediction: Georgia Tech 45, MTSU 17

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Five

Florida State’s EJ Manuel Led the Seminoles’ Late Charge Past Clemson on Saturday, Cementing Their Place Atop These Rankings

This weekend was a big one for the ACC, despite the fact that not all of its teams were in action. With all eyes on Tallahassee to still if Florida State could deliver on the weighty expectations bestowed upon them this season, the ‘Noles did not disappoint. After a big FSU victory, the conference now has a legitimate title contender and potential Heisman winner — something it hasn’t seen in a decade. Expect great things this season.

1. Florida State Seminoles (4-0) (LW: 1): About midway through the first half of Saturday’s game, I was wondering if Florida State would disappoint once again, as they were struggling to really stop the Clemson offense, and could not necessarily break through with their own attack either. But then the second half happened, and we all witnessed an impressive onslaught the likes of which may be a recurring theme for the Seminoles. This team is a bona fide national championship contender, and EJ Manuel could very well be setting up for a surprise Heisman run.

2. Clemson Tigers (3-1) (LW: 2): The Tigers fought valiantly, though in the end, there were just too many weapons on the Seminoles offense, and not enough answers from the Clemson D. Sure, the loss may sting now, but based on Tajh Boyd‘s players-only meeting on Monday, it already looks like they’re focused and ready to continue what should be a very successful campaign. As has been the case these past two years, only the defense can truly hold them back.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1) (LW: 4): Needing a big rebound win, the Hokies shut out Bowling Green on Saturday, and appear to be back in control of their season. Unfortunately, however, their offense is still only marginal at best. Even against an inferior team, VPI still managed just 150 yards in the air, and committed nine penalties. If not for Logan Thomas remembering how to run the football, the unit would have been stagnant all day. They just can’t rely on him to do absolutely everything.

4. NC State Wolfpack (3-1) (LW: 5): For all the talk of their “disappointing” start, the Wolfpack are still 3-1, and very much alive in the ACC title race. With the team’s defense seemingly coming on as of late, and their offense establishing an unexpected degree of balance between run and pass, State could actually recapture its darkhorse role and make a midseason run.

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ACC Football Goat of the Week, Week 4: Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech RB Orwin Smith is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 4

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 4: Orwin Smith, RB/Georgia Tech

Oh, Orwin Smith. This was dumb. Hate to be so harsh about a college kid, but how else do you describe a self-safety? Georgia Tech was beaten by Miami on Saturday, sure. But more accurately, that team was defeated by their own mental mistakes — most notably this one, which tacked two points on the board for the ‘Canes. Aside from the egregious gaffe in the return game, Smith also continued what’s been a virtually unspectacular rushing campaign, tallying just seven carries for 22 yards (and one score). If Georgia Tech wants to win games, it must rely on a consistent rushing attack. That was not the case here, especially for Smith, who came into the year as a standout senior leader for the team. He’ll have to pick up his game going forward.

Honorable Mention:

Tevin Washington, QB/Georgia Tech

Clemson Defense (49 points allowed, 667 total offensive yards against)

Michael Rocco, QB/Virginia (13/26 passing, 126 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT)

Ryan Nassib, QB/Syracuse (21/31 passing, 228 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 fumble lost)

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