Final 2012 ACC Football Power Rankings

Clemson's Big Upset Over LSU Was One of Several Wins to Help the ACC Save Face This Postseason

Clemson’s Big Upset Over LSU Was One of Several Wins to Help the ACC Save Face This Postseason

Well that was a pleasant surprise now, wasn’t it? After getting knocked around on and off the field all season, the ACC found itself when it counted — the postseason — and (including Pitt & SU) managed a 5-3 slate, it’s first winning bowl record since 2005. If you want to include Louisville (and I sure do, given their big Sugar Bowl win), that brings the league to 6-3, with wins over the SEC (LSU & Florida), Big 12 (West Virginia) and Pac-12 (pre-season no. 1 USC). But sure, keep laughing at this league. They proved themselves and more during this year’s bowl season, and hopefully it’s a building block for even more excellent football.

1. Florida State Seminoles (12-2) (7-1) (LW: 1): Knock FSU for their schedule, their two losses (why are we criticizing a 12-win team again?) or their lack of a chance at a national title this season. But at the end of the day, they’re exactly where they were slated to be. The ‘Noles will be back in that conversation again this decade. It just takes some time, and this — winning both the ACC and the Orange Bowl — was the first step. Jimbo Fisher’s team will need to get past several big losses going forward, most notably Bjoern Werner and EJ Manuel, but the foundation’s there for a bright future.

2. Clemson Tigers (11-2) (7-1) (LW: 2): Despite not making it to a BCS bowl game, I’d say the Tigers’ consolation prize was still well-worth the trouble, no? On a national stage, Clemson beat mighty SEC’s LSU Tigers, and in the process, ended up being part of the most-watched non-BCS college football game in ESPN’s history. Most stunning in Clemson’s 25-24 victory, however, was the oft-maligned defense. Down 11 points heading into the fourth, the Bayou Bengals could’ve just run the clock out throughout the final stanza. Instead, it was Clemson that stayed strong, shutting out LSU and setting up a defining win for the Dabo Swinney era.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 4): It’s tough to look at UNC’s 2012 season without imagining what could’ve been for a squad that seemed to finally turn the corner here in Larry Fedora’s first year. Knocking on the door of a division title for quite some time, the Heels finally put it all together, only to be ineligible for the postseason. So while it’s a disappointment for North Carolina fans to watch an eight-win season get laid to waste, it’s also built this program some street cred. Despite Giovani Bernard‘s departure to the NFL Draft, QB Bryn Renner will stick around for his senior year, meaning this team returns plenty of firepower; most of which this season only served as a preview for.

4. Syracuse Orange (8-5) (LW: 5): As if it was meant to be, Syracuse closed out their time in the Big East — the conference they built — by putting together its most impressive season in a decade. Up against one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules, and a top-heavy league to boot, the Orange still managed to win six of their final seven games. The exclamation point, however (on top of a split conference title), was their resounding victory over rival West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. As someone who braved the cold to watch in-person, it was amazing to see this squad’s transformation from the season’s opening-week struggles to the machine-like execution against the Mountaineers.

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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 vs. The World (Week 4)

Wake Forest’s Tanner Price played well against Army in Week 4

Week 4: 9 games (6-3)

Continuing the trend from last week, the ACC posted a winning out-of-conference record, but failed to win in games against foes from the other major FBS conferences. Luckily, the league grabbed the nation’s attention this week with a great game between two quality top-10 teams, and produced a legitimate national title contender in Florida State. That game may have distracted casual viewers from the continuing parity elsewhere in the ACC.

vs. Big Ten (0-1): Syracuse continued to underachieve and fell to Minnesota on the road.

vs. Big 12 (0-2): Maryland played West Virginia tough, and lost by a respectable 31-21 margin.

Highlight: NC State is quietly making a comeback from their week 1 disappointment against Tennessee, and handily beat the Citadel this week, 52-14.

Lowlight: Virginia continued its slide and could not get going in their loss to TCU

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week Four (Part Two)

Georgia Tech QB Tevin Washington Faces a Porous Miami Run Defense This Week, While Looking to Pad the Stat Line

This is Part Two of this week’s Previews & Predictions feature. Also check out Part One.

Miami Hurricanes (2-1) (1-0)) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1) (0-1): Beyond the emergence of freshman Duke Johnson, the Hurricanes’ season has gone poorly to this point, despite their two wins. And Saturday’s contest with Georgia Tech may make things worse. Through three games, the ‘Canes have allowed 617 yards on the ground (an average of over 205 per game). Conversely, the Yellow Jackets have averaged 374 rushing yards per game, in three contests of their own. Given the versatility of their weapons, Tech has a real fundamental advantage against Miami, and will exploit it continuously throughout the game. Prediction: Georgia Tech 45, Miami 24

East Carolina Pirates (2-1) at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2) (0-1): ECU comes in as a much-improved team on defense, though their offense (a trademark in 2011) appears to be struggling to find a rhythm. And UNC can likely say the same. After their strong start to the year, the Heels have dropped a big game to Wake Forest, and fell way behind Louisville last weekend, before coming back to make it a close contest. Yes, star back Giovani Bernard is out, but that can’t be an excuse for Larry Fedora and QB Bryn Renner. Renner has targets on the field — something the ball carrier doesn’t much change. Prediction: UNC 40, ECU 26

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ACC Football 2012 TV Schedule & Spread: Week Four

ESPN College Gameday Heads to Tallahassee This Week to Watch Clemson Take on Florida State

Every week, we’ll be providing a quick rundown of which ACC football games are on television, and also list the latest spread on each game (should you choose to engage in gambling-related activities). Please plan your days accordingly.

ACC Football Week 4 Television Schedule & Spreads

Saturday, September 22

Special: ESPN College Gameday from Tallahassee, Fla., 9 a.m. ET, ESPN

Bowling Green Falcons at Virginia Tech Hokies (-19.5), noon ET, ESPNU

Virginia Cavaliers at TCU Horned Frogs (-17.5), noon ET, ESPN

Maryland Terrapins at West Virginia Mountaineers (-27.5), noon ET, FX

Army Black Knights at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (-7.5), 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

Miami Hurricanes at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (-13.5), 3 p.m. ET, ESPN Gameplan

East Carolina Pirates at North Carolina Tar Heels (-16.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs at Pittsburgh Panthers (no odds), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3

Memphis Tigers at Duke Blue Devils (-22.5 ), 6 p.m. ET, ESPN3

The Citadel Bulldogs at NC State Wolfpack (no odds), 6 p.m. ET, ESPN3

Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles (-14.5), 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Syracuse Orange at Minnesota Golden Gophers (-2), 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

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Clemson and Its Perception Among College Football’s Elite

Clemson Appears to be More Than Just a Regional Football Power, So Where’s the Public Disconnect?

Several years ago, Stewart Mandel’s separation of college football’s major programs into tiers from Kings to Peasants provoked a fierce backlash from Georgia fans who resented their school’s placement in the Baron tier rather than among the Kings alongside SEC brethren Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. When Mandel revisited his rankings this summer, Georgia remained among the Barons. Whether or not Bulldog fans have a right to gripe, the rankings are interesting for the light they shed on the ACC. Even with lackluster decades, Florida State and Miami remain among the Kings, while Clemson and Virginia Tech are included with the Barons.

Despite Mandel’s ranking, Clemson is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the other programs of the Baron tier. Possessing “SEC-type” fans, whatever that means, one of the most loyal donor bases in the country, a beautiful campus, and a rich tradition, including a national title and more ACC championships than any other program, Clemson seems built to be a King. But although often described as “Auburn with a lake,” the Tigers of South Carolina generally receive much less hype than those of Alabama. The ACC is seen as belonging to Florida State and Virginia Tech; only when extremely talented skill players return, as in 2008 or 2012, does Clemson get any substantial preseason hype, generally the best indicator of a program’s respectability. In last summer’s Conference Re-Draft, Clemson was picked 37th, the last of Mandel’s Barons tier to go off the board and well behind #14 Virginia Tech and #26 Auburn despite owning a generally more successful basketball program and a vastly more prominent baseball program.

In the public relations battle which dominates conference realignment and determinations of a program’s relative value, Clemson has clearly been on the losing side. Notorious for winning games they should lose and and losing even more games they should win, the Tigers haven’t truly been a national presence since Danny Ford left in 1990.  I live in Illinois; when I tell people around me that Clemson is my alma mater, I’m usually greeted with a blank stare, surely an even worse reaction than Mandel’s failure of a hypothetical Montanan to recognize a football helmet. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Schedule Outlook: Syracuse Orange

Syracuse's Schedule Looks Ready, But Is Coach Doug Marrone's Squad Ready to Handle the Tough Road Ahead?

With all of the realignment and rescheduling nonsense going on around the country, we wanted to give a breakdown of each of the ACC‘s schedules — how the teams stack up, and some thoughts on overall difficulty. If these change at all, we’ll also be sure to update them on a rolling basis. All information is up-to-date as of publishing, based on the latest from FBSchedules.com.

Today’s breakdown: Syracuse Orange

Syracuse managed to fill the gaping hole in their 2012 schedule late last Thursday, securing a road date with the Missouri Tigers. So long as Temple‘s on board for the Big East next year, their last opening will be taken up by a trip to Philadelphia. As for the rest of their non-conference slate, however, it’s no picnic. On top of the difficult trip to Missouri, SU also travels to Minnesota (‘Cuse fans may recall the Greg Paulus game a few years back) and faces off with USC on neutral ground in New Jersey. At home, the Orange get a tough test with Northwestern, along with the customary FCS tune-up game with Stony Brook. Putting it mildly, this is a challenging group of games for any team — but especially so for a team hoping to rebound a bit from a disappointing 2011. If this team expected to take it easy en route to bowl eligibility in 2012, no such luck. Continue reading