ACC Football 2012 Midseason Recap: Atlantic Division

NC State’s Upset of FSU Steals the Headlines, But There’s Plenty More to Talk About From the ACC’s First Half

At the midway point in the 2012 season, little is decided in the ACC. Neither division has a clear frontrunner, no team is assured a trip to the postseason and no team has clinched a bowl spot either. Nonetheless, it’s been an entertaining season within the conference — something we’ll try to highlight here. Along with evaluations for each team, we’ll be providing additional predictions for the second half as well.

Below is the Atlantic division midseason evaluation. Also be sure to check out the Coastal division recap too, which is now live.

Boston College Eagles (1-5) (0-3): Doug Martin’s ability to revive the Boston College offensive attack is all that saves this team from an utter abyss (and even that statement’s pushing it) in Frank Spaziani’s lame-duck final season at the helm. Despite the leaps and bounds by which Chase Rettig has grown, it just doesn’t matter when your defense plays this terribly as a whole. On the bright side, the Eagles hopefully get one more season of Martin coaching Rettig and breakout receiver Alex Amidon under a different head coach in 2013. It would take a miracle for this squad to win six games at this point.

Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1): Clemson’s offense has been a sight to behold this season, putting up 41.3 points per game (11th in the country). Unfortunately, the defense has seen little improvement with Brent Venables’ arrival, allowing over 27 points over six games. Thus far, they’ve had little problem just running opponents off the field, but November dates against NC State and South Carolina loom large as potential stumbling blocks to end the year. With a better, fitter Tajh Boyd on the field, there’s hope they’ll avoid the same late stumbles from last season. The emergence of DeAndre Hopkins also helps, as we’re still unsure how Sammy Watkins will finish out the season. Orange Bowl’s the goal, but short of that, another BCS game wouldn’t be out of the question if they win out.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Seven

On the Arm of Backup QB Anthony Boone, Duke Recorded Yet Another Big Win Saturday

More upheaval in the ACC over the weekend, and as a result, the league now has zero legitimate national championship contenders or Heisman candidates. But such is life. In better news, the league’s parity (seen as a hindrance in many circles) will also produce one of the country’s most exciting conference championship races as the season winds down. How are the teams currently jockeying for position, though? Read on…

1. Florida State Seminoles (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 1): Another disappointing loss for the Seminoles, but they retain their top spot due to the fact that they actually play defense, as well as their win over the next-best squad just two weeks ago. What made this team so exciting early on was not only their aggressive play on defense, but their willingness to take risks on offense, too. As that risk factor has diminished over these past two weeks, that’s where the cracks in the armor have developed. Jimbo Fisher needs to put faith in his playmakers to win games, instead of just coasting toward the finish line.

2. Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 2): Tajh Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins have become a clinic on how to run a lethally effective passing offense — so much so that it no longer matters who’s throwing or catching the ball (see Saturday’s Hopkins-to-Boyd two-point conversion). Admittedly (as mentioned above), the Tigers’ defense still needs a boatload of work. But with the offense firing on all cylinders like it has been this season, there are few teams capable of out-gunning them.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-2) (3-0) (LW: 3): Miami kicks off a four-team block of questions with very few answers. Which Miami team is the “real” one? The squad that’s lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93-16, or the one that’s 3-0 in ACC play? Luckily some of this gets sorted out this coming weekend, as the ‘Canes take on North Carolina.

4. Duke Blue Devils (5-1) (2-0) (LW: 5): Are the Blue Devils among the favorites in the Coastal Division? Until they lose a conference game, we’ll have to include them in the conversation. But all the signs of a contender are there. Duke’s been without several players due to injury, and even started backup QB Anthony Boone on Saturday. Yet they just keep winning. Should they come up with another W this weekend, they’ll not only clinch a bowl bid, but also take control of the division and potentially find themselves ranked, too.

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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 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week Four (Part One)

Will Clemson’s Sammy Watkins Be Able to Outrun Florida State in Primetime on Saturday?

For the first time since 2009 (at Boston College), an ACC school will play host to ESPN’s College Gameday, when the guys set up shop in Tallahassee this weekend. It’s a big day for the conference, as it continues its uphill PR battle, and the atmosphere shouldn’t disappoint. We’ve got our predictions for Saturday below. Plus, if you’re looking for a full rundown of the television schedule, consult our handy viewing guide from Wednesday.

Game of the Week

Clemson Tigers (3-0) (0-0) at Florida State Seminoles (3-0) (1-0): Amidst the lights, sights and sounds of College Gameday, two top-ten ACC teams will play for both individual and collective respect. Win big, and the victor here gets an infinite amount of respect thrown their way (especially in the case of Clemson). For the loser, it’s a case of “I told you so.” Florida State’s defense is as staunch as they come, giving up just three points over its first three contests. However, you can never count out the Tigers’ high-powered offense, especially with the return of play-making receiver Sammy Watkins. It will be a closer matchup than the aggressive two-TD line suggests, but FSU will win the battle at the line of scrimmage, ultimately setting the stage for a big win on national television. Prediction: Florida St. 26, Clemson 20

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

Bowling Green Falcons (1-2) at Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1) (0-0): The Hokies are reeling after struggling mightily to put up points against Pittsburgh on Saturday, in a surprising upset. Not only have the questions on offense lingered and even increased as the season’s progressed, but now the defense (its strong point) looks to be embattled as well. Their opponent this week, Bowling Green, is in a similar mess. Scoring under 17 points per game, the Falcons have been unable to generate offensive momentum against lesser opponents. This may be just the solution Logan Thomas and VPI needed, as they roll, and get back on track. Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Bowling Green 3

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week 3 (Part One)

Virginia’s Michael Rocco Must Deliver a More Consistent Performance in Order to Defeat Georgia Tech on Saturday

As excited as we are about yesterday’s big Notre Dame-related news, it is nice to get back to discussing on-the-field happenings again. Non-conference play is still in full swing, so we’ll be splitting these previews up into two articles for yet another week. And if you’re curious about when and where these games are televised this Saturday, please consult our handy viewing schedule, too.

Game of the Week

Virginia Cavaliers (2-0) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-1) (0-1): Virginia comes into this matchup still undefeated after a very close (lucky) call with Penn State last week. Given the proficiency of Tech’s rushing attack, chances are they won’t experience the same good fortune down in Atlanta. The Hoos rank pretty well in run defense this season, but those stats are likely to lie based on their competition. Their big keys will be Michael Rocco passing the ball more more efficiently, and not allowing the Yellow Jackets to control the line of scrimmage. Virginia can’t score a ton of points, so they must capitalize on their chances in the red zone in order to win. Georgia Tech, conversely, needs to play their game and guide the tempo early. If they make UVa play catch-up, there’s little opportunity for a comeback. Prediction: Georgia Tech 30, Virginia 22

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

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (2-0) at Miami Hurricanes (1-1) (1-0): The ‘Canes defense is obviously struggling, so what better way to boost their confidence than to knock around an FCS squad like Bethune-Cookman? On the offensive end, Duke Johnson also had a rough outing last week, and could also use some time here to get back the mojo we saw in week one. Stephen Morris, while shockingly accurate, could also take some time to deliver crisper, harder-thrown balls (and maybe some touchdowns to pad the resume — he only has one scoring pass in two games). Don’t expect the starters to be pulled all that early here with Miami trying to erase last week’s result from folks’ memories. Prediction: Miami 59, BCU 13

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ACC 2012 Season Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

After a Disappointing Second Half of 2011, Wake Forest Looks to Rebound While Also Replacing Their Top Passing Target

Team: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2011 W-L: 6-7 (5-3)

Head Coach: Jim Grobe (68-67; 12th season)

Returning Starters: 11 (4 Offense, 7 Defense)

Little was expected of Wake Forest in 2011, yet they managed to start off 4-1, including a big (customary) upset of Florida State early on. And if it weren’t for a late field goal by Clemson in November, we would have seen that Demon Deacons team play for the ACC championship. Seriously. So while the 6-7 record appears paltry and non-descript, trust us, a lot went on down in Winston-Salem last season. Despite the fact that they lost two of their three best players from last year’s team, there’s a good chance Jim Grobe’s squad still has some magic left for this season, too.

Through five games last year, the Wake offense was a delight to watch. The Tanner Price-to-Chris Givens connection was running on all cylinders, and averaging well over 30 points per game, racking up three big league wins in the process. And yet, it all seemed to fall apart after running back Josh Harris‘s injury against the Seminoles. While replacement Brandon Pendergrass was serviceable enough and continued to move the team’s ground game along, he didn’t scare defenses all that much. With defenders more focused in on the pass, Price now had less lanes to throw into, and less time to get rid of the ball. Still, he threw for 60-percent accuracy and 20 touchdown passes, along with over 3,000 yards and zero picks. In his 13 games as a starter last year, Price threw for 200 yards in nine of them, and over 250 in six. Accurate and methodical, he was the picture of poise for a team that needed a leader on the field.

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ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest's Josh Harris Gets a Chance to Play a Much Larger Role in the Offense As It Aims for Balance This Year

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

With ample weapons at their disposal last year, the 2011 Wake Forest offense took advantage by employing an explosive passing attack that ranked among the country’s top 40. It was easy, what with hotshot sophomore QB Tanner Price connecting with star wideout Chris Givens all day. Unfortunately, this spring will be all about trying to replicate that same success — which began to peter out come the season’s second half — but with completely different personnel. The Demon Deacons return just five starters on the offensive side of the ball, and must not only replace Givens, but all but one spot on the offensive line. Granted, Wake’s run game finished a putrid 99th nationally in 2011 and Price was sacked the second-most times in the league, so maybe it’s a good thing. Nevertheless, with an inexperienced line to develop this spring, it may gloss over the progress of rising-junior running back Josh Harris. Harris has shown he’s effective as a reserve back, but now, with the show all to himself, there’s concern in the Deacs’ camp. Most importantly, with limited assistance from the line and run-game, Price must work on his quick release and which receivers he can rely upon to make the necessary grabs as pressure bears down. Last year’s second-leading receiver Michael Campanaro looks to be the best candidate, however rising seniors Tommy Bohanan and Terence Davis should have ample opportunities to prove themselves this spring as well. Continue reading