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 Power Rankings: Week Two

If Clemson’s Andre Ellington Continues Running the Way He Did on Saturday, the Tigers Could Win the ACC Once Again

After months of arbitrary offseason shuffling, we finally have some actual games to base these rankings off of. All 14 ACC squads were in action last week, and while many performed admirably, several manged to disappoint as well. Check out the list below, and weigh in down in the comments if you disagree.

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): The Seminoles did a commendable job pummeling Murray State on Saturday. And that defense — just as impressive as they’ve ever been. Unfortunately, however, the big win came with a steep price. Star defensive end Brandon Jenkins injured his foot, and is now out for the remainder of the season. We won’t know how much the loss affects FSU this week, but once the real slate starts, it’ll be all too apparent.

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): Everything about Saturday’s win over Auburn was exceptional. Andre Ellington‘s ground game. Tajh Boyd‘s ability to make plays work through the air and on the ground. The offensive line’s maturity right in front of our eyes. And of course, the defense quickly showing they’d learned a thing or two from new coordinator Brent Venables.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels (LW: 6): Everyone worried about how Giovani Bernard would fit into Larry Fedora’s offense. After the 62-0 drubbing they handed Elon, I think he’ll fit in just fine. Three TDs on just 12 touches will do that sort of thing. Obviously there’s more difficult opponents out there, but the big win appears to be an appetizer for what’s in store for this offense.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): Another slow start for the Hokies, though this year, they manage to win the opener. If Virginia Tech gave the game ball to anyone on Monday night, it should’ve been handed right over to their opponent’s QB. Aside from their late drive for the game-tying field goal, the offense appeared listless and the O-line issues are real.

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ACC 2012 Season Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers

Can Pitt Running Back Ray Graham Regain His Place As the Leader of the Panthers’ Rushing Attack in 2012?

Team: Pittsburgh Panthers

2011 W-L: 6-7 (4-3)

Head Coach: Paul Chryst (first season)

Returning Starters: 12 (8 Offense, 4 Defense)

After another offseason of transition in the program, the Pittsburgh Panthers are once again trying to enter a new season with a clean slate. Out goes Todd Graham, the known carpetbagger now despised by Pitt fans everywhere. In comes Paul Chryst, who spent the last seven years as Wisconsin‘s offensive coordinator. And while the first-team head coach inherits a challenging job with the program as currently comprised, he may also spot some similar surroundings. With a strong defense and a deadly running game, the coach is already taking to his new team just like his old one. Now, with a skeptical senior class (three different head coaches), he just has to hope they take to him.

As mentioned, the Panthers’ offense will go primarily through the running game, which I think may actually be among the best in the country (O-line permitting). So long as he’s healthy, the bulk of the carries should go to senior Ray Graham, who makes a surprise return after an ACL tear last year. At the time of the injury last season, Graham was second in the country in rushing yards, and appears to have some unfinished business to attend to. He’ll also be spelled by sophomore Isaac Bennett. After some flashes of potential late in 2011, and a very strong spring workout, he’ll be the favored back if Graham fails to return at 100-percent. Carries may also get doled out to freshman Rushel Shell as well. The highly-touted recruit runs a 4.45 40-yard dash. If given an opportunity for extended touches, he has the talent to jump right in and produce. Continue reading

ACC Football 2012 Payback Games: Pittsburgh Panthers

Will Pittsburgh Continue Its Fourth-Quarter Struggles Versus Cincinnati, Or Finally Hold On to a Victory in 2012?

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2011. 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 2012.

As part of our 2012 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: PIttsburgh Panthers

Opponent: Cincinnati

Last Year: Loss, 26-23 vs. Cincinnati

This Year: September 6, @ Cincinnati

In a struggle to keep their heads above water all season, the Panthers came in to their November game versus Cincinnati needing a win. With star running back Ray Graham lost for the season with a torn ACL, the wins were just as crucial, yet more difficult to come by than ever. Their first test without Graham started well enough. Managing three-point halftime lead against a 6-1 squad, which quickly turned into a 10-point lead in the third, Pitt looked like they had every intention of righting their season, and getting back in the driver’s seat for the Big East title. But the Bearcats’ offense would wake up, their defense would buckle down and the Pitt offense would fail to score again. At Cincy’s 33 with seconds to go, the 50-yard kick was way off the mark, sending the team to another rough defeat (in a season full of them). Continue reading

ACC Football Standout Senior 2012: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh RB Ray Graham Returns From Injury This Season, Hoping to Make His Senior Season a Special One

While we won’t be naive (and/or like Rick Reilly/Peter King/insert-your-own-cliched-columnist) and claim there’s some sort of pristine or pure honor in playing out your four years that other players just don’t get to experience, we’d still like to point out the senior players that are likely to stand out in 2012. These players have put in the time during their college careers, and now serve as the cornerstones of their respective teams’ potential success this season.

We’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his team, and why. Have a different thought on the matter? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

When healthy, Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham has been a force — arguably one of the best backs in the country last year, and the motor that guides the Panthers offense. But that key word, healthy, has also been a bit of an issue; or at least it was in 2011, which was supposed to be his last season in college before his assumed first-round selection. Now, 2012 is all about redemption for Graham. Both for him, and the team that desperately needs a full 12 games out of him if they hope to contend for a Big East title. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Pittsburgh Panthers

The Quarterback Position Is One of New Pitt Head Coach Paul Chryst’s Biggest Concerns This Spring

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: Pittsburgh Panthers

Pittsburgh enters 2012′s spring practices disappointed, and employing their third head coach in as many years. Not surprisingly, those two items are also linked. As predicted by many around the game, former coach Todd Graham lasted just one season in the Steel City. He failed to truly change any part of a stagnant offense and the team he leaves behind is in a more confused state than the one he inherited. So new head coach Paul Chryst has his work cut out for him, needing role players on both ends to show themselves as leaders from day one of spring ball. First in line on that front is — of course — quarterback Tino Sunseri. Inconsistent as they come, he’ll enter camp with no guarantees about his job status, and will face stiff competition all around. Along with returning reserves Trey Anderson and Mark Myers, there’s additional buzz that redshirt freshman Chad Voytik could actually be the best quarterback on the roster. For this horrendous passing unit (77th nationally in 2011), any sure arm will do, even if there’s little to throw to. Devin Street and Mike Shanahan could improve, but should they fail to, Pitt will once again rely on the run. This is where incumbent starter Ray Graham comes in handy. Arguably one of the best backs in the game, Graham will be unavailable this spring, leaving initial reps to Isaac Bennett and Corey Davis. Come the fall, expect this rotation to be a fierce one-two punch of Graham and five-star back Rushel Shell, who’s certain to continue the schools’ recent tradition of pro-caliber rushers. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Schedule Outlook: Pittsburgh Panthers

First-Year Coach Paul Chryst and His Program Are Still Struggling To Fill Out Their Schedule

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: Pittsburgh Panthers

So if you haven’t heard, the Big East is having some scheduling problems — something that affects Pittsburgh pretty directly for the time being. With just ten games currently on the books, and their league still trying aggressively for an eight member (Temple), things are looking pretty bleak. To make matters worse, not only are there just three non-Big East schools with scheduling holes left to fill (Missouri, Boise State and Nevada), but Pittsburgh already has an FCS match on the schedule as well. Even if they could get a second FCS team on there, game 12 would still be vacant, with very few options. So while this situation’s constantly evolving, we’ll take a look at what Pitt definitely has scheduled for the time being. Continue reading