ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week Seven

Struggling All Season, Will Miami’s Defense Be Able to Stop Bryn Renner and UNC’s High-Powered Offense?

One week after Florida State’s fall, I’ve chosen to move on and celebrate conference parity, as opposed to mourning the loss of the ACC‘s only national title contender. Before the season, I never bought into the league having an undefeated team, but rather, would have a collection of three or four teams in the range of 9-11 wins. This is still very possible, and still indicative of a conference that can experience football success. It’s not the end of the world. Just another roadbump. At least we always win the conference realignment championship?

Game of the Week

North Carolina Tar Heels (4-2) (1-1) at Miami Hurricanes (4-2) (3-0): It’s a matchup of dynamic offenses, and only one competent defense when the Heels head down to Miami on Saturday. Despite how even these two may look on paper, I don’t anticipate a close game. The ‘Canes allowed the decidedly UN-dynamic Notre Dame offense to run right through them last weekend, so it’s hard to believe they’ll be able to stop Larry Fedora’s fast-paced spread attack. Miami’s ranked 103rd in the country in opposing passing yardage per game, allowing nearly 287 yards through the air every contest. UNC, led by junior QB Bryn Renner, averages about the same amount. Miami’s offense should keep it closer, but it’ll be hard to pull out a win. Prediction: UNC 42, Miami 30

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

Louisville Cardinals (5-0) at Pittsburgh Panthers (2-3): Pitt’s one-point loss to Syracuse last Friday was a difficult pill to take for this team, but they’ve been down before. The key to rebounding, though, is simply running the ball better. For all the playmakers in their backfield, the Panthers only amassed 27 yards on the ground — not the type of numbers that result in wins. Louisville has a fairly staunch run defense too (allowing 130 yards per game), but the team’s now littered with questions after slogging through a supposedly easy non-conference schedule. It’ll be a tight contest, but the Cardinals should eek out the victory. Prediction: Louisville 24, Pitt 21

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictons: Week Six

Miami’s Offense Put On a Show Last Week; Can They Repeat the Performance Against Notre Dame?

Everybody’s back in action for week six, as ACC play is now in full swing. Below we give our respective opinions on the players, coaches, issues and injuries that may end up having an impact on this weekend’s football action. There’s also a good chance that we arrive at completely different results for completely different reasons. So just be prepared for that as well.

Game of the Week

Miami Hurricanes (4-1) (3-0) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0) (in Chicago): Once a chronicle of everything “right” and “wrong” about college football, Notre Dame and Miami have not met in the regular season since 1990. Obviously the teams of 2012 are much different, even if the media relentlessly reminds you of “Catholics vs. Convicts.” Notre Dame comes into this one favored by nearly two touchdowns after their strong defensive performances to start off the season. However, they’ve yet to face a team of playmakers quite like Miami’s. If the Irish can pressure Stephen Morris into making some mistakes, they’ve got a chance. But if forced to win with offense, there’s no guarantee Notre Dame can keep up with the Hurricanes’ firepower or big-play capabilities. Despite the home crowd, this could be the day’s biggest upset. Prediction: Miami 31, Notre Dame 26

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

Pittsburgh Panthers (2-2) at Syracuse Orange (1-3): In their final meeting as Big East foes, Pitt and Syracuse appear to be moving in opposite directions. Syracuse’s special teams have been a significant issue all season, and along with their porous run defense, the Orange must continue to work on more fundamental tackling. Pitt, while suited to exploit these weaknesses, has also shown a distinct need for a balanced attack — something that may elude them on Friday night. If Syracuse can put a pass-rush on QB Tino Sunseri, and do a better job of stopping the run game, they stand a chance. Prediction: Pitt 27, Syracuse 21

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Six

After a Wild Weekend of ACC Football, Miami Vaults Up Our Power Rankings

Week five was a rough one for the ACC, as several squads were upset in non-conference matchups. So while the league’s reputation may have taken a hit, no harm was done at all to Florida State, who continues to make a serious push for a national championship. Below them (and Clemson), however, we have quite a bit of sorting out to do…

1. Florida State Seminoles (5-0) (LW: 1): The ‘Noles offense didn’t necessarily look amazing against USF on Saturday, but they didn’t have to. After letting up a ton of points against Clemson, the defense got back to business, and completely shut down the Bulls at every turn, letting up just 268 yards and 17 points. Not lost in the effort either was another strong — yet unsung — effort by the running game, which is ranked as the eighth-best ground attack in the FBS.

2. Clemson Tigers (4-1) (LW: 2): Considering they’ve been without Sammy Watkins for three of their five games now, it’s impressive that the Clemson offense has still been able to put up such big numbers. Having a stacked arsenal of targets will do that for a team. Without Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins has stepped up in a big way, and is now considered among the best wideouts in college football, based on his 42 catches and six scores. I’m still not convinced we’ve seen both receivers at 100-percent for a full game yet, either; a horrifying thought for opposing defenses.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-1) (LW: 5): This Miami squad is sporting a bevy of playmakers, the likes of which it hasn’t seen since its late 90s, early 00s heydays. We already knew the types of performances we could expect from running backs Mike James and Duke Johnson. But the show that Stephen Morris put on against an NC State pass defense that was one of the nation’s best in 2011? Literally unprecedented for any ACC or Miami quarterback. Win or lose, the ‘Canes have become a must-watch team every week.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2) (LW: 3): This fourth spot is where the big questions begin. We knew that Virginia Tech’s offense would struggle — and they have, mightily — but I doubt anyone believed the defense would also experience its own issues. As stated time and time again, Logan Thomas can’t do it by himself. Now that he’s been forced to, you see the glaring errors in his game, hurting both his team’s chances and his draft stock.

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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 Player of the Week, Week 4: EJ Manuel, Florida State

Florida State QB EJ Manuel is the ACC Player of the Week for Week 4

Each week, we’ll be identifying the best ACC player from that weekend’s games. As always, it’s a completely arbitrary award with no specific criteria beyond the vague concept of “excellence.” No, we don’t take write-ins.

ACC Player of the Week, Week Four: EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State

Of all the games to put in a career-defining performance, it sure seems like FSU quarterback EJ Manuel picked the right one. Against Clemson in primetime, Manuel and Florida State showed they were worth the hype by putting on an offensive clinic in the second half of their 49-37 victory. The senior, who’s always been billed on his potential, may have finally reached it — on the biggest stage. His 380 yards passing were a career high, and along with two touchdowns and 102 rushing yards, it all combined for one of the best individual games for any one player in the country this season. Obviously, his work is far from done. After all, his team is just one-third of the way toward their goal of playing for an ACC title. But based on the show Manuel and his offense displayed to the nation the other night, it appears they’re finally ready to regain their spot in the limelight.

Honorable Mention:

Mike James, RB/Miami (113 all-purpose yards, 4 TD)

Perry Hills, QB/Maryland (305 passing yards, 3 TD)

Michael Campanaro, WR/Wake Forest (184 all-purpose yards, 3 TD)

Stefon Diggs, WR/Maryland (113 receiving yards, 2 TD)

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ACC Football 2012 Week 4 Lessons: Florida State Is Back In the National Conversation

Florida State Has Officially Reclaimed Its Place on the National Stage and Could Contend for a National Title This Year

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 4 of ACC football action:

1. Florida State is back: The Seminoles, facing their first real competition all season, responded about as well as any team could have — by winning big. For any doubters left out there, it became very apparent over the course of the second half of their win over Clemson that Florida State is back and ready to compete on the national stage. Billed as a defense-first team, it was FSU’s offense that truly won the day, too. Which reminds us…

2. FSU QB EJ Manuel is a true Heisman trophy contender: Manuel came into Saturday night with some good numbers against subpar competition. What he left with was a signature Heisman game and moment, and a team that’s now a serious contender for a national championship. Putting up nearly 500 total yards in the weekend’s featured matchup will do that, so Manuel enters every early balloting conversation.

3. Maryland has the tools to compete at a high level: Looking at this roster both before and after C.J. Brown went out with a season-ending injury, it just didn’t appear as if the Terps would be able to compete all that well this season. Instead, they’ve actually proven themselves to be adept in both the offensive and defensive passing games — most notably, versus West Virginia this Saturday. Quarterback Perry Hills topped 300 yards through the air, and the defense held the high-octane Mountaineers offense in check by providing blanket coverage out deep.

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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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