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 7: Duke Blue Devils Defense

Indicated by David Cutcliffe’s Expression, Duke’s Defense is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 7

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 7: Duke Blue Devils Defense

Amazing to see Duke’s defensive unit at the top of this week’s list of “goats,” especially since the group’s been such a large part of the Blue Devils’ resurgence this year. Yet, here we are. Up 20-0 early against Virginia Tech, the defense simply needed to play well enough to hold on for the win. And this doesn’t excuse the offense either. Rather, just paying deference to Virginia Tech’s defense, which managed to play lights-out from the second half on. But without the Blue Devils allowing long runs throughout the contest, and 525 total yards of offense (269 on the ground), perhaps things go a bit differently. To make matters worse, Tech came in struggling to generate any offense. And yet, 41 points later, they pull off a huge comeback en route to a season-rehabilitating season. If Duke hopes to get to six wins, the problems of last week must be corrected immediately.

Honorable Mention:

Ryan Nassib, QB/Syracuse (356 yards passing, 1 TD, 4 turnovers)

Stephen Morris, QB/Miami (155 passing yards, 2 INT)

Phillip Sims, QB/Virginia (139 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT)

Chase Rettig, QB/Boston College (122 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT)

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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 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 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 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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