ACC Football 2013 Week 8 Lessons: Florida State Asserts Itself Into National Championship Conversation

Welcome to the National Championship Conversation, Florida State... It's Been Awhile

Welcome to the National Championship Conversation, Florida State… It’s Been Awhile

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 8 of the ACC football season:

1. Florida State joins the National Championship conversation: After spending the early part of the season lingering around the title conversation, FSU is now firmly entrenched in it, and will be so long as they stay unbeaten. The ‘Noles win over Clemson was such a thorough dismantling that you can’t help but buy into the team’s championship hopes now. And it’s not just the offense either, though Jameis Winston had about as impressive a performance as you can on that national platform. The defense showed the same fire they delivered last season as well, shutting down a dynamic Tigers passing game. Dynamic, exciting and very dangerous, Florida State has now become the most entertaining wildcard in this race toward the BCS, and the ACC’s best hope to win it all.

2. Clemson botches their chance: On the other side of the 51-14 coin from Saturday night is Clemson and that team’s absolutely botched opportunity with the national spotlight shining down on them. Of course there were concerns about the Tigers going in, but nobody could’ve predicted how thoroughly they were trounced (well, except Spencer Hall). National title hopes dead, Clemson must be content with simply playing through the slate and avoiding more losses. They can still do plenty this year — including compete in and win a BCS bowl game — but you can’t help but think of what might have been now.

3. The ACC looks better than ever: Despite Clemson’s loss, the conference has arguably never looked better in the BCS era. Four teams in the top 14. Three in the top 10 (the only conference that can say that). Florida State is the first ACC team in the top two since 2000. Digest that for a second. For all the talk we do around here to defend the North Carolina-based conference, that fact still stood above it all; those on-field results. As of right now, though, that’s all in the rearview. In this new “Power 5″ era of college football, the ACC is angling itself to be number three — which is not too bad at all and should/could secure the league for decades to come.

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ACC Football 2013 Previews & Predictions: Week 3

Vad Lee Leads Georgia Tech to Durham to Face Coastal Rival Duke

QB Vad Lee Leads Georgia Tech to Durham to Face Coastal Division Rival Duke This Saturday

Another week, another big ACC win this season. Might as well continue riding the wave of good vibes and hope the conference’s top teams continue winning — Clemson is ranked third in the country at this point, you know. Just like normal, we’re running down the list of every ACC (plus Louisville) game and predicting outcomes that will almost undoubtedly be wrong. Have some picks of your own? Predict away in the comments!

Game of the Week

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0) (0-0) at Duke Blue Devils (2-0) (0-0): Georgia Tech looked phenomenal in game one, while Duke’s getting used to life without starting quarterback Anthony Boone. The Blue Devils’ defense has shown improvement through two games, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to put a stop to Tech’s revitalized offensive attack. Vad Lee was incredibly efficient to start the year and with a more versatile attack (still centered on the triple-option, of course), Tech is looking to top 2012′s 7-7 finish. This one will be close for as long as Duke backup Brandon Connette keeps it that way, but eventually, he’s going to be forced into a mistake by the Wreck defense. Once he does, it’s all over from there. Prediction: Georgia Tech 38, Duke 26

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

Louisville Cardinals (2-0) at Kentucky Wildcats (1-1): Louisville’s started the year on a tear, and that’s not about to change against the cross-state Wildcats. Kentucky’s played pretty solid pass defense against its two opponents thus far (just 147 yards allowed per game), but then again, neither had much of a passing game to speak of either. Despite Mark Stoops’s specialty with the secondary, his UK team just isn’t up to snuff at this point, leaving plenty of opportunities for Teddy Bridgewater to continue padding his impressive numbers. Kentucky should be able to put up some points, but for the Cards, this will be treated like a track meet if necessary. They have no intentions of losing this contest with so much on the line. Prediction: Louisville 41, Kentucky 23

Virginia Tech Hokies (1-1) (0-0) at East Carolina Pirates (2-0): What would normally be an easy non-conference matchup turns into a pretty harrowing contest for Virginia Tech this Saturday against East Carolina. Not only is the game on the road, but ECU is extremely proficient at the main thing Tech isn’t: scoring points, with an average of 41.5 in two contests so far. With offensive production mostly out of the question, that’ll leave it up to the Hokies defense to try and create scoring opportunities similar to what they did against Western Carolina last week. The Pirates also have their own penchant for forcing turnovers (four this year), and if Tech falls behind early, it could spell doom for them. It’ll be close, but count on Frank Beamer’s defense to find a way at the end. Prediction: Virginia Tech 30, ECU 27

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Maryland Terrapins

After Two Very Rough Seasons, Is a Young Maryland Team Ready to Bounce Back?

After Two Very Rough Seasons, Is a Young Maryland Team Ready to Bounce Back?

Team: Maryland Terrapins

2012 W-L: 4-8 (2-6)

Head Coach: Randy Edsall (6-18; third season)

Returning Starters: 9 (5 Offense, 4 Defense)

The Terrapins’ ACC farewell tour sets up rather well. Outside of the top two spots, the Atlantic Division is largely up for grabs. They play a very manageable schedule. And they’ve got an offensive star on their hands in wide receiver Stefon Diggs. All of that sounds great, but there’s plenty to overcome as well. Coach Randy Edsall has won just six games total in two season in College Park, and while the team has talent coming in, there’s not a whole lot of experience to speak of either. Plus, the entire athletic program is pretty much bankrupt and there’s declining fan interest across the board (but notably in football). So how does this all end up playing out?

For starters, Maryland should automatically be better on the offensive end, now that they have quarterback C.J. Brown back from last summer’s torn ACL. Though they trotted out four different players to under center (including a freshman linebacker) in 2012, things actually didn’t start off half bad for the team on offense. With a huge assist from Diggs’s play-making, they started off 4-2, moving the ball reasonably well and scoring 22 points per game. But then the injuries struck, and the Terps would end up with one of the country’s worst offenses across the board. Brown will change things immediately by bringing a versatility to the quarterback position (had seven passing TDs and five rushing TDs in 2011), and help them fix their weakest link from last year. There are still plenty of questions about Brown — fans forget that he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in 2011 — but at least it’s better than what they dealt with last season. Along with the dynamic Diggs catching passes, he’ll also have transfer Deon Long at his disposal. Last playing for New Mexico, Long had 47 catches for 809 yards in 2011, and paired with Diggs, should surpass those numbers this year. So long as Brown can get the ball to both of them, Maryland’s obviously looking at a much more dynamic passing game compared to what it had (104th in passing yards per game).

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NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Maryland Prospects

Can Former Terp Tight End Matt Furstenburg Find a Landing Spot in the NFL?

Can Former Terp Tight End Matt Furstenburg Find a Landing Spot in the NFL?

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

Maryland‘s fortunes have been a bit down through the first two years of the Randy Edsall era, but the Terps are still able to churn out some NFL-caliber talent acquired by former head coach Ralph Friedgen. Unfortunately for them, these were some of the team’s biggest contributors and they’ll certainly leave some gaping holes on both sides of the ball. Recruiting is improving for the Terrapins with Mike Locksley back in the fold, but it’s still a gradual process to rebuild the necessary pipelines.

Matt Furstenburg, TE, Senior (Projected: Fifth Round)

Furstenburg comes into this draft as a bit of a wildcard, leaving scouts around the league a bit confused. His productivity as a receiver wasn’t overwhelmingly impressive during his four years (60 catches, six scores on his career), but I’d chalk a good deal of that up to the terrible quarterback situation at Maryland these past two seasons. While he has some of the physical tools to succeed (6’4″ and 242 pounds), there’s also concern he’s a bit undersized for the position and that it removes the effectiveness of his best skillset (run-blocking). But with some great receiving skills and a more-than-respectable 40-yard dash time (4.6), it’s doubtful teams will allow him to drop much further than the fifth round.

Joe Vellano, DT, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)

If Vellano fails to be drafted, he won’t be searching long for an employer, that’s for sure. I’d even add that the only reason he’s not higher up on draft boards is his history of various injuries during his collegiate career. Beyond that, it’s tough to just look past a defensive lineman with a quick first step and tireless work ethic who flirted with 100 tackles his junior season (unheard of). Vellano’s played various positions along the line (end, tackle, nose tackle), which certainly gives him a bit of a boost, but his size isn’t necessarily ideal for any of those positions, save maybe the nose tackle spot — and an undersized one at that. At 6’2″ and 306 pounds, he’ll need the right environment in order to thrive, and teams will need to be willing to make a several-year investment.

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Rushel Shell Transfer: Where to, and What’s Next for Pitt’s Backfield?

Rushel Shell's Leaving Pittsburgh, But Where Could He End Up Next?

We Know Rushel Shell’s Leaving Pittsburgh, But Where Could He End Up Next?

As has been the news for nearly a week now, presumed starting running back Rushel Shell has elected to transfer out of Pittsburgh’s football program. SB Nation’s Cardiac Hill has a detailed breakdown of the various puzzling aspects of this move, so for discussion around that front, feel free to wander in that general direction.

What we’re interested in here is where he could potentially end up (touched upon over at CH as well), and then what’s next for the Panthers’ backfield as they continue with spring practice. With little information available right now, please keep in mind this is almost entirely speculation at the moment.

Where could Rushel Shell transfer to?

Just one year ago, Shell was in high demand as one of the top-rated running back prospects in the nation, and he was expected to deliver on those lofty goals as Pitt’s featured back in 2013. Now, he’s an impressive sophomore runner with 641 rushing yards and four scores under his belt, looking for a new home where he’ll sit out a year before regaining eligibility in 2014.

The top transfer choices are the ones in closest proximity: West Virginia and Penn State, but there’s chatter that Pitt would not allow him to head to either long-time rival program. Same goes for Arizona State, where former Panthers coach Todd Graham currently resides as head coach. The Cardiac Hill guys believe Pitt would block any move to those three schools, but is that the right move? Not siding with Shell here, but based on a recent tweet from the mother of Shell’s children, it would almost seem like he’s trying to run from some issues (purely speculation). However, rewind the clock a year, and let’s remember what happened when former Terps QB Danny O’Brien was trying to leave Maryland and head coach Randy Edsall was adamant about limiting his possibilities. The backlash was pretty far-reaching and ultimately, amounted to nothing since O’Brien failed to go to a future scheduled opponent or another ACC team (he went to Wisconsin).

So with that said, where could he potentially land? The top two choices are obvious:

Arizona State: Graham and his staff initially recruited Shell, and perhaps that was part of the initial appeal to the Panthers program (beyond just local tie-ins). The Sun Devils currently have a veteran backfield set for fall, giving Shell ample opportunity to contribute come fall 2014.

West Virginia: Still local, and like many Pitt players, Shell certainly knows plenty of Mountaineers players. With the Big 12 sort of lacking for an elite back, Shell could get an opportunity to really shine in that conference, though who knows how much opportunity he’d get in Dana Holgorsen’s air-raid offense.

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Very Early 2013 ACC Football Season W-L Predictions

Can Tajh Boyd and Clemson Live Up to Early Predictions and Win the ACC Championship?

Can Tajh Boyd and Clemson Live Up to Early Predictions and Win the ACC Championship?

With a nod to SB Nation’s Barking Carnival for the basis of this idea, we wanted to take a very early, top-line view of each ACC team’s prospects for 2013 with regard to schedule. What we’ve done to avoid diving into each and every game, however, is limit this look to just in-conference matchups (eight per team), and provide you with the basic info you’ll need on each squad. In particular, how much experience they have at the quarterback position, how long their respective coach has been there, and how many returning starters they have. Obviously, it takes more than just that information to surmise how a team will fare in a given year, but since it’s so early, this should be plenty to get a conversation going. All figures on returning starters are from Phil Steele.

Boston College Eagles: Coach: Steve Addazio (first year); Quarterback: Chase Rettig (fourth year); Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense); Projected conference W-L: 1-7

Clemson Tigers: Coach: Dabo Swinney (sixth year); Quarterback: Tajh Boyd (third year); Returning starters: 13 (seven offense, six defense); Projected conference W-L: 8-0

Duke Blue Devils: Coach: David Cutcliffe (sixth year); Quarterback: Anthony Boone (first year); Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense); Projected conference W-L: 2-6

Florida State Seminoles: Coach: Jimbo Fisher (fourth year); Quarterback: TBD; Returning starters: 10 (six offense, four defense); Projected conference W-L: 6-2

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Coach: Paul Johnson (sixth year); Quarterback: Vad Lee (probable; first year); Returning starters: 16 (eight offense, eight defense); Projected conference W-L: 5-3

Maryland Terrapins: Coach: Randy Edsall (third year); Quarterback: C.J. Brown (probable; second year); Returning starters: 12 (seven offense, five defense); Projected conference W-L: 2-6

Miami Hurricanes: Coach: Al Golden (third year); Quarterback: Stephen Morris (second year); Returning starters: 19 (10 offense, nine defense); Projected conference W-L: 7-1

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ACC Football Head Coaching Hot Seats 2013

Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson is One of Several ACC Coaches on Tentative Ground Right Now

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson is One of Several ACC Coaches on Tentative Ground Right Now

We’re just jumping into spring practice (you can look at every ACC team’s previews here), but for all 14 (15) squads, this is the start of the 2013 season. And for head coaches, this is where the year’s evaluations start; from their players, the school administrations, the fans and the boosters that can easily pull the plug on their position. While some of the ACC‘s head coaches are firmly entrenched where they’re at, there are also plenty that find themselves in precarious situations. Regarding both, we provide a quick evaluation of where all of them stand, new coaches and all.

Completely Safe (5)

Dabo Swinney, Clemson (sixth year): Swinney has brought the Tigers to an extended period of success they haven’t seen in decades, winning the ACC, becoming a perennial top-20 program and taking home a huge victory in the 2012 Chick-fil-a Bowl. The only things left? Consistently beating South Carolina and winning a national championship.

David Cutcliffe, Duke (sixth year): After getting Duke to their first bowl game since 1994, it appears that Cutcliffe can do no wrong in Durham. Of course, now the question begs whether he can keep it up. So long as he can consistently win between five and seven games, Cutcliffe will be just fine at Duke.

Charlie Strong, Louisville (fourth year): Strong had a real opportunity to leave this past offseason, yet chose to stick around at Louisville to finish what he started. While there’s always the threat he could head to the SEC, Strong’s ability to rebuild this program and contend on a national stage (see: Sugar Bowl) have him here long-term if he wants to be.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina (second year): Just a small sample size for Fedora thus far, but in his one season, he’s already brought UNC to a place of far more prominence than they’ve been in a decade. He’ll get several seasons to continue implementing his system, but if trends continue, he’ll be fine in Chapel Hill.

Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (second year): Another second-year coach, Chryst has seen some results after a season at the helm, but it appears he’s set to grow the program further after (especially after a nice recruiting haul this spring). If they take a step back, questions may start, but he’s got plenty of runway to work with.

Fine for Now (4)

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (fourth year): Expectations are always high at FSU, so it’s no surprise Fisher sits here, despite winning 12 games and an ACC title last year. Now, of course, it’ll be interesting to see if he can live up year-to-year. If Fisher can’t contend more than every few seasons, patience will grow short very quickly around Florida State.

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