ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 3

Miami Florida Gators Hurricanes Upset 2013 ACC Football SEC Stephen Morris

Miami’s Big Upset of Florida Has Them Thinking ACC Championship, and Possibly More

Two weeks into this young season and things seem awfully positive for the ACC. There’s a collective conference pride rooted not just in hilarious gestures of solidarity, but in actual on-field results. The ACC is beating the SEC on the field, and (at least from a public relations standpoint) putting to bed the rhetoric about it being a weak league. As always, the poll includes all 14 current ACC members, plus future member Louisville. Feel like I’m totally right or completely off-base? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

ACC Football Power Rankings 2013 (Week 3)

1. Clemson Tigers (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 1): Even without Tajh Boyd for most of the game, Clemson was able to breeze through South Carolina State on Saturday. But the biggest win may have been what happened in Georgia. The Bulldogs beat up on South Carolina in front of a national audience and staked their claim to the SEC East crown. But if Georgia’s the best team in the SEC East, then how good is Clemson? It appears the answer is “very” and now everyone seems to be buying in on the Tigers. The team moved up to no. 3 in the AP rankings this week and even received a first-place vote.

2. Florida State Seminoles (1-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): Florida State had the week off, but it doesn’t mean the hype around Jameis Winston vanished. If anything, it just continued to grow as pundits began to wonder what he might do for an encore. Against Nevada on Saturday, he should have ample opportunity to replicate his success from Labor Day, though it does feel like we’re already entering Clowney-type territory when it comes to expectations for him. At some point, he’ll remind folks he’s a freshman quarterback and the ESPN hivemind will inevitably turn on him. But until then, FSU fans will certainly enjoy the ride.

3. Louisville Cardinals (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): What does Louisville have to do to make their case for a national championship? Simply put: just win. And so far, they’ve done that, winning two contests by a combined score of 93-14. Teddy Bridgewater is on an absolutely torrid pace in terms of statistics, and with the American Athletic Conference looking even worse off than people thought this season, we could be seeing something truly special from him this year.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Is the U back? That depends on your point of view, though Saturday’s upset over Florida is certainly a nice start to that conversation. The Hurricanes weren’t perfect against the Gators, but maybe that’s what makes this victory resonate a bit more. Everyone has a tendency to celebrate a team for playing a flawless game en route to a big victory, when it’s the team that can win an ugly contest that’s probably better set up for long-term success. While the offense had its moments, the biggest plus from Saturday was the defense, which (Florida’s inept offense aside) did appear to have taken major leaps forward from last season’s disastrous effort.

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ACC Football 2013 Previews & Predictions: Week 2 (Part 1)

Duke Johnson Should Hold the Key to Whether or Not Miami Can Take Down Florida

Duke Johnson Should Hold the Key to Whether or Not Miami Can Take Down Florida on Saturday

Nice start for the ACC this season — now let’s see if the conference can keep it up. Just like normal, we’re running down the list of every ACC (plus Louisville) game and predicting outcomes that will almost undoubtedly be wrong. As is customary when the games are primarily of the out-of-conference variety, we’re splitting things up into two posts to make things more easily digestible. You’re welcome, and happy football season!

Game of the Week

Florida Gators (1-0) at Miami Hurricanes (1-0) (0-0): The in-state rivals meet again, though maybe for the last time for the foreseeable future. Still, Saturday’s matchup ends up being one of the marquee early non-conference contests, as both squads are in the top 25. The Gators’ strength is their strong defense, while the offense continues to sputter along, similar to last season. Obviously a defensive struggle doesn’t suit this high-scoring Miami team, but it may be the only way to beat Florida. Against an aggressive secondary and pass-rush, there’s no guarantee Stephen Morris will be able to pass the ball effectively, which puts productivity on Duke Johnson‘s shoulders. Florida’s got a strong run defense, but I believe Johnson can allow Miami to control the clock and pull out a big (and atypical) win. Prediction: Miami 20, Florida 17

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

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0) (0-0) at Boston College Eagles (1-0) (0-0): Messy first halves for both teams last week gave way to much stronger second halves and ultimately wins against FCS schools. So which versions of Wake and BC are we going to see tomorrow night? From what we’ve observed so far, it looks like defense will be guiding force for both, which means a low-scoring affair. But who has the edge? The Deacons’ secondary forced six turnovers against an overmatched Presbyterian team, while the Eagles notched four against Villanova. Wake held the Blue Hose to a lot less yardage, but the Wildcats are definitely the better of the two FCS opponents. It’ll be close, though it’ll be the Deacs’ offense that comes up with the late play for the victory. Prediction: Wake Forest 21, Boston College 17

Eastern Kentucky Colonels (1-0) at Louisville Cardinals (1-0): Louisville had made the conscious decision to just be a death machine this season, and I don’t really see the problem with it. After flying right through Ohio last week, it’s very unlikely Eastern Kentucky gives them many — if any — problems at all. Teddy Bridgewater should make short work of the Colonels’ secondary, and is likely to be pulled by mid-way through the third. Expect a lot of points. Prediction: Louisville 70, Eastern Kentucky 7

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ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC's Running Backs for the 2013 Season

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC’s Running Backs for the 2013 Season

While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the running backs (you can check out last week’s feature on quarterbacks, too). Though there’s not a whole lot of experience at the position — just one returning back (Syracuse’s Jerome Smith) rushed for 1,000 yards last year — this group makes up for a lot of that in potential. Many of the most talented runners this year will be sophomores or juniors, so that aforementioned experience will come with time. As for those who are seniors, many possess a significant leg-up, which you’ll find reflected here as well.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

1. Florida State Seminoles: Injuries ravaged the Florida State backfield in 2012. But because of that, the team’s top two returning rushers, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., actually have quite a bit of experience under their respective belts (221 carries between them last year). They’re both vertical runners for the most part, doing most of their work in the middle of the line, but Wilder, in particular, also has some pass-catching ability out of the backfield (19 catches for 136 yards and two scores last year). Expect that role to expand this year, while also incorporating Mario Pender, who’s the quickest back on the roster and anxious to contribute after red-shirting last season.

2. Miami Hurricanes: Miami’s ranking here is purely on the strength of sophomore Duke Johnson, and his success is likely to decide how far the ‘Canes go this season. Despite splitting carries with Mike James last year, Johnson still ran for 947 yards and 10 scores, while tacking on another 1,133 yards from receiving and kick returns. With that on his resume in just one season, he’s now being listed among the most dynamic players in the country and will be the focal point of every gameplan against Miami. He won’t be acting alone in the backfield, but there’s no telling what to expect from backups Dallas Crawford or Eduardo Clements either.

3. Syracuse Orange: SU’s offense was largely seen as a pass-first attack in 2012, but its success in the season’s second half was heavily reliant on the running game. The Orange bring back everybody this year, and arguably have one of the deepest backfields in the country. The group will be guided by Jerome Smith (1,171 yards last year), but this will be a multi-back, run-first system. Expect Prince-Tyson Gulley to approach the 200-carry mark as well, while the team gets additional contributions from short-yardage specialist Adonis Ameen-Moore and jack-of-all-trades Ashton Broyld in hybrid WR/RB slot role.

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ACC Football Player of the Week, Week 3: Chris Thompson, Florida State

Florida State RB Chris Thompson is Week 3’s ACC Player of the Week

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 Three: Chris Thompson, RB/Florida State

In just one half (and nine carries) of football, FSU’s Chris Thompson obliterated the Wake Forest line, racking up 197 rushing yards, along with two scores and two receptions for 23 yards. While we won’t necessarily point to any one factor in the Seminoles’ complete evisceration of the Demon Deacons on Saturday, there’s a pretty strong case to be made for FSU’s running game and its ability to pick up large chunks of yardage at will. With Thompson and cohort James Wilder Jr. in the backfield, it’s difficult for the unit to have an off-game and they’ve been incredibly instrumental in setting a well-balanced offense for a ‘Noles team currently firing on all cylinders.

Honorable Mention:

Duke Johnson, RB/Miami (245 all-purpose yards, 4 TD)

Romar Morris, RB/North Carolina (202 all-purpose yards, 2 TD, 1 blocked punt)

Nick Clancy, LB/Boston College (24 tackles)

Tevin Washington, QB/Georgia Tech (218 total yards, 4 TD)

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