ACC Football 2013 Week 7 Lessons: College Gameday, Top-Five Matchup Set Between Clemson and Florida State

Florida State Visits Clemson in a Huge Top-5 Matchup on College Gameday This Saturday

College Gameday Features Florida State and Clemson in a Huge Top-5 Matchup  This Saturday

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 7 of the ACC football season:

1. Next Saturday’s top-five showdown is on: After Clemson finally got past Boston College (way to scare the rest of us, Tigers), it officially set us up for one of the biggest weekends in ACC football history. College Gameday returns to Death Valley for the second time this season, and we get a top-five matchup on top of it. Florida State‘s fairly untested and the Tigers have been among the top five or so literally all season. Whoever wins will have both an inside track at winning the Atlantic Division and possibly playing for a National Championship come January. Saturday night will be an electric atmosphere — the type of which this conference needs more of in order to show itself off as one of the nation’s elite leagues.

2. Georgia Tech‘s in a free fall: Ever since dashing out to a 3-0 start, something’s been amiss about the Yellow Jackets. Granted, they’ve had a pretty rough slate these past few weeks (Miami, Virginia Tech and BYU will do that), but now sitting at .500, the season’s taken a bit of a negative turn. With two FCS opponents on the schedule, Tech has to go 4-2 down the stretch in order to wrap up a bowl bid. There’s a significant level of difficulty involved and no guarantees they can pull it off despite fielding a better team than last season’s by far.

3. Boston College is almost back: Yes, BC has lost to both Florida State and Clemson, but let’s focus on the positives: they were incredibly competitive against both as well. In just one year, coach Steve Addazio has this group believing they can win any game on the schedule, which is huge compared to what the last few years entailed. This is a senior-heavy class, so there’s plenty of rebuilding that needs to happen come next year. But with this sort of buy-in so early, the Eagles are well on their way to not just being respectable but competitive once again.

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ACC Football 2013 Previews & Predictions: Week 7

Logan Thomas and the Virginia Tech Hokies Aim for Win No. 6 vs. Pitt

Logan Thomas and the Virginia Tech Hokies Aim for Win No. 6 on the Season vs. Pitt

As the country wraps up non-conference schedules for the most part and dives head-long into league play, we get this final middle of the road week of ACC football. It’s not that the matchups are bad, of course. We just know that next week’s slate is chock-full of more interesting story lines and a likely ACC showcase for College Gameday. 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

Pittsburgh Panthers (3-1) (2-1) at Virginia Tech Hokies (5-1) (2-0): Both of these teams were pummeled in their respective season openers, and yet both have also managed to rebound nicely and factor into the early Coastal Division race. Of course, Tech’s five wins have been against a bit heftier competition than Pitt’s had over the last month, so it’s tough to consider them “equal” at this time. The Panthers’ wideouts have played out of their minds of late, but can they do so once again when facing the ACC’s top defensive unit? If the Hokies’ corners can keep containment along the outside, it’ll certainly be a tough task — especially since Pitt doesn’t have much of a running game. Their own defense will also pose a challenge to Virginia Tech, however, testing Logan Thomas to keep up his mistake-free ways. If he can do that, you have to believe the Hokies pull off yet another conference victory. Prediction: Virginia Tech 26, Pittsburgh 17

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

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-1) at Louisville Cardinals (5-0): Don’t be fooled the same way some poll voters have. SUNJ’s 4-1 record is mostly a mirage, built on the backs of college football bottom-feeders and a narrow escape against SMU last week. Formidable teams have been able to score at will on the Scarlet Knights this year (twice allowed 50 points or more), and that makes Louisville’s job rather easy. Teddy Bridgewater should have no problem spreading the field against this defense, and even if the running game fails to get going early, they’ll be plenty of time for handoffs later. Louisville’s not overlooking this one as it might be their “toughest” game all year, so don’t expect them to sleepwalk through. Prediction: Louisville 42, SUNJ 20

Navy Midshipmen (3-1) at Duke Blue Devils (3-2) (0-2): Navy’s rushing defense (85th in the country) is a problem for the Midshipmen right off the bat, so don’t be surprised to see Duke quarterback Brandon Connette running even more than normal. Lost in the shuffle of his many interceptions, Connette’s actually collected a pretty stellar set of statistics both on the ground and through the air (1,246 total yards and 17 scores), and should continue to rack up more against a so-so Navy D. Duke’s defense hasn’t been much better against the ground game, but they do have the excuse of facing Georgia Tech. The line’s close on this one (-3 for Duke), but I see the Blue Devils winning comfortably. Prediction: Duke 35, Navy 20

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ACC Football 2013 Television Schedule & Spreads: Week 7

Virginia Tech and Pitt Face Off in One of the ACC's Top Matchups of the Weekend

Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh Face Off in One of the ACC’s Top Matchups of the Weekend

Every week, we’ll be providing a quick rundown of which ACC football games are on television, and also list the latest spread on each game (should you choose to engage in gambling-related activities). Please plan your days accordingly.

ACC Football Week 7 TV Schedule & Spreads

Thursday, October 10

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Louisville Cardinals (-18.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Saturday, October 12

Pittsburgh Panthers at Virginia Tech Hokies (-9), Noon ET, ESPNU

Navy Midshipmen at Duke Blue Devils (-3), 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 3/College Gameplan

Virginia Cavaliers at Maryland Terrapins (-7), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Syracuse Orange at NC State Wolfpack (-7), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 3/College Gameplan

Boston College Eagles at Clemson Tigers (-24.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN 2

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at BYU Cougars (-7), 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

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ACC Football 2013 Preseason Power Rankings

Behind Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd, Clemson Appears Ready to Fly Past the Rest of the ACC

Behind Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd, Clemson Appears Ready to Fly Past the Rest of the ACC

We’re just a couple days away! I know, this has been an incredibly drawn out offseason, but at long last, kickoff is finally (just about) here. To celebrate that, we’re unveiling the final offseason power rankings, before basing these on actual games starting next Tuesday. 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 (August 27)

1. Clemson Tigers (Last: 1): Clemson will be tested very early in a rivalry redux versus Georgia, and should they get past the Bulldogs, they’ll be favored in the next 10 games. If this team has truly buried the term “Clemsoning” (and for what it’s worth, I firmly believe they have), they should be able to run through to the final weekend at a perfect 11-0. There, South Carolina awaits them, but it’s a long season and in order to be undefeated, you’ve got to go week-by-week.

2. Florida State Seminoles (Last: 3): The more preseason prep you do, the more you end up buying into this year’s Seminoles team being just as talented as last year’s edition. Though the pass-rush might be a bit weaker, the very strong back seven give this team the type of edge they’ll need to notch another season of double-digit wins. But again, the key is Jameis Winston at QB, and whether or not he’s up to the task of jumping in and producing right away.

3. Louisville Cardinals (Last: 2): Playing out a season in purgatory is a daunting task, believe it or not, and we’re about to find out if Louisville’s up to the challenge. With a very big target on their backs and favorable odds in all 12 games on the slate, this Cardinals team will be challenged to get up for each and every game. Charlie Strong can provide the motivation, but it’ll be interesting to watch nonetheless as the year keeps going and the pressure around the squad builds.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (Last: 5): Miami likely has the most complete set of offensive tools in the entire conference, with certifiable playmakers at all three major skill positions. This year’s slate is also much easier than 2012’s, with no Notre Dame or Kansas State, though we’ll get a quick sense of what they’re made of in a week two matchup against Florida. Win that one, and who knows how far this team might end up going.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers

Can Aaron Donald and a Strong Defense Help Overcome Pitt's Offensive Futility?

Can Aaron Donald and a Strong Defense Help Overcome Pittsburgh’s Offensive Issues?

Team: Pittsburgh Panthers

2012 W-L: 6-7 (3-4 in Big East)

Head Coach: Paul Chryst (6-7; second season)

Returning Starters: 13 (5 Offense, 8 Defense)

Bad luck, bad hires, bad timing… just seems like nothing can go right for Pittsburgh of late. And this offseason didn’t really make things easier, as players continue to leave the program — most notably would-be standout halfback Rushel Shell this spring, who ended up at arch rival West Virginia. There are two positives: the ACC move and coach Paul Chryst actually sticking around pas the one season mark, but are they enough to outweigh the on-field losses? We’ll find out pretty quickly as Pitt’s thrown into the fire early — a Labor Day date with defending conference champion Florida State. While the Panthers aren’t exactly expected to beat the ‘Noles, a respectable showing could at least show signs that this team is ready and willing to compete in its new conference right away. If they fall flat though, it could be a very long season for a team in transition.

The offense will take on a very different identity than in years’ past, with or without the personnel to do so. Losing Shell and former starting running back Ray Graham (nearly 1,700 yards between them last season), Pitt’s usual propensity for running the ball seems to be a difficult sell. Backup Isaac Bennett will take over primary ball-carrying duties, but without much experience himself, or depth behind him, it’s unlikely you’ll see the Panthers running the ball nearly as much as normal. Making matters a bit more worrisome, the offensive line has to replace its own set of departed players, and try and account for a lack of depth as well. Several freshman could conceivably end up in the regular linemen rotation — a disconcerting thought when you think about the types of pass-rushers Pitt will face in the ACC. With positions shifting around, it may come down to tackle T.J. Clemmings‘s ability to handle a switch to the offensive side of the ball and take pressure of the veteran guards. If the line can come together quickly, it’s obviously a huge relief for both the running game (which needs plenty of help) and the also-green passing attack as well.

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Rewriting Conference Realignment History

What if the Syracuse Orange Had Joined Rival Boston College in the ACC's First Round of Expansion?

What if Syracuse Had Joined Rival Boston College in the ACC’s First Round of Expansion?

If you’ve checked out today’s daily links, you’ve likely noticed the top story from Syracuse.com, with regard to a little revisionist realignment history. The piece, “Syracuse is About to Join the ACC, But What if SU Had Made the Move 10 Years Ago?” enlists a variety of folks to take a look at what might have been if Syracuse had left the Big East for the ACC along with Boston College and Miami, as originally planned. It’s a very worthwhile read, though I did want to dive a bit deeper into some of the points, and bring up a few points of contention as well. Again, definitely enjoyed the article, but I do think some of the decisions seem to forget the timeline of all these things and the motivations of certain leagues, in particular. Taking a look at their timeline…

Move 1: Boston College, Miami and Syracuse depart Big East for ACC (2004)

No qualms here — obviously this is the decision that gets the ball rolling.

Move 2: Virginia Tech departs Big East for SEC (undetermined)

Unsure when this move takes place, but I’d venture to guess not immediately after the first round of expansion above. The further away from that point in time we get, I’d agree, the more likely this happens. Though I’d also bet that if it hadn’t happened by about 2010 or so, the Hokies end up in the ACC.

Move 3: Texas A&M departs Big 12 for SEC (2010)

This almost happened in real life, and would end up coming to fruition a year later anyway. No surprise here.

Move 4: Missouri departs Big 12 for Big Ten (2010)

… And here’s where I bring up an issue. The dominoes started falling in 2010 when the Big Ten announced they were searching for a 12th member. I’d bet that even in this revised timeline, that’s still the case, meaning they’d get to move first. Their target was always Nebraska, and despite multiple overtures by Missouri, the Big Ten’s continually said no. So I’d probably adjust this to reflect the Huskers heading up to the B1G, instead of the Tigers.

Move 5: Texas and Oklahoma depart Big 12 for Pac-10 (2010)

Here’s another one where I’m at least partially confused. We all remember the first version of “OMG Pac-16!!!” but this hypothetical seems to forget the rest of it. Texas and Oklahoma weren’t going anywhere without Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And what the hell happens to Colorado here? We never find out. I’m fine with hypotheticals — this is a college football blog after all — but I think the real-life motivations need to be accounted for with these moves. It also ignores the inherent issue the Pac-10/12 has with Texas: the Longhorn Network.

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ACC vs. Big Ten in the Pinstripe Bowl: Will NYC Ever Matter in College Football?

For the Pinstripe Bowl to Become More Important, it Needs Non-NY Area Teams

For the Pinstripe Bowl to Become More Important, it Needs Non-New York Area Teams Invited

As most are aware by now, the ACC has signed on with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl (located at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NY) for a six-year term starting in 2014. The game will rotate the league’s third through sixth postseason selections, and will match the ACC up against the Big Ten, the only other major conference with a foothold near the New York area. Obviously, this sets the stage for what should be an interesting battle between the two conferences to gain market share in the nation’s largest television market (and the largest without a major college football team to call its own).

Over its three years of existence thus far, the Pinstripe Bowl has found success in featuring nearby teams Syracuse and Rutgers, and pitting them against Big 12 schools they wouldn’t normally play (or in the case of West Virginia, played regularly for decades). With those two schools off to the ACC and Big Ten, respectively, this move only makes more sense now. It also allows the Pinstripe Bowl to continue moving up in the bowl payout hierarchy, but will that mean a bump up in importance as well? Last year, the Pinstripe Bowl’s $1.8 million payout was 12th among non-BCS games in terms of payout. Now, with a more lucrative setup matching up teams either from nearby campuses or with large alumni bases in New York, I’d bet that number has a chance to increase. The key, however, will be variety.

The biggest knock on the Pinstripe Bowl up to this point is that it hasn’t had to deal with hosting teams outside of the New York/New Jersey corridor, featuring SU twice and Rutgers once — all wins for the “home” team. Northeast football fans don’t exactly have a sterling reputation for traveling, so this arrangement — despite the fact that it’s in the snowy northeast in December — has been advantageous for both sides. I’m doubtful this will continue, however, if the two teams continue to be shuttled off to the Bronx. And that’s where the rest of the teams in their respective conferences come in.

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