ACC Football 2013 Previews & Predictions: Week 5

Jeremiah Attaochu and the Georgia Tech Defense Are Aiming to Deliver a Big Win Over Virginia Tech

Jeremiah Attaochu & the Georgia Tech Defense Aiming to Deliver a Big Win Over Virginia Tech

Finally, some actual games that matter (a few anyway). The ACC‘s still got five undefeated teams (sort of six), but will that continue to be the case much longer. I’m sure we all hope so… 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

Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1) (0-0) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-0) (2-0): For all but one year of divisional play, this game has decided the Coastal. And while it may seem like a remote possibility given the state of Virginia Tech’s offense in particular, that’s still on the table for this season’s edition of the matchup. But this one’s not going to last long if the Hokies can’t cut down on mistakes. The kicking game’s a mess and despite some flashes of success, Logan Thomas is still as rough around the edges as he’s ever been — and as error-prone as he’s ever been too. Georgia Tech’s aggressive defense should take advantage of those opportunities, while Vad Lee could have the offense closing the deal by the third quarter. Prediction: Georgia Tech 31, Virginia Tech 21

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

Miami Hurricanes (3-0) (0-0) at USF Bulls (0-3): In the past, this contest has actually been pretty close. But that was the old version of the USF program. The version we’ve come to know lately has fallen on some hard times, and that’ll likely continue this weekend. USF can’t seem to score points (just 12.3 per game this season), though over the last two games, the defense hasn’t been all bad. It’s certainly not the best MIami’s seen though, after facing and beating Florida in week two. Expect the ‘Canes to breeze through yet another contest en route to a 4-0 record. Prediction: Miami 30, USF 13

East Carolina Pirates (2-1) at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2) (0-1): Considering the high expectations UNC had going into the season and the way things have gone instead, this ECU game is now a must-win. The defense is a bit of a concern, especially after last week’s second-half collapse versus Georgia Tech, but the bigger issue has been and remains the offense. North Carolina’s line is struggling to protect Bryn Renner and can’t open up holes for the running game either. The result has been a neutered attack that pales in comparison to what we’ve seen from previous Larry Fedora teams. They’ve got to figure things out this week against ECU or they’re in full-on crisis mode. Prediction: UNC 41, ECU 28

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

Down a Few Defensive Backs, Can Georgia Keep Clemson's Sammy Watkins in Check?

Down a Few Defensive Backs, Can Georgia Keep Clemson’s Sammy Watkins in Check?

Welcome back, football!  Tonight begins another fantastic season of our favorite chaos-ridden soap opera, also known as college football. And with that, there are actual games being played, and actual predictions to be made. Just like normal, we’re running down the list of every ACC (plus Louisville) game and predicting outcomes that will almost undoubtedly be wrong. Every conference team is in action this weekend too, so 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

Georgia Bulldogs at Clemson Tigers: Two top-10 teams with National Championship dreams, facing off on the first Saturday night of the season. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Clemson has a distinct home field advantage and completely understands what’s at stake: perception, which is most of the battle in college football. If Tajh Boyd wins his second straight contest against an elite SEC defense, then expectations are off to the races and the Tigers appear to be a legitimate threat to win it all. Lose, and they spend the rest of their season digging out of a hole. Preseason injuries have seemingly ravaged this ‘Dogs secondary, and that won’t do them any favors against the likes of Sammy Watkins & co. Clemson grabs win number one. Prediction: Clemson 31, Georgia 23

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

North Carolina Tar Heels at South Carolina Gamecocks: Old ACC rivals reunite in a battle for who gets to be called “Carolina” for the rest of the season. The Gamecocks program has risen to previously unseen heights these past few years, while the Tar Heels are looking to embark on a similar upward trajectory. It could start here for UNC, though they’ll have to figure out a way to deal with SC’s Jadeveon Clowney first and foremost. The country’s best defensive lineman will give the Heels’ line all they can handle tonight. Despite some optimism that they’re up to the task, it still won’t stop Clowney from making a huge impact, though. Prediction: South Carolina 33, North Carolina 24

Presbyterian Blue Hose at Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Presbyterian was very bad last year (2-9), so this matchup is the exact type of body bag game Wake Forest needs to start off their season on the right foot. Outside of winning the football game (not a difficult task in this case), the main goal is getting out of the contest with everyone healthy — a struggle for the Deacs lately. With an ACC game coming up in week two, I’m also curious if Wake looks to break out some of the new spread-option elements of the offense, or if they’re keeping it under wraps until they head up to BC. I’d bet they keep things pretty basic tonight. Prediction: Wake Forest 38, Presbyterian 7

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #4, Sammy Watkins

Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is #4 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is #4 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

It’s finally game week! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 4, Sammy Watkins, WR/Clemson (Last Season: NR)

After setting the college football world on fire as a freshman, Sammy Watkins’s production took a distinct dip last season. Part of that was due to the stress and suspension from offseason drug possession charges, but overall, Watkins just never seemed to regain the form he showed off in 2011. In all, 57 catches, 708 yards and three scores is nothing to scoff about, but it’s certainly a far cry from the video game numbers he put up the year before. Now back to being the primary wide receiver on this Clemson Tigers squad, he’s eager to reclaim his place among the sport’s elite and prove that last year was simply a dip, rather than a permanent regression.

Rather than getting bogged down by the drop in production, he’s used it as motivation. As he mentioned last week when discussing 2012′s issues:

“It just made me step up and mature. I just realized that I’m going to make mistakes and I’m also going to face some adversity. It just made me realize I’ve got to step up and be a leader because I am being watched by everybody.”

To come to that type of realization at his age is huge, and it sets him up for a monstrous 2013 season. Clemson isn’t just staring at an ACC title this fall. They want to contend for a National Championship. But they can’t do that without Watkins being in top form.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #5, Stefon Diggs

Maryland’s Stefon Diggs is #5 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Maryland’s Stefon Diggs is #5 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

It’s finally game week! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 5, Stefon Diggs, WR/Maryland (Last Season: NR)

If anyone suffered the “most” from Maryland’s quarterback issues in 2012, I’d argue it was Stefon Diggs. The freshman wideout was still able to show glimmers of some real excellence, but it was obvious that his production was severely hampered by the team’s injury-induced carousel at the passer position. So if anyone’s excited about everyone coming back healthy, it’s probably Diggs. I mean, the team even considered using him at quarterback last year after the rash of injuries tore through the Terps entire depth chart. Of course, it never got to that point, and Diggs himself appeared to beg fans to “hang in there” with him. But if we’ve learned anything from Maryland’s 2012, it’s that we haven’t even come close to figuring out how good their star wide receiver can be.

On the surface, Diggs’s receiving numbers did not look overly gaudy (and we’ve covered why they wouldn’t). But when you consider them further, 54 catches, 848 yards and six touchdowns ain’t too shabby for a freshman. When you add in his rushing and return yards, however, that’s when you’re floored. In just 11 games, Diggs amassed nearly 1,900 yards and eight scores, taking the league by storm in much of the same way that Clemson WR Sammy Watkins managed to back in 2011. Halfway through the year, it almost appeared as if we’d see a new highlight reel play from Diggs every weekend, and all for a team that was sputtering along as it dealt with injury after injury.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #18, Michael Campanaro

Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro is #18 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro is #18 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Less than one week until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 18, Michael Campanaro, WR/Wake Forest (Last Season: NR)

Michael Campanaro was the entire Wake Forest offense last year. Let’s get that out of the way. In the three games he caught more than 10 balls, the Demon Deacons were 3-0 while scoring an average of 35 points per game. In the four contests in which he caught two passes or less (including two where he did not play at all), they were outscored 115-57, picking up a 16-10 victory over lowly Virginia. The Deacs completed 239 passes on the year (70th in the country) and of those, Campanaro caught 79 of them (one-third). His six scores were nearly half of the teams’ 13 through the air. Again… the entire offense.

This season, Campanaro needs to make the leap, however, from reliable target to game-changer. That’s no easy task in this sort of overly conservative offense. But in just 10 games last year, he did make a huge impact. Now he simply needs to be targeted more often — or maybe the Wake offense simply needs to be better. They understood what they had in Campanaro last year — a quick receiver with sure hands who could excel catching passes in space — and even looked like they tried to use him in innovative ways (16 rushes last year). I have a feeling with the impending move to a spread option setup, you’ll see much more of Campanaro running the ball, which means a ton of big-play potential. No, he’s not Sammy Watkins in that capacity, and never will be, but nothing wrong with trying some new things to fix a very stale attack.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Clemson Tigers

Following a Big Postseason Win Over LSU, Expectations Are Sky-High at Clemson

Following a Big Postseason Win Over LSU, Expectations Are Sky-High at Clemson in 2013

Team: Clemson Tigers

2012 W-L: 11-2 (7-1)

Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (40-21; sixth season)

Returning Starters: 13 (6 Offense, 7 Defense)

The Tigers are on a rocket ship ride over the last couple seasons. Following countless years of underachievement (“Clemson-ing”), it appears that Dabo Swinney has righted the ship for a program that’s always knocking on the door of college football’s elite, but can never quite get in. Clemson seemingly won the lottery with Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who have changed the culture in Death Valley to one of top-10 recruiting classes and dreams of national titles. They’ve at least tied for first in the Atlantic Division in three of the past four seasons, with one ACC title. They’ve also won 21 games in the past two, capped by an impressive victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-a Bowl on New Year’s Eve. So was that victory indicative of the future, or just a lucky blip?

Offensively, there are very few questions facing this group, and rightfully so. Senior quarterback Tajh Boyd is entering his third season as the starter and is enjoying all the Heisman hype to go with it. Despite what may be perceived as a “down year” by top wideout Sammy Watkins last season, he’s returning to regain his all-world freshman year form. And maybe most importantly, Morris is back for another go-around. Near the top of every head coaching search for two years now, this may be his last season in Clemson, but he appears determined to go out with a bang. The 2012 Tigers were one of the top 10 attacks in the country, averaging 41 points per game, to go along with a staggering 512.7 yards per. If they manage to replicate those types of figures (and I’m firmly convinced they will), he’ll be leading another program come fall 2014.

But to say this offense is perfect would be foolish. The rushing attack will depend on unproven running backs, none of whom will be able to match former starter Andre Ellington’s numbers right away. And while Watkins is one of the country’s best receivers, there’s still a lot of production to replace in the absence of now-Houston Texan DeAndre Hopkins. On the bright side, no one really knew how good Hopkins could be before 2012, so perhaps we’re about to witness the arrival of another breakout Clemson receiver this fall. Looking at the depth chart, Charone Peake‘s probably the best bet, as he’ll benefit from Watkins drawing double teams nearly ever Saturday. Also worth noting: Clemson returns four of five starters on the offensive line, and actually possesses a ton of depth there, too. With a pass-first attack, they’ll need to have a solid rotation ready to handle constant blitzing, though — something to keep an eye on as the year wears on.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #32, Quinshad Davis

North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis is #32 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis is #32 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Off-topic: I’ve been gone for the past few weeks for my wedding and honeymoon (thank you), but now the site will be charging full-bore toward the start of college football season. Appreciate everyone for continuing to stop by — even during my absence — and rest assured, we’ve got plenty of content set for the next few weeks.

Less than three weeks until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 32, Quinshad Davis, WR/North Carolina (Last Season: NR)

Through the early part of North Carolina’s 2012 schedule (the very easy part), you didn’t know what to think of then-freshman wide receiver Quinshad Davis. His first four games yielded just 11 catches and a little over 100 yards, plus zero touchdowns. But over the next eight games, it was an entirely different story. Maybe even more so than tight end Eric Ebron, Davis was the Heels’ top receiving target for the rest of the season, nabbing 50 catches, 665 yards and five touchdowns. His final three games in particular were a show of force for what may be to come for the rising ACC wideout. In three stellar team offensive performances, he had 32 catches, 417 yards and three scores. So yes, his production may have appeared to be spiked by a few great games. But it’s easy to see how this could be a harbinger of some exciting things to come.

Part of that is due to the team’s quick transition to coach Larry Fedora’s spread offense. After it appeared there would be a slight learning curve for the group of formerly pro-style players, they wound up averaging over 40 points per game and looked to get stronger as the season progressed. In just 12 games, the team ran 898 plays (nothing too stellar), but averaged a highly efficient 6.49 yards per (tied for 14th in the country). For 2013, Fedora wants to go faster. If they manage to, while still maintaining that level of efficiency, that offense becomes nearly impossible to stop, and makes it much easier for Davis (and his fellow receivers) to find holes in opposing defenses likely to already be on their heels.

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