2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Maryland Terrapins

Injuries Aside, Stefon Diggs and the Maryland Defense At Least Had Impressive Seasons

Injuries Aside, At Least Stefon Diggs and the Maryland Defense Had Impressive Seasons

Team: Maryland Terrapins

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

Postseason: None

Top Offensive Performer: Stefon Diggs, WR

Top Defensive Performer: Joe Vellano, DL

Before the 2012 season even started, the Terrapins appeared to be cursed last year. Incumbent starting quarterback C.J. Brown was lost for the season with a torn ACL in practice, and with his loss, so vanished a promising season for Maryland. But surprisingly, that was not the case — at least initially, anyway. Replacement Perry Hills was learning on the fly, but had still led the Terps to a 4-3 record… until he was injured as well. The Angry Maryland QB-Hating God joke/nightmare grew when Hills’s replacements, Caleb Rowe and Caleb Rowe were also injured, leaving the team to lean on linebacker Shawn Petty for the remainder of the year. So before laughing at the Terrapins’ 123rd-ranked offense or 109th scoring offense in the country, consider the situation. On offense, they were virtually set up to fail from day one, with the only saving grace being standout freshman receiver Stefon Diggs. The receiver and kick returner had 1,896 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns, all while routinely being the fastest player on the field. Playing with a linebacker at quarterback, they still nearly beat North Carolina in the final week of the season — the same UNC team that would’ve taken home the ACC’s Coastal division. So sure, you could call it all bad, but there’s also plenty of foundation for the future.

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Final 2012 ACC Football Power Rankings

Clemson's Big Upset Over LSU Was One of Several Wins to Help the ACC Save Face This Postseason

Clemson’s Big Upset Over LSU Was One of Several Wins to Help the ACC Save Face This Postseason

Well that was a pleasant surprise now, wasn’t it? After getting knocked around on and off the field all season, the ACC found itself when it counted — the postseason — and (including Pitt & SU) managed a 5-3 slate, it’s first winning bowl record since 2005. If you want to include Louisville (and I sure do, given their big Sugar Bowl win), that brings the league to 6-3, with wins over the SEC (LSU & Florida), Big 12 (West Virginia) and Pac-12 (pre-season no. 1 USC). But sure, keep laughing at this league. They proved themselves and more during this year’s bowl season, and hopefully it’s a building block for even more excellent football.

1. Florida State Seminoles (12-2) (7-1) (LW: 1): Knock FSU for their schedule, their two losses (why are we criticizing a 12-win team again?) or their lack of a chance at a national title this season. But at the end of the day, they’re exactly where they were slated to be. The ‘Noles will be back in that conversation again this decade. It just takes some time, and this — winning both the ACC and the Orange Bowl — was the first step. Jimbo Fisher’s team will need to get past several big losses going forward, most notably Bjoern Werner and EJ Manuel, but the foundation’s there for a bright future.

2. Clemson Tigers (11-2) (7-1) (LW: 2): Despite not making it to a BCS bowl game, I’d say the Tigers’ consolation prize was still well-worth the trouble, no? On a national stage, Clemson beat mighty SEC’s LSU Tigers, and in the process, ended up being part of the most-watched non-BCS college football game in ESPN’s history. Most stunning in Clemson’s 25-24 victory, however, was the oft-maligned defense. Down 11 points heading into the fourth, the Bayou Bengals could’ve just run the clock out throughout the final stanza. Instead, it was Clemson that stayed strong, shutting out LSU and setting up a defining win for the Dabo Swinney era.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 4): It’s tough to look at UNC’s 2012 season without imagining what could’ve been for a squad that seemed to finally turn the corner here in Larry Fedora’s first year. Knocking on the door of a division title for quite some time, the Heels finally put it all together, only to be ineligible for the postseason. So while it’s a disappointment for North Carolina fans to watch an eight-win season get laid to waste, it’s also built this program some street cred. Despite Giovani Bernard‘s departure to the NFL Draft, QB Bryn Renner will stick around for his senior year, meaning this team returns plenty of firepower; most of which this season only served as a preview for.

4. Syracuse Orange (8-5) (LW: 5): As if it was meant to be, Syracuse closed out their time in the Big East — the conference they built — by putting together its most impressive season in a decade. Up against one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules, and a top-heavy league to boot, the Orange still managed to win six of their final seven games. The exclamation point, however (on top of a split conference title), was their resounding victory over rival West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. As someone who braved the cold to watch in-person, it was amazing to see this squad’s transformation from the season’s opening-week struggles to the machine-like execution against the Mountaineers.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week 14

Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Offense Were No Match for South Carolina, as the Gamecocks Embarrassed the Tigers Once Again

With the regular season officially over, we check back in with the ACC’s teams to assess the damage of 2012. The good: two teams won ten games during the regular season, just one team won less than four games, and 10 teams (could be 11 if Pitt wins this weekend) won at least six games. The bad: No team won more than 10 games, two of the league’s top five teams are ineligible, and eight teams (out of 14) won between five and seven games. Oh, and Maryland decided to leave. Which is bad.

1. Florida State Seminoles (10-2) (7-1) (LW: 1): Favored against archrival Florida, the Seminoles had a very manageable game at home and seemed poised for their first 11-win regular season in years. But then they struggled out the gate, and closed just as poorly en route to a 37-26 defeat. As a team, FSU looked outmatched everywhere but the defensive line, and quarterback EJ Manuel‘s four turnovers were the stuff of a worst-case nightmare. They’ll be favored again in the ACC Championship Game, and under no circumstances can the conference really afford for them to lose.

2. Clemson Tigers (10-2) (7-1) (LW: 2): Clemson’s BCS dreams are all but dead after they came up very short against South Carolina and its vaunted defensive front. The Tigers impressive offense was shut down in a way no one had really figured out up until Saturday, and the result exposed a team that can’t run the ball with consistency, nor can they manage to stop anyone on defense either. If Clemson hopes to take the next step and become a truly elite program under coach Dabo Swinney, they need to take full advantage of opportunities against top-tier competition. They had just three games against teams with winning records all season, and went 1-2 in those contests, while being outscored 124-116.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (7-5) (5-3) (LW: 5): It’s unfortunate for the conference to see Miami sit out another postseason, but if the alternative is seeing an even better, more experienced version of this group next year, it may be the best option for everyone. In line to play in its first ACC title game, we miss out on a ‘Canes/’Noles matchup this year in exchange for what’s hopefully many more to come. Anyone who watched Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson in action this season knows there are good times ahead, so long as the defense starts to clean up its act.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 4): As the year’s wore on, we’ve caught glimpses of what this Heels offense could truly become under Larry Fedora and his spread attack. But on Saturday, quarterback Bryn Renner really delivered on that potential by putting up over 300 yards and five touchdowns. The junior’s obviously taken a bit more time to adapt to the new system than initially expected, but all in all, you still can’t argue with 3,356 yards and 28 scores. Expect even better production next year, as Fedora really turns him loose.

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ACC Football 2012 Week 13 Lessons: SEC Dominates ACC on Showdown Saturday

Favored By a Touchdown, the Seminoles Still Proved No Match for the Rival Gators This Weekend

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 13 of ACC football action:

1. Nothing’s changed: We thought that Clemson and Florida State — the class of the ACC — could come out of this weekend’s matchups with their SEC rivals victorious. We were so very, very wrong. FSU struggled right out the gate, and quarterback EJ Manuel was happy to hand the ball right to Florida several times during the mistake-laden, forgettable contest. Clemson’s high-flying offense — considered among the best in the nation — was held to just 17 points against South Carolina. Georgia Tech and Wake Forest were also thumped by SEC foes, making the ACC 4-0 against its southern brethren on Showdown Saturday. Instead of a perception boost, the weekend provided an even bigger hit for the already-wobbly ACC.

2. Notre Dame‘s never been further away: While the ACC would love to see Notre Dame’s continued success, both before and during their partnership, the Irish’s impending shot at a national title proves how far away they are. There was plenty of talk they could potentially be coaxed into a full-time membership with the ACC, but I doubt that’s likely anymore. In going 12-0 this season, Notre Dame proved they stand apart from the system. They don’t need a conference to compete for championships, and if they end this season with a title in hand, there’s little doubt they’ll remain independent for decades.

3. Realignment holding pattern: There are murmurs that a decision could come this week as to the ACC’s replacement for Maryland. But who will it be, and will there be more than one add? Thoughts of a 16-team superconference (adding Louisville, UConn and Cincinnati) have seemingly been shot down for the time being, but the choice has essentially come down to those three schools. Personally, I’d like to see the league make some calls to a few bigger fish first, but for all I know, they’ve already done this.

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week 12

DeAndre Hopkins and the Clemson Offense Are Hoping to Avoid a Letdown Versus NC State for the Second Straight Year

For this weekend to be deemed a success, the ACC must simply hope that its favorites pull out victories against in-conference underdogs, while two five-win squads tack on victories out-of-conference to get to bowl eligibility. Unfortunately, even the easiest request has become a tall order in the ACC, a league still mired in extreme parity, parading as mediocrity to outside spectators (or at least that’s my story). Let’s just hope for the best…

Game of the Week

NC State Wolfpack (6-4) (3-3) at Clemson Tigers (9-1) (6-1): Last year, I called this matchup a trap game, but for some reason felt that Clemson’s defense — facing a one-dimensional offense — would be the difference-maker. This time around, the game feels eerily similar. Underachieving Wolfpack squad versus a 9-1 Clemson team that hasn’t been tested in months, and thus, has plenty of room to grow on the defensive side of the ball. But for State, there just isn’t the same sense of urgency as last year — with the team clinching bowl eligibility last week, their backs are not pressed against the wall, nor are they all that inspired to play for their lame-duck coach, Tom O’Brien. I’m convinced this year’s Clemson team is better than the 2011 model, and because it’s a home game, it’s hard not to go with the talented Tigers and their potent offensive attack. Prediction: Clemson 41, NC State 30

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

North Carolina Tar Heels (6-4) (3-3) at Virginia Cavaliers (4-6) (2-4): The South’s Oldest Rivalry is always a fun — if underrated — game and this year’s edition should be no different as both teams are surrounded by more questions than answers. Carolina’s offense showed it’s capable of putting up points in bunches when it rang up 50 last week. But its defense revealed itself as a porous, overrated group still struggling to get a handle on Larry Fedora’s 4-2-5 scheme while giving up 68 points. On offense, the Hoos are no world-beaters, but there’s hope the group has finally hit its stride, with the running game seemingly back on track and Michael Rocco firmly taking the reigns of the passing attack once more. Expect tonight’s matchup to be sloppy and mistake-ridden, with Carolina killing off UVa’s dreams of bowl eligibility by a slim margin. Prediction: UNC 27, Virginia 21

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week 12

As Has Been the Case All Season, Florida State and Clemson Remain Atop the ACC Power Rankings

We’re just two weeks from the end, and yet very little has been decided in the ACC. The conference has just four bowl-eligible teams, nine squads possessing between four and six wins, and both divisions remain up in the air. While the Atlantic wraps up this weekend, the Coastal will go down to the final game to decide who gets pummeled to represent the division in the ACC Championship Game. On the bright side, the league is likely to have two teams make BCS bowls for the second straight season.

1. Florida State Seminoles (9-1) (6-1) (LW: 1): FSU’s effort last Thursday night nearly ruined everything for the ACC, but thankfully, that crisis was averted in pulling out a very messy 28-22 victory over Virginia Tech. Despite the fact that the ‘Noles are 9-1, there’s still plenty to criticize here — offensive play-calling, coverage on deep balls and overall decision-making, to name a few. As we addressed yesterday, this a team that got extremely lucky, and they must refocus if they hope to make it to the Orange Bowl. The Seminoles are the most talented team in the conference on both sides of the ball. Now it’s time they started playing like it.

2. Clemson Tigers (9-1) (6-1) (LW: 2): The Tigers look bored out there, and the country appears tired of their lopsided box scores as well — unthinkable in other conferences, but in the ACC, that’s the way it goes. So while they’ve won six straight games, all people focus on is the 26-34 overall record that competition has, instead of the 141 points Clemson outscored those teams by. On both sides of the ball, this is a team that continues to get better and better as the season continues. And even if they’ve only been tested once so far this season, they have a chance to wipe out that narrative completely in two weeks, when they take on South Carolina.

3. Duke Blue Devils (6-4) (3-3) (LW: 5): Duke was off last week, so in the Coastal division, that means you won. But, due to upsets around the division, the Blue Devils do control their own destiny now — a weighty responsibility that has seemingly ruined others before them. So which Duke team show up these last two games: The one that lost to Clemson and FSU by a combined 77 points, or the one that’s 6-2 against all of their other opponents? Like the rest of the Coastal, this team is an enigma, but they may also have the most senior leadership to guide them through this mess.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-4) (3-3) (LW: 3): Every week it seems like the Heels fluctuate between terrific and terrible — there is no middle ground. This past Saturday, UNC somehow managed to inhabit both characterizations at the same time, though. While the defense was putrid in letting up 68 points and 588 yards of offense, their own offense scored 50 points themselves. Quarterback Bryn Renner threw for 350 yards and three scores, while Giovani Bernard tacked another two touchdowns onto his own rising total. But due to an inept defense, this team is far from complete. Allowing 136 points over the last three games is unacceptable, and there’s no solution in sight.

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ACC Footbal Goat of the Week, Week 11: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

After His Game-Clinching Interception Last Thursday, Logan Thomas is our Goat of the Week for Week 11

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 11: Logan Thomas, QB/Virginia Tech

Gifted with the opportunity to take a late lead over Florida State with just a field goal, Logan Thomas and the Tech offense were content with just that — leaving far too much time on the clock for FSU to erase the 22-20 deficit. Then, when given an opportunity to lead his own comeback drive, down 28-22, Thomas did something fairly characteristic of his season as a whole: threw a game-clinching interception. While the passer had his moments of excellence throughout the game, they end up overshadowed by his two interceptions and inability to close out a game-winning drive. His accuracy, never sterling, has plummeted to just under 54 percent on the season. After being looked at by some as a top-10 draft pick, there’s little doubt Thomas will now be returning for his senior year following this disastrous campaign.

Honorable Mention:

Tanner Price, QB/Wake Forest (18/33 passing, 113 yards, 1 INT)

North Carolina Tar Heels defense (allowed 68 points, 588 total yards of offense)

Ray Graham/Rushel Shell, RBs/Pittsburgh (combined 21 carries for 64 yards rushing, 0 TD)

Shawn Petty, QB/Maryland (6/12 passing, 41 yards, 1 TD, 3 lost fumbles)

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