ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 5

Clemson Survived a Scare Vs. NC State on Thursday, and Stay Atop This Week's Rankings

Clemson Survived a Scare vs. NC State on Thursday, and Stay Atop This Week’s Rankings

The season’s four weeks old, and surprisingly, the ACC‘s still got a good deal of unbeaten teams within its ranks. Perhaps the league’s rebounded in a big way? Or maybe they just figured out how to schedule better from a PR standpoint? I’d bet a little bit of both. 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 5)

1. Clemson Tigers (3-0) (1-0) (Last: 1): Clemson almost became the latest high-ranked victim of Raleigh, N.C. But due to a questionable out-of-bounds call and a fantastic effort by the Tigers’ defense, they manged to escape and remain in the national title conversation. Also worth noting: Tajh Boyd has sort of entered a bizarre realm in which nothing he does impresses us anymore. Throwing for 245 yards and three touchdowns in a win should still be an accomplishment, even if you are the league’s most consistently excellent passer.

2. Florida State Seminoles (3-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): Jameis Winston isn’t perfect! Or so we’ve discovered… The Florida State passer completed just 10 of 19 passes for 148 yards and two scores, and was one of many FSU players who had a less-than-stellar game against the team’s worst competition to-date. So is this a case of State just looking ahead to the rest of the slate, or an opportunity to cast some doubt on the ‘Noles? They’ve yet to be tested at this point, but they’ve also looked less impressive in each successive game. Time will tell, I suppose…

3. Louisville Cardinals (4-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): Like most, I’d love to get to the bottom of this running clock situation from Saturday, as it makes the Cardinals’ blowout of FIU even more impressive. But already four games in to this schedule to forget, it’s already gotten a bit sad, no? Of course, Teddy Bridgewater‘s numbers should not be discounted as a result, but we’re all starting to see the issues brought to light in preseason. Louisville’s playing through a 12-team disaster movie and just as a cinematic monster should, they’re plowing through everything in their path. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean they’ll be rewarded for doing so, even if it’s not their fault they have such a poor schedule anyway.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (3-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Miami, just like their rivals up in Tallahassee, sleep-walked through this week — or as much as you can sleep walk through a 77-7 victory. They had a bit of an excuse after Stephen Morris‘s injury, but nonetheless, what’s been most alarming about the ‘Canes start (in a bad way), is the lack of play-making by its top offensive weapons. So long as Morris is back and healthy, we’ll get a real glimpse at what they’re capable of soon.

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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 Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #17, Stephen Morris

Miami’s Stephen Morris is #17 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Miami’s Stephen Morris is #17 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. 17, Stephen Morris, QB/Miami (Last Season: NR)

Last season, Miami passed a lot. In fact, a bit too much, as we discussed in today’s season preview, given the fact they had two high quality running backs. But the success of that passing game — and it was pretty successful — was largely due in part to Stephen Morris, who came on strong last season as the Hurricanes’ starting quarterback. He wasn’t always putting up a ton of yardage, and also didn’t have to. Sometimes his best games were actually when he attempted less passes, and simply made the throws he needed to make in order to keep the offense moving effectively. Of course, everyone sort of forgot about efficiency in his game though, after he exploded for 566 passing yards against NC State in late September. Fans have seen what he’s capable of, and now, despite what should be a fairly balanced attack, there’s a major expectation for fireworks on every play. So what happens next?

First off, that game was an anomaly played against a highly overrated Wolfpack secondary. Morris also wasn’t that accurate. It’s unlikely those numbers are ever replicated by him or anyone else in the ACC. So to figure out what we’re getting from the senior quarterback this season, it starts with tossing that game out. Getting rid of a few less-than-stellar performances too, what you’re left with is a pretty accurate passer (58 percent last year, but at 60 or above late in the season) who has a strong arm and can take over games when called upon. He’s a leader on this young team, and one who cuts down on mistakes (just seven interceptions) and also doesn’t run unless he absolutely has to. More than the statistics (and those should be there too this year), he’s going to be the steadying force amidst a rising tide of team-wide pressure. With every win, the talk of Miami’s triumphant “return” will continue. And as a seasoned veteran, he’ll be working with the coaches to keep everyone calm, cool and collected.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Miami Hurricanes

Sophomore Duke Johnson Headlines a Powerful Miami Offense for 2013

Sophomore Duke Johnson Headlines a Powerful Miami Hurricanes Offense for the 2013 Season

Team: Miami Hurricanes

2012 W-L: 7-5 (5-3)

Head Coach: Al Golden (13-11; third season)

Returning Starters: 12 (8 Offense, 4 Defense)

Miami has consistently had a ton of talent on the roster for over 30 years now. Obviously, that’s resulted in a lot of wins, but since the school’s move to the ACC, the same can’t be said anymore. Despite the talent brought in every season, the ‘Canes have been fairly disappointing in their new conference, made worse by the ongoing Nevin Shapiro nonsense that has followed them like a black cloud. But maybe this year’s different. After two years of willfully missing the postseason, this Hurricanes team may finally be able to realize its potential and compete for a conference championship — like they were supposed to do all along. That doesn’t mean success is assured, however.

Last year’s offense was nothing short of spectacular at times last season. Seven different times they managed to score at least five touchdowns in a game. But three more times they couldn’t top 14 points. This was a unit that capitalized on subpar defenses and struggled against solid-to-great ones — and the key was balance. Despite having Duke Johnson as one of two primary ball-carriers (Mike James being the other), the team still only picked up 1,737 yards on the ground. Johnson — by all accounts a stud playmaker — was mostly underused and yet still put up monster numbers. That self-induced rushing inequity was offset by a bipolar passing game that folks should still be intrigued to watch this fall, because unlike previous Miami quarterbacks (hi, Jacory Harris), Stephen Morris actually has the talent to lead a team — most notably because the talent around him can actually produce. Again, this has not been the case in South Florida lately, which is why many (myself included) think this is the year they get back to being an upper-crust program in college football.

As proof of what Morris can do, see his record-breaking 566-yard performance against NC State last season. His accuracy was solid (58 percent) and when he started making some smarter decisions with the ball to end the year, you even saw attempts drop down to more reasonable levels, while accuracy was above 60 for each of his last three games. Now with a full year of starting under his belt, a full offensive line returning and his two top targets (Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott) also back in the fold, it’ll be interesting to see if he takes it as a cue to pass more, or be more efficient in passing the ball. He has a security blanket in Johnson, just like he did last year. Hopefully, the offense is designed to take advantage of it more so than it was in 2012. Getting the lion’s share of the carries this season (he only had 37 percent of the team’s runs last year), Johnson should be able to well surpass the 947 yards and 10 scores from freshman year — hence why he’s been climbing so many preseason Heisman lists.

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ACC Announces Student-Athlete Attendees for 2013 ACC Football Kickoff

Clemson Quarterback Tajh Boyd is One of 28 Players Attending the ACC Football Kickoff

Clemson Quarterback Tajh Boyd is One of 28 Players Attending the ACC Football Kickoff

The ACC has announced the list of football student-athlete attendees for the ACC Football Kickoff today. A fancy way of saying “Media Days,” the event will take place on July 21 and 22 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C. Each schools’ coaches will be in attendance, as will two representatives per team.

The list:

Boston College: QB Chase Rettig (Sr.), LB Steele Divitto (Sr.)

Clemson: QB Tajh Boyd (Sr.), LB Spencer Shuey (Sr.)

Duke: QB Anthony Boone (Jr.), CB Ross Cockrell (Sr.)

Florida State: WR Rashad Greene (Jr.), CB Lamarcus Joyner (Sr.)

Georgia Tech: OT Will Jackson (Sr.), DE Jeremiah Attoachu (Sr.)

Maryland: QB C.J. Brown (Sr.), CB Dexter McDougle (Sr.)

Miami: QB Stephen Morris (Sr.), DE Shayon Green (Sr.)

North Carolina: QB Bryn Renner (Sr.), DE Kareem Martin (Sr.)

N.C. State: WR Rashard Smith (Sr.), CB Dantae Johnson (Sr.)

Pittsburgh: WR Devin Street (Sr.), DT Aaron Donald (Sr.)

Syracuse: C Macky MacPherson (Sr.), DT Jay Bromley (Sr.)

Virginia: OT Morgan Moses (Sr.), DE Jake Snyder (Sr.)

Virginia Tech: QB Logan Thomas (Sr.), LB Jack Tyler (Sr.)

Wake Forest: WR Michael Campanaro (Sr.), LB Justin Jackson (Sr.)

Some additional thoughts:

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ACC Football 2013 Payback Games: Miami

Last Season's 41-40 Loss to Virginia in the Final Seconds is a Game Miami Would Prefer to Forget

Last Season’s 41-40 Loss to Virginia in the Final Seconds is a Game Miami Would Prefer to Forget

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.

As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.

Team: Miami Hurricanes

Opponent: Virginia Cavaliers

Last Year: Loss, 41-40 at Virginia

This Year: November 23 vs. Virginia

At 5-4, and 4-2 in a down Coastal Division, Miami was actually thinking about playing in the ACC Championship Game for the first time. No, this wasn’t the best ‘Canes team the ACC had seen, but sometimes it’s more about the luck of the draw. After beating Virginia Tech the week before, Miami was in the driver’s seat and with a victory over lowly UVa, would’ve been a near-lock to head to Charlotte. But then they allowed a late 10-point lead to evaporate — the final strike coming with just six seconds remaining on the clock — and that was it. Coastal hopes dashed, it set in motion another self-imposed bowl ban for Miami (hopefully the last one). Perhaps if they’d won this game, we’d have seen a different outcome there.

Setting the stage for the dramatic finish: a back-and-forth game featuring 900 yards of total offense had seemingly given way to the Hurricanes at around the 11-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Up 38-28 following a long touchdown strike from Stephen Morris to Phillip Dorsett, Miami’s beleaguered defense just needed to hang in there for a little bit longer — and they almost did. It took Virginia around five minutes to score a touchdown to make it 38-35, but then an intentional grounding penalty ended up rewarding Miami with a safety with just four minutes to go, making it 40-35. Four minutes and 13 seconds later, UVa quarterback Michael Rocco would complete his out-of-nowhere master class (29/37, 300 yards, four TDs), completing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jake McGee in the back of the endzone for the one-point lead. And yet somehow, Rocco was the quarterback basically run off campus…

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ACC Football 2013 Payback Games: Duke

Duke Can't Hope to Stop Miami's Offense in 2013; But Can They Outrun the 'Canes Defense?

Duke Can’t Hope to Stop Miami’s Offense in 2013; But Can They Outrun the ‘Canes Defense?

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.

As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.

Team: Duke Blue Devils

Opponent: Miami Hurricanes

Last Year: Loss, 52-45 vs. Miami

This Year: November 16, vs. Miami

Though the Blue Devils had already been eliminated from Coastal Division title contention when this game wrapped up late last year, it didn’t mean Duke didn’t want that victory. After starting out 6-2, the team ended up dropping its final four regular season games and then a bowl game to finish 6-7, marking the 18th straight season the program had a losing mark. Yes, the postseason streak is over, and that’s certainly a moral victory, but a win over the Hurricanes to close out the ACC slate would’ve meant a guaranteed winning mark. However, in failing to do so, it does give the team something to build upon for 2013.

As resilient as ever, Duke actually played one of its better offensive games of the season against Miami, despite the fact that its defense allowed nearly 650 yards of total offense to the ‘Canes (the main reason Duke lost). In his last home game playing for the Blue Devils, senior Sean Renfree went 36-of-59 for 432 yards and four scores, while fellow senior Conner Vernon caught 11 passes (two for touchdowns). Even as the game appeared lost late in the third — Duke was down 45-24 — the team refused to quit, displaying the type of tenacity that had been lost virtually every week since the October upset over North Carolina. Alas, they would fall short in the comeback attempt, losing by a touchdown.

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