ACC Football Kickoff 2013: Top 10 Storylines

What Are the Main Storylines We'll See at This Year's ACC Football Kickoff?

What Are the Main Storylines We’ll See Brought Up at This Year’s ACC Football Kickoff?

Can you believe we’re actually within shouting distance of football season once again? North American sports’ longest offseason is nearly over! We know this because media days are popping up all over the place, most notably (for our purposes here), the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C., starting this Sunday, July 21 and going on through Monday, July 22. Sadly, I will not be there in-person.

We’ve already see the list of student-athlete attendees, but that’s not the only focus — far from it. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 talking points we’re likely to see addressed at the two-day event. Some topics (see: the top few items) will be the overarching theme for all in attendance, while others will simply be underlying points of conversation everyone wants to try desperately to escape from. Without further ado, your guide to the 2013 ACC Football Kickoff:

1. Say Hi to the New Guys: Syracuse and Pittsburgh (plus non-football member Notre Dame) got a very warm welcome to the ACC on the weekend prior to July 1, hanging around New York City with mascots and such. But the festivities included very little talk of football, so you’ll be hearing plenty about the Orange and Panthers now instead. Expect questions about the adjustments the teams will need to make coming from the Big East, road trips they’re most looking forward to and plenty on whether they expect to compete right away. Also curious about the local media turnout from both areas, plus with no dedicated ACC beat writer (especially for football), will the New York Times be attending?

2. Six-Year Bowl Cycle: I wrote up a pretty extensive breakdown of the bowl agreements the ACC announced yesterday over at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, so for full details I’d recommend going there. But with a drastically improved bowl lineup, this will be a hot topic. People will also want to know how some of the alternating bowls will work, specifically the Gator/Music City setup, and I’d love to hear that response myself.

3. Grant of Rights: The amount of “Ninja Swofford” references during the two days may reached the hundreds. And why shouldn’t it? Without commissioner John Swofford’s typical backdoor dealing, the mood around the weekend is very, very different. Instead, it’s a pretty jovial occasion, which also leads to another topic that’s been on everyone’s minds ever since said grant of rights announcement was made…

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ACC Football 2013 Payback Games: Clemson

Can Clemson Put an End to South Carolina's Four-Game Winning Streak Against Them?

Can Clemson Put an End to South Carolina’s Four-Game Winning Streak Against Them?

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: Clemson Tigers

Opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks

Last Year: Loss, 27-17 vs. South Carolina

This Year: November 30, at South Carolina

Win or lose the previous year, each iteration of the Battle of the Palmetto State will always be the most important game on Clemson’s schedule. And for a very long time, the Tigers had the upper hand in the clash between them and their cross-state rivals, South Carolina. In recent years, things have changed however, and the SEC’s Gamecocks are now riding a four-game winning streak that’s allowed coach Steve Spurrier to crow about his squad’s superiority even more so than normal. The war of words between Spurrier and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has added fuel to the fire and intensity of this matchup, but not wins for the Tigers. Swinney, who secured the full-time head coaching job with a victory over South Carolina in 2008, has not won this grudge match since. He hopes that changes in 2013, as there’s arguably never been more on the line for both teams to end the season.

Last year’s iteration was wild enough — the 11th-ranked and 12th-ranked programs in the country, respectively, going at it for in-state supremacy. But despite the fanfare around the Tigers’ offense, Clemson was effectively shut down all game, playing second-fiddle to a surprisingly effective Gamecocks attack. Backup quarterback Dylan Thompson threw for three touchdowns against CU’s beleaguered secondary and to make matters worse, the Tigers’ offense was completely terrorized by Jadeveon Clowney (who recorded 4.5 sacks) all day. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, who’d been on a statistical tear all season, was held to just 183 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-24 passing. For all intents and purposes, it was a nightmare scenario.

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week 13 (Part 2)

Tajh Boyd and Clemson Are Looking for Their First Victory Over South Carolina Since 2008

This is part two of this week’s ACC previews and predictions. Check out part one for previews from the week’s featured game and the earlier contests.

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

Miami Hurricanes (6-5) (4-3) at Duke Blue Devils (6-5) (3-4): in the span of three days, this matchup went from critical to pointless, as Duke lost its chance at the division while losing to Georgia Tech, and Miami self-imposed yet another postseason ban. So will either side be motivated for this game? Duke seemingly has their Belk Bowl bid locked up, but riding a three-game losing streak, the wind has kind of vanished from the sails of their “comeback” season. Miami, despite the ban, has shown flashes of real talent all year, and against the Blue Devils’ overmatched secondary, this could be another breakout game. Prediction: Miami 36, Duke 27

Boston College Eagles (2-9) (1-6) at NC State Wolfpack (6-5) (3-4): The Lame Duck Bowl pits two coaches — BC’s Frank Spaziani and NC State’s Tom O’Brien — who are likely out of a job within a week of the final whistle. State has underperformed beyond most pundits’ wildest beliefs, with their biggest strengths, the secondary and quarterback Mike Glennon, also serving as their most serious question marks. And BC, which at first glance possessed a much more potent passing attack under new coordinator Doug Martin, has since fizzled back to a largely ineffective offense typical of Spaziani’s reign of terror. The Wolfpack have the talent to win this game going away, but you could’ve said that about a good deal of the games they played this season, too. Prediction: NC State 38, Boston College 23

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Assessing Clemson: What Can We Take From the Tigers’ First Two Games?

Clemson Has Looked Good Through Two Games This Season, But Are Looks Deceiving? We Discuss.

The Clemson Tigers have looked pretty impressive through two games, but of course, we know there are concerns, too — some of which may not fully come to light until their big matchup with Florida State on September 22. Recognizing this, resident Clemson fan Joel Penning and I had a quick chat about some of the pressing issues thus far, addressing offensive tempo, Sammy Watkins‘s return, the run game and more. Check it out below, and enjoy the game this afternoon!

Clemson OC Chad Morris has promised to push the tempo even more. Is it possible?

Joel: When he arrived at Clemson, Chad Morris said he’d like to run 75-80 plays per game. The Tigers met that mark last year at 75.4. Morris’ offenses weren’t much quicker at Tulsa, where the Golden Hurricane ran 77.4 plays per game in 2010.  But the more plays you run, the more chances you have to score. Clemson is on track to match last year’s results, but the length of the game and the persistence of a defense that has trouble getting off the field will limit the offense’s effectiveness. The most effective hurry-up offenses are paired with competent defenses; otherwise, every quick score can easily be matched by a slower, more plodding score that eats up the clock. It’s just a question of game management. So ultimately, I have a hard time seeing Clemson top 80 plays per game.

John: I’d agree with that. Competing directly with amazing defenses like Florida State and Virginia Tech, I find it hard to believe that shootouts are the way to go. Against a shoddy defense? Sure, bombs away, and dare them to score on you. But against teams like that, you’re giving them opportunities to create turnovers, and letting you beat yourself at your own game. Running 75 plays per game has worked pretty well to this point, and I think it’ll yield better results as the defense improves.

The run defense is a travesty. Will it end up being the team’s undoing once ACC play begins?

JP: Brent Venables was hired to shore up a shaky defense, but two games into 2012, the Tigers are giving up more yards per play than last year. Kevin Steele largely failed during his three years to check option-based offenses, whether the triple-option of Georgia Tech or the zone-read of Cam Newton-led Auburn or the new Steve Spurrier attack. This year in Atlanta, Clemson did pretty well against that type of play, although maybe the departure of Gus Malzahn has accelerated Auburn’s return to a more traditional pro-style. Two games into the season, it’s hard to make a definitive judgment, but my general impression is that defenders are more willing to give up short runs in order to avoid being gassed by option plays. Georgia Tech on October 6 will determine Venables’ success in the minds of a lot of Clemson fans. But to answer the question more directly, Clemson had its most successful season in 20 years despite an awful defense. The Orange Bowl sticks in everyone’s mind, but it was offensive ineptitude that lost games to NC State, GT, and South Carolina.  With the inauspicious start for the Wolfpack, I’m still confident slotting Clemson second in the Atlantic, despite its weakness against the run.

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Conference Realignment: A Clemson Fan’s Rant

Should Clemson Leave the ACC for the Big 12? One Tigers Fan is Unsure

Rumors of the imminent departure of Florida State and Clemson for the Big 12 have reached a fever pitch in the last few days, and this embarrassed Clemson fan will admit to Googling “Clemson Big 12″ every hour to check the latest message board rumors or statements by university officials taken out of context. While it seems unlikely that anything will happen until late June, when the playoff format has been decided, new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has taken office, and West Virginia and TCU get full voting rights, Tiger fans all over the country have been salivating over the chance to join the “big boys” and leave the ACC behind.

Clemson has had a love-hate relationship with the ACC since its foundation. Although the Tigers were a charter member, they’ve always felt out of place in a basketball league. By most standards, Clemson would fit better in the SEC than the ACC. But association with prestigious schools like Georgia Tech, Duke, and North Carolina is a boon to the university’s continuing quest to become a top-20 public school, the primary goal of president Jim Barker’s tenure. Continue reading