ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 4

On the Arm of Vad Lee, Georgia Tech May Actually be a Contender in the Coastal Division

On the Arm of Vad Lee, Georgia Tech May Actually be a Contender in this Year’s Coastal Division

Three weeks in, and the ACC is not the most beleaguered major conference in the land (high, Big Ten!). It’s an accomplishment — if not on the field, than from a PR standpoint — and as the league’s top teams remain unbeaten this week, things only continue to get better. 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 4)

1. Clemson Tigers (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 1): No game last week means the Tigers will have plenty of time to prepare themselves for a trip down to Raleigh this Thursday. Last time they visited NC State, Clemson was dealt a crushing 37-13 defeat, but that was a different squad. A different (read: worse) defense, and a very green Tajh Boyd at quarterback. This Tigers team is arguably the best one in 30 years. We’ll get to the preview later in the week, but with an extra five days to prepare, Clemson should remain the top team in these rankings without much issue.

2. Florida State Seminoles (2-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): Nevada looked as if they were keeping things close with Florida State for at least a little while on Saturday. And then they weren’t. We’re not exactly sure what the Seminoles’ defense is going to look like against better competition, but for right now, that’s fine. The offense is on another level through two games and it’s showing no sign of slowing down. Whether on the ground or through the air, the ‘Noles know how to score, which makes them incredibly dangerous.

3. Louisville Cardinals (3-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): Teddy Bridgewater slowed down a bit against Kentucky (just one touchdown), but that’s understandable. There’s simply no way he could continue the video game pace he was on through the first two contests. Lucky him, the rushing attack showed up in a big way and gave this team a little bit of hope too. One-man shows don’t win. So if Louisville’s going to actually contend for a title, it’ll need efforts like Saturday’s, just as much as blowouts like their first couple games.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Another team with the benefit of an early bye. The ‘Canes are looking good so far, though the defense won’t truly be tested until October. And that’s a bit nerve-wracking considering how disastrous that unit was in 2012. In the meantime, at least the offense looks competent. Miami’s already proven it knows how to win a couple different types of games — blowouts and slugfests — which should suit them well as the season continues. Best of all, that same offense doesn’t look as if it was rise and fall with Duke Johnson. If nothing else, that may be the biggest gift of all from the first few weeks.

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ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 3

Miami Florida Gators Hurricanes Upset 2013 ACC Football SEC Stephen Morris

Miami’s Big Upset of Florida Has Them Thinking ACC Championship, and Possibly More

Two weeks into this young season and things seem awfully positive for the ACC. There’s a collective conference pride rooted not just in hilarious gestures of solidarity, but in actual on-field results. The ACC is beating the SEC on the field, and (at least from a public relations standpoint) putting to bed the rhetoric about it being a weak league. 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 3)

1. Clemson Tigers (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 1): Even without Tajh Boyd for most of the game, Clemson was able to breeze through South Carolina State on Saturday. But the biggest win may have been what happened in Georgia. The Bulldogs beat up on South Carolina in front of a national audience and staked their claim to the SEC East crown. But if Georgia’s the best team in the SEC East, then how good is Clemson? It appears the answer is “very” and now everyone seems to be buying in on the Tigers. The team moved up to no. 3 in the AP rankings this week and even received a first-place vote.

2. Florida State Seminoles (1-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): Florida State had the week off, but it doesn’t mean the hype around Jameis Winston vanished. If anything, it just continued to grow as pundits began to wonder what he might do for an encore. Against Nevada on Saturday, he should have ample opportunity to replicate his success from Labor Day, though it does feel like we’re already entering Clowney-type territory when it comes to expectations for him. At some point, he’ll remind folks he’s a freshman quarterback and the ESPN hivemind will inevitably turn on him. But until then, FSU fans will certainly enjoy the ride.

3. Louisville Cardinals (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): What does Louisville have to do to make their case for a national championship? Simply put: just win. And so far, they’ve done that, winning two contests by a combined score of 93-14. Teddy Bridgewater is on an absolutely torrid pace in terms of statistics, and with the American Athletic Conference looking even worse off than people thought this season, we could be seeing something truly special from him this year.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Is the U back? That depends on your point of view, though Saturday’s upset over Florida is certainly a nice start to that conversation. The Hurricanes weren’t perfect against the Gators, but maybe that’s what makes this victory resonate a bit more. Everyone has a tendency to celebrate a team for playing a flawless game en route to a big victory, when it’s the team that can win an ugly contest that’s probably better set up for long-term success. While the offense had its moments, the biggest plus from Saturday was the defense, which (Florida’s inept offense aside) did appear to have taken major leaps forward from last season’s disastrous effort.

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ACC Football Goat of the Week, Week 2: Drew Allen, Syracuse

Syracuse Quarterback Drew Allen is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 2

Syracuse Orange Quarterback Drew Allen is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 2

No one enjoys piling on when things go wrong. But nonetheless, we’ve got to call out the ACC (plus Louisville) 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 2: Drew Allen, QB/Syracuse

Syracuse was not supposed to beat Northwestern on Saturday. They weren’t even supposed to come within a score of the ranked Wildcats. But what happened to the Orange in that contest was simply unacceptable for any major conference team — an embarrassing effort that left fans begging for change just two games into the young season. At the center of those shouts was its recently anointed starting quarterback, Drew Allen. The senior Oklahoma transfer was supposed to help ease the team’s transition under a new staff this year, but instead, he’s furthered a narrative of failure around the program (unfair over the last three seasons, with a 21-19 record and two bowl wins). On Saturday, Allen looked utterly incapable of making the reads expected of him, throwing four interceptions (giving him six on the year). The 279 passing yards were all for naught and an aberration of his true production. If Syracuse hopes to reverse the tide on this season, it may be time for a change sooner rather than later.

Honorable Mention:

Syracuse secondary (375 yards, 4 TD allowed through the air)

Tanner Price, QB/Wake Forest (191 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 fumble assists)

NC State secondary (300 yards, 2 TD allowed through the air)

Pete Thomas, QB/NC State (284 total yards, 2 INT)

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Tanner Price and the Wake Forest Offense Must Get Back on Track This Year to Get Back to a Bowl

Tanner Price and the Wake Forest Offense Must Get Back on Track This Year to Return to a Bowl

Team: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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

Head Coach: Jim Grobe (73-74; 13th season)

Returning Starters: 15 (7 Offense, 8 Defense)

Despite what’s perceived as an unprecedented level of program success under his stewardship, Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe finds himself on a bit of a hotseat this fall. The Deacs have missed the postseason in three out of their last four years, and have not won more than six since 2008. After the high-water mark of the 2006 ACC Championship, Wake has actually become a program that expects to be winning six or seven games every year. It’s not the easiest place to do that, of course, but when you set expectations (even lightly), it becomes hard for folks to shake that notion you’re falling short. Hence Grobe’s current position.

If this feels like a broken record in these ACC preivews, it sort of is: Wake Forest’s offense struggled mightily last season. Plenty of teams can’t move the ball effectively, but it does take a special kind of ineptitude to average just 18.5 points per game — nevermind the fact that they also managed to win five of those contests somehow. For what feels like the umpteenth season in a row, Wake’s offensive line simply could not stay healthy (that’s what happens when you’re undersized) and it wreaked havoc on this team’s ability to put up points. While that lack of health is certainly a concern this fall too, it could also be seen as an opportunity. With so many injuries, there’s a large number of Deacs O-linemen with extensive experience and that makes for a more polished rotation at those positions. They’ll need fresh legs given the level of pass-rushers in the conference, and also in order to keep the running game going. Averaging just 100 yards per game, last year’s rushing attack may as well have not existed and part of that falls on the line’s inability to push the pile forward. The other part of that equation are the actual backs though, and it’ll be interesting to see if Josh Harris‘s dismissal-turned-reinstatement this offseason was the type of jolt he needed to finally live up to his potential.

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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 Payback Games: Wake Forest

With Wake Forest's 12-Game Win Streak vs. Duke Snapped, Can the Deacons Bounce Back and Start a New One?

With Wake Forest’s 12-Game Win Streak vs. Duke Snapped, Can the Deacs Bounce Back and Start a New One?

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’ve run 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: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Opponent: Duke Blue Devils

Last Year: Loss, 34-27 vs. Duke

This Year: November 23 vs. Duke

Wake Forest had beaten cross-state rival Duke every single time since 1999. Until late last September, that is, when that streak finally ended. Starting off their year at 3-1, the Demon Deacons looked poised for another surprise season in Atlantic Division contention, but after dropping this one to Duke, it would simply never materialize. Four turnovers in one game will make that happen. As will losing the time-of-possession battle, and struggling on third down.

The Deacs never had this one in hand — far from it — but going into the fourth quarter following a 10-point swing, it sure appeared as if they’d grabbed momentum. However, the Blue Devils offensive attack was simply relentless, especially (surprisingly) on the ground. Despite struggling to run the ball all season, it was two rushing touchdowns (by Anthony Boone and Jela Duncan) that sealed the deal for Duke as an ineffective Wake Forest offense sputtered until a garbage time score by Tommy Bohanon made it look like a one-possession game. Looking back, you can see that the issues plaguing Wake Forest on both sides of the ball during this contest (failure to stop big plays, inability to come from behind) would be indicative of the rest of the season’s struggles.

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ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks

Clemson, Led by Tajh Boyd and Cole Stoudt, Have the ACC's Top Quarterback Unit for 2013

Clemson, Led by Tajh Boyd and Cole Stoudt, Have the ACC’s Top Quarterback Unit for 2013

While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we start with the quarterback position. Last year it was a strength — or at least it was supposed to be — and while it could be once again in 2013, that will rely on some new starters stepping up in a big way. Though it may not be as top-heavy as last year’s crop (especially after seeing EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib and Sean Renfree headed to the NFL), the ACC still possesses a really strong group of passers who all look to either start or end their careers on a positive note.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks

1. Clemson Tigers: Seeing both Tajh Boyd and offensive coordinator Chad Morris return was a godsend for the Tigers, who get one more year of the potent passing attack led by those two men. In 2012, Boyd broke out for over 4,400 total yards and now he has his eyes set on both a Heisman Trophy and a national title. Beyond Boyd, the team will lean mostly on Cole Stoudt in garbage time, after losing Chad Kelly tore his ACL in the spring. Stoudt, a junior, threw for 212 yards and three scores last season in relief of Boyd.

2. Louisville Cardinals: Teddy Bridgwater has all the hype and expectations anyone could possibly deal with in one season, yet I think he’ll still succeed. The Heisman contender and possible first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is the core of a young Cardinals team that’s aiming to be unbeaten this fall. For when games get out of hand, the ball will likely be handed to Jerry Arlinghaus, the 6’4″ sophomore from nearby Covington, KY with a nice arm.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: Bryn Renner‘s ability to transition to Larry Fedora’s spread offense has made him a rising star in the ACC, and don’t be surprised to see him put up even more impressive numbers as he closes out his senior season at Chapel Hill. Behind him, Fedora’s also stock-piling players who fit right into his system, with big passers like redshirt freshman Kanler Coker and true freshman Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky was named as “the next Johnny Manziel” by ESPN’s Joe Luginbill back in December, which is quite the name to live up to.

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