ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week Nine (UPDATE: With Devin Burns Injury Note)

Can NC State Continue Its Hot Streak Against UNC, Or Will the Wolfpack Finally Cool Off?

The ACC continues to battle perception this weekend, as teams looking to differentiate themselves face tough in-conference tests. While it would be great for Duke’s feel-good story to continue versus FSU, obviously the league would suffer mightily with a Seminoles loss. And while the Heels may be the Coastal division’s best hope to finish with a team above .500, they might just be outmatched by a Wolfpack team gunning for their first division title. At any rate, just another exciting weekend of ACC football…

Game of the Week

NC State Wolfpack (5-2) (2-1) at North Carolina Tar Heels (5-3) (2-2): Opinions differ on whether or not this is an actual rivalry, and given State’s recent 5-0 run, maybe the real mistake is the Heels discounting it. And if their recent cold streak against the Wolfpack wasn’t enough, UNC also has a score to settle after last week’s last-minute loss to Duke; a crushing loss made worse by the Blue Devils clinching a bowl bid with the victory. If they hope to stop NC State, though, the Tar Heels must play better defense than they did last week. Duke came into that game with one of the worst rushing attacks in the country, yet managed over 230 yards on the ground. If State’s similarly terrible running game can have a performance like that, coupled with a serviceable effort from Mike Glennon, UNC has little hope to pull this one out. Prediction: NC State 26, UNC 23

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

Clemson Tigers (6-1) (3-1) at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3) (2-3): Did Clemson’s defense wake up last weekend, or did the offense shut down? The answer is crucial for the Tigers, as they hope to finish the regular season on a much more positive note than last year. And it all starts tonight. If it weren’t already enough that Wake gets star receiver Michael Campanaro back, both of the Tigers’ starting cornerbacks are inactive tonight. So suddenly, an easy matchup between Clemson’s improving defense and the Deacs’ stagnant offense gets a lot more hairy. It’ll all come down to stopping the pass, but if Wake Forest can get a running game going — not out of the question against a questionable front four for Clemson — it could be a very long night for Dabo Swinney’s team. Prediction: Clemson 31, Wake Forest 27

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ACC Football Power Rankings: Week Nine

Florida State Defeats Miami, Referee Issues and Remains Atop the Power Rankings

Yet another crazy weekend of ACC football, and we still find ourselves no closer to figuring out who’ll be playing in Charlotte for the league championship. The one thing we may be getting a handle on, though? Who is NOT playing in that game. And if eventually that list allows us to fill out the who IS list, then so be it (pray this isn’t what actually happens). Jimbo Fisher’s team deserves to be on top of these rankings, but I’m scared he’d have me suspended if that weren’t the case…

1. Florida State Seminoles (7-1) (4-1) (LW: 1): Never a good thing to hear your best running back is out for the season (again). But when you’re Florida State, you’ve got two more great options ready to go. Referees aside, the ‘Noles looked sloppy for a good portion of their Saturday night matchup with Miami — something that should concern them since the ‘Canes have no defense to speak of. It’s fine if EJ Manuel‘s taking more risks, but he must also keep the rest of the offense focused. Those fumbles were unforgivable, and could cause some real damage against a better team.

2. Clemson Tigers (6-1) (3-1) (LW: 2): The story of the game somehow ended up being the Tigers’ defense, which forced four turnovers and scored a touchdown of its own against Virginia Tech. So was this the turning point Brent Venables seemed to promise when he took over as defensive coordinator? Perhaps, though let’s give it a few more games. The Hokies’ offense has been putrid all season, and Clemson’s had their number these past two seasons. Still, it’s something they can potentially build off of.

3. NC State Wolfpack (5-2) (2-1) (LW: 4): State got very lucky at the end of this weekend’s game, due to a missed field goal — so don’t mistake their one-spot promotion as a ringing endorsement. But nonetheless, this is a Woflpack team that seems to know how to get the job done in crunch time. After their respective rocky starts, both Mike Glennon and David Amerson may have finally turned things around. The biggest issue now is how they’ll get by over the course of the season if they can’t run the ball.

4. Duke Blue Devils (6-2) (3-1) (LW: 7): Make no mistake about it, this Duke team is a legitimate threat to win the down-and-out Coastal division after their big comeback the other night. While there are certainly some kinks still to work out, this is a group that came into its own on that final 87-yard touchdown drive, and now look prepared for anything. That theory will be put to the test immediately against FSU this coming weekend. All eyes will be on Sean Renfree and how he reacts to the constant pressure the ‘Noles bring on D.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Five

Florida State’s EJ Manuel Led the Seminoles’ Late Charge Past Clemson on Saturday, Cementing Their Place Atop These Rankings

This weekend was a big one for the ACC, despite the fact that not all of its teams were in action. With all eyes on Tallahassee to still if Florida State could deliver on the weighty expectations bestowed upon them this season, the ‘Noles did not disappoint. After a big FSU victory, the conference now has a legitimate title contender and potential Heisman winner — something it hasn’t seen in a decade. Expect great things this season.

1. Florida State Seminoles (4-0) (LW: 1): About midway through the first half of Saturday’s game, I was wondering if Florida State would disappoint once again, as they were struggling to really stop the Clemson offense, and could not necessarily break through with their own attack either. But then the second half happened, and we all witnessed an impressive onslaught the likes of which may be a recurring theme for the Seminoles. This team is a bona fide national championship contender, and EJ Manuel could very well be setting up for a surprise Heisman run.

2. Clemson Tigers (3-1) (LW: 2): The Tigers fought valiantly, though in the end, there were just too many weapons on the Seminoles offense, and not enough answers from the Clemson D. Sure, the loss may sting now, but based on Tajh Boyd‘s players-only meeting on Monday, it already looks like they’re focused and ready to continue what should be a very successful campaign. As has been the case these past two years, only the defense can truly hold them back.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1) (LW: 4): Needing a big rebound win, the Hokies shut out Bowling Green on Saturday, and appear to be back in control of their season. Unfortunately, however, their offense is still only marginal at best. Even against an inferior team, VPI still managed just 150 yards in the air, and committed nine penalties. If not for Logan Thomas remembering how to run the football, the unit would have been stagnant all day. They just can’t rely on him to do absolutely everything.

4. NC State Wolfpack (3-1) (LW: 5): For all the talk of their “disappointing” start, the Wolfpack are still 3-1, and very much alive in the ACC title race. With the team’s defense seemingly coming on as of late, and their offense establishing an unexpected degree of balance between run and pass, State could actually recapture its darkhorse role and make a midseason run.

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ACC Football Goat of the Week, Week 4: Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech RB Orwin Smith is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 4

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 4: Orwin Smith, RB/Georgia Tech

Oh, Orwin Smith. This was dumb. Hate to be so harsh about a college kid, but how else do you describe a self-safety? Georgia Tech was beaten by Miami on Saturday, sure. But more accurately, that team was defeated by their own mental mistakes — most notably this one, which tacked two points on the board for the ‘Canes. Aside from the egregious gaffe in the return game, Smith also continued what’s been a virtually unspectacular rushing campaign, tallying just seven carries for 22 yards (and one score). If Georgia Tech wants to win games, it must rely on a consistent rushing attack. That was not the case here, especially for Smith, who came into the year as a standout senior leader for the team. He’ll have to pick up his game going forward.

Honorable Mention:

Tevin Washington, QB/Georgia Tech

Clemson Defense (49 points allowed, 667 total offensive yards against)

Michael Rocco, QB/Virginia (13/26 passing, 126 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT)

Ryan Nassib, QB/Syracuse (21/31 passing, 228 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 fumble lost)

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Four

Florida State Won Big on Saturday, and Hopes to Continue That Trend Against Clemson this Week

All 14 ACC squads participated in the weekend’s events to varying degrees, and unfortunately, the league’s down to just two undefeated teams and a very crowded middle. Check out the list below, and weigh in down in the comments if you disagree.

1. Florida State Seminoles (3-0) (LW: 1): All of that “Florida State is back” talk? Dead on. The Seminoles absolutely ran through Wake Forest on Saturday, finally exorcising one of the oddest dog-bites-man stories in recent college football memory. Through three contests, FSU has proven itself to be ruthless with pressure on defense, a sound running team (11th in FBS with 279 yards per game) and a team that waits to make smart passes. If this machine is what Jimbo Fisher’s been building these last few years, it’s probably worth the wait.

2. Clemson Tigers (3-0) (LW: 2): Their College Gameday warmup went just as well as planned, but that said, the Tigers will enter their big game against Florida State with a ton of questions. Who is their top receiver? What about the offensive line? And most importantly, can defensive coordinator Brent Venables draw up a scheme to cure Clemson of its putrid run D? We’ll find out soon enough.

3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1) (LW: 4): Georgia Tech’s offense found its rhythm against Virginia, amassing rushing yards at will and owning the line of scrimmage to open up those running lanes — especially to the outside. It’s games like this that tell you the triple-option works and Tevin Washington‘s the man for the job. Then you have a game like the opener that meets that statement with an emphatic laugh.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1) (LW: 3): Not a single team deserves to occupy the fourth slot in these rankings, but the Hokies will be slotted here by necessity. On Saturday, VPI finally dealt with the questions we’ve been asking for weeks: what if the offensive line is too inexperienced? And what if Logan Thomas has to carry the offense? Both of these scenarios played out in full this weekend, and Virginia Tech failed miserably. Thomas’s accuracy is certainly not up to snuff, and most surprisingly of all, the run D may not be as good as initially given credit for.

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ACC Football Player of the Week, Week 3: Chris Thompson, Florida State

Florida State RB Chris Thompson is Week 3’s ACC Player of the Week

Each week, we’ll be identifying the best ACC player from that weekend’s games. As always, it’s a completely arbitrary award with no specific criteria beyond the vague concept of “excellence.” No, we don’t take write-ins.

ACC Player of the Week, Week Three: Chris Thompson, RB/Florida State

In just one half (and nine carries) of football, FSU’s Chris Thompson obliterated the Wake Forest line, racking up 197 rushing yards, along with two scores and two receptions for 23 yards. While we won’t necessarily point to any one factor in the Seminoles’ complete evisceration of the Demon Deacons on Saturday, there’s a pretty strong case to be made for FSU’s running game and its ability to pick up large chunks of yardage at will. With Thompson and cohort James Wilder Jr. in the backfield, it’s difficult for the unit to have an off-game and they’ve been incredibly instrumental in setting a well-balanced offense for a ‘Noles team currently firing on all cylinders.

Honorable Mention:

Duke Johnson, RB/Miami (245 all-purpose yards, 4 TD)

Romar Morris, RB/North Carolina (202 all-purpose yards, 2 TD, 1 blocked punt)

Nick Clancy, LB/Boston College (24 tackles)

Tevin Washington, QB/Georgia Tech (218 total yards, 4 TD)

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Prediction: Week 2 (Part Two)

Boston College’s New-Look Offense Hopes to Put Up Big Numbers Against Maine This Weekend

This is Part Two of this week’s Previews & Predictions feature. Also check out Part One.

Maine Black Bears (0-0) at Boston College Eagles (0-1) (0-1): As disappointing as last week’s loss to Miami was, you couldn’t help but notice that spark from BC’s players that’s been missing these past few seasons. New offensive coordinator Doug Martin’s already performed a miracle after Chase Rettig‘s phenomenal passing day, and something tells me we’ll be seeing much more of the same against Maine. If they go five-wide all day I wouldn’t be surprised. The Black Bears are far too rusty to keep up with a team fresh off an exciting, active first game. Prediction: Boston College 48, Maine 20

Austin Peay Governors (0-1) at Virginia Tech Hokies (1-0) (1-0): Austin Peay got absolutely smoked by Western Kentucky last week. So if that’s any indication of the team that will be facing the Hokies, expect this one to be quick. Now, Tech is coming off a short week, having just played on Monday. But a lowly FCS school is exactly what they need to shake off the final cobwebs. The Pistol formation looked like it had a lot of potential, so Logan Thomas would be well-advised to give it some more practice runs against the Governors. Prediction: Virginia Tech 41, Austin Peay 0

North Carolina Tar Heels (1-0) at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0): Two North Carolina schools faced FCS opponents last weekend. One came out of it looking like they had one of the country’s best offenses. The other looked as if they’d struggle to win four games. After tallying 62 points on Saturday, there’s no telling what Larry Fedora’s UNC offense will do next. So long as running back Giovani Bernard‘s knee doesn’t become an issue, they’ll give defenses issues all season. Wake has a defense (sometimes) so it appears they’ll be having some issues. Prediction: UNC 45, Wake 24

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