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 Previews & Predictions: Week Eight

Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas Wants to Improve From His Performances Against Clemson Last Season

Could we finally start to see a bit of a shakeout in the ACC, with league title contenders putting some space between themselves and the conference’s various also-rans? Well, maybe. That statement also implies we know who the also-rans are (we don’t). And in terms of the Coastal division, are we even sold on the contenders? Again, there’s plenty still up in the air. Should be a fun group of games this weekend, at any rate.

Game of the Week

Virginia Tech Hokies (4-3) (2-1) at Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1): If the Hokies had held up their end of the bargain and just remained in the top 15 or so, there’s a chance this matchup could’ve been the site of College Gameday. We still get an interesting matchup here though, despite what it looks like on paper. Tech, while struggling to stop the rush (ranked 76th nationally in yards-per-game on the ground), has actually been much more effective against the pass (37th in FBS, yards-per-game). Their eight interceptions are also tied for second in the conference, so Tajh Boyd must deliver his passes with precision. Clemson should win, but again, don’t be surprised to see Logan Thomas put up his best game thus far while exploiting an overmatched Tigers defense, either. Prediction: Clemson 38, Virginia Tech 27

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

Connecticut Huskies (3-4) at Syracuse Orange (2-4): Another Friday night game for Syracuse, and another must-win for a school whose season is currently hanging in the balance. The big key for the Orange is simply cutting down turnovers (their margin is -10 on the season), and playing efficiently enough on offense to put up a few touchdowns. UConn has proven itself to be forgettable on offense, outside of running back Lyle McCombs, so it won’t be a high-scoring affair. But if SU quarterback Ryan Nassib can simply stay standing up against the Huskies pass rush anchored by DE Trevardo Williams, the Orange stand a good chance to advance and keep fighting for the postseason. Prediction: Syracuse 20, UConn 16

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Eight

The Tar Heels May Be the Coastal Division’s Top Team, But Unfortunately, Are Ineligible to Play for the ACC Championship

The ACC continues to be a riddle, and as such, so do these power rankings. Beyond the top two, who’s a true conference championship contender? Will the Coastal champ finish with a better record than 4-4? Based on what we’ve seen so far, we’re really no closer to finding out any of this, but as we do every week, we’ll take our best guess here in the power rankings.

1. Florida State Seminoles (6-1) (3-1) (LW: 1): EJ Manuel had a field day against the BC secondary on Saturday, throwing for 439 yards and four touchdowns, en route to a 51-7 victory. Of course, it helps when your defense played the way it did, too. The Eagles came to town with one of the conference’s better passing attacks. They left with just 129 yards through the air, and a pick. If Florida State’s going to win themselves an ACC title, they’ll need to play at that level for the remainder of the season.

2. Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 2): The Tigers were off this past weekend, which may be the only thing that can slow this offense down. On Monday, OC Chad Morris mentioned to the Post-Courier that Sammy Watkins is “ready to break out,” which is something that should horrify opposing defenses. Should he finally get back to full-strength, Watkins adds yet another dimension to this group, making for an entertaining second half.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels (5-2) (2-1) (LW: 6): If not for postseason ineligibility, UNC would be the Coastal division frontrunners, having already knocked off two of their three biggest competitors (and facing the third, Duke, this weekend). And if not for Giovani Bernard‘s injury earlier this season, perhaps this team would be in the top 25, too. Over the last two games — both big wins for the Heels — the sophomore’s amassed 485 total yards and four scores. As long as he stays healthy, Carolina’s likely to keep winning.

4. NC State Wolfpack (4-2) (1-1) (LW: 5): The Wolfpack are in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic division, but the jury’s still out on whether they’ll take full advantage or not. Through six games, we’re still unsure about the secondary — already lit up several times this year — and quarterback Mike Glennon‘s play has been mostly inconsistent (FSU comeback aside). Every remaining game is very winnable, but it will come down to their ability to execute late. All they have to do is win out, and they’ll find themselves playing for their first BCS Bowl trip.

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ACC Football 2012 Midseason Recap: Coastal Division

After a Big Comeback Win This Weekend, Has Virginia Tech Righted the Ship?

At the midway point in the 2012 season, little is decided in the ACC. Neither division has a clear frontrunner, no team is assured a trip to the postseason and no team has clinched a bowl spot either. Nonetheless, it’s been an entertaining season within the conference — something we’ll try to highlight here. Along with evaluations for each team, we’ll be providing brief predictions for the second half as well.

Below is the Coastal division midseason evaluation. Also be sure to check out the Atlantic division recap too, which appeared earlier.

Duke Blue Devils (5-2) (2-1): The Blue Devils have been one of the nation’s biggest and best surprise stories thus far, getting themselves within one victory of their first bowl appearance since 1994. Though they’ve had a strong passing game in past seasons behind Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon, what’s set this group apart is that its paired with a staunch defense. Or at least it was, up until this past weekend. For as much as everyone has happily jumped aboard the Duke bandwagon, we all seemed to sweep their poor strength of schedule under the rug. It’s come back to bite them against both Stanford and Virginia Tech, which leads us to the more difficult second half of the season. With no sure wins left on the slate, they’ll have to catch lightning in a bottle just one more time to get themselves to the six-victory plateau. If they fail to, this will be biggest failure of all, in Duke’s two decades of ineptitude.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-4) (1-3): We transition from the shock of Duke’s success, to the surprise of Georgia Tech’s failure. With 2012 championed as “the year” this particular group of Yellow Jackets turned the corner and took the Coastal division as their own, it’s been nothing short of dumbfounding to see them fall so flat. And we can’t even sit here and blame Paul Johnson’s triple-option (though make no mistake, it’s a factor here too) for their futility. Rather, it’s been all about the defense, which has allowed over 30 points per game (about 36 per, if you only count FBS opponents). Since he’s fired Al Groh, Johnson’s remaining excuse is gone, however. If they fail to deliver against a manageable final six games, we could see the end of an era at Tech.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Seven

On the Arm of Backup QB Anthony Boone, Duke Recorded Yet Another Big Win Saturday

More upheaval in the ACC over the weekend, and as a result, the league now has zero legitimate national championship contenders or Heisman candidates. But such is life. In better news, the league’s parity (seen as a hindrance in many circles) will also produce one of the country’s most exciting conference championship races as the season winds down. How are the teams currently jockeying for position, though? Read on…

1. Florida State Seminoles (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 1): Another disappointing loss for the Seminoles, but they retain their top spot due to the fact that they actually play defense, as well as their win over the next-best squad just two weeks ago. What made this team so exciting early on was not only their aggressive play on defense, but their willingness to take risks on offense, too. As that risk factor has diminished over these past two weeks, that’s where the cracks in the armor have developed. Jimbo Fisher needs to put faith in his playmakers to win games, instead of just coasting toward the finish line.

2. Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 2): Tajh Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins have become a clinic on how to run a lethally effective passing offense — so much so that it no longer matters who’s throwing or catching the ball (see Saturday’s Hopkins-to-Boyd two-point conversion). Admittedly (as mentioned above), the Tigers’ defense still needs a boatload of work. But with the offense firing on all cylinders like it has been this season, there are few teams capable of out-gunning them.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-2) (3-0) (LW: 3): Miami kicks off a four-team block of questions with very few answers. Which Miami team is the “real” one? The squad that’s lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93-16, or the one that’s 3-0 in ACC play? Luckily some of this gets sorted out this coming weekend, as the ‘Canes take on North Carolina.

4. Duke Blue Devils (5-1) (2-0) (LW: 5): Are the Blue Devils among the favorites in the Coastal Division? Until they lose a conference game, we’ll have to include them in the conversation. But all the signs of a contender are there. Duke’s been without several players due to injury, and even started backup QB Anthony Boone on Saturday. Yet they just keep winning. Should they come up with another W this weekend, they’ll not only clinch a bowl bid, but also take control of the division and potentially find themselves ranked, too.

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictons: Week Six

Miami’s Offense Put On a Show Last Week; Can They Repeat the Performance Against Notre Dame?

Everybody’s back in action for week six, as ACC play is now in full swing. Below we give our respective opinions on the players, coaches, issues and injuries that may end up having an impact on this weekend’s football action. There’s also a good chance that we arrive at completely different results for completely different reasons. So just be prepared for that as well.

Game of the Week

Miami Hurricanes (4-1) (3-0) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0) (in Chicago): Once a chronicle of everything “right” and “wrong” about college football, Notre Dame and Miami have not met in the regular season since 1990. Obviously the teams of 2012 are much different, even if the media relentlessly reminds you of “Catholics vs. Convicts.” Notre Dame comes into this one favored by nearly two touchdowns after their strong defensive performances to start off the season. However, they’ve yet to face a team of playmakers quite like Miami’s. If the Irish can pressure Stephen Morris into making some mistakes, they’ve got a chance. But if forced to win with offense, there’s no guarantee Notre Dame can keep up with the Hurricanes’ firepower or big-play capabilities. Despite the home crowd, this could be the day’s biggest upset. Prediction: Miami 31, Notre Dame 26

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

Pittsburgh Panthers (2-2) at Syracuse Orange (1-3): In their final meeting as Big East foes, Pitt and Syracuse appear to be moving in opposite directions. Syracuse’s special teams have been a significant issue all season, and along with their porous run defense, the Orange must continue to work on more fundamental tackling. Pitt, while suited to exploit these weaknesses, has also shown a distinct need for a balanced attack — something that may elude them on Friday night. If Syracuse can put a pass-rush on QB Tino Sunseri, and do a better job of stopping the run game, they stand a chance. Prediction: Pitt 27, Syracuse 21

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week Four (Part Two)

Georgia Tech QB Tevin Washington Faces a Porous Miami Run Defense This Week, While Looking to Pad the Stat Line

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

Miami Hurricanes (2-1) (1-0)) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1) (0-1): Beyond the emergence of freshman Duke Johnson, the Hurricanes’ season has gone poorly to this point, despite their two wins. And Saturday’s contest with Georgia Tech may make things worse. Through three games, the ‘Canes have allowed 617 yards on the ground (an average of over 205 per game). Conversely, the Yellow Jackets have averaged 374 rushing yards per game, in three contests of their own. Given the versatility of their weapons, Tech has a real fundamental advantage against Miami, and will exploit it continuously throughout the game. Prediction: Georgia Tech 45, Miami 24

East Carolina Pirates (2-1) at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2) (0-1): ECU comes in as a much-improved team on defense, though their offense (a trademark in 2011) appears to be struggling to find a rhythm. And UNC can likely say the same. After their strong start to the year, the Heels have dropped a big game to Wake Forest, and fell way behind Louisville last weekend, before coming back to make it a close contest. Yes, star back Giovani Bernard is out, but that can’t be an excuse for Larry Fedora and QB Bryn Renner. Renner has targets on the field — something the ball carrier doesn’t much change. Prediction: UNC 40, ECU 26

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