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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NFL Draft 2013 Preview: NC State Prospects

Mike Glennon Headlines the List of Former Wolfpack Players Hoping to Be Drafted

Mike Glennon Headlines the List of Former Wolfpack Players Hoping to Be Drafted

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

Despite some middling returns over the past few years, NC State has managed to produce a significant amount of NFL talent. And the 2012 season was no different, with as many as five players performing well enough to be drafted later this week. While former head coach Tom O’Brien certainly wasn’t the best at getting his team over that seven-/eight-win hump, you can’t say he didn’t groom future pros. It’ll be interesting to see if new coach Dave Doeren, with an unconventional offensive style, manages to replicate those results.

Mike Glennon, QB, Senior (Projected: Late Second Round)

Glennon came into the national spotlight this past October, after guiding the Wolfpack to one of the 2012 season’s early upsets, over then-no. 3 Florida State. Since then, he’s fluctuated mightily on draft boards, hovering around the top five quarterback spots for a weak class at the position. Though there was initially some talk about him leaping into the first round due to his strong arm and ability to read deep routes, he’s got plenty of concerns hampering him as well. At 6’7″ and 225 pounds, there’s concern that his height will be more of a liability, since the large target for tacklers is not strong enough or fast enough (just a 4.94 40-yard dash) to allude quick pass rushers. Additionally, while he certainly can throw the football for distance, there’s more worries on his accuracy. In his senior season, Glennon completed just 58.5 percent of 564 throws for a little over 4,000 yards. He could certainly work his way up a depth chart, but Glennon needs a little work if he’s eventually going to be an NFL starter.

David Amerson, CB, Junior (Projected: Early Third Round)

If you based Amerson’s value purely off his game tape from 2011, he’s a bonafied top-five pick. Lucky for teams picking at the top of the draft, they also get to see his disastrous 2012. Though he’s still a talented corner and certainly a player who can make an impact at the pro level, Amerson’s junior season gave teams several reasons to be concerned. Amerson experienced a drop-off in both tackles and interceptions, partially due to teams failing to target his side of the field as much. In addition — and this is where the worry comes in — he showed himself vulnerable on deep routes in one-on-one coverage, most notably in his first game of the season against Tennessee. His 4.35 40-yard dash time is impressive and exactly what scouts are looking for to pair with his 6’1″ and 215-pound frame. But they’ll need to be confident he can keep up in coverage against the NFL’s faster, taller receivers.

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ACC Football Head Coaching Hot Seats 2013

Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson is One of Several ACC Coaches on Tentative Ground Right Now

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson is One of Several ACC Coaches on Tentative Ground Right Now

We’re just jumping into spring practice (you can look at every ACC team’s previews here), but for all 14 (15) squads, this is the start of the 2013 season. And for head coaches, this is where the year’s evaluations start; from their players, the school administrations, the fans and the boosters that can easily pull the plug on their position. While some of the ACC‘s head coaches are firmly entrenched where they’re at, there are also plenty that find themselves in precarious situations. Regarding both, we provide a quick evaluation of where all of them stand, new coaches and all.

Completely Safe (5)

Dabo Swinney, Clemson (sixth year): Swinney has brought the Tigers to an extended period of success they haven’t seen in decades, winning the ACC, becoming a perennial top-20 program and taking home a huge victory in the 2012 Chick-fil-a Bowl. The only things left? Consistently beating South Carolina and winning a national championship.

David Cutcliffe, Duke (sixth year): After getting Duke to their first bowl game since 1994, it appears that Cutcliffe can do no wrong in Durham. Of course, now the question begs whether he can keep it up. So long as he can consistently win between five and seven games, Cutcliffe will be just fine at Duke.

Charlie Strong, Louisville (fourth year): Strong had a real opportunity to leave this past offseason, yet chose to stick around at Louisville to finish what he started. While there’s always the threat he could head to the SEC, Strong’s ability to rebuild this program and contend on a national stage (see: Sugar Bowl) have him here long-term if he wants to be.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina (second year): Just a small sample size for Fedora thus far, but in his one season, he’s already brought UNC to a place of far more prominence than they’ve been in a decade. He’ll get several seasons to continue implementing his system, but if trends continue, he’ll be fine in Chapel Hill.

Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (second year): Another second-year coach, Chryst has seen some results after a season at the helm, but it appears he’s set to grow the program further after (especially after a nice recruiting haul this spring). If they take a step back, questions may start, but he’s got plenty of runway to work with.

Fine for Now (4)

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (fourth year): Expectations are always high at FSU, so it’s no surprise Fisher sits here, despite winning 12 games and an ACC title last year. Now, of course, it’ll be interesting to see if he can live up year-to-year. If Fisher can’t contend more than every few seasons, patience will grow short very quickly around Florida State.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia QB Phillip Simms Won't Be Handed the Starting Job This Spring, Making for an Interesting Early Position Battle

Virginia QB Phillip Sims Won’t Be Handed the Starting Job This Spring, Making for an Interesting Early Position Battle

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Virginia Cavaliers

Spring Practice Start Date: March 18

Spring Game Date: April 6

Head coach Mike London felt some heat after a disappointing third season, replacing both his offensive and defensive coordinators in the hopes of sparking a new fire with his players. Now, he’ll need to hope that does the trick for a group returning 14 starters from last season; a decent amount of leadership coming back that should at least give the team a leg up compared to last year’s project (especially on defense). Virginia has also elected to schedule pretty aggressively this year (and for the foreseeable future), meaning progress may end up being tougher to spot in clear sight.

With a strong group of receivers returning, along with leading rusher Kevin Parks and most of the offensive line (four of five), you’d think the Hoos’ offense would be largely settled. Unfortunately, though, that’s not the case. Last year’s quarterback platoon of incumbent starter Michael Rocco and Alabama transfer Phillip Sims led to Rocco leaving the program, yet that doesn’t mean Simms automatically has the job. Junior David Watford‘s been around the program longer, though that may not matter in new O-coordinator Steve Fairchild’s system. As a former quarterback himself, Fairchild’s likely to favor the best arm, meaning Simms’s dual-threat capabilities may not be as important. It’s likely the offense sees some additional pro-style influence from former NC State head coach Tom O’Brien, now an offensive assistant with UVa. This spring will be a telling sign toward the direction the squad takes this fall, but at this point, expect anything — Watford or Simms as the starter, or maybe even both. While there are certainly critics of how London ran a two-passer system last year, I’m unsure whether that’ll deter him from doing so again if the two players are in a close competition.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: NC State Wolfpack

Head Coach Dave Doeren Ushers In a Brand New Era of NC State Football This Spring

Head Coach Dave Doeren Ushers In a Brand New Era of NC State Football This Spring

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: NC State Wolfpack

Spring Practice Start Date: March 19

Spring Game Date: April 20

While NC State certainly takes a step forward on the field by hiring former Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren, you can’t deny they lose a masterful troll letting go of Tom O’Brien. Amazing 16-wheeler aside though, this spring’s all about transition for the Pack, as Doeren brought along his own staff as part of the new regime. New terminology, new playbooks, and a new approach to games is only part of it too, as the team also ushers in a new collection of potential playmakers to replace several starters that departed for the NFL Draft. Needless to say, it’s going to be a very busy month down in Raleigh.

Off the bat, State players better be ready to run, as Doeren brings along his spread offense from NIU. After years of running a “vanilla,” pro-style scheme under O’Brien, offensive players will certainly embrace the change, but not without struggle. On top of the complete play-calling overhaul, they’ll be breaking in a new quarterback to run the show, with little indication on who may end up winning the job right now. The current favorite, however, is Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas; the only passer on the roster with notable college experience. He’ll also be challenged by sophomore Manny Stocker, who was handed little opportunity to show off his stuff last year, but appears better suited for the type of attack Doeren ran with quarterback Jordan Lynch last year (which included plenty of rushing attempts from the QB position). On the bright side, though, the Pack is more than settled at both the wide receiver and running back spots, after seeing bursts of brilliance from Bryan Underwood and Shadrach Thornton, respectively, last season. While nothing’s guaranteed under the new coaching staff for these two standouts, both will have ample opportunities to embrace leadership roles as the team adapts to their new surroundings.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: NC State Wolfpack

After All the Preseason Hype for Mike Glennon & NC State, 2012 Was Just Another Letdown

After All the Preseason Hype for Mike Glennon & NC State, 2012 Was Just Another Letdown

Team: NC State Wolfpack

W-L: 7-6 (4-4)

Postseason: 38-24 Franklin American Mortgage Music Cit Bowl loss to Vanderbilt

Top Offensive Performer: Mike Glennon, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Earl Wolff, S

This was the year that Tom O’Brien’s NC State team was supposed to break through and contend in the ACC. He had the senior quarterback, the experienced secondary — everything this team needed to finally get over the hump. And yet at the end of the season, the Wolfpack finished with their typical six or seven wins, and then O’Brien was dismissed. How did this happen?

Well, for starters, that experienced secondary came back down to earth from last year’s phenomenal performance. After picking off 27 passes in 2011, the team managed just 16 this season, with the biggest drop-off coming from cornerback David Amerson (just five in ’12 versus 13 in ’11). From a team perspective, it’s also easy to how this all came about. Back in 2011, State’s aggressive, go-for-broke style allowed just as many big play (passing attempts of 30-plus yards) tries, but more of those resulted in interceptions. This time around, with the decrease in interceptions, more of those attempts resulted in gains of 30 yards or more (25 of that variety, 16 of which went for 40 or more). Part of this was an adjustment in opponents’ play (see Amerson’s dreadful performance against Tennessee in the season opener), but the rest can be perceived as a severe drop-off in the team’s talent level. If we’re looking for reason number-one why this squad fell short of expectations, the secondary probably sits front-and-center. When you finish 86th nationally in pass-defense, it’s just tough to argue you did your job, necessarily.

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Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: NC State Wolfpack vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

QB Mike Glennon Leads NC State Versus Vanderbilt & One of Country's Best Pass Defenses

QB Mike Glennon Leads NC State Versus Vanderbilt & One of Country’s Best Pass Defenses

Both NC State and Vanderbilt were seen as programs on the rise entering the 2012 season, and yet both started off with disappointing losses on national television. What followed, however, is what defines them as they meet in the postseason. The Wolfpack, while managing to upset then-no. 3 Florida State, also struggled for consistency during a stretch that saw them beat just one winning team (FSU) all year. Vandy, on the other hand, would tally five SEC wins, though admittedly, just one against a bowl-bound squad (Ole Miss). So are both suspect teams, or just a product of their respective schedules?

Bowl Game: Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Location: Nashville, Tenn.

First Year: 1998

2012 Participants: NC State Wolfpack (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4)

Last Meeting: Vanderbilt over NC State, 7-0 (1946)

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NC State (previous bowl game: 31-24 win vs. Louisville in 2011 Belk Bowl)

Former State head coach Tom O’Brien told Wolfpack fans to expect big things in 2012, and yet the biggest occurrence ended up being his dismissal following a 7-5 campaign. Without O’Brien on the sidelines, the Pack will certainly be a different team as they head into their matchup with Vanderbilt, though admittedly, it’s hard to say if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The former coach’s inability to assemble aggressive gameplans won’t be missed, but it’s questionable whether or not his players will be sufficiently motivated amidst the program’s upheaval. Luckily, they do possess strong veteran leadership, most notably in the form of senior quarterback Mike Glennon. In the shadow of Heisman-sized expectations, Glennon still managed to throw for over 3,600 touchdowns and 30 scores while leading a State team that relied primarily on the passing game. Averaging 304 passing yards per game, the Wolfpack were ranked 20th in the FBS, yet just 108th in rushing. The contrast — predicted given the team’s lack of true veteran presence or depth at the running back position — forced Glennon to shoulder most of the offensive load, and puts a glaring target on his back. With a defense that allowed 33 or more points five separate times, they’ll be calling on him once again. After the secondary finished 2011 campaign as the team’s biggest strength (27 interceptions), the group — led by star corner David Amerson — regressed mightily in 2012. Along with just 16 picks (an 11-INT drop from last year), State’s defense was ranked 97th in the country against the pass (versus 61st the year before).

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