ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 9

After Saturday's Stunning Win Over Clemson, There's No Question FSU's On Top in the ACC

After Saturday’s Stunning Win Over Clemson, There’s No Question FSU’s On Top in the ACC

Plenty left to digest in the ACC after a weekend of national poll carnage. FSU’s obviously the king of the hill after massacring Clemson, but every other spot appears up for grabs. With the season more than halfway over, the conference appears to be angling for two BCS bids (hopefully), adding some extra intrigue to the top four or so spots as well. 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 9)

1. Florida State Seminoles (6-0) (4-0) (Last: 2): So much terror. The Seminoles undressed Clemson in a way I’m unsure any of us ACC fans saw coming, and as a result, they sit atop this subjective pile of teams for the foreseeable future. Jameis Winston has asserted himself as the ACC’s best quarterback, leader and player, and is now the nationally-relevant personality the conference has needed for some time. So is FSU “back” for all intents and purposes? We’ve been here before, but it feels very different this time. I’d take this FSU squad over just about any other team in the country right now.

2. Clemson Tigers (6-1) (4-1) (Last: 1): Bear with me here. Yes, the Tigers were demolished. Yes, they proved their doubters correct, derailed their national title hopes and murdered Tajh Boyd‘s chances at winning a Heisman, too. But one surprising blowout can’t just eliminate all the good that’s come from this season, can it? Clemson’s defense is much-improved (especially in the pass-rush) and the offense is still top-notch. When comparing them to Miami, I’d take the Tigers despite last week, and that on its own elevates them over the ‘Canes for the time being.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (6-0) (2-0) (Last: 3): That Thursday night game was horrendous, and yet Miami still managed to pull it out. Stephen Morris was about as flawed as you’ll find him (threw four INTs) and Duke Johnson was injured early. And yet, this team was able to pull out a very late win on the shoulders of their defense and backup running back Dallas Crawford. Again, not pretty, but the fact that the ‘Canes showed some resiliency against a UNC team looking to save their season is a big step in the right direction.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1) (3-0) (Last: 5): The bye week gave the Hokies some much-needed rest and the additional reward of moving up further in the national polls. Inside the top 15, Tech is now a legitimate threat to be in the BCS picture, and with just one challenging game remaining (Miami), The key, of course, will be the offense’s consistency. If they can limit turnovers and score around 24 points per game, that should be enough to win with this D.

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ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 7

Now Ranked in the Top 25 As Well, Virginia Tech Joins the ACC's Power Three

Now Ranked in the Top 25 As Well, Virginia Tech Makes It Four Elite Teams From the ACC

There’s a huge gulf between the top of the ACC and the rest of the conference — something that has both good and bad consequences. On the one hand, the conference is deeply involved in the national title race right now. On the other, we’re seeing a lot of blowouts, too, which hurts the league’s top-to-bottom image. 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 7)

1. Clemson Tigers (5-0) (3-0) (Last: 1): Another week, another big Clemson win. And yet, there are still some doubts about whether or not the Tigers are national title contenders. The defense can go cold for stretches and the offense is largely one-dimensional, sure. But given the country’s best resume win thus far (vs. Georgia) and a major Heisman contender at quarterback in Tajh Boyd, this team will be impossible to ignore as long as they keep on winning.

2. Florida State Seminoles (5-0) (3-0) (Last: 2): As mentioned up top, the gap between the ACC’s top teams and the rest is very large, with Florida State’s 63-0 massacre over Maryland being exhibit A. No, the Terps were not exactly a strong top 25 team at the time, but still, they were still perceived as one of the conference’s better teams going into Saturday. FSU’s absolutely dominant performance, led by both Jameis Winston and the defense, changed all that. And changed the perception of the ‘Noles too, from an interesting team to one that could easily contend for a championship.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (5-0) (1-0) (Last: 4): The Hurricanes’ offense just continues to impress, no matter how banged up Stephen Morris may seem. Down 10 early, the group fought back against Georgia Tech, and pulled off the big divisional win. But at the same time, it might’ve been the defense that was most responsible for the turnaround. Holding Tech scoreless in the third allowed the ‘Canes offense to come back and take the lead, especially the dagger touchdown to go up 45-23 with just a little over a minute remaining.

4. Louisville Cardinals (5-0) (Last: 3): Louisville didn’t do anything wrong necessarily against Temple. But as an offense, it’s tough to say their 30-point output against the Owls was overly impressive. The Cardinals are still undefeated and as predicted, this schedule’s already starting to creep up on them. All three ACC teams ranked ahead have better wins to their respective names, and will only continue to add more as the year goes on.

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ACC Football 2013 Power Rankings: Week 6

Don't Look Now, But the Hokies' Defense Has Virginia Tech Steadily Rising in the Rankings

Don’t Look Now, But the Hokies’ Defense Has Virginia Tech Steadily Rising in the Rankings

We’re starting to get a better idea of this year’s ACC contenders, though the story’s far from written out yet. While FSU and Clemson are exactly where they’re supposed to be, teams like Virginia Tech and Maryland are surprising possible contenders who will show their true colors as the weeks wear on. 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 6)

1. Clemson Tigers (4-0) (1-0) (Last: 1): Clemson simply lit up Wake Forest last week, and perhaps put to bed (for now) some concerns about their overall performance on offense. Since Tajh Boyd‘s injury in week two, things hadn’t seemed up to snuff. However, after laying a casual 56 points on Wake and getting back to his standard line of nearly 400 total yards and four scores, Boyd and the Tigers appear to be back on track.

2. Florida State Seminoles (4-0) (2-0) (Last: 2): That was a scary opening half, wasn’t it? On the road versus Boston College, FSU looked dreadful early, allowing the Eagles to get on the board with relative ease. Once down 18 though, that’s when Jameis Winston got into the flow of the game and simply controlled things from there on out. Still a bit concerning, but more for the defense than the offense. The 34 points were the most BC had put up all year, meaning the ‘Noles have some issues to address before facing Maryland this Saturday.

3. Louisville Cardinals (4-0) (Last: 3): Louisville had an off-week last week, so some might have already forgotten what they’ve been doing to teams thus far this season. To jog your memory: the Cardinals have scored an average of 48 points per game, while holding every opponent to single-digit scoring but Kentucky (13). There a few tests left on the schedule — that October 18 date with UCF looks a bit daunting after seeing how impressive the Knights have looked — but the Cards are primed for more of the same going forward.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Miami ran right through USF on Saturday, but it was not without consequence. Stephen Morris‘s lingering ankle injury is a real cause for concern, though we’ve yet to see it make an impact on this team due to the schedule. Ryan Williams has filled in well enough to this point, however if forced to see more competitive game action, there could be a much different result. It’s early, but we’ve yet to really see what this defense is made of, or if Duke Johnson can match last year’s levels of production. Continue reading

ACC Football 2013 Week 5 Lessons: ACC Will Be Factor in National Championship Race This Season

Clemson's National Title Case Helped By Win Over Wake, Plus UGA's Win Over LSU Too

Clemson’s National Title Case Helped By Win Over Wake, Plus UGA’s Win Over LSU, Too

Each Monday morning (or sometimes Tuesday), we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 5 of the ACC football season:

1. ACC set to be a factor in BCS National Championship race: For the first time in the conference’s 60-year history, it has four 4-0 teams to start a football season, with three of them ranked among the top 15 in the nation. Most of all, Clemson seemed to grab two victories this Saturday as well — one against Wake Forest, and another in the GeorgiaLSU game. By way of the Bulldogs beating LSU, Clemson’s victory over UGA to start the season means even more than it did in week one, and improves their (and the ACC’s) chances of being a real factor in the national title race as this year wears on.

2. Virginia Tech‘s a Coastal Division contender: Following Thursday’s win over Georgia Tech, the Hokies suddenly appear to be one of two teams (the other being Miami) in the driver’s seat in the Coastal Division. Obviously the offense is still struggling, but given the way the defense has been playing thus far, it might just be enough to deliver this team yet another division title. Winning ugly (as they have been) or winning pretty, it’s still a victory on the board, which is all that matters.

3. North Carolina is in deep trouble: The 0-1 start was not shocking, but now at 1-3, the Heels are a team in absolute crisis mode. Their offense is stagnant, the defense has little ability to stop anyone and this squad’s gone from Coastal contender to fringe bowl team in a matter of a month. Larry Fedora’s panicking, and rightfully so. Considering the SEC jobs he was potentially in line for just eight months ago, tough to sit and watch your current team get shipwrecked. There’s zero room for error at this point if they hope to rescue this season.

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ACC Football 2013 Previews & Predictions: Week 5

Jeremiah Attaochu and the Georgia Tech Defense Are Aiming to Deliver a Big Win Over Virginia Tech

Jeremiah Attaochu & the Georgia Tech Defense Aiming to Deliver a Big Win Over Virginia Tech

Finally, some actual games that matter (a few anyway). The ACC‘s still got five undefeated teams (sort of six), but will that continue to be the case much longer. I’m sure we all hope so… Just like normal, we’re running down the list of every ACC (plus Louisville) game and predicting outcomes that will almost undoubtedly be wrong. Have some picks of your own? Predict away in the comments!

Game of the Week

Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1) (0-0) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-0) (2-0): For all but one year of divisional play, this game has decided the Coastal. And while it may seem like a remote possibility given the state of Virginia Tech’s offense in particular, that’s still on the table for this season’s edition of the matchup. But this one’s not going to last long if the Hokies can’t cut down on mistakes. The kicking game’s a mess and despite some flashes of success, Logan Thomas is still as rough around the edges as he’s ever been — and as error-prone as he’s ever been too. Georgia Tech’s aggressive defense should take advantage of those opportunities, while Vad Lee could have the offense closing the deal by the third quarter. Prediction: Georgia Tech 31, Virginia Tech 21

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

Miami Hurricanes (3-0) (0-0) at USF Bulls (0-3): In the past, this contest has actually been pretty close. But that was the old version of the USF program. The version we’ve come to know lately has fallen on some hard times, and that’ll likely continue this weekend. USF can’t seem to score points (just 12.3 per game this season), though over the last two games, the defense hasn’t been all bad. It’s certainly not the best MIami’s seen though, after facing and beating Florida in week two. Expect the ‘Canes to breeze through yet another contest en route to a 4-0 record. Prediction: Miami 30, USF 13

East Carolina Pirates (2-1) at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2) (0-1): Considering the high expectations UNC had going into the season and the way things have gone instead, this ECU game is now a must-win. The defense is a bit of a concern, especially after last week’s second-half collapse versus Georgia Tech, but the bigger issue has been and remains the offense. North Carolina’s line is struggling to protect Bryn Renner and can’t open up holes for the running game either. The result has been a neutered attack that pales in comparison to what we’ve seen from previous Larry Fedora teams. They’ve got to figure things out this week against ECU or they’re in full-on crisis mode. Prediction: UNC 41, ECU 28

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #6, Bryn Renner

Bryn Renner, Now Settled in Larry Fedora's Offense, is Out to Break Records for North Carolina

Bryn Renner, Now Settled in Larry Fedora’s Offense, is Out to Break Records for UNC

It’s finally game week! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 6, Bryn Renner, QB/North Carolina (Last Season: 13)

Going into last season, Bryn Renner was uncertain about how things would go for him under Larry Fedora. Previously thought of as a pro-style passer, Fedora’s new system demanded he turn on a dime and change into a spread quarterback. Renner was a quick study though, and ended up thriving in the new offense. The demands for a quick-release allowed him the luxury of going with his first instinct, and best of all, he didn’t even lose much on accuracy (down to 65 percent, from 68 in 2011). In one less game (technically more if you count the two he was benched early on account of blowouts), he completed 27 more passes for 270 more yards and two more touchdowns. Interceptions were nearly cut in half and sacks were down by 15. In just a season in the spread, he’d morphed from a mildly effective passer to a highly effective one, with minimal losses in efficiency.

And that was really just the beginning of his and the North Carolina offense’s respective transformations. Last season’s group featured very little in terms of spread-specific personnel and the wideouts were not as quick to adjust as Renner. Things are different this year, as Quinshad Davis and Eric Ebron step up into larger roles in the passing game, and give Renner the weapons he needs to progress his skill set even further. While he certainly had his hits and misses in terms of individual game performances last season, you could also see him begin to get comfortable toward the end of the schedule. Over 2012’s final three games, he threw for at least 305 yards per contest, with 10 scores and one pick, all on 73 percent accuracy. Keeping up that pace may sound silly sure, but with more experience under his belt, is it really that far-fetched?

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

Do Bryn Renner and the Tar Heels Have What it Takes to Win the ACC Championship?

Do Bryn Renner and the Tar Heels Have What it Takes to Win the ACC Football Championship?

Team: North Carolina Tar Heels

2012 W-L: 8-4 (5-3)

Head Coach: Larry Fedora (8-4; second season)

Returning Starters: 13 (6 Offense, 7 Defense)

Last year appeared uneventful for the Tar Heels from the opening whistle: A bowl ban prevented them from going anywhere in the postseason, they had a new coach in Larry Fedora and in an ACC Coastal Division dominated by Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech since its inception, it looked as if they had no shot. But then the team caught on to Fedora’s spread offense quicker than expected, halfback Giovani Bernard put together one of the country’s best all-around seasons and the team road a very manageable schedule to a tie for the division title (despite not being able to compete for it). After all that, now the stakes are much higher for North Carolina — a team that’s spent several years knocking on the door of upper-level success, and may finally be able to break through this year.

Offensively, the Heels were only really stopped by themselves last year. A lack of focus here and there, and no true top receiving target left things to question more often than likely anyone would be comfortable with. And yet, in a completely new scheme, it’s frightening to think things could’ve gone better than they did last year. But they honestly could this fall. Before Fedora arrived in Chapel Hill, Bryn Renner was a simple pro-style passer, accurate and methodical in his delivery. Now, he appears to be a master of the spread, losing very little in accuracy while throwing 72 more passes (in one less game) and increasing touchdown and yardage numbers while decreasing sacks to a paltry 11. He still doesn’t have a top-flight wideout this season, but there’s thought this team’s progressed on that front too (a welcome sign for the senior QB). Quinshad Davis showed off some flashes of brilliance as a real deep threat receiver last year, and tight end Eric Ebron is being talked about as one of his position’s best in the country. Even if just those two pass-catching options can make good on some preseason hype, that’ll be more than enough for Renner to work with. Despite losing standout guard Jonathan Cooper to the NFL, this year’s group is still strong, and should be able to protect their quarterback just the same as always.

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