The celebration in the Duke locker room was rather subdued. It was a big ACC win against a Coastal contender for the Blue Devils, but no one in Durham, North Carolina, is satisfied.

Bowl eligibility, even if only 16 FBS team can boast the claim through Week 8, doesn’t provide an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, a stark contrast from just two years ago. For a Duke program in its seventh season under coach David Cutcliffe, bowl eligibility is no longer enough.

"I wasn’t even on my mind [Saturday]," Cutcliffe said. "... We have young people now that expect to compete for an opportunity to play for a championship. They prepare for it."

[+] Enlarge Josh Snead
AP Photo/John BazemoreThe Blue Devils have lost only one of their past 15 regular-season conference games.
With its win against Virginia, which several believed to be the Coastal’s best team, the Blue Devils are 6-1 and tied atop the division. They have a bye this weekend before traveling to Pittsburgh, and a win against the Panthers would give Duke a head-to-head advantage over probably the two teams best positioned in terms of remaining schedule -- Pitt and Georgia Tech --- to win the division.

It wasn’t long ago -- 2012 to be exact -- that the Blue Devils were in the midst of an 18-year bowl drought. But then came double-digit wins in 2013, a trip to an ACC title game and bowl game in which Duke nearly ruined Johnny Football’s finale.

Last season was a giant leap for the Blue Devils but a surprising one. Duke was the feel-good story -- a perennial pitied program turned title game participant -- but nationally the perception was of a mediocre team that took advantage of a volatile division widely considered the worst within the Power 5. Even the Blue Devils were built more on hope than belief as it puts it team together that spring.

There still is a sense the Blue Devils aren’t respected nationally or regionally -- they are unranked and were not picked to win the division by ACC media -- but there is a different sense at Duke. Cutcliffe felt that this spring.

"I thought our spring practice was different. I go back to that point: This team prepared different in spring ball," he said. "I told our staff that’s a significant change from what we had to do and what we got out of spring practice [in 2013]."

Duke has been building toward annual ACC success under Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils have lost only one of their past 15 regular-season conference games, and their 22 overall wins since 2012 is fourth in the conference.

Now, with a schedule that sets up nicely in the second half -- only Pitt has a winning conference record among future opponents -- the Blue Devils are moving toward a second consecutive berth in the conference title game.

That is something worth getting excited over at Duke.

Said Cutcliffe: "It’s been a long time coming."

Recruiter Rankings: Oct. update

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Tony HughesAP Photo/Don Juan MooreMississippi State's Tony Hughes has had a big hand recruiting the team that has risen to No. 1 in the rankings.


The recruiter power rankings examine which assistant coaches have already done damage on the recruiting trail in the 2015 class. Beyond looking at how many four- or five-star recruits a coach lands, the rankings take into account the needs those recruits will fill at the next level.

With the season and official visits off and running and more than 200 players in the ESPN 300 having already committed, the coaches are working extra hard to bolster their classes.

Previous rankings: Feb. 6 | April 17 | June 19 | Aug. 25 | Sept. 22



To read this month's update, click here Insider.

Clemson's Choice out with torn ligament

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CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said leading running back Adam Choice is lost for the season after tearing a knee ligament, according to the Associated Press.

The 21st-ranked Tigers (5-2, 4-1 ACC) will also be without tight end Jordan Leggett for several weeks after he also suffered a knee injury. Swinney said both players were injured in last Saturday's 17-13 victory at Boston College.

Clemson faces Syracuse (3-4, 1-2) on Saturday night.

Choice, a freshman, led Clemson with 218 yards and a touchdown. Swinney said Choice would need surgery in a couple of weeks to repair the ACL injury.

Swinney said Leggett tore his meniscus and sprained an MCL. He's caught 10 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.

The coach did not provide any further details on the injuries, per athletic department policy.

Read more on this story.

By the numbers: Week 8 recap

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Digging into some numbers from Week 8 in the ACC ...

Winston is the comeback kid

Amid all the off-field chaos, it's easy to forget how good Jameis Winston is on the field, and he's been particularly impressive when his team needs him most. Winston is awfully good at rallying his team. In the second-half comeback against Notre Dame on Saturday, Winston was a sterling 15-of-16 for 181 yards, leading two touchdown drives.

This is nothing new. While Winston hasn't been tested often, his numbers when playing from behind are off the charts. Since the start of last season, Winston has completed 81-of-109 passes (74 percent) for 1,104 yards (13.6 yards-per-attempt) with 12 touchdowns and one interception when FSU is trailing. That's absurd.

Winston also excelled against the blitz Saturday. In 2013, he completed 69 percent of his throws, averaged 11.8 yards-per-attempt and tossed 21 TDs to just three picks vs. the blitz, but to start this season, his YPA dropped to 8.1 and he had just three TDs on 54 attempts. Against the Irish, however, Winston was 9-of-11 for 113 yards with two TDs and no picks when facing the blitz.

Noles' ground game struggling

On Saturday, FSU mustered just 50 yards on 26 rushing attempts -- a dismal 1.92 YPC. Last season, FSU averaged 5.6 yards per rush, but it has yet to hit that mark in any game against an FBS foe this season.

It's not all on the tailbacks, however. The biggest difference appears to be the O-line.

.

FSU's runners are averaging roughly the exact same number of yards after first contact as they did in the previous two seasons, but they're getting more than two yards-per-carry less before contact than they did in 2012.

Boyd and nothing else

Pitt toppled Virginia Tech on Thursday despite QB Chad Voytik completing just 10 passes (on 17 attempts). What's perhaps even more noteworthy about Pitt's passing game, however, is that the only wide receiver to catch a pass was Tyler Boyd, who had six receptions on nine targets.

That's hardly a surprise. For the season, Boyd has 34 catches against FBS teams. The rest of Pitt's receiving corps has 22.

Overall, Boyd has accounted for 41.4 percent of Pitt's targets and 49.7 percent of its receiving yards vs. FBS foes -- both the highest rates in the nation.

Clemson stuffs the run

Remember in the opener when Todd Gurley ran all over Clemson's defense? Georgia racked up 328 rushing yards and five TDs on 41 carries. It was ugly.

Since then, however, the Tigers have surrendered just 395 more yards in six games. Clemson is allowing just 2.0 yards-per-carry since the opener, the best rate in the nation. Against Boston College on Saturday, it held the Eagles to nearly 200 yards below their season rushing average, and the Tigers racked up 14 tackles for loss. It was the fourth time in the last six games Clemson has had double-digit TFLs, and since that opening game against UGA, no defense in the country has created a higher percentage of negative rushing plays than Clemson's (36.5 percent).

Marquise the magician

For the second straight week, North Carolina QB Marquise Williams was terrific. Williams enjoyed his third 300-yard game of the season (Winston is the only other ACC QB with as many), chucking four TD passes and adding a fifth score -- along with 70 rushing yards -- on the ground in a win against Georgia Tech.

It's the second straight game Williams had 300 passing yards, 70 rushing yards and at least three total touchdowns. In the past decade, the only other Power 5 conference QB to do that in back-to-back games was Heisman winner Robert Griffin III.

Heels, Jackets struggle on D

Entering Saturday's game, the only Power 5 conference team allowing more yards-per-play than Georgia Tech (6.3) and North Carolina (6.2) was South Carolina (6.35), so it was no surprise that the two defenses coughed up 1,190 yards and 91 points when they faced off.

For Georgia Tech, it's the continuation of a downward trend. In Ted Roof's first eight games against FBS teams as Tech's defensive coordinator, the Yellow Jackets allowed 5.5 yards-per-play and held five opponents below 101 yards rushing. In his last nine, opponents have rushed for an average of 173 yards per game and are averaging 6.5 yards-per-play overall, good for 115th in the nation in that span.

But things are even worse for the Tar Heels. In the last decade, just five Power 5 conference teams have allowed more yards in their first seven games than UNC (3,659) and only four have allowed more touchdowns (40).

Quick hitters
  • Entering the game, Virginia QBs were completing 63 percent of their throws to wide receivers this season, but against Duke, the Hoos completed just 45 percent. Matt Johns targeted wideouts on 70.2 percent of his throws in the game — the second-highest percentage of throws to WRs for Virginia quarterbacks this season. Cavaliers wideouts haven't caught a touchdown pass in their past three games after hauling in six in the first four.
  • Johns did hit running back Khalek Shepherd for a passing touchdown. It was just the third one Duke has allowed this season. Only San Jose State and Ole Miss have allowed a lower rate of touchdown throws in the nation.
  • Ryan Switzer in 13 games last season: 32 catches, 341 yards, three TDs. Switzer in seven games this season: 34 catches, 429 yards, three TDs.
  • The two highest completion percentages for Power 5 wideouts (min. 30 targets) reside in the ACC, and both are true freshmen: Clemson's Artavis Scott (38 catches on 46 targets) and NC State's Bo Hines (28 catches on 35 targets).
  • UNC's defense has struggled, but it has also been opportunistic. The Heels have 80 points off turnovers this year, the third-best total in the country. On the flip side, the Heels have allowed 77 points off turnovers, the second-worst total in the country.
Let's play the What-If Game. (Florida State followers can play, too, but first they have to take off their "The World Is Against Us" T-shirts and quit being so sensitive about everything.)

There's only one rule: You have to be brutally honest.

If Florida State played Mississippi State on a neutral field, who would you take?

If FSU played Ole Miss, who would you take?

If the Seminoles played Notre Dame again, or Georgia, or Alabama, who would you take?

Would you like their chances if they faced Auburn, Kansas State, Baylor or TCU?

How about Arizona, Oregon or Michigan State?

I can already hear some of FSU's most paranoid fans: "Is this a trick question?"... "I'd like to use a lifeline." ... "Lose to Kansas State? Hell, we could beat the Kansas City Chiefs."

Those people can't play this game. But the FSU realists, even the most ardent FSU optimists, have to admit that the 2014 version of the Seminoles isn't anywhere near as good as the 2013 national-championship version.

Click here to read the full BMOC.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Red Lightning is beloved at Florida State. No opponent dare lay a hand on a Seminoles player on the sideline lest they wish a shove and a confrontation with Florida State’s red-bearded ball boy.

But as he ran onto the field and waded through the ongoing Florida State party at the 10-yard line, he was a little overzealous trying to get the football. Offensive lineman Cam Erving had a vise grip locked around it and just gave a Red Lightning a glare. Erving wasn’t handing it over.

Asked what he planned with the ball, an emotionally spent Erving pointed to the tape around his right wrist: RT, it read. This ball was for offensive line coach Rick Trickett, who was watching the game on a hospital monitor as he lay in bed.

[+] EnlargeRick Trickett
AP Photo/Phil CoaleFlorida State gave the game ball for Saturday's win against Notre Dame to offensive line coach Rick Trickett, who was in the hospital but has since been released.
"I’ve never been around a guy who takes more pride in his work, works any harder, is a better line coach than he is," Jimbo Fisher said after the game. "When I talked to him [Saturday] on the phone, he broke down. He cried, [and] that guy don’t cry over nothing. He felt he was letting me down and letting his team down and those kids down. ... We gave him the game ball. That game was for him."

Less than 24 hours before kickoff Saturday night, Trickett suffered what the athletic department called a personal health issue and would not coach.

In his postgame team address after No. 2 Florida State’s 31-27 win against Notre Dame, Fisher announced the ball would go to Trickett, who came with Fisher to FSU in 2007. One of Trickett’s sons, Chance, works in the Seminoles’ recruiting department and was handed the ball to deliver to his father, who was released from hospital Sunday afternoon and is expected to rejoin the team by Wednesday.

Considering the circumstances, Saturday had to be a proud day for Trickett. The second half of the day began with his son Clint, a quarterback at West Virginia, playing one of the best games of his career, throwing three touchdowns in a 41-27 upset of then-No. 4 Baylor. And in the nightcap, the former Marine and Vietnam War veteran is known for coaching his players hard, but in a show of solidarity, the offensive line all wrote RT on their right wrists. The Seminoles won even though their backs were against the wall much of the game.

Chance Trickett told ESPN.com on Sunday that his father is "doing well" and in "high spirits." He said he learned of his father’s issue just hours before the game and that quarterback Jameis Winston sought him out before kickoff to offer his support.

"Jameis Winston came up to [me] before the game and said this one’s for him," Chance Trickett said.

Then Winston spoke to his line, which he still considers the country’s best.

"I kept reminding them that you got to do this for your coach. We’re a family, and one of our 'dads' was down. Our daddy was down. I was like, 'You all got to protect your daddy’s house,'" Winston said.

Before the game, injured center Austin Barron spoke to Trickett and relayed a message to the starting linemen. However, the offensive line struggled in the first half without its patriarch. When the line wasn’t being confused by exotic blitzes that allowed free rushers, it was getting beat at the line of scrimmage.

David Spurlock, a graduate assistant who played under Trickett, and tight ends coach Tim Brewster were left making the offensive line calls, and Fisher and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders helped with adjustments. Trickett even spent parts of the game on the phone trying to relay messages and fixes to his players.

The second half was different. The group that has been criticized much of the season stepped up. It still whiffed on some blitzes, but it was not playing with an edge. In the third quarter, the offensive line pushed Karlos Williams into the end zone after he was initially stopped at the 2-yard line, and it was a fourth-quarter Williams touchdown that was the winner.

"We just had to learn to fight through adversity," guard Josue Matias said. "That’s Coach Trickett’s attitude."
There is a simple bit of clarity confronting the ACC and Florida State eight weeks into the season: Perfection seems the only way to get the Seminoles into the College Football Playoff.

No other Power 5 program will be held to such a standard. But no other Power 5 conference has its reputation in a sinkhole the way the ACC does. That is why it was so important for Florida State to beat Notre Dame on Saturday. As long as the Noles keep winning, they are assured of a spot in the top four. But lose? Florida State may as well be playing in Conference USA. That is how little respect the ACC has nationally right now.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston was fired up after Saturday's victory over Notre Dame, but the Noles will have to keep winning if they hope to make the playoff.
Just look at the most recent AP and coaches Top 25 polls. While the College Football Playoff selection committee will put together its own rankings next week, it is instructive to look at how the media and coaches perceive the ACC -- outside Florida State.

Because the league as a whole is what will drag Florida State down if the Noles lose a game.

Besides Florida State, the ACC has only one ranked team. In the AP poll, Clemson (5-2) is No. 21 behind two other two-loss teams: Oklahoma and USC. Reigning Coastal champion Duke (6-1) cannot even crack the Top 25 after back-to-back victories over ACC teams with winning records. East Carolina (5-1), with wins over Virginia Tech and North Carolina, is ranked No. 18.

Duke and Minnesota are the only 6-1 teams from Power 5 conferences that are unranked. That fact not only speaks to their status as “non-football powers,” but to the idea that their respective leagues are weak. The Big Ten has been panned for its mediocrity this season. But the ACC ranks lower than the Big Ten in the ESPN.com conference power rankings, sitting last among the Power 5 conferences.

Everything we heard during media days about the ACC being stronger? Everything we heard about the ACC gaining more respect since it boasted the national champion? False propaganda. As it turns out, an ACC world with the reigning national champion does not look much different.

Florida State is still alone holding the flag, while Clemson is a distant second. It is hard for a program to fight off the weak-conference stigma when it does not beat its most difficult opponents (Clemson) or play anybody tough out of conference (Duke).

Clemson lost to two Top 10 teams this season -- to Georgia and Florida State. Both teams were ranked higher than the Tigers at the time they played. Yet Oklahoma lost to two teams ranked lower (TCU and Kansas State) and is still four spots higher than Clemson in the AP poll.

These are the ingrained notions that follow programs around, no matter what they do. Clemson “chokes” and the ACC is constantly disrespected. Put them both together and you get critics completely dismissing Florida State’s win over the Tigers earlier this season.

Falling flat nationally hurts, too. While ACC teams like Virginia Tech, Boston College and Florida State have big wins over then-Top 10 opponents, the league also has some head-scratching losses to Colorado State, Akron and ULM. Plus, there were blown opportunities against UCLA, Nebraska, Iowa and Maryland.

So essentially, Florida State gets no lifelines from its conference foes. Even a beefed-up nonconference schedule has not engendered much goodwill from the rest of the country.

Funny to think that before the season started, many believed a one-loss Florida State team would survive and make it into the College Football Playoff based on a strength of schedule that looked much better than it did last season.

As it stands today, Florida State is on pace to play fewer ranked teams than it played in 2013. Right now, the Noles have two ranked teams behind them and none remaining. Last season, they played four Top 25 teams at the time of the matchup (two of them ended the season unranked).

Four of Florida State's remaining five games are against teams with winning records. But nobody wants to hear that going to Louisville and Miami won’t be easy; that Virginia is vastly improved; that Boston College gave the Noles fits last season. Florida State will be expected to win them all.

That’s really the only way the Noles can guarantee themselves a spot in the playoff.

Once again, Florida State is on its own.

Planning for success: Clemson

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At the outset of the season, Robert Smith joked that he felt a bit like the old man in a room full of rookies in Clemson’s secondary, but that was nearly two months ago. The unit has done a lot of growing up since then.

It’s partially Smith’s influence, of course. That’s the purview of the group’s elder statesman. The senior safety made a decision during the spring that his final season would be his best, and his work ethic would be the template for success. So he set the standard, and the young pups around him followed his lead.

“I was going to meet like a pro, talk like a pro, watch film like a pro, practice like a pro, do everything possible like a pro,” Smith said. “I wanted to set that example to the guys that, if you want to make it to the next level, don’t wait until then to mature.”

[+] EnlargeJayron Kearse, Elijah Hood
Bob Leverone/Associated PressSophomore safety Jayron Kearse is part of a young Clemson secondary that is improving rapidly.
For the Tigers’ defensive backs, it was less a demand than an opportunity. They’d been waiting for their chance to show they belonged.

A year ago, cornerback Mackensie Alexander was one of the top recruits in the nation, but injuries in fall camp left him with a redshirt. Safety Jayron Kearse was a bit luckier. He saw action and racked up 55 tackles and four interceptions as a freshman last season but couldn't secure a full-time spot in the starting lineup. T.J. Green, Korrin Wiggins, Jadar Johnson, Cordrea Tankersley -- they all got tastes of action but wanted more.

So Smith’s philosophy played well and as the 2014 season approached, the young DBs were eager to follow suit. The jobs were there for the taking; they just had to be ready.

“Just going through summer workouts with these guys, we always feel like we could contribute,” Kearse said. “We feel like we’re a good secondary, working to be great. We’ve been this way since we got here.”

Still, it was hard not to see the Clemson secondary as the weak link on a defense that features stars such as Vic Beasley, Stephone Anthony and Grady Jarrett. The front seven was chock full of proven commodities.

It was no surprise then that the season started a bit slower than Smith and the DBs might’ve liked. There was a feeling-out process, and that was expected.

“Everybody was getting their feet wet,” Smith said. “After a few games, you get in the flow.”

The unit got more comfortable working together, but it also took disaster for the entirety of the defense to pull together. That was the fallout of the Florida State game, when Clemson won battle after battle but still came up short.

After the game, the locker room was in mourning. The emotion was overwhelming, but also galvanizing.

“I’ve never seen so many men in the locker room cry so hard off a loss,” Smith said. “We played hard and to the best of our ability and let that one get away. So when you see your teammates hurt and crying, it makes you want to work that much harder, makes you want to do more. So I think our secondary looked at it and said we’re going to get better and progress from here.”

The progress has been obvious in the weeks since.

In three October games, Clemson’s pass defense has allowed opposing QBs to complete just 40.6 percent of their throws, the second-best mark in the country. Their October passer rating allowed is 102.4, the second-best mark in the ACC, trailing only Louisville. While that vaunted defensive front has created havoc at the line of scrimmage, the young DBs are coming into their own in the back end.

“We knew coming into the season we had the potential to be one of the best defenses in the country, and our front line was handling business, but we had a lot of young guys in the secondary and it took some time just to gel and get on the same page,” Smith said. “As soon as that happened, you could tell the difference and the cohesiveness has all come together and we’re starting to show the kind of defense we can be.”

Alexander always had the work ethic, Smith said, he just needed the experience. Kearse was always driven, he just needed to embrace the opportunity. And while no one is ignoring that ferocious defensive front, the kids in secondary are starting to get some attention, too.

“It takes time to understand the level of competitiveness at this stage,” Kearse said. “But now, it’s rewarding. They’re putting a lot on me and Mackenzie’s back, and we’re taking on the challenge.”

This week’s opponent, Syracuse, will start a freshman at QB, and that’s a frightening proposition against the Tigers. Smith said they won’t take anyone lightly, and Kearse compared Orange QB AJ Long to the QB the Tigers saw a week ago, Boston College’s Tyler Murphy, but even that praise doesn’t offer much hope for Syracuse. Murphy completed just nine balls, and BC was held to nearly 200 yards below its season average on the ground.

Kearse called the BC game a chance for a lot of the young defenders to grow up. It was proof they could play sound, assignment football against a dangerous opponent.

Now comes the next step, he said. They don’t want to take a backseat to the big boys up front, and they don’t want to hear that qualifier that, yes, they’re pretty good -- for freshmen and sophomores.

“We made it known we wanted to draw some of that attention to us, and we took that challenge,” Kearse said. “So far we’ve been doing it, but we have five more games to prove we’re one of the best defenses in the nation.”

ACC morning links: A loss for Clemson

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The last thing Clemson needed was more bad news on offense, but that's exactly what was in store Sunday.

The Tigers' leading rusher, freshman Adam Choice, is done for the season with a knee injury, as the Charleston Post & Courier writes.

Choice suffered a torn ACL in Saturday's 17-13 win against Boston College, adding more grim news to a running game that has struggled to find any footing this season. Through seven games, Choice was Clemson's leading rusher with 218 yards and also averaged a team-best 4.4 yards per carry.

Choice actually would have redshirted this season, but he was thrust into the tailback mix when Zac Brooks went down with a season-ending injury in fall camp. Choice's injury leaves the trio of Wayne Gallman, C.J. Davidson and D.J. Howard to pick up the slack in the Tigers' backfield.

In fairness, the bulk of Choice's production this year came against South Carolina State. Against FBS foes, he's carried 38 times for 144 yards -- an average of 3.8 per carry -- good for 38th among ACC tailbacks.

Still, his replacements don't offer much alternative. Howard, Davidson and Gallman have averaged a woeful 3.6 yards-per-carry against FBS foes and just seven of their 113 rushes (6 percent) went for 10 yards or more. Add the fact the Tigers will be without dual-threat QB Deshaun Watson for at least another few weeks, and the offensive struggles of the past two games don't seem like they'll diminish any time soon.

A few more links:

Jameis Winston is a near lock to enter the NFL draft, according to CBS Sports. Well, yeah. Of course. The whole “will he or won't he” discussion has been silly for a while, and when I spoke with Winston's father, Antonor, in August, he said the talk about returning was entirely dependent on Jameis' draft status. And that was before all the new off-field chaos.

Matthew Thomas, who had been suspended for the first half of the season, added some much-needed athleticism to Florida State's defense, writes the Orlando Sentinel.

Georgia Tech's defense was a complete disaster against North Carolina, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Virginia Tech is shaking up its offensive line after another ugly offensive performance against Pitt, writes the Roanoke Times.

More from the Roanoke Times: Matt Johns should've run more often against Duke, according to Virginia coach Mike London.

Marquise Williams has been tremendous over the past two games, including leading a comeback win for North Carolina on Saturday, writes the Charlotte Observer.

After A.J. Long led Syracuse to a much-needed win over Wake Forest, is Terrel Hunt still the starting QB when he's healthy? It's an interesting question, writes Syracuse.com.

Duke Johnson has been a crucial mentor in the development of fellow Miami tailback Joseph Yearby, writes the Sun-Sentinel.

ACC bowl projections: Week 8

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The win over Notre Dame certainly wasn’t the final piece to Florida State’s playoff puzzle, but it was clearly the biggest hurdle the Seminoles had remaining on the schedule. That has secured FSU’s spot in our postseason projections, but for now, we’re still predicting the Irish will get a bowl game shot at another ACC power.

College Football Playoff: Florida State
Capital One Orange Bowl: Clemson versus Notre Dame*
Russell Athletic Bowl: Duke
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Louisville
Belk Bowl: Virginia
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Miami
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman: Georgia Tech
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Virginia Tech
Quick Lane Bowl: Pittsburgh
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: NC State

* Note: If Notre Dame is not invited to the College Football Playoff or a New Year’s Six bowl game, it will assume one of the ACC’s bowl spots.

Best of the visits: ACC

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Saturday's Notre Dame-Florida State game was the prime-time attraction in college football this weekend, and plenty of recruits were on hand to see the Seminoles hold on for victory. Here's a look at some of the best social media posts from ACC recruiting this weekend.

Notre Dame at Florida State

The Seminoles played host to the best visitor list in college football over the weekend, and quite possibly the best of the season to date. Among the truly elite group of visitors were top cornerback prospects Kendall Sheffield and Tarvarus McFadden.

ESPN 300 No. 44 McFadden is set to announce between Florida State and Georgia on Oct. 31, and he tweeted that the Seminoles were showing the love Saturday.


ESPN 300 No. 158 Neville Gallimore tweeted shortly after landing in Tallahassee Saturday.


Gallimore made an official visit to Oklahoma Sept. 12 prior to this weekend at Florida State. Ohio State is also in line for an official visit Nov. 28, as is Florida and possibly Oregon.

Florida State four-star commitment Calvin Brewton was on his official visit this weekend and commented on the morning after the Seminoles' thrilling win. Brewton made an official visit to Notre Dame Oct. 4.


Another 2015 defensive back on an official visit to Florida State was versatile Davante Davis. The safety/nickelback summed up Tallahassee after the game. Along with the Seminoles, Alabama, Florida, Miami (Fla.) and possibly Auburn are seriously under consideration.


ESPN Junior 300 No. 13 Trayvon Mullen was in attendance Saturday with a pair of teammates, No. 297 Malek Young and wide receiver Binjimen Victor.


Victor tweeted about the atmosphere at Florida State and in Doak Campbell Stadium.


Mullen and Binjimen are also high on Ohio State and Alabama, among others, with there being a strong connection to Alabama on the Coconut Creek High coaching staff. Young was a heavy lean to Florida State during the spring and summer, but the Seminoles weren’t ready to accept a verbal commitment.

Even the class of 2018 was represented Saturday by First Coast budding star corner Tyreke Johnson, the younger brother of 2015 ESPN 300 quarterback and Seminoles commit De'Andre Johnson. Tyreke posted a twitter picture with 2016 fast-rising defensive back Saivion Smith and ESPN Junior 300 No. 28 and Alabama commit Demetris Robertson.

Syracuse at Wake Forest

Wake Forest hosted a number of highly ranked running backs and skill players Saturday. While the Demon Deacons lost convincingly to Syracuse, it was a showcase for the ability to come in and play right away for Wake Forest.

ESPN Junior 300 No. 117 and running back Robert Washington took to Twitter and posted a picture with ESPN Junior 300 No. 92 Moe Neal (left) and friends at the game Saturday.


Both Washington and Neal are top targets of the Demon Deacons in 2016. Washington has more than 15 offers and lists Ohio State as one of his early favorites. Neal has been to games at Duke, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest this season.

The most important prospect in attendance didn’t tweet Saturday: ESPN 300 No. 149 Nyheim Hines. He made the short trip west to Winston-Salem with his family, including twin sister Nyah, who has a track offer from NC State. The Wolfpack are considered the favorites for the talented duo.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 8

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ACC helmet stickers: Week 8

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How about a few helmet stickers for a job well done:

Louisville RB Michael Dyer. For the first time all season, Dyer was completely healthy -- and he showed what he is capable of in a 30-18 win over NC State. Dyer had 173 yards and a touchdown -- his 46-yard score late in the fourth quarter sealed the win. It was Dyer's first 100-yard rushing game since Nov. 19, 2011, when he had 157 yards against Samford while still playing for Auburn.

Syracuse defensive front. You cannot give Robert Welsh a helmet sticker without giving Micah Robinson a helmet sticker, as both scored touchdowns for Syracuse in a 30-7 win over Wake Forest. So they both get one, along with their defensive teammates in an impressive performance. Welsh returned an interception 42 yards for one touchdown while Robinson returned a fumble 51 yards for another. Welsh also had two tackles for a loss and a pass breakup. In all, Syracuse had 10 tackles for loss, three sacks and held Wake Forest to 170 yards.

Pitt QB Chad Voytik. Voytik took plenty of criticism during the Panthers' recent three-game losing streak. But in a 21-16 win over Virginia Tech on Thursday night, Voytik was the biggest difference in the game -- running for 118 yards on 19 carries while going 10-of-17 for 92 yards with one touchdown and an interception. His 49-yard run set up the game-clinching touchdown. In fact, the designed runs kept the Virginia Tech defense off balance all night and should be something the Panthers do more as the season goes on.

North Carolina QB Marquise Williams. For the second straight week, Williams was phenomenal -- but this time, the Tar Heels picked up a 48-43 come-from-behind win over Georgia Tech. Williams threw for 390 yards, ran for 73 more, completed a school-record 38 passes and had five total touchdowns. On the game-winning drive, Williams completed six passes -- the biggest reason why the Tar Heels ended a four-game losing streak. In the past two games, Williams has 696 yards passing, 205 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. He played every snap in both games, too.

Florida State QB Jameis Winston. There is no doubt Winston is the biggest reason the Seminoles came from behind to beat No. 5 Notre Dame 31-27 to keep their College Football Playoff chances alive. After a subpar first half, in which he went 8-of-15 for 92 yards with a score and interception, Winston was nearly flawless. In the second half, Winston went 15-of-16 for 181 yards and a touchdown, flashing the form that allowed him to win the Heisman Trophy a year ago. Perhaps most impressive, he was so effective despite facing heavy blitzes from Notre Dame on virtually every play. Winston calmly delivered in the face of pressure.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jameis Winston was talking about the pressure from Notre Dame's incessant blitzes, which kept him under duress for the better part of four hours Saturday night. He was hurried and hit, and No. 5 Notre Dame rarely afforded Winston an opportunity to set his feet.

"I get hit a lot of times, but you know what I do: I get back up," Winston said. "I keep playing football, and we keep winning."

Then Winston flashed a smile. He knew his answer could be extended far beyond the Fighting Irish's exotic blitzes to the numerous off-the-field headlines that have threatened to force him from the field.

Saturday, the second-ranked Seminoles were celebrating a 31-27 victory not just over Notre Dame, but, at least in their eyes, against an allied front of college football fans who'd like to see the sport's longest active winning streak end.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesJimbo Fisher embraced quarterback Jameis Winston following their win over No. 5 Notre Dame.
"It was kind of like us against the world," defensive tackle Derrick Mitchell Jr. said.

With Winston, the Seminoles always have a puncher's chance, and the entire playoff-seeking country is lamenting Sunday morning that the three-knockdown rule in boxing doesn't apply to college football. For a third time this season, Florida State was staggered and bloodied, lying on the mat and struggling to find its center. College football looked to, of all schools, Notre Dame to play the unfamiliar role of David. The Irish were maybe the last chance to eliminate the reigning champions from the inaugural College Football Playoff after Oklahoma State and Clemson both had the Seminoles reeling before fourth-quarter blunders.

The Irish came close to victory, winning nearly every statistical category. And Everett Golson was knocking on the door in the final seconds, even throwing a touchdown with 13 seconds left before it was stricken from the scoreboard for offensive pass interference.

Winston was at his best, though, delivering multiple Heisman moments even if the prospects of a second bronze statue have diminished greatly since the season began. They could possibly be described as nonexistent after the continued Title IX inquiry and an internal compliance investigation into whether he accepted money for autographs.

In the second half, Winston completed 15 of 16 passes. Nearly all of them came with an Irish lineman or linebacker barreling toward him at full speed. On the touchdown drive that gave Florida State its first lead and proved to be the deciding score, Winston completed three straight passes under pressure.

On the drive's final play, Karlos Williams scored, and Winston did a pirouette and pumped his fist. He silenced his critics, at least for a week, maybe less.

In the aftermath that ensued once Winston took a knee, the team rushed toward him. Linebacker Terrance Smith said it wasn't planned or even on purpose that they surrounded Winston, but it fit the script.

Then, as Tom Rinaldi was set to interview Jimbo Fisher, who emotionally defended Winston earlier in the week, Winston ran over and hugged his coach. Fisher yelled in his ear -- the metal bleachers were still reverberating from a raucous 82,431 Seminoles fans -- about the love he has for Winston.

"It's my job to help mentor and help him. And he's a fun guy to coach and be around," Fisher said. "I've always cared for him, like I care for all my players. That's my job."

Winston's teammates said there wasn't much talk in the locker room this week about the looming school conduct code hearing or the authenticator that has labeled more than 2,000 Winston signatures as credible. They understand he has flaws, but each player went to bat for their quarterback when asked about their feelings on Winston.

"Jameis is not a dumb kid, he just makes poor decisions at times just like everybody his age does," said Mario Edwards Jr., who was part of the same recruiting class as Winston. "Things get blown up a lot bigger because he's Jameis Winston and he won the Heisman, and it's not fair to him and it's not fair to us. But that's Jameis. Jameis is a goofy kid and he loves to have fun and he's going to play good football."

As a team, Florida State will continue to play meaningful football. A loss to Notre Dame could have knocked the reigning champions out of the four-team playoff.

Though his team has looked nothing like the 2013 Seminoles -- it has trailed in fourth quarters twice -- it has still found a way to win.

"That's extremely satisfying. It's what you play for. That's what you strive to get your program to all the time, to be able to persevere and play in games like this and win those games," Fisher said. "That's what I love about our team. They have a lot of pride and know how to win."

What we learned in the ACC: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
1:00
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Week 8, including the biggest game of the season for an ACC team, is in the books. Here's what we learned:

Florida State is still unbeaten: For the third time this season, Florida State trailed at the half, but the Seminoles once again staged a dramatic comeback followed by a nail-biting defensive stand on their opponent's final drive to remain unbeaten and keep their playoff hopes alive. Jameis Winston was the star, as he completed 15-of-16 passes for 181 yards in the second half and lead the 31-27 comeback win, while Rashad Greene and Travis Rudolph both caught TD passes. It's clear Florida State isn't the same team it was a year ago, but the Seminoles' ability to continually fight back and find ways to win might be even more impressive.

[+] EnlargeTravis Rudolph
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsTravis Rudolph and the Seminoles proved their ability to come back from a deficit once again.
The Coastal still goes through Duke: Last week, Georgia Tech looked like the favorite to win the Coastal, and then Duke beat them. Then it was Virginia's turn atop the conference, and once again, the Blue Devils took down the favorite. Duke averaged more than 5 yards per carry against Virginia's stout defensive front, and it didn't turn the ball over in a big 20-13 win in Durham. The end result? The defending Coastal champs are once again the team to beat in the division. The Blue Devils have head-to-head victories over two of the other one-loss teams, and they'll get their chance to take down Pitt, too, after a Week 9 bye.

A healthy Louisville is pretty good: We knew Louisville's defense was good. The offense, on the other hand, was a problem. But Saturday's 30-18 win over NC State was the Cardinals' first game with a full lineup of healthy stars on offense, including QB Will Gardner, running back Michael Dyer and receiver DeVante Parker. The trio injected some life into the proceedings, as Louisville scored 30 points for the first time in a month, and Dyer and Parker combined for 305 yards. Dyer racked up his first 100-yard rushing performance since 2011. It was a nice addition for Louisville but also a reminder of what might've been for the Cardinals, had the offense been this healthy from the start of the season.

Clemson can win ugly: The Tigers' offense has mustered just two touchdowns and averaged just 4 yards per play without star QB Deshaun Watson the past two weeks, but they've still managed to win both games. Chalk it up to a spectacular defense that once again stuffed an opponent's ground game. Boston College entered as the No. 5 rushing offense in the nation, but Clemson racked up 14 tackles for loss and surrendered just 120 yards on the ground in its 17-13 victory and held BC nearly 200 yards below its season average. Cole Stoudt won't be confused for Watson any time soon, but if he can continue to make a handful of plays a game, this defense should be enough to carry Clemson a long way.

Marquise Williams is UNC's QB: It's hard to believe there was a QB debate in Chapel Hill earlier this year. Williams has been unstoppable in his past two games -- which, coincidentally, were the first two games in which Mitch Trubisky wasn't given regular playing time. Williams set a North Carolina record with 38 completions, threw for four TDs and rushed for one more while leading a dramatic 48-43 come-from-behind win over Georgia Tech late in the fourth quarter. In his past two games, Williams has compiled 696 passing yards, 205 rush yards and nine touchdowns.

Pitt's not dead yet: Thursday's 21-16 win over Virginia Tech proved to be a resurrection for Pitt. The Panthers had dropped three in a row as their QB struggled and defenses ganged up to stop star tailback James Conner. Against Virginia Tech, however, Pitt looked much improved. Chad Voytik didn't have to do much with his arm (92 yards), but he racked up 118 yards on the ground, and the win further stifled Tech's hopes for a division title and rekindled Pitt's.

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