ACC mailblog: Louisville RBs, pleated pants & another epic 0-0 tie


Fall camps open this weekend, so let’s get one last off-season mailbag in under the wire.

David Hale: There's something to be said for playing a legendarily bad game. For two teams that weren't particularly good last year anyway, they managed to do something that we'll remember for years.

What makes them so memorable, however, is that they don't come around often. In the last decade, there have only been eight games between BCS/Power 5 conference teams in which neither scored a touchdown. So, no, we're not expecting another this year in the ACC -- but if you're forcing us to pick the worst offensive game of the year, let's go with Wake and Syracuse on Sept. 12.

DH: Earning some respect seems like a never-ending process for the ACC. Certainly it would help if Georgia Tech was a consistent threat or if Miami and Virginia Tech could get back into the national conversation. Louisville is perched on the edge, too, and certainly there's a belief that North Carolina, Virginia and Pitt are capable of more than their history over the last 25 years suggests.

But what's really going to change the way the ACC is viewed? The Big 12 has far less depth than the ACC, but it seems to get more respect. The Big Ten is riding high after a national title, but the ACC didn't get much of that same love after FSU won in 2013. The ACC beat up on the SEC last year, and that didn't matter much either.

The bottom line is the ACC needs to be proactive in fighting the negative perceptions, but it's probably going to take years of consistent success before things really start to change.

DH: Obviously you're not in Miami or Charlottesville.

We touched on this a bit last week, but Al Golden probably needs to get to at least eight wins, and Mike London needs to beat Virginia Tech. That may not be enough to completely soothe some frustrated fan bases, but it would make a decision to fire them a lot tougher.

DH: I'm not sold on Mario Pender as FSU's lead back, but he can be a nice piece to go with Jacques Patrick, who's earned rave reviews thus far. I'd expect Jimbo Fisher to run the ball a bit more, too, and Everett Golson's mobility should help open things up as well. Overall, I don't see as much of a step back on offense as most think -- with or without Cook. It won't be 2013 again, but it also might be a bit more balanced (if not quite as high-powered) than 2014 was.

DH: If you're sick of pleats now, you better hope Michigan doesn't win 10 games this year.

DH: Thomas Sirk should be a nice fit in that offense, and it's worth noting that as good of a leader as Anthony Boone was last season, he ranked 60th out of 68 Power 5 QBs in yards-per-attempt against Power 5 opposition (5.69). Sirk can run as well as anyone in the league, and he'll have a strong backfield and solid offensive line to work with. My bigger concerns with Duke are on the defensive front, and if the Blue Devils take a step back in 2015, that'll likely be why.

DH: Virginia Tech's schedule is challenging, but this defense is too good, and the young talent on offense is too plentiful for this season to be a complete disaster. Assuming the Hokies win eight games -- likely, but not guaranteed -- Beamer will get to make his own call on what happens in 2016. The opener next year in Bristol, Tennessee, is a big thing for him, and the bet is he'll want to coach in that game if at all possible. Does that mean sticking around a year (or two) too long? I doubt it. For all the Bobby Bowden comparisons, Virginia Tech also doesn't have Jimbo Fisher waiting in the wings. A smoother transition -- possibly to Shane Beamer or Bud Foster -- in 2017 remains the most likely scenario for now.

DH: Louisville RB coach Kolby Smith was the leading rusher on that 2006 team that also included Anthony Allen and Michael Bush and finished 11th nationally in rushing and forth in touchdowns, so he ought to know.

There are some concerns for Louisville though, starting with the O-line. Not including sacks, 23.4 percent of the Cardinals' carries last year went for a loss or no gain, 110th nationally. The blocking needs to get better to take advantage of the talent in the backfield.

When it comes to that talent though, this Louisville unit could be very good. Brandon Radcliff had a breakthrough season last year and is one of the best tough-yardage backs in the country. L.J. Scott is a bruiser who'll see more work this year, too. The real wild card, however, is Jeremy Smith, the juco transfer who earned raves this spring. He still needs to pick up on protections and blocking, but don't be surprised if he ends up a monster with the ball in his hands.