Florida State Seminoles: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Headed to Greensboro for media day. Make sure you follow the ACC blog team on Twitter: Andrea will be tweeting from @ESPN_ACC, in addition to @DavidHaleESPN, @Matt_Fortuna and @JShankerESPN.

James in North Carolina writes: Do you think there is another division in college football as wide open as the Coastal? I think Duke, VT, Miami, and North Carolina are all very close talent wise, and any of them could beat each other on any given day. I don't feel that Pitt is on the same level, but with the other teams dishing out losses to each other, they could be right there in the mix. The same could be said for Georgia Tech. In my opinion, the only team that I don't think will compete is UVA, but strange things tend to happen in the ACC.

Andrea Adelson writes: The Coastal is without a doubt the most wide open division in college football. I have seen Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina all listed as preseason favorites; Miami won nine games last season; I expect Pitt to be much better; Georgia Tech has a long history of success in the Coastal and cannot be counted out; and Virginia will be much better and much more competitive. I would not be surprised if the entire division ended up with bowl eligibility this season, even the Hoos. I still think Duke and North Carolina are the front-runners, followed closely by Virginia Tech, Pitt, Georgia Tech and Miami. The Hokies have a favorable schedule (BC and Wake from the Atlantic) and I am going to go ahead and guarantee they will be better on offense. Virginia Tech and Pitt might be slightly ahead of Georgia Tech and Miami. The Jackets have a lot of question marks on defense, and so does Miami (along with uncertainty at quarterback). Check back next week to see how we each voted in the ACC preseason poll. I wouldn't be surprised if we all pick a different Coastal champ.




Jon in Atlanta writes: Hey AA, I've been looking at a few projections about the ACC Coastal. I think it's pretty safe to say, that no one is a stand out winner. Some have UNC, some VT and some Duke. I would love for my Jackets to sneak in and win it. However, with a new QB and a few questions on the "D" side, I think that will be a tough stretch. I'm thinking it's going to be another 7 win season for us, what's your thoughts? Can we win more?

Adelson writes: I have not been overly optimistic about Georgia Tech this season. Then I read some interesting notes about the Jackets in the Phil Steele college football preview magazine. Did you know the Jackets have a .500 record or better in ACC play for 19 straight seasons -- the longest streak in the country? That stat alone makes it hard to completely discount Georgia Tech. I think Justin Thomas will be an upgrade over Vad Lee, and the offense will be fine. My biggest concern is the defense, particularly up front. Having said that, the nonconference schedule is easier than it has been over the past two seasons, Miami, Clemson and Duke all play in Atlanta and there are no midweek games on the schedule. This team has the potential to win more than seven games.




UM student in SF, Calif., writes: The past month Miami has been tearing it up on the recruiting trail. I mean the 2016 class is already shaping up to be special. I was wondering how much the fact that the NCAA cloud has passed played into this, and how long you think Golden has to step up and win some real games now. Do you think he gets like a clean slate or something?

Adelson writes: NCAA closure has been absolutely huge for Miami. Players who shied away from the Canes, even in-state, are now really giving Miami a close look. I wrote a little bit about the impact in the Tampa area. Golden is not on the hot seat by any stretch. Everybody in the administration knows what he was saddled with over the past three seasons, especially since he took the job and had no idea there would be a major NCAA investigation that would essentially take up every single season he has had to date. As for winning some real games, let's not forget about last season. Yes, it ended in disappointment, but Miami won nine and also beat Florida. The Gators ended up having a disastrous season, but at the time they played, Florida was viewed as the better team. I thought that was a big win for Golden and the program. Now, I know what you are getting at -- getting back to beating Florida State and playing for an ACC championship. Miami has assembled some talent over the past several years, but I still think the Canes are a few years away from consistent 10-12 win seasons. Having said that, I do think Golden deserves some patience. I know expectations are always sky-high at Miami. He wouldn't want it any other way. But at the same time, he has had more on his hands than any other coach in the league.




Wayne in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Can my Noles learn to stay out of trouble? I know you have to wait for the all facts, but kick (Jesus Wilson) off the team and set an example. I'm tired of seeing this!

Adelson writes: I understand your frustration. Certainly, you are not the first college football fan tired of seeing athletes getting into trouble. Will kicking him off the team set an example? This year, Jimbo Fisher kicked Ira Denson off the team after he was charged with petty theft and the illegal use of a credit card. Wilson still got into trouble. Now, I realize the cases are different and it is sometimes hard to compare each offense. Denson allegedly perpetrated a crime against a teammate; Wilson allegedly stole a scooter. Should a coach kick every player off the team who is arrested and charged with a crime? How does a coach prevent athletes from getting arrested? These are all difficult questions each coach must face.

Eds note: Earlier this week, I profiled Clemson offensive lineman Kalon Davis and his study abroad trip to Kyoto, Japan. Tragically, professor E. Leslie Williams -- who led the trip -- died suddenly last week. Thoughts and prayers are with Davis, Williams and the Clemson family.

By the numbers: Going deep

July, 3, 2014
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Earlier this week, we looked at the top offensive lines in the ACC, which led me to tweet about the units that had the best and worst sack rates in the conference.

The best:

Duke (1 sack every 29 dropbacks)
Miami (1 every 24)
Syracuse (1 every 24)
North Carolina (1 every 23)
Virginia (1 every 23)

The worst:

Pitt (1 sack every 10.3 dropbacks)
NC State (1 every 13.2)
Boston College (1 every 13.2)
Virginia Tech (1 every 14.1)
Florida State (1 every 14.4)

For the teams ranking at the top, there may have been a few surprises, but UNC and Virginia both had offensive lines with top-tier NFL talent, and Syracuse and Duke both had mobile quarterbacks capable of avoiding sacks. It is probably worth noting, however, that the Blue Devils' offensive line was remarkably good in pass protection, but also had the ACC's lowest rate of running plays that went for a loss or no gain, too (7 percent).

On the other end of the spectrum, the names are a bit more surprising. Pitt's line was a problem, and Tom Savage didn't move around much in the pocket, so the Panthers' spot at the top makes sense. But didn't Boston College have a solid line protecting a veteran quarterback? Didn't NC State play half the season with mobile Brandon Mitchell taking snaps? Wasn't Logan Thomas one of the hardest quarterbacks in the country to bring down? And, of course, isn't Florida State supposed to have one of the top O-lines in the country to go with a Heisman-winning quarterback?

A few people on Twitter thought they had the answer, though: Deep balls. FSU, Pitt and BC had offenses that encouraged quarterbacks to look downfield, and the unfortunate side effect of such a philosophy is a few more sacks while quarterbacks are hanging on to the ball an extra second or two.

The theory made some sense, but we wanted to see if the numbers backed it up.

Here, courtesy of ESPN Sports & Information, are the ACC offenses that had the highest percentage of pass attempts go 20 yards or more.

As it turns out, only Florida State fits the bill as a team that looked deep often and suffered a few extra sacks as a result. Pitt's and NC State's deep-ball rates were right around the league average (22.3 percent), Virginia Tech was even lower (21.5 percent), and Boston College had the lowest percentage of any team in the conference (15.5 percent).

On the other end, the teams that had low sack rates did seem to throw deep a little less often. Duke, Virginia and Syracuse were all well below the league average for deep balls. But how about Miami and North Carolina? Both looked deep relatively often, and both still managed to limit sacks.

What this all likely means -- which is probably relatively intuitive in the first place -- is that a penchant for the deep ball likely plays some small role in the number of sacks a team allows, but it's hardly the overwhelming factor. A quarterback's decision-making and mobility play a part, the quality of talent on the line and ability of tailbacks and fullbacks to pick up blocks matters. The play calling (see: Georgia Tech) has an effect, too.

In other words, filtering out all the little nuances that define a successful offensive line from a not-so-successful one isn't a simple process, which is just one more reason the big guys up front tend to get far too little credit for the work they do.

The Opening presented by Nike Football will take place July 7-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Oregon, with 162 of the nation's top high school football prospects set to compete. With four days of dynamic training, coaching and competition among the best of the best, The Opening is the perfect chance for recruits in the Class of 2015 to make big jumps and shine on the national stage.

Here are five prospects with the most to gain at the prestigious event:

Phil Steele looked at the combined experience returning to each FBS team in 2014.

Steele considers five factors and uses a formula to create a grade between 0 and 100. The higher the grade, the more experience a school returns. Steele accounts for senior starters and senior backups, percentage of lettermen returning, percentage of returning offensive yards, percentage of total tackles returning and career starts returning on the offensive line.

[+] EnlargeScott Shafer
AP Photo/Phil SearsCoach Scott Shafer's Syracuse squad returns the most experience in the ACC.
Of the Power Five conferences, the ACC had the lowest average ranking. The league’s 14 teams averaged a ranking of 79.78 and an average score of 56.55. That means there should be a lot of new faces in the ACC, and adding to the potential warning sign is the number of new starting quarterbacks expected in the league. (It worked out fine for Florida State last season, we should add.)

The Big Ten (54.64) had the highest average ranking, followed by the Big 12 (58.7), Pac-12 (62.08) and SEC (70.14).

The reigning national champions come in at No. 39 despite some significant losses on both offense and defense. Helping Florida State’s grade is the starts accumulated by the offensive line, which returns five players with starting experience and 113 career starts overall. Defensively, the Seminoles lose their top three tacklers, but a number of players along the unit lettered a season ago.

Of note: Alabama is ranked No. 107, Auburn No. 8, Ohio State No. 109 and Oregon No. 31. Those are the four teams with the next best odds to win the national championship, according to Bovada.

Syracuse had the highest score (71.41, No. 17) among conference teams, which should be a good sign in Scott Shafer’s second season as coach. Virginia coach Mike London is hoping the experience he returns will help the Cavaliers to a bowl game. London, whose team has the 18th-highest score, is on the hot seat and might not survive another losing season in Charlottesville.

Few are projecting David Cutcliffe to bring Duke back to the ACC championship game, but the Blue Devils' score of 69.75 is 25th-best in the country. Cutcliffe can count on senior leadership, as 12 seniors are expected to start. Only two schools in the top 25 of Steele’s calculations have more senior starters.

Here is a complete look at where each ACC team fell and what its score was:

17. Syracuse (71.41)
18. Virginia (70.98)
25. Duke (69.75)
39. Florida State (66.06)
77. Louisville (57.92)
79. North Carolina (57.69)
80. Miami (57.03)
92. Virginia Tech (55.37)
105. Pittsburgh (51.45)
106. Georgia Tech (50.39)
113. Clemson (48.99)
114. NC State (48.73)
125. Wake Forest (43.40)
127. Boston College (42.54)

Analysis of ACC awards polls

June, 17, 2014
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In a series last week, the ACC blog broke down some of the early preseason candidates for several of the conference’s top postseason awards. Colleague Matt Fortuna gave a short brief on each of the candidates, listed a few honorable mentions and a SportsNation poll asked readers to vote on which candidate, if any, would win.

We asked for your prediction on who would be the conference offensive and defensive players of the year, offensive and defensive rookies of the year and coach of the year. With just about a week for fans to vote, here are the results from the polls.

ACC offensive player of the year

Results: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State (52 percent), RB Duke Johnson, Miami (19), Other (14), WR DeVante Parker, Louisville (12), WR Jamison Crowder, Duke (3).
Analysis: Winston is the overwhelming favorite in the poll, and his 33-percentage point lead over second-place Johnson is the widest gap among the five SportsNation polls. That is hardly a surprise, considering the Heisman winner returns and has yet to lose a game as a starter in his college career. Johnson is a reasonable second option, as the Miami running back will play a pivotal role for the Canes as they break in a new quarterback. If Miami can achieve double-digit wins this season, Johnson will be tough to beat.
Write-in votes: Gauging from the comments section, it seems as if readers had Seminoles running back Karlos Williams in mind when voting “other” for the most part. A third-string running back last season, the former five-star recruit will start as a senior in 2014. Many FSU fans are expecting Williams to easily surpass 1,000 yards.

ACC defensive player of the year

[+] EnlargeMario Edwards
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThere are big expectations for Florida State's Mario Edwards, the No. 1 recruit in the 2012 class.
Results: DE Mario Edwards, Florida State (35), DE Vic Beasley, Clemson (34), Other (15), LB Denzel Perryman, Miami (13), S Anthony Harris, Virginia (3).
Analysis: Edwards narrowly edged Beasley, who could have been a first-round pick in last month’s NFL draft. Edwards, a junior and former No. 1 high school recruit, could be the first defensive lineman taken in next year’s draft. However, Edwards’ statistics could keep him from winning defensive player of the year. While he certainly could be the most dominant league defensive player, he likely won’t have the same sack numbers as Beasley, who had 13 a season ago, or 2013 winner Aaron Donald, who registered 11 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss as an interior lineman.
Write-in votes: Once again, the FSU voices were heard in the comment section, offering their thoughts on why sophomore defensive back Jalen Ramsey is the favorite on the Seminoles’ defense. Ramsey is going to fill the void in the backfield left by the departed Lamarcus Joyner, a Thorpe Award finalist in 2013.

ACC offensive rookie of the year

Results: Other (31), QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson (26), QB Kevin Olsen, Miami (24), RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina (16), QB Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina (3).
Analysis: This is definitely a difficult one to predict as there is an inherent unpredictability in the award, much more than any other postseason trophy. Other is probably the safe choice and I tend to agree with the readers. Olsen is a good pick if he is the Canes’ starter for the entire season. Watson, who was injured during spring camp, was the top quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class nationally. North Carolina could not afford to miss on Hood, who enrolled early and figures to be featured extensively in the UNC offense.
Write-in votes: With so many departures on the Clemson offense, one reader suggests redshirt freshman running back Wayne Gallman will win the award. He was a four-star recruit in the 2013 class.

ACC defensive rookie of the year

Results: CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson (36), DT Keith Bryant (33), Other (20), DT Andrew Brown (6), S Quin Blanding, Virginia (5).
Analysis: Alexander is a smart pick for rookie of the year on defense considering the reputation he had coming to Clemson before the 2013 season. The No. 4 player nationally in the 2013 recruiting class, Alexander redshirted as a freshman. He should get extensive playing time this upcoming season, though, and he has arguably the best defensive line in the ACC in front of him, which could force rushed and errant throws in his direction that are prime for interceptions. With the loss of Timmy Jernigan at defensive tackle for FSU, the Noles certainly will need someone at the position to step up. It remains to be seen if Bryant will be that person, and a strong summer would definitely help his cause as the Noles open up preseason camp in a little more than a month. Both Blanding and Brown are sleepers, especially if the Cavaliers can reach bowl eligibility.
Write-in votes: One commenter agrees with Fortuna that Florida State redshirt freshman linebacker Matthew Thomas could win this award. Thomas was spectacular in spring drills and could be a starter for the Noles this season.

ACC coach of the year

Results: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (40), Dabo Swinney, Clemson (26), Other (22), Larry Fedora, North Carolina (7), Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (5).
Analysis: The safe bet in the conference is to go with Fisher or Swinney. The two have Clemson and Florida State in a league of their own within the ACC. Both are coming off BCS bowl wins but have holes to fill on their 2014 teams. Swinney needs to overcome the losses of his starting quarterback, running back and star receiver. Fisher loses defensive leaders Jernigan, Joyner and Telvin Smith. I thought Fedora would receive more votes, considering the Heels are one of the favorites to win the division.

ACC's lunch links

June, 12, 2014
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Futbol time!
Last week, I asked for your ideas about scrapping divisions and protecting two rivalry games. You came up with some clever responses.

Lee in Atlanta writes: Andrea, I saw your response to my Clemson buddy Creswell's question. As a Tech fan, we don't want Louisville (and I'm not sure who would want them) as a rival. And as a Falcons fan, I don't want Petrino in my city. Thus, I would like to submit some adjusted rivalry assignments:

Boston College: Syracuse, Miami

Clemson: Florida State, Georgia Tech

Duke: Wake Forest, North Carolina

Florida State: Miami, Clemson

Georgia Tech: Clemson, Virginia Tech

Louisville: Pittsburgh, Virginia

Miami: Florida State, Boston College

North Carolina: Duke, NC State

NC State: North Carolina, Wake Forest

Pittsburgh: Syracuse, Louisville

Syracuse: Boston College, Pittsburgh

Virginia: Virginia Tech, Louisville

Virginia Tech: Georgia Tech, Virginia

Wake Forest: Duke, NC State

What do you think?

Andrea Adelson says: I also got a note from Will Goodman in the mailbag about switching one of Virginia Tech's rivals to Georgia Tech over Miami. The reason I kept Miami-Virginia Tech was because of the rivalry the two had in the Big East. Those two teams have played 31 times, compared to 11 Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech games.




Mark Emmert's Brain in Miami writes: If the ACC doesn't eliminate divisions (makes most sense), realigning the divisions while playing five division games (two permanent), and three nondivision games (one permanent) is the best. Pretty sure this keeps ALL rivalries, teams play every three years, And it makes up for the stupid looking "A" in the new ACC logo.

Coastal (two in-division rivals; one out-division rival)

Miami (BC, Clemson; FSU)

Clemson (NC State, Miami; Georgia Tech)

North Carolona (Duke, NC State; Virginia)

NC State (UNC; Clemson; Wake Forest)

Syracuse (BC; Duke; Pitt)

Duke (North Carolina; Cuse; Louisville)

Boston College (Syracuse; Miami; Virginia Tech)

[+] EnlargeJohn Swofford
Jason Szenes/Getty ImagesWhat other changes will take place in the ACC under commissioner John Swofford?
Atlantic

Florida State (Virginia, Louisville; Miami)

Virginia Tech (Virginia, Georgia Tech; Boston College)

Georgia Tech (Virginia Tech, Pitt; Clemson)

Louisville (FSU, Wake Forest; Duke)

Virginia (Virginia Tech, FSU; North Carolina)

Pitt (Wake Forest, Georgia Tech; Syracuse)

Wake Forest (Pitt, Louisville, NC State)

John in Tallahassee mostly agrees, writing: I liked the mailbag discussing scrapping the divisions. I, like many others, believe that it is the only logical approach with more than 12 teams. My only problem was the two responses you gave discussed having two rivalries. This is wrong. It should be three rivals that stay the same each year and five rotating games. There are 13 teams each school must play (obviously not counting itself). Therefore a 3-5 split makes more sense than a 2-6. In four years each school plays a home-away with the other 10 non-rival schools. Thanks.

So does Michael in Atlanta: While I don't see the appeal of a Georgia Tech-Louisville rivalry, my main complaint with your proposed "permanent" rivals is the number. In a 14-team conference, there are 13 other teams. That means each school can have three permanent rivals, play five more teams one year and the other five the next. So take whatever most popular suggestions you get for each school and add that as a third permanent team. (For Georgia Tech, I would add either Virginia Tech based on recent history, or Florida State for closeness' sake.)

Adelson writes: I can get behind three permanent rivals. The problem with the Brain's idea is there is no traction at all to realigning divisions. So you have to work with either the current setup or no divisions at all.




Marcus Ward in Fort Bragg, N.C., writes: Andrea, I have this great plan to solve all the conference, scheduling, playing and championship dilemmas. I think the ACC should recruit two more schools, then make four divisions: North, South, East and West. Put 4 teams in each division. Have the teams play the other three, and two from each of the other divisions. They can have permanent rivalries and get a better rotation and be able to play every team within a couple of years instead of a couple of decades. The four teams that win their division play each other in a playoff format, just like they will be implementing for the national championship. And the winners play each other in Charlotte for the ACC crown. They would have to play nine conference games but they still have three games left -- 1 for SEC, 1 for ND, and 1 for FCS, so it could work and still would be good for the game. I know this is a long way off, but it's worth thinking about and I left a lot of details out from my thoughts. But I have a rough draft that it could look like with the teams we already have. Hope you like, and have a nice day.

East: Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia, Boston College

North: Virginia Tech, Pitt, Syracuse, Duke

South: Florida State, Miami, NC State

West: Louisville, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech

Possible newcomers: Notre Dame, BYU, West Virginia, Army, Navy, USF, UCF

Adelson writes: Given the landscape, there is no real value in moving to a 16-team conference at this point in time. Remember, 16 teams mean revenue has to be divided 16 ways, which means the two newcomers have to add millions upon millions in value to make the move worth it. We're still in the infancy of 14-team leagues, so let's see how that shakes out first before moving to super-conference models.




Aaron in Los Angeles writes: I was thinking a lot about what the yearly ACC/SEC matchups would be if each team had a permanent foe. Obviously keeping the ones that already occur intact. Florida State-Florida. Georgia Tech-Georgia. Clemson-South Carolina. Wake Forest-Vandy. Louisville-Kentucky. BC-Missouri. NC State-Mississippi State. Syracuse-Arkansas. Duke-Ole Miss. Miami-LSU or Tennessee. North Carolina-LSU or Texas A&M. Pitt-Alabama. Virginia-Auburn. VT-Tennessee or Texas A&M.

Adelson writes: Somebody had to draw the short Bama straw. Hmm ... does someone in Los Angeles have a beef with Pitt? Maybe you are a West Virginia fan at heart. :)
Phil Steele released his preseason All-ACC teams earlier this week, and it might have been noteworthy to some that the player he listed as his second-team quarterback — North Carolina’s Marquise Williams — isn’t currently assured of even keeping his starting job. That, of course, speaks to the quality of Williams’ competition (Mitch Trubisky has a little talent, too), but mostly to the lack of any established experience at the position around the ACC.

Of the ACC’s 14 teams, only Florida State and Virginia return quarterbacks who appeared in every one of their games last season — and Virginia's David Watford isn’t currently listed as the team’s starter this year.

None of this is a new story, of course, and we’ve already touched on what impact the turnover at quarterback might have this season around the league. Looking at last year’s records, the teams that returned quarterbacks saw an aggregate increase of nine wins, while teams with turnover at the position broke even.

Those victory totals only tell us so much, though. Florida State only increased its victory total by two with a new quarterback, but those were two pretty important wins. UNC’s victory total dipped by one game, but its returning quarterback wasn’t the one on the field when the Tar Heels were playing their best.

So we dug a little deeper into the numbers to see what impact, if any, a change at quarterback might have on the offense.

Looking just at 2013, there were five ACC teams that had the same starting quarterback in at least 75 percent of its games as it did the preceding year. Seven had changes at the position. The results were about what you might expect.



Overall, teams replacing a quarterback had a 1 percent dip in total offense and a 4 percent dip in yards per attempt, while the teams with returning experience improved in both areas.

It’s probably worth noting, too, that both Florida State and Maryland represent outliers in this discussion. Florida State had a new QB, but Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy. He’s a unique talent. Maryland, meanwhile, was using a linebacker at quarterback by the end of 2012, so change was inherently a good thing for the Terps. If we take those two teams out of the equation, the numbers change a bit: Teams undergoing change at QB had a 6 percent dip in total offense and a 9 percent decline in yards per attempt.

So, that settles it, right? Change at quarterback means a decline in offensive production, which is bad news for the ACC in 2014.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesFlorida State had a new quarterback last season, and the Seminoles certainly didn't take a step back with Jameis Winston.
Not exactly.

In 2012, the vast majority of the ACC (9 of 12 teams) returned their starting QBs from 2011, and while those teams did have a slight increase in offensive production (1.75 percent, compared to a 4 percent decline for the three teams with turnover), the actual passing performances told a different story. The nine teams returning QBs actually had a 3 percent dip in yards per attempt, while the teams with turnover (Maryland, Miami,Virginia) had a 6 percent increase.

Look at the numbers in 2011 for teams returning QBs, and the outcome is even more counter-intuitive. Five teams returned quarterbacks and had a 2.25 percent increase in yards per attempt and essentially broke even in total offense. The teams with turnover at QB, however, increased total offense by more than 3 percent and had a whopping 9.5 percent increase in yards per attempt from 2010.

In other words, in 2011 and 2012, change at quarterback didn’t make much of a difference. In fact, during the last three years collectively, teams that made a change at QB saw no discernible change in total offense and enjoyed a 2 percent increase in yards per attempt (better than the 0.67 percent increase for teams returning QBs).

So why did last year’s numbers paint such a scary picture?

The answer is probably that the returning quarterbacks in the league actually played a far smaller role in their respective offenses. Overall, the five teams returning QBs from 2012 had a whopping 15 percent decline in passing attempts per game, with Boston College being a prime example. Chase Rettig returned as QB, but BC’s attempts per game dipped from 39 in 2012 to 20 in 2013, while its yards per attempt jumped from 6.5 in 2012 to 7.5 last season.

In other words, the veteran quarterbacks probably had a little more help surrounding them (such as Andre Williams), while the young QBs were left to figure a lot out on their own (such as Pete Thomas).

As we look to 2014, there will no doubt be major question marks at QB for a lot of teams, but for many, there’s nowhere to go but up. And based on the numbers, there’s no reason a first-time starter can’t engineer those recoveries.

ACC's lunchtime links

June, 2, 2014
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Kings-Rangers. Let's Go.

ACC mailblog

May, 30, 2014
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Quick reminder, everyone. The mailbag is still open for the summer! Please send your questions in here or hit me up on Twitter.

Let's discuss this hot topic for next week: Thumbs up or thumbs down on the new logo?

Now, let's get to some questions.

Jose Solivan in Orlando, Fla., writes: My question is about the four-team playoff for college football. I see that there isn't a max on how many teams from one conference are allowed in the playoff. I feel that if you don't win your conference, you should not be considered for the playoffs. It makes not winning your conference not as important, especially if you are in the SEC. They should pick four conference champions. The only reason I feel why they won't do that is because of Notre Dame. So PLEASE answer why they won't choose four different champions from four different conferences?

Andrea Adelson: Jose, take a deep breath. The fact is, we have no idea who is going to be in the first College Football Playoff. It could very well be four conference champions -- Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State, let's just say as an example. While winning a conference championship is not required to be one of the four teams selected, it will be emphasized during deliberations. How much that is weighed will be up to the selection committee. We have seen teams that didn't win their conference make it into the BCS title game, much to the consternation of some (cough, cough SEC). But unlike the BCS standings, 13 people will be able to potentially move a conference champion into the playoff over one with the same record and no championship. I have got to believe being a conference champion will mean something to the committee. Still, it would be tough to make it a requirement. Let's just take UCF as a most recent example. Say the Knights were a top-10 team, but there were only three conference champions ranked ahead. Would you be OK with the Knights being placed into a four-team playoff because they were a conference champion, ahead of a one-loss Florida State team that lost in the ACC title game? Essentially, this is not really about Notre Dame, but really about protecting the power-five conferences. They could produce two worthy playoff contenders but only one conference champion.




Matt in Atlanta, writes: Has any thought been given to getting rid of the divisions all together for ACC football? You could keep two rival games that you play every year, and then have six floating games each season. This would, in concept, allow each player to have a home-and-away game against every school in the ACC in a four-year college career. It seems more logical, and the top two teams at the end of the season would be playing for the ACC championship. Instead of what we've had the past several years. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Adelson: There has been some talk but little traction on the subject. A few athletic directors are in favor of scrapping divisions, but most believe in them for a few reasons. One, they give teams something to play for and keep more teams in contention for the ACC championship game longer. Second, most like seeing division champs in the ACC title game. Third, many teams have built up divisional rivalries that they want to keep on the schedule. I like the idea of scrapping divisions if you can keep two rivalries protected and then round-robin everybody else. Scrapping divisions is the only way to create opportunities to play all league teams in an eight-game schedule model. ADs are not ready to go there yet, so the ACC is left with an imperfect system. For now.




Creswell in Augusta, Ga., writes: I've heard rumblings that the ACC may scrap divisions in the future. If this were to happen to make certain matchups occur more frequently, what rivalries do you think would be protected? (For argument's sake, let's say each team can "lock" two opponents each year.)

Adelson: This is going to be fun! Readers, let me know what you think about my choices, and weigh in with your own. Toughest decision was choosing between the Duke-North Carolina-NC State-Wake Forest rivalries. Somehow, Duke-NC State still gets left out in the cold. A few of these aren't exactly rivalries, but with only two allowed per team, there are some odd-looking protected games. And yes, I did lean Big East-heavy for some of these.

Boston College: Syracuse, Pittsburgh

Clemson: Florida State, Georgia Tech

Duke: Wake Forest, North Carolina

Florida State: Miami, Clemson

Georgia Tech: Clemson, Louisville

Louisville: Georgia Tech, Virginia

Miami: Florida State, Virginia Tech

North Carolina: Duke, NC State

NC State: North Carolina, Wake Forest

Pittsburgh: Syracuse, Boston College

Syracuse: Boston College, Pittsburgh

Virginia: Virginia Tech, Louisville

Virginia Tech: Miami, Virginia

Wake Forest: Duke, NC State
Florida coach Will Muschamp made big headlines during Day 1 of the SEC meetings when he said he would rather not play FCS opponents anymore.

Alabama coach Nick Saban agreed, sparking renewed debate about the place of FCS games in major college football, especially when strength of schedule will mean more in the playoff era.

But during the ACC spring meetings last month, there was no such debate. The ACC remains firm in its desire to play FCS opponents. There are a few reasons why. First, scheduling nonconference games has become more challenging than ever. Sometimes, an FCS team is needed to fill out the schedule. Second, there are many FCS teams in the South that are in close geographic proximity to ACC teams, and they always benefit greatly when they are scheduled to play.

These are not the most appealing games. Sometimes, upsets happen, which is probably why Muschamp does not want to go the FCS route anymore. But from the ACC perspective, the FCS games are not going anywhere anytime soon.

All 14 ACC teams have FCS teams on the schedule for 2014. Seven are in the same state as their ACC opponent. Nearly all the rest are located in bordering states. Miami, for one, plays Florida A&M this season and also has played in-state Bethune-Cookman in the past.

"Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman are great games for us," Miami athletic director Blake James said during the ACC meetings. "Those are schools within the state, there’s a real benefit for them to be able to come down and have games in Miami where they have alumni. It’s a benefit for us. As of right now I would see us still scheduling Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman and those types of schools. Those are the ones we have historically played and those are relationships we’d like to be able to continue."

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, who also serves on the College Football Playoff committee, was asked how teams with FCS opponents on the schedule would be judged when it came time to make decisions. The Tigers, for example, have South Carolina State on the schedule this season and for 2016 and a game with Wofford set for 2015.

"You’re going to have to look at what FCS teams you play, if any, because there are some FCS teams that are more difficult to play than the lower-ranked Division I teams," Radakovich said. "It comes into the totality of the schedule."

Until further notice, the totality of the ACC schedule will include an FCS opponent.
The biggest news to come from last week’s ACC league meetings was a decision on future conference scheduling. With expansion, there was a push to move to a nine-game conference slate, along with the potential to switch up the conference title game format. For now, however, things are going to stay more or less the same.

What has changed in terms of scheduling is a rule that will require all teams to play at least one nonconference game against a team from a Power 5 conference (Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC). While that won’t affect the four ACC teams with annual rivalry games against the SEC (FSU, Clemson, Louisville and Georgia Tech), it will force some others to up the ante on future scheduling.

[+] EnlargeACC logo
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesThe ACC has not performed well in regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 teams since 2009. The combined record of the 11 current ACC members who have been a part of the conference since then is 22-51.
(Note: For a more detailed look at scheduling of Power 5 nonconference foes in the next few years, BC Interruption has a detailed list.)

Rather than look ahead, however, we decided to take a look back at how the ACC has fared against Power 5 competition in recent years.

As colleague Andrea Adelson pointed out, the 2013 nonconference slate in the ACC was one of the toughest in the nation, and the 2014 schedule projects to be similarly daunting.
“The ACC played one of the most challenging nonconference schedules in the country a season ago, featuring games against Georgia, USC, Florida, Northwestern, Penn State, Alabama, South Carolina, BYU and Oregon.

This year, Oklahoma State, Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska, UCLA, USC and Iowa are on the nonconference schedule, in addition to the standard SEC rivalry games for Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville.”

But while the ACC played a fair number of tough nonconference games, it didn’t exactly perform particularly well in them.

In fact, going back five years to the 2009 season, the numbers are pretty bleak.

The 11 current ACC members who have been a part of the conference since 2009 have played a total of 73 regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 teams. Their combined record is a dismal 22-51 (.301).

Here’s how bad it actually is:

• Three of those 22 wins actually came against Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville when those programs were not part of the ACC.

• Seven more wins came against Vandy, Kansas, Rutgers and Indiana — hardly traditional powers despite their conference affiliations.

• No ACC team has a winning record in nonconference, regular-season games against Power 5 teams during that span. The team that has performed the best during that stretch is North Carolina, which is 3-3.

• The most impressive nonconference, regular-season wins over Power 5 teams for the ACC in the last five years amounts to a short list: Clemson over Georgia (2013), Miami over Florida (2013), Clemson over Auburn (2011), FSU over Florida (2010), Miami over Oklahoma (2009) and Virginia Tech over Nebraska (2009).

The failures against Power 5 teams are league-wide, but the spread is a bit one-sided. Since 2009, there are a few teams that have distinctly avoiding playing nonconference, regular-season games against Power 5 teams. The full list is in a chart on the right.

What’s worse, four of those six games played by NC State and Virginia Tech came in 2009, meaning those two programs have each played just one regular-season, nonconference game against a Power 5 team in the last four years. (Virginia Tech played Alabama last season, while NC State played Tennessee in 2012.)

Of course, conference games are also played against Power 5 foes, and the ACC has won its share of bowl games against teams from major conferences as well. With that in mind, here are the league’s standings since 2009 based on all games against teams currently in a Power 5 conference (plus Notre Dame).



It’s probably no surprise that Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech -- the league’s power teams -- have performed the best.

Georgia Tech’s solid 31-24 record might be a nice feather in Paul Johnson’s cap, if not for the five straight losses to UGA.

Miami and North Carolina have played .500 football in big games the last five years, which puts them in the middle of the pack but, of course, is far below the expectations for two programs with the resources to perform much better.

The league’s newcomers -- Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville -- have won a few significant games, but the ACC obviously has higher hopes for all three schools moving forward.

(Note: Losing Maryland certainly isn't hurting the ACC with respect to these numbers. The Terps were a dismal 13-33 (.282) against all Power 5 teams in the last five years and just 1-5 in regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 foes.)

Overall, however, the win-loss records don’t exactly tell the story of the ACC as a rising power in the national landscape. In fact, the new scheduling strategy is effectively a carbon copy of the one installed by the SEC, but the difference between the performance of the two leagues in those games is actually quite stark.

In the last five years, the 12 continuous SEC programs are 41-24 (.631) in nonconference, regular-season games against Power 5 opponents, winning at more than double the rate of the ACC. While the ACC doesn’t have a single team that has won more than half of its games against Power 5, nonconference teams in the regular season, the SEC has three teams (Alabama, LSU and South Carolina) that are undefeated in such games.

The knock on the SEC, of course, is that its programs have widely shied away from top-notch competition outside the league. While ACC teams have played, on average, 6.6 regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 foes in the last five years, the SEC has averaged just 5.4.

But that doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things. Scheduling big-name opponents wasn’t really the problem in the first place. Winning more of those games is the big hurdle the conference needs to clear.

ACC recruiting scorecard

May, 21, 2014
May 21
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Clemson has had a big week on the recruiting trail, as the Tigers picked up the nation's No. 2 tight end, Garrett Williams on Monday. With that, we figured now is as good of a time as any to compile an ACC recruiting scorecard.

Below you will find each ACC team, its number of commitments and its most recent recruiting news. There's obviously a ways to go between now and national signing day on Feb. 4, 2015, but here's a look at where everyone in the league currently stands.

(Note: ESPN has only ranked the top 15 recruiting classes for 2015.)

Boston College
Current commitments: 9
Spotlight: The highlight of the Eagles' class is No. 7 tight end-H Jakeb Burt, a 6-foot-5, 238-pound three-star prospect. BC’s other big commits include three-star, No. 35 cornerback Lukas Denis and three-star, No. 52 offensive tackle Anthony Palazzolo.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Clemson
Current commitments: 16
Spotlight: The Tigers' best recruit is five-star tackle Mitch Hyatt, the nation's No. 7 overall player and the highest-ranked offensive lineman to commit to the program in the 10 years ESPN has ranked players. Clemson has nine four-star commitments as well, with Williams and three other offensive linemen among them.
ESPN 300 commitments: 7
ESPN rank: 5

Duke
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Blue Devils have just three commitments, but two of them are three-star players who are nationally ranked at their positions: No. 39 defensive tackle Brandon Boyce and No. 37 defensive end Zach Morris.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Florida State
Current commitments: 11
Spotlight: The Seminoles have hauled in No. 25 overall player Derwin James Jr., the nation's top safety. They also scored a major win by beating out in-state rivals Florida and Miami to get No. 5 cornerback Tyrek Cole. Florida State has six four-star players among its 11 commitments.
ESPN 300 commitments: 4
ESPN rank: 7

Georgia Tech
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: No. 25 athlete Jaylend Ratliffe highlights this haul for the Yellow Jackets. The 6-1, 200-pound four-star is ranked as the No. 278 overall player in the nation, flashing tremendous athleticism as a left-handed quarterback at the prep level.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1

Louisville
Current commitments: 1
Spotlight: Bobby Petrino's only commit in his first class with the Cardinals is 6-foot, 205-pound safety T.J. Jallow.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Miami
Current commitments: 11
Spotlight: No. 5 running back Dexter Williams has been the biggest get for the Hurricanes, as they stole him out of Gator Country. Miami also boasts No. 5 tight end-Y Bowman Archibald and No. 4 dual-threat quarterback Dwayne Lawson, two of seven four-star commitments for the program so far.
ESPN 300 commitments: 5
ESPN rank: 11

North Carolina
Current commitments: 9
Spotlight: The Tar Heels have landed the nation’s No. 3 tight end-H in ESPN 300 prospect Carl Tucker, a four-star recruit and the nation's No. 260 overall player. They have landed two other four-star prospects: No. 31 offensive tackle Mason Veal and No. 22 safety Ronnie Harrison.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1

NC State
Current commitments: 4
Spotlight: Three of the Wolfpack's four commitments have come from within the state, with the lone exception being wide receiver Freddie Phillips.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Pitt
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Panthers have just three commitments for this class, but two of them are three-star players who are nationally ranked at their positions: No. 27 outside linebacker Kevin Givens and No. 42 offensive guard Alex Paulina.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Syracuse
Current commitments: 7
Spotlight: The Orange's run game should look pretty good down the road: Five of their seven current commitments are either offensive linemen or running backs, with the top three prospects coming on the offensive line, and two of them currently prep teammates: tackle Colin Byrne and guard Samuel Clausman.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Virginia
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Cavaliers' 2015 recruiting class doesn't quite stack up to its 2014 haul as of now, but among their three prospects are nationally ranked, three-star players: No. 22 pocket-passing quarterback Nick Johns and No. 28 safety Juan Thornhill.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Virginia Tech
Current commitments: 4
Spotlight: The Hokies' class is also short on numbers but features three nationally ranked, three-star prospects: No. 39 athlete Mook Reynolds, No. 29 cornerback DuWayne Johnson and No. 37 defensive tackle Harry Lewis.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Wake Forest
Current commitments: 2
Spotlight: Dave Clawson's first full class currently has two players: defensive end Paris Black and offensive tackle T.J. Haney.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

ACC early season TV schedule

May, 20, 2014
May 20
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The ACC announced 19 games that have been selected to be televised nationally, along with 10 more that will be video streamed nationally.

The release includes all ACC games for the first three weeks of the season, except for road noconference games controlled by the home teams' conferences. Five Thursday night contests will be televised by ESPN, and there are three nationally televised Friday games as well.

The ACC title games will again be in prime time and broadcast by ESPN or ABC.

Here are the games whose times and/or TV networks have been released. All times are ET:

Thursday, Aug. 28
Wake Forest at Louisiana-Monroe, ESPNU, 7 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 29
Villanova at Syracuse, ESPN3, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 30
Delaware at Pitt, ESPN3, noon
UCLA at Virginia, ESPN, noon
Wofford at Georgia Tech, RSN, 12:30 p.m.
Georgia Southern at NC State, ACC Network, 12:30 p.m.
William & Mary at Virginia Tech, ESPN3, 3:30 p.m.
Elon at Duke, ESPN3, 6 p.m.
Liberty at North Carolina, ESPN3, 6 p.m.
Oklahoma State vs. Florida State (Dallas), ABC, 8 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 1
Miami at Louisville, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 5
Pitt at Boston College, ESPN, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 6
South Carolina State at Clemson, ACC Network, 12:30 p.m.
Richmond at Virginia, ESPN3, 3:30 p.m.
Old Dominion at NC State, ESPN3, 6 p.m.
Gardner-Webb at Wake Forest, ESPN3, 6:30 p.m.
Duke at Troy, TBA, 7 p.m.
Murray State at Louisville, ESPN3, 7 p.m.
Florida A&M at Miami, ESPN3, 7 p.m.
The Citadel at Florida State, RSN, 7:30 p.m.
San Diego State at North Carolina, ESPNEWS, 8 p.m.
Virginia Tech at Ohio State, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 13
Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech, RSN, noon
East Carolina at Virginia Tech, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2, noon
Louisville at Virginia, ACC Network, 12:30 p.m.
Arkansas State at Miami, ESPNU, 3:30 p.m.
Kansas at Duke, RSN, 3:30 p.m.
Wake Forest at Utah State, CBS Sports Network, 7 p.m.
USC at Boston College, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2, 8 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 3
Louisville at Syracuse, ESPN, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 16
Virginia Tech at Pitt, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 23
Miami at Virginia Tech, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 30
Florida State at Louisville, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 6
Clemson at Wake Forest, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 20
North Carolina at Duke, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 28
Virginia at Virginia Tech, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU, TBD

Saturday, Dec. 6
Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game, ESPN/ABC, 7:45 or 8 p.m.
This spring, ESPN Stats & Information created its own version of a preseason college football poll: The Preseason Football Power Index.

The formula is designed to predict how strong each team (offense, defense, special teams) will be in 2014, using historical data on expected points added (EPA):
For example, Florida State’s past few years of performance, number of returnees (players and head coach) and recruiting suggest that its offense in the 2014 season is going to be a stellar 16.9 PPG better than average. Similarly, its defense will also likely be outstanding at +13.6 PPG, with a solid +1.7 PPG on special teams. With an overall preseason FPI of +32.2 -- representing how much better the Seminoles would be against an average FBS opponent (someone like Illinois) on a neutral field -- they project to be the best team in 2014, just as most subjective opinions have them.

With that, it should come as no surprise that Florida State comes in at the top of the 128-team list. Here is how all ACC teams stack up nationally:

1) Florida State
15) Clemson
19) North Carolina
26) Miami
35) Virginia Tech
41) Pitt
42) Duke
47) Georgia Tech
50) Louisville
55) Syracuse
61) Virginia
70) NC State
80) Boston College
97) Wake Forest

For those interested, Notre Dame, whom four ACC teams will face this season, checks in at 29.

One interesting point is one that many of us at the ACC blog have seemed to drive home a lot lately: What's with the underselling of Duke? The Blue Devils are the reigning ACC Coastal Division champions and have all of the pieces in place to make another run, yet there they are behind four other division teams. Sure, it should be a wide-open race yet again, but the slotting of Miami at No. 26 seems a bit optimistic when taking into account how poorly the Hurricanes finished last season, in addition to all of the uncertainty surrounding their quarterback situation following Ryan Williams' ACL tear this spring.

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