ACC morning links

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
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Terrel Hunt met the media Tuesday for the first time since his Week 1 ejection, saying that he apologized to the team twice and spoke with a number of high-profile former Syracuse players, vowing that it will never happen again.

As for his side of the story -- which involved Hunt getting kicked out in the second quarter for throwing a punch on a Villanova defender -- the Orange quarterback said that there were things going on in the game that people didn't see.

"I'm not going to speak on it, but, you know, dirty things that happened," Hunt said, according to Syracuse.com's Nate Mink. "I let it affect me. I let it get the best of me."

Hunt had hit Wildcats linebacker Dillon Lucas and missed the second half and the two overtime periods of the Orange's Aug. 29 win. His head coach, Scott Shafer, had said that he was wrong. The ACC determined no other punishment was necessary.

Hunt spoke with former Orange players Donovan McNabb, Floyd Little and Jason Poles, saying that he learned that, as the leader of the team, he cannot afford to lose his cool the way he did. He is hoping to put the incident behind him as Syracuse enters its second game of the season Saturday at Central Michigan.

Elsewhere in the ACC ...
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The Citadel has indefinitely suspended guard Victor Hill, who in an online post Sunday wrote that the Bulldogs' offensive line was intentionally "going for the knees" in Saturday's game against No. 1 Florida State, which lost three defensive linemen to injury during its 37-12 win.

In a release published on The Citadel's athletics website, Bulldogs coach Mike Houston announced Hill, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound senior, was suspended for "inappropriate comments he made on social media." In the comments section of a Post and Courier article focusing on Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher's thoughts on the Bulldogs' cut-blocking techniques, Hill wrote that he "contributed to the injury list and that was just the mindset going into the game."

"I am very disappointed in the words chosen by Victor Hill, who is a member of The Citadel football program," Houston said in a statement posted Monday. "After speaking at length on multiple occasions with Victor and careful review of video footage of our game from this past Saturday night, I have found no purposeful intent to injure from Vic ... or by any other member of our football program."

Houston, in his first season as coach, said Hill is a "morally good person" and would rejoin the team "when he successfully demonstrates that he can abide and live by the core values that should be demonstrated by any individuals who have the privilege to represent The Citadel and our football program."

The Bulldogs' next game is Sept. 20 against Charleston Southern.


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For the third consecutive season, this could be the game that dictates the Atlantic Division and potentially the ACC: Clemson-Florida State.

It was a highly anticipated showdown in October, and while the hype machine isn't quite rolling like it was in 2013, the Sept. 20 version could end up being a much better game. That is because both teams have a bye, and will have two weeks to prepare.

But which team benefits more from the extra week?

Florida State benefits most, says Jared Shanker:

There is certainly a case for each school needing the bye week more, but, for starters, Florida State's defensive line is reeling after The Citadel game when three tackles, including starters Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample, exited early with lower leg injuries. The Seminoles were considerably luckier in 2013, dealing with very few injuries, especially at marquee positions.

The depth at defensive tackle was already questionable for Florida State, so the bye week allows the Seminoles to rehab. If the tackles can't go, and Goldman might be the most likely candidate to sit out, the extra practices should help prepare backups Desmond Hollin, Derrick Mitchell Jr. and true freshman Derrick Nnadi for a significant number of snaps. And with Clemson's up-tempo approach, those three could be on the field a lot if the Tigers' offense finds a rhythm.

Florida State's defense could use the extra week to shore up a few early-season deficiencies. Both Oklahoma State and The Citadel found running room against the Seminoles, and ESPN metrics are not impressed with the defense thus far. Florida State ranks 85th among FBS schools in defensive efficiency after finishing No. 1 in that category last season.

It was known going into the season there would be some bumps for a defense that lost pieces throughout the unit, including the coaching staff. Linebackers coach Charles Kelly was promoted to defensive coordinator after Jeremy Pruitt resigned to become the DC at Georgia. The front seven was dealt major blows this offseason with the departures of Timmy Jernigan, Christian Jones and Telvin Smith. All three were on NFL opening-day rosters.

The offense is seemingly in good shape, although Florida State could stand to continue developing a threat opposite Rashad Greene at receiver. There is a lot of confidence in Jesus Wilson, who scored a touchdown in his first game back from suspension. The 5-foot-9 Wilson doesn't have prototypical size for an outside receiver, but coach Jimbo Fisher and quarterback Jameis Winston both believe Wilson more than makes up for his height with his speed and route running.

Overall, it isn't panic time in Tallahassee, but the early bye is definitely welcomed.

Clemson benefits most, says David Hale:

There's no doubt Clemson benefits from the bye week before the trip to Tallahassee, but just what coach Dabo Swinney and his staff plan to do with the time remains something of a mystery.

The biggest reason for that, clearly, is the topic Swinney doesn't want to talk about: Quarterbacks.

In the first two games of the season, Cole Stoudt has gotten the bulk of the reps, leading 21 drives. Freshman phenom Deshaun Watson has led just seven drives, but there are plenty of Tigers fans who believe he looks like the better option already.

That's not necessarily fair, because Stoudt was subjected to much more time on the field against Georgia, while Watson padded his stats a bit against South Carolina State. But it is true that the offense has been far more prolific with Watson under center -- nearly twice the yards-per-play -- through two games, and the freshman has made some very pretty throws while also proving to be a weapon as a runner. Stoudt's biggest asset is his experience, but even Swinney admitted after Saturday's game that Watson's knowledge of the playbook isn't far behind.

So what happens against Florida State?

Frankly, it would be a shock if Watson started, but it also would be a surprise if offensive coordinator Chad Morris hasn't gotten busy already dreaming up some new ways to utilize Watson against an FSU defense that has looked a bit vulnerable in the first two games -- particularly against a mobile QB in Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh, who had 65 yards and two TDs on 10 carries in the opener.

It's not that an extra week of prep is suddenly going to allow Watson to morph into an experienced veteran, but after two weeks of real games -- one against tough competition, one not -- Clemson may have a better idea of what it has in the young QB, and Morris may have a few new ideas about how to use that ability as a weapon.

All the other bye-week narratives apply here, too: Getting healthier, getting rested, extra film study. But the real wild card is Watson, and even Florida State can't be sure what to expect when he's unleashed on Sept. 20.

Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
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The ACC once again had a weekend on the recruiting front without a number of big-time official visitors or a large number of commitments. With that said, Florida State made national news Friday, and the nation's No. 1 prospect made his first official visit -- which impacts the ACC.

Biggest commitment: Florida State

ACC morning links

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
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The coaching opening at SMU is one that should interest several head and assistant coaches, and with the university being located in Dallas, there is already talk of whether one of the ACC’s top assistants will be interested in taking over the Mustangs program.

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was a high school coach in Texas for 16 seasons before joining Tulsa’s staff in 2010. Whenever there is an opening at just about any school, Morris’ name is almost certain to come up. However, Morris has remained loyal to the Tigers and is waiting for the right opportunity.

On its surface, it might not make much sense considering SMU is not a Power 5 school, and Morris could possibly land at one of those programs if he waits for the right opportunity. However, just how much will the draw of returning to Texas interest Morris, who turns 46 in December? FOXSports.com’s Bruce Feldman listed seven potential replacements for June Jones, and Morris is one of them. (Ohio State assistant Tom Herman also has ties to the state and is the other popular name being mentioned.)

The season is still in its infancy and it’s early to speculate about potential candidates for the Mustangs job, but few would be surprised if Morris’ name begins popping up on the rumor mill.

Here are a few more links from around the conference:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher is a football coach. That means he likes to talk about what he can control, and anything he can't is just wasted breath.

But he is a football coach, which means he knows injuries are a part of the sport. His Florida State team was lucky in 2013, avoiding the injury bug and remaining healthy over the course of a national championship season.

Justin Shanks
AP Photo/Steve CannonFlorida State's been fortunate with regard to injuries but its defensive tackles were hit hard Saturday.
The Seminoles have been able to manipulate injury luck quite a bit with their GPS tracking system, but there is no guard against the inherent dangers of a game predicated on high-speed collisions and 300-pound men wrestling 130 times in 40-second intervals.

That became evident Saturday night as top-ranked Florida State lost three defensive tackles to lower leg injuries, including starters Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample. Fisher did not disclose any specifics on the injuries or the amount of time, if any, that will be missed, but Goldman's left foot was in a boot and he needed the aid of a walking cane to gingerly limp to the locker room after the game.

"When I rub that crystal ball I can't ever figure it out," Fisher said after the game about planning for more injuries in 2014. "Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. That's the thing about football -- you don't [know]. ... That's just ball. You keep your fingers crossed."

While Florida State has arguably the country's most talented roster, there was concern at defensive tackle leading up to the season. Timmy Jernigan declared early for the NFL, leaving the Seminoles thin on the interior of the defensive line. And by halftime Saturday, Florida State was without three of its top five defensive tackles.

The schedule offers a brief reprieve for Florida State as they enter a bye week, which could allow for all three to return. The Seminoles' next game is Sept. 20 against Clemson, and they might need all the defensive linemen they can get to combat the Tigers' up-tempo offense.

The 6-foot-4, 320-pound Goldman was one of the better defensive tackles in the conference, and his presence would almost certainly be missed most if he is forced to the sidelines. Junior defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said the defense would have a much different feel without Goldman, who he calls "the big man in the middle."

"He can two-gap it, he can hold up the blockers so that a lot of linebackers can scrape over the top, and with Eddie missing it'd be a big piece missing," Edwards said.

Linebacker Reggie Northrup said Goldman's presence often draws double teams, which frees him up to make tackles. He is confident in the backups, and defensive tackle Derrick Mitchell Jr. could see a bulk of the snaps in Goldman's stead. Mitchell, a redshirt junior, is 20 pounds lighter than Goldman, however.

"It's definitely going to affect [the defense] because Eddie's a big part of our defense," Mitchell said. "He's in a lot of our defensive packages. We're going to have to make some changes if he can't go. He's a very important part of our defense."

ACC morning links

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
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Is it time to start worrying about Florida State?

I was having that discussion Sunday afternoon and felt it is still too early to make any meaningful determination on the Seminoles. After all, our Brad Edwards has Florida State still in his predicted playoff field even if the Seminoles did drop to No. 4 in the Football Power Index (FPI).

Everyone agrees Florida State has not been as dominant as most expected, but Oklahoma State, despite the lineup overhaul, is probably better than many gave the Cowboys credit for. It's not as if the Seminoles played poorly in Dallas either, but rather did not win in a convincing manner.

In Week 2, Florida State beat The Citadel 37-12, and the defense struggled at times in the first half. But The Citadel is an FCS opponent and a team that runs the option, and it can be tricky defending those teams with just a week of practice.

ESPN metrics, however, raises questions on the Seminoles' defense. According to ESPN's defensive efficiency, which measures how many points a defense contributes to its team's net scoring margin and adjusts for the strength of opposing offenses, Florida State is ranked 85th among FBS teams. They Seminoles led the country in defensive efficiency last season.

I'm still not ready to judge Florida State based on the season's first two weeks, although it's clear this team has legitimate concerns. Every team does.

What is worth keeping an eye on is Florida State's schedule might be tougher than originally thought. Florida, Louisville and Notre Dame look to be bigger challenges as the three have combined to start the season 5-0 with a convincing win in each game. The FPI originally gave Florida State a 38 percent chance to finish the regular season undefeated, but that number has dropped to 13 percent.

Before the season began, the FPI gave Florida State a 94 percent chance to beat Notre Dame. That percentage has now dropped to 66. Their chances of winning dropped double-digit percentage points against Clemson (13 percentage points), Florida (20) and Louisville (17), too, according to the ESPN Production Analytics Team. The Seminoles' next game is Sept. 20 against Clemson.

Is Florida State as good as advertised this preseason? It's still probably too early to tell. What is clear is the Seminoles' road to a second undefeated season is much tougher, and that could pose the biggest threat.

Here are a few more links to help kick off Week 3:

ACC bowl projections: Week 2

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
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Virginia Tech’s big win combined with a manageable schedule the rest of the way vaults the Hokies into the No. 2 spot in the ACC and a berth in the Orange Bowl in our projections. Notre Dame makes a nice jump, too, based on its dominant win over Michigan and the obvious allure for a top-tier bowl. The rest of this week’s projections are educated guesses, but so much is up in the air. For now, this is how the bowl picture stacks up.

College Football Playoff: Florida State
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech
Russell Athletic Bowl: Notre Dame
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Louisville
Belk Bowl: Clemson
Hyundai Sun Bowl: North Carolina
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Pittsburgh
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman: Duke
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami
Quick Lane Bowl: Virginia
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: Georgia Tech
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Citadel guard Victor Hill wrote in an online post that the Bulldogs' offensive line was intentionally "going for the knees" in Saturday's game against top-ranked Florida State, which lost three defensive linemen to injury in the 37-12 win.

Hill, a 275-pound senior, admitted The Citadel's approach Sunday in a posted response to a story by the Post and Courier, which focused on Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher's thoughts about the Bulldogs' cut-blocking techniques.

Seminoles starting defensive tackles Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample, along with reserve Justin Shanks, all suffered first-half lower leg injuries. Goldman was seen with his left foot in a walking boot and walking very gingerly with the aid of a cane after the game.

"I played in the game last night and also contributed to the injury list and that was just the mindset going into the game," Hill wrote in his post. "Me and my offensive line brothers preached to each other all week that we would be going for knees from the first play to the last play with the A-backs included. We saw it as if they [won't] respect us for blocking them then we'll make them respect us for cutting them!"


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Predicting the playoff field

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
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Each week throughout the season, the Playoff Predictor will use ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) and human logic (i.e., the eye test) to determine which teams are still alive in the chase for the inaugural College Football Playoff. These rankings take into account perceived team strength (including injuries) and remaining schedule difficulty (including prospective conference championship games).

The Playoff Predictor is not intended to be a forecast of the selection committee's weekly Top 25, which will be released every Tuesday starting Oct. 28. It is a projection of which teams have the best chance to be in the top four come December.


First four
The teams best positioned to reach the playoff after Week 2.

1. Florida State Seminoles

FPI's chance of winning out: 13.2 percent
FPI's chance of winning the conference: 56.2 percent

According to FPI, the chance for Florida State to go unbeaten decreased significantly over the weekend thanks to dominant performances by the four teams that figure to give FSU its biggest challenges -- Louisville, Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida. But with three of those four games (all but Louisville) being in Tallahassee, it's still hard not to like FSU's playoff chances better than any other team's.


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Oregon climbs to No. 2 in AP poll

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
2:23
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After impressive performances in two of the young season's most attractive nonconference showdowns, Oregon jumps to No. 2 in The Associated Press college football poll behind No. 1 Florida State -- and ahead of No. 3 Alabama -- and Virginia Tech vaults into the rankings at No. 17.

The Ducks pulled away late from Michigan State on Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene to beat the Spartans 46-27. Oregon receives 16 first-place votes from the media panel.

Florida State has 38 first-place votes.

Alabama slipped one spot. No. 4 Oklahoma receives two first-place votes. No. 5 Auburn, No. 6 Georgia and No. 7 Texas A&M give the Southeastern Conference four of the top seven.

Michigan State slipped six spots to 13th.

Big Ten rival Ohio State dropped to 22nd after losing 35-21 at home to Virginia Tech, which is ranked for the first time since the middle of last season.


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ACC Power Rankings: Week 2

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
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Jemele Hill breaks down why Florida State deserves criticism for its handling of the sexual assault case involving Jameis Winston.

Drawing conclusions from Week 2

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
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USC-StanfordChris Morris for ESPNUSC needed a late field goal to see itself past Stanford.

Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.

No. 14 USC 13, No. 13 Stanford 10

No. 3 Oregon 46, No. 7 Michigan State 27

The Big Ten's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

No. 1 FSU, No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma all coast


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Here's a look at what we learned in the ACC in Week 2.

1. Virginia Tech is for real. Virginia Tech defensive tackle Luther Maddy guaranteed the Hokies would beat Ohio State during ACC Kickoff back in July. Not many people took him seriously until Saturday night. Virginia Tech went into Columbus and took down the No. 8 Buckeyes 35-21 behind an aggressive, attacking defense and an offense that has finally found its footing behind Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer. When Braxton Miller got hurt, many thought this game would be more winnable for the Hokies, but not many predicted the upset. Coach Frank Beamer has been telling reporters since the fall he liked the makeup of this team. It was easy to see why during the game. Brewer brings poise and moxie to the quarterback spot, and young players such as Marshawn Williams, Shai McKenzie and Deon Newsome add a dimension to the offense that has been missing the past several years. Couple that with an always-stellar defense -- Virginia Tech finished with seven sacks and three interceptions -- and the Hokies have the makings of a darkhorse playoff contender. There. I said it.

[+] EnlargeVirginia Tech's Dadi Nicolas
AP Photo/Paul VernonDadi Nicolas sacks Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett during Virginia Tech's 35-21 win.
2. #goACC. Those who follow the ACC on Twitter know the #goacc hashtag has been a way to poke fun at the league when something goes horribly wrong. But on Saturday night, all was perfect in ACC land. While the Big Ten fell flat on its face, the ACC skipped along to a happier tune and went 11-0 in nonconference play. That set an ACC record for the most nonconference games ever won on a single day and a single weekend. The ACC had previously won eight nonconference games in a single day on Sept. 12, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2013. The league won 10 nonconference games in a weekend on Sept. 2 to 6, 2010.

Several crises were averted -- Georgia Tech, NC State, Duke and North Carolina all had to come from behind to beat their non-Power Five opponents. Virginia Tech grabbed the biggest win, of course, and there’s no diminishing its significance for the program. The Hokies earned a reputation for failing to win the big game because of their BCS failures. But Beamer can hold his head high. Virginia Tech posted its first win in 35 tries away from home against top-8 teams.

3. Watch out for Pitt. It was easy to dismiss the Panthers’ 62-0 win over Delaware in Week 1. But it’s not so easy to dismiss the Panthers now, after a 30-20 win over Boston College on Friday night that was not as close as the final score indicates. Once again, James Conner bulldozed through the opposing defense and racked up 214 yards on a career-high 36 carries. He accounted for more than half of Pitt’s offensive yards. The offensive line continued to block well, and Tyler Boyd had 108 all-purpose yards of his own. The Pitt defense also held firm, especially up front, and limited BC to 276 total yards. Up next is FIU, so the Panthers’ train should keep on rolling.

4. Earth to North Carolina. The Tar Heels seem to start every preseason with high expectations, only to crash and burn. This year might not be so different. For the second week in a row, No. 21 North Carolina struggled to put away an opponent from a non-Power Five conference. Last week, it used a second-half blitz to beat Liberty. But on Saturday, the Tar Heels nearly lost. Tim Scott saved the day when he secured an interception with mere seconds remaining in the game and gave North Carolina the 31-27 win over San Diego State. The Aztecs had more first downs, total yards and dominated time of possession. But they also turned the ball over three times, including a pick-six that Brian Walker returned for a touchdown. In two games, North Carolina has given up 855 total yards and has looked totally out of sync on offense and defense. The schedule only gets tougher from here. Following a bye, they play at East Carolina, at Clemson, Virginia Tech and at Notre Dame.

5. Lots of young faces. We saw plenty of young faces play well across the league in Week 2. In addition to the aforementioned players at Virginia Tech, freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon went 8-of-11 for 112 yards and a score, and freshman running back L.J. Scott had 126 yards and a touchdown for Louisville. Clemson freshman receiver Artavis Scott set the school’s single-game record for receiving yards by a freshman with 164 yards, while Tigers freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson went 8-of-9 for 154 yards and three touchdowns, and Tigers running back Adam Choice had 72 yards and a touchdown. Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford went 30-of-38 for 291 yards with two touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook led the Seminoles with 13 carries for 67 yards and a score, while Miami running back Joe Yearby had 14 carries for 95 yards. Plenty to look forward to from all these players into the future.

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Winston Apologetic For Incident
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston addressed the media to apologize for engaging in an incident in the school's student union that resulted in his suspension for the first half of the team's upcoming game against Clemson.
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