All-ACC team, coaches' awards unveiled

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
The ACC coaches' awards and all-conference teams looked a lot like the media's version from last week, as Pitt running back James Conner led the way by winning offensive and overall player of the year honors.

Likewise, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley one again took home defensive player of the year honors, while Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was named both overall and offensive rookie of the year. Virginia safety Quin Blanding was again named defensive rookie of the year.

Coach of the year? That would be Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson, who received 10 of the 14 votes from his peers.

Defending national champion Florida State led the way in all-league teams, tallying 18 players across the three teams.

The team with the second-most? Virginia, surprisingly enough, as the Cavaliers landed nine players on the all-league teams despite finishing with a 5-7 record.


WR: Rashad Greene (FSU)
WR: Jamison Crowder (Duke)
WR: Tyler Boyd (Pitt)
TE: Nick O’Leary (FSU)
T: Cameron Erving (FSU)
T: T.J. Clemmings (Pitt)
G: Laken Tomlinson (Duke)
G: Tre' Jackson (FSU)
C: Shane McDermott (Miami)
QB: Jameis Winston (FSU)
RB: James Conner (Pitt)
RB: Duke Johnson (Miami)
K: Roberto Aguayo (FSU)
SP: Jamison Crowder (Duke)

DE: Vic Beasley (Clemson)
DE: Mario Edwards Jr. (FSU)
DT: Grady Jarrett (Clemson)
DT: Eddie Goldman (FSU)
LB: Denzel Perryman (Miami)
LB: Stephone Anthony (Clemson)
LB: Lorenzo Mauldin (Louisville)
CB: Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)
CB: Garry Peters (Clemson)
S: Gerod Holliman (Louisville)
S: Jalen Ramsey (FSU)
P: Wil Baumann (NC State)

To see the full roster, click here.

Among the biggest differences between the coaches' and media's voting: Boston College center Andy Gallik was relegated to the second team this time around, with Miami's Shane McDermott taking the top spot on the coaches' team. McDermott received only honorable mention status from the media last week. Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin was also a first-team newcomer, replacing Duke's David Helton, who made the media's first-team and who took home some pretty impressive hardware of his own Tuesday night in New York. Clemson cornerback Garry Peters was also a first-team addition, leaping the media's selection of FSU's P.J. Williams.

Louisville receiver DeVante Parker made the coaches' second-team after playing in just five games. Parker had made the media's third-team. The coaches flipped the media's second- and third-team quarterbacks, putting Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas on the second-team and North Carolina's Marquise Williams on the third-team.

The coaches' third-team ended up containing five linebackers, as four tied in the voting, as well as two cornerbacks and two punters.

To see the media's All-ACC picks from last week, click here.
Under Armour All-American defensive end Josh Sweat committed to Florida State on Wednesday morning, becoming the Seminoles' second five-star pledge. Here's what the No. 5 overall prospect in the 2015 ESPN 300 brings to Jimbo Fisher's loaded roster:

Ranking the ACC's bowl games

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
We finally have our bowl matchups set, but unfortunately we have to wait another few weeks before we get to watch more football. So to fill that void, we’re ranking the bowl games from the most exciting to the least.

1. Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: Florida State vs. Oregon

The Seminoles could win a lot of respect for the ACC with a win over Oregon here, but what should make this game fun is the showdown between last year’s Heisman winner and the odds-on favorite for this year’s award. It’s only happened three previous times that two Heisman winners faced off.

2. Belk Bowl: Louisville vs. Georgia

What’s not to like about this ACC-SEC showdown? Georgia’s powerful ground game vs. Louisville’s stout defense. Gerod Holliman trying to set the NCAA interceptions record in Hutson Mason's last game. And, of course, Todd Grantham vs. his old team.

3. Capital One Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State

All year, ACC fans had to hear about the big, bad SEC West. Now Georgia Tech gets a chance to prove that all that hype was just bluster by knocking off the upstart Bulldogs. If FSU can land the biggest blow for the ACC this postseason, the Yellow Jackets are a close second on that list.

4. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU

We’re including the Fighting Irish on this list since they grabbed one of the ACC’s slots and have a chance to do some damage to the SEC West. But don’t worry, if they lose, we can pretend they never had anything to do with the ACC in the first place.

5. Hyundai Sun Bowl: Duke vs. Arizona State

Duke has gained plenty of respect during the past three seasons, but a weak nonconference slate has meant there are still some doubters. David Cutcliffe’s crew can do a lot to erase those doubts with a win here. And after the Blue Devils pushed Johnny Manziel to the limit in last year’s bowl game, we’re hoping for a few fireworks this year, too.

6. Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson vs. Oklahoma

This might be No. 2 on our list if it weren't for all the injuries. Deshaun Watson may undergo knee surgery. Samaje Perine sprained his ankle in Oklahoma’s regular-season finale. Trevor Knight missed the last three games of the season, too. But on the upside, it’ll give us one last look at that terrific Clemson defense, led by departing seniors Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony.

7. Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami vs. South Carolina

OK, so two 6-6 teams don’t exactly equal a great matchup, and there’s a real question about how motivated Miami is after the Canes dropped their last three. But this is chance to hear from Steve Spurrier and watch Duke Johnson, so it can’t be that bad, right?

8. Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati

This isn’t a matchup with much cache, but it’s a chance to see one of the best young QBs in the country in Gunner Kiel go against one of the best defenses in the country, including Hokies’ superb sophomore corner Kendall Fuller. Add in a couple accomplished coaches in Frank Beamer and Tommy Tuberville and there’s plenty to like about this game.

9. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Penn State

We like the matchup, but there are two big problems here. First, it’s two teams from the Northeast, which isn’t going to spark much national love. More importantly, we don’t expect much offense as Penn State ranked second nationally in total defense and BC ranked 12th.

10. Quick Lane Bowl: North Carolina vs. Rutgers

It’s a bowl game in Detroit in late December, so there’s only so much excitement to go around, but we like watching Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer, and given that UNC and Rutgers ranked 113th and 115th in yards-per-play allowed this season, there should be ample scoring to keep your attention.

11. Bitcoin St. Petersbug Bowl: NC State vs. UCF

We still don’t completely understand how bitcoin works, but we like the idea of Jacoby Brissett returning to his home state to take on the nation’s No. 3 defense.

12. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Pitt vs. Houston

It’s the team none of the ACC bowls wanted vs. a team that fired its head coach, so that’s not an easy sell. But any game with James Conner and Tyler Boyd is one worth watching, so we’ll still be tuning in for this one.

ACC morning links

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10

I hope that's how Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson first addressed high school student Chandler Riggs, who doubles as Carl on "The Walking Dead." Johnson, while out recruiting in the Yellow Jackets' home state, came across Riggs, who is in his fifth season acting on the popular AMC show about vampires zombies. (It's always one or the other now.)

Will this photo swing recruiting in the Peach State to the Jackets' favor?

It's pretty hip of Johnson to tweet a photo of himself with Carl, who has a dubious history on the television show. Recruiting is all about connecting with teenagers, although posing with Riggs isn't going to light up social media for a college program the way Kentucky basketball players taking notes with Drake or esteemed rapper Bun B shouting out your quarterback would. But hey, it's better than A-Rod being on your sideline.

As Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out, the oft-surly Johnson does show another side on his Twitter account. One of his pictures includes Miss America. Just make it a selfie next time, CPJ.

Trevor Matich and Andre Ware offer up the biggest keys for when Oregon and Florida State meet in the Rose Bowl.
Florida State is the only unbeaten team in the nation, but the Seminoles are not seeded No. 1 in the College Football Playoff. While its close victories are a big reason why, conference affiliation also has played a role. The ACC is viewed as the weakest Power 5 conference, even though the Noles are the defending national champions and 11 teams have made bowl games in back-to-back seasons.

There is a clear perception problem here. So what can the ACC do to gain respect and start gaining more credibility nationally?

ACC reporters Andrea Adelson, David Hale, Matt Fortuna and Jared Shanker weigh in with their thoughts.

What does the league need to do to gain respect around here?

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsIf Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles can hoist another one of these that would lift the ACC.
MF: The answer is fairly simple: The ACC needs more good teams to get better, and more bad teams to get good. Florida State winning it all last year helps. If the Seminoles could somehow do it again, that would be huge … though ACC detractors would surely find a way to chalk up a potential 31-game winning streak to poor competition, fairly or not. Alabama's last two title teams, remember, both lost. This year's Tide team has, too, and it is in the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. Regardless, the ACC needs Clemson to keep it up. The Tigers potentially winning 10 games this year in what could be qualified as a "rebuilding" year is huge for the trajectory of that program. And the ACC could really use the brand names — ahem, Miami and North Carolina —to provide the Coastal some flavor and create for a much more balanced conference. Louisville's 9-3 inaugural ACC campaign is a nice start, too.

JS: Well, there are a lot of complicated answers that involve money being pumped into the football programs, but the easiest way to gain respect is to not only keep winning but to have several teams do it. The league needs to have multiple teams in the playoff conversation every season. Florida State was basically the last playoff contender for the league by midseason. Nonconference rivalry and bowl game wins have a shelf life about as long as a glass of milk left on the counter. Spending weeks at a time toward the top of rankings and in the national conversation will do much more.

DH: The long-term key for the league is establishing depth beyond the top of the conference. The SEC saw the Mississippi schools rise up this year, and that has burnished the narrative that no game is easy. The same isn’t said for the ACC, where close games for Florida State were viewed as if they were losses. The onus is on North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech to emerge from their 6-6 seasons to become players nationally if the ACC is going to earn consistent respect.

AA: The facts are out there. Nobody wants to hear them, or believe them. As much as I respect John Swofford and the way he has begun to turn this into a football conference, he needs to take a page out of the Jim Delany/Mike Slive handbook and start shouting about his league’s strengths from every mountaintop he can find. That might not be his style, but enough is enough. He cannot sit idly by while everybody continues to trash his league. Especially given the way Florida State has been disrespected this year.

The bowl slate has been dramatically improved, with eight games against Power-5 teams. Which bowl do they absolutely have to win?

MF: Aside from the obvious ones, the playoffs and the Capital One Orange Bowl? Clemson cannot afford to lose a four-loss Oklahoma team. Louisville beating Georgia would be very big, too, as it would make the ACC 2-1 against the Bulldogs this season. Here's one that might indirectly help, too: Notre Dame beating LSU in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. The five-loss Irish had a disappointing season and yet almost knocked off FSU. And though that almost label can be applied to several teams this year, a pseudo-ACC team beating a brand-name SEC team on national TV will be good for perception moving forward. Especially next year, when the Irish play six ACC teams.

JS: It would behoove Georgia Tech to beat Mississippi State for personal and conference reasons. Georgia Tech is a team that rarely gets the recognition in the years the Jackets are strong, and they are quick to be criticized in down years because of a combination of a surly Paul Johnson and offense ridiculed as antiquated. The Bulldogs were media darlings through much of the season and had a Heisman candidate in Dak Prescott. Any major bowl game against the SEC is a must win for the ACC. Honestly, I don’t know if Tech winning would do much nationally for the league because Mississippi State has faltered late in the season. A Bulldogs win would allow the SEC to pound its chest, though, and the ACC just can’t have that.

DH: There’s no question it’s the Rose Bowl. It’s nothing new for Florida State to carry the torch for the conference, but this year it’s particularly true. FSU was knocked all season long for playing close games against supposedly weak competition, but a win over Oregon would certainly prove that even the middle of the ACC was better than most people thought, and it would put FSU — and the conference — in position for a second straight national title.

AA: First, a winning bowl record is a must. Since 2005, the ACC has posted a winning bowl record just twice. The priority has to be the Florida State game, and then all the games against the SEC, the league it is compared to the most. Going 4-0 in rivalry weekend is great, but the league has to keep building momentum there -- especially since it has a chance to post a winning record against the SEC for the first time since 2003.

Speaking of the SEC, will the ACC ever be on the same footing as the league still regarded as the best in the country?

MF: That's tough to say, especially given the size of the schools and their potential fan bases. Wake Forest is the smallest Power 5 conference school that plays football. The ACC has several private schools as well. And as historic as Boston College and Syracuse's programs are, allow this Northeast native to say that football fandom in that corner of the country isn't exactly what it is down south, where all of the SEC schools are. (As opposed to just some of the ACC schools.) I can't see the SEC's popularity ever really sinking. The population shift in that region, coupled with the enhanced stakes via expansion, TV deals and facilities upgrades, should ensure that football is always very, very important. That shouldn't stop the ACC from cashing in on those factors, though. Many of its programs — and especially its top ones — are well-positioned from a real-estate standpoint to recruit well and continue to grow. Whether that means it has programs on an annual basis that can go toe-to-toe with the Alabamas and LSUs of the world remain to be seen. What makes the SEC so great, though, is that even when some of those bluebloods are down (Florida, Tennessee), others seem to step up in their place (Mississippi State, Ole Miss).

JS: On the field or in the public eye? They might not be that far off right now on the field. Let’s start with the facts that the once beleaguered ACC was brutal on the big stages for several years. The numbers the last two seasons tell a different story, though. Florida State won the national title and is now in the playoff, the conference won two of the final BCS games and has two in New Year’s Six bowls this season and went a collective 4-0 against the SEC on rivalry weekend and 10-7 in nonconference Power-5 games. Why is important to mention the SEC? Because in a regional sport that’s where the game means most and audience and financial numbers attest. Eye balls are drawn to the SEC, so even though King SEC died last season, it’s easy to keep up the charade in a sport in which off-field conversation can trump on-field performance. The ACC doesn’t have the fan bases to generate conversation for all 14 teams, so each member has a responsibility to make its pro-ACC pitch on the football field. The old football axiom is winning cures all, though, and if the ACC keeps chipping away and generating playoff conversation, the respect should come.

DH: The SEC has the full package — the biggest stadiums, the die-hard fan bases, the top recruits, the highest-paid coaches and the most lucrative TV deal. That’s a combination that ensures long-term success, and that league has been forward-thinking about growing its brand. The ACC has been more of a work in progress, and while some programs are clearly making strides — FSU, Clemson, Louisville — to compete with the best of the best, the overall conference has a lot of catching up to do, and the SEC doesn’t seem poised to slow down any time soon.

AA: I don’t think it’s as much about being on equal footing, as making sure it has a more well-rounded middle. The ACC does well in recruiting; it does well with TV payouts; and it continually sends players to the NFL at a rate greater than any league but the SEC. But that talent does not necessarily translate into wins-and-losses across the ACC. Miami and North Carolina are perennial underachievers in that regard. I go back to the points we made earlier. The ACC has to continue to schedule aggressively in nonconference and win those games, and it needs six teams ranked on an annual basis, just like the SEC. When that happens then minds will start to change.

What if the playoff had eight spots?

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9

The champions of the SEC, Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten have been selected for the inaugural College Football Playoff. The co-champions of the Big 12 were the first teams left out of the mix, and calls for an expanded playoff format have ramped up as a result.

No matter the playoff format, there will always be deserving teams on the outside looking in. But an eight-team playoff could accommodate automatic bids for each of the Power 5 conference champions and would likely include every major conference team with one loss or fewer. This year may have been ideally suited for an eight-team playoff since exactly eight Power 5 teams ended the year with two or fewer losses.

How might a hypothetical eight-team playoff play out this postseason? We ran playoff projections on the assumption that the eight playoff seeds would match the College Football Playoff committee's final top-eight ranking and that the quarterfinal round would feature home games for the top seeds. In other words, No. 1 Alabama would host No. 8 Michigan State in the quarterfinals, and the winner would advance to the neutral-site semifinals. Individual game projections for each of the possible playoff matchups were calculated based on ESPN's opponent-adjusted drive efficiency ratings.

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Likelihood to win four-team playoff: 35 percent
Likelihood to win eight-team playoff: 28 percent

Alabama is not the favorite to win the inaugural College Football Playoff, according to our data, but it would be the overall favorite to win in an eight-team format because our rating gives the Tide an 87 percent chance to beat their hypothetical quarterfinal opponent, Michigan State, in Tuscaloosa.

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Picturing an eight-team playoff

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9

It took only about 100 years for major college football to get its first postseason playoff.

Now that the inaugural College Football Playoff is finally here, it already doesn't seem to be big enough. And we haven't even played a game yet.

Who didn't see that coming?

On Sunday, the College Football Playoff selection committee announced that No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Ohio State would play in two semifinal games, with the winners meeting in the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T in Arlington, Texas.

No. 5 Baylor and No. 6 TCU, which each finished 11-1 and shared the Big 12 regular-season title, were left out of the playoffs. The Bears and Horned Frogs weren't happy about being excluded, and they have every right to be angry. Both had a strong argument for making the playoffs.

When the playoff format was announced two years ago, we knew at least one of the Power 5 conferences wasn't going to be happy. There are only four playoff spots for five major leagues: the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.

This year, it was the Big 12's turn to be left out, and next year it might be the ACC (when Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is gone) or the Pac-12 (when Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is gone). If Notre Dame is ever good again, or if a team from a Group of 5 conference makes a strong case for being included, more than one Power 5 conference might be excluded in future seasons. It might also happen if there are two really good teams from one Power 5 league.

Sure, it's an imperfect system, but it's better than what we had during the BCS era, when only two teams were selected to play in a national championship game. Can you imagine if Oregon or Florida State were left out this season?

(Read full post)

Nike unveils CFP teams' uniforms

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9

Nike unveiled the uniforms for all four College Football Playoff teams Tuesday morning.

Each of the uniforms for Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State features a diamond-colored swoosh on the front, which Nike says symbolizes the teams' goal: a diamond championship ring.

As the home team, Oregon will wear green-based uniforms with a green stain finished helmet. As the away team, the Ducks will wear white and gray uniforms and white helmets. The uniform pants have the words "Fighting Ducks" down the side.

Alabama and Florida State will wear their traditional crimson-and-white and garnet-and-gold home uniforms, respectively. Ohio State's home scarlet jersey features black numbers on the shoulders.

Each pair of knit cleats that will be used by all four teams were made using recycled material equal to five plastic bottles, the company said.

It's not a surprise that Nike sponsors all four title contenders; a Nike-sponsored team won 14 of the 16 BCS titles.

Of the teams in contention, Nike's Florida State deal this year is worth the most at $4.4 million in cash and gear, followed by Ohio State ($4.2 million), Alabama ($3.6 million) and Oregon ($3 million).

No. 1 Alabama will face No. 4 Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and No. 2 Oregon will take on No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual. Both games will be played on New Year's Day.

(Read full post)

Were we all deceived?

The answer is yes, according author and writer Michael Weinreb. In a Rolling Stone piece published Monday, he argues that the College Football Playoff selection committee pulled the wool over the collective eyes of America with its vaulting of Ohio State past TCU in the final rankings released Sunday.

He backs Baylor and makes excellent points. But each of the three sides in this discussion are supported by a good argument. Weinreb describes the way in which the committee kept us interested for six weeks, then shuffled the deck at the end, as a “long con.”

That’s where I disagree.

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ACC morning links

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
The Heisman Trophy has its finalists, and only three players were invited to New York.

The reigning Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, is not among them. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise for several obvious reasons.

Foremost, his numbers didn't warrant inclusion to New York City no matter how brilliant he was down the stretch in games. The reality was he probably was going to need to be better than he was in 2013 statistically. There's a reason no player has won the Heisman in consecutive seasons since Archie Griffin in 1974-75. Winston threw for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns last season leading up to the Heisman ceremony. As a redshirt sophomore this season, Winston has thrown for 261 fewer yards and 14 fewer touchdowns. He's also thrown 17 interceptions this season, which ranks dead last among FBS quarterbacks.

Then there are the off-field issues that turned off some Heisman voters before the season even began. Winston was cited for stealing seafood at the end of April and was suspended in September for screaming an obscenity on campus.

Winston, of course, won't mind missing out on New York City if he gets his team to Arlington, Texas, for a shot at defending FSU's national championship. For a team looking to make history this season, the Heisman was always going to be secondary.

Breaking down the CFP semifinals

December, 8, 2014
Dec 8

The wait is finally over, and no matter how you feel about the exclusion of TCU and Baylor, it's hard to argue about the worthiness of the four teams that were chosen for the inaugural College Football Playoff. Here's an in-depth look at how each of the two New Year's Day semifinal showdowns could shake out.

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Time-lapse video of guests at LEGO and Downtown Disney in Disneyland, who were able to create a 7.5' x 8' foot LEGO version of the College Football Playoff bracket.


Florida State Preparing For Rose Bowl
Marty Smith reports from Tallahassee, Florida, where Florida State is preparing to take on the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual.


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