Florida State Seminoles: Al Golden

FSU No. 1 in coaches' poll

July, 31, 2014
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Surprise, surprise -- Florida State is the preseason No. 1 team in the Amway Coaches Poll.

The Seminoles received 56 of the 62 first-place votes as they enter 2014 looking to repeat as national champions.

Clemson and North Carolina were the only other ACC teams to be ranked, coming in at Nos. 16 and 23, respectively. For those keeping track, that means UNC is the only team from the Coastal Division to be ranked in the poll. This comes after Miami was chosen by the media in Greensboro, North Carolina, last week as the preseason Coastal favorite, in the same poll that saw Duke receive the most first-place Coastal votes. It is worth repeating again: This division race is wide open.

Notre Dame, which begins its football affiliation with the ACC this fall, checks in at No. 17 in the coaches' poll.

Miami leads the ACC contingent in the "others receiving votes" category of the coaches' poll, coming in at No. 34 overall. Right behind the Hurricanes? Duke and Louisville, at Nos. 35 and 36, respectively. Virginia Tech comes in at No. 40 while Georgia Tech is No. 48.

Half of the ACC's coaches vote in the poll: Frank Beamer, David Cutcliffe, Larry Fedora, Jimbo Fisher, Al Golden, Paul Johnson and Dabo Swinney. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly votes as well. Shockingly, all eight of those coaches saw their teams receive votes.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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ACC baseball rolls on.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 20, 2014
May 20
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Happy reading.

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Up until Monday, there was a running joke whenever ACC administrators and athletic directors got together during meetings that went a little something like this: Scheduling on the agenda again? Better get used to it.

The joke can be retired now that the ACC has decided to stay at eight conference games. What ended up being the biggest surprise was not the choice to remain status quo, but how quickly the decision was made. Not only had the scheduling subject been going on for years, up until last week there was uncertainty about whether a vote would be taken here at all.

All that was solved in a matter of hours Monday.

So what changed in such short period of time? They simply could not wait any longer to take a vote, not when the other power five conferences had already made their scheduling decisions. They had gone over the scenarios enough and discussed the topic enough.

“I know we will always do what’s in the best interest of the ACC. It probably would have been harder if the other four leagues had gone to nine, but that didn’t dictate our decision,” Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said Tuesday. “But I think everybody realized, ‘Hey, we’ve talked about this for a long time, let’s go ahead and figure this out.’”

[+] EnlargeAl Golden
AP Photo/Alan DiazMiami coach Al Golden was in favor of a nine-game ACC schedule, but he'll be happy that there will be more uniformity in schedule strength going forward.
Staying at eight games ultimately won out for a variety of reasons:

  • Some schools that leaned toward nine games ultimately accepted eight because of the rule that now requires all league teams to play at least one tough nonconference opponent. Miami coach Al Golden, a proponent of nine league games, said, “As long as we’re using the same metrics -- that’s a little bit different than everybody doing their own thing. That’s all we want, uniformity within our league -- not just comparing our league to anther league, but within our league itself.”
  • Notre Dame did play a large role in staying with eight, as well. One athletic director said having the scheduling agreement with the Irish is like having 8 conference games. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville already have an SEC rival on the schedule, making the Notre Dame agreement loom much larger in their scheduling decisions.
  • Home games. Many athletic directors want seven home games per year for a number of reasons, and staying at eight league games helps in that regard. Home-field advantage is obviously huge, but so is the revenue that is generated when you get to play at home.
  • Unbalanced conference schedule. That brings us to the next point. Many athletic directors who voted to stay at eight league games did not want to play five road conference games every other year. Babcock, who spent time at Missouri when the Tigers were in the Big 12, pointed out that the fifth conference road game ended up costing both Oklahoma State and Kansas State a chance to play for the national championship. In 2011, the unbeaten Cowboys lost at Iowa State 37-31 in double overtime, setting up the LSU-Alabama rematch in the BCS national title game. In 2012, unbeaten Kansas State lost at Baylor 52-24.

The wild card, of course, is how the College Football Playoff committee will view strength of schedule for conferences that play eight league games vs. conferences that play nine league games. Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, who will serve on the playoff committee, said the totality of the schedule must be considered regardless of how many league games are played.

“The eight-game [schedule], plus the one out-of-conference game, works best for us right now,” he said. “Things could change down the road, four or five years from now after some experience with the College Football Playoff, but that’s where we need to be right now.”
Thanks to everyone for all the great feedback on the ACC coach rankings. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Go!

Jon in Atlanta writes: Hey AA, I agree mostly on your list. However, I rank coaches based on their ability to coach. I think (David) Cutcliffe is No. 1. Why? Because he took basically 2-3 star players and competed with teams full of 4-5 star players. That in my mind, is what coaching is. Getting your players to play above their level. Also, I would rank Paul Johnson higher. We have a great graduation success percentage. In a college, key word college, coach that is what you want.

Brent in Charlotte writes: Really do not understand your criteria about ranking the coaches in the ACC. What I don't understand is how Jimbo (Fisher) gets credit for what he has done lately (which is due to having a great roster of talent) but others like (Dabo) Swinney don't. Prior to last year, you were questioning how good of a coach Jimbo really was since he had all that talent and hadn't gotten "over the hump". Because in your next argument, you talk about (Frank) Beamer's body of work and Cutcliffe's one good season (and throw out his five bad seasons). I think Cutcliffe is a great coach as well but No. 2 in the ACC after one good season in a weak division? Your rankings are all over the map and do not make any sense as to what you are comparing them against. If it's body of work, then it's clearly Beamer. If it's turnarounds, then it's Cutcliffe and (Al) Golden. And arguably Golden since he won at TEMPLE of all places. If it's who is doing the best now, it's Fisher and then Swinney.

Neil in Leland, N.C., writes: Beamer, (Bobby) Petrino AND Cutcliffe ahead of Dabo? Are you serious? Cutcliffe is 16-11 the last two years with bad bowl losses to Texas A&M and Cincinnati. Beamer has been owned by Clemson the last two times out, losing by 61-13. Petrino inherits a Louisville team WITHOUT (Teddy) Bridgewater and several others, and has yet to coach a single game in the ACC. Dabo is 22-4 the last two years, two top 10 finishes, and bowl victories over two top 10 teams. Me thinks you might have something against Clemson or Coach Swinney. It's the only thing I can think of.

Chris Butterick in Nashville, Tenn., writes: Like your list and agree on Cutliffe and Beamer but would think with the quality of player Swinney has recruited, he could have done a better "coaching" job. He is entertainment but just not as good as he is rated -- would put him eighth or ninth and also move Petrino down with Swinney. Honestly, it is about his character or lack thereof, but what has he really done lately? Also might flop Golden and (Larry) Fedora. Thanks for the rankings.

Stevie in Simpsonville, S.C., writes: Seriously? Just when I thought you knew what you were talking about? Swinney below Beamer (who he beat) as well as Cutcliffe (admirable, don't get me wrong) but in a division that has artificially been pumped up as "competitive"? I say do away with the divisions, rotate the games fairly, and let the best teams represent a rising ACC. Yes, rising! That and how about a rule against UNC for these classes I wish I could have taken back in college.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Ellen Ozier/USA TODAY SportsDavid Cutcliffe is 31-44 in six seasons as Duke coach.
Dana Dill in Cincinnati writes: You can't punish Swinney simply because he recruits well. Recruiting is part of coaching in college football. Swinney has turned the whole culture around at Clemson, not just the football program and it continues to thrive four years into his reign. He is a couple big wins away from a national championship and if Cutcliffe was competing in the same division as Clemson/FSU he wouldn't be playing for the ACC championship.

Will Graham in Liverpool, N.Y., writes: Scott Shafer should of been higher because winning a bowl game and finishing third in your division of the ACC conference where nobody expected them to do either must warrant something.

Yungdungbeetle87 in Chamapaign, Ill., writes: I like the job that Shafer is doing at the Cuse. I realize his body of work as a HC isn't very extensive and that surely is part of the reason why his coach ranking falls near the bottom of the ACC. On the other hand, he has done a lot with comparatively little, recruiting seems to be trending upwards, and the program looks to heading in the right direction despite being in the stronger division. I think that he, among the coaches in the ACC, has a really good chance to move up on that list within the next couple of seasons. I think he could be the biggest mover on this list next year. Thanks for reading (I've never done one of these before).

Robert VT in Blacksburg, Va., writes: Hi Andrea, thanks for your input. However, I do not feel that Bobby Petrino should be ranked in the top 6 for ACC coaches, when he hasn't coached a league game yet. Nothing against Petrino, and I'm happy to see Louisville enter our league on July 1. Granted Petrino has demonstrated in the past his high football acumen, but I think he may be cast a little too high right now. We'll see!

John P in St. Louis, Mo. ,writes: As you mentioned in your article, I believe there is a fairly large qualifier to this ranking. Are you ranking the coaches as they sit today, or as a body of work throughout their entire career? Those two lists would have quite a few differences for me, with Beamer being Exhibit A. For a coaching career, it's hard not to throw him at No. 1 with what he has accomplished, but in May 2014 would I pick him first out of this list to be my coach? Not even close. With that said, I'll assume the rankings are as if I'm picking a coach to run my team tomorrow: 1. Fisher 2. Cutcliffe 3. Swinney 4. Petrino 5. Fedora 6. Beamer 7. Golden 8. Chryst 9. Johnson 10. Doeren 11. Clawson 12. Addazio 13. Shafer 14. London. Go Cards!

Doug Levy in Radford, Va., writes: I get Fisher being up there based on winning a National Championship, but if you look at the body of his work, it may not merit the top spot. Cutcliffe ahead of Beamer just because he took Duke to the ACC championship game? Once? Yeah, it's Duke, but come on ... Name one coach on the list who has changed the way college football is played? There is only one: Frank Beamer. His approach to special teams play changed the game. His body of work is better than most in the nation, not just the ACC. Has he had a few down years? Yup, but who hasn't. Alabama, Texas, etc. have all had their slumps. Beamer is best.

Ranking the ACC coaches

May, 6, 2014
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After Florida State won the national championship, some began to debate where Jimbo Fisher stood among all coaches nationally.

Had he reached an elite level with that title?

The Sporting News has attempted to answer that question in its coaches rankings, released last week. Fisher ranks No. 10 among all head coaches on the list, the highest among all ACC coaches. But that still seems too low for a coach who has two ACC titles, an Orange Bowl victory, a national championship, a Heisman Trophy winner on his roster and a school-record 11 draft picks in 2013 alone. Especially when you consider how much work had to be done to get the Seminoles back into the national conversation.

[+] EnlargeBobby Bowden
AP Photo/Steve CannonA national championship has raised Jimbo Fisher's profile after coaching under Florida State legend Bobby Bowden.
While it is true that Florida State lost games it simply should not have under Fisher, what happened last season should carry more weight. It did for Gus Malzahn, who surprisingly checks in only three spots behind Fisher on the list.

At the very least, Fisher deserves to be ranked ahead of Chris Petersen, David Shaw and Brian Kelly. You could have a great debate on whether Fisher should be ranked ahead of Les Miles or Mark Dantonio, too. Very few teams rival the talent and depth Fisher has assembled over the last few seasons. If the Seminoles contend for another national championship, I expect Fisher to be ranked much higher when the 2015 version comes out next year.

As for the rest of the ACC, here is how the rankings shake out, with overall national ranking:

  • No. 10 Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
  • No. 16 Dabo Swinney, Clemson
  • No. 18 David Cutcliffe, Duke
  • No. 21 Bobby Petrino, Louisville
  • No. 30 Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
  • No. 31 Larry Fedora, North Carolina
  • No. 32 Al Golden, Miami
  • No. 53 Paul Johnson Georgia Tech
  • No. 60 Paul Chryst, Pitt
  • No. 65 David Clawson, Wake Forest
  • No. 66 Steve Addazio, Boston College
  • No. 68 Dave Doeren, NC State
  • No. 83 Scott Shafer, Syracuse
  • No. 102 Mike London, Virginia

I would make a few tweaks to this list. Swinney has done a great job at Clemson, but I would move Cutcliffe ahead for a few reasons. Nobody ever expected the Blue Devils to compete for an ACC title, but that is exactly what happened last year. Cutcliffe has taken this team to back-to-back bowl games, an ACC championship game and has won consecutive coach of the year honors while having to recruit to a tough academic school. Duke is not bringing in the kind of quality classes Clemson is; Cutcliffe is simply doing more with less.

I also would move Beamer up, but the question is where? Ahead of both Swinney and Petrino? Ahead of Petrino only? Should the last few years take away from all his accomplishments? I understand the Sporting News rankings are a snapshot of how coaches fare year to year, but Beamer should get credit for his long body of work. Beamer has won seven conference titles and made six BCS appearances, including one national championship game. Petrino has a great offensive mind and Swinney has put Clemson back into the Top 25 every year, but neither has come close to Beamer's career accomplishments.

I would also move Chryst down. Doeren did have a disappointing first year at NC State, but he also led Northern Illinois to an Orange Bowl appearance. Chryst is 13-13 overall as a head coach, though he had a rough deal handed to him to fix the Pitt mess he inherited. I feel pretty confident in the top 5. The rest? Flip 'em up, down and all around and you could make arguments to move just about everybody. Taking into account recent success (weighted slightly more), body of work and results at a power-5 job (weighted slightly more), the AA rankings would look something like this:

1. Fisher
2. Cutcliffe
3. Beamer
4. Swinney
5. Petrino
6. Golden
7. Fedora
8. Johnson
9. Addazio
10. Doeren
11. Chryst
12. Clawson
13. Shafer
14. London

Send me your thoughts into the mailbag, and I will publish your responses this Friday. Let the debate begin!


Clemson coach Dabo Swinney didn't want to do it.

When he met with former quarterback Chad Kelly on the Monday following Clemson's spring game, Swinney said his original plan was to suspend Kelly -- not dismiss him from the team entirely -- but the meeting "just didn’t go well."

"There’s just certain things you can’t tolerate, and that’s just the bottom line," Swinney said. "It wasn’t a good meeting. It was a simple decision that was made. He moved on and we moved on."

So did more than half the ACC this spring, to a new era of quarterbacks.

Cole Stoudt’s tenure began swiftly at Clemson, ending what was one of the most intriguing quarterback competitions in the ACC and capping a spring that was filled with quarterback news throughout the conference.

[+] EnlargeKevin Olsen
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsKevin Olsen became Miami's first-string quarterback when Ryan Williams tore his ACL.
At Miami, quarterback Ryan Williams tore his ACL, leaving Kevin Olsen the undisputed starter heading into summer camp.

At Duke, Brandon Connette announced his decision to transfer to the West Coast, leaving Anthony Boone in an unfamiliar role of being the lone leader.

Boston College named Florida transfer Tyler Murphy its starter, Syracuse reaffirmed Terrel Hunt as its starter, Justin Thomas is the main man at Georgia Tech, Will Gardner took the lead at Louisville and Chad Voytik became the obvious choice at Pitt.

What began as a position up for grabs in the ACC is largely no longer a mystery, as many schools determined their starting quarterback this spring, or at least had separation occur -- if not by performance, then by default. While most of the quarterbacks throughout the league are still unproven (six schools don’t have any starting experience returning to the position, and four schools brought in transfers to help), many enter summer camp at least sure of where they stand on the depth chart.

"I had my meeting with the coaches before all that happened, and I felt comfortable with where I was," said Stoudt, who will make his first career start in the season opener at Georgia. "They said I was going to be the guy and everything. I know there were some things that happened, but I'm happy with the situation, and I'm happy I'm the guy going into fall camp, so it's exciting."

Nine of the 14 schools in the ACC will introduce a first-year starting quarterback this fall. Of the 11 teams that entered spring with quarterback competitions, eight found answers -- or at least had an obvious front-runner emerge.

At Miami, Williams had distanced himself from Olsen through his decision-making and accuracy, but the torn ACL meant an instant promotion for Olsen. Still, coach Al Golden said his confidence in the position remains high.

"I think we're not going to change what we do," Golden said. "We need to do a really good job of establishing the running game, keeping it simple, doing what we do best. Getting into more third-and-manageables. We were in way too many third-and-longs last year to possess the ball and convert. Clearly the two young men we have here on campus right now can do it. The two coming in will also have an opportunity to compete."

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsVirginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is still looking for a starting quarterback to emerge.
The only three schools that didn’t come close to naming a starter this spring were Virginia Tech, Virginia and Wake Forest. It's not a stretch to say that the Hokies' hopes of returning to the ACC title game hinge on having a dependable quarterback emerge, and as one of the premier programs in the Coastal Division, it will continue to be one of the most-watched storylines of the summer. Those within the program have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and true freshman Chris Durkin. The staff has made it perfectly clear they won’t name a starter until those two are added to the competition this summer.

"The big question really is the quarterback," coach Frank Beamer said. "I think Mark Leal, Brenden Motley and Andrew Ford all have had their moments. Some of it's good; some of it's not as good as you like. I think Michael Brewer coming in, Chris Durkin coming in, will enter into the competition there. We'll see how that ends up. But that's certainly the critical question for our football team right now."

The critical question for the rest of the conference becomes how these new starters will perform when it counts. Now that most of them have earned their starting jobs, there's pressure to keep them.

"I've said that if we were to play tomorrow, [Will Gardner] would run out there as our starter," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "… There will certainly be competition for it in the fall. He’ll have a chance to go out each day and prove that he's either the better quarterback, or someone passes him by."

More often than not, the ACC's new quarterbacks were able to prove it this spring.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
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First prediction I've gotten right all tourney.

ACC mailblog for Friday

March, 14, 2014
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The mailbag has returned. Make sure to keep those questions coming so we have enough to fill up this space each week!

Paul in Roanoke, Va., writes: As a lifelong UVA fan, of course I would love to see Mike London turn things around this fall and get the program back to respectability. However, many fellow Wahoo fans seem to think he will not make it past 2014 and have already begun to speculate on who AD Craig Littlepage will target for the next head coach. With Al Golden turning down the Penn State job, his potential return to Charlottesville has become a dream scenario for many fans, and I honestly don't think it seems that far-fetched. His suit-and-tie personality fits in well with UVA, and he had a great deal of success coaching Ahmad Brooks, Chris Canty, and others under Al Groh before taking the Temple job. Given UVA's top-notch facilities, great academics, solid fan base and location near the Hampton Roads recruiting hotbed, it seems to be a desirable location for someone who already has a history of winning there. And an intra-conference coaching move isn't unprecedented given that Tom O'Brien did it when he moved from BC to NC State. Do you think there is any chance at all that Golden could be lured away by the Wahoos, or do you think he will call Coral Gables home for the foreseeable future?

Andrea Adelson writes: Paul, I appreciate the question, but I cannot speculate about two men still employed as head coaches. I completely understand your concerns about Mike London, given what has happened the past few seasons. And I completely understand the coaching connection between the school and Golden, who has done a solid job at both Temple and Miami. I have no idea what the future holds for either coach. Golden has drawn interest from Wisconsin and Penn State (his alma mater) the last two seasons and stayed with the Canes. Does that mean he is in Coral Gables for the long term? Only time will tell. As for London, he absolutely has to get the ship righted as quickly as possible. He signed a terrific class in February, so I want to see what he does with these incoming players and a second year with his coordinators in place.


Tony Milano in Marco Island, Fla., writes: Andrea, I have not read anything about the defense at Boston College. Can you tell me how it is doing?

Adelson writes: BC has only had three practices so far, Tony, so you have not missed out on many big updates. In talking to coach Steve Addazio before practice began, I know he was really pumped about Josh Keyes at linebacker, and the return of just about everybody in the secondary. That remains a huge area that has to improve headed into next season. BC ranked last in pass defense and wore down as the season went on. This will be a much more veteran group in 2014, and Addazio believes that will translate to better results on the field.


Ethan in N.Y., writes: While the Hokies haven't exactly been spectacular these past two seasons, they have still been major contenders in the Coastal Division. In 2012, they were 55 seconds away from beating No. 10 FSU and were still a contender in November. In 2013, they were one North Carolina victory away from playing in Charlotte. Whether this pays tribute to the Hokies or shows how bad the Coastal has been the past two seasons, I don't know. This just tells you to never count out the Hokies. I pick them behind UNC to finish second in the Coastal in 2014, but they could easily win it, or be fifth. Where do you see them finishing in the murky pool of chaos that is the ACC Coastal Division?

Adelson writes: Great question, Ethan. The Coastal has been muddled the past two seasons, and I do not think 2014 is going to be much of an exception. I could legitimately make the case for six teams to win the division this fall. While I believe North Carolina and Duke are the top two at this point, if Virginia Tech can solve its offensive issues, the Hokies absolutely will be in the mix. I also think Pitt could have a great shot as a darkhorse, given some of the players it returns to the team. The Panthers have more talent at the skill positions than the Hokies do headed into the spring. Miami, with a healthy Duke Johnson, cannot be counted out. And Georgia Tech always hangs around the Coastal race. I am happy I don't have to slot my teams in 1-7 until July!


Gil Torres in Mobile, Ala., writes: With Bobby Petrino going to Louisville, how long do you think it will take him to compete for the ACC championship and possibly competing with SEC? Thanks in advance for your answer.

Adelson writes: Gil, given how much of a head start Clemson and Florida State have on him, it is going to take at least a few years for the Cards to compete for an ACC championship. I think they will win their fair share of games, but they need some excellent cycles on the recruiting side to begin building the consistent talent and depth we have seen from their two biggest Atlantic foes.


John in Arlington, Va., writes: Hi Andrea, Big fan of the blog and read it just about every day. I was just wondering why we keep getting updates about Jameis Winston's baseball career? I understand he's the most well-known player in the ACC, and it's the slow time of the year for a college football blog, but this is just that, a college football blog. If I wanted information on how well he's doing in baseball, I would follow college baseball. Just saw a link to "Winston's easy ninth inning", which fueled this rant. Other than that, keep up the good work and thanks for all you do.

Adelson writes: Thanks for reading, John. I think what Winston is doing with baseball is completely relevant and totally fascinating. Players as skilled as Winston have been told for years they had to pick one sport over another. This is the rare exception when he is not only allowed to do both, but excels at both. I understand how all the Winston mania may be getting a little bit old for some people. But his status as the Heisman Trophy winner on the No. 1 team in America makes his baseball career worth following. Especially if it ends up impacting what happens on the football field.

ACC's lunch links

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
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Miami, NC State, North Carolina and UVa are all on spring break and resume practice next week.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
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Oscars '14: Selfies setting records.

ACC mailblog

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
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Hi again.

Tim in Blacksburg writes: I just read the article about the rivalry weekend being a good thing for the ACC, and I noticed your comment with regards to Pitt-Miami being the only lackluster pairing in the bunch. I did some thinking and why not try to work out a deal with the Big Ten to continue the Pitt-Penn State rivalry and then schedule Miami-Notre Dame.

[+] EnlargeAl Golden
AP Photo/Alan DiazMiami visits Notre Dame in 2016, but nobody will complain if Al Golden's team played the Irish earlier than that.
I feel like this idea could create two even better rivalry games, as well as renew two great CFB rivalries.

Andrea Adelson writes: I shall forward these thoughts to the ACC office. Now THIS would be an absolutely epic rivalry weekend. Pitt and Penn State do have their rivalry set to resume in 2016. Miami travels to Notre Dame in 2016. So perhaps for this season, the ACC schedule-makers could add these two to make it a super bonanza rivalry weekend. It can't happen every season, though, since Miami and Notre Dame won't play every year. But at least once? Totally worth it.

Brian Iannone in Due West, South Carolina writes: "I give credit to Auburn for doing what it had to do to try and win the game." REALLY???????? That's about the saddest thing I have ever read by a so-called sports reporter. … Cheating should never be tolerated. What are you gonna come out in favor of next, bounties on players heads?

Adelson writes: Well, if Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is OK with it, then I guess he tolerates cheating, too. This is what Fisher said when asked about Auburn stealing signs during the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. "That's part of the game. I don't have a problem with that," and "that happens, people do it, and that's our fault."

BuffaloCane in Buffalo, N.Y., writes: Andrea, there was a line in your article talking about Al Golden, in which you talked about the lack of strength and skill on defense. During the Russell Athletic Bowl, the announcers couldn't talk enough about how much talent and size that Louisville took out of the Miami area. Do you think Al Golden feels he owes his staff at least this recruiting class (which already looks to be adding a lot of that size and talent) to show the kind of changes fans want, due to his staff weathering the storm with him? Do you think that should the defense get manhandled again that both the defensive and strength/conditioning positions will get overhauled?

Adelson writes: I should think Golden and his staff know they have to be better up front. That has been a glaring problem area for a few years now, and I do believe Golden has worked to address this area of need. But beefy, physical linemen who are ready made to play immediately are extremely rare. Look at Mario Edwards over at Florida State. He was the No. 1 prospect in his class, but it has taken several years of development for him to get more consistent. And he still is not physically dominant on every play. That example is not meant to pick on Edwards but to show that developing players on the offensive and defensive lines is perhaps the toughest job any coach has to do. But Golden is going into Year 4 now. His players have to be better up front. I can't predict the future, so I don't know what happens if Miami doesn't improve. But this really is a critical year for the defensive staff.

Kevin Dondrea in Godollo, Hungary writes: I'm an Ohio State fan, born and raised in Ohio. Grew up with Urban Meyer in Ashtabula. Urban gets bashed a lot by SEC fans. I spent 3 years in Louisville during the Bobby Petrino years. So I have a little Louisville fan in me. I can understand Louisville fans being pretty mad at Bobby. I'm still pretty miffed at LeBron for screwing my Cavs and others who dined and dashed my other Cleveland teams. But when it comes to Louisville, I think they will really benefit from Coach Petrino leaving Louisville. While at Louisville, he started getting a big head. Since leaving, he has gotten knocked back down to Earth. Like Bill Belichick, he (stunk) as a coach in Cleveland -- now he's led the New England Patriots to success. Do you think Bobby Petrino can take Louisville to the next level and win a national championship?

Adelson writes: I think everybody is hoping the Petrino who is at Louisville now has been completely humbled and changed. The man can coach, and he has proven that at every stop along the way. So can he now take the next step? That is a great question. Louisville has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to knock off division counterparts Florida State and Clemson. Those two programs already have a leg up on the Cardinals. It also has to make sure it stays ahead of in-state rival Kentucky as well. The schedule gets a lot tougher with this move to the ACC, but in one respect, it is easier than the slate Petrino faced with Arkansas in the SEC West. Still, making the transition to a new staff and new conference will take some time. If Louisville does reach the next level, it may not be until a few years down the line.

Michael W. Holbrook in Syracuse writes: Hi Andrea! I'm just curious of your expertise! How long do you think until (when or if) the Syracuse Orange will become an ELITE FOOTBALL TEAM?!?!?!?

Adelson writes: It is hard to put timetables to these last two questions. I think Syracuse exceeded expectations in Year 1 in the ACC, but like Louisville, the Orange have a lot of work to do to catch up to Florida State and Clemson after getting completely blown out by both this past season. Syracuse is not yet recruiting at an elite level, and that has to be the first thing that changes. The Seminoles and Tigers are not only the best the ACC has right now, but they also have been the best at assembling outstanding recruiting classes and then developing that talent.

ACC mailblog

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
4:00
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Step into my (unusually chilly) office ...

James Hanson in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Does Auburn stealing FSU's signals change the way we view the BCS championship game? When comparing the scores of before the towels went up to after ... there is a huge difference. Maybe this team was much better than thought.

Andrea Adelson: It doesn't change my view. Florida State should have probably predicted Auburn would try and do something like this with former assistant Dameyune Craig on the Tigers' sideline. I give credit to Auburn for doing what it had to do to try and win the game.

[+] EnlargeLouisville's Bobby Petrino
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesOnly time will tell if Louisville coach Bobby Petrino has truly changed.
Luke in Louisville writes: Hey Andrea, Nice to be back in the same mailbag as you. I was wondering if you could try a not wholly pessimistic review of the Petrino hire? Perhaps you could, instead of portraying him as a cartoon villain, single-dimensional and unchanging, characterize him as a multi-dimensional human being capable of both making mistakes and correcting them? Or is it basically the ESPN line? I noticed that Mark Schlabach and the Grantland writer have also written essentially the same piece. And note: I'm not dissing you -- your piece as usual was solid; I'm just curious if anyone's given any consideration to the possibility of change.

Adelson writes: Nice to see you again, Luke. If you are implying that ESPN has dispersed an email giving us talking points about the Petrino hire, I have to laugh. My thoughts are mine alone, same goes for Schlabach and everybody else who has written on this subject. I would love to believe every single thing Petrino said during his press conference. If he stays for 10 years and retires a Cardinal, that would be a great time to praise him for truly being a changed man who recognized his terrible mistakes and went about fixing them not just for himself, but for his family and his players first and foremost. Until then, I have to remain skeptical about a coach who has left behind a long trail of deceit. I do wish him luck, and I do hope he has changed. If he has, then I look forward to being proven wrong.

Matt in Winston-Salem writes: AA, looking at some of the Commissioner's comments about scheduling led me to believe that A) FSU is griping that the Atlantic is disproportionately tough, and B) that the conference is going to do whatever it can to protect FSU as we move into the playoff era. The schedules were just done! How else can you explain this sudden shift in thinking? Please don't refer me to that commish-speak, either. I have a simple solution for Mr. Swofford ... if he wants flexibility, add a conference game.

Adelson: I don't think this has much at all to do with Florida State, actually. How would it protect Florida State to potentially make the ACC championship game more difficult with, say, a rematch against Clemson? I think this has more to do with griping from a lot of teams about going so long between playing games against cross-divisional opponents. Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross made very candid comments to Swofford and the league's athletic directors in an email to that end, and suggested going back to the idea of adding a ninth league game and eliminating mandated rivalry games. I am not sure abolishing divisions will solve all the problems, but there are major scheduling problems this league will face moving forward that should be discussed.

Carla in Houston writes: Just curious: How do you think the ACC will be viewed going into next year? Will the committee be impressed by a team doing well in-conference, or is the ACC still thought to be weak? On one hand we have Florida State, THE national champion! Boy it feels good to say that! The Seminoles were unstoppable this year and have a Heisman winner to prove it. Not to forget Clemson, who finally seemed to break its big-game curse! But the rest of the conference worries me. Virginia Tech underperforming yet again? Miami face-planting? Georgia Tech being unable to move the national radar for another year? We have Louisville coming in so that will be a plus, but even that might not be enough. I am worried the ACC will start being viewed as a top-heavy conference, where beating Florida State and Clemson is the *only* way a team can get respect. Thoughts?

Adelson: You bring up an excellent point, Carla. The ACC already is viewed as a top heavy conference, one reinforced by the way the 2013 season ended. I wonder whether Florida State winning the national championship gives extra brownie points, though. Remember midway through this past season, Alabama and Oregon were thought to be better than Florida State when the three were unbeaten. Would that be different in 2014, with the Seminoles as defending champs? I think it would be different. But at the same time, the overall conference schedule will not be viewed as more difficult than the SEC or the Pac-12 based on the reasons you mentioned above. As Heather wrote Thursday, it is absolutely critical for the ACC moving forward to have at least four Top 25 teams WITH a “traditional” power like Miami and Virginia Tech in that group. I think an unbeaten ACC team would be in the top four for a playoff, but I can't make guarantees about the seeding. The ACC does remain behind the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 in overall conference strength, even with BCS wins from Florida State and Clemson.

Ricky in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Good Morning Andrea, FSU season ticket holder here. Please clarify for me the following regarding the new college football playoff. If the Seminoles go the distance and make it to the NC game again next year, will I now have to pay to travel to TWO bowl locations to see them play?! Sure, the distance to even the furthest assumed semifinal location (Orange Bowl) is "driveable" (6-8 hours from Tallahassee), but there's still gas, hotel, ticket, and incidentals to pay for. Then I'd have to turn around and do it again to see the NC game??? The trip to Pasadena this year was costly enough (roughly $2,000). I don't think the average fan or students can afford to do that twice in one season. Am I missing something or does it seem like the fans are getting the short end of the stick?

Adelson: You forgot travel for the ACC championship game, Ricky. Sorry if this depresses you further. But if you are a fan who wants to see your team advance all the way in person, it will cost you more. Next season, semifinals will be held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 1. The national championship game is set for Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12. Better start saving those pennies now if you want to hit the league title game-semifinal-national championship game trifecta. But I think tough decisions are going to await a lot of students and fans who simply cannot afford to go to all these games.

Tom in Santa Monica, Calif., writes: As a Miami fan, I commend your recent piece on Coach Al Golden. The last two years have fielded the worst defensive units in the program's history. The numbers are horrific. ... The bloom is most definitely off the rose with this guy. He's made some notable improvements in terms of recruiting, strength & conditioning, and some aspects of the culture (though that has understandably dampened with all of the losing), but his game day woes continue and show no sign of abating. While at Miami, Golden is 0-9 against Top 25* teams (*teams that have ended the year ranked in the Top 25). And those contests haven't even been close -- we're losing them on an average of nearly 3 TDs a game. Outcoached and outplayed in every facet. His ShamWow infomercial talk has almost exhausted itself. He'll reel in a great class in February, and he'll continue to get a lot of mileage out of the NCAA situation (the "cloud" that wiped out his "time table"), but for those willing to look closer, as you have done with your article, Al Golden is looking more and more to be the wrong guy to return Miami to any place of actual relevance. Keep up the good work.

Adelson writes: Thanks for your note, Tom. I am not writing Golden off yet. The defense has been abysmal, and I think staff changes were warranted. But he did get this team to nine wins this year, which should count as progress. At the same time, he needs to definitively prove he is closing the gap on Florida State and can deliver more than nine wins. He's on the clock.
1. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said Sunday that he expected a feeling-out period in the first quarter against Florida State, largely because of the 30-day layoff. Alabama scored touchdowns on its first two possessions a year ago, but those were the first first-quarter touchdowns in the BCS Championship Game in five years, since Beanie Wells of Ohio State broke for a 65-yard score against LSU.

2. Auburn has won with more than its share of improbabilities, but the fact that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher replaced six assistant coaches after the 2012 season and the team improved is, to say the least, unusual. “A lot of those guys I’ve known in the past,” Fisher said. “There were a lot of guys who philosophically believe a lot of the same things I do. … We get along. There’s a bunch of guys there that truly like each other and hang out together and it’s been a tremendous group.”

3. Mama called and Al Golden didn’t answer. The Miami head coach released a statement Sunday that he will not be leaving for Penn State, his alma mater. To be fair, I don’t know if Penn State wanted to hire Golden or not. But it should be pointed out that after three seasons of living in the shadow of an NCAA investigation, Golden may be excused for not returning to the Nittany Lions and their NCAA problems.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 30, 2013
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Not bad, Week 17. Not bad at all.

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