Florida State Seminoles: Andre Williams

Phil Steele released his preseason All-ACC teams earlier this week, and it might have been noteworthy to some that the player he listed as his second-team quarterback — North Carolina’s Marquise Williams — isn’t currently assured of even keeping his starting job. That, of course, speaks to the quality of Williams’ competition (Mitch Trubisky has a little talent, too), but mostly to the lack of any established experience at the position around the ACC.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 2, 2014
May 2
12:00
PM ET
Bring on the Game 7s.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
12:00
PM ET
What happened to you, Pacers?

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
12:00
PM ET
These NBA Playoffs have been something else.

ACC's lunch links

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
12:00
PM ET
Because you know you want to see Larry Fedora rapping Drake lyrics

Reviewing the ACC pro days

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
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Pro days are now in the rearview mirror, with a month remaining between now and the NFL draft. With that, let's take a look back at some notable performances from ACC pro days this year.

Boston College (March 12)
Big name: RB Andre Williams. Representatives from 29 NFL teams were on hand to see the nation's top running back from last season. Williams says he improved on his combine 40-yard-dash time of 4.56. Also of note: Nate Freese, who went 20 of 20 last season on field goal tries, did not disappoint in front of his future employers, hitting a 60-yard try.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
AP Photo/Michael ConroyClemson WR Sammy Watkins in all likelihood will be the first ACC player drafted in May.
Clemson (March 6)
Big name: WR Sammy Watkins. Watkins stood on his 40 time of 4.43 from the combine but was there to help out quarterback Tajh Boyd, doing little to change the general consensus that he is the top receiver in this year's draft. Boyd said scouts told him his performance was much better than his showings at the combine and Senior Bowl, as he connected on short, intermediate and deep routes with familiar receivers in familiar environs.

Duke (March 26)
Big name: CB Ross Cockrell. Cockrell improved on his combine results, with Duke saying that his 40 time was sub-4.4, which is better than what he ran in Indianapolis (4.56).

Florida State (March 17)
Big name: Where to begin? DL Timmy Jernigan slightly improved his combine 40-time from 5.06 to 5.03. S Terrence Brooks, LB Telvin Smith, DB Lamarcus Joyner and LB Christian Jones all drew a crowd, but they declined to run the 40 in front of reps from all 32 NFL teams, content to sit on their combine performances.

Georgia Tech (March 28)
Big name: LB Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu ran drills at both linebacker and defensive lineman, recovering nicely from a hamstring injury in the Senior Bowl that forced him out of the combine. He said his 40 time was in the 4.5s. DB Jemea Thomas also impressed, reportedly running a 4.38 40.

Louisville (March 17)
Big name: QB Teddy Bridgewater. With scouts from 29 teams watching, Bridgewater was off target with several of his throws. He ran an unofficial 4.78 40 time, but the potential No. 1 pick misfired on at least 10 passes, leaving some questions lingering heading into the draft.

Miami (April 3)
Big name: OT Seantrel Henderson. This is the name that is going to stick out, as Henderson did not finish his workouts. His agent later told reporters that it was due to dehydration. With 30 NFL teams represented, quarterback Stephen Morris took a strong step forward, reportedly completed almost all of his 67 throws.

North Carolina (March 25)
Big name: TE Eric Ebron. Ebron stood on his 40 time from the combine of 4.60, but his pro day was marred by several dropped passes, though the always upbeat tight end was not stressed about the drops when speaking to reporters afterward.

NC State (March 25)
Big name: CB Dontae Johnson. Johnson showed his versatility, as he can play corner or safety, and he said he felt better than he did at the combine, where he ran a 40 time of 4.45 and jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical.

Pittsburgh (March 3)
Big name: DT Aaron Donald. College football's best defensive player rested on his combine numbers in the 40 (4.68) and bench press (35 times), but teammates Tom Savage and Devin Street helped themselves. Savage impressed during a scripted 100-throw workout while Street said he ran a sub-4.5 40.

Syracuse
Big name: LB Marquis Spruill. Spruill recovered nicely from a combine snub, weighing in at 231 pounds, nine pounds heavier than his playing weight. He did not disclose numbers. Running back Jerome Smith, meanwhile, said he ran in the 4.5-4.6 range, which would be an improvement over his combine time of 4.84.

Virginia (March 17)
Big name: OT Morgan Moses. A considerably different-looking Moses showed up at 311 pounds, roughly 20 pounds lighter from his playing days with the Cavaliers. After clocking in at 5.35 in the 40 at the combine, he unofficially ran between 4.9 and 5.06 at his pro day, though he pulled a hamstring during one of the runs, forcing him to miss the remainder of his drills.

Virginia Tech (March 19)
Big name: QB Logan Thomas. Thomas remains a fascinating prospect to keep an eye on in the NFL, and he threw well in front of NFL scouts at pro day. Corner Antone Exum impressed as well, running 40 times of 4.53 and 4.55.

Wake Forest (March 17)
Big name: WR Michael Campanaro. After seeing his final year end prematurely because of a shoulder injury, Campanaro, the only Demon Deacon to have garnered a combine invite, again impressed in receiver drills, making his case to become a potential mid-round pick. Nose guard Nikita Whitlock, meanwhile, saw himself lining up as a fullback for the first time in his career. Weather conditions were less than ideal for the NFL hopefuls.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
12:00
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Taking questions for the mailbag. Send them along here.

Making history in the ACC

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
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As we turn the page to 2014, it's worth taking a look back at what a truly historic season 2013 was for the ACC. The conference reached several unprecedented milestones that will make 2013 one of the league's more memorable seasons. Just in case you need a little bragging material heading into spring ball ...
  • The ACC became the first conference to have 11 teams with winning records since 1932, when the old Southern Conference was a 24-team league.
  • It was the first time in the league’s 61-year history that three ACC teams ended the regular season with at least 10 wins (Florida State, Duke and Clemson).
  • Duke won 10 games for the first time in school history. The Blue Devils' previous high for victories was nine, originally set in 1933 and matched in 1936, 1938 and 1941.
  • Florida State finished 14-0 for the first time in school history, besting the previous mark of 12-0 set by the 1999 national champions.
  • The ACC became the first conference in history to have a player win the Heisman Trophy (Jameis Winston, FSU), the Doak Walker Award (Andre Williams, BC), the Outland Trophy (Aaron Donald, Pitt), the Nagurski Trophy (Donald), the Lombardi Award (Donald) and the Bednarik Award (Donald) in the same season.
  • Winston became the youngest player in history to win the Heisman Trophy. He was also the first freshman to win the award and lead his team to the national championship in the same season.
  • With FSU’s win over No. 2 Auburn and Clemson’s win over then-No. 7 Ohio State, the ACC led all conferences with three wins over top-10 teams in 2013. The ACC was the only conference with multiple wins over top-10 nonconference teams.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
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The NFL draft combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will be held from Feb. 19-25 and will feature workouts, medical examinations, psychological testing and interviews for the 335 invited prospects. The ACC has a total of 46 players who will participate, including at least one player from every school (we included Maryland and not Louisville in this post, because it is from the 2013 season). National champion Florida State led the league with eight players heading to the combine, but UNC was right behind with seven. Don't cry ... you're gonna miss some of these names next year. Good luck to these guys.

Here is the official list of the ACC attendees:

BOSTON COLLEGE (5)
CLEMSON (4)
DUKE (1)
FLORIDA STATE (8)
GEORGIA TECH (2)
MARYLAND (1)
MIAMI (5)
NORTH CAROLINA (7)
NC STATE (1)
PITTSBURGH (3)
SYRACUSE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
VIRGINIA TECH (4)
WAKE FOREST (1)
Some are can't-miss prospects, such as Jameis Winston. The Florida State quarterback was ESPN's No. 1 QB in the Class of 2012, won the Heisman Trophy in his first season as the Seminoles' starter and added a national championship to cap his redshirt freshman year.

Others are not so easy to find.

Andre Williams, who finished three spots behind Winston in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting, was a two-star prospect in the Class of 2010. All the Boston College running back did this past fall was tally the fifth-highest rushing total in FBS history (2,177 yards).

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston, Andre Williams
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesAndre Williams and Jameis Winston came from opposite ends of the recruiting spectrum.
With national signing day coming Wednesday, we figured this is a good time to revisit where our All-ACC players stood when they signed with their schools. The results, as usual, offer some surprises.

Just one ESPN.com All-ACC player from this past season entered college as a five-star prospect. Williams was one of two two-star prospects. There were 11 four-star prospects and eight three-star prospects. Two players, both of whom are from the high school Class of 2009, don't have star ratings, as ESPN didn't start using star ratings until 2010. Kickers and punters have no ratings, rankings or grades.

(All rankings and information are from ESPN's Recruiting Nation.)

Offense

  • QB Jameis Winston, Florida State via Hueytown (Ala.) High: Four stars, No. 14 overall prospect, Class of 2012. Scout grade: 84
  • RB: Andre Williams, Boston College via Allentown (Pa.) Parkland High: Two stars, No. 152 RB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 73
  • RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State via Miami Central High: Four stars, No. 15 RB, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson via South Fort Myers (Fla.) High: Four stars, No. 39 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 82
  • WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Four stars, No. 125 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke via Monroe (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 65 WR, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina via Greensboro (N.C.) Smith High: Four stars, No. 8 TE, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • T: Cameron Erving, Florida State via Colquitt County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 83 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 76
  • T: Brandon Thomas, Clemson via Dorman (S.C.) High: No. 60 OG, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
  • G: Laken Tomlinson, Duke via Chicago Lane Tech High: Three stars, No. 65 OG, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • G: Tre’ Jackson, Florida State via Wayne County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 50 DT, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • C: Bryan Stork, Florida State via Vero Beach (Fla.) High: No. 45 TE, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
Defense

  • DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson via Adairsville (Ga.) High: Four stars, No. 19 ATH, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DE: Kareem Martin, North Carolina via Roanoke Rapids (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 59 DE, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt via Pittsburgh Penn Hills High: Four stars, No. 22 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • DT: Timmy Jernigan, Florida State via Lake City (Fla.) Columbia High: Four stars, No. 17 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 84
  • LB: Telvin Smith, Florida State via Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes High: Four stars, No. 107 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 81
  • LB: Kelby Brown, Duke via Charlotte (N.C.) Christian High: Three stars, No. 88 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • LB: Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College via Stamford (Conn.) The King & Low Heywood Thomas School: Four stars, No. 20 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • CB: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Five stars, No. 6 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 87
  • CB: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech via Baltimore Mount St. Joseph High: Three stars, No. 43 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 77
  • S: Terrence Brooks, Florida State via Dunnellon (Fla.) High: Three stars, No. 21 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 70
  • S: Anthony Harris, Virginia via Cheesterfield (Va.) Lloyd C. Bird High: Two stars, No. 203 ATH, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 72
Special Teams

  • K: Nate Freese, Boston College via Strongsville (Ohio) High: Class of 2009
  • P: Pat O’Donnell, Miami via Palm Beach (Fla.) Central High: Class of 2009
  • SP: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina via Charleston (W.Va.) George Washington High: Four stars, No. 59 WR, Class of 2013. Scout grade: 80

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
12:00
PM ET
One week without college football down. Thirty-three more to go.
  • Until proven otherwise, the narrative at Louisville will be that Bobby Petrino is a changed man. The Louisville Courier-Journal has its doubts.
  • Clemson’s Dabo Swinney expects offensive coordinator Chad Morris to be back next year, and he could be running a two-QB system, writes the Post and Courier.
  • Heisman finalist Andre Williams will skip the Senior Bowl because of injury concerns, notes BC Interruption.
  • As early enrollees arrive on campus, the Al Golden saga at Penn State appears to be at an end, writes the Sun-Sentinel.
  • Florida State will hold its championship celebration in Tallahassee on Jan. 18. The Tallahassee Democrat has details.
  • Could FSU offensive lineman Ira Denson be transferring? Tomahawk Nation reads the tea leaves, which certainly point to a departure.
  • Notre Dame transfer Lo Wood won’t be coming to Georgia Tech, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Defensive tackle Luther Maddy will be returning to Virginia Tech for the 2014 season, writes the Roanoke Times.
  • Still, Virginia Tech ranks among Athlon’s top five teams on the decline for 2014.
  • Durell Eskridge proved to be a nice surprise in Syracuse’s developing secondary last season, writes The Post-Standard.
  • Athlon ranks just one ACC player among its most likely Heisman candidates for 2014. We’ll give you one guess who it is.
Editor’s note: Each day this week Florida State reporter David M. Hale and Auburn reporter Greg Ostendorf will preview a position battle in Monday’s VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. Today’s matchup is between Auburn’s running backs and Florida State’s linebackers.

[+] EnlargeAuburn's Nick Marshall
AP Photo/Dave MartinNick Marshall isn't a running back, but with over 1,000 yards rushing, Auburn's quarterback provides a lethal ground threat.
Auburn’s running backs: Gus Malzahn has always been one to tailor his offense around his team’s skill set. In this case, it’s safe to say that Auburn’s strength is running the football. The Tigers have run on 71 percent of its plays, the highest percentage of any non-triple-option offense in the FBS. They lead the nation in rushing yards per game and are one of five schools this season to have two players with at least 1,000 rushing yards.

The star is running back Tre Mason. He leads the SEC in rushing (1,621 yards) and rushing touchdowns (22), rushing for a career-high 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries in the SEC championship game. That performance, along with his 164-yard outing against No. 1 Alabama, earned him a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation.

But as impressive as Mason has been all year, it’s quarterback Nick Marshall who makes this offense go. Technically, Marshall isn’t a running back, but how can you not include him in this category when he has over 1,000 yards rushing? The junior college transfer seems to get better every game as he gets more and more comfortable with the zone-read. Florida State has the athletes to defend Auburn’s offense, but Marshall’s ability to run turns a great offense into a nearly unstoppable offense.

The wild card of the group is Corey Grant, a former Alabama transfer. If Mason is the thunder, Grant is the lightning. The junior has been used sparingly, but he’s a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. He has 650 yards and six touchdowns on the season and is among the nation’s best in yards per carry (10.0).

Statistically speaking, Florida State has been strong against the run, but the Seminoles haven’t faced a rushing attack quite like Auburn’s “four-headed monster.” When they faced Boston College’s Andre Williams, they gave up 149 yards to the Heisman finalist. Mason is every bit the player that Williams is, and that’s just one of the multiple weapons Auburn has in its arsenal.

Florida State’s linebackers: It’s hard to know quite what to make of this matchup. On the one hand, FSU has been exceptional against the run for most of the season. The Seminoles are eighth nationally, allowing just 3.1 yards per carry (and just 2.9 in the first halves of games), and the first-team defense has yet to allow a rushing touchdown. Throw out the second half against NC State (when the backups played the entirety), and FSU is allowing just 2.6 yards per rush since the start of October, when Christian Jones moved up to the defensive line and Terrance Smith stepped in as the starting middle linebacker.

The problem, of course, is that Maryland and Wake Forest and Duke didn’t provide anything close to the challenge Auburn will on Jan. 6. The best rushing offense Florida State faced this year was Boston College, and not coincidentally, no team had more success on the ground (200 yards) or overall (34 points) against FSU this season.

Still, the Seminoles defense has evolved immensely since that BC game. Terrance and Telvin Smith have both developed into reliable defenders against the run. Jones provides an athletic defender on the edge. Jalen Ramsey (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) moved to safety and can play sideline to sideline against the run. Both Jones and Ramsey will be vital against an Auburn team that runs outside the tackles routinely with great success (averaging 6.3 yards before contact outside the tackles, according to ESPN Stats & Info, best among AQ schools). FSU is allowing just 3.1 yards per rush between the tackles this year, but 5.1 outside.

The Seminoles have the athleticism on defense to make life tough for an Auburn running game that hasn’t struggled often, but what the Tigers do well is also the one place where some questions remain for Florida State.

Ostendorf: Edge Auburn

Hale: Slight edge for Auburn

Did you know? ACC bowl games

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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Thanks to ESPN Stats & Info, the ACC office and sports information departments for these tidbits.
  • This marks the first time in the ACC's 61-year history that three ACC teams have ended the regular season with at least 10 wins (Florida State, Duke and Clemson).
  • Throughout the year, the ACC has had three different top-10 teams (Three teams in the top 10 for three weeks, two teams in the top 10 for all but two weeks.)
  • ACC student-athletes have combined to win as many national individual awards as the other Power 5 conferences combined.
  • The ACC is the first conference in history to sweep the Heisman, Doak Walker, Davey O’Brien, Outland, Lombardi, Bednarik, and Nagurski awards in the same year.
  • As of Dec. 18, the ACC ranked second nationally with a total of 97 selections to postseason All-America teams (Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, Walter Camp, Sporting News, USA Today, ESPN, CBS and Sports Illustrated.) The ACC’s 57 total first-team selections were also the second-most of any conference.
  • For the first time, the ACC boasted two of the top five vote recipients for the Heisman Trophy in Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Boston College running back Andre Williams. They were also among the five finalists for the Walter Camp Foundation National Player of the Year, with Winston receiving that honor.
  • Duke will try to do something it hasn’t done in 53 years: Win a bowl game. The Blue Devils haven’t won a bowl since the Cotton Bowl following the 1960 season. They’ll battle Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A bowl on Dec. 31 (8 ET, ESPN). It could be the final collegiate game for Johnny Manziel. The Aggies haven’t beaten a ranked team this season (0-4).
  • The AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Dec. 31, 12:30 ET on ESPN), features two of the best running backs in the nation in Boston College’s Williams and Arizona’s Ka'Deem Carey. Williams finished fourth in the Heisman voting, while Carey finished 10th. One big difference is the load each player has been forced to carry. Williams has accounted for 80 percent of the Eagles rushing yards this season, while Carey has some help in the running game and has only accounted for 54 percent of Arizona’s rushing total.
  • Pitt is appearing in a bowl for the sixth straight season, but this will be its first bowl game not named the BBVA Compass Bowl since 2009. The Panthers have won just two of their last seven bowl appearances. Bowling Green has lost its last three bowl appearances with its last win coming in the 2004 GMAC Bowl.
  • One of the keys to Maryland’s improvement this season has been health at the quarterback position. Last season four players took snaps at quarterback, including four starts by Shawn Petty, who started the season as a linebacker. C.J. Brown, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury, has thrown for over 2,000 yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns this season.
  • Syracuse’s Terrel Hunt finished the regular season with 426 rushing yards, fourth among ACC quarterbacks in 2013. According to the school's game notes, it's already the most by an Orange QB since Donovan McNabb in 1998 (510).
  • North Carolina’s redshirt-sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams, who grew up in Charlotte, leads a very young Tar Heel offense. 42 of their 50 touchdowns this season have come from freshmen or sophomores, including the last 26.
  • Miami receiver Allen Hurns needs just 19 more receiving yards to set the school single-season record. Hurns already is one of just four players in school history with a 1,000-yard receiving season. Hurns hasn’t found the end zone as frequently as one might expect, though. Only two ACC players have more receiving yards than Hurns this season, but nine players have more touchdown catches than Hurns’ six.
  • The last time Georgia Tech and Ole Miss met in football was exactly 42 years ago: the Dec. 30, 1971 Peach Bowl. Ole Miss won that game, 41-18, its only win in three all-time meetings vs Georgia Tech. A bit of a surprise that this is just the fourth meeting all-time, considering that both were conference opponents when Georgia Tech was in the SEC from 1933-63.
  • Virginia Tech is making its 21st straight bowl appearance, the longest active streak recognized by the NCAA (Florida State is making its 32nd straight bowl appearance this season but vacated the 2006 Emerald Bowl). Rivals Georgia and Georgia Tech are tied for the second-longest active streak with 17 straight appearances. The Hokies need a win to avoid posting consecutive five-loss seasons for the first time since 1990-92 (three straight). To put that streak into perspective, all other current members of the ACC have notched consecutive five-loss seasons since the Hokies joined the league in 2004.
  • Florida State can become only the third team since 1950 to win all of its games by at least 14 points. The last to do it was Utah in 2004. The other was national champion Nebraska in 1995. FSU’s Winston can become just the third QB since 1950 to go undefeated with a national championship and a Heisman Trophy all in the same season. The two to do it were Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010 and USC’s Matt Leinart in 2004.

ACC bowl predictions

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
10:30
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Time to dive into a few ACC bowl projections. OK, scratch that. A LOT of ACC bowl projections. A record 11 teams in bowl games has the league flying high for now. But there are some really difficult matchups in here, and the ACC faces a tall task to finish with a winning bowl record.

We do not disagree on many of these picks, so that means AA will end up as the picks champion. As of now, Andrea has a four-game lead on Heather with an overall 86-23 record. Heather will be sent a "blogger-do" list after Jan. 6.

Now on to our picks!

Note: All times ET.

Pitt (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (10-3), Little Caesars Bowl, Dec. 26, 6 p.m., ESPN. Bowling Green is on a roll, having won five straight, including an impressive upset win over Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. Quarterback Matt Johnson has thrown for over 3,000 yards this season, so Pitt has got to focus on slowing him down. This is where the Panthers have an edge on Bowling Green. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been the most disruptive player in America and the Eagles have not faced anyone like him this season. He will be able to make plays against the Bowling Green offensive line, and Pitt will score just enough to win a close game.

AA picks: Pitt 28, Bowling Green 24

HD pick: Pittsburgh 24, Bowling Green 21

Marshall (9-4) vs. Maryland (7-5), Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman, Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m., ESPN. Marshall is not going to be an easy out for Maryland. The Herd took Virginia Tech to triple overtime earlier this year, played in the Conference USA championship game and have the league's Offensive Player of the Year in Rakeem Cato. The first priority is slowing down the Marshall offense. Maryland will have some help there, getting cornerback Jeremiah Johnson back for the game. Plus, linebacker Marcus Whitfield has nine sacks on the year, so watch for him to get pressure on the quarterback. Maryland is 4-0 when quarterback C.J. Brown rushes for 100 yards in a game, including two of the final three wins on the season. Brown will be the difference in the ACC finale for the Terps.

AA picks: Maryland 33, Marshall 30

HD pick: Maryland 28, Marshall 24

Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4), Texas Bowl, Dec. 27, 6 p.m., ESPN. Syracuse squeaked into the postseason with a last-second win over Boston College and now gets to play its third Big Ten team of the season. The Orange also must play without leading tackler Durrell Eskridge, who is out with an upper body injury. Both teams are going to most likely try to pound the ball to win. Syracuse back Jerome Smith will be playing in his final game in a Syracuse uniform; Minnesota back David Cobb will be going for his sixth 100-yard game in his last seven contests. Minnesota has run the ball more consistently than Syracuse this year, so we give the edge to the Gophers.

AA picks: Minnesota 28, Syracuse 24

HD pick: Minnesota 31, Syracuse 21

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6), Belk Bowl, Dec. 28, 3:20 p.m., ESPN. North Carolina overcame a 1-5 start to get back to a bowl, and you can bet there will be some extra motivation after having to sit out the postseason a year ago. The Tar Heels will be without offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, who took the Arkansas State head coaching job, so his loss could have an impact. But North Carolina does have a matchup advantage with the versatile Marquise Williams and a group of talented receivers, along with tight end Eric Ebron, and they should be enough to get the Tar Heels the win.

AA picks: North Carolina 30, Cincinnati 27

HD pick: North Carolina 35, Cincinnati 31

Miami (9-3) vs. No. 18 Louisville (11-1), Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m., ESPN. This is one of the most anticipated games of the entire postseason, as Louisville gets an early sneak peak at what awaits in the ACC. The Cardinals have an edge with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who could be playing in his final college game against his hometown team. Where Miami could take advantage is with some big plays from receivers Allen Hurns and Stacy Coley, who have a speed advantage. Stephen Morris excels at throwing the deep pass, and that is something Louisville coaches know they need to guard against in this game. But Louisville should be able to put up enough points on an inconsistent Miami D.

AA picks: Louisville 35, Miami 24

HD pick: Louisville 35, Miami 28

Ole Miss (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5), Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m., ESPN. Neither team ended the season the way they wanted, losing tough rivalry games. The Rebels have lost two straight headed into the game and need a much better performance from Bo Wallace to end the season on the right note. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, must hold on to the football, something that has been an issue all season long. Ole Miss, meanwhile, is one of the best in the nation in turnover margin. That will be the key difference in the game. And by the way, the Jackets have not beaten an SEC team since 2009. AA picks: Ole Miss 28, Georgia Tech 24.

HD pick: Georgia Tech 31, Ole Miss 27: Georgia Tech will take advantage of an inconsistent Ole Miss offense, which ended the season on a sour note, and the Yellow Jackets’ spread option offense will fare well against the Rebels’ defense. Georgia Tech ranked sixth in the FBS with 311.7 rushing yards per game -- not a good sign for the Rebels, who allowed an average of 188.4 rushing yards this year against major conference opponents. Ole Miss also ended the season with back-to-back losses, and the offense was stagnant in both games, totaling just 20 points. Wallace failed to throw a touchdown pass and had four of his nine interceptions. Georgia Tech will prove that last year’s bowl win was the start of a new trend, not an anomaly that snapped a seven-game bowl losing streak.

Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5), AdvoCare V100 Bowl, Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m., ESPN. The two best running backs in the nation square off in Shreveport, La., giving this bowl game some added luster. Andre Williams ran for over 2,000 yards for the Eagles, while Ka'Deem Carey ran for 100 or more yards in every game he played this season. The key difference, though, is at quarterback, where the Wildcats have dual-threat B.J. Denker. The Arizona offense is more varied, and that gives the Wildcats the edge going into this game.

AA picks: Arizona 30, Boston College 27

HD pick: Arizona 24, Boston College 21

Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. No. 17 UCLA (9-3), Hyundai Sun Bowl, Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS. We are excited to see the matchup between UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and the Virginia Tech defense, which ranks as one of the best in the nation. The problem, once again, is the Virginia Tech offense. Without starting running back Trey Edmunds, it is hard to see how the Hokies will be able to get many points on the board. That was difficult enough even with Edmunds. Logan Thomas wants to end his career on a high note, but he just doesn't have the supporting cast to keep up with the more dynamic Bruins.

AA picks: UCLA 20, Virginia Tech 13

HD pick: UCLA 21, Virginia Tech 10

No. 24 Duke (10-3) vs. No. 21 Texas A&M (8-4), Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31, 8 p.m., ESPN. This is another measuring stick game for Duke, in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. The Blue Devils already posted the best season in school history but got blown out in the ACC title game. Will they have a chance against former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the Aggies? The good news is Texas A&M does not have a great defense. But the bad news is they have to defend Manziel and Mike Evans. Duke will be able to keep it close early before A&M pulls away.

AA picks: Texas A&M 38, Duke 28

HD pick: Texas A&M 41, Duke 21

No. 12 Clemson (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (12-1), Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m., ESPN.The Tigers are back at the scene of one of the most embarrassing losses in school history but they vow this time, everything will be different. There is no doubt this is one of the more intriguing games of bowl season, with Braxton Miller and Tajh Boyd going head to head. Miller and Carlos Hyde are a tough duo to stop. But here is where Clemson will win -- the Tigers will be able to throw on a suspect Ohio State secondary. Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant have combined for 2,037 yards this year (1,237 by Watkins, 800 for Bryant), second-best in school history. Boyd will get them the ball enough to win a see-saw contest.

AA picks: Clemson 40, Ohio State 38

HD pick: Clemson 31, Ohio State 28

No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn (12-1), VIZIO BCS National Championship, Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m., ESPN. The ACC gets its shot at taking down the SEC with the No. 1 team in the nation, a group that has gone virtually unchallenged for the majority of the year. Nobody has been more impressive in dispatching opponents than the Seminoles, who not only have the Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston but future NFL players at virtually every position on the field. Auburn has shown proclivity at running the ball but not much else. Its passing game is virtually nonexistent (No. 107 in the nation) and its defense is mediocre (No. 88 in the nation). The Tigers may break off a few runs, but how will they slow down the Florida State offense? They won't. AA sees a bigger blowout than HD.

AA picks: Florida State 40, Auburn 24

HD pick: Florida State 38, Auburn 35
The ACC has a record 11 teams playing in bowl games this season, and that means plenty of showcase opportunities for the league’s stars. But dig into the matchups and five players have the most on the line as the ACC looks to build its résumé during bowl season.

Terrel Hunt, QB, Syracuse
Texas Bowl (Dec. 27 vs. Minnesota)

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
AP Photo/John BazemoreVirginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has thrown 16 touchdown passes and been intercepted 13 times this season. Can he finish his career with a bowl win?
With a new quarterback and a new coach, it was clear this would be a year of transition for Syracuse, but the Orange weathered the storm of an 0-2 start to reach a bowl game for the third time in four years. The turning point came in Week 3 when Hunt took over for a struggling Drew Allen at quarterback. Hunt accounted for eight TDs against Wagner and Tulane, but the rigors of the ACC proved more difficult. In conference games, Hunt completed just 57 percent of his throws, with just three touchdowns to go with eight interceptions. But his last two games (a one-point loss to Pitt and a 34-31 win over BC) were his best (66 percent completion, 3 TDs, 1 INT), and the Orange hope that growth will continue into the bowl game against Minnesota. Hunt is a dangerous runner, but as Syracuse looks to finish strong and build momentum toward 2014, his progress as a passer offers ample reason for optimism.

Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Dec. 31 vs. Arizona)

Williams will get another chance to leave a final impression. The senior left the Eagles' regular-season finale at Syracuse, a game they ended up losing, with a shoulder injury, but he is expected to be fine by the time his team takes the field in Shreveport, La. The early exit -- nine carries for 29 yards -- likely cost him whatever extra votes he could have picked up in the Heisman Trophy race, but now he'll have a chance to further improve his draft stock. Williams has been all over the place in the past few weeks -- from a media tour in Bristol, Conn., to awards shows in Orlando, Fla., and New York. And he might meet his match when facing the Wildcats. Their star running back, Ka'Deem Carey, is the only player in the nation who averages more carries per game (29.27 to 27.42).

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Hyundai Sun Bowl (Dec. 31 vs. No. 17 UCLA)

The Hokies need to score more than usual if they are to upset the Bruins, who rank 23rd nationally in points per game (36.5). The defense has been the backbone of Virginia Tech, ranking fourth in total defense and eighth in scoring D, but it will need help. Enter Thomas, the talented senior who has failed to meet many outside expectations the past two seasons. The victim of shoddy receiver play earlier this fall, Thomas delivered his best performance in what was arguably his team's most important ACC game, completing 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns last month at Miami. He will need better protection up front in his collegiate finale -- sacked 11 times in the last two games -- and will probably shoulder a bigger burden with his legs, as leading rusher Trey Edmunds suffered a broken right tibia in the regular-season finale.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Discover Orange Bowl (Jan. 3 vs. No. 7 Ohio State)

This is it for the Tigers' signal-caller, who has rewritten a large portion of the ACC record book but, as the narrative goes, has failed to deliver in the big games. Boyd's two worst showings this season came in Clemson's two losses: versus Florida State and at South Carolina. He is just 1-5 against those schools as a starter, despite owning a remarkable 127 total career touchdowns to his name. And he returns to the Orange Bowl, where he fared OK two years ago (282 total yards, 2 TDs, 3 TOs) but was completely upstaged by West Virginia's offensive explosion. Now he gets one more shot to deliver a strong performance against a big-time opponent in the Buckeyes, whom he passed on in favor of Clemson while coming out of high school.

Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
VIZIO BCS National Championship (Jan. 6 vs. No. 2 Auburn)

If Jameis Winston has been the face of Florida State’s team all season, Smith has been its heart. The senior linebacker is the Seminoles' emotional leader, the biggest talker on the practice field and on game day. While teammates laud his off-the-field exploits, Smith's role on the field against Auburn will be far more significant. The Tigers will want to run the ball early and often, and Smith will be at the forefront of FSU’s effort to slow them down. For two years, Smith platooned at middle linebacker because he was far more effective against the pass than the run, but he has blossomed this season, leading Florida State with 75 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss. With Timmy Jernigan creating havoc up front, Smith has snuffed out runners routinely, and Florida State’s first-team defense hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season. Of course, Auburn has more rushing touchdowns than any team in the country, so the challenge for Smith and the Seminoles defense will be far bigger in Pasadena than anything they’ve seen so far.

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