Florida State Seminoles: C.J. Brown

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.

Did you know? ACC bowl games

December, 26, 2013
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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
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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

ACC Power Rankings: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
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Not much movement in the latest installment of the Power Rankings. As has been the case this season, there is a clear top and a clear bottom. The others can duke it out in the middle.

1. Florida State (12-0, 8-0; last week: No. 1). The Noles are the new No. 1 team in the nation after they completed their regular season unbeaten and Alabama lost. All that is left to secure a spot in the BCS title game is a win over Duke in the ACC championship game Saturday. This FSU team has been utterly dominant all season long, beating its opponents by an average of 42 points per game.

2. Clemson (10-2, 7-1; LW: No. 2). The same old problems plagued the Tigers in their fifth straight loss to rival South Carolina: turnovers. Six of them, to be exact, in a 31-17 loss. Though this team ends the regular season with 10 wins for just the fifth time in school history, losing to both Florida State and South Carolina has to be utterly disappointing for a group that went into the season with national championship aspirations.

3. Duke (10-2, 6-2; LW: No. 3). The history-making season continues. Duke beat in-state rival North Carolina 27-25 to post the first 10-win season in school history and win the Coastal Division outright. The challenge grows steeper now against Florida State in the ACC title game. Winning the Coastal is one thing. But now Duke will see how it measures up against the best team in the nation.

4. Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3; LW: No. 4). It was not pretty, but Virginia Tech beat Virginia yet again to close the season on a high note. There will be plenty of "what could have beens" spoken among Hokies fans, considering some of the ugly losses that ended up costing them dearly. Still, this season was an improvement over last even if it didn't feel that way at times.

5. Miami (9-3, 5-3; LW: No. 5). Give the Hurricanes credit for finishing the season out the right way after a three-game losing streak threatened to derail them. Miami soundly beat Pittsburgh on the road and has won nine games for the first time since 2009. A win in the bowl game would give Miami at least 10 wins for the first time since going 11-2 in 2003. There is no doubt progress is being made.

6. Georgia Tech (7-5, 5-3; LW: No. 6). What a heartbreaking way to end the season for the Jackets, who blew a 20-0 lead on in-state rival Georgia and lost in double overtime. This team can take pride in its effort, though it is little consolation today. Still, Georgia Tech did beat Duke soundly in September. It could not get out of its own way in losses to Virginia Tech and Miami, and that ended up costing it a spot in Charlotte.

7. North Carolina (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 7). The Tar Heels saw their five-game winning streak come to an end in a loss to Duke, but that should not take away from what this team accomplished in the second half of the season. There is not much doubt this team is playing some of the best football in the ACC right now and has rising stars on its roster in Marquise Williams, Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard, Quinshad Davis and T.J. Logan.

8. Syracuse (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 11). The Orange could not have waited any longer to become bowl eligible, running out all but six seconds on the season before beating Boston College with a last-second scoring pass. Though this was not as successful a season as last season, give the Orange props for standing on the verge of making consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1998-99.

9. Boston College (7-5, 4-4; LW: No. 8). One week after winning a heart-stopper over Maryland, the Eagles lost a heart-stopper to Syracuse. Still, there is no way to look at this season as anything other than a rousing success. Boston College is going back to a bowl game and has instilled a toughness on this team that will be a signature as long as Steve Addazio is the coach.

10. Maryland (7-5, 3-5; LW: No. 10). The Terps closed out their final ACC season with a 41-21 win over NC State in another outstanding performance for quarterback C.J. Brown. Definite progress was made after two miserable losing seasons, but the Terps are headed into the unknown as they switch over to the Big Ten.

11. Pitt (6-6, 3-5; LW: No. 9). The Panthers closed the season 2-4 and are lucky to be bowl eligible given the way they have played for a majority of the season. Special teams did them in again in a 41-31 loss to Miami to end the year. Among the myriad issues this team dealt with, it was an inability to run the ball that probably vexed it most. Tom Savage was simply asked to do too much.

12. Wake Forest (4-8, 2-6; LW: No. 12). The Deacs closed another tough season with a heartbreaking loss to Vanderbilt. On the season, they lost four games by a touchdown or less. Wins in two of those would have gotten them to bowl eligibility again. Instead, coach Jim Grobe is facing another long offseason full of questions.

13. NC State (3-9, 0-8; LW: No. 13). Nobody anticipated the Wolfpack would go from a bowl team to one of the worst teams in the ACC under new coach Dave Doeren. But injuries, scheme changes on offense and defense and instability at quarterback sent this team spiraling. The Wolfpack lost eight of their nine games by double digits.

14. Virginia (2-10, 0-8; LW: No. 14). The Hoos completed their worst season since 1982 with a 10th straight loss to in-state rival Virginia Tech. Athletic director Craig Littlepage has given coach Mike London a vote of confidence headed into next season, but there cannot be any margin for error in 2014. London must win to save his job.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 14

December, 1, 2013
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The 2013 regular season is officially in the books, and if you had Florida State and Duke playing for an ACC championship way back in August -- well, you’re probably lying. But both the Seminoles and the Blue Devils finished strong in Week 14, and they weren’t alone in wrapping up the regular season on a high note.

Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin: In the last five seasons, 44 teams haven’t mustered as many yards through the air against Florida’s defense as Benjamin racked up by himself Saturday. The FSU sophomore caught nine passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Seminoles receiver to crack the 200-yard mark in 11 years. What’s more astounding is that Benjamin might’ve had an even bigger day. He dropped two passes that could’ve gone for big gains and QB Jameis Winston narrowly overthrew him on a third that appeared a sure touchdown.

Duke CB DeVon Edwards: The redshirt freshman has been astounding in 2013, leading Duke’s defense all year, but Saturday’s performance was a perfect finishing touch on a historic regular season. Edwards returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown (his fourth TD of the year) and picked off a pass from UNC quarterback Marquise Williams to secure the win -- the 10th of the season for the Blue Devils, who will now advance to the ACC championship game against Florida State. Edwards finished with eight tackles in the game.

Maryland QB C.J. Brown: In the final game Maryland will play as a member of the ACC, Brown provided a spectacular send-off. In sending NC State to a winless season in conference play, Brown was dominant, completing 13 of 25 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while adding another 138 yards on 15 carries with three more touchdowns on the ground. Saturday marked Brown’s fourth 100-yard rushing day this season and the third time he’s tallied at least four TDs in a game.

Miami WR Stacy Coley: The Hurricanes played on Friday, with lingering Coastal title hopes still on the line, and Coley put on a show. The freshman receiver hauled in a pair of touchdown receptions and added a 73-yard end-around for another score. For the game, Coley racked up 171 all-purpose yards as Miami edged Pitt for its ninth win of the season. Coley finished the regular season with 1,428 all-purpose yards, the third-most by any true freshman in the country.

Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt: With bowl eligibility on the line and Syracuse trailing by 4 points with six seconds to play, Hunt hit tight end Josh Parris for an 8-yard touchdown pass -- just his third TD pass in conference play this year. Hunt wasn’t perfect Saturday, but he turned in his best ACC game to date, completing 29 of 43 passes for 270 yards -- hooking up with nine different receivers -- with two TDs and an interception. He added another 90 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.

ACC predictions: Week 14

November, 27, 2013
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Andrea and Heather each went 7-2 last week, so AA retains her one-game lead in the standings with a 78-21 overall record. We disagree on a few games this week.

Now on to the picks!

Friday

Miami (8-3, 4-3) at Pitt (6-5, 3-4), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. #MIAvsPITT. The Canes need a victory for their first nine-win season since 2009 and to keep their slim Coastal Division hopes alive. But they are banged up in the secondary and continue to have problems stopping the run. That could end up being what cures the ailing Pitt offense, which did just enough to beat Syracuse last week and clinch bowl eligibility. Aaron Donald plays his final game at home, too, and will help the Panthers stuff the Miami run, which has been mostly ineffective since losing Duke Johnson for the season.

Andrea Adelson picks: Pitt 24, Miami 21

Heather Dinich picks: Pitt 24, Miami 21

Saturday

No. 2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7), noon ET, ESPN. #FSUvsUF. The only question heading into this game is how badly the Seminoles are going to beat the sliding Gators, who lost to FCS Georgia Southern a week ago. Injuries have taken a toll at Florida at just about every position on the field, including quarterback, where Tyler Murphy remains questionable. It seems a near certainty that Florida State will set a record with 40-plus points scored for the 12th consecutive game.

AA picks: Florida State 40, Florida 10

HD picks: Florida State 52, Florida 3

No. 24 Duke (9-2, 5-2) at North Carolina (6-5, 4-3), noon ET, ESPN2. #DUKEvsUNC. This is one of the toughest games to call on the weekend. Duke has proven itself to be worthy of a Coastal Division championship with seven straight wins -- including victories over Miami and Virginia Tech. North Carolina is surging, too, with five straight wins to clinch bowl eligibility.

AA picks: Duke 31, North Carolina 28: This game is going to come down to the fourth quarter, where the Duke defense has been stellar, allowing 34 total points all season. The Duke D will be the difference, getting the Blue Devils to the ACC championship game.

HD picks: North Carolina 28, Duke 24: Duke has been a fourth-quarter team, but a slow start this Saturday will be the difference. The Tar Heels, energized by their winning streak, Senior Day and what will be the final home game for standout tight end Eric Ebron, will jump out to an early lead and be too much for another heroic comeback by the Blue Devils. Marquise Williams will have the edge at quarterback, Ebron will close his career in Chapel Hill with a bang and the Coastal Division title will fall into the hands of Virginia Tech.

Wake Forest (4-7, 2-6) at Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4), 12:21 p.m. ET, GamePlan. #WAKEvsVANDY. The Deacs have lost four games in a row and will not be going to a bowl game for the fourth time in five seasons. Wake Forest's defense has played well enough to win in a majority of its games this year, but the offense has not been able to get out of its own way. Vanderbilt has a clear edge in this game at just about every position and should not have any problems getting the win.

AA picks: Vanderbilt 35, Wake Forest 17

HD picks: Vanderbilt 28, Wake Forest 17

Maryland (6-5, 2-5) at NC State (3-8, 0-7), 12:30 p.m. ET, GamePlan. #MDvsNCST. AA picked NC State on a flyer last week to beat East Carolina, then watched the Wolfpack confirm their status as one of the worst teams in the ACC. We have no doubt NC State is going to be supremely motivated to avoid a winless season in ACC play, on Senior Day no less. But the Wolfpack have been unable to overcome their major issues at quarterback, while Maryland is much more stable with C.J. Brown under center.

AA picks: Maryland 31, NC State 20

HD picks: Maryland 28, NC State 21

Georgia (7-4, 5-3 SEC) at Georgia Tech (7-4, 5-3), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. #UGAvsGT. The Bulldogs have dealt with injury issues all season, and now they have to go up against Georgia Tech without starting quarterback Aaron Murray, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.

AA picks: Georgia 35, Georgia Tech 31: But it might not be as dire as it seems. Backup quarterback Hutson Mason helped the Georgia offense gain 309 yards on 37 plays in a lopsided win over Kentucky last week after Murray's injury. Mason had two scores himself. Todd Gurley also is in the backfield, which is huge for Mason and the entire offense. Georgia Tech is much better than Kentucky, but the Jackets have only beaten one team with seven or more victories this season (Duke, back in September).

HD picks: Georgia Tech 31, Georgia 28: Yes, Georgia has Gurley, but it doesn’t have its quarterback. Mason, who has 82 career passing attempts, is the next man up, and he’ll be facing a Georgia Tech defense that has made significant strides under Ted Roof and is led by Jeremiah Attaochu, whose 27 career sacks are the third-most by any active FBS player. The Jackets’ answer to Gurley will be Robert Godhigh, who leads all FBS running backs with 13 yards per play. Paul Johnson is 1-5 all-time against Georgia, including one loss as coach at Georgia Southern. With Murray out, this is the game in which Johnson starts to improve that record.

Boston College (7-4, 4-3) at Syracuse (5-6, 3-4), 3:30 p.m. ET, GamePlan. #BCvsCUSE. The teams revive their Big East rivalry as ACC teams in the same division. Syracuse needs a victory to become the 11th bowl-eligible team in the ACC, but faces a formidable task of trying to slow down Andre Williams, the top rusher in the nation with 2,073 yards. What makes the Eagles' running game so effective is their ability to wear down teams in the fourth quarter. Williams also has broken more tackles than any back from an automatic-qualifying conference, despite typically facing a loaded box. Expect more of the same this week.

AA picks: Boston College 28, Syracuse 21

HD picks: Boston College 27, Syracuse 21

Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3) at Virginia (2-9, 0-7), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. #VTvsUVA. The Hokies had a bye week, after their tough loss to Maryland, to prepare for their in-state rivals. They need a victory in this game and a Duke loss to keep ACC Coastal Division hopes alive. Virginia, meanwhile, needs a victory to avoid its worst season since 1982, when the Cavaliers finished 2-9 under first-year coach George Welsh. Virginia Tech has won nine in a row in the series and has the clear edge on defense.

AA picks: Virginia Tech 30, Virginia 7

HD picks: Virginia Tech 28, Virginia 24

No. 6 Clemson (10-1, 7-1) at No. 10 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2. #CLEMvsSC. Tajh Boyd and his teammates do not need anybody to tell them what is on the line. They need a victory, and they need it badly. South Carolina has looked beatable for most of the season, but Connor Shaw is one of the guttiest quarterbacks in America and a healthy Mike Davis is one of the toughest runners the Tigers will face this season.

AA picks: South Carolina 30, Clemson 28: I give the edge to Jadeveon Clowney and his linemates against the Clemson offensive line, and they will be the difference in the game.

HD picks: Clemson 31, South Carolina 28. For the first time in four games, Clemson will not lose the turnover battle. (South Carolina overall has won in that key statistic 9-3 in the past four meetings.) For the first time in three games, Boyd will have the upper hand – and the pass protection he needs to do it (he’s been sacked 14 times for minus-15 yards). The one thing that won’t change too much is that Clemson will continue to struggle to run the ball against the Gamecocks. But Boyd will stay on his feet long enough to sustain drives and snap a four-game losing streak in the series.

ACC predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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Hard to believe that only two weeks remain in the regular season. Andrea is clinging to a one-game lead on Heather in the overall predictions standings at 71-20, after they each went 4-2 last week. Neither saw Maryland coming into Blacksburg, Va., and upsetting Virginia Tech. Bet we were not alone there.

On to the picks!

OLD DOMINION (8-3) at NORTH CAROLINA (5-5), noon, ESPN3. #ODUvsUNC. The Tar Heels are going for their fifth straight win and bowl eligibility against a team that is 0-2 against ACC competition already this year. Old Dominion has put up some points this season, but the Tar Heels' D has been vastly improved in this recent winning streak and will be able to shut the Monarchs down. With another punt return for score, Ryan Switzer would tie the ACC single-season record.

AA picks: North Carolina 40, Old Dominion 17

HD's pick: North Carolina 44, Old Dominion 24

DUKE (8-2, 4-2) at WAKE FOREST (4-6, 2-5), noon, ESPN2. #DUKEvsWF. Before winning last season, Duke had lost 12 straight games to the Deacs. But the Blue Devils today are the superior program, with better athletes all the way around. They have successfully used two quarterbacks all season, and their defense is filled with young talent and playmakers at linebacker. Duke is 3-0 on the road and should pick up another win against an offensively challenged Deacs team still trying to find some answers with Michael Campanaro out.

AA picks: Duke 35, Wake Forest 20

HD's pick: Duke 24, Wake Forest 21

CITADEL (5-6) at No. 7 CLEMSON (9-1), noon, ESPN3. #CITvsCLEM. It's senior day at Clemson, giving the Tigers the opportunity to honor Tajh Boyd and his fellow seniors. The question is just how much Boyd will play after bruising his collarbone last week, especially with a big game looming next week against South Carolina. Coach Dabo Swinney says he prefers to have an FCS opponent in this slot, giving the Tigers ample time to prepare for their in-state nemesis.

AA picks: Clemson 56, The Citadel 3

HD's pick: Clemson 45, The Citadel 10

VIRGINIA (2-8, 0-6) at MIAMI (7-3, 3-3), noon, ESPNU. #UVAvsMIA. Miami's issues against UVa are common knowledge, so this game sets up to be closer than what some might anticipate. Plus, the Hurricanes have lost three straight after a 7-0 start and have seen their defense drop off considerably. Virginia does not scream offensive juggernaut, but neither did Virginia Tech and the Hokies racked up 42 points in a win two weeks ago. The Hoos have a solid back in Kevin Parks, No. 3 in the ACC in rushing, and a good tight end in Jake McGee, who will make some plays, but ultimately, Stephen Morris and the Miami offense will make a few more plays to win.

AA picks: Miami 28, Virginia 27

HD's pick: Miami 34, Virginia 24

EAST CAROLINA (8-2) at NC STATE (3-7), ESPN3. #ECUvsNCST. The Pirates took down North Carolina earlier this year, nearly beat Virginia Tech, and go into this game as the favorites. NC State has looked like a ragged bunch, losing six straight in its worst season since 2006. There is no doubt East Carolina has the much better quarterback, as Shane Carden has turned in an outstanding season. But NC State is going to find a way to dig deep and come out with a win thanks to a few big plays from its pass game.

AA picks: NC State 28, East Carolina 24

HD's pick: East Carolina 41, NC State 14: ECU is No. 10 in the country in scoring offense at 41.5 points per game, and Carden leads the No. 8 passing offense in the country. The Pirates undoubtedly have the edge at quarterback, as NC State has struggled with both Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas. The two have combined for 15 interceptions and five touchdowns. Carden threw that many TDs by himself last week. If North Carolina was embarrassed by the Pirates at home, there’s no reason to believe the Wolfpack will fare much better. ECU is a solid eight-win team that, unlike NC State, is bowl eligible.

PITT (5-5, 2-4) at SYRACUSE (5-5, 3-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #PITTvsCUSE. This game is a toss-up, as is nearly every league game these two teams have played this season (excluding Clemson and Florida State). Both are coming off losses, and both need one win for bowl eligibility. The problem for the Panthers is they have no real identity on offense. Syracuse does, and that is pounding the football. The Orange will get enough out of their run game and keep Aaron Donald at bay to win a close one.

AA picks: Syracuse 24, Pitt 23

HD's pick: Syracuse 21, Pitt 17

ALABAMA A&M (4-7) at GEORGIA TECH (6-4), 1:30 p.m., ESPN3. #AAMUvsGT. Like Clemson and Florida State, Georgia Tech also gets a warm-up game before it closes with its in-state rival next week. Coach Paul Johnson says the focus is on getting better at what his team does this week. You can bet Robert Godhigh will have another terrific performance, following his 100-yard rushing/100-yard receiving day against Clemson. Godhigh is on pace to set the ACC mark for highest average yards per carry, currently at 9.5.

AA picks: Georgia Tech 55, Alabama A&M 3

HD's pick: Georgia Tech 56, Alabama A&M 10

IDAHO (1-9) at No. 2 FLORIDA STATE (10-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #IDAHOvsFSU. Once again, the question is how long will Jimbo Fisher keep his starters in, especially with a bigger game against rival Florida looming. This also seems as good a time as any to get backup quarterback Sean Maguire some reps. Idaho is one of the worst teams in the entire country, and this game should be out of hand by the end of the first quarter.

AA picks: Florida State 65, Idaho 0

HD's pick: FSU 72, Idaho 3

BOSTON COLLEGE (6-4, 3-3) at MARYLAND (6-4, 2-4), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #BCvsMD. This may have been the toughest game to pick this week. Maryland is coming off an impressive win at Virginia Tech, while Andre Williams has put together two straight games of incredible performances. So which direction will this game go? It is hard to pick against the Eagles given what Williams and the offensive line have done this season. Simply put, they have worn the opposition down. Maryland has had injuries to contend with on defense, so I think BC will end up wearing the Terps down in the end.

AA picks: BC 24, Maryland 21

HD's pick: Maryland 21, Boston College 17: This game could go either way, but with it being the final home game in Byrd Stadium, it was hard to pick against the Terps. More importantly, Maryland has fared well this year in stopping the run, and is ranked No. 30 in the country in rushing defense, holding opponents to 139.8 yards per game. Boston College has made its living this fall with its running game, and Williams is certainly no secret. The Terps will be looking to slow down the ACC’s all-time single-season rushing leader, and they’ve also got the advantage in quarterback with C.J. Brown.

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
12:00
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Happy Wednesday.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
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Duke, yes Duke, is the No. 3 team in the conference right now, the leader in the Coastal Division and the front-runner to play Florida State in the ACC championship game. With the way this season has gone, though, the Coastal Division race isn’t over until the regular season has ended. For now, though, Duke has earned its spot alongside the league’s elite. The rest of the ACC? Well, it remains a jumbled mess as usual. Here’s our best shot at sorting it out:

1. Florida State (10-0, 8-0 ACC; LW: No. 1) -- The Seminoles had no problem picking apart Syracuse in a 59-3 win, staying on course to play for the national title. Quarterback Jameis Winston showed no signs of being distracted by recent allegations of his possible involvement in an investigation that is almost a year old. He completed all but two pass attempts (19-of-21) for 277 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Clemson (9-1, 7-1; LW: No. 2) -- The Tigers cruised past Georgia Tech 55-31 in a nationally televised Thursday night game. It was an opponent that in recent years had given Clemson’s defense some trouble. Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for four touchdowns and missed only six passes. He also ran for 43 yards and a touchdown.

3. Duke (8-2, 4-2; LW: No. 4) -- The Blue Devils are just two wins away from playing in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, as they finish the season with back-to-back road games against Wake Forest and North Carolina. With the 48-30 win over No. 23 Miami, Duke beat its second ranked team of the season. Duke has won six straight games and is ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 this week.

4. Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3; LW: No. 5) -- The Hokies were shocked at home in a 27-24 overtime loss to a struggling Maryland team, and have now lost three of their past four games. It was too little, too late against the Terps, who jumped out to a 21-7 lead. The Hokies have a bye week before finishing the regular season at rival Virginia.

5. Miami (7-3, 3-3; LW: No. 3) -- The Canes defense continues to regress, as Miami has allowed over 40 points in three straight losses. Duke rushed for 358 yards in the 48-30 win -- the most ever under coach David Cutcliffe at both Duke and Mississippi -- and Brandon Connette rushed for a career-high four touchdowns. Miami ends the season against Virginia and Pitt.

6. Georgia Tech (6-4, 5-3; LW: No. 6) -- The Jackets defense didn’t have an answer for Boyd and the Tigers offense. The loss ended a three-game winning streak, and it was the last ACC game of the season for Georgia Tech. The Jackets still face Alabama A&M and rival Georgia, but their hopes of playing in the ACC title game now hinge entirely on others.

7. North Carolina (5-5, 4-3; LW: No. 10) -- The Tar Heels continued their remarkable turnaround with a 34-27 win at Pitt. After starting the season 1-5, UNC has now won four straight and is one win shy of bowl eligibility with two games remaining. UNC should get that win this weekend against Old Dominion, and it will face Duke in the final game of the regular season.

8. Boston College (6-4, 3-3; LW: No. 8) -- In what was the final home game of the regular season for BC, running back Andre Williams helped rush the Eagles back to bowl eligibility in a 38-21 win over NC State. Williams ran for an astounding 339 yards to break Boston College's single-season and single-game rushing records. He had over 100 yards in the first quarter alone. BC ends the season with back-to-back road games at Maryland and Syracuse.

9. Syracuse (5-5, 3-3; LW: No. 9) -- The Orange was just the latest victim of Florida State, and it couldn’t even keep it interesting, being held scoreless until the fourth quarter. Syracuse can still become bowl eligible, though, by winning at least one of its last two games, against either Pitt or Boston College.

10. Maryland (6-4, 2-4; LW: No. 12) -- The Terps did the inexplicable and found a way to win in Blacksburg despite having lost three straight and four of their past five. They have quarterback C.J. Brown to thank for it, as Brown was the difference in the 27-24 overtime win. He ran for 122 yards, including a touchdown in overtime. Maryland held the Hokies to a field goal in overtime before Brown sealed the deal.

11. Pittsburgh (5-5, 2-4; LW: No. 7) -- A week after knocking off Notre Dame, the Panthers fell at home to UNC and once again couldn’t protect quarterback Tom Savage, who was sacked seven times. Pitt had no answer for UNC’s Ryan Switzer, who returned two punts for touchdowns, including the game winner with 4:46 remaining. Pitt can still become bowl eligible by winning at least one of its two remaining games, which include Syracuse and Miami.

12. Wake Forest (4-6, 2-5; LW: No. 11) -- The Deacs had a bye week to regroup after three straight losses, and they’re going to need it, as they’ll be facing a surging Duke team with everything to lose. The Deacs, meanwhile, are in a must-win situation and have to win out to become bowl eligible.

13. NC State (3-7, 0-7; LW: No. 13) -- A dreadful first season for Dave Doeren continued with the Pack’s sixth straight loss. NC State allowed BC 420 rushing yards, and had no answer for Andre Williams. The Pack also was held to just 35 rushing yards. NC State has yet to win a league game and only one more chance to get it -- the regular-season finale against Maryland. This weekend, NC State hosts East Carolina.

14. Virginia (2-8, 0-6; LW: No. 14) -- The Cavaliers had a bye week after losing seven straight. Coach Mike London said the team has focused on getting the younger players some meaningful reps. They travel to Miami this week before ending the season at home against rival Virginia Tech.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 12

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
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Here is what we make of this past weekend in the ACC:

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
AP Photo/Phil SearsQuarterback Jameis Winston had another huge day in Florida State's win over Syracuse. He completed 19 of 21 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
1. Noles keep rolling. No. 2 Florida State's 59-3 win over Syracuse gave the Seminoles their eighth perfect ACC season. But how about some of these nuggets, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info: FSU is the first team to score 59 or more points and hold an opponent to three or fewer points in consecutive games since 1988, when FSU did it then, too. The Seminoles became the first team to rush for 200-plus yards on 20 rushes or fewer since Hawaii did it against Purdue in 2006. They became the first team to run the ACC table by winning each game by 10 or more points since FSU did it in 1994. And the Noles are the first team in the last 10 seasons with three conference wins by 55-plus points. They have scored at least 40 points in all 10 games, too, one shy of Texas' 11 games with 40 or more points in 2005.

2. Duke is for real, folks. Make that six in a row for the Blue Devils, now 4-2 in the ACC and in sole possession of first place of the Coastal Division. They ran over, around and through Miami in delivering the Hurricanes their third straight loss, as they reached the eight-win mark for the first time since 1994 and beat Miami for the first time since 1976, and just the second time ever. Duke has won consecutive games against ranked opponents for the first time since 1989. Hats off to David Cutcliffe & Co., who close at Wake Forest and at North Carolina, and may just be ranked when the polls are released later today.

3. BC, Maryland going bowling. Give credit to both schools for big performances Saturday. Andre Williams was his ridiculous self again, setting the ACC single-game and single-season rushing record as he went for 339 yards (1,810 on the season) as the Eagles closed out Senior Day with a 38-21 win over NC State. C.J. Brown, meanwhile, rushed for 122 yards and two scores, including the game-winning 3-yard rush as Maryland upset Virginia Tech in overtime. North Carolina edged a step closer to the postseason with a win over Pitt. The Panthers, meanwhile, play fellow five-win team Syracuse this Saturday, meaning at least one will become bowl eligible as well. NC State's postseason hopes, meanwhile, are officially over with its loss at BC.

4. UNC keeps rolling. Speaking of North Carolina ... what a turnaround for the folks in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have won four in a row after racing out to a 27-3 lead versus Pittsburgh, blowing it, then hanging on for dear life as Ryan Switzer clinched the win with a 61-yard punt return for a score in the fourth quarter. Marquise Williams continued to impress stepping in for the injured Bryn Renner, as he completed 15 of 27 passes for 173 yards and added 79 rushing yards and two scores on 15 carries. The defense sacked Tom Savage seven times, and now all UNC needs to do is beat Old Dominion at home Saturday to clinch bowl eligibility.

5. Remember Clemson? BCS bowl executives probably should. The Tigers became the forgotten team after getting routed at home by Florida State. And they will probably need to win at rival South Carolina in the regular-season finale. But they are looking pretty good right now at 9-1, impressively routing Georgia Tech 55-31 on Thursday night behind Tajh Boyd's 340 passing yards, 43 rushing yards and five total touchdowns. Boyd broke Philip Rivers' ACC record for career touchdown passes (he now has 97) and is one 300-yard game shy of Rivers' ACC record (18) in that category, too.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
9:00
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Who stood out the most in the ACC this weekend? Glad you asked.

North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer. As a receiver, Switzer put up a modest two catches for 21 yards. But the true freshman was a game-changer as a punt returner, as he brought back kicks of 65 and 61 yards, the latter breaking a 27-27 tie with 4:46 left in the fourth quarter and helping the Tar Heels escape Pittsburgh with the 34-27 win, their fourth in a row. North Carolina is on the verge of a bowl berth after a 1-5 start, and they have the 5-foot-10, 175-pound rookie in large part to thank for that after blowing a 27-3 second-half lead.

Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown. Brown delivered when his team needed him most, helping engineer a big upset in Blacksburg, Va., as the Terrapins escaped with a 27-24 overtime win. Brown was just 12 of 25 passing for 135 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but he made some big plays with his legs, including the three-yard game-winning run in the extra session as he moved left and dived into the pylon to clinch the victory. Brown finished with 122 rushing yards and two scores on 23 carries, helping Maryland snap a three-game winning streak and clinching bowl eligibility for the first time in three seasons under coach Randy Edsall.

Boston College running back Andre Williams. He seemingly has reserved a spot in this post every week, as the senior powered the Eagles to a sixth win, tripling last year's total. They gained bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010 with a 38-21 Senior Day win over NC State. Williams rushed for 339 yards and two touchdowns on 42 carries, breaking the ACC's single-game and single-season rushing record (he has 1,810 rushing yards on the season). Williams now has four 200-yard rushing games on the year, and he has amassed 634 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his last two games.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston played just a half, but he made it count. The redshirt freshman completed 19 of 21 passes for 277 yards with two touchdowns and no picks, leading the Seminoles to a 38-0 lead at the break, en route to a 59-3 win. Keep in mind the Syracuse defense he was facing had not given up a touchdown in its previous two games, too. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Winston is now the only player since at least 2000 with two games of at least 90 percent comp pct (min. 20 att) in a season.

Duke's rushing game. The Blue Devils entered Saturday's contest averaging 165.9 rushing yards per game. Against Miami, they rushed for 358 and five scores, doing whatever they wanted as they overcame an early 17-7 deficit and scored the game's final 20 points to win 48-30. Josh Snead led the ground attack with 138 yards on nine carries, and Jela Duncan added 98 yards on 16 carries. Let's not overlook Brandon Connette, who scored four rushing touchdowns on 11 carries, totaling 37 yards on the night.

ACC Saturday setup: Week 11

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
7:00
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Here's one last quick look at what's going on in the ACC this week:

No. 2 Florida State (8-0, 6-0) at Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4), noon, ABC. #FSUvsWAKE

What's at stake: Plenty for both teams. A win gets the Noles into the ACC championship game and keeps their national championship hopes alive. Wake Forest is nearing must-win territory for bowl eligibility. A loss means the Deacs have to beat Duke (6-2) and Vanderbilt (4-4) to get back to a bowl game. The last time Florida State visited Winston-Salem, Wake Forest won. But both coaches insist things are different this time around. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said this Florida State team is the best he has faced in 13 years with the Deacs.

Statistically speaking: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Jameis Winston completes an AQ-high 71.9 percent of his passes on plays in which he is pressured (knockdown or hurried). The AQ average for a quarterback when pressured is 35.8 percent.

Quotable: "You know the situations and the media hype you get. But like we tell them, the only thing you can control is how you play this week. What's important for us is to continue to play well, reach our goals in the games of getting better each week, learning to prepare each week and getting better as a team." -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.

Virginia (2-7, 0-5) at North Carolina (3-5, 2-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #UVAvsUNC

What's at stake: Plenty on the line for the Tar Heels, who are fighting for a bowl berth. Another win would give them three straight after a 1-5 start to the season. A bowl game does not look all that bleak right now, even with Bryn Renner out for the season with a shoulder injury. The Hoos are the only team left on the schedule with a losing record, so getting a win here is critical for bowl hopes. A loss means the Tar Heels have to win at Pittsburgh, then beat Old Dominion and Duke. That is doable, but certainly a win against Virginia gives a tad more margin for error.

Statistically speaking: Virginia safety Anthony Harris is quietly putting together one of the best seasons in the ACC. Harris has six interceptions on the season, tied for second in the nation. Those six interceptions are two more than the entire UVa team had in 2012. They also are the most by a UVa safety since Shernard Newby had five in 2001.

Quotable: "This team has become mature enough to understand the pitfalls of a lack of focus or worrying about what else is going on out there. Now you’ve got people who want to pat you on the back. If you do, you better watch out. Better just stay the course, keep doing what we’re doing, focusing on one game, and let’s try to be 1-0." -- North Carolina coach Larry Fedora.

Syracuse (4-4, 2-2) at Maryland (5-3, 1-3), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #CUSEvsMD

What's at stake: Let's stick with the bowl theme. The Terps become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010 with a win; the Orange inch closer to bowl eligibility for the second straight year with a win. One area to watch with both teams is the running game. The Terps have hit a bit of a dip in their last two losses, rushing for a combined 121 yards. Syracuse, meanwhile, has over 180 yards total rushing in three of four ACC games this year and is facing an injury-depleted Maryland D that gave up 247 yards rushing to Clemson.

Statistically speaking: Talk about extremes with the Syracuse defense. Twice this season, the Orange have shut opponents out, the first time that has happened since 1997. But on the flip side, they have also given up 48 or more points three times this season.

Quotable: "He's a really good leader and he's a guy that knows the offense, understands it and has experience. So that means a lot to us, and like I said hopefully he can continue to stay healthy." -- Maryland coach Randy Edsall on C.J. Brown.

Boston College (4-4) at New Mexico State (1-8), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #BCvsNMSU

What's at stake: Plenty for Boston College. The turnaround in Year 1 under coach Steve Addazio has been impressive. Now the goal he set for his team when the season started is there for the taking -- bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010. Having to travel to Las Cruces, N.M., in the middle of November is not an ideal situation, especially after such an emotional win over Virginia Tech. BC also has been a different team on the road this year, scoring an average of 10.3 points in three losses, so Addazio has to find a way to keep his players focused against a much weaker opponent.

Statistically speaking: Receiver Alex Amidon needs 54 yards to break the school record for career receiving yards. Current BC graduate assistant coach Rich Gunnell set the mark of 2,459 yards from 2006-09.

Quotable: "There's a tremendous amount of focus right now with our seniors and everybody in this program about just centering in on trying to get win number five, and I think our kids understand, I certainly hope they understand that it's all hands on deck with us. When we win, it's because we are just scratching and clawing, and we're not turning it over, and we don't have a lot of penalties, and we have that kind of team concept. And that's hard to do week in and week out." -- BC coach Steve Addazio.

NC State (3-5, 0-5) at Duke (6-2, 2-2), 4 p.m., ESPNU. #NCSTvsDUKE

What's at stake: Duke needs to win to stay in the race for the ACC championship game. NC State needs a win to keep its bowl eligibility hopes alive, with games against Boston College, East Carolina and Maryland ahead. The Wolfpack are off to their worst start in ACC play since going 0-6 in 1959. Duke, meanwhile, is off to a 6-2 start for the second straight year, but the Blue Devils hope to avoid the same type of losing streak that dampened the end to the 2012 season. NC State has won 11 of the past 12 meetings, but Duke won the last one in 2009. This is the last meeting between the schools until 2020.

Statistically speaking: In ACC play this season, Duke is 0-2 at home and 2-0 on the road. Duke joins Clemson and Florida State as the only two teams in the league without a loss away from home.

Quotable: "We've been in four of the games we've lost in the fourth quarter, whether it was tied and we were down by a touchdown or less, we know we're close, and we're just going to keep grinding and fighting and find a way to win those close games as we fight down the stretch." -- NC State coach Dave Doeren.

Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) at No. 11 Miami (7-1, 3-1), 7 p.m., ESPN. #VTvsMIA

What's at stake: Simply put, the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech needs a win to stay alive and end a two-game losing streak. Miami needs a win to stay in the driver's seat. Virginia Tech remains stingy on defense, ranking in the top 10 in total defense (No. 3), passing defense (No. 1), rushing defense (No. 9) and scoring defense (No. 8). The problem has been the eight turnovers in the last two losses. Miami, meanwhile, must win this game without two of its best offensive playmakers -- running back Duke Johnson and receiver Phillip Dorsett.

Statistically speaking: While Miami has one of the best rush offenses in the ACC, Virginia Tech has one of the worst. The Hokies are averaging 3.2 yards per carry, on pace to be their lowest in the last 10 seasons. The Hokies have four rushes that gained 20 yards or more, tied for seventh fewest in the FBS.

Quotable: "I think this Miami team is really, really good. If you look at them defensively, they’re maybe the best defensive team we’ve played and we’ve played Alabama." -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.

No. 23 Notre Dame (7-2) at Pitt (4-4, 2-3), 8 p.m., ABC. #NDvsPITT

What's at stake: This is almost a must-win situation for the Panthers, who are trying to become bowl eligible for the sixth straight season. After the Irish, Pitt faces an improving North Carolina, has to travel to Syracuse (where it lost last season) and then closes against No. 11 Miami. The Panthers have played Notre Dame tough, though players have said the triple-overtime loss a season ago is in the past. What Pitt needs to do is find its run game and fast. The offensive line play has deteriorated as the season has gone on, hampering both the run and quarterback Tom Savage. Pitt has given up a league-high 29 sacks, tied for No. 116 in the nation.

Statistically speaking: Pitt is on pace for its worst rushing offense since 2005. Right now, the Panthers are averaging 122.5 rush yards per game. In 2005, Pitt averaged 116.8 rush yards per game.

Quotable: "We haven't been real good running the football. You know, we're certainly working on it, and there are different reasons that have contributed to it. But we need to -- hopefully we can get that squared away because we're a better team if we can do a better job of running the football." -- Pitt coach Paul Chryst.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
10:15
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Clemson and Georgia Tech have the weekend off. The other 12 ACC teams take the field for Week 11, which includes two nonconference contests, with one serving just slightly bigger than the other.

Here is what to keep an eye on as we enter the home stretch in the ACC:

1. FSU looks to avoid letdown: The Seminoles have a lot to lose the rest of the way, starting Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C., where they lost two years ago. It is telling, in a good way, that the word "adversity" has been thrown around so much in regard to Florida State's most recent contest. It was a 41-14 win against a previously undefeated and seventh-ranked Miami team. And its quarterback, despite whatever criticisms were lobbied his way, finished with an adjusted total QBR of 94.6, sixth best in the nation for the week. If this team ever got its act together …

2. Wake adjusts to life without Campanaro: Wake Forest is without all-time leading receiver Michael Campanaro, probably for the season, after the redshirt senior broke his collarbone in a loss at Syracuse. Coach Jim Grobe was honest about how difficult things now are offensively without Campanaro, who, despite missing the first game of the season, had 67 catches -- or 52 more than Jonathan Williams and Sherman Ragland III, the Demon Deacons' next-highest catchers, with 15 apiece.

[+] EnlargeMarquise Williams
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesCan Marquise Williams lead North Carolina to a bowl game?
3. Marquise Williams' time at UNC: Bryn Renner's North Carolina career is over because of a detached labrum and fracture in his non-throwing shoulder suffered in a win over NC State. He had split plenty of time lately with Williams, who started the Virginia Tech game, but now it is the redshirt sophomore's chance to carry the Tar Heels to the postseason. They can inch a step closer toward with a win over Virginia that would make them 4-5. Williams has completed better than 60 percent of his passes this season for 537 yards with six touchdowns and three picks, adding 201 yards and a score on the ground.

4. C.J. Brown's return: Maryland is on the brink of its first bowl berth under third-year coach Randy Edsall, and the expected return of its quarterback should provide a big boost against Syracuse. Caleb Rowe has been so-so in Brown's place as starter, going 1-2. Brown's return after a concussion and then a "trunk injury" cannot come at a better time for a Terrapins team that has dropped three of four, though he will have to adjust to a receiving corps that has been decimated by season-ending injuries to Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

5. Terps honor former Cuse halfback: Kudos to Maryland, which will pay tribute Saturday to Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, who was barred from the Syracuse-Maryland 1937 game because he was black. Orange players will wear No. 19 decals on their helmets in memory of Sidat-Singh, whose family will join both schools' athletic directors and Maryland pioneer Darryl Hill between the first and second quarters for an on-field tribute. Sidat-Singh had joined the Army after Pearl Harbor and was in the first graduating class of the group later known as Tuskegee Airmen. He was killed on a training flight in 1943 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

6. Duke looks to finish strong: Whether it is fair to criticize the Blue Devils' late-season slide last season, the fact remains that they went winless after clinching bowl eligibility in 2012. Things are different this time around, especially with a defense playing night and day from earlier this season and with the Coastal Division potentially up for grabs. Duke will need to keep its foot on the pedal as it comes off a historic win and a bye week to face a desperate NC State team that has dropped four straight and remains winless in ACC play.

7. Logan Thomas looks to rebound: Virginia Tech's redshirt senior quarterback was unusually defiant this week when speaking to reporters in Blacksburg, Va., about criticism that has come his way. Thomas had appeared to turn a corner midseason but his turnovers woes have bubbled to the surface these last two weeks, as he threw four picks in a loss to Duke and threw two more, and lost two fumbles, in a loss at Boston College. Still, a strong performance at a Miami team coming off its first loss of the season could play the Hokies right back into the thick of things in the Coastal Division race.

8. Crawford, Miami look to rebound: It's Dallas Crawford's time to step up, as the Hurricanes will turn to the redshirt sophomore first after losing Duke Johnson for the season. In looking to rebound from its loss No. 1 and maintain control of the Coastal Division, coach Al Golden said all three backs will probably see time in the first quarter Saturday against Virginia Tech. Crawford is expected to get the bulk of the carries after rushing for 294 yards and nine touchdowns so far this season.

9. ND-Pitt theatrics: Will it be like the four-overtime game from 2008? The ugly 15-12 contest from 2011, a game that, fittingly, featured 666 total yards of offense? Or last year's triple-overtime near upset? When the Irish and Panthers take the field, craziness ensues, and who knows what awaits a prime-time audience at Heinz Field in a game featuring two banged-up teams.

10. Pitt's offense looks to get it together: The Panthers defended the option well in recent weeks, holding Navy and Georgia Tech to 24 and 21 points, respectively. But the offense simply has to score points after breaking the 21-point plateau just once in its past five games, against Old Dominion (35). The run game in particular has struggled, tallying minus-5 yards last week against the Yellow Jackets, but the passing game could use some big plays as well.

ACC predictions: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
9:00
AM ET


Heather got back at AA in Week 10, making the right call with Boston College over Virginia Tech and North Carolina over NC State. Bravo to a 5-1 week. AA came up 3-3, so we are all square again at 62-16 overall. Let's see what Week 11 has in store.

No. 2 Florida State (8-0, 6-0) at Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4), noon, ABC. #FSUvsWAKE. The Noles clinch a spot in the ACC title game with a win over Wake Forest. It is tough to anticipate this one being much of a game, especially with Wake receiver Michael Campanaro out. The Deacs did nothing offensively without him last week against Syracuse (a team that lost 59-0 against Georgia Tech), and coach Jim Grobe concedes he has nobody on his roster to fill those shoes. Not only that, Wake Forest has a run game that ranks last in the ACC. It is going to be a long day for the Deacs.

AA picks: Florida State 54, Wake Forest 6

HD picks: Florida State 48, Wake Forest 10

Virginia (2-7, 0-5) at North Carolina (3-5, 2-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #UVAvsUNC. The Tar Heels have gotten themselves back into bowl contention with two straight wins, but they must play the rest of the season without quarterback Bryn Renner. The good news is Marquise Williams has played in the past four games, so at least he has experience under center. More good news for UNC this week: UVa is a bad football team, having lost six straight games. The Hoos have given up more than 1,000 yards of offense in their past two losses combined.

AA picks: North Carolina 34, Virginia 17

HD picks: North Carolina 24, Virginia 14

Syracuse (4-4, 2-2) at Maryland (5-3, 1-3), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #CUSEvsMD. As experts picking games every week, Syracuse has easily been the toughest team to predict throughout the entire season. One week after getting shut out at Georgia Tech, the Orange were the ones delivering the shut out to Wake Forest. Syracuse has won away from home just once this season and has yet to get any consistency out of the quarterback position. Meanwhile, quarterback C.J. Brown is healthy again for the Terps. Brown will be the difference in the game, and Maryland becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.

AA picks: Maryland 23, Syracuse 20

HD picks: Maryland 24, Syracuse 10

Boston College (4-4) at New Mexico State (1-8), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #BCvsNMSU. The Eagles get to follow up their impressive win over Virginia Tech with a 2,300-mile trip to its first game in New Mexico. Ever. Not exactly the type of trek that a team from a power conference ever wants to make, let alone in November. Having said that, the Eagles have an opportunity to win for the first time on the road this season and inch closer to bowl eligibility against one of the worst teams in FBS. New Mexico State coach Doug Martin served as BC offensive coordinator a season ago, but there won't be much the Aggies can do to slow down Andre Williams. New Mexico State is giving up a whopping 312 yards per game on the ground.

AA picks: Boston College 35, New Mexico State 7

HD picks: Boston College 49, New Mexico State 6

NC State (3-5, 0-5) at Duke (6-2, 2-2), 4 p.m., ESPNU. #NCSTvsDUKE. Some anticipated NC State could struggle this year with a new head coach and so many veterans gone. But not many could have expected the Wolfpack to start 0-5 in league play and fall a notch below in-state rival Duke. Injuries have been a big culprit, but so has an inability to make plays with the game on the line. NC State has more quarterback drama to deal with as well. Duke, meanwhile, had a week to enjoy its win over Virginia Tech and bowl eligibility for a second straight season. The Blue Devils were not great on offense in that win, but expect a completely healthy Anthony Boone to bounce back.

AA picks: Duke 30, NC State 16

HD picks: Duke 45, NC State 14

Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) at No. 11 Miami (7-1, 3-1), 7 p.m., ESPN. #VTvsMIA. Both teams come in off losses but remain in contention to win the Coastal Division. As Heather pointed out earlier in the week, it's gut-check time for both teams. The Hokies continue to have one of the best defenses in the country. It's the offense that has cost them in the past two games, as Logan Thomas has turned the ball over eight times. AA thinks Miami is going to struggle against this defense without Duke Johnson, and Thomas will redeem himself with a solid game. A solid game means Thomas won't have four turnovers. Miami has not won back-to-back games in the series since winning three straight from 2000-02. AA picks: Virginia Tech 21, Miami 20.

HD picks: Miami 28, Virginia Tech 17: Even without Johnson, the Canes will be able to run the ball with Dallas Crawford, and they’ll make fewer mistakes than turnover-prone Virginia Tech. The Hokies simply have too many questions marks on offense and not enough playmakers surrounding the embattled Thomas. Virginia Tech hasn’t fared well against ranked opponents, and that trend will continue on Saturday.

No. 23 Notre Dame (7-2) at Pitt (4-4, 2-3), 8 p.m., ABC. #NDvsPITT. It is really tempting to pick Pitt to upset the Irish given the recent history between the two teams and all the injuries Notre Dame has on its defense. But Pitt has done little to nothing offensively since its wild 58-55 win over Duke in September. In the five games since, Pitt is averaging 269 yards per game. Its run game has been nearly nonexistent. Against Georgia Tech last week, the Panthers were held to minus-5 yards rushing. Against Virginia and Virginia Tech, the Panthers managed a combined 31 yards on the ground. Pitt was able to run on Notre Dame last year. But it won't be able to this time around.

AA picks: Notre Dame 27, Pitt 20

HD picks: Notre Dame 24, Pitt 21

ACC lunchtime links

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
12:00
PM ET
So wait, there’s not going to be a “Full House” remake? Stop teasing me like that, Internet.

No hoaxes in today's ACC links though.

After allowing Florida State to convert 11 of 15 third down tries last week, Miami’s defense is focused on getting off the field against Virginia Tech, writes the Sun-Sentinel.

Duke Johnson’s surgery to repair a broken ankle was a success, writes the Miami Herald.

Among a myriad of news and notes out of Blacksburg, cornerback Kyle Fuller says he’s getting close to 100 percent healthy for this week’s Coastal Division showdown against Miami, writes the Roanoke Times.

Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin has made downfield blocking into an art form, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.

Seminoles safety Terrence Brooks sat out practice again Tuesday after suffering a concussion against Miami. FSU’s deep secondary hasn’t missed a beat, writes the Orlando Sentinel.

With Michael Campanaro out, it’s open auditions for a new playmaker at Wake Forest, writes the Winston-Salem Journal.

Emotions overwhelmed Bryn Renner as he spoke about his career at North Carolina coming to an end because of a shoulder injury, writes the Charlotte Observer.

Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown is still looking to play his first full ACC game of the season, but he’s hopeful last week’s bye has helped, writes the Washington Post.

After an upset win over Virginia Tech, Boston College has its sights set on bowl eligibility, writes the Boston Herald.

Remember when Duke’s defense allowed 127 points in a three-game stretch to Georgia Tech, Pitt and Troy? The Blue Devils look like a different team now, and it’s based on a stingy defensive effort, writes the Associated Press.

Syracuse’s streak of 1,000-yard rushers could be coming to an end, writes the Troy Nunes blog. Prince-Tyson Gulley ranks fifth in the ACC (min. 50 rushes) in yards per carry (5.75) and Jerome Smith is 12th (5.06), but both would need to finish strong to crack 1,000.

DeAndre Smelter has been an ‘X-factor’ for Georgia Tech in his first year playing football, writes the Macon Telegraph.

With Demetrious Nicholson done for the year, Virginia turns to Drequan Hoskey to step up in a battered secondary, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Those national title hopes might have been dashed, but Clemson’s Tajh Boyd has no regrets about returning to school for his senior season, writes The State.

Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd has benefited from working with former NFL star Bobby Engram this season, writes the Post-Gazette.

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