Florida State Seminoles: Jadeveon Clowney

What to watch in the ACC: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
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One week after Clemson and UNC took center stage with big nonconference games, Virginia and Miami step to the plate. Here's what to keep an eye on in Week 2 of ACC action.

1. A rivalry renewed: Once one of the most high-profile rivalries in the country, Florida and Miami have faced off just once in the past nine years -- a 26-3 Gators win in 2008. But the sparks fly again this week, and the matchup figures to live up to its rich history. Florida enters ranked No. 12 in the country, the latest SEC foe to provide a significant hurdle for the upstart ACC. Miami enters with its highest hopes in years, and a win over its in-state rival would solidify the notion that the Hurricanes are finally ready for the national spotlight again.

2. A big test for Virginia's defense: The Hoos sure looked impressive in their first game under coordinator Jon Tenuta last week, with Anthony Harris & Co. turning in a virtuoso performance in a come-from-behind win over BYU. Their reward? That'd be Oregon's high-flying offensive attack that managed to reel off 71 plays in less than 20 minutes of possession time in its opener.

3. David Watford put to the test: The bottom line for the first-year starter is that Virginia got the win, but it certainly wasn't a pretty offensive performance against BYU in Week 1. Watford was just 18-of-32 passing for 114 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His Total QBR ranked 107th nationally, and Virginia had eight three-and-outs. Fifteen of its 17 drives lasted six plays or fewer -- a major problem when trying to keep Oregon's up-tempo juggernaut off the field.

4. Syracuse vs. the Big Ten: For the second straight week, the Orange will take on a Big Ten foe, but after falling to Penn State 23-17 in Week 1, life won't get any easier this time around with a trip to No. 19 Northwestern. The defense looked solid against the Nittany Lions, but QB Drew Allen must improve on a performance that included 16-of-37 for 189 yards passing and two interceptions.

5. A rebound for Logan Thomas: Of the 121 Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks who qualified last week, none had a lower Total QBR than Thomas' 1.9. It was a dismal performance -- 5-of-26 for 59 yards and an INT -- and underscored numerous problems on Virginia Tech's offense. The receivers let Thomas down again and again, and the line didn't exactly provide smooth sailing. An overwhelmed Thomas shouldering the burden for the entire offense was the Hokies' downfall last season, and the situation doesn't appear to have changed much. On the upside, Western Carolina should feel like a weekend at the beach compared to Alabama's defense in Week 1.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Logan Thomas started the season just 5-of-26 for 59 yards in Virginia Tech's loss to Alabama.
6. NC State's quarterback rotation: Brandon Mitchell's surgery to repair a broken foot appears to have been a success, but now there's the small matter of getting through the next four to six weeks without him. Dave Doeren says Pete Thomas will get the start this week but he wants to "explore his options." That's not exactly a vote of confidence, particularly when it might mean seeing some receivers and tailbacks getting a look at QB.

7. Tajh Boyd burnishes his Heisman candidacy: After the first week of games, the Clemson quarterback appears to be the Heisman front-runner, and he'll get a chance to add to his gaudy numbers against Football Championship Subdivision foe South Carolina State on Saturday. But offensive coordinator Chad Morris actually criticized his QB a bit, saying he'd like to see a faster offensive tempo.

8. Identifying a contender: Wake Forest and Boston College are both coming off down seasons in 2012, both struggled early against FCS foes in Week 1 and both eventually managed to win with relative ease. So what did we learn? Probably not much, but both teams will get a chance to prove they belong when they face off against one another Friday night in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

9. North Carolina's run defense: It wasn't Jadeveon Clowney who proved to be the Tar Heels' nightmare in a 27-10 opening-week loss. It was their own defense, which coughed up 228 rushing yards to the Gamecocks, including a whopping 9.6 yards per carry to sophomore Mike Davis.

10. More offense for Maryland, Duke: Both teams offered question marks entering the season. Duke was retooling its offensive pieces, while Maryland was happy to simply have a few more of its offensive stars -- namely quarterback C.J. Brown -- back at work. Both turned in dominant performances in their openers, both topping 40 points and 480 yards of offense. The Terps get newly minted FBS Independent Old Dominion this week, and Duke faces off against Memphis (9-39 over the past four seasons), meaning more fireworks are likely in store.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
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Clemson stole the show in Week 1, solidifying its hold on the top spot, but it was Virginia that made the most noise by knocking off BYU. Here's how the power rankings shake out after the first round of games.

1. Clemson (1-0, 0-0 ACC; LW No. 1): They are who we thought they were. Tajh Boyd and the Tigers proved they were every bit the national championship contender with a huge win over Georgia on Saturday, and while a handful of significant obstacles remain, Clemson is clearly in control of its destiny from here. Boyd was the star, but the Tigers should be thrilled, too, to see a rejuvenated Sammy Watkins, a disruptive Vic Beasley and a punishing running performance by Roderick McDowell.

2. Florida State (1-0, 1-0 ACC; LW No. 2): If Boyd set the bar for ACC quarterbacks on Saturday, Jameis Winston eagerly leapt over it Monday. The much-hyped freshman had a debut for the ages against Pitt, completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four TDs, while rushing for another. Jimbo Fisher spent the offseason trying to quiet the buzz around his QB, but it's only getting louder.

3. Miami (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 3): This just in: Duke Johnson is pretty darned good. The Miami sophomore stole the show in a 34-6 win, burnishing the hopes that Miami has finally turned things around. That theory will be put to the test this week though, when SEC foe Florida comes to town. The Hurricanes have won 11 of the past 15 games against Florida, but this marks only the second time the two schools have faced off since 2004.

4. Georgia Tech (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 6): It's hard to take too much from a big win over Elon, but it's also hard to find any faults after one week for the Yellow Jackets. Vad Lee looked good, the running game didn't miss a beat, the defense was impressive, and the end result was the largest margin of victory for an ACC team in history.

5. Virginia Tech (0-1, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 5): This was one of those good news-bad news games for the Hokies. The good news was, the defense looked great, holding the two-time defending champs to only 206 yards of offense (and sending Alabama fans into panic mode in the process). The bad news is, Virginia Tech still got smoked thanks to repeated special-teams breakdowns and a woeful performance by the passing game. Logan Thomas struggled mightily, and the receiving corps looks dreadful. But hey, at least they don't have to play Alabama again.

6. Virginia (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 13): The task is daunting in Week 2, when the Cavaliers host Oregon, but for now, fans should bask in the beauty of a tremendous defensive performance in a win over BYU -- easily the second-best win of the week for an ACC team. Anthony Harris was the star with 11 tackles, a sack, a blocked punt and an interception that set up the winning score, but he was just one of five UVA defenders with double-digit tackles in the game.

7. North Carolina (0-1, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 4): The good news is, North Carolina largely contained Jadeveon Clowney -- even if a few pundits chalked it up to the South Carolina defender's condition or apathy. Beyond that, however, it wasn't much of a debut for the Heels, who were burned by big plays and never really recovered from an early 14-0 hole.

8. Maryland (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 9): Well, it looks as though the Terrapins found their quarterback. C.J. Brown turned in a dominant performance in his return from an ACL injury that forced him to miss all of 2012. He accounted for five first-half touchdowns, while throwing for nearly 300 yards and running for more than 100. With a relatively manageable schedule ahead, it's not impossible to think Maryland could be riding high at 4-0 when it heads to Florida State on Oct. 5.

9. NC State (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 8): Dave Doeren's Wolfpack did a nice job in thumping a Louisiana Tech team that didn't figure to be a pushover. The key was the time of possession, where NC State held a whopping 30-minute edge, keeping Louisiana Tech's offense off the field. The only downside was the loss of starting QB Brandon Mitchell, which is why the Wolfpack drop a spot behind the suddenly QB-stacked Terrapins.

10. Duke (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 12): No Sean Renfree? No Connor Vernon? No problem for the Blue Devils in their 2013 debut. A 45-0 win over NC Central was hardly a major test, but Duke looked good in all phases of the game -- outgaining NC Central by nearly 300 yards and racking up a 76-yard punt return TD from super sophomore Jamison Crowder.

11. Wake Forest (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 7): The Deacons won easily, so why the drop in the Power Rankings? Mostly, it's splitting hairs. The early struggles against Presbyterian weren't exactly inspiring, and with a cluster of teams in the middle of the pack, Wake Forest simply was the least impressive of a group that mostly looked pretty good.

12. Pittsburgh (0-1, 0-1 ACC, LW No. 10): It's hard to say whether Pittsburgh was that bad or Winston was that good. Either way, the result was a blowout in the Panthers’ ACC debut. Pitt should be encouraged that it moved the ball relatively well against an athletic FSU defense, and the Panthers appear to have some legitimate playmakers.

13. Syracuse (0-1, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 11): It was obvious Scott Shafer was going to have to do some rebuilding in 2013, but a 23-17 loss to start the season against Penn State only underscored how far the Orange have to go. Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen was supposed to be an answer at QB, but he didn't look good (16-of-37 for 189 yards and two INTs). This week's game against Northwestern won't get any easier.

14. Boston College (1-0, 0-0, LW No. 14): Sure, the Eagles won. That's worth celebrating. But they struggled early against Villanova, and it's clear Steve Addazio still has his work cut out for him. Make it two in a row this week against Wake Forest, however, and BC is guaranteed to climb out of the basement.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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There's one more game to go, but here's a look back at the weekend that was in the ACC:

The good: You have to start with Clemson, which came away with a signature, 38-35 home victory over favored Georgia from the SEC and has earned the early status of national title contender. The Tigers became the first non-SEC team ever to defeat consecutive top-10 SEC opponents. Tajh Boyd looked like a Heisman contender and Sammy Watkins looked like the guy everyone remembered from 2011. Dabo Swinney stressed that it was just one game, but it was certainly a major one for the ACC and its national perception.

The bad: North Carolina's offensive line played respectable against Jadeveon Clowney and the vaunted South Carolina front. But the defense surrendered too many big plays, including a 75-yard touchdown run, a 65-yard touchdown pass and a 29-yard touchdown pass. The Tar Heels scored just one touchdown in three red zone trips in their 27-10 season-opening loss.

The ugly: Beamer Ball was missing Saturday, as Virginia Tech gave up a punt return touchdown and a kickoff return touchdown to Alabama's Christion Jones. Vinnie Sunseri also notched a pick-six off Logan Thomas, whose 5-of-26 passing line was far from spectacular, too. (Honorable mention: FAU coach Carl Pelini ordering a spike on fourth down late in Friday's 34-6 loss at Miami.)

The surprise: Jim Grobe was not kidding when he said he was going to play more true freshmen this season. Wake Forest broke in nine first-year players during Thursday's 31-7 win over Presbyterian. In his previous 12 years, Grobe had only played 22 true freshmen in total. (In opponent news, Villanova's fake punt against BC has to qualify here as well.)

strong>The history: In beating Elon 70-0, Georgia Tech tied a school record for points in the modern era and set a school record for margin of victory in the modern era. The Yellow Jackets also broke the ACC record for margin of victory, and their 10 touchdowns tied a school record as well.

The delay(s): UNC and South Carolina took a nearly two-hour break Thursday because of lightning. Virginia's opener Saturday against BYU was delayed more than two hours because of bad weather, too. How bad? Just take a look at the picture BYU posted on Twitter of the flooding in the tunnels of Scott Stadium.

The unfortunate turn of events: Dave Doeren unveiled Brandon Mitchell as his quarterback choice. It looked like the right one before Mitchell suffered a foot injury that will force him to miss four to six weeks. The Arkansas transfer went 3-of-3 for 93 yards and orchestrated consecutive touchdown drives to start the game. Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas shouldered the load after Mitchell's injury.

The playmaker: Duke Johnson gets this honor after tallying three plays of 35 yards or more in the first half Friday night for Miami. Johnson looks like he won't be taken down by a sophomore slump this year, as he opened with 186 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
10:20
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The moment is finally here. The season kicks off tonight, as two ACC teams take the gridiron and mark the return of college football. Here is what to keep an eye on this entire weekend as all 14 teams get back in action.

1. Battle in the trenches in Columbia, S.C. North Carolina will have three new starters on its offensive line Thursday night against No. 6 South Carolina, including two redshirt freshmen. And the Tar Heels will be going up against preseason Heisman contender Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks' lethal defensive line. Don't overlook fellow end Chaz Sutton, either.

2. Conference debuts. Pitt and Syracuse play their first games as ACC schools after exiting the former Big East, which the Orange won a four-way share of in 2012. Both schools have the chance to make big opening statements, as the Panthers host defending conference champion Florida State on Labor Day and Syracuse faces a Penn State squad looking to build off Bill O'Brien's successful first year with the program.

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesBoston College's Steve Addazio is one of the conference's new coaches this season.
3. Trio of first-year coaches. New BC coach Steve Addazio hosts Villanova, a familiar opponent from his Temple days. Dave Doeren and NC State host Louisiana Tech, which breaks in a new coach of its own in Skip Holtz after Sonny Dykes left for Cal following a 9-3 season. And Syracuse coach Scott Shafer debuts against Penn State in East Rutherford, N.J.

4. QB choices in Jersey and Raleigh. Two of those new coaches also will be unveiling their starting quarterback choices for the first time, as Shafer sends out either Terrel Hunt or Drew Allen and Doeren picks Pete Thomas or Brandon Mitchell. The Orange will be facing a Penn State team that carries the same surprise in its quarterback race between Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson.

5. ... Speaking of new starting QBs. Virginia's David Watford will make his first career start against BYU, Duke's Anthony Boone takes over the job from Sean Renfree against NC Central, and Florida State and Pitt will both start new signal-callers when they square off on Labor Day, with Jameis Winston running the Seminoles' offense and Tom Savage handling duties for the Panthers.

6. Pitt's running backs. Ray Graham is gone. Rushel Shell transferred to West Virginia. And Isaac Bennett and James Conner have dealt with injuries in camp. Coach Paul Chryst isn't sure how things will shake out Monday, but we likely will see Rachid Ibrahim and Malcolm Crockett get at least some action given the backfield situation.

7. FSU's defensive backs. Are too many bodies a good thing? Nick Waisome and Terrence Brooks started all 14 games last season for the nation's No. 1 pass defense. The crowd also includes preseason All-American Lamarcus Joyner, reigning ACC defensive rookie of the year Ronald Darby, former five-star prospect Karlos Williams and several other strong athletes. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has his work cut out for him, although probably not as much as new Pitt quarterback Tom Savage does.

8. Virginia Tech's backfield. Coach Frank Beamer wasn't kidding when he said the Hokies went from having too many running backs to not enough. Michael Holmes was kicked off the team in July, Joel Caleb was suspended this month for the opener against Alabama, Tony Gregory suffered a career-ending ACL tear and J.C. Coleman's status for Saturday is up in the air because of two ankle sprains. Redshirt freshmen Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus are the Hokies' next options after Coleman.

9. "Smoke." Taquan Mizzell has earned that nickname despite having never taken the college field. ESPN's No. 9 running back prospect from the class of 2013 has drawn plenty of buzz in Virginia's camp, and he will get a stiff first test against BYU's defense.

10. ACC vs. SEC. What, you really thought we'd forget this one? Three ACC teams face off against squads from the big, bad SEC, perhaps none with as steep a challenge as Virginia Tech's against Alabama. UNC kicks things off Thursday at South Carolina, and No. 8 Clemson hosts No. 5 Georgia on Saturday night in the headliner of Week 1. The ACC went 1-1 against the SEC in last year's weekend openers, with NC State falling to Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff the night before Clemson topped Auburn in the Georgia Dome.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- It certainly could've been awkward, but Miami quarterback Stephen Morris said there haven't been any moments of bitterness with his new offensive coordinator, James Coley, who held the same position with rival Florida State for the past three years before joining the Hurricanes in January.

Sure, it's a bit strange to be working with a one-time rival, but Morris has been around long enough that he's not rattled by much.

[+] EnlargeStephen Morris
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireQuarterback Stephen Morris is looking forward to running the offense James Coley brought to Miami.
"At this point, I don't find anything odd," Morris said. "I know everything's a business, and you might be with a coach for one year, and that guy's gone."

Coley is likely to stick around a while.

Before he arrived at FSU, it was the Miami area that was home for Coley, and he's renowned as one of the most accomplished recruiters in South Florida. More importantly, after three years of implementing Jimbo Fisher's offense with the Seminoles, Coley finally is getting a chance to call his own plays, and Morris said the playbook already is earning raves.

"[The offense] is fun to play in," said Morris, who finished fourth in the ACC last season, averaging 279 passing yards per game. "The opportunity guys have to catch the ball and run with it, spread it out, go in the pro-set and run the ball -- it pleases the offensive line, the running backs, the receivers. We'll be in Wing one set, completely spread out the next. I'm excited for it. He's implemented his own stuff that he had before, and I think it's a great fit for us."

Fisher was notoriously reluctant to hand over play-calling duties, and that led Coley to depart when Miami made an offer this offseason. Randy Sanders replaced Coley as FSU's quarterbacks coach, but Fisher has not named a new offensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, Morris said Coley is mixing and matching the best of what he ran at Florida State with the best of Miami's 2012 playbook to build a diverse attack that nevertheless remains unique to Coley's point of view.

"He has an idea of what he wants, and he runs it by us," Morris said. "We tell him what we did last year similar to it, but at the end of the day, he has his own stuff he wants to run."

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