Florida State Seminoles: Marcus Whitfield

ACC bowl predictions

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
10:30
AM ET
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 Week 14: Did you know?

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
10:00
AM ET
As always, thanks to ESPN Stats & Info and sports information departments everywhere for these tidbits.

MIAMI: Against Virginia, Miami had 45 points with only 11 first downs. The last time that happened at the FBS level was Sept. 13, 1997, when Minnesota (with 11 first downs) beat Iowa State 53-29.

PITTSBURGH: Tyler Boyd is having one of the most productive seasons by a freshman receiver in school history. With one regular-season game left, Boyd has 68 catches, the most of any freshman in the country and one catch shy of Larry Fitzgerald’s Pitt rookie record of 69.

FLORIDA STATE: Alabama and Florida State are 1-2 in the Championship Drive Ratings, while the only other undefeated team, Ohio State, was three spots back at No. 5. FSU has a Championship Drive Rating of 94.3, OSU has a 93.3. While both teams are 11-0, Florida State has controlled in-game win probability (84.6 percent to 81.2) more and has played a slightly tougher schedule (81st to 86th).

DUKE: At 9-2, Duke has already tied its most wins in season (most recently done in 1941) and will be going for its first 10-win season. Duke is looking for its first conference championship since 1989 (co-champion in ACC). The Blue Devils have won seven straight games for the first time since 1994 and are looking for their first eight-game winning streak since 1941 (won nine in a row).

NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels are 21-2 against Duke in their last 23 meetings, but they dropped last year's contest in Durham, N.C. They have not lost consecutive contests to the Blue Devils since dropping three in a row from 1987-89.

WAKE FOREST: The Demon Deacons will play their final game Saturday at Vanderbilt, but they have a few records worth aiming for. Jim Grobe remains tied with "Peahead" Walker for the most wins as a head coach in school history with 77. And quarterback Tanner Price (64 total TDs -- 52 passing, 11 rushing, one receiving) remains one off the school record of 65 career touchdowns held by Riley Skinner (60 passing, four rushing, one receiving).

MARYLAND: Following Alex Amidon’s 74-yard touchdown reception for BC, linebacker Marcus Whitfield blocked the ensuing point-after attempt. Defensive back Anthony Nixon grabbed the ball and went 98 yards for the defensive extra point. It marked the first time in program history that the Terrapins have scored a defensive extra point and it is the first defensive extra point scored by an ACC team since Duke’s Kyler Brown intercepted a two-point attempt against FIU on Sept. 1, 2012. Whitfield is the first Terp to block a PAT since A.J. Francis did it against Georgia Tech on Nov. 3, 2012.

NC STATE: With the exception of one game (vs. No. 2 Florida State), Wolfpack conference games have been relatively competitive. In the Wolfpack's other ACC contests, the average difference in the score after the third quarter has been just 7.1 points. In only one game (vs. then-No. 3 Clemson) did the Pack trail by more than a touchdown, and that was only by 13 points following the third quarter.

GEORGIA TECH: Senior A-back Robert Godhigh is one of the nation’s most explosive all-around players. The 5-foot-7 former walk-on has 961 yards from scrimmage (623 rush, 338 catch), and his average of 13 yards per play leads all FBS running backs. 55 percent of his offensive touches result in rst downs or touchdowns. Godhigh has 13 plays from scrimmage of 30-plus yards, which is the fth-most among all FBS players. Of Godhigh’s 961 yards, 389 yards (40.5 percent) have come after contact.

BOSTON COLLEGE: Andre Williams has gained 958 of his FBS-leading 2,073 yards after contact, 254 more such yards than any other AQ running back. Only 35 FBS players have more total rushing yards than Williams has after contact. Williams has broken 28 tackles this season, seven more than any other AQ running back.

SYRACUSE: The Orange have played BC 46 times, the fifth-most frequent opponent in school history. Syracuse owns the series record, 28-18, including an 18-6 mark at home. The old Big East rivals have not met since 2010, when the Eagles won 16-7. A win Saturday would make Syracuse bowl-eligible for the third time in four years. Syracuse is one of three teams (Ohio State and Wisconsin) to not allow a 100-yard rusher this season, though it will certainly get a test from Williams.

VIRGINIA TECH: Florida's nation-best streak of 22 straight bowl appearances will be snapped, meaning the Hokies will be the new leaders, as they will go to their 21st straight bowl this postseason. Opponents have failed to gain a first down on 49 percent of their drives against the Hokies, the highest percentage in the nation. Virginia Tech is also fourth nationally in fewest yards allowed before contact per game on designed runs, giving up just 52.5 ypg.

VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers' eight-game losing streak is their longest in a single season since 1975. They actually outgained Miami by a margin of 483-304, but they were hurt by the Hurricanes' two defensive touchdowns. They are 37-52-5 all-time against Virginia Tech, but the important number to keep an eye on is 32, as Virginia has scored at least that much in each of its last seven Commonwealth Cup wins dating back to 1989.

CLEMSON: Tajh Boyd's five touchdown passes in a 52-6 Senior Day win over The Citadel gave him 102 for his career. The only other active quarterbacks in the FBS with 100 career touchdown passes are Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke. But the biggest challenge for Boyd comes Saturday at South Carolina, which is 4-0 against the Tigers during Boyd's career, with Clemson failing to score more than 17 points in any of the contests.

ACC's lunchtime links

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
12:00
PM ET
HD on links this week ...

ACC lunchtime links

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
12:00
PM ET
That other brand of football starts tonight ... if you're in to that sort of thing.

C.J. Brown and Marcus Whitfield earned game balls for their performances against FIU, but they didn't get them. Chalk it up to an arcane NCAA rule that the Baltimore Sun uncovered.

Tickets are tough to come by for the big Florida-Miami showdown, writes the Sun-Sentinel.

Meanwhile, there are still plenty of good seats available for Virginia Tech's game against Western Carolina. School officials tell the Richmond Times-Dispatch they're expecting a 93-game sellout streak to come to an end.

The Charlotte Observer has a great piece on Clemson running back Roderick McDowell, who overcame a childhood disability to reach star status with the Tigers.

It was a strong debut for Boston College left tackle Matt Patchan in the opener, writes the Boston Herald.

Junior Darius Jennings has taken the lead role in Virginia's receiving corps, writes the Roanoke Times.

Pitt is hoping to learn from its mistakes against Florida State as it continues its first season in the ACC, writes the Post-Gazette.

Syracuse's defense will be walking a tightrope if QB Drew Allen can't take a step forward against Northwestern, writes the Post-Standard.

NC State receiver Rashard Smith is finally getting a chance to show what he can do, writes Backing the Pack.

The Raleigh News & Observer takes a closer look at the freshmen who saw action in Duke's opener and wonders who might end up with a redshirt.

Florida State tailback James Wilder Jr. is day-to-day with a shoulder injury, writes the Miami Herald.

Add Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson to the growing group of coaches frustrated by the no-huddle offense, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Athlon offers its Week 2 predictions around the ACC -- and shockingly, there's not a lot of love for South Carolina State.

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